Preparing for the Worst: The Dread, and Joy, of Baby No. 3

I am a prepare-for-the-worst kind of girl. Whenever a big change is about to happen in my life, my thoughts turn to all the ways it could go wrong. I think it’s some kind of mental safeguard, so that if things really do go wrong, I will to some degree be mentally prepared.

I remember when Dave and I decided we were ready to get engaged. We were sitting in his 4-runner in the Wingers parking lot in Idaho Falls, we’d just decided we wanted to get married, and what did the conversation turn to? How hard marriage would be. I’m glad to report marriage has been a whole lot more fun than my prepare-for-the-worst mentality lead me to believe it would be.

So now fast forward to me pregnant with my third child. I’m going to be honest: the past nine months I spent a lot of time imagining the worst. Well, maybe “the worst” is an overstatement, but I spent a lot of time dreading all the stress that I know comes with a new baby. When people would ask, “Are you excited?” I’d bw-15-foster-15respond in the affirmative, but there was a little part of my brain that would heave a tired sigh. I dreaded the sleep deprivation and constant neediness of a new baby. My three-year-old was just potty trained a few months ago. She’s old enough to climb in and out of the car alone, play on the playground equipment without toppling off a ledge or ladder, and I can leave her unsupervised for more than a few minutes without worry that she’ll shove a fork into an electrical outlet or drink a bottle of Draino. I knew that with a new baby coming, all the independence I’d slowly gained the last few years would be snatched away, and once again I’d be chasing a little helpless person, doing my best to keep him from barreling down the stairs head first or jabbing his eye out with a teething ring. The thought of it all was a bit exhausting.

And then, September 17, my little Dean Robert came.

Suddenly all my dread of sleepless nights and chaotic days was replaced by visions of first words and first steps. The excitement of discovering clouds in the sky and bugs in the dirt. The joy of a tiny hand holding my finger, trusting me to help him find his way.

18-foster-18-2Dean will be my last baby, and I’m so glad I have the chance, one last time, to experience and discover the world through the eyes of a brand new little person, to watch a new mind and personality unfold, to witness up close the start of a whole new life.

I’ll admit that some of my “prepare-for-the-worst” predictions have come true — I’m getting less sleep these days, and once maternity leave ends and I go back to work, life is going to be chaotic. However, I’m happy to report that when I prepared for the worst, I neglected to calculate in a pretty important factor: though a new baby can bring a lot of change and stress, sometimes hard changes bring the greatest rewards. And the chance to be a part of this little person’s life for eternity, it’s a reward well worth a few sleepless nights.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

Time to Cut the Crap, Time to Cut the Carl

I’m preparing to participate in my first protest next weekend. The cause I’ll be spending an afternoon standing for? A boycott of Carl’s Jr. restaurants due to their extremely sexualized commercials that exploit women.

If you’re rolling your eyes right now, you’re not alone. My husband even shook his head when I told him what I’d be doing. And part of me gets that. It’s only a restaurant. A lot of companies use sex and women to sell their products — what’s the big deal?potest too much

Here’s the deal.

I’m sure the name Brock Turner rings a bell with many of you, the young college kid who raped a woman while she was passed out behind a dumpster. He only went to jail for three months, while his dad complained his son was being punished for only “20 minutes of action.” Unfortunately, his story is one of many stories in our country that illustrate a growing mindset: the view of women as objects made for male gratification, where a man’s desire for “20 minutes of action” is more important than a woman’s ownership over her mind, body, soul, and sexuality.

We live in a country that touts feminism and equality for women. Yet while we’ve given lip service to women’s rights in the workplace, ironically, a totally different message has permeated our social norms: the message that a woman’s value lies in her ability to provide male sexual gratification.

So while it may be tempting to simply roll our eyes or laugh when companies like Carl’s Jr. air commercials that portray women in lingerie having “three-ways” with hamburgers, I can’t in good conscience ignore the blatant comparisons between women and meat in their advertising. We as a society would like to believe that the Brock Turners of the world are the result of horrible parenting, and while I’m sure that’s a big factor, I would argue that the portrayal of women as sexualized objects throughout our culture is also to blame. powerful woman

And Carl’s Jr.’s advertising campaign is a prime example of female objectification, which is just what the CEO of the restaurant is going for.

