Mar 26, 2010

Baby Nosurf

born 25 March at 10:31 pm.

8lbs 13 oz.

19 inches long. (not 28. Ammended.) (BTW how come none of you people asked about our monster baby?) (And I blame drugs. And sleep deprivation.)

blog nickname: Rose.

She's a very calm, yet quietly determined baby. And we all love her a lot. She was worth the wait.

BTW, this post has made me realize that I haven't been using nicknames for my little adopted girls, and I need to. So from now on (and I'm going to go back and apply this to older posts, too) my 6 year old will be Bellarina (Bella for short) and my 5 year old, MayMay.

Mar 25, 2010

Growing Vegetables in Utah Valley... Lessons from our failures

Continuing in the tradition of distracting myself from what I can't control...

Skywalker and I are big on the idea of a garden and always have been. Not only did the prophet say we're supposed to grow one, but we're a pretty vegetable-heavy family. We eat Lots of veggies. And so a garden could save a great deal of money for us.

The first year we grew a garden, it was in a little wooden-enclosed plot on a lawn. Not much sun, not many nutrients in the soil, plus they did a weed killer and fertilizer on the lawn every year and I think that took care of our garden. We planted lots of things but the only ones that grew were a few stunted squash and a few tiny tomatoes and LOTS of onions. Apparently Onions can hazard pretty much any garden climate. Lesson learned: location and soil conditions are very important.

The second year, we tried to make a raised garden bed in our back yard and did some more on the other side of our driveway. Again, we planted lots of stuff. What we got was squash (again, but more this time) Onions (again), Leeks, and some stunted beets.

Lesson learned: You must water. Consistent water is a MUST... thus we decided the next year...

We put the garden in our front garden plot. We planted a few things, clearing out the weeds that have choked it enough to give us room for our tomato plants. I watered it carefully in the morning and in the heat of the day. I read somewhere that if you deep-water once a week, the plants grow better, so I tried not to water every day. We planted on the side of the road again, too. This year we got a great lettuce and spinach crop, which quickly went to seed. We had a few stunted tomatoes, (but still, that's better than before) a couple stunted peppers, a few squash.

I realized then that we needed a real overhaul on our techniques. What was the problem? Too much watering? I didn't think so...circumstances... our ground got BAKED in the summertime. It was basically dust most of the time, even though it was pretty rich soil. And knowing the physiology of plant roots, I figured it was a LACK of water and the ground's being unable to keep water IN it that we were dealing with.

The next year we went all-out. Cleared out that entire front garden plot so that there were no leftover weeds. No laziness about it. Planted in rows, got soaker hoses and snaked them along the rows, and then *brilliant stroke* mulched around every single plant and all over the ground where plants weren't planted. We put the mulch OVER the soaker hose so that it wouldn't bake and dry in the sun.

That was last year. We planted our lettuce and spinach earlier, along with some other greens, and actually were able to eat them for several weeks before they went to seed. We got a really great yeild on Broccoli, especially. We got some good peppers. We got BOATLOADS of carrots. Our tomatoes were iffy... it's because we didn't stake them well enough and they were too crowded. So the answer is: a soaker hose situation where you can turn it on for an hour in the morning and an hour at the hottest time of day, but not waste water, because it's *slowly* letting water out, plus mulch to keep the ground moist.

This year we're expanding our gardening. We're using a 50X30 foot square in the backyard as well as our front yard plot. Last year our problem was space... we'll see what happens with our tomatoes and peppers, especially, this year when we spread them out a bit. We're doing the soaker-hose mulch routine again (which will mean we're buying a few more soaker hoses, and buying a pickup load of mulch from the city dump. It's cheap... 15 dollars for a pickup-load). This year, our goal is to be able to eat entirely from our garden, veggies-wise, all summer. And that we'll be able to store veggies (We got our dehydrator!!) and eat quite a few over the winter as well.

So wish us luck!

So to recap. Lessons learned:

1) Location. You need a good southern exposure if you want lots of vegetables.
2) do not plant where the soil is not favorable to veggies. You need topsoil, and you need compost or fertilizer specific to veggies. Our soil is alkaline, so acidic-type fertilizing is best. That means green waste if you're composting.
3) Water. Soooo important! It needs to be a little at a time, over a sustained amount of time, to keep our scorching, drying weather from baking out the ground and paralyzing the plant roots. A soaker hose works... a drip system would also work. Or you could go outside every half-hour between the hours of 10 and 4 pm and give the plants a watering... but that's not very practical.
4) Mulch. Keeps the ground moist. Keeps the weeds down. Fertilizes the plants and gives them an extra boost. You can use lawn clippings, dead leaves from the piles you've raked up, or you can buy a commercial mulch or go with the processed green waste that your city collects.
5) Space. Tomatoes really do need about 3-4 feet between them. Stake the veggies well. And strategize your garden so that sun-loving veggies like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are in the sunniest parts and shade-lovers like lettuces, broccolis, peas etc get some shade part of the day. Plant veggies so that they don't interrupt each others' sun... taller veggies further north, the shorter ones further south so that all get sun exposure.

And that's all folks! Hopefully our next post will be about something else... I'm not going to say what because I don't want to jinx myself.

Mar 24, 2010

Gardening as induction...

Yesterday I staked out my garden. WIth the help of my children, who are closer to the ground than I, we planted Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Beans, and Collards. Two weeks ago we got our peas and lettuces into the ground.

What am I doing gardening while 4 days overdue, you ask?

Do you really need to ask?

There are some things rather TMI that make me think this baby might be a little closer to coming. But who knows. It's odd... I'm beginning to feel slightly disconnected from this process. A feeling like, "this baby might come someday." LIke the fact that she might come is now coming into question.

And yet for some reason I'm not too bothered, except for a brief moment of frustration every morning when Skywalker leaves for work, and I run through a panicky scenario in my mind where suddenly I go straight from non-labor into some kind of wacky instant transition and it takes him 20 minutes to get home, then it takes 20 minutes for my sister to get here, then a further 30 minutes to the hospital and we end up having to pull over to the side of the freeway and deliver a baby.

Skywalker frightened me last night by shrugging and saying, "I think I'd do OK if it came to that."

I gave him one of my famous looks and said, "it will not come to that."

He shrugged and said, "Well, if it DID, I'm just saying..."

"It will NOT come to that."

So shall it be written.

I just hope baby is listening, too.

Mar 22, 2010

Pictures of Pornography: Real Life, Real Women. A Talk By Van C. Gessel

I have been waiting to finish my series with this talk. I find it a stunning, honest treatise on just why pornography can interfere with real relationships, particularly where women are concerned. Read, and enjoy. And thank you, Margaret, for getting the electronic copy.

