Thursday, January 31, 2013


What makes you "except"ional?  And by that, I don't mean what are your gifts, talents, special skills, etc.  I meant what is your "We should obey the commandments, except me, with this one here, where I've developed a great self-justification or believe I am the exception to the rule?" We all do it, at times, so examples large and small abound.

Honor the Sabbath day, use it as a time to be with your family and your ward, to read and talk and ponder on sacred, holy things.  Except if your kid is, like, super-dooper good at soccer.  Or football. Or basketball.  Then, by all means, travel and attend clinics and games and tournaments on Sunday.  It will teach him commitment and follow-through and team building.  He'd never learn that from, say, honoring his commitment to use the power and authority of the Priesthood to prepare and administer ordinances of salvation to his ward members, with his fellow quorum members.

Don't put off marriage and family.  Except if you've got a lot of years of grad school ahead of you, or you'd rather be in your own home first, or you really need some "couple" years before you have babies.  How could you possibly focus on the right things if you have a family distracting you from your secular education?  How could you possibly grow close and get to know each other and love and appreciate each other better if you're raising a baby together?

Don't watch R-rated movies.  Except if they have a lot of really good, redeeming qualities or a meaningful story mixed in with the foul language or gratuitous violence.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  We all think (or behave as though we think) we are the exception to the rules.  We rob ourselves when we do that.

But here's the flip side: sometimes, in some circumstances with some rules, there are exceptions.  The Lord commanded Nephi to slay Laban, after all.  He didn't tell him to defend himself with lethal force against man lunging at him with a sword or a gun.  He commanded Nephi to slay a blacked-out drunk--a momentarily vulnerable, defenseless man.  He made a very big exception to a very important rule in order to fulfill his righteous purposes.  Laban had plenty of chances to do the right thing, but he didn't, so the Lord told Nephi, essentially, we need to make an exception here.  Do you think that if someone else had been watching down the street and saw what Nephi did they'd believe him if he said, "The Lord told me to"?

So you don't get to play judge and jury with who is or isn't the exception (or come down hard on someone because you think the rule they break is more important that the ones you break).  Probably not as many people are an exception to the rule as think they are.  But that is between them and the Lord, not you and them.  The Lord doesn't tell you whether or not they are the exception, he tells you whether or not you are.  Focus on the places where you are behaving as though you are the exception to the rule.  Obedience to the law is what our blessings are predicated upon, so if you think you're the exception to the rule, make sure that you're as certain as Nephi was.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thoughts on the role of women

One of the most difficult things for me to face about our society is that there is very little understanding in the world about different forms of power and strength--we have been steadily erasing the vital and eternal roles--and differences--assigned to us in favor of a more superficial and, ultimately, destructive "equality".

I took my kids to see Brave this summer, and I loved it.  It hit home with me, as a brown-haired, relatively-mild-mannered-but-sometimes-still-prideful mother to two wild-haired, independent, willful and high-spirited red-headed Scottish daughters.  The thing about the movie I loved the very best, however, was how the men were all good-hearted but still barely civilized ruffians, who devolved to competition and then battle nearly any time they were left alone.  But the second a woman walked into the midst of their contentions, they immediately froze.  The battle stopped.  Too few people understand anymore why these men would've reacted this way, and why that division of and respect for the differing roles of men and women are vital to the success and health of communities and civilizations.  Sometimes it is very literally true that women can, by properly embracing the roles given to them by a wise Heavenly Father, and making righteous use of the power inherent in those roles, stop the bullets from flying.  My father shared this story on Facebook last week:

"In Gulag, Solzhenitsyn noted that when trains bearing prisoners to Siberia stopped in small towns to get water for the steam engines, guards were posted to prevent any contact between locals and the thirsty prisoners in the cattle guards. It was always old women who ignored the soldiers and their guns and did what they always did--responded to immediate human needs--,who took water and food to the prisoners.

I reminded James Billington of that story once after he told me about being in Moscow when the Soviet regime collapsed. He said that as the Soviet army surrounded the Kremlin with its tanks, no one knew how the story would end. He said that what really happened, that went unreported, was that the Russian babushkas, the grandmothers, went out among the tanks and told the young men to 'go home.' He said, "a different moral order asserted itself and the crisis passed.'"

These women did not defend their homeland with tanks and guns--they prevented battle altogether by properly using the moral authority inherent in their roles as mothers and grandmothers.  Women, who pass through the valley of the shadow of death to bring souls through the veil into this world, who expend so much of their time and energy and focus on protecting and comforting and nurturing those lives,  women who are required to bear so much of the brunt of the spiritual battle for the welfare of those souls, should not be asked to go to physical battle to see those lives cut short. Women should not be asked to see those bodies that they, with God's assistance, created from their own bodies, fed from their own bodies, mangled and mutilated.  Men should not 
be asked to train out of themselves their natural and good instinct to provide protection to the women around them first;  men should not be asked to extinguish the natural deference he has toward women, the natural inclination to see in all women the tenderness and nurturing that he has received at the hands of his mother, his wife, his sisters--he should have the privilege, especially in the ugliness of battle, to be able to see in women the loving glances and warm embraces of his beloved daughters.  As they return from battle, men must be met at the home front with softness and nurturing, to remember why they are fighting--the role of women needs to be preserved not as fellow soldier on the field, but as a reminder of all the good and gentle things for which they fight.  Otherwise, men who are asked to battle often turn from soldiers into monsters.  When men are trained to see women no differently than they see men in the most stressful and ugly and surreal circumstances in this world, the consequences for civilizations are grave. 

A few years ago, I was talking with my husband and several of his coworkers and friends discussing recent events in our community which had caused considerable stress and concern for all of us, and a couple of the men, in the course of the conversation, used a few vulgar swear words.  Almost immediately they caught themselves and turned to me--the only woman present--and apologized for their language.  I know many women who would've been offended or amused by that action, which seems quaint by many people's standards today.  I certainly did not expect it, but I was grateful for it.  I had worked with all these men myself, and had great affection for them.  I knew their characters well, and had no doubt of their respect for my intelligence and capabilities.  They did not show they respected me by treating me like "one of the guys", they showed that they respected me by remembering that I wasn't.

