Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I can't belong to a political party and feel right about myself

Most people I know belong to a political party.

Most people I know think I do, too.  The liberal democrats I know think I'm a conservative republican. The conservative republicans I know think I'm a liberal democrat.  Funny, right? This has gone on since I was in high school. Except back in high school everyone thought I was in the same party as they were, and now they all think I'm in the opposite.

Officially, I guess I do. I register as a Republican so I can vote in the primaries and participate in the caucuses. Tim registers as a Democrat for the same reason. But I switch parties to vote in the primaries that I think need voters the most (this year, someone needs to vote against Trump, so I'm a registered Republican).

But the reality is I'm neither. When I take political quizzes and tests, they place me dead center. On, I agree between 60% and 75% percent with everyone but libertarians and green party candidates.

Why not? Why not pick a party? you might ask.

Well, most of the people I know pick a party and then buy into all that party's rhetoric, supporting all their stands carte blanche, and I can't do that.

I can't be a Republican because of this: Book of Mormon's admonition not to say, "They brought it upon themselves."

And this: Elder Holland's talk "Are We Not All Beggars?".

And this:

And this:

And this:

I can't be a Republican or a Democrat because of this:

I can't be a Democrat because of this:

And this:

And this: My experience with both second- and third-wave feminism cannot jive with this:

And this:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Suppose for a moment that you are standing in a very large circle, and you are free to move around within that circle but at some point you reach the edge and can go no further. You are free, but by nature of your situation, you have limits.

I like to think that everyone (not just me) has limits. We can fill our lives with all kinds of things, and many things, but at some point we reach our limits and cannot go further unless we go back a little first.

To put it another way, imagine that you are asked to hold a token of some sort for every single thing you have in your life. The tokens are mostly small, and you have ones for work, one for each kid in your family, one for your calling, one for each hobby, one for each friend. As you add things to your life (friends, jobs, kids, stuff that has to be cared for), you eventually get to a point where you physically cannot hold anything more. Your arms get full. If you want to add another thing, you would have to first drop something.

So, hold that thought. I'll come back to it.

Shifting gears.

I find it fascinating that God put us here with the very most important things we have to do (eating, sleeping, drinking, etc) built into our systems as required and unavoidable. These things are not optional in life. How we do them is up to us, and can lead to great health and joy or great misery, but doing them at all is not really a choice.

Up until recently, having children was one of those things. It was mostly out of our control, and it was inevitable.

With that thought in mind, that women were just going to have babies with a little but not very much control over when and how many, suddenly the traditional family structure and rules make a whole lot of sense, don't they. Without birth control in the picture, it is actually desirable for men to marry the women who are bearing their children, and for the men to be the ones who are tasked with protecting and providing for their families, since the women were a little busy actually building the families. It even makes sense to women to be allowed to stay home and bear and nurse babies without the added burden of going to work (although historically most women didn't really have this privilege because their families were too poor, and everyone had to work).

Now, though, we have a choice on that matter. It might be one of those most important things, that God made inevitable for most of history, but we found having children hard work, and most people prefer to have some control over that. (And, actually, I think that's a good thing.) But it is interesting to think about the reality that it wasn't intended to be fully optional. We're not really designed for reproduction to be a choice, and recent research indicates that making it a choice and using that choice to strictly limit the number of babies we have is actually not very good for women's health or babies upbringing (people with more than 3 children can't helicopter parent--it's not possible--and are more likely to have one parent as a full-time stay-at-home parent).

Consequently, when we're filling our arms with stuff, children can be one of the things but can not be one of the things.

Okay, so change gears again, but all of this is going to tie together in the end (I promise).

Suppose that God is serious when He gives us instructions about how to fill our arms and our lives. Suppose that, like the Word of Wisdom, all the instructions He gives us are actually hints, rules, directions, and guidance to avoid pain and suffering, to keep societies and families stable, and to guide us to being happy. The world protests, of course, that God is doing it all wrong because it doesn't make sense according to our understanding of things, but since when was our understanding superior to God's? We haven't the ability to have the kind of vision and wisdom and knowledge He has. Our brains are not developed enough to even hold all the information we encounter in our own lives, let alone everything God knows.

