Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hamula Has Me Thinking

If children see and hear parents respond to a General Authorities excommunication with disgust and shame, one of two scenarios for that child are being established--possibly both:

  1. Reinforcing the Mormon-Culture stereotype of being extremely judgmental, and demonstrating through words and behaviors the expectation that the children should behave the same way toward those who fall short of perfection.
  2. Building tall and thick walls between the parents and the likelihood of their children speaking freely of their own struggles. The message is loud and clear that it is better to live a double life.
We all have our demons, but it is hope-filled news and an occasion to celebrate when the opportunity to put things in order is chosen. 

If we bring this energy to learning of an excommunication, a missionary coming home or anyone on the path to honest genuine living; then perhaps our children will feel more inclined to share their battles with us and offer compassion to those waging their own.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Individually Defining Our "Good Enough" & Letting the Lord Carry the Difference

Individually Defining Our Good Enough & 
Letting the Lord Carry the Difference
Stake (Can't Remember the Name of Our Stake) Women’s Conference - Saturday, April 22nd, 2017


“Happiness is the Object & Design of our Existence.” –Joseph Smith

But How? When so much weighs on us?
Not My Favorite Video

(Result of our Choices)                   STRESSORS                   (Out of our Control)
·        Challenges
·        Resentments
·        Fears
           
COPING MECHANISMS
How we manage our stressors:
·        Beliefs, Thoughts & Attitudes
·        Words
·        Behaviors    

Examples of Coping Mechanisms: music, caffeine, friends, yell, shop, shut down, self-injure, substance use/abuse, pray, create, clean, serve, exercise, gossip, self-talk, study, prescribed medication…

COPING MECHANISMS channel energy toward:


           
In our efforts, & as we notice the observable qualities of others, we may question:

AM I GOOD ENOUGH?


We each bring our unique experiences to each moment and decision. None of us share the same story or past and even as we do our best to choose healthy coping mechanisms, our lives will still look different from one another. They’re supposed to look different. We can share the commonality though of learning to take charge of what’s in our control and allowing the Lord to carry the rest.



How do we face our Stressors in Distinct, Different & Happy Ways?
Want to share some concepts that are Spiritually based and also supported from a mental health perspective. No set number of suggestions or helpful acronym. You are your best expert. You will know what’s useful to you. One take away verses ten will be more digestible & attemptable.

·      What Energy is Influencing Our Response.
The Spirit = Calm, Peace & Clarity (even when urgent).
Other Forces = Panicky, Anxious, Rushed.
o    Example: Wayward child
§  Evil would use our feelings for the truthfulness of the Gospel to push us in confronting the child with panicky urgency and ultimatums likely to shut down the relationship.
§  The Spirit would have us move forward with patience, long-suffering and compassion--with confidence in the belief of God's love for that child.
o   Spirit of Contention is Not of God. Many scriptures instruct - 3 Nephi 11: 29-30
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
-We are being taught that if we feel stirred up or full of anger, then it is not the Spirit of God motivating our next move. Best next move = PAUSE
o   Charity Never Faileth. On the flip side we are taught - 1 Corinthians 13
We can be noticed and celebrated for many of our skills and attributes, but if we have not charity, we are nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all                 things.
8 Charity never faileth:  
AGAIN: CONSIDER THE SOURCE OF THE ENERGY MOTIVATING WORDS, BEHAVIORS, THINKING & ATTITUDES.
·        
What’s In Your Realm of Control?
o   Worry Flowchart



Usually Self-talking our way through this brings relief. Those who struggle in spite of solid efforts, and our stuck in worry, anxiety and/or panic should consult an expert.

o   Guilt vs Shame
§  Healthy Guilt is a sign of a healthy conscience & motivator toward positive change.
§  We are NOT each other’s Saviors. Friends & supporters, not Saviors. The price has already been paid.
·       
With Consideration to Our Energy Source & What’s in Our Charge,

