Friday, June 24, 2016

The World Turned Upside Down

This morning, after reading about Brexit (Britain just voted, in an almost 50/50 split to leave the European Union (in which, I kid you not, people were have known to have voted "leave" only to then say, "I voted leave, but I never thought that would win!" --what the heck were you thinking would happen when you cast a vote, you crazies?!?)), Brandon quoted Hamilton: "The world turned upside down..." Now, Scotland is reconsidering it's desire to leave Britain.

It's not just Britain's decision that makes the world upside down.

In Canada, they are one signature away from legalizing euthanasia. And the caveat is this: assisted suicide by any medical professional is legal, as long as they believe that's what the patient wants. I wonder how long it will be before "what the patient wants" is up for debate and the patient is killed, anyway.

So, babies can be aborted, and now the sick, elderly, and disabled can be killed at the discretion of a doctor or nurse. We kill our most innocent at the beginning of life (because it would be a burden) and then we kill the most innocent at the end of life (because they are old... and a burden) --but we also kill the most innocent in between (because they are sick, they are disabled, they are... a burden).  But instead of admitting it's because these people are burdens to us (we have to put in extra effort to care for them, after all), we say we're being "compassionate," and "kind."

It's like The Giver has come true.

We already know 1984 has come true. Electronic devices have created Big Brother, we've given the government more power than they need, and now lies are becoming truths. Our 2016 presidential candidates are the epitome of filthy dishonesty in every sense of the word. They both promise things they can't make happen, but even worse, they are promising things that will rip our country apart (even more). One does it out of fear and hate and prejudice, the other does it out of fake compassion, hypocrisy, and evasion. They both lie, manipulate, and pretend they care about our country, when in reality, they only care about themselves and being in power. I can't vote for either of them. I'm not even sure I can vote for a third party, either, at this point (I thought I could for a long time), but now I'm seeing red flags all over his politics, too.

What to do? Who to vote for?

And then we have this whole gender-neutral campaign going on. People believe that gender doesn't exist. That it's a choice based on feelings (feelings that may come and go, and that's okay, too). I understand that gender dysphoria is real, and I understand transgender people face pain and confusion. But that doesn't mean male and female has somehow ceased to exist, nor does it mean we can change our biology based on a feeling.

Then let's look at how women may be drafted into war. Selective service doesn't automatically equate a draft, but just the idea that women, who have fought valiantly for choice in this country, will now be forced to fight in a way that automatically limits them because of their biology is really, really scary! Women will be forced to fight, rather than be mothers? 

These are all big changes that can have a significant impact on my family. Am I preparing my children enough to face this world? To have real compassion, but also loads of courage to stand up for truth and reality?

Not everything is horrible. Look, we're beyond blessed right now. We have a home, we have employment, and so far, we still have our 1st amendment freedoms. We have a church we love, the ability to travel to see family, education of all kinds at our fingertips. We're not refugees having to flee war. We're not homeless. We still live in an incredible country with wonderful freedoms.

But what I worry about is how quickly all of that can change. For any of us! "There, but the grace of God, go I..." Our lives can change in an instant! War can happen at any time. Loss of employment, disease, death, etc. Any of us can have pain, any of us can become "them" and "those people." Brene Brown taught me this just yesterday:


None of us are immune, dear reader. But the greatest reality is this: death, disease, pain, mortality... all of it will end one day. All of it. None of these things will last unless we want them to. Instead, we will have peace, love, light, and truth forever. Peace doesn't come from fear; it comes from faith. Al Fox Carraway said it best, today: 


The world may be turning (turned) upside down, but it has been before. This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, and what's coming down the pipeline is insignificant compared to Who will be coming afterwards. It's true, dear reader. The pain may be powerful, but He has more power than any of it. I know this to be true. I know it is true. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Today in the Little Apple

Ah, dear reader, at this very moment the dishes are finished, the floors are swept, some kids are watching a movie and others are doing puzzles with my mother-in-law (who is visiting with my step-FIL for a few days). Our new cat, Walter, is hiding from Kaz (our old cat is asserting his authority at present), and the baby bunnies that were born in our courtyard are now scattering throughout the yard as they search for water and food. It's a blistering hot day, and this morning I was able to weed for about an hour before I had to call it quits on account of the heat.




I'm in love with our house. I love how much room we have to spread out, all the wood flooring, our backyard, our front courtyard, and the beautiful windows in our living room.











I love our city! It is fun, quirky, and not too big. We have:
a library,
3 public swimming pools,
a top-notch university,
our own TV and radio stations,
wilderness parks,
a reservoir,
a zoo,
a hiking trail through the city,
an old town style downtown with dozens of restaurants, bars, and cafes,
many antique stores,
the best piano store around,
dozens of playgrounds,
a shopping mall,
the best used bookstore,
several museums,
an incredible variety of restaurants,
and
a huge statue of a Kansan tall-tale hero.

