Monday, December 05, 2016

My Review of "First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors" and Nobody Asked Me To Write It

So, I've been reading a really great book. I'm not sure many will believe me (she has many critics), but I really like what she's written, and I love the ideas she presents. Here's the book. And you can buy it, here. And it's for women, FYI:

She doesn't really believe in killing marriage counselors, but she does admit she wants to kill what they've been taught to teach married couples. The author actually experienced extensive marriage therapy and it made their marriage much worse. As a person who loves therapy, who is very pro-therapy, who thinks therapy blesses the lives of many people (especially if you can find the right one), and who actually had a therapy appointment, today (it was a great session!), I was skeptical at first. I know good therapists! I'm sure there are plenty who have saved marriages. But you know what? I agree with what she says --that if most therapists learned and thought about what she's discovered (and now teaching others), I think they'd agree with a lot of what she's saying. Some might even already be doing it! The six intimacy skills she suggests are actually very gospel-centered (although non-religious) and embrace the ideas of respect, gratitude, and love for self and others.

What I really, really love is that she decided to find help by seeking out successful, happy married women and ask them why their marriage was so great. She went to the source! Instead of relying on a degree (which can be very good in the right circumstances), she went to people who have lived it.

This was huge for me because I've had my fair share of therapists. Some have been great, and some have been not-so-great. In fact, I could say the same thing about any level of professional care. Let me give you two examples:

I once had a midwife who had never been married and had never given birth. She wasn't a horrible person, and she was very skilled. But she had no idea what to do with a woman like me, and she had no personal experience giving birth. I found her to be very self-centered and it was one of my worst labor/delivery experiences overall. She wouldn't listen to me and she even went back on my birth plan in the middle of transition when I didn't have the opportunity to make a level-headed decision. It made me very upset (and very sad). I've had many male OBGYNs, too, and I encountered the very same problem --only they can't ever rectify it! Am I saying that men and that particular midwife are incompetent? No --but they could only help me so much. They were limited by their lack of personal experience. The very best birth care I've ever received were from two midwives, both of whom had given birth to more than 9 children. They understood almost every situation on a very personal basis. Their care for me was coming from experience. My pregnancy care and subsequent labor/deliveries were fantastic! You can't put a price tag on that! (Well, I guess you can, but you know what I mean.)

I once had a therapist that was older, non-religious, and single. She had never married, never had kids, and there I was, with 7 kids, deeply religious, and married for almost 2 decades. She was not a horrible therapist. She did her job well. She was very kind and non-judgmental. She would ask clarifying questions, and she took a genuine interest in my life. I'm sincerely grateful to her for her help because she was there during my darkest time, and I believe she helped me. But... she focused so much on things I simply could not do as a mother of many. I could not always follow her advice, and so I did my best without it. Could she have been a better help to me if she personally understood where I was coming from? I think so. That doesn't negate the help she did give to me, but it makes me ponder about why we navigate to groups of people with similar experiences to ours --and it just makes sense.

Back to the book! The biggest hurdle for readers, I believe, has to do with how she describes the difference between the masculine and feminine. For any woman who is a feminist and leans very liberally, they're going to have a hard time swallowing the idea of respecting their husbands. Even my conservative (moderate) brain, which balks at the idea of subservient and oppressive women had to pause for a second and think about what she was saying. As I kept reading, I found myself agreeing with her and I'll tell you why:
First, she makes it clear from the get-go that her ideas will never work with an abusive, addicted, or unfaithful husband. If your spouse is abusive in those ways, there needs to be professional help right away (or you need to get the heck outta Dodge!).
Second, what she teaches about respect goes to the core of the differences between men and women. I have been taught my whole life, and society has seen this throughout thousands of years, that the male species appreciates respect. So do women, yes, but stay with me --when I hear the word "preside" or "lead" (most often used as religious terms describing male roles), I think about righteous men who are doing good things for their families. This is because I know so many who lead and preside in this way. But the tainted side of my brain (the one being schooled by extreme liberal thought that screams really loudly, and from experience witnessing men who abuse their roles) thinks about equality for women; no man should rule over me! And I find that interesting. Because when a man is respected, it doesn't automatically mean the woman is being oppressed, so why do we, as a society, assume this? We all deserve respect, every one of us.

Another hurdle: women steer the relationship and have more power than they realize. If read without charity, love, and respect involved, it seems incredibly manipulative. But I promise you, it's not. It's just how it is. There will always be exceptions, but for the vast majority of people, this is true: the woman cares more emotionally about the relationship and spends the most time analyzing and thinking about it. Men just usually don't, you know?

Once you can get over these ideas (like I did), you can begin to see the truth of what she teaches. Not only that, but she has proof! Her own marriage was saved and now her efforts have saved thousands of marriages. Her whole career is now to help save marriage! Her goal is to empower women to keep the marriages and have the marriages that they want --and to do it with grace and aplomb.

