Note from Carolyn:  Halloween candy often creates a sugar dependence and habits that rob the upcoming  holidays of their  joys.  Click HERE for help.

Happy November!  It’s time to say goodbye to Halloween and let November be a month of gratitude and excitement!  I am grateful for three books that have woven themselves into my heart and thoughts recently.  I wish I’d had them during the years we were raising children.  Mothers of Faith – Inspiring True Stories About Latter Day Saint Moms is a beautifully compiled tabletop book by Gary Toyn that showcases the mothers of prominent LDS men and women, including our own Maurine Proctor.

When added to The Best Advice I Ever Got – Lessons From Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric and Failing Forward – Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell, there are over 200 gripping stories of individuals, families and businesses who view their tests as the most important and exciting chapters of their lives.  Each volume, with its many short entries, would be enjoyable and excellent read-aloud books and dinner conversation for ages 12 and up.

Most impressive to me were the stories recounting parents who had allowed their children to struggle and presented difficult times as “exciting.”   In the same spirit that Elder Bednar shared the moving story at our last General Conference of how he and his wife quietly sat back and watched as their two young sons worked out a problem instead of stepping in to “fix it,” many of these true stories provide even greater understanding of why our Heaven Father allows us to struggle.   Here is Clayton M. Christensen, a bestselling LDS author and professor of Business at Harvard Business School as he talks about things he learned from his mother:

Some of the things about my mother for which I am most grateful are things that my mother did NOT do for me.  Specifically, she did not mend my clothes.  I remember going to her when I was seven years old and in the second grade.  I had a hole in my sock.  This was not a trivial problem.

My parents went into debt each August to buy our school clothes and then carefully paid off the balance on their ZCMI department store credit card over the next 12 months.  My siblings and I had to frugally wear what Mom bought for us in August because the next visit to buy clothes would not be until next August.  My sock budget was three pairs – and if this particular hole took that pair out of commission, there were only two pairs left – period.  What was worse was that it was my favorite pair of socks.

My mom sat me down and said, “Let me show you how I would darn your sock if I were going to do it.”  Then, to my horror, Mom picked up one of my dad’s socks, not mine, and showed me how to fix it.  She showed me how to guide the thread through the eye of the needle.  She wound the other end of the thread around her finger and did a neat little loop to turn into a knot that wouldn’t pull through the sock.  She showed me how to push the thread up and down around the circumference of the hole, and then pulled the hole into the center.  She then went back and forth across the closed hole a few times and showed me how to create a second know so the thread wouldn’t unravel. Period.  It was done.

“Sure, I can do it,” I said, even though I was sure I couldn’t.  Mom walked away to get back to her work.  No kidding:  It took me an hour to push the thread through the eye of the needle, and who knows how much time it took to close the hole.  I’m sure an objective view of my repair was that it was horrific.  But through my 7-year-old eyes, I had done a perfect job on my best socks.  The evidence:  every night before going to bed, I washed those socks by hand so I could wear my price to school.

My mom had taken my young, impressionable mind and taught me something I could use for the rest of my life.

The next year in the third grade I ripped the right knee of my Levi’s.  This was even more serious, because I had only two pairs of school trousers.  I took them to my Mom and asked if she would repair them. She then showed me how to set up and operate her sewing machine, including switching it to a zigzag stitch.  She then gave me an idea or two about how she might to repair it if she were the one doing the repair, and then went on her way.  I stood there clueless at first, and then sat down and figured it out.

Those two little things actually were, in retrospect, two very important moments in my life because they helped me learned that I could solve my own problems.”  (“Mothers of Faith”p. 202.)

Richard Eyre, LDS bestselling author and parenting expert, tells another remarkable story involving clothing. His mother’s life had been a fairy tale “Garden of Eden” until she was widowed at age 38 with five children ranging in age from 3 to 15.  Though she went to work, finances were extremely difficult.  This great lack of financial means was a tremendous vehicle for teaching her children  joy through skills, self-reliance and  happy perspectives for rich, full lives. He says:

“As a teenager when I wanted brand-name shirts, she got some labels from the best clothing store in town and sewed them into my clearance sale clothes from Sears or Deseret  Industries.  She actually taught us to pity those who “had to pay full price.”  It just wasn’t, as she said, “very exciting.”

Isn’t it peculiar that the most difficult and challenging times often turn into the most deeply rewarding and fondly remembered?  That the struggle itself was “exciting” and fodder for happy conversation, gratitude and even reverence?

As Halloween evolves into November and December, it is a time of a great health struggle.  The cornucopia of simply too much food that is unhealthy is and will be ever-present.  Though this is not the case in much of the world where there is a lack of food, for most Americans, it is a common reality.  Would it not be marvelous to view these strugglings and temptations to overindulge, whether at the big events themselves or the day-to-day meals and snacks in between, as an exciting struggle to embrace?

To develop this thought I ask the question  “How long were Adam and Eve in the garden?”  The simple answer is that we don’t know because there’s nothing written.  Why is there nothing written?  In my mind the reason is clear: there’s just not much happening, either to personally experience or to write about.  The same could be said about the 200 years after the Savior visited the Nephites and the Lamanites.  They had all things in common, worked miracles and lived in perfect peace!  So, like the uncounted years in the Garden of Eden, there’s simply not much to say.  Those 200 years are covered in exactly four pages.

As we approach the holidays and food, a “Garden of Eden” or “200 Years of peace” with no opposition will NOT be the case.   Even in our own homes where we choose what is available to eat in the cupboards and refrigerators, family members are at different places and desires in their eating habits.  Neighbors and well-meaning friends provide treats and goodies that are not nutritious.  Our workplaces and break-rooms often involve fattening snacks.  Advertising everywhere promotes traditional holiday fare in portions that we know are not good for our bodies.

While these food struggles did not exist historically, they do now.  They will NOT go away.  Our culture and many food industries center around foods that are not good for us.   Heavenly Father, just like the loving parents portrayed in this article, will NOT remove them to make things “easier” for us.  He knows of the rich opportunities for self-mastery and for us to turn to him in our weaknesses.

Yet, if we choose to see it as such, that’s where the excitement is! That’s where our own dynamic stories are. And He knows it and will help us when this becomes a priority. How successful we can be with our health if we view the overabundance of food in November and December as both exciting and opportunity for self-development.  In truth, how exciting it IS when (and you get to fill in the blanks here)  we experience the joys of overcoming our appetites, our clothing is comfortable, our energy and self-confidence is up while the scale and clothing sizes are down.  This exciting list of positive emotional and physical benefits goes on and on, while the positive things of overeating  get lumped into “it tasted good.”

On this first Monday in November I am gratefully choosing to find joy in the journey, and excitement in facing the opposition of simply too much unhealthy food around us throughout the year, but especially in November and December.  Care to join me?

You can start the excitement with our favorite and yummy Quick Apple Loaf Cake! Sucanat can be purchased at your health food store.

Quick Apple Loaf Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Sucanat
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 chopped walnuts
1 cup apples, peeled and diced.

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, Sucanat, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a large, separate bowl, mash the banana, and stir in nondairy milk and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the flour mixture, walnuts and apples.  Mix to combine.

Spread in a 9×9 nonstick baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Mothers of Faith – Inspiring True Stories About Latter Day Moms by Gary Toyn
The Best Advice I Ever Got – Lessons From Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric
Failing Forward – Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones For Success by John Maxwell

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.

She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.

She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where she is the Primary chorister and they team-teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program. 

Learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!