Posts Tagged With: Wise words

Happiness in a Bag of All-Purple M&M’s

My sister has always been a bit of a jokester. When she was a freshman away at college we recieved an official looking envelope with beautiful coligrific writing addressed to our family. My mom excitedly opened it up, then immediately began to cry. It was a wedding announcement, complete with photo of the happy couple (a curly-haired boy she’d never even mentioned holding her in his arms on a picturesque bridge) and velum paper. My mom was hysterical. It was a good ten minutes later that my dad and I found the tiny paper tucked inside a miniature envelope that said, “April Fools!” and were able to deter my mom from doing anything irrational.

For Christmas the year after My husband and I were married we all sat around our living room exchanging gifts. My sister handed my new husband a round, nicely wrapped presant. As we opened the paper, we found our pajamas getting totally soaked and the paper soggy! “It’s a fish!” She proudly announced. And sure enough, we found ourselves holding a basketball-sized glass bowl full of water.


Growing up with her was no different. My junior year in high school I happened to sit next to her good friend (now husband) in Architectural Drafting, and had planned to share a few M&M’s with him. Our teacher was giving instructions, so I discretely tore the package and began to pour them into my hand. Purple. Purple. Purple… ALL PURPLE! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 100 million yen… that’s what the package said. Get a bag of all purple M&Ms and that’s what you’d win. I felt like Charlie finding Willie Wonka’s Golden ticket. I hadn’t a clue how much 100 MILLION yen was, but it sure sounded like an exorbitant amount! I whispered to my neighbor. “Look. Do you believe this?? This is just crazy! They’re all PURPLE!” It didn’t take long before the entire class and teacher were in on my little secret. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I was contemplating what this would mean for my future. Money, money, money! I was going to be rich!

After the bell rang, I stood in the hall showing my friends. Soon a large crowd had formed, students and teachers alike. Everyone as astonished as I was. Word spreads fast in a small school, and I was feeling more and more famous by the minute, probably enjoying my moment in the spotlight a little too much. A while later I happened to spot my sister sitting on a bench not too far away and, clutching that M&M bag tightly, ran over. I could hardly contain my excitement. As soon as she saw me running, that mischevious grin spread across her face. I began to relate to her the events of the morning when she began to chuckle. Her chuckle turned into a laugh, and soon we were both in tears howling hysterically. She had totally got me.



In my brief time visiting dream-world as a rich, famous, bag of all-purple M&M winner I imagined myself being so happy. Who wouldn’t be with money beyond the imagination, right?? I could buy a beautiful house, fancy clothes, throw elaborate parties for my family and friends.

Since my foolish 16-year-old days I have learned a thing or two. When I went to college, I didn’t have much money and worked at odd jobs on campus. We never did elaborate, costly things, but I will always look back on those tight-budget college years with fond memories. When my husband and I were just married, we lived in a tiny, kinda dumpy, one room, kitchen-the-size-of-a-closet, apartment. The walls were thin, our neighbors were grumpy. But we were so happy! Those were some wonderful times. My sweet, stubborn kids each have one icky t-shirt that they love. Any time I bring a new one home hoping they will finally retire their old ones, they become heart-broken at the mere suggestion. We have so many toys that go abandoned and forgotten, while sticks and rocks rarely are. I have learned in my years since opening that bag of M&Ms that while it may be nice, convenient, and handy, money really does not buy happiness!

That same amazing prankster sister has taught me much about living simply and finding joy in it. She and her husband ride bikes almost everywhere. She buys the cutest clothes for her and her kids at goodwill and garage sales. She builds benches, decks, kitchen cabinets, grows a garden, and has a beautiful home. She is a professional in the art of frugality. They  are, without a doubt, some of the happiest people I know.


It is so easy to get greedy. Clothes, cars, toys, new furniture, phones, electronics… To wish for more and not appreciate what we have. I know I have been guilty of such selfish thoughts. But the truth is, the more we realize that our most valuable possessions are family and friends, the richer we will be. At 16 for that brief moment I thought I’d found all the happiness in the world in a bag of all-purple M&Ms. But as I look back at those exciting college memories, blissful newly-wed years, through the abandoned toys in the closet, and at my sister and her sweet family, it’s easy to see that 100 million yen could never truly bring happiness. Our real treasures are staring at us across the dinner table, crawling under the covers at night, calling on the phone to say hello, and giving hugs before walking out the door in the morning.  A treasure worth far more than a silly bag of all purple M&Ms.

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The Green-Eyed Monster

In December I was asked to play the role of “miss every-day mom” for a little pretend pageant at church. Apparently I was a pretty good fit for the part. About a week before performance night we were sent our script to memorize. I won’t go into detail, but the gist was this: A group of talented women are in a pageant, and then there is miss every-day mom, a total train wreck. At the end of the play it’s decided that all the women, including little ole me, are talented and capable in their own way.

