Category Archives: Family

You did this. You fix it.

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I am sure in the last couple of days I’ve offended people. I don’t doubt that some of my friends think less of my opinion now. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I’ve been unfollowed or even “unfriended” on Facebook (I haven’t bothered to look).
 
I’m really trying not to care.
 
Like many libertarians, I sit in an uncomfortable middle ground. Many of my friends voted for Trump after an agonizing decision making process. Many of my friends skipped to the polls to vote for Clinton. I understand both votes, but personally chose neither.
 
The longer I sit with this, the angrier and more heartbroken I find myself. While I do understand (sort of) people’s votes, I do not understand why the establishment engineered this.
 
I do not understand why the RNC did not do more to stop Trump from the get go. I do not understand why the media ignored or minimized Trump’s ugly sexual history. I do not understand why they did not censure him when he said awful things about Megyn Kelly. I don’t understand why the Republicans fought out a battle of ego while Trump took the trophy.
 
I also do not understand why the DNC guaranteed Clinton was the nominee. I don’t understand why they intentionally worked against Sanders and his supporters. I don’t understand why they alienated a large portion of their potential voters for a candidate who has a controversial past and questionable judgement.
 
I also do not understand the reactions from the left or the right. Trump is awful. He is the scum of the earth. It is hard for me to fathom him as president.
 
However, my friends on the left, you need to understand: violently protesting in the streets, shutting down traffic and slowing PD and EMS response, attacking Melania Trump, blaming the right as sexist, racist, and bigoted only serves to divide us further. Claiming that Trump voters do not understand what it means to be afraid of the government is naive. Why do you think they bought all those guns you mocked them for? Unfriending people on Facebook puts you in an isolation chamber that makes you less able to understand the right. It is that kind of language and behavior that got us here in the first place.
 
The left’s utter refusal to relate to the right is as responsible for this as anything else.
 
Meanwhile, the right’s response is equally upsetting to me. Dismissing people’s fears, uninviting your liberal family from Christmas, ignoring the fact that Trump is a sexual predator because you hope his policies are good, voting for change for the sake of change (come on, this is what you criticized the left for with Obama), only serves to fracture us more. Happily supporting fascist policies scares those of us who know better. Right now, today, this minute, you need to reach out to people who are frightened and assure them that you voted for Trump in spite of his planet-sized flaws and you do not hold his bigoted views.
 
The right’s complete dismissal of Trump’s character as concerning and his policies as dangerous is as responsible for this as anything else.
 
The only people who benefit are the power players of the oligarchy. Your refusal to listen and understand and take responsibility for how we got here means that we will continue on this path which leads to more pain and more political upheaval and more of the same.
 
So pick. I made my choice. I will not keep perpetuating the cycle. I’m going to continue to sit in the painful middle and continue to reject the system. If you will not join me, I’m afraid that you are helping perpetuate the cycle. You, my friends, you did this. Now you need to fix it.
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Lessons from Eve: Filling our cups and choosing progression

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I spend a lot of time thinking about Eve. Perhaps more than any other figure in scripture, except Christ Himself, Eve draws me in. Much of her story is obscured. Outside of Mormonism, she is often disparaged by Christianity. Even within Mormonism, I have heard people refer to her and her choice to take the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in very negative terms, despite our teachings that the fall was integral to the Plan of Salvation.

But I love Eve. Whether her story is an allegory, as much of the Bible is, or whether she is a real person is immaterial to me. Her story is amazing. Because we know so little it, there’s lots of room for interpretation and I spend a lot of time contemplating the space we don’t know, the “what happened” in between what the Bible and church teachings tell us happened.

One of the things I admire about Eve is how she wasn’t willing to “settle” or give up what she needed. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. I’ve contemplated it a lot without an answer yet. However, I admire her for it.

At some point, Eve decided it was time for her to progress. She was ready to move on from the Garden. I imagine that before she got to that point, she’d done a lot of walking with God, asking questions, learning what she could. Maybe she and Adam had had lots of conversations about this. I believe they learned a lot together.

