Sunday, August 26, 2018

How I REALLY feel about turning 40.

“Over the hill.” The phrase conjures images of black balloons and middle-age crises. Turning 40 means your life might as well be over, because it’s “all downhill from here.”

But then I turned 39, and the reality of 40 stared me down. I fought the urge to flinch. Was it possible that my best days were behind me? I was determined that the trajectory of my life would not decline. I would make 39 the year that I really discovered who I am and what I really want. And more than that, 39 would be the year I acted. I would create real changes and start to live my life accordingly.

So today, on my 40th birthday, I make the following declarations:

It is never a mistake to show love. Even when beliefs differ, common values can unite us. 

The best course of action is almost never proposed by the far right or the far left.

My marriage is worth more than mediocre effort and long-established habits. My husband deserves more than my complacency, and I deserve more than his.

True friends are worth their weight in gold. I will cultivate relationships with the women who see my worth and I will help them to see their worth as well.

I will make it a point to spend time alone, because I like myself and because time alone puts my priorities in perspective.

My dreams are worth chasing. I will apply for the Ph.D. program because if I don’t, I will regret it in five years – also, because I will be a damn good professor.

My body is my story, and it deserves the same grace and love that everything else in my life deserves.

I will not waste my time or money on cheap ice cream or cheap deli meat.

I will run a half-marathon because the process of training will help me discover whether I can ever experience the elusive “runner’s high.” If I can’t, I will never run again, and I will not feel bad about it.

To 40, I say bring it on. We’re going to have such fun together.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

If I had the time and energy to respond to every Facebook comment...

The issue of the day is breastfeeding. It has been popping up in my social media feed from a variety of sources and with a variety of viewpoints. The Trump administration took a controversial stand on an international resolution (see this link for a conservative response to the NY Times article). A few days ago I read an interesting article titled "Why it's so crucial to support colleagues who pump breast milk at work," which contains links to two scientific research studies.

I read about an incident where police were called because women were breastfeeding their babies at a public swimming pool. And then there was this gem about a woman and her husband losing their temple recommends because she was breastfeeding at church without a cover.

I'm not going to rant about these two particular stories. I already did that to my husband, and he is tired of it. He did kindly point out that in the case of the temple recommends, we only know the side of the story presented by the woman. The church leader who made that call would be completely out of line if he discussed this decision with the media (even more out of line than denying the recommend, in my opinion). So we are taking this woman at her word when she says it was entirely about her refusal to cover up while she breastfed. (Although I don't have any reason to disbelieve her account.)

But like I said, I'm not going to rant about these particular stories. I've just been thinking about the comments that were made by readers in response to these articles and in response to each other. Some of the comments are supportive of breastfeeding mothers. Some commenters are trying to walk a fine line between support and condemnation ("I like what you do, just not how you do it"), and others are just downright mean.

Here are some of the most common or interesting comments, and my thoughts about them.

"I don't want to see your boob hanging out." Oh, good. I'd be worried if you did. But here's the great thing: Nobody is making you look. Your discomfort doesn't dictate another person's options. The fact is, we all do things that other people might not like. And we train ourselves to look away from things we don't like. I don't like horror movies, or indoor cats, or avocado green bathroom fixtures, or fake plants. I don't like that people put dogs in grocery store shopping carts. Gross. But me not liking something doesn't mean I get to go into a public place and demand that other people change their behavior.

"It isn't modest." This was the argument used by the woman's leader when he refused to give her a temple recommend. I will just say that modesty has a lot more to do with attitude and behavior than with clothing, and we do our young women (and apparently our adult women as well) a disservice by focusing solely on their clothing when we have these discussions and teach these principles.

"Just use a blanket." I don't breastfeed anymore. My youngest is 8 and that ship has sailed. But when they were babies, I breastfed them whenever I needed to. I tried to be discreet, but sometimes I wasn't very good at it. I hated using blankets because it got too hot. And it was another thing to wrangle besides a squirmy baby and my shirt and my nursing bra and my nursing pads. And when I had toddlers, I often had to wrangle them too while I was trying to breastfeed an infant. Sometimes I did use a blanket - usually because I was uncomfortable getting the baby situated and didn't want to expose myself in front of certain people, such as my father-in-law or my grandpa. But I made those decisions based on MY comfort level, not out of concern for anyone else. They have muscles in their eyes and neck that allow them to look away. 

