How to Talk to Little Girls

Little girls are cute. There is no getting around it. They. Are. Cute. The way they bounce around in tutus, the way they love all things sparkly, and just their cherubic little faces… Agh. It’s enough to make you ovulate.

Upon seeing my three precious girls, whether for the first or the billionth time, many people have the same involuntary reaction that I have. Warm feelings for these darling creatures come gushing out in sincere compliments like “Oh what pretty little girls!” or “I loooove your fancy dress!” or “what cute princesses you have here!”

There is nothing innately wrong with these kind expressions. Nothing.

But…

What do you think is the long-term consequence of greeting girls this way? The very first thing anyone says to them, and perhaps the only thing said with a lot of enthusiasm, is based on how they look. 

YES. They ARE cute. And we DO want them to know it and feel beautiful. But do we want that to be the first and loudest message they get?

I grew up mostly watching PBS, and well before social media put comparisons and ‘likes’ all over my tender psyche and yet by the time I was 10 years old I already had major body image issues. I bloomed very early, but I’m not unique. I was raised to believe that much of my value is dependent on my looks.

Media is a much greater influence on kids now. And what do we see? YES, there is good programming that is empowering and fun for little girls, but you have to carefully weed through a lot of FUN BRIGHT EXCITING shows that have one-dimensional, stereotypical female characters, or highly stylized females whose main interest is fashion and popularity.

Between well-intentioned people, and the most appealing media, little girls are being fed the idea that what matters most is how they look and what they wear. The objectification is subtle and rarely malicious, but it permeates a little girl’s life. And I’m as guilty as anyone of perpetuating it!

So, for myself and anyone willing to help me change this culture even a little bit, here are a few tips for general use.

When you greet a girl and your impulse is to say something about how they look, try to let the first things out of your mouth be something about their character and personality or just a greeting of affection. There are a million fun ways to do this “There’s my beautiful wonderful girl!” “Ahh I love your sparkly dress hugs!” “Nice to meet you! What a cutie happy girl you are!” If you really want to comment on their clothes or appearance, try and twist it to something more than “cute” “Ooh. Do you like unicorns? What do unicorns like to do?” “Hey! I like dinosaurs too. Which kind is your favorite?” “Those shoes look like they’re good for speed/dancing/puddle-jumping. Do you like to run/twirl/play in the rain?”

Ask less superficial questions about them. “What is your favorite book?” If their interests are something that are easy to objectify (princesses or mermaids, for example) then steer the conversation into something less superficial “Did you know princesses have to be very good leaders?” “Mermaids are known for their singing. Do you like to sing?”

When around girls, model positive body image. NEVER criticize (or express jealousy about) another woman’s body around them – ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN. If the subject comes up, talk about taking care of our bodies and being grateful for what our bodies can DO. We can go beyond the idea that everyone is beautiful by teaching that we are MORE than what we look like – we are valuable for WHO we are.

Be extra careful about social media! Young women are hungry for validation. All of the ‘likes’ and “You’re so pretty!” comments on a selfie are nice, but what if they were replaced with comments like “You are so lovable!” “What a warm smile!” “What an awesome gal, always doing kind things!” “You worked so hard this year, congrats on this!”

If gifting, pick out empowering, educational or creative presents. Books that are fun and have a moral (rather than simply glorify “girly” cliches) journals, art and craft supplies, sensory toys, dolls that are realistic…

Catch yourself in the act of objectification on females. We all do it. Our intentions aren’t bad. We are simply trained to do it! By being aware of how much we focus on looks we can begin to retrain our brains and over time, our culture. Comments like “You look so skinny!” may be intended as compliments but they imply that something was less desirable about them before, and the reason for someone’s weight loss may not be a sign of health (anxiety/depression, cancer, etc.) There are some great resources for helping reframe your own thinking about body image that are worth following, such as Beauty Redefined.

This is all just scratching the surface of the issue. But by now you may be feeling, like me, guilty. It’s okay. If you have read this far, chances are you have a good heart and sincere love for the girls and women in your life – And that outweighs soooo much. And I still don’t think it’s wrong to give a thoughtful compliment on looks! Let’s just try a little harder to make sure that the loudest messages we give to girls (and women) have nothing to do with their appearance.

P.S. You’re pretty. JUST KIDDING! You are wonderful!

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My “3 in 30”

It is almost a joke around our house that I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. My daughters’ dinosaur/Paw Patrol/kitty cat/unicorn/mermaid phases have lasted longer than many of my pursuits and hobbies. It’s always made my soul itch that I don’t have any demonstrable skill at which I’m truly proficient and committed. That said, for the sake of novelty, being a jack is pretty fun (note the absence of A at the end of that word.)

