Friday, March 21, 2014

Carly's Fall Visit-'13

One of my favorite things is when people come and visit and we get to explore where I live and reconnect. Carly came for a glorious week in the beautiful fall. We did SO much and had a wonderful time. I recommend any and all of the above if you are in the Connecticut/New York area.

Yale Museum of Art and Yale Campus

Yale Campus, Yale Library

(From left to right- Gutenberg Bible, outside the library, Yale Library, Linquist Castle, Audubon Book, Linquist Castle)  

Linquist Castle

Linquist Castle

Mystic, CT-Sea Swirl (bottom left and top right)  and Union Church in Pocantico Hills, NY

Mystic Aquarium

Gillette Castle

Hartford Connecticut State Capitol and Katherine Hepburn's grave

Culinary Institute of America and Stewart's Gas (has fabulous ice cream)

Culinary Institute Food, Campo Beach

Campo Beach

Campo Beach

Campo Beach and Korean Spa in Queens, NY

NYC Food Tour

NYC Food Tour and Phantom of the Opera

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Follow-up

I've loved all of the sweet and thoughtful comments that people have written here, on Facebook and in person. It's so good to feel loved and understood. The previous post had been a long time in coming. I really needed to write it the first year of motherhood when I was miserably depressed and confused. I felt very alone and wondered constantly what was wrong with me and why I couldn't be blissfully happy like those other mothers I read on blogs, saw on Facebook or met at church functions. I'm obviously still confused and I'm still trying to figure out how we can live our lives so that everyone can be happy and fulfilled, but I'm at peace with myself. I'm at peace knowing that I don't like being a homemaker, nor am I very good at it. And while there are those out there who are both happy and good at that role, it's OK that I'm neither. Maybe that's why my thoughts finally got published. 

I've also come to realize that what people put on Facebook, blogs and say in public are only the best 5% of what actually goes on in their day to day lives. The other 95% is full of messes, chaos, boredom, mistakes and TV watching. I think it's good we focus on all the good, beautiful moments, because we need those bright, happy moments to lift us up. It's where most of our thoughts should go. But then it can also create this very bad space where perceived reality, is very far from reality and comparing our worst to someone's best can hurt deeply.

A little clarification on some of what I wrote. I think it is unfair the lot that women are drawn in a typical traditional family. There is nothing wrong with being a homemaker. On the contrary, it is an extremely difficult, necessary and noble job, but when it is always expected and no alternatives are given, I find that a huge problem. I have felt very trapped. Part of that is my own doing. I should have taken the initiative to consider all of my options and consider that I might not want to be a stay at home mother. I should have kept going on with my education instead of following a rote path. Some of it is upbringing. There should be more talk of possibilities, praying and following what the spirit tells you. It's not fair that men must be the provider. What if they want to stay home? That's an even a harder sell than a woman in our church working outside the home. I'm sure that choice garners a lot of eyebrow lifting, pity or grown-up teasing. And it absolutely should not! Because they have chosen to do the hardest and most selfless job on the planet. I think that often is said in a patronizing way, but nothing could be further from the reality.

When I talked of not all men being required to do a certain job, because they were male. I meant to emphasize that it a great fallacy and injustice to expect all women to love and want to be a homemaker because they are a woman. Just like a man is able to both be a father and a teacher, so too can a mother be a mother AND something else if that is right for her and her family. The hardest thing about becoming a mother, was feeling like the old me had died and in her place was someone who had no other identity other than mother.  

I'm very, very lucky because I have a fantastic husband who has done way more laundry in our eleven years in marriage than me. We work together when he gets home from work. He understands that we've both had a busy, hard day and that we both have to keep working to keep our home going when his "work day" ends. He gets up with the kids, he helps me put them to bed. He helps do the dishes, cooks, cleans, watches the kids and whatever else needs to be done. I'm spoiled and I'm lucky. Oh how I wish we had made millions and we could do this homemaking thing together twenty-four seven. That would be perfect. I would have fantastic company and a huge support day in and day out. But that's not ever going to happen for anyone. So what I wish for, is more of an open mind. An environment where each person male or female can do what suits themselves and their families best. And that roles are not dictated solely upon gender. That we all become more selfless and seek to put the needs of our spouse and our children above our own.




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Confession

I don't like being a stay at home mom. There, I said it. I'm sure there are some working moms out there, who would love to be able to say at home and just threw something at their computer. I wish you could too. I wish we could all do what was best for us and our families. And I guess that's my dilemma, because I feel like staying home is what's best for our family as a whole, but not for me. I also haven't worked with kids and so maybe I would really end up hating it.

