Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day, 2011

There is something wrong with my son. We are not sure what it is, and we will take him to the doctor this week. There is a slight chance that it is something life threatening and scary, but that is a really slim chance and, for now, I am not thinking about that possibility. I know everything happens for a reason, and that this challenge, whatever it is, is just part of a larger picture for my son. But knowing that does not change the fact that I am terrified.

More than likely, he has a neurological disorder that is pretty scary in and of itself. Looking back on the last few years, there have been signs, well small symptoms really. However, in the last couple of months the symptoms have slowly manifested themselves in ways that cannot be ignored or attributed to something else. We have talked to him about what is going on (without saying the words "doctors, tests, disorders,"), and he knows that something is not right. He is a trooper and is trying his best.

The words have been in the back of my mind for a few weeks; I have felt the promptings of the Spirit telling me there is something more,  but today at church, as I watched my son pass the Sacrament, the words hit me with full force. I took out my phone and started Googling. This is not something I ever do during Sacrament meeting, let alone while the Sacrament is being passed. But I needed to know. I read through the first few entries and broke down. All the symptoms matched. I checked different sights, and as I did more things matched. I showed my husband, he said he knew. It hit me then...I am not the only one who has felt the promptings. I am not the only one to be terrified. He hugged me and said it will be okay. I started to cry, walked out of the chapel, went to a primary room, and sobbed like I have not sobbed in a long time.

If my feeling is correct, this will not kill him. He will live a "normal" life, but  his life will be far more difficult because of this disorder. I left my phone in the chapel unable to read more. I sorted through the things in my head. I prayed. A lot. I cried for my son. I tried to go back to the chapel, but every time I thought I had control over my emotions, tears started falling again and my hands started shaking.

I am terrified. How do I even begin to discuss this with him? How do I call the doctors and explain what I already know? We decided not to say anything to anyone until we know.  We will tell our son about the doctor, we will tell him that this is not his fault, but that this needs to happen. He will say that he will try harder, and I will hold him and cry and again explain that it is not his fault. There are steps to be taken, a lot of reading to do, tests to be done before we know anything for certain.

I love my husband with all my heart. I cried a lot yesterday. He held me and let me cry. "I know he is your baby," he said. "But, whatever it is, we will handle it together."

And so I wait and struggle to keep this to myself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Friendship

I have not written in a while because I have been crazy busy. I love my family, and I love my job. I love the Gospel. Things in my life are actually going quite well. I have re-prioritized some things in my life, and in so doing, I eliminated some unneccessary stress.

My wonderful children are amazing. I love watching them grow and learn. My oldest is about to edge me out in the height division, and my youngest is hot on his trail! It is a good feeling to know that I will soon be the smallest person in my house. That knowledge makes me smile. My husband loves me and tells me so each and every moment he gets. He is my strength. He is patient and kind. He is my example of Christ-like love.

I had the best visit from two dear friends in the last month. One in LDS and the other is not. Not that it makes a difference, but I just thought I would share. I look at my close friends and I am grateful that I have a few really close friends. Friends with whom I would love to spend a girl's weekend. The problem is that my closest friends are not friends with each other. Several do not even know each other. I am lucky enough to have met several women during the course of my life who I love and cherish. Each is unique and each came at a different time in my life.

There is BFF#1 who I met several decades ago as young children thrown into a world we didn't understand. We grew up together, and she is my closest and dearest friend. We have history. We have common ground. We are opposite of each other in many ways, but she is the one person I can talk to about anything, from parenthood to politics and religion. She kicks my butt when it needs to be kicked, but she loves me more than any other friend ever has and ever will. She lives too far away, but if she lived close...oh, how happy I would be! She is more than a best friend. There are no words for what she is to me.

There is BFF #2 who I met over one decade ago. We passed by each other so many times, but we always knew we were best friends. We are so similar. We laugh at the same things. She lives close. We go to movies, to dinner, to Starbucks and Baskin Robbins. We hang out each week. We share books. We get frustrated with each other and continue on. I can talk to her about anything too, but it is different than BFF#1. She is my sister in the Gospel and my best friend every day.

There is BF#3 who I met in my childhood. She is the constant cheerleader. The one who I cried to about boys before I met my husband. The one whose life has never been easy, but the one who is constantly worried about everyone else. She lives closer than she has in over 20 years, but it is still not close enough to see on a regular basis.

There is BF#4 who I also met almost a decade ago. We share a passion for books. We are so different, but we are kindred spirits as mothers, as wives, as women. She moved away years ago, but every time she comes to visit, we talk for hours.

These are four of the "girls in my circle". I am blessed to have each one of them. I have talked to each of them about going away for a "girl's weekend" and each to a different place. A place that fits me and fits them. From Catalina Island, to New York City, to Santa Fe, to Aspen, to Naples. Now, I just have to decide where to go first and with whom to go with!

I am blessed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Time Out for Women

This is the second time I have attended Time Out For Women. It is a two day event with inspirational speakers, music, and sisterhood. I was excited when I bought my tickets, but as the event approached, I started to feel dread.

I am not sure why. I had an amazing time the last time I went. I was going with two amazing women who I am lucky enough to call close friends. This was an opportunity for me to be with other women who share my faith. Why would I dread this?

I go back and forth in my struggle at church. Not in the Gospel. I love the Gospel. I know the Gospel is true. I have been struggling with the people. Well, at least that is what I thought.

This week, I learned that I was struggling with me.

I was teaching a novel in one of my classes this week, and it hit me. I have been having a "mini" crisis of faith, and I was pulling away from the thing that could help me the most. As I was teaching this novel, it hit me, and I said to my class, "Which is the best way to get through such a crisis? Do you draw closer and truly try to understand what you are struggling or do you turn your back and walk away?" The answer was obvious to both my students and to me, but in that moment of dissecting a literary work, I realized that walking away was exactly what I was doing. I was not turning my back on the Gospel, but I was turning my back on the people in the Gospel.  Pulling away from the people in the church gave an opening to the adversary to place doubt in my head and in my heart.

So, with renewed excitement I went to TOFW. I listened to the women speak from the heart. I felt the Lord bless me in my own testimony. I did not connect to all of the speakers, but there were two who I felt were talking directly to me. I needed their words. I needed to feel their message.

Then, something even more amazing happened. In the middle of Merrilee Boyack's presentation, the power went out. Not just a flicker, but a full on black-out. How grateful I am for Sister Boyack's optimism. She walked to the center of the room and continued her presentation. It was amazing.

When she was finished, Hilary Weeks took to the piano and sang "I Know that My Redeemer Lives". It was the most beautiful rendition of my favorite hymn. There in the dark, the piano filled the hall and the Spirit filled my soul. I wept.

The room remained dark as the final speaker of the day, Emily Freeman, took the stage. The event was going to be cut short, and Sister Freeman was only going to bear her testimony. In the middle of her testimony, the lights came back. She started from the beginning. I know that I am not the only one who prayed for the lights to come back on to hear this amazing presentation. I needed to hear what she had to say.

At the end of the day, I felt the Spirit stronger than I have in a long time. I am so grateful for the events of this week that led me to TOFW.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sorting out thoughts

Recently in RS we were discussing the law of chastity. I admire the woman who taught this lesson as it is not an easy lesson to teach. She was completely up front at the beginning of her lesson and explained that this lesson can be tough, so she is going to grow straight out of the manual. I don't blame her. This is a touchy lesson.

She began. A discussion ensued. It was actually a good discussion...at first. We started talking about how to teach our children. That was when the discussion went straight to modesty. I understand the correlation between modesty and chastity; however, there are more pressing issues to focus on when discussing chastity and teaching it to our children. (For example: Why don't we talk about how to teach our children that just because something feels good, doesn't mean that it is good. Let's talk about how to teach our children to differentiate between lust and love.)

I digress...several women jumped on the modesty=chastity issue. With vengeance. All of the women in RS today have been through the Temple. They are all active and have temple recommends. (This rarely happens in RS which is why I noticed it.)

Modesty is not something that this group of women really need to discuss, but that did not stop several sisters from casting stones. The conversation started with talking about how little girls should not wear spaghetti straps and that mothers should not allow their daughters to wear such things. (This is where I started to zone out...I don't have daughters, and the modesty of toddlers is not something I worry about.) Then, things changed. One sister actually said that modesty is more than just the clothes a person wears. She said that some women in the ward choose to wear immodest "shoes, jewelry, and hair accessories." She went on to say that when women who are "Temple endowed wear such immodest shoes, jewelry, and hair accessories", she can't help but "wonder what they are looking to get."

Is anyone else confused by this statement? I was literally dumbfounded. Speechless. I could not believe what I was hearing. It caused me to wonder what do modest shoes look like? What exactly is a modest necklace? Yes, there are some shoes (thigh high-patent-leather-read boots, for example) that might cause a stir, but no one in my ward is wearing those to church, or outside of church for that matter. And if a woman does wear these "immodest" shoes, jewelry, and accessories, was this woman actually insinuating that there is something more scandalous going on?