I listen to this great podcast, 3 in 30 where she interviews about motherhood and womanhood and the interviewees give “three doable takeaways” to improve your family/personal life. Being the vain person I am, I’ve often envisioned myself being interviewed, but that ‘master of none’ thing disqualifies me. Alas, my podcast celebrity status is nil. But she issued a challenge to her listeners for the first anniversary of her podcast, to write out our own “3 in 30”. So I’m going to fake it ’til I make it. None of you are going to condemn me as a fraud for not having actually mastered these skills. Right? RIGHT??!!

My topic: Tips for maintaining a reasonable level of sanity in motherhood (the first 5 years)

ONE: Be consistent

When we’re on the trail, I often plead with Georgia not to stop-go-stop-go. It saps us of energy and momentum to keep starting over. When we get tired or come up a big hill, its fine to slow down and catch your breath but it’s best to simply keep going at a pace we can maintain! In motherhood there are a heckofalot of hills and exhaustion, but there are some things we can do to keep a manageable pace.

Ya’ll know my mantra “Consistency is the evidence of sincerity”.  I think it’s one of the divine secrets of the universe! I can’t think of one good thing in which consistency doesn’t help.

Routines: The truth is that even those who claim they aren’t ‘routine people’ fall into habits – some for good, some not so much. Intentional and consistent routines help balance time-use with our values and guard against bad/unintentional habits. (PLUS we can minimize a whooooole lotta whining from the kids…and ourselves).

By having an exercise routine in place, I don’t have to muster up motivation to get it done and I don’t have to wiggle it into the schedule at odd times- It’s just part of my rhythm. Would there be better ways to exercise? Sure. But I do what works within the context of my life right now.

By having a calendar for housework with one main task a day, I don’t feel pressured to tackle it all at once or frustrated by all that is still undone. I know there is a scheduled time for each thing, and if I skip mopping one week, I’ll catch up next week and it isn’t the end of the world. Or if it’s dusting… I’ll skip it every week and pat myself on the back when I actually DO it! But it’s on the calendar!

By having consistent rules for screen time, kids know exactly when and how much TV they get and there’s a lot less begging/negotiating/threats/mush-for-brains, and I rarely find myself mindlessly scrolling when it’s not my scheduled screen time.

Consistent times for scriptures and prayers make it more likely that I’ll get something out of it. Also, my kids are learning the habit that, over time, will bind their hearts to God and His word.

If I were consistent with budgeting or meal planning I would speak to the virtue of that, too. But. Well… yeah. AAAAannyway, moving on.

Discipline: This one is tricky for me because I’ll often be swimming along just fine and then one day I’ll wake up and be like “Oh. Gracious. Me. How do I MOM? I don’t even know how to DO this?!” This might be caused by that one time when I got hit too hard in the head with a basketball playing dodgeball (WITH BASKETBALLS?!) or it may be because kids’ needs for discipline change so fast. Nevertheless – When I am consistent in my method of discipline, my kids act out less and know what consequences to expect. When I’m just shooting from the hip I lose my temper more easily than when I have a certain technique/philosophy/method for discipline. When I’m consistent with discipline, I can react more calmly and with more perspective.

Skill development: They say it takes something like 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I must be a master at breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and Netflix. But I really believe putting in 5 minutes a day at something is gonna get me closer to that 10,000 hours than doing sporadic marathons.

TWO: Pick your battles

I often get comments from strangers (and even people I know) like “Ohh… I LOOVE that you let them pick their own clothes!” Sometimes that comment feels very genuine and that person and I can bond about how adorable it is to see the tutu-rainboots-sweater-hat combo, which is made more spectacular by the skipping/hopping/twirling which accessorizes it.  Other times it gets followed up with *helpful comments* like “Why don’t you try putting out matching outfits for them to pick from?” Those “well intentioned” people do not know my kids. They do not understand the strong will, the piercing scream, the HOURS long tantrums that are involved when one persuades or forces my child to wear something EVEN IF THEY PICKED IT OUT FIVE MINUTES AGO but have since changed their mind. This started right after the age of 1 for Georgia and 18 months for Millie. For myself, this is not a battle worth fighting (very often). First, I don’t want to give them the idea that what they look like is overly important.  Secondly, I would much rather use that energy on other battles (don’t torture your sister, eat your vegetables, etc.)

