Saturday, January 25, 2014

Doing Research

Yesterday we were driving home from the store, and the kids found my chem lab goggles in the back seat.  I asked that they not play with them, and Dylan said, "Yeah, those are for scientists, so I'm going to need some some day."

Keilana responded, "Yeah, when you're a scientist working with bad chemicals. Or wait, I thought you were going to be an animal scientist?"

He quickly answered, "No, I'll need different ones because I'll be a scientist working with robots.  That's why I brought my bird guide book, so I can do research so I'll know how to make a good falcon robot."

Sometimes I wish I could walk around inside their little heads and see all the fascinating things going on in there.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

*Sigh* back to routine. . .

I didn't want to go to school today.  Don't get me wrong, I love school.  My classes are interesting and I love learning.  In some ways, being alone in my car for 30 minutes twice a day is phenomenal. So weird to have time to think without interruption.  Wonderful weird.

We had a great weekend at my mom's: very low-key, lots of cousin time for most of the kids.  For whatever reason, I am much more willing to let my mom and my sister "take care" of me than I am with anyone else in my life.  Most of the time when we're there, my mom makes the kids breakfast at least once while I sleep in (and on a lot of visits she does that more than once).  Some or all of my kids usually end up at my sisters' house at some point, for hours or even over night.  Its probably a good thing I don't live a little bit closer, it would be far too easy to let myself get spoiled, with the only people I really allow to spoil me.  I guess the youngest child in me comes out a bit.

Yesterday, everybody else was supposed to be back to school, but Keilana only lasted through orchestra (which is before school) before coming home sick.  Not super sick, just a little hot, a little tired, a little headachy--just sick enough to want to lay down and watch movies all day.  So all my girls were home with me all day yesterday.  I found myself wishing for years when all the days were like that.

And then I had to get the little girls ready and dropped off this morning and head to school.  And I am glad to be here.  I do feel like its the right thing to be doing right now.  But those years I got to spend at home with my kids every day, focused only on them and the tasks that needed doing to keep our home running smoothly?  They were good years.  They were what I've always wanted, and I feel like I can watch them slipping away from me.  I'm not gone a lot.  School, at this point, requires me to be away from home less than 20 hours a week.  But to make things a little easier on me and Doug and babysitters, Kylie is in Head Start this year.  And unlike last semester, when we both went to school in the afternoon, now I take off in the mornings and my little girl leaves for school sometime while I'm gone and then gets home late, late into the afternoon.  I hate that.  Keira is the only one at home during the afternoon, and I love my time with my baby.  Since she is the youngest of 4, she's never had me to herself much and she loves it and so do I.  But next year, she'll probably do part-day Head Start as my hours in school increase a bit.  Then another year of it, and by the time my remaining course work is online, she'll be in full-day Kindergarten.  Why full-day?  Why do you need my 5-year-old for 7 or 8 hours of the 12-14 she's awake?

And then I'll be working.  Hopefully only part time most years--a couple of shifts a week if I can make it work--but just one more thing getting in the way of the very short years I have with all these little people in my house.  I feel at peace with the decisions we've made as a family this year.  I know a lot of them will likely be necessary in the coming years to keep our little family afloat.  And I'm OK with that.  But sometimes I wish the the world were different, that life could be only what I want to be.  Most of us can't live out our ideal, because in addition to our own limitations, life just doesn't cater to what we want--in fact, the world is built less and less all the time around the things we believe are important.  Well, around the only things that we believe really matter in the long run.   We've been able to come amazingly close to living that ideal the last decade.  It has taken sacrifices, but usually they were sacrifices that we made happily because what we gained was so much more important to us than anything we gave up or went without.

We believe that we will know and love our children throughout eternity.  This life is not the only time we have with them.  But it is the only time in all eternity that we will know them as children.  In the endless, eternal rounds, it is only in these 18 brief earth-years that we enjoy them as little ones.  Its not that I want to keep them little--I love them little, and I love them a little bigger, and more than anything I love watching them grow and discover and learn--its that I just don't want to miss any more than I have to of these terribly short years between welcoming them into our home, and sending them out into the world.

