Friday, November 18, 2011

Stand Back and Admire Your Work

Margaret and Dick Janes
"When you've worked hard, stand back and admire your work."  -- Dick Janes (my dad)

All who knew my parents, can testify that they were hard workers.  They believed in working hard, and they taught their children to do the same.  Mom thought that a house was never really clean until she moved all the furniture and vacuumed behind and underneath it.  She also felt that if she was going to move it to vacuum, she may as well change the furniture around, so each week the furniture was in a different place.  My parents also believed that a good job and good work ethic should never go unnoticed -- especially by the person doing the work.

I remember working along side my parents doing many things.  There were times when I would be absolutely exhausted at the end of a project.  It was then that Dad would sit me down, pour me a glass of ice water, and say, "Stand back and admire your work."

In late August, I quit my job to stay home and enjoy life with my husband.  Before I could do that, however, I needed to get control of my house again.  You see, 35 years of raising kids produced a lot of "stuff."  I was not about to grow old in a house full of unorganized "stuff."  My house became more disorganized when I went back to work full-time, and only got worse as we made room to store boxes for kids who were in college or on LDS missions.  While it wasn't in "hoarder" condition, it was definitely out of control.  I told myself that if I would do something every day, that eventually I would have a house that I could actually enjoy.

So beginning August 27, 2011, every day (with the exception of an 8-day vacation), I have worked on my house.  I have done something every day.  Systematically, I went through every room of my house, including the garage, closet by closet, shelf by shelf.  Each day I sorted, gave away, donated, tossed, and then began anew the next day.  I'm almost done.  There are a couple of little things left, but not much.  I cleaned the carpet in the living room today.  Sometime this weekend I'll clean the carpet in the family room.  I want to clean off a couple of marks on my office wall or use some "touch up" paint on them if they won't clean.  I want to use Murphy's Oil Soap on my old oak table and then wax it, and I still need to stablize the track on the pantry door.  I need to shave the bottom of the linen closet door so it doesn't drag on the carpet.  Then I think I'm done.

I'll admit that I left the spice cabinet until almost the last thing.  I'll also admit to waiting until Danny went to bed last night before starting that project so that I could shed a few tears in the process.  You see, my mother always cleaned my spice cabinet for me.  Every time I had a baby, she would come and help me, and she never left without cleaning my spice cabinet.  I don't know why she did that.  Maybe she thought she was good at it.  Maybe she thought I was bad at it.  Maybe she just chose this uniquely weird way to give service to her daughter.  I don't know if she gave the same service to her other children, or if she did something else for them.  I've never asked.  All I know is that I appreciated it immensely!  Danny used to tease me that it was time to have another baby because the spice cabinet needed help.  I don't think I've ever cleaned it until last night.  After Mom died, I coerced children to do it for me because I couldn't do it.  It just didn't seem right.  Mom died in 1991 -- I decided last night that it was time to be a big girl.  It looks nice -- maybe not the way Mom would have done it, but I can work with it.

When my youngest returns from her LDS mission in Brazil and moves her stuff out of her closet, then I will move the Christmas bins out of the garage and into that closet.  Then for the first time in many years, we'll be able to fit a car in our one-car garage.  That is something that hasn't happened since the first year a semi-truck parked in front of my house and filled my garage with boxes of Camp Fire candy.

I'm close enough to finishing my project that I'm beginning to stand back and admire my work. I'm actually pretty proud of myself and the quality of my work. It has taken me less than three months to get this house in shape, and I thought it would take me much longer than that.  I should finish just in time to decorate for Christmas.

After the holidays, I'll really begin retirement.  I have a long list of things I want to do.  At the top of the list is calling Sister Grover and making an appointment so she can teach me how to tat (the lost art of lace making).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day of Reflection and Contrast

I had a late night last night, and was feeling a little down.  Sometimes temple trips are planned for just the right time it seems, because we had planned to go to the temple today, and I was in desperate need of the peace that I find there.

After sleeping about six hours, I logged on the computer to find the weekly e-mail from our missionary in Brazil.  I didn't think we would get it before we left for the temple, so that was a pleasant surprise.  It was particularly nice since it is the best e-mail or letter we have received so far.  She appears to be thriving -- and I would know if she wasn't because my children aren't very good at "putting on a happy face."

We arrived at the temple later than we anticipated, only 15 minutes prior to the session.  We were asked to be the witness couple, which was wonderful because we have never had a chance to do that in the Sacramento Temple, although we frequently did it in the Oakland Temple.  I was surprised that we arrived that late and they were still looking for a witness couple.  After a beautiful session, we saw our Stake Patriarch, Brother Judd, in the celestial room.  He is also a sealer in the temple, so he asked us to do a sealing session.  Danny and I both love sealing families together for eternity in the temple, and it is particularly wonderful when Brother Judd is the sealer.  Although, Brother Judd did embarrass me in the middle of the session by thanking me in front of the other people in the room for spending several years helping him type his family history.  At the end of the session, I made a point of telling those same people that Brother Judd had left out the part about it being one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.  I left the temple with such peace in my heart -- the kind you only find in the temple.

