Thursday, December 15, 2016

Emmy says

Em was really excited when 3 yo asked to ride the elevator down, and she was deeply disappointed when we did. She thought he had said "alligator."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Emmy says a lot of fun things, and also Dan

Emmy found a large stuffed Disney character at the store and carried it all around, happy to have "Icky Mouse" to hug.

Dan says: "McDonald's scrambled eggs looked like they could be a communicating life form."

Emmy threw a temper tantrum because she's not old enough to go to Young Women's Wednesday activities yet. "I want to come with my womens!" she screamed over and over.

Emmy is so competitive.
Me to Em: "Are you stubborn, just like your mom? Just like me?"
Emmy: "No! Me like Mom. Not you like Mommy!"
Me: ...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Emmy says,

1 yo is highly competitive and independent. Yesterday it was:

Me: "I need to blow my nose."
Em: "NO! Boogers are mine. _I_ blow nose."

Me: "I got up at 10:30 am yesterday, and 11:00 am today! Hooray!"
3yo: "But I got up at 13."
Em: "I get up at twenty. One." (said as though on second thought, twenty was not a big enough number.)(I didn't even know she knew "twenty.")

I lift her off my bed.
"No! Me do it!" She climbs back on so she can slide back off herself.

I put her diaper on.
"No! Me do it!" She takes her diaper half way off and realizes that she can't do it, so she says, so sweetly, "Mommy tab it up." I do. She rips it open again. "No! Me do it!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Jack says....

3 yo Jack, telling me he found the paper that tells how to build a toy wooden car: "Mom! I found the constructions!"

Friday, December 02, 2016

Did I just read that?

This is for real. Also funny. The whole article is actually quite delightful, from peanutbutter covered M&Ms all the way to raining chicken heads from the helicopter.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Did I just read that?

"This once was the grand restaurant, bar and lounge in downtown Ritzville and could be once again. Ritzville is growing and is the need for a great downtown gathering place. Comes with two pool tables and full restaurant kitchen. Interior has been removed and ready for your imagination.",-90.131836,30.713503,-120.146485_rect/4_zm/0_mmm/

The fact that there is a town called Ritzville tickles me. Like some kind of a cartoon city for snooty people.

Also, the interior has been removed made me laugh out loud. Like--how did they remove the interior? What happens when you open the door--you walk into a wall because the interior of the building no longer exists? Reverse tardis building.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Arguments Against McMullin Answered: He's only out to stop Trump, not Hillary (I heard him say so).

There is a very short video clip being passed around as "proof" that McMullin is only trying to stop Trump, with the implication being that he is, therefore, obviously a Clinton plant.

This one is easy to answer with two words: Selective Editing.

You can make anyone seem to believe almost anything if you simply selectively edit their words. That's what happened here.

If you watch the full video, instead of the 50-second clip, you will see that Evan openly talks about stopping both Trump and Clinton. This is consistent with the hundreds of other interviews he has given.

The full interview is here:

And you can see another interview that supports this one here:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Arguments against McMullin answered: He's being paid by Hillary to help Trump lose

Evan and Mindy addressed this one best themselves:

That rumor was based on a fake invoice produced and circulated by a man who admitted it was a hoax.

Besides, tell me again how this would be a good strategy by Clinton? This would be a waste of her money.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Arguments against McMullin answered: "He's Not Vetted"

"Vetting" a candidate is doing a thorough background check to see if there is anything in the candidate's background that would disqualify them or make them unelectable or unlikely to win.

People say, "I can't vote for McMullin because he wasn't vetted."

This is just blowing smoke for several reasons.

1. Presidential candidates usually aren't vetted. They send teams to vet the vice presidential candidates they choose. Neither Clinton nor Trump was vetted before getting the nomination.

2. The purpose of vetting is to figure out if there is anything in a candidate's background that would make them unsavory, unqualified, or unable to run. So what someone is saying when they bring this up is they can't vote for McMullin because there might be something awful in his past; he might not be "squeaky clean."  This coming from supporters of Trump and Hillary.... If having something in your background that is not all clean disqualifies you from running in this election, then we haven't got anyone left EXCEPT McMullin.

In short, if vetting is an issue for you, Trump and Clinton are disqualified on that point, too, both for the reasons that they have not been formally vetted and because they have unsavories in their backgrounds that should have disqualified them.

Edited: Sue Fritzler pointed this out, and I think it's important: "McMullin is the only candidate who has been fully vetted. The CIA vetted him and gave him top security clearances. The House Republicans vetted him when they hired him as their Chief Foreign and Domestic Policy Director, where, again, he had top security clearances. The primary process gave us Hillary and Donald, who 79% of Americans disapprove of and who both have either FBI, civil or criminal cases pending against them."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Evan McMullin and the Elections, part 2: Will Voting for Evan McMullin make the guy I dislike win?

So the last blog post was focused more on the theoretical, giving people information they need to answer (often harsh) accusations they are encountering online on a regular basis. (You can read that here:

This post, in contrast, is for people (and there are many of you--you keep talking to me about this) who want to vote for Evan McMullin but absolutely cannot do it if it means that Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton will win the presidency. Let's cover them one at a time. I'm going to focus on the reality here in Colorado because everyone who has expressed this concern to me is in Colorado. The analysis of this varies based on what state you are in.

Will voting for Evan McMullin accidentally make it so Donald Trump wins? Because you don't want Donald Trump to win above all else....

The Fear:You like what Evan McMullin stands for, and you like the idea of a viable third party having a foot in the race in the future, and you want to send a message to the party bosses that McMullin is more in keeping with what you are looking for in a candidate. But you are only a #NeverTrump person, not necessarily a #NeverHillary person, and you are afraid to vote for Evan because you don't think Evan can win outright (reasonably), and you fear your protest vote might mean Hillary won't get enough electoral college votes nationwide, and Trump will win.

The Reality:
I've done a lot of research on this over the last few days, trying to determine if there is a chance that Trump could possibly win the election if Colorado goes to Trump instead of Hillary.

I combined the information from this article: with the information at these two polling/prediction sites: and  I chose that article because it is reasonable and balanced and focused on how Trump could win, not all the reasons he is losing.  And I chose those two sites for polling information because they are widely accepted and respected, and they pull their information from carefully vetted, widely-respected sources. uses polling averages from the last 5 polls, minimizing the chances that I was just getting an anomaly or a bump or dip day. FiveThirtyEight, run by Nate Silver, is one of the most well-respected statistical analyses of elections there is. He has something like a 99% accuracy in his predictions, and he's open on his methodology and mistakes.

In the article, it mentions Trump has to do 4 things in order to win (whereas Clinton has dozens of paths to win): 1. Take every single state that Romney won in 2012; 2. Win Ohio. 3. Win Florida. 4. Win 17 other random electoral college votes from states in play or states that could be wildcards (PA; or IA+NV+NH+1/2ME; or WI+1/2ME+NV or IA; or VA+NV or IA or NH; or CO+IA+ NV or NH). Without doing all four of these, Trump can't reach 270 electoral college votes.

So what's the breakdown?

1. UT has been called by Nate Silver for Evan McMullin, so Trump cannot take all the states Romney won in 2012.  But even if he wins UT....

2. Ohio is all over the place. Clinton and Trump are neck-and-neck there. It could go either way. Let's call it for Trump, just for the sake of our analysis here.

3. Florida is projected to go to Clinton. Five of the six most recent polls in FL show Clinton winning even with third party candidates included in the race. And the sixth had Trump ahead by only 2 percentage points--and then only if the third party candidates act as spoilers.

4. Even including potential 3rd party spoilers, Clinton is ahead by 6% in PA; In IA, Trump is ahead, but for this option to work he'd also have to take NV, NH, and half of ME, and he's losing in all three of those states, although NV is close; Clinton has a strong lead in VA, so that option won't work even if Trump wins IA; and even if Trump were to take CO (he's polling to lose here) and IA, without NV or NH (where he's losing), he still can't get these.

In other words, 1 is unlikely, 2 is possible but not a given, 3 is unlikely, and 4 is highly unlikely.

Here is a map illustrating this:

Click the map to create your own at

You can see that even if Trump collects 18 from Ohio and 15 from UT and CO (33 all together), he still cannot reach 270 electoral college votes.


Even if Colorado goes to Trump because Evan McMullin gets all the undecided plus enough of Clinton votes to pull her down that much, Trump still cannot win the national vote.

So you can safely vote for McMullin in Colorado and know that Trump won't win anyway.

So what are the numbers in Colorado? Will McMullin make a difference here?

We don't actually know. There hasn't been a poll done in Colorado that includes Evan McMullin's name. Apparently one is being done here tomorrow (Monday, Oct 24) that includes McMullin, but we don't know what it will say. Recent polls show Clinton winning Trump by 5-10% in Colorado. What is most interesting is the polls also show over 18% of the voters choosing a third party candidate or undecided. This is dramatic, and enough to make Trump win if those voters moved to him, but given that they are supporting Johnson and Stein primarily (and "other"), who are more liberal than Trump, it doesn't seem likely they would go to Trump should they decide to vote major party instead of protest.

But, like I said, even if they did tip the scales and Trump won here in Colorado, it wouldn't make a difference nationwide.

