Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Case You Didn't Notice, This is a Presidential Election Year

Okay, you know what? People are posting all over the internet that they are so tired of hearing about politics. They claim that it's too negative and divisive (as if an election wouldn't be divisive? Aren't we all trying to convince each other who to vote for? Isn't that the whole point of an election?) and they wish people would just pipe down and stop talking about it all.

Umm, people, newsflash: There is a general election in less than 4 weeks. A presidential election that could literally change our entire political process and who we vote for in the future. If you aren't thinking about politics and re-thinking who you're voting for on every level (local, state, federal), then maybe you should stop and as yourself, "why?" Our whole future can be determined by who wins in elections. It is our duty as citizens (and even Christians!) to be involved in politics. Don't believe me? Read this link really quickly. (For our day, indeed!)

As for me, I haven't been so excited about a person to vote for since Mitt Romney! I wore red, white, and blue this week just because I was feeling patriotic. I feel so much peace knowing the man I'm voting for has principles and integrity. I may not agree with 100% of his policies or ideas, but I believe in most of them. I can't wait for my yard signs to come in the mail! And the bumper stickers. Evan McMullin is someone I can vote for with a clear conscience. I'm excited for the chance to support him!

(And no, I'm not voting for him because I'm some Mormon lemming. I didn't even know he was Mormon when I decided to vote for him!)

People keep telling me I'm throwing away my vote (see previous post for the truth). People keep telling me that I'm the problem and Trump would be a good president once elected. People tell me Trump would be better than Clinton and I better step in line and stop her from being elected. The Supreme Court? Give me a break. If that's the only reason you can plug your nose to jump in and vote for someone you despise, then you may want to re-think your reasoning. As if a Republican House/Senate would allow Clinton to put in people they hate, anyway.

Why compromise your integrity just because you hate the other person running, more? What kind of vote is that?

Honestly, I don't care who ultimately wins this election. Sure, I want McMullin to win, but I'm not stupid enough to think he has a really great chance. I only care about living with myself. I only care about doing what I believe to be right.

I want to be able to say, "hey, kids, look! A good leader who could help our country, who cares more about service than himself. He's not a racist, not a misogynist, and he hasn't committed federal crimes and gotten away with it! Look! Someone with principles and integrity, someone who doesn't care about power, someone who actually answers ALL the questions he's asked without changing the subject! This is amazing! I can support this person! And your mother voted for this person. She did what was right even though all odds were against her. And did you know, kids, that great things have happened when good people get together and try to make change? Look at our Revolutionary War --we should not have won. All odds were against us and yet we defeated the greatest world power in existence! Look at Esther, kids. She could have died, and she was one woman, but she saved her entire people! Look at David, kids. David was a tiny farm boy who defeated a giant and became a king! Look at Joseph Smith, kids. He was a 14 year old boy with little schooling and he helped usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times and his faith has brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions upon millions throughout the world! It doesn't matter how bad the odds are --you do the right thing because it is the RIGHT THING. Not because of the outcome! Think about all the people during the Holocaust who tried to save Jews and died for it, anyway. Think about all the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's who allowed themselves to be killed. Think about the men and women who rushed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. They knew they might die --they knew they could lose significantly. But that didn't matter! What mattered was the RIGHT THING. Hell may rail against you, but stand strong against it. People you love will persuade you, but don't buy into it. Stand strong. Be courageous. Do the right thing, even if it's something as little, tiny, insignificant, and personal as a vote on election day. You could possibly change the world!"

That's what I care about.

So, dear reader, think about politics for a little bit. Have a talk with yourself and find out why you are voting the way you are voting. If you can live with yourself, then you're probably doing the right thing for you. I won't hate you if you vote for Clinton or Trump. I might respect you more if you vote third party and adore you for voting for McMullin but I promise I won't hate you!

Just, please, stop hating me for voting McMullin. (Although if you understand the point of this post, I won't care if you do. Ha!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Voting Third Party is Not Wasting My Vote!

I told a friend this, yesterday, and I feel like I need to put it down more permanently to share it with others.

This election has pulled out the decades-old lie that if you don't vote for one of the two major parties, then your vote is a waste and is like a vote for the "other" party (insert whichever party is "other" to you). Basically, I'm being told that if I don't vote for Trump because he's a Republican, then my vote is a vote for Clinton and the Democrats (and I'm somehow, then, akin to all that's wrong in the political world).

What a bunch of hogwash.

My vote is important. People have died (literally) for my right to vote. It is precious and good and I don't ever waste it. Ever.

I have a huge responsibility to my children to vote for good and right. I have an obligation to myself to vote for good and right! I need to vote for someone (or policies or laws) that I believe are important, good, and right.

When I see two evils before me, I will not vote for the "lesser" of the two evils, because there is no such thing. If they are both evil, how is one lesser? Why should I have to comb through every policy, personality quirk, past offenses, and policy votes in order to sift out the "lesser" part? It doesn't matter how much poop was baked into the brownies, people. There's still poop! Everywhere, the poop! (GROSS!) Why in the world would I want to vote for either one?  I would be lying to myself and everyone around me. I cannot vote for someone I will never be able to support!

I am voting third party because I know it's the right thing to do. I'm choosing to vote for someone I believe would be the best leader of this country. I'm voting for someone I can proudly support in years to come.

Will the person I vote for win? Probably not. In fact, I can almost guarantee they won't win. But that's the whole point --I'm voting for someone I can believe in, regardless of the outcome.

You want to know what's a waste of a vote? Someone voting for someone they absolutely hate because they feel bullied into doing it by a political party, societal pressure, or ignorant family/friends. That's a waste! It's the worst kind of voting because it means the voter has been bought and coerced.

Don't let yourself be bullied or bought into voting for someone or something that makes your skin crawl. Don't vote for someone or something that scares you just because of the lie you've been told all your life that your vote only matters if your political party wins.

If enough Americans choose to vote third party this year, it will mean good things for us in four years and eight years. It could change everything about our political system --it could actually mean more freedom of choice in the future. It could mean cleaning up the political entrenchment and scandal. It could mean finally getting leaders we want to lead us, not the only ones we have left because of all the corruption.

Vote your conscience. Vote your voice! Vote for the good and the right, and then even if they don't win the general election, you can at least live with yourself and your choice. Then you can proudly tell your children and grandchildren that you were never forced to vote a way you didn't believe, and you stood up for the reason our country exists in the first place: the freedom to choose!!