Maybe at some point, Adam had said to her “Why do you want to leave this place? It is easy. It has everything we need. Why would we leave?”

Maybe Eve had initially said to him “I will wait for you to be ready, for you to understand why.”

Perhaps she waited patiently for him for eons, learning and growing as much as she could. Perhaps he was learning too, but more slowly or more cautiously.

I wonder if, in their conversations, Eve wanted to leave more quickly, but caution or fear or a lack of understanding made Adam hesitate. Maybe Adam was waiting to be commanded to leave.

Maybe one day, Eve said to Adam, “Our parents are not going to make us go. This has to be our choice, Adam. We have learned all that we can here. We have grown all that we are able. It is time for us to go.”

I don’t mean to make Adam less. Maybe he was right there with Eve. Maybe he was her partner in every way, learning with her right at the same pace. Maybe they were completely united in the decision. When Eve took the fruit, I wonder if Adam was there with her, standing by her side, waiting for her to hand him the fruit.

Perhaps Eve took the fruit first because that was her stewardship, her mission, and Adam couldn’t do it before she had.

Still I wonder: was Eve the driving force in that decision? Was Adam away somewhere, knowing that Eve had decided to leave and trying to decide if he was going to support her in her growth and go with her out of the garden?

What I do know is that Eve stepped forward and took responsibility for her choices, for her progression, for her happiness. She made an impossibly brave choice to follow her heart, her inner wisdom, her intuition and respect her needs and her wants. In pursuing her mission, in filling her cup, she gave us all life and a legacy as women that we should embrace.

Satan would have us think that sacrifice is always the right choice, that giving up what we want and need for someone or something else is always a good thing. That’s not true. Sometimes we need to say “This is what I need and I will honor that.”

There are many lessons that I have learned by pondering about Eve. This is one of them: It is good and it is right to fill our own cups, to not minimize our own needs and to respect our own progression. Even if caring for ourselves means that that our husbands or our children or our church have to sacrifice too, that is ok. Eve was not a martyr.

Perhaps Eve left the Garden for us, but I think she also left the Garden for her.

Trying to keep track

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We have a terribly bad habit in my extended family: we don’t really keep personal records. I have an aunt who is a professional genealogist, but she “married in” and is not related by blood. Beyond that, I don’t think any of us are really good record keepers (I took an informal survey of my family on Facebook and most of us admitted to “trying” and doing it in stops and starts but not with real consistency).

In some ways, it’s not our “fault” as this bad habit has been passed down from our ancestors (and, yes, the irony in that strikes me), according to my mother. For example, Elizabeth Caldwell, a grandmother of mine, who came to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company, wrote little to nothing of her experience. Meanwhile, her sister, Agnes (who is an aunt), was much more prolific and her stories have been told repeatedly in LDS general conferences, the movie 17 Miracles and elsewhere. Elizabeth was one of many who passed down bad habits.

I come by this weakness doubly cursed. My father’s family kept very few records and most of the little I know about my ancestry on that side comes from government records and the occasional story from a long lost cousin (who could share about my ancestors because his ancestors mentioned them in journals). My grandfather saw so little point in family history, he threw away boxes of it (a thought that still makes me want to throw up).

This lack of family record keeping makes me sad, especially as I try to get to know my ancestor better. I want my own children to know more than I do about who they are and where they came from and I want to know the angels who surround me better. I’m also a writer and I feel like if anyone is going to do a decent job of keeping a written record, it “should” be me, the writer.

More than any of that, though, I want to remember my own life better and keep better records of my children as they grow. I want my children and grandchildren to know who I was and how I became who I am.

I recently purchased a “one line a day” journal in an attempt to help me along. I’m finding that it’s helpful to have, although it definitely doesn’t automatically make a habit. Rather than doing it daily, I’m finding time every week or two and while I remember “big” things, I’m left with a lot of holes.

In fact, that’s bee the most disturbing thing to me: there are many days I don’t remember a single thing that happened and that those days I’m forgetting are just a week or two prior. There are literally huge blocks of my life which I have completely forgotten.

It’s a horrifying thought to me.

