12 Years

12 years ago today, I knelt across an altar and said one memorable word: Yes.

Marriage is an interesting thing. When we’re young, we think of romance and white dresses and big diamond rings. The funny thing is, that’s an accurate depiction of a wedding, rather than a marriage.

Tonight we’re heading out on a family trip to Berlin, via a night train. Because I don’t want to have to take precious family time to write articles for work, Jason volunteered to take the children out for a “forced march” and lunch so that I could write in peace.

This is better than another diamond.

I’d love to say that every moment of the past 12 years have been utter bliss, but that would be a lie. We’ve had a *few* arguments and been through a couple of trials here and there. We’ve learned that neither one of us is good at planning ahead, paperwork, and matching socks. We disagree politically and generally cancel each other out at the polls. (I would be the correct one, by the way.) We strongly dislike each other’s choice in music.

But, there has not been a single day in the entire 4383 days of our marriage where we haven’t both said, “I love you.” Not a single day, even though we’ve spent many of those days on separate continents. We’ve said it even when we’ve both been puking. (Thank you small children for bringing home that particular joy.)

And more importantly than saying it, we actually mean it. Even when we’re being annoying or being annoyed (we take turns in those different roles). We’re committed and we work at it and it gets better and better.

One of the things that annoys me the most is married people whose “relationship status” on Facebook changes with each disagreement. It’s not ever complicated. Either you are married or you are not married. There is a clear demarcation between the two.

If I had just had a fight with my husband, and then logged onto Facebook to find that he now described our relationship as “it’s complicated,” would I be inclined to work towards forgiveness and understanding? Why would you do that?

Marriage isn’t for wimps. But it’s not for heroes either. It’s both the greatest comfort and the greatest challenge in our lives. And I am glad that 12 years ago, we both had the wisdom and foresight to say, “Yes.”

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Which Commandment is it That You Don’t Want to Keep?

Photo courtsey of Flickr user Marshall Astor

It’s the stuff of family legend. My uncle was on the road when he spotted a VW Bus with big “Ex-Mormons for Jesus” signs on it. Intrigued, when the Ex-Mormons stopped at a rest stop, he pulled in after them.

They were easy to spot in the rest stop so being either brave or stupid he walked up and asked if they were the “Ex-Mormons for Jesus.” They loudly proclaimed that they were, indeed, those people.

He chatted with them for a few minutes and they animatedly and proudly proclaimed their beliefs (or lack thereof). Then he said he just had one more question: Which commandment is it that you don’t want to keep?

<crickets>

I’ve always been amused by that story and yesterday in Relief Society I got prophetic confirmation that that story could, in fact, be true. No, it wasn’t an endorsement of my Uncle himself (who is a trustworthy guy as well as being someone who would ask that type of question), but a quote from George Albert Smith:

I have known thousands of the rank and file of this great Church, men and women of many nations who in humility and faithfulness have accepted the gospel to become identified with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … [They] have prayed for and sustained their leaders … , and during my experience in the Church I have yet to know of one person who has been observing the commandments of the Lord who has raised his or her voice against those who were called to preside over this Church. That is really remarkable.

It is remarkable. It also demonstrates to me that when you choose to break a “little” commandment it becomes easier to break the next one and the next one until suddenly you’re riding around in a van proclaiming your own sins from the rooftops.

In addition, to this principle, the Relief Society teacher also brought up that prior to President Hinckley’s death she never saw President Monson as “prophetic.” He was always “just an apostle.” This, of course, is not a bad label. She then said when he spoke in that first general conference after being sustained and set apart as the Prophet and President of the church she noticed a distinct change in him.

This kind of surprised me because I felt the same way. President Monson had never been my favorite speaker. I prefer a good President Uchtdorf or Elder Oaks talk. But I distinctly remember that first talk. My family had become somewhat restless as we all have the attention spans of fleas and had started throwing paper airplanes at each other. (The hazards of watching conference at home on the internet.) When President Monson began speaking we kind of stopped and stared at each other.

When the talk was over my husband and I both said, “Wow. Something’s changed.” Of course that something was that he was now the Lord’s voice on the earth. It was such a strong feeling, and absolute knowledge that President Monson was the prophet. So, I don’t know why it surprised me with the teacher said she had the same experience and several other women in the room concurred with her.

I shudder to think how my experience might have been different had we not been keeping the commandments in the first place.

Given, of course, that there’s no actual commandment against paper airplanes during General Conference.