Here are the third party candidates. Go educate yourself about them and choose which one you like the best. And then go vote for them! Send a message to our two evils that you will not stand for it, anymore:

*Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn: Independent (conservative)

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld: Libertarian Party

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka: Green Party

Chris Keniston: Veterans Party

Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley: Constitution Party 

*I'm voting for McMullin!!!

P.S. Even prophets say we need to vote for good candidates, regardless of political party. Go here!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Focusing on Family: Making Our Home Peaceful

Family photos are so much fun! I love seeing how much our kids have grown over the past year, especially the younger ones. It seems kind of narcissistic to put photos of ourselves up on our walls, but I find it to be such a good reminder about who we are and what we want to be. We're a family; we love each other and we are learning how to support and strengthen each other. 

However, I need to be completely honest, it's been a rough couple of years and I feel like Satan is doing his best to rip us apart from the inside. Our family struggles a lot with yelling, screaming, snapping, sarcasm, passive-aggressive insults, and all around bad attitudes. In other words, we struggle with communication and contention. It's incredible how quickly these things can become habits and without realizing it, we're referring to it as, "standing up for ourselves" or "not letting people get away with rude behavior" (while being incredibly rude, ourselves). We try to control each other --not just actions, but motivations and even choices. And there is a huge amount of offense being taken; defensiveness is king! It's a combination of me bringing in my background of control and brutal honesty (and passive-aggressiveness when we don't get our way) and Brandon's background of avoidance (and passive-aggressiveness when they don't get their way). It's just what happens when you combine two very different ways of dealing with differences and contention. (Not everything we've brought is bad, by the way --I'm just pointing out why it clashes). Add in a huge dash of good intentions, and it makes things hard to navigate. I don't think any of us are excused or immune to it, either, although our oldest is a great peacemaker. She's a really good example to me.  

And if I'm being even more honest, I know a lot of it has to do with my (and my husband's --he doesn't get a free pass!) influence. As the mother, I set the tone. My tone, dear reader, is not always very charitable, and sometimes I really resent that my attitude makes or breaks it. That's a lot of pressure! But I realized that if I'm kind, calm, caring, and charitable, that's exactly the kind of person I want to be, anyway! DUH! How can I resent being like Christ? I'm also learning (and slowly getting better!) how to breathe, relax, and try to view my kids with charity instead of frustration. You wouldn't think it would be so hard, but it really is! After all, there are 7 of them and 1 of me... Okay, 2 of us, because Brandon is a part of it all, too. But I get the brunt of that responsibility because I'm the one at home, making the home however I want it to be. So, if I see that it's not what I want it to be (and last week sure showed me this), then what can I do? I must always be doing something, because we really, genuinely love each other and we really, genuinely, want our home to be a safe haven from the world. 

Well, to combat this, and to try to change habits, we've been having some FHE's on how we speak to each other. We've been working on re-phrasing things. For example, if someone says something bad or overreacts (holy heck, do we overreact!), then we stop and say, "try again. How could we have done that differently?" It's helping. We're also praying daily to choose kindness. I'm trying to be more consistent in punishments and in taking away privileges when warranted instead of just yelling at everybody all the time. But it's so hard, dear reader, I'm not going to lie! We all feel so much better when we love each other and take care of each other --the spirit in our home is genuinely heavenly! So, why is it easier to just be mean? Why is it easier to hurt one another instead of trying to understand one another? The habit of being angry is hard to break. 

I think that's why it's important to focus on the family as much as we can. We have family scripture study, family prayer, and FHE. We eat dinner together and go to church together. We spend time together and watch out for each other. We hang pictures of each other on our walls and we show our family together, smiling, loving one another. That's how we want to be! We hang The Family: A Proclamation to the World near our family photo to remind us why families are important and how we can have a strong and happy family. We hang them near pictures of the temple and pictures of Christ. We want to remember that we are sealed together through Christ, that we want to emulate Him in all we do.

I told my daughter the other day that Satan is trying so hard to rip us apart and she said, "Maybe it's because something great is supposed to come from us." I replied that maybe that's true, or maybe he simply will destroy any family and any person that will allow him to. Every soul he can convince to hate, complain, whine, or stay angry is another victory for him. 

We cannot let him win! 

I mean, look at my family. Aren't they stunning? I love every one of them. I want them to love the gospel as much as I do. I want them to be kind, generous, loving, optimistic, hilarious, wonderful people --because I know that's who they are! I want our home to emulate the temple in spirit. I want the Spirit to dwell here. Pray for me, dear reader, and for us, that we can combat the evil forces around us, and that happiness will be more common than contention in our home. 

And now, a great, big, fat THANK YOU to my sister-in-law for taking our photos again, this year! She is so talented and wonderful. I'm grateful she married my baby brother! During our semi-impromptu reunion in Blackfoot, Idaho in July (2016), a kind friend let us use their backyard for photos, which is right up against the Snake River. It was a great reunion! I love these people. 

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Awesome Sauce

My brain is going a million miles a second and I need to dump it all somewhere, so here you go, dear reader:

*I think, after watching the debates on Monday, that our two main party candidates are a horrifying, yet realistic, portrayal of how far our country has drifted from common sense and integrity. People just aren't nice, anymore. Everyone is power hungry and selfish. And the few who stay in politics who are not power hungry and selfish are usually trampled on and shut out. It's really disheartening.

*I think I love red roses almost as much as I love yellow roses.

*If I don't do my "job" and keep the house organized, clean, and flowing, the house falls apart. I'm the invisible glue behind the scenes and it's assumed I'll always do my part. But I'm starting to not like my part. I feel unappreciated and overwhelmed, and when that happens, I can't function. I break down, shut down, and then don't do anything. Most see this as lazy. But if they were inside my mind, they would see it as survival. It's like the opposite of my flight or fight response --instead, I freeze.

*I hate whiny voices. I hate whining.

*I love the Timeless Romance Anthology series. I get them on my Kindle. I need to buy every one and read them all! (There's like, 18, now! I'm super behind!)

*Social media gives us such an unrealistic feeling of connection. How many people that we speak with daily on social media would we ever connect with in real life if social media didn't exist? I have (had) almost 1,000 "friends" on Facebook. What does that even mean? 80% of them never communicated with me. Now that I've left, 80% of the 20% who did communicate with me no longer communicate with me. I wonder how many people I have forgotten after they left social media outlets...

