Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Month of Service Concludes

Today is the last day of my month of service, which technically didn't last an entire month but hey, who's counting? I haven't posted the last few days' services so I'll catch up on those and then try figure out what I learned from this experience.

Thursday, I took my two little guys to visit a friend. Technically speaking, she is my mom's friend but I've adopted her, too. Her husband passed away about a year ago and all of her children are grown. Most of them live nearby so she doesn't want for family to visit but I know that sometimes she gets lonely. Anyway, I followed the promptings of the Spirit and we found ourselves at her house Thursday morning. I haven't seen her that excited in years. She promptly pulled out some tiny ceramic plates, loaded them with small cookies and banana slices and then poured each of the boys a cocktail of cranberry juice and ginger ale. Then the boys played with some toys while we visited. It was nice to reconnect and I felt we brought some sunshine into her day.

Thursday afternoon, I got sick. Contracted the Martian death flu, as my pal Em would say. Oh, I was sick. I did, however, manage some phone calls and letters between Friday, Saturday and today to people who I felt needed some uplifting or just a simple "I'm thinking of you."

So, what did I learn? Hmmm. I'm not sure. I can tell you some things that didn't happen. I was not visited by angels. Nope, no heavenly hosts. My problems did not miraculously disappear. Peace and joy did not prevail for every minute of every day. I don't think that I changed anyone's life, at least not drastically.

I'm not sure what I expected. I certainly hoped that there would be some positive effects, and there were. For instance, for at least several minutes of every day, I searched my heart for a way to help another. Some of my services took several hours, some just a matter of minutes. But in the time that I was thinking of others, I had ceased to dwell on my problems. It was a wonderful experience to put the needs of others before my own.

I learned that even though the day to day activities of a stay at home mom can mostly be classified as services, there are so many ways to go above and beyond. I needed to be reminded of that. I had gotten comfortable letting my family take care of most of their needs and it was very fulfilling to do a little extra for my husband or children.

I learned that, for the most part, "big" acts of service don't just fall into your lap. Easy services, such as opening a door for someone or giving someone a smile are easy to come by. It seemed that the bigger the difference I wanted to make, the harder I had to look and try for it.

This project brought me out of my shell a little bit. I have struggled with depression for so many years now that I have forgotten how to be normal. Living several miles out of town like I do with my nearest neighbor a quarter of a mile away, I had to get out of my house in order to perform a lot of my services. I have grown so comfortable in my ways. I like to be home. I like not having neighbors right outside my window. I like being able to feed my chickens in my underwear if the mood strikes. (Granted, I could do that no matter where I live, but out here it's a little less scandalous.) Having to make the effort to be dressed, presentable and actually interacting with people has been really, really good for me. A lot of things have changed in my life this month to bring me to the better emotional state where I find myself and I'd like to think that this service project had a lot to do with that.

Although my formal project is drawing to a close, looking for services to perform has become a habit. I know that I will continue to prayerfully consider those around me. I'm going to keep watching for opportunities to make a difference. I always think that service is a bit of a double edged sword, but in a positive way. Like a marshmallow sword with chocolate on one side and caramel on the other (which, consequently I can't eat, stupid analogy). Obviously, someone else will benefit from your actions but the person giving the service benefits, too, sometimes more than the other person.

Okay, I'm throwing down the gauntlet and issuing a challenge. Start your own month of service. Start it today. My friend Nikki noted that February is a good month since it only has 28 days. (Heh, heh, heh, I like your style.) Don't tell yourself that you need a few days to prepare. Go make someone a sandwich and call it today's service. Then you've bought yourself 24 hours to plan. Tell your spouse or a friend. It helps to make you accountable. Maybe ask them to do the project with you. I've had thoughts about doing this again but making it a family project. I don't care if you choose to blog about it, but writing it down has helped me to stay focused.

I'd like to hear about any of you who accept this challenge, whether you tell me publicly or in a private email. I didn't experience any huge, dramatic changes in my life but I did experience change and all of it was positive. How many opportunities will you get with prospects like that?

Go forth, serve, and be blessed.

You are dismissed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

As If Letting the Toddler Paint Wasn't Enough, the Month of Service Continues to Continue

Today one of my besties in the whole world had a rough day, so I took her some ice cream. I got her favorite kind and I bought the good stuff. I purposely kept walking on down the ice cream aisle, going past the store brand, the next step up, and the next. I bought the best stuff they had that made her fave.

Sometimes bargain shopping is overrated, and she is worth the good stuff.

Love ya, sweetums!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just in case you wonder what a happy kid looks like...

This is a good example.

But my table, kitchen floor and bath tub will never be the same.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hi. I'm Julie and I Love Sugar. I Just Can't Eat It Anymore.

