Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving Hope to Single Parents

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for charity work, but have struggled mightily because there is always so much need out there, and my ability to give has its limits. So I will often end up choosing how and where to give based on a more personal element...trying to match my giving with organizations whose missions and approaches are consistent with my own passions and interests.

Recently, I found out about a fundraising effort that combines several things about which I'm passionate: helping women and children, education and self-reliance, addressing defined needs in a defined way, networking among organizations to accomplish good, and using social media to spread the word.

Several LDS bloggers have come together to help LDS Philanthropies and LDS Business College provide full-tuition scholarships for single parents (mostly moms). The very effective program enables a single parent to focus on schooling for two years (tuition and books are covered). Upon graduation, the individuals have specific skills they can use immediately in the work force.

I've listened to and read the stories of women (e.g., see here and here) who have gone through this program and there are common threads in what they say -- they found hope and confidence to face their situations with faith, as well as increased ability to take care of their children. They found an environment that fostered spiritual growth as well as professional preparation. They found personal support in a small school that has a unique and focused mission.

This is a cause I'm passionate about. I would love to help them get past $10,000 by the end of the month. [Update -- we hit that goal earlier today...but we still want to keep helping!] Will you help spread the word? You can find widgets for the fundraising campaign to put on your own blog.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wisdom and Order

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. -Mosiah 4:27

Wisdom and order. I've been thinking a lot over the past months about those words. Those of us familiar with this Book of Mormon scripture often define "wisdom and order" with the other well-known phrase, of simply not running faster than we have strength. But I've been turning it around my mind: That a key to not running faster than I have strength is perhaps found in those two words: wisdom and order. (And about being diligent in being wise and ordered.)

Here are some of the things I've been thinking about in that regard.

Wisdom = Not just having knowledge, but living it.

What knowledge can guide us in not running faster than having strength?


Order means many things, but my thoughts about it in this context, or perhaps in the context of my life and what I need to focus on, is deliberate, prioritized living.

At the Women in Business Conference I mentioned in my previous post, this was the focus of one of the talks given that has lingered with me. In fact, personally, it's about the only message that really lingered with me. (I am so grateful to have been able to be part of a conference where that kind of foundational, perspective-giving message was a kickoff keynote. Truly, I think these principles ARE the key to professional or any other success.)

I think this quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell sums her thoughts up well (since I don't currently have a link to her talk -- that should change soon!)

Thus, the Lord has given us what might be called the “wisdom and order” and “strength and means” tests. Unwisely, we often write checks against our time accounts as we never would dare do, comparably, against our bank accounts. Sometimes we make so many commitments that they become like the vines in the allegory of Jacob, threatening to “overcome the roots,” including the “roots” of family relationships, friendships, and relationships with God.

How often do I run around frenetically, too busy, not spending enough time on the things of the most value? (That is something else that was discussed at the conference -- we know what we value, but we often don't put our time with those things we value most.)

More from Elder Maxwell:

After one of the Brethren made a report to President Brigham Young, he was anxious to leave so as not to impose. But President Young said, “Please sit a spell with me. I am weary of men and things.” How often do we “sit a spell” with spouse, children, colleagues, or friends? Unhurried time seems to be worth more than the same amount of time spent hectically....

[A]s far as I can see, Jesus was never hectically involved. This is all the more marvelous when we realize that so much of His mortal messiahship was crowded into only three very busy years....

We can all try to watch out for Martha-like anxiety, which is genderless. It can also deprive us of special experiences if we are too “cumbered about much serving.” Conscientiousness is not an automatic guarantee that we will choose the “good part” which will not be “taken away” from us (Luke 10:38–42).

And one more from Elder Maxwell:

The scriptural advice, “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength” (D&C 10:4) suggests paced progress, much as God used seven creative periods in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being “anxiously engaged” and being over-anxious and thus underengaged.

It's so easy in this world measured by time to be driven by the perceived lack of it, when perhaps the solution is simply to put into practice what the prophets talk about so often. Put first things first -- God and family. No success can compensate if we don't succeed in the home. Put another way, nothing else matters if priorities aren't in place.

For me, as a mom trying to figure out how to send fewer shallow shoots off in my life and dig my roots deeper, this piece really resonated with me. She, too, explores the notion of being "properly ordered."

For the wife and mother, no matter how talented and accomplished she is academically and professionally, her value in the world of work will never be as great as her value in the home. No one is indispensable in professional life — no matter how brilliant. Wives and mothers, like husbands and fathers, are irreplaceable when it comes to their children and family life. It also helps to recognize that our talents are properly ordered only when directed back to God.

Where I might disagree a bit with her is in her title -- I think the wisdom she shares goes beyond just being applicable to stay-at-home moms. It's possible for a SAHM to not be properly ordered, and it's possible for a mom who's also in the workplace to have her life in proper order. I think Sister Julie Beck sums it up well:

One of the questions that I get frequently is, “Is it okay if I work outside of my home or I don’t work outside of my home?” You have to know that as an international, global, Relief Society president, that question isn’t always appropriate in all of the world’s countries. There are many, many places where if our women don’t work, they don’t eat. So of course they have to work. The question of whether or not to work is the wrong question. The question is, “Am I aligned with the Lord’s vision of me and what He needs me to become, and the roles and responsibilities He gave me in heaven that are not negotiable? Am I aligned with that, or am I trying to escape my duties?” Those are the kinds of things we need to understand. Our Heavenly Father loves His daughters, and because He loves us and the reward at the end is so glorious, we do not get a pass from the responsibilities we were given. We cannot give them away. They are our sacred duties and we fulfill them under covenant.