Real Life, Real Women

Stake General Priesthood Meeting

BYU 16th Stake

February 11, 2001

President Van C. Gessel

Brethren, I appreciate you being here tonight. You have heard powerful testimonies about the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through latter-day prophets. My personal preference would have been to address the same topic, but the Lord has had another direction He has been trying to coax me toward over the past few weeks. But I cannot begin without sharing with you my personal, and powerfully internalized, testimony that two exalted beings—the Father of us all and His Beloved Son—did appear to Joseph Smith and selected him as the first prophet of our dispensation, and that the Book of Mormon was translated for the express purpose of being a second hemispheric testimony of Christ's universal mission to all the children of God to bring us salvation and everlasting joy. I have a profound personal witness that Gordon B. Hinckley is today the Lord's megaphone to a spiritually-deafened world, and that the closer we can conform our lives to the teachings of our prophet, the greater will be our happiness and the clearer our sense of direction in our daily activities.

And now, a preface to the topic the Lord wants you to hear through me. During His mortal ministry, the Savior, viewing our day and its many challenges and opportunities, declared, with what must have been a sorrowful shaking of His head and a sympathetic sigh that in our day "even the very elect will be deceived." Like King Benjamin, "I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard...even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." (Mosiah 4:29-30) How many new "ways and means" to commit sin have been added to the adversary's repertoire just in the last fifty years?

As some of you will have detected, I feel a keen responsibility to try to expose some of Satan's techniques so that you can steel yourselves against them. Here again, I cannot be exhaustive in my listing of his pernicious plots to destroy us, but two specific approaches come to mind. Consider, for instance, the numerous ways in which the temper tries subtly to persuade us that there are limits on the efficacy of the Atonement of his arch-rival. Using a logic by which we are far too easily seduced, Lucifer not only leads us into temptation and then transmits to our minds ways to rationalize our sins, but he also is there to meet us immediately after we have transgressed to comfort and assure us and lull us away into carnal security by persuading us that what we have done is not so bad, that we can enjoy life now and repent later, that everybody is doing it, that we really can't or shouldn't control our selfish cravings, that God will beat us with a few stripes, and so on and so on ad nauseam. But then he turns truly nasty, using the quasi-scientific philosophies of men to delude us into thinking that we were "born that way," that what we have done is who we really are, and that we just aren't celestial material, no matter how hard we try. Or that repentance either works very quickly and painlessly—like arsenic—or that we can never refrain from sin long enough to merit forgiveness. In essence, he insists that we can never change, that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes engendered in our genes or inflamed by our weaknesses. Worst of all, perhaps, he has convinced far too many in our day that our sins have conclusively separated us from God and that there is no road back.

What nonsense! What vicious falsehoods! What a cruel abuse of us when we are in an imperfect, weakened state of mind and spirit! Reject such lies, brethren; if you start to be persuaded by them, Satan will ultimately succeed in having you place limits, restrictions, and malevolent misinterpretations upon the Atonement of the Savior, and before long your faith in the power of Christ to lift and heal and redeem you will be so debilitated that you will fall even further prey to temptation and despair.

Along with his attempts to dilute our comprehension and acceptance of the Atonement, the evil one does an absolutely splendid job of distorting our sense of who we are. Over the past couple of centuries, he has slowly moved us from an image of ourselves as children of our Heavenly Father to an intellectual conviction that we are merely slightly advanced animals, that our status is determined solely by biology and cultural determinism, and that we are so much lower than the angels that maybe they aren't really there, and even if they are, we'll never be able to join them on their level. Secularization has steered our society away from the highway of our God to the dead-end alleys of materialism and pleasure-seeking. I personally attribute much of the decline in our civilization today to the fact that so many of us—including members of the Church, unfortunately—have been swayed by Satan's agenda, whereby he tries to get us to think less of ourselves, less of our bodies, less of our divine origins, far less of our eternal destiny, and considerably less of others. Freedom has replaced responsibility, individuality has overtaken the value of community, the concept of "victimless crimes" has negated the need for sin and guilt, the "right to choose" has displaced the duty to replenish, and the "greatest generation" has been succeeded by the "me generation." It's ironic, isn't it--the more we focus on "me," the less we really think of "me," because "me" only means immediate gratification of "my" desires, attainment of "my" goals, and choosing what is best for "me" alone. We claim that technology has enabled us to shrink the world, to connect humankind together as never before--and how do we do that? By locking ourselves in a solitary room, turning on an inanimate object, and traveling to wherever the sensual surf washes us on shore.

But enough of my old-fashioned, outmoded philosophical ramblings. And on to my point, if I can remember what it is. Of all the things that concern me about our day and our society, I think I am most troubled by the way in which Satan has put sacred things up for sale, a phenomenon only superficially manifest a few months back when some fool put a signed temple recommend up for sale on e-Bay. Peter in his second epistle wrote: "...there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you..." (2 Peter 2:1-3)

"With feigned words make merchandise of you." Our bodies and our spirits, our very souls, were purchased by the blood of Christ and His triumphant resurrection and exaltation—we belong, in every part of our being, to the Master. But the false teachers of our day, in their damnable heresies, have sought to cancel out the Lord's proof of purchase. And because of their lust for our dollars, with lies and deceits they put us up for sale, body and soul. They are selling stolen goods as surely as that temple recommend put up for online barter belongs to the Lord and not to its brain-dead holder. The world has no claim on us—except as we allow it—and no right to put our bodies or our minds on the auction block.

Much has been said of late about the evils of pornography. In case that word gives you a sense of déjà vu, I will reassure you that I'm not going to repeat my ward conference talk and give you a list of movies and music to avoid. I have already given you that counsel; I hope you have taken it. This evening I want to try to expose the inherent spiritual and temporal lies that lurk beneath the surface of the pornography industry, an industry bound and determined to "make merchandise of you." And I hope to demonstrate for you what the long-term poisonous effects can be for you if you do not "watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard...even unto the end of your lives."

I apologize, brethren, for using the approach I am about to use, but I can think of no way other than specific plainness to say what I feel must be said. My goal is to make clear to you how a life of erotic fantasy can hamper your every attempt to find happiness in your life now and, to a much greater degree, in the future. I want to try to contrast the foolish fantasy women of the sensual realm with women of the real world, the kind of women in your ward, the women you associate with every day, the kind of woman you will eventually marry. We will call the women of the fantasy world "Playpets." And let me emphasize, brethren, that it makes no difference where you encounter a Playpet—in magazines, on TV, in movies, on the Internet, or simply in your own mental fantasies. She is designed to destroy you and your happiness, no matter the form in which she appears.

What is so alluring about a Playpet? First and most obvious is her unclothed physical body, for sale in every conceivable size and shape, tailor-made to suit the buyer's personal preferences. The wonderful thing about this particular sales transaction is that if October's Playpet doesn't fully satisfy your lusts, there is always November. And December. And several thousands more on the Internet and video. In other words, the satanic salesman allows you to pick and choose whatever body type appeals most to you. And you can trade her in for a new model whenever and as often as you wish. Like she were your own private flesh-and-blood Barbie Doll, you can dress and undress her according to your every whim. You are in charge. You are her Master. You control her fate, her wardrobe, her poses. She submits to your every idea, every fantasy, every beat of your hedonistic heart. She never gets pregnant, never gets tired, never throws up, never catches a cold—even when she's undressed—never leaves town or goes to school or work on church or anywhere. She never ages or gets wrinkles. She is, because she cannot exist, perfect in the worldly sense. But she is made of plastic and silicone, and she can never be yours forever, because she cannot be perfected in a spiritual sense.