There are many women in my ward who like to wear cute, different, and sassy shoes Each of these women are also the epitome of modest in dress. They are fashionable. They are trendy. They are modest.

Looking back I wish I would have spoken up, but I was just so taken aback by the comment. It makes me sad that the discussion focused so much on modesty instead of emotions. It was a lesson on chastity, not modesty. We all know the importance of teaching modesty to our children; modesty is not confusing. Emotions surrounding chastity can be, especially for teenagers. I was so saddened that the discussion took such a nasty turn as to judging accessories of women in the ward and little girls wearing spaghetti strapped dresses.

It made me wonder, have we really digressed so far that we are casting stones over accessories and toddlers? Very sad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Progress

I have neglected this blog for a bit, and I do apologize. I have actually had quite a bit to write about; I just have not had the time. School started for both my children and for me, and things just got a little out of hand for a while. In a good way, but still out of hand.

I love my new calling as a Relief Society teacher. I have learned so much about myself, about the Gospel, and about my family. With each lesson that I read, I have a personal experience to go along with the lesson. This has been a great blessing to me.

I don't know much about my mother's family. For reasons that are unknown, my mother refuses to talk about anything. Records are non-existence. Literally. My mother is from a third-world country and the original records for her family were destroyed in a war. This was before computers, so there are actually no records except those that are in my mother's head. Well, that is what I thought.

Let me backtrack. I have always felt a connection to my maternal grandfather. I have had many experiences where I felt him with me. I knew it was him. When I was a child, my mother would have these feelings and she would share them with me. She knew her father was my malaikat pelindung (guardian angel) as she put it. I have known this my entire life.

Recently, I started feeling his presence more. It is undeniable. And, as the lessons in RS focused on ancestors and the Temple, I knew exactly why he has been closer to me as of late. My oldest son turns 12 before the end of the year. I know that my grandfather is ready for his ordinances, and I know that my son is the one who needs do them on his behalf. My son knows this, too. He feels it just as strongly as I do.

But even with the surety of my feelings, problems remained. I know his name. I know he died. That is all. I had nothing else. My mother thinks she knows how old she was when he died, but even that is a guess. Her family lives across the world, and their memory is just as uncertain as hers.

So I was stuck, but as each day passed and each lesson approached, the knowledge that he was waiting pressed upon me. So, I started searching. Random searches. Anything I could find. I followed promptings that led me to initially promising information, but those turned out to be nothing.

Then, last week as I sat at the computer doing another seemingly endless search through scanned documents from my mother's home country, I had a thought. "Call your parents." I don't know why, but I ignored it. I heard it again. "Call your parents." So, I did.

I called my mom. She wasn't there; my heart sank. Then my dad asked what I needed. Reluctantly, I told him that I was completing pedigree charts for my sons and even though it was a long shot, I really wanted to be able to fill in the blanks of my maternal grandparents. We talked for a bit (my dad is kind of fascinated with genealogy), and then he said, "I might be able to help."

Confused, I asked how...the records are gone, mom doesn't remember. He told me he would do some checking and get back to me. I don't know why, but I was hopeful. He said he would call me the next day.

It was afternoon before I could check my phone, and sure enough there was a message from my dad. He said he emailed me and to check my email.

When I opened my email, the message was simple.

"This was tucked under in some of your mom's old paperwork from her country. I hope this helps. Dad."

Beneath this was the full names of both my grandparents and the year of their births and the year my grandfather's death. I wept in gratitude and felt the peace that comes with assurance. I now had the information I needed to do the work that needs to be done. I felt my grandfather's presence stronger than I have in a long time, and I also felt a new presence. I felt my grandmother standing with him ready for her work to be done as well.

So very soon, my family will go to the Temple and do the work that has been long awaited for the family to which I owe my very existence.

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

When a student goes off to war....

I love visiting with former students. Watching as teenagers grow into adulthood is one of my favorite things about teaching. Tonight I had a visit from a former student. JJ joined the Marines right after he graduated and is being deployed to Afghanistan for a year. As proud of him as I am, it hurts to watch him leave.

We laughed a lot this evening. We talked about a lot of things. His family. His friends. The girls he is seeing. The things he has been doing while home. The preparations for war he is making. We talked about his job. We talked about my job. We talked about how much he misses his family and friends. About how much he misses being in my classroom with his friends. About how much I miss his class. But mostly, we just talked as friends. Friends who are different, but friends who are close in spite of (or maybe because of) those differences.

I told him the story of the students who told me that I like the "wrong" kind of students. Who told me that I should like the students who share my values: "the good kids". JJ is a young man who doesn't share my values. He drinks, he smokes, he sleeps around, he swears...a lot. But I love him. JJ told me it is a good thing that he wasn't there when the kids said that to me. It made him so mad that people would question which students I like. These kids didn't ask why I like certain students, they just said I liked the wrong ones. So, I also told JJ about the first students who asked my why I like JJ so much. JJ was curious, and he asked what I said.

I told him that I will cry if I tell him. He said, "Don't cry, but tell me." So I told him. "I love you because the moment you walked into my class something told me that you were special. I knew you had a heart of gold. I knew that you would crawl into my heart and stay there, and you did just that. I said that I know that you love me and if I ever need you, you'll be here. I also know that you know that if you ever need me, I will be there for you."

I told him that I have said the following to only a handful of kids, and he is one of them. I said, "JJ, I love you so much because even though I will never know the difference that I made in your life, I will always know the difference you made in mine. You have changed me and made me a better person and a better teacher. I like you and I love you because of who you are underneath everything you portray to the world. That hasn't changed since the moment you walked in my life."

JJ looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I will always know the difference you made in my life, and I love you, too."

So now, JJ leaves for a war. A war that he is anxious to fight. A war from which I pray he returns.

I took a picture with him tonight. He said, "Are you afraid I'm going to die?" I said, "No, I just want your picture because you were a part of my day." In truth, I am terrified that JJ will die. It's not a feeling; it is just a fear. He is going to war. He is going to an active war zone. Of course I am afraid he won't come home.

But, I will sleep well tonight knowing that it is men like JJ who are fighting for freedoms around the world. He has a soul that is as true at God's stars. He has a has one of the most valiant hearts I have ever seen. I am proud to have been his teacher, and I am proud to be his friend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back from Vacation!

I just got back from Europe with my wonderful family. It was such a remarkable experience to see other cultures and walk among thousands of years of history.

I have a confession to make...we did not go to church while we were there. We were there for two Sundays and opted to spend those Sundays exploring both the English and French countryside. I really did want to attend at least one LDS service while we were there, but it just did not work out that way. Thankfully, my family was able to feel the Spirit in a myriad of other ways on our vacation.

As a matter of fact, I had many spiritual experiences while I was there. I teach my own children how to recognize the Spirit, and I am always humbled when they share their experiences with me. Because I cherish this so much, I also like to share some of my spiritual experiences with them. It is wonderful to sit and learn from my children.

So today, dear readers, I want to share with you three spiritual experiences from my trip:

I sat in awe of Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.  I could have spent days sitting among the graves of some of my literary heroes. I could almost hear the inspirational words coming from the tombs. I felt so much peace as I sat on the floor and closed my eyes. Inspired simply does not cover how moved I was. I felt a clarity of my own future goals that I have not felt before. I felt confirmation of the Spirit on so many aspects of my life. I felt encouragement from the silent residents of Poet's Corner. This is a place that to which I will return.


We went to Giverny and toured Monet's Gardens. Of course it was crowded; it is a tourist attraction after all, but that did not take away from the spirituality of the place. My family was able to find quiet places where few people decided to go. To walk among the flowers, waters, streets, and landscape that inspired Monet's talent was incredible. It is so incredible to see so many varieties of flowers, trees, and shrubs in one place. There was a harmony among the nature that words simply cannot convey.


On the streets in Paris we ran into two sets of missionaries. They were both older couples in the center of Paris. I knew before I saw their missionary badges that they were missionaries. There was an unmistakable joy in their countenances. Each couple had been out a little over a year. They shared their experiences learning the language and loving the people. It made me even more positive that I will go on a mission with my husband when we are older.

I could write for days about my experiences. I loved teaching my own children and learning along with them. It was the perfect vacation and one that I cannot wait to do again.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Betrayal

This may not make much sense, but I have to write it if I am going to sleep tonight.

Someone I care for very much was betrayed today. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am hurt on his behalf.

My friend "George" was worried about his friend "Charlie". Charlie and George have been friends their entire lives, and George knew that he had to tell someone his concern. So what did George do? He shared that concern with another friend "Lucy" and me. (We are also incredibly close to Charlie and are in the position to do something.)

George asked both of us to do with the information what we felt was right, but he pleaded with us not to use his name. He asked us to leave him out of it. I understood the gravity of the situation. Action needed to be taken; however, that action could be taken without involving George.

