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:

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


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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We Don't Kill Bugs in Connecticut

Fly Not Included
A couple of months after we moved to Connecticut, we found a couch set on Craigslist and also found ourselves the proud new owners of a few dirty house flies. I'd already tried a handful of stores to find a simple device called a fly swatter. Maybe you've heard of it? I don't think Connecticut has. Initially I found it odd, then annoying, then a downright conspiracy that a fly killer could not be procured. And every time I'd go home empty handed, my bitterness would only increase when I'd hear the little beasts buzzing in a taunt.

Target has everything right? Not in Connecticut and not when they don't believe in "super" anything. I tried two workers before I found one that could do more than grunt at me and then I got more than an earful. I asked if she could tell me what isle the fly swatters were on. "Oh you don't want to kill them do you?!"

Umm yeah I do. Flies sit on poop and then sit on our food. "Yes, actually I do."

"Oh you don't have to kill them. You can just catch them and then let them outside".

Oh yeah, sure, in between Stew's screams, unloading the dishes and making dinner I'll just spend the next three hours leaping from couch, to chair to counter, trying to catch Mr. Fly in my hands. "I usually do take bugs and spiders outside, but I think a fly would be kind of hard to catch."

"I don't think it would be hard at all. Just open the door and shoo it out the door with a piece of paper." She starts pantomiming how easy it would be to set this fly free. I start wondering why I let it get to this point.

Why do I care whether she knows if I'm kind to bugs? Why am I wasting time getting a lecture on fly cruelty? But I still let her finish her peace, because that's the nice (chicken) person I am. At the end of the schpiel , it's confirmed, no swatters. I still haven't found one. Poor guy just died of starvation or was eaten by Luna. But, shhhh, don't tell PETA.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fighting Against the Lie


"He must really like you, if he started dating you after you looked like that". Oh the things women say to each other. Instantly I felt the hurt and then I felt my mind flow into action and fury, screaming things like "yeah he likes me, for me, not how I look, not what kind of clothes I wear, but for what kind of person I am. You know real like." But that was almost fifteen years ago and I still remember, I still sting with shame and feel a little uglier and a little sadder whenever it sneaks to the forefront. I'm still effected. I'm not self-actualized.

I studied psychology because I'm fascinated with people. With what we think, what we do and why we do what we do. I know that studies have shown how influential attractiveness is. How attractive people are automatically assumed to be good and kind. People with good looks make more in tips, get jobs and make more than their less attractive counter-parts. Problem is, I could really care less what I look like. I would much rather spend my time reading a good book or chatting with a friend than spending hours primping over myself in a mirror. I'd rather spend money traveling the world, than buying the latest designer spring fashions or having my thighs lipo-ed. But sometimes I try because I want friends. I want to be liked. Because that's what girls like. That's what you must do.

I also know the horrors of the relentless onslaught of beauty propaganda. I know that women are objectified, lied to and made to feel that their worth is no more than their dress size, designer clothes and flawless face. I know the awful lie. Yet I am fully entrenched. I waffle between sniffing, scoffing and sighing in sadness at those who run a million miles, talk incessantly about losing weight and shopping, and spend all of their energy chasing the ideal in fashion and beauty. But in the same sigh, I've already compared myself to these women and decided they are prettier than I am, they are skinnier than I am and consequently better than I am. My inner critic must tell me in fifty different ways, throughout the day,  how fat I am, how terrible I am at dressing myself and how ugly I look. If anyone else said the things I said to myself, I'd hurt them. A lot. I don't even try to be friends with someone who I've determined is too beautiful to want to hang out with me.

That same dashing, alluring boy who liked me despite my shocking lack of fashion, went way beyond like and into love. He married me and he constantly tells me how beautiful I am. For years, I thought he was just being charming or kind, but lately I've realized he really does believe what he's saying. And I've committed to not discount what he says, but to believe. To really let what he sees sink into every part of me. Maybe I'm the one whose been seeing with distorted glasses. Maybe we all are.

What I know in the deep down, solid part of me, is that what really matters is who I am, not what I look like. That's what matters about all of us. We're all deeper than our skin and despite what imperfect human frailties lead us to sometimes judge based on what we see, so many of look beyond and into the soul. And those are the good ones. Those are the ones who you want as friends.

So often I see and define my body by what it looks like and I forget what is best and most powerful about my body is what it can do. It can take me on a fifty mile backpacking trip through the Uintas or take me through a hard-fought tennis game. My body can can swim through the ocean while gazing at the glorious, shimmering fish below. My eyes can cry with a friend or watch my children sleeping. My mouth can speak comforting words or witty retorts. My hands can type, write and express my truths. My whole body can love my husband. My brain can take me on adventures or give me hours of delight as I go birding or listen to an engaging lecture. 

I will consciously point out to my children how wonderful their bodies are because of what they accomplish. I will put them in sports. I will encourage them to dance. I will refrain from vocalizing any misgivings about my own weight or appearance. I will stop beating myself up and start building myself up. And I'll stop getting in trouble for saying mean things about Russ' wife. (A little thrill goes through me every time I realize that's me). Will you do the same?

This article fired me up. Read it:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Animals Attack

"What is that smell?" is one of those phrases that likely strikes fear in the heart of every human, but when you have a dog, a baby and two little girls, it brings on full panic mode.