For the here and now, however, she is always available. Your Playpet never gets headaches, never has periods, never would rather just sit and talk, never needs to take the time to attend to her own needs and obligations. Her only role in life is to convince you that you can have her whenever you want her. She will not complain, she will not pretend to have any feelings or desires of her own; she will cater to you on demand. Best of all, perhaps, she never has a single thought. She will never disagree with you, never want you to listen to her opinions, has no rights or feelings. She only has one purpose in life, and that is to be under your control.

Do you begin to see why and how women have, through most of our mortal history, been repressed and downtrodden and treated as objects? And why, though we have in our modern enlightenment given them equal legal and political rights, we continue to repress them in our fatal fantasies because of the lustful lies peddled to us by both Hollywood and by Hell?

A real woman—the kind of woman you will eventually marry—has been taught to dress modestly. Already she is a disappointment to the man who expects his women to dress like streetcorner saleswomen. The real woman will come to you in marriage with only one bodily type, which you cannot trade in for one you'd like better. Her physical body, which she and the Lord regard as a sacred, temple-like edifice, is real and mortal and therefore subject to the processes of change and aging. It is highly unlikely that she will, at age 45, look just like she did at 23. Does that mean she will be less attractive to you later in life? Only if you haven't abandoned your fantasies of living happily ever after with a supermodel.

You neither own nor have rightful dominion over the real woman you marry. She is her own person, as important to her Father in Heaven as are you. She is, with all her imperfections, a goddess in embryo. She gets headaches. She has periods, and if she's lucky enough to have them stop, it means she's pregnant. When that happens, her body will change in shape and in function—dramatically at times. I can pretty much guarantee you that at full term she won't look much like a Playpet.

A real woman gets tired, and occasionally even grumpy. She gets sick, which may not always be the most effective turn-on for you. In some cases, she will need surgery, and she may have to stay in the hospital for days on end and will likely emerge with a scarred body. Is that the point at which she should be traded in for a woman fresh off the pages of this month's Sports Illustrated?

The real woman with whom you will eventually live has thoughts and feelings of her own; she has her agency; she is, in most cases these days, very well-educated and bright and thoughtful and more often than not gives us men a run for our intellectual money. Her will belongs to her. She may actually have the temerity to disagree with you from time to time. If you're a fool, you'll tell her to get in line and follow the priesthood. I tried that once, many years ago—it's one of the dumbest things I ever did.

Your future wife cannot, and must not, ever be required to cater to your passions unwillingly. The amazing, challenging, and joyous thing about marital intimacy is that it performs all of its uplifting functions only when it is utterly mutual. It can only degrade when it is one-sided, selfish, and not consensual. Let me caution you very plainly: if you have trained your physical body to expect sexual release on a frequent basis, you have set in motion a process that will very likely have a serious negative impact on your future marriage. No real woman ever can or ever should be expected to be available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And she will sense the disappointment in your eyes and realize that she is not meeting your so-called "needs." She will be hurt, and a real woman in emotional pain is not likely to feel like initiating romance herself. Days and months and even years of mutual frustration and inadequacy may follow.

Because she is so much unlike the Playpet, the real woman of the Church, imperfect though she is, has within her the potential to become perfect. If you will assist her by accepting and loving and caring for her amidst all her imperfections.

Now to the heart of the matter, brethren. Do you really believe that you can, in the days of your singlehood, fill your mind and soul and body with illusory images of Playpets and a carnal sense of domination and then be fully prepared to live with and care for and nurture a real woman to whom you are sealed? Do you suppose that the habits of selfishness and supremacy which you have developed through repeated exposure to lifeless media images will somehow not spill over into your marriage and hamper your ability to love your wife with all your heart, might, mind, and strength—forever? Please don't allow rationalization or self-deception to stand in the way of answering those questions truthfully.

You are currently in the process of patterning your life, of setting up consistent habits and attitudes and practices to manage your thoughts and time that will stay with you throughout your life. When we talk about the addictive nature of media-bred or mind-fed fantasizing about sexual matters, we are not simply talking about the enticing lure of the material. We are talking about the ways in which such thoughts and deeds create potentially permanent attitudes and habits and feelings toward sexuality and toward real women. Let me be very direct, brethren: no matter how you might imagine this working in the future, marriage is not a cure for addiction to pornography. Neither is marriage a remedy for obsessive thoughts or physiological patterns established earlier in life. We are striving to teach you correct principles so that you will be able to govern yourself—in all things. Most especially those things that can either make you supremely happy or atrociously miserable.

If you allow yourself to get caught up in the net of carnal fantasy, I can all but promise that there will be heartache in your future. I know of too many marriages that have broken up because of the husband's unreal expectations for his wife's looks and performance, for which he compensated by turning—or, far more often—returning to pornographic addiction. Even if he doesn't slide in that direction, the emotional wounds he has inflicted on his wife are deep and painful. At the conference on the impact of pornography held earlier this week at BYU, Dr. Wendy Ulrich pointed out how involvement with fantasy images of sexuality can damage and destroy intimate relationships. A man who lives in his fantasies cannot simultaneously establish residence in reality. How would a wife feel, offering the best of herself to her husband, to find that he prefers the naked chicks on late-night HBO? Do you think she might feel truly desired, appreciated, and attractive? Or would feelings of inferiority—inferiority to an illusion, I might note—and inadequacy and pain and resentment pour from her? Would she feel more or less like a sex object herself? Dr. Ulrich claimed that pornographic addiction produces feelings of intensity rather than intimacy, of control rather than of safety, and of obsession rather than trust. Clinging to your fantasies will make it impossible to cling to your spouse; it will always be a wall that stands between the two of you and prevents oneness of body and of spirit.

The Church News reported last week a research study which found that "people exposed to repeated presentations of hardcore, non-violent adult pornography over just a six-week period develop callousness toward women, trivialize rape, develop distorted perceptions about sexuality, develop an appetite for more deviant, bizarre or violent types of pornography, are no longer satisfied with sex in their marriage, devalue the importance of marriage and view non-monogamous relationships as normal and natural behavior." (February 3, 2001) Did you hear anything there that runs contrary to the “Proclamation on the Family”? Or to what you want in your future? The irony, brethren, is that the kinds of feelings and attitudes developed when we keep our minds focused on carnal gratification can only lead to unhappiness, frustration, contention, and ultimately separation from what you most want in your life.

