Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coming up for air...

...but only for a moment.

This was my Friday:

Up at 12:15 (for those who don't know, I have chronic fatigue and insomnia -- not a good combination! I compensate (read: survive) by sleeping until lunchtime or later).

Appointment at 1:00 p.m. (I have an awesome therapist who's helped me deal with said health issues. Seriously, she's been an angel in my life.)

Return shirt at Costco on the way home. Do errands at Costco. Stand in line to cash rebate check. Give up on cashing rebate check because line was too long.

Drop off Costco schtuff at home. Talk to neighbor while doing so, who called to say she would pick up the children. During conversation, we realize that it's better for me to do so, so I scramble to do so.

Appointment at 4:00. Foot doc this time, with #3. (We were late. Note to self: Don't set appointments so close to after-school time.)

Run into grocery store on the way home to pick up dressing for salad for high priest group dinner.

Veg for 10 minutes (which was 10 minutes too long) watching what the kids were watching to take a breath before the dinner.

Make dinner for the kidlets, make salad for our dinner. Run to dinner. Have a great time at dinner. Get call from #3 at dinner to get us to skedaddle home for piano recital.

8:00 recital.

8:45 get children to bed.


Last nite, we had a busy day, but then just hung out at home together, which was lovely. Tonite, it was Grandma's. And tomorrow should be fairly 'normal.' But then it'll be back to really busy this week. we go!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Extracurricular Activities

Tonite, the chillens had a piano recital. Short and sweet, just like I like 'em. But I am proud of how they are progressing. It was fun to watch them play. I was especially happy to see how well #3 did. She's been a bit stressed about piano lately, and I thought she hit the ball out of the park tonite.

I am of the opinion that extra-curriculars need to be carefully monitored and controlled so as not to take over too much of our family's life. Piano, however, is for us a required thing. We both feel strongly that having some musical training can enrich one's life and also enable one to be able to serve others. I also just know too many people who regret quitting piano when they were young.

Of course, if we felt inspired to do something differently, we would, but that is currently our modus operandus.

Not long ago, I asked our Young Men leader about advice he would give to the parents of youth. His response interested me. He said he wished more parents understood that sports or other extracurricular activities have taken over so much of the young men's time than many don't participate fully in the youth programs. And then he said something that has really stuck with me, which is that spiritual growth that can come from the Church's programs can't be found in the same way through sports or other activities. Yes, discipline can be learned, but there are things that can be missed.

I also think about the counsel from Mormon Church leaders on these things. For example, consider this from Elder Oaks:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.
Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. [See the full talk, "Good, Better, Best" for some sobering statistics]

The flip side of this is that there are statistics that say that teens who are involved with extracurricular activities have higher levels of self-esteem. And I can speak from personal experience that being involved in sports in junior high was something that helped me through a very difficult time in my life. I don't want to swing too far to the conservative side of things and have my children miss out on some important opportunities or experiences. I really think that ultimately inspiration from God is the answer, but I'm always interested in others' thoughts on topics like this.

So, what say ye? How do you find the balance between giving children opportunities and keeping priorities and family life intact?

High Priests' Group Social

I love being with the people in my ward congregation. I am missing them a lot right now because I'm currently attending a ward that meets later in the day. (My health problems make mornings very difficult, so I got permission to attend another ward.)

So I was glad to get together with many of them last night at our ward's high priest social. We ate a yummy dinner and then played a game around our tables. Each of us wrote a "little known fact" about ourselves, and then people at the table tried to guess who wrote what.

I wrote about making 24 points in a school basketball game when I was a teenager. (What would you have shared?) At the end of the evening, each table shared what everyone said. It was both interesting and amusing to hear what people chose to share. I think my favorite was one of the women who said that she once raised ticks and had the largest tick colony in the nation. (I can't remember why she did that, but it stuck in my mind.) I also remember the story of the man who was scuba diving at night and had an electric eel charge him and knock the mask off his face. This was the same man who was nearly crushed while working on his '59 whatever-it-was. His brother heard his screams for help and lifted the car enough for him to get out from under it.

Anyway, I'm grateful for good friends and for opportunities to "hang out" with some of them at activities like this.