And what if Evan McMullin takes the three states he's most likely to take? (ID, UT, and AZ):

Click the map to create your own at
As you can see, Trump still cannot win, even if he wins IA, OH, and Colorado. In fact, this gives us a buffer and makes it possible for Trump to win Florida and Colorado and still lose the election.

Will voting for Evan McMullin accidentally make it so Hillary Clinton wins? Because you don't want Hillary Clinton to win above all else....

The Fear:You like what Evan McMullin stands for, and you like the idea of a viable third party having a foot in the race in the future, and you want to send a message to the party bosses that McMullin is more in keeping with what you are looking for in a candidate. But you are only a #NeverHillary person, not necessarily a #NeverTrump person, and you are afraid to vote for Evan because you don't think Evan can win outright (reasonably), and you fear your protest vote might mean Trump won't get enough electoral college votes nationwide, and Hillary will win.

The Reality:At this point, Trump's numbers are rapidly sinking. He is not projected to win enough electoral college votes to even approach 270 votes. Consequently, even if Colorado goes to Trump, that's not enough electoral college votes to stop Hillary nationwide. Either way (Trump or Evan), you're voting for a losing candidate, so why not send a message that you like with your vote?

Or, better yet, bank on the implausible-but-not-impossible idea that if all the people who are abandoning Trump because he can't win anyway band together and join another candidate, they can still stop Hillary. Join Evan McMullin and encourage your friends to do the same. If your goal is not to support Trump, but merely to stop Hillary, then jump to the candidate who is most likely to do that and campaign your guts out! At the very least, wait until the 8th to vote instead of voting early so you know more clearly what's going to happen.

So why not campaign your guts out for Trump and hope for a rebound--can't he recover and beat Hillary that way?

I don't think he can. Why? Because he keeps opening his mouth. The more he talks, the less appealing he is to many voters. He cannot regain the trust of the hispanics, women, muslims, Mormons, or many black voters. Without any of those blocs voting for him, he can't win. And he's offended them all too deeply to say or do anything to change their minds. In short, the only thing keeping him from sinking into nothingness is everyone's fear of a Hillary presidency--and it's looking like we're going to have that anyway. Since the establishment candidate can't stop Hillary, it might be time for the Hail Mary pass.

Evan McMullin and the Elections, Part 1: Is Evan McMullin a Spoiler this election?

This is the most complicated blog post I've ever worked on. I'll try to make everything clear, but there's a lot to cover! I'll do it in two parts: "Is Evan a spoiler?" and "Can I safely vote for Evan and not make my most disliked candidate win by accident?"

The most common question I get, working on this campaign, is "Is voting for McMullin going to get _______ elected?" Sometimes it comes in vitriole from Trump supporters. Sometimes it comes in quiet, private conversation from concerned friends. Sometimes it's online. But everyone remembers Ross Perot, and everyone has heard that old, tired line that a vote for a third party is a vote for _____ (whoever my enemy is).

I keep hearing people worried that McMullin is a "spoiler" who will push the election in a direction they don't want it to go.

So what is a Spoiler?

A "spoiler," in election terms, is a candidate who shows up and takes enough of the vote to prevent someone else from winning, without actually winning themselves.

There are actually two fairly common (as far as an uncommon thing can be called "common") scenarios that illustrate the concept of a spoiler making it so a good candidate doesn't win.

The First Scenario  There is one really lousy candidate who happens to have a steady following. It's a small following, like 30% of the voters--not enough to win, but steady.  One single other even tolerable candidate could easily beat this person, but there is not just one other candidate in the running. Instead, you have 3 or more candidates opposing this person. Instead of one person getting 60% and trouncing the bad apple, each of them gets 20% or less. Nobody gets over 30%, and the worst candidate wins. (These numbers are obviously oversimplified, but you get the point.) All of the too-many candidates are spoilers for each other--none have enough pull to win outright, but they keep the votes away from everyone else, allowing the least-liked (or less-liked) candidate to win.

This is exactly what happened in the Republican Primaries in 2016. There were more votes cast against Trump than any other candidate in the history of the Republican Party. But because they were not all cast for one or two other people, the candidate the majority did not like won the nomination.

This is usually the case with third parties as well. If all the people who dislike a single candidate cannot coalesce behind a single other candidate, the disliked major party candidate will still win.

The Second Scenario
There are two fairly decent candidates running who are close to evenly split in their following. Let's say one has 53% of the vote and the other has 47% of the vote. Clearly the one with 53% is winning, even though it's close. But then along comes a third party candidate. He pulls in only 8% of the vote, but it all pulls from the guy who had 53%, dropping him down to 45% of the vote. The person who the majority did not want therefore wins the election.

This is the situation people cite all the time in 1992 where Ross Perot siphoned votes off George Bush, letting Bill Clinton win.

So when people hear you are voting for a third party candidate and they say, "But a vote for him is just a vote for my enemy," this is what they're talking about. It isn't actually a vote for the enemy, but it's a vote that allows the so-called enemy to win simply by preventing enough votes from going to the favored candidate. "You might as well just vote for ___enemy," they say. And they have a point, whether you vote for ____enemy or not, you have prevented someone else from beating them.

Limitations of the Spoiler Concept

There are some clear limitations to the concept of a spoiler. Not all third party candidates who get votes are spoilers.

For a third party or independent candidate to be able to "spoil" the election for someone, these conditions have to be met:

A. The two major party candidates have to be in a close race.
B. The third party candidate has to hit a sweet spot in the vote percentages. They have to be able to pull enough votes to unbalance the race, but not enough for it to be considered a three-way race. In other words, they can't have a chance of winning, but they have to get enough votes to make a splash.
C. The third party candidate has to primarily or exclusively pull votes from only one of the major party candidates.

If all three conditions are not met, the third party candidate cannot be considered a spoiler.

If condition A is not met and the two major party candidates are not  in a close race--one is clearly winning--the third party candidate did not spoil the race for the loser because the loser would have lost had the third party candidate not existed.

If condition B is not met because the third party candidate has too few votes to change the outcome, they are not a spoiler because they didn't change the outcome.

If condition B is not met because the third party candidate has enough votes to potentially win outright, the race is considered a competitive three-way race. They are not, therefore, spoiling for anyone but merely competing on level ground. Remember, a spoiler has to spoil someone's chances of winning without having a legitimate chance to win themselves.

If condition C is not met because the third party candidate is pulling from both major party candidates or from somewhere else (like from other third parties or from undecideds or from people who had decided not to vote at all), they are not a spoiler because they didn't unbalance things in favor of one major candidate in a way that caused the other (and only the other) to lose.

The Limitations of Data-Gathering During Elections

Obviously, we can't actually know what is going to happen in the future. We can only guess.

Consequently, we cannot declare beforehand with absolute certainty whether a candidate is a spoiler or not. We can only discuss whether they are likely to be a spoiler or not.

Unfortunately, our only sources of information about where a race is going are polls and expert pundits. And both are notoriously imperfect. However, many are not as unreliable as candidates who are losing would like you to believe.

Some polling organizations are more reliable than others. You can see an analysis here:

Some reasons, briefly, why a poll might not be a reliable indication of where the race stands:
     *The poll didn't even include a candidate who actually is impacting the race
     *The pollsters asked the wrong question. "If the election were today, would you vote for Trump or Clinton?" will get you very different results from "If the election were today, who would you vote for?"  Even just asking "Clinton or Trump" vs "Trump or Clinton" can skew your results.
     *The poll is too old
     *The poll is not scientific (they only called people with landlines when most people use cell phones; they didn't poll a balanced and broad demographic sample--like they failed to ask any women or hispanics; they had a completely open poll on an internet website; it was a twitter poll; etc.)
     *The poll doesn't figure out "likely voters" accurately

Reliable polling organizations will take all these and many more factors into account and use established, research-based methodology to determine their questions, their sampling methods, their reporting methods, etc. You can read about the challenges here: and about how polling works in this election here:

So, the million dollar question:

Is Evan McMullin a Spoiler?

The short answer is no. He doesn't appear to be in a situation that will qualify him as a spoiler on election day.

Let's look at the three conditions.

Condition A: The race has to be close.

The race was close. But mid-October, the Trump Tapes hurried an already established decline for Mr. Trump. Currently (Oct 23), all the experts are predicting a Clinton win--and not a close one.  Even if McMullin takes the two states he is most likely to win--ID and UT--it won't change the outcome. Even if he were to take a couple of "blue" states from Clinton, she would still win. In short, if the prognosticators are correct, Trump is losing all by himself, without third parties included in the equation. That means Evan McMullin cannot be considered a spoiler. Anything he does doesn't look like it will change the outcome of the race. (This doesn't mean it's a waste of time to vote for him, of course. There are many valid reasons to vote for someone who might not win. It does mean, though, that if Trump loses, it's Trump's own darn fault.)

Condition B: McMullin has to hit the sweet spot in the votes, where he spoils it for someone but can't win it outright himself. If you go on a state-by-state basis, it appears he is outside that range, getting too many votes in some states to be spoiler (he's competitive in UT and ID) and too few in others (he's behind other third party candidates in some states). This is hard to know, though, because Evan McMullin hasn't been included in most polls. So there is no data on how he's actually doing. ID finally included McMullin in their polls just this week and were shocked to discover he is polling in double digits there. Nobody had any idea because they weren't asking the right questions. So we can guess about whether he's in the sweet spot nationwide, but we can't know without more polls that include him as an option.  Because Condition A isn't being met anyway, it doesn't matter. He can't spoil a race that isn't close.