I was diagnosed with diabetes one week ago today. In that week I've had a lot of time to think about how this disease will affect me for the rest of my life. It's been a time of quiet pondering and thoughtful musing. I have come to some very important conclusions, one of which I'd like to share with you.

I hate people who can eat sugar. Hate.

If the fact that they can still consume pure glucose isn't enough, there are those who blatantly rub it in my face. I just read Wendi Aarons' newest post. Girl Scout cookies Wendi? Really? I might loathe you just a little bit. Or how about DeNae and her month long tribute to fudge? Keep one hand on your mace spray, sweetie. I find that even I am on the receiving end of my bitterness, as I noticed tonight when I discovered several shout-outs to chocolate (heeeyyy!) in some old blogs of mine.

Enough already! Sugar is delicious, especially when mixed with milk and chocolate and more sugar in the form of caramel. And I ... can no ... longer ... partake.


Please do not suggest that I try sugar-free sweets. It would feel like I was cheating on sugar. I'd rather go without than consume a sub-standard substitute for my old friend.

I'd like to note that while I compulsively read both DeNae and Wendi's material, I have never exchanged witty blog comment banter or emails with either. I do, however, hold them both in the highest esteem (hi, girls!) and hope that each of them has a good enough sense of humor to not kick my trash if ever they visit my humble blog.

The Month of Service Continues....

Today was a day of gigantic proportions, emotionally speaking. As such, my service for the day was very personal. Please forgive me if I don't share it. You'll just have to take my word that I performed a service today. It's okay, I'm trustworthy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No, I Haven't Forgotten or Given Up

I had to finish a quilt that someone ordered and I kinda-sorta procrastinated. Maybe. A little bit. So I spent the last two days working on the quilt literally all day long.

Today, I decided out of the blue to make cases for the Nintendo DSis that my two big kids got for Christmas. I wanted to buy them cases but they're about $25 each. So, I had each kid choose some fabric from my stash and I made up a pattern as I went along. I think they'll turn out nicely.

It's kind of a service to me and Morgan because now we don't have to spend money on cases, but I think my kids like the fact that *I* made the cases for them.

I'll post pictures as soon as they're both completely done.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Month of Service, Cont.

*It's actually harder to think of a new title each day than it is to find a service to perform. :)

I have been prayerfully considering my acts of service each day and asking Heavenly Father to direct me to people who need help. I had a certain friend in mind all day and felt like I should call her. I did, and it wasn't like she gushed that she had been hoping for someone to call and visit, but it was nice to talk. We chatted for about 20 minutes, caught each other up on our respective lives and that was it.

I hope that she enjoyed the talk as much as I did.

Month o' Service

As per her request, my service for yesterday was calling Emily and speaking karate. I think the belly laugh did her good.

You're welcome.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Month of Service, Is Anyone Still Counting the Days?

My husband is taking a karate class and needed the pants hemmed on his gi. (That's a karate uniform, for those of you who don't speak karate. I myself am not a karate speaker, other than the ridiculous "hwaaa" noises that permeate all Bruce Lee movies. But I digress.) He told me that they would need to be hemmed, so tonight I jumped in and did it without any procrastination. When he put them on and folded up the cuffs to show me how much to take off that was a pretty good reminder, though. :)

I hope that small act helped him to feel loved today.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Month of Service, I Forgot Which Day It Is

I asked my two oldest kids to clean their rooms today. Not just a quick tidy, but a super clean. You know, pull out everything from under the bed, take everything off of the dressers and shelves and then put it all back where it belongs. They were both upset, of course. Who wants to clean their room? So, instead of requiring them to clean by themselves, I helped each of them.

It was nice to have some one on one time with each of my kids. They are growing into such fun people with great senses of humor. I hope that they enjoyed the time as much as I did.

The Month of Service Continues

Last night I chose to do a service for my family in the form of dinner. I made clam chowder and served it in bread bowls, all made from scratch.I don't usually spend that much time on dinner, and my family seemed really appreciative of the extra effort. I also had all of the dishes washed before dinner so that after dinner all we had to do were the dishes that we ate off of and I did most of those myself.

It was nice to see the smiles and hear the excitement of my family when they heard what I was making for dinner. I think they felt extra loved.

I set this goal so that I would try to get out of my head and think of others instead of myself for a while. It's been difficult to find opportunities to serve that I feel are "worthy" of this project. I think that maybe I'm making it too hard.

I have a few ideas for service today, but I'm just going to go about my day and see which one I feel guided to do.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Interrupt This Month of Service To Bring You....