 

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Free Range Grown Ups?

photo courtesy Flickr user Ryan Taylor

I have this life long aversion to doing things that have no point. (Other than watching television, of course.) This has gotten me in a fair amount of trouble with teachers. (“How is building a bridge out of drinking straws going to help our understanding of sociology?” did not go over well, although he was not able to give an answer.) And now it has gotten me in trouble once again.

Once a year the Girl Scout troop my daughter belongs to has a weekend get away for mothers and daughters. We pay an exorbitant amount of money and spend 2 nights in Adelboden, Switzerland.

We stay in a “chalet,” not tents. The outdoor activities are designed to be safe for the Daisy scouts (5 and 6 year olds). This is not a dangerous, risk taking adventure.

So, I was surprised this year when they asked that I not only fill out medical forms for my daughter, but for me also. The last time I checked, I’m a grown up. I’ve never been asked for medical information about me before, as an adult. It might make sense if this was some sort of release, but it’s not. It’s a “list your medication and your insurance card number and emergency contacts.”

The latter might make sense, but I have to object to the former.

So, given my dislike of pointless, unnecessary activities (especially ones involving paperwork) I have not filled it out. The trip is in one week, which mean that yesterday at Girl Scout pick up, there was a show down between me and the leaders.

Okay, it wasn’t a show down, it was me saying, “There is no reason you need this information” and them saying, “But what if you got injured and we needed your insurance information?”  and me saying, “then you’d look in my wallet where my insurance card is” and the response (I love this), “We need to not have this discussion in front of the children.”

Okey-dokey. The children weren’t paying any attention, but if they were this is precisely the type of discussion I’d like to have in front of them. I’d like to teach my daughter how grown ups can have disagreements and talk about them like rational human beings. But apparently, it was too stressful for all the girls who were ignoring our conversation.

And in case you are wondering just what my objections to filling out the form, it’s this: In order for the Girl Scout leaders to actually need this form the following must occur:

  1. I must be so severely injured as to be incapable of directing my own medical care.
  2. I must have a serious medical conditions that would change the course of emergency treatment if they were known and I would have to have made no provisions for indicating such things to medical personnel in the case of such an injury.
  3. My wallet with my insurance card must also be missing
  4. The ambulance and/or emergency room people must refuse to treat a severely injured, unconscious woman without said card.

And in all honesty, the chances of those things happening are so slim as to not make it at all justifiable to ask adults to turn in medical forms. These same things could happen if we got in a car accident on our way to the grocery store. Should I require all my friends and acquaintances to present me with their medical information every time we do something together? To be safe, every time I get on a tram, bus or train, should I had a copy of this form to the driver, “just in case” something happens?

Now, if the leaders had given me a reason like, “Sorry, but there’s this crazy Swiss law that…” then I would understand their position. Or if they even countered with, “last year another girl scout troop had a terrible accident and…” but no. Other than, “we need this form,” there was no explanation.

It’s  bad case of what Lenore Skenazy calls “worst-first thinking.” And I, for one, am going to speak up to stop it. I will turn in my form because my daughter would be devastated if she couldn’t go.

 

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Waiting Upon the Lord

Robert D. Hales, photo courtesy lds.org

I am serving as the education counselor in my branch Relief Society Presidency. In theory, this is a good calling for me as I love teaching with my whole heart and soul. If I happened to like other people’s children, I would be great school teacher.

In this calling I am blessed with two of the most fabulous teachers on the planet. (I know, you’re thinking, “shouldn’t there be 3 RS teachers?” Yes, but we’re a branch, so it’s not like we have people roaming around with callings. Everyone is used, as evidenced by the fact that I spoke no German when I was called to be in the RS presidency almost 3 years ago.) These teachers, who we’ll call Christa and Margene (because those are their names) are always, always, always prepared. I never have to call and say, “Hey, just checking to see if you remembered you’re teaching this week!” They just do.

They  do different activities to get people involved. They teach solid gospel principles. They are fantastic and you’ll call them to primary over my dead body. (Okay, so I have no say over that, but Branch President, if you’re reading this, please, please, please don’t take them. I love them.)

But, we’ve run into a small problem. Christa just gave birth to her 5th baby. With number 4, she was born on a Tuesday and Christa was back doing primary president duties on that Sunday. She’s super women, that Christa.

This time around, the baby decided to come early. And now he’s decided that he can’t be bothered to do something as silly and mundane as  eating. This means that Christa is a bit busy–with four children and a baby who has to be forceably fed. She’s exhausted. She’s stressed. She’s worried.

And she’s not teaching.

This is the correct decision and I told Christa she could take as much time as she needed and that I would find substitutes for as long as she needed a break.

