Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Moments that Matter Most

So for my second Thoughtful Thursday, I wanted to share one of my favorite Mormon Messages. I know I've posted it on Facebook before, but it's nice to revisit it. Here you go. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Project: Cheaper by the Dozen

You might be rolling your eyes and saying "Another book project post, really?" Yes, really. I do have a lot of books to get through, and I just happen to have finished several of the small ones in the last week. So bear with me, you'll be hearing a lot about books for awhile. At least this one is short and sweet. :)

So today it's Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It's a true story about an exceptionally large family and their exceptionally eccentric father. Mr. Gilbreth was a motion-study expert who travels all over the country helping factories speed production by eliminating needless motions and refining the practability of their machines. He believed that the way factories and families should run by the same methods, and brought up his children accordingly. This book is both heartwarming and hilarious.

I know that the above synopsis is a very poor one. But in order to convey how interesting and funny this book is, I would have to type up actual passages from the story...which I really don't have the energy for right now. So I'm just going to say that this book is lighthearted, laugh-out-loud funny, and well worth reading. I fully plan on reading this to my children, when they are old enough, and I'm sure that we will laugh ourselves to pieces over it! Five stars for Cheaper by the Dozen!

Book Project: How to Win Friends and Influence People

The third book I've finished as part of my book project is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. I found this book very interesting, especially since I just read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Though Covey and Carnegie use very different language, some of the practices they preach are very similar. However, Covey focuses much more on the private victory, and viewed his habits in light of helping you lead a more fulfilling, effective life. Carnegie focuses completely on the Public victory; and while the steps outlined in his book are geared to help you achieve results in your life that lead to greater prosperity and happiness, it is completely outward. There is no inward examination in his program. Nevertheless, I think his book can help one do exactly what it says--win friends and influence people.

He divides his book into four different parts: how to handle people, how to get people to like you, how to win people to your way of thinking, and how to be a leader. Each part outlines specific steps to help you achieve each ability. For example, the steps in part two consist of being genuinely interested in other people, smiling, learning to remember and use a person's name (I need help with that one!), being a good listener, talking about the other person's interests, and making the other person feel important. He supports each step with a great deal of empirical data and examples from history and from people who have taken his courses and implemented his suggestions.

Today, I'm just going to share a few brief quotes, representing some of the lessons that really struck me.

In chapter two of part one, he shares a quote from John Dewey which I really identified with: "The deepest urge in human nature is "the desire to be important."" Yes, the desire for importance plays a key role in the decisions we make every day. But is it really the "deepest urge"? Is there anything that goes deeper? One might say the desire to be loved is deeper, but it seems to be the same thing; we feel loved when we know that we matter, that we are important to that person, that it makes a difference when we aren't there. One might also submit that the desire to be happy is the deepest desire, but it is very hard, I think, to be happy without at least some feeling of importance.

Carnegie then goes a step further and says that without this desire to be important, civilization could not exist, and there would be nothing setting us apart from the animals. I don't know if I agree with this, either. Don't the animals have some sense of importance? Two males compete for a female in order to show which deserves to be her mate--isn't this a form of trying to be important? On the human side, I don't know if I can picture a civilization forming because people want to appear important; however, I can picture it forming out of a need for common necessities like food, clothing, order, justice, and protection. None of those seem to have very much to do with importance.

This is something that I'm still thinking through...if anyone has another view on this subject, I welcome your comments!

I'd like to share one more quote. Though Carnegie does not cite the source, I looked it up online and found it was from Stephen Grellet. It reads: "I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

I loved this beautiful quote. It is a reminder that time is short. We cannot very often make up lost opportunities to make a positive difference. We must do it now. Like Jose Alonso, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, counseled in the October 2011 General Conference, "Let us do the right thing, at the right time, without delay.

I really enjoyed this book! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Have you ever noticed how bloggers like to have a day of the week dedicated to a specific subject? Like Top Tip Tuesday, or Friday Favorites, or Molly Maid Monday. Well, I decided that I would make every Thursday a Thoughtful Thursday, where I will briefly share something inspiring.

Yesterday, my good friend told me about a website called She is a writer of very interesting books and doer of very interesting deeds. She also makes inspiring videos. This is my favorite, so far. It is called The Kindness Thought Bubble. I felt really moved and inspired when I watched it. I hope you will, too!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Project: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This was the first book I finished for my Book Project. I actually finished it a while ago, but it's taken me until now to write about it. This was the perfect book to get me motivated! I read and loved the teens version when I was, well, a teen, so reading the "grown up" version was very interesting and fun.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, here they are:
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win/Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the Saw

It's not my purpose to give a full-on summary of the principles taught in this book, so I'm just going to highlight a few that really changed my thoughts and attitude about life in general.
I learned a lot about thinking Win/Win. Covey spends a lot of time talking about how two people's ideas and needs can be combined to create solutions that are better than either of them could invent alone. I plan on applying this in more ways than one. For example, my husband and I have this silly conversation every Friday and Saturday night. It goes something like this:

Me: "What would you like to do tonight, honey?"
Tyler: "I want to do what you want to do."
Me: "Well, I don't know what I want to do. I'm good with whatever. So what do you want to do?"
Tyler: "I just want to spend time with you. I'm good with whatever, too. So really, what do you want to do?"

This usually continues until one or the other gives in and suggests something to do, for the sake of ending such a meangingless conversation. We sound like the vultures in Jungle Book, and it bugs the heck out of me. This might seem like a very trivial way to apply the win/win principle, but I think we can use it to start communicating better and come up with activities that both of us really want to do. :)
I think one of the wisest principles of this book is Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood. I've never forgotten the cover page of this chapter in the teens version. It says, "You have two ears and one mouth-HELLO!" It is so tempting to do the opposite. I worry so much about people understanding me that I often walk away from a new acquaintance and realize that I had told them plenty about my life without troubling to remember the details of theirs. I really need to work on this!