I grew up hearing many a Sunday lessons about my future role as a mother and how the best place and best career for me was being a stay at home mom. My mom stayed home and I loved it and felt bad for those kids who didn't get to have their mom at home with them. I grew up in Provo, Utah and most of the people I came into contact with were stay at home moms. Conversations always directly supported or had the implied expectation that the ideal for me was to work hard in school and get an education that could be a fall back to the ultimate goal of being a stay at home mom. This is what I thought I wanted. Staying at home was so ingrained and taken for granted, that I never, ever even questioned whether I would like it. I never thought about what kind of a life that would be, whether I'd be good at it and if it would make me happy. A career was a contingency plan: If I didn't get married. If my spouse died. If I got a divorce.

I'm so lonely being a stay-at-home mom. I love being around people and I've decided that mostly means adults. Not that I don't like kids, but somehow they just don't fulfill that deep social need for me. I don't like many of the domestic jobs associated with keeping up a house and making a home. I hate laundry. I hate cleaning. Cooking and sewing are about the only tasks I enjoy. The latter is no longer practical and instead expensive and a hobby which really isn't too conducive with me and children. And cooking looses a lot of it's pleasure for me when I have someone literally clinging to my legs and incessantly and indiscriminately crying. I never anticipated the constant weight of responsibility that never takes a vacations. There are no sick days. I'm constantly on call. There is no work, no where else to retreat to. I don't like playing toys with my kids. I wish I did, but I don't. My brain gets so dang bored. I am not a homebody. I get impossibly stir-crazy if I don't leave home at least once a day. And when you have a child that needs naps, you quickly learn that stir-crazy is better than dealing with a no nap child crazy.

But really I'm just surprised there aren't more Mormon women like me. At first I thought it was just because they wanted to fall in line with what's expected and didn't want to give the impression that they didn't love their children, but then I realized there really are a lot of women out there who legitimately like this homemaking thing. And maybe the ones that don't, are actually working so they aren't the ones at playgroup. But there must be others out there like me. It's like telling men out there, when you grow up you will all manage a fast food restaurant. And you will do it because you are male and because that's what you are best at and what you must do. Some men, would likely love it and thrive at it. Some would just be alright with it and some wouldn't like it. I try to console myself with believing that I'm just one of those who isn't a natural and doesn't love it.

So why don't I just go and work? Part of it is because by the time I had this all figured out, we had too many kids and my teaching job probably wouldn't even cover the daycare cost. We put all of our initial efforts into Russ having the big career and building a family with me staying at home. Hence, I stopped at a bachelor's degree, so I could work while Russ finished his bachelor's. Russ got the masters and I will wait to do it later. And even if I did have a job that would make daycare make financial sense, I still don't know if I would want to not have a parent staying home with the kids. I loved having my mom home and I want that same thing for my kids. I want to be there for them and if I am going to work, I'm going to work AWAY from home.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm Writing That Hit Song- "Alone in My Principals"

I'm crazy. I'm weird. I live an hour away from NYC and I don't like where I live. Not one bit. Ok maybe a bit. I like all the cool places we get to see and fun trips we've taken. But day to day, it's not my cup of tea. There have been a lot of tears of frustration and sadness where the majority of the populace would be shedding tears of gratitude over the grand luck and opportunity of living in the East. I've never been enamored with NYC, but I have always thought New England sounded absolutely charming and somewhere anyone would be lucky to reside. I would look at the Connecticut quarter and think, "Yep, just like that quarter is gorgeous, so must be Connecticut." I now say, "It's charming to visit, not to live in". I know that I'm pretty alone in my sentiments and I'm pretty sure that even if I'm not, the New York tourism mafia has a hit out on anyone who in anyway disparages the greater tri-state area. So if I'm dead tomorrow, you know why.

I mostly frown at generalizations, but here goes one from my lips anyway: People in this area are mean. They say what they think and mean what they say. They have no problem letting you know exactly what you've done wrong, how it's effected them and how you should fix it. A poor little Mormon Utahn doesn't know what to do with all that naked honesty except have a good cry in the car after her first few trips to the Danbury Costco. But a year and a half later, I'm weirdly grateful for something being here has done for me: I've gotten a thicker skin, become more confident in who I am and saying what I really think. I still hope to be kind, sickly friendly and true to my British politeness roots, but I also hope to get better about being brave.   