Actually, action was taken, without ever mentioning George's conversation with us. Things were moving along quite nicely, until three days ago. Lucy became angry at me. (I am still not sure why she was angry.) She never called me to talk about it. She didn't return my call after I heard she was angry. But, make no mistake, she was mad and wanted to hurt me. So what did she do?

To hurt me, she told Charlie exactly what George told both of us. She betrayed the confidence of George to get back at me!!!??!!!  Then, Charlie called George and confronted him. (I learned this evening that neither Charlie nor George had anything to do with her anger at me...still not sure what I did, but they apparently had nothing to do with it.)

Did she do this because knowing how much I love George, she thought it would hurt me to see him hurt?

I don't understand. She loves George, too. Why would she hurt him to get back at me?

I feel awful. I did nothing wrong, yet I feel responsible for the backlash on George. I love George very much. He is one of the most important people in my life, and I am heartbroken that his trust was betrayed.

Lucy did not need to say anything. Things with Charlie were moving along as best as they could. But now, everything is a mess. Charlie is mad. George feels betrayed. I feel awful and responsible.

And Lucy feels...what? Happy? Vindicated? I saw her today and her smile was one of sweet revenge.

How does hurting two people we both care about make her feel better?

I am angry beyond words at Lucy. So angry that I want nothing to do with her...ever again.

It was a difficult day to put on a happy face so my own children could not see the anger. They felt the tension. They know something is not right. And I really do not want to tell them what happened. I want to spare them this particular meanness in the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A first

In my almost seven years of teaching, I have been to many outside events of students. I have been to happy occassions (baby showers, Courts of Honors, Mission farewells, etc). I have been to too many sad occassions; funerals of students who have died too young. I have seen my students become mothers and fathers. I have seen them graduate from college.

But tonight was a first for me. Tonight, I went to the wedding of a student. What a wonderful first experience this was for me.

This particular student did things the right way. She has never had a baby, and she is not pregnant. She got married because she is in love. They got engaged, planned a wedding, and tonight they will spend their first night living together before going off on their honeymoon this week.

Even though she is young she knew what was right for her. She and her new husband knew that they wanted to get married. They knew that it was right for them. They were ready to start their lives together, and they wanted to do it right.

So tonight, I watched as a beautiful young woman was walked down the aisle by her father, who then placed her hand in her groom's hand. I watched as they both tearfully thanked their parents for raising them and supporting them. I watched as these two young people turned to each other and vowed to love and cherish one another. I watched as they exchanged rings and whispered the words that would bind them. I watched as they were declared man and wife, and kissed each other to seal the wedding.

It is moments like these that remind me what it means to be a teacher. I was one of two teachers she invited. One of two teachers she said made a difference in her life. This was a first for me; a first that I will never forget for many reasons. The wedding had a theme that only 18 year olds could get away with. The bride was quirky in a way that only she is. The wedding was true to who the bride and groom are. And I am grateful to have been a part of it.

Even on summer vacation, today was a good teacher day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I want to attend Elder's Quorum.

I have decided that I want to start attending Elder’s Quorum. I don’t want the Priesthood. I want to be a part of the Priesthood discussions.


Let me explain.

Yesterday, my husband and I were talking about our respective lessons in RS and EQ. The topic was on Eternal Families. In RS the answers to the questions presented were “prayer, family scripture study, church attendance, service, family home evening.” These are the standard answers I have come to expect from the women in my ward. Of course these answers are accompanied by specific examples of what each family does to shine in these respective topics.

You know the answers, “For our family home evening, we each pick a service buddy for the week. Then each of us has to do an act of service for our “buddy”. We pray about what service we can offer and then go about and offer the service without complaint. It has made our family so much closer. My children are perfect angels who never disobey and they hug each other all the time. We get up at 430 every morning and the children are SO excited for family scripture study. It makes everyone’s day that much better!”

Okay, so I am exaggerating A BIT…But the answers are still the same. The women put on their perfect make-up and tap shoes and dance around the truth in their lives. They say what they think should be said, regardless of whether it is 100% truthful. As long as each woman is perceived as the perfect, righteous, Mormon wife, life in RS is good.

I disagree. Life in the RS room is a big fat lie.

Elder’s Quorum is different. I told my husband what the wives said in RS, and his response, “BULLS***! Their husbands are in EQ and the women are lying.”

He went on to say how the men talk about the fact that their families are all horrible (on different levels) when it comes to family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening. He said their discussion( yes discussions!) focus on topics that go deeper than the “Primary answers”. They briefly talk about how they rarely do FHE, and when they do, it is a struggle. They talk about how family prayer happens most of the time, but never at the same time or in the same place. They talk about how finding a time for everyone to be home to do this is nearly impossible, and that getting up at 430 am makes everyone mad! Then they stop talking about these topics. They move on.

I am jealous. When talking about Eternal Families, the men talk about things the women would never even think of bringing up. For example, when discussing how to be an example to children one of the men said, “It is important to show my children how much I love their mother. I have to show affection to my wife.” This is a standard answer. A nice answer, but what makes it great is that they took a comment and turned it into a discussion! They talked about physical affection in a marriage and why it is important. I am sure, because my husband did not deny it when I asked, that my husband commented that he does playfully grab my butt when he hugs me. My children see this, and they see us smiling and laughing while hugging. They see that we are in love. The men agreed that their children need to see a level of physical intimacy between their parents. Nothing gross: A kiss, a hug, a playful grab. They need to see their parents in love, both intellectually, spiritually, and physically!

In a later conversation the men talked about sex. They discussed the blessing, yes blessings of marriage. And one of those blessings is sex. One man said that one of the best blessings in his life is that he has only been with his wife. Another man agreed. They talked about how they married their best friends. They honor their best friends. Their men talk about how that example is what makes the biggest impact on their children’s views of families. Again, they did not go into any sort of detail about sex, but they did talk about it as a part of marriage.

In EQ they discuss, they share; they are not embarrassed to speak their own truths. They are not embarrassed to discuss their own shortcomings. In RS, we don’t discuss. One person teaches and has to pull teeth to get a discussion going. And even then the discussion centers around the “Primary answers.” Don’t get me wrong, the “Primary answers” are important, but deeper discussion beyond these answers is a pretty powerful learning tool as well.

So now, as a RS teacher, I have to figure out how to get these women to take off their make-up and remove their tap shoes, and quit dancing around the truths in the room! We are all imperfect and we can learn more from each other’s unspoken imperfections than from each other’s spoken perfection.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day...

Today, more than other days, I get to celebrate the man I married. I am grateful that he is the father of my sons. This is my Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband.

My sons are so lucky to have their dad. He supports them in everything they do and he loves doing it. There is nothing in the world more important to my husband than raising his sons. He tells them and shows them how much he loves them. He is my sons' hero. They look up to him in everything they do. They look to him as their example in so many things. He laughs with them and he laughs at them. There are so many things about the father-son relationships that I do not get, but my heart is always warmed when I see my sons and their dad together. My sons tell him everything, and even though I am a bit jealous by that fact, I am grateful that my sons are so close to their dad. They admire him. They want to be like him. They love him. I love them all!

My wonderful husband is compassionate. He teaches my sons how to serve.

My wonderful husband is a gentleman. He has taught my sons how to treat their mother and all other girls.

My wonderful husband is funny. He teaches my sons to laugh at themselves.

My wonderful husband has integrity. He teaches my sons that who they are matters more than what they do.

My wonderful husband is faithful. He teaches my sons to trust in Heavenly Father.

My wonderful husband is kind. He teaches my sons to offer kind words to everyone they meet.

My wonderful husband is grateful. He teaches my sons to be grateful for the things they have, and to share what they have with others.

My wonderful husband honors his Priesthood. He teaches my children what is means to be a son of God. He teaches them what it means to be responsible.

My wonderful husband is a wonderful father. He teaches my sons what it means to be a man, what it means to be a human being. He teaches my sons everything that a good father teaches his sons. He teaches them so much more than I can ever write. He teaches by word, by deed, by example, by love.

I am grateful for my children's father.

Happy Father's Day to my sweetheart!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day

This may be a little scattered, but that is kind of how I feel about my dad.

Let me start out by saying that I love my dad. I may not always like him, but I always love him. My relationship with my dad has always been complicated. I was the one daughter he never could figure out. I was the daughter who never wanted to be home, who couldn't wait to go to college, and who did well in school without being asked. He struggled with my independence. He didn't like it, and he always let me know it. Tension in our relationship has always been there; everyone felt it, my mom, my sisters, my friends, my husband.

I lived the majority of my childhood in fear of what my dad was going to say to me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loved my older sisters. He was always doing nice things for them, complimenting them, or catering to their every whim. With me, it was different. I never knew. I still don't always know.
I can count on one hand the number of times he has said he loves me. Less times that he has said he is proud of me, even when I won two state and one national teaching award. He didn’t come to my college graduation (for my BA and my MA), even though I was the first person in the history of my entire family to get either degree. It took him months to meet his grandsons after they were born, even though we live an hour away from each other.