So when He says--and makes it a matter of sacred covenant (and, previously, an inevitability)--that we should multiply and replenish the Earth, it makes sense that, despite the difficulty of actually doing that, and the despite the lack of desire most humans seem to have, perhaps this is not just God being a bully, but is actually for our own good.

Considering that God has said his work and his glory is to bring to pass "immortality and eternal life" for people, it should not be a surprise that many of the commandments actually deal with things that make families more stable. How did I jump from immortality and eternal life to families?

There are three requirements for immortality: you have to get a body, you have to die, and Jesus had to do His work. The Jesus part is done. The death part is inevitable. The getting a body part requires a woman to be willing to carry a baby and give birth to it. God's work and glory requires us to have families. It's not optional.

Eternal life requires a lot more. It still requires Jesus, but it also requires us to make constant small choices that lead us the right direction, punctuated by occasional large choices that set the path we're walking on--often dramatically, and with profound results. Where do we learn the lessons and get practice and feedback as we try to figure out how to make choices? In our homes, from our families. This is also not optional: Where and how we grow up has profound and far-reaching effects on us and our ability to make good choices.

No wonder God spends so much time and effort encouraging us and teaching us how to have and grow families. No wonder so many (dare I say all? I want to say all) of the commandments directly impact our ability to parent children (whether they are our own, our grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children in our ward, etc)--the health codes, the "social" rules, the 10 commandments: all of them lead us to better health, greater clarity of mind, increased abilities, a more stable and secure social environment, cultural stability. All of these exist to help God with His work and glory, which is to help people have stable families that can bring children into the world and teach them to function and make good choices.

Families and parenthood are sacred obligations and sacred privileges. But do we actually hold them sacred? Are we as offended when people degrade motherhood or try to break down families as we are when people desecrate garments or try to defile the temple? Usually not, which is sad. There is even a movement among the perpetually dissatisfied members of the Church complaining against the church's focus on families--these members believe the focus should be on individual salvation, not families. They complain that the focus on families is damaging to our ability to be saved as individuals.

But with this understanding that God's work and glory requires families, and with the idea that God knows that we can only hold so many things in our arms, and that our puny mortal lives are bound by limits of all kinds, I have spent the last few weeks thinking about some of the more controversial commandments.

The discussion, for example, of women and the priesthood. What if God is not belittling women or elevating men. What if He knows our arms can only hold so much, and He really would rather them be full of babies? What if He understood that our arms will get full one way or the other, and if He gave women the priesthood there would be one fewer baby in each family because the women's arms would be full already?  And what if He would rather us do the work of the one more baby than the priesthood? That in addition to the reality that the priesthood ties men to the families in a way that is necessary and beneficial. What if, in His wisdom, God decided that only men having the priesthood is actually the very best way for His work to be accomplished? (Of course any reasons we have to explain this are just suppositions. We don't know why God has done this. We know men and women are equally capable of doing the kind of work the priesthood requires, but we also know that men actually can't physically have or nurse babies, even though they have their arms full parenting them, too.)

(I guess the real question, when all the discussion and "what ifs" boil away, is are we willing to go along and do the work God has assigned us, individually, even if it's not what we thought we'd be doing, are capable of, or want to do? That requires both faith and humility, and neither seems to be a natural state for most people.)

I heard some missionaries explain to a non-member once that men have the priesthood and women have motherhood, and I wanted to laugh because it was a wholly unsatisfying answer. Men have fatherhood, so doesn't that negate that reasoning? But I think the reason the answer is unsatisfying is we don't hold motherhood or family in the proper sacred light. We don't understand how vitally important it is, or what sacred means, or what motherhood actually is even though we all do it. It gets reduced to housecleaning and trying to survive on little sleep.