Every parent has their own set of values and priorities. I believe it’s important to identify these and maybe even write them down in a family motto/family declaration. If something doesn’t fall into that set of values and priorities… is it really worth a battle?

There are so many things in parenting where we *have* to say no. It’s no wonder two year olds and four year olds (and probably all the other ages too), with their budding independence, get so adamant about what color cup they have. From dawn to dusk, there are few things in which they have total control. They are told what to eat, how fast to get their shoes on, where they are going, how to speak, and on and on and on and on. (And if I’m being honest, they aren’t always told with excessive patience.) I don’t FEEL like a “YES mom” but I remind myself often to try and BE one. Anytime it doesn’t really matter, SAY YES. Anytime you can reasonably accommodate their request, SAY YES. It shows you respect them, see them and value them. Plus, it never does save me time when I try and force them to JUST USE THE GREEN SPOON, ITS FIIIIIINE. The tantrum that ensues is simply not worth it. So I try and tell them to go get the pink spoon and save that energy for the tantrum about eating the green bean. Or at least licking it. 😉

Part of picking your battles is saying you’re sorry. Inevitably, there are battles. Inevitably, I make mistakes. As my children see me apologize and ask for forgiveness, they learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and they learn how to forgive. Besides, its just really good for my mental well being to take accountability and be forgiven! Little ones forgive quickly, but older ones take longer… So getting in some practice early on is probably wise!

Three: Embrace the stage you’re in

“Enjoy every minute!” echoes in the ears of every mom of tinies. But those saying it are usually saying it because they regretfully didn’t enjoy every minute. But here’s the thing… IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. SO rather than that guilt-giving advice, I suggest that we look for the magic in our current stage and let some things go until another stage.

One of the virtues of parenthood is that everything is temporary. Think you’ve got something figured out? Wait a month. Something really trying you? Wait a month. Especially in the first few years, kids are changing so rapidly that what is occupying your every waking thought for 6 months is completely forgotten a few months later. Every stage has it’s pros and cons. I’d love to take the time to list out the magic and the horror of every stage, but if you’re a parent, you don’t need that list. You know it by heart. But wherever you are, it’s helpful to remember that it’s temporary.

I have ambitions to write, to create, to garden, to travel, to ski… I do not resent my children because they hold me back from these things. I look for reasonable ways to accommodate those ambitions with my kids, and I shelve the rest until its a season when I can do more of that. And I recognize that when I CAN do those things, I won’t be able to snuggle little toddlers at bedtime, nurse a baby, get lost in make-believe, or experience the magic of holidays through children’s eyes.

Everything is a trade off. Just because I’m not pursuing a particular goal right now doesn’t mean its lost forever. But the stage you’re in… once that is gone, it’s gone.

Wrap up:

The only time you get screamed at like a mom does, is when someone is on fire. These munchkins really know how to burn the day do the ground. Most moms feel like their sanity is tenuous because on any given day you feel exuberant joy and five minutes later intense rage. But that’s normal. Hard. But normal. Perhaps the best tip for sanity as a mother, is not really to expect sanity – but to expect the extreme emotions, but learn how to work through them all. And if all else fails, try again tomorrow. Even though sometimes it feels like a different version of the movie “Groundhog Day”, there is something important in that too. We get to try again.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the  moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Thump didda didda thump thump strum thump strum strum didda didda. The music started as I clumsily tripped out of my unmentionables. Steam was already so thick I couldn’t see the shamelessly outdated mauve tiles which line my shower. I opened the door and stepped into the warm vapors. As hot water drenched me, I began having an involuntary reaction to the music. My hips were shaking, my shoulders moving, and my feet skittered around the drain. Truly, this was involuntary. Something about the music took over my body and I simply gave in to it.

It’s no secret I’m curvy. Well, when a voluptuous woman dances, there’s a lot of stuff flapping around. I currently have more ‘flap’ than ever, and I’m not as “comfortable in my skin” as I’d like to be. The sensation of my involuntary jiggles and flapping should, logically, cause me to overcome this musical possession. But it was magic. All of that flapping and jiggling FELT SO GOOD. The sensation of shaking my hips and my hips shaking back at me was SUBLIME. For one moment I was completely happy with my body.

At the peak of my joy, I caught the grand entrance of Georgia. She sidestepped into the bathroom, pumping her fists into the air one at a time and wagging her sweet little bum. She closed her eyes, twirled and shimmied in pure childhood bliss. As if on cue, Millie entered, twisting and wiggling in circles around Georgia. Millie has a particular wiggle that starts at her shoulders and ends somewhere between her tush and her knees. It was set to high.