People have tried to tell me this is a generational thing; that people from his generation just don't say "I love you." They show love by providing rather than telling. I would happily buy this argument were in not for the fact that he did show and tell his love to my sisters. I was the exception. I said before that years ago my dad told me that he had to be critical of me to compensate for how my mother treated me. The fact that my mom "favored" me made him feel that he had to put me down. That it was necessary to keep things "fair" in my family. He not say this as a way of explanation or apology, rather as just a fact of what needed to happen in my life.

We have different priorities, different attitudes, and different values. But, now my dad is dying, and that makes the feelings I have for him way more complicated than I could have ever imagined.

As I get older my perspective on my dad has changed. It does not change my childhood, but it does change how I look at my dad. I never truly understood how poor my family was until I went away to college. And even then, I only vaguely understood.

My dad is one of the hardest working father's I have ever seen. He worked hard to buy a house and make it a nice place to live, in spite of lack of money. He loved my mother, in spite of all of their problems. My dad never let us know when things were tough. He continued providing the best way he knew how; he worked wherever he could, doing whatever was asked of him.

 I knew there were times when money was tight, but I never realized the extent of the difficulties until I looked through them through the lens of an adult. There was always food on the table (even though now I know that sometimes is was government subsidized). He always found money to support any extracurricular activity one of his daughters wanted to do. He always provided us ways to earn money to go out with our friends. I don't know how he did it, but he seemed to always find a way. He never complained about what he provided for my sisters; however, when it came to me, he always complained and said he was only doing it to make my mother happy.

My dad doesn't understand me, but I don't understand him either.

He doesn't understand why I want my children to have more than I did. He thinks what I had was "good enough" and that I should be happy with that. He doesn't understand that I want my children to know that they can be anything they want; that I want them to be better than I am.

I don't understand why he is more supportive of my sons than he ever was of me. I don't understand it, but I am so grateful for it. I am grateful that my sons know a different man than I did growing up. I don't understand how he can continue to insult me even though he knows it always end with my leaving earlier than planned.

My dad is dying. There is a very real possibility that he will not survive the year. This knowledge makes things more complicated, but at the same time makes the time I have with him more meaningful.
 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mother's Day (late)

I did not write about Mother's Day on this blog because my feelings for my mom are so close to my heart, I struggle to find the right words to express them. I love my mom. She is my hero, and even though in recent years I have learned things about her past that have been shocking, I find myself understanding the decisions she made. She made some of her decisions out of desperation and others out of hope. Sheer hope to be a better person and provide a better life for her children. Would I make the decisions that she made? Probably not, but I was raised by her. I was raised by a woman who lived through desperate situations so I would not have to. I was raised by a woman who sacrificed everything for her children so they would never have to sacrifice such things. I saw the pain in her eyes as she fought to forget parts of her past. I saw the regret in her eyes when parts of the past came back to her. Some she cherished and others she ran away from.

I am the woman I am because of my mother. Others may look at her and judge her harshly for her past. I look at her past as a victory. In her first 25 years of life she endured more than most people endure in 70 years of life. She sacrificed more than I will ever truly comprehend. But, most importantly, she survived. Her survival has not been without cost or scars, but she is still here. Still fighting the ghosts of her past while trying to live in the present.

I don't always agree with my mother (more recently than ever before), but I love her more than I can ever express. I am grateful for everything she has done for me. There has never been a day in my life that I do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much my mother loves me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lessons I am learning

I am learning that I am the kind of person, for whatever reason, not everyone likes. I am too confident. I am too bold. I speak my mind when maybe I shouldn't. I am not always the nicest person. I am not social enough. I am too social. I am a perfectionist and because of that I work to be successful at everything I do.

I am learning, actually struggling, to be okay with that.

I am learning that I need to not worry about what other people think, and worry most about what I think and whether I am happy with myself.

I am learning that I should smile more. And laugh more.

I am learning that in spite of being strong, and tough, and that I can portray to the world that the little things don't bother me, and that the things that people say and the things that people do and the meanness of people don't get to me, I am learning that they get to me a lot more than I let on. I am trying, but I am struggling.

I am learning that I care more about what other people think than I let on, and I want to be the person again who doesn't care what other people think. Who only cares about what I think and what the people who mean the most to me think.

I am learning that all my life I have been a person, that for one reason or another, people target something that they don't like about me and exploit it and make it a big deal. Whether it is my own family, people who know me, or even people who don't know me, it seems that someone finds a quality about me that he/she does not like and I become an easy target. I am learning to ignore this.

I am learning to not worry so much about it.

I am learning to be myself and to be happy. I am trying to not let it get to me. Right now, today, on June 11, 2011, I am not succeeding.

But I am trying to learn.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Unexpected Part 2

My dad and I have never been close. We have rarely seen eye to eye on anything. In spite of my personal, academic, and professional successes, he has been critical of me my entire life. I can count the number of times he has said he loves me on one hand. The number of times he has said he is proud of me is less than that. When I became the first person in my entire family to graduate college, he wasn't there. When I then went on to be the first (and only) person in my family to get my Master's degree, he wasn't there. He has insulted me more times than I care to remember.

Years ago, he told me that he had to be critical of me to compensate for how my mother treated me. The fact that my mom "favored" me made him feel that he had to put me down. That it was necessary to keep things "fair" in my family. My dad not say this as a way of explanation or apology, rather as just a fact of what needed to happen in my life. (Never mind that my mother never said any of the things that he said to me to my sisters. She was supportive of all of us in different ways. I am not blind; I knew she favored me, but she never put my sisters down in order to lift me up. She just supported me more than she supported them.) My dad, on the other hand, always put me down in order to lift up my sisters. He still does this.

But I digress.

 I never thought I would take my dad's side over my mom's side. The scars he inflicted are present, even though I don't like to admit it. My mom has always received the benefit of my doubt, so when I took his side over hers, I was stunned.

My dad is old. Really old. He has defied medical wisdom for decades and still continues to do so.  People who treat their body the way he has treated his usually die before age 60. But not my dad. He is pushing 80. He is not going strong. He is sick, and his body has started shutting down. I love my dad, and it is so hard to watch this happen. Every time I see him, he looks that much closer to death. That is hard to write and even harder to see.

He is not going down without a fight, though. He goes to the doctor (different doctors for different things) about twice a month. There is one fight that he is losing; he is going blind. He does fine at home where nothing has moved in 30 years. He can take care of himself there; however, there is one thing that he absolutely cannot do. He cannot drive anymore. This is a difficult situation for him to be in. He prides himself of his independence. His driver's license was not taken away from him; he chose to stop driving. To him, he stopped driving on his terms. The problem is obvious; he cannot drive himself to his appointments. He can't drive himself anywhere. He actually needs help on this one thing.

My mom should be driving him. She won't. She flat out refuses to drive him to his appointments. I talked to her about this a few months ago. I thought it was beyond ridiculous that I had to tell her that she needed to drive him wherever he needed to go, especially the doctor's appointments. (For crying out loud, SHE IS HIS WIFE! They have been married almost half a century! Why on Earth does she need to be reminded of this???) But after our conversation, she told me that she would start driving him.

My dad did not know of my conversation with her.

I went to see them a couple of weeks ago  (I live in about 90 minutes away), and as I was driving my dad to my sister's house, he told me that he didn't know what to do. He has doctor's appointments and my mother flat out refuses to drive him. She said it is just too inconvenient for her. My sister works full time and can't take him all of the time. He said he didn't want to be a burden on anyone, but he was at his wits end. My heart broke and anger spilled out.

My dad may have his faults, but he always provided for my mom. He drove her to work at 3am when she was afraid to drive in the snow. He paid off her credit card bills when she didn't understand how she got in that much debt. He may not have been the most pleasant about the money situation, but he did it.

Now I can only imagine how difficult it is for her to watch her husband's health decline, but I am frustrated that she is not even trying to help him. I love my mother, but she is wrong. She needs to do this for him. He is not asking for a lot. He is asking for her to drive him to the doctor. To show him compassion. To swallow her own fear and take care of her husband.

So now, here I sit, angry at my mother and taking the side of my father. Who knew?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Unexpected. Part 1

I have always been my mom's biggest ally, and she has always been the one person in my family that stood by me no matter what. She was always the one who supported me and sacrificed whatever she could to make my dreams a reality. She supported my dancing, my academics, my college decision, and even my choice to abandon her Catholic roots and join the Mormon church. Even if she did not understand my choices, she always supported me. Even if she could not help me, financially or otherwise, she always cheered for me.

Likewise, I always supported her; even when I didn't know that I was.

As a four year old little girl, I vividly remember my mom coming into my room crying telling me she was leaving my dad. I also vividly remember her packing my bag telling me that I was coming with her. I knew I was. There was never a choice. If she was leaving so was I.