APPLY THE FOLLOWING TO OURSELVES & OTHERS:
o   Marvel Not
§  Mosiah 27: 25-26 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
§  It's part of the plan. It's why we are here. “When habits are harder to break than we think they should be, marvel not. When we continue to struggle with the same weaknesses or depressions that we have for years, marvel not. When we find our faith is weak or we obey only because we know we should, and not because we really want to, marvel not. When we feel the full force of the natural man in our life, marvel not. When the state of the world and its moral code continue to devolve, marvel not. When we find ourselves or loved ones making decisions contrary to the standards we believe or know to be true, be patient and kind and, marvel not.” Tommy Montoya, Progressive Discipleship, 2016.
§  Marvel in the power of Jesus Christ to lift and heal.
o   Forgive
§  Hurt Feelings: Miscommunication, Patterns, Mean Energy
§  Solution is the same regardless of the source.
§  Grudge Holding is taking poison & hoping the other person dies.
§  Mistakenly believe staying mad is protecting us.
§  Forgiveness & Trust are not the same. Forgiveness is a quality that represents the person who gives it. It is a free gift that doesn’t have to be earned. Trust is not free. We can forgive people, even if we are extremely cautious with our trust in them.
o   Allow Humaness & Uniqueness
§  Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2017 Conference: On those days when we feel a little out of tune, a little less than what we think we see or hear in others, I would ask us to remember it is by divine design that not all the voices in God’s choir are the same. It takes variety—sopranos and altos, baritones and basses—to make rich music. When we disparage our uniqueness or try to conform to fictitious stereotypes—stereotypes driven by an insatiable consumer culture (as well as stereo types driven by broken Mormon Culture—not The Gospel or Doctrine, but unhelpful Church Culture) and idealized beyond any possible realization by social media—we lose the richness of tone and timbre that God intended when He created a world of diversity.
(It was Satan's plan for everyone to be the same.)
o   Find Value in Our Experiences & Our Ability to Be Flexible
§  Example: messy bed when late night with sick child. Messy bed doesn’t equate to messed up plan. Messy bed equates to compassionate mother.
o   Gossip VS Compassion
o   No Corner Painting
§  Small town challenges.
§  Spaghetti strap summer dress.


Consult Experts – Emotional Hygiene
There is no criticism or second thought to go to the dentist for a toothache or check-up. Our approach to our emotional health and mental well-being needs to be similar. Emotional heaviness, depression and mental illness are for-real aspects of living in mortal bodies. There are many behavioral, psychological and medical options to assist individuals in the efforts toward wellness. These resources offer hope for often indescribable battles waged within, that left untreated may have a terminal ending. 

Remember who the Best Expert to keep on the team is. He is not only our Spiritual advisor, but the creator of these bodies and minds. 

Instead of: When All Else Fails, Include God
Consider: With God, Nothing Will Truly Fail

D&C 6:36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

2 Nephi 2: 25 …and men are, that they might have joy.

Through my experiences and the ones I have observed in others, I am confident happiness can be part of the equation—even in the midst of difficulties. 


Extreme challenges come through my door all day, every day. In moments I am consumed by what seems insurmountable odds a student or client is facing, the Spirit reminds me that the potential for good is just as strong as destructive outcome. 

Stressors are part of the plan. Paying attention to our coping mechanisms; the energy source influencing us; and what is and isn't in our charge, will guide us toward opportunities. We will be able to individually define our "good enough" and allow the Lord to carry the difference.

LDS Mental Health Resources

Mental Health Resources


Immediate Help





Sunday, January 22, 2017

Skiing: Recklessly Happy & Sanctuary on the White Hill

A few reasons I love to take junior high groups skiing:   
         

               Many of my firsts would be experienced with Thomas, but skiing was not one of them. I did not know Thomas when I had my first encounter with the enchanted power of moving into, over and through snow via skiing. Heather’s family would introduce me to this sport, although I hesitate to reference it so simply. Skiing is more than a sport, hobby or interest. It is where I experience solace and reflection while pushing my physical limits on often unpredictable challenging terrain. Super-zoomed photos of a single snowflake demonstrate the majesty of skiing’s foundation, and the symbolism tied to the entirety of white surroundings has depth and power. My unknowing feet would be strapped into a spare set of boots and skis, and I would spend the day on the rope tow at Rio Costillo. 