I'm not trying to demean fatherhood, of course. The role of the father, to protect and provide and love and care for his children and wife, is vital, too. Women so often agitate, though, to prove that they can also protect and provide. And they can! But that fills their arms. And what if God asked the men to protect and provide so that the women wouldn't have to, so that their arms would be less full so they could focus on having babies and raising them? Every job, every committee, every late night is one more thing in our arms, and perhaps God asked the men to take some of those things out of our arms whenever possible (and it's not always possible) so we'd have more space for His work in our arms, so that we wouldn't reach our limits too soon and at the expense of our children.

I have friends who, for economic reasons, have to have jobs. MANY friends, actually. And it is sad to hear them talk about the emotional exhaustion they have to deal with, and the stresses that accompany them even at home thanks to their jobs. Their families suffer for the moms arms being full. Another baby is not an option, even if the women want one. Being a calm, collected, focused mother is not an option because the limit has been reached, and there is no more emotional energy, no more "spoons" to go around.

How would God want His work done? That seems to be a key question that helps me wrap my head around the commandments and structures of the church.  How would He want children to get bodies and to learn how to make choices? What environment would He ideally wish for every child?

I'm pretty sure ideally it would involve both male and female influence, siblings, and a stay-at-home parent who is not at her limit, and whose arms are not so full that she can't give the calm, steady, reliable time and attention she wants to give. The glory of the family system is that it is adjustable--God can send some kids (who need them) to smaller families, and some (who need them) to larger families. He can send some women (who need it) fewer children and some (who need it) more. He can give some people the chance to do children and a career. He can give some people the responsibility to be that second set of hands and that second trusting stable influence for children who are not their own, but who they love.  There are roles and refinements for every soul within a family structure.

How would God want his work done? Apparently He wants individual salvation--immortality and eternal life--done in families. And if we keep that in mind, instead of focusing (as our culture does) on individuals' desires, needs, development, etc, a lot of the issues start to resolve themselves.

Our lives belong to God

We have spent many years now trying to build Tim's career. It's gone this way and that, each step leading us closer to something, but we don't know what.

I have tried many, many times to force it into being something I could see because I like the idea that I can see where we're going and therefore work toward it. Every time I have chosen a goal and worked hard to make it happen, it has been a drastically wrong direction for Tim. It has been humbling to see myself doing my very best and being wrong so many times, over and over, as I tried to think my way forward and walk that way--and run into brick walls. Over and over and over. Consistently for the last 17 years, in fact.

But recently I have begun to think that I'm going about this all wrong.

We keep trying to follow the advice of people who should know, trying to build a business using good business advice like having a vision, setting goals, working toward those goals; being tenacious and good networkers and stubborn and flexible all at once; doing it "right" and being creative at the same time, adapting to the markets, providing a product people need, finding the intersection of talent, interest, and sellability....

None of it worked. I don't know if it ever works for anyone, but it didn't work for us. I kind of suspect all that advice was actually someone sitting down and saying, "Gosh, I made it big and I did this, so that must be the key," without any comprehension that they "got lucky." Or were blessed.

What I have concluded is that financial stability is a gift from God, even if you had to work really hard to get it. Most people are actually one serious accident away from ruin, and we have no control over that. But I digress.

What I was trying to get to was this new idea that is bouncing around my head.

I think the problem with our approach to Tim's career is that we assumed the career is Tim's. I mean, it's his body, his voice, his hours of labor, and his talent. And God gives us agency to figure things out for ourselves and determine the directions we want to go, right?

But I'm beginning to think it's not actually Tim's career. It belongs to God. Tim does the work, of course, that he can. But we are not really in charge of this, we don't really own this, and the outcome is not ours to control or to glory from (whatever that may be in the end). I've concluded that the only way out of the difficulties we've been drowning in for so long is to let go, stop fighting the currents to try to swim to where we want to be, and see where this river takes us.  We can't really fight it anyway.

I am reminded of D&C 121:33: "What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints."  Or from pushing Tim along this career, apparently. 

Our arms are puny, indeed. 

So many times I've looked at Tim when we were both feeling sad about one thing or another and said, "This makes no sense. This should have happened, and the only way it didn't is if God was stopping it for some reason."