A Favorite Mormon Video

The Mormon Church has created a lot of great videos. They can be found on YouTube at the Mormon Channel and elsewhere, such as on the Church's website for youth. I've enjoyed the profiles as well (also available at the Mormon Channel) -- it's fun to "meet" different members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But I think the following video of the youth at the Kiev Ukraine temple dedication time (talking about their youth celebration) is one of my all-time favorites.

For those not of our faith, this post that features the youth cultural celebration video explains a little about why temples are so important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How to avoid an internet addiction (or at least obsession)

So this is a topic at the forefront of my mind right now, and not just because of this article at Mormon Women: Who We Are. Actually, it's really on my mind all the time. How can I use the internet wisely in ways that don't interfere with my family roles and responsibilities, and my spiritual priorities? If you are reading this, you, too, are on the internet at least enough to stumble on my pretty obscure blog. So, would you take just a second and share how you work to keep that balance? I love the internet for so many reasons, but it's all too easy to let it take over more of my time than it should.

Me? Right now my goal is to essentially stay off the internet when my kids are home and awake. That's my goal. I've set this goal before and not done well, but I really feel like I need to draw some hard lines so my fam can know and feel that they matter more. It's all too easy to say, "Just a second, sweetheart...."

So, please share what works for you.

Can broken (even offended) hearts help us knit our hearts?

I've been thinking about this post over at Segullah. It's pretty amazing when you hear the stories of the questions that people are willing to ask -- about dating, marriage, pregnancy -- things that are pretty personal and definitely charged. They evoke some of our strongest feelings, both spiritual and emotional. They reflect the many challenges that come with mortality and the messiness that comes with the gift of agency.

And so on one hand, I really understand the frustration about personal questions being asked on a dime. I doubt there are many women who haven't experienced this, and we've probably all experienced it multiple times.

And yet.

I can't stop thinking about the fact that even such insensitive questions could be springboards for more hearts-knit-together-like sisterhood if we would let them. Yes, people should probably mind their own business, but where is the harm of gently sharing a bit of our lives with each other? Couldn't we help others have more compassion by sharing some of our difficulties in these areas of our lives?

I definitely have my horror stories with these things. "Why aren't you married yet?" was a question I got when I was single. I was criticized (or pitied) openly for having three children so close together. And then when we didn't have any more, questions came about why we weren't having more.

But as I noted over in the comments, I have found that a simple answer that helps people understand my life and heart a little more typically goes a long way -- AND it helps me keep from getting frustrated or feeling offended. After all, it's hard to feel love for each other if we are harboring grudges.

I didn't want to pontificate too much in the thread because I really do see both sides and I don't want to trample on tender feelings. And yet, it's those very tender feelings that I think could help people understand more about how complicated life can be, and give opportunities for those in pain to actually receive some support. I think most people really don't mean to be insensitive. Maybe we can give them a chance?

Maybe it's in part because I'm afraid of being that person at times (sometimes we all say and do dumb things) and I would sure appreciate some mercy and an opportunity to repent and try again -- with that person I may have inadvertently offended!

Whaddya think?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

p.s. On beauty: To women -- Just say no!

I really appreciated the concrete tips that the women of the Beauty Redefined project give for how we can be more media literate, and essentially say NO to the lies that media often portray about women, worth, beauty, ideals, youth/aging, etc. etc. etc. They share strategies for both girls/women and for the boys/men who care about them (and/or care about these issues and being part of the solution rather than part of the problem). (Here's another interesting article I recently read about that, directed at men.)

But every time I drive by a billboard or see a magazine, I think WHY ARE WOMEN DOING THIS? (Yes. I know I'm shouting.) It's all too common, I think, to hear people blasting men only for the problems of the objectification of women in the media and in real life. And yes, that is happening. But good golly, what are WOMEN doing to contribute to this problem?

I loved this video from a woman in the music industry who has simply chosen to say no. She kind of just tells it like it is. Listen to "Puppets" by Finnish singer Jonna. I think it's not only women in the media industry who need to hear this. We ALL do. Are we letting ourselves be puppets? Are we letting culture define what is beautiful, what is acceptable, what is reasonable?

What helped Jonna change? She converted to Mormonism and caught the vision of the power of purity, virtue, and modesty. Awesome.

For more about Jonna's conversion to Mormonism, see this MormonTimes article. You can read more about her life, career, and beliefs in this Mormon Artist interview.

