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Friday, October 10, 2014

As much soul as you

I saw this picture a few weeks ago and it has been haunting my thoughts:

I mean, really. Doesn't that say so much? Fashionistas and a homeless person, completely oblivious of the other. I can't take my eyes off of it.

It kills me that I can relate so much more to the brightly dressed and seemingly self-concerned threesome. It's probably part of their job, for all we know. I don't want nor mean to condemn them. There is a crowd behind them that presumably will also walk right past this homeless man. And crowds and crowds after them. Just as there are countless other homeless people sitting on other steps throughout this city and thousands of other cities.

My daily concerns are not of where to rest my head, how to eat, or how to keep myself and my children warm. My daily concerns are usually centered around how I can better manage my finances and bills, how to keep my kids healthy and growing, what I can do to grow my business and talents, how to be more creative, healthier, kinder, etc. It is not and never has been how to keep my family from dying of starvation or cold. My concern is not and never has been about sacrificing my or my children's safety in order to eat. In fact, I am so ridiculously comfortable that when there are ants in my home, I call an exterminator and demand he come out and rectify the small infestation as soon as possible. Can you imagine how laughable that would seem to someone who is homeless? 

We live such cushy lives. We get down on ourselves for not being as thin, popular, well-dressed, creative as the Instagrammers we follow. Don't you ever want to shake your own body and say, "Snap out of it"?

I sure do.

One of my favorite books in the world is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I think of this quote often:

“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!" 
I recently heard a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland where he hit the most recent strings of my heart when he said, "I openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in my life, both temporal and spiritual. Like you, I have had to worry about finances on occasion, but I have never been poor, nor do I even know how the poor feel."

I have considered myself "poor" on occasion and maybe even used that term to describe my situation, but I realize it was used in an unsympathetic exaggerative manner. I do not know how the poor feel, but I do know that for whatever reason, I have never been destitute. 

I also recently saw an article (see HERE) about a mother who claims that government benefits have made her obese and without more financial aid, she will not be able to lose weight or join a gym. I get that. I am actually sympathetic to the lower class and that government money programs DO favor junk food over healthy options. Heaven knows I spend more money when we are trying to eat healthy.

BUT... it is articles like this that fail to elicit sympathy and instead intensify opinions further into political dogma. Readers look at this woman with her intensely dyed hair, piercings and tattoos and respond with, "Don't spend the money on your hair and tatts, and get some walking shoes." or "Buy some lettuce!" (actual comments I read) And I admit that part of me agrees. 

Those who think government assistance is a "handout" increase their resolve after seeing public stunts like this. 

It remains, though, that there are many who don't have a cupboard and home like this mother where they can store their junk food... or any food, for that matter. There are hundreds in my own city, sleeping the day in a park or on the lawn of the downtown library, then heading back to the shelter for dinner and maybe the night. I don't know how or why they are there. All I know is that I am not.

And, believe me, I write this with tears running down my face. I do not know why I am not. I do not know what and how I am here in my comfortable home with four safe kids and a really great husband who has an income that affords us food whenever we want it and clean water coming out of multiple spouts whenever we turn a lever. 

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another," said Charles Dickens.

"No one has ever become poor by giving," said Anne Frank.

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself," said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I am no longer content to say that my only concern is to raise my children and then I can devote myself to humanitarian means. There is no then. Now is then. My children need it as much as I do. I cannot continue to see myself in the women in the above picture. 

It's time. Who's with me?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cable Complications

For a whopping 29 days, cable television was running in our home. I'm not going to lie, it was kind of exhilarating having hundreds of channels and options to watch. I got to see the Saved By The Bell story on Lifetime (horrible!), discovered new shows (namely Fixer Upper on HGTV and Rhett loves Paw Patrol), and we saw a few sporting events as well.

We initially got cable tv because Alan was tired of not watching sports. I don't blame him. He has been a trooper over the last few years while we tried life without cable television. He has begged friends to watch college football at their home, stayed at work late so he could catch a game, or watched the score change online while listening to the radio.

Okay, truthfully, it wasn't just about Al and his sports. We were changing our internet provider anyway. So, it was all... BUNDLE TIME! We got the quadruple play (but I like to call it the four play, because it is more fun that way). The salesman was genius on the phone and convinced me that we wouldn't be paying more than X amount of dollars a month.

Turns out, he was wrong. By a lot. So, I cancelled it. 

The kids were pretty bummed. Alan missed another game. I can no longer watch my new favorite show or a fun recorded movie while doing my chores. Rhett is mourning Paw Patrol.

But, honestly, it is wonderful having it disconnected.

This is by no way a judgement on those who have cable television. For ME, here are FIVE REASONS why I am glad we are not tied down to cable TV:

1. Incessant Watching

When the kids were done with chores and homework, the first thing they wanted to do was watch Adventure Time or another asinine (although funny) cartoon. And, seriously, if I had to hear the overacting on Disney channel shows for one more day, I think my ears would have started bleeding. Oh Disney, stop teaching kids to be SO RIDICULOUS. Plus, the laugh tracks are killing me.

