The Face of 2016

The other day I saw an internet meme titled “The Face of 2016”. The picture was of a man looking tired, disheveled, not angry at the moment but probably had been recently, and overall pretty beat up.

2016 was a difficult year for our nation and our world. This past year was coated with differences of opinions on every subject. It was inescapable. If you had a belief, vulnerability or something you hold dear, you can guarantee it was challenged. Hearing a recap of the top news stories on the radio left me feeling the familiar fear, anxiety, sadness and confusion. There was so much ugly. The lives lost are nothing to make light of and I pray our future improves. It has to.

But for me, I can’t reflect on 2016 without smiling back at this sweet face.

Cybil at 6 months. (First picture I took with my iPhone 7 Depth Effect)

She embodies everything good from this past year and the reason we have hope for the next. Cybil’s birth in April changed me in an instant. She entered this world with the sweetest, most peaceful and bright disposition. Now that she’s a little older she’s learned to smile, wave, clap, and brighten up anyone’s day she comes in contact with. It’s been a joy to witness. I wish we all could be as accepting as little children.

Cybil’s gift to me was helping me slow down, listen and appreciate. This year in the midst of the restlessness and disagreements I really tried to listen. I tried to pause before reaching conclusions, to see past the abrasiveness and hear people over headlines. I realized I needed to spend more effort hearing how my friends were feeling, what they believe or don’t believe and their viewpoints than I had before. I surely wasn’t perfect and I know I have a long way to go. But I feel like I’m rounding out 2016 as hopefully a better person and open to learning even more in the future.

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So as we look toward 2017, I’ll keep looking to these beautiful, bright-eyed children. I know their love and excitement for life will keep growing, and I hope all of ours can too.

 

The Orphan Keeper – Book Review

We go on road trips so we have time to read books. 


And both this this trip and this book were both exceptional. 

I can’t wait to write more about our trip. But for now I just closed the cover on this book and my thoughts are still consumed. This beautifully, thoughtfully written this novel about young Chellamuthu being kidnapped in India, adopted to the U.S. and his quest to find his past captured my attention right away. 

Courage comes in doing common things. 

Most enlightening to me was sharing this book with Jetta. Even though she just turned 8 she’s incredible mature and has been a nurturer since the day she was born. Every time she’d see me buried in the book she would ask “What happened to the little boy? Did he escape the orphanage? Did he make it back to his family?” I debated how much detail to share about the kidnapping but realized the story depended on it and life will depend on us learning from the bruises of the past. As I neared the end she couldn’t wait “Did he find his family?” I’ll make you wait to find that out too. 


Reading and relaying story to young daughter and overhearing husband was a great way to internalize the message. She asked so Mang questions about the orphan keeper and why he did the things he had. Why he had gone to such lengths to get Chellamuthu to the U.S. when he had known he’d been kidnapped? Why was the title of the book about him, not about Taj? The morality of the situation is hard for adults and children alike to understand. But the focus is correctly shone in the title and throughout the book. 

“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.” -The Phoenician Women

We both resonated with Chellamuthu’s story coming home on Christmas Eve. Longed for him to be able to communicate and get out of his ‘box’. Recognized the lessons about bravery and heroes taught from inside that young boy’s mind. 

Jetta has been especially drawn to her two cousins recently adopted from China. She loves to play with them, translate their expectations and experience their new lives through their eyes. They have all taught me so much about how love is able to communicate over all. How life is full of new chances and hearts can be won over in an instant. 

I knew this novel was based off a true story. The prologue sealed my hope thet Taj and Pria’s story is just as special and incredible as the book tells. Read this book. Don’t peek ahead at the pictures at the end, but know that  the story is worth holding on for. 

Blood Brother

Photo by Ferenc Pethö

The world lost a great man this week. Alan Blood was my manager and friend, and probably one of the greatest I’ll ever have of each. Alan’s journey with Male Breast Cancer was inspiring to witness. Working with him these past few years I can attest that he truly lived his motto of “Never give up, never surrender.” I sat with him just a few days before he passed at our tech conference where he looked tired and thin but told me what a good job I did on my presentation and that he planned to present next year.

