Thursday, February 28, 2013


The voices within the Church pushing for women to have the Priesthood seem to be growing louder.  While I disagree not only with the message but also with the messaging, I do have compassion for most of these women.  I understand their feelings and concerns.

However, I think there is great wisdom in the Lord's division of labor, for a plethora of reasons.  For example, a man can't bear his own children, and a woman can't bless hers.  I think the division of labor is set up in a way that no one can "do it all" themselves, at least in part to remind us that no one can do it all themselves.  It was not good for man to be alone--it was impossible for man to fulfill the measure of his creation alone--and so an helpmeet was created for him.  When she had the courage to make a hard decision in order to have the ability to fulfill the full measure of her creation, she knew she needed Adam to fully realize that goal, and so she persuaded and reasoned with him to do what was necessary to join her.  In the eternal sphere, we cannot reach our greatest potential alone.  The division of labor in the mortal sphere helps to keep us mindful of that fact: not just of the desire for companionship, but of the necessity of man for woman and woman for man to achieve eternal perfection.

For example, I have no problem with women working--many of the women I respect most have successful professional careers outside their homes. I think that women are perfectly capable of being as successful, and consequently as valuable, as men in nearly all fields of work.  I think all women should get themselves as much education as is feasibly possible, and if they want to work outside their home, they should be able to get a job in their field for fair pay.  However, too many of those involved in the push for women to be equal in those respects, were pushing for women to focus primarily on the outcome of economic independence, and were of the "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" mentality. As men become economically unnecessary to women, they became altogether unnecessary in the minds of many.  And without being expected to bear the responsibility of providing for a family, and sensing or knowing this lack of desire for their presence, many more men began to view women as unnecessary, at least as anything other than an object of sexual desire and conquest.

The ultimate goal of our creation is to become good and righteous creators ourselves, and we learn many of the important skills and principles for that role in our roles as mortal creators--mothers and fathers, bound together as companions, sharing the responsibilities, joys and difficulties of that challenge.  As any single parent can tell you, having to bear all those responsibilities alone can be quite overwhelming and rob the experience of much of its natural joy and pleasure.  So the Lord divides the responsibilities.

If you've ever been in the same room as a man who has a cold, you can probably understand why the responsibility for bearing the children is given to women.  If you have ever watched a man try and run a home for a few days while his wife is out of town, you probably understand why the primary responsibility for both running the home and nurturing the children is given to women.  There are exceptions to this in both personality and circumstance, and I don't mean to disparage those men who are the primary nurturers in their families and who excel at it, but there is a reason that it isn't usually the men.  And while women are generally naturally inclined to focus on and invest in personal relationships, men tend to be naturally inclined to enjoy and excel in tasks and systems.  This makes women ideally suited to the relationship-driven and multi-tasking-needed responsibilities of caring for children and running a home, and makes men ideally suited for administrating systems and performing ordinances--where they can make good use of those natural inclinations while also being asked to do so in a manner that focuses them on their eternal responsibilities and the most vital eternal relationships.

Yes, I know that these are generalizations, but just as the Lord created our bodies with complementary features to allow us be one physically, he created our spirits with complementary features to allow us to be one spiritually.  We need each other to be whole, to be perfect, even as He is.  It is in companionship that we reach the full measure of our creation, and a division of labor prevents anyone from being required, or being tempted, to do it all alone.  Shakespeare once expressed this beautifully, when he wrote:

“He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fullness of perfection lies in him. ”

The fact that we need each other, male and female, in this mortal sphere helps to keep us mindful of how much we need each other in the eternal one.  After all, all things temporal are spiritual, and a division of labor doesn't suddenly cease when we reach the other side of the veil.  Indeed, it becomes more important as the labor load increases tremendously.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mr. Matter-of-fact

Yesterday, I had to pick Dylan up from school about 15 minutes early to go to a dentist appointment, and as we were walking to the car, a little girl ran to the fence at the side of the playground and yelled, "No, Dylan, don't go, don't leave me!"  He turned and yelled, "But I have to go to the dentist!"  I asked him who it was, and he responded, in a rather uninterested tone, "Oh, that's Terrence.  She's in love with me."  Once we got in the car, out of ear shot, he added, "I'm not in love with her at all."  I asked him the name of the girl he had told me was his girlfriend a couple months earlier and he said, rather adamantly, "I don't have a girlfriend".  I reminded him that he'd told me that they dated for a day and she was creepy.  Then he gave me the look that I imagine midwestern farmers get from the FBI when they say they were abducted by aliens, and said, "That wasn't me."

