Empty Nester Limmerick

There once was a mother of four

All her children she did adore

The kids grew and moved out

And now without doubt

She’s happier than ever before!!!

(Love ya kids!)

When the time is right

I was reading a terrific book today, “Life Over Cancer,” that has been amazingly helpful to me. As of today, I have officially survived two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Wahoo!! Only 48 more years to go to reach 100!!! (I’m absolutely planning on that huge cake with 100 candles.)
As I read the book, I thought, “Gee, I wish I had this information a couple of years ago!” And then I stopped myself. I realized that that was not right. In fact, I was receiving this information at exactly the right time for me. I was now in a position to physically and mentally act on what I was learning. I have prayed diligently that I would be led to learning that I would need and Heavenly Father had answered that prayer over and over again. At exactly the right time. When I was ready.
Sometimes we beat ourselves up over things we don’t know. People comment all the time after reading my parenting book, “Oh, I wish I had this ten years ago!” Wishful thinking doesn’t change a thing and just makes us feel guilty. Instead, we need to celebrate! Yeah!! Wonderful, new knowledge exactly when we needed it!
All we have to do is keep asking. Then we get to act on it when we get it.
I was worried that my grandson, the utterly splendid and perfect Keaton Roger, wasn’t crawling when he was “supposed to.” Thankfully, I have a patient and level-headed daughter-in-law who assured me repeatedly that he would crawl “when the time is right for him.” Sure enough, he’s now a crawling machine.
But I am often gripped in the tentacles of “It needs to happen RIGHT NOW!” I want that extra weight to peel off effortlessly right now, ignoring the fact that I’m still recuperating from surgery. I want my children to behave flawlessly, ignoring the fact that they’re mortal beings. I want all of my financial woes to just magically disappear, ignoring the process of life and savings and investment.
It will happen when the time is right. Or it won’t. All my fretting will not change a thing and will just give me indigestion.
But oh, when the time is right, it is a wonderful thing. People come into our lives at just the right moment to teach us just the right thing. Events happen just as easily and naturally as if we had orchestrated the whole thing. Things just flow.
Which leads me to realize something I have learned most pointedly in the last two years. The Lord is in charge. He is orchestrating when the time is right. He KNOWS when the time is right for each of us.
And as I let go of the fretting and the worrying and the impatience and the puny attempts to control and orchestrate my own life, His will is manifest. And the beauty of His will is a wonder to behold.
So I’m glad He sent me this book right now. It sure was the right time for it. Go figure.

Take a chill pill

It was a quiet, tranquil morning. We were in our canoe out on the lake. My dad had gotten me (I was about 9) and my brother (who was about 7) up very early in the morning to go fishing. I hated getting up. But I loved these quiet mornings—sitting in the canoe with my daddy and my brother—whispering quietly to one another.
Just then my brother’s bobber went down and he jerked his pole. “I’ve got one!” he whispered loudly. Soon the fish came up above the edge of the canoe and somehow flipped against my brother.
And then my brother totally freaked out. He began to wildly whip his fishing pole from one side to another. The poor fish went sailing over the canoe to the left and SMACK! It hit the water. This freaked out my poor brother some more. He jerked the fishing pole the other way. Sure enough, that fish went sailing over our heads and SMACK! It hit the water on the other side.
Over and over, my totally bezerked brother whipped the fish from one side of the canoe to the other. SMACK! Whizzzzzz! SMACK! Whizzzzz! SMACK!
Finally my dad reached out and held his arm. “Chip, I think the fish is dead now,” he deadpanned. I began roaring with laughter.
My brother had a habit of overreacting as a child when he was spooked. I shall not regale you with any more stories and shall not even mention the time he pounded a wooden campground stump thinking it was a raccoon set to attack him. He just couldn’t help it. Fear triggered an immediate overreaction.
I am normally a very calm person. Loud but calm. I have four sons so I tend to not react too much unless something is burning or bleeding profusely.
But occasionally, I overreact. I find my feelings escalating and my heart racing. “Nobody commented on my piano solo. Maybe I did a lousy job. No, it was actually pretty good. Why didn’t anybody say anything? They probably don’t like me. I have to quit doing public things. People just get a complex when I do anything. Fine, that’s it. No more piano solos.” On and on I go, totally overreacting and ramping up to the point of being ridiculous.
Do you ever overreact? It’s like I race myself to get to the bridge and stand on the railing, ready to jump! I then have to talk myself down.
“Now Merrilee. Everyone is busy. They just were getting to their other meetings. You didn’t compliment Marina on her talk and you meant to. It’s no big deal.”
And down I come off the bridge railing, coming to my senses. And then I laugh. “Duh, what was I thinking?” It all seems so trivial then—once I’ve cooled down.
I think many women excel at overreacting. I know some of us are more gifted at this than others. We read into every action, every word, every look–or every lack of action, word, or look–layers and layers of meaning. I hear it all the time.
“That’s it! I’ve had it. Not one parent sent me a thank you note at the end of the year. No one appreciates what I do. I have to be released!”
“Oh no. My son has dyed his hair. What next, tattoos? He shouldn’t be hanging out with Jeremy. Maybe he’s doing drugs. He looked tired today. What’s he up to?”
“My husband didn’t call me all day from work. Why didn’t he call? I told him it’s important to me. Come to think of it, he didn’t call two days last week. Oh, no! Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore!”
On and on we go, running headlong to the bridge. It takes a lot of effort to stop and think rationally.
But that split second of calm, rational thought can save us. I know it would have saved that poor fish! And so I continue to try. “Merrilee, calm down. It’s not that bad.” I take a deep breath and realize that my rational brain is right. Frenzied Merrilee needs to just take a chill pill. Good medicine.