But that really is the key. How often am I really letting myself be led by the Spirit -- even each day -- in my priorities and choices? How often do I let myself "escape" in my day-to-day when I should be more present?

Wisdom and order. These are principles I have felt the Spirit nudging me about a lot. The trick now is to live more consistently according to the knowledge I feel God is giving me. To live, diligently, consistently, with wisdom.

And order.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thoughts on work/life balance, "ambition," SAHMhood, and family-focused policy

At the recent BYU Women in Business Conference I attended (and helped plan), we had a lively presentation and discussion on work/life balance issues. This was a unique gathering, because these issues were discussed in context of doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Our motivation (as a advisory committee) for tackling this topic was centered in a comment given in a General Conference talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 
I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.
Chrysula Winegar was one of the presenters that evening. She is a work/life balance coach and advocate, as well as a passionate advocate for mothers the world over. 

In a recent post on her blog, she asks a question of one of her commenters, and I had thoughts that ended up being too long for a comment. So I'm posting them here. 

Chrysula asks: "Have you found you are actually able to enjoy this season [of motherhood, out of the workforce]? Or is the weight of knowing how hard it will be to "recover" professionally niggling in the background? I'd be curious, if you're comfortable, in learning more..."

Can I answer this question? I may be an anomaly on this, but this isn't something that bothers me. It never has. Maybe it's because I've been deliberate about keeping my toe in the professional puddle over the years (even while not being paid for my activities for over a decade); maybe it's because we aren't in dire straits needing money (which I realize is something that could change, and something I shouldn't take for granted and something that is itself an anomaly); maybe it's because I'm oblivious to how hard it really could be to re-enter, but I just don't feel it. 

If anything, in fact, the older I get, the less desire I have to re-enter the workforce per se. I feel the tug of my family roles to be stronger than ever (it only seems to get stronger as my kids get older -- I feel the need to be more focused, more deliberate in these roles than ever before). I also feel any other use of my skills is supposed to be outside of the workforce. 

BUT, that's not to say that I don't care about this issue in general, though, because I know that we have a lot of women who need to work and need to not feel decimated because they choose to stay home. We need more policy that allow a husband and wife options to work together in ways that work for their family. But I think some of what needs to happen is more valuing, in general in our culture, of a variety of contributions that people make outside of the realm of work, not only by corporations, but by individuals. [Chrysula gets to some of this in her post. I don't think she would disagree with me.]

But back to my point about what our culture often values. Consider, for example, the kind of voices that work against change toward more valuing of more than just work. This is a recent and much-discussed comment by Sheryl Sandberg: "I think the achievement gap is caused by a lot of things. It’s caused by institutional barriers and all kinds of stuff. But there’s also a really big ambition gap. If you survey men and women in college today in this country, the men are more ambitious than the women. And until women are as ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men ...I really think we need more women to lean into their careers and to be really dedicated to staying in the work force." 

Even while women have been at the forefront of pressing for more flex-time, etc., I also think it's often women who are also at the forefront of actually encouraging the embedding of hierarchical-corporate-ladder, kill-yourself-to-earn-your-place models...while, again, placing little to no value on the daily work of parents in their homes, of people in their communities and churches [things Chrysula lists in her post].

And so, the pressure on corporations continues to often maintain this "ambition" model to be "progressive" and "PC" and they continue to just try to more "equally" fill the rungs of the ladder. Because in reality, that is how many people measure the success of such efforts such as "equality." Or personal success. 

And it's the women who are often the ones most quickly accusing women like me of doing women and the quest for equality damage by not working. (Either that or claiming that we aren't truly being partners to our husbands if we don't have an income. Again, the measure of worth, of contribution, of value, of success, is often only measured by for-pay work, rather than seen in a larger context, valuing contributions that people can make -- especially in their families -- that are essential to the well-being of society. As a side note, here's some food for thought: One woman's response to such sentiments.) 

I'm grateful for the people who are willing to take the risks necessary to communicate to corporations (by challenging the ladder model, if not getting off the ladder altogether) that they want something different, a different mindset for work. They want work as a means, not an end, as a part of their life, not their entire world. As Chrysula notes, they work to define their world according to their values, whenever possible. They want not only the ladder leaning against a different wall, but to get rid of the ladder altogether and think about corporate culture, structure, rewards -- the whole kit and kaboodle - in a different way...in a way that wants to be part of a healthier overall culture that facilitates family life, not competes against it.  

(On a more personal, religious p.s.: While I'm a fan of talking about facilitating family-friendly policy, sometimes I worry that the discussion will miss the family part, the second part of Elder Cook's invitation. I'm reminded of the Proclamation to the World on the Family, which invites "responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society." The niggling fear I do have lingering in the background is that some will process work/family policy as existing primarily to facilitate adult lives and dreams and goals, rather than to support the doctrine of the family, which still keeps the bearing and rearing of children at the pinnacle of personal responsibility and, for lack of a better word, "success" (for those who have this opportunity, of course). This is some of what I mean by seeing work not as an end, but as a means to an end.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tackling a Tonsillectomy

Well, I did it. It's over. I'm so relieved, but also still a bit ragged from it all. There were so many blessings that came along the way, but also some challenges that sort of caught me by surprise. I'll probably write more later, but today, I'm writing some practical tips for tackling a tonsillectomy for a friend who is soon to go through this. This one's for you, Brit.