Yes, I'm sure it was some other 7-year-old boy I hang out with.

Moonlight Memories

Last night the moon was darn near full, and up here in high altitude, low population mountain towns, that's quite a gorgeous thing to behold.  It made me want to go on a drive (it probably would've made me want to go on a hike, if not for the 15* temps).

One of my best memories is a moonlit drive.  A few years into our marriage, I think it was when I was pregnant with Dyaln, little toddler-Keilana dozing in the backseat, Doug and I were taking a trip back to the valley from our little apartment in San Luis Obispo, leaving late in the day.  We took the longish way (as is our habit, going just about anywhere), and drove over on 198.  If you've never taken highway 198 between 101 and Coalinga, drop what you're doing and plan a trip right now.  Its a small, two-lane highway that winds through a fairly narrow valley, with virtually nothing in it but the occasional small ranch and lots of green, wooded hills.  Its gorgeous.  On this particular drive, we debated whether or not we should take 198, since we'd be driving mostly after dark and miss the scenery, but we decided to do it anyway, since the road is much more relaxing to drive than highway 41.  I'm so glad we made that decision.  The moon was full and bright, and so most of the valley was visible, bathed in the flood of moonlight, with dramatic shadows everywhere.  It was impossibly magical--it was like we removed ourselves from the world for an hour, and enjoyed a little drive through Heaven's country side, soaking in the beauty while enjoying the interesting conversation with each other.

That drive itself reminded me of a moonlit memory.  My first semester of college, I had gone to the beach late one evening to play games with a bunch of friends, wearing a pair of athletic shorts, a tank top and a light hoodie.  We played a few games, and then started chatting, and I took off my hoodie and started wading a few inches into the ocean water with one of my friends, still amazed that the air and water were always comfortably warm, even at night.  I ditched my hoodie on the sand, and walked in a little further, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, all 15 or so of us were swimming in the bright light of the full moon.  It was probably near midnight, but it was both warm and refreshing, playing in the waves and splashing and wrestling with each other.  One of my very favorite Hawaii memories.

Its a little harder these days to get out in the moonlight--what with the sleeping babies, and all.  But hopefully as soon as summer gets here and its not quite so cold, I can help them remember how to enjoy the moonlight, too.  After all, many of my best childhood memories also revolve around summer nights in the moonlight.  Hopefully theirs will, too.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Confidence and Grace

I was reading my Patriarchal Blessing recently, and there are a couple of parts that, no matter how many times I read them, make me kind of think, "Well, that can't be right."  The statements seem to conflict with my own self-perception.

But I've decided that if earthly behavior and decisions are any indication of who we were or how we functioned in our premortal existence, those statements that give me pause are probably more true than I often want to think that they are.

I do not have any great self-confidence, and I never have.  I have always hesitated to speak boldly, much less act boldly, and have often hesitated to pursue opportunities (at least initially) because of fear of the unknown, or the difficulty of the known.  I would watch people do or accomplish certain things, and logically I would understand that I was just as intelligent or capable or disciplined, or whatever necessary combination, as those who were pursuing the same opportunities, but I would hesitate, as though they possessed some magic quality that allowed them to succeed where I could not.  This was not necessarily a fully-conscious or articulated idea, but it was very much the psycho-emotional process I would go through in approaching nearly anything new, unknown or difficult.  Something that I had to very consciously remind myself as I got older was that, though I would usually hesitate, I almost never avoided.  When push came to shove, I was usually willing to do the unknown and/or difficult thing, and in the long run, it was never as challenging as getting over the mental hurdle of just taking the first step.  In the long run, I always enjoyed those experiences or relationships and was grateful for them.

I imagine that's similar to how I reacted to Heavenly Father's plan for us when it was presented in the pre-mortal sphere:  fear, nervousness, hesitation--stepping into an entirely unknown realm.  Realizing it would be hard, and doubting myself, my ability to make it worth it.  But then, realizing also that it was the best possible option, that it would be well-worth it in the long run and that, though there was no guarantee of personal success, there was a guarantee of grace to all who would sincerely seek it.  Grace for insufficiencies would give me the courage to attempt.