It wasn't just the kids, Alan and I found ourselves watching tv at night when we would have been walking, reading, or finding ONE movie on Netflix. It was already becoming a bad habit and we both noticed it.

2. "Getting Our Money's Worth"

Probably an excuse for #1, but I felt justified watching and recording television shows I was lukewarm about, because I had to get our money's worth. I even watched a good portion of Look Who's Talking with the kids instead of a movie we owned or Netflix for this very reason. That show is, ummm... more mature than I remember. Not my finest parenting moment.

3. The Whining, Oh, the Whining

"Who deleted this episode?" "If I do one chore, can I watch another show?" "But I only got to see half of it and [insert other child's name] got to see two!" 

Ugh. Now, I am not saying that there is no more whining in our household, but we did not need another reason for my kids to whine and complain. The first day it was disconnected, I heard double the complaints. And then, none. About the television, that is.

And how weird is this? Everyone started playing outside a little bit more and reading more, too. So weird. 

4. The Couch

I have an issue with our couch, or any couch really. As soon as a movie starts and I am remotely cozy on a couch, I fall asleep. It's my kryptonite, apparently. About an hour later, I wake up totally uncomfortable and frustrated. But, I am too tired to actually stand up and walk to my own bed. I sleep-rationalize that if I do get up and go to bed that I will not be able to fall back asleep. This happens every hour of the night until I finally am too uncomfortable and move to my ridiculously comfy bed at 3 or 4 am.

The return of the cable was the return of my couch nights. I am glad they are (mostly) over (again).

5. Empty Brain Calories

Do you ever watch a tv show that hooks you at every commercial break and you just have to see what happens next? Then, as soon as it is over, you feel duped? Because you realized that it was total unimportant drivel. You are no better off, the story doesn't keep your mind thinking, you actually feel a little dumber for the wear.

I can name a dozen shows like this over the last month that fed me completely empty brain calories. They aren't even worth discussing with friends later on. I could hear a faint WOMP WOMP in the distance each time one of those shows finished. A reminder of the hour fail that just occurred in my too-busy-for-that life.

It's no coincidence that I haven't written on my blog in the last month, that my work has suffered, and that my creative juices have been stifled. We still watch old shows on Netflix, catch up (a week later) on Hulu, and beg my friends to let me come watch certain shows (ahem, Bachelor franchise). I am not eschewing all television forever, but for now the pros outweigh the cons for our family.

Rhett said to me the other day, "When I grow up, I am going to get cable for my kids." Oh, Rhett, you are going to be a good daddy, I said. "But first," he said, "they will have to do chores. A lot of chores. Some for money. Because I don't want my kids wasting all of my money." He is going to be a really good daddy. 

Cable was wasting my money. And there are still chores to be done. Time to get back to it!


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Booty Moment

What's with all the booty?

No, not the pirate's treasure (or is it?) but the backside. More specifically, the large female butt.

Some JUNK in the TRUNK, if you know what I'm sayin'

Are we having the year of the bum?

Some of the most popular music right now is centered on the buttocks. And not just any ol' buttocks, but the BIG BOOTY. JLo and her Big, Big Booty, Anaconda from Nicki Minaj (holy crap, was the original song always that explicit? I remember singing to it at 9th grade cheer camp... what a young idiot!), and Meghan Trainor's All About that Bass. Pomplamoose even did a mash-up of All About that Bass and Super Bass, which is probably the only one I would suggest watching. (speaking of, THIS is the only version of this Cher song I can listen to.)

Meghan Trainor's All About that Bass is probably the most catchy of the summer BUTT SONGS. It's ALMOST an anthem for body acceptance: 
"Yeah it's pretty clear, I aint no size 2, but I can shake it shake it, like I'm supposed to do." She tells me/you: "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top." 
She even calls out the overuse of Photoshop in magazines. We're not fools anymore, mags!  

Hooray! Some good positive body acceptance music. Thanks Meghan!

Ah shoot, but wait. Listening closer to the song you can hear some "advice" from her mother that  tells her not to worry about her size... because BOYS LIKE A LITTLE MORE BOOTY TO HOLD AT NIGHT on a girl. 


Because now your body worth is based on a BOY and his acceptance. Uh, no thanks.

She also calls out skinny girls in a derogatory way.  Why, oh why, can we not celebrate one type of body without slamming on a different version? Curves are beautiful, it is true. But that doesn't make skinny unattractive. We are all built totally differently. I could do squats all day long and I would never have the backside of JLo (not that I'd even be able to walk around and show it off after doing squats all day long. I can barely walk up stairs after doing 15 minutes of squats). I could juice diet until I'm 50 and I'd never look like a 6ft, size -2 model, because I don't know how I could gain half a foot in height. And if I did, I would be *just* taller than my husband and I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing my 4-inch high heels. And THAT would be tragic.