But let’s talk about that part where we’re a branch, again. So few people, so many lessons. I’ve hit up everybody who isn’t already teaching primary or YWs. Several have already filled in. Several are out of town, or have already agreed to sub for someone else, or are too busy. (I totally understand that last one!)

And, so in two weeks the lesson is on Robert D. Hales talk, “Waiting Upon the Lord” and I have no teacher. And I’m a bit frustrated because if this were an English speaking branch I’d teach. I love teaching. Love it.

But it’s not. And while I still love teaching and don’t even mind teaching in German, I know that the poor sisters suffer through my lessons every 3 months. My grammar and vocabulary are terrible. My pronunciation is laughable. And I hate to make them suffer through yet another lesson, even though I still enjoy the teaching part.

And so while I was trying to figure out what to do, I thought I’d listen to the talk. And it hit me, here I am whining about a lack of a teacher when Christa is patiently “waiting upon the Lord” for help with her precious little boy who needs to figure out how to eat.

I am frustrated because Christa’s baby can’t eat and therefore, she can’t teach. And furthermore I can’t teach because my language skills stink and why can’t the Lord just fix her baby and give me the gift of tongues?

And then Elder Hales said:

[W]e realize that the purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences. How do we do this? The scriptures give us an answer in one simple phrase: we “wait upon the Lord.”12 Tests and trials are given to all of us. These mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son. He already knows, and we have the opportunity to learn, that no matter how difficult our circumstances, “all these things shall [be for our] experience, and … [our] good.”13

If the Lord just granted me the ability to speak fluent German, I wouldn’t grow and develop. I need to not only wait upon the Lord in patience, I need to work to change my circumstances.

And I am sure that the sisters in our branch have had many opportunities to Wait Upon the Lord and have learned many lessons. So instead of panicking over a lack of teacher or tormenting the students with 40 minutes of bad German, I am going to have all of them share.

And then we will be edified together.

 

Posted in Church, General Conference, German, Relief Society | 1 Comment

Falsehoods in Primary Songs

Photo courtesy Flickr user Shakestercody

I love primary songs. In fact, I think many of them are better than books in the hymn book. Instead of focusing on poetry or bad translations or the fact that Eliza Snow wrote them, primary songs focus on teaching the doctrine of the gospel in simple words. So simple, in fact, that children can understand them.

Yeah! All sorts of truth and doctrine to be learned in the primary song book. But, there is one song that drives me up the wall. Here are the words and see if you can figure out what is wrong with this primary song:

(Child) 1. Mother, tell me the story that I love to hear.
Tell me of heaven and why I came here.
Mother, tell how you love me, and gently speak,
And then I’ll go to sleep.

(Mother) 2. Child, I am here.
Can you feel that heaven is near?
Sleep, sleep; a lovewatch I’ll keep
To protect you through the night.

Optional verse:
(Child) Mother, tell me of Jesus and how he is near.
Tell how he loves me, and I will not fear.
Mother, tell how his Spirit brings comfort and peace,
And then I’ll go to sleep.

(Mother) Child, he is there.
In his love you never need fear.
Sleep, sleep; a lovewatch he’ll keep
To protect you through the night.

So, what’s wrong with this? It’s the last line the child sings in each verse: And then I’ll go to sleep.

Ha! Does Janice Kapp Perry* have no children? Okay, she has 5. But it’s clear that she was either searching for nice words or she was having that grandma amnesia. (The same amnesia that requires little old ladies in sacrament meeting to turn to mothers of young kids and say, “You must be doing something wrong. My children never squirmed/talked/flailed around on the floor during sacrament meeting!”)

The child will not go to sleep after you tell her one more story of Jesus. She will try to escape out of the crib. She will ask for another glass of water. She will insist that there is a monster under her bed, even if her mattress rests upon the floor. (It is a very thin monster.) If she’s especially trying to stay up and knows that you will be so thrilled and have material for your next “I’m a better parent than you are” moment in Relief Society she’ll ask for another story of Jesus.

But, honestly, that’s all just a ruse to stay up later. Because, you see, the world will most likely come to an end as soon as you shut your eyes, so it is imperative that you not go to sleep, ever!

And that is why this song bugs me. Because it’s all a lie. The kid isn’t interested in going to sleep. She’s just saying that.

*This post is in no way meant to pick on Janice Kapp Perry. I think she is brilliant. I think she has a keen understanding of church doctrine. I think she did more to benefit the children of the church than a whole host of nursery teachers together (and that’s saying something). But, I still think she is suffering from grandma induced amnesia in this song.

