Thursday, April 30, 2009

Women's Conference 2009, Day 1

Today I attended Women’s Conference at BYU and, as usual, it was a spiritual feast. I took notes again, because it helps me to internalize what I’m hearing. I didn’t have time to give any personal commentary, other than this first part.  Oh, and I did a cursory spell-check, but this is probably riddled with misspellings and typos.  Sorry about that.

The classes I took were:
"To Heal The Shattering Consequences of Abuse" (NOT because I’ve been abused – it had empty seats and I was late.)
“Doing Your Best vs. Being The Best”
“Precious Children, a Sacred, Noble Stewardship: Fulfillment in Motherhood”
“Spiritual Strength in Challenging Times”

Women’s Conference 2009, Day One

So here's my new tactic - take whatever class looks LEAST popular, so I at least get a seat. And avoid the Wilkinson Student Center at all costs. I attempted to go to a class called "Reproving Betimes With Sharpness" how to correct children without them hating you. Apparently it was a hot topic, because there were hundreds of people packed together trying to get it. Sadly, I was at the front of that pack - they said the room was full, but that there were maybe 30 seats left. Since there were only maybe 10 people in front of me, you'd think I was in, but no. There were so many saved seats and bathroom pass holders that no one got in. But that didn't stop the literally 200 people behind me from waiting. Which kept me stuck at the very front of the line, unable to move forward and unable to leave.

I found a seat in "To Heal The Shattering Consequences of Abuse." Disclaimer: I haven't been abused, and I don't think I am learning this in order to help my children recover from my parenting, either. It was just close and had open seats. I'm guessing I can still learn something valuable.

It's a choice to be happy, despite the challenges in your life. Abuse lets someone else take your free agency, leaving you disempowered. God provides a way to heal the consequences of abuse.

Matthew 28:20 - Lo, I am with you always.

What do you do to help someone who has been abused?
Love them, validate them, allowing them to talk about it, help them through grieving process, listen to them, and be there for them. Don't ignore it or belittle it.

Help break the cycle of abuse - it is passed down through the generations. Be a chain breaker - find the strength to stop the pattern and to change the cycle for your future generations.

How do you heal day-to-day?
1. Give yourself time to heal. Be patient with yourself. Allow Jesus Christ to carry your burden while you heal. Don't feel guilty for not forgiving quickly.

2. Daily personal prayer and faith in our Lord. Satan tries to alienate you from God. Through prayer is how you heal, and Heavenly Father wants to hear from you. Through humility the power of prayer will open to you.

3. Hold to the rod. Prayer is how we speak to god; scriptures are how he speaks to us. Go to church, read scriptures daily, attend the temple as often as possible.

4. Seek help. Do not fear, fear is Satan’s tool to keep you suffering. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn't try to fix it yourself. Have faith that you can be healed. Be a survivor, not a victim.

5. Learn to control your thoughts. Whatever you focus on (positive or negative) will magnify. Be grateful for everything. Verbalize the positive. Be productive, not destructive. Your subconscious mind doesn't know the difference between reality and make-believe, so tell yourself positive things. Tell yourself specific things that you are.

Ask yourself positive questions: whom do you love, who loves you and why, what great things will you do today.

You can tell the true character of a man by what he thinks when he doesn't have to think.

6. Develop a strong Amen corner. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who will be positive. The 5 people you hang around with the most are the people you will be most like. Do they make you feel better about yourself? Have positive people in your Amen corner. (The people who you can tell what your dreams are and they say, Amen!)

Give compliments. It builds up you. Smile at people, be optimistic.

7. Gratitude and service. Be constantly grateful. Be grateful fro what we are given and for what we can give. Be grateful for serving others. It makes you more vital, a partner with Heavenly Father. It is love in action, the way the Savior taught it.

Every morning, pray to find someone to help. Everywhere you go, look for that person. It can change their day, which will change your day. Your days will become more filling, your schedule less taxing, and your family happier. You will maximize your joy.

Doesn't mean you have to have an ongoing relationship, or that they won't have consequences to their actions.
You can't wait until the offender repents; it leads to justifiable anger, but gives them the chance to choose your spiritual progression. You forgive for yourself, not for the offender. It's okay that it takes time. You don't need to see the person face-to-face in order to heal. Forgive so you can move on.
2 Nephi 9:29

Trust is a big issue, but you can always trust Heavenly Father
Proverbs 3:5-6 trust in the Lord with all thine heart.

Leslie Feinauer

Most abusers are victims of abuse themselves. Keep your children safe from abuse - it keeps other people from also being abused. Breaking

What we believe about god comes from what we believe about our fathers. If our relationship with our fathers is damaged or difficult, our relationship with God is also difficult.

The Holy Ghost can soften our hearts; can access our hearts when we aren't open to God. Peace comes from the knowledge that the lord hasn’t left victims of abuse uncomforted. Heavenly father knows what's needed if we let Him.

Abuse victims have behaviors to cope with anxiety, terror, etc. But as adults the coping mechanisms don't work. They need to learn autonomy - saying No. Children can't say that, so adults need to learn it, at which point they can start to overcome. They need control over choice, and need to know they have the right to do that.

Time in healing process - two steps forward and one step back. To recover from anything, we have to move ourselves into the present, not living in the past or the future. You can choose good people to be with, you don't have to be around people that harm you. You can determine what happens to your body - what food you eat, when you go to sleep, what clothes to wear.