"Go breastfeed in the bathroom" This is one of my favorite comments because it is just so ridiculous. Think about the logistics of that for a minute, beyond the fact that many public restrooms are noisy, dirty, and stinky. The only seats provided in most of them are of the toilet variety. And for the most part, those toilets don't have lids. So that means you are telling a woman to go sit on an open toilet to feed her child. Gag. Also, what am I supposed to do if I have other children with me? I can't leave them unsupervised, and you can bet they won't fit into that stall with me. I would bet that most women out and about with a breastfeeding child have at least one older child tagging along. I don't have statistics on that, but I have three kids, so two-thirds of my children had older siblings with us while we lived our lives.

Here is the more palatable alternative to the bathroom: "We have a mother's room for just that reason." Some businesses and most LDS churches have mother's rooms. They can be a great option. But they can also be terrible. In my previous church building, the diaper pail wasn't emptied regularly, so it was stinky. There were two rocking chairs in a room the size of a modest walk-in closet. It was HOT (which didn't help the stinky diaper pail issue), and those two chairs were in high demand during times that we had two congregations in the building. And they weren't only used by nursing mothers. Women whose kids were acting up sought them out as well. I've seen mother's rooms with only one chair. This just isn't always a feasible option. And even when it's feasible, it should be up to the mother to decide if that works for her. 

I remember one particularly difficult time with one of my babies. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. Looking back, I was probably suffering from mild post-partum depression. I needed church. I needed to be able to sit with my fellow worshipers and be a part of that community. I was already feeling alone and unseen, and I just didn't have it in me to go isolate myself in the mother's room. So for the first time, I breastfed my baby in sacrament meeting. And you know what happened? Not a thing. The meeting went on as if nothing was happening. Afterward, an older sister told me she was happy I had stayed and that she wished more women would stay. And I went home uplifted because I had been able to take the sacrament, worship and sing with my fellow congregants, AND feed my baby.

"I don't want my husband (also insert son, recovering porn addict, etc.) to see your naked breast. He might get sexually excited." I will not speak today to having a recovering porn addict that I'm worried about. But I will speak to having a husband and a 13-year-old son. And I don't want them staring at naked breasts inappropriately. So what do I do? I teach my son to look women in the eye and I expect my husband to do the same. In the event that they see someone's breast while she is breastfeeding, I expect them to look away. That mother isn't out to sexually tempt my husband or son by feeding her child.

Here's another favorite: "What would Jesus do? He wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable." Yes. This is a real comment that was on the article about the woman who lost her temple recommend. The commenter was making the argument that Jesus would have gone to the other room so that others wouldn't be uncomfortable. Personally, I can't think of a single time when Jesus catered His actions to the comfort of others. But I can think of cases where He called the little children to Him and blessed them. I think the comfort and care of these little children was more important to Him than the discomfort of onlookers. Remember, He chastised His own disciples for turning the children away. What would Jesus do? I think He'd tell the onlookers to look away and mind their own business - to focus on the beam rather than the mote. And he'd tell the mother to feed her child.

And here's another thing. You can't use the phrase "What would Jesus do?" as a way to enforce YOUR idea of what Jesus would do. You can only use it to determine your own actions. So if the person who asks what Jesus would do truly believe that He would leave the room, then she should follow that example and leave the room when she breastfeeds.

Nationwide, laws protect a woman's right to breastfeed in any public or private place where she and her child are legally allowed to be, regardless of exposure of her breast (including nipple) incidental to and before and after breastfeeding.

See that period at the end of the sentence? That's because it's a period. End of story. No caveats, exceptions, or conditions. (See the National Conference of State Legislatures website for more information and for links to specific laws in each state.)

I never had anyone criticize me for breastfeeding. For the most part, people looked at me, looked down to see what was going on, realized I was breastfeeding, and looked back at my face and kept talking to me. Funny how that works. There was the one man in a cafe in New York City. I was feeding Faith (6 months old) and he sat down at the same table to wait for his order to be filled. When he realized I was breastfeeding, he immediately turned around most awkwardly in his chair and looked very embarrassed. I kind of wish I had started a conversation with him just to show him that breastfeeding women can also be functioning members of society.

Anyway, I want my friends and relatives who breastfeed to do so with minimal burdens placed on them. Isn't the burden of breastfeeding enough? And please don't start with me about how breastfeeding is natural and wonderful and not a burden at all. I won't argue that point. Breastfeeding is natural and wonderful. It can also be challenging and painful and tricky and awful, especially for a new mom, but even for seasoned moms. Let's allow mothers all the options, and let them choose what works best for them.