This situation, in several different scenarios, played out countless times throughout my childhood, adolescence, and even in my adulthood. As an adult, I was not going to physically go with her when she said she was going to leave my dad, but I always knew that if she left him, I was on her side. I was always her ally.

Now, she never really left my dad. She did not have anywhere to go, and even if she did, my dad always disabled the car so she could not leave. I learned this as a four year old little girl while sitting in the car in the driveway. Mom in the drivers seat, me in the passenger seat, bags in the backseat, and keys in the ignition. The car wouldn't start, but we stayed there for hours. I knew this because my sisters would come outside and mark the time for me.

My mom never left. My parents always found a way around their problems. Never really solving them, just finding a way to live through them.

It was not until I was an adult that I understood the dysfunction of my family, but that is an entirely different post.

Like I said, I ALWAYS took my mom's side. My dad and I have always had a tumultuous relationship at worst, and a strained relationship at best. Considering my childhood memories are that of my mother's unconditional love and support and my dad's criticism and insults,  it has never been difficult to take her side over his.

I never thought I would see the day where I would take my dad's side over my mom's. Never. Not in a million years. Never.


I was wrong.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Love

It must be the week for love. Another student asked me this week about love. She was working on a creative writing piece about love and wanted to talk to a few adults who were in love. She told me that she thinks it is "cute" how I talk about my husband.  She asked me how I knew that I was in love. I responded, "I knew I was going to marry my husband the first moment he kissed me." A few other students overheard this and joined the conversation. They were fascinated by my answer.

She asked if it was love at first sight. It was not. I had known him for over a year, and while I can clearly remember the first time I saw him (he was wearing a very specific silly hat), I did not fall in love at that moment. We became friends, good friends, but we were never the kind of friends who went out alone together. We always went out in a group. We talked. We laughed. Our friends became friends. All of us sat together in the morning before school started, and during lunch we would sit in the courtyard. Some of us would skateboard, hackey sack, or toss a ball, and sometimes we would all just sit and talk. It was not a group that dated each other;  we were just a group of friends who just hung out together.

In the year and a half since the first time I saw him, he became one of my closest friends. He was easy to talk to. He listened. He made me laugh. We danced with each other at school and  church dances, we sat and talked in the locker bays on our off hours, and sometimes we even ditched class together.

Almost twenty years later, I am still not sure how it happened. We were friends. We were laughing. We were playing golf, playing games, watching movies, going hiking. Doing the things that our group typically did. Then one night, he tackled me (literally). And then another night, he kissed me. I was done. Sold. Completely head over heels in love with one of my best friends. It was crazy. Maybe it was a process of falling in love for both of us. All I know is that one day, he was my friend, and the next I couldn't stop thinking about him.

Thank goodness he felt the same way.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

First Love

A student of mine just broke up with her boyfriend. She told me they still love each  other, but they needed space because things were going too fast and getting too serious.

They are both good kids, and I am proud of them for making this decision. It is a tough decision to step away from someone you love, especially since you do not know if you will end up together again someday.

She asked me if my husband was my first love. I told her he wasn't. I did not tell her this to make her feel better, I told her this because it is true. I used to wish that my husband was my first love, but as I get older I become more grateful that he wasn't my first love.

She asked me about the story of my first love, and I told her. My first love was M. I told her that M and I were good friends for a long time, and when we were both 16 we started dating. I remember when he asked me to "go out" with him. We were sitting in a van after a night of bowling with friends. We were waiting for something (I can't remember who or what), and M and I were sitting on the floor of the van. He was sitting behind me with his arms wrapped around me. It was snowing and cold that night. He asked me out, and I said yes. From then on, we were always together. He walked me to class, I walked him to practice, he drove me home from school. He took me dancing in the middle of the road. I made him dinner. We went for walks. He was sweet, he was kind, and I fell in love with him quickly.

But as quickly as we fell in love. Things started moving quickly. We were both LDS and knew that sex was just not an option. But that didn't stop us from talking about marriage. It didn't stop us from kissing...a lot. We were 16 and head over heals in love, but as things got more and more serious, we started to worry. We did not want to be one of those couples who said, "Well, we know we are going to get married one day, so does it really matter?" We both knew it did,  and neither one of us wanted to go there. We knew that we did not want to cross that line, and we were both afraid that was where we were headed. So as in love as we were, and as happy as we were together, we knew that we had to break up. It was hard; that is an understatement. We talked about it for a long time, but in the end we both knew it was the right decision. M was absolutely my first love, and I did not know how to get over him. We were still friends. We talked all the time, but we worked hard to not be together. We did not want to close the door on our relationship. We both hoped we would find a way to be together. It was not easy at first, but as time went on, it became better. We remained friends, not as close as we once were, but still good friends.

Fast forward a year after our break up. I started dating my future husband (I will call him H). We had also been good friends for a long time, but I knew this was different. I fell more in love with H than I ever knew possible. I was only 17, but from the moment that H kissed me, I knew I would never kiss anyone else.

H and I were not a couple that made sense to a lot of people. We were different in just about every way possible, and everyone who heard that we were together thought we were a strange couple.

But then one day at a party, M heard that H and I were together. He didn't know I was in earshot behind him. He said, "H and Kage? Wow...way to go Kage!" And then he paused, smiled, and said, "No. Way to go H." Those were the nicest words I had ever heard, and I knew that he was sincere in saying them.

As I relayed this story to my student whose heart was breaking over her break-up, I told her that even though I did not marry my first love, I do not regret loving him, and I knew that he felt the same way. So as much as I used to want to say that my dear husband is my first love, I know that the lessons I learned from loving M were important.

I then told her that while my dear husband may not have been my first love, he is my last love. He is my life, and most importantly he is my eternal love. And that is the one that matters.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Best Friends.

Yesterday, my husband held up a pair of jeans in the laundry basket and asked without a hint of sarcasm, "Are these yours or #1's jeans?"
He was serious. He was actually checking. My oldest son is officially less than four inches shorter than I am. I have accepted the fact that my children will be taller than me. I want them to be taller than me.

But still, every time I take a moment and notice exactly how big they are getting, I am brought back to the moments when they were smaller than my thumb. I am brought back to the moments where I could feel their heartbeat beneath my own. That was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I remember being absolutely certain that I was going to have a son, both times. I remember the doctors confirming, each time, that I was going to have a son. I remember the tears in my eyes because I knew that the joy had to get out somehow. I remember the look on my husband's face when he heard. A son. A second son. Two boys to fill my house with laughter and love.

They have not disappointed. Even when they fight like only brother's can fight, they still love each other like only brothers can love. They cheer each other one like no one else can. They communicate in ways that baffle me. Sometimes, I think they are twins born two years apart. Not because they look like twins, but because they act like twins. They know each other better than anyone else does. Sometimes I watch them as they talk or as they play, and there is a definite "twin" vibe that I get from them. They are one and the same, yet so very different.

I ponder this fact quite a lot. I know they were best friends before they came to us. I know this as well as I know that I can breathe. I know that #2 was sad when #1 got to come here first, but I also know that they both knew then that it was necessary. I know this because #1 had to come first to help his parents go to the Temple and establish an eternal covenant that #2 could be born into.

I can almost hear the words that #1 said to #2. "You can't come yet. I won't let you be born before we are an eternal family. I will go, mom and dad will be sealed, I will be sealed to then, and then you can come, too. I will prepare the way for you. I promise you will be born into an eternal family."

That protection is still there; #1 is so protective of #2. He knows that he has to set the example. And what an example he has set. It is not always easy being the oldest, but #1 carries that charge the way he should. They are best friends. They are absolutely the best part of my life. They cherish their mother and worship their father. They are good boys. They are best friends. I am blessed each and every day to be their mother.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

End of the year

It is the end of the year, and I am procrastinating. I should be grading, printing finals, grading some more, and entering grades. But here I sit, staring at the computer waiting for some inspiration.

Waiting....

Waiting...

There is so much that I can write about, but nothing feels right. So, I guess I will go grade some papers and come back soon.

Maybe inspiration is in the stack of essays that await me!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This was interesting.

Answers to this post:
1. Thought Experiment: You’ve died. You are at your own funeral. What do you want your friends and family to say about you? What did you do with your life? Write down five things you hope people say about the legacy that you’ve left. Write down five things you hope people say about your personality.

