Many people enjoy relaxing for an hour in front of the TV after a busy day. But sometimes, an hour slips into an entire evening, evenings become weeks, and weeks become months until it seems we have little time left for anything else. It is easy to forget that other activities can be just as relaxing as watching TV—but more productive. What follows are accounts of members who have found joy in activities as diverse as spinning yarn and jogging. They prove that a person can become so busy enjoying life that TV holds little attraction.
When Debbie Andersen of Sandy, Utah, announced that she was going to run in a marathon, her husband, David, an avid runner, was skeptical. That was all she needed to anchor her commitment.
As Debbie told her friends about her goal, she was surprised to find that many of them wanted to join her. So in February 1987, nine women began training together. They were all in their mid-to-late thirties, and since each had several children, they called themselves the “Marathon Mothers.”
“While training for the marathon,” says Debbie, “I found that I not only began to care about what kind of food I put into my body, but I began to care about what kind of things I put into my mind. I used to watch soap operas during the day. Eventually, I noticed that I wasn’t watching them anymore, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized I was living a more active instead of a passive life-style. I didn’t have time for TV anymore.”
In October 1987, Debbie Andersen, Barbara Allred, Kathy Postma, Colleen Hanks, Holly Peterson, Becky Seare, Freddie Jewkes, Vickie Johnson, and Kory Hanks all finished the St. George Utah Marathon.
“Achieving this difficult goal gave meaning to my daily life,” says Holly Peterson. “I never thought I could do it, but I did.” Her feelings were echoed by each of the other mothers, all of whom sacrificed sleep and comfort to meet their training schedule. Many mornings they stepped out into the darkness at 5:00 A.M., leaving sleeping husbands and children behind. After a two-hour run, they came home to schoolchildren and car pools.
The “Marathon Mothers” still run in the morning and often participate in ten-kilometer races. For all of them, the social interaction of training together made the achievement of their goal possible as well as a lot of fun.
“Some people think I work too hard,” says Sue McReynolds, who spins yarn on her own spinning wheel, “but I don’t. I love what I do. I think of myself more as an artist or a craftsman. Creating beautiful things is a joy to me.”
Vernon and Sue McReynolds of Albany, Indiana, live on an eighty-acre farm with cornfields, neat herb gardens, a round barn, and sheep. Each spring, Sue takes about twenty-five lambs to her neighbor, who shears them for her. Then she cards the wool to remove the burrs and to straighten all the fibers. Sitting at the wooden spinning wheel Vernon made for her, Sue spins the carded wool into yarn and drapes it into long skeins. At this point, she washes the lanolin from the wool and prepares to dye it. Beet juice, grape juice, boiled black walnut shells, and dried herbs provide Sue with a selection of natural dyes for the wool. Recently, she learned how to dye wool in her microwave oven using Kool-aid to achieve beautiful shades of wool. With the wool spun and dyed, she knits sweaters, hats, and mittens, often for her grandchildren.
Self-taught, Sue has learned her craft from books, magazines, and spinning exhibits. Sometimes she is asked to teach classes in nearby Muncie, Indiana. Often she takes a lamb and her spinning wheel to an elementary school and shows the children how to spin.
Vernon is also a craftsman. When he comes home from work, he enjoys using his lathe and saw. The McReynolds’ home is filled with shelves, molding, straight-back chairs, benches, candlesticks, an oval mirror, and picture frames he has made. Baskets filled with dried flowers from their herb gardens hang on the walls and sit near the corners.
“I enjoy my home and like to use things from the farm to put into it,” says Sue. “Vernon and I wouldn’t have had time for this when our children were young, but now that they are married, we have both found creative fulfillment and relaxing achievement here.”
“Some people think I’m crazy,” says Larry Porter, a young father in Poway, California, “but I think the quantity of time I spend with my children is important. I work long hours, so when I’m home, my children are my hobby. We love to swim, hike, ride bikes, and play catch together. Instead of always watching TV, I often read to my children or take them outside to play.”
When Ray Poulter of Ogden, Utah, retired in 1969, he hadn’t thought much about African violets; they were just another flower to him. But all that changed when a friend gave him a few of the flowering plants. Ray was impressed with their loveliness. As he began to study them, he learned that there were thousands of different varieties. His interest grew, and he began to buy grow stands and wide-spectrum fluorescent lights, which he set up in a back bedroom and in the basement. In a few years, he had more than four hundred violets in various stages, from cuttings to plants in full bloom. Blue, red, white, and gold ribbons of varying sizes hang on his grow stands—awards for his outstanding flowers.
“I enjoy showing off these delicate blossoms,” says Ray. “Trimming, watering, transplanting, and turning the pots keep me busy, but I enjoy it.” Though people often buy his plants for Mother’s Day gifts or birthday presents, Ray says, “I love the feeling I get when I give a violet in bloom to someone who truly appreciates it.”
Florence Porter of San Diego, California, has always been a good seamstress, but creating homemade quilts brings her even more personal fulfillment. “The actual hand-stitching is relaxing,” says Florence, whose husband is retired and children are married. “In the evenings, we often turn off the TV and Worth [her husband] reads to me from the Ensign or a Church book while I quilt.”
Florence learned to quilt at Relief Society and enjoyed it so much that she took quilting classes through a local adult education program. “Quilting is becoming a lost art in many parts of the country,” says Florence. “I love the creative challenge of hand-piecing a quilt block. It’s fun to gather scraps and then make something beautiful from it.”
