Hi, I'm Stephanie

 

 

 

  I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so much that I decided to have five daughters and name the second one Elizabeth.  Like a modern-day Mrs. Bennett, I spend my days raising my girls so they will be happy and independent when they grow up – only I prefer that they make their money instead of marry it.  And if my youngest runs away to London with some loser at age 15, I will track her down and haul her home myself.  But I’ll totally do some sightseeing first.

 

Kira

 

The Guinea Pig.  Gives me hope.  My husband in feminine form, she just gets more fun.

Lizzy

 

 

 Energetic, smart, kind, and will argue her convictions to the death. 

 

 

 

Hallie

 

My Hallie Priscilla. Unique fashion sense, desperately wants to live in a purple house.  Loves skunks and fruit bats.

Sophia

 My girly-girl and lone lefty.  Charming, gracious, stubborn, preternaturally practical.  And ya, she and Hallie are identical twins.

Scarlett
Scarlett Bella, Bella-boo.  Becoming a daredevil. Spoiled rotten, practically perfect.

 
Mr. Man

My intensely private husband.  Hilarious, smart, compassionate, good. 

 

Joan Rivers on Housekeeping:

I hate housework.  You make the beds, you wash the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again.

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Amen!

"I surely know that there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."

Elder M. Russell Ballard, "Daughters of God"

Sunday
Sep282014

A Conversation With the Bishop 

*I'll lay off writing about the whole bishop thing after this - unless something really juicy and fit for public consumption comes up.

 

Husband: I read your blog posts about being a bishop's wife.

Me: Ohhh... what did you think?

Husband: You know me, I would never tell anybody anything, and I hope nobody in the ward read it.

Me: Don't worry. Nobody did. I don't advertise the fact that I blog.

I forgot about running into our former neighbor/current friend Donna a few days ago, who mentioned my blog.  Oops!

Husband: That's good. You know what you wrote about it's lonely to be a bishop's wife?  Have you thought about how lonely it is to be the bishop?

Me: Ya, I guess that's true. You have a lot of stuff you have to worry about but can't tell anybody.

Husband: It's hard.

 

I've thought a lot about this little snippet of conversation, and I have realized that it's not such a bad thing for both of us to be in the slightly uncomfortable position of being lonely at church. It helps us understand each other better and be more empathetic listeners. Given my husband's many responsibilities and frequent exhaustion, I am grateful for anything that draws us together.

We can be lonely together.

Also, I am one of the few people in the ward who feel really comfortable telling him he's wrong.  So there's that, too.

Thursday
Sep252014

Hop on over to...

...Cranial Hiccups, where I have a guest blog post today!

Montserrat Wadsworth asked me to do a guest blog post for her series discussing The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  She suggested some sort of how-to post, but the only thing I feel really authoritative on is how to get your kids to school on time. That post goes something like this: Wake up early, then have your kids ready 20 minutes before you think you all need to be out the door.

Not very thought-provoking.

Instead, I wrote about the realization that raising a family will probably be my life's work, and far from being a disappointment, it makes me happy.

I should mention that I forgot to give Montserrat a blog post title, so she picked one, and I love it - it's perfect.

...and looking at the time, I realy need to go make school lunches! Hope you like the post, it was really fun to write and I appreciate the opportunity!

Wednesday
Sep242014

Tender Mercies - Mechanical Edition

I love it when bloggers talk about money.  Actually, I like it when anybody talks about money and how they spend it, because inevitably, they have a perfectly legitimate and very different view from me on how it ought to be earned, spent, and saved.

So maybe it's crass, or declasse, or "not done," but I like writing blog posts about our finances even though it's nobody else's businesses and I'll probably get judged.

It's okay, you can judge.

Anyway, I've lamented our aging vehicles and mounting medical bills in the past few months. Additionally, we have two laptops which are mostly used by our children for entertainment purposes because seven dollars a month doesn't buy the good tv channels. Because they're children, they dropped my husband's laptop, popping the casing loose in one corner so it's almost impossible to close.  About the same time, and possibly from the same accident, the charger shorted out. The charger shorted out a year ago on my laptop, and buying a new one plus a new battery really didn't fix the problem.  It can be used for 45 minutes, max, and it can't be plugged in at the same time. Plus the left-click button on the mouse stopped working.