*I have really great friends, though. And my ward, here, is amazing. I need to be surrounded by good women, and I feel blessed to have been influenced by so many.

*General Conference today came at the most perfect time. I've had a horrid week. Emotionally and mentally I've just been... well, see the housework thing I wrote just a minute ago. I've been frozen. I'm grieving, I'm broken, and I'm not looking for the solutions in the right places. General Conference has reminded me (once again, Hallelujah!) what I need to do. It won't be easy, but I have some repenting to do. And new habits. And they may take a lifetime, but that's okay.

*Also, those friends I mentioned: I reached out on Instagram about how awful I was feeling as I hid out in my backyard, this morning, and so many people messaged me, commented on my post, and texted me to let me know I wasn't insane or stupid for sharing. I'm grateful for those kind words. They made such a difference for me.

*I sometimes think that if I had lived many years ago, before there wasn't so much dang information being thrown at me in thousands of ways, I might not be so fascinated with my own feelings. Or my own mind. Perhaps I wouldn't have so much down time where I could write posts like these or share Instagram photos and wax and wane on the injustice of the modern mother (or just my quirky emotions). I'd be too busy feeding my family. My chores would take the bulk of the day, and even if I had been rich and had servants, I would be learning to speak French, embroider, and do archery. I think that might be the plague of our time: idleness. Hmmm... Thinking out loud, now, but even when I'm at my busiest, I still have the time to check my phone... I'm not taking modern convenience for granted! Just wondering how to modify the need to be busy with the need to relax...

*I have so many dreams about where I want to go and who I want to be and I find it makes me sad to think about it too much. It doesn't stop my heart from planning and hoping, though. I know I have been so blessed to have traveled to so many amazing places already, but I just wish I could see more. I want to see the world!

*Speaking of travel, we have signed #1 up for a trip to South America this summer with her Spanish class. Isn't that crazy!? Awesome, but crazy! She's pretty excited.

*I hate ants. And cat poop. And cat throw-up. And big spiders. And creepy moths. Also, laundry.

*If I could hire out one thing it would be laundry. I have so much laundry and I'm buried in laundry and when I freeze (like this week), then I have mountain ranges of laundry. In the summer, the kids fold it. During the school year, nobody has time. I could make them, but they're already so dang busy with school and other chores. Usually, I just let them shove their clothes in their drawers or leave them in a laundry basket in their room. Seriously, it's whatever.

*I love Autumn, but I hate how it gets dark so early. I would love it if we could have two months of winter, two months of summer, and then in between, we've got 4 months of Spring (with no snow) and 4 months of Autumn. And the sun rises by 6AM every day and sets at 9PM every night. That would be perfect!

*Marriage advice (asking for a friend): how do you jump start your relationship again?

*I've recently been feeling great regrets about letting go of some friendships. Not all, just some. I know friendships come and go, we need new people to teach us new things, etc, but I wish I could have just not burned so many bridges. Or just drifted away. In fact, now that I think about it some more, most were just relationships that drifted apart. And now I'm on the shore, looking out into the water, wishing I could see some of them. (*sniff)

*That whole Brad and Angelina divorce thing is sad.

*If I could just get baby girl to sleep at night (yes, I know, whatever, don't judge), then my daily schedule could look like this:
Up at 5:30AM to exercise and shower
Get kids up at 6:30AM
8AM, eat breakfast, read scriptures, journal, write the next great American novel, whatever, feed little kids, start on chores and because I get such a good start on the day, by 10AM, I'll have nothing else to do! So I could work on music, organize the house, go to the park, run errands, visit friends.

Someday, dear reader. It'll happen again, someday (I say, "again," because at one time, I was able to do all of that and it was awesome sauce. Do the kids still say, "awesome sauce?").

Ah, I feel better. Thank you for indulging me, dear reader. My brain is grateful for the dumping.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

So, I left Facebook again, today. I'm thinking about just deleting it and being done with it all.

I keep getting sucked back in. Even with that post I wrote about trying to follow social media rules --I don't even follow my own rules! I become a horrible person. I don't like who I am. My filter is broken. I've tried not checking FB, deleting the app on my phone, making scheduled times when I can check it, etc. but like a bad addiction, I keep coming back to it. And then I genuinely offend and insult everyone I care about with my opinions and thoughts. So many people have distanced themselves from me because of what I write. It's a factual lose-lose situation. I'm not strong enough to stop myself from hurting people, and so I'm removing myself from it all so I won't hurt people, anymore.

Well, at least not as easily.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sharing Our Vulnerabilities or Why My Writing is Too Depressing

I've mentioned this before, but once, many years ago, someone told me they won't read my blog because I'm not uplifting. They said they would rather read things that are positive and inspiring --words that help them become a better person. Why waste time with something depressing?

It doesn't hurt nearly as much as it did when it was said, but I'm still confused because honestly? I can't read blogs and other social media that are only happy. Everyone wants to be inspired (I know I do!), but an over-saturation of good can be misleading. Overly cheerful, constantly positive, and super inspiring sounds perfect, and sometimes I think I should be grateful for words that are chosen to lift instead of put down --but the truth is, they don't sound real. They feel absolutely fake. 

Social media that only portrays the good paints a false picture of the reality of life. In fact --and here's some irony for you --I've read personal blogs and social media accounts (personal ones) that wax and wane about the goodness of Christ, but never, ever, ever share or admit that they even need Christ. So, I don't understand. If their lives are so perfect, why would they need Him? If they've figured it all out, what's the point of preaching about Someone who is there to save us from the bad and ugly when they have no bad or ugly in their lives? 

Don't get me wrong --testifying of Jesus Christ is very important and should be done regularly. And I'm not trying to encourage an onslaught of negativity. But there has to be a balance to things, and that is why, if you read what I write, I always have a good ending. Because I know what Eve said to be true --we pass through the pain of sin so we can know the good from the evil. We can't know the good unless we know the bad! Nobody is immune to the difficulties of life. Nobody. Which is why I'm confused so many good women refuse to admit or share that there is even a tiny element of bad in their lives. What are they afraid of? 