I have never believed that having different, but complementary, roles makes men and women unequal.  The sad reality of our times is that in attempting to make themselves "equal" to men, many women have in fact been seeking to make women "the same" as men, and in so doing have made themselves less powerful, less effective.  There are many women who are physically stronger than many men, and that is true of nearly every "manly" characteristic you could substitute into that sentence, but the characteristics and capabilities of men in general and women in general are different, and with good reason.  Women, in seeking to be powerful or strong in the same ways as men, have failed to recognize the incredible power and strength inherent in their female nature, and, in so doing, have weakened both themselves and men.  I'm not optimistic that that his a trend we can reverse, but I think it is one that could have some of the most dramatic effects on our society.

As a woman, the power rests largely with you to create.  It is largely the power of your body that creates new life.  It is largely your influence that shapes the character and decisions of those souls you bring into this world.  It is the result of that nurturing and those many years of sacrifice and service and love that gives you the power to step up to a man with a machine gun and a tank and tell him, "Go home" and have him listen.  Do not abandon that power for lesser things, for poorly defined ideas of "equality".  There is unspeakable strength and power, sisters, in the roles the Lord has given you as wives and mothers and sisters and daughters--as creators and nurturers.  Do not sell that marvelous birthright for a mess of porridge.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I'm rocking my baby. . .

and babies don't keep.

Friends and Marital Loyalty

So I was going to leave a comment on this blog, but it was getting a bit ridiculously long for a blog comment when I thought, "Hey, you have your own blog, you know."

The primary point of the blog post is summed up in this sentence: Never say anything negative about your spouse to anyone. Ever. [The exceptions being God, in prayer; your bishop, a counselor or your spouse].  I would add that this includes the kind of jokes you make about your spouse.

It was refreshing to read this after an article I came across last week that had 15 tips for a successful marriage.  Most of the article was actually quite good--it sounded like it was written by someone who actually had a long-term successful marriage--but one tip made me laugh out loud, "Complain to his mom, not to yours".  Bad, bad advice, in my opinion.  You shouldn't be complaining to either of them.

One of the most wonderful blessings in our lives and our marriage has been that, during the most intense and challenging times in our lives, my husband's two closest friends happened to be the husbands of my two closest friends.  There were two couples we spent a lot of time with, and we were all close to each other--I worked with one of the men for some time while I was working outside our home part time, the other was my bishop while I was Young Women's president, and both of the sisters had at various points worked with my husband because of his callings, and we all love each other and have high opinions of each other.  All of us have very good marriages, something each couple puts a high priority on. Knowing that one of us had some frustration or agitation with our husband would never diminish the favorable opinion that the others had of that man as a husband, father and individual, but because there was such wonderful affection on all sides, there was never much temptation to complain or criticize. Because the people around you saw the best things about your spouse and appreciated those things, it made it easier for you to remember those things yourself.  It has been such a comfort in life to have friends who love my husband and are as forgiving of his flaws as they are of mine.  Neither of those sisters would've indulged me if at some point I started ranting or complaining about my husband--I'm sure they would've either changed the subject or, as politely as possible, excused themselves.  Had my husband started complaining about or criticizing me to his friends, I'm quite certain they simply would've stopped him mid sentence.  Spending time with our friends was edifying to, not erosive to, our relationship with each other.

I don't think I appreciated as much as I should what a blessing that was until I saw a contrast.  Many years ago, a friend of my husband's (now, sadly, a former friend, for many reasons) came to the house in the middle of the day.  To see me.  When he knew my husband wouldn't be there.  Big. Red. Flag. So inappropriate.  Also, completely bizarre.  I let him sit down, because, well, my impulse is always to be polite and accommodate people, and I certainly didn't suspect him of mendacious motives.  He sat down and proceeded to give me relationship advice, basically (this was rather amusing for a multitude of reasons I won't get in to).  At one point, despite my trying really hard to be polite, I actually laughed out loud at him.  Then, he succeeded in getting under my skin just before he left, when he turned and made a remark about how some joke that my husband had made about me at work that week had surprised him at how rude and over the line it was.  He also wouldn't tell me what the joke was (because that would've been a violation of my husband's trust, which clearly he was very concerned about [insert eye roll here]), and then left.  For about 10 minutes, I was very upset and rather disturbed.  I kept thinking to myself, "What on earth could he have said that this man thought was so over the line?!"  Suddenly it occurred to me: nothing.  Obviously, this dunce had to have wildly misinterpreted something.

When I stopped to evaluate it, I realized I knew my husband's character, I knew what kind of marriage we had, and I trusted my husband completely.  This guy got something wrong.  He'd gotten nearly everything else wrong that day, why would I think he was accurate here?  I trust my husband--he's given me every reason to, and no reason not to trust him.  So much did I trust my husband, that by the time he got home from work I had completely forgotten about it.  Several days later, something he said reminded me of that particularly bizarre portion or an entirely weird conversation, so I asked him what he thought the man was talking about.  He thought for several minutes, then remembered a joke he'd made the previous week that he thought may have been the catalyst.  And I laughed.  Because its a joke he would've been comfortable making in my presence.  And I would've laughed if he'd told it in front of a group of people.  We often show affection by teasing, and it was little more than that.

From that moment on, I began to be a lot more appreciative of that entirely-warranted trust I had in my husband.  But I also began to appreciate the trust I had in his friends, and in mine:  I knew that for the most part we had friends that would not indulge such destructive nonsense, who certainly wouldn't try to maximize the damage by sneaky go-rounds to the offended spouse.

If someone regularly indulges you in ranting and raving and complaining about your spouse, they are probably more interested in drama and entertainment than they are in your well-being.  Get ahold of your tongue.  Only spend significant amounts of time with people who bring out the best in you.  If someone else finds ways to pick on your spouse, defend when you're able, change the subject if you're having a hard time getting through, and if they won't drop it, drop them.  Real friends will want you to succeed and be happy--especially in the most important relationship in your life. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Murphy's Law

For some mysterious reason, I spent a week and a half dealing with some mysterious fatigue (going to bed at 10:30, sleeping in til 7:30 and still feeling exhausted and in desperate need of a nap by 2 in the afternoon), so only the basic tidying and absolute essentials had been getting done, cleaning-wise, around the house.  Yesterday, I finally felt myself again, so I scrubbed the house top-to-bottom: cleaned the floors, remade all the beds, scrubbed the bathrooms, etc.  Then, when I was finally finished, I went to pick up older kids from school and we went and scrubbed the church (its still our month, and I knew none of us were going to want to do it after dinner, and no one was going to be interested when we got home from wrestling on Saturday).  Then I got home, finished dinner, got everyone bathed, picked out their clothes for the next day (early morning), fed them dinner, watched our family movie, and got everyone put to bed, ready for the 6:30 wake up call.