In the past, with my blog, I've very much striven to be open and honest with my feelings and I think I've done a good job with that. I try to portray my real feelings, my real life and not a glossy exaggeration of the happiest and most picture perfect moments. But I want to write more and write more honestly. So here is to writing consistently and even less censored. I'm crazy and I'm weird and I'm OK with that!

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Someone who Believes the Radical Notion that Women are People"

"Feminist" has always been a dirty word for me. I've always leaned toward being a feminist since I probably could talk, but I would have never admitted to being one. In my mind, that was akin to telling everyone you were a fascist, believed in alien abduction or something else equally extreme. If we were to free associate about the word "feminist" I think plenty of negative words would fly from the general populace: angry, man-hater, bitch, tom-boy, psycho, uncouth, power-hungry, hairy-legged, unfeminine. . .But I'm none of those things (aside from the current winter fur on my legs. I know. TMI). I'm simply someone who wants both sexes to be able to reach their full and varied potential. I don't want anyone to miss out on life's experiences or opportunities simply because of what society thinks is appropriate or allowable because of one's gender. And if that's a feminist, I'm a feminist.

I was watching The Amazing Race today and I was saddened and disturbed by the teams visit to The United Arab Emirates. They flew in from Austria where all the teams were wearing your typical American fare, but upon visiting a mosque, the women were suddenly swathed in black from head to toe. I'm happy that they were kindly following custom and respecting religion and culture, but my heart ached as I watched them walk in with their male teammates who had done nothing whatsoever to change their appearance. My heart, once again sunk, for women around the world whose freedoms are few and based on their sex. One male teammate expressed his joy at his female partner "finally having to shut up" and that he'd like her better if they "could do the rest of the season in the mosque".

I want a world where both women and men and contribute their thoughts, talents and energy. I think we would be more likely to solve the many things which ail us individually and collectively. I want a world where both m
en and women are encouraged and expected to rise up to their potential. I don't want anyone to expect women to wear certain clothes or act in a specific way to save poor, stupid men who just can't control their thoughts or behaviors. I truly believe that men are strong, considerate and fully capable of focusing any "natural man" tendencies to their proper place.We insult and sell men short, when we do anything but expect the best. Every person is responsible for his or her actions regardless of someone else's behavior.  

I want a world where men and women can embrace interests, passions, pursuits and thoughts irrespective of what is stereotypical of their gender. I want boys to play with dolls without teasing. I want girls to throw "like a girl" and for that to be a compliment. I want to be able to help lift boxes and move people in my ward, instead of always being expected to stay home with the kids or scrub the floors. I want more stories and examples of amazing females both in the world and out of the scriptures for my son and daughters to draw from.

Most of all, I want us to be kind to each other. I've been saddened by the reaction of many church members to The Ordain Women movement. Despite what you personally believe or what you believe the church doctrine is, we should all be kind. There has been a lot of hateful words and behavior toward people in this group. Of all people, we should know what it's like to be persecuted, made fun of and shunned for our beliefs and we should be the most understanding and the most compassionate. Mostly, because we as a people, we are trying to be like the Savior, we shouldn't be hateful and mean, but be Christlike.

I don't know where I fall on The Ordain Women movement. I know that I have had many questions about the past with women and the priesthood. I've felt discriminated against. I've been saddened by the gender generalizations and expectations.  I know that I don't have any desire for any major leadership positions. But sometimes I think I would rather be the bishop, than the bishop's wife. My heart has sunk and twisted around as I wondered how to answer Gen when she asks why she can't pass the sacrament. I want to know what it's like to give blessings. I want to place my hands on someone's head, be surrounded by the spirit as I feel God's power and words flowing through me. But I don't know what's right and what God wants now and I'm excited to hear if and when the prophet gives us an answer. In the meantime, I will be kind and supportive to those who are brave enough to share their hearts.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

In the Interim

The View from the Computer (taken in the AM)
The sky today looks like I'm living in a Pixar movie and from my computer I can see the leaves changing on the hill across from our new house (I say "our", but technically we are still renting). 24 is playing behind my typing. I like to multi-task in my technology and unfortunately my children are watching and following my bad example. I'm truly sorry to their church and school teachers.  

Out my window I can also see people milling about and going for walks on our sidewalks. I can hear my kids and what they're up to in the same open floor plan and I'm truly amazed at what a change of ten miles and a new house can do. I'm convinced the right lay-out in a house can seriously effect your life. I feel content with our new place and life is so much better.