I remember, on several occasions, reading the positive blogs --women with a million kids, homeschooling them, doing a hundred activities, sewing, baking, exercising, working part-time, traveling, reading their scriptures daily, serving faithfully in the gospel, etc etc. etc. (and there are lots out there) --and thinking I must be absolutely horrible and broken. I believed that if I just tried harder, I could be like those women and their perfect husbands, perfect children, perfect homes, perfect bodies, and perfect lives. I still fall into that lie from time to time. I even share that lie from time to time! It took considerable amounts of self-reflection (and even research) before I realized I was falling into one of satan's most notorious and successful traps: shame.

I felt I was a horrible person because I just wasn't good enough. I would never be like those women because I was too broken. My mind was messed up. My body was too out of shape. My parenting methods were screwed up. My marriage was dull. My house was unworthy. My personality was stupid. The best discovery, however, was learning that these women were not even close to perfect. Even the ones that claimed they had found all the answers weren't as great as they pretended to be. They weren't outright lying about their lives, but they were omitting the very thing that could connect them to other women --their vulnerability and imperfections.

Image result for vulnerability connects us brene brown

The person who told me I was too depressing was just one person. Unfortunately, they were not alone (I've been told I write posts that are too long, I'm too sarcastic, I'm selfish, I hurt others, and I just want attention, etc). But I've also received dozens of messages, phone calls, and emails from women thanking me for keeping it real. They appreciate that even though I add goodness to the struggles I'm going through, I don't hide from the struggles and I don't pretend I'm immune to mortality.

I used to think my almost-humiliating honesty was weak, but they've shown me, through support, that I've simply been vulnerable. This whole time (for 10 years!), I have been sharing my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to the pain of shame, not even realizing that I was also opening myself up to courage, empathy, and connection. (Thank you, Brene Brown!)

Just last week I shared this on Instagram and Facebook: 
I make many mistakes. I'm loud, blunt, sensitive, and bold. I can give it but rarely take it. I am vulnerable. I over-share. I allow insensitive comments to dwell in my mind. I assume the best in others, but when I feel betrayed, I shut down trust too quickly. I unleash rage on any who threaten me and mine. My house and children will never be to the standards of others. My marriage is a passionate, beautiful work in progress. I eat too much and purge on electronic media. I am forgetful, talk over others, laugh loudly, and speak without thinking. I yell. I love minor-keyed music and cloudy, rainy days. I attempt the impossible and give up too often. Poetry moves me; music is life-blood. I desire friendship and tend to be the selfish side of it. I suffer inside the chaos of my mind. I'm a glorious mess, made with fire and ice, clumsily attempting to fulfill the measure of my divine creation. I've never claimed to be perfect, but I do try to be my best. I have faith in Christ, belief in redemption, and I'm learning to forgive freely. All the experiences of my past continue to teach me and shape the direction I go. I allow God to urge me, nudge me, and guide me. I am beautifully, powerfully, creatively imperfect. 
With this photo (nope, not a drop of makeup --I rarely wear makeup, anymore, anyway, so it's not that big of a deal. The lighting was weird, but I didn't filter it):

I'm sure there were many who thought it was stupid. In fact, I know it made people uncomfortable. I'm not sure why. But I also know that a lot of people appreciated my honesty; many admitted they felt exactly the same way about themselves.

The truth is, women need each other to be real. We need to uplift and inspire, yes, but we can't do that with sugar-coated caricatures of our lives. If we truly want to connect with each other, we have to be honest about what we deal with, what we experience, and how we make it through. We help each other by admitting we don't have all the answers. We urge each other on when we share how we got back up after we fell down. We give each other hope when we admit how the Atonement of Jesus Christ has healed our pain and forgiven our sins --when we admit that we do, in fact, sin.

I make no apology for the things I write here or on other social media outlets. I do apologize when I've been mean to people (on purpose or inadvertently), and I am truly sorry if I've hurt you and not apologized for it. But I can't stop writing things that are depressing. I have to write my truth, and the truth is that life is a big ol' mess of happy and sad. You cannot have one without the other. Give and take, yin, and yang, black and white, light and dark, big and small --opposition is important.

Image result for opposition in all things scripture lds

You don't need to share every detail to be vulnerable. You don't even have to share half of it, dear reader, but share some it. Share your truth. Share the realities and the vulnerabilities and the pain and the horror. Then tell us how you overcame. Tell us about God and light, hope and love. Don't paint a false picture in an effort to inspire, because, dear reader, it may alienate the very people you're hoping to help. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Effective Social Media Communication or How to Stop Losing All My Friends on Facebook

Ugh. Social media can be the worst!

I've been thinking a lot about it and how I keep falling back into old habits --arguing with people, reacting too quickly, and eventually being a part of ruined trust. I write my opinions and then get upset when people don't like my opinions, as if everyone is supposed to agree with me. *shaking head*

I've decided to share some rules that can help navigate the ins and outs of effective communication online and hopefully help show why people (ahem, me?!) get upset when trying to communicate with others (I'll be taking notes because I need to work on these things, myself. Like, a lot, oh, and FYI --this is not directed towards any individual. I promise. These are simply a culmination of experiences I've had over the last decade, and more than one recent experience has prompted me to write this):

*Don't shame people for their choices. Everyone is different. Vastly. Even when some things are similar, there's no possible way it will be exactly the same.

*Use intentional language. If you didn't intend for something to come across in a certain way, then re-word it until it represents your intentions.

*If you apologize, do it sincerely --saying, "I'm sorry you got offended" is not an apology, it's passive aggression. A good example of an apology would be: "I'm sorry I got so upset. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

*Speaking of passive aggression, please use concrete communication. Write what you mean and mean what you write. Being vague, dropping hints, asking rhetorical questions, etc. don't work very well.

*Do not give out advice unless it was asked for, or if you really feel you want to share, please begin your advice by saying, "this may not work in your situation, but here's what helped me in mine."

*If you are not close to the person in question, don't make assumptions. Even if you are close to the person, still don't make assumptions. Never assume anything.

*Forgive easily. Even when someone chooses to use shaming language, passive aggression, horrible apologies, and self-righteous advice, let it go. Move on. Dwelling on it makes your life miserable, not theirs.

*If you are choosing to be vulnerable online in a public way (like sharing blog posts), you are choosing to have people comment upon your vulnerabilities. Don't be surprised when people don't like what you have to say, nor when they feel compelled to comment upon it. Don't be upset when people disagree with you.