- First of all, the anticipation is in many ways the worst part. Yes, this is a hard surgery, especially for adults, but it's also a rather predictable one. The process that your body will go through to heal is common and repeated. I did a ton of reading and the patterns I heard about played out for me. And so, as the scripture says, "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." Or at least not fear as much.

- I will say right off the bat that I asked for priesthood blessings, and was completely shameless about asking for prayers. And I think that is why I went into surgery at peace. I also knew it was the right thing to do. That peace I exhibited surprised both me and my husband, but if that can happen to me, the queen of anxiety and worry, that can testify to you of the power of prayers and priesthood blessings and preparation.

- The recovery process is not like other surgeries where it's linear, getting better each day. The first few days are, relatively speaking, not the worst part. The worst pain hits around day 5 and can last for several days. If you know and remember that, it will make a huge difference mentally and emotionally.

- As such, I would highly recommend making sure you have help lined up for a full two weeks, somehow, if possible. I hired someone, a newlywed friend who didn't have a job, to come in. She did my dishes and picked kiddos up from school and helped with laundry and let me cry on her shoulder. I also had her read scriptures to me. That time listening and discussing my faith really helped me keep a better focus through it all. And she was just THERE so hubby could work and I could know that I was not going to be alone. I also knew myself well enough to know that having different people coming in and out would add to significant stress for me. I personally needed that consistency. Sadly, our plan to watch movies all day was eclipsed by the fact that I slept every late morning/afternoon.

- But happily, our plan to record all the crazy things I said on drugs never played out. I was scared spitless about taking narcotics; I've had a horrible experience with Lortab and was sure my experience with Percocet would be even worse (all of my sisters and mom get sick with these kinds of drugs). But I took anti-nausea meds faithfully throughout the time I took the meds, and they seriously made a HUGE difference during those hard days. I will say that I experienced the side effect of some pretty intense emotional downs, and that was something for which I wasn't prepared. There was one morning where I could. not. stop. crying. Again, knowing that this could happen is half the battle. Just factor in the weirdness of being on drugs as part of the process, and that can help. Figure out what amount you need for relief, and then stay up on that. It will help keep the pain at least bearable.

Other options to talk about that I had on hand to use are topical lidocaine suckers and/or a rinse/mouthwash. I didn't really use these, but I have heard others have. I bought Cloroseptic (didn't use that either). My doc uses Mobic (one a day is what I took) along with the narcotics. I think that helped during the worst days, and I used it alone as I weaned off the narcotics (my goal was to be done with the narcotics by the two-week mark, and I think I stopped taking them around day 12...by that point I was only taking them every 12 hours or so. I wasn't afraid to use them, but I also was anxious to get off of them.)

- One of the most important tips I can give you is to DRINK AND EAT (I'd say prioritize in that order) NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT HURTS. If you have seen Harry Potter, the scene from #6 in the cave was the mental picture I created for the woman I hired to help. "No matter what I say, Harry, you make me drink." That was her charge, and that was my challenge every day, every couple of hours. I bought cases of water that sat in my room, and had pretty much every known type of liquid nutrition known to man. I drank a lot of vitamin water, not so much Gatorade, a lot of regular water, some juices (don't do acidic ones! OUCH!), and some dairy (more later on...it can produce mucus that isn't comfy at first -- you'll figure that out).

Follow your doc's orders about what to eat or drink (some say no dairy at first, and some say only soft foods, etc.) But force yourself to do both. (Mine said it didn't really matter, although my own ENT who also does surgery takes a very conservative, soft-foods only approach, which was my choice...I pushed that for almost three weeks because I'm paranoid like that). Keep hydrated at all costs. And for me, consistently eating food not only meant that I never took meds on an empty stomach, but it kept strength up, AND helped me emotionally and mentally to not let the pain take over my life. My surgeon said without question that those who eat and drink heal faster. The pain also gets more out of control if you get dehydrated. I didn't lose weight for the first week and a half. It's been the last couple of weeks that I've struggled to maintain because I'm doing more but still haven't been eating normally, or enough. Food takes time to get reacquainted with. ;)

- I filled my freezer with pureed foods...fruits, juices with yogurt and cottage cheese, soups, pureed oatmeal. I wish I'd done more savory foods...too many sweets got old really fast. I wish I'd done more good hot cereals for variety and substance. For the first few days, I did a lot of broth with Ritz crackers dissolved in it, but that got old. Gatorade with yogurt was an interesting creation that I liked for a few days. But I didn't really want more popcicles and ice cream; I wanted real foods. (I am still craving protein, still trying to catch up on what I felt my body missed...it took me a while to feel brave enough to eat, even though my doc said I could eat whatever.) If your doc is ok with it, and you can tolerate it, protein drinks are a good option -- lots of calories and protein in only a few swallows. I used the plus version for an extra 100 calories. But again, I got sick of the sweet stuff. So think about that..think about what foods you can puree that you can have on hand or have someone make for you. (Later in the process when I felt a little more brave I made a potato soup with a bag of shredded hash browns boiled to serious softness in chicken broth (enough water to cover potatoes and then with bouillon cubes to match the amount , then mixed a can of evaporated milk and shredded cheddar cheese until smooth and bubbly.) You'll want to let any hot foods cool. I'm still feeling a little tender with really hot or really cold foods.