Pray daily - you can say anything you want to God. Sometimes He'll look at you like you're a 2 year old throwing a tantrum, but He'll be smiling. You don't have to go through a performance in your prayers, because that isn't a real relationship. You shouldn't have to feel like you need to be perfect in order to have a real relationship. Be genuine with Him, so you can be yourself with Him. He knows, he's probably as angry as you are that you've been hurt. We do impotent rage, but He is in charge of how the situation will be judged, and has said that it will be better had abusers never been born.

Bear testimony and have a witness. Be thoughtful in who you choose to tell about your abuse. You are bearing witness that this abuse has happened. Don't try to fix it, if you are the listener, but love them and let your heart break for them.

Heavenly Father loves us and we aren't good at affirming that. It is wrong to believe that we have to be perfect t o have his love. Make a list of scriptures that say god loves us. We don't have to follow the rules perfectly or else we are damned. The whole point of life is that we are born. Just like we love new babies just for being, just for existing - the Lord loves us just that way. He gives us rules to keep us out of danger, but we take it as judgment. Don't. He loves us, he doesn't condemn us.

Don't tell people more than you want them to know. Trust people before you're willing to share yourself. Trust your impressions. You know things about other people that non-abused people don't know. You are more in tune to people because you needed to judge if you were in danger. Use that intuition to keep yourself safe. Don't disregard the knowledge that you have gained. You can do a reality check with your therapist to confirm that you are right. And you might be wrong occasionally, but the Holy Ghost can help you.

You can forgive people that are not trustworthy, that doesn't mean you start trusting them. It just means that you are letting Heavenly Father worry about the situation; you don't have to carry it anymore. I'm done with this whole thing; I'm not going to seek vengeance. The bitterness in our souls, that makes us feel badly, the only antidote is gratitude. You can feel upset about things you don't have, but you’ve been given this whole earth and the beauty in it, and we can't appreciate it if we focus on what we don't have.

Whatever the burdens you’re bearing, you didn't choose, but you wouldn’t trade what you're learning. You know something you wouldn’t' have known if you hadn't been asked to bear this burden.

Doing Your Best vs. Being The Best

Janie Penfield

Who do we think we are? We are a daughter of Heavenly father. Society teaches us to define ourselves by our talents, job, and age. HF teaches us to define ourselves as his daughter. We need to embrace our talents and be our best - not THE best, just our best.

All of us have abundant talents, beauty, and ability. This applies to all of us. We have to appreciate the good in others and ourselves

Prayer - pray for insight, strength, and generosity. Call on the Lord. We want to be like our HF. Enos 9:18

The work of perfecting ourselves is too difficult, but with the lord's gift of grace, strength we can do better to overcome our weaknesses.

2. Keep expectations within reach - sometimes they get out of hand. Be ye therefore perfect - 2 Nephi 31:20 - steadfastness in Christ, endure to the end, and press forward with hope and love. This is the breakdown of how to get to perfection.

Inflated expectations of the world inflate our view of greatness. With god nothing is impossible.

What defines greatness to you? Do you expect people to be the best at everything? You can be not good at some things. He knows we have limitations. We should be able to see our limitations without them overshadowing our good things. Don't let others' limitations stop us from appreciating them. There’s nothing wrong with having a different path, as long as it's a righteous path. Accept the path you're on. Remember what you'd have to give up to be perfect at something. Remember we were inspired to be on the path we're on. Be satisfied with our best efforts when we're on the right path. Limitations are our chance for growth. Allow us and others to make mistakes.

It's okay to spill milk sometimes. That's why we were given a Savior.

3. Focus on the good. Be true to yourself, and have respect for yourself. We are dissatisfied with ourselves when we try to have the talents of another. We need to have our own talents, not anyone else's. Discover who you really are, discern through our daily life. Don't listen to the people in the world that are dissatisfied with themselves. See the good in ourselves. D&c 112:11 be thou humble

Meditate on your gifts and talents. Pray to see your talents and those of others. Look for the beauty in the people around us. Be cheerful in all that you do, live enthusiastically. God does not dwell in gloom but in light and love.

Don’t self-deprecate or doubt your abilities. Move on from your sins that you’ve repented of. Give burdens to the savior.

Why do we waste energy comparing ourselves to others instead of working on ourselves, to be all we can be? Don't nag yourself with a sense of failure - get on knees and ask for help, then get on your feet and work. Help others to get on their feet too; don't dwell on people's failures.

Weed out jealousy and covetousness and instead focus on love. Don't compare our weakest attributes to someone else's strongest. This is destructive and reinforces that we don't measure up. Don't undervalue our abilities because someone has abilities we don't have.

4. Allow time for personal growth. The race is not for the swiftest, it's about endurance. We need to continually improve. The direction we are moving is more important than our degree of perfection. Make progression a process and a long-term commitment. It doesn't matter how fast we speed along the straight and narrow path.

Look at others through the lord's eyes - he requires diligence, progress, etc. Not perfection in everything today. Where we cannot be perfect, do your best. Cultivate and refine our time consuming verbs.

The lord and the world have a different expectation of perfection. Cultivate your talents and they will show your true self.

Brooke Wright

How can we be healed from old comparisons? You have to turn to the Savior to be healed. Comparisons are like slivers, small but painful. Don't let the opinions of others affect her. Only God can completely remove spiritual splinters.

If you focus on your pain, you might not notice the spiritual feast in front of you.

2. Defend yourself from feelings of inadequacy. Don't try to become the impossible.
Be like Christ - he had faith, strength, love, wanted to help
Those around him.