I also follow a few accounts on Instagram that motivate you with exercise and health ideas. I appreciate about 10% of their content, BUTT I still keep following them. What do so many of them keep pushing? THE SQUAT. One even mentioned the other day that we squat because nobody ever sang a song about a flat tushy. 

Well, someone should. Because I know a lot of beautiful and healthy women with pancake-flat bottoms. And boy oh boy, do dresses hang well on them. 

I also know a lot of beautiful women with huge boobs, some with no boobs, some with big birthing hips and some with the tiniest frames you worry about them birthing. I know women who run marathons and they can't lose weight. I know women who aren't able to run but are so svelte that people ask them if they are marathon runners. 

Point is? Duh. Same old song and dance. Be healthy, but LOVE YOURSELF. Don't look for external acceptance from boys or girls or likes on Instagram or Facebook.

You look great. Someone write THAT song in a really pop-y way so we can dance and celebrate and high five everyone on the street. 

Ok. I'll write it. Do I have to do everything?


Monday, August 25, 2014

If I got a penny from everyone who read these thoughts, I'd have a dime, dagnabbit!

Penny for my thoughts? Cuz Momma needs a shiny new quarter!

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #1------------------------------------

School is back in session today. I joked with a friend at school drop off this morning that I feel like myself again. And then I realized all day today that the statement was true. Goodness gracious, I love my children, as much as any other woman publicly professing how sad she is that her kids are going to school again. I feel very little guilt that I am glad for the structure, change, and responsibility that a new school year brings. And this is coming from a girl who doesn't know how to handle structure. So, there's that.

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #2------------------------------------

Two of my kids were nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge. Call me Scrooge McDuck, but when elementary kids have commandeered a social media fundraising effort with NO INTENT TO RAISE FUNDS, then it is over. Like, officially. I am very pleased that ALS has received all of this attention lately. I feel acutely sensitive to motor neuron and neurodegenerative diseases. I think these kind of mysterious diseases get so little fundraising and attention because they are baffling and less pervasive. Then, because of the popularity, there are the outcries about ALS research testing done on animals. Which brings me to...

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #3------------------------------------

How does medical testing work if not on rats and monkeys? No, I am serious. Allegedly, their genes mimic 99% of our own. So, we can test these horrible and sometimes mysterious diseases, their causes, their cures on rodents or on people. Right? Or just let people suffer and die. PETA and their celebrity spokespeople (who MUST have used an aspirin once or twice in their lives) claim that US labs kill over 100 million mice and rats a year. I'm a bleeding heart as much as the next tree hugger, but if my heart WERE to be bleeding, I'd say "KILL THE RATS AND HEAL ME!" I am so confused by this one. 

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #4------------------------------------

Speaking of wanting to live, my birthday is this week. Just reminding you. 

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #5------------------------------------

The primary elections are also this week. Here is what kills me about primaries. Republicans want THE MOST CONSERVATIVE option to represent them in the November election. Some may even call these candidates "Tea Party Members." But what they seem to be blind to is that most Democrats AND Independents want NOTHING to do with the Tea Party mentality. So, you vote in someone who is the most conservative and THEN YOU LOSE in November. What am I missing? Mitt Romney played to the Tea Party and ultra-conservatives in the Republican Primary and then he lost (didn't mean to spoil the surprise ending for you) when he had to show he was the more moderate candidate (which I believe he really was). Republicans are going to keep losing if they keep voting for the extreme conservatives in their primaries. 

--------------------------------------THOUGHT #6------------------------------------

Bachelor in Paradise. It's so horrible. I love it. Anyone else? Who knew these kids were SO CRAZY?! I mean, legit crazy. 

That's all the thoughts I have for today. What are you thinking about these days? Do share. I love a good discussion.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Literally" Edna

Dearest Edna,

I have missed your blog posts and can't hardly wait to read your editorial comments once again. I mean, I literally watch this blog day and night and I could care less what Ahhnna writes (or doesn't write, because she hasn't written a whole lot lately), but I anxiously await your sartorial remarks.


Oy to the vey, Gartholomew. 

I don't want to appear the villain after your attempt at flattery (and Heaven knows I enjoy flattery as much as the next under-appreciated editorial genius), but your two sentences wreaked such havoc on the English language that I must come out from my summer slumber.

1. You mentioned that you "can't hardly wait" for my return. Do you recall a movie featuring twenty-somethings who acted as though they were high schoolers preparing for "real life" titled this very phrase? Atrocious. In idea and in perpetuating this incorrect idiom. Have you heard of the grammar concept of a "double negative"--such as "we don't know nobody" or "he didn't want none"? (Oh, just thinking those phrases has made me a bit dumber.) "Can't hardly wait" falls in the same territory. Hardly is an adverb that means barely, or only just and is treated as a negative in the English language. So to say that you can NOT HARDLY wait implies that you CAN WAIT, since both negatives (not and hardly) cancelled each other out. Perhaps you intended to convey that you could wait, thereby negating any flattery I felt to return. 