It also leaves me sad as a mom because that means that there are blocks of my child’s life I’m forgetting. There are things I want to remember, but can’t because there’s not space in my brain and I’m not writing them down.

I even have a journal for Little Miss because I wanted to keep track of “things” and I wanted her to know who she was as tiny human person. I write in it rarely and while I’d rather spend time with Little Miss than write in her journal, I know when I have time, I’m choosing to make other choices. I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt on that one, but I’ll admit I sometimes feel like a bad mom because of it.

As I’ve been evaluating my own record keeping, I’m learning that I want to keep better records as much for me as for anyone else.

I’m trying to keep track of my life better. Photos, videos and journal writing – even one sentence journals – are some of the ways I’m trying to do that.

Maybe one day my great-grandkids won’t curse me the way I curse my great (great, great, great, great)-grandparents and perhaps I’ll be able to hold onto the fleeting moments a little better.

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Addressing Essential Oil Safety

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I’ve been contemplating how to write this post for a while. I feel somewhat unqualified to address it because I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of essential oils. However, as essential oils gain popularity and more and more people I know start using them, I feel like I need to speak up.

I love essential oils. I grew up with them. My mom started using them over 20 years ago and using them are part of my mentality.

As I’ve changed from a passive user (meaning that someone else has told me how to use them and what to use) to an active user, I’ve spent a lot of time researching them. I’ve learned a lot about the oils I grew up with and added new favorites. They are wonderful, powerful tools.

However, essential oils are not inert. They are powerful tools and need to be used with respect.

Lavender oil can increase prepubescent breast tissue. Peppermint oil can cause laryngeal spasms which can close a child’s airway. Clary sage can induce labor and cause miscarriage. Tea tree oil can cause nerve damage.

My purpose in sharing these oil dangers is not to scare anyone away from using oils, but to illustrate a point. Like all powerful tools, there are benefits and there are potential risks. The important thing is to be informed of these risks and how to minimize them.

There are essential oil companies on the market whose recommendation for use is unsafe.

Most oils should not be used “neat” (undiluted), taken internally, used at “normal” strength on children or “diluted” with water (come on, people… oil can’t be diluted with water; this is basic chemistry). If you react to them, it’s not your body detoxing. It’s you having a reaction to them and if you do not discontinue use, you should only continue with extreme caution.

Many of the essential oil sales reps are my friends and neighbors. I don’t blame them for not having proper information. It’s a corporate issue and it’s at least a little bit profit-driven.

If you use one drop of oil diluted in a teaspoon of carrier oil, you will use your oil more slowly than if you need six to ten drops of neat essential oil to cover the same area. The company is going to sell less.

I’m not saying to never use oils neat, to ingest them, to use them in a bath or on a child. We do all of those things at our house. But we research them, consider the risks and the benefits and make a decision based on those things.

Even still, we aren’t immune from negative reactions. Little Miss Monkey has a lavender allergy (I have a sensitivity) which made it difficult for her to breathe when we used it on her. That was VERY scary as a mom. I also recently discovered I have a thyme allergy. Thyme was/is a new oil to me and I had a very painful reaction to it. In both cases, we were using best practices and following safety guidelines. If we weren’t, both of our reactions could’ve been much, much worse.

If you are new to essential oils (or even if you’re a veteran user), I love the web site Learning About EOs and the Facebook page Using Essential Oils Safely.

I’ll begin the way I started – I love essential oils. They are wonderful, powerful tools. They have risks and it’s important to be aware of them. By doing so, we can use them for their incredible benefits in a safe way.

 

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Traits of a Mother

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In my last post, I talked about asking the question “What is a ‘Mother’?“. I shared some of why I have asked that question. You will want to read that post for background to be able to understand this one.

As I said in that post, I understand “motherhood” is an incredibly sensitive topic. I hope to heal broken hearts, lift others up and shed light on a topic I have come to care deeply about. If you find this topic painful, you may want to come back to the blog another day. The Savior can heal all wounds, but His time is not ours and sometimes the balm of Gilead is slow to heal. This post is not about culturally accepted motherhood, but about a richer, deeper calling that is available to any woman who wants it.