And we only have 56,000 people (or so) --it's the perfect city size, in my opinion.

I also feel like I have the best of the East and the West, here. I have big, open skies! Fields and meadows, rivers and farms as far as the eye can see... But there is also so much green! Trees, hills, fireflies, humidity, rain, rain, rain... The Flint Hills are just so beautiful! I love where we live.









I have a list of books to read that is a mile long and it makes me happy.


Last thoughts: As I was weeding this morning, I was pulling out some very stubborn thistles, and then I remembered (and pondered) this scripture (read verses 17-19): 


And I had the thought: What if the thorns and thistles weren't just in reference to the physical labor we would need to perform, but the spiritual and emotional labor we would face? I've heard the metaphor of sin being like weeds... but I'm not talking about that --our emotional and spiritual trials (temptations, struggles, doubt, frustrations, grief, pain, sorrow, depression, guilt, shame, etc.) are part of the plan, are they not? We are in a fallen world and we will be attacked from every side, simply because we are mortal. We will not suffer just because of sin. We will suffer because it will teach us, as nothing else can teach us, what we need to know. We suffer greatly at times, too! This suffering brings us to the feet of God and to the very One who can relieve our suffering. Through the very sweat of our faces, the struggle we go through, the pain we face, we will eat our bread! We will, if we desire, partake of the very Bread of Life. It's all connected, isn't it, dear reader? Sacrament, sacrifice, suffer, sanctified... 

Those were my thoughts as I was sweating, pulling, prodding, and sometimes hurting (blistering hands and obnoxious thorns!) while attempting to weed a flower bed. 

Have a wonderful day, dear reader! Don't let the thistles and thorns get you down. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Me and Mr. Darcy and All Those Boundaries

I always said I was like Elizabeth Bennett. For years, I felt I was most like her than any other Jane Austen character. I say what I think and I find some things uproariously funny. I'm also proud, stubborn, and very generous --I enjoy a good walk! But then I started thinking about how I was like other Austen characters, and I made some interesting discoveries.


I'm like Emma --I love to match-make, I tend to speak without thinking, I have a true sense of my privileges (and don't take them for granted), and I care deeply for those I love, even when my desires for others don't match what they truly want.


I'm like Marianne --I love poetry, passion, and nature. My love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation; I offend without meaning to, and when I find out I have, I do what I can to fix it. I dwell on the past and can often focus on regret until it's incapacitated me mentally.


I'm like Elinor --I have a deep sense of propriety. I can be very loyal, protective, and I often sacrifice my wants for the needs of others. As the oldest, I am a rule follower.

I'm like Catherine --I have a vivid imagination and will plan out different possible future circumstances. I love romance! I feel at ease in a large family, and I find over-the-top opulence to be exciting at first, but incredibly intimidating and needless overall.


and

I'm like Mr. Darcy --my good opinion once lost is usually lost forever. Once I lose someone's trust, it is incredibly hard for me to ever trust them again. I may pretend I trust them, I may treat them with cordiality, I may forgive them for the things they've said and done --but once I've been truly burned (especially by people I truly admired and loved), humiliated, or treated with disrespect (online or in person), I simply cannot trust them, anymore. But like Mr. Darcy, I have been known to anonymously use my power to help those I love when I can. I'm also a very loyal friend if my trust has been earned (or earned back! It can be earned back --it's just really, really, really hard).


I used to think that my "Mr. Darcy side" was a true failing (Elizabeth Bennett's words! and Darcy didn't disagree). For years I mourned this side of me, thinking that I was being petty, stubborn, or sinning. Recently, I've begun to realize that what I was doing was protecting myself from further harm. I feel things so deeply --I'm an empath, dear reader. I feel emotions around me and when a relationship starts to dip it's toes into toxicity, I panic a bit. I've been thrown into the fire many times (or under a bus, or hung out to dry, or... whatever cliche you'd like to insert here) and instead of getting myself out, I would yell, "guess I like being hurt!" and jump back in --because that's what I believed forgiveness meant. I would, literally, give of myself to friendships, even after they were all but disintegrated, because if I was to lose even one friendship (or family relationship), it would somehow mean I had failed at being a person. Charity, I thought, meant more than long-suffering. I seemed to think it meant constant, personal suffering.