I was on my feet for nearly 12 hours straight, and was pretty excited about  getting to bed.  I had been reading in bed for about five minutes when Kylie emerged from her bedroom looking dazed, with some sort of brown substance all over her pajama top.  The light was dim, and I strained for a minute and realized it was on her hands and face, too, and it clicked:  she had eaten three--yes, three--brownies after dinner.  "Did you throw up?" I asked.  She wearily responded, "I think maybe?"  I got up and pulled her hair back (in case it happened again) and looked at her bed:  covered in brown vomit (including both her Pillow Pets).  I took her to the bathroom to clean her up, and she said she had to go potty.  While she was sitting there, copious amounts of brown vomit covered the freshly scrubbed toilet and floor.  I was rubbing her back and said, "I'm so sorry, baby", to which she responded tearfully, "Its not your fault, Mommy."  I rinsed her off in the bath quickly, then put some fresh, warm pajamas on her and put her in my bed and, thinking her stomach must surely be empty by now, went to rinse her bedding and pajamas off before going downstairs to get her a bowl.  When I walked through my room, she looked at me with big, pathetic eyes and I started to walk toward her to ask how she was doing.  She asked, "Did you hear that?"  I started to ask, "Hear what?" just as I stepped in a big puddle next to my bed.

So much for all my scrubbing yesterday.

She continued to heave every hour or so for most of the night (though it was mostly dry heaves after the first time--the poor little thing had a very empty stomach by then).  So I'm home in a not-so-clean house with two little girls while Doug, Keilana and Dylan are off to Helena for Dylan's first wrestling tournament of the year.  He looked so cute in his Copperhead singlet.  I wish I got to watch him, but I finally gave Kylie some water and cereal about a half an hour before they left, and she didn't eat the cereal and promptly threw up the water.  A car ride doesn't seem like such a good idea, and a gym full of other kids sounds like an absolutely horrible one.

I need a nap.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cats in trees

So, my little girls were watching a cartoon while I cleaned this morning, and a cat got stuck in a tree so they called the firemen.  Is this one of the stupidest ideas ever or what?

If someone tied up emergency services to "rescue" a stubborn cat, I'd be really irritated if my house caught on fire.  And what is this nonsense about rescuing treed cats, anyway?  They're cats, for Pete's sake!  I'm pretty sure if a cat won't come down from a tree, its because he's sick to death of being man-handled by the overly-aggressive preschooler in the neighborhood.  But even if he really was stuck, so what?  All summer long, I'm telling my kids, "If you can get yourself up, you can get yourself down."  If they climb themselves up too high and then get worried, that's their problem.  I think this is an important lesson in choices and consequences (though if they are exceptionally high or in a particularly precarious position, I'll stick around til they get to the ground, just in case).  If I'm not gonna call the fire department to help my treed kid, I'm certainly not going to bother them about my cat.  Its a cat, for Pete's sake!

Rant over.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Turning Weaknesses into Strengths

The last year or so, I have confused a few people who watched me grow up as the youngest child in a large family by making occasional reference to "my baby sister".  I meant, of course, the wonderful Rachel, Doug's baby step-sister.  I didn't meet Rachel until she was 10 and I was 19, but I very much think of her, and love her, as my baby sister.

We ran down to Rexburg in November and stole her away to spend Thanksgiving with us.  She and I were able to have some really good conversations while she was here.  Rachel's mom had some health problems already when she got pregnant with Rachel (who was very much a surprise and a trailer baby--her oldest brother is 22 years her senior).  She didn't live very long after Rachel's birth, and Chuck, Rachel's dad, was suddenly left with a couple of young adult sons, a teenager, a five-year-old and tiny infant to take care of, all while trying to keep his business together and deal with his own overwhelming grief.  He had some very difficult years trying to find his way forward, and Rachel and her older sister spent several years living with Chuck's younger sister, who lived close.  After several years, Chuck was able to start putting his life back together and heal. When Rachel was a little girl, he started courting Doug's mom, Katy, not long after her own difficult divorce.  They courted for several years before being sealed in the Fresno, California temple.

As Rachel and I talked about her mom, her dad, and her brothers and sisters, and her step-mom and step-brothers and step-sisters, she expressed a thought that resonated with me:  as much as she would have loved to have known her mother and grown up in a traditional family right from the start, she realizes now how much she has gained through the people and experiences the Lord has placed in her life because of that loss, and she would likely be a very different person without those challenges and losses, and somewhat compensatory blessings.  She is grateful for the things she has gained and understood because of the things that were missing.  Though I lacked far less in life, I had often had this same thought about my own life, and I was impressed to hear this 19-year-old girl coming to such a wise and mature view of her life and blessings.

What I don't think I'd ever thought about much, or at least articulated any appreciation of, was how the difficulties and losses in Doug's family, and how the respective individuals responded to those challenges, have blessed my life.  I am not grateful that Chuck had to experience the heart-wrenching loss of his companion, at a relatively young age, and all the many challenges that spring from such a tremendous loss.  I am not grateful that Doug and the rest of his family had to live through a difficult marriage and messy divorce.  But I am tremendously grateful, having joined the family after all that was in the past, that those losses and difficulties provided Chuck and Katy with the opportunity to find each other.  Chuck and Rachel have been such extraordinary blessings in my life, I honestly can't imagine a version of my life with Doug's family to which they are not essential.  Chuck is the kind of man that you hope your daughters will have in a father-in-law: affectionate, kind, patient, and wonderfully generous.  He's exactly the kind of grandpa you want your kids to have: playful, gentle, and, again, so wonderfully affectionate.  Rachel dotes on my children--she is the half-generation, several years older than all the grandkids, but several years and a life phase or three behind all of her siblings, and instead of resenting that, she has found delight (and delighted all of us) in lavishing attention and affection on her nieces and nephews.