Condition C: McMullin has to be pulling voters only from one candidate. Again, without polls we can't know for sure, but informal polls and surveys of McMullin followers indicate that this is not the case. While Trump supporters love to say that McMullin is "stealing" votes from Trump, that doesn't appear to be the case. People who are voting for McMullin are generally people who report they were not going to vote at all, they were going to vote for Clinton (holding their noses), they were going to vote for a different third party candidate, or they were undecided. McMullin is very definitively not pulling votes away from only one candidate, but collecting them from all over.

Given that the two major party candidates are at historical levels on the "dislike" scale, this is not surprising.  It is interesting to note that Hillary Clinton is winning in Colorado right now with 45% of the vote, but Mitt Romney lost in Colorado in 2012 with 46.5% of the vote. The numbers of people who are undecided or voting third party are at record highs this election--close to a quarter of the population of many states--so there is quite a large pool of people for McMullin to pull from before he ever touches the supporters of either major party candidate.

So is Evan McMullin a spoiler for either major party candidate?

The answer is unequivocally NO. Unless something dramatic happens (what one newspaper called the "biggest comeback in presidential history"), Evan cannot possibly be a spoiler for Trump. Trump is losing all by himself, dramatically, and he (and his followers) cannot blame McMullin because the numbers just aren't there. Even if Evan's states went to Trump, Trump would still lose.

So if there is a dramatic comeback, then is Evan possibly a spoiler? No. That could only happen if all of Evan's votes were pulled from Trump and went back to him, and this is not the case. Even if Evan's voters were not voting for him, they were not voting for Trump either, so Trump would not benefit from those voters being released from Evan McMullin.

Evan McMullin does not qualify as a spoiler.

Friday, September 30, 2016

If God could close the mouth of the lions.....

I saw this picture on Facebook today. It is supposed to be encouraging and faith-promoting.

But this is what I thought as I read it,

God closed the mouth of the lions for Daniel--after he was captured and taken from his home, castrated (why else would he be under the care of the master of eunuchs?), was threatened with death for being wise (and saved by a miracle then, too), had his best friends thrown into the fiery furnace (and saved by a miracle), and his coworkers had him captured for praying after they manipulated the laws to catch him. And then he was thrown to the lions, and God didn't stop that from happening. And he could have. But instead, he sent an angel to stop the lions' mouths--but Daniel still had to spend a night surrounded by hungry lions. Just because he was unhurt doesn't mean it was pleasant. But then he had to watch women and children be thrown to the lions and get eaten alive.

God did part the red sea for Moses. But first, Moses was taken from his family and raised by the king. He watched his people being tormented as slaves, killed a man in anger (defending his people), and his adopted father tried to have him killed. He fled his home country and lived in another land for many years in hiding, but then God sent him back to where his life was threatened. He was initially unsuccessful at freeing the people, and had to endure the 10 plagues with all the rest of the people in Egypt, was lied to by the king (and failed over and over and over at the task God had set him to do). Even though the Israelite children were saved, Moses had to watch all the Egyptian families suffer (remember, he knew these families, too, because he was raised as one of them) when their children died. He failed, and failed, and failed again to get the Israelites free, and when they were finally free, the Egyptians changed their mind and chased them with his armies. And then the people he rescued almost turned back because they were afraid of being killed. And THEN the seas were parted. Only then, after all that failure and suffering and murder.  And, like Daniel, there were other miracles along the way. But, like Daniel, Moses had to stand and watch the Egyptian soldiers, who were there on someone else's command, drown. Yes, they were free. But the cost was high.

God did make the sun stand still for Joshua. But first, he had to endure 40 years in the wilderness with unfaithful Israelites. And then he had to lead the Israelites through the whole country and conquer it, one city at a time (and with many miracles), teaching a bunch of long-term nomads how to be an army in the process. And after they'd fought many battles and been rescued by hailstones, and were under attack by many armies at once--then God made the sun stand still. And they still had to fight the battles. He just gave them extra daylight to do it in.

You get where I'm going with this.

Peter was freed from prison, but not until many of his friends (including Jesus) had been murdered. And not until he'd been in prison for several weeks.

Sarah got a baby--but only after waiting, barren, for decades and going through menopause first.

Lazarus was raised from the dead--after God not healing him from a sickness so bad that he died.

So yeah, he can take care of you. But don't expect that it will be convenient, or right when you want it, or without some fear and suffering and failure first. And often not until the nick of time--or after when it would have been good according to our ideas (surely Sarah would have suspected her chance was over--and it would have been more convenient to have a baby when she was not an old lady....)

He does it His way. Not ours.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Working on a campaign

I just got made the Social Media Leader for all of Colorado with the Evan McMullin presidential campaign.

This has been an interesting experience.

It's kind of intimidating, for example, to do business calls--especially conference calls--with a bunch of people who work in business every day when I've never done that (neither teachers nor librarians do conference calls for work.)  It's kind of gratifying, though, to find that my experience helping Tim with his career, and my other experience, actually does add up to something. I actually do know something.

It's also been startling to not be written off, but to be praised. Mothers are mostly written off, treated like they know nothing, ignored when people want decisions made. So it's very different having adults listen to my ideas and actually consider them. It's like going from being from a lower caste in society to a higher caste.

The most interesting experience I've had, though, in the week I've been doing this, happened this morning.

The campaign chief for Colorado sent an email to his leaders team and said at the end, "This just might be the most important thing you do in your entire life!" It was a sincere, fervent exclamation.

And I immediately had a flash of light in my brain.  No, I thought, the most important thing I will do in my entire life is raise these eight children who are sitting around me right now.  Even if Evan McMullin were to win the election because of some brilliant thing I had done it, would pale in comparison to the work I do every day with these small people (even the ones who are now taller than me).

And you know what, it's not even the second most important thing I'll ever do. Supporting Tim is. And after that might be the books and art I create from my own mind. Or the children I have taught who are not my own. Or every soul I have loved or served. My mission. Every life that was improved because I stepped in and acted.  Those are the most important things I'll ever do.

Even if you suggest it might be the most important thing I do for our country, it's still not true. Raising my children is the most important thing I can do for our country.

Historically, this might make a splash or it might not. (Likely will not, actually, unfortunately.) But it doesn't matter because the most important thing I will ever do--ever--I am doing right now.

Suddenly, making ice cream with the kids and taking them to throw rocks in the river seem so big, and answering emails about how to get someone elected to public office seem so small. Even in this terrifying election. Sunshine and rocks and splashes and bare feet and "hold me!" are the everything. The most important thing I will ever do. 

It's nice to be reminded.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NewVistas living

I've seen this come up a few times in the last year or so, especially as neighborhoods near where Tim grew up are targeted for this: NewVistas development.

In short, the developer is a "visionary" with too much money messing around with two ideas: Cramming millions of people into the smallest space possible, and a united order-type communal living arrangement for all those people. In order to do this, he'd give each person just 200 square feet to live in (think small hotel room) that would "rearrange itself" over the course of the day to become whatever you needed--bedroom, kitchen, living room, etc. And the communal living arrangement, according to Deseret News: "Each NewVistas community would be governed by a board comprised of husband-and-wife couples. Each resident would contribute all their net worth to a corporate trust that would operate businesses on-site. 'Your dividends are according to what your contribution is,' Hall said."  (Lots more details here:

Here are three major reasons I'm opposed to this:

1. Family living. Where do you fit a family if you get just 200 square feet to live? Or even 200 square feet per person? I right now have 10 people living in 2100 square feet and we can't even move without bumping into each other. I need more space, just so people can have a little privacy every once in a while, and his proposal would give me not only less space, but no place the kids could go outside at weird hours and not be in someone else's way (because all yards are part of the communal space, so it's not private). The whole plan is making the entire community into one big apartment building, essentially, and that runs against everything my soul needs.

2. Conformity vs Weirdos. That kind of living assumes a high degree of conformity among people. They all have to like the same kinds of things and do the same kinds of things. There isn't a space for the kid who wants to learn to play the drums or the artist who needs to paint really big pictures. There isn't space for all of us weirdos in the world, who live at different hours from everyone else, or have very noisy, busy kids, or who need a lot of time in nature, or who collect live bugs to observe, etc. There's not a place for history lovers who want to collect bunches of old things, or families who function great as long as each person has their own bedroom but otherwise fight constantly. With people crammed in that tightly, there's not even space for colicky babies. I know big cities and apartment dwellers survive just fine, but they're not packed in as tightly as this guy plans. Also, many of us have the freedom to shun that kind of living so we don't get on anyone's nerves.  Because, admit it, you don't really want to live next door to my noisy frantic kids who are awake at 2:00 am every night, do you? And I'm pretty sure all my established and budding musicians do not want to have to practice where the entire neighborhood can hear, nor do they want to go out of the house to practice or compose.