- Other tricks I used -- vaporizer (don't know if it made a difference, but I wanted to do all I could to keep my throat moist while I slept), gum (keeps saliva going and is something for my mouth to do), sleeping a lot (even though you'll want to be careful about not sleeping for too long at one chunk...want to keep up on meds). I also gave myself a LOT of time to eat. It usually took me 1-1/2 hours from start to finish to eat my meals. But the more you can focus on just your basics - drink, eat, sleep, the more your body can do its job.

- Get yourself some prune juice. This can help counteract the effects of the meds. I mixed mine with my daily pureed oatmeal, and even once blended it with pureed cottage cheese. (I'm not sure if you want to call that creative or desperate.)

- I don't know if this is normal (and sorry if this is too graphic, but I wish someone had told me they had experienced this), but I had serious green post nasal stuff that worried me. I was given antibiotics, but I honestly think it may have simply been my body's reaction to the surgery, a sort of natural lubrication response. It got lighter and better as I healed. And I never showed symptoms of a sinus infection, so that's what I'm guessing. But it was that kind of unknown stuff ("Is this normal?") that was hard for me. Don't hesitate to call your doc's office and ask questions. My nurse and I became really good friends. :)

- I tried to be careful not to bend over. I also slept with my head slightly elevated. But I am not sure whether those are things that make a difference or not. I just tried to be cautious and to do things that to me logically meant keeping any unnecessary extra blood flow to my mouth. I hear ice packs can help, but I never used them. The meds helped me through and my mental preparation for the bad days made a difference, I think.

- Please don't beat yourself up if you get discouraged through this. Plan on having and asking for not only the physical help and support, but also emotional help and support. Call me if you need to, and let yourself need what you need for weeks. It's a big deal, and people around you might need help remembering that it's going to take some time for normal to come back. For sure plan on two weeks, but then another two weeks to slowly ease back into life. I'm four weeks out and still tired, but feeling a little more like my whatever-my-normal-was-before normal.

You are strong and mighty, dear Brit. You will do great. And as my friend said, ultimately, it's in God's hands. Lean on Him lots during this. Look for the little blessings each day. Remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. But be sure to give yourself the space to say, "Baby, this is hard. I need to hunker down, and I need help. And I need time to heal."

I hope this helps. If you have questions, please ask! Or if I remember more, I'll share.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Celebrate Family "Blog Hops"

If you haven't had a chance to check out the blogs doing the Celebrate Family series -- focusing on The Family: A Proclamation to the World, you should. :) I love how these women are bringing together so many people for such a great purpose.

Here is a list of the blogs that are hosting this event:

Today, I hopped onto one of the blogs of a guest writer and discovered that there is more to the Celebration than I knew! I'm just going to quote her here:
In addition to guest bloggers on each site, there will be blog hops each Monday and Thursday. Now, I've actually never done a blog hop (this is where my new-ness to the bloggy world becomes apparent, aye?), but apparently you write a post about a specific assigned topic and link to it on the official blog hop page.

Here are the assigned topics for the blog hops:
Monday, Sept. 12th – Family Mission Statements – Do you have a family mission statement? Share it with us! How did you come up with your mission statement?
Thursday, Sept. 15th - Photo Essay: Photos that "say" something about the Family Proclamation. For example, a picture of your family playing a game with the caption from the proclamation that says, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on . . .wholesome recreational activities."
Monday, Sept. 19th – Family Home Evening (FHE) Lessons pertaining to some part of the Proclamation.
Thursday, Sept. 22nd – How the Proclamation has impacted your family personally.

I think you can just find the Linky tool at any one of the sites. For example, I found this explanation at Welcome to the Madness:

Do you have a family mission statement?  Write a blog post telling us about it, then link it here. You don't just have to link about a mission statement though...we would love to read about any part of the Family Proclamation, so feel free to link up anything you have written on it.   Please be sure to use the link to your post not to your blog's home page. This linky will be up on all four blogs but you only have to enter your post once. It will automatically show up on the other blogs as well.  Super easy!
 I'm thrilled to see so many people working together to celebrate family and the Proclamation. And, if you think the Proclamation doesn't apply to you because you don't currently have a family of your own, this post is for you.

The Family Proclamation Includes Everyone by Jenna Eakins

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pre-Op Prep

Yes. Surgery. It's in my future. On my anniversary, actually. ("Honey, how would you feel about having a date with me at the hospital?") He's such a good hubby; so grateful he's willing to help, as unromantic as this will be.

I'm having my tonsils removed. I know, I know, it's an awful surgery for adults. Let's instead be hopeful. At least maybe I won't get strep any more. And maybe it will actually help me feel better?

I've had five strep diagnoses this year. Two of them may have been sort of false positives, but still, that's a lot of strep for someone who has never had it. I've also had chronic tonsillitis, as I recently found out. So they are coming out.

And I'm actually a little excited. The last two months have been AW.FUL. So, like my ENT said, if there is even a 50% possibility that doing this could help me feel better, it might just be worth it.



Good answer.