                The remainder of learning the basics of skiing would take place through a school program that took us to Taos Ski Valley weekly for six visits. My anxiety levels soared upon the intensity of what is visible on the front side of Taos Ski Valley. In contrast to Rio Costillo, I wasn’t certain I would survive a ski day on what seemed a beast of a mountain. The school program included weekly lessons, and I did survive. Taos built my confidence. Watching advanced skiers below while riding the chair and singing strange songs with my new weird friends is a reflection of pleasure. 
                The social rules of Taos Junior High were lifted, as skiing was not segregated by skin color, but ability, of which I had none.  I was grouped with the beginners of all beginners. For those six weeks I was paired up with a boy, whose name I don’t recall. I remember having an attraction to him and feeling safe in our friendship because we were told to stay together throughout the day. There was no courage required or expectations, just a boy and a girl learning to ski together. Upon exiting the bus and walking to pick up our rentals we were the best of friends, joking and playing around. A Cinderella-type-clock would expire with the end of the ski day. His return bus ride would be with his vatos and mine with the gringos, which had a surprising presence in contrast to our percentage in the overall school demographic.

My introduction to skiing was a stark contrast to Thomas’. As a local El Prado boy growing up at the mouth of the entrance leading to the ski area, he was able to take advantage of a program Ernie Blake had established out of a desire to ensure local youth could participate in a rich man’s sport. Blake was indebted to the locals for their manual labor in making his dream a reality.  As a grandson to those workers, Thomas would log in a certain number of work hours during the summer cleaning debris off the trails to earn a season’s pass. His equipment would be salvaged from dumpsters and scrounged from cousins. These local boys could ski and Thomas’ skills would set the standard for many. When our worlds met, or collided, most aspects were at odds, skiing however was sacred ground. Like taking sanctuary in a church during war, our relationship battles paused during time on the white hill.

       My first seasons of skiing would include a few outings with my dad. He had learned to ski in his youth and was excited to take some adventures with me. I remember a day of attempting powder with my dad and his colleague, Kevin. We were at Rio and exploring beginner to intermediate trails. A small steep section had my dad and Kevin very near one another in fallen heaps. My dad’s pole had bumped his nose and I could see blood on the white snow. “I’m coming to save you!” I announced loudly as my tracks followed very much theirs and I too fell. One, two and three; the hospital administrators and a 12-year-old girl were all tangled under the weight of deep snow. We laughed in a way I didn’t usually have access to, and was certainly not in these executives norm.  Even as I type these words, tears of gratitude come knowing there is joy inside of me not easily tapped, along wishing that kind of laughter came freely without all my analytical obstacles determining when it's an appropriate time to be so recklessly happy. Skiing does that for people. Teeth ache from the cold, as you can't help but smile. The feeling of freedom and being fully in and out of mind and body during the ride down is the replenishing zone that has drawn me in and made skiing my release and sanity finder.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Christmas Memory and A Candy Bar

Written Christmas, 2002



As Christmas has approached, there have been a few occasions when I have let the thoughts of shopping, decorating, parties, and everything else that comes with the season overwhelm and frustrate me. In fact, some of the things I used to look forward to, have instead seemed like chores--one more thing I HAVE to get done. Then I walked down the candy aisle at Walgreen's and a sweet and precious memory was triggered that involved my dear friend Sylvia. Perhaps Sylvia herself had something to do with me walking down that aisle which stirred my memory and resulted in getting me out of my Grinchy mood and having some Christmas cheer instead.