Giggling and enraptured by the music, we were individually and collectively delighted. For a few minutes there were no shoulds. No chores. No “stop thats”. No insecurities. No rules. In spite of all of the imperfect reality which surrounded us, there was only music, movement, love, and joy.

THIS is the motherhood I prayed for – moments of absolute PRESENCE and spontaneous, cooperative bliss. THIS is what we were made for. THIS is a fragment of heaven. May that moment be a seed that sprouts in their perfect hearts and bears fruit with their own children.

Stake Conference Talk: Ministering

The truth is, ministering is awkward. 

On the giving side, it feels presumptuous to interject yourself into someone’s life. “Hi! Look how magnanimous I am to come seeeerve you!” When someone feel’s like your “assignment” there is almost always an immediate barrier. Even when you were friends beforehand. So it’s hard to really get to know someone, let alone perceive their needs. It’s uncomfortable wondering if we are bothering them, or feeling like we may not be doing enough. 

On the receiving side, there’s a natural tendency to be courteously closed-off “I’m good. I’m fine. Carry on with your day! Thanks for thinking of me!” 

Don’t get me wrong, Visiting Teaching was awkward too. But at least after a formal visit you could check it off your list for a month. The bar was low – MAKE CONTACT. Whereas now the bar is scarily high – REGULARLY RECEIVE REVELATION ON HOW THE LORD WANTS YOU TO SERVE THEM.

Therefore, it’s just a little bit awkward. 

Now you may be wondering why they asked ME to speak about ministering. I’m sure those I’m assigned to minister would be completely baffled. Honestly, I currently feel like I’m failing at ministering. So let me assure you it’s not because I’m overly affective. I think it’s because I have been deeply blessed by ministering.

The most impactful visiting teacher I ever had was (and still is) inactive. It was about 10 years ago. She and I didn’t know each other at all, but she called me up and invited me to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. It was a quirky place and it was so fun to get to know her in that setting. I have no idea what we talked about but I remember laughing, and I remember her making me feel good about myself. The next month we did a hot yoga class together. We burst out of that stinky, sweaty, sauna-like class into snowy January weather and talked, shivering, in the parking lot for an hour.

 She wasn’t steeped in the formal traditions of visiting teaching, and so instead she did what came natural to her. She ministered to me by simply doing what friends do. To this day, interactions with her on social media make me smile.  This visiting teacher was a minister a decade before that was a thing, and she changed the way I approached it – Like a friendship not a duty. 

Fast forward seven years, and I moved into this stake from Maryland. I was fulfilling my calling as a primary teacher, attending Relief Society activities, and consistently making visiting teaching visits each month, though they had, for whatever reason, reverted back to the formal visits we all know. Sometimes at the park, or on the trail, I’d meet another mom and we would chat for a bit, but still I couldn’t shake a very unnerving feeling of loneliness.

For the first time in my life, I longed for a friend. Not a friendly acquaintance or a best friend far away but someone whose physical life could overlap with mine – sharing leftover soup when I made too much, or complimenting me on how I handled my two year old suddenly stripping naked at the store. 

Most women wanting a friend would have probably have done something like schedule a playdate, or ask someone to lunch. But nothing that practical occurred to me. Instead, I prayed every day for a friend. 

My companion was very pleasant, and I admired the women we visited, but a few minutes together once a month was not exactly causing us to link arms and spontaneously sing “As Sisters in Zion” together. 

One sister that we visited requested quite a bit of help with her house, her children and then a move.  Over time, as my companion and I worked together to meet her needs, we discovered that under our proper Visiting Teaching facades was a compatible (i.e. snarky) sense of humor. A spontaneous playdate happened. A friendship was born. Two years later, we are close enough that her entire family attended my daughter’s TEDDY BEAR’s birthday party. Yes, you heard that right. The lord answered my prayer for a friend abundantly, through my visiting teaching companion. 

Another sister we visited talked about wanting to start exercising more. She was someone who, frankly, intimidated me a little bit. She seemed to have her act together a lot more than me. Basically, I thought she was out of my league. But I invited her to join my kids and I on our daily trail walks. To my shock, she took me up on the offer. Two years later, we have walked and hiked hundreds of miles together. We have discussed the mysteries of the universe, tips for potty training, and everything in between. God heard my prayer for a friend and answered it abundantly, through my visiting teachee.