And so, I'm stocking up on every form of liquid nourishment I can think of, and gratefully using my new BlendTec (birthday gift from the parents and from a year of 'no gifts from hubby to save up for it) to create different pureed foods. And I'm dreading being out of commission for two weeks, but I'm anxious to just get this over with.

I've discovered, however, that a lot of the eating experience is in the texture of foods.

Ah, well. Bring it on.

If you have any pureed nutrition ideas, bring them on!

Celebrate Family 2011

Several Mormon women bloggers are working together on the second annual Celebrate Family blog event. Different guest writers address different topics in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

In addition to Chocolate on My Cranium, other bloggers posting content include The Red Headed HostessWelcome to the Madness, and We Talk of Christ.

I wrote a little something about teaching children about sexuality using the Proclamation. It will be posted tomorrow, Sunday, September 11.

[edited to add]
Here's the link to my Family Proclamation post: The Proclamation as Powerful Primer on Procreation
I believe that teaching children about sex is an ongoing thing, and must be based on true doctrine to really be understood. The Spirit helped me one night teach my children about the law of chastity and the place of sex in God's plan, using the Proclamation as the foundation. It was an amazing experience.

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” -Boyd K. Packer

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Men are that they might have joy." But....

I think maybe someone needed to hear the message today about the joy of the gospel, because it came up an awful lot...in a testimony...in several comments in Relief Society.

I had an interesting experience with those messages, though. I didn't feel the Spirit when I heard them.

But I know that isn't because what was said isn't truth. The gospel IS a message of joy. And I do think we can often benefit so much by looking for the joy in life. In fact, it's something I've been deliberately working on during the past few weeks as I've been struggling with some really bad days physically (which has led to some really hard days emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). I've made lists in my journal of the little things that have brought me moments of joy. But there's also been a lot of pain, fear, and exhaustion.

I can't even articulate what a blessing Relief Society was. I feel the lesson was an answer to prayer. The message was on adversity. I told the Relief Society president that she was God's mouth for me today. She quoted from numerous talks that have been anchor talks for me during the past several years of health issues. Elder Bednar has said that the timing of things can help us recognize tender mercies. I know that the lesson was a tender mercy for me today.

But when those comments about choosing joy were flying around, it was like my heart and spirit shut down. And at first, I thought it was a defensive reaction, and maybe part of it was.

But as I left the building, I had a quiet feeling that maybe it's simply because that particular message about joy wasn't the one God had for me today. I had the sense that He knew where I was, and what I needed. I needed to feel something before I could connect with the message about joy. And the Spirit let me know what *was* for me. I felt as though my soul was cleansed and renewed. I cried through most of the meeting (why do I keep forgetting to put tissues in my purse?), but that itself was part of the cleansing. A peace settled on me.

Still, the contrast I felt when the focus changed a little during the class was really striking. I could look across the room at another woman who was clearly not connecting with the joy message, either.

The reality is that sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Sometimes it's all we can do to just show up, to not give up. Sometimes it's hard to actually feel joy when you are in survival mode.

And I think that is ok. One of the talks that was quoted today was Elder Wirthlin's "Come What May and Love it." This was one of those talks that came at one of those times when I was feeling weary and battle-worn. I'm ashamed to say I resisted the message, thinking it was a bee-boppy kind of talk that was for those optimists out there who never seem to struggle. (Why do we resist the simple truths when we are hurting? Maybe it's because that's just not the message we need right now?)

But oh, was I wrong. Listen to these tender words:

How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.
Yes, we are that we might have joy. But that joy is something that often comes as we learn to weather the storms with faith. Joy can come through the process of learning to see the growth that comes of struggle. Joy can come from becoming acquainted with God in our grief. And sometimes we don't quite see that all in the middle of it all.

Another quote that came to mind for me today was this from Elder Holland:

[I]t is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them.
(Oh, how I love our dear leaders!)

But I also love this reminder about how to stay on the path to joy. That deep kind of joy that comes of enduring trials, and enduring them with faith.
But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!
Just in my prayers last night, I cried out, "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief."

He helped me, and I am grateful.

And because of that, I'm able to feel a little more joy tonight.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dancing in the tension: You're doing better than you think you are, and you can do better

I've long been thinking about how often God is found in the tensions we feel in our lives, our doctrine, etc. I wanted to sort through one of those tensions that came across my spiritual and mental space today. This is long and probably rambling, but I'm sorting as I write, so take it all for what it's worth. 


"You worry too much."

These were the kind (and correct) words of a wise and loving person today after Relief Society. It's too hard to try to capture the dynamic of the Relief Society lesson, but if I were to sum up the message we received, it was to not let anxiety drive our actions or thoughts or determinations about our spirituality or about our decisions. The idea was, "Look, if you hold a current temple recommend and you didn't lie to get it and you are trying to be a kind, loving, service-oriented person, then you are doing ok. So stop worrying about this decision or that decision. Live your life. Relax and enjoy the ride a little more."

And boy howdy, is that a message I need. 

I feel like this validates something Elder Bednar taught in General Conference in April.
I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3)....
In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (
Isaiah 2:52 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:732:28), and direct and protect you and your family. 

This is something I need to keep pondering on. I sense that there is a lot of healing truth there for many of us. I KNOW there is healing power in those words for me.

But I still struggle with a very real tension that I think exists in all of this.

