Thursday, May 1, 2008

Women's Conference Day One

I had a supremely fantastic day at Women’s Conference at BYU today, and I want anyone within the sound of my typing to go next year if they possibly can. I felt like I had an IV pumping goodness and peace and satisfaction with my life directly into my body, and let me just say, it felt good!

I brought my Palm and a wireless keyboard Ryan bought be for Christmas, so that I could do some on-the-spot blog writing. Turns out, that’s a little too powerful a tool for me, and I ended up taking 17 pages of notes. Yikes. I wanted to give an overview of the important things I heard in classes today, a taste of what it’s like to be at the conference, and some of my thoughts. But there’s no way I can post 17 pages worth, even I wouldn’t read that much, so I’m going to try to edit it and make this work.

In a nutshell, here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t attempt to eat during the 30 minutes between classes, you’ll never make it in time.
2. God knows that I am good enough. Let go of the guilt and need to ‘do it all’ and decide where my priorities lie.
3. It’s a really long walk to the far side of the stadium parking lot. Really, really long.
4. If I want to hear the voice of the Lord, I need to simplify my life, get rid of the noise and focus on what is good and righteous.
5. If there is a good deal on scripture totes at the BYU Bookstore tent, be prepared to deal with larger crowds than Woodstock. It seems that tote bags are all the rage this year.
6. A guardrail will do better for protecting my children from pornography than having an ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff.
7. Always sit in the center of the row. They’re going to make you scoot to the center anyway to make room for everyone else, so you may as well sit there in the first place.
8. I can come closer to Christ through temple attendance, and I can make my home more like the temple to invite His spirit.
9. If you want to be simultaneously smart and tacky, get up and leave the final session before the closing prayer. You’ll beat everyone to the parking lot by at least 2 whole minutes and as a bonus, you can enjoy life with no conscience!
10. Whatever sacrifice it takes to get to Women’s Conference next year, do it – It’s totally worth it!

I knew I’d be late for the start of today's conference. I had told Ryan that I wanted to attend women's conference this year now that his schedule is wide open. He is using his new schedule to go snowboarding once or twice a week, so I figured there was no reason in the world that I shouldn't go to the conference this year. So I gave him the dates, told him to write it on his calendar, and then reminded him at least once a week, so there was no chance of forgetting.

Earlier this week, though, he said he was thinking about going snowboarding on Tuesday. "Really? You can take three days off of work?" Turns out that even though he knew I was going to be gone on Thursday and Friday, he hadn't really processed what that would mean - that he would be home and most likely not getting a lick of work done.

I had a merry little laugh at his expense, until I realized I had done the same thing. I knew I wouldn't be here on Thursday, but I still forgot to arrange for someone to swap volunteer days at the school. It would have been effortless to do, and yet, I just totally blew it, and ended up having to work at the school this morning. I also would have left without taking Zack and his best friend (and occasional "brother" according to him) Jonathan to preschool at 9:45. Thank goodness Rachel is so much more on top of life than I am - even my own life sometimes!

So I got here at 9:30, the first speaker started at 9. That's okay, I figured, I going to be learning so much anyway my head won't fit into the door when I get home! I picked up my name badge and schedule, then listened to the last 3 minutes of Sheri Dew's talk, which sounded absolutely fantastic and I instantly regretted missing it. Can there be anyone more inspiring than that woman? Every word out of her mouth is dripping with wisdom and experience. She is in her, what, fifties maybe? Forties? Anyhow, never been married, she's the president (or something) of Deseret Book, wrote Pres. Hinckley's autobiography, served as a counselor in the RS general presidency. She couldn't have more going for her. But you've got to think that she wanted to get married - an assumption of mine, but a logical one in this church. And to not be, when theoretically she might have wanted to, what a trial!

Would you trade something that you really want for the wisdom and growth that comes from that denial? As much as I look at her and salivate at the thought of being that inspirational, that fraught with wisdom, that able to fill a room with the Spirit, what kind of trial would it take for me to get there? I don't know that I have that kind of stamina, and I kind of don't want to find out. I think that makes me a spiritual chicken, but I think the most I can ask of myself is to have faith to handle whatever trial I do end up with, and not have aspirations to anything bigger. I wonder if it is possible to gain that kind of wisdom through just small trials, minor everyday trials - if you are, I don't know, spiritual enough or in tune enough or knowledgeable enough, can you turn a relatively painless job layoff into a wisdom-supersizer?