Maybe when I'm through school we really do need to homeschool.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Victims and Power

I never had much use for modern feminism.  I know that bothers a lot of people, and I think its because they misunderstand what I mean by it.  Its not that I don't think that sexism exists, because I've seen all too often that it does (and in the professional world, its more prevalent in some fields than in others). It was impossible, however, for me to see the world in terms of a power struggle between men and women where, no matter the gains, women always needed special accommodations or considerations or concessions to be as successful or as independent as men, that somehow their traditional roles weren't powerful, or gave them less of a voice than their male counterparts.  I was raised in a world of strong, self-possessed, independent women (unless you define "independent" so narrowly and superficially as to only mean "mostly free of personal family responsibilities").  Some had professional careers, some didn't, and all of them were respected leaders in their homes and their communities--just as much, and often more so, than their male counterparts.  To see them as victims of anyone or anything, would've been a huge disservice to who they are and what they've accomplished.

Perhaps that's why one of my personal pet peeves has long been a victim mentality, whether at a personal or a societal level.  My mom used to tell me that she was always grateful that I made good decisions, because if I hadn't she was pretty sure there wouldn't be anything she could do about it.  I would decide what I was going to do--quietly--and then do it.  "The few times I had to discipline you when you were little," she once told me, "you'd just look at me like 'Who the heck do you think you are?'"  Knowing the people who were the most consistent influences and examples in my life growing up, I'm quite certain that, by both genetics and training, I came by it honestly.  But the flip side of that is that I hate telling other people what to do.  Heck, the first couple of years I was a parent, I sometimes forgot that was my job.  I want to be in control of my own life, but like the self-assured women who came before me, I am no insecure control freak---I have no desire for power or control over others or their actions. I am, and have always been, a people pleaser as well.  That independence did not come with much hardness, thankfully, and for whatever reason the Lord blessed me with a tremendous innate desire to do what's right (usually), so as I've grown up, I've learned to recognize righteous authority and direction, and happily submit to it (usually)--though it is often still a very conscious choice I must make.

I figured out very early--and saw dramatically illustrated in several individuals when I was a teenager--that if you took control of your self and your life and got things done, people would, by and large, leave you to it and not to try to control what you did.  And, in contrast, if you didn't take responsibility for your life, you would become powerless, to varying degrees, to other people, organizations, and/or substances that would happily do everything in their power to control your life for you.  It is deep in my nature to resist anyone else having much power over me, much less control what I do or how I feel.  So why, why, why, would I willing relinquish that power to someone else by choosing to cast myself as a victim in my own life?  I have no stomach for it.

One of lies that bothers me most is that responsibility constricts freedom, or happiness.  Personal responsibility--for your actions, reactions, emotions, decisions--is the only thing that can possibly lead to freedom or happiness.

Being a victim releases you from responsibility--it ("it" being whatever you're unhappy about) is all the other individual's/social group's/genetics' fault.  Nothing you can do about that, right?  This means that the "victim" doesn't have to do the sometimes uncomfortable or even painful self-examination and do the work that would be required for whatever is making them unhappy to change.  If you don't take responsibility for your life and your attitude, regardless of external circumstances, you hand the power for your position, your relationships, your self-esteem--your life--to someone else.  You are trapped.  And usually unhappy. And you have chosen to be trapped and unhappy.  Ultimately, shirking personal responsibility--to whatever degree--always leads to traps of one kind or another.

Of course, there are things in all of our lives that we can't change.  There are circumstances, conditions, and challenges that we can't undo or make disappear.  But we can control how we approach those things, and we can choose what we focus on.

More importantly, even though often times we are justifiably upset at things that others have done to us, or failed to do for us, we cannot change other individuals, and they are not in control of our lives. Anger at what was done to you, and some sort of hunt for revenge, or simply resigned powerlessness, often does far more damage than whatever the original offense might have.  Your soul is more ensnared by angry or painful focus on how you were cheated than by the actual reality of having been cheated.  That focus on getting even, or even "getting your due", poisons your heart, your vision, and your relationships.  That is why forgiveness and humble self-confidence are attributes of the strong: the weak focus on petty score-settling, and never move beyond point-scoring.

I refuse to let someone else control what I do, much less how I feel, think or believe.  That means that sometimes I ask a lot of myself, and sometimes in doing so I fail.  But facing that failure--having to look at myself honestly and acknowledging that I have fallen short and need to figure out how to fix it and do better--is exponentially preferable to being the victim in my own life story.   I deserve better than that.  My family deserves better than that.  The women who raised me weren't damsels in distress.  They were much more of the warrior queen variety, and I'd like some day to have lived worthy of that lineage and the sacrifices they made to teach me and give me my independence.

Monday, January 13, 2014


I'll be honest:  I'm not big on New Year's resolutions.  I'm more of a making-goals-as-I-go type, as the awareness of the need arises, and as circumstances change.  But I also believe that if any opportunity arises to get us to focus on self-improvement, we ought to seize it.