According to a 2015 article in Entrepreneur magazine, the CEO of Carl’s Jr., Andrew Puzder, flat out said he is troubled if people don’t find his company’s ads offensive. He’s looking to get attention, to create a brand — he wants Carl’s Jr. to be known for “burgers and boobs.” Check out this quote from Puzder, defending what he thinks is a great marketing campaign:

“[Carl’s Jr.’s sexualized marketing campaign] is an appeal to youth, so it really reaches a broad demographic. … My son’s now 17, but when he was 13 he didn’t want to eat at ‘the king’ [or] ‘the clown,’ he wanted to eat where his brother ate, so he wanted to be a young hungry guy. I’m 64, I want to be a young hungry guy. Some young ladies in your age group like to date young hungry guys.”  

“Young hungry guys.” Interesting. So based on what he said, McDonald’s and Burger King can’t feed “young hungry guys.” Apparently young hungry men need a restaurant infused with sex to feed their hunger. So basically if we replace the word “hungry” with “horny”  we get to the heart of what he’s saying.

I’m tired of people like Andrew Puzder exploiting women to gain money, and even more than that, I’m tired of sitting by while our country verbally condemns women being abused and raped but then doesn’t bat an eye when the media and society blatantly portray women as objects made to gratify men’s sexual hunger. man-up-cut-the-carls-beauty-redefined1

This is why, at eight and a half months pregnant, I am attending my first protest. This is why I have committed to never eat at Carl’s Jr., despite the fact that my son cries and pleads with me regularly to go to their awesome kid’s area. (BTW, does anyone else find it extremely disturbing that Carl’s Jr. brands itself as “boobs and burgers” but also is one of the fast food chains that often builds huge kid’s areas at their restaurants???)

If you agree with any of what I’ve said, I’d encourage you to take the pledge and quit eating at Carl’s Jr. Apparently Andrew Puzder loves it when his commercials offend people, so let’s show him how much we’re offended. Let’s show him that being a “young hungry guy” doesn’t mean accepting the idea that women are equivalent to his crappy fast food burgers.

He seems to be a man that loves hitting up the ladies, so let’s hit this hungry man where he’ll be sure to notice — right in his wallet.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

I’m a Lazy Parent — And I’m OK with That

I want to give a shout out to all my fellow “lazy parents” out there — high five, my people.

Ok, ok, no one has actually called me a lazy parent to my face. But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen “the look” from other parents, the look of horror that says “what kind of parent are you?!” Like when they find out my three-year-old isn’t potty trained yet. Or when I let my kids play zombie games on the iPad. Or when my kids eat cookies for lunch, and I just shake my head and move on.laziness

In all fairness, I know “the look” because I’m pretty certain I’ve given my own “look” to a few parents. Like when I find out a parent doesn’t take their kids to the library. (Really? Have you ever heard of books?) Or when I find out a parent doesn’t ‘do Santa.’ (Do you want your child to become a sadist?) Or when a parent tells me they don’t let their kids eat sugar. (Are you a sadist?)

All of us parents have certain things we would NEVER do or ALWAYS do, things we think are ridiculous, irresponsible, or just plain, pure lazy parenting. And if you’re someone like me, after spending time around other parents who seem to have a lot of “I would NEVERs…” or “I ALWAYS…” I often walk away feeling like a lazy parent with horrible children.

kids crazyThis all came to a turning point for me a few months ago after spending time with some friends and their kids. I had started out the day feeling really proud and happy with my kids, but I left feeling less than proud. Actually quite frustrated. After a day of comparing my kids to everyone else’s, all I could see were my parental shortcomings and my kids’ imperfections.

I wasn’t disciplining my kids well enough.

I wasn’t teaching my kids proper enough hygiene.

My kids were too whiny.