*** Also, I use parentheses a lot.  :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I am bold - but not as bold as I wanted to be

Let me first start out by saying I love the Boy Scouts of America. I love the program they run and the effect that it can have in a young man's life. I wish young women were allowed to be a part of it. I spent six summers working at Scout camp when I was in high school and college, and that's where my love for Scouting was born.

I am currently the committee chairperson for my ward's Scout troop, so I attend roundtable each month. For the uninitiated, roundtable is a monthly training and idea-exchange meeting for all the Scout leaders in a particular area. There is a brief opening meeting with everyone in attendance, and then you break off into smaller groups based on your position in your own Scout group. There is a group for Scoutmasters, for committee members, for representatives of the chartered organization, and a bunch more that I can't remember right now. I go to the committee members meeting. 

A few months ago, I was asked to be a roundtable commissioner, which means that I help to teach the class for committee members. I am admittedly pretty new to the Scout committee, so I was surprised they asked me, but I agreed and have been doing that for several months. I've enjoyed it, and I've especially enjoyed being the ONLY female roundtable commissioner in my district (as far as I know - so if you know of another one, don't get all up in my face about spreading false information). It's been kind of funny to stand in the large group meeting and recite the Boy Scout oath and law, and have all these men look at me weird because I actually know the Boy Scout oath and law (six years of Scout camp will do that for you). Also, I stick out like a sore thumb in the commissioners meeting we have after the break-out sessions - both because I am female and because I don't wear a Scout uniform. In fact, I often wear the brightest thing I have just to draw attention to the fact that there IS a female commissioner.

We currently meet in a chapel here in South Ogden. The Cub Scout group also meets in the same building at the same time, and the last several months have been CROWDED. Like, standing-room-only in some classrooms. The roundtable organizers have been discussing the possibility of having the Cub Scouts meet in a different location for some time, and they finally made the decision to split the groups. I've known for some time that this change would be coming, because we've discussed it in our commissioners meeting. The primary concern the organizers had about splitting the group was that then they would have to provide two cracker barrels.

Oh, this Scouting terminology. Cracker barrel means refreshments. Their biggest concern was that they would need to do two sets of snacks. When they first mentioned this concern, my first thought was, "Wait! There's snacks?!? Why didn't anyone ever tell me?" Apparently, there are refreshments for those who attend. But since I have a commissioners meeting, and then ANOTHER meeting after that one (with the Scout leaders from my own stake), I have never had the opportunity to have a snack.

Which brings up another (although unrelated to this post) point: A snack? Really? For a bunch of adults? Why do adults need snacks after a 7pm meeting on a Thursday night? You can't tell me that having a Twinkie and a glass of punch makes coming to the meeting somehow "worth it," and that if they stopped offering this treat that people would stop coming. I don't buy it.

But I digress.

So this morning, one of the district executives called me. He told me that they have indeed decided to split the two roundtable groups. And then he reminded me about their concern for cracker barrel.

It was at this point that I started to feel my heart sink.

He went on to explain that so-and-so's wife has taken care of cracker barrel, but since he is part of the Cub Scout group, they need someone to do cracker barrel for the Boy Scout group.

Awkward silence... I think he was waiting for me to volunteer. I didn't.

Then he said that he had so many people in my class who could easily fill my position (helping teach), but he didn't have anyone to do cracker barrel, and would I maybe be willing to take on that important responsibility?

And then I lied. I said, "Well, my first thought is that I am still the committee chairperson in my ward, so I need to be in that class even if I'm not teaching it. And I also have a meeting with my stake that I need to attend. So I don't know how I would be able to do that."

What's the lie? My statement that it was my first thought. My first thought was actually, "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?! BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN YOU THINK I NEED TO BE IN CHARGE OF REFRESHMENTS!?!?! ANY MAN CAN DO MY TEACHING JOB, BUT ONLY A WOMAN CAN BRING THE TREATS!?!?!"

Something like that. But if I'm being completely honest, I would include a couple of swear words in there.

No, I will not do your cracker barrel. Pretty sure a man is just as capable at buying boxes of Twinkies and mixing up punch. And if he tries really, really, really hard (I'm being sarcastic here, in case you can't tell), he might even be able to put out some napkins and a garbage can.

Next month at roundtable, I'm wearing neon colors.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chick-Fil-A messed up my plans, and I couldn't be happier!

We have been planning a trip to Disneyland for a couple of years now. You know, it's kind of the thing to do - what childhood would be complete without a trip to Disneyland to meet the princesses and ride Space Mountain? And with Harry Potter land (or whatever they call it), even more reason.