Christ was given the opportunities and abilities to fulfill his mission, as we have. Our missions are different. God knows the whole picture. We often glorify the strengths of others, but we are great at our own things. We are given the talents and qualities that will help us on our mission, so we need to develop our own talents.

Don't be dishonest bookkeepers in need of outside auditors.

In prayer ask to see what you did well today, where you fell short today.

3. God wants to completely heal us of comparisons - he wants us t o see ourselves as he does. Put on god's spectacles, permanently. We need a strong testimony of our own worth and divinity.

The doctrine of Jesus Christ is the seed of our divinity. We have the desire to see it grow. Then we have to nourish the seed. We love to be around people that lift our spirits, which is a small taste of what it's like to feel god's love for us. We will more clearly see our mission. We commune with our HF. We weed out toxins that will prevent our seeds from growing. Try to act the way we want to become.

In the middle of a day when I’m focused on my needs, take time to help someone else. Serving others shows us who we are and nourishes the seed of our divine worth.

Visualize the fruit of our efforts - see ourselves the way we want to be.

Session 3 -
Precious Children, a Sacred, Noble Stewardship: Fulfillment in Motherhood

Julianne Clark

2 Nephi 2:25 - men are that they might have joy. Delight in motherhood, look for validation in role as mothers

Delight in motherhood.
Do we delight in our callings in mothers the way we delight in our favorite fruit? Or do we merely tolerate it?

Who the lord calls, he qualifies. It is not a burden; it's time of celebration. Fulfillment is: To realize completely one's potentiality.
Moms show love in different ways, each mother has different skills and abilities. As we delight our children we find joy. As we serve our families, we will be blessed.

We train and promote our children, nurture them. We need to prioritize our time to make sure our children's needs are being met. We need to provide quantity and quality time.

We need to give up the eternally unimportant things in order to give our children love and attention. We can't put our own wants and needs in front of our children. Resist the tyranny of the urgent. Much of what seems so pressing right now won't matter.

Mosiah 3:19 - put off natural man.

Fruit of our labors with our children should fill us with joy

2 choose to be validated by words of the prophets.
1. Teach children by example, do small and simple things to strengthen them. Fhe, daily prayer, scripture study, attending the temple. Establish righteous traditions and be consistent. Don't underestimate your power as a mother.
2. Continue education. When you educate a mother, you educate a whole family. Education teaches you how to learn. Don't be home because you’re not smart enough to do anything else, do it because you choose to.
3. Take time for yourself. Personal development and take breaks. Be gone for just enough time to miss your family, so you're happy to come back. Not all a mother's activities need to be about their children. Give to the world the best you have.

Spend time with the Lord in prayer and scripture study. The world tells us the only way to be fulfilled is through working outside the home. But we can find fulfillment in the home.

Bonnie Cordon

We were given calling as mother of all living, like Eve. If we don't do our part, no one else will. We influence everything, and we can't delegate our role. We are accountable for our role.

We should daily put our energy in the work we are called to do.

Either you will raise your kids, or someone else will.

The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. We'll have to be satisfied with ruling the world.

Eve knew her divine calling as a mother, and since then Satan has tried to dishearten and distract and disfocus mothers. If Satan can change our focus from the home then he can change the whole society.

Nephites put strength in outlying cities, but lamanites attacked the heart of the land. Satan is attacking our homes. He's not waiting to steal our children when they are away from home; he's attacking in our family room, in our cell phones, in our media room.

What would you see if you looked in the kitchen of the mothers of the stripling warriors? Love, educated women, knew and taught timely topics, made time for scripture study, both personally and for family. And they were good cooks, because you can't raise a stripling warrior on bad food.

To nurture our children, we have to have something to give. We have to have a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and it will be the best influence.

Desire, study, prayer, obedience, service is how you gain a testimony.

We need to be the mothers that leave others with a lighter heart. We should talk of Christ so our children may know where to look for the remission of their sins.

**Third speaker
1 Samuel 1:27

Difficult moments are part of life. Children don't come happy, obedient, and with an owner's manual. Learning how to deal with children is what our job is.

Women are too hard on ourselves and have unrealistic goals, which leaves us unfulfilled. Keep a "happiness is" journal. Happiness is eating m&m's. Happiness is not something that just happens, it is a choice that we consciously make. Fulfillment is also a choice that we constantly make, not a place we just arrive at.

4 things that bring us fulfillment
1. Simplify. Being busy is the norm. You feel more like a chauffeur. You want your kids to be involved in everything to make them learn and grow. But there is a limit to what kids can/should do. Make a decision on how these things will affect family as a whole. Just because something is good doesn't mean you should do it - some things are better than good and those are what you should do. Private time between parents and child should be preserved.

Find ways to help children learn and grow in simpler ways.

Simplify our own lives. Say no to things.

2. Take time to enjoy the moment. Children grow and change so quickly. Treasure the doing more and the getting it done less. There are always things that need to be done, but maybe we need to brush it aside to spend more time playing, talking, being with kids. Turn off the TV more to spend time together.

Fun idea: spend 30 minutes and sing anything you say.

Super family activities may be good but not always best.

3. Take time for yourself. Sometimes you feel like you've lost yourself. What happened to the person I once was? That person is still there, but you're now working on something different, with far greater results. Education makes you a great person. You may not apply a calculus equation, but you can apply how you learn.

Mosiah 2:17 - it's important to raise your children but not lose yourself in the process. Learn one or two things to replenish yourself - water cannot be drawn from an empty well. Don't let the time take over, though - find a happy medium.