I'm going to cheat a little and tell you the six intimacy skills she teaches about in the book:

1. Replenish your spirit with self-care
I've always believed there is a fine line between self-care and selfishness, and I think there has to be great care taken to balance life as to not swing into the selfish realm. But she is absolutely spot on in this case. You can't expect anyone else to make you happy, dear reader. If you do, you will always be disappointed! You have to find ways to make yourself happy, and then share that happiness with others. Take care of yourself!

2. Restore respect
Husbands desire and deserve respect. When they feel respected, they react in kindness! (If they don't, then go back to where I said this is not for abusive men.)

3. Relinquish control
When you attempt to control everything about your husband (and you're doing it more than you realize), you are pushing him away from you (and hurting his self-worth). Attempting to take away the agency of another person will rarely endear them to you. You can control yourself, your children (to a point), and to those who work under you (if you're a boss), but you should never attempt to control your spouse.

4. Receive, receive, receive!
Just say thank you!

5. Reveal Your Heart with Vulnerability
It takes much more courage and strength to risk yourself emotionally than it is to stay defended. Express your desires, ask for help when needed, and own your feelings.

6. Refocus your view with gratitude
Gratitude is the most powerful virtue! Being grateful for even the smallest of things can have a great impact on changing large things.

See what I mean about these ideas being pretty gospel-based? I think it's great to see them in a very specific and focused way. It's helped me to see how I can apply things like charity, long-suffering, humility, gratitude, respect, etc. in my marriage, with the end goal being a happy, loving relationship.

Because let me be frank for a minute. I have a very loud, honest, overbearing, and sometimes shrill personality. I am not an easy person to live with because I have high standards and I can be very demanding, even when I don't think I'm being demanding. I also have a husband who has a strong personality, and so we clash at times. We've been married for almost 18 years, now, and I have seen that when I'm angry, disgusted, frustrated, rude, petty, shaming, or stonewalling, I don't get the marriage I want. Well, guess what? When my husband does the same things to me, do you think he's getting the marriage he wants? We respond, dear reader, to the attitudes and feelings around us. If we don't feel safe or loved, we're not going to be very open. We'll be defensive --or on the offensive. But somebody has to apologize, and someone has to forgive (I actually happen to have a very forgiving husband; it's one of his best qualities!). It has to start somewhere... This book is asking the wives to start it.

There's not much to lose, you know, in trying to be a kinder spouse, and what I have found to be amazing is that when these skills are applied, the reaction is almost instantaneous. I actually tried it this past weekend --just to shift a little in the way I spoke to Brandon. Dear reader, his reaction to me was exactly what she claimed it would be. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Think about it --if every person treated every person with charity, respect, gratitude, kindness, etc (basically, the way Christ has asked us to treat each other), marriages would last.

I'm so grateful to the friends who recommended this book for me. It's given me some good insight into things my heart already knew. Maybe it'll help you, too?

For more on Laura Doyle, go here

P.S. I was not asked to review this book. I wasn't even given it for free! Nor am I being paid to give such a glowing review. I totally bought it on the recommendation of friends and loved it enough that I felt like I should share it. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

New Things! (To the Blog. Not Social Media.)

Christmas has officially begun in our home, and I absolutely love it. Autumn is my favorite season and Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I really enjoy this time of year! I especially love the music. Love, love, love it.

Life has been busy (thus the lack of writing), but I can't complain because the busy that I'm doing is good, healthy busy. I've been organizing the house again to the way I truly would like it to be --I'm making sure I'm getting the housework done (within reason), and I'm trying to be more accessible to my family.

New things! 

Well, the first new thing is that I'm teaching piano lessons, again. I'm also looking for accompanist jobs (hopefully with KState or the local schools). I'm kind of legit, this time, and I'm taking it very seriously. In the past, I taught lessons for a very low fee and I wasn't involved in much. My students had two recitals a year (at the church) and I didn't have a network of other piano teachers. A few weeks ago, I joined MAMTA, KTMA, and MTNA. I'm charging a reasonable price for my ability and experience. I have also created a piano/music studio in our home, and look! I totally made business cards:

And this is what the piano studio looks like (I've added Christmas decorations since):

It's just in our library. I spent a whole week cleaning out the office/guest room (that's beyond the French doors) and the library so I could have a space that exudes peace, organization, and creativity. The guest room is now exclusively a guest room --I took the craft bins, kids' storage bins, and file cabinets down to the basement (we have so much storage room, it just makes sense to spread it out a bit!). Then I put in more bookshelves, the roll top desk, and hung photos all over the walls. It's peaceful, functional, and clean. (And doesn't attract mischief from the little kiddos!) Take a gander:

Makes you want to come visit, eh?

Then we moved the piano into the library, and I cleaned everything up and took out anything that would cause negative distractions (or attract the kids to more than books and music!). It's perfect, because I can shut all the doors and it's fairly private. The living room is pretty bare, now (except for at Christmas!), so I'm actually thinking we should get another piano. No, I'm not kidding! I could find something beautiful and used, I'm sure. I just have to keep looking. One day --if my business is successful and I can get a full studio --I would love to buy a baby grand piano. Our next door neighbor owns and runs Mid-America Piano, and he already told me I'd get the neighbor discount! (So nice!)

We moved the couch across the room to... 