  • She loved her husband and children more than she loved anything else. To see and hear her talk about her husband, even after 18 years, was like seeing a woman who was newly married. To see and hear her talk about her children was to see a woman who marveled at the beauty and grace of childhood.
  • She never turned her back on anyone. She lived under the basic belief that she said so often when people asked why she liked "certain" people (the people who did not always make the best decisions or live the most righteous life).  She always said, "Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father will never turn their backs on any of us, and if I am truly living as a faithful representative of both of them, what kind of example of each them would I be if I turned my back?"
  • She was intelligent but open minded. She loved great discussions and always listened with an open mind. She always thought she was right, but she still listened and would admit when she was wrong. She could argue both sides of an argument better than anyone, and in the end, she was so convincing that students could never tell her true beliefs.
  • Even with the previous statement, she was a woman of strong conviction. She did not believe blindly but worked for every piece of truth she held to her heart. She always followed her conviction.
  • She loved watching people learn. Whether it was her own children or her students, she lived for the moments when a light of understanding and knowledge would appear.
2. Core Values: Discover what drives you. What principles guide your actions and ideal self? Try to strip away all cultural conditioning and/or religious rhetoric and assess five core values by which you live your life and inform who you want to be. Write these down. Evaluate if there any disconnect between what you wrote down in step one and step two.

  • Love. It is cheesy, but my love for my family drives everything I do. I always think to myself, is this something that would cause my children or husband to think less of me? If the answer is yes, I don't do it. Their opinion of me means more than anything.
  • I am driven by integrity. In everything I do, I work to be true to this word.
  • I believe in being kind. People are far too mean to each other.
  • I am driven by accountability. People should accept the consequences (both good and bad) of their actions. People are far to willing to blame someone else rather than accept blame themselves. This bugs me. I am always willing to say I was wrong or that I made a mistake. I never think the world is out to get me. People may not like me because of my firm stance on accountability, but I am okay with that.
  • Faith. Everything happens for a reason. I may not know the reason, but accepting that I can learn from everything and that having faith that there is a greater reason for it, is part of who I am.
3. Find Your Purpose: Why does what you are doing matter? What motivates and inspires you to keep following these values? Chose a purpose. It can be big or small, but has to be intentional. It is the reason for your goals and can change over time. If you are struggling to find your purpose try this experiment. Write down your five most valuable gifts and talents. Next, write below those what each of these can be used for. Finally, evaluate what types of careers or activities you would enjoy that would utilize some of these talents.

  • My purpose in life is to be a teacher, not just in a classroom, but in everything I do. My most important teaching is as a mother, as I teach everyday by word and by example. No one watches me more attentively than my own children. They hear the things that I don't think they hear and they see the things that I don't think they see. They know more than I give them credit for, and because of that, everything I do is related to teaching. 
    Part of being a teacher is being a learner. Every moment in my life seems to be a teachable moment, whether by example or by curriculum. There is always something to learn and always something to teach. It is a passion. It is what I love. Teaching...at home, at church, at school, or anywhere else is my purpose.  The best part of being a teacher and loving it as I love it, is that I know that in the long run, I am far more blessed by the people I teach than they are by me teaching them. It is a bit selfish to look at it that way, but while I truly hope that I can make a difference in the lives of my students, I know that I am better by knowing each of them (some more than others).

4. Test Your Purpose: Today my purpose will be _to help a student believe in himself more than he did yesterday, to help him to know that he can do anything. To accomplish that I will use my gifts for talking, for listening, for encouraging_ to accomplish these specific goals_to help one student believe in himself more than he did before. Later change the timeline to week, month, and year.


5. Write It All Down: Once you have a purpose you can stick with, write it all down and it will remind your of who you are and what you want to be.

Done.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Progress

"The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

I have worked very hard in the last few weeks to move beyond the frustration and bitterness I have felt towards some of the women in my ward. I have worked to just be happy with myself. To just be me. It has been working, too. I have not felt anger towards these women. I have been extremely happy in my own progress towards forgiveness and repentance. I still do not have a calling, and I am still grateful for that fact. I have been working on improving myself. I have been reading a lot. I have put a renewed effort into our Family Home Evenings. I watched Conference with great interest. I have been studying and praying, and, in the last few weeks, I have felt more peace than I have in a long time.

I knew it was a matter of time before that progress was going to be tested. And then it happened: I was asked to substitute teach in an adult class. Thankfully, I was given three weeks to prepare.


Today that progress was going to be tested.
 
Today was going to be a day of reckoning for me.

And today is the first Sunday in a long time that I had a good day at church.

I was a bit nervous to teach...I never feel nervous when I teach, but today two of the women who have made my church life challenging (to say the least) were sitting in the front row. I was not intimidated by them (I am not a person who has ever been easily intimidated). I was, however, nervous for their reaction to me teaching. I saw their faces when I walked up to teach. They were not happy; they looked annoyed, but I cannot recall the last time I saw either of them smile when I was in the room. I ignored their faces and focused on the friendlier faces of the people around me.

As I stood up to teach, I felt the nerves wash away. I felt the Spirit uplift me and guide me. And then I felt a change. Maybe it was a change in them, as I swear that I saw their faces soften as I taught, interacted, and listened.  They even participated when I asked questions. Their participation was reluctant at first, but  as I worked to make eye contact with each of them, I thought I saw the reluctance waver. I felt the Spirit truly guiding my lesson. I felt inspired to share a personal story that I had not even thought of during my preparation. Other women began sharing, and the Spirit was so strong in the room. Regardless of anyone else, I know there was a change in me.

Truthfully, I have no idea what the effect was for them; maybe it was my imagination that saw their faces soften. Maybe their reluctance was my imagination. But it was not my imagination that felt my own heart softening. Maybe it was my heart that was finally forgiving. Not a maybe. My heart was finally softening.



I actually felt good while teaching. I taught adults for the first time in years, and I relished in the Spirit that I felt in the room. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I truly belonged. I felt that I actually made a difference in someone's life. And a difference in mine.

Progress made. And more to come...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Can someone PLEASE explain...

Why does Disney insist on portraying boys in their TV shows as idiots? This has been bothering me for a while, but as I was talking to my own children about why Disney TV shows are no longer allowed, I came unglued in my own mind. (I was calm and rational to my sons, but in my head, I was going a little nuts.)

Indulge me a moment while I go through some of the boy characters:

First you have Zach: He is the "cool" one, but he cannot be bothered to learn anything. He is constantly getting in trouble and too concerned about being "cool" to care about school. He is girl crazy and has no regard for the people around him.

Then you have Cody: He is the "smart" one and as such he can in no way be "cool". He has no common sense; he is portrayed as being weak because he is smart. He is made fun of and is always the butt of someone else's jokes.

Next: The twins on the new show "Pair of Kings" (I don't know their names). They are just plain idiots. They do not think before they act, they are selfish, and they have to be constantly rescued because the decisions they make cause constant calamity.

Then there is Jackson on Hannah Montana. I don't even want to get into this one. Lazy, girl crazy, inferior to everyone, and stupid. But his sister is the exact opposite.

I could go on, but you get the point. There are worse boy characters than these, but I just can't bring myself to write about them. The thing is, I know that Disney is taking specific characteristics and exaggerating them, but really? For crying out loud, why can't a boy be both smart and cool? Why can't they for once portray a boy character who is just a typical boy? A boys who is a little bit goofy, a tad geeky, cool sometimes, and with a good head on his shoulders (with a good role model to look up to)?

I know the reason, and it makes me mad.

My sons think the boy on these shows are funny.


To me, they are obnoxious. Seriously, they are not funny. They make the boys out to be shallow and not intelligent. At least iCarly has Freddy who is a computer whiz. But Disney? No, the boys on those shows are either girl crazy, idiots, disgusting, or too smart to have any common sense.

I have banned my sons from watching these shows. I just cannot stomach them thinking that the behavior on these shows is okay. It is not.  I know that so many people worry about the effect of media on girls (but that is another post for another person), but I am just as worried about the effect on boys. It seems as a boy, you are either an idiot and cool, or smart and weak.

So can someone please explain why other people are not worried about how boys are portrayed on TV?

Friday, April 1, 2011

It took 22 years.

I took my boys to see my parents this week. It was not a huge deal, but it was something that I needed to do. You see, I do not visit my parents as often as I should. I love them, but it is sometimes difficult to be with them for any extended amount of time. (That is another blog.)

Back to my point: visiting my parents. We were driving around town with my mom. My children were peppering me with questions about how their dad and I met. (We met in high school, but for more info, click here. My children know the stories, but whenever we go to my hometown, more questions pop into their curious, wonderful minds.) As I was being questioned by my children, we drove by an LDS church. Then this conversation occurred:

Son #2: "Hey, that's a Mormon church! Mom, did you go there when you were a kid?"

My mother:"No, she didn't start going there until high school."

Son #1: "Is that when you met dad?"

Me: "No, sweetie. I told you that daddy and I met in high school."

Son #2: "Did you and dad go to that church together, then?"

Me: "Yes, mommy and daddy went to church, mutual, and even church dances there."

My mother (very quietly, so my children couldn't hear): "She went to a bigger church when she was little."

We chatted along this line for a little bit longer. All the while, my mother sat uncomfortably in front passenger seat. The fact that I am Mormon never really sits well with her. But, she is polite (if not annoyed by the questions that relate to my faith.)