2. Literally. This literally deserves an entire post. Have you ever watched the movie, The Princess Bride? There is a scene where a man continually says the word "inconceivable" and another actor responds with: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Literally the same response I want to use almost every time someone says the word literally.  It means EXACTLY with NO EXAGGERATION. Which is hilarious, really, because people use it to EXAGGERATE. Literally. 
"I literally died last night when Adam called." Really? Did someone perform CPR? 
"We are literally inseparable." Seriously? Like conjoined twins? 
"Those are literally the cutest leggings ever made?" Where is the Gallup poll that confirms this exact statement?

3. "I could care less." Not that I watch the Bachelor franchise as Ahhnna does, but from what I have heard, this statement is frequently used/misused on these shows. Without the NOT, you are implying that it is POSSIBLE for you to CARE even LESS than you do. So your threshold for not caring hasn't been met. Imagine a glass of water and the water is how much you care. You still have water in your cup if you COULD CARE LESS. It could even be full. If your cup is empty, then you COULDN'T CARE LESS, which is usually what you mean to say. I couldn't care less what Ahhnna writes, either, but she seems to get a kick out of this blog. 

4. Sartorial. No. You mean satirical. Because I am funny, not because I dress well. See above photo.

Thank you for caring, anyway. 

Until next time, 


Monday, July 28, 2014

Cranky ranting about parking

Let me start with a clarification: We have been without air conditioning more than half of the month of July. I realize this makes me very spoiled to have become so accustomed to being cool in the heat of summer, but our AC has broken down multiple times and each fix has not lasted a week. It is currently being fixed for the fourth time since Ashton broke his leg. To say it has attributed to a cranky home is putting it lightly. I am a very fortunate person in general, but this lack of air conditioning has put a crabby lilt in my step. Be warned.

For the last month we have not only been dealing with a 90* house, but have the added pressure of an injured eight-year-old that cannot easily participate in summer activities. There are no hikes on our agenda, no water parks, no wading in rivers, no bounce houses or trampoline warehouses, no indoor soccer matches, no playtime at the parks. We have done a few here and there, but it is torture on the 8yo boy. We have opted to split up the children for activities and Ash is usually home playing video games or at whatever movie is playing in the theater. Occasionally I must take him to a store while we are out. 

You know what I have noticed? Handicap parking. 

We were given a temporary handicap parking permit. At first it was helpful because we had to lug the awkward wheelchair around and needed enough space to have the car door open next to the wheelchair so we could get him in it. Now he is using a walker. Mobility has been great, really, but fairly slow. Not around the house, but in public. I have been very grateful for the handicap parking pass for getting us closer to the front of buildings because Ashton takes a while to get situated and moving. I usually have Rhett with me as well.

So, you can imagine my frustration when I see people parking in these spots who hop out of their cars and run into the store. (WARNING: highly judgmental here) Some might have kids as well, but they all appear to move rather swiftly.  Then there are others that think it is a perfect space to drop off passengers and then wait for them. Meanwhile, I park two rows away and it takes us five times longer to get to the building. I usually end up carrying him on my back.

Let me paint you a picture: Imagine cranky mother. Her 8yo son on her back with an entire leg in a brace reaching out a foot and a half. In one of her hands is a small walker, the other is supporting her son. Her 4yo holds onto the walker and she, hunched, tries to quickly walk across the two lanes of parking and cars to get to the storefront.

Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it FEELS dramatic. The anxiety meter jumps 10 points, at least. The sweat pools in my back (because it isn't like we are cooling off at home) and then the 8yo announces that he dropped his flip flop by the car. 

Now, I am all one for context. I have watched and read about the plane being shot down in the Ukraine and the UN school being attacked in Gaza. I know there are kids with empty stomachs and horrible parents. There are real problems out there. But it just gets my goat to see and hear of people abusing something so simple as handicapped parking. Luckily our time needing the permit is short, and I will GLADLY give it up when we no longer need it. I just cannot understand how people can be so concerned with making their lives a little easier that they forget why there are these spots in the first place. It is for people who NEED them. Who cares if there are ten empty ones? Walk the extra one minute to park in a legal spot and consider yourself lucky that you don't need to be closer all of the time. I know I feel lucky that I don't have to use the parking pass often. 

Cranky enough for ya?


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

IF/THEN paradigm of religion

I have to write a few drivel posts in between my religious, spiritual posts. Gotta keep it light and interesting. Yet, it's true that I have a lot churning in my spiritual mind. There are so many reasons why I stay religious--and particularly in my specific religion--and there are so many things that get me thinking/questioning.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the if/then ideology so prevalent in religiosity. IF you follow the commandments, THEN you are blessed. IF you look at the brass serpent on the rod, THEN you will be saved from death. IF you pay your tithing, THEN you will be favored with temporal and spiritual blessings. IF you follow the way of your church, THEN (and only then) will you reach heaven.

Except. When it doesn't work out that way. Which is often. 

Religious people sometimes accredit all of their blessings to God and living righteously. Sports figures thank God for helping them win a game. Cancer survivors thank God for saving them, or leading them to that certain doctor, inevitably curing them. Accident victims ascribe their recoveries to prayer, living faithfully, and God's will.