I came across this quote in a New Era many years ago.  I immediately wrote it down and then hung it on my bedroom wall:

Ultimately, this is always my goal, and its definitely what I want to do better this year.  I looked at this quote every day for 6 years, I've had is memorized for nearly 17.  Its a habit I've been working hard to develop for many years.  

The truth is, I've never really had a hard time finding things to like about most people.  But I've found myself frustrated and disappointed and angry and hurt more often than usual this last year.  Some of the circumstances/actions that brought that about have been very much beyond my control, but I can still choose how I respond.  Not externally--with rare exception, I have been very in control of my external reactions for a long time.  It usually takes quite a lot (or quite extreme) provocation to get me to lose control of my visible/audible reactions.  But I have not been in control of my internal emotional reactions to others the way that I should.  My goal--always--is to be good to people, to be good for people, and to respond right down to the deepest parts of my heart with nothing but love and compassion.

So, as I start a new year, I have all those external goals one should have--get straight A's again, get in better shape, be wise in prudent in managing finances, etc--but ultimately what I want is to make those who are sad smile (or, better yet, laugh);  its to forgive immediately rather than quickly;  its to apologize without qualification when I have misstepped; its to be a little bit of sunshine to those who are feeling dark, a little bit of solid ground for those who feel they are wavering, a little bit of kindness to those who are experiencing the world harshly.

It was also Elder Ashton who said, "You can't do everything for everyone everywhere, but you can do something for somebody somewhere."  In other words, don't get overwhelmed with everything you can't do, or everything that is beyond your power or control;  focus instead on the good you can do, right where you are.  

After all, we could all use a little more compassion, and a little less criticism.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The more things change. . .

My grandfather was a 28-year-old father of five when the US entered WWII.  With so many dependents, he wasn't high on the draft list, but at 30-years-old, he found himself in the US Navy, and by 31 he was headed to Okinawa.  That young husband and father wrote this poem just before returning to US shores.  As one conflict ended, he captured both the gratitude and relief of that moment, as well as why it was unlikely to last, so very well.  I'm working on getting things scanned, typed, etc., but wanted to record it here in the mean time.

In the hills of Okinawa and too along
the shore
Those mothers' sons are resting, in peace
forever more.
That hell and all its horrors those brave
lads have endured
But now they meet in heaven with
all their miseries cured.
If this and all the other pretty isles
about the sea
could, in the heart of nations, a symbol
always be
Then the beauty, yes, and glory, of every
tiny isle
Could be monuments to progress
and prosper all the while.
But I'm afraid the worst's not over,
and the fighting still goes on,
And sure it will continue until the
hate and greed are gone.
Til mankind has learned the lesson
Our savior tried to teach
There'll still be sons out dying
on some lonely foreign beach.
~Nathan M. Pierce, USS Santee Oct 32, 1945

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Kylie (with much sass):  We have to do poses!

Dylan (punching the air at random angles while strutting):  You mean like an old school pose-off?

Kylie: Yeah, old-style.

Dylan (picking up Kylie's light-up Disney Princess wand): OK, let's go.

Kylie: No, no scepters here! (with even more sass) Just style!

And she strikes a pose.

I swear they were asleep before we watched Zoolander the other night.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Communicating & Introspection

There has been plenty of ink spilled over whether we're losing our ability to connect with each other in meaningful ways now that more and more of our communication happens online.

I probably should be concerned about this, and I do think its important to think about--I make a point of trying to keep my time on my phone or computer to a minimum when my kids are up, for example--but the truth is its exactly what I love about online communication.  I blog and I post a lot on Facebook, allowing me to feel like I'm being social and outgoing (and giving others the impression that I am) without actually requiring me to interact with anyone.  Most of what I post on Facebook isn't terribly personal, and definitely isn't really detailed.  My blog is much more personal, but again it gives me an outlet for those more personal and emotive things I don't share on Facebook, without actually requiring me to talk to anyone about it.

