40 Years

The BIG 4-0.  What does it feel like?  Honestly, not that much different than 20 or 30.  For some, turning 40 is quite the milestone.  I wondered as I approached my birthday if I would suddenly feel older or “old.”  Nope.  I make jokes about it, but I don’t feel any different.

There are a few minor differences that prove I’m not 20 anymore.  I have some gray hair.  I already wrote about my burgeoning skunk stripe (Age and Conformity).  I’m the cutest skunk you have ever seen.  Actually,  I dye my hair even though I didn’t think I wanted to.  And sometimes I let it grow out quite a bit and then one of the kids comments on my stripe.  It’s odd that it’s just in that one place, so maybe I could grow it out and pretend I’m going for a modern, yet dignified look.  Besides the gray hair, I’m 15 pounds heavier than before I was pregnant with Gavin.  The weight just never went away in spite of the fact that I’m much more diligent about exercise.  And there’s another change–I’m more aware of my health and trying to stay in shape–not because I think I’ll actually lose that 15 pounds, but because blood pressure is a concern and I don’t want to have a stroke.  I want to be able to serve a few missions with Rick and have the energy and stamina to be involved with our grandkids and even great-grandkids.  I also want to enjoy our children as adults.  Something that hasn’t changed over the years–acne.  I don’t have horrible skin, but I do get flare-ups now and then.  I think there should be a rule that once your first gray hair comes in, you should not expect to see another pimple on your face for the rest of your life.

Other changes are not visible in my appearance.  I think I am more mature, more thoughtful, more patient, and more prayerful.  I try to give other people the benefit of the doubt when they say or do things that hurt me or my family.  I don’t get too upset over little things, but I’m not perfect.

Here’s a 40th birthday example of my imperfection–I purchased post-it notes specifically for Primary as we prepare for the Primary program.  I planned to write the kids’ names on the notes and put them where they are supposed to sit on the stand for practice.  The notes are color-coded.  I paid for the sticky notes with church funds and put them in a special place.  Last week, I came home from the temple to find that my family had opened the package of sticky notes and used them.  I was annoyed. Why can’t anybody just leave my stuff alone?  Is there nothing that can be just for me? (Doesn’t that sound like immature and faulty logic?  I mean, come on, they’re for church and they’re just sticky notes.)  I shouldn’t have been angry over such a little thing–especially when I realized what the stick notes were used for.  The kids (under Rick’s direction) wrote notes of things they love about me and put them all over the house for me to find them throughout the week.

Nice, huh?  Gavin even wrote his own special note and stuck it to his stomach.

So, being 40 years old isn’t all that bad.  In fact, it’s great.  I love my family.  I’m healthy and happy.  My life isn’t void of problems or disappointments or stress, and I’m sure I could complain about so many things, but I know I will be a much happier and healthier person if I look for the positive and avoid dwelling on the negative.  Grace and dignity are found in one who can accept challenges as opportunities for growth.  Maybe I’ll get good at that in the next thirty to fifty-something years.


A Birthday Story

My mom sent me this cute compilation of memories for my 40th birthday:

From Journal Entries of Mary Price Allen Gudgel:

April 24, 1978

We have moved to a house on an acre (Castle Road). It took us quite a while to get the other house sold (Edward Ave), and everything settled with it.

Scott has remodeled both bedrooms and the kitchen, also the foundation, as the house is an old farm house of 50+ years and had settled making the floor crooked and unstable. We are still remodeling, but I know everything will be nice when it gets finished. Cathy is almost 2 years old now and really growing fast. We are expecting another baby on about August 31st and looking forward to the arrival. bd 1

Turns out Bonni wasn’t ready to come until almost a month later September 29, 1978. She basically stood on her head for 4 weeks being all stubborn about entering the world. Maybe she was getting extra instructions for her life’s mission here or didn’t want to leave that pleasant place living in peace with her grandma Isabella and other heavenly family members.

When she was finally born, my mother shed tears of joy, and called her a bonny sweet lass. She had a special bond with Bonni from the beginning. It’s as if she recognized her, or perhaps they knew each other in the pre-existence. I suppose we’ll know one day.