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The Family Bed

Diagram by Andy at Howtobeadad.com

Co-sleeping seems like something a Molly Mormon would do. I mean, how better to show how much you love your children and value your eternal family than to sacrifice your sleep and sex life for years because honestly, that’s what co-sleeping would be like at my house.

The above diagram wasn’t drawn by me (as I have no artistic talent, whatsoever), but it could have been based on my life. My children love to sleep in my bed. Why? I don’t know. I snore like a banshee and my beloved husband even wears ear plugs because of it.

But he’s out of town and last night we were all sitting in my bed watching Phineas and Ferb Across the Second Dimension on my laptop. When I stopped it half way through and announced bedtime, both creatures, umm, children said, “I want to sleep with you!”

Now, it was bed time. I had a headache. I did not wish to fight them, so I said okay, on the condition that they didn’t fight and didn’t kick me. Ha! I’m so funny. What on earth was I thinking?

The 8 year old has actually learned to sleep like a human being and was no problem. The 3 year old attempted to sleep like the above illustration. Seriously, he’s 3 and yet he still had to be plastered all over my body.

And this is why I don’t understand the family bed concept at all. I slept terribly. Do co-sleepers have children that don’t toss and turn and kick and sleep diagonally? (Yes a 3 month old baby can take up 90 percent of a king sized bed even though it’s mathematically impossible.)

And what about other nocturnal activities? I mean, you don’t want your children watching 30 Rock with you, do you? I don’t. (What other kind of nocturnal activities were you thinking about? Pervert.)

So, with exceptions brought on by temporarily bad judgment due to headache and and an absent husband, the children sleep in their own beds, in their own rooms.

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Modesty: I do not think it means what you think it means.

This little picture was floating around Facebook. I ignored it, but it bugged the snot out of me.

Then this photo and story began floating around the internet:

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Brittany Molina was minding her own business on the Provo campus when a young man came up and handed her a piece of paper.

“I thought he was giving me a love note,” she wrote on Twitter – @BrittanyJMo. “Turns out…”

And she shared a photo of the most remarkable missive, which read:

“You may want to consider that what you’re wearing has a negative effect on men (and women) around you. Many people come to this university because they feel safe, morally as well as physically, here. They expect others to abide by the Honor Code that we all agreed on. Please consider your commitment to the Honor Code (which you agreed to) when dressing each day. Thank you.”

First of all, the note writer is a whack job because it’s just not normal to go up to girls you don’t know and give them notes about their clothing. It’s creepy and would be creepy even if he’d approved of her outfit.

But second, he’s right, but not for the reasons he thinks he’s right. She looks rather frumpy (sorry!) and is unlikely to stir up prurient thoughts in anyone other than someone with an unhealthy obsession with sweaters.

She is doing a disservice to all other students because leggings as pants is a violation of the honor code, which she did sign. Violating the honor code can easily be defined as sinning and when you are sinning you are affecting those around you. We don’t live in a vacuum and we certainly don’t sin in one. If you choose to break the honor code, you’re demonstrating that you lack honor. It’s not something you really want to advertise, is it?

But what about the first poster? Is the purpose of female modesty to keep men’s hormones under control? That seems to be the definition that not only goes with the poster but the thought behind the creepy note for leggings girl. When people start talking about modesty in terms of controlling others, the Inigo Montoya quote bounces round my brain: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Modesty isn’t about controlling others. It’s about respecting our own bodies. If it was about controlling other’s thoughts, men at BYU would be required to dress like this:

Photo by Flicker user Whatsername

Because that is seriously unattractive. No rational female is having heart palpitations or hormonal surges because of that outfit.

So, you see, it’s not about controlling someone else’s hormones. It’s about respecting our own bodies. For the Strength of Youth describes the logic behind proper dress thusly (is “thusly” even a word? I doubt it):

Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.

But let’s talk about leggings. Back in the dark ages, when I entered BYU (fall of 1991) there was no rule about leggings. They weren’t in fashion and no one was wearing them. If the women of BYU had used good sense and said, “Gee, these things clearly violate the standards in For the Strength of Youth” and never wore them as pants (really ladies, they don’t hide your cottage cheese thighs), it wouldn’t be an issue.

While it’s true that how you dress can impact others (I’m still shuddering at ’70s man above) and that you are dumb as a rock if you expect otherwise. If you want to wear your Victoria Secret’s cleavage boosting bra you don’t get to complain when men don’t look you in the eye. That’s why you chose it in the first place and claiming otherwise makes you seem a bit foolish.

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