...where the piano used to be.

So, there you go! I've been slowly working on the kids' rooms (very slowly) and our Master bedroom. Hopefully I'll have most of it finished by Christmas! If not, then at least during the slow, let-down days of January. 

More new things: 

*I forgot to post about Halloween. It wasn't anything huge --I had thought about throwing a big party for the teenagers, but we couldn't find a good time and it was easier to just skip it. The Ward party was fun and the kids loved carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating!

I went as "1991."

*#1 worked behind the scenes for the high school's Fall Musical. They did a fantastic job! She's now starring in a few one-act plays next week and she's applied to be the assistant stage manager for the Spring Musical. Meanwhile, #2 will be auditioning soon for the middle school's play in February. 

*Brandon turned 40! He wasn't too happy about hitting this milestone, but we celebrated, anyway. I should write 40 reasons why I love him (we actually did that as a family --40 strips of paper, each with a reason why we love him, and then each attached to a balloon). I spent a few weeks putting together his gifts: frames with collages of his childhood (he has almost zero photos as a kid --they're in a storage unit, somewhere --so I found what I could) and his mission (he served his mission to Perth, Australia 20 years ago!). We sure love him! (And yes, from now and forever, his birthday photos will always show him sporting a mustache. No shave November for men's health awareness is what he does!)

*We had Thanksgiving all by ourselves for the first time, ever. It was bittersweet (my family had planned to come, but they couldn't), but it was so peaceful. Relaxing is easier when you don't have to host/entertain, I think. We had a good holiday!

*#4 and #5 did their very first recital, and it was in our home with only us and the piano/cello teacher (and her brother) in attendance. The boys did a great job! 

#4 on cello and #5 on piano --the future Piano Guys! 
*Our family is performing in Sacrament Meeting on Christmas Day. We'll be singing "Stars Were Gleaming" complete with piano and cello accompaniment and three-part harmony. Wish us luck!

*Recent selfies of me, just because it's my blog (and so my kids will know I existed in photos): 

Feeling good!

Before date night.

Just before going to the Kansas City temple with my walking buddy. 

Our favorite place! Chic-fil-a! 

You know who I voted for! 

Have a FANTASTIC weekend, dear reader! I hope it's great. If you want to make it greater, you might think about doing this awesome service challenge from my church. Go here to learn more. Our family is doing something every day leading up to Christmas to bring light and goodness to the world around us. It's all about service, and I'd love for you to do it, too! You don't have to be religious --or even Christian --to serve others, eh? So, join us! Let's Light the World, together! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Religious Persecution and Stuff

It's kind of depressing to me that my last post was probably viewed the least. It was about yearning to understand, and about showing love to all people, no matter who they are (or who they voted for). I'm mostly disappointed because I find it so hypocritical that the most vocal proponents of peace and understanding are absolutely refusing to understand Trump voters or Trump hope-he-doesn't-kill-us-all-ers, and that post was completely ignored, while the one where I rant about not wanting Trump to be president was gratefully received.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. I've found that the ones who are against my right to religious expression are the first in line to defend someone who mocks my religious expressions.

But before you get all, "oh, geeze, not Mormon persecution, again," I want to point out that some Trump supporters (campaigners) called for a Mormon genocide if UT voted for McMullin instead of Trump. And nobody cared. The media didn't even blink.

Look, Mormons are used to persecution. Driven from New York, Ohio, and Missouri (with a full-on gubernatorial extermination order, because the Mormons would vote against slavery --irony, much?) --finally driven from Illinois, they went west. Even after they settled Salt Lake City, the government continued to harass them until statehood. Since then, we've simply been mocked for our beliefs. We've never encountered the kind of hatred the Jews have faced. We haven't faced the kind of hatred Muslims have faced. We haven't faced the kind of hatred even other Christians have faced in the Middle East. Being an American-based church most certainly has it's advantages (and I don't believe that was all chance or by accident). But we are probably one of the last Christian religion in our country where open mockery and desecration of our most sacred rites and rituals are publicly embraced. It's fun to mock the Mormons. Mostly, because as a church, we don't get all huffy or angry about it. We deal. (It's true --we really do!)

Still, we don't get the support from the liberal community. They're usually first in line (well, right after the alt-right extreme Christians). Maybe we would if we complained more. I mean, look --they made an entire Broadway play about how stupid they think we are, and it won Tonys. Awesome. We've had our most sacred and precious temple ceremonies re-enacted on youtube and HBO. We've had our "secret underwear" paraded around like a joke. We're made fun of on television (mostly harmless, although mostly completely mistaken in reference --I mean, the one on Gilmore Girls where Paris mentions trying to attend Mormon bingo night had me laughing because the writers obviously missed the point that Mormons don't gamble), and it's open season on our beliefs. When Mitt Romney ran, it was pretty bad, and the Evangelical Christians were right there, twisting every point of our doctrine (that they don't even understand). I know the liberal community hates us because of abortion and marriage equality, but what about the alt-right who disagrees with the far left, too? It's like we just can't win, no matter what. (Not that we are trying to win --I mean, seriously, we don't care as much as I'm making it sound.)