Back to the original journal entry . . .. We have quite a garden – grapes, asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, beans, cucumbers and corn. I hope everything keeps on growing. Scott is quite a gardener and works hard keeping the yard up.

Update found in journal #2:

On September 29, 1978 Bonni Ann arrived. She was four weeks late, and that last month was really rough! I must have eaten at least 50 pounds of Hostess cupcakes during that time! I was so tired and bored with being pregnant – I couldn’t seem to do much of anything else.

We were in the process of remodeling the bathroom while I was pregnant. What a mess it was all the time! Scott took out, rather knocked out the old concrete shower so we could put in a shower/tub combination. Above the shower was an old original chimney that was no longer in use, so when Scott took it out soot went everywhere!  I couldn’t even scrub it out of the floor! Good thing we were going to put in a new one . . .

The day in July when my father was helping Scott carry out the last large pieces of the shower, a high councilman came and called Scott to be a Stake Missionary. Boy was it HOT that day! The two of them wanted some privacy so my dad and I waited outside. What torture! We were hoping they wouldn’t take very long. (I remember I had this cotton house robe that I had made to wear when I was home. I was pregnant, the weather was hot and humid, and I couldn’t hardly stand to wear shorts or regular clothes. The robe was short-sleeved, of light cotton, zipped up the front – and was the only comfortable thing I had. I might have had that on when we were outside, not sure . . .)bd 4

During the time of “no shower” Scott took his showers at the gym at work, and I took mine at my mom’s house. Cathy used the wash-tub with my help. Sometime that summer there was a terrible humid heat wave, so me being pregnant, no shower, and then our air conditioner broke down! I was miserable! I remember making a pudding angel food cake for Cathy’s birthday in July the day the air conditioner quit working. We were having family over later for a little party. Scott had the day off, so he hurried and set up a new water-cooler in place of the air conditioner – wow! I can’t tell you how good it felt when he finally turned it on. The house was so hot with the oven going to bake the cake and all. . . .

Gradually, the bathroom got finished. When I came home from the hospital with Bonni, I sent my dad to buy a curtain rod and shower curtain, so I could use the new shower at home. Scott had picked me up at the hospital and then gone to work the patrol swing shift. He had also just poured the cement for our new front step and I was instructed to keep it moist while he was at work. I remember being beside myself thinking, “How can you ask me to do that! I just gave birth yesterday, the shower has no curtain nor rod – never been used, and you want me to go outside and squirt the concrete step every hour!”

bd 5 I couldn’t believe the audacity of asking me to do that nor the situation I was in! But, my dad set up the new shower, Cathy went with Ed and Lucille during the day, and came home at night, and my mom brought food over, so I survived. . . .and so did the new concrete step. It was beautiful and not a crack in it, thanks to my care. Hahaha!

Bonni was a sweet baby – a little more sensitive than Cathy had been, and so was not as good a sleeper as Cathy was, but she brought a happy sweet light into our lives. Bonni didn’t like sleeping in the cradle at all. She preferred the plastic car seat or our bed. So, after having absolutely no sleep the first night home – I was exhausted! When Scott came home about 3:30 AM I told him I was exhausted and couldn’t go on unless he took care of Bonni and let me sleep. So, the good father and husband he was, he took his new little daughter out to the living room and took care of her all night while I slept. I don’t know if he slept at all, but I know I did, and I felt so much better. By the time I got up again about noonish, my mom was in the living room taking care of Bonni and Scott had gone to work again. How does anyone survive without good family or friends to help them? Well, the first few nights were hard, but as time went by life returned to normal, and Scott started on his Stake Mission.

Note: I looked for Bonni’s blessing from when she was named and blessed by her father and can’t find it, although I think I wrote down what I could remember – but don’t know where it is. Anyway, I still remember him saying that Bonni would grow to womanhood. She would suffer some health issues, but the Lord would watch over her and she would be sustained by Him throughout her life.