I beseech you, brethren: do not procrastinate the day of your repentance; for that same spirit which does possess your bodies at the time you go into marriage, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in the eternal world and make your relationship with your wife perpetually miserable. "I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God [along with your wife]. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourselves in these things." (Alma 39:9) "All men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness." (Alma 41:11)

Brethren, we are all mortal men. We are all subject to temptations. Salacious thoughts will from time to time enter all our minds unbidden. But we have a choice about what we do with them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell reminds us of the example of the Savior: “Jesus noticed the tremendous temptations that came to Him, but He did not process and reprocess them. Instead, He rejected them promptly. If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!” (May 1987 Ensign)

I am not here tonight trying to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. I confess before you that the struggles to control thoughts and to live in a real marriage are ongoing. There are days when I could apply Hamlet's self-evaluation to myself: “I am myself indifferent honest: but yet I could accuse me of such things, that it were better my mother had not borne me..." But I likewise testify to you that the struggles are very much worth the effort. They are, I would maintain, the only way to retain happiness and peace of conscience and self-respect and to fully enjoy the many great satisfactions of married life. I adore my wife, and my love and respect for her and my determination to help her attain her anointing to become a queen have helped me endure the many trials of health that we have shared together and the seemingly endless string of temptations that have paraded before me.

My final message, therefore, is to all of us: there is a simple solution if you are still battling the seductions of a fantasy world that is twisting and distorting your ability to fully embrace and love a real-life woman, and I can say it in four words: Stop. Get Help. Change. It is far easier to say those four words than to live them, but I promise you, brethren, that it is the only process that will prepare you for a celestializable marriage. If you are involved in anything in your life—whether in your thoughts, your words, or your deeds—that is draining from you the resolve and the ability to live with an imperfect but real woman in a sealed covenant of devotion and mutual joy, stop now. Go to your bishop, to a counselor, or both. Addictions are not easily broken, but true happiness is not easily attained. Repent and change your attitudes and your activities and your interactions that may be cementing false patterns in place in your soul, and I assure you that you will be forever grateful that you did.

I leave you tonight with a quotation from Elder L. Aldin Porter, senior president of the Quorums of the Seventy, delivered at last week's CES fireside; he said: "The message through the ages from the prophets has been to stay clean, to stay pure, and they promise you will reap unlimited happiness. Much of what is seen today on network television, videos and in movies is degrading to women and desecrates the sacredness of the powers of creation. I wish I had sufficient words or capacity in the English language to impress upon you the necessity of cleanliness of thought and action in order to build a strong foundation of righteousness in anticipation of a happy and fulfilling life." (Church News, February 10, 2001, p. 4) I add my personal testimony to that of Elder Porter. I want each one of you to be happy in every possible way, and I know from personal experience, from my past mistakes and trials and from many, many instances of direct personal revelation, that the only possible way to achieve and retain happiness in and after this mortal life is by preparing yourselves in all respects for a worthy temple marriage, and by patterning your life right now in proper channels by focusing all your thoughts and attitudes and actions on the sanctity of womanhood and the divine role of marriage in guiding you to exaltation. I bear you my solemn witness that as you endeavor to formulate within the depths of your soul a vision of celestial womanhood that respects all women as daughters of God and treats them like the queens and priestesses they are destined to become, your personal burdens will be lightened, and your heart and mind will be ready for all the blessings that the Lord has to give you. I bear testimony of that, accompanied by an unshakeable promise that the Savior can and will guide you along the specific path that will lead you from the great and spacious and totally unachievable fantasies of the telestial prison house in which we live and prepare you for the joyous reality of preparing yourself for eternal life with a beautiful, loving, supportive companion whom you can cherish freely and forever.

Mar 21, 2010

Status Update

No baby yet.

With all my previous pregnancies I mentally prepared to go a week over before I started getting antsy. And then with each, I ended up going way early (in Loli's case, I was induced becuase of low fluid levels, but I naturally went into labor a few days early with both Jaws and Squirt)and completely felt emotionally unprepared. So this time I decided... hey. Get prepared so that if you do come early by a few days, you're ready. So I did.

And now I wait.

I was telling Skywalker that it's a new experience to be on this end of it... in a state of anticipation, like *this is so exciting it could happen anytime.* honestly, it's kind of fun. The ONLY thing that makes me anxious is I'd rather Skywalker didn't have to go to work on Monday. But... you know. If he does, it's not the end of the world. And he'll be taking the car so that he can get back fast if I go into labor while he's at work, so we're OK.

So... that's my update. No baby yet, no real signs of baby coming yet, 2 days overdue. My plan is, if I make it to the next scheduled appt (on the 25th, I'll be a week overdue) I'll ask the midwife if she'd be willing to strip the membranes (a procedure where they loosen the attachments between the am fluid sack and the cervix.) But... well. Honestly, I'm used to waiting for stuff, so I'm still good.

How are all of you?

Mar 15, 2010


it would be nice if you came in the next few days.

You know, following the tradition of previous pregnancies.

But if you need more time, please don't use it to become a 10 to 11-lb baby. Squirt surprised me 2 days early at 9lbs8oz, and came 2 days early so... don't think I don't know what's going on in there.

You could be born today, on my sister's birthday (and the ides of march). That would be pretty cool, don't you think? Or if that doesn't sound good, St. Patrick's day is another glamourous choice. We'll be drinking green-dyed root beer on your birthday every year and you'll get to eat some of mom's fabulous corned-beef-and-cabbage pasties as a part of birthday rituals.

Just sayin'.

John Stewart making fun of Glenn Beck's Mistake

I post this with some hesitation. The beginning is a little crude and off color. John Stewart isn't my favorite for this reason. The second half of this, though... priceless. Seriously, gold to me (an alienated-not-republican-in-the-middle-of-Beck-lovin'-utah.)

But after watching This on my very conservative friend Denice's blog (oh my gosh, stitches in my side... but I would never be able to send this to my mother) I realized I'm such a Molly Mormon sometimes about what I post. And then I watched this on Dave's blog, (also very funny, oh my word...) I had to let off a little hubris and make fun of someone that I truly dislike (and I mean, truly...) Glen Beck. I think he has even surpassed Rush in my "change-channel-quickly-whew-that-was-close-I-think-I-might-throw-up" list. So, yeah. Beck made a mistake. And its' funny to me. If it wouldn't be funny to you, please don't watch it and be offended.

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Mar 14, 2010

cookie ratings

So a friend of Skywalker's and mine brought by a HUGE bag of chocolate chip cookies last night. We ate several, distributed several to the kids, and now it's sitting on my fridge, and also occupying a corner of my mind.

This morning, I told all the kids they had to finish breakfast before they got their dresses on. Because breakfast was cold cereal, something we have very rarely and is considered a treat, the kids all seemed to have no problem. THey downed their cereal within five minutes. All except MayMay. She's a steady eater, probably my most prolific eater, but she attacks everything with the same measured consideration. She just likes food, ANY food, an feels no need to inhale treats when they're to be enjoyed.

Anyway, the kids all got up and raced up the stairs. MayMay stared after them, then looked at the half-empty bowl in front of her.

"Mom," she said, "I can't finish."

Right. Miss 3-full-bowls-of-oatmeal-every-morning.

"Finish, then you can go upstairs with your sisters and put your dress on."

MayMay looked at me consideringly, then her face crumpled. Whimper, whimper.

I go in my room and shut the door.

Whimper whimper.