I am continually impressed by my husband's ability to hang on to the good things he learned from his parents' marriage and parenting, and let go of the rest.  I have watched him and all of his sisters try (and usually succeed) to build on the good things that they were taught at home, while simultaneously trying to change the things that didn't work.  It is much to their parents' credit, as well as their own, that they are all themselves good parents and generally kind, supportive spouses to their companions.  Even if execution of principles was sometimes elusive, they were always well instructed in how things should be, on what was truly important, and they paid attention to those things.

I think that while individuals lives vary in difficulty, its probably safe to say that no life is easy.  I am grateful to have married into a family--that is actually two families--that has shown me a wonderful example of using the weaknesses and deficiencies in life as opportunities to learn and grow and become better, all the while building on the strengths with which they've been blessed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Deep breath. . .

I wrote this in November of 2009.  I found it in my "Drafts" folder while doing some sorting.  I had forgotten I'd ever written it. I remember now why I didn't post it at that point, but I thought I'd post it now, if for no other reason that I'd like to have it, and this way I won't forget about it again.

I have largely avoided my blog and my journal lately, save for trifles. Writing has always been how I empty my mind, how I sort my thoughts and emotions. For me, often just finding a way to articulately express what I'm feeling is enough to move past it. Lately, writing anything down has made it too real, even privately. So much has transpired so quickly, but, as is often the case in life, each of the numerous heartbreaks and frustrations we've experienced lately was a long time coming, each represents a deeper problem. Life pivoted suddenly on a cancer diagnosis, but Brad's cancer is the least insidious and destructive one we've been dealing with.

My life is quite easy. There's a part of me that always feels absolutely ridiculous and self-centered for daring to be upset. For all the troubles I've come across in life I know that my life is still ludicrously easy compared to so many others--I've always struggled to believe that I have any right to ever be anything less than completely happy. My life--the parts that pertain only to me--has always been easy. I've always had plenty to eat, a nice place to live, clothes to wear, a car to drive and lots of people in my life who love me. I've never suffered any true abuse or neglect. But relationships are what matter to me, and those haven't always been easy and the people I most desire them with haven't always had a smooth path to say the least. When crap happens to me or I make a horribly bad choice, I feel frustrated and angry. When the people around me seem to be sinking in quick sand or thrown one curve ball after another, I am completely heartbroken.

That seems selfish somehow, even though I know I only feel that way because I love them. Several years ago a friend of mine said something along of the lines of "When I fell in love, I never expected to get my heart broken." I remember I thought to myself (and may have said out loud--I can't remember for certain), "That's what happens when you fall in love." Though there are varying degrees of goodness, all the people we ever love share the unfortunate defect of being human. There will be times when they fail, and if you love them, that will break your heart. And usually that's OK, because we mend up each other's hearts and move on.

There are times, however, when you can't do a whole lot except hang in there. You probably know what I'm talking about: its the father you never see, because every conversation is an argument and every act a betrayal; its the brother you love dearly but no longer recognize through the haze of addiction; its the beautiful girl you watched grow up who is now trying to bury a grief she can't deal with in alcohol and casual sex; its the girl you take into your home in hopes of giving her a better future than cycles of abuse, only to see her walk down the same road all over again; its the young man who lashes out at everyone, powerless and angry at parents who betrayed their responsibilities to him before he was even born; its the suicidal friend who calls you in the middle of the night, unsure he wants to live but pretty sure he doesn't want to die; its the loved one who refuses to get help, instead maximizing the collateral damage of their imbalance.

Its that person you know you can't really do much to help, and yet can't walk away from. A constant tug on the broken pieces of your heart. Long-suffering is just that: suffering long, because even though it hurts, you'd never forgive yourself if you gave up. I find myself watching train wrecks and thinking, "What else could I have done? Could I have been there more often? Could I have said something?" Its not about me, though. Maybe I could've done something more, but that's in the past and no matter what I do, that person still has their own agency. My responsibility is to move forward, to show the most love I can from this moment on, to be the best friend I can starting right now, using much prayer and the guidance of the Spirit to figure out what, exactly, that may mean from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. Being consumed by other people's pains to a point that we are focused more on how they affect us than they do the individual at hand is a problem. But there is nothing wrong with feeling someone else's hurts. The Lord provides a perfect salve for each wound because He knows well each pain--sometimes He grants to us a measure of that empathy so that we can be the kind of friend that He expects us to be.

What I have to be careful of is anger. There are times when I feel like I've spent too much of my life watching people I love hurt and I just don't have anything left. I get angry because its easier than hurting. Its much easier to spit out, "They should know better" and sputter about all the things they should just figure out already than it is to acknowledge that it hurts, that you have absolutely no idea what to do about it, and go to your knees and humbly ask, "Lord, what would Thou have me do?" The answer to that question is not always comfortable. And its almost never easy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Father's Love

Today in Sunday School we were discussing the First Vision (account Joseph Smith gave of his vision of God the Father and Jesus the Christ), and with that, talked about some of the history of Joseph's family and his early life.  We went over the story, familiar to most anyone who has been a member of the Church for very long, of Joseph developing a bad infection in his leg when he was a 7-year-old boy.  The most common treatment at the time would've been to cut off the leg and spare the rest of the body the infection, but they had a doctor willing to try cutting into the leg, right into the bone, to remove the infection.  This would be an excruciating surgery, without modern anesthesia, and the doctor suggested giving the boy alcohol to numb the effects of the pain.  The very young boy refused, stating that he could handle the pain if his father would hold him.  He could keep his wits about him and push through the pain, if he had his father's strength and comfort.