I am in no way being frivolous with my remarks. I do believe in a God who cares very much for His children (you and me and everyone else here) and is willing to bless us. It is just that the way we view "blessings" skews our faith. IF we are righteous, THEN we are blessed. IF we are not given an answer or an immediate blessing, THEN God's wisdom has prevailed.

It's such a secular understanding of a divine principle of God's blessings. We thank God in our prayers for our extremely comfortable homes, perhaps not considering that there are far more righteous people living in far less favorable circumstances. It can become a very egocentric "faith" principle. IF I am following my religion's precepts, THEN I will have health, ease, a nice home, work, family, happiness, and... oh yeah, eternal life. It's all about ME being given a perfect life because I am obviously super righteous.

Which would make sense if there weren't really good people dying, getting disease, making meager salaries, being abused, and having accidents. People who are more righteous and Christlike than us. So we say that it is God's will and wisdom that has made it so. We glorify ourselves (and the Priesthood) when we are healed/blessed, but absolve God and ourselves if it doesn't turn out the way we had hoped.

IF we are not healed, THEN we must not be righteous enough or asking correctly (D&C 46: 30-32). IF we are not being blessed financially, THEN we might not be paying enough tithing or fasting or... ! IF we are struggling, THEN we must have past sins for which we have not sought forgiveness.

IF we have questions or concerns, THEN we are not truly faithful.

Except. When it doesn't work out that way. Which is often.

I think we are getting it all wrong. The point of showing gratitude to an all-loving, omniscient, omnipresent God is to simply be grateful. Every single thing in this world is a blessing. Every breath of air, every day that the sun rises, every smile, every season and every person. The fact that you can move your hand to scroll down this long post is a blessing, let alone the fact that you can access the internet on an amazing computer machine or incredible phone (and probably in a comfortable home, no less).  I realize that the scriptures are rife with IF/THEN ideologies. But maybe if we stop trying to see the THENs, and instead see them always and try to be kind and loving ANYWAY, perhaps our faith will grow in God. We will see His hand everywhere and not do good BECAUSE MAYBE THEN, but just because.

Perhaps if the IF were replaced with just DO and the THEN were replaced with BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD, there would be less need for us to find a temporal and physical reason for being obedient and loving. There would be less comparisons and maybe less pride. Maybe. If we saw all things as a gift from God and hard work and sometimes old fashioned LUCK, maybe it wouldn't be so bad when we realize that our kid just had bad luck on the trampoline and broke his femur. Or that the economy blows and that's why you're making less money. Or that you're sick. All of your life's breaths have been a gift from God. Thank Him. Don't blame Him for the occasional bad luck and don't credit your righteousness for your good luck. 

DO be kind to your neighbors, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO pay your tithing, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO remain faithful to your spouse, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.
DO try to figure out your questions, BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

Or do all of these things because you are a good person. Because you are. And you know that you feel like an even better person when you follow the golden rule. You're happier, even when life sucks a bit. Stop looking for the THEN. Stop promoting faith rumors. Stop comparing your blessings. 

Do you feel your faith grow when people share faith-promoting stories/rumors? Do you tend to compare blessings? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bachelorette is still on?

Oh, Bachelor friends, did you even notice that I stopped writing recaps of the Bachelorette with Andi on Tuesdays? 

I stopped watching it.

For no good reason, really. There is no soapbox here and no change of heart. I was out of town for three Mondays and I don't have a DVR. So, I considered watching it on hulu or even (horror!) spending one dollar on Amazon to watch it for the few hours I was home every week. It didn't seem all that important. Then I was behind. And then I realized that I didn't care about Andi or her suitors.

What has happened to me? Where are my priorities?

Who knows. But I don't want to give four hours and four dollars to catch up on something that I feel lukewarm about. Or is it five by now?

Which makes me wonder: will I have any connection to the next Bachelor? Will he be someone from this season and I won't care about his "journey"? Am I a Bachelor apostate because I haven't been constant and dedicated? Is this the end for me?

Are you still watching? Am I missing out? Fill me in, Bachelor friends.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1st

In case you aren't my Instagram friend, it has been a busy week over at our casa. Ashton broke his femur in multiple places and had to have a plate and 12 screws put in. It's been exhausting and semi-tragic, but we feel very fortunate that this is the hardest thing we have had to deal with this year. (knock on wood) 

Also, our silly little Instagram account (@kidsaretheworst) was featured on buzzfeed and it has been fun seeing it get some traction. 

Today is July 1. (insert trumpet announcement here) You may remember from past Julys that this is the month Alan and I read the entire Book of Mormon. Eight chapters a day. Every July. The whole enchilada.

I am eager to start it, even though I know it is an exhausting endeavor. Every year when we really focus and dig into reading the scriptures, I notice that I am a more patient mother and loving wife. And, if that is all I get out of it, I am excited to reap the blessings. I sincerely feel a difference in my anxiety and patience--it is palpable. 

