Taking My Own Advice

I recently had one of those experiences where I realized what a hypocrite I am and that I need to take my own advice. I had told a friend that it’s not about where you live, but how you live and how you choose to raise your children, no matter where you are.

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Now, I love where I live. It’s not because I feel I belong here or that I fit in. See, I’ve always been an outcast, someone who has never belonged, fit in, been part of the in-crowd or part of the click. But I’ve never sought to be. I’m different. That’s just how it is, and I’m good with that. I mean, who else do you know that wore tie-dye shirts and bell bottoms, paired with multiple peace necklaces, beaded bracelets and several rings on each hand? In between the years of 1999-2001? In Utah?! Hell, I even wore tie-dye pants to school! A friend sewed them for me and told me I could wear them as pajamas. “No way,” I said. “I’m wearing these to school!” And I did—along with a bright orange shirt and my necklaces, beads and rings.

I may not dress that way anymore, but that hippie chick is definitely still a part of me! And I still don’t belong, fit in, am part of the in-crowd or the click, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to be in order to be happy with where I live. I love the neighborhood I live in, I love my church group which is full of some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, I love my job, I (sometimes) love the school my kids go to and (sometimes) love their teachers. I love the convenience of the city I’m in and how close it is to bigger cities with (slight) diversity and culture. I love how where I live is surrounded by such beautiful places in nature that inspire me and bring peace and renewal to my soul. I love where I live. But I hate the drivers here!

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Seriously, Utah has the worst drivers! Okay, okay, so there are two other places I’ve noticed worse drivers—California and Idaho. But Utah really is famous for the crappy drivers. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona almost eleven years ago were the great drivers! People actually drove the speed limit, were kind and courteous. When I put my blinker on, signaling I needed to move over (that’s what a signal is for after all) they’d slow down and let me in. They recognized that a yellow light meant slowing down rather than gunning it and speeding up. It was amazing! Then I moved back to Utah, and one of the very first things I noticed, or had brought back to my memory, were the crappy drivers! Everyone speeds at least twenty over the speed limit, they’re rude and reckless and speed up when they see your blinker on because there is no way they’re going to let you move over in front of them! They speed up at yellow lights instead of slow down and often don’t use their blinkers. And then there are the “opposite” days, where everyone on the freeway decides to go twenty under the speed limit instead of twenty over, like usual, for no apparent reason! Yeah, it’s really frustrating, and I totally let it get to me. I’m constantly complaining in the car, often times in a very loud voice and with a lot of four-letter words—when my kids are in the car with me. I don’t even know how many times they’ve heard me shout, “Stupid Utah drivers!” Or, “Utah drivers suck!” It may not sound like a big deal, but my twelve-year-old daughter hates getting in the car with me now. And she’s terrified to learn to drive—in Utah.

Sometime after I gave this friend my advice, I realized that I was letting place affect me and what I was teaching my kids. I don’t want to teach my kids that it’s no fun getting in the car with Mom when we’re driving in Utah. I don’t want to teach them that driving here is terrifying and frustrating and not worth learning how to drive. My daughter even once said that she thought I’d want to move sometime just to get away from the crappy drivers here. So not true! Everything I love about where I live is worth the bad, frustrating or hard things—like the crappy drivers. I want to teach my kids that it’s about how you choose to live your life no matter where you’re living.

So I decided I needed to take my own advice and stop complaining about the drivers here. I’ve challenged myself to be better at not saying bad things about other drivers when I’m in my car. I’m not gonna lie—it has been hard! And it doesn’t mean I’m not cursing them in my head—because I am. But I really, truly want to try harder to be more positive and help kids focus on the positives. Like the fact that we live in a wonderful, beautiful place full of amazing people, amazing opportunities and awe-inspiring nature. I want our lives to be about how we’re living, what we’re learning, what we’re giving back rather than focusing on the negatives of where. Any place can be a good place if you can do that, right?

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The Greatest Blessing

One thing I always hoped was that if/when I had kids they would never have to suffer from mental illness the way I did/have. So when my daughter started exhibiting signs of anxiety when she was only eight my heart hurt so much. I knew what was possibly in store for her. People said she was lucky because she had me, and I could help, but I don’t know what it’s like to have anxiety as an eight-year-old. I don’t know what it’s like to help an eight-year-old who has anxiety. Luckily, it hasn’t been too debilitating for her. She has a lot of fear and I’ve seen her have full-blown panic attacks, but it doesn’t interfere with her every-day life as much as it could. At least not that I’ve seen. Of course, who knows what will happen in the future?

As a parent it’s always hard—probably the hardest thing in the world—to watch your child struggle. Almost a year ago, after a bunch of testing, I was told that my son (six at the time, now seven) was borderline on the autism spectrum. I had wondered, but there were certain traits he had that seemed to conflict with autism, so I simply hoped for the best. However, there are a lot of stereotypes out there about Autism Spectrum Disorder, just like there are about mental illness, and I’ve since learned that those traits of his do fall within the envelope of ASD. My son is incredibly smart, so I don’t worry about him academically, but socially he has so many problems. Whenever I ask him about who he plays with at recess he usually tells me that he plays alone. He doesn’t seem to notice or care—he’s used to going into his own world. But it breaks my heart. I’m sure kids look at him and see that he’s not “normal.” They make assumptions, not really knowing or understanding why he is the way he is. They make assumptions about who is and what he’ll do, not knowing that he really isn’t that way. Truth be told, he’s smart, energetic (maybe a little too much!) and so extremely loving. The other night, he slipped this note he wrote me under my bathroom door as I was getting ready for bed.

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I know some people don’t want to bring children into this crazy world of ours, but children are amazing and strong and resilient. And my children are the greatest blessing God has ever bestowed on me. All I can do is pray that I’ll be able to help them and love them in the way they need. All I can do is hope that they learn and grow and become more from their struggles the way I have with mine.