Well, several years ago, I learned that it's not being cruel to remove myself from hurtful relationships --I was actually being cruel to myself for staying. I learned about healthy boundaries the hard way through experience. In fact, here's a few things I've discovered:

1. How to recognize when a person cares about themselves and their own agendas much more than me, either as a person, a friend, a family member, or a fellow ward member.
2. Knowing when forgiveness doesn't mean having to have a close (or any) relationship with somebody.
3. Recognizing that an online relationship is simply a reflection of the real relationship.
4. Watching people's opinions of me change very quickly based on what I agree with politically or religiously or because of my personal circumstances, like the family I have, the finances I have, etc. (this is always a red flag with me).
5. Realizing that the way I'm teased (mocked) is a direct reflection of the animosity or ill feelings a person has of me (not always, but this has been the correct conclusion so often, I can't ignore it).
6. Learning to recognize passive-aggressive behavior quickly.
7. Knowing that because I care too much what others think of me, I tend to hold onto relationships longer than is healthy, so I've had to learn to let go.
8. Just because I don't communicate with someone often doesn't mean I don't hold them in the highest esteem (and vice versa). Years can go by in between contact and I still have nothing but love and respect for them.


I'm also self-aware enough that I know I've been the toxic person for others. I know I've been really patronizing and I can be condescending, rude instead of bold, and defensive. I think my opinion is the best, I err on the side of honesty, and sometimes I push myself into conversations/situations that don't involve me. I know this. I don't think any of us are immune from being the wrong one in a relationship (we're all human, after all). When I sense people are withdrawing from me, I let them go. I didn't used to. I used to work so hard to apologize or make things better in order to save their opinion of me. It's taken a lot of work to get to the point where I understand when I really care about a person because of who they are, or I actually care about a person because I only care what they think of me. In other words, I'm allowing people to lose their trust in me, without allowing it to diminish my own worth or self-care, or --in some cases --my good opinion of them.

So, I guess, in that sense, I'm allowing others to be Mr. Darcy, too.

Really, though, all this comes down to is healthy boundaries. They're tricky, dear reader. But we have to learn how to recognize them and find ways to implement them so we can be better friends and better people overall.


Now, does anyone want to come over and watch some Pride and Prejudice with me? :) 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Rules for Kissing: Raising Boys in a Rape Culture

Tonight, as I drove the boys to scouts, I told my oldest son about the first time their father kissed me, and how afterwards, we made rules about our physical relationship. We had curfews, times to be with others, and focused on our friendship. We did this simply because our values and goals were such that we needed to follow a very rigid law of chastity (only rigid according to society, but not that difficult to live according to our own experience). I explained that because of our respect and love for each other, we helped one another maintain the standards that were so highly important to both of us. This led to greater love, respect, and a better relationship between the two of us, and our marriage began on very good footing.

I've been trying to teach my boys about chastity, control, and rape, mostly because of the recent rape case that has the country on fire. (I don't even have to link to it, because unless you've been living in a cave, you know what I'm referring to. If you don't, just google Stanford, swim, rape, and what the?!!?) I want my boys to understand that the only way rape can be prevented is if people stop raping. I want them to respect all people --siblings, parents, friends, romantic partners, spouses, children, strangers --everyone. I have been trying to teach them about how to refrain from exercising force and control over another person (unless in self-defense). I want them to know true chivalry. I want them to protect and love women and children --I want them to become good, strong, kind, Godly men.

I want them to be like the two men who caught that vile rapist and held him until the police arrived.

In fact, one part of our conversation was like this (I included all the boys in this one):
Me: "Boys, are men stronger than women?"
"Sometimes." "Yes!" "Very!"
Me: "Well, not always, but in some ways they can be much stronger. How?"
"Well, boys are bigger and have more muscles and so they can be lots stronger than girls. They can lift bigger stuff." "Like, dad can lift heavier things than you."
"Does that mean men have the right to use their strength to hurt women? Or say they're better?"
"No!"
"What are men supposed to do with their physical strength when it comes to girls?"
**Crickets**
My 11 year old: "...Protect them?"
Me: "YES! Men are to use their strength to protect women --not hurt them. Ever."

It isn't difficult to teach respect. What's difficult is un-teaching disrespect. Once prejudice, racism, bigotry, misogyny, entitlement, selfishness, and enmity is taught, it's so difficult to overcome. It's possible! But it's hard. Very hard.

It's so much easier to teach respect, service, love, patience, kindness, humility, and gratitude from the get-go. Not every person is going to turn out perfectly and yes, we all have our issues, but it's a really wide road between learning respect and loving others to raping unconscious women in the street.

Honestly, I'm not surprised at our rape culture. We have generations of people who have been raised on pornography. Women are still seen as objects to be owned. Men are told to give into their lusts. Women are told they are only worth anything if they're sexual and look a certain way; they are only worth something when they act like objects to be used. Our culture embraces sex and lust and laughs at people like my husband and I --people who weren't lying when they said they were virgins when they married. We're seen as sexually-deprived and naive.

Well, the joke's on them! Because the law of chastity works, dear reader. When it is taught correctly and then exercised without coercion, it really does work. (Caveat: only when both partners believe in it and have a mutual love and respect for each other and God. Abusers and liars are the exception and deserve every imaginable hell.) It's almost like insurance. We pay the price of patience, respect, kindness, loyalty, fidelity, and self-control. Then we receive an intimate, sacred, amazing relationship that brings deep, eternal, incredible joy.

