My boys had the Homecoming Dance this weekend and I volunteered to feed them and their group of friends near Orem, UT. My mom and I do fondue dinners for holidays some years, so we have all the pots and equipment. I thought this would be fun for the kids too.
We moved the table into the living room and had one big table filled with teenagers, raw food and boiling pots of broth. Yep, it was a little scary. I had huge platters of veggies, bowls of bread, fruit and chicken, and the cheese and broth fondues to dip them in. Like famine starved locusts they devoured every last bite! (In fact, it was supposed to be dinner for my little kids and husband and I after they left, and we had to find uncooked food on their plates to eat for our dinner!!)
They finished off with chocolate fondue and all the usual and unusual dippers. They had a blast and offered the best compliment, “This was better than a restaurant!” Most of the fun was watching them play and eat and enjoy themselves.
After they got dressed for the dance, another mom came and took pictures of them. That was another party! Again, it was fun just to watch the fun. I noticed as all this was going on, my husband was getting more and more somber. I wasn’t quite sure why. After dishes and clean up, I asked him what was wrong. He said, “Oh, to be a happy go lucky kid again with no worries, instead of an old, worried, tired, worn out adult with too many responsibilities.”
That made me think. He had been watching those kids and realizing how much happier they were then he was feeling, and it made him even more sad. This weekend had a few sombering events happen (I know that’s an understatement), and every passing week seems to bring more of the same. How do we not all just want to curl up on our beds and go to sleep, hoping it will pass us by?
Early Christmas present
The answer may be buried in my Christmas present this year. I bought it for myself and have already begun enjoying it – why wait for December? Let me tell you the story…
In the mid 60’s a man graduated from college and got a job in backwoods Georgia teaching school. He was idealistic – he would be teaching English, Literature and Writing. He was sure the kids would be enthralled with all he had to say. Six weeks later he surveyed the fall out. His desk had a burn mark on it – from a student trying to light it on fire during class. There was a knife sticking out of the floor where a student had gotten it stuck. All the desks were covered in graffiti. He didn’t know what to do, so he devised a punishment strategy. First offense- an X in the book, second offense- the paddle (yes you could still do that in the 60s), third offense- the principal.
He said thankfully he woke up to the real problem before he could institue his strategy. He was the problem- he was boring them to death! He needed to find a way to get them involved. He had been hearing about some of the local folklore – how people would plant their crops by the “signs” (moon cycles) and other “old ways”. He asked his students about it and they knew their grandparents did these things but they had never been taught. He saw an opportunity. He assigned each of the students to choose a topic and a “mentor” that could teach them. They were then to interview their mentor and write an article about their topic. At the end of the year, they would self-publish a magazine with all of the articles included.
Foxfire is born near Orem, Utah
For the first time, the kids saw that they could do something that could matter, and that would last. They scrimped and saved and got donations to print 600 copies of the magazine… and sold out in a day. So they printed another 600. The magazine was so successful, it continued the next year. They soon got subscribers from all over the US and even internationally. They named it “Foxfire” and it continued for 14 years!
All of these articles have been compiled into large volumes – 16 total. That’s what I got for Christmas. All of the books! I’m so excited. A few days ago I was waiting for my son to finish his homework so we could both go to bed, and I started reading Book 1. After about 10 pages I was laughing out loud! The stories are so real, the information so “lost”, I just need to be able to read faster!
The Good Ol Days
There are some commonalities to all of the mentors that were interviewed. First, they all lived through very hard times, including the Great Depression. Second, they continued to live in near poverty level circumstances(according to our definitions). Third, they were all happy and even longed for the “good old days” gone by.
The story that had me in stitches is about a little old lady named Aunt Arie. She had lived in the same clapboard house up on a hill since she had married. Her husband passed away a few years back, and she had a stroke, leaving her partially paralyzed. She refused to leave her home, and was thrilled when anyone came to visit.
Four young men came to interview her – to find out which topics she could teach them about. When they arrived they found her trying to pry an eyeball out of a dead pig’s head on her table. Yep – you read that right! Her neighbors had given her the head and she was preparing it to boil to make “souse meat”. She kept at it while they talked to her, complaining that her hands weren’t as “stout” as they used to be. She asked the boys to do it for her. They tried and tried, with very little luck, so she told them to get the saw and try that. They did for awhile, but worried they would break the saw, so they went back to the knife.
They finally got the eye out and asked what to do with it. She said she just throws it out, so she grabbed it off the table and threw it out the back door. It bounced off the tin roof of the shed, flew through the air and landed on the clothes line, bobbing up and down. The boys said they were laughing so hard they couldn’t even see! Unfazed she asked them if they would get the other one out for her too.
They asked what the other holes in the head were and she said she had already taken off the ears. She said some people like to eat the ears, but they have hair on them, and if she gets a hair in her mouth it makes her gag so bad she can’t eat anything. So she takes the ears off before she boils it. Again, I don’t know how those boys held it together while they were there talking to her!
Fish for a penny
The stories continue – how a boy and his mom caught 175 fish in a day, cleaned them and sold them to some visiting “boarders” for $3.50 total. That was a penny to catch it and a penny to clean it. They felt like they were really in the money that day. It’s completely changed my perception of “hard times”. And it’s completely changed my expectation of what I need to be happy.
They had nothing. Probably less than nothing! And yet they talk about those days wistfully and say how good they were. What was the secret to their happiness? It certainly wasn’t stuff – money, vacations, clothes. It wasn’t always good health or happy family situations near Orem, Utah. It wasn’t even constant friends- Arie lived on her own way back in the woods. Yet they were happy.
I found a summary of 8 life-changing lessons learned from TED talks on how to be happy. I love TED talks and thought we all could learn from these:
Here’s some of what the TED speakers advise:
Don’t expect happiness to be one-size-fits-all. …
Stop chasing things like success, fame, and money. …
Keep challenging yourself. …
Be generous. …
Be grateful. …
Train your mind. …
Tell the truth.
I was told once that there is more to being happy than just deciding you want to be. I agree. There is much more to it, however, I think it can be as simple as that too. So if a little old lady in a backwoods house, prying pig’s eyeballs out with a dull knife and a paralyzed hand can be happy, I think I can too.
As you flip through the news article about all the sadness in the world in the Orem, Utah area, keep these thoughts in mind and work to find a reason to smile. I read an article today that said whenever you see a story about a tragedy, look for the stories about the rescuers, the miracle workers, the angels. They are always there too.
Have a happy day and keep smiling!
This information is not meant as medical advice. It is provided solely for education. Our practice would be pleased to discuss your unique circumstances and needs as they relate to these topics.