4. Find teaching moments for the gospel. Create righteous traditions in our homes. Fhe, family scripture study. We try to teach our children but end up learning ourselves.

Sometimes wee sound like Charlie Brown's mother to our children. We aren't always appreciated. Our efforts are not immediately recognized, but they are lifetime results. We will feel proud of our children's progression, no matter how old they get.

Spiritual Strength in Challenging Times
Camille Fronk Olson

We are being emotionally, financially, spiritually stretched; our temporal security is being taken away. The whole country is experiencing difficulties, like the nephites, Israelites, early saints in Nauvoo. Even the 12 apostles saw that daily time with the Savior did not prevent hardship, and pled Lord, increase our faith. Increase in faith requires decrease of fear. With little faith, we acknowledge god's past blessings but are still worried that we won't receive further. We are afraid god will see more stretch in us than we canhandle.

Jesus told them to have faith as a mustard seed. Nothing is impossible, no trial, no loss, no burden, if we have faith in Jesus Christ. We need to act, to do, to be stretched beyond our comfort zone.

Hebrews 11 - by faith, Noah prepared an ark to save his house. Like Nephi who built a boat, but Noah had no water. His actions could not be separated from his faith.

By faith, the harlot Rahab received so much faith that she helped the Israelites. Acted for her reverence for God without fear.

Increase in faith through challenges. God provided better things through sufferings, without sufferings could not be made perfect.

God is never the author of greed and evil that caused wars and financial turmoil. It isn't our environment or the severity of the trial that changes us, but our reaction - ready with faith to go forward and do what he bids us. We need to come to him with humility and sincerity.

Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

Jesus told his apostles the parable of the unprofitable servant. Luke 17. We are the servant, or the "slave" in Greek. Slavery in 1st century is different than recent slavery. Slaves owned property, were born into slavery or volunteered, because it improved his social standing. It was depending on the standing of his owner, could inherit an improved lifestyle. Frequently freed slaves became roman citizens. We are slaves of Christ, he is our owner and we can improve because of it. He bought us for a price. We chose to become his servants when we were baptized, to go where he wants us to go.

We acknowledge that we are his unprofitable servants. Should we be rewarded for doing our duty? No. Wee don't like being called unprofitable. It sounds like the Lord is asking us to take on more that we can't handle. We want to be told we are fine the way we are. King Benjamin also called us unprofitable servants, because everything wee are comes from god, and all he asks is that we follow him. When we do, he always blesses us. Of what have we to boast?

We are nothing without the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

In Philemon, Onissymus means "profitable" Paul asks him to be forgiven.

Ammon was offered king's daughter, but instead asks to be a servant. Lamoni says profitable servant remembers commandments and does them.

We should find joy in service, not praise. Carry on with perfect brightness of hope. Quotes Mother Theresa - do good anyway, it is between you and god, not you and them.

Increased faith will sustain us in our challenges

Lessons from Parable of Unprofitable Servant
1. Learn to become profitable or worthy, or having merit/deserving praise. Worthy used to mean to be exalted, to be rendered worthy. Jesus Christ declares us worthy even while we have shortcomings. The savior died for us, while we are sinners. We have been rendered worthy through Jesus Christ and have hope for exaltation. We are instructed to call ourselves unprofitable servants; he does not call us that. Only through mercy of Jesus Christ are we made profitable, because of the atonement we all have worth even while we are yet sinners. If we exercise faith we can have the Holy Spirit with us. The spirit can tell us that we are doing something wrong - he is with us because of Jesus, not our own righteousness. We can pray to HF while we are yet broken.

We are called saints not because we are perfect but because of Jesus Christ.

2. We gain experience in relying wholly on the Lord. We need personal experiences that stretch our faith. We must get off the sidelines and practice what wee preach.

We can see the positive side of adversity. Working in the savior’s vineyard brings lasting joy.

3. We obtain a clearer perspective of the Lord and ourselves. We see him as our master. He's not just our elder brother who should look for our every need or make our life easier. Or a wise moral teacher. CS Lewis - either Jesus was the Son of God, or a madman, or something worse. He cannot be just a man, a human teacher.

He is the rock of heaven, the only one that sustains us in the storms of our lives. The more we look to him to better we can see how to prioritize our lives - riches less important, family more. We can be content with our assignment in the lord's vineyard.

Amid all the chaos of life, god shows his hand in the stability of his plan. Through the lord, we can accomplish what He wants.

Instead of looking back at all the reasons he shouldn't be allowed as a servant, Paul instead looked forward in faith. He learned to be content in whatever state he was.

Trials should help us to bolder courage to step out into the darkness and gain the lord's light. If god be for us, who can be against us? Your future is as bright as your faith.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Quick Trip To The Library

One of my errands this afternoon was a quick trip to the Provo library.  Quick is something of a misleading term, because anytime you get me in a roomful of books, there is nothing quick about to happen.  Even when I try to be brief, something in the time/space continuum shifts, causing what to me feels like a five minute peruse to turn into at least thirty minutes.  At least my family wasn't waiting in the car for me.

I had one book to get, called "The Lost City of Z," and it was even on hold for me, so I could have walked in, grabbed it, and walked out in less than a minute.  But where's the fun in that??  I probably spent 15 minutes there instead, and the one book turned into 7.  