Addition of present thoughts written September 24, 2018:

Now this sweet sensitive child has grown to be a beautiful woman with seven of her own children. She is kind, strong, brave, intelligent and a true daughter of God. Yes, she has had health issues, some very painful and challenging, but the Lord has, and continues to bless her according to her needs. She will turn 40 this year – Her father and I love her dearly and I consider myself privileged and blessed to have been her mother on earth.

Happy birthday to our dear sweet bonny lass!


Cursed By a Skirt

Skirts are stupid.  OK, maybe that’s a little harsh.  Skirts are okay.  I like cute skirts.  They’re a good option on hot summer days, and switching from shorts or pants to a skirt takes you from casual to dressy in two minutes (I’m all about efficiency).

Skirts without pockets are stupid.  In fact, pants or shorts without pockets are stupid too.

I have had a rough couple of days.  My ill will toward pocketless apparel is the culmination of a lot of stress and exhaustion and a horrible hour and a half long ordeal which I will blame on the dumb pocketless skirt I am currently wearing.

Why am I wearing a pocketless skirt if I hate them so much?  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I’m sorely behind on laundry.   There was my trip to Disneyland with Brooklyn and Gavin and hurrying home to a chaotic house and a husband in the hospital.  I was able to get partially caught up on laundry just before heading to Provo to pick up Emily from school, but apparently, I took care of everybody else’s laundry and neglected my own because this morning I found myself stuck wearing the hateful construction of flowy material whose only utility is to cover me.

And, I guess I look cute–don’t get me wrong.  But I’m more concerned with getting things done and that’s challenging when you’re always wondering where you put your phone or keys because you don’t have handy pockets to slip them into.

Bringing Emily home from school was not stressful.  I was happy to do it and we had an enjoyable (though long) drive together. There are some blackmail-worthy videos of our silliness, but videos take forever to upload, so here’s a picture of cows crossing the road near Monument Valley.

Fun, huh? Taking care of a house full of kids is not easy and I salute Rick for all he got done, but even SuperDad can’t do the work of two people.  I had planned to spend the day yesterday catching up, but then I saw the list of items Emily needs to obtain by next week to start obtaining visas for her mission. This is in addition to what she has already done to get her mission papers in (ecclesiastical interviews, medical and dental check-ups, etc)

Lest you think I’m being dramatic about the requirements, here is a copy of her “to-do” list.

It’s a lot! And much of it is difficult to get. We live 35 minutes from downtown Tucson where the police station and government offices are, and many of these documents require official government certification and authentication.

You might now understand why I feel a little scatterbrained and overwhelmed.

So, I found myself in a pocketless skirt and guess what happened? True to character (because skirts can have character, right?) the skirt let me down.  No, it did not fall down–it disappointed me when I needed it.

I got up early, got myself ready for the day, fed kids and got them ready, made five lunches for school, took the elementary school kids to the bus stop, dropped Ricky at seminary and took Makayla and Gavin to the orthodontist.

Gavin has a little group of friends he has home preschool with and it so happened that it was a preschool day. What a blessing! After dropping him off late (because of the orthodontist appointment) and taking Makayla to school I had one kid-free hour to get groceries (because according to the kids we had “no food”) and clean and vacuum the van.

I decided to hit the car wash first. I have a favorite–Surf Thru Car Wash on Pantano and Broadway. After years in Iowa without a good full-service car wash, this place is a dream come true. It’s inexpensive–like $3-4 per wash and they actually ask you to go through again for free if your exterior isn’t sparkling. Before you drive through, they shower you free dash wipes and cute little garbage bags and after you go through (more than once if necessary, but it’s rarely necessary except when I drive the big van), you can pull into their parking lot full of vacuums and suck all the garbage and dirt out of your car. It’s wonderful!

Today, they gave me a bunch of extra dash wipes and I happily wiped everything down while the car glided through the wash. I pulled up to a vacuum spot to suck up the nastiness that was scattered throughout the car.

This is the moment when the skirt let me down.  It didn’t have pockets for my keys or phone, so I put the car keys and my phone on the driver’s seat while I vacuumed.