That's the only thing that has given me the courage necessary to make most of the decisions in my life: grace.  A powerful faith in the unconditional love and indescribable grace of One who gave all for my success.  The three biggest, scariest, nerve-wracking decision in my life--what to do with my life after leaving the shelter of my parents' home, who and when to get married, and when to become a mother (granted that is one decision that was made multiple times, each time a new nervousness, though less)--were only made well because the confidence I had in that grace let me focus on the right things, and gave me the peace to make it possible to listen for that still, small, and wonderfully soothing voice.

From the biggest decisions to the smallest, it is faith in the powerful grace of the Savior--faith in him, and not in myself--that gives me confidence, that helps me to succeed.  It is grace that quashes fear and self-doubt.  And as I rely on that grace to move forward, my confidence in myself also increases, as I achieve more successes in endeavors large and small.  As I rely on grace, my ability to do increases, and then it is by grace that I am saved, after all I can do.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Look at this

and try and tell me this kid isn't awesome.  You want to invite him over to play, don't you? :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Faith and fruit trees

I love the exposition on faith in the 32nd chapter of Alma.  And who doesn't?  Its one of the most clear and enlightening passages in all scripture.  Comparing faith to a seed helps us all understand a fairly abstract concept a lot more easily.

I've thought about that passage a lot, and how it relates to my own faith.  I think it is significant that Alma compared faith not just to a seed, but to a fruit tree seed.  Many plants grow and blossom and produce a great deal in a single season.  But then the fall frosts and winter snows come, and they whither away and have to be planted anew each spring.

Starting a fruit tree from a seed is, initially, a more delicate process.  One must be careful to water the seed regularly, but also be careful not to drown it, make sure it gets enough light but doesn't get sunburned, and make sure it is planted in good soil.  One must be careful to weed regularly, since such a little plant can get choked out by aggressive, noxious weeds rather easily.  The first year or two of the process will probably produce only a small plant, and little to no fruit.  It is not unusual for a fruit tree to take 4-5 years to begin producing fruit at all, though if you are caring for it well, you will see a great deal of upward growth fairly rapidly in that time. 

Our young faith is very much like that.  So new, still vulnerable, not yet strongly rooted, it is easily choked or drowned or burned if we are not careful.  But if we work hard at cultivating it, at ridding our lives of noxious influences and working hard to be in good places, we may not see a lot of fruit at first, but we will see and feel that upward growth, that leafing out and reaching for the sun, and our faith will get stronger.

And, unlike those annuals that wither and die out as the winter approaches, that tree gets strong enough to survive the cold winter.  Fruit trees are quite resilient.  They live through winter blizzards and sometimes survive bug infestations and careless climbers, and still make the world more radiant each spring with their blossoms, and nourish the world with the delicious fruit they produce.  Sometimes they lose a limb or two, or end up with a scarred trunk, and it is not unusual for such a tree to take 10 years to reach full maturity, producing copious fruit.  But it takes quite a lot to cut down or kill those mature trees.  They can survive a harsh world and still thrive.

I grew up in a fairly harsh climate, where my parents grew many beautiful flowers and had a few small orchards.  I noticed quite young that when it started to get chilly, several beautiful potted plants would be moved inside so that they could survive the cold winter, at just the same time that the firmly rooted apple trees were starting to drip with big, red apples.  I think that we all have a wise gardener who knows our abilities and limitations, and will wheel us inside for the winter, so to speak, when our roots aren't deep enough and our bark not thick enough to withstand the wind and cold and snow.  

When that tree is finally strong enough to survive the onslaught of the natural world and spends a first winter out in the cold, it can feel like punishment.  We feel that somehow we are being attacked for being good, when in fact the world has always been full of blizzards and torrents and scorching heat, we simply didn't realize how much we had been shielded from them.  In our early years of faith, we submit to the grafting and trimming and shaping of the gardener, because we trust that it will make us the the most beautiful, healthy version of ourselves.  But as we are moved from the shelter of the home or greenhouse and nature unleashes its fury on us, we must remember that, though in our young and undeveloped state we needed that shelter, sitting in a pot in the corner can never possibly enable us to push our roots deep and wide.  Out in the open, we can feel the full glory of the sunshine, the delight of spring rain, and spread our branches high.  The very space that exposes us to the travails of the natural world enables us to produce the most fruit.

When you feel like your faith isn't producing much fruit, look to others who have more mature trees than you do, remember that they once had young saplings that weren't producing a lot of fruit.  And if you feel you are freezing or are scorched by the heat of life, remember the wise gardener, who trusts that you have the maturity to overcome that trial, that he believes you are ready to reach your branches a bit higher and dig your roots a bit deeper, and that ultimately he has power over all the elements.  He will not abandon you, but will help you to grow stronger through that opposition, to produce more fruit.