I walked past the checkout place and instead of veering left to the hold shelves, I went straight to the new releases area.  One of the reasons I drive an extra 10 minutes to go to the Provo library instead of the closer Orem library is the way they display new releases.  Provo's got a big four-sided display table which is usually packed to the gills with new books.  And not just random new books, but frequently books that I've heard of, that are popular or on best-seller lists.  Orem doesn't seem to update it's selection as frequently, and their display of new releases holds about 20 books.  It's kind of sad, actually.  Orem is the old fuddy-duddy, the kid in class wearing their much-older sister's hand-me-downs, while Provo is the fashionista, on the cutting edge. 

I didn't find any gems on the fiction new release table, as it was kind of picked over, but I snatched a fantastic find off the non-fiction table.  Listen to this title and tell me you wouldn't have grabbed it, too:  

Have a New Kid By Friday - How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior, and Character in 5 Days

Now that's ambitious, seeing that it's already Wednesday, but I'm totally going to take the author up on the challenge!  The magical 5 day plan only takes 78 pages to explain  I have a feeling that it's going to be more about parents changing the way they react, which is a less disturbing way of saying, "It's really all your fault, anyways."  Nobody is going to buy the book called, "Why You're a Crappy Mom and What You Could Do About It But Probably Won't." 

I also got a book called "The Book Whisperer" which is about how to instill a love of books in your children.  Since I can only handle one set of new parenting instructions at a time, this one will get skimmed and the salient facts hopefully remembered for a later date.  

Then it was over to the hold shelves, to grab the book I came for.  "The Lost City of Z" is a non-fiction book about someone exploring the Amazon for a lost city.  I love true life adventures and this is supposed to be a good one.  But the other thing that I just adore about Provo is their hold shelves.  Instead of keeping the requested books behind the counter where only the staff can get them, Provo has a set of shelves where the books are labeled with your name, so you pick it up yourself.  I suppose there might be people who grab a book that doesn't belong to them, thus cutting to the front of the nerd line, but it would be so easy to track down the culprit that I can't imagine it's too big an issue.  

That only serves to illustrate just how fantastic the shelves are, though - these books are the cream of the crop.  They are the most popular books being checked out; so popular in fact that people are willing to wait weeks, sometimes months, to get their hands on them.  If Provo is the fashionista, then these books are supermodels.  I love to stand in front of this section of pristine, new books and write down the titles of all the ones that strike my fancy, so I can go home and reserve them myself.  The fact that someone else already deemed this book worthy of reading substantially increases the likelihood that I, too, will like it.  It's the library's version of natural selection.  These books don't even make it to the new release table - they are too elite for just anyone to be reading.  You have to put some effort into obtaining these books - they're playing hard to get.  But they are soooooo worth it.

I was ready to checkout, probably should have checked out, but I remembered just then that I wanted to see if the sequel to "Rabbit, Run" by John Updike was on the shelf.  "Rabbit, Run" was an assigned book in my English class last semester, and while it was a semi-disturbing book, I find that I can't stop thinking about the characters.  And knowing that there are three more books about these people makes me want to read them, if only to find out how wretched their self-absorbed lives turn out.  All the while hoping that they have some revelation that causes them to mature and become responsible human beings.  So I got to the "U" section, found "Rabbit Redux" and a couple other Updike books, since I was there.  I had read a short story of his called "Separating" about a father telling his children that he and their mom were getting a divorce.  It was so moving and powerful that I am willing to give Updike several more chances.  

That brought my book total up to 7, and I checked out and went home.  There is nothing more satisfying than a bag of books from the library, handpicked by you.  It is a bag of potential - is there a book in this bag that will make me call a friend and say, 'You HAVE to read this!'  One that will make me cry, or better yet, laugh?  Is it possible that this bag contains the secret to raising happy and contented children, who might grow up to say that they want to be just like their mom?  Or if not, could the bag hold a book that will let me escape my life for a little while?  Do authors know, when they write their books, that this is what I'm looking for when I go to the library?  I ask a lot from the books I choose, I recognize that.  But it's absolutely the best feeling in the world when a book delivers, as they frequently do.  And that's why I can never make it a quick trip to the library.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zack's Talk

Last Sunday, Ryan, Zack, and I were all assigned to give talks - Ryan and me in Sacrament meeting, Zack in Primary.  It was his first talk, and he was excited.  We promised him that he could give the talk again for Family Home Evening, but he just couldn't wait until Monday night.  I videotaped it, intending for grandparents to be the only ones who cared enough to watch.  But it turned out to be unintentionally hilarious, so I'm posting it here.  We're all grateful that it went better on Sunday than it did today.  

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Stupidest Thing You've Heard All Day

I was talking to a friend last night about intelligence. Her husband has a genius-level IQ, and yet is insecure about his intelligence. So he makes a special point of knowing useless trivia for the purpose of proving to people that he is smart. Here's a man after my own heart - I, too, love useless trivia, enough that I passed the test to be on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. I like peppering a conversation with pertinent facts. In high school I was known by my friends for saying, when asked how I knew something random like how many pairs of ruby slippers they made for the Wizard of Oz (at least 5), I frequently replied, "I read a book on it once." I told my friend that I, too, want people to think I'm smart.

But I realized that's not my motivation exactly. In truth, I want people to not think I'm stupid. I think there's a big difference - I'm not looking for people to laud me for an attribute, I want to avoid people thinking I have a lack. I have a very large fear of attempting to say something intelligent, but having people instead think, or worse yet, say, "That was stupid."

Which is not to say that I don't say stupid things. That's kind of the problem - I say stupid things All. The. Time. Usually in a misguided attempt at humor, I make a complete idiot out of myself. For example, making a joke about polygamy to the friend whose husband cheated on her. Not funny. I could tell by the complete and utter silence that followed that the joke was not only not funny, but I was quite stupid for making it.