Here was my part:

In hustles miss everyday mom in yoga pants or jeans and t-shirt with a messy bun, looking a bit frazzled. Miss everyday- I’m so sorry I’m late! I had to take my kids to soccer and gymnastics, and then the hamster got out of its cage and I had to find it before the dog did! Then right as I was getting ready to leave, the baby threw up on my dress, while I was changing I burned the casserole, and then the sitter called and cancelled!! Also, I tried all day to come up with something special about myself, or a talent to share and I just couldn’t find anything!

Now let me tell you how everything had REALLY gone that day for this “every-day mom.”

I had to take R to school. As we walked to the car the dog got a hold of one of M’s gloves, so I chased him around the yard. As we drove to school I realized I hadn’t helped R study any of his spelling words that week, so I spent the next five minutes drilling him on words he hadn’t a clue how to spell. He walked in just in time for the late bell to ring. I chased the chickens around the yard to herd them back into their coop before the dog had one for a snack. Dinner was totally lousy because I hadn’t been to the grocery store in two weeks, and my husband was running late from work. I hadn’t done laundry in a while either, so when it was time to leave I was relieved that my part required me to wear yoga pants and a t-shirt because, well, that’s all that I had to wear that was clean!

By the time I walked up on that stage, I didn’t even have to pretend my role. It was painfully clear that I WAS miss every-day mom. The play was meant to uplift and help us to see that we all have talents and abilities, but I have to admit I went home feeling like nothing more than an every-day mom, capable of nothing but herding chickens and washing dishes. Talents? Nope. My kid couldn’t even spell GRAY. Other kids in his class were probably spelling words like onomatopoeia. And who’s fault is that, really? You can’t exactly blame him! I knew plenty of “every-day moms” that could also pass off as “miss bakes-a-lot. I had a few friends who weren’t only amazing moms, but they packed their kids up in strollers and ran for miles every day. Some that were the darlings of the PTO, room mothers, artists, musicians, dancers… Not me. I chased chickens. I have to admit, on the drive home I started feeling those pangs of jealousy. When I walked in the door my always-reassuring, sensible husband reminded me of an important life lesson I so often tend to forget. “So?” He asked. “What do you mean, SO??” I whined. “Sally can bake the most amazing cookies you’ve ever tasted. Bobby Jo is training for a marathon. Me? I chase chickens.” His response hit me hard. “So? It’s not a competition.”

All I wanted him to say was, “Oh, Honey. You are so good at so many things!” You know, gush over me a little. But he didn’t. And you know what? He was right. Life isn’t a competition. My husband had reminded me in those few short words that jealousy is a very unattractive trait, and I was oozing with it.

So often we compare ourselves to others. How many times have we thought, “Oh sure, she makes the best cookies, but I bet her kids watch a ton of tv!” Or, “She can sing all right. But you should see her without any make-up.”  How often do we try to make ourselves better by putting someone else down? So she’s better at baking cookies. Can’t we just be happy that we have an opportunity to know her and enjoy her creations? Finding fault in others to bring ourselves up is such an easy thing to do. We all have our shortcomings, don’t we? When we are filled with those feelings of jealousy, when we are secretly searching for any reason we are better than someone else, we loose our ability to truly love that person. A person that we could learn so much from and maybe even help in our own way too. What a sad existence, to feel that we have to be better than others. Not to mention exhausting!

when I feel those jealous feelings, that someone else’s talents are superior to my own, when I start to search for ways that they fail to justify why I can’t do the amazing things they do, I try to remember the wise words of my husband. “So? It’s not a competition.” I hope I can find joy in others’ successes. It is a wonderful feeling to truly love someone, to not look for fault and simply decide to be happy they, in all their amazingness, are in my life. I have faults. That’s a painfully obvious fact. You have faults. And that’s ok. So now can we just find the good in each other? The green-eyed monster is very real. I hate to admit I am acquainted with him. Probably far better than I should be. But I know I feel so much better when he isn’t around.

I’m Miss Every-day mom. You might be Miss Smart-as-a-whip, Miss Spiritually-Inclined, Miss Spelling-champ, or Miss Pinterest-extraordinaire. And that’s just great. Let’s be glad for each other, let’s teach each other. I want to find the good in who you are. In what you do. I’m glad we can be friends!


He is always full of truthful, honest words of advice when I’m being ridiculous. SO glad I married him!

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Lessons Learned in a 5K

I should start this story explaining that I’m not really a runner. If I were to make such a claim it would be an insult to my amazing friends who really are. I admire their dedication, stamina, and abilities so much and would love to be considered one of them. I try to run once or twice a week and I actually really enjoy it, but a real life, distance-tracking, medal-winning, marathon-training runner I am not.

Despite my being a “just for fun” runner, a couple years ago one of my real runner friends talked me into signing up for a 5K. We trained every morning for weeks until the big day. My adrenaline was pumping as I scanned the crowd of racers that morning. My friend and I took our places behind the start and nervously bounced up and down. The gun fired and the race had begun. back in high school I ran cross country, so I vaguely remembered the drill. Pace yourself. Start strong, but don’t wear yourself out the first mile. Keep your mind focused. I fell into the line of racers and tried to think about the pancake breakfast waiting at the finish line.