One thing that social media has taught me is that people are not always who they are online, and that can be a good thing or a very bad thing. It has also taught me what true friendship looks like. I'm also learning who cares about me as a person and who cares about their own ideas. Even the best intentions can be laced with self-aggrandizement --and I know this, because I'm guilty of it.

So, so guilty of it, dear reader.

But luckily, I'm also learning about forgiveness and how essential it is --because we all mess up during communication. In fact, I think communication may be the one area where we are all generally lacking. We, none of us, are perfect, and so even though learning to communicate kindly and effectively is important, we still need to cut each other a bit of slack from time to time.

So, there you go! Maybe my bad habits will start to disappear if I read this several times a day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sleep Deprivation is Brutal

I have been sleep deprived for many years. I have had periods of good sleep, but every time a new baby comes, I enter the hazy world of sleep-deprivation, again. It's been the worst it's ever been the last 18 months. #7 has never been a good sleeper and she's gotten worse. Last night, she went down at 8PM. This is rare for us (although it would be the perfect bedtime for her age). She then proceeded to get up every 1-2 hours and awoke fully at 4AM. This wouldn't be excruciatingly bad if #6 hadn't been up twice in the night because he's not feeling well.

As I type this (at 8AM), #7 has finally fallen back to sleep. #6 is up, though, and because he's not feeling well, and I'm the mom, I don't get to nap right now. I have laundry going, a kitchen to clean, and a million other things on my list. I may try to nap after I write this, but I'm not sure it will work. My body is so used to very little sleep. I just wish my mind was. 

Did you know, dear reader, that sleep deprivation has been proven to be one of the biggest causes of mental illness and physical damage? Even maybe being a causation of fibromyalgia? And did you know that the people who tend to have the worst cases of sleep deprivation are mothers? And it's pure torture to our minds. Literally. 

No wonder I'm psychologically damaged.

If you are a mother and live in the United States (because I can't speak for other countries), not only are you supposed to suck it up and act normal, but you're also supposed to be super mom --you have to work part time (or from home, or full time), clean your own house, be the PTA president, serve in the community, volunteer in your church, be thin (exercise, cook healthy meals, do the grocery shopping), dress beautifully, and have a smile. We are also expected to live apart from our families (different house, definitely, but sometimes different cities and states), not put any undue pressure or burden upon them with our complaints, and never, ever, ever expect grandma, auntie, sister, or cousin to help us watch our children, clean our house, or do our laundry. Nor our neighbors and church members. Expect nothing, never ask for help, and be cheerful about it. You decided to have all these dang children, didn't you? Then why would you need help? Independence in a well-run home is Queen! 

In some ways, it's gotten better, but not really. Women who choose not to shower every day, who choose to nap when their kids nap, who hire a house cleaning service, or who say no to volunteering opportunities are left alone in their homes, whispered about at church/school, and are made fun of by the media. 

And sadly, when mothers finally start getting sleep (when their children are older), they're expected to go to work full time, because staying at home is lazy. 

We just. can't. win. 

Here's what mothers really need in our society: 

They need to be supported in whatever it is they're doing without these ridiculous expectations that only create shame and lead to breakdowns, divorce, suicide, and smaller families (or abortion or sterilizing). 

They need to know that it's okay to say no to everything while they're saying yes to raising their children. 

They need to understand that the markings of a great mother aren't found outside of her home and definitely not on her body. 

They need to know they are loved and thought about in positive ways. 

They need socialization outside of social media. 

They need friends and family members who aren't afraid to visit, to do some chores, to cook some meals, and to help them rest without feelings of guilt or shame. 

They need a society that sees motherhood as an incredible miracle --to see that those who raise the next generation of our species are strong, sacred, and, because of their work, our greatest asset. 

[And I have to say this, too --single mothers need even more help and support because they are running more ragged than the rest of us as they juggle everything (work, raising kids, bills, house, yard, etc).] 

But I don't even know how to go about solving it because I can't seem to even solve it in my own home. I get the least amount of sleep and yet I'm expected to do the most amount of work. I'm not negating the work my husband does to earn an income to support us --his work ethic is not in question. But nobody expects him to get up with the kids in the night (including myself), nobody bats an eye when he naps on a weekend afternoon (he never asks permission! How come I feel I have to ask permission?!), and nobody looks at his job or his side of the closet and judges his entire character as lacking. The way my kids behave, the way my home looks, the way I interact with other people, the way I look --that is judged all day long. (Well, and to be fair, women are judged no matter what they do. Or how they do it. A woman could just be standing there and the media would have something to say about every part of her. It's quite disgusting, really.)

And can I just say how tired (haha!) I am of hearing the words, "You look so tired." It's so rude, dear reader. It's rude, it's not helpful, and it just means I look gross. I know I look tired. I am tired! Of course I'm tired! How could I not be tired? Is that such a bad thing? Is it bad to look tired? Is it wrong to look tired? You know what would be helpful is:
"You look beautiful, today!" 
"Can I come hang out with you?" 
"I know this sounds so silly, but wouldn't it be fun to have a laundry folding party? Let's do your house tomorrow and mine the next day. We'll watch some Jane Austen or something while we fold and let the kids run amok." 

Maybe we could also solve this shaming, sleep-deprivation problem by implementing one of the following: 
1. Reinstate polygamy. Sister wives to share the burden of childcare, cleaning, and cooking! (Yeah, maybe not.)
2. Communal homes/neighborhoods where women live nearer to each other and could support one another (this is found very beautifully already in Amish communities).
3. Low standards of living (dust is our friend!). 
4. Free house cleaning for all moms! Paid for by all celebrities who make millions a year, anyway!

Anyway, sleep deprivation is brutal. This is why, dear reader, when new moms are told "sleep when your baby sleeps" by veteran mothers, it's not just a good idea. It's essential. Life-saving. So, listen up, brand new mothers! Follow that advice as closely as you can. 

And now I'm going to try to get a nap. Zzzzzzzzzz..... 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Layers and Hiking

The annoying and exasperating truth about mental illness is that like any other chronic illness (my asthma is a good example), I have to constantly be taking care of it. Sometimes I have to adjust the care I use, sometimes what worked in the past doesn't work anymore. It's relentless and feels, at times (all-the-times?), like I'm actually going backward when I really know I'm going forward.