Florence creates her exquisite quilts to satisfy an artistic drive. Though she is reluctant to display them, they draw praise and win awards each year at the San Diego County Fair as she modestly exhibits them at the ward quilting booth.
“If I can do it,” says Florence unassumingly, “others can too—if they try. That’s the key.”
When Paul and Beverly Horvath of Muncie, Indiana, decided to take a two-week bicycle trip across Wisconsin with their four children, their oldest daughter, Pippin, age eleven, said, “You can stuff me in the car, drive me to Wisconsin, and put me on a bicycle, but you can’t make me pedal!”
Undaunted, the Horvaths learned as much as they could about bicycles over the next year and a half. They also worked at a training program that included several short bicycle trips. When summer 1984 came, they were ready—including Pippin.
On the last night of the Horvaths’ two-week bicycle trip, a torrential storm hit their campsite. Ninety-five-mile-per-hour winds twisted their tent poles into “S” curves, large hail ripped their tent, and lightning struck down big cottonwood trees. The next morning as the family walked through the demolished campground, Pippin said, “Mom, I wouldn’t mind taking another bike trip.”
“Pippin’s change of attitude shows the growth that can come when a family works toward a common goal,” says Beverly. “As we trained together, each of us developed confidence in our own abilities to meet demanding goals. I have noticed that our children have an increased sense of independence—an ability to cope and to take care of themselves.”
Paul adds, “All of us became more aware of the interesting things in the world around us, and our TV just isn’t on much anymore.”
Geraldine Woodward of Terre Haute, Indiana, is grateful she lives near a university so she can satisfy her insatiable desire to learn. “Camilla Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball, has been my role model,” says Geraldine. “She loved learning for learning’s sake, and so do I.”
Even when her children were young, Geraldine often checked out books from the library, especially on history and the classics, to study on her own. Now that her children are married, she takes one class each quarter for her “own enlightenment.”
Her husband, Clair, is head of the Independent Study Department at Indiana State University. Since he spends his day involved with education, he fills his free time with something entirely different. “I love to tune pianos,” he says. “I like to get away from the pressures of work and visit with people.”
Clair has a Ph.D. in music and worked with high school bands in Nevada and Indiana before coming to Indiana State. He says, “I don’t have perfect pitch. I learned piano-tuning from classes, seminars, books, and experience. It’s my way of maintaining contact with music and relaxing at the same time.”
“Collecting can make your life more interesting,” says Ron Miyashiro, a blind musician who collects recordings of radio programs from the mid-1930s to the late-1950s. Episodes featuring Jack Benny, the Lone Ranger, Blondie and Dagwood, Baby Snooks, and the Green Hornet are only a few of the more than five thousand programs he owns. He also has a large collection of record albums.
“Listening to these old radio programs and record albums keeps my mind occupied,” says Ron, “and it helps me relax after a hard day. You’d be surprised at the interesting people I’ve met from all over the country who also collect radio programs or record albums.” Married with three children, Ron plays piano and keyboard synthesizer on weekdays at the Elks Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. On Saturdays he often plays with his own band, but Sundays always find him on the stand of the Nuuanu Ward chapel in the Honolulu Hawaii West Stake, where he has served as bishop for five years.
Rarely without a smile or a joke, Ron attributes his sense of humor to the time he has spent listening to his collection of radio programs. “Excuse me if I don’t bring my scriptures to church,” he said with a smile when he was first called as bishop, “but they take up twenty-three volumes and fill six bookcases.” Then, running his fingertips over the announcements typed in Braille, he said, “I’ll bet you wish you could give all the announcements without once looking down.”
Serving others, making music, and laughing are the ways Bishop Ron Miyashiro chooses to spend his time.
“Oh, the beauties kayaking has opened up for me,” says Lane Johnson of West Jordan, Utah. “I love floating down the Colorado River. One minute I’m looking up at the 800-foot sandstone cliffs on either side of me, filled with awe. The next minute I’m fighting white-water rapids, experiencing a thrill without equal. A few years ago I would have thought doing something like this was frivolous, but it isn’t. These are the very kinds of things that round out our lives and bring us joy.”
Finding a productive way to relax can make us happy, increase our self-esteem, improve family relationships, and expand our circle of friends. We don’t need to take on unnecessary projects, but if we feel inclined to develop a talent, start a collection, or participate in a sport, we should do it. If we don’t think we have time, we need only try switching off the TV and going after our dreams.
This world is filled with nearly limitless possibilities for personal development. Consider:
Animals: Raise, train, and groom cats, dogs, horses, sheep, rabbits—the list could go on for pages.
Arts: Write poetry or fiction; compose music; paint; dance; get involved in a drama production.
Collections: Collect model trains or airplanes, butterflies, stamps, wildflowers, or nativity scenes.
Cultural: Learn a language; travel.
Home: Get some training in interior design; collect antiques; remodel a room; refinish some furniture; do some creative cooking or sewing; spend time with your children or grandchildren.
Mental: Read; go back to school; study astronomy, geology, or other sciences.
Restoration: Fix up and restore cars, furniture, or homes.
Scouting: Help with activities and campouts; become a merit badge counselor.
Skills: Try your hand at photography; learn to operate a computer; get involved in family history research.
Sports: Try fishing, swimming, gymnastics, baseball, football, tennis, golf, ice-skating, bicycling, hiking, rock climbing, aerobics, or jogging.
Volunteer Service: Offer to serve at hospitals, schools, or with political or art organizations.
Working with your hands: Get involved in a craft; try woodworking; do repairs around the house.
Yard: Plant a garden, an orchard, a flower bed; create a bonsai tree.