And 3. This favors the rich and punishes the poor, under the guise of communal living. Instead of making all things equal, your dividends are according to what your contribution is. So if you can give a million dollars, your dividends are that much bigger than the guy who gives everything and it's a thousand dollars. The rich get richer and richer, the poor get poorer, and the ruling couples get to determine how that all plays out, with a weird and warped combination of left- and right-wing ideology messing with the power structures. You might just look at the accusations against Polygamist leaders for a hint about how this works in real life. (Here's a hint:

Maybe this guy who has far too much money could start donating to great artists and musicians who need funding instead of the plan he's messing with now. Because it's a disaster for families, privacy, weirdos, and hard-working poor people.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Did I just read that?

"'This wolverine was not transplanted to Utah,' said DWR Director Greg Sheehan. 'It made its way here on its own. It's amazing to see the diversity of wildlife we have in Utah expand even more. Particularly, such a charismatic and mythical species as the wolverine.'"

Mythical? They don't really exist? Like a unicorn? 

Roadkill of a mythical beast is a kinda cool idea.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Another thought on Depression and the Spirit

If you suddenly had a profound but temporary deafness, and your hearing came back slowly, it seems reasonable that you would first hear the strong, loud, brash noises, and would slowly progress to hearing the soft, quiet voices, right?

I wonder if the experience is the same with when a person finally starts to heal from a profound depression.  I have heard often that anger comes back first. Anger is a loud, brash, strong emotion.

 It seems like if you lost all ability to feel emotionally, you would be angry anyway. So while you were trying to heal, if the strong, brash emotions came back first, it would be pretty intense to have anger come back first.

And then, I suppose, it would be reasonable to assume that the healing process would involve re-learning to comprehend what you were feeling, and also what to do about that, how to respond. And, it seems reasonable that the still small emotions associated with the Spirit would be among the last to be felt, and you'd have to re-learn how to recognize them and what to do about that.

Just like any recovery from a catastrophic injury, it makes sense to let it happen slowly and foster the growth and recovery. But you wouldn't expect someone who had to re-learn walking after an accident to skip from bed to professional ballet dancing, and we shouldn't expect someone recovering from a catastrophic mental illness to jump from nothing to all the finest, most elusive details all at once, either.

Thoughts about Depression and Prayer

So I watched that movie about depression the church just released (and cried through the whole thing), and then later today read Hilary Pope Erickson’s blog here: She’s an old friend from Timpview and Tim’s ward growing up, and her family has struggled with her husband being a band guy and being inspired to quit his job in a neighborhood she loved to get a Master’s degree in music, and his job cutting his hours to half, and they’re living where she doesn’t like living, and now he’s completely unemployed and they’re living off her blog income and odd jobs, and that’s not really enough...and he finally got an interview for a job she really, really wanted him to have, back in her home town, and he didn’t get the job. And she was devastated, having begged Heavenly Father to not let her get her heart set on something she couldn’t have because it’s too painful, and she immediately sank into a crushing depression, but didn’t identify it as that. She identified it as being dead inside. Which is what depression is. But here’s the interesting thing--she talked about praying and getting nothing, when she felt like she had been getting answers before, and about being angry at God and yelling at him and then apologizing and still getting nothing. She found solace in hoping for hope. That’s a neat little trick there, and effective.

But the not hearing God anymore thing really struck me. Third time I’ve heard that same story from depressed people. No, fourth--first time was on my mission when I realized you had to have hope to have faith and so depression makes faith nearly impossible. Once from Tim, once from Hilary, and once from a lady who wrote an article that was published in the Ensign (here: All the same story.

So I had a lot of thoughts about this all evening.

Here are my theories: Depression makes us deaf to emotion, so we can’t feel it ourselves or hear it in others.

We are trained our whole lives to “feel the Spirit” and so when Depression strikes, and we become deaf to feeling, we can no longer feel the Spirit either, and can’t feel God speaking to us. So then we think He’s not.

But what if He still is and we just can’t hear it anymore? 

I had this idea on my mission (or just after): What if the Holy Ghost speaks to our individual spirits, and they understand each other, but the words and sentences don’t reach through our mortal limitations, and so the result is we feel the emotions evoked by the message without actually hearing the message itself because of the limitations of our mortal brains and bodies. We learn to identify the feeling, the vague impressions, the snippets of ideas as "the Spirit" because that's all we actually consciously experience. But what if there is more to it than that? What if the "feeling" the Spirit experience is actually the side effect of the interaction the same way feeling happy after getting good news is not the actual experience, but just a little piece of it?

I have no idea if that is what is actually happening, but if the feeling part of the experience associated with communicating with God is the only way we learn to “hear” that God is speaking to us at all, and that is taken away, we would think He is not speaking anymore and He must hate us or something. The familiar tag that says, "God spoke to me and I should take it seriously" is just plain missing, and we feel Nothing, so we assume that, therefore, God has shut up His mouth and doesn't want anything to do with us anymore.

But what if He is still speaking to us? What if He keeps talking and answering same as usual and we just don’t know it? What if He does go about intervening in life, and giving us instructions, and leading us down the right paths, and we just lack the familiar experience of hearing? What if our spirits can hear even if our bodies can’t, and so the message just doesn’t get through consciously, and we are left unaware that an experience even happened?

I have watched Tim for three years now following promptings of the Spirit without knowing he was doing it, completely unable to recognize the promptings consciously because the feeling was gone. All feeling was gone. I marveled that God was speaking to Tim “in stealth” so that Tim didn’t even know (but, to his credit, he obeyed anyway, perhaps because somehow his years of training in knowing God's voice still worked, even if his brain and body couldn’t hear.)

It reminds me of Benji learning to read. For a long time, if I said, "Please read this to me," he couldn't do it. But if I was reading something, he would stand over my shoulder and say nothing and then suddenly ask questions about the text I was reading, even though I hadn't said anything either. He couldn't read if he tried to read. He couldn't understand that he could read. BUT...if he didn't know he was doing it, he could read just fine. 

If Tim didn't know he was hearing God, he could do it just fine. But under the pressure to feel an answer in prayer, he got nothing. He couldn't do it. Just like Benji trying to read.

If it were the case that God kept talking but we lacked the ability to hear, wouldn’t that change the way we prayed? Instead of yelling at God and being angry and then feeling abandoned and stopping praying, perhaps we would ask instead to recognize how God was speaking to us now, now that things were different--you know, like asking someone to speak to you in sign language because your ears no longer worked. You'd have to learn sign language, too, but perhaps that's the point--when depression strikes and we can't feel the answers anymore, perhaps we should assume God is still speaking and ask Him to teach us sign language, to help us understand His messages anyway, even if we have to learn a new language of hearing the Spirit in order to do so. 

Or perhaps that we would pray to know what to do even though we couldn’t hear it at the moment. Or perhaps for the patience and faith to keep praying even though we were deaf to the answers. Or perhaps for ways to see and "hear" God's love for us even though we could no longer feel it? Or perhaps for ways to obtain and hold on to Hope--the doctrinal Hope Elder Holland talked about--even when we are not capable of feeling the emotion of hope. 

Still, can you imagine how hard it would be to keep calling your parents on the phone even if the phone was broken and you couldn’t hear them talking back to you? 

Gives me reason to be patient and kind if someone is depressed and saying God isn't talking to them. The last thing they need to hear is "Of course He is. You're just not listening." Perhaps they really, truly are incapable of hearing the way we've trained everyone to hear. It's not a choice to not listen if your body is incapable of hearing. 

But knowing we might just be incapable of hearing, and not having something to repent of or something that's just wrong with us that is a character failing, perhaps that's enough to give us patience and help us approach the issue from new angles, without losing all our faith and going farther from healing and hope in our frustration and confusion.

One thing I've learned about depression in the last three years is that it is a profound breakdown in the body's ability to process and feel emotion. And, like learning to walk again after a catastrophic accident takes a long time and hard work, learning to feel again after a catastrophic depression can take a long time and hard work, and it seems reasonable that if we spent all our lives learning to recognize God's voice by our feelings, we have to re-learn that experience, too.

I don't know if it's even necessary to feel to recognize God's voice. That's the way we do it, for sure. I have no idea if it's the only way. It might be. It might not. It certainly is a test of Faith to keep speaking to and obeying a God who we cannot hear, and trusting a Savior is helping bear our burdens if we ask Him to when we cannot feel that. 

We do have a promise from Elder Holland (who lived it, so he knows), that things will get better, and we’ll be able to hope again. I suppose that means we can learn to hear again, too. It's a long but not permanent spiritual and emotional deafness? So perhaps, like Hilary hoping for hope, the answer is to hope for healing, even if it takes a long time.  

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Did I just read that?

"Your eyes are setting foot where man has never been before, at least not for a very long time."  Roger Tomlin, about looking at Roman inscriptions from the first decade of London's existence. (

Because eyes have feet.

And because man has never been where he wrote things down.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Mother in Heaven

Mother's day week, so the inevitable happens: progressive Mormons start posting about Mother in Heaven.

I tried to imagine Mother in Heaven. I'm pretty sure she knows as much about our lives as Father in Heaven does.

I'm also pretty sure that she's not some lesser figure up there hanging around being God's housekeeper. I'm pretty sure she's an amazing, powerful woman.