I've never had to worry about an STD. I've never had an unwanted pregnancy. I've never regretted a sexual encounter. I just haven't. And look, I'm not saying that people who have had those things are somehow less than me or worse than me or whatever --that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that the rule, no matter how many exceptions exist, actually makes sense!

Think about it! If every person was raised to respect others and reserve sex for a committed (preferably marriage) relationship where a pregnancy would always be welcome, what would happen to the sexual slavery industry? The pornography industry? The rape culture? (Heavens, the abortion industry?!) What if every man was taught how to exercise self-control and was taught how to respect and love the women in their lives in a way that left them with nothing but good thoughts and kind feelings? Rape would cease to exist, dear reader. It wouldn't' even be on the multiple choice test, because it wouldn't occur to men to do something so evil. It wouldn't even be on their radar to exercise their sexuality in such a controlling, dominating way because the idea would be ludicrous to them. What's amazing is that men like this exist! Women, too! We exist because we were raised like this. 

Dear reader, we are more than our sexuality. Yes, sexuality is a facet of who we are because we are mortal human beings. Sexuality also has to be more than procreation because it affects even those who do not procreate. However, our society has decided that our sexuality needs to be at the forefront of everything we do and everything we are. We are being told that if we're not sexual, we're not normal; if we're not sexual we're repressing our true selves. Society has decided that if we don't make our sexuality the very definition of who we are (ignoring talents, personality, likes/dislikes, opinions, education, and platonic relationships), then we are doing something wrong. Sex education (comprehensive, invasive, pornographic) is being spoon-fed to children as young as 5. Sexual expression is encouraged on every side as the solution to rape, low self-esteem, suicide, and broken families. The irony comes when science and studies show that this embracing of sexual freedom is what caused the pornography epidemic, and the pornography epidemic is what has caused our rape culture. Don't believe me? Here's a study that links porn to sexual slavery. Here's a link that connects porn to escalating violence (like child abuse). Here's a link that shows the connection between "the right to view sex" (that would be porn) and our rape culture.

It doesn't take a genius to see that watching and reading things that make people objects of sexual desire changes the way the reader/watcher views real people. It's a mess, dear reader. (And yet those like me --the prudish, chaste, happily married --are being touted as the evil ones. It's pure insanity!)

The good part about this is that there is a chance to make a difference. We can fight against the violence and the warped sexual fantasies and the rape culture we live in. But we can't fight it until we admit that it exists, and we can't fight it if we just look the other way. If we don't teach our children about this, they won't be able to take a stand against it.

As for me, I'm glad I married a man who saw the simple expression of a kiss as something special, who asked me to make rules with him about our physical relationship before we were in a position to truly express it safely, freely, and without regret. I'm forever grateful I married a man whose love for me as a person exceeded his love for my physical body. And I'm sincerely grateful we have the chance to teach these things to four boys who will, hopefully and God willing, become good, kind, respectful men -- just like their father.

Father's Day 2015

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Update

Several of my friends do weekly updates on every member of their family. It's been a while since I've done an update on the children, so I thought I'd go ahead and do some on my crazies:


#7:
She is still pure joy, except at night. Sigh... Although, the night-weaning/sleep-training is going better! The last three nights, she has given me 5-6 hours in a row of sleep! This is wonderful wonderfulness. She is in the curious toddler stage and gets into (and climbs) everything. She doesn't talk much, but she's recently graduated from "dadda" to "mahm." She also says "shoe," "bye," and her new favorite, "No!" She loves to wiggle her little tushy and sing along whenever she hears music (it's seriously adorable).


#6:
He is growing up! He still has his lisp and likes to be babied sometimes, but he's running around with the big boys a lot more. He starts preschool this Fall! He love trains and cars, and his rock collection is getting bigger (while the rocks in the yard are getting fewer). He's a sweet big brother to his baby sister and #2 is his "bestie." She can honestly get him to do almost anything! I really appreciate it, because although he's sweet, he's got a stubborn streak a mile long. He is pretty shy around new situations and people, so I have had to pull out new parenting skills to help him feel comfortable without coddling him too much. I'm working on it.


#5:
He finished 1st grade this year and has really improved his reading! He's still a little monkey and climbs everything he can. He also still has the best funny and crazy faces and can make us all laugh. This week he filled his pockets with loose change and bought as many toys and games as he could at some garage sales, including a bat that #4 had an incident with (see #4's update). He's been romping around with #6 more, and I really appreciate his attention to his brother. He also has a deep desire to learn how to play the violin and write in cursive. We shall see!