I promised to share some of the traits I felt defined what a Mother is. You might not agree with everything on my list, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. Ponder it and pray about it. Then, consider making your own list. I’d love to hear it.

The traits that make a mother are wide and rich. This list is far from inclusive, but it does cover the critical basics. Here are a few of my thoughts:

 

1. A Mother is a Life-giver or Life-bringer. This is probably the single-most defining factor of what a Mother is. The most obvious example of this is childbearing. Women who sacrifice their bodies, their health and their sanity to give mortal life to a child are prime examples of the life giving role of a Mother. This is what we typically define motherhood to be. I call it “little-m motherhood”. However, there is so much more to this. Mothers bring life to their homes, to gardens and yards, to communities, to businesses, to ideas, to governments and to the world. Women who write books often compare the process to their experience with childbirth – hard work, sometimes painful, and so, so worth it in the end. To me, there are very few things as wonderful as seeing a seedling pop through the earth and then later to be able to harvest the bounty of a garden. It’s wonderful to know that I am responsible for that life. I’ve seen others give life to businesses. It’s amazing to see their business grow and blossom. I’m doing the same thing right now, watching my own company begin to take life, with the same sort of anticipation as I have had watching others do the same. Giving life extends to every aspect of the world in which we walk and Mothers are the people who bring that life into being.

2. A Mother is a circle maker. Just as Mothers bring life, they also usher in death. Death is simply a necessary step in our growth process and Eve’s choice was key to both. By partaking of the fruit, Eve brought both mortal life and mortal death. Women’s bodies cycle through life and death in a monthly microcosmic way (the book The Healing Power of the Sacred Woman talks about this concept in really powerful ways). We have lost the ability to honor the natural cycle of womanhood the way that many more “primitive” cultures do, but the circular nature of a woman’s life force can be seen in ripples throughout her world.

One example of this cyclical nature of womanhood in the seasons of a woman’s life. First she is a maiden and then the maiden dies as she becomes a mother (little m). For a time the mother lives and then she dies as a woman becomes a crone. Simultaneously, a woman may live through another type of seasons. Many women, especially in Mormonism, have careers or paying jobs prior to and in the early years of their marriage. Then when children are born, they retire from that season of their live to be “stay at home” parents. When their children begin attending school or grow up and leave home, many go back to school to complete degrees (or get new ones) and then enter the workforce again. While men often do all these things at the same time, many women live their lives in stages, closing one circle before drawing the next. Intentional or not, these seasons of life which open with a birth and close with a death of sorts speak testament of the cycle of mortality and the dual role of Eve as life giver and death bringer.

Mothers make circles in other ways. We encircle each other, children, our spouses, our goals and our dreams in the embrace of round arms and warm hearts and we create protective circles around those who have been attacked or injured. Which brings me to my third trait.

3. A Mother is a protector and a warrior. So often we refer to men as the protectors. The protection of a father is wonderful, but no one protects like a Mother. When it comes to childbirth, a woman’s body literally responds to external stimuli in labor to protect her child. In the wild, no one protects like a mama. I was once within a few hundred yards of a mother grizzly bear and her cub. I was too naive to be scared, but I realize today how extremely dangerous the situation was. When faced with danger, a Mother fiercely protects whatever is hers. Mothers will cross oceans, walk through broken glass, take down grown men and governments and ruthlessly remove any obstacle between her and her “child” – be that an actual human child or an adult she loves or a cause she feels called to protect. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop a protective Mother.

4. A Mother is a counselor, a wise woman and a healer. I suppose I could’ve broken these three up, but I feel like they are inseparable. Mothers have incredible intuition. I watched my own mother invite people into our home to treat general family illnesses. Her area of expertise – or at least the thing I remember her treating most – was ear infections. So often, she just knew what to do. Some of this was training and some of it was intuition. In nearly all “primitive” cultures, women have a place among the “medicine elders”. These women are not only physical healers, but spiritual healers as well. They conduct rituals for rain, good fortune and protection. They often direct the spiritual affairs of a tribe or community. They provide counseling. They attend births and deaths – the two places where the mortal and spiritual world collide most clearly. It doesn’t matter if there is a male hierarchy or a male chief at the head of the tribe. When the witch doctor says to do something everybody listens.