So that leads me to the conclusion that she is not more involved in our theology and worship because she doesn't want to be. Maybe she's busy taking care of the all the people who have yet to be born, or doing some other work. I mean, if she wanted us to pray to her, wouldn't she have said so?

Anyway, all the talk of Mother in Heaven, and the only image I can conjure in my mind is her putting her head in her hand and saying, "Oh, you silly children spending all this time talking about me, fawning over me, painting pictures of me, writing poetry to me. All I really want for mother's day is for you to stop fighting with each other. What I want is for you to do what your Father asked--go out and help each other, be kind, and stop doing stupid things."

Three thoughts on Rape Culture on College Campuses

There is much talk of rape culture on college campuses lately, but I'm finding the discussions to be stilted because of feminist ideology that has slipped in.

Three things that are bugging me:

1. We are ignoring Due Process.

In our eagerness to avoid "victim blaming" and our eagerness to push investigators to believe the victim and actually investigate, it's really, really easy to assume that "believing the victim" means an accusation is made and it's a done deal. Boys get expelled from school because we're so anxious to believe the victim. But we must remember that we are legally NOT ALLOWED to believe the victim except to the extent that we always investigate what a victim is saying. In our country, even in cases of rape, it is categorically innocent until proven guilty, which means even the vilest rapists get due process.

Believe the victim means we investigate. It means we don't write her off or blame her for the rape. It means we do post-rape examinations not at the cost of the victim, and we actually process every single rape kit as quickly as possible (is it possible within a week? That seems ideal).

It does not mean men are all guilty until proven innocent. Because we have to accept the reality that not all women are angels, and if men are guilty instantly on a woman's word when it comes to rape, then any woman can destroy any man's life on her word without any proof required.

2. We are ignoring the reality that self-defense ought to include the idea of not getting in dangerous situations whenever possible.

Recently, a big cat keeper at a zoo was killed by her cats. It came out in the ensuing investigation that she had not followed protocol.  Was it the cat's fault that she was killed? Yes. Would she likely be alive if she had followed protocol? Yes.

We are so anxious to not blame victims that it has become unacceptable to say to girls, "Don't go places where rapists go." It HAS to be okay for self defense to include preventative actions. And that means, while it is impolite to say to a rape victim, "You shouldn't have gotten drunk" and while it is absolutely true that even drunk, a girl should not be raped, it also has to be okay to teach our daughters, "Hey, don't go to frat parties, and if you are getting smashed, you're putting yourself at risk of getting raped."

Yes, we teach boys not to rape.

And we ought to also be free to teach girls to be wise. Don't walk in dark alleys. Don't use an ATM at night alone and flash the money. Don't get drunk with a bunch of boys at a Frat party.

In a perfect world, boys don't rape. But in a imperfect world, girls ought to at least be told not to go places where stats say you are more likely to be raped. That needs to be okay to say, to protect other girls, even while we are kind to girls who did get raped while drunk and don't write them off or ignore their plight because they were foolish. We still prosecute thugs who steal stuff even if you left your door unlocked. Victims of crimes are still victims, even if they made a dumb mistake. But we still use that to warn other people to not make dumb mistakes. Like getting drunk at a frat house.

3. Porn.

I brought this up and had it thrown back in my face that porn use is going up over all while rape is going down overall. So there can't be a connection.

But the stats they threw at me were overall, not on college campuses. So that's useless for my purposes.

So I'm not claiming using porn turns a boy into a rapist.

But I am saying that porn objectifies women. Even non-violent porn objectifies women. And there is ample evidence that using porn desensitizes men to real women, making it so that normal human sexuality is not interesting, so that men need a greater "rush" to get satisfaction, and also it makes what used to be "fringy" sexual behavior is seen as normal to the porn watchers. Teen boys who watch porn report to researchers that they think things like "choking" and "rough sex" are normal and that girls like that. Girls report that they don't but they think that's what sex is.  Porn also deadens men's emotional reactions to women's emotional and physical needs. I've seen this first-hand in men that I have met--their needs and emotions were the only ones that mattered. They had no empathy at all and very little sympathy, especially for women.

All of the effects of porn are the very things that have to happen in boys to create a rape culture.

Does that mean all boys who look at porn will be rapists? NO. But it empowers (if you will) some boys who might not rape to become rapists, and it dulls their sensitivity to women so they might not even realize it is rape.

Porn use has gone up at the same time that rape on college campuses has become an issue. If rape overall has gone down, I don't see that as relevant to this issue.

I would very much like internet pornography to be outlawed in the same way that TV advertising of cigarettes was banned. People who really want it will still get it, but we can spare entire generations of teenagers, and I suspect the rape culture will be addressed at the same time.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Did I just read that?

From "Nate Currey with RTD estimates that between 80 and 90,000 passengers used the new line  since noon on Friday. That's well below, the about 18,600 they predict will use it on the average weekday."

I guess the 80 is below, but last I checked, 90,000 was WAY above 18,600.

Also, 80 to 90,000 is such a huge range that it's practically meaningless. Perhaps they meant "80- to 90,000" or "80,000-90,000"?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Missing Tim

Tim is gone today for the first time in a long, long time. He had pretty much sworn off traveling--even to Denver--and then out of the blue ended up with three trips this month: Chicago, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

And of course this first trip has been a doozy so far, with expenses above the expected ones reaching into the hundreds of dollars (not exaggerating), primarily due to other people's errors (like whoever schedules work schedules for TSA).

Over the years, I've seen many (if not most) of our performer and sound tech friends at one point or another publicly thank their spouse for letting them "chase the dream" and for "making this all possible" (meaning making it possible for the traveling spouse to tour and be a musician, sound tech, or other entertainment industry professional).

Over the years I've felt guilty because I never really encouraged Tim to throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to get famous or rich as a musician.

And I am so grateful that Tim decided clear back at the start of this insane adventure that family came first, and that he did not have the freedom to abandon us to pursue his career. He's tried to never be away for more than 4 days at a stretch. Sometimes that extends to 7 days, and once 10 (because he was on a ship and couldn't get off in the middle of the ocean).

Tim has actually turned down opportunities--more than once--that would have paid him well and set him on a path to a steady income because it would have required him to largely abandon us for long, long stretches at a time (270 days a year or more). He has been mocked and blacklisted for choosing to be home and available to us in person (not just on the phone). He's put his career and reputation at risk over and over to uphold his standards, openly refusing work when we were desperate for work because it would have required him to not put his most sacred duties (as father and husband) last instead of first. (And that's not counting all the times he has put his work at risk by refusing to do events that were inappropriate for a priesthood holder to attend, for refusing even the appearance of drinking alcohol, for refusing to wear immodest clothing, etc. He is constantly having to make choices to uphold his standards.)

And every time I see an entertainment person thank their spouse for making it possible for them to chase the dream, I feel guilty. I never did that for Tim.

But I also feel grateful that he never asked me to make that sacrifice. Not only that, he regularly expresses a desire to help me pursue my dreams.

I hope that some day God will bless us with a steady, livable income anyway, despite it being nearly impossible to have a music career and a family. I hope that Tim will be blessed with a lot of work that is family friendly because he has consistently chosen to put God's commandments and our family first.

But if not, Tim regularly reminds me that other musicians tell him--often--how amazing it is that he gets to have a family at all because in order for them to pursue their careers, they had to give that up. Almost all musicians have to give that up. And so, clearly, we have been abundantly blessed by Tim's choices, even if it is not with money. Despite this career that he has been driven to, we get to have an amazing family, and that is a rare thing indeed.

I'm glad for that night many years ago, when we were just 16, that Tim and I sat outside talking all night and I asked him, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and instead of answering, "A musician" or "Famous" or "Rich," Tim said, "I want to be a dad."  And I'm glad that he has consistently made choices to make that most precious dream the reality of his life.

We got the good part.

And thank you, Tim, for never thanking me for all the things I've sacrificed to make your career happen because thank you for never making me sacrifice those things.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Women and Success

It occurred to me again recently that all the talk of "success" is stupid if we don't define what success actually means.

If you define success as acquiring money or power over other people, then you are going to seek different things in your life than people who define success as happiness or raising good kids or whatever they think success is.

Combining that thought with evolution...

There is a long list of "female" behaviors that feminists are working hard to stamp out because they keep women from being "successful" (meaning making more money and having more powerful positions in a business world).

It struck me the other day that those very behaviors might be the result of generations of evolution--the women who were most likely to raise children who were most likely to have children of their own may have had a shared set of characteristics that made them more successful at keeping a family together, more successful at keeping a man in the house to provide and protect them while they were trying to survive pregnancy after pregnancy, more successful at raising children who were likely to go on and have successful families themselves.

It's too bad that collectively we are now looking at the very things that make motherhood easier and families more successful, and make women more successful in their homes, and saying that those are flaws we need to get rid of in favor of characteristics that make women more successful at pocketing cash or becoming the boss of other people at work.