Or the gym friend who had a baby that I had never seen. We were joking that maybe she just made up that baby as a practical joke, and it was funny until I said, "Well, you wouldn't gain THAT much weight for a practical joke!" Whoops. I thought we were joking! She went from laughing to stony silence in one exercise-heightened heartbeat.

The worst is making a joke while you're giving a talk - that audience is primed for laughter, I tell you, and if your joke bombs, it's a BIG bomb. Although for me, nothing is quite as painful as the time (way back when I was single) that I was listening to the boy I had a massive crush on talking to a group of people. He used some latin word that I thought was a double-entendre, and I burst out laughing at what I thought was his super-intelligent joke. It was not a super-intelligent joke, and no one else laughed. He looked at me and said, "Do you even know what (that word) means?" Alas, I did not. And I felt stupid with a capital Stu.

So I make a concerted effort to know things before I comment on them. If I'm not quite sure what something means, I try to stop myself from spouting an opinion on the subject. That poses a particular challenge, because I can come up with an opinion on just about any subject, whether I know what I'm talking about or not. My modus operandi is to scrape together all of the information I know on a subject, and turn it into an intelligent question, which proves that not only do I know enough to ask a pertinent question, but also lets the other person feel more intelligent than me. So in one fell swoop, I can show off my smarts AND be humble at the same time!

Fortunately, I'm surrounded by people who either a) politely fail to acknowledge when I say something stupid, or b) are willing to put up with the occasional stupidity in hopes that I say something really funny to make up for it. And I'm getting better at evaluating the stupidity-potential of my comments before I let them out of my head. Any intelligence gathering is more to cover up anything stupid that might slip through the filter than to convince people that I'm smart. Maybe if I make it onto Jeopardy someday I could rise to being actually intelligent, provided I don't say something stupid to Alex and blow my cover in front of the entire country. I don't think the filter is ready for that quite yet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mothers Of The World, Unite!

I am finding it increasingly difficult to continue cooking dinner for these chuckleheads who call me Mom.

Tonight's dinner has earned me an approval rating of 12%, which is close to, but not, the all-time low. I made Salad Capriciosa from Rachel Ray's cookbook "365:No Repeats." This one for sure is not going to be repeated.

In case you're wondering, here's how the Approval Rates get calculated:

I have 5 constituents who each contribute up to 20 percent, with a possible total of 100% Approval. I don't count myself, because just like the President, I automatically approve of anything I do. (Although there's a chance that Pres. Bush was counting himself towards the end there, since his approval ratings were about as low as mine.)

If the constituent eats the dinner, he can rate it on a scale of one to ten. Then I double that number, and add it to the rest of the family's scores in order to get the Approval Rate.

For example, here's the scoring breakdown from tonight's dinner.

Darcey - threw a tantrum for undisclosed reasons, watched Blue's Clues instead of eating - 0 points
Zack - ate one piece of lettuce and one very small slice of bread, announced he was "full" and went to play outside - 0 points
Noah - moved the dinner table while I was pouring Zack a cup of milk, causing me to pour it on the table, after being told not to move the table; when asked to clean up the spill, yelled "I'm not eating!" and stormed outside - 0 points
Brad - initially "wasn't hungry" (could see friends waiting outside - coincidence?? Yeah right.) Ate several bites, rearranged food on plate to appear emptier, gave the meal a 5 but dropped it to a 3 when I said he didn't have to worry about hurting my feelings - 6 points
Ryan - ate his entire bowl, said he liked it but found the dressing to be too sour (which I agree with), also gave it a 3 - 6 points.

Grand Total - 12 points, for a 12% Approval Rating.

If there had been scintillating conversation during the failed meal, I wouldn't count this a failure at all. But 3 out of 4 children were screaming/sulking/crying before they even took one bite, and then scattered. We've lost control of something here, and I'm not sure what's wrong. I feel like, in order to be a "good mom" or to "do my job" properly, I need to cook good food. For me, that means to make food that tastes good, that's moderately healthy, and above all, that they'll eat. I can hit two of these, but not all three.

A couple of years ago, I actually went to a psychologist to ask specifically how to get Noah to eat his dinner. What I was told was that the conflict was not about Noah eating, but about me taking it personally that Noah was not doing what I wanted. Well, it's been almost two years and I still can't seem to detach myself. If my kids eat fish sticks and mac n cheese from a box for dinner every night, then YES, I do think that reflects poorly on me as a mother. I DO take it personally. It's my job to make these kids dinner, and if they consistently refuse to eat what I've cooked, it becomes personal. Seriously, if you worked at a job and your boss hated every memo you wrote, or thought every report you turned in was crap, you wouldn't put up with it. If every idea you volunteered at a meeting was met with groans and whines about "I HATE that idea! We had that idea last week and I don't want it again! Do we have to have that idea?" you'd quit. (Okay, I don't know if that translated too well to the business world, but you get the idea.)

Mothers have completely rotten working conditions. Someone needs to report my children to OSHA. Or maybe us mothers should form a union, then we could go on strike. They couldn't pay someone enough to break our picket lines and do our jobs! The laundry would pile up until the kids were covered in filth, they'd eat cold cereal for every meal, they'd never remember when it was their turn to bring the snack to preschool, they'd see just how difficult life is without us! Let them turn their noses up at our dinners, we'll see how they like it without us!