Danny and I went to lunch at Brookfields.  We had a really quiet, pleasant time there.  Before we left the restaurant, I went to the ladies' room.  By stark contrast to the rest of the morning, there were two women in the restroom discussing their impending divorces.  It struck me that these two women were older than me; one in her mid-60's, and the other in her mid-70's.  One woman said that she was just now getting divorced because she had felt "trapped" in her marriage for years because she didn't feel self-sufficient or prepared financially to "do it on her own."  The other said that she had not felt "trapped," that she appreciated the good things, but that there were things she wanted to change.  She said she'd spent 15 years thinking about this (yes, you heard that right, 15 YEARS), and she just felt this was now the right time to strike out on her own.  It hit me that if she had spent the last 15 years working on her marriage instead of planning for her divorce, she might be happier.

Since we were on that side of town, and since Veterans' Day is in two days, we decided to stop by the cemetery and put flowers on Matt's grave (my stepson), and to the other cemetery to put flowers on Danny's friend Cy's grave.  Cy passed away this last year.  He was a prisoner of war in World War II, and it seemed appropriate to decorate his grave as well.  I drove to Save Mart so Danny could pick up some flowers.  I waited in the car while he ran into the store, and I couldn't stop thinking about the stark contrast of our sealing session in the temple to the conversation in the ladies' room which I overheard.  It was a little surreal.

Our experience in Mt. Vernon Cemetery put all those thoughts to rest.  My husband is the most kind and loving man I've ever met.  I don't think he's ever gone through a day in his life without serving someone.  After we decorated Matt's grave, Danny looked up and realized there was something else we needed to do.  He didn't have to say anything to me because we've been married long enough that I know what he's thinking.  Not far from Matt's grave are three graves without stones.  They just have small markers.  There was a bunch of flowers lying on one of those markers.  Most gravestones have built-in vases for flowers, but the little markers don't have them.  Apparently, whoever left the flowers on the marker didn't know that the office has plastic vases available on stakes that can be pushed into the ground.  Danny's trained landscaper eyes quickly searched the area for a place where someone mowing the lawn would throw a plastic vase to get it out of the way.  It wasn't more than five seconds before he spotted one, picked it up, and headed to the water fountain for water.  I picked up the bunch of flowers, cut off the stems somewhat, and we placed the flowers in the plastic vase and placed it next to the little marker.  We then drove on down the street a couple of miles to East Lawn Cemetery to decorate Cy's grave.

We drove home listening to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD.  Words weren't necessary between us.  It had been a good day.  We were left to our own thoughts.  We were left to contemplate and ponder the sacred experiences of the day.

I'm so grateful for the knowledge that families are eternal.  I can't even imagine at this point in our lives thinking about divorce instead of growing old together and looking forward to what comes after this life on earth.  As discouraging as some days get, and as frustrated as we get sometimes as parents, we have hope.  I'm so thankful for hope.  I'm grateful that Heavenly Father let me overhear that conversation today.  It was a great reminder that I have it pretty good.  I'm so blessed!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who Is Watching?

Today I was thinking about all the senior citizens who had an impact on my kids when they were growing up.  There were many.  We lived in a neighborhood of senior citizens, so they all adopted my kids as their grand kids.  That was wonderful since my parents lived in Nevada, and Danny's parents lived in Idaho.  My kids loved their own grandparents, but it was nice to have California grandparents too.  We also go to church in an LDS ward or congregation that has traditionally been made up of mostly senior citizens.

The couple I was thinking about today were the Ellsworths.  Meriem and Heber were the sweetest couple!  Heber must have been about 6' 6" or taller, and Meriem stood maybe 4' 8" on tiptoes!  For several years, there were not many children in our ward.  Our main worship meeting, Sacrament Meeting, was on the three-hour church block.  Our kids used to dart out the side door of the church as soon as the "amen" was said on closing prayer, so they could be outside to watch Brother and Sister Ellsworth come out that door holding hands.  My kids thought it was the sweetest thing that this old couple still held hands.  The Ellsworths never knew that my kids were watching them.

Heber wasn't very well, and one Sunday in Sacrament Meeting he just sort of tipped over in the pew and passed out.  The problem was, that he tipped over on top of Meriem!  I thought he was going to completely crush little Meriem!  Paramedics were called, and Heber recovered to see another Sunday.

Eventually, both Heber and Meriem passed away.  I remember at Meriem's funeral a story was told about them.  Every night of their marriage until Heber was just too frail to do it, he picked Meriem up and carried her up the stairs to bed.  Now that's love!

My kids had some really fine role models, that's for sure.  It makes me wonder what kind of role model I'm making for my grandchildren and other children who unknowingly watch everything I do and listen to every word I say.  I used to tell my kids that when they walked out the front door they represented themselves, their family, their ancestors, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, their school, their athletic teams, their ward, the church, and the Saviour.  As I grow older, I think I need to remind myself of that when I walk out the door.  I never know who may be watching.