It felt great to be out on a crisp, spring morning hearing nothing but the steady breath of runners all around. During the second mile I caught up to a small group of fellow racers. They were decked out in fancy running shoes, fanny packs with water, and those “real runner” spandex shorts. They seemed to be pretty serious about this racing business. As we rounded a corner an 8, maybe 10-year-old boy sporting a number 67 on his race bib Came into view. His arms were pumping, head bobbing, and eyes straight ahead. He was determined. With each step, however, his legs looked more and more like jello and his course less straight. as we gained on him, those runners just ahead of me became visually agitated at this young boy for taking up so much of the trail with his awkward form. “Ugh. ExCUSE me!” I heard one lady breathe as she slipped past the boy. Another man yelled, “YOU need to learn to stay in your own lane!” As the two racers continued on, I overheard them say to each other, “Someone needs to teach that kid some running etiquette!” I’m sure the boy heard. His pace became just a little slower, his head hung a little more. But he raced on. My heart hurt for the boy. A part of me nagged to go give those big bullies a piece of my mind. Maybe even trip them and race on (I know, I know. That would have been really mean!). But they were three, maybe four times his age! The extra two seconds it took them to navigate around him didn’t loose them any gold medal… they were going the same pace as me for Pete’s sake. So his legs were all over the trail. He was only 10 years old (if that) and had just run two miles! I can think of a hundred things a 10-year-old boy could be doing at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. Sleeping. Watching cartoons. Playing video games. But he wasn’t. He was running a race. He was pushing himself, working hard, doing something worth being proud of. And despite the negative comments from others who should be encouraging a budding runner, he ran on.

I didn’t listen to that nagging desire partly because I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to confrontation with mean, angry people and partly because my legs were a bit jello-y too and didn’t feel much up to sprinting to catch up. Looking back I wish I would have been more bold. A few minutes later another runner passed the boy. Instead of more condescending snares, the man slowed as he approached number 67. “Great job, kid. You’re on your last mile! Hang in there. Try to keep your form. You can do it!” and off he ran. that seemed to lighten the boy’s load just a bit. His speed picked up, his form became more straight, and his determination was back. I passed him a few seconds after and breathlessly sputtered, “Almost there! Good Job!”

As I rounded the last corner and sprinted the 100 yards to the finish, I heard my boys’ little voices cheering me on. Those boys that I’ve tried so hard to help them know that they are capable. That they can work hard and finish strong. That if they want to do great things, all they have to do is put their mind to it. During those short 3.1 miles I was reminded that this life is full of people ready to take you down at every turn. To tell you you’re not good enough. That you aren’t doing it right and are just in the way. That day I understood first-hand that I can’t just teach my kids that they have the ability to work hard and finish strong…I have to teach them to work hard and finish strong EVEN (or maybe especially) when others tell them they can’t. When those runners passed the boy and criticized his efforts, he kept running. He could have walked. He could have sat down and cried. He could have said, “Wow, I’m going home to play video games. this running gig is NOT for me.” But he didn’t. He ran his jello-y awkward legs to the finish. Something worth being proud of, no matter what the other runners said. I hope that my boys can take criticism and learn from it, but not let the negativity define them. And more than anything, I hope that as they get into positions of trust, that they can be the ones to tell others who look up to them, “Good job, kid. you’re on your last mile. keep your form. You can do it!”

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Making the World A Better Place

A few mornings ago while I was at King Soopers getting groceries with my two young children, I was reminded of a valuable life lesson. It was around 8 a.m., and I was just pulling my two boys out of their car seats when a car pulled up and out came a familiar face. Not familiar because I know him personally, but familiar because for the past three years that I’ve shopped at Target in our town I, and probably every other shopper and employee, have been treated by him as if an old friend. I can’t think of a kinder person I’ve ever met.

That morning he jumped out of his car and began pulling two carts out of his old Subaru. When he saw me close by, he smiled and said, “Hi there! Can you believe that I found this cart all the way by the GMC dealership? And this Safeway one was down by McDonald’s.” As he pushed the cart to the holder, I responded, “Well it’s sure good of you to bring them all the way back!” In all sincerity he said, “Just trying to do my part to make our world a better place.” Then referring to the Safeway cart, “Better get this one home.” With that he drove away.

No other witnesses to this simple act of kindness but my two sons and me. Next thing I knew I was pushing my way through the busy aisles of the grocery store. I couldn’t believe the contrast I felt from my exchange with the gentleman in the parking lot as I looked at the other shoppers. Most were completely consumed with themselves pushing their way down the aisle. Not a glance up from their own lives, let alone a friendly good morning.

What was most ironic to me was in many of the carts were reusable bags, organic foods and “green” products, all to “make our world a better place.” I couldn’t help but wonder who was making a bigger difference and doing their part. While “going green” and buying organic are wonderful things to do, is it not just as important to share a smile, help out our neighbors or treat others with kindness and respect?

As I teach my own children about our world and how we can take care of it, I hope I can help them to understand that being kind and considerate of others, even when there’s no recognition, is one of the most wonderful secrets to “doing our part to make our world a better place.”

A few years ago I wrote this story and submitted it to our local paper. Here’s a link:

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