Family things

Since I realized that becoming like God was the only real important thing in my life (all else is just a way to get there), I’ve had one real goal: expand the people I consider “family.”

Obviously my parents and brother fit that place. My brother’s wife is mentioned only as my sister, because the “-in-law” thing just serves as a means of separation.

I learned this pattern from my mother, who is always trying to broaden her “family.” In her church congregation at home, she often finds a young mother desperately in need of help and becomes a local grandmother to her children. She’s done this many times, and often adopts a woman whose marriage is struggling. My mother’s support provides relief and assistance as both husband and wife struggle through learning to balance family, church, and military responsibilities.

My volleyball club culture is intended to support the families of our players, and I play whatever role the players will let me. Often, and most appropriately, this is the role of coach. If nothing else, I do that. But some allow me to be a little more, and ask for personal advice.

During this last season, I was in the throes of woe, and struggling to simply be the coach. My players–the ones who have allowed me to be closer than just a coach–reached out and asked me what was wrong. They recognized a connection that was personal as well as professional, and they wanted to help.

It took me a long time to figure out how best to tell all I was going through to teenagers, who I would have preferred remain blissfully unaware of the challenges and vicissitudes of life.But their parents had prepared them well–as I mentioned, the club exists to assist families–and they knew life was hard. As 15 year olds, their parents had chosen to let them struggle (which was a choice because monetarily they didn’t have to do that), and my players already had a mature framework to understand what I was going through.

I wrote several times previously about how difficult the season was for me. The players who supported me, and their parents who have not inappropriately shielded them from life did at least as much for me as I did for them. They were the extra bit of family I needed when I was alone.

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Season of thanks: Examples of friends

I like to spend time with my friends.  Some friends I want to spend more time with than with others.  It just makes sense.  :)  I have one friend I’d like to spend more time with than I do, and I hope the feeling is mutual.

A few nights ago, we had a chance and I indicated as much while talking with her.  Essentially, she said, “I’ll see you a different time.”  She chose instead to attend the temple that night and spend time with her family.

Although I may have been slightly disappointed, I have to be grateful that I have friends who have solid priorities and place them first.  As I try to be better, I realize I must have my priorities in a similar order: God, family, friends.  (School might fit in there somewhere, but finals are over and we won’t discuss school for a while.)

I, therefore, am grateful to have one friend remind me of priorities and where mine should be.  Mine may not have been far from that, but spending time together would have altered hers and I didn’t intend that when I suggested we spend time together.  So, friend, thank you for (possibly unknowingly) sticking to your priorities.  I appreciate your example and what you taught me.

Season of thanks: Mom

I love my mom.  She’s the perfect example, mentor, role model I could have.  (She wouldn’t agree, but I might be able to convince her a little.)  Some may say it’s cliché to put her as the first entry during my season of thanks, but I feel it’s the right thing to do and it is fitting.

Aside from the obvious “she sacrificed herself to carry and birth me,” she has done far more.  During elementary-school summers, she would sit me down for half the day (it may have only been 90 minutes) and I had to to school work.  I hated it.  I fought it.  None of my friends had to endure that type of torture.  And I made the experience hellish for her.  That’s probably why she stopped doing it.  But I’m grateful now.  I frequently look back and know that my desire to do well in school, my confidence that I will, and my desire for perfection were molded during those summers.

My school teachers were ok with me missing a few math problems or having a few grammar errors.  My mother never was.  I spent hours (sometimes hours each day) going back and redoing my work.  Because I hated redoing so much, I learned to ensure it was done right the first time.  (Some of this mindset continues to today.  The desire to be right is so strong that I never check my answers on tests because I trust I read the question carefully enough the first time and that I did the problem right.)

She also made me play the piano every day for 30 minutes.  I would often slough and do less work, messing with the timer or putting the clocks ahead (I did this during time-outs too because I have no patience.)  I regret it now.  I regret that the choice offered me was to either play the piano or play sports.  Obviously I chose sports, and now I can only sight-read very slowly and can only play what I have repeated over and over and memorized.  But the important thing for me is I learned to appreciate music.  Although she usually chose songs I hated or didn’t know, my mom often played the piano when I was little.  I complained about it, but those songs (“Born Free” and “The Blue Danube”) echo in my mind today.

I didn’t often bring friends home, but she talked a lot with me about who my friends were and why I liked them.  She taught me to choose my friends carefully, to know why they were my friends.  I still talk with her frequently about my friends now.

She taught me something far more important about friends.  She taught me that friends are family, and friends of family are family.  She would often go out of her way to ensure we had interactions with friends.  After grade six or seven, I cooked up a plan with my friend Addison Pica to go climbing (I definitely had a middle school crush on her).  It was mostly due to my mom’s effort with Addison’s parents that the trip worked out.

My mom taught me to love people and want the best for them.  Sometime she didn’t approve of who I brought home–mostly in principle–sometimes in character.  Before my mission, I dated Ruth (Andrews) Chandler for seven months (or six–the timing got strange at the end).  My mom was not keen on the idea of me having a girlfriend.  But she accepted it and worked hard to learn about Ruth and learn to love her.  (For me dating Ruth was the best possible thing that could have happened before my mission.)  I’ve seen this pattern from my mother with other women I’ve dated.

She never approved of one person I dated, despite spending a lot of time with her during several visits.  Looking back, I wish I had been less infatuated with the girl and listened more to why my mother, despite attempting to love this girl, never could.

My mom adopts people.  My best friend during high school was Jenna (Furniss) Ralph.  She had a greater influence on me as a friend than I can express in words, and it may take us until after we die and communication is eased for her to understand why.  To the point, my mom loved Jenna like a daughter.  She learned to love Ruth like that.  My mom thinks of my oldest friend, Maren Kennedy, as a daughter.  Maren is involved in a theatre group back home and my mom always goes and supports her productions, and she always asks me what’s going on in Maren’s life.

This is a pattern my mom has shown since before I was born.  She wanted 12 biological kids (that’s a lot, I know) and I’m grateful there are only two of us.  But she has “adopted” children (especially daughters) since before I was born.

My mother consistently reaches out to love those around her.  She shows Christlike love for them and will serve them however she can.  My mother taught me to value my mind and has been formative in setting me on the path toward a Ph.D.  She taught me to accept and try to love people, even when they might not be what I expect, or someone I would normally love.  She taught me to love music, to love intelligence, to love others more than I love myself (possibly a lot).

Because of her example and her tireless forcings, I am now grateful for her example.  I now try to emulate that example.  She is probably not the mother she expected to be, and she likely regrets some things she did.  But she is the mother I need and should have no regrets about that.  I cannot imagine a more perfect mother.  I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to be her son.

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Challenge of the day: pray for 10 minutes and only thank God for what you have.

All Because Two People Fell in Love

‘All because two people fell in love.’

This phrase interestingly sums up my existence.  It sits on a plaque in front of my grandparent’s fireplace.  As I sat in their living room, I thought about how inclusive the word all is.  It covers everything.
What’s interesting is that plaques like this one are usually the kind you see in newlyweds’ homes, not 80 year olds who have been married for 55+ years.
But it is more appropriate for elderly couples to have such a phrase:  their all is a lot further reaching than newlyweds’.  They have more to claim.  They have years of experiences shared together.  They have rough times and easy times, fun dinners, dates, children, and more.  Their children have children which just includes more in all.
I think of my grandparents family:  five children, more than thirty grandchildren, several great-grandchildren, and more coming.
All because two people fell in love.