Clearly, I'm taking this wayyyy too personally, and it's possible that after a few deep breaths I can come up with a logical way to handle dinner time again. But the subversive side of me is sorely tempted by the idea of sticking it to the man, or the kid in this case. I think Mothers' Rights is a cause I can really get behind. And besides, walking a picket line with no kids around, that sounds like a vacation to me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gym Thoughts From a Pro

My parents are excellent gym-goers. They started going a few years back, when they decided to lose some weight before my brother Drew's wedding, and they both look fantastic! My dad is my guest blogger for today, so let's look at going to the gym from his point of view:

I love going to the gym.

I feel all pumped and ready to get on with life.

I've got my gym fantasies and they are:

1. Using the new cross trainer that has a Ipod attachment that will play all ipod realated stuff, video, music, podcasts and can display the video full screen, all the while charging the device! How much better does it get than that?

2. Getting more than the 30 minutes which the gym rules allow. The my inner-econ major has to say here, for the record, that this is supply and demand. It costs nothing to use a really good gym hence everyone wants to use it. Also, in the Obama era, when the tax (30 minute time limit) is too high (I'm stretching here but it might be interesting) people are encouraged to cheat. Because of these concepts, I, for instance, get there at 9:01 sign up for from 9:15 to 9:45, everything after 9:45 is like gold in my mind!

3. An empty room and a near endless array of equipment to use. I often try to go when I do a 11am shift so I can go at 9, get a good sweat going, then a shower, and off to work!

Here's what yesterday brought in a painful kind of order:

1. Its school break (my better half pointed out that its indeed not school break so the gym was freakishly quiet) so fantasy gym experience #3 is in order, generally mom's drop off their kids at school and stop in to work out, talk loudly or more correctly yell at each other quietly. But with school break it's different, their are all gone to various destinations around Europe and doing vacation things.

2. I'm there at roughly 9:05 and can look forward to a near-felonious 55 minutes on one machine.

3. My favorite cross trainer, is being cleaned up by some stranger. In my tiny reptilian mind I'm thinking... "hmmm, he's new, fat and must be done with the machine so I should be good?" No, he's indeed new to the place as I've never seen him in these parts before, chubby so this is just a guilt trip for him and will not darken the gym's door again anytime soon, and is he cleaning the equipment to be kind to the next user or a germ freak who wants to clean it up for himself? As I know the answer I saddle up on an alternative cross trainer, of course they are all available. They suck compared to the Cadillac of cross trainers. So I squint at the tiny ipod video screen (I love it but love it even more with a big display) and look longingly over my shoulder to see if the ONLY OTHER PERSON in the gym is still using my favorite machine. Of course he is and continues until after felony time is done at roughly 09:19... Then he can't waddle out of the place fast enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Books Are Making Me Burn

Tomorrow I take my only final, then I get two weeks off until the summer semester starts. I went to the bookstore last night to get the required texts for the two classes I'm registered for, and you know what that means.

That's right, folks, it's time for my Once-A-Semester Rant Against High Textbook Prices!!

Apoplectic rage does not even begin to describe how I feel when I have to pay these exorbitant prices for books. My Weather Studies text and workbook was $120 - the workbook changes every year, the textbook does not, however the only way to buy the workbook is bundled with the text, so you can't resell the textbook. (Okay, you can if you don't use the workbook and resell them directly to another student, but NOT if, like me, you're taking it during the summer, because the new workbook/textbook Ripoff Combo goes on sale for the fall semester.) The textbook ends up being completely worthless without the workbook. I used the Ocean Studies set a couple of years ago, and it was the same - at the end of the semester I THREW IT AWAY. These books are produced by the American Meteorological Society, a group that studies, among other things, the causes of global warming. You can read their global warming statement here. What you cannot read there is how many trees they kill to produce their wasteful text, the text which taught me that deforestation is one of the major causes of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So greedy textbook publishers are causing global warming.

But if you think the Weather Studies Ripoff Combo was the greatest source of outrage, think again. That's the book I actually bought. The one I left on the shelf was the text for my Business Communications class - a regular looking textbook, no value-added CD, no special workbook, no access code for their super-exclusive website, no pages made of solid gold. Which is why I was completely aghast at the price: $152. One hundred and fifty two dollars for A BOOK. If this were Hogwarts I was attending, and the book was actually alive and tried to bite me, then I would consider paying $152 for a book. But this book only bites figuratively.

A student in my class (where I began this rant, last night) said that the reason the book costs so much is that the class is an online class, so the book has to do all of the teaching. I was polite enough not to rip this theory to shreds in front of her, but since she's not here to defend herself, it's fair game. That is a ridiculous idea. What she's basically saying is that this text alone is going to teach me, and the instruction is worth the $152. If that is the case, why then am I also paying tuition, some of which is paying for the professor's salary, which he clearly doesn't need if a $152 textbook can teach me without his help. Alternatively, the student was saying that the $152 has better content than the Business Communications text that the non-online class buys (a bargain at only $64). But if books were sold based on content, why on earth is a Business Communications text worth more than, say, the Bible?? Which I can get for free in any hotel in the country! Could learning the proper way to format an email really be more valuable than the life-affirming truths taught by God Himself? The real fact of the matter is that God isn't around to collect royalties on his Word, which you can't say about the textbook author.