"Even if your efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in direct proportion to them will flood your soul."  Growth is an ongoing process, so be patient with yourself.  Doubt not, fear not.  Just as apple seeds will produce more apples, faith begets faith.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Just a few minutes after midnight on February 18, 2006, this little baby made his entrance in San Luis Obispo, California:
There was snow on the hilltops in San Luis that night.  Unusual.  The world wasn't completely different, utterly changed.  But it seemed to have noticed.

And this little guy

loves snow to this day.
So maybe its good that we left California and headed north.
He's a sometimes-frustrating, sometimes hilarious combination
of laser-focused, determined and unbendable

and then infinitely distractible 
and lazy.

But I guess even super heros get tired sometimes.
Maybe he needs to balance out all that intense, focused energy
with some distractions and lazing, 
so that he doesn't burn out.

He's my one little boy, surrounded by girls.  He's a good brother.  At home, he spars and spats with them, but when we go out in the world, he very much sees himself as the protector of his little sisters (he seems to believe Keilana can fend for herself, and that's probably because she refuses any other scenario--she's not much of a damsel-in-distress).  He is their personal superhero.  

But he needs them to make him brave.  

He is socially and intellectually confident.  He will walk right up to any kid or adult, no matter how new the circumstances or their appearance, and strike up a new friendship. He loves to Know Things, and he spends lots of time learning things, from books, TV shows, and the internet, and has a remarkable memory for all the little details of the things that interest him: machines, cars, animals of every kind, and superhero stories.  He loves to share his knowledge with anyone who will give him the time.

But he is physically cautious.  He is not a risk taker--almost to the point of being a wimp sometimes.  If he sees something as a controlled risk, he's all in.  But if the danger factor is beyond his control, he panics and refuses.  So, since he is confident in his physical abilities, he will climb to the top of virtually anything, and hop on a 4-wheeler and cruise.  But if you try to put him on a kids' fair ride, he can barely contain his panic.  Too many factors out of his control. 

It is important to him to control his own world as much as possible, but he has no interest in controlling anyone else.  While he always has a plan, and loves to share it and have others join him, he rarely tells anyone else what to do.  In fact, he excels at meeting people at their level, whatever it may be.  He is wonderful at teaching and playing with younger kids, because he has a gift for intuitively understanding what they need from him and meeting that need.  He thrives in one-on-one instruction, both as teacher and student.

It important to him to be Right; not in a prideful, arrogant way, but simply in that knowing what it good and right helps him to order his world in the way that is so pleasing and soothing to him.  He is happy to learn things, and loves to put in the effort when he thinks something is worthwhile, but he sees no point in learning something unless you learn it correctly and well.

He has always been remarkably self-contained.  He doesn't need a lot of attention or affection, and so it has always been wonderful to see how he notices how much his attention and affection can mean to others, and how freely and happily he gives it.  Which is probably because he is, at heart, quite a sensitive little soul.

He is serious-minded, but playful and lighthearted.  Just like a super hero should be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

For my mom

Its my mom's birthday today.  She's. . .older than she was last year.  This is one of my very favorite pictures, because it is of two of my very favorite people, in a very ordinary moment that helps me feel connected to them and the lives that they chose.  This is my mom, and her mom.  What mom hasn't had this moment--trying to wrangle clothes on to her busy toddler--a thousand times?  I have this moment daily in my life right now.

I always thought of my mom and my grandma as being very different because. . .well, mostly because one was my mom and one was my grandma, I guess.  And in many ways they are very different, but as I've gotten older I've started to recognize, and appreciate, the ways in which they are similar.

They both chose lives immersed in children, and always made their own children a priority while somehow managing to serve their extended families and their communities wonderfully at the same time.  Its impossible to recount all the ways that that has blessed my life.

For most of my married life and my time as a mother, I have lived quite a distance from my mom, but she always made it a time and financial priority to visit me and my children as often as possible.  We were her winter vacation every year--she chose to spend that time with us.

But its no secret where she learned that.  I had many opportunities to get to know most of my aunts and uncles and many of my cousins because I was very close to my grandma, and she often let (*encouraged*) me to tag along as she visited her adult children and grandchildren--even when that meant hauling a couple of 7-year-olds 3,000 miles or so in the back of her little Toyota station wagon.  Even as an 80-something, my grandma still regularly checked in on her kids and grandkids who lived close, and visited the ones who lived farther as often as she could.