I've thought about that story many, many times.  It has always seemed to me a foreshadowing of the life he would lead. As a 14-year-old, Joseph went to the grove seeking solitude so that he could pray, searching earnestly for heavenly answers to the questions that were so troubling his young heart, he simply expected some direction, some confirmation, of a sect to join.  He did now know that he would see God.  He did not know that he was taking steps on the path to being a prophet--the prophet who would restore the fulness of the doctrine, ordinances and Priesthood authority of Christ's Church to the earth, authority and fulness that had been lost in the Apostasy following the Apostles' deaths--but the adversary knew.  He knew who Joseph was, and what he had been foreordained to do.  I've thought often of how terrifying those moments must've been for that young man as he tried to pray and found himself unable to speak, weighed down by some real and powerful force seeking his destruction.  He exerted himself to his absolutely fullest extent, and just when he was about to give up and submit to destruction, he was delivered.  Not only delivered, he was filled up with and surrounded by Celestial light.  I often think of those moments in my comparatively small struggles--if we are doing all that we can, if we are exerting ourselves as much as we can, our God will not abandon us to destruction.  Joseph saw and felt in a very literal and frightening way how powerful Satan is;  and just as clearly and just as literally, he saw firsthand just how much more powerful is the Lord.  I think the Lord allowed Satan to grapple with Joseph for what must've seemed to Joseph an interminably long time, so that this boy who would be prophet could know very clearly just who and what it was the work of God had to contend with--so he would know how vital it was to always exert his full might in repelling the attacks of the Adversary, to working with all his might and zeal to move forward the work of God.

I have sometimes wondered if after that moment he thought back to his young self relying on his father's strength and comfort to get him through the pain.  Joseph was sent to a good family, to good parents, where he learned early to trust and rely on the wisdom and love of his parents.  Surely that must've made it a bit easier to learn to rely on the wisdom and love of his Heavenly Father as the trials got bigger and the pains got deeper.

I have spent many hours thinking about what it must've been like for Joseph those many long months he was in Liberty Jail--and what it must've been like for Emma.  He and those with him were hungry, cold, sick, uncomfortable.  They were rarely fed anything edible, and as they suffered physically, they were in agony emotionally--their wives, their children, and their friends were all being harassed, abused and struggling to get by while these men sat wrongly imprisoned, powerless to help their loved ones.  Joseph cried out to his Father, asking how long the pain must last.  He felt as though he and his loved ones had been abandoned.  And into the cold, dark misery of that prison came a familiar voice: "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversities and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God will exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.  Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands."

He promised "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you".  The life of the Prophet Joseph Smith has long been a testimony of that truth.  Difficulties arose often--his life was seemingly one storm right after another, but always, always, always, a Father's love and comfort attended him.  He kept his wits about him and pushed through the pain with the help of his Father's strength.

I have tried hard to remember that in my own little moments of struggle and trial. We often remind ourselves (in trying to get our bums off the couch to do the things we need to do) that where much is given, much is required.  But we must never let ourselves forget that where much is required, so very, very much is given.  With such a love as His, we can weather any storm and defeat any foe--including the greatest foe of all.  The Lord told the serpent he would have the power to bruise the heel of man, but that man would have the power to crush his head.  The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God has been restored to the earth in its fullness and by the righteous exercise of its power the adversary is driven out, and he is in a panic to cause as much destruction and misery as he can before the end because he knows that he has lost, that he will never win again.  Be hopeful--it may seem like the darkness is getting worse, but that is only because the light is growing ever brighter, stretching ever farther.  And no matter how hard the great Deceiver is working to lead astray the souls of men, our Father and his servants are working even harder to win them home. Because ultimately, a Father's love is always more powerful than hatred, envy, misery and pride.

He did not abandon Joseph to destruction--he cast out the enemy and filled his child with light.  He will do the same for each of us in time.


Near the beginning of the school year, I was picking Dylan up from school, and as he climbed into the van, he asked out of the blue, "Mom, you and Dad got me at the FBI orphanage, right?"  I immediately answered, "Of course.  You were clearly the best spy baby there."  He looked thoughtful for a minute, then said, "Yeah, I thought so.  Its hard being a spy, but its fun.  Me and Ammon are getting a new mission tomorrow."

This story line has popped up periodically over the last few months, and its not his only one.  Tonight he told me he was a little nervous because on Friday, he'd seen clues that Invisible Man was going to try to attack the school on Monday, but he was having trouble contacting Ammon about the mission because one of his satellites got knocked out by the snow.  He was working on getting it back up when I put him to bed.

I love this about him.  His inner world is so rich and dynamic and fun, and he immerses himself in it so completely.  At night, if you listen hard enough, you can often hear him up on his bunk bed quietly acting out multiple parts of some exciting adventure, long after all his sisters have fallen asleep.  He's like the Daniel Day Lewis of make believe.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My secret life

So we were cleaning the church today (Mormons generally have families take turns cleaning our own buildings--it keeps costs low and helps us all better appreciate the beautiful buildings we're so fortunate to have), and when we got to the Relief Society, the kids found one of our snack cups on the floor behind the piano.

Keilana loudly asked, "What's this doing in here?"  All my kids are old enough that they go to Primary or Nursery, none of them go to Relief Society with me any more, and I almost never take snacks to church for the kids--every once in a great while I will take a small snack for Keira if she slept late enough to miss breakfast--so her confusion was understandable.

I told her that it must've been left there last week when I'd come in for a presidency meeting.  Dylan raised one eyebrow and said, "What meeting? I don't remember you taking Keira to a meeting?" I explained that I have meetings during the week sometimes, and they were both astonished that I went to a meeting, during the day, and they didn't even know about it.  They looked at me like they'd just discovered I lead a double life.

Apparently they think my life outside the house stops altogether between 8am and 3pm Monday through Friday. 

Friday, January 18, 2013


Don't emotionally hold your spouse accountable 
for the sins of your parents.  
Don't hold your children emotionally accountable 
for the sins of your spouse.  
Don't react to the person in front of you 
because of the way they remind you of someone else.  
Don't hurt someone else
just because you have been hurt.  
Seek to spread your blessings, 
not your miseries.
Having been the victim
of selfishness or cluelessness
obligates you to know better
and give better 
to those in your life and care.
It certainly does not
entitle you 
to selfishness or cluelessness
of your own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Gift

I don't think its likely I have much in common with Elder Holland.  For starters, he has a work ethic, personal discipline, spiritual enlightenment and dedication that I can only dream of.