But the other night we were playing a "dinner game" that came in a Chick-Fil-A kids meal. The game contains a collection of cards that contain simple games and activities. They are designed to start conversations and improve the quality of the family dinner time. That night, the question was, "If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world (that you have not been), where would you go?" We all took turns. I chose Spain or Italy. Lauren chose New York (to see the Statue of Liberty). Faith chose Washington DC. I can't remember what Michael chose. And Jeff didn't get a turn to answer because everyone else was talking about all the things to see in Washington DC or New York. (HA! Isn't that how it goes?)

It suddenly hit me what was NOT on that list. No one had mentioned Disneyland. All three of the kids had picked places in the U.S. that were NOT Disneyland. And if we didn't go to Disneyland, we could certainly manage to visit one of those places. So I asked if maybe we should rethink our plan.

I should insert here that we are planning to take the kids to Europe in a few years, hopefully for an entire summer. This experience will be just a little bit expensive, so the trip we are currently planning will likely be our last "big" vacation until then. So where we go matters. (I mean, I know it doesn't matter in the long-term "how will my life turn out" sense, but it still matters.)

We gave the kids a few days to think about where they really want to go, and last night we came to a unanimous decision. We are going to DC later this year! I am really excited. Faith wants to visit the National Mall. Lauren wants to see the Vietnam Memorial and Smokey the Bear (we had to have a chat about that one - she apparently missed the part in school where he is a cartoon, and the real-life bear that was named after him died in 1976). Jeff and I are excited to make a side-trip to Virginia to visit my sister and see some historical sites there. And Michael is just along for the ride. I don't think he really cares. For some reason, boys seem to lose their opinions when they turn 10 or so. I'm assuming they get them back at around 14, when their primary opinion will be "I hate everything and everyone around me."

Jeff has been to DC several times for work, but I've only been there once. What's on your list of family-friendly, "must-do" activities? (Besides the National Mall and various Smithsonian museums there.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Something that makes this Mormon woman stand (up and say something)

It’s no secret that I love to argue and debate and discuss all kinds of issues, both moral and political. (And let’s be honest, many issues fall into both categories.) In fact, my former brother-in-law was banned by my sister from talking with me because it always ended in an argument – ha! But productive and enlightening discourse can only occur on the presumption of honesty. In other words, it is fine to disagree with others and to promote your own agenda or cause. But when you knowingly misrepresent that agenda or the justification of it, then you are being dishonest.

Today’s case in point: Mormon Women Stand. This is a Facebook group that I have recently become acquainted with. The description of the groups says, “LDS women who, without hesitation, sustain the Lord's Prophet, the Family Proclamation as doctrine and our divine role as covenant women for Christ.”

Okay. I can get behind that. A lot of women I know and respect like their page, and that’s how I came across a particular article that was posted by them titled “Abortion: The Mormon Perspective on Abortion and Human Life.”

The second paragraph of the article begins, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is firmly and openly against abortion, and continues to stand against this 'assault on the defenseless.'"

Now my first thought was, “Hold on, that isn’t the Church’s policy on abortion.” I’m one of those nerdy types who reads things like the Church Handbook and Mormon Newsroom for fun. So I’m pretty well versed in official positions of the Church, particularly about various social issues. (You can quiz me at another time. Trust me, I’m great fun at parties.)

But I continued to read the article, and it is full of quotes from prophets and apostles regarding the evils of abortion. I can’t really argue with any of those quotes. I agree with them, both individually and collectively. But here’s the thing – the article never, not once, cites the Church’s official position on abortion. And that fact alone means that the contents of the article do not contain the whole story of the Church’s position. There is a link at the bottom of the article to the Church’s site, where you could find out the official position if you want to go look for it. But if you just read the article, you will definitely finish believing that all abortion is a horrible sin that is soundly condemned by the Church.

But it isn’t.


Nope. Not in the way this article is portraying, at least.

Here’s the Church’s official position, as put forth by Mormon Newsroom (yes, an official LDS site, as opposed to Mormon Women Stand):

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
  • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
  • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
  • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion. (source here)

So the Church clearly opposes “abortion for personal or social convenience.” But not all abortions are for personal or social convenience. And the Church recognizes that, or it wouldn’t go on to list some few and rare circumstances in which abortion might be justified.

I have a dear friend who is LDS, and who unfortunately had one of these procedures. And yes, it fell into one of the categories the Church considers justified. All I could think as I read this article was how devastated I would feel if I was her. I would feel alienated by this complete lack of acknowledgment that there are times when an abortion might be justified, and the implication (indeed, direct statement) that she needs to repent and ask forgiveness for this supposed "sin." My heart broke for her and for any other woman who is in her position who might be reading that article.