I am telling you this, because it has been a wonderful thing for me for the past five Julys of my life. I have felt the difference and think you might like to feel some blessings from heaven, too.

So, would you join me? If you don't want to read the Book of Mormon, read your Bible, or your Qur'an, or your Torah, or your (fill in the blank with heavenly scripture here). It takes an hour a day, on average. Perhaps you could listen to it, if a recording is available for you. Or read it with your spouse or child. Just try it. I promise it will only be a positive experience. A little sacrifice can often lead to small blessings that are just what you need to push a little longer. 

I need some patience right about... NOW! And you?

Let me know if you're joining me. Strength in numbers, yo.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grow a Boy in Six Easy Steps!

all photos taken by Angie Monson (LINK)
I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't sad when I found out that my fourth and final child was a boy. I was sad. My firstborn was a daughter and we were poor enough that most of her clothes as a toddler were hand-me-downs and gifts. She still looked adorable, mostly thanks to my sister's jewelry line and her giving heart. That little girl of mine always had a cool pearl necklace and a few bracelets on, even when swimming and sleeping.

When we found out we were expecting a fourth child, I was excited to have a new live baby doll to dress. I admit it, even though when you write it out you can see how horrible and selfish it seems. But no, God wanted me to have my third boy. I wasn't super excited about more jeans and converse, light sabers and tiny cars, haircuts and dirty pockets. My heart yearned for a tiny dancer and someone who could wear all of those adorable necklaces. But as soon as Rhett was born, my heart changed. I wrote about that miraculous change of heart five days after he was born (here).

I know some people have more boys than I do and older boys to boot, but I still claim the title of LITTLE BOY EXPERT. There are some things I have learned in this past decade of trying to grow little boys. Wanna hear? Here I go:

1. Boys Love Hugs

Girls are cute, but when that little boy wants to hold your hand, kiss or snuggle with you, you say YES! Something happens to a mother and her squishy heart when her little boy needs her affection. It becomes more squishy, to be sure. It melts and puddles down to the pit of your stomach and you think you could die of happiness. It also does something terrible to your memory: "What smashed window? What dirty sink of dishes? What ruined patch of grass? What torn up jeans?"

But, do you know how much your little boy needs YOUR hugs, too? They might seem tough, but those little boys need your hugs and back scratches and hand holds more than you do. They need affection just as much as your daughters, and I believe it will only make them better and kinder men. Hug your boys, especially when they don't deserve it.

2. Boys Love Sticks

It's true. A stick is a magical gift from the gods. You may spend $20 on a nerf sword (which my boys all love), but a stick can be so much more than a sword. It is a light saber then a rifle, a sword and then a wand, a rope swinging from the trees and then the beginning of a fort. Did you know there are sticks in different shapes and sizes? It's true. My boys are constantly showing me how this stick looks like a machine gun and that stick looks like a boomerang. 

Sticks are amazing. Get your boy out and find some sticks.

3. Boys Love Style

It is still fun to dress boys. We had a pair of seersucker pants that all of the boys wore and every time it just made me want to grab and love on them. It is even more fun when they start having their own style. My 10yo is very involved in his hair styles and the cut of pants he prefers. Our 8yo acts as if he doesn't care, but there are a few items of clothing that he refuses to put on and wear outside of the house. Our 4yo is all about the accessories. He loves wearing sunglasses, ties, watches, wings on his shoes, and anything else we will let him wear. Which is a lot. He has more bracelets than I ever did as a child.

Some people have expressed concern over our boys' styles of dress and hair, but I don't worry myself with any of it. Boys like style as much as girls. It is all part of the process of growing and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Take your son shopping and see what he gravitates toward. Boys love dates with you, too. One on one time is the absolute best.

4. Boys Love Work

Well, not really. Most of my boys scoff and whine every single Saturday when it is chore time. My 8yo rolls his eyes every time I ask him to do anything but play on the iPad. But, boys need work. All kids need work, girls and boys. I personally think that boys are starting to work less and less these days. Things are easier, chores are simpler, games are everywhere. Boys need to still work hard, see value in their accomplishments, be prepared to leave your home when they are 18, and open a door for women. I am a self-proclaimed feminist, but I still believe in boys learning to be hard working and respectful. Opening doors and letting women go ahead of them is included in learning respect.

My boys are naturally pretty smart, God-given to be sure. But I tell them often that the most successful people in the world are not the smartest, but the hardest workers. Don't raise soft, lackluster smart boys. Raise boys who can love work.

5. Boys Love Potty Words

It is true for all three of my boys. They love potty words. Throw in a "poop" or "fart" into your story and you are the most hilarious person ever. I have never believed in shushing the potty words completely. Like all fine pleasures in this world, moderation is key with potty words. Boys need to express these funny little phrases more than you can understand, and if they don't do it around you, they are most definitely trying it out with friends.

I don't know when they outgrow seeing humor in potty words. My 37yo boy still laughs heartily at a well-placed "poo" reference.