I haven't blogged in forever, and much of that is due to the immense chaos we've experienced since coming home from Utah. There were job interviews, questions of Seattle or San Jose, house prospects being investigated here and falling through, and a camping trip to Maine and all the while packing and preparing for all of the various options that kept appearing and disappearing. We finally found the perfect place in Danbury, timing worked out and we knew we were coming here, but the night before we were moving, Uhaul cancelled our 26' moving truck and left us with no trucks big or small within an hour of our house. We scrambled until the wee hours of the morning calling every moving truck company. Russ went at 5AM to secure our only for-sure option, a Home Depot pick-up truck. Without our very kind ward members, we would have never made it out of our old place and into the new, in time.

The girls are easing into their new school and making friends, most of the boxes are unpacked and I go to bed every night so happy to be falling asleep in my bed in this house. So we are settling in once again and minus some other uncertainties in our life, things are calming down.





















Saturday, July 20, 2013

Parting Thoughts



Today is the last day before I head “home”. But it isn’t home. I’m leaving home. Stew screamed no into the silence after I told Hannah that we were leaving tomorrow. Today Hannah cried because her heart was breaking. The first time she’s cried because it’s breaking. Not because she didn’t get a new toy or because I told her no or because she got a scrape. She cried because we are leaving tomorrow. My heart was slowly falling to pieces, but watching the devastation on her face, my heart burst. I don’t want to do this anymore. This can’t be worth the adventures. The money can’t be worth this sadness. I watched Gatsby tonight and once again the fruitless tragedy of pursuing the dream in New York was made gruesomely clear. We have never been about becoming  rich, but we’ve aimed to be successful and to sacrifice for later. But maybe doing the world’s “smart” thing, isn’t really all that smart. Maybe it’s about getting to watch my children frequently visit my Nana. So she can grasp their hands, look into their eyes and with honest passion tell them how beautiful and wonderful they are. Maybe it’s going out to lunch with my Gammie and watching her cut up pizza and feed it’s cheesy goodness into a sweet great-granddaughters mouth. Maybe it’s not having the pit in my stomach, as I leave with dread that I might not make it back home again before they’ve passed. Maybe it’s about eating good food, going on walks, playing Wii and good chats with kindred spirits I’ve had in my life since I’ve been three. Maybe it’s watching my mom read to my girls or leave them fairy notes. Maybe it’s eating my dad’s homemade bread and hearing Hannah tell my Dad he fixes the best baked potatoes. I think a "successful life" is friends and family and maximizing those interactions. . .all that's left now is to do it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Worshiping and Defending God's Power

I wasn't excited to teach my lesson last Sunday when I heard the topic: "How can I Honor and Uphold the Priesthood?". I'm still exploring my initial lack of enthusiasm, but one thing I've deduced is that I, myself, was tired of hearing the usual direction this lesson seems to follow. Initially, I timidly explored going in a completely different direction, but the more I explored the thoughts that were whipping through my mind and flying from the pages as I was studying, I became impassioned and completely excited. I still can't stop thinking about the lesson and I'm hoping writing will stop some of the fever inside of me. Here are some of the finer points:

Priesthood is defined on the Church's official website as:

 "The word priesthood has two meanings. First, priesthood is the power and authority of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end. Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power, He exalts His obedient children, bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man”Second, in mortality, priesthood is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things necessary for the salvation of God’s children. The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who receive the gospel."

We focused mainly on the first meaning: "The power and authority of God". We then defined what honor and uphold mean. Definitions from the dictionary:

HONOR
verb (used with object)
13.to hold in honor or high respect; revere: to honor one's parents.
14.to treat with honor.
15.to confer honor or distinction upon: The university honored him with its leadership award.
16.to worship (the Supreme Being).
17.to show a courteous regard for: to honor an invitation.

UPHOLD

verb (used with object), up·held, up·hold·ing.
1.to support or defend, as against opposition or criticism: He fought the duel to uphold his family's honor.
2.to keep up or keep from sinking; support: Stout columns upheld the building's heavy roof. Her faith upheld her in that time of sadness.
3.to lift upward; raise: The pilgrims upheld their eyes and thanked heaven for their safe journey.
4.British .

a.to upholster.
b.to maintain in good condition; take care of.