Even in our “modern” society, we see this. Our culture so often treats women in a derogatory way, referring to men in relationships as “whipped” and their (female) significant others as “the old ball and chain”. Culture tries to diminish the powerful role of a Wise Woman. But any man, woman or child worth their salt will listen to that guiding voice of a Grandmother or a Mother. Any husband with true respect for his wife knows to listen to the Mother inside his wife when she speaks.

Mothers hold space in times of trial, rejoice in times of gladness, find clarity in times of confusion and speak words of praise in times of clarity. They do all of this with the combined wisdom of generations of Mothers and Grandmothers handed down in their genetic and energetic code.

5. Mothers honor their calling and others’. Because they have strong intuition and because they know to follow that intuition, Mothers are often very confident in their callings. Whatever that calling is, a Mother does not get easily pulled down into the weeds or trapped in the false promises of Ego. They also have no problem allowing others to follow their own path. Honoring their calling gives them a place of confidence and self-assurance from which to operate from. They know that God doesn’t give us all the same path and that each child has to find their own way.

6. A Mother brings light. You know those people who just light up a room? Women who make you feel good about yourself? Those women reflect what a Mother is. Light is the single most essential element for growth. Even plants that grow in the dark (think mushrooms) need light as part of their growth chain. Light provides energy. Energy creates the ability to grow. Some women claim they are not the nurturing type, but I’ve yet to meet a Mother who doesn’t bring light in some form. Even if you don’t light up a room, that does not mean you do not bring light. Some of us have gentle, filtered light. Others light is bright and shiny. Still others of us have light that is harsh and cleansing. All of these forms of light nourish growth if we let them.

7. A Mother crosses generations. Mothers are simultaneously Eve and modern woman tied up together. They are daughters and mothers, granddaughters and grandmothers. They reflect the past while gazing into the future. Their stories resonate through generations, inspiring their sons and daughters to move forward by looking backwards. They hold the secrets of the past and the promise of the future all in the cup of their hands.

8. A Mother is a teacher. Mothers are naturally teachers. They lead the way when they are called to. They sit back when they know we need to learn on our own. Whoever their “children” are, they show us the way, teach us correct principles and let us walk in the Light. They teach us to value ourselves by caring for themselves. One of the most selfless things a Mother does is to care for herself, teaching us that we can best help others by keeping our own cups filled. She show us that Living Water is the best way to fill our cups and that a critical part of “self care” building a relationship with Deity.

 

This is my “short list”. I am sure that as I keep chasing this topic, I will gain more understanding of what Motherhood is. Those who restrict Motherhood to childbearing and rearing have a limited understanding of what it truly is. Motherhood is a calling that every woman is invited to take part in. Not every woman will. The conflation of childbearing with Motherhood, the pain of not being able to have a “traditional family” in mortality, the pull of other callings will all lead some to different paths. Choosing otherwise, wanting otherwise does not mean there is something “wrong” with you. But every woman who wants it is welcome to take part in Motherhood. As women, as daughters of Eve, this is our birthright.

What half a decade looks like

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Well… I’ve officially been married for five years. That’s half a decade and almost a full 1/5 of my life (for those of you who are good at math, yes, that makes me about 25 and yes, that means I got married young).

In some ways five years feels like a very short period of time, which it is, and also feel like a eternity, which it can be.

In the last five years, we have: lived in four different apartments in three cities, held a collective 10 different jobs, attended three different schools, gotten 2 degrees (and DH is almost done with another), owned at least six different cell phones and three computers, bought a house and three cars, paid off about $10,000 of debt, driven over 10,000 miles in vacation road trips, made dozens of trips between Idaho Falls and Salt Lake and had a baby. We have had incredible ups and downs, easy and tough times. We’ve done for richer and for poorer and for practically broke. We’ve seen each other through all sorts of things.

Marriage has been both my biggest trial and my biggest blessing, second only to parenthood.