I turn on a clip from my friends' blog, it's a funny song by Flight of the Conchords. I chuckle and do my best to keep my blood pressure from rising as I hear footsteps approach my door.

Whimper Whimper, face mooshed up against the slats of the door that seperates my bedroom from the living room. Whimpers getting louder, a little bit of banging on the door.

Me: "Go eat your cereal MayMay, and stop crying because that's a tantrum and tantrum girls go on the time-out bench."

MayMay: Growl-Wail, jumping up and down.

Me: OK! Well I guess you made your choice. (Come out of room. Heft 5-year-old over my shoulder. Chug up the stairs--yes, my duedate is in five days--and set her on the bench. Start to go down the stairs.)

MayMay: I don't WAAAAANT to SIDOWN!!

I look and she's standing next to the time-out bench.

Me: Whoops! Guess it's your room then. Bella, Loli, out... MayMay's going to spend her time out in there.

MayMay: NONONONONO!!! (Yelling, jumping, screaming.)

I put MayMay in the room and shut the door. The handle doesn't work from the inside so she can't get out until I let her out (which has been a very convenient development for me and discipline.) I go down the stairs to to the tune of soulfoul top-of-lungs-screaming. I walk into the kitchen and consider the brown paper bag on top of the fridge.

"I think that was a two-cookie tantrum," I say to myself.

Now that I've blogged about it, I think I might go let her out.

Mar 13, 2010

A Feminist Discussion

From this post.

This post was by a guest blogger, and it was on Feminist Mormon Housewives a week or so ago. It was a complaint about a BYU devotional talk by Elder Pace given recently. Here is the original post:

It was with great sadness and disappointment and, I’ll admit, more than a bit of anger that I read Elder Pace’s BYU Devotional talk regarding women’s divine purpose Wednesday morning. I read it with an eye on tonight, when I would attend New Beginnings with my headstrong, smart, articulate 13-year-old daughter. I’ll be honest: when I first saw it, I thought it was a parody, like The Onion for Mormons. But alas, I read about it in several other places, including the Church News, so now I know it was for real.

I go to church every Sunday. I’m the ward organist and the Primary chorister (the world’s greatest calling, hands down). I went to BYU and got married in the temple at age 19 (gasp—what was I thinking?). I have three kids who are so great that I know better than to take credit for anything they are or do. I’m an assistant professor of education. And I wear pants to church. Yep, that’s me in a nutshell.

I’m also a feminist. I want both my girls and my son to grow up believing that men and women can do anything and be anything they want to be. I worry about my girls getting that message because they will not be able to participate in priesthood ordinances (unless you count watching). I worry at least as much about my son understanding that message as well because he will be able to participate in those things. I worry about my daughters because they will have to defer to men while they’re at church. They’ll have to worry about finding a man to babysit a group of adult women at the church building. They’ll have to get approval for their ideas from male leaders.

So here I am, ten minutes after getting home from work, hoping my kids feed themselves dinner in time for us to get to New Beginnings, wondering why today feels more like a continuation of a cycle of uncomfortable messages I’ve received throughout my life about the “divine role of womanhood” (cringe) than like a new beginning. I remember coming home from YW one day when I was about 15 after a lesson on careers. I had volunteered that I wanted to be a concert pianist when I grew up (I was never good enough for that!). One of my friends said she wanted to be a doctor and our YW teacher smiled and said: “That’s great! You’ll be able to administer first aid to your children!” We had a little talk about that over dinner. My dad—wise, diplomatic, un-exciteable, and patient—told me to “rise above the occasion.” And so I laughed it off and carried on.

Then there was the General Conference Sunday when we heard the “Mothers Come Home” talk. I was too young to have paid attention, but I remember the family drama that ensued after one of my sisters at BYU called home in tears. Again, my dad listened patiently and reminded her to rise above the occasion.

Years later, it was my turn to make a tearful phone call home from BYU. One of my religion professors had told us in class that if women worked, they shouldn’t pay tithing on their earnings because it was like gambling proceeds. He actually called it “blood money.” Again, my dad smiled and told me to rise above foolish advice.
Another time, that same professor told us that when we died, Christ himself would personally escort working women to the gates of hell for going against their divine nature. I guess this comment was ridiculous enough that my dad forewent his previous mantras and laughed out loud. Then he told me that if that were true, we’d have to rent a 15-passenger van and the whole family would ride to hell together because all the women in my family are professional women. Another religion professor told us that we didn’t have to listen to what Chieko Okazaki said because “last time I checked, she didn’t have the priesthood.” Sigh.

I could go on. My poor dad has listened to a lot of stories like these. My husband has probably heard even more. Since I don’t see these attitudes towards women enacted in my own family, I am mostly able to rise above the occasion and blow it off as old school. But every once in a while, I see something like this devotional talk and wonder: How do I rise above this occasion? How do I shelve my hopes and dreams for my children and tell them to follow this counsel? How do I tell them that they will be broken or deficient if they don’t marry? I don’t want my daughters to wonder why Heavenly Father has such a limited vision of their potential. Surely Heavenly Father wants women to do more than complete men. I’m a wife. I like my husband. But being a wife doesn’t complete me. My husband doesn’t complete or sanctify or purify me. And I don’t do those things for him, either. It’s just the five of us—my husband, my two girls, my son, and me—and we’re just doing this life thing.

I’m also a mother. Motherhood brings me plenty of joy (and heartache). But it doesn’t complete me. I’m lots of other things, too. I’m a friend, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a primary chorister, a pianist, a professor, a book aficionado, and I just started guitar lessons! I like to think all those things together complete me.

I want my girls to be strong and of good courage—just like we heard tonight at New Beginnings. I want them to think, like the closing song we sang tonight: “How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission . . .” I want them to figure out what completes them and go do it—whether that includes marriage or motherhood or not. And I long for the day when the church—and that includes BYU Devotionals, the Church News, General Conference, General Relief Society meetings, General YW Meeting, the Ensign, the New Era, the Friend, and our Sunday lesson manuals and weekly activities—can get on board and join the new beginning that’s happening over here at my house.

P.S. My son is coming along for the ride, too.

Here is my response:

Men say stupid things sometimes. Even though they hold the priesthood. ;)

Having said that.. I went and read through this talk and found nothing that really blatantly made me wince. I thought it was nice. I can see how it might ruffle some feathers… I guess. There was the discussion of marriage as necessary to fulillment (though I’d argue he was talking about men AND women, though his talk was directed at women) and the discussion of women’s “roles” that seems to always stir up trouble.

The thing is… I do think women have certain roles that men don’t have, and vice versa. That might not jive with modern feminist theory, but dang. Modern feminist theory is a product of the world. There’s good and bad in it. I’d be just as worried about someone holding up modern feminist theory and theoreticians as above reproach as I’d be about them holding up a priesthood leader as such.

The author's response:

Although this may be foolish and naive, I’m too stubborn to admit that the world can so easily be divided up into two big categories–women, who have a unique divine purpose, and men–who have a different unique divine purpose. Sure, there’s plenty of research that shows that there are biological differences between men and women. But IMO, the world is so diverse–full of all different kinds of people, all of whom have unique strengths, challenges, limitations, talents, perspectives, etc. If that’s not evidence of the divine, what is? So let’s embrace those differences. Let’s say their names out loud and recognize them, rather than try to squeeze everyone into one of two possible boxes.