We have truly done all we can, and we certainly haven't been fighting against God. Our greatest desire is to serve Him. But we're going through life blind, same as everyone else. Except for one hiccup: most people have a career path laid out that is tried and true, proven and established. They feel inspired to become a doctor and there is a way you do that and a predictable outcome. You seek inspiration, it leads you to a road, and you follow that road the best way you know how. That's how most people's lives work. 

That has not been true of Tim's career or our lives. There is no path. There is no predictable outcome. There are only steps. And darkness. 

We have no idea where we are going. 

We have hints. We sometimes get an idea that this might actually be a path we're walking on, even though we can't see the path-ness of it most of the time. 

But seeing that this is actually God's career, and God's work, and that He apparently wants to use Tim's talents not for what we intend, but for what He intends, changes things for me. It leaves me with the terrifying and exhilarating idea that we don't have to be in charge--that we can just go along, one step at a time, doing the best we can to do what's right and follow the Spirit, and God can be in charge of where we end up. This requires a new level of faith for me, to actually let go that way while still working as hard as I know how. 

So I was pondering this idea--how does this change things? What does this mean? Does it actually change anything in day-to-day life, given we were already trying to do right and go with God's way of doing things? Is it actually important to give God ownership of Tim's career, instead of it being Tim's? What is my role in this, since I don't really own Tim or his career anyway and this giving and taking all have to ultimately be Tim's choice? (Often Tim already knows this stuff and has taken care of it long before it dawns on me, which very likely is the case in this situation. Quite possibly he never did consider it "his" career in the first place.)

While thinking about these things, I sat down to rest and read the new Ensign magazine that came today. I can't even link to it online yet because it's March's issue, which officially hasn't been released yet. But there's this great article in it by Elder Christofferson called "Finding your Life." In it, he discusses at length the scripture that instructs us to lose our lives in order to find them. 

It was a breath of fresh air for me. We love to tell the stories in the church of people who chose right and were blessed for it, almost to the point that we expect that things will go smoothly as long as we're choosing right. But Elder Christofferson points out, with great examples, that often choosing right leads to difficulty and sacrifice and suffering. Such has been the case for us, and it has been perplexing and frustrating to read the stories in the Ensign month after month after month that seemed to indicate we should immediately be blessed with what we desired or something better (or at least understanding and great peace) because we did what was right. But no. That's not often the case. 

Which brings me to the part of the article that was so powerful to me. I'll just quote it outright, since I can't link to the text (you can listen to it here: The part I'm quoting here starts at 35:27, but includes more in the full speech than in the Ensign version).

Elder Christofferson says, "The priorities and interests we most often see on display around us (and sometime in us) are intensely selfish: a hunger to be recognized; an insistent demand that one's rights be respected; a consuming desire for money, things, and power; a sense of entitlement to a life of comfort and pleasure; a goal to minimize responsibility and avoid altogether any personal sacrifice for the good of another--to name a few. 

"This is not to say that we should not seek to succeed, even excel, in worthy endeavors, including education and honorable work. Certainly, worthwhile achievements are laudable. But if we are to save our lives, we must always remember that such attainments are not ends in themselves but means to a higher end. With our faith in Christ, we must see political, business, academic, and similar forms of success not as defining us but as making possible our service to God and fellowman--beginning at home and extending as far as possible in the world.

"Personal development has value as it contributes to development of a Christlike character. In measuring success, we recognize the profound truth underlying all else--that our lives belong to God, our Heavenly Father, and to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Success means living in harmony with Their will."

(He goes on to talk about Joseph Smith, whose revelations brought them to Missouri, where the Saints suffered horribly. Obviously following God does not always put us into pleasant and easy circumstances.)

Since I have no real firm idea of where God wants us to end up, I suppose we get to work, and work hard, to do exactly what has been laid before us, and then simply let go, and trust that God will do with this career that doesn't belong to us whatever He wants. I hope that if we let Him, He will use us as tools to do His work, whatever that may be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Wage Gap

I keep saying I'm anti-feminist. Really I am pro-woman, and I feel like the feminists are fighting their hardest to stop women from embracing womanhood.

And the discussion (or lack thereof) regarding the so-called "Wage Gap" is one of the things that's eating at me right now.