I had a Jewish OBGYN in Philadelphia, and we often talked about our religions. He told me once, "Mormons and Jews, we always get along." I agreed that was true (at least in my experience) and then said, "It's probably because of that whole House of Abraham thing" and he said, "Or the whole persecution thing."

Wow! To have a Jew tell me, as a Mormon, that I could even understand a fraction of what his People of faced over the last several thousand years really touched me. I guess I never really thought of it that way, because I have never had to face a Holocaust. But maybe anti-Semitism and anti-Mormonism is a little similar (and if you understand the doctrines of our church, it won't surprise you in the least).

Anyway, all that Mormon stuff aside, I find it interesting that in this day of tolerance and love, there's still so much hate everywhere. And maybe not even hate, but willful misunderstanding. But isn't that hate? Aren't we the most hostile to the things we understand the least? That's why I wrote what I did about yearning to understand. If we can't understand each other, how in the world can we ever love each other?

P.S. I wrote this post in ten minutes. Please forgive any typos or random thoughts or rants.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yearning to Understand

I just thought I'd let people understand something: 

My children have Mexican blood. (Do they need to be sent back to Mexico?) 

They have German blood. (Their great-grandmother was in the Hitler Youth. Does this mean my children are Nazis?)

They have Native American blood. (Navajo, actually, if I am remembering correctly. Does this mean they are lazy or prone to alcoholism? Should they be forced to live on a reservation?)

They have Scottish, Irish, British, Danish, Swedish, and French blood. (What does this mean, other than the fact that everyone who created our country also has blood from these nations?)
Since Canadian is not an ethnicity (like American), I probably shouldn't mention how they have loads of Canadian blood. (My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were Canadian. But maybe I should mention it --perhaps they are going to start fighting for socialism.) 

You know, it doesn't matter how much or what kind of blood they have. They are first, children of God. Then they are second, citizens of the United States of America. Nobody is this country is better than another when it comes to these things. How could we be? Our nation was founded by people who came here from other places. (And punished, slaughtered, and fought the Native Americans already here, which is interesting, since my children come from both sides of that time in history.)

Look, if you are a US citizen or trying to become a US citizen or are trying to find out how to become a US citizen, then that means you're my people. 

If you happen to be a child of God, then that means you're my sibling. This means that everyone in this country (everyone in this world) is part of my family. They're part of yours, too. (Even the Trump voters, yo.) 

And families figure out a way to get along. They fight for each other. They back each other up, they lift each other, and they love one another. 

I have spent a lot of my adult life not listening. I have tried to. I have tried to educate myself and learn, grow, ponder, and see things in different ways. I believe "the glory of God is intelligence," and so I continue to find information and learn what I can about new ideas. But I don't always get it quite right. I'm broken, because I'm mortal. I've burned bridges with people who have probably taught me more about compassion than any others. I let wounds fester, and out of fear, I lash out. In my efforts to share the amazing things I've learned, I forget that not everyone has learned what I have, or that they've actually learned more than I have.

I've also come to find that not everyone is who they say they are, and not everyone can possibly have all the answers.

Perspectives are amazing things, you know. Just taking a second to look through another lens can change absolutely everything. My husband taught me this. (He's amazing!) Prejudice, actually, is created when people do not understand something they've never had to understand, before. So, this week, I looked through the lens of a Trump supporter. I couldn't understand why anyone would choose to vote for someone who's character was so... disgusting. I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. How could these religious people support someone so vile? Where is their integrity? Their souls? But instead of jumping onto the social bandwagon of hypocritical opposite hate-spewing, I decided to try and find out. Why in the world did Trump win? But most importantly, how in the world could I learn to see Trump supporters in a way that Trump, himself, refuses to see in certain groups of people?

What I discovered was that there are many intelligent people who are actually able to see past horrible things when they are focused on the greater good. We have millions of people in this country that truly believed Trump's character didn't matter if he could fix Washington politics. They chose him over Clinton not just because of her corruption, but also because Trump is simply not a politician.

I've learned more, but it's neither here nor there. But what I have found to really matter, in all of this, is the truly correct response to all people.

Nobody can claim -- as a political party, a religion, a race, or a nation --to have the monopoly on love, service, charity, or good works, when they react with rage, fear, hatred, or pain to things they do not understand, or choose not to understand. Love eradicates fear. And so, if people who hated Trump and refused to vote for him claim to have love in their hearts for all the people Trump threatened, then they must find it somewhere, in their hearts, to have love for those who supported him. Because love can't be two-faced. It can't be a double standard. If we are to have love everywhere, then it needs to be felt for everyone. It's easy, I think, for Clinton supporters to talk about loving people when they speak about LGBTQ people, different ethnicity and races, or women who need financial support. But what do they do when they face the reality that they have learned to despise white men, blue collar workers, Mid-West conservatives, and practicing evangelical Christians?