Milking goats at Tallgrass Prairie

#4:
He finished 3rd grade, his braces come off next month, and he's practicing the cello as much as he can! The other day, #6 took #5's new metal baseball bat and smacked #4 in the head, creating quite the gash over his eye. Brandon and I weren't home, but #1 cleaned it up really well (and didn't even bother to call us, but that's okay, because she did all the right things). Luckily, it wasn't deep! He's still in love with LEGO and has started reading a lot more. Last week he completed his first Cub Scout Day Camp experience where he made a pretty good bird house! He's making friends faster than almost anyone, and he gets to Skype with his old class in Pennsylvania this week (he's pretty excited!).

These are his Buddy Holly glasses (nonRx). He's so funny!

#3:
He has had three lawn mowing jobs, but unfortunately one was temporary, one has now moved, and the third is just our house. But it's been good for him to work hard! He finished 6th grade, and unfortunately, he had a really rough last month of school. We had to take away several privileges. His report card was not what it could have been, but when it's only 1 or 2 classes and it's due to homework and honesty issues and not tests, we know it can be fixed. I've considered homeschooling him; we'll have to see. I will say this, though: he's a good kid with a kind heart, and he's making mistakes that can be fixed in a safe place (our home). His misophonia continues to bother him, but he's actually handling it pretty well, lately! He loves to learn how things work, read trivia, and play video games. He's way too good looking for his own good, and despite his struggles, he's a really good big brother and I appreciate his help.

Reading Sherlock Holmes after building a swing 
This swing!

#2:
She completed 7th grade with all A's (no surprise, there). She had to be re-tested for the gifted program (Kansas law) and the gifted teacher made sure I understood that they only allowed the top 3%. I wasn't worried! #2 is --no surprise, again --in the top 1%. She's still voraciously reading, helps with #6 a lot, and the other day she built a swing for the backyard. She's so bright, fun, and intelligent --we have some interesting conversations!


#1:
She is finished with 9th grade! All A's (she worked really hard for her A in Spanish II). In our district, all the 9th graders go to a different campus than the rest of the high school kids, and so this fall, she gets to be on the main campus. She's getting her driver's permit today (hopefully), we've scheduled her wisdom teeth extraction surgery at the end of the month, she's the perfect babysitter, and her art continues to get better. We've started hanging her art up in our house --I figure we can be her gallery until she's older and takes her pieces with her.


Me:
Aside from all the personal navel-gazing I already throw your way, dear reader, I'm in the midst of planning all our summer trips. Lately I've noticed that beyond our summer schooling, there's always some kind of appointments (yes, plural) every day. PLUS! The four younger kids are taking private swimming lessons from our friend. That's been fun because she's been able to teach at her complex's pool, and she's allowed all of our kids to come and swim at the same time --as long as they don't interrupt the lesson and refrain from being too loud/boisterous. Needless to say, it's worth the cost to have my kids get private lessons and have a chance to swim for fun twice a week. And we're already seeing incredible improvements --our friend is a great teacher!


Brandon:
He stays busy like me! Lately, he's built garage shelving, touch-up painted parts of the house, helped me hang pictures on the walls, replaced a door lock, went antique shopping with me, made a lot of homemade pizza, started road biking again, and just yesterday, was asked to teach a business strategy course at our local university next year! He's going to be traveling a bit this month (nothing like he used to), and I already miss him.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Costs of Tuition (Money or Otherwise)

I asked a question about college tuition on FB, today, because I listened to a story on NPR about tuition costs. The story was about students who are making tuition payments just fine, but are suffering because they have to work while going to school. Some only eat two meals a day and live in very dumpy places. Some have stress. This, according to the story, is a travesty, because students are already burdened with high tuition costs.

So, I asked my friends on FB about their college experiences --how did they pay for college? What did they do to finance it? Answers were incredibly varied. Some:

*worked full time or part time all year round
*worked just in the summers
*worked for the university which then paid for some tuition
*went to a university where their parents worked and got free tuition
*lived with parents
*were married and supported each others
*had scholarships and grants
*had work stipends
*went to school only when they had the money
*were sponsored by employment
*had parents who paid for it all
*took out student loans
*graduated without debt
*graduated with a little debt
*graduated with much debt

Most people had a variety that included working, scholarships, grants, time-off, and living in those dumpy places. Most of the people who shared their experiences did not regret any of it, either. They appreciated their education.

I have strong opinions about higher education. But before I get to that, here's my scenario. 

I worked all through high school and college. The only time I didn't have a job was my first semester of college and my senior year of college (I'll explain that later). My parents paid for my first year of tuition and housing. I paid for books, utilities, and food. After my first year, I was on my own. I had one student load for my sophomore year tuition, but I was working and paid for housing, fees, books, utilities, food, etc. with money I made from working.

My jobs in school included: accompanying vocal lessons, working on campus for a summer, working at a family camp for two summers, working at the on-campus office for the family camp for a year.