That being said, he's long been one of my favorite speakers, because, well, who doesn't love Elder Holland's talks?  They are emotionally moving, spiritually powerful, and intellectually strong.  But one of the other reasons that his talks in particular stick out to me is that he often speaks on themes that I frequently find in my own writing, thoughts, and conversations--aspects of the Gospel and doctrine that are often on my mind and are particularly moving to me.  He speaks regularly of the reality that we are never alone, that the Lord knows us individually and personally and loves us, that there are angels everywhere, that we should always have hope, and that we should be of good cheer.  These are the thoughts I find myself coming back to over and over and over again in my own studying and pondering.

When I heard him make the statement above during an interview on the Mormon Channel series "Conversations", it immediately resonated with me and has stuck in my mind.

"One of the gifts given me is. . .I'm a believer".  I finally realized this about myself a few years ago.  Faith is, for lack of a better word, natural to me.  That isn't to say I haven't strived to develop this gift and to develop a deeper and stronger testimony, because I very much have.  But I was given the gift of belief, much of it comes relatively easily to me, which in turn makes hope and being of good cheer relatively easy.

I needed to remember that, to express my gratitude for it, to realize that I ought not be frustrated or inpatient when those I love struggle to reach a point of belief, or even seem uninterested in believing.  I spend most of my time on seeking to better understand, because belief comes easy for me.  I realized that several years ago, and I needed to be reminded that I am only able to spend as much energy focused on developing understanding because I don't need to spend a lot of time developing belief--in the deepest parts of my heart, I never truly have any doubts.  And that is a very much an unearned and all too often undeserved gift, but I am so grateful to the Lord for choosing to bestow that gift upon me.  More times than I can count, it has been the glue that has held my life--my self--together.  I pray always that I might be more worthy of that blessing, and make better use of it in blessing those around me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I know I shouldn't covet

but check this out:

It may not be heaven, but its awfully close.  The house, the creek, the ponds, the barns, the shop. . .*sigh*  AND its only 3-4 miles from town. 

A girl can dream, right?  I'll keep the horses in the corral, too.  Keilana's wanted a white horse for a couple of years.

I best get to writing that best-selling book of mine.

Privileges and Obligations

I haven't been to the temple in a very long time--or at least what seems to me like a very long time.  It has been a combination of things: time, distance, gas money, childcare, weather.  There seems to always be something getting in the way.  There are two temples within about a three-hour one-way drive of where we live, but in this climate, this time of year, that's a difficult drive to make (and having to arrange childcare for a minimum of 9 hours, or find a sitter in an unfamiliar city and take kids on those dicey roads is no small task).

I found myself wishing out loud (so to speak) on Facebook the other day that there were a temple in a city about an hour and a half from us, where I have family that could watch the kids and the drive would be more doable. A loved one of mine responded that he thought the experience loses something when its convenient--that the sacrifice makes it more meaningful.  Sacrifice makes most things more meaningful, but a temple experience--or a church service--doesn't have to be any less meaningful or special because we get to experience it more often, with less logistical challenges.  That is up to us.

When we lived in California, we were just over an hour from the temple, and the reality of a young family, work schedules, activities and gas/babysitting money meant that we rarely got to the temple more than quarterly.  But at no point was I anything less than elated to be getting to go to the temple.  I didn't realize this at the time, but that attitude rubbed off on my children.  I have noticed the excitement and glee in their faces whenever the temple comes up, and my four-year-old has told me several times that she is excited to go to the temple when she "gets big".  Though they have never been in the temple, my children see it as a desirable place that makes one happy--because that is the reality they saw in us as we attended the temple.  I didn't consciously teach that to them, but I'm glad they saw it.  But then I asked myself a question: am I succeeding in demonstrating that behavior and attitude about the other important parts of our life?  Are they seeing a mother who is excited about and attentive to General Conference?  How many mornings do I seem stressed and resentful of getting everyone out the door to church, rather than grateful for the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament and worship with devoted members of the faith that I cherish?

I thought of a moment many years ago when I stopped in the middle of my train of thought and laughed at myself.  A newly ordained Apostle was coming to our Stake Conference to reorganize our Stake Presidency, and I was so excited and ready to be at my very most attentive.  I had my notebook and pen ready, and I was certain that my 8-month-old would magically be a perfect baby and let me get through the meeting hearing every word. I was getting ready to go sit in the chapel and thinking to myself, "How often do we get to hear from an Apostle?"  At that moment, I caught myself, and laughed out loud.  The answer to that question was simple:  at the bare minimum, I get to hear from all the Apostles and the Prophet of the Lord every six months.  Did I pay as much attention to General Conference as I was prepared to that evening at Stake Conference?  Did I make an effort to watch First Presidency firesides?

In these things, I was often guilty of letting myself fall prey to just what my loved one was talking about: I was letting sacred things become routine simply because I had the opportunity to participate in them regularly.  I had let them become obligations rather than remembering that they are some of the most precious opportunities in this life.

And, in fact, they are obligations because of the covenants we have made:  we have an obligation to get to the temple as much as our circumstances will possibly allow, because there is work to be done and blessings to bestow; we are obligated to attend our Sunday meetings to partake of the Sacrament and to serve others in our callings; we are obligated to attend Conferences and listen to our leaders and strive to do as they have instructed.  Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that the very covenants that obligate us to these actions are themselves precious, sacred privileges of the most Divine nature.  Yes, it is difficult to get everyone fed, bathed and dressed and coiffed neatly and get scriptures and manuals and get out the door on time on Sunday morning.  But what an unspeakable privilege to be able to, once a week, wipe my slate clean and start fresh.  To have a few moments of nearly total quiet to contemplate who I am, who I ought to be and how to get there, and be offered again an opportunity to get closer to that ideal through the ordinances made possible by the Lord's Atonement; to have time set aside specifically to study and and discuss the doctrines of salvation with those who are committed to understanding and progressing in them.

Though that is all part of our weekly routine, it is hardly an ordinary thing.  Too often we trifle with sacred things not by mocking them, exposing them to the world, or profaning them with vile hypocrisy, but by simply failing to give our full attention and heart to them.