The Power of the Story

I had done it again.

I grew up in a camping family.  My parents thought nothing of tossing five kids into the car, strapping the silver canoe on top, hooking the pop-over camper on the back and taking off across the country.  This time we had driven from our home in Detroit  to Florida for some sunshine.  It was spring break in April and we had just endured February and March in Michigan that were miserable, gray months.

We had just pulled into the campsite and I jumped out of the car.  I was giddy to be in shorts and barefoot.

That’s when it happened.  I stubbed my toe.  Now this was not just your basic stubbing, this was the lay-the-whole-end-of-the-toe-open-and-gushing kind of stubbing.  I hopped back wailing to the car.  I just envisioned having to sit on the beach while everyone else went swimming.  I just knew I had ruined my entire vacation.  And I was mad at myself.  I stubbed my toe all the time when I went barefoot.  It was hard when you had size 10 feet on a child’s body!  Those toes just would not cooperate.

I stood at the door of the car crying and bemoaning my terrible luck.   My dad jumped out and surveyed the situation.

Now you need to know something about my dad.  My dad was the original McGyver.  He could save the world with a penknife and some duct tape.  He was amazing.

He applied first aid to my toe (he was also a lifetime Scouter).  And he applied a bandaid.  But I was still distraught over not being able to swim so he went into gear.  He got the bag of Wonder bread, ripped off a bunch of plastic–the part with the brightly colored polkadots–and carefully wrapped and taped my toe.

It was huge.  And oddly colorful.  But it was sea-worthy!  I spent the entire weekend with my giant toe having the time of my life in the ocean.

Staring at that giant polka-dotted toe reminded me of one thing.  My Daddy loved me.  And my Daddy would always take care of me.  He could handle anything.

No wonder that I have such a great love for my Heavenly Father as well.  I know he loves me too.  And I know he will always take care of me.  He can handle anything.

How blessed I am to have an earthly father AND a Heavenly Father who love me.  Even when I stub my toe.

I hope you can just envision that giant, wrapped up big toe on a gangly girl who loved her daddy.  This story helps teach a principle in a way that is memorable.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my speaking and writing, it is that stories stick.  You can give me the most incredible quote in the world and I will have a hard time remembering it.  But attach it to a story and I’ll never forget it.

The Savior understood this well and used the power of the story over and over again in his speaking and teaching.  President Monson understands this well and is a masterful storyteller. We remember the stories of the scriptures with the vivid images of Noah loading all the animals in his ark, Moses standing over the Red Sea in great power, Mary and Joseph wending their way to Bethlehem, and Laman and Lemuel being real turkeys with their little brother.

We can harness the power of the story in our teaching, in our parenting, in our writing.  Just ask, “How can I use a story to teach this?”  That was the key in writing my upcoming book, “Book of Mormon Children: A Collection of Stories Set in Book of Mormon Times.”  If I want a child to remember something, I use a story to teach it.  Because stories stick.