Five years ago, at this same time of year, Sylvia was undergoing intense treatment for the cancer that had viciously set into her body. So severe were her symptoms from the treatment and disease that Sylvia was unable to drive and rarely had the opportunity to leave the house. As Christmas was quickly approaching, there were several things Sylvia wanted to do for her family. Many people were aware of her health condition and generously dropped gifts and food by on a regular basis. Appreciative as she was, Sylvia had many gift ideas of her own and desperately wanted to participate in the magic that surrounds the holidays.

We had an idea. What if we got Sylvia comfortably situated in the car and drove her to the stores? Instead of having her get out to look at the merchandise, we would bring the choices to her in the parking lot? She thought it was the perfect solution to her dilemma. With list in hand, we headed off to the various stores throughout the community in search of the special items that Sylvia had in mind for each member of her family. At first, we were unsure of how the store clerks would feel about us taking un-purchased items out to the parking lot for Sylvia to examine. After explaining the situation, however, the stores were more than happy to work with us.

One of the items on Sylvia's list was a nice button-up shirt for her husband. Anyone who knew Sylvia, knew that she was a very conscientious shopper, so it was no surprise when she whipped out the sales add from J.C. Penny and requested that we find the shirt there. We picked out several nice button-up shirts to take to the car for her to choose from (thinking they were all part of the sale that Sylvia wanted to take advantage of). As it turned out, the one shirt she selected wasn't part of that sale. BUT, Sylvia was in the car, and we were in the store with her credit card.......SO, we bought it anyway and never told her that she paid an extra five bucks. The thought of her paying full-price for something still brings a smile.

Window-shopping took on a whole new meaning that day, as we conquered Sylvia's Christmas list one item at a time. It was a treasured opportunity to spend the afternoon with an incredible person. Eventually check marks filled the list and there was only one item left--WHATCHAMACALLIT candy bars. The significance of this particular type of candy bar was unclear, but it was clear that Sylvia was determined to find them. Department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations--you name it, we looked there, but we couldn't findWHATCHAMACALLIT candy bars anywhere on the White Mountains. When there was no where left to look, Sylvia decided she would make a few phone calls to her sisters that lived in the city to see if they might be able to find this special treat. With that, we called it a day, and Sylvia was thrilled with the purchases she had made and the level of involvement she was able to have. We were happy to have been accomplices and definitely gained more from our time with Sylvia than she with us.

When I went home that evening and pondered my experience, I was grateful for the ease with which I could do my holiday shopping and celebrating and determined never to complain about it in the future (a determination I must have forgotten about somewhere along the way). A good chunk of our time was spent hunting WHATCHAMACALLIT candy bars that afternoon. We never did find them, and since that day, I have always glanced at the candy shelves of the stores I am in, just to see if they carry this treat that must be a favorite to someone in Sylvia's family.

And so it happened, the other day, as I was grumbling about my huge holiday list of things to do while walking out of Walgreen's, that the path I chose led me down the candy aisle. I wasn't even paying attention to my surroundings, when there before me on the third shelf down, just about even with my belly button was a box of WHATCHAMACALLIT candy bars. My Christmas shopping memory with Sylvia instantly flooded my mind. I realized that enjoying the holidays was a choice, and suffering through the holidays was also a choice--and the choice was mine to make. In spite of her physical condition, Sylvia chose to ENJOY. My obligations and responsibilities shrank significantly in that moment.

SO, I crumpled up my "to-do" list, grabbed a handful of WHATCHAMACALLIT candy bars, determined once again to be grateful for the ease in which I could so freely participate in the holidays, and decided to share my Christmas memory and a candy bar with a few friends.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Montoya Family Letter, 2016


Montoya Adventures, 2016
Sariah: Robotics Club President. Undefeated soccer season. Turns 10 in December & chose the party theme of JAWS. Instead of accidentally calling her the names of my other children, I have catch myself referring to her as, “mom” (anything you might read into that is true). Sam: Made all-stars with baseball & great football season. 13 in October. LOVES to drive—especially gear shifting vehicles. People who take him driving hold a special place in his heart. He has grown over 8” in the last year, has muscles and uses his smile and charm to his advantage. Joslin: Continuing in art and travel with a show in Tucson coming up. Engaged to Larry—they are the perfect blend of cool, kind & creative. They are planning to get in lots of ski days this season.