Halfway through my sophomore year, I married. My husband had a full tuition scholarship, and we applied for grants (we got them!). We both worked full time in the summers and part time during the school year. Our senior year, my husband worked full time (also going to school full time). His pay was enough that it covered all our expenses, and since I was pregnant, I quit working so I could focus on school. When we both graduated (the same week we had our first baby), we only had my one student loan from my sophomore year. It was only $3500. We paid that off within a decade (it was like $50 a month or something and not high on our priority list to pay off).

Then my brilliant husband was accepted to UPenn's Wharton EMBA program. Since it's the best business school in the world (I'm not even kidding), it was expensive. We ended up paying for all of it ourselves. We call it our "second mortgage" because it was about $200,000. It is literally another mortgage. It will take us a bit of time to pay it off. But we don't regret his MBA for a second. It was one of those experiences that was worth the cost! We also knew what we were getting into, since he didn't go back to school until we had been married for 10 years.

Now for my opinions about the NPR story and higher education! 

Well, I have many, and people won't agree with all of them, but I see higher education this way:

*Higher education is a good, good thing. I say this because I love education, and I believe we should all be educating ourselves and learning new things all the time. "The glory of God is intelligence!" We are here to learn and grow, and we can't do that if we ignore all the opportunities for schooling around us. But learning doesn't always equate formal schooling.

*Not everyone needs to go to university. Vocational school is still higher education. Associates degrees are still higher education. Some people are happier choosing a career and then finding the education to make that career happen, rather than going to a university and trying to find a career to fit their education. It's also less expensive and takes less time!

*Not everyone has to go to an Ivy League school to be given a top-rate education. Example: I chose a private religious university. Because of this, my tuition was incredibly low, but the education I received was very, very good! People also need to look at the career vs. cost ratio: if you're taking out a $500,000 loan to become a school teacher, something is seriously wrong. Unless you're getting a teaching job that pays like a doctor, you might want to look at getting a teaching education somewhere more affordable!

*The more you work for something, the more you value it. I know some people appreciate their parents footing their schooling bill, and I know some parents really want to foot the bill. But I can tell you that when you have to work hard, save, sacrifice, and go without in order to attain something of value, the end result is much more satisfying!

*Working while going to school isn't annoying --it's a blessing. I know some people have the philosophy that students shouldn't work --that schoolwork should be their work. I don't agree. I believe that I got better grades in school and in college because I was working another job. I had to manage my time better. I had to say no to social things that could interfere with both schooling and work. The times I didn't do as well in school were usually the times when I wasn't organizing a difficult schedule. And what is school work at the university level attempting to give us? Knowledge to implement in a future job. If we're going to school so we can then work, wouldn't working be a vital part of that education? Shouldn't someone know how to work in a job before they leave school and pursue that job full time? Now, I know not every person work and go to school at the same time. We should take every individual situation and assess (maybe this particular person struggles with learning disabilities and needs to focus on school, etc.). But I like to gravitate towards hard work.

*We won't be paying for our children's college education. We will help with some costs if there's a dire need, but our kids are on their own. They can work. They can get good grades and receive scholarships. They can go part time. They can get grants. We know they can do it because a lot of people do it! We're not against helping our children --we just believe they can do it.

*Living in a dumpy place is not the end of the world. In fact, I would say that choosing to live humbly while struggling to attain something of great worth can only give a person better character. What does someone learn when they are given everything, who never struggle through anything, who never earn anything? Living in a dumpy place and working through college isn't a travesty. It's reality! I would even say it's a rite of passage into adulthood. Our first apartment as a married couple was a tiny one bedroom apartment. (In the summers, we lived in a shack. Literally!) We only moved when we were next in line for the "big" apartment --another one room apartment with a bigger kitchen and a separate living room! We finally moved to a 2 bedroom condo after graduation. I loved those tiny apartments!

*Tuition costs are really high. This is true. That's why people need to do their homework and decide which course of higher education is best for them. Maybe they need to go to a different school. Maybe they need to work for a year to earn the money. Whatever the case, it is possible to make it work!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Music Degree and Me or Who Says I'm Not Good Enough?

Guess what my kids enjoy the most during our school time? (I was actually a bit surprised because it isn't something they've been too keen on in the past.) It's music lessons! Well, music practice. Because I'm not giving them lessons --I'm giving them assignments.
"Learn this song. It's okay if it takes you several days. I'll help you if you need help."
That's what I tell them and miraculously, they enjoy practicing! Who knew?! This revelation could change the way I approach teaching music altogether. If I go back to teaching one day --which I'm pretty sure I will.


(In fact, now that I think about it, one of my favorite piano teachers taught me this way. Granted, I was in high school and entering competitions, already taking AP music theory class every year, and I only did scales/chords for warm-up each lesson... but she focused on pieces, not minutes. She focused on broadening my repertoire with pieces I would enjoy, and we went with my pace. I was greatly self-motivated because of the way she taught me. A previous teacher was very demanding and demeaning; I only lasted three months with her!)

