Reflections on Blessings

and Thanksgiving

 

By Corrie Lynne Player

Heaven Help Us

Nov. 23, 2017

 

The month of November, with Thanksgiving, starts what I believe is our most important holiday season. I thoroughly enjoy reflecting with family and friends about just how blessed I am. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the greatest nation on earth, a nation founded on God-given principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In my numerous decades of life, I’ve learned that celebrating where I am is much more satisfying than criticizing or complaining about my circumstances. A newspaper I write for dedicated a page to giving folks an opportunity to “vent” about problems in their lives or situations they wanted to see changed. While I think it’s important to push for changes when you can, I also believe that what you emphasize the most will become what’s most important. If you complain a lot, you will be much unhappier than if you smile more than you frown.

So, frankly, I choose to celebrate living in a free nation where the course of my life is under my control, to whatever extent I want to make the effort. I’m free to figure out and pursue a profession. Nobody is going to force me to be a mechanic when I’d rather be a musician. But I also know that nobody will pay me to play the piano or French horn if I have no talent or don’t want to practice hours and hours a day. The pursuit of happiness is definitely NOT the pursuit of pleasure.

While being happy is a very pleasant state, it doesn’t come from being rich, famous, or powerful. It doesn’t come from being entertained, eating fancy food, or lounging around, either. I think happiness is a process rather than an end in itself. Looking back over my years of change, challenge, and, sometimes, disappointments, I can see that the times I’ve been happiest are those when I’ve been most concerned about other people or situations outside myself.

Gratitude is a key component of happiness. If you feel cheated, jealous, or angry, you aren’t happy. You’re only happy when you recognize God’s hand in your life.

I like this story that a reader sent me a while ago:

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none came. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. Stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger, he cried, “God! How could you do this to me?”

Early the next day, the sound of a ship approaching the island woke him.

When the rescuers waded out of the sea, he asked, “How did you know I was here?”

“We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

It’s easy to be discouraged when things are going wrong, but please don’t lose heart. God is at work in your life, even in the midst of your pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground it just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God.

November is National Adoption Awareness month, so as you reflect about your own blessings, consider adding another child to your family. Just saying…

Optimism is much more comfortable than pessimism

 

By Corrie Lynne Player

Oct. 26, 2017

 

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? How you perceive the world will affect whether or not you can be happy, no matter what happens around you.

Research shows that happy people live longer, healthier lives, have more energy, and enjoy better relationships. People who are more positive in the way they approach problems have fewer accidents, drug dependency, divorces, and illnesses. Numerous studies have borne out these facts, but you don’t have to read scientific journals to realize that being happy feels a lot better than being angry, sad, or guilty.

Dr. Ellia Gourgouris, a clinical psychologist, said, Depression, sadness, and unhappiness in general deplete you of energy, like you have this leak in your system … Happiness not only plugs up that leak but begins to build up a reserve.

Happiness is a choice, not something that is bestowed on you. I’ve discovered that the best way to be happy and optimistic is to perform acts of kindness. You will not only feel happy when you do something nice, but you will spread a bit of happiness to those who witness your kindness as well as the recipients of your acts.

I’ve seen so many kindnesses, like the man who noticed that the carton of milk an elderly woman tried to put on her walker kept falling off. He not only picked it up for her, he rearranged the groceries in her basket to solve the problem.  I was behind a handicapped man who was struggling to find enough change to pay for his bread and juice; the person at the end of the line stepped forward and handed the clerk $10, then walked quickly away.

I’ve discovered a couple of sure-fire ways to lift my mood. When I am in a long line at the movies, super market, or etc., I invite the person behind me to go first. That inevitably makes me feel good or even sparks a pleasant conversation much better than shifting from foot to foot and sighing with impatience.

I’ve also told someone about a compliment I overheard and enjoyed the smiles. I, too, smiled when one of his teachers told me that my 14-year-old son had bragged to a group of friends that his mom and dad were his heroes. I remembered that warm feeling the next time that 14 year old sulked in his room or argued with his sister.

In past columns I’ve asked you to share your ideas for spreading happiness. I’ve collected several. One woman sent an email saying that she enjoys slipping a gas card into someone’s shopping bag especially when she can do so without being noticed. Another reader said that she writes a note to the manager of the restaurant or retail store where she’s received good service.