These two relationships have blessed every aspect of my life – Even though they were assigned. In fact, I believe because they were assigned by inspiration. Our assigned friendship, over time, led to true ministering back and forth. Some other sisters on my ministering list have also proven to be significant and welcomed blessings in my life. Some still don’t return my calls. But I have been truly blessed as I’ve tried to minister. 

With prayerful consideration I’ve come up with four simple takeaways to encourage our ministering efforts.

  1. Be consistent:  I believe that CONSISTENCY is the evidence of SINCERITY. As we consistently make contact, whether its a text, a spontaneous or scheduled visit, an invitation to lunch, or something else, those to whom we minister will see our sincerity and eventually open up to us. Even if they don’t see our sincerity, there’s validity to the “exposure effect”! The more you are exposed to something, the more comfortable you are with it! Consistency wears people down. They’ll have to love us if we keep coming around. 
  1. Be Yourself: With the new direction emphasizing that we should receive revelation on how to serve them, it’s daunting. Sometimes we think we need to discern their deepest needs or take on some major role in their life. That is not what we’ve been asked to do. We would be wise to do a prayerful inventory of what we have to offer, time-wise, skill-wise, and heart-wise. The Lord wants us to use WHO WE ARE to minister and He is aware of our time and skill limitations. Ministering efforts don’t have to meet their deepest need, it just has to bless them. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. It doesn’t have to be conventional. But if it is conventional, that’s okay too! We just need to be sincere. In spite of our limitations, if we do what we can, the Lord will magnify our efforts.
  1. Fill your day with tiny kindnesses: Let someone ahead of you in line, compliment a stranger on anything, wave to a little child, give someone a hug, leave a piece of candy on a coworkers desk, write a thank-you note… As we create the habit of tiny kindnesses we develop a generous spirit – the kind that is receptive to inspiration on how to serve others. 
  1. Give it Prayer:  As I pray for people by name it fills me with love and concern for them. My prayers show God (and myself) that I’m ready to serve them. Propelled by God’s love, ideas and inspiration will pop into my head.

For the upcoming primary program, my little sunbeam daughter has memorized Mosiah 2:17 “And behold I tell ye these things that ye may learn wisdom. That ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Part of that ‘wisdom’ is that as we serve and minister to one another, we aren’t just serving God, we are actually coming to know Him – And is their anything sweeter in this world than that? I submit there is not. 

I bare testimony that ministering is a holier way, wherein our priorities are purified, our hearts are filled with charity, and as we willingly do it, those to whom we minister will become blessings in our lives. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

“Me too”

I’ve drafted many a controversial post, but never actually published one. Being vulnerable and taking a stand… it’s just plain scary. But lately I’ve been teaching the word BRAVE to my gals. I have defined it as doing the right thing, even when it’s scary.

So here goes.

Even for those of us who don’t read or watch the news, we’re being flooded with information about Christine Blasey Ford coming forward years later saying she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

This is not a Republican vs Democrat thing.

This is not a criminal case that requires indisputable proof “innocent until proven guilty”.

This is about whether someone has the moral character to pass judgment in our very highest court. A person nominated for such power should be of reputation and character that is not just above reproach but that is undeniably and unquestionably upstanding.

Now, beyond that, I want to talk about HER. All of the Christine Blasey Fords of the world.

…myself included.

Right now I’m deleting as fast as I’m typing. My heart is pounding. Talking about times when I was victimized in the private world of my personal blog, with its minuscule readership, is absolutely terrifying. And there is so much I will never, ever, ever write about because it’s just too much.

So I’ll just stick to a couple vague examples. It’s all I can handle.

There was the first time a boy took too much from me and bragged about it. It got laughed off by some. I got judged by others. But no one thought to protect me, except one fellow. It was the first time someone stepped up for me. He approached the boy and said “She doesn’t want it. DO NOT TOUCH HER AGAIN.” And guess what? The boy stopped. But he wasn’t the last.

As a teenager there was an adult in power of my life who hurt me and degraded me for two years. I was so ashamed that I could be a victim that I hid as much of it as possible from friends and family. Even now there are details I can’t share. Those who were closest to me, with responsibility to protect me, didn’t. I reached out to a church leader and was completely dismissed. The person in power was spreading venomous lies about me which caused those who thought they knew me to question my character, and those who didn’t actually know me were easily sold on the lies. But there were those who believed me. And they stepped up. And I got out.

There was the stranger at a concert who ripped off my shirt. (Thankfully my 6’8″ giant of a friend plucked me out of the fray and helped me pin and tie my shirt back together. You’re my hero, Blakob!)