And what about the other way around? Trump supporters may say they are not racist, and they may say they didn't vote for him for those reasons, but they need to prove it, now, with their words and their actions. They have to extend the same love for those who are blinded by fear for their lives because of the hatred Trump supported. They can't mock them, gloat over them, or tell them their are being ridiculous. They need to forgive them for their anger and love them in their fears.

This is why Christ stressed to love our neighbors, I think. I'm pretty sure He knew that we would all face moments like this, when forgiveness might be possible ("okay, I'll try"), but love? Service? Condescending to understand?!? How is that possible? It's pretty darn hard.

But it is possible. I never thought I would ever come to a point where I could see that not everything is as black/white as I have been taught. Yes, there is right and wrong. Yes, there is good and bad. But people are dynamically and infinitely complex. The rules are good and protecting, but the variations of how we find our way to the rules is infinite. And if we want mercy extended to us in our mistakes and struggles, we have to be willing to extend the same privileges to other people.

I think the biggest mistake we make is when we think that learning to understand and love others means we become just like them. This isn't true. We don't have to agree, or change our opinions, or our politics, or our religion. We only have to love, respect, and support other people in their opinions, politics, and religion. We simply love them.

Even if we didn't vote for them.

Even if we don't share the same blood.

Even if we don't have the same religion or gender or race.

We need to come to a place where we can genuinely say, "I have walked with my neighbor in order to understand, because I love her. Please, please --help me to understand."

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Live Blogging the Election Results (But Not Really, Because I Won't Publish Until It's All Over, So This is All Old News)

My Election 2016 Thoughts (I started writing this as I was watching the election results on Tuesday evening): 

*I voted for McMullin. It felt AWESOME to vote for someone I like rather than as a strategy against someone I don't like.

*My friend, Stephanie, said this on FB and I agree with her 100%:
"I think voting is the closest we come to equality. I loved voting this year because I felt empowered. It didn't matter what people had said to me about my candidate or the ugliness of the campaign: you can pressure and bully and cajole all you want, but when I walk into the voting booth, I have the freedom to make my own choice. And my vote counts exactly the same as yours. You might be wealthier than me, but we each get one vote. You might be more powerful, but we each get one vote. You might think you are smarter (doubtful - ha!), but we still each get one vote. I am so grateful for this great nation, our constitution, and our freedoms. It is a good day to be an American."
*I realized, while watching the results, that although I would prefer McMullin to win (of course, I mean, that's why I voted for him!), I would rather Clinton win than Trump. As a registered Republican, that's considered blasphemy. I am more a moderate, truthfully, but I've never liked Clinton. So why would I prefer her? I'll tell you my reasons:
1. As a woman, to see a woman running for president, when only 100 years ago (not even that long) women weren't even allowed to vote?!? That's amazing! It's wonderful. How can I hate that? I mean, I didn't like Obama, but I still loved that we had finally elected our first president who wasn't white. Kind of bummed that the first trailblazers (as my BFF told me) have to be crappy leaders, but still! It's cool!
2. She's more predictable. She's easier to work with. She knows the systems.
3. She's impeachable. Hahaha!! Okay, but seriously, she is.
4. Trump is everything I abhor in a man. He is everything I do NOT want my sons to be. In any way. He's racist. He's sexist. He's called for the banning of religions and races. He's completely anti-American! At least Obama is respectable. I like him as a man, father, husband, human being. I may disagree with his policies (especially social and foreign), but Trump?? *shudder*

*I have never openly campaigned for someone, before. Man, I really want McMullin to win Utah.

*This is getting closer than I thought it would. I actually thought, for sure, that Trump would lose badly. But hey, I get it. I know it's not that our country is full of sexist and racist people --it's because he's running against a corrupt politician. It's a hard choice. I completely understand! That's why I rejected them both.

*Brandon brought us tacos, tonight. Taco Tuesday! And a friend shared this on social media (it was perfect!):

*I'm kind of tired of this idea that there are only two candidates. Why can't we have all seven? Or five? What is wrong with having a lot of options? So, what if it means we have to count every single vote and get rid of the electoral college?! That would be awesome (I say this as a admitted novice of the electoral college, or at least it's importance). 

*UGH. I can't believe how close this race is. This can be good --ONLY if Utah gives their electoral votes to McMullin!! Then this will be awesome. 

*HOLY CRAP. I cannot believe Trump is winning by this much! All you crazy people who thought voting third party would take away from him, what does this mean, now!??!?

*Maybe there really are this many racist and sexist people in our country. 

*Utah, I'm praying for you. 

*I can't look away. 

*It's like a train wreck. Or seeing your grandma naked. 

*The day after the election should be a holiday, so all of the crazy people who stayed up late to watch the results can get some sleep. And start packing for a move to Canada. 

*If he really wins this, I just have to ask: How in the world did we go from voting for our first Black President to voting for a racist who is endorsed by the KKK?!?!? What the hell is going on?!! (sorry for the swear)

*I can't believe this. I just can't believe that there are this many racist and sexist people in our country. Did I already say that?


*Old, white people in Florida. Thanks, guys. The Latino communities, I'm sure, are super grateful. (That was sarcasm.) 

*I should go to bed. I'm just getting riled up. But I still want to know if Utah did the moral thing (doubtful). 