In a therapy session, yesterday, my therapist described it using a layers metaphor. Once we get the outer layer taken care of, it opens up to the more difficult layers --usually the causation of the mental illness, or in my case, the depression. My outer layer was apathy; it was stillness and deep self-pity. Once this layer was removed, we moved onto causation layers, and it has been, dear reader, incredibly painful. I'm finding out truths that have remained buried my entire life. I'm discovering how relationships in my life have been some of the root causes to my self-destruction. I'm working through these emotions and revelations, attempting to let go of the past and build a future. And it's so hard. So very, very hard.

For years and years, motivation to just get up and clean the house, to do visiting teaching, to put on a brave face, and take a shower so I could run errands or attend functions was the most difficult part of living. It's no longer like that for me. I can choose to let the house be dirty or choose to clean it and I don't feel despair facing that decision. I don't hide out in my house (as much) and I don't panic over the idea of doing something difficult. In fact, I'm pretty confident in my ability to choose what's the best decision in the moment.

But in some ways, what I'm working through is even harder. I'm re-wiring my brain and attempting to be who I am in the midst of memories and relationships that don't want the real me. Broken Cheryl is so much easier to deal with than Fixed Cheryl. And before you jump to conclusions --yes, it does affect my marriage. A lot more than I thought it would. That doesn't mean my marriage is in trouble, but it does mean we have a lot of work to do. The truth is, my marriage isn't the only relationship being affected. It's affecting ALL of my relationships. Every one.

I didn't think it would be as hard as it is. I figured that once I got to this part, once I got to an emotionally and mentally healthy sphere of living, that I would be better. Fixed. Immune. But I'm not. In some cases, things can be worse.

I hoped yelling at the kids would go away. It hasn't. I hoped I wouldn't cry as much as I used to. I sometimes cry more. I hoped, basically, that I would have been healed. Meds, therapy, changes, Atonement --healed! Done! But it's not nearly that simple.

The simple part is, however, that I'm better. I am much better. I am! Better is good. Better means progression instead of stagnation or decline. Better means I'm trying and I'm doing the right things and headed in the right direction. It also means that although things are painful and the nitty-gritty of my psyche is creating difficult situations, I'm going in the right direction.

It's like this: When I first started on the path to healing, I began hiking along a wide and well used trail. I had a heavy backpack full of random supplies, I was scared, and my new shoes hurt a bit. But after a while I got used to the trail, I used my supplies carefully, and the shoes got comfortable. I began to enjoy the views and my endurance increased. I found that I didn't need the backpack of supplies, anymore, so I was able to set it down and just took the water bottle. Once I got to a very comfortable place, the trail changed. Slowly, before I realized it, the trail was narrowing. It was getting rockier. It was starting to climb in elevation. Tree branches were lower, and I started seeing boulders in the way. Grateful I had shed the backpack, grateful I had brought the water, and grateful I had broken in my shoes, I kept going, even though I slowed down a little --sometimes I slowed down a lot. I had more endurance, but I was slower because this was all new. It was much harder. But if I hadn't started where I had, there's no way I could have kept going or even approached the new part of the trail.

And that's where I am. On the narrower, rockier, harder trail.

It doesn't surprise me that Jesus said:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30) 
That truth is found in all we do. You can't play a concerto if you've never played a C major scale. You can't pass AP calculus if you haven't learned basic algebra. You can't compete in a marathon if you've never run more than 100 yards. We all learn line upon line --that's just how life is. [Sidenote: Taking it even further, if you don't practice or study or run for a long time, you lose what you've already learned/accomplished. You can't stop going, or what you had is taken from you. Interesting, eh?] So, why does it surprise me that when I get to the hard parts, it's hard? Why would I expect to be fully cured before I have gone through the whole process? 

I have faith in Jesus Christ. I know that if it was His will, His Atonement could cleanse and cure me in an instant. But I also have faith in Jesus Christ as a teacher and a guide. As a parent, I understand why I can't do everything for my children and why they need to learn to do things for themselves. If I bailed them out of every difficult task or lesson, they would not be prepared for the narrow and rocky trails ahead of them. In fact, it would hurt them even more in the long run. But! I can hold their hands. I can listen to them and help them along. I believe that my Savior and my Heavenly Father know this in a perfect way --They know that I need to be guided towards the solutions, not handed all the solutions. How else could my faith grow? How else could I learn compassion? How else could I be able to understand what it is I need to understand for all that is still ahead of me? 

I may be on a narrow, rocky trail, now, but what is coming? When will it turn into the steep ascent of rock climbing? 

I understand this; I know this. I embrace this. In fact, I want this. But it's still really hard, sometimes. 

I think that's the point.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dear Young Mothers, Please Love Your Bodies

I don't even remember the first time I heard the phrase, "lose the baby weight." It was surrounded by other like phrases, such as:
"I gained so much weight while pregnant."
"I just hate that I'm getting so fat."
"It's taking so long to get my body back!"
"My kids have ruined my body."
"I used to be so beautiful."
"I just don't want to be one of those women that lets themselves go."

I heard these phrases everywhere. Playgroup, preschool, church, group dates, family reunions, and in front of the mirror. That's right -- I was one of those women repeating these phrases, trying to grasp for some kind of sense about what had happened to my body. And I wasn't alone. I've seen a myriad of women and their experiences with their bodies, all levels of body shaming, and I've seen the damage it can cause to not only their minds and hearts, but the very bodies they keep obsessing about.

I understand it on a very personal level. In my efforts to justify my weight (gain and loss), I found myself in total depression. Choosing to hate my body hurt my spirit. Badly. I still struggle with it.

It's so very easy to fall victim to the cycle of body shaming, hating, resenting, etc. because we are surrounded by a bunch of lies. For example, the beauty industry says:

You are not good enough. 
If you were, you would look like this. 
Since you don't look like this, you will never be good enough. 
But wait! Try this product, pill, herb, surgery, food and you will be good enough. 
Probably not, because this "good enough" doesn't exist --it's something we've made up. 
Why have we made it up? 
So you will feel shame and buy our products. 
If you buy our products, you'll think you've made it and when you realize you have not, you'll buy more. 
There's a reason we're worth more than 20 BILLION DOLLARS. 
And you just keep coming back for more. 
We will always win. 
And you will always lose. 

Honestly, why do we keep buying into it? This isn't about boycotting all make-up or pretty clothing, dear reader. This is about believing the lies about what makes a woman worthy and what makes a woman beautiful. And mothers are some of the hardest hit with this arsenal because their bodies change so much when they give birth.