My kids were too rowdy.

I was raising a pair of wild animals dressed in cute clothes.

Before this picture…

I was sure all the other moms were shaking their heads behind my back, going home to tell their husbands how they’d NEVER let their kids behave like mine. etc. etc. etc.

And then it hit me.

I was being ridiculous.

I had allowed my petty worries about what others might think about my parenting skills become the measuring stick I was using to judge myself and my kids.

And that kind of habit is worse than lazy parenting.

So I’ve tried of late to quit seeing my kids by through other people’s eyes. It’s not easy. I think most of us humans have this predisposition to compare ourselves to others, and it’s a hard mentality to break. For some ridiculous, unexplainable reason, it’s hard not to care what other people think.

…came this picture. The truth behind all those picture-perfect Facebook and Instagram kid photos is right here, folks. Don’t let the other moms fool you.

But I’m trying. My kids behave badly some days, and I’m sure in the future there will be many more days other parents will label me as “lazy” and my children “wild animals.”

But none of that matters. Because I know better. I see the bad, but I also see the good. And there’s a whole lot more good. I hear laughter in my house everyday. I get to listen to little voices tell me their hopes and fears. I hear the “I’m sorrys” and “I love yous.” I see how they’re learning and growing each day, and though it may not be apparent to outsiders, I see my kids making little improvements all the time.

Our home is happy, our home is safe, and our home is with each other. And from now on, my kids will make me proud no matter what their, or my, shortcomings may be.

To heck with whatever anyone else may think.

And on the flip side, maybe we should all call a truce and quit thinking of other decent people as “lazy parents” or “crazy parents” or “poor parents.” Maybe we should just call them “parents.” Because in the end, there’s no one right way to be a parent, and if their kids are fed, clothed, happy, and safe, they’re doing a pretty darn good job.

So I’ll stop judging your lack of a library card if you’ll turn a blind eye to my diapered three-year-old. We all have our own priorities.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

The Coming of Our Spring: Hiking, Happy Places, and the Promise of Christmas

A few years ago, when William was around a year-and-a half old, Dave and I left him with grandma and grandpa and took to the mountains. We hadn’t gone backpacking since before having a baby, so it was pretty exciting to be just the two of us, our little Volvo crammed full of camping gear, guided by a GPS down rutted, dirt roads, headed to a trail head to DSC02751climb a mountain. We were hiking in the Lost River Range, near Mount Idaho. I’ll save you the details of the arduous drive that ended up taking longer and being more difficult than the hike (be sure to take a vehicle with high clearance if you ever go there!); instead I’ll just say that after a day of driving and a short hike, we made it to our campsite, next to the pristine Lake Miriam. A shear mountain face boarded us on one side, a flower-filled meadow faced us across the lake, and our little tent sat snug in the trees. It was breathtaking, and we had it all to ourselves.

DSC02773We spent our second day hiking through the meadow, to mountain ridges above. We hiked through trickling springs that cascaded in small waterfalls down the mountain face. We hiked among birds and trees, mossy rocks and shady pine boughs. We hiked to a “dead lake,” devoid of life, yet placid and peaceful, with views of valleys and mountain peaks in every direction. Yes, Jane Austen, “What are men compared to rocks and trees?”

It was perfection.

That night as I sat at camp, watching the lake fade from blue to purple in the evening light, I was struck by the serene way life on the mountain revolved. Back home, life hurdled forward at a frantic pace, no end in sight. Age old fears, debates, and wars were raging, humanity anxiously caught in the crossfire, yet up in those mountains, time plodded peacefully forward.

DSC02738The rise and fall of the seasons was all that mattered in that mountain setting. Each day the mountains moved closer toward fall, when the trees would shed their leaves, the animals would curl up in their nests, the lake would freeze. Yet a calm surety permeated the atmosphere, as though the mountains knew the coming days of winter were but a step in the process of yearly renewal, that eventually they’d trade the heaping snow banks for the trickle of mountain springs that would thaw the ground and make way for fertile growth.