Those characteristics, like touching skin more often, apologizing more readily, couching everything they say in gentle terms, tuning in to nonverbal social cues and responding to them, being less aggressive at listening and getting what they want....those things are good when the people you are dealing with are four years old. Or twelve.  Or three months. Children don't need to be treated with a straightforward hardline approach to life. They need to be listened to even when they can't express themselves in words (so mom being tuned in to body language and the underlying, unspoken text is a big big deal). They need to have corrections presented clearly but gently and as suggestions so they don't feel crushed by it. They need gentle molding and redirection and hints and touching. They even need mom to touch her own face often to draw their too-low-eyes up to where they are supposed to be paying attention. Children need suggestions and guidance, not bossiness and control and aggression.

And women who are interacting on a regular basis with other moms, all of them working their tails off and fragile in their own rights, and all of them working with similar challenges that have to be solved differently (because every child is different, and so is every mom-child relationship), need to be treated differently than coworkers do. "Hinting and suggesting" instead of saying exactly what needs to be done is a positive, peaceful way of communicating when done right in this kind of circumstance. Sure it doesn't work in a business, but evolution didn't train women to think and interact that way to succeed in business, but to succeed in a different kind of world in which they were stuck, through their biology and lack of birth control.

See, these things are not flaws in women if women are to navigate worlds primarily full of tender children and other women who also have children. These are qualities, behaviors, characteristics that the feminists are so ashamed of might be the result of eons of evolution. These things might be good and helpful behaviors for women to succeed in their traditional roles.

So maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge the feminine as evil and the masculine as desirable, even if the masculine behaviors are more likely to make you rich.


I have got to stop reading Peggy Fletcher Stack's stuff in the paper. She's not exploring religion. She's consistently trying to tear it down.

Anyway, reading her latest has made me want to ask a few questions.

Is it God's church or not?

Does He have a hands-on role or not?

And, most importantly, can He/does He have the right and ability to make rules, laws, and commandments for us or not?

And, as a follow-up to that: Are we exempt from obeying if we don't understand or think the laws, rules, etc are stupid?

Whenever she questions--again--women and the priesthood in church, I just want to ask her, "Does God get to make the rules for His church and His people, or not? And if He does, what are you going to do about it?"  I used to want to explain the details of why she's wrong, but I'm not interested in that anymore. I just want to say that. What I just said. "Does He get to make rules for His own church and people, or not?"

And if He does....what are you going to do about that?

All of the arguments boil down to this: Does He get to make rules? How is He supposed to let us know what they are? What's supposed to happen if we think He made a mistake? How can we know someone isn't doing what Korihor accused the church leadership of doing--hijacking God's church for their own enrichment and power trip?

ALL of the other arguments really do boil down to very few. Who is in charge and what are they allowed to do?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Solutions to the Pinewood Derby Problems

Several friends have now mentioned to me that whole-ward pinewood derbies are better. Nobody plans to win because there are too many cars. It's all about creativity in presentation, and watching the fun, and usually someone loses on purpose so no small child has to.

I really like that idea.

Another solution we thought of is to test different things. Yes, run races for quickness. But also run a distance race. Or a which runs the longest, not necessarily the fastest. And a "who goes up a hill best" race. And a race for going very straight and not veering off to one side or another. Or a race for which car floats best. Anything else besides speed just to change things up and point out that while some cars are great for speed, if you need them to float they might not work.

And also just patience with a stupid system. That's always good advice, especially when people are all volunteers who were assigned to do this, and they're doing the best they can.

Why I hate the Pinewood Derby

Pinewood Derby day! Our great celebration of '50s boyhood returns. Even though the '50s are long gone and good riddance.

Benji was so traumatized by last year's Pinewood Derby that he refused to participate this year. He let Anda take his car and build and race for him (which I thought was fair, since she didn't get to do it purely because of her biology.)

I hate the pinewood derby. Really truly despise it, even though my kids have had good experiences along with the bad.

Here are the things I hate (and proposed solutions):

1. I really, honestly do not believe that Jesus would set up little, sensitive boys to work hard only to be crushed. I can't imagine Him attending the Pinewood Derby and watching 12 of 17 boys go home in tears and thinking, "Gosh, isn't this a great event?!"

Now, some leaders run it better than others. The person running ours this year worked very hard to reward the boys for honest effort without minimizing the accomplishments of those who actually won. So this can be a worse or better situation, but I still question what Jesus would do in this case.

2. It's long past time to get rid of events that only boys can do and girls don't get to. This bothers me a LOT. Right up there with 8 year old boys getting a fun activity every week and girls having to only have one every other week. WHO IS PLANNING THIS? Because it's wrong. I can accept that the priesthood only goes to the men in the church, but there is absolutely no reason for little girls to be punished for being little girls. I do not think God approves of treating our little girls this way.  If He does, He and I need to have a serious talk because in my view this is very, very wrong. (Which is why I let Anda make and race Benji's car instead of letting the other boys do it).

I was in a ward once where they let siblings and parents make and race cars, too, also on the ward's budget. This is a viable solution.

Another solution would be to run a second pinewood derby at a different time of year for the activity day girls. Modern girls need to know how to use tools and need to practice the engineering process, too, so why are we not including them? Plus they want it. And I know a whole lot of girls who feel hurt and sad that a church thing refuses to include them because they are female.

I cannot emphasize how wrong this feels to me. It makes me angry and hurt and it needs to change, and if I knew who to petition, I would write them a letter right now even though that never works for me (they always say no anyway). I would circulate petitions to all the wards I can reach and send them to Salt Lake City. This is just a really stupid thing to do to little girls and very very easy to fix. (I don't care that it's run by the cub scouts and they don't do girls. Why can't we just buy the same kits and give them to the girls and have an unofficial, don't-pass-it-on-to-regionals race? Most of the boys cars don't go on to regionals anyway. Or let's just choose to never pass any Mormon cars on to regionals and that makes it fair).

Can I add day camp on to this list, too? For real, people! Run the same number of equivalent events for boys and girls. Let's stop with the boys get to shoot arrows twice a year and girls have to do a "day of service" and paint another picture of the temple onto a stained 2x4 once a year. The girls want to shoot arrows, too, and the boys need to do service.

Proposed solution: Abandon scouts and have all the kids do a program like the girls do. Or make the girls program functionally identical to scouts (although I think the girls' program is superior).

3. The pinewood derby system, as it runs now, is deeply unfair to poor kids.

To make a car that is competitive even a little and not embarrassing to the little boys, you have to have the right power tools to cut with, you have to have graphite for the wheels, you have to have weights, and you have to have nice glossy model paint. All of these are expensive.

Solution: See number 4. Also, require everyone to use the kits the ward provides instead of allowing them to go out and buy a specialty kit (pre-shaped car).

4. The system is also unfair to anyone without special "inside knowledge."  This disadvantages kids whose parents are doing this for the first time, kids who follow the original intention of the program and make the cars all by themselves, disabled kids, kids who have parents who never were in cub scouts, and families headed by single moms. So pretty much everyone who is already vulnerable--just put them at a greater disadvantage to everyone else. That's a nice plan. I'm sure Jesus is super happy about that, making the kids who cry anyway cry more, and making the lives of the disadvantaged even harder. That's awfully nice of us! .

I have had people say to me, "Well, those people should ask for help. I'd help them! They can do cars at my house next year."  Yeah? Well how were they supposed to know that before their child was melted in tears because the car lost every single race because it was too light and they didn't even know that weights existed?

Some wards try to mitigate this (including mine) by having a weigh-in with tools, weights, and scales available, and the people who know how to place weights provide the weights (and the graphite for the wheels) and teach the others how to do it.

This helps a little, but doesn't solve the problem that people are not getting good instructions. The kits don't even include the rules for the size of the cars. I've been doing this for years now and still don't know what I'm doing, and just learned this year that the blocks of wood come too long and you have to cut an eighth of an inch off the length.

There is insider knowledge about how to place the wheels, where to put the weights, how to shape the cars (what kinds of tools to use), etc. Some people know this, and some don't, and you can't get the information anywhere.

This is an unfair system and puts fragile boys at a disadvantage and crushes them.

Solving problems 3 and 4 would be fairly easy:  Have a make-cars night together, starting with a workshop from a person who knows how to do it, and followed by a chance for parents and kids to make their cars together. Bring all the tools (including a band saw and sand paper) and all the supplies (fancy paints, brushes, graphite, etc) for any and all who want to join. Let the insiders teach the outsiders so everyone has the same resources and same information and all the help they need, without having to beg or guess who has the time and tools. Make it optional so parents who really want to just make their cars with their kids at home can, but assign some people who know what they're doing to help. Kids still get to make the cars with their parents, but without the disadvantage. Or invite the parents to come to the weekly scouts meetings the two weeks before the pinewood derby and do it there, for scouts.

An easier solution that wouldn't address problem 3 but would help with problem 4 would be to print articles from Boys' Life magazine about how to make a winning car. They have them. A lot of the insider knowledge is right there, but nobody gets Boys' Life (and truthfully most of it is useless propaganda for "buying in to the way we do things" anyway). Stuff like this would be immensely helpful:  But the boys and parents don't even know to look for it.

5. This teaches a faulty engineering process. If you go by the pinewood derby, you get an assignment and supplies, and you make something and then that's it. No testing. But real engineers build-test-rebuild-retest-tweak-retest-redesign-retest.  It's a long process of trying and failing and learning from the mistakes and improving.