Through the kindness of a couple of women from Arizona, I was able to find the Wilkinson Student Center for a class called "Cherish That Role That is So Uniquely Yours: Parenting for Young Mothers." I must have subconsciously gravitated towards them to ask because they were about my age, one was pregnant, and maybe I could sense that same air of freedom from children that I think I'm exuding. "I'm Free!!!" There's no one here who needs me to pour them a cup of milk! If anyone here has an "accident" I'm not responsible for either cleaning it up or trying to prevent the next one. I'm sitting next to two women who also left their kids home with their husbands. We all agreed that while we are here learning, the guys are home learning too. But we're having more fun.

Sue Egan:
When her kid dumped potting soil on the carpet, she would vacuum, then add "vacuum carpet" to the list so she could cross it off. To do lists of daily tasks and lists of goals etc are great, but she had the inspiration to trade it for this to-do: "Invite the spirit into your home." Things that could bring the spirit became another thing on the list to be crossed off, that’s not the right way to look at it. What things should I do to invite his spirit throughout my day so that I can find more peace and joy as a mother?

She felt too frenzied to achieve something concrete and visible so that others can see her accomplishments. She cleared her plate of things that looked good to others but robbed her and her children of peace.

How to invite the Spirit so you can have peace and joy:
- Ask to be taught to recognize spirit thought out the day.

- Make time for quiet reflection, meditation, etc.

- Pray with real intent to ask the spirit to teach, on worst days didn't ask for anything just poured out soul and thanked for blessings

- Choose peace, choose joy, choose patience. Choose to laugh at things. A wholesome sense of humor is a safety valve.

- Each time you fold a piece of laundry think of how that child blesses your life.

She tells a story of a little girl playing soccer, complaining about her eyeballs being cold, twirling on the field, skipping holding hands, kicking the ball out of bounds but raising her arms above her head in victory. (I picture Rachel's daughter Audrey doing just that, it was a great picture in my head.)

Those days when we kick the ball into left field the Lord is saying "Good Try". When we don't accept those words of encouragement we are turning down the peace that is available. We can't wallow in our imperfections. "Good try, keep trying!"


So my big mistake today was attempting to get something to eat. I left the first class and scurried over to an outdoor tent that was selling soda for $2.50 (shouldn't religious people not be scalping soda like that?) and I got a bbq chicken sandwich. There were about 50 people in line in front of me and while the food was pumped out really fast, there were only two registers. When I got up there to pay, thinking how smart I was for having cash and not a credit card to slow everything down, the cashier ran out of tens, fives, and ones, so I stood there for three minutes waiting for change as they stopped moving anyone through the line. I had people looking and staring at me, wondering what I was doing eating my sandwich and holding up the line. By the time I got my $13.25 in change I scurried across the open area to the Harris Fine Arts Building.

I got directed to a line, which wound up a staircase and then wrapped around the building. I knew this wouldn't end well, since the room we were assigned to only held 400 people, and here were about 1,000 in line. Or so. I'm not so good at estimating, I lean toward exaggerating.

After standing in line without it moving until the time he class started, someone at the front of the line directed the front of the line to head back down he stairs, so did a giant non-fun conga line back downstairs, where we eventually ended up in an overflow room. I got the fourth to the last seat, and there were still lots of people behind me. I was glad that I didn't have to get all bent out of shape for missing a class - they definitely pulled through and found a place for us to go and I was glad they didn't just turn us away.

"Draw Near Unto Me and I Will Draw Near Unto You"

Brenda Nelson Miles

How crazy we get when we get rushed and stress. We fill our lives with so much noise - when do we find time to be still? It must affect our ability to receive inspiration. Some books she recommends: Simplify by Carolyn Rasmus and Gerald n Lund, hearing the voice of the lord.

We need to stop ourselves and not the world, plan ahead so we have enough time to get things done, so we’re not stressed.

Find times to block out all external noise. Stay focused on reason we're doing things and not make them too complicated and time consuming.

Worldly desires and pride - Satan’s greatest tool to cause man to spend so much time on himself that they only care what they can get out of life and not what god would have you do. Solution is humility meekness service and sacrifice.

Helaman 3:34-36 - yield our hearts to the lord, soften them, if we harden our hearts Satan can get a better hold on them. Serving others gives us a softer heart. Mormon 8:39 - its hard to think about worldly things when you are serving others. Ask if the thing is worldly or celestial?

Forgetting: Satan tries to get us a little at a time. He can get us so involved that we can't find time to do what we need to do to feel quiet. Are the things that keep you busy taking you where you want to go?