On Beauty and Truth

You'll see I've got beauty on the brain. And bodies. And the battle to accept our mortality. The battle is real for me. It's not so much the beauty thing (I've sort of accepted that I'm more a plain Jane, and my stint with an eating disorder is thankfully in my past), but the chronic illness and aging thing really does get to me sometimes. Read more of my reflections on the struggle on my other blog. (Why do I have two blogs again? I'm really thinking that wasn't the best decision. Ah, well.) Read more of my thoughts on the solution at Mormon Women: Who We Are. (Hint - there's more than one reason I picked that name for the Mormon Women website.)

One talk I wish I had included but forgot to (the post was already too long anyway) was this by Elder Holland. It is entitled To Young Women, but I think we as adults also need the message as much as our young women do. Besides, the young women often follow our lead. What kind of example are we giving them?

More than ever before, I think we need the power of truth to be able to combat all the voices and forces that would seek to undermine the power and worth of women in God's plan. (This is true for me, too, but for the given topics, my focus is more on women.)

Thoughts? What does true beauty mean to you? What helps you feel your worth as a daughter of God? What truths are powerful weapons in your battles against the voices (both "out there" and within) that seek to undermine your sense of worth, hope, and potential?

On aging, beauty, and the battle to love our bodies

I played basketball a couple of weeks ago. It was awesome. (I bet you didn't know that my dream as a youth was to play bball. When I filled out my little fill-in-the-blank journal in junior high, the "I spend most of my time thinking about" line was filled in with one word: basketball.)

But I am not sure playing basketball is in the regular cards for me. I thought I'd try it out. I got bruised and scratched, but that didn't matter much. But the reality that I could fall or get bumped hard and throw out my already-messed-neck did worry me.

I came home and wept. I mourned the loss of my young, vibrant, active, very athletic self.

Maybe I sound like a wimp, but given my chronic health issues, I feel like I have to be careful with this body that is already sort of on the edge. I have children. They need me. I don't need some random injury from Relief Society basketball to complicate my already complicated (and, it sometimes feels like delicate) life.

Having chronic health issues can present a real identity crisis to a do-er. But I'm realizing so can aging. We come here to eventually die, and the natural way to get to that place is through aging.

And it's hard not to fight that reality.

I'm reminded of this amazing talk by Elder Merrill J. Bateman. I've never forgotten the graph that he put up that showed the following:

Data from physiological studies illustrate the muscular strength of the human body from birth to old age. A horizontal axis marks off ages from birth until we die, and a vertical axis measures the muscular strength of the body. At birth a graph line begins near the bottom of the chart, showing how a baby’s strength is small relative to that of an adult. Strength then increases rapidly as the human body develops from childhood to adulthood. The strength of the physical body peaks near 30 years of age. It is well documented that muscular strength in both males and females begins a long descent after 30 as the body slowly deteriorates until death occurs.

(I should note that this talk was given to young adults, most of them single, which is another topic for another day -- re: the importance of the single adult years and critical decisions. For a teaser about what else is on my mind, see this article. Wowza.)

Anyway, this statement from Elder Bateman was recorded onto my soul.

As one looks at the chart, one might ask: Why the long, slow decline? Are there lessons to be learned? The answer is yes! ... As one experiences the downhill portion of later life, the inevitable aches and pains serve an important purpose. They help one put off King Benjamin’s “natural man [or woman]” as we learn to yield to the “enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). The aches and pains of later life teach humility, the meaning of long-suffering, the importance of patience, and an appreciation for the qualities of kindness and love, and they help one learn moderation in all things. It’s interesting. These are the divine attributes. For the faithful, the slow deterioration of the body serves as a refining instrument for the spirit.

Alas, yet again, we see the message. We are here to learn, grow, and be refined. We are here to become, not just to do.

This ties in, I think, to other things that have been on my mind, like the culture that focuses on physical beauty at all costs. I had the opportunity to interview two women (twins, actually) who are doing doctoral research on media and body image issues for women. (Edited to add this direct link: See more about their Beauty Redefined project here.) The statistics they share are sobering. (Another woman wrote her senior paper on this topic and she also shares a boatload of sobering statistics.)

Other people are also feeling pressed to address this topic. BYU Women's Services had a whole semester focusing on Recapturing Beauty. Stephanie Nielson (NieNie) was their keynote speaker.
(If you have thoughts on this topic, BYU Women's Services is having an essay contest [edited to add direct link]... deadline is March 1. As mentioned in that NieNie video link on, the cash prize is only available to students, but anyone can submit an essay.)