My sanity can always be found outdoors. We enjoyed skiing, hiking local trails, and Sariah and I participated in the first-ever High-Mountain Half-Marathon.  We were grateful for the efforts of the wildland firefighters that saved our community from the Cedar Creek Fire. Andrew’s family came to visit first week of March and we enjoyed celebrating Zia’s 3rd Birthday. Tommy’s family came for 4th of July & Tommy came alone for a quick weekend & friend’s wedding.

Sam, Sariah & I walked in Fall Festival Parade representing Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets—you can call me Queen Bee. I’m in my 6th year as a BR School Counselor, this year working with 850 4th-8th graders. My private practice as a therapist has more demand than I am able to meet, and there will be some adjustments in 2017. Between the profession I have chosen and the way I am naturally wired, compassion fatigue is a battle for me. I receive assurance from God in the potential positive outcomes that may come, through the devastating challenges my students and clients face. This helps, and so does closing the door and crying sometimes.

After 20+ years of turning right, we now turn left (not a political statement) and attend Church at the historic downtown Show Low building, as they changed the Ward Boundaries in our area. This change necessitated a challenging break up with my Gospel Doctrine class. Heartbreak and tears for a couple of weeks. Those living in my house were unsure how to console me, with the youngest reminding me that it’s not like I was breaking up with a boyfriend. I’m considering trying that instead. We did get a dog, which is kind of a step in the boyfriend direction. Not saying men are dogs, just that I’ve opened myself up to an emotional connection with an animal. Not saying men are animals…

We had an awesome and quiet-ish Thanksgiving with Grandpa & Grandma Cox & Eric’s Family. I am performing The Messiah & singing in a Christmas Concert with Grandma Cox—there’s a story that goes with this, but I’ll skip to the conclusion, which is that I’m her new favorite. Random, but important: There’s now a donut shop in town that we find our way to often (too often too) and enjoy taking friends—White Mountain Donuts, nothing like fried sweet dough to bring a community together.


Phoenix: Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz. Cousin Jada’s Play. Wet & Wild Water Park. Jump Street—trampoline gym. BYU vs U of A. Time with aunts, uncles & cousins. Suicide Prevention Conference—informative, but kind of like attending a funeral for three days.
Flagstaff: KOA Camping for Sam’s Baseball Tournament (would do KOA again). Sariah and I camped with Katie & Jada for a Girl’s Grand Canyon Trip. Sariah’s 4th Grade National Park Pass has had us visit Waputki, Walnut Canyon & Sunset Crater so far.
New Mexico: Sariah spent two weeks with Grandma Montoya in Taos & when picking her up, I got to spend a day with two of my favorites, the Jacks J, in Albuquerque.  Explored Catwalks National Park, an old mining town and the Candy Shoppe in Alpine. Hope to attend Grandma Loyola’s 90th over Christmas Break. Thomas is now living in New Mexico, so the kids look forward to future visits.
California: San Diego in June for a work conference, but we lucked out and got to bring Aunt Kim who ensured the kids had plenty of fun. We explored Old Town, Coronado Beach, Seaport Village and Mission Beach. 
Ohio: In October we got to meet the newest member of the family, Naomi Joyce. Tommy & Jill showed us a good time taking us to Parks, Cincinnati Zoo (Harambe Memorial was a highlight for Sam), shopping, family activities, games & delish food.
And Beyond: Tommy travels all over the US and internationally with his work. Tommy & Jill took a vacation together to Europe in the spring. Joslin & Larry spent a month in Germany where his family lives. Andrew is currently deployed with the Air Force, while Christina & Zia continue to live, work & play in Delaware.