FWIW, I agree that modern feminist theory is not above reproach. Any feminist worth his/her salt should be able to admit that. My post didn’t suggest that I thought modern feminist theory was above reproach, did it? If I did, that was an unintended message.

My response:
I don’t necessarily want to accuse you of promoting feminist theory as above reproach. I guess what I’m saying is, I see this a lot: any discussion of the “roles” of men and women is immediately countered by some modern theoretician or piece of “scientific evidence,” etc. Oh, yes, people are so different and diverse. And each different society provides stereotypical roles for men and, and some for women, that are unique to culture and geography and perhaps socioeconomic status.

I think, though, that there are certain, spiritual roles that men and women are primarily responsible for (ie proc on the family) and it makes sense to me, and I don’t see how that’s degrading or anti-feminist. It just is. My stewardship and my husbands are different. You could argue that this mirrors the “seperate but equal” way of thinking that was debunked with the Civil Rights movement, but I don’t think the two situations are all that similar. Biologically, men and women ARE different. Biologically, our drives and processes are different, especially in the face of such things as sexuality and parenting. Why would we be biologically given different purposes and functions, and not spiritually? I think Heavenly Father has beautiful way of mirroring his spiritual creations in the physical. I feel that, as a woman, I have certain roles and stewardships that are primarily my responsibility, and so does my husband (though that doesn’t mean there’s never any crossover.)


So what do you think about these issues? (Gender, Roles, the church, misunderstandings/misinterpretations that can happen on both sides of the discussion.)

Mar 11, 2010

Their Story Unfolds--reflections and pictures



Do you notice a difference? For me it's harder to see, but everyone tells me how different they look. How MayMay looks "thinner." How Bella is gorgeous and growing.

They are getting so big so fast. I look at those pics of MayMay and I remember the girl who seemed to move and cling like a toddler, who had the squat body and big tummy but those huge, liquid eyes that you just couldn't get away from. Her legs have gotten long, so fast, and muscled. She almost looks like she could be the age she really is (almost six) now. I was looking at my kids the other day, all tangled in a pile playing some game, and was suddenly struck by how beautiful they all were... gorgeous arms and legs, gorgeous faces, healthy bodies. I'm so grateful and it's like watching flowers bloom, seeing these two race from pant-size to pant-size... Bella's pants that she came home in now belong to Jaws (we do have to cuff them a bit) and she can BARELY fit into size five talls now. She and Loli are now the same size... she has caught up with a vengeance. And her top teeth are growing in.

I get little bits, here and there, about my adopted kids and the life they had before they came to America. Usually it's completely random when they start talking about it (for real, not making up imaginary things about Ethiopia being full of unicorns and candy and sparkly bedspreads.)

Today I got a big chunk of past that I didn't have before. I cherish every piece I get, because it brings me more into the world they've lived in. They're my kids. But they're also kids who had a life I knew nothing about.

Today MayMay told me that a little girl at Toukoul taught her some orphanage behaviors that we're currently trying to eradicate (nothing too troubling... just some bad habits.) She told me about this girl and how she was "nice, but bad sometimes," and how she hit sometimes. We talked from there about how MayMay slept on the bottom bunk at Toukoul and Bella on the top.

One thing I kind of missed before... I thought that when we visited they must be washing the linens for the bunkbeds. And then I got a roll of film back that I developed... I sent a disposable camera to Ethiopia before we came to pick them up, and asked the nannies to take some pictures. THere were a couple of pics of the kids sleeping in the bunks, and no. They don't have sheets, pillows or blankets... they all sleep on the bare mattresses. When you think about it, that's not all that shocking; a mattress at all is a huge luxury, and the climate is pretty moderate. But... we just have such a different set of assumptions about what is tolerable, over here.

Then Bella got enthusiastic and told about how her grandma came once to visit the orphanage, and brought "that cute baby" with her. I asked further and found out we were talking about their younger sister, Konjit, who still lives with Grandma in Ethiopia. She talked about how when we came to get them, "I was playing and playing outside and the lady told me to come down and see you and you were there." MayMay told a story then about how Bella got out of bed at Toukoul once in the middle of the night and MayMay "looked and looked and couldn't find Bellarina and then saw her playing with that little car that doesn't go by itself."

Lol. That sure sounds like Bella... she's pretty dang independent. Somtimes it gets her in some trouble.

(one of Bella's silly faces... always gets Loli to bust a gasket)

My girls are so cute. By the way.

And that lead to a discussion about where they lived in Ethiopia before Toukoul (the orphanage.) Bella told me a cute story. She said her mama sent her to school, and she wore a backpack and walked, but MayMay didn't go. She said one time her mama said she coudln't go see her dad, who worked in a store, but she put on her backpack and went anyway. Her mama found her and said she couldn't have a treat from the store.

I don't know if Mama is Grandma (I'm thinking it is) and Dad is Grandpa... it's mixed up but any piece of information is golden for me.

And then we got out the Coffee table book that sits on our piano, of Ethiopia. We went through all the pages and commented. I asked if her house looked like this, or like this... they had cows like this or sheep like this, if they grew vegetables like this. Bella said their house was like this:

And that this looks like her church:

She told me that they went to church in a white dress with a white hat. That's traditional Ethiopian Orthodox religous clothing... the white dress and head covering. We were looking at some of the religious paintings in churches, and Bella said, "That's Mary," pointing at a depiction of Mary and Jesus in the Ethiopian style of paintings that hang in churches. And she told me that the word for Jesus in Ethiopia is "Eskabeer." (? anyone who is reading this post who knows about this should comment and give me more info, because this is so interesting to me.)

We're planning on getting someone to go out to where they're from, which is Bale Robe in Goba province. It's high in the mountains, colder than most other places in Ethiopia, and mostly a rural area with farmers. With a little bit from our tax return this year we're going to get someone to hopefully take some pictures and interview the grandma if she's still living. This is something that we'll have to do carefully because it's kind of discouraged, though they can't do much about it if you take care of these things after the adoption is finalized. We just can't have any contact with the family, is the thing... it's now against the law. We can't give any gifts of communicate with them directly because then people could be accused of child trafficking.

But as we were looking through this coffee table book, the girls kept asking if their grandma was in it, and I kept having to say no. So I think it's about the right time to try to get some pictures, if we can... that they can look at if they want to. And maybe I get some more wonderful glimpses as well, into my childrens' past.