*Wow. Just... wow. Utah, I really thought you'd make history and do the right thing. I'm shocked that you didn't do it. I'm surprised there are so many of you that would rather vote for someone like Trump over someone like McMullin. Sigh... 

*I told Brandon that maybe we were blessed to have moved to Kansas. We're in the middle of nowhere and we're kind of ignored. Other than tornadoes, we're pretty safe. People are genuinely kind. Fort Riley can protect us. Maybe WWIII will only happen on the coasts and they won't bomb us, here... 

*Okay, I need some perspective. I'm going to leave you with something my friend, J. Max said on FB, tonight: 
"The U.S. has a long, visceral tradition of common folk outwitting their self-proclaimed superiors. Huckleberry Finn is probably the most well known example. But it is an extremely common theme.I did not support Trump or Clinton. But I have to say that there is something very satisfying in seeing that tradition play out on a national scale. It is gratifying to see the liberal elite freak out as they realize that they have been trumped.
As I have said repeatedly during this election, I agree with the notion that no presidential candidate is likely as bad as his biggest critics say, nor as great as his most ardent supporters claim.If Trump ends up or next president, let's pray that he at least disrupts the administrative state and makes the government more responsive and accountable to the people.
Congratulations to my Trump supporting friends. Well played."

*And now I will go to bed. 


Okay, I've had some sleep and I can think a bit clearly. 

Here are my thoughts (they aren't super profound, but this is how I feel):

When I voted for McCain and he lost to Obama, I wasn't as sad as I thought I would be. It was actually really great to show my kids that our country had progressed so much that we had elected our first non-white President. Considering the diversity of ethnicity and race in our country, it was about dang time! I even cried during his inauguration. How cool is that? I was happy to support him --even if it was just because of his character and his race. I never liked his policies. I never liked his politics. I hated Obamacare (it really did affect us in a bad way). But I liked him. I thought he was charismatic, funny, and kind. He was a good husband, father, and friend. His only crime was not being as willing to compromise with the Republicans, and some say that's unforgivable --I say it's par for the course. 

When Mitt Romney lost to Obama, I cried. I literally cried. (I was pregnant at the time, so that may have had something to do with my emotions, too.) But I was okay. We had already experienced Obama, so it wasn't like we were getting any more surprises. 

I bring all this up because this year feels vastly different. So different. I watched, in amazed horror, as Trump won the nomination. I watched as people I have always respected justified --NEVER APOLOGIZING --for his bigoted, hateful behavior. I couldn't believe this was seriously happening. People, who professed to follow Christ, were gleefully looking the other way and being rude and hateful to anyone who didn't like Trump. I was genuinely shocked. 

The way he treats people that are unlike him is scary. He bragged about sexually assaulting women. He called for the deportation of millions of people. He wants to ban an entire religion. He makes fun of those with disabilities. He treats women like trash. And the whole time, all I kept hearing was, "SCOTUS!! Hillary is worse! Emails!" 

This is why I voted third party. This is why I voted for McMullin. I could never, ever align myself with someone who openly accepts and brags about doing things that are plainly condemned by Jesus Christ. (And I could never, ever vote for Clinton, either. I agree she is corrupt. I agree the Clintons need to stop pretending we're England and they're our Royalty and that they can get away with anything.) 

I still can't believe he won, though. I mean, look, with Obama, I may have hated his politics, but I respected him as a person. He has character. He is a good, good man. I can't say this about Trump. I don't trust anything he says. How could I be okay with supporting someone so hateful? 

How did we fall so far, that we could elect our first African-American President to electing a man who is endorsed by the KKK? And the greatest irony: How could a political party (Republican), that claims to be the standard bearer for all morality (pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-family, pro-liberty, etc) choose someone so immoral?

It makes me painfully ashamed of my country. 


So, I watched Trump's acceptance speech. It was very good, I'll give him that. Except for his really crappy "oh, yeah, Pence is my VP" faux pas (that was really bad. Poor Pence!). 

I hope he'll do what he says he'll do. I hope he will unite us. But how can he? He has alienated most of the country and has racists applauding his name. He will have to do a lot of different things and hire a lot of different people if he wants the country to get behind him and like what he does. He has a lot of promises to keep. He has a lot of repenting and outreach to do if he wants to unify us.  I'm all for unity, but how do you unify something you just spent the last 9 months breaking apart?? 

I told my kids this before they went to school: "No bashing Trump. We may not like him, but he's going to be the President, now. We have to pray, really, really hard that he'll choose good people to work with him, that he'll stop the hate, and he'll change the way he acts." 

May God have mercy on us all. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Bugs and Depression: A Gratitude Post

Halloween is over and now the month of gratitude begins. Which reminds me of two things, which, really, are completely unrelated.

The first, is that I love Autumn because I can put up Autumn decorations in September and I don't take them down until December. Sweet! Three months of harvest decor! Fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving all in one. One theme to rule them all!

