Monday, May 28, 2012

Great Plan of Happiness

Today I'm reminded of our Heavenly Father's great Plan of Happiness.  I'm so grateful for this plan, for the peace that it brings.

Today is Memorial Day.  All over the United States we are honoring fallen soldiers who gave up their lives for the price of freedom.  I like to use Memorial Day as a time to remember all of those people in our lives who have passed on.  My grandparents, all four of them.  My uncle that I never knew.

I am reminded of Heavenly Father's wonderful plan because of this.  Earlier this year, a friend of mine started posting about her friend whose 4-year-old boy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  Yesterday, that little boy died. 

As I read the most recent posts about this little boy and then went back through the family's blog and looked at pictures of him from his birth until he died, I was reminded of this plan.  That plan that when we die, our spirit is released from our imperfect mortal body.  That plan that when we are resurrected, our bodies will be perfect.  That plan that we will be together again someday.  And I'm reminded of an especially beautiful part of that plan, the doctrine about the salvation of little children.  This part brings such great comfort in the wake of such tragedy.

Among all the glorious gospel verities given of God to his people there is scarcely a doctrine so sweet, so soul satisfying, and so soul sanctifying, as the one which proclaims—Little children shall be saved. They are alive in Christ and shall have eternal life. For them the family unit will continue, and the fulness of exaltation is theirs. No blessing shall be withheld. They shall rise in immortal glory, grow to full maturity, and live forever in the highest heaven of the celestial kingdom—all through the merits and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah, all because of the atoning sacrifice of Him who died that we might live.[1]
In the article, I especially love the part where he talks about how the family will get to raise that child again.  I only know a few people personally whose children have passed away.  But through the Internet, I know of quite a few families who have lost little ones, either to terrible diseases, such as little Atticus, to sudden tragic deaths.  I am so grateful for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the comfort of the knowledge of the life hereafter that this brings.

Rest in peace, little Atticus.  Rest in peace.


[1] The Salvation of Little Children, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, April 1977

Friday, May 25, 2012

Focusing on Darkness

Making happiness is not easy for me.  I have dealt with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager.  I have never been medically diagnosed with either one, but I feel certain I struggle with them.  I have sought counseling and it did help, but that was the problem.  Because it helped, my therapist said I probably didn't need to keep coming, so I didn't.  But it was because I was going that I was feeling better.  That was last fall.  I have been in conflict with myself whether I should go back.  My anxiety has been worse than ever.

Every day it is a struggle to be happy.  It is a lot of work.  Is it this much work for everyone or just some people?  Are some people just naturally happy and optimistic?  For me, it's a choice to be happy and optimistic, one that I struggle making. I feel that I am naturally a pessimistic person and the first thing I see is the negative, even if I'm not trying to see it.  I have to look hard for the positive in every situation I'm in, every situation, even the little day-to-day things like getting up in the morning, paying the bills, living life.

One main concern of mine is why does the world seem so bleak to me?  It's like my worries and fears are so much bigger than anything else that they overshadow everything.  I can't seem to find anything happy to focus on because even those happy moments seem so fleeting and small that they just don't overshadow the bad.

I remember reading or hearing once a general authority talk about beautiful vistas in life.  He gave an analogy of riding along on a train through tunnels and darkness and every once in a while you emerge from the darkness to a beautiful vista.  I think I have missed many beautiful vistas because I seem to only know how to focus on the darkness.

Is it even possible to learn to focus on the light when you've only ever known about focusing on darkness?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The High Cost of Child-rearing

Yet again, we are bombarded with another news story  that tells us how expensive it is to raise a child to adulthood.  I'm guessing 150 years ago, this wasn't even really a topic of discussion.  Of course parents worried about how to provide the basic needs for their children, but I seriously doubt they were freaking out about specific costs involved.

The advertisement I heard for this news story gave these statistics:  "$910 for diapers for a year" and "$13,000 for clothes for one child for 18 years". Those were the only two stats I heard in the ad.

I don't like it when news stories like this pop up.  Giving a huge figure that accumulates over the space of nearly two decades, most often a figure that isn't correct, scares people from having kids.  It makes them think that they can't ever afford them because the numbers are often huge.  I've heard anywhere between $100,000 and half a million to raise ONE child to adulthood. 

So I decided to do a little figuring of my own.  The news said $910 for diapers for one year.  I buy diapers at Costco, often using a coupon, so generally I spend about $35-$45 on a box of 175+ diapers (depending on size and brand of the diapers how many are in the box).  In the first year, I tend to buy about one of those boxes per month.  Given an average of about $40/box, I spend about $480 for diapers in the first year.  During the next two years, as they eat more solid food and have to eliminate less, they go through less diapers.  I tend to buy a box only once every two months, sometimes stretching into a third month.  That ends up amounting to between $160-$240/year for diapers.  Of course, in our family, we've often had more than one in diapers at once, but depending on the age and size of kid, generally, we still are able to get by in the second and third years with only buying 1 box a month, which is still only $480/year.  And if you do cloth diapers, which I've always felt I should but never been brave enough to try, you'd spend several hundred up front and then you'd re-use the same diapers for all your kids.