Several of you mentioned your appreciation when your neighbor took your trash to the curb or mowed your lawn. I have a neighbor who has done this for me several times. And I can’t count how many times somebody has plowed my driveway or shoveled my walks.

Kindness can be spontaneous or planned. Just thinking about it can lift your mood and turn a gray day to sunshine. As the days grow shorter and winter begins, let’s all do our best to view our surroundings, especially our loved ones, with rose-colored glasses.

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

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Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

A laugh a day improves everything

 

Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist

11-17-2016

 

For the last little while, I’ve been talking about facing challenges, overcoming sorrow and putting yourself into God’s hands.

This month, I’d like to shift gears a bit and share a few laughs with you.

Behavioral science has proved that we all need to laugh and smile as much as possible, no matter whether life is a bit rocky or you’re just cruising along without much trouble. Laughing improves muscle tone and improves your mood.

Trust me, one of these days you’ll find yourself sideswiped by a problem you never saw coming. So cut this column out and tape it on your fridge for future reference.

I’ve collected this particular set of chuckles over the past decades from conversations with friends and reading whatever I can get my hands on. I even watched part of a popular TV program that went on and on about how mid-life is a great time for women.

I turned it off because hot flashes and mood swings aren’t pleasant, let alone humorous. I do admit, however, that laughing about unpleasant realities is a whole lot better than whining.       Whether you are pushing 40, 50, 60, 70 (or maybe even just pushing your luck), you’ll probably relate to the following thoughts.

“Mid-life is when the growth of hair on our legs slows down. This gives us plenty of time to care for our newly acquired mustache.

“In mid-life, we don’t have upper arms, we have wingspans. We are no longer women in sleeveless shirts; we are flying squirrels in drag.

“Mid-life is when you can stand naked in front of a mirror and see your rear without turning around.

“Mid-life brings wisdom to know that life throws us curves and we’re sitting on our biggest ones.

“Mid-life is when you look at your know-it-all, earbud wearing, texting teenager and think: “For this, I have stretch marks?”

“In mid-life, your memory starts to go.  In fact, the only thing you seem to be able to retain is water.

“Mid-life means that the body you toned by faithfully exercising and counting calories has given you Legs By Rand McNally—more red and blue lines than an accurately scaled map of Wisconsin.

“Mid-life means that you become more reflective . . . You start pondering the “big” questions: What is life?  Why am I here?  How much Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it’s no longer a healthy choice?

But mid-life also brings with it an appreciation for what’s important.

We realize that breasts sag, hips expand and chins double, but our loved ones make the journey worthwhile.

Seriously, would any of you trade the knowledge that you have now, for the body you had way back when?  Maybe our bodies simply have to expand to hold all the wisdom and love we’ve acquired. That’s my point of view, any way.

I prefer President Monson’s advice to “Find joy in the journey.” Joy comes from focusing on the good stuff and ignoring anything that doesn’t actually need immediate medical attention.

Email me at heavenhelpusbeourbest@gmail.com and share your humorous thoughts about these sunset years. After all, we “seasoned” elders owe the world as much laughter and good thoughts as possible.

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Optimism is more comfortable than pessimism

 

Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist

10-20-2016

 