There were the countless incidents of unwanted butt or chest grabbing by both stranger and acquaintance… some more violent than others.

There was the taxi driver in Egypt who left my bags at the hostel and said I was staying with him (Thank heavens for the other taxi driver who came to my rescue).

I could rattle off many more examples. But here’s the thing…

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Almost every woman I know can share a similar story.

I’ll bet you have one coming to mind now!

I have been so fortunate. A lot of people have stepped over the ‘required behavior’ line and stepped in to help me. None of my experiences have been inescapable. Yet, I’m full of shame that they happened, or to what extent they happened. I’m terrified to admit them. I do not want to be remembered or defined by any of my bad experiences. So I’ve done what all women do. We sweep it under the rug. We put on a brave face. We move on.

Sometimes this causes us to have more empathy. Sometimes less. It’s not just society at large that trivializes victims/survivors. It’s individual women. We look down on someone bravely coming forward, even WAAAAY past due, and almost shake our heads at them because something similar happened to us and we were able to shake it off. Why not them? If it was so important why not until now?

BECAUSE WE BURY THE TRAUMA! We often don’t process it until  much later when it festers and rots, or when we are in a safe enough place for it to bubble up and be dealt with… or when the stakes are high and we think it could protect others.

I’m not saying we have to shake posters saying “I believe her” every time a woman comes forward.  I’m not saying women haven’t lied to bring down a man. But the price a woman has to pay in coming forward is STEEP. The shame, the invasion, the speculation, the judgement…

So for those who are tired of the “me too” movement, or who are questioning the motives and integrity of someone coming forward, please just consider this:

This moment in history when women CAN come forward is making the world safer for your daughter and your granddaughter and your wife and your sister and even your mom. Because of “her”, discussions are had around the dinner table and at the highest level of government about women’s safety. Because of “her”, the culture of “boys will be boys” is shrinking. Because of “her”, men are being more careful about consent and manipulation. Because of “her”, women can come together without *as much* discomfort and find healing.

I hope that the next “me too” movement will be for men. Perhaps once women are safe enough to come forward without being defined and shamed, men may also be able to come forward with all of their buried wounds and horrific experiences without the fear of emasculation.

And with all of our pain out in the open, perhaps we can be free. Free to heal. Free to prevent future abuse. Free to progress.

Let Peace Be Enough

“Wear this, do that, travel here, be seen!”

drowns out the voice of our Heavenly king

Busy-ness, lists, so much to do

but softly He calls out to you.

Through prophet and scripture and Holy Ghost

He offers what you need the most.

Inspiring, encouraging, warning of danger

He speaks through nature, friend or stranger.

Your head is full of clamoring noise

amid billions though, He knows your voice.

Do you know His? He’s speaking now.

He can calm your storm and peace endow.

In one heartbeat you’re shown a vista eternal

then filled with love divine and supernal.

But trials persist and life is long-

We often forget how to hear His song.

So many blessings He’s withheld.

So much pain He hasn’t quelled.

Kneel down. Speak. Or even just listen

You may sense it but there is no division.

God travels at the speed of thought

and loves you fully (though you believe He ought not).

He’s here. Feel Him. See His love.

Shut out the din and let peace be enough.

I Have Time for This

Georgia just started preschool this week and she’s having so many big firsts. She’s reading her first words, writing her name for the first time, developing relationships with people I don’t know… She is fearless and excited about it all, and therefore I’m excited for her. But amid all of these firsts are a lot of unseen lasts. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but sometime in the past couple of months, Georgia started wiping her own bum. She started properly enunciating “three” rather than “free”. The only time she asks me to pick her up now is if she’s hurt.

Flora too, is experiencing all of the exciting firsts and our many lasts are just a blink away. Every time I nurse her I think about how soon it will be over and she’ll never stick her feet in my face that same way again. She’s about to start walking and the sound of  knees scuffling and baby hands slapping the wood floors will just be a memory.

At this precise moment, Millie is plugging my nose with her tiny hand and saying “Mommy, do it againnnnn!” Because she loves how it vibrates on her fingers when I hum. It’s kinda tricky to look around her fuzzy curls at the screen but I’m not in the mood to kick her off and force her to take a nap because I can’t get something George said out of my head.

In one of those meandering conversations that take place when spending a lot of time with family, Uncle George left me with a nugget of applicable wisdom. When driving in traffic and someone cuts him off or won’t let him merge, he says to himself, “It’s okay. I have time for this.” Rather than getting aggravated by someone else’s inconsiderate behavior, he offers them a generous response. More than likely, it makes no difference to the offender, but to George, he walks away with kind feelings instead of frustration.