The scripture that was shared in Relief Society to show how merciful God is to us was from Helaman 10. This is where Nephi is given the sealing power, where he is told that God would give him everything he asked for. I think the message was to show how loving and merciful God is. That He's not limiting blessings He will grant us (the comparison was made to the Aladdin model of three wishes only). And I understand that I don't understand the fullness of God's love and mercy. I know that understanding that more is central to me in my personal journey and particular mortal weaknesses I have.

But there's a caveat to that binding promise that, in my view, is the source of the anxiety many of us (or perhaps I should just say I) feel in the first place: God was able to covenant to grant anything Nephi asked for, because he knew that Nephi would not ask for anything contrary to His will. (I also tend to think this was tied to his calling and keys as a prophet, but I could be mistaken about that.) I don't think most of us are at that point where we (or God) have THAT kind of confidence in our ability to KNOW God's will.

Another scripture was Nephi when he was trying to get the plates from Laban. The notion is the idea of line upon line - that Nephi didn't know what the next steps were.

But there again, he DID lean on the Spirit to guide him. And there again, that is where the anxiety comes for me. Sometimes I simply don't know if the Spirit is guiding me or not. So I don't find the comfort I probably should in these scriptures. They just reinforce the very weakness that gives me anxiety in the first place.

I think this is Elder Bednar's point...that we can grow line upon line in developing and growing in that way, and we can take confidence in the mercy that comes of sincerely trying to do our best. But that isn't the same as having confidence in ourselves to know what we need to do in the first place. And sometimes we do hear about that kind of confidence, and it's hard not to think that I have to be at THAT level to not be anxious about my decisions. We hear, for example, about President Monson's unbending loyalty to the promptings of the Spirit. But I think a good majority of us are still trying to figure out what those promptings are. To me, that seems like a key part of why we are here...to learn to recognize how the Spirit works in our lives.

Also, while I know that the voices in my head that go to self-criticism and fear are not from God, that doesn't mean that I'm always going to make the right choices, nor does it mean that I won't have things I need to work on and improve, even if I'm doing better than I think I am.

The title of this post paraphrases something Sister Beck said in a regional conference a while back. She recognized the trap many of us get into when we doubt and criticize ourselves. I'm learning to challenge those voices and recognize that they don't produce good fruits. But then in the same breath, she also invites us to realize how and where we can do better. And I know that is also true!

Sooooo, how I come to peace with this tension is to realize (or remind myself of) something I know the Spirit has taught me in moments of clarity: God's voice is not one that paints me into a corner of hopelessness. I do think that was probably the main message of the lesson. And I extend to remind myself that His invitations to improve and repent come with a feeling of hope. That doesn't mean His invitations will be comfortable or easy or convenient or even wanted. But they won't leave me feeling despair like the critical, anxious voices in my head do.

I don't worry so much about the final judgment kind of effects of my inability to discern the Spirit in my life. That comes from the confidence I have in the Atonement and in the power of covenants and the reality that God really does know our hearts. I feel confidence in the power grace to cover that gap for me.

But I think the anxiety really comes in worrying about the consequences of dumb choices that come of the whole (very messy) learning-by-experience thing. And that's a whole other kind of fear that requires a deep acceptance of the nature of this mortal existence...something else I'm trying to process.

Something I'll likely explore another day. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beauty Redefined Billboard Campaign

One person -- or in this case, two people (twin sisters) -- can make a difference! I know I'm not alone in being disgusted at all the billboards and other materials (magazines, TV ads, etc. etc. etc.) that objectify women's bodies and communicate the message that worth = looks/weight/size etc.

Lindsay and Lexie Kite, Ph.D. students in Communications, have decided to take action to help give women different messages. This week, twelve billboards are going up along the I-15 corridor in Northern Utah that will be a contrast to the bikini beer ads, the plastic surgery ads, and others that line the freeway.

One of the things I love about what the Kites are doing is that they are teaching media literacy. Too often, people just absorb the messages from the media without looking at them critically, analyzing the dynamics, and challenging falsehoods with which we are bombarded. Once I talked with them, I started realizing how completely saturated our world is with these messages. I also feel more determined to help my children understand the truth about who they are, and how different that truth is from what they hear and see in the culture around them.

To learn more about the Beauty Redefined campaign, see beautyredefined.net

You can also read an interview I did with the Kite sisters.

And here is a recent news story about the Beauty Redefined billboard campaign.


Monday, July 11, 2011

This is how I approach it

It's time for my midnight snack, and I admit that I've been staring at the bag of unopened Doritos on my table for a while. That, and the chocolate cupcake that my daughter brought home for me from ward choir practice.

But I'm resisting the temptation. It's not because they are bad for me (because we all know they are). No, it's because of how I approach fasting.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints typically fast once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month). Because of my chronic health issues, fasting is something I can't easily do. We've been counseled to be wise as it relates to fasting and health. But I've struggled with what to do. Do I push myself and fast anyway? Do I just give myself a 'pass' on this one? Do I come up with an alternative "sacrifice"?

For me, the latter made sense. So -- as silly as it may sound -- I don't do treats/snacks/sweets on Sundays. I actually begin this process every Saturday evening and continue it until Monday (which may sound arbitrary, but to me, it makes it feel more deliberate). And since weekends are often family gathering times, there *is* an element of sacrifice to it. (I enjoy joining my family for a good treat!)