I cringe every single time I read about a new mother who is desperate to erase all the evidence that her body ever created life. It makes me angry at the culture and sad at the generational perpetuation of it. How many daughters hate their bodies because their mothers hate theirs? How many of us, even after years of therapy, cognitive feedback, education, and truth-seeking still struggle with this?

I read a powerful essay about how women are not supposed to go back to who they were before becoming mothers. Not physically (an impossibility, down to our DNA, anyway), not emotionally (how could we??), not mentally (we know more, now, why would we go back?), and not spiritually (we have shared in creation with the Divine!).

Here's a good quote from the essay. Read it slowly. Mull it over in your mind. Really think about this for a minute. Because you won't find this truth in very many places:
We’re not meant to “bounce back” after babies. Not physically, not emotionally, and definitely not spiritually. We’re meant to step forward into more awakened, more attuned, and more powerful versions of ourselves. Motherhood is a sacred, beautiful, honorable evolution, not the shameful shift into a lesser-than state of being that our society makes it seem. The very notion that we are meant to change as little as possible, and even revert back to the women we were before we became mothers is not only unrealistic, but it’s an insult to women of all ages, demographics, shapes, and sizes. It makes a mockery of the powerful passage into one of the most essential roles a human can live into, and it keeps women disempowered through an endless journey of striving for unattainable goals that wouldn’t necessarily serve us even if we could reach them.
Read that again, dear reader. Read it a dozen times.

Can you imagine a world where women were just loved for who they are? Where mothers, who have changed for the better, are glorified and held up as good? Can you imagine a society that sees the evolution of the human body as a beautiful, wonderful thing?

Society tells us:
Don't age. 
Aging is bad. 
If you get old, wrinkly, gray, or slow, you're just not beautiful anymore. 
Also, you can have babies, but don't let that change your body. 
We don't want to know about your changing body. 
Change it back. Pregnant women and new moms are gross. 
Seriously, change it back! Gross!

The beauty industry tells us:
Buy this product and you won't look old and gray. 
That means you'll be beautiful and worthy of love. 
And you'll have to keep buying and applying because, well, we can't stop biology, so you'll keep getting older. 
Also, here's a product to erase signs of stretch marks. 
Have some surgery to erase any sign of a stretched stomach, nursing breasts, or even a uterus. 
Your body may change, but here's the products you can use to pretend it didn't. 
Keep buying more. 
You'll have to buy until you die. 

Taking care of our bodies is so very different from hurting our bodies to attain a specific shape, size, or look. When we eat good food, keep ourselves clean, and move around, we are doing enough. I'm not saying exercise as a hobby is a bad thing --it's not --but ask yourself this (and I would say this to anyone who has a significant beauty regimen or is dieting significantly): Why am I doing this? Is it to give into the lies of perfection, or is it because I like it? Am I doing this to be stronger or thinner? Am I doing this because I hate my body or because I love my body? The answer, dear reader, will make all the difference. And yes, it matters. It matters so much it's not even funny.

Once upon a time, I was thin. Very thin. I had four children behind me and, unbeknownst to me, three in front of me. I ate hardly anything. I exercised hard. I was, according to society, gorgeous.

And I was absolutely miserable.

Would I like to be thin like that again? Maybe, someday. But not at the cost. I can honestly say that even though I still struggle with the body shaming now and again, I love my body more than I did when I was that thin. I love what my body has given to me and I am so grateful for the one I have!

I wrote a few essays before about my body, but I feel prompted to share those links again. I feel like I need to write about this again and again until every single mother loves their bodies and thanks their bodies for giving them such amazing gifts. Here and Here.

I want to mention one last thing, though. I spoke about it at the end of a previous post, but I want to go deeper.

Your body is a glorious, beautiful, amazing gift. It's not perfect because we live in mortality. But your body houses your spirit and together they are a soul! An incredible soul that work together to do amazing things. Satan doesn't have a body. Nor do those who followed him. The evil spirits who tempt us to do things to hurt our bodies are enraged with jealousy because they will never have the chance to be given a body. They want you to hurt yours, and it doesn't matter to them how you hurt them, just that you do (from addictions to drastic altering to just plain ol' body shaming/hating). Every time you are grateful for your body, every time you love your body, you are allowing more light to enter into your soul and more darkness to leave. Every time you give your body the chance to do amazing things without succumbing to the lies of the world, you are fulfilling a divine purpose of learning how to connect your spirit and body together.

Young mothers, I want to remind you that the act of giving birth is miraculous. Not only are you allowing a body to grow inside of you, you are allowing a spirit to join with a body inside of you. You are the vessel that God uses to send His children to the Earth! Be grateful for those stretch marks, hips, veins, sagging breasts, and all the other changes that come from giving birth. Be grateful such a miracle has occurred inside of you. Don't wish for your previous body --it will only bring you heartache and frustration. Love the body you have. Take care of it. Honor it. Thank your Heavenly Father for it. I promise if you do, you will have real happiness and true joy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Home Sweet Philadelphia

We just spent four glorious days in Philadelphia!

The purpose was to go see the new LDS temple in downtown Philly (go here to see pictures!), and the trip went better than I could have anticipated!

We stayed with beautiful, wonderful, gracious friends. Oh, how we love them!

Elegant, ethereal, compassionate Clairon! 

And her photobombing husband, Matt

They have five kids! Our kids adore them and vice versa.

Silly photos while waiting for some of the kids

We stayed in the attic! Well, it's mostly just an adorable third story. Their entire house is straight out of my dreams-- centuries old, quirky, beautiful, and not perfect. Love!

Brandon playing Mozart

Their oldest is a cellist and pianist. His back is to the camera... 

View from the attic window

We spent one day at the shore! We were in Cape May, NJ, and we were privileged to have our hosts, as well as two other families, join us. What is it about sand, wind, sun, and salt water? We all got sunburned (I'm so bad at the reapplying of sunscreen), the ocean was a bit too rough (I went body surfing! On accident! It was kind of scary and hilarious at the same time!), and the seagulls were annoying (as always), but it was such a good day. We have zero oceans in Kansas, you know. Ha!