The deficiencies in my life try to climb to the top of my awareness at Christmastime, but clearly as per the page above, life is good. I hope to make time to write, speak and travel in 2017; and would love for my children to have smiles, success and opportunities to serve. A deliberate effort to carve out quiet moments, breathe in the goodness and find value in our experiences is my wish for all.

Love,

Becky & the Montoya Crew 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blowing Up Gingerbread Houses & Revamping Traditions


Elf on the Shelf! Seriously?

Alright, alright, there's nothing wrong with family traditions and if a month worth of elfin shenanigans is one of yours, all power to you. 

We cling to traditions. They provide a framework within how we celebrate, a plan, a definer of our family values. Children anticipate and anxiously look forward to established activities surrounding the different holidays their family celebrates.

When my oldest was in first grade, I was surprised to learn how fully many families participated in St Patrick's Day. A t-shirt with a stripe of green and threatening pinching fingers was the extent of my celebrating. Having dinner with an older couple the night before St Patrick's Day, my son went on and on describing leprechauns and how they might visit our house that night and bring treats and make messes..., all the while I was assuring him that leprechauns would not be visiting our family. Our grandmotherly guest shushed me, looked deeply into my son's eyes and with a magical voice and sparkle assured him that the leprechauns would come. 

What? How did that happen? Boom! I was sucked into a tradition that I didn't even want.

Whether self-determined or thrown into, we are wise to contemplate family traditions with permission to change. Various life circumstances, along with the changing dynamic of the family over the years may influence such revamping:
  • Finances may require tradition adjustments, because living within our means is a tradition that shouldn't be sacrificed in the name of giving our kids a "good" holiday or vacation. 
  • Time restraints may also lead to tradition tweaks. 
  • If you are a slave to traditions, no longer look forward to them and find yourself grumbling and growling as you scurry about purchasing and putting together all the elements necessary for your tradition to come together, then stepping back and considering how the particular tradition is working for you is strongly advised.
  • Battling health challenges may necessitate abbreviated or redesigned traditions, as energy and resources are focused on physical wellness. 
  • Empty nesters should recognize and allow grown children the opportunity to create their own family traditions without the pressure to return home for every holiday. Much can be learned as we observe our adult children establishing and celebrating in the way that defines them.

Revamping traditions, for me, began as a survival mechanism after my divorce. Attempting and failing to cram every tradition in, with my children sharing time between two households, was a bitter reminder of things I didn't want to be reminded of--especially around the holidays. Permission to revise or abandon a tradition on a year to year (or even day to day) basis was a game changer.

 Bah humbug isn't the strategy, but as a result of my revised mindset regarding traditions: 

  • I was able to embrace and enjoy spending a Thanksgiving alone in a hotel room with my Cracker Barrel turkey dinner feast for one, when circumstances out of my control unfolded in such a way. 
  • I spent a Christmas Eve at the Taos Pueblo with friends taking in the cultural sights, sounds and smells of ancient tradition.
  • A WWE marathon on TV was watched with an elderly aunt-in-law on a Christmas Day.
  • Another Christmas Day found me at the movie theatre for multiple viewings.
  • Some years we act out the Nativity with a lot of family, other years it's a simple reading. 
  • We've eaten holiday meals at Denny's.
  • Switched out elaborate meal planning for a quiet picnic on a hike or ski day. 
  • On the years we make gingerbread houses, we blow them up with fireworks--usually on New Year's Eve (thanks Jill).

Sometimes the traditions of yesteryear come together and it feels so familiar, but my decision to honor and find meaning regardless of what does or doesn't work out results in my looking forward, rather than wanting to hideout through various holidays.  

And..., perhaps one day, I will sabotage some unexpecting parents by looking into the eyes of their sweet child with sincere promises of the holiday wonder that awaits as I excitedly introduce them to their very own Elf on a Shelf.