We then discussed how we could respect/worship/support/defend "the power and authority of God." We talked about the ordinances (baptism, sacrament, endowments, sealings)  that were possible because of the Priesthood. We talked about how we could better respect, defend and worship those ordinances. We talked about how the earth, the heavens and our bodies were created by the Priesthood and how we could better honor the earth and our bodies. 

Much of the lesson time was spent talking about respecting and being kind to ourselves and our bodies which are "God's Supreme Creation". "Woman is God's supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed  and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.  Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth" (Our Responsibility to Our Young Women, Ensign, September 1988, 11). 

I asked the girls to close their eyes and picture themselves getting ready for church that morning. What were they thinking about themselves? Were they admiring the way their hair was falling across their face? Were they pleased with how sparkly their eyes were as they smiled? Or were they instead picking out minor "flaws" and saying mean things about their bodies or their minds? I know I wasn't being kind. And I'm sure they weren't either. I would hazard that most of us disparaged ourselves. I then asked why we would think those things about God's supreme creation; why we would hurt and put down something that was created with God's awesome power?

For the next couple of weeks we are working on honoring God's power and more specifically God's supreme creation. We are specifically saying ten kind things about ourselves (physically, mentally or spiritually) as we get ready for the day in the mirror. We are also placing this quote  ("You are creatures of divinity, you are daughters of the Almighty.  Limitless is your potential.  Magnificent is your future, if you will take control of it.  Do not let your lives drift in a fruitless and worthless manner...Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup.  The Lord did not send you here to fail.  He did not give you life to waste it.  He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience, positive, wonderful, purposeful experience that will lead to life eternal.  He has give you this glorious church, His church, to guide you and direct you, to give you opportunity for growth and experience, to teach you and lead you, and encourage you, to bless you with eternal marriage, to seal upon you a covenant between you and Him that will make of you His chosen daughter, one upon whom He may look with love and with a desire to help.  May God bless you richly and abundantly, my dear young friends, His wonderful daughters.") by the mirror and reading President Hinkley's empowering words. Be good to yourselves. Say nice things and notice/eliminate all the negative things you say to yourself throughout the day. You are God's greatest creation--you are His child. We all are, no matter our gender, color or personality. Don't mess with God's children, I don't think he likes it. Look in the mirror with us.

P.S. If you have some time, check out this conference talk about the Priesthood. I learned more about the Priesthood in this talk then I think I have anywhere else. 
 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gender Wars

Tonight we ate at McDonald's. Yeah we ate at McDonald's. Today was the last day of school and the start of summer. I know I've just been knocked down several notches on the good parenting rung by admitting that visit, but I'm nothing if not transparent. We even caved to buying the Happy Meals, which Hannah mistakenly thought were called "Healthy Meals". Tonight the thing that got me was the toys and the larger issue they represent.

Hannah decided the cars looked the coolest and wanted to get them, while Gen thought that the light up, key-chain shoe looked the best. As we ordered, we were asked for whether we wanted the "boy toy" or the "girl toy" in each meal. Why do the cars have to be "boy toys" and why were the girl toys displayed amongst purple and pink cardboard hearts, peace signs and flowers? It was too confusing for the employee explaining that we wanted the "boy toy"  and finally had to tell him that the Happy Meal was for a boy before he knew what to select. I bet Hannah is sure to pick that option again, if she had to be labeled as a boy in order to get it or hears us all refer to the toy as a "boy toy". Grrrrr. Why do we have to restrict girls and boys so much, but especially girls? Can't there just be two options and either gender is welcome to think either is acceptable?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Big Bertha

Readers meet Big Bertha. Sorry she can't really meet you, she's too busy recovering from her winter binge on oil. Unless you live in New England, you may think this rusty hunk of metal was found in some industrial plant, but oh no, it's located in our basement. Almost every house has their very own metal hunk of stinking junk. Even houses that were recently built. Old Bertha holds heating oil which heats the water and the house.. She costs $1000 to fill and you typically go through three tanks in the winter and four throughout the year. When was the last time you paid $4000/year to heat your house?

On a particularly low moment of the winter, we had our house heated at sixty-five degrees on the main level, we were all bundled in coats and socks and the kids were complaining of the cold and begging to turn up the heat. I became a little over dramatic in my head and began comparing myself to some poor, struggling family huddling around a fire, dressed in rags, freezing to death. I start to cry thinking about how we can't even turn up our heat to sixty-eight and I spiral down into cursing the backward nature of New England. Yep dramatic, that's me. Don't worry though, now I'm wishing it was freezing again, but I'm not crying about it yet.