I told you about how our minivan was spewing/burning oil from two leaking valves, right? And I told you that we'd decided not to get it fixed because it's technically still drivable, even though the burning oil made us unable to use any air conditioning or heating? That issue, in addition to the shuddering, lurching, creaky way it drives seemed a good indication that it was time to remove life support and enjoy the time we had left with our minivan. 

Well, the corner of the casing on my husband's laptop is still warped and probably always will be, but I remembered, in a cartoony lightbulb moment, that I had bought a charger six months ago for my laptop that just might work for my husband's.  It did, and we were ecstatic.  Chargers are really expensive.

Last night I had to use my laptop because it has some software I needed, and the left-click button on the mouse was working again.

And about two weeks ago, for reasons unknown, our minivan stopped spewing burning oil.   It rarely lurches or shudders, although it still creaks. After all, it's 116 in Dodge Grand Caravan years. We don't trust it to take us any farther than across town, but we can use the heater when it's chilly, which will be a safety issue (defrosting!) in less than a month.

I am telling you all this because we've been praying really hard that our stuff would hold up and meet our needs.  We try to be financially responsible, good stewards of our money.  But sometimes we need some miracles, some tender mercies, to keep afloat.

We know we need to plan for more vehicle and computer purchases, and we are, but we're not there yet. I am so grateful for answered prayers, even about mundane stuff like laptops and minivans.

Thursday
Sep182014

The Good Parts About Being Married to a Bishop (because there are a few)

*Correction: All day I thought about the people in our ward who still treat me the same way they did before my husband became a bishop, and there are actually 19, although two are moving. Also, we've had a few new folks move in who are great and not weird to me.  We could probably be friends if I'd make half an effort.  Furthermore, the nursery kids think I'm totally cool - especially when I give them extra fruit snacks.

Now that I've vented about the frustrating parts of being the bishops wife - I got an unusual number of calls yesterday about bishop stuff, and my husband is several states away for the week, so I felt a little overwhelmed - it's time to tell you about the positive things. Today, as I painted (painting always makes me happy) I thought about the good parts of being married to a bishop, because there are some.  They're not anything I anticipated counting as blessings, but I am nonetheless grateful for them.

First, I have come to appreciate the many, many unsung heroes in our ward.  We have so many people who are willing to drop whatever they're doing at a moment's notice and graciously help whoever needs help, even total strangers. Callings generally get accepted and magnified. I have gained a new appreciation for the ward executive secretary! He tracks people down for appointments so that necessary interviews can be held, and he's the gatekeeper so our phone isn't ringing off the hook during family time (actually, if my husband REALLY needs a break, he unplugs it, and he doesn't share his cell number, but still). The Relief Society President is a rock star - she does so much heavy lifting on so many stressful issues.

I suppose I always knew that lots of people contributed their time and talents generously, but the thing I've come to appreciate even more is that these are not folks with perfect lives, perfect families.  Some of them have heartbreaking situations and they're still willing to give whatever's needed.  It's humbling, and I don't know how to explain why I count this as a blessing, except that it's taught me some good things about humility, service, and gratitude.

Thinking about all the good the ward does even makes me a little less resentful that they treat me weird.

The next blessing is an increase in patience with my husband, which is good because I've needed it!  Bishops and their wives don't magically have good marriages.  In fact, the calling puts a lot of extra stress on a relationship. If other bishops are anything like my husband, by the time they get done listening to hours of other people's problems, the last thing they want to do is hear about their wives' woes. It takes compassion on my part to not whine when I think I've got a legitimate gripe, and a superhuman act of kindness on his part to listen to me when I just can't help myself. We are learning to schedule a REAL date each week (no, visiting the bereaved does not count), even when we're tired and irritated and don't really feel like it at first.

We have also learned to be grateful for everything that's going right in our lives - steady employment, good kids (although on Sunday Scarlett hid at church again so she wouldn't have to go to Primary), generally good health. Life's happened, like it does to everyone. We've taken a financial pounding this year with all our vehicles and one of our daughters needing major repairs.  (Did I tell you that a helicopter life flight costs $55,000? Sooo glad we have insurance!) The cars still need work, but at least Lizzy's doing better. HOWEVER, these are inconvieniences, not disasters. Yes, I still stress about how to make it through, but never doubt that we'll survive.

The last blessing I can think of is that Lizzy's math grade went up. My husband is the family math tutor, and his frequent evening absences have made both her and Kira buckle down and figure things out for themselves. It sounds like a small thing, but we've had much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth because of math homework.

Some people - even some who had been bishops/bishop's wives - told us in the beginning that we would be blessed because of this calling.  I still think they're kind of nuts, but I do see a lot of growth in our family, and it's good and necessary.