Clothes.  I don't know about you, but I don't see any point in spending full retail price to buy clothes that they will outgrow in two to three months.  I tend to buy most of my kids' clothes secondhand or at hugely discounted end-of-season clearance prices.  For one child, if I spend about $50-$100 twice a year on clothes to fit them and that aren't rags for each new season as they grow, that ends up being $3600 over the span of 18 years for the higher prices.  This does not double or triple with more kids because if you have kids of the same gender, anything not completely worn out can be passed down and worn again.  No need to be wasteful in a world that is always talking about "going green", right?

The news story also mentions housing.  For housing, you'd be living somewhere regardless of whether or not you had kids.  Many couples without children and single people live in a house close the size we have with five kids.  Our house is 1950 square feet with four bedrooms and two-and-a half bathrooms.  It's plenty of space to have five growing children.  Our daughter has her own room and so does our baby.  Our three older boys share a room.  There is so much space in their room that we could probably turn it into two smaller rooms if we needed to, and if we stay put, we just might.  I think a lot of people believe that each child has to have their own room.  That is simply not true.

The cost of food is also mentioned.  I'd like to explain that the cost of food doesn't multiply with each child.  It's not that hard to make a four-person meal into a six-person meal with a little manipulating.  Add an extra piece of chicken or some extra pasta, like in old times when they'd add more water to the soup.  I can make a three pound pot roast that I serve on Sunday last for two or three more meals with savvy planning and cooking.  So for four meals in one week for seven people, I will often only pay about $15 ($8 for the meat and $7 for the extra ingredients for all the meals).  All it takes is good budgeting skills and meal planning skills and taking the time to learn how to prepare meals from scratch (which taste better, cost less and are usually more healthy anyway). 

Raising a child to adulthood isn't as expensive as the news media wants you to think it is.  Sometimes I feel like this is media propaganda to convince people to limit family size.  All I know is that we live well on not a very large income with me staying at home even.  Our kids are even spoiled in a lot of ways where we give them too much and I feel like we need to cut back even more.  A friend of mine suggested I write a book about this--how to raise a family and not spend a fortune doing it--and I just might!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

To Wanda?

You arrive at the public library with all five kids in the car with you.  You have to turn in books and figure that you might as well check some out, so you need to park to go inside.  The public library is next door to an elementary school.  Today is Saturday and it's soccer game day, and there are about four soccer games happening on the elementary school field.  The parking lot between the library and the school is full.  You circle around once and finally find a spot.  Actually, it's two open spots, right next to each other, only a few rows from the library.  You go to pull in only to have a car pull into a spot right before you can.  No biggie, right?  There were two spots.  But then, you notice that the person has parked in such a crooked fashion that about 1/3 of their car is hanging into the empty parking spot, a considerable amount over the line dividing the spaces.  What do you do?

Here is what I did.  As the woman got out of her car, I rolled down my window and said, "Excuse me.  I don't mean to be rude or anything, but that is the only spot near the library.  You've pulled your car in over the line so I can't possibly fit my van in the space next to you.  Would you mind just straightening up so I can park there, please?"

I felt like I was polite.  I felt like what I was asking her to do wasn't unreasonable.  When I park, I'm always careful to make sure my car is not hanging into another spot.  Sometimes I get a little close to the line, but if I'm over the line, I always straighten up.  Not necessarily because I'm trying to be this super-polite person, but mostly because it really, really irks me when I am in a FULL parking lot and the one and only empty space is half taken up by the person the next space over who didn't take the extra 20 seconds to straighten up their vehicle.  Kind of a "Golden Rule" thing--treat others as you want to be treated.

The lady did get back in her car and straighten up, but all the time she was muttering and looking very cross and angry at me for even thinking to ask such an insane thing of her.  So I thought about what I would do if the tables were turned and it was someone else asking me to move my car.

If they yelled at me or were rude, I'd probably be a little ticked off.  But I was as polite as I could be, asking nicely if she could straighten up after presenting the problem and even saying "excuse me" and "please".  And I thanked her afterward, even though she looked like she wanted to strangle me.  I think, I hope, that if someone asked me kindly to move my car, I would move it and be apologetic to them for being in the way in the first place.

What do you think?  Was I entirely in the wrong?  Or is it okay to politely ask strangers to do such things?


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