Thursday, February 12, 2009

Answers for Lee (I didn't flake!)

My sweet internet friend Lee had this meme on her blog recently and I thought it was fantastic. I agreed to participate and asked her to come up with some questions just for me. I must ask her forgiveness in taking so long to answer - life has gotten *slightly* busy lately and I haven't quite got the hang of juggling all the new responsibilities.

Better late than never, though, so here are my answers:

1. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your life? What is the one great lesson you learned?

When I first read the question, all kinds of ideas popped in my head. I actually had an answer mentally written out...and then I re-read the question. It wasn't just asking for a big influence, which is how I had answered, but the biggest influence. That's a huge question!

A surprisingly easy answer, though, to such a big question. The biggest influence in my life has been the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can't think of anything I do or say that is not touched or influenced by being a follower of Christ. How I view and act in my marriage, how I treat my children...and my neighbor, how I prioritize the responsibilities and activities that fill my life.

Last Sunday, I taught a lesson to my young women about following Christ. I challenged them to take a day this week and live as if Christ was right there with them. I'm hoping to hear this Sunday some of the things they learned. Maybe some changes they made or some things they were already doing well. How it affected their attitude and their relationships. I participated in the challenge as well and I am happy to report, that although there were small changes throughout the day (being ever more patient with Mason, not spending so much time on the internet, being better about responding to promptings to call a friend, etc.) I really try hard to live my life like this every day.

Greatest lesson learned? That I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, and as such, have great potential, great responsibilities and great opportunities for blessings in addition to hardships and trials that will allow me growth and shape my life for the better.

2. You are seemingly always surrounded by friends and family - certainly children, when in your life have you felt most alone?

Alone?? I'm not sure I even know what that means. I once went on a plane all by myself to attend my baby sister's wedding (we couldn't afford for everyone to come) and I couldn't figure out what to do with myself! No one to remind to stop kicking the back of the seat, no one to hand out snacks to, no one to take to the bathroom 17 times in three hours. You're absolutely right, Lee. With six children, I am very rarely alone.

But there have been a few times in my life when I have felt lonely, which is something altogether different than just being alone. The first was right after my fourth child was born. We were living in Philadelphia. Michael was in his first year of med school. I had four children under five and a husband who was rarely home. I know now that I was suffering some post-partum depression at the time, but I certainly wouldn't have admitted it then. My family was 2500 miles away and one of my dearest and closet friends in Philly was moving away to Utah. It was a rough time, made even tougher because Michael didn't recognize the signs of post-partum I was exhibiting. I harbored a bit of resentment towards him for awhile - he was a med student and certainly should have known! At least in my mind...

The most recent time was when we moved to Walla Walla in August. I had been looking forward to this time of life for 17 years! We were finally done with all of Michael's schooling and training. We would finally have a real job. We would be close to family. We would settle and be part of a community. I had great expectations, but as so often happens, my expectations were far bigger and greater than the experience itself.

We left an amazing community and church group in Minnesota. We were welcomed and loved there from day one. We felt needed and appreciated. It was a much different experience here and it has taken a long time to feel like we really belong. I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.

3. How has being a parent changed you? For the good and for the bad!

Being a mother is one of the greatest gifts of my life. It has also been the biggest challenge.

Children definitely change more than your body shape and pant size!

On a beautiful evening last week, Mason ran up and told me there were "shooting stars" in the sky. I looked up and saw several jet contrails highlighted in the setting sun. One of the greatest joys with children is seeing the world through their eyes. As we grow older and supposedly wiser (and often more cynical) we often lose the innocent wonder at happenings in our world. Having children reminds me to look around and see things in a different way and to be amazed at things I might have thought were so simple.

Children have taught me selflessness. That's pretty self-explanatory, but anyone giving up night after night of restful sleep to feed a newborn (or calm a cranky toddler), anyone that has given up hobbies or interests because they didn't quite fit in with running kids to soccer, to band, to scouts, anyone who has taken all their dry-clean only clothes to Goodwill because they would only end up with slobber, jam hand prints, crayon or other kid-dropping on them...they know the meaning of sacrifice in their lives.

Children have shown me that I have a bit of a temper. It is definitely inherited! It is something I work on constantly. I have seen in my own family how tempers can destroy relationships and I will never allow that to happen with my own children. Children are great reminders of work-in-progress.