Last, there's a certain satisfaction in knowing we're doing good things. Not perfect things, and never enough, but we're making a solid effort to keep our covenants and serve as we've promised to do. Neither of us will be sad when this phase of our lives is over, but I think we'll be glad we did it, and did our best.

Wednesday
Sep172014

Bishop's Wife Training (A Proposal)

Dear Stake President,

You don't read my blog (I assume, anyway,) so this letter is entirely hypothetical, but I think that our stake should institute training for bishops' wives. You train the bishops regularly, and I hear these sessions are wonderful.  You even provided my husband with a mentor bishop he could contact with questions, whom he has talked to frequently.

Now, could somebody please tell me how to be the bishop's wife?

It's a bit of a shock, even after eight months, to answer the phone and have somebody launch into a very long, sad story about how they are in desperate straits and only my husband can help them. Naturally, they nearly always call when my husband's at work. Sometimes, if they're just passing through, I can give them the transient bishop's phone number (knowing, even as I rattle off the number, that he's probably at work, too,) but sometimes I get someone who actually lives in our ward boundaries.  Sometimes they have a fairly simple request that I feel is still urgent/important enough to take care of right away  - which means not passing it on to someone else.

Could someone please explain the proper way to handle these situations?  What information do I need to get? Is there a proper tone to strike, other than sympathetic/clueless wife? Can I please get  a list of people to call who might be available and willing to help during the day?  And is it okay to pass on the requests that strike me as weird? I'm trying not to judge - it's not my place - but people ask some kinda strange things from bishops.

One of the things that puzzles me is the request for hotel/mechanic recommendations.  Especially the hotel thing - we don't stay in hotels in town, we stay at our house.  When family comes to visit they stay at our house, too. Unfortunately, if somebody needs a hotel because the interstate got shut down and they want to know of a good place to stay, it won't be at our house.  So could we get a list compiled of all the really great businesses in town?

Thanks.  Welfare issues are tough.

The other tough thing is dealing with the weird way people treat bishops' wives.  Some people in our ward, mostly the ones I've known since I was a kid and who will always really think of me as my 17-year-old self, haven't changed. So I still have a normal relationship with, like, seven people. I counted.

But lots of people mostly quit talking to me once my husband became the bishop. If directly addressed, they will be distantly polite, which is hard for me because although I'm naturally kind of shy, I try hard to get over myself and be friendly. That approach used to work, but now lots and lots of ward members clearly don't want me to know them too well - even really good, active, gung-ho, awesome people.

Another bishop's wife I talked to this summer - I'll call her Chris since that's her name - said that she thinks it's a lonely position. Chris is one of the most warm, gracious, can-I-please-be-your-friend-because-you-are-irresitibly-wonderful women I know, so if she feels lonely in her ward, then it's a lonely thing.

 *sigh*

But the ignorers are better than the people who are so clearly uncomfortable talking to me that I want to say, "Oh, I get it, you've been talking to my husband because you need financial help/marital counseling/help repenting and you think I know more than I do." Except in 99 cases out of 100, I don't know anything at all.  Yup, sometimes I overhear a little something, but it's rare, and my husband is very careful about confidentiality, and frankly, I don't want to know everybody's secrets.

Then there are the few people who are overly friendly now, because I guess they think I'm attached to someone important.  Or maybe they're trying to be supportive. Ya, I guess I should think of them as "supportive" instead of "suck-ups," because even if it doesn't feel sincere, at least they're talking to me!

The last thing that I don't get is people quoting "the bishop" back to me. Either they're saying something I've heard a dozen times, or they're misquoting him, which puts me in an awkward position.  Do ward members think we never talk?  Sure he's busy, but we're still a fairly happily married couple.  We talk, people.

I guess I don't really need training about the odd way ward members often treat their bishop's wife, but I would like someone to vent to. I can probably arrange that myself, although an official "mentor wife" could be useful.  

Also, it's probably time to make more friends outside the ward.  Scarlett's preschool teacher, who lives on the other side of town, offered to lend an ear if I needed one because she doesn't know anybody in our ward. I'm planning on getting a book group going soon, and I plan on recruiting people who think of me as "Stephanie," not as "the bishop's wife."

So, President, could we do this? Twenty minutes on how to handle welfare issues would suffice, followed by two hours going out for pie and swapping stories.

 

Sincerely,

Sister Cozzens