6. Boys Love Praise

Don't we all? Somehow in the history of raising of boys, we humans have felt this need to make them tough and resilient and we do it by being very selective and sparse with our praise. Allegedly, If we tell them too often that they are strong and smart and kind and good-golly quite handsome, then they will not grow to handle criticism and disappointment. Baloney. Criticism and disappointment will come all over the place as they grow, which is all the more reason to give them love and praise at home.

Don't get me wrong, I reprimand and correct all of my children. I also try my darnedest to tell them how unique and cool they are, how much I appreciate their help and listening, why they are so smart and handsome. A sincere compliment is worth more than the snazziest outfit or coolest nerf sword that you could ever buy. Give your boys praise and do it as often as you can. All it will do is make him more confident as he grows in this world and prepares to leave your nest for good.

Wait. My boys will leave my nest for good someday?! I know it's true, and yet thinking that in eight shorts years my oldest boy will be taking flight is enough to make me stop typing this post and run and give him sloppy kisses and praise for days.

Thank you, God, for giving me three boys to follow my daughter. I can't believe I ever doubted that they were exactly what I wanted.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Fear mongering

picture found here

While I was in the wind-whipped deserts of Moab, Utah and subsequently out of the range of social media updates (and all other media updates), the world of Mormons was jostled once again. Two outspoken individuals were called into disciplinary council to discuss their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And then at least ten more were called in for similar charges of publicly questioning church doctrines and church officials. One gentleman's disciplinary council was repealed as soon as it was called.  

Church officials and spokespersons have said that asking questions is not a problem, but what is a problem is recruiting others to question doctrine. And we recruit others, apparently, by voicing our own questions publicly. 

So, I was gone for a good portion of this news and debate. I feel like I am just getting up to date as Kate Kelley's bishopric decides her fate (by telling her they need a couple more days). My thoughts have been swimming, admittedly, and the words that repeatedly rise to the top are:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

This feels like a witch hunt to me. I understand the need for an organization to clearly define the lines that are acceptable to keep their reputation positive. I am not ignorant enough to believe that the church in which I believe is not ALSO an organization. It is just that I don't wholly believe in the organization (post EDIT: it is within this part--the organization--where I have some concerns). I fully believe in the gospel. Parts of the organization would drive me away from the gospel itself, if I didn't believe so firmly that it is true.

There are so many conflicts within the LDS organization and the gospel, that it is difficult for many (myself included) to know what is the better choice for themselves. Use social media to share the gospel, but don't "recruit" others to question. All are welcome to attend, but "don't you all look so nice in your white shirts and ties." Love thy neighbor, but pluck out the eye if it offends thee.

Contradictions are a natural part of all life, but I see it separate faithful and equal members within the church. I choose this point and you choose its antagonist. And then within our similar beliefs, we call out the other and point the finger of apostasy and blame. In a recent post on By Common Consent, the writer had a tender list of concerns that she had. A commenter jumped in with, "The fact of the matter is you are questioning church leadership, counsel, and revaluation, and direction which is the first sign of apostasy." (I think he meant "revelation" but I could be wrong. Maybe he was talking economics and I just missed that part of her post.)

Oh, apostasy. It is the word du jour. I have heard of people who have verbally worried that I, gentle Ahhnna, am headed toward apostasy. If it wasn't so laughable, I'd be offended. But the truth is, I have concerns and questions as well. I don't see the point of some ideas within the members of the church. I would love to sit and chat with you about them, but you see, there is a witch hunt afoot and apparently my very membership is on the line. If I write them down on this blog, where I have felt so many of you reach out and heard you say, "ME TOO! I am faithful, but there are things I bristle at as well," I could be called in and threatened as an apostate.

Then again, I am not afraid. I am more afraid that people like me and maybe you will feel silenced. That is what I fear the most in this recent happening. That those of us with LOUD questions and those of us with little questions will feel quieted. Afraid. We are more alike than different. It is OK to verbalize your questions, because there you may find solace and you will most likely find a friend who says, "I hear you and I understand."

To those who want us silenced and excommunicated, and to me and you as well, I have a scripture from the same chapter of John as above:

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Silence is for the birds. They can have apostasy, too. I doubt they'd have as much animosity as I have seen about these Mormon happenings. They're too flighty. (Get it? Oh man. I kill me.)


Friday, June 20, 2014

Popularity Schmopularity

It has been a mighty busy few weeks around these parts and I'm right afraid that it won't ease up any time real soon.

(Did you read that with an old western accent? Try it again, it's super fun.) 

Today is the first day that I feel like I have had any time at all to sort out my thoughts, and with a messy house, four neglected children, and work piling up all around me, my time feels stifled. Which is too bad. I have been wanting to really put some time into sorting out my thoughts and sharing them with you, Jennifer. (I attended a conference this week and they suggested naming your blog readers. I'm going with Jennifer. It was a toss up between Jennifer, Lindsay and Walter, but Jennifer won. I am not sure if they meant to literally name your readers, but it felt right in my heart.)