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? How you perceive the world will affect whether or not you can be happy no matter what happens around you.
Research shows that happy people live longer, healthier lives, have more energy, and enjoy better relationships. People who are more positive in the way they approach problems have fewer accidents, less drug dependency, and fewer divorces, and illnesses.
Numerous studies have bourne out these facts, but you don’t have to read scientific journals to realize that being happy feels a lot better than being angry, sad, or guilty.
Dr. Ellia Gourgouris, a clinical psychologist, said, “Depression, sadness, and unhappiness in general deplete you of energy, like you have this leak in your system…. Happiness not only plugs up that leak but begins to build up a reserve.”
Happiness is a choice, not something that is bestowed on you. I’ve discovered that the best way to be happy and optimistic is to perform acts of kindness. You will not only feel happy when you do something nice, but you will spread a bit of happiness to those who witness your
kindness, as well as to the recipient of your acts.
I’ve seen so many kindnesses, like the man who noticed that the carton of milk an elderly woman tried to put on her walker kept falling off. He not only picked it up for her, he rearranged the groceries in her basket to solve the problem.
I was behind a handicapped man who was struggling to find enough change to pay for his bread and juice; the person at the end of the line stepped forward and handed the clerk $10, then walked quickly away.
I’ve discovered a couple of sure-fire ways to lift my mood. When I’m in a long line at the movies, super market, or etc, I invite the person behind me to go first. That inevitably makes me feel good or even sparks a pleasant conversation—and it’s much better than shifting from foot to foot and sighing with impatience.
Sometimes I’ve told someone about a compliment I overheard about them, and enjoyed the smiles. I, too, smiled when one of his teachers told me that my 14-year-old son had bragged to a group of friends that his mom and dad were his heroes. I remembered that warm feeling the next time that 14-year-old sulked in his room or argued with his sister.
In past columns, I’ve asked you to share your ideas for spreading happiness. I’ve collected several. One woman sent an email saying that she enjoys slipping a gas card into someone’s shopping bag, especially when she can do so without being noticed.
Another reader said that she writes a note to the manager of the restaurant or retail store where she’s received good service.
Several of you mentioned your appreciation when your neighbor took your trash to the curb or mowed your lawn. I have a neighbor who’s done this for me several times. And I can’t count how many times somebody has plowed my driveway or shoveled my walks.
Kindness can be spontaneous or planned. Just thinking about it can lift your mood and turn a gray day to sunshine.

Choose not to be offended

By Corrie Lynne Player

 

I wonder why so many of us get so upset with each other. We notice the failings and faults in others without considering our own failings and faults. I’m including myself in these musings because I know that I, too, often “choose to be offended.” Most of us don’t consciously hurt other people. We may be oblivious, thoughtless, and too caught up in our own concerns, but we rarely say to ourselves, “I think I’ll see if I can really tick-off Mary today.”

I know of countless instances where no intent to hurt was present: someone reads an old journal and discovers that her best friend thought she was “a jerk” back in high school; a teenager stops coming to church because an old lady remarked at how “skimpy” her dress was; a preacher chastises his congregation for coveting and one of the listeners storms out because “he was talking about her,” or a daughter forgets her mother’s birthday and the mother sulks.

Hurt feelings can lead to much worse consequences. Ruptured relationships include divorces, church inactivity, and years-long estrangements.

I see this “choosing to be offended” in public discourse all the time these days: the neighbor who calls animal control for a loose dog from down the street; the protestor who files a grievance at a water hearing instead of talking to his neighbor; the man who ignores phone calls from his friend who wants to apologize about a misunderstanding; the breaking of contact for years because of a forgotten birthday or loan that is never repaid.

Years ago a woman I was friends with found out, through our annual newsletter, that I’d passed through her town on vacation and failed to call or visit. So, she wrote me that “if I were too busy to even call,” she wanted to be removed from our Christmas card list.

I was stunned.

I wonder why some of us choose to interpret everything negatively. I think we should give the other guy the benefit of the doubt. While we may forget to send the note thanking a friend for making us dinner, we genuinely appreciate the dinner and would be horrified if that friend interpreted our lapse as purposeful.

This whole subject ties in with the idea of forgiveness.

There’s a very good reason the Bible commands us to “forgive one another” and states unequivocally that we are “to forgive all men.” The scriptures don’t give any conditions for that forgiveness, either. There’s a reason—forgiving another for a slight or perceived offense calms a churning stomach and lets us sleep at night.

When we hold onto hurt feelings and grudges, we put our immune systems at risk. Science tells us that people who cannot laugh off the pettiness of others suffer from cancer, heart disease and stroke at a much higher rate than the general population. They also die an average of five years earlier.

What I’m trying to say is: taking offense will make you sick, damage your friendships, and erode your relationships. Forgiving those you love will heal your heart.

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

 

My Life Has Been Blessed

 

Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist

9-15-2016

 

As the oldest of five, I had the perfect childhood for somebody who wanted to be a writer—a homestead at Kenny Lake, in the wilderness of Alaska.