Solution: Let the boys do test runs the week before, send their cars home, and then run the real races the next week, after everyone has had a chance to rebuild and tweak their cars.

6. I am pretty sure the kits come unequal even though they look the same. I really want to get four kits and do nothing to them but insert the wheels--all with equal care--and then race them. If all kits are equal, they would tie. But the weight distribution within the wood itself, and the wheels and axles not being truly identical (some have burrs, some are unbalanced or slightly bent, etc), and other factors mean some boys are doomed from the get-go and some will win even if they do nothing to their car but stick the wheels on.

One year Dan made a car that functionally should have acted like a sail and slowed him down, but it won everything. The next year he made a beautifully aerodynamic car and it lost everything. Weights were the same (but placed differently). Obviously there is something more going on than is in the control of the boys, which means we are rewarding some people for their "work" when in fact it was the luck of the draw.

Actually, that's probably a life lesson right there: it doesn't matter how hard you work or how talented you are, some people just make a lot of money and some don't, and it's actually not due to cause and effect like we think. You work hard and do your very best and it doesn't matter at all because if you weren't handed a good kit in the first place, you're gonnna lose. That feels like real life.

There is no way to solve this problem, but we could minimize it by making all other things (like access to resources) equal.

7. We are subjecting our boys to this trauma to what end? Yes, people need to learn how to lose gracefully because we all lose sometimes. But when else in life are we asked to work very, very hard on something that is quite difficult for one shot at public glory/humiliation (only 1 in 20 gets glory--the odds are very bad unless you have a leader like we had this year who works hard to recognize all the work the boys did) and no chance to go back and fix things up and try again? This is not a "life lesson" or "practice at useful skills".  The kids would have a better chance at winning a coin toss, and that takes no effort.

What the boys learn from this is their best is not good enough, and that no matter how wonderful their creation is, they're going to lose. And that the only thing that matters is winning by someone else's standards, not how cool the car is, how innovative it is, how unique it is, how hard you worked on it, or if your kit came with warped wheels in the first place.  While sometimes in life the result is all that matters, sometimes the innovation matters more. And always when there is a single required quantifiable result (like speed), we have chances to collaborate with experts and run trials before we have to be tested.

Benji won't even try any more. And that's a shame because I'd like for him to have a chance to make something he loves and learn to use tools, but we have the system set up so the cards are stacked against him, the failure is public and obvious, and the risk is too great. I can't ask him to do that.

This is a fixable system, but people are so entrenched in tradition that they aren't willing, and that's a shame. That's what happens when the people who run the system are the people who succeeded in it in the first place. (This isn't true in Mormon wards, where people are called to run the system, but it is true of the higher-ups who are controlling the national rules; they wouldn't be in scouts if they hadn't had a good experience with it in the first place. They succeeded the way it was written, so they have no reason to change it for those who are not succeeding.) Now that I've written this, I can see so many applications outside of cub scouts (English teachers go into English teaching because they were the few who liked how it is done, for example, which perpetuates the system, and not necessarily to the benefit of most regular people).

And since I have no voice--there is nobody to complain to or agitate for change--there is nothing I can do except grit my teeth each year and cry with my boys. Especially when they lose because I couldn't get the wheels on straight because of some hiccup or another.

While I love the idea of boys building cars, I hate the pinewood derby. Even though my kids both won this year.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Did I just read that?

"He hopes people will coin the phrase "meet at The Mix.""

Well, they can't. Because he just coined that phrase.

Also, I've never heard a more "dated" name for a shopping center.

And, another also, nobody ever says, "Hey, let's meet at that 27-acre mixed-use housing/business/retail center." They'd never find each other. It's like saying, "Let's meet at Thanksgiving Point." You have to say something more specific. So I'm guessing that published mention is the only time anyone is ever going to say, "Let's meet at The Mix" except in the upcoming advertising blitz.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Talking about poverty

This last week many people (many family members, even) put cute little cards and videos on Facebook sharing the idea that poor people are poor because they refuse to work and are greedy, lazy, sons-of-whatever who just want to steal the money of the hardworking tax payers who should not have to pay for welfare for anyone no matter what. It's all tied up in the Republican party line on poverty.

They did it seemingly oblivious to the fact that saying someone is poor because they are lazy and therefore should just get a job, not get welfare, is just a fancy way of saying they brought it upon themselves, which the scriptures tell us not to do.

Nobody seemed to make the connection that if they knew someone who was really poor, this would be a horribly cruel thing to say to them, that they are lazy, worthless, unworthy of help, and obviously not interested in anything but leaching off other people and watching TV or they wouldn't be asking for help--because real people don't ask for help ever; they suck it up, suffer, work hard, and then don't need help anymore because they saved themselves. As everyone should.

It reminded me of Job, who is sitting and suffering and his friends are telling him that it's his own damn fault that he's suffering (which wasn't true) and he finally turns to them and says, "How long will ye vex my soul and break me in pieces with words?" (Job 19--it's worth a read if you want to know how it feels to be poor and constantly have people harp on you that it's your own fault and you should fix it yourself.)

I truly do not see how condemning and insulting the poor with little to no understanding of what they are living with is helpful. Truly, it is what Job said, vexing their souls and breaking them in pieces with words. And when a person is struggling with all their might to just get through, to hang on to faith and hope that things can get better, praying their shoes don't get visible holes and their kids don't have a field trip that costs $4 to attend, and working their tail off in the mean time, stealing any bit of hope or energy from them is beyond cruel.

If your entire understanding of poverty comes from crap like "20 Things Rich People Do Every Day" (or anything else Dave Ramsey ever wrote; Dave Ramsey is great is you have a steady sizeable income but are using it poorly. He is the worst enemy of the truly poor because people use his words to condemn the truly poor and justify not helping them because they "refuse to help themselves." Also because his advice is totally and completely worthless if you're destitute.)...anyway, if your understanding of poverty comes from that or from that one month right after you graduated from college before you got your first real job, then you might want to pause and think before you post anything about poverty anywhere. Do you really know what you're talking about? Where are you getting your information? Is it founded in reality--or even research--or politics? Does your idea of being poor consist of waiting a couple of days for the next paycheck to come? You might not know what poverty actually really is, and you should before you start trying to solve the problems.

So let's talk about real poverty for a minute, and why "just go get a job, you lazy bum" is a really bad, uninformed solution.

First of all, go read this: "Poverty Saps Mental Capacity".  A lot of the things that people like Dave Ramsey attribute to causing poverty are actually the result of poverty (things like not reading enough books, or showing up late for meetings).  This is why it is beyond cruel to "steal" a poor person's energy by making them deal with mean accusations. They already don't have enough energy to get them through, and if you really want them to be out of poverty and off welfare, kindness and support (emotional support, not necessarily financial support) will go a lot longer way than accusations of laziness or other cruelties you can heap on them, as Job was trying to explain to his friends.

Secondly, a large majority of poor people are either working or looking for jobs actively. (Notice that the 37% of "not working" include millions of people who are looking for work.) In fact, the most recent statistic I've seen said that less than 1% of welfare recipients are using the system wrong or committing fraud. So the idea that is spread around of the "welfare queen" is largely a myth. Over 99% of the people who are getting help actually need it.

Also, 77% of people will use the "safety net" by getting government help (food stamps, "welfare," housing assistance, medicaid, etc) at some point in their adult lives. That's almost everyone.  That means almost everyone is poor at some point. This is not a rare or unique experience. It's incredibly common. Far more common, in fact, than never needing help.

Obviously, nobody wants a whole country full of people living happily off handouts. It's not sustainable and it's not realistic. But here's the thing: poor people don't want that either! The vast majority don't want to be on welfare and would give anything to get off--and they're giving everything they can. But we can't just get rid of the safety net because 77% of adults need it at some point, and it's unfathomable that we would even consider letting people starve to death or die of preventable, easily treatable illnesses like pneumonia.

So let's take as our basic goal that all people who are able to work are supporting their own families, without being on welfare.

Accomplishing this goal requires some agreements.

First of all, we have to agree that solutions to poverty that are harmful to families are not actually solutions because strong, stable families are the key to stopping multi-generational poverty. If we destroy the families, we do not succeed in ending poverty but merely push it off to the next generation. And the next.  So all solutions have to increase family stability, not decrease it.

We also have to agree that solutions to poverty cannot wreck a person's health or body because that drops them right back into poverty again, but as disabled people who can never get out of poverty because it destroys their ability to work. This is why we can't get rid of food stamps (or lower them to the point that people can't buy healthy food) or medicaid (even for adults). If people are not healthy enough to work, they are stuck in poverty forever. Food and medical care are steps out of poverty because they give people enough health to work. Take those away and it's actually counter-productive.

And we also have to agree that long-term solutions to poverty have to include taking into account individual circumstances that individuals cannot overcome without help. This would include mental illnesses (like Depression), treatable but untreated disabilities (like ADD), and having all your training and experience in an area that no longer can support you (like having done construction all your life but the construction industry collapsed, as in 2008).

And, finally, we have to acknowledge the reality that getting a job is not usually an overnight thing. It takes time to find postings of jobs, apply for them, wait for interviews, etc. You can destroy your chances, of course, but you can also do everything right and not get hired. You cannot force someone to hire you.