I have a friend who, for a grad school project, is trying with a group to "raise awareness" of the wage gap in Utah. They are sure that all Utah women are getting paid less than all Utah men. And that that's a bad thing.

But if you really look into the whole women-being-paid-less-than-men thing, you'll discover really quickly that what is happening is women are making different choices than men, and men who make similar choices (to put family instead of business first) are ALSO making less money than other men who put business first.

There are actually two things that are messing with the "wage gap" statistic:

1. Women more often choose jobs that pay less (like nursing or teaching).
2. Women make choices within their careers that put them on a lower-pay track, like choosing to work part time to care for children or choosing to take time off from working to have babies, or choosing approaches to their careers that give them more time at home.

In other words, the feminists are NOT condemning male bosses for paying women less (which is what they think they are doing). What they are really doing is condemning women for making feminine choices (caring choices, family-centered choices) rather than acting like men.

This just boils my blood. It is so degrading and unfair for women to be condemned for choosing to make less money in order to put more important things first.

Our society only puts money first. Success is defined purely by money, and as a result all women who choose to be paid less to have more satisfaction in their lives are being told they are doing it wrong.

Let's stop belittling women for their choices and start respecting them for it. Sure there is a gap between what women are being paid and what men are being paid, on average across all fields. But this is not discrimination, and this is not cruelty. This is a reflection of the kinds of choices women are making, and it would be a better discussion if we respect that in the first place, and support them in the second.

Because these women who are causing the pay gap? They are actually making the right choice. Fixing the pay gap would destroy families because it would require women to put money first instead of family first. And that is NOT worth it.

Every time I see a cute little card or a sound bite about the "wage gap," my blood boils a little more and I end up stomping around the house, forcing myself to not respond to whoever posted the stupid (and debunked) statistic once again.

Respecting women means we respect that women are capable of making the best choices for their own lives. Even if that results in fewer girls in engineering or a pay gap.

And, once again, I am left wondering why we aren't encouraging the men to put family first, instead of encouraging the women to stop putting family first and start trying to make more money.

Freakonomics covers the topic thoroughly and with real experts here:  It's well worth a read/listen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Doing Too Much!

My current list of projects (which I have started and want to finish and which are currently sitting out waiting to be done--so not old projects that are on hold):

--Two scarves on the loom (with 3 more planned, and then a blanket)

--Repairing/rebuilding Dan's bed quilt

--A stack of clothing that needs simple repairs

--Entire Pre-K through 8 curriculum, every subject, and a website to post it on

--Entire learn-to-read set of activity books

--Stripping and refinishing my dining room table

--Rebuilding the laundry room so it holds clothes for 10 (instead of six); this requires first cleaning up at least part of the kids' room and reorganizing Tim's office, too

--Organize, sort, and fold every single washable item in the house (clothes, costumes, linens, etc)

--Teach Elijah how to make cookies by himself

--Repair the kitchen sink (which currently only can be turned on and off with a screwdriver)

Too Much! (Can you tell I've had my hands full of babies for a very long time and am anxious to get to the work that has been neglected?)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jack says...

Tonight we were discussing where each of the children was born. Jack said, "I was born at King Soopers."  We tried to explain it to him, but he insisted: He was born at his favorite grocery store.

A few minutes later we were having an "ice cream time" and Jack got his cone first and wandered out. A few minutes later, he came back into the kitchen crying, his scoop of ice cream in one hand and his cone in the other. I did what I always do and put the scoop back onto the cone and handed it back to him. He said, "No, wash it. It got wet." I took the cone back. "How did it get wet?" I asked. "It fell in the potty!" he sobbed. He got a new cone, and I washed my hands....

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Jack's singing

Jack is sitting alone in the kitchen, building with Trio blocks and singing his little heart out. Most of the rest of the family are in bed asleep, so he is completely unchecked.

His song is, "Song! That's the song about fire lips. Song! That's the song about fire lips."  And sometimes, "That's the song about piwates!" Sometimes he adds an interlude of "Song song song!"

Fire lips?