More than anything, it's a conscious something to try to remind myself of the law of the fast. It may not be much, but it does help me remember this law and the principles behind it, which include developing self-control, building spiritual strength, and helping the poor. (Along with the process of fasting, we contribute fast offerings every month, which are used to help those in need.)

Do any of you Mormon folk out there have health issues? If you do, what do you do regarding the fast?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My many selves are giving Google+ a +1

I have known for a while that I am a nerd, but this whole Google+ experience has sort of confirmed that for me. I love being part of a test run of this software. Bugs? Bring 'em on! Feedback is the name of the game, and I am a feedback fan. I love watching a business seek it and respond to and implement it. The Google+ people send videos to report on progress, post posts seeking specific input, and share glimpses of what is coming down the pipe (or is it pike? -- could someone settle that for me once and for all?) And I love learning from smart, true tech people...and let me assure you, there are a lot of such people engaging on Google+. Fun. Sometimes I still regret not getting the computer science degree I had originally declared.

My social and networking self is loving circles. LOV.ING. This is a different model from Facebook or LinkedIn -- no glaring "Only add this person if you know this person!!!" kind of message. Don't get me wrong; I think there is definitely a place for such caution, but I've been surprised at how much I enjoy the more open community-building that is happening on Google+. Other people can do my networking for me. I think that part will surprise some people, and, on the down side, it does make it hard to know who is a real possible contact you want to have, and who is just spamming accounts for connection. I still prefer leaning on someone else's recommendations before adding them to my circles.

As a business person, I think this kind of market competition and strategy implementation is a blast to watch. I can't wait to see what Facebook does in response (hint: it will have to be better than one-to-one video capability via Skype). I am anxious to see how Google+ will fit in strategically with  other Google features. I'm chomping at the bit to see how businesses and other organizations will be able to use Google+ (as of now, only individuals are allowed to use Google+).

The strategy, too, of building the anticipation through limited invites and the pretty-public-now field trial has fascinated me. To have this much attention and this many participants before launch is, in my view, brilliant. I also thought this article had some interesting points about how Google+ will be able to be used by professionals in ways other social media tools have not: Google+ Aims for the Professional

And my SEO enthusiast self is really wondering how this could impact the world of search engine dynamics. I've already seen some people report significant differences in their site traffic because of Google+. I'm sure some of that is coming from the novelty of the tool, but I will not be the least bit surprised if that impact also has a shelf life.

Just a few months ago, I couldn't imagine anything pulling people away from the investment they had made on Facebook. If anything will pull people away, Google+ is it. What a surprise? I guess we should have seen it coming.

And who knows what the future will hold?


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The body on the brain

I always find it interesting when different people end up posting about similar topics. I just posted something on having an eternal perspective about my body (hard to do sometimes with chronic illness and as I age), and then I found this post at Segullah called "Your Body is Special."

And then there was this post on Deep Beauty at Women in the Scriptures. (LOVE!)

Which then reminds me about the interview I had with the Beauty Redefined twins a few months back. (I'm so excited for their new billboards!) (This post is worth a glance, too -- the "Day of Beauty" video is amazing, and, of course, so is Stephanie Nielson (NieNie).)

And, hm, look at what was open in my browser tabs. I actually had it open for another reason, but "The Reflection in the Water" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is a perfect talk for this topic.

Add to that another post that just came to mind that was published just over a week ago at Mormon Mommy Blogs: "Dressing Like Barbie." If you read my Mormon Women post, you'll see that it was yet another post by Mona at MMB that got me thinking about Elder Bateman's quote, which is why I wrote that piece.

Obviously, a lot of people have the issue of what I call the doctrine of the body on their minds right now. (And that isn't even all the posts that are out there!) Clearly it's something we need to hear repeatedly.

Any other posts you want to add to the list? What are your thoughts on how to have a healthy relationship with your body?

Eyes to See

The last few months have been hard. It's interesting how my ability to cope with my chronic illness comes in waves. I think I go through stages of the grieving cycle over and over again. Different things can trigger the process.

But times like these leave me searching more fervently in my life for the hand of God, for His tender mercies. I find that I can cope better with the hard times when I can know and feel that God is aware of me and my life.

I wanted to record a few of those times I have recently had.

- I was well enough to enjoy a delightful little getaway with my hubby (more on that to come). (This is more than just a small miracle.)

- Our kids stayed well until pretty much the minute we got home.

- Hubby and #2 stayed well and were able to go to Washington D.C. (together with #3, who was one of the two who got sick originally).

- While hubby and #2 and #3 were out of town, #1 and I have had wonderful, one-on-one time together. (I have never had such concentrated time with my son!)

- We had a tender mercy when my son slept in last week on Sunday. We had stayed up late the night before talking (awesome). He was going to find someone with whom he could attend church (I attend a different ward that meets later, what with my weird sleep issues and all). But he fell back to sleep, so he ended up coming with me. Nevermind enjoying sacrament meeting with him (I'm usually alone so that was a treat), but the Relief Society fifth Sunday lesson was a combined lesson with the young men! So I got to sit by my son in Relief Society. (In over two decades of Relief Society attendance, I've never seen that done. I liked it.) What are the odds of that? Wow.