Our calendar certainly isn’t full, yet I tend to feel like I’m rushing to the next chore, nap, meal, diaper change, nursing session, appointment, etc. When someone or something inconveniences me, I rarely respond with that type of generosity. I don’t think of myself as a busy person, but I certainly don’t feel like I have time for inconveniences or the dawdling of children. But what if I did?

Would the world end if I made time for Georgia’s distracted and drawn out method of getting buckled in the car?

Is it really that horrible to sit on hold for an hour with the home warranty, while folding laundry or tickling Millie’s back?

Will I even notice the minute of  “me time” I gave up to sing them one more song at bedtime?

When I have my head on straight, I am keenly conscious of just how fortunate I am to have the kind of inconveniences that I have. Literally millions of others would make monumental sacrifices to have my type of problems.

I have freedoms. I have abundance. I have family. I have safety. I have love. So for the other things that I so often want to rush through or get past, I’m going to try and adopt George’s response. “I have time for this.”

And now, I’m gonna go “have time” for some ice cream.

Dear RJ, when you can’t see clearly

You call me after the time you should be arriving home to let me know you haven’t left yet. Your tone indicates that you’re (justifiably)  nervous that I’ll be mad because you’ve once again broken my rule to notify me as soon as you know you’re going to be late. Finally you get home, heavy laden with the stress of the day, overwhelmed with the roadblocks and challenges at a job where war is far more common than peace, and instantly you have to be ON. Georgia wants to be chased, Flora screams until you take her from my arms, and Millie wants to wrestle. I expect a kiss and a download of how your day went… and sometimes I need you to feign interest in the most basic details of my day. You are weary. You are stressed. You are still writing emails in your mind (and on your phone when you think we aren’t looking). You’re responding to calls about church needs and trying to make time for that and all of the house projects that stare you in the face. You’re trying to be so much for so many, and in the process you’re feeling like you’re running on empty and failing in every area.

But honey, STOP for a second and just take this in.

You’re actually doing great. Like, really great. I know you don’t see this. You only see what you aren’t doing. You have such big dreams and hopes for life and our family and you ache  because each day/week/month/year you see more of what you aren’t accomplishing. I wish you could see what I see.

I see a hardworking employee. You genuinely strive to make things better. You don’t back down from a challenge. You are determined and gutsy and fun to work with. You live your job and give it your all, even when its really really hard.

I see a good provider. You aspire to more, but you have given us so very much. You’ve given our children the opportunity to have mother at home. You’ve provided a beautiful home, two cars with no debt, toys, food, clothes, luxuries, adventures and allowed us to be generous with others.

I see a devoted father. You chase and tickle. You take time to teach important lessons, sing songs, and read books. You make sure they know the rules, but also make sure they have extravagant fun. I honestly don’t know any other kids who have such a childlike childhood. Really. (I mean, who else has a playland in their basement?) Even at your  most exhausted you will tickle Millie’s back or tell Georgia another story or rock Flora. They will never doubt that they are loved.

I see a man of projects. I know, I know. You have dozens of unfinished projects. But that too speaks to your work ethic. You aren’t afraid to approach a huge job, even if you’ve never done it before. You can outwork an ox, basically fueled by water and sunshine. You literally jump at the chance to do projects for anyone – family, friend or stranger. On Saturdays my brain immediately goes to leisure or adventure and yours goes straight to projects. You say you don’t have a hobby. But in truth, you have dozens – they all can be summed up by the word PROJECT.

I see a supportive husband. You appreciate what I do, and overlook what I don’t. You listen to my long-winded monologues filled with endless minutia. You regularly encourage me to spend money, socialize, or develop talents. You gladly make tacos at 10pm. You consider my workload when trying to balance all of your outside demands.

I see a loving son. You feel off-balance if you haven’t checked in with Mom and Dad. Their projects and needs are always at the forefront of your mind. You are never more relaxed than when on their patio chatting.

I see a faithful Priesthood holder. You honor God by living with integrity. Even when you aren’t thrilled about it, you fulfill your duties – FHE, scriptures, temple, meetings, service to others, and giving blessings. Ultimately, you see yourself as God’s hands and you do what He wants done.

I see a friend to whoever needs one. Most people are instantly charmed by your warm interest in them. Many are easily disarmed and unveil their hearts to you. No one who asks for your ear is turned away. You dole out compassion and pep talks like a lunch lady plops out sloppy joes – generously and without hesitation.