Mar 9, 2010

Top Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman

10) Anything about looking too big or too small. You just can't go right with that.
9) If you're her gynecologist, please do not compliment any part of her body, no matter how innocent it seems to you. It's just creepy to be told your ankles are looking nice and un-swollen by someone you've studiously tried to relegate to purely professional status in your hypersensitively modest universe.
8) Please don't tell any stories about women dying in their sleep/in the emergency room/in the middle of a C-section due to pregnancy related issues.
7) Labor stories are generally comforting and interesting, but not if you're venting about the labor from hell (where they had to stitch you up for an hour and you pushed for seven hours and your transition lasted ten hours) to someone about to give birth within a week or two.
6) Don't come to her house, look around, and offer to help with cleaning.
5) Nothing about "I thought you'd already had your baby" or "shouldn't you be popping about now?" Popping? Who came up with that word? It creates distinctly unpleasant mental images.
4) No sympathetic faces for the woman who confesses she's having her 5th girl-child. Get excited for her... please... please help her get excited to be pulling out all the frills and pink yet another time.
3) As relates to adoption: if you say anything at all along the lines of, "well, you got those two the easy way, and now you're going to have to put up with labor again," please don't get offended if your face gets laughed upon.
2) Don't you dare say anything at all about eating too much chocolate. Particularly if you're a husband-type person.
1) Don't ask if she's ready. Nobody is *ready* for labor and all that follows... and if you want to help her by bringing over casseroles after the baby is born, that's great, but don't stop a heaving, expectant mom with 5 kids in tow who is eye-ing the chapel doors wildly, and attempt to have a 10-minute conversation about casseroles.

And that's all folks.

Mar 7, 2010

Wherein I compare my love life to a tasteless reality TV show...

OK... just don't read this. Seriously. It's completely silly.

I have been bed-bound lately. I have bound myself to my bed, because I get sciatic nerves when I sit, and muscle strain when I stand. So Lately it's been lying down a lot, in between tasks. I find that if I follow this regimen I end up being able to do more, actually, than if I'm being constantly active.

What do I do when I'm lying down? Well, read, of course. But sometimes I need to spend time lying down holding kids, and it's kind of hard to read while holding a squirmy, cuddly kid. SO I've been watching more online TV lately than I ever have at any time in my life. I've become a fan of Modern Family and (I am somewhat ashamed to confess) I caught the entire season of The Bachelor. It was my first time. Yes, I was a bachelor virgin. (Somehow that doesn't sound quite right.)

Well, anyway, of course there were all the "scandals" (that I suspect happen every single time, no matter what the guy kept saying about "biggest scandal in bachelor history" with that little trembling lip of his that made me pretty sure he was having a hard time hiding how much he enjoyed it.) There was the girl who got close to one of the producers, there was Ali (who by the way I was rooting for) who had this sobby teary thing because she had to go back to her job, complete with crushed dramatic parting between her and Jake who was at that point giving lots of kisses to four girls instead of 25 so of course he'd fallen in love with her.

(sorry. I use sarcasm as a defense mechanism... I'm still really, really embarrassed that I watched this show.) Anyway, after Ali left I decided of course I was rooting for Tenley, and not Vienna. I hated Vienna. I despised Vienna. She is such a player, Jake! (I shouted silently at the screen while rubbing my 5-year-old's back). She's in this for the competition! She's playing you!

And then when I went to get groceries one day I saw a few tabloid magazines with her picture on it and I was completely brought up short. I had a stunning realization:
I am Vienna.

Yes, yes. Explain. So, when Skywalker and I were dating, he had a few girls after him and a few girls he was interested in. He is, and always has been, a pretty good looking guy (well, I think so at least) but somehow, a few months after he and I met for the first time, he suddenly peaked. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about; when one guy in the ward suddenly is the one a few girls are after? Suddenly, he looks more attractive and is much more charming than anyone had noticed before? I believe it might be called blooming, or something... at least, I know I was a late bloomer. My husband was, too. He bloomed at about 30, in the BYU 7th ward.

The way he tells it, he had just suddenly decided. He hadn't really worked hard at dating before. He'd had a few serious girlfriends, but none of them worked out. His serious relationships were few and far between, with a lot of casual dates in between. For some reason, he just wasn't feeling it. He decided that this year, he had to make it work. Because he was only in the younger singles' ward for another year, he needed to get on it.

So he broke out his trusty palm-pilot (it didn't really quite fit in his palm... they were bigger back then) and made a list. He thought about the ward, and came up with four names. Yours truly happened to be one of them, though with an asterix next to it, which all of you who know me and know our story would understand.

Well, he pursued casual-verging-on-dating relationships with all four women. Quickly one of them was eliminated when she started seriously dating someone else. With three left, Skywalker was having to balance late-night deep discussions of profound topics in 3 different apartments, one of which happened to be up in American Fork. And this isn't even counting the handful of girls who were suddenly interested in him (peaking, remember?) that he... well, he wasn't really interested in, as more than friends. But being a friendly, mellow guy, he also wasn't the type to just come out and say that and so, yeah. He had a lot of stuff going on. Never 25, I don't think, like Jake started out with. But a fair number.

Skwalker and I had issues to address before he could really feel free about considering dating me. And I had issues before I could date him (namely, I had decided to not date until I was 35 and head psychiatrist at a hospital where I'd meet a nice older widower and we'd spend the sunset years of our life together. I kind of saw Loli and I as an episode of Gilmore Girls; we were the only family I needed. That was resolved with the help of a certain bishop who made me see reason whom I will always be grateful for). Skywalker's issue was of course... the kid. Why? How? And... are you OK now? Thanks to Josh, that issue was cleared up and I was a serious contender.

Number three fell out of the running when she accepted an internship in California. So that left me and Anne.

Anne (Names changed to protect the innocent), well, how to describe her. She is like a Disney princess. Beautiful, soft-spoken, mature, faultlessly kind, faultlessly pure. She didn't watch PG 13 movies. She had a master's degree in Social Work. She was a raw vegan and a natural health enthusiast, which matched well with Skywalker. Oh, but that's not all! She had beautiful willowy figure, a stunning smile, gorgeous Amy-Adams eyes, Long, curling hair and a famous mother (a rather well known LDS-singer and television performer) and millionare entrepreneur father. She had a gorgeous disneyish-singing voice, described by some as a mix between Belle and Ariel (she couldn't help it, with her mom being who she was) perfectly suited to soothing, spiritual musical numbers. She was a folk dancer like Skywalker, in fact that is how they met; folk dancing (one of the best experiences and happiest times of Skywalker's life). She spent most of her time caring for her aged grandfather, who loved her dearly, and, like, rescuing cats and feeding orphans and stuff. :) Don't mean to be flippant about it, but... well. Tenley. Anne was Tenley.

And I was Vienna. I was the weird girl that some people in the singles' ward felt uncomfortable around, and one or two expressed to the bishop their concern about... should I even be in the singles ward, if I had a kid? (The technical answer is no, I shouldn't have. How that came about is another long story...)

I know there were a few not-so-nice things said and assumed about me and my circumstance when I joined the singles' ward. I'd had my face in the newspaper too... a couple years before all this happened. Those who knew my story felt better about things, but I had long given up the compulsive need to let everyone in on the extremely personal things that had happened to create my circumstances... it just wasn't any of their business, and I couldn't help it if they judged me.