- A few weeks ago, I hit a pretty bad "low." (It was on Mother's Day weekend, but not Mother's Day driven.) I went to church so weighed down, so weary. The night before, I'd had one of those prayers pleading for strength, for something to help me feel a little more connected to heaven, on that heavenly radar screen as I like to say it. I went home between sacrament meeting and Sunday School to take meds (antibiotics). I came back to find my usual class full, so I slipped into the back of the other class.

And wouldn't you know it? The second I sat down (I'm not exaggerating), the teacher quoted something that really felt just for me. It blew me away. That day, there were also a string of simple kindnesses shown by people that helped me feel God's love. (It's a reminder that little things really can make a difference.)

I was grateful for my mother-in-law who recently shared some of the tender mercy moments she has noticed as well. I felt the Spirit so strongly as she shared.

God is real. He is there. We just need to pray for eyes to see.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some healthy recipe ideas

I like to browse recipe ideas to get ideas of my own. This had some combinations that sounded quite yummy.


Monday, May 16, 2011

"What if equality isn't the end point?" Thoughts on gender and work/family issues

I wanted to share and discuss a few articles on the topics of women and the dynamic of sorting through education, career, and family goals. These articles/posts address these topics with a focus on gender issues. I've been involved in the topic of women and education and women in business for years, and so these articles are of interest to me.

First is this article by Casey Hurley: What If “Plan A” Doesn’t Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course. I think she has done an excellent job of addressing the tension that exists for LDS women when considering the prophetic counsel on motherhood as well as the counsel on education, and the teachings in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.

I enjoyed this article on Empowering LDS Women. I think the concept of personal revelation being essential to these issues is, well, essential.

That article points to a Square Two article by Kaylie Clark: Giving Women a Voice Without Sacrificing Faith or Family: The Changes Needed to Create an Egalitarian Society". Let  me start by saying that I really like the idea of brainstorming different policy ideas to have more a more family-oriented culture in government and business. As was mentioned in both of these last two articles, Elder Cook recently talked about this idea in General Conference. We were invited to “be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents."

And yet, there are elements of Clark's article that don't quite sit with me. I don't pretend to have it all figured out (and I invite respectful dialogue here), because I think part of what Elder Cook's counsel invites us to do is to counsel with others to sort through how best to encourage and create family-friendly policies and business practices.

OK, so I like that she is thinking about some possible ways to do this. That is good. Thumb up there. 

At this point, here are some of my thoughts, however, that keep me from giving her article a double-thumbs up.

First of all, I don't agree with a pure egalitarian model as she seems to. I know that is going to be misunderstood as saying that I don't believe in women being equal to men, or in the blessing of equal opportunity. I do. (Yes, I still have posts to post on my thoughts on equality in Mormon vernacular.)

Here's a preview: To me, equality should not be confused with parity. I think she is not acknowledging the fact that the Proclamation still delineates primary roles based on gender. As such, I feel like her ideas are a bit forced on the "This is spiritually valid" side of things.

I think if we are going to brainstorm, we have to keep those gender roles on the table, and dance in the tension a bit more. To me, it's not as simple as just creating an "egalitarian society" -- that feels too structured and too dismissive of potential gender differences (and/or at least the primary gender roles that we have in our LDS teachings).

This is why I like Casey Hurley's article. She doesn't shy away from the tension but rather engages it. I think it's in such tension that personal revelation becomes all the more valuable and necessary.

So, to me, there is a complexity here that a purely egalitarian model, with its associated numbers-based measures, could very likely gloss over. My concern is that equal opportunity efforts often end up toward a mandated equality that could put both individuals/families and private/public organizations into a hard spot.

For example, I am not convinced this kind of policy (as explained in Clark's article) is a good solution:

After seeing the strong economic benefits of including women several European nations have already passed legislation requiring a specific level of women’s participation in the highest management levels of businesses, (Buzek 2011).
I have always had concerns that prescribed employment/selection rules based on gender (or race) can have a serious downside, including organizations feeling coerced to hire for a profiled characteristic rather than honest-to-goodness skill, need, and 'this-makes-sense'-ness. I also worry about the impact this could have on our culture at large.

This article, The End of Men, explores some trends that concern me that seem to be a result of the push for "equality." The fact that many governments have caught on that women are capable and that their involvement has economic value has led to the fact that there are "political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes" (emphasis mine).

The author of The Atlantic article, Hanna Rosin, poses this question:
[W]hat if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
Clark insists that "psychological studies testing the assumption that women are better nurturers yields ambiguous findings due to cultural influences, so the argument that women are naturally better equipped for the work in the home is weak with little scientific backing."

The scientific backing may be lacking, but there are still trends and issues (and, for Latter-day Saints, our LDS teachings) that I think deserve more attention as the dialogue about gender issues and work/family policy continues.

There are questions that remain. Is it just "natural" ability or drive that should determine the balance of who stays home and who brings home the bacon for how much of the time? (For example, I've seen too many examples of women who don't feel like 'natural' mothers who feel inspired to stay home. I'm one of them.) Does the idea of "equal partners" mean "equal roles" or "equal parsing of tasks"? (I don't think it does.) Can or should "equality" be mandated by governments in ways that could force families to choose something that isn't right for them?

Perhaps I could best sum up many of my questions by echoing the question posed by Hanna Rosin:

"What if equality isn't the end point?"

I know I don't have all the answers, but I think this is a valid question.