We took non-LDS friends through the temple tour with us and it was such an honor to show them a place that means everything to us. One of the best parts was that the night we toured, the volunteers were all from our former stake (Valley Forge Stake) and there were several people from our former ward volunteering! It was so fun to see their faces when they recognized us. It's only been five months since we've moved, but it felt both shorter and longer, somehow.

The temple, itself, is glorious. Surreal, really, and as we walked through the rooms as a family, it just felt so good to be there. The architecture is Georgian/Colonial and fits Philly so perfectly! The parking garage under the temple is convenient AND it fits large vans like ours! That was an amazing surprise! The church across the street is beautiful and the copper toppings will turn green in time (like the Statue of Liberty did). The location of the temple is brilliant --it's right in downtown, near the library, Franklin Institute, and the Basilica (Catholic).

Interesting sidenote: this is the only temple were there is a mural/painting in the baptisimal font room. It's of Joseph and Oliver baptizing each other in the Susquehanna River. And how could they not include this?! The first baptisms of this dispensation happened in Pennsylvania! It was perfect.

After the tour on Friday, our friends (a Jewish family from Villanova and an Episcopalian couple from Princeton, NJ) took us to dinner to Tacconelli's, a tiny, hole-in-the wall pizza join in north Philly. It was amazing. Like, the best pizza of all time! We had such a great time and the kids were such troopers, even though we didn't finish until almost 11PM. My only regret? No photos with our friends! So sad.

See the temple??

Basilica view

LDS chapel across the street and behind it is the construction of an apartment/office building the church is constructing. 

Families are Forever!

We spent a day in the village where we had lived (and Brandon went back to the temple to tour with some friends who had driven to it from Lancaster!), saw neighbors and friends, and enjoyed a wonderful time at church on Sunday (it truly felt like we had come home). The only weird part was that Brandon was sitting with us in the congregation and not up on the stand with the Bishopric. In fact, the counselor that "took his place" was not there (their family has been in Africa, much to our sadness, because we missed seeing them!), and so it felt odd that Brandon wasn't sitting up there with them. I swear, we hugged the whole ward! It was such a nice visit. The kids ran off to Primary without a second thought, so excited to see their friends...

The drive there was uneventful (we stayed in Indianapolis halfway). I drove there and back so Brandon could do work (on his laptop). On the way home, we left later than we had planned (we couldn't break away because we were sad to leave!), and we hit a wicked storm in West Virginia/Ohio that lasted about 60 miles (flooding, lightening, thunder --we were going about 45mph!). We stayed the night in Colombus, Ohio, and it was a quick stop (to bed around 11:30PM and then up by 6:30AM). The long days of driving, plus my poor eating habits also meant I developed horrible edema in my legs and feet. I've never had such swollen feet! When we got home, I immediately downed 1/2 gallon of water and put my feet up. I now know, dear reader, what women are talking about when they get swollen feet while pregnant. I've had seven babies, but I've never had swollen feet, before (I know, I know, I'm so lucky, etc.). Holy cow, it's nutso! And painful. I'm so sorry for those who endure this often! They're better this morning, but not back to normal, yet.

Indianapolis Temple! We drove by it on our way out of the city.

She's a horrible sleeper and never goes to bed. Like, ever. Sigh... 

View of Ohio sunrise in Columbus.

Crazy van!

Home again!

Dear reader, I wish I could convey to you the overwhelming feelings I had about this trip. I won't be able to do it justice, but I'll try.

I know we are supposed to be here in Kansas. I have no doubt. The people here are outstanding and I adore our house. I love our ward, the schools, and the entire city of Manhattan. It's wonderful! But I truly left a part of myself in Pennsylvania, and my heart is there with so many people and places.

It's odd to me, and Brandon put it well, that our time in PA has left such an imprint upon us and our children. We have lived in four different states, now. San Francisco was just over a year, and although we have life-long friends from that experience and consider SF one of our most favorite places, our children have very few memories of our time there. We lived in Utah for more than a decade, though. We lived in one of the best neighborhood and greatest wards. We also have life-long friends from that time, and we love visiting Provo. But...  going back to Utah has never felt the way going back to PA felt. Our kids really felt like they had come home, again --especially our teenagers. I admit, too, that I felt very much the same way.

Is this because it's only been 5 months? Will it still feel this way in a year? Is it because the ward really was family? I honestly wonder if it's because of how different the culture and dynamics play out. It was easier to raise my family in a Mormon-saturated community because I never had to have uncomfortable conversations. I knew what to expect from everyone, even in the secular part of living. It was so different in Thornton, PA! It was difficult to navigate a new place where Mormons were so very few, where my religion and values were a bit foreign to everyone I met. Even our family size was a bit odd --but unlike San Francisco, and even sometimes in Utah, nobody in PA ever said anything negative about our family size. Ever! I do admit that it was a real sacrifice to practice our religion because our commitment meant a lot of time, distance, and effort. The friends my kids made weren't necessarily based on a shared religion or neighborhood --they chose each other outside of those things. I had to have uncomfortable conversations and I had to learn and grow. I found a way to truly see everyone as children of God in a way I never understood before. I'm not trying to negate the wonderful life we had in Utah (I adore Utah, I really do), but there was just something about being somewhere different; somewhere far from a Mormon culture where the choice to live our religion was internal, with no pressure from anyone.

Maybe an even bigger part, at least to me, is this: Pennsylvania represents many of the things I love about life and about myself because of how difficult it was to live there at times. I spent some of the darkest moments of my life there, and I found the greatest moments of light. In those 2 1/2 years, I discovered a strength in me and a strength in my Savior that I hadn't realized existed. I learned how to deal with the unexpected, to appreciate the simple parts of our lives, to instantly feel charity toward other people, and to love myself, again. I was in the midst of a rich, beautiful history. I was literally surrounded by towering, bursting-with-life foliage. I learned to love nature all over again, and a found a new respect for wildlife. I gave birth to our seventh child. I made some of the greatest friends I've ever had the the privilege to make. I learned how to cope and manage while my husband served in the Bishopric and traveled for work the majority of our time, there. (He also had to learn and grow amidst our unexpected challenges!)

So, it doesn't really surprise me that we love and will always miss Pennsylvania. It will always be "home" to us, no matter if we never live there again. Kansas will be our home, too, and I already have a deep feeling that in many years from now, we will feel the same way about Manhattan as we feel about Philadelphia. That is a good, good feeling, dear reader.

Have you ever lived somewhere that changed you so much that you will forever love that place?