Five years ago, I married my sweetheart after a whirlwind romance. He was sweet and respectful and honest and dang persistent. He invested in me and invested in my family. He was not my “type”, he was not what I thought I wanted at all but he was good and somehow he stole my heart. I was smart and beautiful and engaging and ambitious and he was not intimidated by me (or if he was, he didn’t let that scare him off).

We’d dated before, for nearly a year in high school, but I never thought I’d marry him (and said as much when someone asked me). I was in high school for crying out loud and honestly, when we dated in high school I planned on not getting married (although I do remember thinking he was the kind of guy who could change my mind).

I don’t think we were each others’ “soul mates”. But that was ok. We chose each other. We were blissfully naive and we thought we loved each other.

After we got married all of the differences that make us compliment each other so well now caused us to clash horribly. We struggled and learned how to work together, how to argue without fighting and how to rely on the strength of the Atonement and our temple covenants. Sometimes just by sheer stubbornness we have gotten through things I hope to never repeat but I would never wish didn’t happen.

In the last five years I have learned to be softer, to be kinder, to serve more willingly, to be more forgiving and less judgmental. I have learned that love and patience makes it easier to change than rejection and nagging. I have learned that there are many qualities that makes someone deserve respect. I have learned that God is the best ally in a marriage and that no marriage can succeed without strength borrowed from Heaven. I have learned that sometimes appreciating differences is more important than sharing similarities. I have found that not all pushing is overt and that sometimes a good example is the most powerful motivator.

Five years ago, across an altar in an LDS temple, we committed ourselves to each other and to God for time and all eternity with as much certainty and devotion as two 21 year old kids can. After five years, I can’t believe how much I have learned about what love really means and how much more I love my husband. I’m sure after 10 years, 50 years and 500 years I will feel the same about today and I do now about our wedding day.

To me, celebrating an anniversary isn’t about celebrating the day you got married. It’s about celebrating the life you’ve created in the time since and it’s about celebrating who you’ve become together.

Five years ago, on a very snowy, cold Idaho winter day, I married one of the best men I knew. Today he is still one of the best men I know. I’m so thankful for him and the five years behind us and the eternity before us. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead as I walk, hand in hand with my eternal companion.

Returning to God as we celebrate the holidays

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There is much I hate about this time of year. I hate the snow. I hate the wind. I hate that the days are short and the sky is dark long before I leave work. I hate the traffic. Oh how I hate the traffic. And driving in the snow. And how in Utah drivers don’t slow down which causes accidents and makes bad roads extremely dangerous. I hate the cold. I hate that I can run the heat for hours and still feel cold. I hate the consumerism and how Christmas shopping is so important that Thanksgiving has been washed away. I could go on, as there is much I hate about this time of year.

But there is also much that I love about this time of year. I love the holidays. I love the bustle of the season. I love Christmas Trees and Weihnachtspyramides and Nativities and Christmas lights. I love the shopping and the decorating and the thinking of others. I love brewed cocoa and homemade English toffee and peppermint bark.

And I love how my thoughts, and much of the world surrounding me, pivots, however slightly, towards God.

You see, I feel like there is something special about the time between the end of November and the middle or so of April. Yes, the days are dark and cold, they are not necessarily bleak (except perhaps in late January and February… We should fix that!)

I think these dark days are kind of a blessing. It’s like the cliche The darker the night, the brighter the stars. Christmas is a bright spot in the year, but for me I think it would be lost a little bit in the warmth and business of summer. In fact, it is in the summer that I find the distance between me and Deity grows. There is something about this time of year, and perhaps it is in fact the very cold and dark I so dislike, that pulls me and so many others back towards Heaven.

One of the things I love about my LDS faith is that it teaches than anything that is good comes from God (See Moroni 7:16). So regardless of whether you believe in God or not and regardless of your denomination the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year holiday quadrumvirate often causes us to look outside of ourselves and when we look beyond ourselves we look to God.

When we look to God, even when we are not consciously doing it, the world changes, the darkness lifts and the forces of evil are diminished. I think we all can agree that we need more light in our world.