The second, the most profound, the point of this post, is what #1 shared with us at Young Women in Excellence earlier in October. She said that as a goal, she decided her nightly prayers (before bed) would be gratitude prayers. She would only tell Heavenly Father what she was grateful for and not ask for anything. She said that as she kept doing this, she found herself falling to sleep before the prayer was over because she had so many things she was grateful for. The list was so long, it never ended.

I was both surprised and impressed. Surprised, because she hadn't mentioned it until then, and impressed, because that is such a beautiful attitude and way of being. (She constantly amazes me with her maturity.)

To be grateful is to be joyful, dear reader. Without gratitude, we would despair.

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about how to be grateful for the hard things in life. Things that seem so difficult and horrible and yet... when seen in a different light, they are absolutely blessings. Blessings in disguise. Tender mercies. Moments of clarity that teach us how every thing can be used, by God, for good. Even the most horrible atrocities committed by man can be turned to further light, truth, and love.

One of my most favorite moments in all of literature is also a moment that actually happened. The true story of Corrie ten Boom and her family during WWII was captured in the novel, The Hiding Place. In it, she describes life in the concentration camp, and how devastatingly humiliating it was, not to mention just physically horrible. But throughout her and her sister's experiences there, they learned more about gratitude than most people learn in a lifetime. Here are some excerpts from the book that showed how they could have gratitude in such horrible circumstances:
"Fridays--the recurrent humiliation of medical inspection. The hospital corridor in which we waited was unheated and a fall chill had settled into the walls. Still we were forbidden even to wrap ourselves in our own arms, but had to maintain our erect, hands-at-sides position as we filed slowly past a phalanx of grinning guards. How there could have been any pleasure in the sight of these stick-thin legs and hunger-bloated stomachs I could not imagine. Surely there is no more wretched sight than the human body unloved and uncared for. Nor could I see the necessity for the complete undressing: when we finally reached the examining room a doctor looked down each throat, another--a dentist presumably--at our teeth, a third in between each finger. And that was all. We trooped again down the long, cold corridor and picked up our X-marked dresses at the door. But it was one of these mornings while we were waiting, shivering in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me. "He hung naked on the cross. "...The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh--at the time itself, on that other Friday morning--there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now. "'Betsie, they took His clothes too.' "'Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. 'Oh, Corrie. And I never thanked Him...' "
'Fleas!' I cried. 'Betsie, the place is swarming with them!' We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light. "'Here! And here another one!' I wailed. 'Betsie, how can we live in such a place!' ............ 
"'That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!' I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. "'Such as?' I said. "'Such as being assigned here together.' "I bit my lip. 'Oh yes, Lord Jesus!'
"'Such as what you're holding in your hands.' I looked down at the Bible. "'Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.' "'Yes,' said Betsie, 'Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!' She looked at me expectantly. 'Corrie!' she prodded. "'Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.' 'Thank You,' Betsie went on serenely, 'for the fleas and for--' The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.' 'Give thanks in all circumstances,' she quoted. It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us. "And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."...... 
"Back at the barracks we formed yet another line--would there never be an end to columns and waits?--to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship "service." Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered. "They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28. "At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.   
"One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.  "'You're looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,' I told her.  "'You know, we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,' she said. 'Well--I've found out.'  "That afternoon, she said, there'd been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they'd asked the supervisor to come and settle it. "But she wouldn't. She wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?" "Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: 'Because of the fleas! That's what she said, "That place is crawling with fleas!'" "My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."
When I first read this, many, many years ago, I was absolutely struck by their ability to be grateful in every circumstance. And that God had, in truth, blessed them in the most unusual and --to a mortal's view --illogical way.

Am I grateful? When I pause my life long enough to look around me and see what is before me, I am overwhelmed --almost blown over --by the sheer magnitude of blessings surrounding me. In truth, I sometimes feel like I don't deserve any of it, because of how great it all is. There is so much to be grateful for, dear reader!

Take a pencil and list your blessings. Count them. Name them one by one. List them in your mind. Start a gratitude journal. Pray, as my daughter did, every day for only the things that bring you gratitude. Use your intellect and find out how every circumstance in your life has something to be grateful for in it.

Here are few difficult things that took me a long time to be grateful for:

1. My depression --I'm so grateful for my mental illness because it has taught me about compassion, patience, understanding, the Atonement, healing, forgiveness, trial and error, and relying on others.
2. My asthma --I'm so grateful for my chronic asthma because it has taught me about health, physical ability, how to treat my children's sicknesses, how my own body works and reacts, and empathy for those with physical ailments.
3. When we've had financial problems, lost jobs, moved, had unexpected bills, etc. --I'm grateful for these trials because they have taught us how to be more frugal, how to trust in God, and where we can do better.
4. I'm grateful for exhaustion --it shows me that I have a beautiful, meaningful life with a lot of people depending on me, and that I have the physical ability to do what I want to do and take care of them.
5. I'm grateful for the bugs and humidity because it means I'm living in a place that has tremendous plant life with so much beauty, my soul aches.

What are you grateful for? What trials are you glad you've been given because of what it means or what you've learned? 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Twenty Years Have Gone So Fast

Yesterday, as I was getting out of my large Bison van (it's not really a Bison, we just named it Bison), I was struck my the magnitude that is my life and I wondered, not for the first time, how amazing it is that time rushes so quickly to us when it's behind us.