RJ, you know that when I’m up all night with the baby, I pray. You know a lot of what I pray for. But the one thing I’ve given the very most time to is this: That you could see yourself as God does, or at least as I do.

You. Are. Good.

Love,

Honey-Squeeze

 

Headwinds and Tailwinds

Each morning the girls select which trail we will do. I brace myself and hope against it yet they often exclaim “DINO TRAIIIIILLL!!” And while it’s one of the most lovely, pushing a heavy stroller uphill against a strong canyon wind takes a little more motivation. It occurs to me, however, that I could instead look forward to the return trip, when its downhill and the tailwind pushes us along.
Why is it that, on the trail and in life, I often notice the slightest bit of resistance and so easily overlook any boost or even the value of momentum?
But there are days when I am overwhelmed with the sound of the rushing river, the chipper movements of a tiny bird, or the golden warmth of the sun as it slowly crests over the mountain. On those days I hardly notice the wind or the uphill push. Sometimes I see the beauty without effort. Other days I have to consciously push off those thoughts about the hill and the wind by looking for beauty. It would serve me well, though, to also recognize when I have a tailwind.
On one of my old biking routes, I was always baffled that, no matter the direction I was going, there was always headwind. I never once experienced a tailwind there. Finally, after a few years of biking there, it dawned on me that there was not really much wind at all… it was my own speed that caused such strong wind resistance against my body. If I begin to wear down from the wind, the best solution is to put myself into a more aerodynamic position, or to slow down.
Resistance may not always be “fun” but it is great for us. Physical resistance and gravity not only strengthen muscles, but build up the bones. That’s why astronauts lose bone density at 10 times the rate of a post-menopausal woman! …And why those who are shielded from failure or discomfort end up with a lot of trouble.
I guess all this is to say that headwinds aren’t all bad, and a little positivity can help get through them. And tailwinds are awesome too, so we ought to notice and be grateful for them when they happen.

Show Your Work

Did your math teachers ever require you to show your work? I remember it being written across the top of each of my tests during my 8th grade year: SHOW YOUR WORK! Even if we got the problem wrong, we were given partial credit for writing our process.

Somewhere in the years between then and now, however, things have changed. Maybe not for math teachers, but for the rest of society. Now, it’s all about BEFORE and AFTER.  “Before this product I was ____ but look at me now!” If you watch a show like Fixer Upper they fast forward through the process, glossing over the demolition and nasty rat poop under the floorboards, then quickly take you to the magazine worthy (though not lived in) home. Other than Bob Ross, what artist do you know who showed their process? Other than close friends and family, who ever tells you that they’re doing therapy? When was the last time that someone who wronged you (intentionally or not) apologized and talked it out with you?

Perhaps our highly edited world has perpetuated the idea that change happens overnight, perfection is attainable and admitting our faults is unacceptable. But I’m gonna say that my 8th grade math teacher had it more right.

My kids need to see me fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again, etc.

My kids need to hear me admit that something is hard for me.

My kids need to see me get mad/grumpy and not handle things well, then apologize and try to work through my feelings.

My kids need to see me disagree with their dad and watch us work through our differences.

My kids need to see that I can still be gentle with myself when I’m not satisfied with my body/temper/cooking/whatever.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of being incomplete. Failure may be painful, but it doesn’t have to be shameful. It’s more important that our kids see our grit to keep trying than that they see our success. Successes are really just ‘rest areas’ on the scenic highway of our lives where we can get out, stretch our legs and take in the scenery. Most of our journey is a long road with flat tires, gas stations and traffic. But we can make it more pleasant with good company and by choosing to see the lovely scenery we pass through.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

I’m learning that peace and anxiety can coexist. Gratitude and yearning can coexist. Happiness and stress can coexist. And if that wasn’t all strange enough… I’m learning that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. At least not in the expected ways.

Since everyone else is on their own highway with potholes as well, whats the matter with acknowledging that we are all hitting them? It seems to me that its easier to notice the blue skies or the mountain vistas when I don’t feel alone. “Showing our work” doesn’t mean advertising our weaknesses, it means relating to one another’s humanity and saying “me too!”

I yelled at my precious darlings.

Me too!

I’m worried about money.

Ugh, same!

I argued with my husband today.

Been there!

I often wonder if I’m “enough”  and other times if I’m “too much”.

I hear you.

“Showing our work” is really just another way of fulfilling that baptismal covenant we made to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. It’s freeing to let go of perfectionism and allow ourselves space for our flaws…. space for our growth… space for connection.