My favorite and most life-changing epiphany I had was on being proactive. Lately, I've been rather reactive, and this always results in frequent spurts of frustration and grouchiness when things don't go my way (which they often don't). In the last chapter of The Seven Habits, Covey relates an experience he had with a paragraph from a book. Strangely, he didn't include the actual quote, but he explains what it said in a way that I love. He says:

"I read the paragraph over and over again. It basically contained the simple idea that there is a gap or space between stimulus and response, and that the key to growth and happiness is how we use that space. I can hardly describe the effect that idea had on my mind...I reflected on it again and again, and it began to have a powerful effect on my paradigm of life. It was as if I had become an observer of my own participation. I began to stand in that gap and to look outside at the stimuli. I reveled in the inward sense of freedom to choose my response--even to become the stimulus, or at least to influence it--even to reverse it." (pg. 310)

This is a powerful idea. The best thing is, it's a very easy one to remember. Just keeping that phrase in my head--"the space between stimulus and response"--helps me to choose my actions much more carefully. I love the thought of standing in that space and considering my options before acting.

Overall, I really feel that my experience with The Seven Habits has changed me for the better. Before I read this book, I was feeling sorry for myself and a little stuck. I felt like my identity was becoming lost among the endless piles of dirty diapers and dirty dishes (I'm sure you moms have never felt like that before ;) ). I still feel that way, sometimes. But mostly I feel empowered, purposeful, and important in my own little sphere of living, and this book, combining with other inspiring influences, helped me feel it. Thanks, Mr. Covey!

p.s. Reviews on Emily Dickinson's poetry and Napoleon Hill's How to Win Friends and Influence People coming soon!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Project: Laddie

My book project is alive and well! I am happy to report that I have finished my second book: Laddie, by Gene Stratton-Porter. It took me awhile because I read it in spurts
and bursts while reading other things at the same time, but nevertheless, I loved it! I highly recommend it to anyone
wanting to fill their souls with wholesome, georgic goodness.
It's got the warm-fuzzy feeling of Little Women with the
fascinating descriptive power of My Antonia. I learned so much
from the beautiful, captivating characters! Allow me to share
a few epiphanies I had. But first, a synopsis:

"Laddie is the story of Little Sister, the twelfth and youngest Stanton child, and her special relationship with her older brother Laddie, a paragon of virtue and intellectual and physical attainments. The story is about Little Sister, the "unwanted child" who becomes the joy of the Stanton family, and about the triumph of true love. Little Sister plays a key role in brining together the Princess--their mysterious neighbor, Pamela Pryor--and her beloved brother, Laddie. Love conquers all as the Pryors are revealed to be troubled but good people, and the Princess and her family are accepted by Laddie's proud but charitable family. Little Sister is finally recognized as a truly blessed child, a special gift to the Stantons."

(This synopsis was taken from the back of my book, which is the edition you see pictured above.)
I was surprised at how effortlessly this book captivated me. Not in a Hunger Games/Harry Potter way, but in a gentle way--the way one might be captivated watching a brook or a fire. I felt that I was bypassing thousands of deep, thought-provoking ideas and lessons, but I was so interested in what was going to happen on the next page, I didn't take much time to stop and think. Despite my eagerness to devour the plot, a few life-changing ideas leaped out at me from the page and would not let me pass until I had at least marked them.

At one point in the book, Little Sister becomes very sick with lung fever, setting the whole family at work to heal her. Her brother sent her a book of poetry, and in it she read a poem that stuck with her. It was something about the buttercups and daisies in the springtime. On page 239, she says:
"That piece helped me out of bed...It was funny about it too. I don't know why it worked on me that way; it just kept singing in my heart all day, and I could shut my eyes and go to sleep seeing buttercups in a gold sheet all over our Big Hill, although there never was a single one there; and the meadows full of daisies, which were things father said were a pest he couldn't tolerate, because they spread so, and he grubbed up every one he found...Between the buttercups and the daisies I lef the bed with a light head and wobbly legs...The person who wrote the piece was an idiot. It sang and sounded pretty, and it pulled you up and pushed you out, but really it was a fool thing, as I very well knew." She goes on to say on page 241: "There was nothing in the silly, untrue lines: the pull and tug was in what they made you think of."

That made me realize that we all need some sort of literature in our lives that makes us feel that way. We all need something--a favorite poem, book, painting or piece of music--that gets inside our souls so that we can hardly sit still until we do something that makes us feel alive!

At another part in the book, the family is traveling home from church. Mother has Father stop the carriage so she can look out and see where they first looked at their land and decided where to build their home. This is a family who has spent years laboring with all their might to beautify their land and make it a true Eden. Surveying the fruits of their labor, Mother exclaims, "The Home Feeling!...It is in my heart so big this morning I am filled with worship. Just filled with the spirit of worship." (pg. 278)

When I read this, I stopped to think for a minute. What does it take to create that "Home Feeling"? What does it take to create a home so beautiful, you sometimes have to step back, look at it with wonder, and say to yourself, "I created this?" What does it take to produce fruits so pure and good, you can't help but be "filled with the spirit of worship"? I'm not going to venture an answer just yet; I think it deserves pondering for awhile. I only know that, whatever it is, I want that "Home Feeling" for my family.

There are several things I could devote another couple thousand words to, but this post is already long enough. Suffice it to say, I love this book, I will be revisiting it many times in years to come, and I highly, glowingly recommend it!