Prioritize, develop good habits. So many good things that we need to prioritize - essential things before non-essential thing. To do lists should represent priorities not just things that need doing. Prioritizing is harder for young mothers - maybe 5-10 minutes at a time, during naps, turn off TV, put down novels, and limit computer time in favor of scriptures, prayer, meditation, etc.

The second speaker, whose name escapes me, quoted Brigham Young: Women of the church can do it all, they just need to do it in sequence.

She also read the poem "The Race" by DH Groberg (here's a link to it: )

The line in the poem "All you have to do to win is rise each time you fall" just makes me want to cry, it is so inspiring. So I did, lots of crying today. That should surprise no one.


My third class was "Pornography, Satan's Snare." As the mother of three boys, one of whom is rapidly approaching puberty as you can tell by his moody tween behavior, I have been concerned about protecting my kids from pornography. Especially since our family spends so much time on he internet, I want to make sure that as parents, we are doing what we can to keep the world from having an undue influence over my kids. I also think pornography is a particularly dangerous thing in our church - Utah has the highest number of internet searches for pornography related websites, and while it would never occur to most of us to even purchase, let alone consume alcohol or drugs or cigarettes or anything you could get addicted to, pornography is sneaky, coming into your home where you feel safe and your guard is down.

It sure is an awkward topic, though. I heard one woman sitting behind me say that she was surprised by how many people were even attending this class, given how little we like to talk about the "S" word. I have a great relationship with my parents and I can talk to them about anything, so I mentioned this topic to my dad once. I quickly found out that as relaxed and open and progressive I might be in wanting to shed light on a private vice like pornography, that changed a little when he forwarded me a (well-meaning) newsletter from Dr. Laura Brotherson. She had included a blurb about how to teach your children about sex, which is what he intended for me to read, but the title of the email was "Sexual Self-Confidence." Yikes. I totally don't want to be getting a lesson on sexual self-confidence from my father. I told my brother Drew about this and he said, "We're WASPs, what do you expect of us?" I think I'll keep stick with my repression, thank you very much.

Jill Manning:
Snares vs. weapons
Snares - designed to get you entangled or entrapped, involved in difficulties, they are deceptively attractive, a passive way to lure someone in, will inflict enough pain to hold someone captive but not enough to kill immediately
Weapons - designed to kill immediately

It is to Satan’s advantage to use snares, keep people trapped for a long time while trapping more and more.

World wide web has literal and figurative meaning. 30% of online porn consumed by women, young adult females more accepting of porn than their fathers were one generation ago.

Four Ways to defend against pornography:

1. Become informed about the issue, know the enemy - close eyes literally while opening minds to the problem of pornography, online bullying, and predators. On women’s conf website there will be a list of handout of resources - books, cds, etc.

2. Arm and empower youth with truths about body, healthy sexuality, intimacy and relationships. Too many of us are leaving us and our homes wide open. Healthy sexuality is addressed too late, only once or not at all. For most people with problems, sexuality was not discussed or provoked great discomfort as a taboo in their homes growing up. Teach sexuality from infancy. Teach it throughout child’s development. Teach respect for one’s body, self-care, honesty integrity, how to be a good friend, setting boundaries boundaries, differences between men and women, self-confidence. Talking about this will not trigger problems. A buffer effect happens when topics are discussed openly and it's not a mystery. They have a reference to debunk or decode the lies, and have a vocabulary to talk about things that they see when (not if) they are exposed to something.

Satan’s agenda distorts our bodies by using slang terms. Always use real words.

Find resources that teach based on age. Most children are exposed between ages 7-13. Whose voice will get to them first? While we sit there feeling uncomfortable talking to kids about sex, Satan and the industry has no problems getting there first.

3. Clear media standards. Children need to understand what is or is not appropriate to consume.

Media plan
1. Open dialogue. How do we define what is or isn’t appropriate.
2. Model these choices - give message and then avoid inappropriate content - if it's not good enough for a child to watch we shouldn’t either
3. Help children identify feelings that come with good and bad content.
4. Identify plan of action if someone comes across something inappropriate. Turn it off, change channel, tell someone, plan how to avoid in the future,
5. Keep TV and computers out of bedroom and watch things together. Open policies - of Internet and email use – one family account or know the kids’ passwords, and make sure they know you know and are reading. They can have plenty of privacy in other areas of their lives. Watch cell phones too. Don't keep children alone on virtual world.