I mean, I'm in Kansas. I like, live here, and stuff. Wha?? How did that happen? Yesterday, I was living in Pennsylvania. And the day before that, wasn't I in San Francisco? What about Provo... I lived so many years in Utah...

20 years ago, as a high school senior (in Idaho), I couldn't tell you where in the world I was going to be living in 20 years because I hadn't even decided where I was going to college the very next year. 20 years ago, this month, I was dating a guy that would eventually dump me at the Sadie Hawkins dance (I'm not bitter, I promise; I think it's a hilarious story, now), I was hyped up on intense senior-itis, I was enjoying my AP classes and working at a dental office, and I was mostly worried about how the marching band was performing (I was the drum major).

October 1996
I did have some goals. I knew I wanted to go to college. I wanted to serve a mission for my church. I wanted to marry in the temple and be a mother. I honestly had no other ambition for a career, although I convinced myself I would be a concert pianist and perform in Carnegie Hall. My goals were not detailed and very, very few. Mostly, I just wanted to keep my testimony of the gospel. I saw so many friends lose theirs. I didn't want that to be me.

So, time happened. Decisions were made. And here I am, 20 years later, still reeling from the awesomeness of it all.

And what of those goals from my 17 year old self? I did go to college. I went to BYU and managed to graduate with a 3.4 (or 3.5?) GPA. I did not serve a mission for my church --I married in the temple, at age 19, instead. I became a mother. I am not a concert pianist, but I've been a piano teacher. I have not played in Carnegie Hall, although I've gone to a piano concert in Carnegie Hall to watch a concert pianist! That's pretty good, in my book.

But most importantly, I have an even stronger testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I truly, truly cherish that.

And, I have traveled the world.

Stonehenge, Jan 2009
Big Ben, London, Jan 2009
Pigeon Point Lighthouse, CA coast 2008
Kauai sunset, June 2011
Grand Canyon 2015

Statue of Liberty, 2016
Great Wall of China 2010
Niagara Falls July 2014
St. John, US Virgin Islands April 2014

I have lived all over the United States.
I have developed two chronic illnesses.
I have had 7 amazing kids.

I am still married to that good, good man who found my 19 year old self to be irresistible.

January 16, 1999
October 2016 with our oldest and youngest
I think not having a specific goal (like world domination or starting my own company or discovering Atlantis) worked out in my favor, to be honest. I kept myself wide open, in a way.

I was thinking about when we lived near San Francisco. We honestly believed we were there for good. That was it! California was home. We only ended up living there for a year. After we left Provo (for the second time) and moved to Philadelphia, we felt, this is it! Philly it is. We'll be here forever. We lasted 2 1/2 years. Now we are in Manhattan (Kansas, people. Not NYC, in case you were confused!). We feel that this is it! We'll be here forever. But will we? Maybe. Maybe, not. We will just have to wait and see what God has in store for us.

And maybe that's the biggest clue right there. Every time I've made a move forward in life, it's been with prayer and faith in my hands. Where to go to college (BYU), who to marry (Brandon), how many kids to have (guess it's 7), where to live (Provo, Concord, Provo, Thornton, Manhattan), and all the other big decisions we make (buy a house or rent, go on vacation here or there, put the kids in this school or this program, etc), it's been done with the guidance of God. Do we always get it right? Maybe, maybe not. But we're certainly trying, and we certainly feel we've done what He wants for us.

So, if you see it that way (and I know some may not), I think being wide open has been the right thing for me (for us). Because we've been so open to moving, changing jobs, having more children, and traveling to new places, Brandon and I have been so incredibly blessed. I can't even begin to tell you about all the inspiring and wonderful people I've come to know and love. I have been exposed to many different cultures and religions, communities and ethnicities. I have seen poverty and wealth. I have rubbed shoulders with people from all over the world and I'm better for it. The only downside to moving and traveling is that I have to leave people and places that I love. It's been hard. But I'm finding that it's made me embrace the new a bit quicker. It means I've learned to love faster.

20 years. I kind of laugh, now, at that 17 year old version of myself. Not in a bad way --for how could I know, at 17, what would transpire? How do any of us truly know what will come our way? Maybe, dear reader, if we just allow ourselves to be open to whatever it is that God wants for us (for whatever He knows we need), we may find things won't be the way we expected or wanted. Maybe we'll find that they're better.

You know, if I could tell myself, at 17, anything, I think I'd just say: "It's gonna be just fine. The most important thing in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember that, keep that close, and everything will be okay, I promise." Because honestly, dear reader, I know this is true. Life isn't easy (it's not supposed to be), but Christ is everything. He is everything. Ask my kids: "What does your mother say is the most important thing in the whole world?" And they'll answer you: "The gospel of Jesus Christ." I can't tell my 17 year old self that, but I sure can tell my own kids.

I just hope they remember it over the next 20 years.

What were your goals 20 years ago? How has your life turned out differently or the same? What would you tell yourself at 17?