The proof that textbooks are priced above the market value for them is the thriving resale market. In fact, most of the students in my class last night had the same sentiment: Buy it online, used, and you won't have to pay $152. Of course I'm not going to pay full retail for the book - only really stupid or really desperate people do that. Or really lazy, I suppose. Or really spending their parents money, not their own. Okay, so lots of people probably buy the text brand-new, but that doesn't stop those wily book publishers from trying to foil us. They release new editions every few years, in the name of providing up-to-date research and information. But the last time I checked, introductory Algebra isn't experiencing a new wave of innovation. Neither is Shakespeare, which some fellow students paid a huge pile of money for a book of collected works last semester, only to be told in class that the text of all the plays are online.

Why isn't there more outrage at textbook prices? Why do students (and their parents, ostensibly) accept this fleecing every semester with nary a peep? Why hasn't there been a revolution yet? Why aren't there protests in front of school bookstores across the country every fall and spring? What happened to the student protests of yesteryear - are we so collectively wealthy that we can be asked to pay an additional 25% of our already exorbitant tuition and we won't even flinch? Am I the only voice of reason left on campus? I'M FED UP AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!! Join with me, Utah Valley University students! Let's organize a sit-in at the bookstore, we can chain ourselves together and sing revolutionary songs and Kum-Ba-Ya and chant about the capitalist pigs and their greed! Then we can have an over-priced textbook burning on the quad! We can go on a reading strike! No More Teachers, No More Books! No More Publishers, They're Dirty Crooks!

Except. That I need this class to graduate. And it's more convenient to take it online. And our vacation to Disney World would be in serious jeopardy if I was handcuffed to the wolverine statue on campus. So I'll buy the stupid book online and resent the crap out of the entire semester. But you better believe that I'll use my new-found Business Communication skills to write a particularly well-worded letter to President Obama, asking him to do something about greedy textbook publishers who are single-handedly destroying our environment. That letter will be $152 worth of genius and persuasion. And possibly, it will bite.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weighty Matters

I'm attempting to get back on the wagon this week, and it sure is hard when the wagon keeps moving. I stopped going to the gym about a month ago when I got the Devil's Cold that plagued our family for weeks. Last week was the kids' spring break, and getting into a routine when you've temporarily got four kids home all day (all of whom, I might add, were instantly bored and in some cases, incredibly whiny. Spring break is for teachers, not kids.)

So today is the first day of the rest of my life. I love that phrase for the implied melodrama, but really all I want to do is get back into the habit of going to the gym every day. I had been so good for months and months, and I need to prove that it was a lifestyle change that suffered a temporary setback, not just a fluke. I want to be a daily exerciser, the kind of person that goes to the gym without fail, it's expected to happen just like eating breakfast or taking a shower.

Facing the prospect of dieting is not as easy a decision. I still seem to be scraping the bottom of an empty willpower barrel whenever I think about restricting what I eat. I've come to a conclusion - it has to be easier to lose a lot of weight than it is to lose a little. If I lost 15 pounds, I'd be satisfied, 20 would put me over the moon, and 25, well, I don't even consider that a possibility anymore. But it's hard to be motivated to diet when you don't have much to lose, because it doesn't seem to come off. The last six months of serious exercise (but no dieting) have kept me exactly at the same weight. But for some reason, I can't get up the motivation to sacrifice in order to see these last pounds fall off. That's not to say I don't try - I can get myself completely psyched up in the morning that today is going to be different, but by 2 pm I'll be scrounging around the house, eating whatever junk I can come up with. And then I feel defeated, so the next time I psych myself up, I start convinced that I'm going to fail. It doesn't help that Ryan and another friend of mine are both in the same boat - the two of them both diet with single-minded intensity, and exercise to boot, but aren't losing. It reinforces the idea that why should I even try? I'd rather eat, drink, and feel guilty.

I'd love to see The Biggest Loser deal with people like us. We don't have such a fractured life that eating has driven us to severe obesity. We are willing to exercise. We have gotten down to to our goal weights before, but see pounds creeping back on. We eat out, but not a ton. We don't usually drink soda, we eat fruits and vegetables, avoid pasta and load up on fiber. In short, we're doing most things that we're supposed to. In order to diet at this point would mean cutting out every single bad thing we've ever thought about eating, and I for one haven't been able to do it. So could Bob and Jillian could whip us into shape, exercise us to death to beat the 15 pounds off of us? I'd do it if I could. But I don't believe it would work.

So my current theory is this: I'm going to keep exercising every day. I'm going to drink more water, which I'm really bad about. I'm going to work on eating a healthy lunch every day, because that's the point at which my eating goes haywire. And I'm going to buy some new jeans that fit me at this weight, because that seems the surest way to tempt fate into making me lose a few pounds. And even if taunting Murphy's Law doesn't work, I'll feel better about myself if I look good, no matter what weight I am.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Ninja Fight in 10 Acts

Noah and his friend Daniel created a super-special Ninja fight, which they announced via hand-made invitations that they passed out to the neighborhood. I saw them practicing yesterday, although I didn't realize it was "practice" and therefore almost ruined the whole thing by taking their sticks away. (I have a strict no-kids-with-sticks policy. It's just a bad idea, generally.) They choreographed the whole thing, and even dressed in special costumes of all black, including their black church shoes.

The invitation read:

Ninja Fight Act.
Date Apr 10
Place Smith house
time 4:00

There are 10 acts. But we have a special act. Noah and Daneil will do the special act.
P.S. The special act will be fighting.

Ryan, Brad, and Zack were the only ones there for the first performance. The second one starts in 15 minutes, so they're hoping for a better turnout. Just in case no one shows, though, I'm posting it here. After all, that's what the internet is for, right?

Hope you enjoy it.