Dude. I'm not doing so great right now. I didn't perform any acts of service yesterday, except for diaper changing and other family related stuff, so no acts that counted anyway. My husband and I had a talk last night that left me feeling pretty low and I was unable to sleep it off. I woke up this morning with a lot of negative thoughts about myself and have spent the last few hours wondering how I could gracefully bow out of this public goal that I have made. I even considered just deleting all of the posts and pretending like it never happened. But, being the smarty pants that I am, I made this goal publicly to prevent myself from weaseling out of it.

I was still pondering how to get out of it when I checked my email just a few minutes ago. Thank you, Nikki, for your comment on yesterday's post. It helped me to see that serving is easy. It doesn't have to be big. You may have just saved this project for me.

I made the rule that I have to serve at least one person besides myself, but I think that I'm going to bend that rule a little bit today.

My act of service today will be to pull myself out of this funk so that I can continue with my plans. I'm going to pray, read my scriptures, call a friend to chat, play with my boys and get rid of all of the negative self talk that's going on right now.

Before I sign off, can I give you a piece of advice? Don't set goals in public unless you have a safety net of good friends to buoy you up. Thanks for all of the good wishes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Month of Service, Day Three

I had hoped for a miraculous change of attitude last night, sort of a baptism by the spirit of laundry, but no such luck. I folded laundry and while I was pleased to help out my friend, the magic service fairies didn't reach down and plaster a smile on my face and coat my heart with warm fuzzies.

Today, however, I chose a service that may have been a little selfish. My husband was asked by a friend to pull out some old carpet so that new carpet can be installed later this week. I offered to help my husband so that it wouldn't take him as long. It was enjoyable, although I'm not sure if the joy was from giving freely of myself or from getting to spend a little one on one time with my husband.

I'm starting to get concerned about finding people to serve. Ideas? Anyone?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Month of Service, Day Two

I haven't performed my act of service yet today and it's nearly 8:00 pm. I found out this morning that I am diabetic so I've had a full day of wallowing in self pity, disgust, fear and embarrassment. I also ended up taking my baby to the doctor again as his fever went back up and he is again lethargic and dehydrated. The doctor actually kind of freaked me out, as he is not sure just what is wrong with Jack but, to use his words, "There is definitely something wrong." Awesome. My faith in the medical profession is a little shaky today.

This is the part of the day where I dry my tears, put on my big girl panties and head into my sewing room to fold a pile of laundry that I washed for a friend last week. It's time to focus on something other than my upcoming chocolate withdrawals and Jack's appointment tomorrow, where he will have a chest x-ray and more blood work.

I'm counting on this laundry to pull me out of my funk. Go team service!

Month of Service, Day One

Here I am at the beginning of my goal and I've already forgotten to post the first day! I didn't forget to serve, though.

I made cookies for some friends who visited us in the hospital Friday night. Our baby had a fever of 104 so we took him up to the ER and some friends came up to offer support in the form of a priesthood blessing and chocolate. I wanted to go visit Sunday evening but they weren't going to be home so I took the cookies to church with me and delivered them there.

So far, there have been no life altering changes from serving, but I'm still hopeful. ;)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Which I Publicly Set A Lofty Goal

I was perusing old magazines in a waiting room the other day when I came across a book review for 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. I just read a small blurb about the book and it got my wheels spinning. I don't have the resources to give a material gift each day for a month, but I have a capable body with which I can perform services. I have been in a blah kind of funk for a few weeks and I've had a tough time climbing up out of this rut that I find myself squished into. Additionally, I gave a lesson in RS a few weeks ago on service and the message of the material has stuck with me: serve others to bless yourself.

(I did a little research and apparently this book has started a world-wide movement of people who give of themselves and find that they are recipients of positive effects as well. Go here to read the story.)

So, without further ado, I am committing myself to giving one act of service per day for the rest of the month of January. My plan is to document my experience here on this blog. I know that service is best done quietly, and I don't plan to shout about my experiences for the recognition and approval of any who might read this. It is simply a way to keep myself focused and motivated. If I know that even one person is checking up on me for the rest of the month I will be much more likely to follow through with my goal than if I keep the plan to myself.

As a wife and mother, I give acts of service every day, so I think it's necessary to set some guidelines. If I get feeling lazy, I can use "changed a diaper" as my service and check off the rest of the month right now!
I looked up "service" on to give me an idea of what sorts of things I can do. The definition is very simple: an act of helpful activity; help; aid. With that in mind, I have set my guidelines as follows:
  1. Each act must be something that is not in my normal daily routine, i.e. diaper changing, bed making, laundry, etc.
  2. Each act must benefit at least one person besides me in some manner, be it emotional, physical, spiritual or otherwise.
  3. Each act must be performed with sincerity and a happy heart.
That's it. I think it sounds simple but at the same time I'm worried that I will be able to find enough acts of service to perform. I'm pretty comfortable with my little hermit-like ways. It will be good for me to reach outside of my comfort zone and find others who are in need of help.

Wish me luck!