We rented a cello for #4 so he can play all summer. He's been at cub scout day camp this week, so his practicing is pretty much nil, but he's excited to play again. I also got out some recorder music (random, I know), and I want the older kids to learn some guitar. I'm going to learn a new piano piece (haven't picked one, yet), and I want to brush up on some music theory.

Vulnerability ahead, please be gentle...

I didn't know why I have been feeling such a push towards music --specifically, musical training. I all but neglected the children's (and my own) talents while we lived in Pennsylvania. I now feel this deep need to put music back in my life in a more permanent way. I haven't taught piano lessons since #5 was a baby (he's almost 7), and I'm not planning on teaching anytime soon (although I have a few student possibilities this Fall), but I had a revelation the other day which kind of explains why I'm feeling this pull. It was after we had dinner with the most musical family in our ward (the father is an organ professor, the mother is about finished with her Master's in piano, and their children, as you can imagine, are all musically talented. Their oldest daughter will be our children's piano and cello teacher).

I'm not sure if the revelation came because we spent time in their home, or if it was because I'm feeling mentally healthy, or if God knew I just needed to be in a more mature place, but whatever the case, I felt inspired to prepare for a Master's degree (emphasis on the word prepare). I always assumed I would get a Master's degree when my children were older. In fact, I've planned on it. My bachelor's degree is in MFHD (marriage, family, and human development), and so I've always naturally assumed I would get a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. It makes sense. The only other thing I had ever wanted to study was music, and I was never good enough for the music program at BYU. I couldn't major in music, and so I only minored. I wasn't good enough to make it my life's work. I tried three times. I bombed my piano audition and failed two vocal auditions. I just wasn't good enough.

And that's the key phrase, dear reader. The thing I have believed for the last 17 years: "I wasn't good enough."

I wasn't good enough? Says who!?

Just because I didn't major in something I'm passionate about doesn't mean I wasn't good enough. The only reason I didn't major in music was because I went to a university with a very difficult audition process and I wasn't selected. I didn't have to go to BYU. In fact, if I hadn't gone to BYU, I would have majored in music! I had been offered a verbal scholarship from another university. I would have majored in music there. And I would have done well.

But God didn't want me there and God didn't want me to major in music. I truly know this --I was supposed to be at BYU and I'm grateful I went, because it was an incredible experience (not to mention that I met my husband there! I would never have known him if I hadn't been at BYU).  I was supposed to do something other than music (and it's not like I never took music classes --I still took lessons, sang in choirs, took a lot of classes for my minor). I used to think it was because music wasn't my path. Music was not for me. I figured God was gently pulling me out of something that I didn't need, and that perhaps it was His way of letting me know I wasn't good enough. I would always be an important part of a church-serving ability, but beyond that... not good enough.

Well, dear reader, now I know two truths:
1. God was, indeed, pulling me out of something that I didn't need --He knew that because of the family I would have, the mental struggles I would fight, and the desires of my heart, I had to lose something for a time in order to have the life I wanted the most.
2. It has never been about my perceived lack of talent! I've always been good enough.

Why did it take me so long to figure this out? I used to think I was above the rejection from the BYU music department, but subconsciously, I've let it keep me from becoming more than I am. I've kept that disappointment too close to my heart and let it define my potential. Not anymore!

So, I went online and found out that our local university offers several Master's degrees in Music. I knew I didn't want a performance/pedagogy master's. I wasn't really even sure what I wanted, to be honest. But then I saw it: Music History. A Master's in Music History? How cool is this!? Writing, Music, and History? All together? My three most favorite subjects of all time? I honestly felt such a surge of excitement at the prospect! Maybe I could truly do this!

So, there you have it. It's not in stone; I'm only in the beginning phases of preparation. I'm thinking about it. Pondering and preparing. It probably won't happen for a few years (because of children, time, finances, etc.), and we may not even still live here several years down the road (but there are many universities!). It will also probably kick my butt. However, I'm not afraid (just a little nervous) of the possibility of going back to school for a music degree.

A music degree! I'm seriously a little giddy at the thought.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

School, Nature, and Dysfunctional Pain

Today, we began Summer School.

Well, kind of. In summers past, I have tried to incorporate a beautiful schedule for my children that will continue their brain activity and keep them occupied enough that they won't want to be in front of a screen all summer. I have had things scheduled so rigidly, that I threw it all away after a few weeks because... well, failure. One summer, we did a pretty good job for a few months. Most summers, because I've given up so soon, we just didn't do much of anything. The summer I was super depressed? Man, that was a sad summer...