I made sacrifices to ensure that I got to the temple for my own Endowment; I made sacrifices to ensure that my family had the best possible start by getting married in the right place and by the right authority.  As difficult as some of those sacrifices were for me, they were worth making.  But am I building on them the way that I should be, by communicating to my children, to my spouse, and to any others who may fall under my stewardship, that the Sacrament is worth our devoted attention and we should be grateful to have the opportunity to be at Church each week to receive it?  Am I engaging fully and happily in creating a holy atmosphere in our home, or do I slack off or even grumble when it comes time to prepare for Family Home Evening or do our daily family scripture study?  I want my children to feel the joy of scripture study, the wonder of learning of the Savior and his doctrines.  I want them to know what a marvelous privilege our sacred obligations are.  I don't want the things of the world to be our routine.  I want to meet the challenge of building our routine around the things of eternity, while not letting those things seem common or ordinary. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Something I just read reminded me of a moment a few weeks ago that made me very grateful for my circumstances.

Let me preface this with, its easy to fall prey to feeling resentful of our circumstances.  We have a hand-me-down kitchen table and cheap Target chairs that were a Christmas gift 7 years ago.  We have three chairs in our living room: two from Goodwill and one a 10-year-old hand-me-down from my mom. We own one 8-year-old 27-inch tube TV, a 7.5-year-old desktop computer that only kind of works anymore, our decent laptop that serves as our primary computer,  and one 2-year-old iPad. Upstairs we have our wonderful king-size bed that we bought ourselves just before Dylan was born, the older kids' bunkbed that we got at a discount retailer a few years ago, Kylie's thrift store mattresses that sit on the floor, and Keira's play pen that was a hand-me-down from my sister-in-law. Outside we have a 12-year-old Honda Accord and a 7-year-old Dodge Caravan, both of which we bought used.  Those are all our major possessions (and we don't have a lot of minor ones), and we're living in a crumbling (but, thankfully, very warm) old rental house at the moment.  We're making ends meet, but not a whole lot more than that.  The last times we went more than two hours from home were a quick Easter weekend jaunt down to Orem in April 2011 to pick up the rest of our possessions that my in-laws had driven up from California, and, before that, a 2-day family trip to Apple Hill in October of 2010.  We've been on approximately ten dates in the last two years.  Hopefully, if we're disciplined, we'll make some serious headway in the next few months and be able to start moving toward saving for a place of our own and saving for some of the other things we'd like (like real furniture and whatnot),  and in a year or two be in a very different position, but in the mean time, we are still recovering from 15 months of unemployment (before which we weren't exactly living high on the hog),.  We could probably be in a different position right now if I had chosen to finish school before having kids and had worked outside our home during the last several years.  No one is ever more aware of that than I am.

But back to my moment.  Last Saturday, we didn't go anywhere or do anything all day (which is pretty unusual--we usually find some way to get out of the house), and the kids played happily together all day, building forts, playing board games, make-believing and dressing up and riding stick horses.  I'm always very grateful that, despite the challenges of raising what is by today's standards a good sized family, I have all of them.  By the end of the day, I was very glad that they all have each other.  I'm very grateful for the abundant ways that I am blessed by having my siblings in my life, and when I remember that, or have days like that where my kids play together so wonderfully, I'm glad we've made the necessary sacrifices to have a large family.

A moment I had a few days earlier reminded me how grateful I am to be a stay-at-home mom, no matter the financial sacrifices involved.  Keira woke up happy, but when the other kids left for school, she crawled up into my lap and wanted to snuggle.  She wasn't sick, and didn't seem to be too tired, but she just wanted to be held and rocked.  So that's what I did.  For 40 minutes, I held my one-and-a-half-year-old on my lap and rocked.  Because I could.

And everyday, I sit with my four-year-old and read books and trace letters and play Go Fish and dance with my little girls.  I pick up my older kids from school, and am ready and able to listen all about their day, get them a snack, help them with homework, and have them help me with dinner, and the vast majority of the time do it all happily, because I'm not distracted, too busy, tired or gone.  I'm grateful for that.  I'd love to have that and the beautiful house and nice furniture and toys and money to travel, but if I have to pick one or the other, I'd pick the time with and focus on my kids every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I'm grateful to have a husband who not only understands that, but cherishes and supports it.  It means that he has to make sacrifices, too, and it doesn't allow much room for selfishness on his part, but he's glad I'm there with them everyday, and all the richness that gives to his life that money could never buy.

I do hope to get back into school in the next year or two, first and foremost because a marketable degree is the best life insurance I could possibly have if anything were to ever happen to Doug, but when I look back on the last 10 years of decisions regarding family, education, and work, I can say with complete honesty I have absolutely no regrets.

quiet moment

Keira's down for a nap, Kylie is sitting on the floor in front of me building a Lego house, and Doug has come and gone for lunch.  Its snowing outside, and I love how that makes everything looks cleaner and brighter, and makes the world a little quieter.

As I was putting Keira down for her nap she exclaimed, "Book! Book!"  I absolutely love that every single one of my kids, including the barely-4-year-old who can't read and the almost-2-year-old who is just starting to really talk, believe that you absolutely must have a book to go to bed.

Last night, Keira repeatedly said, "Buzz coat! Buzz coat!" at bedtime until I finally broke down and put her bee costume on over her pajamas.  She giggled and went "bbbzzzzzzzz! bbbzzzzzz!" and then laid down with her book and "read" until she fell asleep.  This morning she came into our room, hood on, atennae sticking up, smiling and buzzing.

Before Kylie had been up too long this morning, she has slipped on one of her princess dresses, and so Keira decided she needed to change into her Wonder Woman costume.

Its supposed to snow another 5-8 inches (there's already about 3.5 inches on the ground) in the next 24 hours or so, and tomorrow we'll be hitting double digit negative temperatures, so we'll probably be stuck at home inside all weekend.

That doesn't sound so bad, actually.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


My sister-in-law posted something on Facebook today indicating that it would be nice to have soft-spoken kids.  That would be particularly nice right now, as her husband just started on the graveyard shift at a new job and three of her very loud kids are home all day.  I don't have that specific (and, I'm sure, somewhat pressing) concern, but to some degree I feel her pain.  My older kids get home from school at about 3:30, and once they get home, I never make any real attempt to listen to music, make phone calls, watch TV or videos, or anything else of that matter, because I can't hear any of it.  Just their conversation-level voices are kind of absurdly loud, and the conversations are regularly pierced by yelling, shrieking, stomping, and, in Dylan's case, random high-volume bird calls or dinosaur impressions: "Hey Mom! I can sound like a peregrine falcon!! Reeeeeeeeh! Reeeeeeeh!"