When I met Skywalker's family, his father warned him about dating me. They LOVED Anne; they met her when Skywalker brought her home for Christmas a couple years before (yes, years...this relationship had been in place for 8 years, she just hadn't been ready to date Skywalker yet, for some reason).

Anne fit in with Skywalker's family seamlessly. She was so much like one of Skywalker's sisters it was almost uncanny, because both of them were uniquely Disney-Princess, Mary Poppins, and Anne of Green Gables-like. I was a little bit more blunt, a little more sarcastic at times... I spoke my mind and disagreed aloud (though, of course, diplomatically. Or at least, I tried.)

I knew Skywalker was choosing between us, and I knew what the logical choice should have been. But my heart wanted to be the one, partly because I loved him already and partly because I believed, somehow, I'd be better for him. I got him to play and joke, and take himself less seriously. Anne, while a wonderful girl, was soooo much like him and his family she'd never really challenge him, and she had some things she hadn't quite resolved in her heart as well, I think. I sort of felt from what Skywalker had said of her and their long relationship that she was kind of settling; Skywalker was a tolerable choice because she felt comfortable around him and loved him and had a history with him, and she was two years older than he was (32 at the time) so her options were starting to thin. These are all my own assumptions, of course. And they're completely presumptuous and inappropriate to be talking about in this blog post. (Oh well, nobody's reading it anyway because I told y'all not to, to begin with.)

And my thought was, Nobody should settle for Skywalker. Nobody. Skywalker was not the kind to be settled for... he was too amazing for that.

And in the end, he decided that, while he loved Anne, there was something missing. And in his own words, his heart was telling him to choose me over all logical conclusions and advice from friends/family/opinions of ward members.

We got married, and things were wonderful and amazing for us, and a bit confusing for some of those who'd watched it happen. Those who knew us well enough were very happy for us, others were left a little bit floored. Her? Why would he choose the one with the kid?

For a while there were one or two girls from that singles' ward who I would run into for verging on a couple years afterward, who still would act odd around me. One of them was a temple volunteer; we were in there for a few different sessions and she couldn't quite look at me.

This got better after a while. And this particular girl did eventually talk to me like a normal person. I think she might have been one of the ones who liked him, and it took a while for the sting to wear off, I guess.

I make Skywalker happy. I know I do. And last night, we went to Anne's wedding and she looks really, really happy too. And I hope that sometime soon we can all get together and be like, friends-couples, because I really do admire and like this girl a whole lot, even though I'm glad Skywalker didn't choose her.

Anyway, Silly reality TV show but it somehow struck a chord for me. So... I am officially a part of Team Vienna, now. You know. When I admit to having watched it at all.

Wow. You made it all the way down here. Well, thanks for reading this ridiculous, pointless vent/piece of utter silliness. So... maybe you all should comment with your own dating stories... make me feel less awkward? yes, I think that would be a good idea. Are you a Vienna or a Tenley (or an Ally or a Gia, for that matter?) Nosurf out.

Mar 3, 2010

Church Leaders' Counsel and the role of Personal Revelation

A talk by Elder Oaks, at Harvard Law School, about the principles of following prophets and how they connect to personal revelation.

From the talk:

Some wonder how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept a modern prophet’s teachings to guide their personal lives, something that is unusual in most religious traditions. Our answer to the charge that Latter-day Saints follow their leaders out of “blind obedience” is this same personal revelation. We respect our leaders and presume inspiration in their leadership of the Church and in their teachings. But we are all privileged and encouraged to confirm their teachings by prayerfully seeking and receiving revelatory confirmation directly from God.

I explain this principle by an analogy from the law. We are all familiar with official use of certified copies of legal documents like a death certificate or an honorable discharge from military duty. The official certificate allows such copies to be accepted as if they were originals. This practice is based on the fact that anyone who doubts the authenticity of the certified copy can verify its authenticity by going to the original. So it is with the prophetic revelations of prophets of God. They are the certifying authorities that their teachings or directions are from God. Anyone who doubts this—and all are invited to ask questions about what is true—can verify the authenticity and content of the message by checking it with the Ultimate Source, by personal revelation. As Joseph Smith taught, “We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation.”[14]

This concept is something that I think is hard for a lot of members to internalize. I think a lot of people actually think that,to take something that the prophet or apostles (or other speakers in general conference) has said or commanded, and then take that to the Lord yourself to get confirmation, is a form of lack of faith or blasphemy or not "sustaining" our prophet or leaders.

Clearly one cannot read what brother Oaks has said above and still maintain that we are expected to follow the prophets blindly, and that blind obedience will cover any manner of evils that may come from following against our own consciences or uncomfortable feelings. The Lord expects us to Ask when we aren't sure. He wants us to come to him if we are having difficulty understanding a commandment.

Of course (and Skywalker always emphasizes this when we have discussions about prophets' counsel and personal revelation) you have to really Ask. You shouldn't be asking with the attitude of "this can't be true. Give me a different answer or... (I'll leave the church, I won't believe in personal revelation any more etc etc.) " You have to really be ready (and perhaps even expect) that the prophet's counsel will be confirmed by your own personal revelation.

I've had experiences that have made me so confused in the past... I used to believe in blind obedience. I don't think I would have said, back then, that I believed in blind obedience. But when a priesthood leader's counsel conflicted with my own, powerful (and unexpected) personal revelation, I was thrown. At first I thought (I actually thought this) of course the leader's revelation trumps my own. But then I realized... no, actually. With my husband spiritually incapacitated at the time, I was the steward of my family, someone who, clearly, Heavenly Father would counsel in making important decisions. And I had received some very clear revelation. To deny what I felt as possibly false or my own imagination was also to deny anything I had ever received by revelation... including my testimony of the gospel, of the book of Mormon, and of (ironically) prophets' and priesthood leaders' authority and counsel coming from Heavenly Father.

I realized, in my situation, that Heavenly Father had given me an answer. For some reason, whether through his own imperfections or because of his situation or whatever it was (it wasn't my place to judge why), my priesthood leader hadn't received that answer yet. But I HAD, and I was responsible for the information I had received, and the consequences that would come if I did not follow God's will.

It's a tough spot to be in. But I came away from the experience with a lot that I didn't have before... a better knowledge of how God actually works with me. He will give me answers if I want them. It's true that there are situations where faith needs to come before knowledge. But in that case, that's the answer you'd get when you pray... "Have faith, [Nosurfgirl] and do what My Prophet has asked." And the peace that would come along with that answer would allay any fear and doubt until understanding came.

Anyway, that's my spiel... and this whole issue, I have realized, is a big part of why I am the way I am now, to a certain degree. And I have to say that I have gained a lot more real respect for prophets and priesthood leaders in the wake of understanding this. God, through his infinite grace and mercy, allows imperfect people to be His mouthpieces. And through His mercy He can pour out His spirit and counsel through them. Most of the time I find that, in the moment the prophet or leader speaks, I feel the Spirit confirming to me that the words spoken are true, so... no need to ask.

But it is still up to us, to get answers, when we aren't sure.

Anyway... a forum for discussion. I loved Elder Oaks' talk. Go read all of it... very powerful and very enlightening.