My nephew once said that weddings and funerals are pretty much the same thing. In both cases, someone moves on (or out) and we never see them again. In general, I disagree with my nephew, but I do agree that weddings, funerals, and baby blessings all mark the beginning of a new life stage. I just dropped off my girls at college and I’m still trying to find my feet in this new life stage.
This morning while looking for the first novel I ever wrote (which my husband describes as the one where someone fell out of a tree— I came across a letter I wrote to my daughter shortly before her marriage. Because I was Relief Society president at the time and super busy, one Sunday I ended up using the letter for a lesson. (I think a teacher cancelled at the last moment, I’m not sure. This wasn’t appropriate, I’m not saying that anyone should do this, ever, but I’m admitting that I did.) I received all sorts of feedback on my lesson, and since it obviously struck a chord in my womens’ group, and since my darling Nathan is marrying Shirley, I thought I’d share it again. I called it Random Advice from Mom to Bethany on Marriage and Housekeeping.
Here are some of some things that I wish someone had told me 31 years ago.
Be unfailing cheerful. It’s actually a commandment from God. There’s almost an entire page of scripture references in the Bible’s topical guide that tell us to rejoice. Did you know that sadness was originally one of the seven deadly sins? Sins were ranked in order of seriousness: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony and lust. It wasn’t until the 7th century that slothfulness replaced sadness. (I think it’s interesting that gluttony made the list before lust and that brings me to my second bit of advice.)
Never let your fridge become a science experiment. Clean it out once a week, preferably on trash day or the night before. This is so you won’t have rotting food and vermin rooting through your trash. (Which leads me to–)
Always have food in your house. It will prevent you from visiting the local fast food joint—which is often expensive, unhealthy and really not any faster than many things you can make at home. Learn to make double portions and freeze half for another, busy day. Make friends with a crock pot. Always have eggs and cheese—both will keep for a long time and omelets are filling. (Which leads me to–)
Go grocery shopping once a week. Make a menu and a list. Impulse buying can wreak havoc on your budget. Running to the store for milk can end up costing $50 and an hour you didn’t want to spend. Go regularly and if possible, alone. When the twins were little, I went at 5:30 a.m. It was just easier.
Have a cleaning schedule. For example, I clean my kitchen and pick up (this means I wander through the house putting things away and gathering trash) every day. I vacuum and dust on Monday and Wednesday. I do laundry and mop on Tuesdays and clean bathrooms on Thursdays. I grocery shop and do yard work on Fridays. Having a schedule simplifies my life and having a plan keeps me sane. Knowing that something will get done, maybe not today, but soon, relieves guilt.
Be nice to your neighbors, even the disagreeable ones. You will need a Mary and a Judy. Don’t upset them by being loud, messy or picky about where they park their cars. Lend them whatever they need. Accept that everyone has different definition of neighborly and many won’t be interested in you or your family. A rare few may even go out of their way to be rude—that’s their issue—don’t take it personally and try and stay out of their space.
Pray as a family at meal time and always have at least one meal together as a family. Be as committed to this as you are to brushing your teeth. Even when Dad worked in LA and didn’t get home until after seven, we waited for him and ate dinner as a family.
Pray daily as a couple. Dad and I take turns and alternate annually. For example, this year Dad prays on all the odd days and I pray on the even days.
Always love and respect your in-laws—even when you don’t. They play an important role in your life. Embrace them, learn from them, accept them. Maybe you’ll vow to never be like them—that’s okay. They can still teach you lessons worth learning. Your in-laws can’t be avoided or removed (unless they’re dangerous to your children.)
Be generous and hospitable. Saint Paul tells us–Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
Open your home to everyone and their dog. This will be a great blessing in your life.
Have your own friends and invest the time needed to maintain friendships. Encourage Brandon to have his own friends and interests. Don’t ever speak badly of Brandon to your friends and don’t listen to your friends complain about their husbands. If you have a problem with Brandon, talk to Brandon. If that doesn’t work (and sometimes it won’t) talk to God. You’ll be prompted where to turn for help and solutions.
Have a set time for daily scripture study and exercise. Make and keep goals for both of these important daily activities. Don’t skip meals and don’t overeat. Sleep as much as you need—not more, not less.
And be happy. Rejoice. Remember, it’s a commandment.