Most days, I talk to my kids, to a friend as we do kid drop off/pick ups at each other's houses, and Doug.  Doug and I can swing between 2-4 hour conversations and hardly speaking at all, instead just turning on the TV or diving into a book, both of us sort of done being interactive for the day (he's pretty introverted himself).  The same goes for car rides--we can easily fill an 8 or 9 hour drive with constant conversation, and can just as easily go 3 or 4 hours without saying a word.  Dylan and Keira often go long stretches without saying anything to me at all, both of them very self-contained personalities, but Keilana and Kylie will talk nearly non-stop if you let them, so often by the end of the day I am done being conversant.  I do interact with other adults at Church once a week, but that is done mostly through offering comments during lessons--I don't actually do a lot of conversation most Sundays.  There are individuals--most notably Doug, my mom and my older sister--with whom I can turn into a downright babbly chatterbox, and I have bursts of energy or amusement where I can briefly turn into a loud, chatty personality.  In groups in particular, those occasions are rare, and nearly all of them happened with my closest friends in high school, or with my in-laws (where I made a conscious effort to change my demeanor when, the first summer I spent around them, several of them made it known just how weird it was that I would sit in the back bedroom by myself with my notebook rather than be social).  In very large groups, particularly with people I don't know very well, I still tend to feel overwhelmed and awkward.  Ward parties, for example, aren't really very fun for me.  You know that feeling when someone is trying to take photos of you and you suddenly don't have any idea what to do with your hands?  Yeah, my feelings when I'm in a crowd tend to veer between that and just good ol' fashioned anxiety.

When I post and comment on Facebook and blogs, it gives me the opportunity to enjoy the interaction and conversation with others without dealing with that anxiety and self-consciousness.  When I'm typing, I don't trip over my words or thoughts the same way that I do when I'm speaking aloud, and so I actually end up feeling like I can get much farther in an online conversation.  I can engage when I feel like, when I'm in the mood, instead of having to force it when its convenient for someone else to try to fit into some notion of politeness.

I do love people and genuinely enjoy the company of others, and how I make others feel is important to me, so I've been practicing being warm and friendly and outgoing for many years.  But because I have to practice and do it consciously, there's always a part of me that feels like its phony.  Its not, but even with people I know reasonably well, I can see myself holding them at arm's length a bit, and yet somehow I can't quite get myself to put the arm down.  The flip side of that is that I don't really have the capacity to be phony--being real and open is so exhausting, I can't even imagine how draining maintaining a facade would be.  There are some people who don't seem to know the difference between reserve and falseness, but I've never much worried about them.  When people demand that you prove yourself, its usually evidence that no matter what you do, you can't prove yourself to them.

The fact does remain, however, that I struggle to connect in a really meaningful way with very many people.  I love lots of people that I love and that love me, and most of the time that's enough.  But intimate relationships--feeling like I'm close enough to people that I feel like we'd genuinely miss each other if we were far away, rather than just remembering fondly and filling the space with other people--are relatively few.  That's part of what made Lindsay so hard to leave--it took several years, but I built several of those relationships there, women and men that I had no hesitation calling "sister" and "brother" with my whole heart.  The other along the way are people I've known virtually my whole life, or a few, wonderful souls, who, for whatever reason I not only clicked with, I clicked with instantly.  That is extraordinarily rare, but there are a few people who I simply have concluded that I knew and was close friends with long before either of us was on this earth.

I forgot where I was going with this (the other nice thing about writing--I can follow the many diversions and side roads my brain takes without being interrupted).  I thrive on relationships;  I readily admit that nothing is more important to me.  Which is complicated when I feel awkward and hesitant to talk to or get to know other people.  And here's where I fall into the same social media trap as many others:  I feel like I've interacted, I've done something, I've been friendly.  Except that usually I haven't actually done all that much.  I'm a terrible visiting teacher, for example.  I love being able to quietly meet people's needs, but that is difficult to do if you don't know what the needs are because you've been hiding out at home. Fortunately I have a strong enough emotional perception and intuition that I can usually pretty quickly figure out, at least in the ball park, what someone wants emotionally and response appropriately, but its difficult to do that for people, at least very often, if you don't put in the time to get to know them well and to build their trust in you.  Basically, I want to find a way to save the world and love everybody, without anyone actually knowing it.  Which, I realize, is quite ridiculous.

But I've decided that even though social media isn't nearly enough, its something.  Practicing being outgoing in the virtual world does help the quell a bit of my anxiety when I try to be outgoing in the real world.  So, I will continue to sometimes hit the silent button when the phone rings and I'm not mentally prepared to talk, spend hours stressing about what I said to the stranger or casual acquaintance I talked to that day, and absolutely dreading even the thought of group projects.  But I'll also keep posting pictures of my kids and random articles that address my approach to life or politics, and comment on other people's posts discussions, and hopefully I'll get to a point where I stress a little less about everything I say out loud to everyone outside my family.