It seems to me that if we are not very, very careful, we can buy into a culture that encourages the avoidance of the very things that Elder Bateman says are designed as part of this mortal existence to help us grow spiritually. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that taking care of our bodies isn't a good thing. But obsessing about not looking 20 anymore, or spending great amounts of time, energy, and money to try to pretend that aging isn't happening is, I think, a real problem. (Again, read the studies these women are sharing. See how it's affecting the rising generation, too. And if you don't read anything else, read this Newsweek article about how girls who are comfy in their own skin at a young age (even if obese) end up being healthier in the long run.)

Our answer is not to fight against the clock, but to work with it. Our strength lies in accepting our mortality and learning from it, not resenting it. Our power lies in having our identity grounded in who we are -- children of God -- rather than solely in what we do or how we look.

It's a battle, and we are bombarded on all sides, from within and without. Truth is power, but we have to really discipline ourselves against our natural tendencies to hold onto youth and ideals of perfection in unhealthy ways.

So, how's your battle going? Do you love your body or is it more your enemy? What helps you learn to accept your body and work with it, rather than fight and resent it?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ah, well

So much for the goal that I would be blogging more. There's always the irony of journaling (or, in our day, blogging) -- when you are busy with all that life brings, you don't always have (or take) time to write. But it's during those times that you want to (and should) write to capture all of that life that is happening.

I wished I had kept updates during all the dishwasher and strep and hubby trip time. It was insane, but we had some serious tender mercies through that time.

Someone doorbell ditched us dinner on the day that both hubby and I had to stay home from church because we both had strep. The day that our son gave his first talk! I cried.

My home and visiting teachers brought us dinner. Twice. (Home and visiting teacher are married, so we have double coverage there. ;) )

The disposal guy never came, even though I called him. Twice. (Or maybe it was thrice.)

Why was that a blessing? Because Mr. Really (Really!) Nice dishwasher repairman fixed it for me while he was here. Just because. SOOO nice. (There is a longer story there...if it weren't for him making an extra effort, our appointment would have been canceled and I would have had to wait another week to get the repair done.)

And did I mention that this dishwasher is only a year old? No, it was a year and two weeks old when it died. BUT I actually had purchased the extended warranty (which I rarely do)! So all the repairs cost us zero dolares. The paper goods, however, well, let's just say I'm stocked up for the next unexpected emergency. With the strep and everything, and then hubby out of town, I just didn't have it in me to hand wash dishes. (I know, I'm a wimp, but you do what you can, right? I was actually pretty proud of myself for just letting myself see my limits and let them be.)

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Yesterday, I woke to the sound of children playing outside. Is there anything more lovely than a summer day and children playing with abandon?

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I was proud of myself on Friday. My son went on another winter campout and I just waved and didn't stress. I am convinced that part of why Scouts exists is to help mommas let go of their boys. (Note to self -- pack the better sunscreen and encourage son to apply every hour. These boys came home FRIED after ice fishing for several hours. We're talking swollen faces, blisters, and inability to eat. Fortunately, the sunscreen we packed for #1 worked enough to keep the serious stuff at bay for him, but I still have never seen him so burned. Owie. But how blessed this boy is to have leaders who invest so much of their hearts in these young men and their spiritual and physical progress.

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Saturday night, there was a stake Valentine's dinner for the adults in our neighborhood. It was lost somewhere in my brain last Sunday, I think. We ended up cleaning the garage together, hubby and I. (And listened to the BYU basketball game. Go Cougs!) I know. We are romantic devils, aren't we? Wanna hear how romantic we really are? I've asked him to not buy me gifts for the next who knows how long so I can get a turbo blender. (I'm backward, I know. Usually a gift like a blender would put a man in the dog house. (Watch the video. It's funny. Unless you are sensitive about gender-related joking. Then don't watch it. I laughed so hard I cried. But remember, I'm a girl who couldn't care less about girly gifts.)

And here's the second one, if you liked that one.

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We finally finished our family read-aloud book. I'm happy to report that we were all good to our word; no one read ahead! It was a fun read. I can't believe how long it took us, though. Any suggestions for the next one?