This conversation would be insignificant except for what happened twenty minutes later. We were leaving my old high school, and son #2 asked if I would take him to and from school when he was in high school. (Remember, I teach where I live, and my sons will go to the school where I work.) This led to a discussion of what classes he would take, and eventually the topic of early morning Seminary came up. I explained to my children that they would have a church class every morning before school. They did not seem to think too much of this until my  mother (uncharacteristically) asked, "Why do they have to take a church class?"

Shock crossed my face. My mother never asks anything about my church, let alone a "Why?" question. We do not avoid Gospel centered conversation around my parents/siblings, but whenever the Gospel comes up, my parents/siblings tune out and rejoin the conversation when the topic changes back to something more pleasing to them. She also dutifully attended baptisms, only because she was happy that at least two of her grandchildren would have "some sort of baptism." (The other 10 grandchildren are not baptized under any religion.)  So the fact that my mother did not disengage from this conversation and actually asked a question, truly shocked me.

So, I jumped in, albeit hesitantly. I explained that my husband and I expect our sons to go on missions and that Seminary would help prepare them for a mission. She continued by asking how an early morning class would help them more than "regular" high school. (Did I mention that I am still in shock?) I explained that they will still attend "regular" high school classes, but that this class is specifically designed to reinforce the things that my boys learn on Sunday. It is designed to help them become familiar enough with the scriptures in order to be able to teach other people. I also explained that in some countries, missionaries are not allowed to enter unless they have some sort of certificate of religious training, and Seminary meets that qualification.

She seems appeased by my answer; although, it did not take a genius to guess that she is not thrilled about her grandsons leaving for two years to teach other people about our church. She is a funny lady, but at least she finally asked a question. It only took 22 years.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spirit, Priesthood Power, Virtue and Accountability

This may be an over simplification, but it has been bothering me since I was first called as YW President, and it is still bothering me. Actually, it is bothering me more today than it has in the past. Mostly because of my own children. So, read this at your own risk.

Years ago when my husband and I had been dating for about a year, a coworker recommended I read the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. We were not having any major problems in our relationship, other than the typical petty stuff. We were happy, extremely happy. And then I started reading that book.
Within a week of beginning the book, we were fighting on a daily basis. It was ridiculous. The smallest things would set us to arguing. After about a week and a half of this, my (incredibly perceptive) sweetheart, said something along the lines of, "For crying out loud, why are we fighting so much." Then he looked on the coffee table and saw that book. He said, "That's why! This all started when you started reading that book." He was right. It was the book.

Now, I am sure the book was actually good for some couples. My sister swears by it, and bought every book related to it. But, after that week and a half of reading the book and fighting with my sweetheart, I realized something about the book. There was a formula in the book that went something like this:
  1. This is what a man does that bugs a woman.
  2. This is why it bugs a woman. (Also known as: this is how that makes a woman feel.)
  3. This is what a woman can do to fix the problem. (Also known as, this is how a woman can resolve her feelings and feel something else.)
Nowhere in the book did it encourage men to take responsibility. The problem with the book is that it put the responsibility for change on the woman. It put the responsibility of the direction of the relationship on the woman. Last time I checked, the responsibility for a healthy relationship falls on both parties involved.

Fast forward 20 years. I am a happily married mother of sons, who happens to have just been released as Young Women President. In serving in this calling, I realized something:  The church puts too much emphasis on how young women can lead men into temptation. It actually puts too much responsibility on the Young Women for the (potential) thoughts and actions of young men.

As a mother of sons, this bothers me. In a recent talk by the YW General President, she said that the action of young women (she was specifically talking about sexting) can "cause them (the young men) to lose the Spirit, their Priesthood Power and their virtue.” Again, this bothers me. My sons are in charge of their own relationship with the Spirit, their own Priesthood Power, and their own virtue. Why on earth would I ever let my sons believe that these things are in the power of a young woman?

Can a young woman cause impure thoughts in my son? Of course she can. Can a young woman tempt my son to do things that he shouldn't? Of course she can. But at the end of the day, who is in charge of his thoughts, his actions, and his agency? MY SON IS!

To shift it a little bit: Can a young woman help encourage my son to go on a mission? Of course she can. Can a young woman be virtuous and righteous and inspire my son to be the same? Of course she can. But in the end, who is in charge of my son's thoughts, actions, and agency? Once again, MY SON IS!

I am not saying that young women do not have a certain "power" over young men (and that they are not accountable for how they use that "power"), but what I am saying is that it is certainly not the fault of a young woman if any young man cannot control his own thoughts, impulses, and actions.

Regardless of whether a young woman is inspiring/encouraging good or bad, moral or immoral, the bottom line is that my son is in charge of his own agency.

Why should young women have to shoulder this burden of being guardians of virtue to the young men? In thinking of this talk, it reminded me of the book from 20 years ago, only with a different spin:
  1. This is a weakness in a man.
  2. This is what a woman can do to help the man overcome the weakness.(Also known as, this is what a woman needs to do to ensure that the man keeps his Spirit, his Priesthood Power, and his virtue.)
  3. This is what happens when a woman does not help a man overcome his weakness. (Also known as, if a women tempts a man, he will lose the Spirit, his Priesthood, and his virtue.)
The book basically told women that in order to be happy, they need to fix the men and adjust their own attitudes. The message to young women is that in order to raise righteous young men, we need to teach young women that it is their responsibility to keep men righteous. Really? That seems like we are putting an awful lot on the young women and not enough on the young men.

We each have our agency and, tempted or not, we are each responsible for our own actions. As a mother of sons, I teach my sons that they have their own virtue and that virtue must be protected. I also teach them that no one else can protect their virtue more than they can. Ultimately, my sons are responsible for their own relationship with the Spirit, their own Priesthood Power, and their own virtue. I teach them that no one can cause them to lose any of these without their own consent.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Then and Today...

I didn't like myself very much when I was 14. I was smart but not smart enough. I was cute but not cute enough. I was thin but not thin enough.

I was constantly trying to be something I wasn't. I wanted so desperately to just fit in. I was a typical teenager with atypical problems.

And then I found the Gospel. Or rather, the Gospel found me. A friend brought me home, only to a home that I never knew before. To a home where I learned that I was a child of God. That I had a Divine Nature. That I was more than I thought of myself.

It took a few years for me to fully grasp what that meant. Then, once I thought I understood what it meant, I decided to listen to the world. Then, as a young adult wanting to experience the world, I ignored what I knew for a few years.

It took falling in love with my unborn child. That was when I truly understood. That is when I understood what it meant to love a child. That is when I learned that as much as I loved my child, my Heavenly Father loved me more.

Then, as a fourteen year old, I struggled to ignore the whisperings of Satan that told me that I was not worthy of love. Today, as a thirty something year old mother, I still struggle to ignore those whisperings. Oddly enough, they are not that different. Satan knows my weaknesses. He still knows how to make me doubt myself.

Today, I like myself a lot more than I did when I was 14. Today, I know I am smart enough. Today (thanks to a husband who reminds  me daily) I am not only cute enough, I am downright sexy. Today, I know I am confident enough to do anything. I still struggle with feeling good enough, but today, I know better than to turn my back on what I know to be true.


Then, I struggled. Today, I still struggle. Then, I pretended to be strong. Today, I am strong.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Relief Society

It's not like I don't want to go to Relief Society. I really enjoy Relief Society. I like interacting with women and sharing Gospel experiences, thoughts, and ideas. I like leaving church feeling spiritually fed rather than spiritually drained. I even like sitting in a room and not having any responsibilities over agendas, lessons, and people. It is nice having no responsibilities in church. (I need to knock on wood because clearly this is not going to last very long.)

My problem is that I don't feel comfortable in Relief Society. The problem is mine. It is no one else's. I just truly feel like I am intruding on a secret club. Part of it is because I have been removed from RS for so long. (In the last 9 years, I have only been able to attend RS for around 10 months, and that was during the ward transitions and a brief stint in the RS Presidency before a new ward was created.) Part of it is that the very women who spent a good chunk of the last year gossiping about me are in RS. I see these women and I have one of three reactions: 1. I want to smack them and tell them to grow up. This reaction is mainly because I have seen first hand how their gossiping affects their daughters. Daughters tend to act like their mothers. 2. I want to be sweet and kind to them because I bear them no ill will. This is the reaction I pray for.  3. I want to pretend they don't exist. The problem is that I never know which reaction is going to surface at any given moment. I am sure you all know these reactions, have felt these reactions in your own life.

I want to only feel the second one, and some days I truly feel no ill will towards these women. Some days the Spirit whispers to me to be like my Savior and turn the other cheek. To truly forgive these women. This is actually the feeling most days, but every once in a while when I see them, the first and third reactions take hold. It is not their problem. It is mine because I know that somewhere deep in my heart I have not truly forgiven these women. But, because I know this, I am trying. I have tried serving these women to keep that second feeling in my heart. I have prayed for these women. I have prayed for myself. I know this is just another small challenge in my life. I know that I have to put one foot in front of the other and walk into RS with a prayer in my heart. I know I can do this. My comfort in RS lies within me and no one else.