We're finally ready to fall into bed when we realize Luna needs to be sent out for a potty break. Upon her return, we're overwhelmed with an overpowering, all-consuming stench of what through the gags, seems like burnt rubber or a chemical plant that has burned up. Russ assumes that something bad is happening outside so he quickly shuts the door as Luna is circling and sneezing around our legs. I realize with horror that I know that smell close up. Skunk. Luna has been sprayed. I scream, "I think it's skunk. We've got to get her out of here." Visions of my childhood dog bolting into our house like she's possessed, rubbing on couches and every carpet in every room, is flying through my mind, but I'm paralyzed. I'm terrible in traumatic situations. Luckily, Russ still has the use of his limbs and is quickly ushering Luna up through the kitchen door. It's midnight by the time I'm tiptoeing around her poop, breathing through my mouth and guiding her to a new spray, of hose water and a rubdown with shampoo. After the first two washes I realize just a simple wash is never going to do it. I retreat back through the poop field and go in search of the marina sauce I had used for cooking club that night. As I'm about to begin the saucing, Russ calls for help from the basement. We've now got a frog hopping around as he's trying to scrub the carpets. Now we're gagging through skunk smell, baking soda drenched floors, running after a terrified frog. I make the catch, he escapes my grasp and I recatch him in mid-air before I get him out the door and into the bushes.

At two in the morning Luna is sopping wet, with a slight pink tinge looking very dejected as we shut her outside for the night. She still has an open wound from her surgery and we have to risk her going without the cone of shame, since it got the brunt of the spray. We abandon our summer residence in the basement, shed our skunk laden clothes and settle in for a less smelly, but sweltering short night of sleep. And Gen's birthday party is a day away. All hail to our darling dog. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Family May Visit

One of the things I love about living in Connecticut is the proximity to so many fun things to do. New York City is a little over an hour drive away. Boston is 2 1/2 hours away, D.C. 5 and so on. When my family came, the hard part was squeezing in all of the fun things we wanted to do. We missed out on doing everything ( I guess they'll just have to come again very soon), but we did get to some pretty cool things.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Things Kids Write

"I think my mom is funny when she tutes stinkely"--*I'd Never*;)

Genevieve has an honest heart and an honest face and so it's often easy to know how's she's feeling and if she's telling the truth or not. So when she stepped off the bus an afternoon three months or so ago, I knew something was wrong. And sure enough she hemmed an hawed before it came out that she had gotten in trouble for something. The rest came out in bits and pieces drawn out by careful questioning.

The trouble was her spelling homework. One of her activities is to use her spelling words in a sentence that she makes up. I try to be as hands off as possible with homework so that I'm not caught in the trap of doing it myself or having to nudge her along every step of the way, but I guess the night before I was too hands off. I checked through the homework and saw the offending sentence and decided against making her change it because I rationalized that I was getting to worked up over nothing. The sentence was this, "Behave or else I will kill you". My initial apprehension with her sentence, was my fear that someone would think Russ or I actually said that in our normal disciplining routine. I thought, "Here I go again being crazy and worried about what people will think. I really need to stop that. She's just being a kid". I suggested that she might want to change the sentence, but she was stubborn and wanted it to stay and I was tired and wanted to be done so I let it slide.

Her teacher had a talk with her, the principal had a talk with her and I was scared out of my mind with the thought of parent teacher conferences in a couple of weeks. I was so embarrassed. My child got in trouble. My child talked to the principal. I could have prevented this and I didn't. Every day when I would open her folder, I was scared to see the offending homework. I was scared for a phone call or a reprimanding note. And when the violent piece of homework made it's ominous appearance, I could hardly bare to look at it. I know I should have saved it for a laugh in the future, but the poor thing was promptly shredded. And it's only taken me three months to be able to laugh and share. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All Work and No Play

Up until this year I had successfully avoided kid birthday parties for my children. They looked like a lot of work and stress. And guess what? They are. I spent days driving back and forth between Micheal's, Target, Costco and the dreaded Walmart. I cut, glued and crafted my non-crafty brain crazy. But if I was going to do this thing, I was going to do it right. I was going to do it like my mom does it. If you didn't know, my mom, Karen Stewart, taught Aunt Martha everything she knows. When the day of the party arrived, I was still in a frenzy with all the things that still needed to come together before I was ready for that first guest to arrive. Russ and I were running around and still finishing pinning up the banner when 11:00 popped up on the microwave. Of course someone was very prompt. Darn on-time people. The little girl and her mom were very sweet, but after five or ten minutes of pleasantries I realized the mom is not leaving, no one else has arrived and the crayon coloring activity was quickly losing its appeal. I cannot have parents sitting around watching me when I've never done this before, when I still feel like everything is not quite perfect. The parents are supposed to leave when their kids are five and go to preschool half day, five days a week. Now I've got a prompt and a very protective parent shattering my already frail nerves. Thirty minutes after the first guest/parent arrived, the rest of the attendees arrive in rapid succession. And soon I realize that mom #1 was the rule and not the exception. I've now got a house full of gabbing, scrutinizing parents to attend to and their not alone. They've brought the whole family. I don't have enough lunch, party favors, cupcakes, straws, silverware, plates, napkins or plans for these unexpecteds. I'm flustered, anxious and nervous. Things worked out, but the whole two hours felt like someone was spinning me about blindfolded while I tried to set my best china. And guess what? I'm doing it all over again. Gen turns seven in nineteen days and I've got to keep things fair. Hopefully, after I carefully freehand and construct a giant replica of Hello Kitty's face for a pin-the-tale on the donkey game, a parent doesn't ask if Hannah made that.   
I was so proud of my free-hand, Hello Kitty Cardboard cut-out, but apparently it looks like my five year old created it.
The Cupcakes

Hannah's Actual Birthday