4. Use technology to your advantage. Filters, parental controls, etc. Pause parent play website - arm parents with instructions how to use controls on TV or consoles etc. Clearplay DVD players. Netnanny filter - #1 filter - or check Internet filter

Second speaker: Dr. Jeffery Robinson - spoke on how to help someone who already has a pornography problem (the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff I mentioned earlier.) One thing he said that I could apply to my life was that people with problems don't overcome them by hating themselves. You never hear someone say, "I just hate myself so much that I'm going to change!" It's usually the hatred and the anger and the guilt that feeds whatever your problems are. I won't ever lose weight if I hate myself every time I eat ice cream. The self-hatred is just going to make me feel bad which is going to make me eat more ice cream. Being mad at myself for not being the perfect mom is not going to motivate me to make the changes to magically become the perfect mom.

Final session was with Bro. and Sis. Bateman, who are currently serving as Provo Temple President and Matron. Here's the highlight of the talk for me personally - how we behave in the temple (Christ's home) is an example of how we should behave in our home if we want to feel the Spirit there like we do in the temple.

Temple pattern can help home
1. People speak in quiet voices in the temple. Our home should have soft voices that invite spirit
2. Everyone is trained in responsibilities. It is a house of learning. Parents should take time to teach importance of task then show how it's done, they complete task together, then they learn to do it themselves.
3. Every shift begins with prayer. Every day should begin and end with prayer.
4. Everyone is treated with kindness. Workers feel love for patrons.
5. Quality of order - everything is in proper place, rooms are ready for new day, there is beauty in order and cleanliness. An orderly home commands respect and the children will contribute. Produces a home that is conducive of feeling the spirit.

I don't know if I've ever had a compelling reason to keep my house clean before, but this one feels valid to me!

I'll have 5 more classes worth tomorrow, I can't even believe my luck at being able to spend time in such a fulfilling way. If anyone wants the unexpurgated version (i.e. long, rambling, full of typo's and ten times more information) let me know and I'll email it to you. Although I'd be surprised if anyone other than maybe my dad reads this far. And he's still steamed I brought up the email he forwarded.


rachel said...

Next year I am there! I was glad you included the notes from the talk to young Moms - that was the one I wanted to go to the most. At least this way, I got part of it, eh?
And, I read all the way to the bottom :).
Thanks for sharing what you learned. I could see Audrey kicking the soccer ball that way too. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm happy you got to have such an uplifting experience. That's how Dad & I feel about education week. You shouldn't feel any guilt, you and Ryan are gret parents.
I read to the bottom also.
Counting down the days till you arrive in the UK! love ya

Drake Steel said...

Hi Emily,

My comment would be that I look forward to the next report!

Oh, and the way that pornography protection is taught (in my opinion)with strictly putting internet related filters on the computers etc, is like putting the guardrails at the bottom of the cliff.

I love the thoughts about the Temple. Though I don't quite agree with the quiet solemnity thing, he did have the teaching roles thing and the "Everybody has someone to help you" thing right about working in the Temple. So often we forget that kids don't come to this world knowing how to wipe off a counter. I was in like 5th grade when my brother scolded me for doing it wrong. When he showed me the correct way to do it I felt like "hmmmm, I never thought of that!"

COMcewens said...

I loved your notes! (I was the lady sitting next to the lady that sat by you when Pres Monson spoke!) I specially loved the comment about people leaving early being smart/ yet tacky! looking forward to the rest of your notes! You have a great talent in writing. Hope you know that!

Ryan said...

Just wanted to let you know that after two tries, I finally read all the way to the bottom of you post!

Really, really good thoughts on all topics. I know can see why you loved going to this so much. Thanks for taking such good notes - being a man, I doubt they would have let me in, so it's nice to get a sneak peak into the opposite gender's world!

Kim said...

Thanks for your post, I read it in sections but it sounds like you had a great time!

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

I loved your notes too! (I'm the one that sat next to you during President Monson's talk) I too loved what you said about being smart/tacky, I was thinking that I was sad for them to miss that sweet moment after the prayer when Pres. Monson was walking out and he looked up and saw people waving. He started waving and then slowly turned in a circle to wave to everyone. I loved that moment.

I also especially loved reading your personal notes and thoughts about the conference and being a stay at home mom. I was a stay at home mom for 18 years but late in my life at home I realized that just being home with my kids was not enough, I needed to make them my priority!!

Thanks again for your notes,
Ann Mitchell