I have a system to make sure I don’t forget any part of the car.  I start with the driver’s seat and move around clockwise.  As I approached the end of the circle, I tossed my backpack onto the driver’s seat.  I usually keep my backpack on the floor just behind the driver’s seat, so I moved it so I could get that last section of family detritus sucked up.  I closed the passenger door, hung up the vacuum, and reached out for the driver’s side door to be one my way.  I was so proud of my efficiency.  As I inwardly praised my quick and thorough work and considered my grocery list, I noticed the passenger side door was locked. What? That’s weird. I walked around to the other side. Locked. I tried the sliding doors. Locked. The trunk? Locked.

What happened? I looked in the driver’s window? Where were my keys? Under the backpack. Oh, no! Did my backpack lock the door when it landed on the keys?!!  Or did I bump the lock button when wiping down the doors with my extra complimentary wipes?

Well, this was very inconvenient, but not a catastrophe.  I would just call Rick for a rescue. I reached into my pocket for my phone. No pocket. Cursed skirt! I peeked in the driver’s side window again.  My phone laying forlornly on the floor of the van, having been knocked there by the bully backpack. Great!

So, I went around to the entrance of the car wash and they let me use their phone.  I called Rick.  No answer. Left a message telling my situation and asking for a rescue.  I called Emily.  No answer.  I left a similar message with her.  What now?  I only know a few phone numbers by memory.  There wasn’t anybody else to call.

Can I just pause at this point to tell you how friendly, patient, and kind the staff at Surf Thru was??  The girl working at the main entrance was so nice!  She told me to have a seat in their air-conditioned break room, offered me some water, and let me keep their phone by me in case somebody called back.

After a few minutes, another worker asked if I would like him to try to jimmy the lock with the company break-in kit.  At first, I laughed because they had a kit, but maybe locking your keys in your car at the car wash isn’t so rare.  They even had a release form for me to fill out!  I was desperate–I had to be back to pick up Gavin from preschool in 30 minutes and even after multiple calls to Rick and Emily, I hadn’t gotten through.  I let him try, but my van was just too secure.

Dejected, I went back to the break room and tried calling Rick and Emily again.  This time, I instructed them to please just pick up Gavin from preschool first and then maybe rescue me?

I’m not going to lie–I felt like crying.  If the staff had been even the slightest bit grumpy to me, I would probably have lost it.  It’s a little thing to be locked out of your car with no cell phone, but I was already so overwhelmed and behind with things at home that I didn’t feel like I could handle this inconvenience.  But what was there to do?  Nothing.  And crying would only make me look pathetic and give me a bigger headache.  So I read through the magazines that were on the table in the break room and prayed that my friend who had Gavin would be patient with me and that Rick or Emily would finally respond to my desperate pleas.

An hour later, I was back in my car and on my way home.  When I got home, I put a running belt/fanny pack thing on over my dumb skirt so that I could have a pocket.  I look like an idiot, but I will NOT lose my phone or keys again today!!


I wrote this post a few weeks ago and forgot about it until yesterday.

Things have settled down.  Emily’s mountain of paperwork is in and now we’re working on mission clothes and necessities, travel to MTC plans, and other things.

I was so frustrated and upset when I wrote the post, but looking back I can see it was truly a small thing.  Now I am thinking about how many little things happen to me every day that I overreact to.  I am a fairly mellow person, but everybody gets grumpy and lets that feed into how we treat others and how we see ourselves and our potential for success.  Little setbacks can leave us feeling hopeless, burdened, and inadequate.  Those feelings are expected and OK.  I know very few people who are completely happy and positive all of the time.  Sometimes circumstances aren’t ideal and things just don’t go as we expect them to.  I am so grateful for how sweet and kind the staff at the car wash was to me.  I hope that I can recognize when others are struggling and respond with just as much kindness and patience.  I want to see other people’s struggles as opportunities to give them extra love rather than as inconveniences to me.

In conclusion, I will share a few nuggets of wisdom from the Great and Wonderful Bonni Mergenthaler

  1. Don’t wear clothes that don’t have pockets.
  2. Be patient with others when they’re not at their best.  Your response to them can either help or hurt.
  3. A clean car is a happy car, but a locked clean car is useless.

Have an excellent week!