Alan had a unique perspective of accepting God’s will and the path his life was going to take, while still fighting to stay here on this earth with a fortitude unlike any I have ever seen. When we would ask how he did it, how he pushed through such pain and trial he would remind us of his focus on family and relationships. He loved coming to work. You could see it in his eyes being productive was therapeutic. He loved our work at FamilySearch fiercely. I have no doubt he’ll still be designing, leading and turning hearts on the other side. He was always supportive of me and my family, genuinely interested in people and their journey in this life. Our long commutes to our south office were especially tiring for him but a chance for him to share with coworkers and strangers on the train the importance of focusing on what’s most important in this life. Maybe he didn’t need the length of a full life to figure it all out? In his updates to our team, he would chronical his health situation, bumps in his road, mornings or days he needed to take off, but always conclude with the positive and how he’d be back at it tomorrow and his gratitude for the chance to do it.

His absence is tangible but his legacy will always be present.

 

 

I’ll Push, You Steer

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First I’ll say “You are welcome!” to anyone passing by my local Maverick this morning. There was some great entertainment available that you may have witnessed. And if I could get surveillance footage it would for sure be a hit.

Just after switching cars with my husband I pulled into the gas station down the road. Just as I remembered that the dang car’s tank is on the other side. Just a matter of flipping around to another pump, no big deal right? Only to realize the car was SO out of gas it’s not going to start. Only to realize the pump lines don’t reach across cars for forgetful drivers like myself. (Costco’s do!) Only to remember that my husband didn’t have his phone with him so he wouldn’t hear his wife’s desperate call for help, even if she was willing to ask.

No matter. I’m strong. I’m resourceful. And I’m in a hurry.

So I did what any lady in teal patterned leggings and flats on her way to work would do. I got out and pushed. That was easy at first but in the wrong direction. No problem I’ll just hop back in and crank the steering wheel (and remember to be thankful for power steering). Now I’ll hop back to the bumper and push some more. Ah there’s some traction. But oh wait, you don’t realize there’s a slope in the parking lot-leading right onto the overpass offramp. Great I’ll just race back into the driver’s seat of the rolling car and slam on the brakes. But now here I am IN the offramp. So I’ll just get out and push some more. This time I’ll stay inside the passenger side door and reach across to crank the wheel as I push the car with the strength of my post-baby abdomen. I’ll smile too because it’s funny.

Then I notice out of the corner of my eye a black truck on the road that slowed down to watch the scene. He wasn’t the only one. (That could have been you!)  That nice guy must have turned the corner at the light and entered the parking lot because I soon heard him yell “I think it will be easier if I push and you steer!” Yes sir, you are correct that will be easier. So he pushed, I cranked the wheel, and we rolled into pump #2 just as smooth as jelly, tank in perfect alignment and ready to be filled with gas and my latest ‘Only Michelle’ story.

The nice guy drove away after I told him he’d done his good deed for the day. The 8, maybe 10, other gentlemen that stood and watched the show went about their breakfast sandwiches and colas. The employee I’d noticed seemed to have immaculately swept off that sidewalk he so adamantly stared at instead of glancing in my direction. I laughed a good hearty laugh and chalked it up to another of my commuting adventures. And I was really thankful for that one person willing to help, and anxious to be the one in that seat next time.

 

 

Daring Greatly

Book Review: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

I really benefited from listening to this book. In fact, in a way continuing to write and work on this blog is an a result of this book and specifically that quote from Roosevelt.

Vulnerability is an interesting thing. The author describes the feeling well as that hallow feeling in your stomach you recognize when you first wake up in the morning then remember the brave actions you took the day before.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing we are confident enough to not be ailed by our vulnerabilities. That comfortable place is where I have found myself too often. Here is to getting off the sidelines and getting our face marred by dust and sweat daring greatly to do even better things.