Everything takes more time...lots more time...with children. This has been a bit of a challenge for me. I like to be prompt, early really, for everything. Expanding my getting ready to go time to include 6 children has sometimes been a trial. This is a bit of a contrast to my tendency to procrastinate, which becomes an even bigger conundrum with children!

Having children is a bit of a leap of faith. You don't know what you are going to get! A happy, contented sleep-through-the night baby? Or Max and Mason...who didn't sleep their whole first year. Will your child be shy? Outgoing? Athletic? A brainiac? Having children certainly has taught me to be flexible. As soon as I think I have something figured out, the next child down the line shows me that certain tactics don't work for everyone. In fact, they don't even work for the same child on subsequent days!

4. What traditions have been passed down in your family? What new ones have you made?

One of my favorite traditions from my family is Christmas Eve fondue. Cheese fondue is truly a divine food! I only make it once a year, but sometime around October, I start thinking about its wonderful flavor and can't wait for Christmas Eve.

We have inherited a love of camping and being outdoors from both families. I grew up camping in the Rockies in Montana every summer with my dad's extended family. Michael's family owned a fly-in fishing camp in Ontario most of his growing up years, so camping is second nature to him.

I have added a lot of little traditions, many having to do with holidays. The leprechaun hides his gold for St. Patty's day, leaving a gold dust trail throughout the house, along with lots of mischief-making. We eat an all-green dinner (not Irish at all!) consisting of pesto covered tortellini, green jello, broccoli, green grapes, celery and of course, Shamrock Pie.

We make heart-shaped pizza and pink milkshakes for Valentine's Day and spend the month filling each other's mailboxes with sweet love notes and little treats.

One of my most favorite traditions is our Halloween costumes. From the time the kids were babies, I have made all of our costumes. We started doing a family theme one year and it has been so much fun over the years. Certain children (ahem...Matthew) have chosen not to be part of our theme the last couple of years and I was actually quite sad about it.

We pick apple and pumpkins in the fall and we always do caramel apples. Gingerbread houses are another favorite. We open gold presents on Christmas Eve that always have matching jammies.

There are also day to day traditions: we read scriptures each morning as a family. We gather in Max and Mason's room at night for bedtime stories. When we say family prayers, everybody yells "Big Hug" after the amen and all the kids try to be in the center of the family hug. Michael and I always air kiss across the table after the blessing is said on the food.

5. Given your full marriage, what advice do you have for young couples?

Here's one of the most important things. In order to have a happy marriage, YOU have to be happy. Happiness is a choice. Your spouse cannot make you happy (or sad, or mad for that matter.) You choose. Everyday, you choose how you will feel. How you will act or react. It makes any relationship, not just marriage, so much better if you stop blaming the other person for your emotions.

Love is an action verb. Just because you "fell in love" and got all those mushy, romantic feelings about someone does not mean that those will continue without some (a lot!) effort on your part. Every day, you must choose to love your spouse. And choosing to love means doing something that shows that love, that builds on that love. It can be as simple as saying "I love you." Writing a note on his mirror. Slipping your hand into his while watching Lost (or whatever show you watch as a couple.) Making his favorite meal. We often get so busy with life that we forget to do the little things that nurture the most important earthly relationship.

Find things/activities that you enjoy together. Then do those things. If there seems to be nothing in common, try something new. Together! Over the years, we have discovered a shared love for crossword puzzles, Thai food, hiking, vegetable gardens, skiing, etc.

Do you want to play?

And now the rules for this little meme…which is a challenging one by the way because you just don't know what's coming your way….
If you want to participate:

1. Leave me a comment saying: "Interview me"; or, send an e-mail to arlamowilwand at gmail dot com
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions (please be quicker than me ;) thanks Lee for your patience!!)
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


Lee said...

Brilliant!! I knew you wouldn't flake :) Within your answers I was reminded why, though we've never met, I think you are so wonderful. Great, great responses. So wish I could just drop by for coffee ... ah, that's what wishes are for. Have a fabulous weekend.

MidniteScrapper said...

What wonderful answers. So much insight. I truly agree with you on the marriage part. It's a choice. Great interview!

Vivian said...

I love your answers. So much wonderful advice there for anyone.

Brynn said...

Ok Michelle, I'm in, send me my questions. (Take it easy on me though ;)).

I loved your answers, they were fun to read.