I went to girls' camp (a church camp like a scout camp but with girls [duh] and a nonsensical amount of decorations) in Moab, Utah as one of the adult leaders. My daughter was there. Being there together was one of those moments in your life that you can actually see a shift in a relationship. It was like she turned that switch on teenagers have that allowed her to see me as an embarrassment, where before I was a delightful and quirky mother. Now, among her peers and the older girls she respects so much, I am a plight on her social advancement and acceptance. 

To which I say, "Get over it, sista!"

Oh Jennifer, why do our children grow up? I don't remember being this difficult to my mother, although I am sure that I was. Except I am sure that my adorable nature overshadowed all of my awkward teenage issues. Can I get a collective UGH from the parents of teenagers (and 12yo that act like teenagers)? And, I know it gets worse. Don't remind me. 

At girls' camp, a family reunion, and a conference for bloggers and brands, I was slapped in the face with something that doesn't really enter my little carefully curated life all that much: POPULARITY.

found here!

I'm just going to come out and say it: popularity blows. It sucks. It blows AND sucks all at the same time, like only the very mystifying of concepts. 

I saw popularity creep over the camp where those who were IN seemed unaware of the one person hanging around them that had the look of OUT all over her face. I heard it at the camp in the unimportant details of what car you got to drive in or what music was playing. I even had girls tell me that another leader was cooler than me and danced better than me, which was their way of trying to seem more valuable and popular. (By the way, I was never worried about my dance moves being challenged, never you worry.) I also saw popularity at the girls' camp include and uplift girls who were feeling left out or sad. There is hope for the popularity epidemic for the next generation. I'm kidding, there isn't. I just think we have some nice girls in our neighborhood. The rest of the next generation are filled with popularity-seeking goobers. 

I even saw popularity at the family reunion. The popular opinion was the most credible opinion. Alan mentioned to me that sometimes when two groups of people are so similar, their minor differences are magnified and become a chasm where otherwise they'd be a crack in the sidewalk. I feel this way with my family sometimes.

And then there was Alt. Have you heard of Altitude Summit? It is a conference designed for bloggers and creatives, which totally is ME! I was able to attend for a day of Alt during a conference in SLC about 18 months ago. I wasn't prepared for the business cards, the fashion, and the networking. I was inspired, though, and really gave a push to my blog and work after that day of Alt in January 2013. When I heard that there was an Alt Conference opening up this summer in SLC, I was really geared up to attend. I felt like my blog has not been inspiring lately and was curious to figure out how to finally do something with it after 7 years.

Well, here's the thing. There were still great business cards, there was still fashion, and there was a lot of networking. But as I am mulling over my experience, I am left with a feeling of frustration. The POPULARS were glaringly obvious and I felt a visceral duality: they were so off-putting and yet I wanted to be part of them. Do you know what I am talking about, Jennifer? I was annoyed by the popular people at the conference; those that were walking around like everyone wanted to talk to them and DO for them. And then at the same time I thought, "Why am I not as important? I am equally amazing and adorable." It is really frustrating that I think EITHER of these things. 

Ergo, popularity sucks AND blows.

The interesting part is that nobody wants to admit that they felt less than or frustrated by the sessions and speakers, because someday YOU might become popular and be asked to speak at Alt. Don't bite the hand that may some day feed you. Which I totally get. I don't want to be a jerk. Karma is totally real, Jennifer. But so are feelings of inadequacy and doubt. (Please note: I met some really rad people that I can't wait to meet up with again. It was a success in my book, but it was still a struggle.) One thing I learned loud and clear at Alt was that my own social media popularity defines my ability to be taken seriously, make money, or collaborate with others. So, if I am not popular, I need to change.

I have been on both sides of popularity. I have had the elation that comes from being noticed by someone of higher import than me as well as the feeling of being shunned. I have even been one that has noticed and shunned when put in that position. These are not great feelings, any of them. Which is why I wonder how we let it in our psyche at all. Why do we place ascending and descending value on people? I do it, you do it, my dog, Bowie, does it. I have no answer or suggestion here. It will always be.

I do know that my social media popularity does not make me happy. It might make me money. It might give me opportunities. It might have me feel important and respected. But I do know that what makes me happy is making sincere connections with people, my children and husband make me happy, being sarcastic makes me happy, learning and reading and finding creative outlets make me happy. I am happiest when I accept myself AS IS and do things because I want to feel healthier, smarter, kinder, more adjusted and NOT to do them just to be more accepted or loved by others.

Maybe that is my answer. Being popular in my own head and making decisions based on making my life and the life of those I love more fulfilled is the answer to all of this popularity bullcrap. And every time I feel inadequate next to those who seem more successful and liked than I am, I should tug on my ear, crinkle my nose, and try to be centered in my own awesomeness. 

See, teenage Jennifer (and my own daughter who will probably have me tugging my ear and crinkling my nose thousands of times over the next six years), it doesn't get any easier. We all feel the struggles of the popularity hierarchy. You will in some way or another until you are 75. And then you just won't give a damn. Which is what we all keep trying to do anyway. Chin up, buttercup!