My parents and the crew daddy had flown with during WWII planned to form a modern wagon train to traverse the Alcan highway that opened to civilian traffic in May 1947. But when the time came to head north, they went alone, because everybody else chickened out.

Our one room log cabin had a sod roof and dirt floor. It was heated by a stove that daddy made from a 50-gallon steel drum. Daddy built most of our furniture, as well as the cabin, salvaging windows and metal from the burned ruins of a roadhouse and logs from a barn that was built at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Mama scrubbed our clothes on a wash board and baked bread every day. Our refrigerator was a pit dug into the permafrost outside the back door, with an insulated lid. During the winter, we hung meat in a three-sided garage. We lived pretty much as people did in the early 19th century—except we had a jeep.

 

The cabin was eventually converted into a sturdy three bedroom log house, encircled by barley fields and live stock. Kenny Lake became a thriving community. Daddy donated land and materials for the first school house—one room for 12 students in eight grades. He taught the first year (because the teacher sent by the state of Alaska took one look at the living conditions and quit) and was the unofficial mayor.

We moved to Anchorage just before I started high school. Daddy, who had flown B-17s during WWII, joined the Alaska Air National Guard and invested in real estate and construction. He was killed in a plane crash just after my 13th birthday, so Mama worked at the Guard as a clerk to support us.

My Alaskan background (and junior college grades) helped me transfer to Stanford University where I met my eternal sweetheart, Gary. He wanted to live on a mountain in Alaska and I yearned for the big city. We compromised on the suburbs in Anchorage where seven of our nine children were born.

Deciding where we lived was a minor decision compared to just what kind of family we wanted to build. We decided early on that we wanted to follow my parents example of serving and caring for others, especially disadvantaged children.

We adopted three of our nine children through the foster care system in two states, and we ran a special needs foster home for more than three decades. While we don’t actively take in children anymore, we continue to support foster/adopt families on a state, regional and national level through membership in the National Foster Parents Association (NFPA).

The mantra of our marriage is “better together than separately.” We’ve been business partners for 30 of our more than 50 years together. He’s the scientist and I’m the CEO—an arrangement that suits us both.

When people learn about our nine children and 42 grandchildren, they often exclaim, “God bless you!” and we agree, “He certainly has.”

 

I’m trying hard to focus on things that matter most and rely more completely on Heavenly Father. He knows what I need and what’s best for me. I’ve learned that being upset about situations, no matter how difficult, accomplishes absolutely nothing. While I can’t control events around me, I can manage my own emotions and reactions.

The title of my column, Heaven Help Us, summarizes my basic philosophy of life—a philosophy I encourage everyone to share.

Please share your blessings with me by email at: heavenhelpusdoourbest@gmail.com.

 

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Ensuring the family pet’s well-being

 

By Corrie-Lynne Player 

Columnist

8-18-2016

 

Last time, I told you about what happened when I acquiesced to my almost grown daughter’s pleas for a dog. She insisted that she’d “always take care” of it. Her desire for a pet lasted exactly a week. I ended up feeding, watering and training the dog.
So, how do you handle getting stuck with a pet? I’m pretty sure that every kid who whines for one really thinks he knows what’s involved: the parakeet’s cage will be cleaned, the goldfish’s water changed and the bowl shined, the hamster’s wood shavings replaced, the litter box emptied, etc.
I’m also sure that most parents end up being the ones who clean cages, change water, replace wood-shavings and empty litter boxes. They’re also the ones who end up filling food dishes, ensuring sufficient exercise and making vet appointments.
So, discuss why your family wants this particular pet. Watching fish swim is relaxing, hamsters are soft and cute, cats don’t need to be walked, dogs are good protectors and so on. Then have your kids decide whether they want the pet enough to put up with the messes and the hassles. If everybody agrees on the need for a particular pet and his or her responsibility to share its care, make a chart that reflects what needs to be done and tracks who should do it.
Post the chart and remind your children to read it if you have to. Reminding was always the hardest part for me. I could define tasks and draw up charts, but once I taped them to the refrigerator door, nobody looked at what I’d written. And I was easily distracted, so I didn’t follow up enough.
But in order for pet care to teach accountability, you have to follow up and figure out consequences for “forgetting” to feed or walk the dog or clean out the cat’s litter box. Draw parallels between your child’s life and the animal’s.
A friend of mine “forgot” to give her thirteen-year old son dinner one night when the kid continually left his dog without food. She says he got the point.
There are so many virtual pets and animated toys that I think people tend to forget that real, living animals are a big responsibility. Some pets are pretty easy but they’ll die if deprived of minimal care.
Freshwater fish in a balanced aquarium don’t take a lot of time but still need to be fed appropriately. Turtles and snakes are in the same category. Mammals such as hamsters, guinea pigs and mice need more attention and qualify as “pets” because they generally like to be touched.
Next up the scale are cats. While cats tend to be attached to places more than people, they still need stroking and feeding.
Dogs, in my opinion, are the top of the “house pet” category. Pack animals, they require grooming, training and feeding. They can’t be fenced in the backyard and ignored. I believe nobody should have a dog it they don’t want to spend the necessary significant time to socialize the animal into the family. Dogs need a boss, the leader of the pack, someone who’s in charge and responsible.
Whatever pet you decide would fit your family, don’t forget that, as the parent, you are the one who’s in charge. Be sure you’re willing to feed and care for the goldfish, turtle, cat or dog. If you can’t or don’t want the responsibility, stand firm and don’t be talked into anything. Or come up with a suitable consequence that doesn’t involve bodily harm for an innocent creature.