My grandma was 68 by the time I came into the world, so all of my memories of her are in her 70s and 80s.  In those decades, when most people are moving pretty slow, she was overhauling the local food pantry, seeking assistance from local merchants in obtaining decent property to house it, writing grants to secure funding, recruiting members of her women's club and senior center to work handing out food, and rounding up grandkids to help unload trucks and stock shelves.  In her 80s, she volunteered to be the daily care provider for her great-grandson, while his young mother went to work.  She not only watched him, but delighted in doing it.  Most 80-year-olds wouldn't have much interest in, let alone energy for, watching a toddler every day. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest joys of her final years.

My mom is a lot like her mom in that sense--she always busily engaged in serving her family and her community, and it is consistently amazing to me how cheerfully and humbly she does it.  When we were kids, she had 5 of us at home, taught elementary school all day (with related tasks often taking up many hours during her evenings and nights), often was responding to ambulance calls in the middle of the night (for which she wasn't paid), and welcomed many foster kids into our home over the years.  Somehow, in the middle of all that, she managed to make it to most of the football, volleyball, and softball games, academic bowls, band concerts, and plays.  She usually managed to keep her self in pretty good shape in the midst of all that, too: often getting up at 5:30 in the morning to go jogging, always out the door for work looking lovely and put together.  Now that I have four young kids at home and don't even have to go to work, I am more convinced than ever that she is a super hero.

With all the wonderful things there are about these two women, the thing that always sticks out to me about both my mom and my grandma is that they did all these things, constantly surrounded by children, and I cannot think of a single instance where I felt like they were tired of me or didn't want me around.  My mom has often told me that I was an easy kid, which was good because I was impossible to discipline.  I didn't take criticism or direction well as a child, and I still often don't.  I was blessed with four strong-willed, outspoken children, and raising them has made me appreciate more than I ever thought possible the tremendous patience and gentleness that my mother always showed to me.  I lose my patience too frequenty with my kids, but often in those moments I take a deep breath, and think of my mom and grandma.  I remind myself that when I did need correction, I was willing to listen not because of any great obedience or humility on my part, but because I always felt very loved, always comforted by the kindness still present even in their firm correction.  The security of that certainty of their affection made it easier to listen, to trust them.  Remembering that makes me a better mother.

I probably earned most of my faults myself.  But I owe a great many of my best traits and habits to the woman who raised me, and to the woman who raised her.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Kylie and I were sitting at the kitchen table this afternoon putting the finishing touches on the Valentines Keilana made her class, which involved putting Hershey's Kisses "ear buds" on the conversation heart box "iPods" that she had made, and Kylie has gathered all the leftover Kisses into a pile.  She looked at the gleaming silver treasure and said, "Can I have all of these?"

I didn't look up from my glue gun, but just replied, rather flatly, "No."

She looked at me with a knit brow and tense jaw and said, "I mean all of it besides your mommy tax."

We try to teach them the facts of life young.

Life and Chocolate

So I was reading about chocolate the other day (it started with reading about how much chocolate is consumed in the month of February, and sort of spiraled from there), and it turns out that the vast majority of dark chocolate items in the world are consumed by women--especially the very dark, bittersweet chocolate.

Statistically speaking, the young (and men in general, at any age), are more likely to much prefer milk chocolate and its much higher sugar level.  The sweetness and ease of consumption was more important to them than the richness of the flavor.

It is largely old women who enjoy the rich, deep flavor of the dark chocolate, bitterness and all.

I've never heard a food fact that translates so readily and so accurately to a metaphor for life.

I am a milk chocolate lover.  Don't care much for dark chocolate, and until the last few years I couldn't even eat it.  Still learning to enjoy the rich flavor that comes with the dark and bitter parts of the journey.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


My two-year-old girl loves super heroes 
(especially Spiderman), 
and is always happiest 
wearing a tutu and sparkly shoes.
She asks for bows for her hair,
and snuggles on the floor with her big dog.
She loves to cuddle and kiss
but has no trouble landing a strong punch 
if she needs to
(and she's the youngest of 4.
Sometimes she needs to).
She loves to be a ballerina 
with her big sister
and wrestle with her big brother.
Its unreal how much she makes me smile.