So here is to hoping for a #2 reaction tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Change...

I was released from my calling two weeks ago. I absolutely cherished my time as Young Women's President. I learned some incredibly valuable lessons, and I really love those young women; however, I am not sad. I am ready. I know that my release came from the Lord because I have more to do elsewhere. I know that the Lord knew it was time for me to focus on other things. I am grateful that my Bishop felt that inspiration.

I have been in many callings in the last 15 years. I have served in each of the three "women" auxiliaries. I have served as president, counselor, and secretary. I have taught. I have learned. In reflecting on the last 15 years and the callings that I have held, I never felt ready when I was released from each calling. I always felt that I could do more, that I could learn more.

I do not feel that way in this calling. When the Bishop called me in to tell me that I would be released, I felt nothing but peace. As I talked with the Bishop about my release, I told him that I knew that I had accomplished what the Lord wanted me to accomplish. I told him that I knew I had learned what the Lord wanted me to learn. The last three years have been some of the most difficult years of service for me. I have struggled with some of the girls. I have struggled with some of the mothers. I have struggled because of the words which were not said to my face but said to my friends, my girls, and to other women in the ward. I have struggled when the youth could not separate the YW President from the teacher in the school. I have struggled when the youth thought they could take advantage of my in the classroom because of our relationship in the church. In the face of these difficulties, I learned on that I serve the Lord first and the girls second. I learned that inspiration comes when I least expect it. Inspiration comes for my calling and for my teaching. I learned that some lessons that the youth needed could not be taught at church. I learned that some lessons needed to come at school, and I learned that I was the only one that could teach those lessons because it was part of my calling. It was part of what was said when I was set apart. I did not completely understand the words at the time, but I understand them now. I learned to follow the Lord with all my heart, and He will guide all that I do.

I may not have been the best Young Women's President to ever serve in this calling, but I know that when I stand in front of the Lord, I will be able to tell him that I served on my knees. I listened to the promptings that I received. I can say to Him that everything that I did was a result of inspiration and prayer. I did my best to do all that was asked of me. I loved the girls and worked to teach them and to inspire them.

I am sad to leave the girls, but I am also excited to watch them grow and continue to learn under a new group of women. The girls have a sisterhood that they did not have when I was called. There is more work to be done, and I am grateful to those women who will continue the work.

Change is a good thing. A truly inspired thing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Things I love

This month has been more crazy than I could have imagined. Between sick kids, sick me, school, church, work, husband's school and work, kid's activities, and way too much more to list, I have been crazy.

But, yesterday, I had dinner with my family. My boys and my husband. Just us, no one else. No place to be. Just us in a quiet non crowded restaurant.

I love those moments. It does not matter how crazy our lives are, the opportunity to sit down and eat dinner together is one of my favorite things. I wish I could say that we do this every night, but we don't. Especially this time of year. At least two times a week, one of the boys is running through the kitchen grabbing a sandwich out of my hand as he runs out the door and into dad's car to go to a practice, scouts, study session, or something else. But when we actually sit down for dinner, it is peaceful. It is happy. It is family. And I love it.

Other things I love:

Writing in my journal. It brings clarity and peace to my life. I love reading through old entries and remembering where I was at a particular moment. I love reliving the feelings. I love trying to remember what I was talking about when I wrote something random.

Watching my boys not bicker and argue. Those moments are not as often as I would like, as they seem to bicker about everything these days. But today, they helped each other clean the guest room. I walked in and they were folding a blanket together without arguing. I could have fallen over from shock at that moment.

Kissing my husband. The small kisses when I am cooking at the stove. The big kisses when he leaves for work or comes home. The feel of his arms wrapped around me lifting me off the ground. That is a slice of heaven.

The sound of my boys laughing. This is another slice of heaven. Hearing their laughter and seeing the smiles that accompany that sound.

Watching my children sleep. I have said it before, but the innocence and peace bring me to tears almost every time.

Family prayer. Yes, it may be corny, but I love to hear my boys pray for our family. I love for them to hear their father and I pray for them. It love the bond that it creates and the love we each feel from each other and from Heavenly Father.

I love my family. They are everything. Even when the world makes me angry. Even when the world is screaming at me from every direction. Even when the world is at peace. Even when I love everyone I see. Even when I love everything I see. I still love my family more.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Accountability

A Story:
Student: I wanted to talk to you about why you marked me absent last Tuesday.
Me: I marked you absent because you were not in class last Tuesday.
Student: But you didn't mark XYZ absent, and he was not here either.
Me: And how do you know that?
Student: Because he told me.
Me: Well, he wasn't here either, and I did mark him absent. I cannot show you his attendance record, but you can ask him again if you want. He was marked absent, and I don't know why he would tell you otherwise.
Student: Well, I still don't understand why you marked me absent. I think it was because you are mad at me.
Me: Interesting. I am not angry at you at all, but I am sorry you think so. However, I am not sure how my feelings change the fact that I marked the attendance as accurately reflecting your absence. Just out of curiousity. Did you know we had class last Tuesday?
Student: Yes, I knew.
Me: Did you have an appointment you forgot to tell me about?
Student: No.
Me: Were you sick and couldn't come to class?
Student: No.
Me: Well, did you come to class last Tuesday?
Student: No
Me: Well, if you knew we had class, and you did not have an appointment, and you were not sick, why weren't you in class?
Student: I just wasn't.
Me: So, you know that you were not in class last Tuesday even though you were supposed to be, right?
Student: Yes.
Me: You knew you had to be here. You know it is my job to take attendance. You know that you were not here. I don't understand why are you upset?
Student: Because you are not being fair.

Can someone please explain how this is MY fault? I do not understand, but somehow, I ended up the bad guy in this situation. After more discussion and what I thought was understanding, the student left my classroom. I thought everything was okay. I was wrong. Apparently, he is still upset. His sister and two other friends are made at me now too. Apparently, I hurt his feelings. I wonder what he told his parents?

Did I mention this is one of the students I go to church with? Sunday should be interesting.

Maybe it's the extreme cold we are feeling at an altitude above 6000 feet. Who knows, but how hard is it to accept accountability for your own actions?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homemaker...

Tomorrow I will teach the lesson "Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion." In preparing this lesson, I was struck by the term Homemaker. The stereotype is the stay at home mom who cooks, cleans, and sews.

What strikes me about this lesson is that preparing to become an eternal companion is more than just learning to cook, clean, sew and take care of a home. Preparing to become an eternal companion also means educating yourself, both in spiritual and secular matters.

I have never been one to rely on the testimony of others, and I knew that as a wife this would continue. I did not want to be a wife who relied on her husband's spirituality instead of my own. Heavenly Father has an eternal companion, and I am convinced that she is just as spiritually strong as he is. As a young woman, I knew that to be a good wife and mother, I had to have my own spiritual strength.

I have also never been one to rely on the intelligence of others to get me through life. Truth be told, I have always been super competitive in academics. I know it sounds vain, but I like being intelligent. As a student, I liked doing well in school, and I loved to be the smartest in the class. I always knew that I would go to college, but at a young woman, I was always told that my husband's education was more important than my own. To this I always thought, "Um, that is CRAP!  Why should my husband's education be more important than my own?"

The thought of marrying a man who put his own education above my own was deplorable and just plain wrong. My education is just as important as my husband. And if a man was going to be my eternal companion, he should not only understand that, but respect it as well.

Back to the word homemaker. It is my responsibility to make my house a home.  I am a good cook. I do the laundry, I keep my house clean. I have a sewing machine, but I really have no interest in sewing.   However, making a home is more than just those things. I am a good mother; I love my sons. I take care of them. I nurture them. But being a wife and mother means more than that. Being an educated woman makes for a better wife and mother; it makes for a better homemaker. If my husband comes home and cannot carry on an intelligent conversation with me, then what is the point?  If I do not understand basic economics and household finances, then what is the point? If I cannot help my children with their homework because all I wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and mother, then what is the point?  If my children cannot look at their mother and see the value of education, then what is the point?

Making a home is so much more than cooking, cleaning, and sewing. When my son was three years old and asked my how planes stay in the air, I was able to answer him without using google. When my son was four years old and asked why all of his toys were made in China, I was able to answer him without turning to google. I use my college education every single day as a mother, and I use more than just my degree in English Literature and Language. My children saw their dad support me in going to school to receive my Master of Arts degree. They saw me supporting their dad while he received his own MBA.  (We are not completely crazy; we got our degrees at different times.) My children saw the blessings that have come from the sacrifices we made for our education. Our children have watched as we became better people.  My children know that our house is a home because of all of these things.

I truly hope that as I teach the girls, they understand that being a homemaker is more than the stereotype. There is a greater responsibility to making a home than just being able to cook, clean, and sew.