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist Corrie Lynne Player

 

Heaven Help Us
Tips for Building lasting love

 

Corrie Lynne Player

Columnist

3-2-2017

 

 

 

It’s traditional to talk about love and relationships during the month of February. Store aisles are filled with red teddy bears, dancing hearts and candy kisses. Retailers hope you’ll splurge on your sweetheart, and they spare no effort in convincing you to remember parents, grandparents, children and friends.

Florists and candy makers tell me that they typically earn 25 to 40 percent of their yearly income during February. I actually enjoy looking at all the cutesy things on the shelves and, if I can afford them, I buy valentine cards for my children and grandchildren—and my husband. I think it’s fun to say “I love you” with a card, candy, or flowers.

I like to be remembered, too, which is a main reason I advocate celebrating this non-holiday—as long as you show love through word and deed the other 364 days a year. So, let’s consider some things to help you demonstrate affection and love for your spouse.

While digging through my “inspiration” files, I found this following bit of advice.“To keep your marriage cup brimming with love, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up!”

In that same file, I found some interesting information about whether or not a marriage is based on selfishness. My notes indicated that during the depression of the 1930’s, the divorce rate, which had been climbing in the Roaring Twenties, dropped dramatically.

A marriage relationship requires that both members give up some personal freedoms. Most of all, it requires responding to the challenges of marriage through positive communication. Couples can experience poverty, illness and death of a child, and still remain together if they’re committed to their marriage and serve one another unselfishly.

I’ve said in this column before that positive actions and words reap great benefits while negativity and criticism don’t accomplish much. I’ve also asked you to share how you show your love for your spouse and how your spouse shows love for you. And a whole bunch of you did!

Amber wrote, “I’m afraid I’m the big ‘taker’ in our relationship. You name it, he does it. If he sees dinner isn’t started, he’ll jump in and do it. First thing he does when he comes home is straighten anything that’s out of place, and he never says a word.”

Jessica wrote, “He’s very supportive of me being back at school. He stays home with the kids and does all the work while I am at my classes. I can talk to him about anything. When I’m stressed out, he gives me complete body rubs, and if I am upset, he’ll just hold me. It seems like such a small thing, but I feel so safe and secure in his arms.”

Another reader who didn’t sign her name said, “My one pet peeve in life is DISHES; they NEVER get done. …you wash them and there’s another pile to do. My husband knows this, and every day (well almost every day) before he goes to work he does the dishes! It takes one thing off my plate in the day, and when I wake up to a clean sink (he gets up at like 5 a.m.), it always makes me smile and reminds me that he loves me!”

Let’s all concentrate this month, and the rest of the year, on demonstrating our love for our spouses: hugs, doing the dishes, picking up scattered toys and starting dinner. And a red fuzzy heart, a rose, or a box of chocolates is okay, too.