So: 1. Family has to stay intact; 2. Health has to stay intact; 3. Sometimes people need help; 4. You can't make someone hire you. Can we all agree on those four things?

Finally, for the LDS people, any solution to poverty cannot interfere with a person's ability to keep their covenants, including that to multiply and replenish the earth (so you can't really condemn them for having more children or condition their receipt of help on them not having any more children) and to keep the Sabbath day holy (which means you can't just go out and get any old job, doesn't it?), among others (can you ask a faithful LDS member who is poor to just work as a bar tender? To be a stripper? To dance at a casino? Or deal at a casino? You see the problem?).

So here's the solution I see all the time: Cut welfare. It will make people hungry and they will stop being so lazy and go out and get a job--anyone can get hired at WalMart or Driving Trucks.

So, how does this fit in to our 4 agreements? Well, driving trucks is out because of number 1. If you take a parent away from an already fragile family, you have problems with number 1, and long-haul trucking is that. Not only that, long-haul trucking is bad for your health (according to my friends who have been truckers).  So that's out by number 2 as well.

This brings up another point that I hadn't mentioned: Poverty Traps. Sure long-haul trucking is, on the surface, a great solution because the training is "Free" and the pay is good. But it turns out that free training is more akin to indentured servitude than a real job. You have to work off the "free" training at a lower pay rate. And some of the companies treat you poorly, pressuring people in such a way that they are either afoul of the company or afoul of the law. If you choose to strictly obey the law, you end up having to pay the company back for your training, and poor people can't afford to do that.

It's not a good solution because it's a trap.

There's a local short-haul trucking company here in town that is a similar trap. You take a job delivering for them on a regular route, and they offer to pay a tolerable (not very good, but above minimum) wage. Then they give you a route that cannot be accomplished in the required amount of time unless you speed. The company offers to pay your speeding tickets. But then you get enough points on your license that you lose your license and they fire you. Now you are without a license and without a job. Worse off than you were before. It wasn't a solution. It was a trap.

Many, many of those "why don't they just go do _____?" kinds of jobs are actually traps.

There's also another kind of trap. Almost all of those "anyone can work at WalMart" kinds of jobs pay too little. So sure you get a 40-hours-a-week job, but it only pays $10 an hour. This is above minimum wage, but it comes out to a total of $1600 a month BEFORE taxes. This is not a large enough amount of money to get you off welfare, but it takes all your time, so there isn't time or energy enough left to get off welfare. And there isn't really any chance in a giant company like WalMart to "work your way up." And if you did work your way up to a better job (like night cashier), the better paying jobs often break rule number 2 (ruin your health either by injury from lifting or other strenuous work or by making you work night shifts, which are bad for your health as well as for your family life).  And "better paying" is still not over $17 an hour, which leaves a family with only one wage earner still in poverty--off of "welfare" but still on food stamps and medicaid. And that's if the employer keeps you on 40 hours a week. People who work these jobs tell me invariably higher pay comes with lower hours, so you can end up worse off with higher pay. And, since everyone is easy to replace with a kid who will work for less, you can't really try fight it.

What good is a job if it doesn't do anything but leave you stuck on welfare for the rest of your life?

And getting two full-time jobs is not really an option without breaking rules number 1 and 2, especially if you have kids.

All of this combined with the reality that you can't make someone hire you at all, and you can see that saying "Just go get a dumb job" is not as easy or useful a solution as you think you're providing. And, by the way, no, WalMart will not hire anyone who walks through the door.

So this brings us to number 3 above: Sometimes people need help. Almost all of the people I know (and I know a lot) who are stuck in poverty are in the position that either they need help with a mental illness (most of them with depression, but some are bipolar or have other issues) or with a disability (mostly things like ADD or ASD that has not been diagnosed or treated ever in their lives and they don't realize they have it). Getting those disorders and disabilities diagnosed and treated is next to impossible without money. Even if you are on Medicaid, it's next to impossible because nobody actually takes Medicaid unless they are new in the field or can't keep other patients/clients because they're awful at what they do. Despite what the media tells you, it actually is reasonable to assume that most people who aren't successfully supporting themselves wish they were, and are willing to work for it, but need help. And a great majority, I would guess, fall into one of these two categories and need help with the underlying cause of their inability to get or keep a job. People with ADD, for example, need medication, often need counseling, and most need some form of vocational rehab because something about ADD plants people into exactly the wrong careers for their set of talents and challenges. That, combined with the poor people skills that often attend ASD, ADD, and other disabilities and disorders (like depression), lead these people to have a terrible time choosing the right job, keeping the job, and getting another when the job fails (which it invariably does).

Saying "just go get a job" to these people is impossible. They actually can't do it. And denying them the help they need condemns them to never get out of poverty. It's cheaper to get them help than not. Even when they have a job, the job often takes so much time and energy for so little pay that they don't have the time (or can't get off work) enough to get help. This is especially true for the poor self-employed. Every day off is a day with no pay, so getting help for depression or ADD means going without pay, which they can't afford to go without. It's a trap, too.

There is no solution for these people without help. Expanding and improving the vocational rehab system so that you don't need a doctor's note to join and so that the result is having a suitable job, including coaching getting through the hiccups and social rules that attend having a job would go a long way to solving this. Anyone getting government aid should automatically be allowed to get vocational rehab, without a referral from a doctor. It would be cheaper in the long run than keeping people on welfare.

The other thing people need help with is job re-training. If they have all their experience and training in a field that collapses, it isn't their fault that they can't work in that field anymore, and they really can't get a job in another field without help. And here's the kicker: if you have no money, you can't get training in a new field. Training costs money. And poor people haven't got money. And, if they're working a "junk" job to try their best to make ends meet or to qualify for aid (yes, you do have to have a job to get help), they don't have time to get training, either, and can't afford the physical, mental, and emotional energy it takes to learn an entirely new trade. What's more, if they do have to learn a new trade, they have to start at the bottom and work their way up the pay scale--and if they can't do that quickly, they're once again stuck in poverty no matter what. If a job change doesn't lead them fairly quickly off food stamps, what good does it do?

Another problem with job re-training is that people often are on their own to choose a new career. But without guidance and counselling, which cost money, they often choose the wrong career. And, unfortunately, they don't know they are in the wrong career until after the training is done (and the grants and loans used up and coming due). I know many people who got all the way to the end of a degree only to discover either they actually didn't like the work you get from it, or there was no work available in that field, or they couldn't pass the certification test for one reason or another. Re-training without guidance is not a solution to poverty. It's just more debt and more time wasted on welfare as you have to start over. Again. It's incredibly discouraging, expensive, and difficult to have to face retraining and failing over and over. Especially if the reason you are failing is actually untreated ADD or depression or ASD.

Besides re-training, other things that require money often stop people from getting jobs and also need to be honestly addressed somehow. You can't get a job if you don't have the money to print a decent resume. You can't get a job if you don't have clothes that you can interview in. You can't get a job if you can't afford transportation to and parking fees for an interview. You can't get a job if you can't afford to get a government-issued ID--Driver's Licenses aren't free, and neither are birth certificates or passports! You can't get a job if you can't access the internet to do job searches--and even some public libraries charge a fee unless you have a card, and you can't get a card without an ID, which costs money.  You can't start a business without money. You can't get a college or trade school degree without money. You can't even do a pizza delivery job or newspaper route unless you can afford a car, gas, maintenance, and insurance. You can't get a job if your teeth look horrible because you couldn't access dental care. You can't get a job if you can't see well enough but can't afford new glasses, or if your old glasses are taped together. You can't get a job if your only pair of shoes is ugly, you can't afford makeup, or your hair cut is horrible. You see the problem? And when you have money, you don't think that the 25 cents it costs to print a resume at the library is prohibitive, but there have been times when I didn't even have 3 cents to spare. I am not joking or exaggerating. Any single cent you have to spend in order to get a job can prevent a person from getting out of poverty. And solutions to poverty have to take this into account.

So I guess what I'm saying is the discussion is oversimplifying the problems and taking them without any understanding of what poverty actually is, or even what the proposed solutions even mean. It's all caught up in "how dare you take my money" without any understanding that it costs more to leave people in poverty than to take honest, effective steps to get them out! (And "just get a job" doesn't work for that. It is not effective, and often not particularly honest, either.)

And until we include the realities of the problems and the solutions in the discussion, we're just being mean to the poor in order to pat ourselves on the back and absolve ourselves of any responsibility in the matter.

Coming back to Job, chapter 26, where Job is again answering his friends, "How hast thou helped him that is without power? How savest thou the arm that hath no strength? How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?"

The poor have no power. They hardly have power to do basic things you take for granted. Having the power to not be poor anymore is a ridiculous thing to insist they have. They are the arm that hath no strength. And yet they're trying anyway. But consider: How has thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? Did you just throw out a pat answer and move on? Or did you carefully, thoughtfully ask questions, find out the realities and truths, pray about solutions, and charitably (true charity, I mean) offer to help in ways that were respectful and not demeaning, empowering and not belittling?

It is a valid question Job asks.  Because Jesus says when we have done it unto the least of these, we have done it unto Him.

When we are talking about poverty--especially to the desperately poor--whose spirit came from our words?