Anyway, this summer will be different because I am focusing on:
*The Gospel
*Outdoor, unsupervised playtime
*Music lessons
*Reading/writing everyday

Sure, we'll do some science experiments, math problems, world history, and arts/crafts. We'll also make sure we visit the zoo, the library, museums, the park, and go swimming. My kids will continue to do chores and work hard; they'll learn how to organize their time. But I won't panic when my ideas and schedule need constant modifications.

Today went rather well, too! There was fighting, of course, and whining and arguing and balking and all kinds of riff-raff --but we did it. I stuck to my decision to try this, and it worked! Kids read, wrote, practiced, memorized, learned, engaged, and explored. Beside the bug houses we made, #2 made a swing for a tree in the backyard! #1 used our leftover bug house supplies to make some whimsical pan-flutes. We explored our yard some more and spent less time on electronics then we usually would have.

I'm exhausted. But I'm grateful for a good start.















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Kansas is stunning. Absolutely beautiful! I told Brandon this (more or less) as we were driving to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve last week: "The world is so diverse and every part of it is so beautiful in it's own way. The trees in PA, the mountains in UT, the deserts in AZ, the grass prairies of Kansas... it's all so amazing! And I think God did this on purpose because it's the same with the people. The people of this world are so diverse, different, and just beautiful! Everyone is beautiful in their own way, like nature. I don't think that was on accident."






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Sometimes I'm overwhelmed that I'm an adult. An actual adult making hard choices and big decisions. Like buying houses and paying bills and renting musical instruments and taking daughters to DMVs to get driver's permits (okay, just one daughter and one permit. So far).

This is what my parents prepared me for --complete independence and responsibility. At the very least they tried to prepare me for this. And I think I was blessed with some good examples. I truly have good, good parents.

I have my vices and weaknesses. I have my sins and addictions. We all do, though, and I don't think that disqualifies me from being an responsible adult. It just makes me human. I'm an adult. A mom. Someday, a grandma...

The hardest part, however, is seeing the influence I have over these 7 souls. I feel like I'm failing them all the time. Every day. Sometimes, hourly.

Family dynamics can be really hard, and when I'm discussing difficult family situations with friends, it's easy to blame the parents for the emotional challenges in the children. And a lot of these challenges are real! Yes, the parents did screw up! They're nutso! Some are downright crazy and don't even realize what they've done and continue to do to their (now) adult children. They keep living dysfunctional lives, assuming the children are just being selfish and whiny. But they are not --the children are just trying to navigate between honoring parents and being emotionally healthy. It's hard to honor someone who treats you badly. It's even harder to honor parents who treat others badly.

Luckily, not all parents are like this, nor are they the cause of their children's problems.

But it makes me wonder: what are my dysfunctions doing to my children? What am I passing on? Will my daughters, one day, discuss me with friends? Will my daughter-in-laws get together and discuss their crazy mother-in-law? I wonder if I will be the brunt of psychological problems. I wonder if I will be the one who causes rifts in families and breakdowns in marriages...

It makes me want to be better for my kids, yes, but it also make me want to forgive a lot more. Parents --ones that care and try --are doing the best they can. Those who don't do their best and mess up a lot aren't as many as we'd like to think. Perhaps we need to focus more inward and work on fixing our problems from the inside-out and less on the people around us who are aids to our issues. (Granted, I'm not talking about an out-right domestic abuse issue. That's not something to put up with, nor is it an inward problem!) I've watched some friends do this --they set the boundaries, worked on their own minds/souls, cleaned up house, and then were able to offer more compassion to their family members who betray and belittle them. They didn't stay focused on blaming and circling the drain of their own pain --they dealt with it and moved on.

I've been trying to focus on my own healing and my own self-discovery, instead of blaming others outside of myself. It's really hard! Really hard. But I think sometimes it's easier to blame and scapegoat then to face our own demons, because if we face our demons, we tend to face enormous amounts of pain.

Sister Neill F. Marriott said something profound in general conference in October 2015. She said:
"...in order to have a healed and faithful heart, we must first allow it to break before the Lord."





When I first heard her say this, it blew my mind. I know she was talking about giving our will to God, but I think that's exactly what we do when we face our own demons and search for ways to heal our own pain. We break our hearts before the Lord and with His help, we are healed! And we can't be healed until we re-set the bone, clean out the infection, and experience the pain. And when we blame others for our problems (whether they are warranted or not), we are glossing over our pain. Every time we ignore the pain, we can't heal. It's like putting a band-aid over gangrene. It doesn't work!

Anyway, these are my rambling thoughts this evening.
I've been reading a lot of Brene Brown, lately (that woman is a God-send. Truly!), and it's making me think more deeply about shame, connection, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, boundaries, and letting go. Letting God help. Giving my heart to Him and not to the dysfunctional family members and unnamed readers of blogs and masses of social media followers... It's all been on my mind for a long time...

Didn't think you'd get all this when you started this post, eh? Ha!

Have a great week, dear reader.