And I'm thinking, "Why are you saying that loud enough to give a presentation to the outdoor group at the zoo?  We're in a tiny livingroom and I'm less than 3 ft from you."  I always knew they were loud, but I tried not to get too uptight about it, because, well, kids are loud, right?  And since said sister-in-laws kids are my nieces and nephews (and other sisters-in-law have kids with this same traits), these little cousins were kids I spent a lot of time around, so the average got skewed in my head, I guess.  A few years ago, people regularly started saying to me (other people who had large families and lots of cousins and ran daycares and all kinds of things like that), "Becky, your kids are really loud."  Mind you, this was never said in a snarky or rude way, usually be said when kids were running around outside, and being loud was perfectly acceptable--it was always stated more as an observation than an expression of irritation or any other such things.

And its true.  There will be 15-20 other kids running around, and mine will be the ones you hear above everybody else.  There are days (living in a small house during a cold winter) when it makes me crazy, but for the most part I've learned to tolerate it on the worst days and embrace it on the good days.  Their loudness is often just a part of the tremendous enthusiasm they have for most things that they do in life, and I love that about them, even if it is a little overwhelming sometimes.

I figure as long as they learn to be quiet when they need to be, when loudness is in appropriate, (and as long as nobody at our house needs to work graveyard) its nothing to be real concerned with.  During Sacrament Meeting, they rarely make any noise at all (the exception being the occasional Keira or Kylie moment--they're still learning), because they know its a reverent place.  During school, Keilana only talks or makes noise when it is appropriate to do, and though Dylan's visiting occasionally gets him a warning, he usually only talks when its his turn, and then at a sane volume.  So if they sound like crazy Banshees at home and any time they're outside, so be it.

(P.S. Any time that Keilana is gone, the volume drops dramatically.  If she's gone all day, the other three will play together all day, rarely getting louder than a dull roar, and even that loud is uncommon.  This does not hold true when Keilana is at home and any one of the other children is removed.  What can I say?  The kid came wriggling, writhing and screaming, and she never got a lot quieter or calmer.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Droughts and Resolutions

Something I've come to realize and admit to myself more and more the last couple of months is that the last year and a half took their toll on me, spiritually and emotionally.  The unemployment, obviously, but all the other things that went on (or failed to happen) over that time wore me down more than I realized in the middle of it.  I've felt like I've been in a writing drought (not just on my blog, but all of my writing) for more than a year.  Oh sure, there've been a few moments here and there, but for the most part, I just felt like I've had nothing to say--at least coherently and in any meaningful way.  But the writing drought has just been a symptom.  Part of me feels very badly that, after many years, I finally got to be close to a lot of people I had missed so much, only to have them see about the worst adult version of me that has yet existed.

The problem is, once the stress is off (to some degree), you don't automatically snap back to where you were before it hit.  Its like being at about an average fitness level, then getting pregnant and doing nothing and eating a lot of junk.  Even with concerted effort, it takes time to get back to where you were, functioning at the same level you were before.  You don't just hop out of bed and go jog five miles, you have to put in the work.  And I don't think I've been doing a lot of that.  I have felt more impatient, irritable, lazier and unfocused than at any point since becoming a mother, and I've no one to blame but myself.

So my primary resolution is to move forward, and stop looking back so much.  I won't give up reflecting, obviously--it is an important tool, and one too deeply ingrained in my nature to ever remove, anyway--but I refuse to dwell.  I will not focus on what I've lost or failed to do, what I don't have or can't get yet.  I will focus on the task in front of me at the moment, instead of being frustrated that I am not five steps further along.  I will work to be better, but not give up when I fall so short of perfection.

And with that, I will not demand perfection from others, or be frustrated with them over where I think they should be.  I will love people where they're at, and show that love in word and deed.  I will be gentle with people, not just in my interactions with them but in my thoughts about them as well.  I will apply everything I have just said to my children.  I will remind myself that their hands are small and unpracticed, that their spirits are young in this world and they are still learning to recognize and articulate all the feelings and emotions that come with their still rather new little bodies, and I will take a deep breath before I respond.  I will return to being that mom, who on the days when everyone is fighting or whining or crying, starts to sing a silly song and picks up a not-always-completely-willing child and starts to dance, until everyone is laughing hard enough that they've forgotten why they were mad.

My primary resolution can be summed up in these two quotes:

"Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love.  Assume the good, doubt the bad." ~Jeffery R. Holland

"Our kindness may be the most persuasive argument for that which we believe." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

I have found that simply assuming the best about everyone's intentions with you prevents many disagreements and hurt feelings before they ever occur.  Always interpret things in the best possible manner available to you.  A couple of years ago, a third party relayed to Doug something that a friend had divulged about him.  It was nothing bad or embarrassing, but because of the circumstances it could've possibly been a dicey thing to reveal.  Immediately, Doug and I both assumed that there must've been some good reason this friend felt the need to pass on the information (and, it turns out, there was), but not for a second did we doubt his loyalty, integrity or judgment.  I hope that I can get to a point where I can react as well to everyone else in my life.

I have come to see very clearly the past few years that I would far prefer to assume the best and be proven wrong than to assume the worst and be proven right.

I am a terrible missionary.  Part of that is that, though I've come a long way in making myself at home in company with whom I share a common background and lifestyle, I am still nearly-paralyzed by nervousness and self-consciousness when I step outside those comfortable circles.  Yet there are many in my life who I am quite certain the Lord expects me to be a missionary to, people I do know well and am comfortable with, and I could be a much better missionary if I were more charitable.  It is such a simple thing to be kind, and yet it seems always to be a struggle with those we are closest to. I'm not saying I'm unkind, but I simply don't put as much time and energy into consciously to choosing to serve and reach out as I should.

As I work on improving myself in order to to quench the dust of my little spiritual drought, it should begin to clear up my writing drought, which in turn should help me to better accomplish some of my other, long-term resolutions.  But this is long enough already, so more on that later.