And then I got angry. But I controlled my anger like a good Mormon woman (one of the few times, I assure you). I made a comment on the article, in which I basically said what I’ve said above – I cited portions of the Church’s official position, and stated that there are exceptions, although they are admittedly rare. I also said that if the group was going to post an article that presumably defended the Church’s position, I hoped they would at least accurately represent that position. My comment was thoughtful (in my opinion, at least) and not argumentative.

The comment got a lot of “likes” and even a comment or two in the vein of “Yes! Thank you for saying this!”

And then it got deleted. 



Apparently, the page administrator doesn’t like that the Church allows for some abortions. Or maybe they don’t want people to know that it’s okay for some women in some circumstances to make that decision through prayer, in consultation with their doctors and priesthood leaders. Read the statement. That’s what it says.

Another section from the article posted by Mormon Women Stand:

“This article has been created to add to the current conversation and can be used as a resource guide for Mormons on the topic of abortion. It utilizes information from scriptures, Church doctrine, and teachings from past and present prophets and apostles, and will hopefully help members of the Church explain, teach and defend their beliefs on this issue.”

Please, if you are reading this, take time to study and read for yourselves and learn what the scriptures say. Learn what the official statements of the Church are on various topics. Read the entire talks of Church leaders who address this, rather than the short portion included in the article. I assure you, they are much more representative of position laid out by Mormon Newsroom. Pray and listen to the spirit, and let him teach you truth. Do these things so that you will not be deceived. Just because someone claims to represent Mormon Women, does not mean they represent Mormon doctrine or position.

And to Mormon Women Stand (and other groups that misrepresent the teachings of prophets and apostles): Stop putting the Church into a box you’ve created. Stop using the Church to justify your own positions. If you want to persuade people to your opinion, you’ll have to do better than relying on misrepresentations and incomplete information. That’s called dishonesty, and it is definitely NOT what this Mormon woman stands for.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Post-Inauguration day thoughts

Today my heart is heavy. I feel like I’m grieving, and yes, it has a lot to do with the new president and his inauguration and the events of the last couple of days. But it probably isn’t what you think. I grieve because I am seeing so much hate on social media. So. Much. Hate.

When your post or comment contains derogatory name-calling, you’ve moved beyond helpful discourse and descended into pettiness. 

When you make statements such as “get over it,” you refuse to acknowledge that the other side has legitimate concerns and fears and doubts. And when you refuse to acknowledge that, you have lost empathy.

When you claim that all those who voted for one person are sexist, racist, misogynists, you fail to acknowledge that in fact, an overwhelming majority of them are good, hard-working, loyal Americans who feel that the administration of the last eight years had lost touch with their concerns and was not serving their interests. Just like the administration of the previous eight years maybe didn’t serve your primary interests. I come from a conservative, traditionally Republican family. I can pretty much guarantee that I am one of a very few of them who bucked that tradition in this election. But I can also guarantee that you will never find a group of more loving, accepting, caring, devoted, loyal, amazing people than my extended (and immediate) family. I take personal offense at the suggestion that they are racist or deplorable in any sense of the word.

When you lump all protestors into the same category as the anarchists who destroy property (217 arrests out of over 10,000 protestors), you fail to acknowledge the power of a peaceful protest and the right of those who feel marginalized to engage in such protests.

Consider this an appeal for more decency from all sides. Recognize that the issues are more nuanced than any soundbite, newspaper article, or television/radio spot can explain. Seek to learn from those who have different experiences and different perspectives. You don’t have to agree, but seek to understand.

Monday, April 6, 2015


I recently learned that someone I love very much has been deliberately deceptive for the last year and a half. She constructed a completely false story which she then distributed to dozens of people, for purely selfish reasons. She has outright lied about some of her choices because she didn't want to be judged for them.

At least, I assume that's why she lied. I'm not sure she even knows yet that I know about her lies, so I haven't asked her about her reasons.

I'm kind of waiting for her to come to me. But I don't think she will. She obviously didn't care enough to tell the truth in the beginning, so why would it be any different now?

The repercussions of her decision to lie are heartbreaking. It will seriously affect her relationship with me and with others that love her for a long time.

She pulled others into her lies as well. Those others are, of course, responsible for their own choices and the part they played in her deception. But the fact that she even asked them to go along with it is another blow to her character.

She thought I (and others) would judge her for her lifestyle. But she never gave us the chance to make that choice. By making that assumption, she became the one who judged.

If I judge her for her choices, that's on me. But if she lies, that's on her.