That image, of the lake freezing over with winter snows, then slowly, methodically, changing to verdant life each spring, that is my happy place. It’s a place where I know life and beauty march forward day after day, year after year, unhindered by tragedy and sadness and woe. There is something very reassuring in that knowledge.

With the advent of the Christmas season, as I think of my lake, now buried in winter’s blustery breath, I think also of a verse to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a song that cries for the coming of our Spring, the day of our renewal.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.


Merry Christmas my friends!

And rejoice. Rejoice. For time marches faithfully forward; the peace of our Spring is coming.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

Reflections on the Recent LDS Policy Changes

I have hesitated to write this post because the dust is settling, and when controversy shakes people, it’s always a relief when the loud, angry debate moves on to the next topic of indignation, such as the pressing matter of red coffee cups.mouth shut

But that little fire inside me that fuels my passion — and gets me into trouble — will not be silenced. So without the aim of trying to kick up more dust, I’d like to express some of my thoughts on the recent debate surrounding the LDS church and its policies regarding homosexuals and their children.

I am not going to get into the weeds in this debate. Much has been said on both sides, and I honestly think there are good points made by both those who are for and against the policy. But I’m not interested in debating in circles over an issue on which most people have already taken a stance and dug in their heels.

My thoughts today are addressed to some of my fellow LDS church members, those who have expressed very strongly their support for the policy, even going so far as to conclude that if you don’t support the policy, then you don’t support the prophet.

love talkI’ve observed a few people sharing this sentiment, and every time I see it, I cringe. I know that these people feel they are doing the right thing and standing up for their beliefs, and I commend them for holding firm to their faith in the face of criticism, but the harsh, condemning way it is sometimes expressed hurts my heart.

I love the LDS prophet and apostles. I think they are good, inspired men. But can I be honest? This new policy is really hard. There are some parts of the policy I agree with, that make some sort of sense to me, but there are aspects of it that I find very hard, even grating, on my mind and my soul.

That being said, I still love President Monson. I continue to pay my tithing, go to church, avoid coffee in any color of cup, etc. — nothing in my religious life has really changed. I just don’t like the policy.

That’s why this whole “if you don’t support the policy, you don’t support the prophet!” attitude is so offensive to me. It leaves no room for difference. It sets up an “either you’re with us or against us” dichotomy, as if this one issue trumps all other aspects of a person’s faith. It doesn’t acknowledge that we are all children of God, all brothers and sisters with the same eternal potential, working to lift and help one another.

None of us are ever going agree with each other on absolutely everything in this life, but guess what, that’s never going to change! I’m guessing that even when we’re all together in eternity, we’ll still be debating over politics and ideology and whether or not it’s star-wars-stormtroopers-dancingacceptable to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving — because we’re all different! And I believe God appreciates our differences, otherwise he would have made a cookie cutter prototype, and we would all be a bunch of Jango Fett Stormtroopers running around this earth. (Big day here, Star Wars has made its way onto my blog!)

So here’s all I’m really asking: The next time you find yourself feeling the need to stand up for your beliefs — no matter the controversy and what side of the debate you’re on — can you take a minute to remember that the people you are debating with are not your enemies? They are your brothers and sisters, people who have endured a lot of pain and heartache, people who, like you, are imperfect but trying, people whose lives, due to circumstances sometimes outside of their control, have been set on a vastly different courses than your own. And God’s hand is at work just as much in their lives as your own.

They deserve your love, your compassion, your outstretched hand. Not lines drawn in the sand.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

Living in These Last, Glorious Days #PeopleAreAwesome

Here’s my confession: I am moderately conservative and a religious person, and I love my fellow religious conservatives, but I have a message I want to send them — it’s time to stop being so negative!Laughter

We spend a lot of time lamenting the decaying morals and social values of our country, but think about this: Several decades ago an unwed mother had to live her life in shame and hiding; black people and white people could hardly associate on equal terms; homosexuals were treated with disgust and fear; few women could have careers or leadership opportunities outside their homes; people with disabilities were treated with embarrassment and often institutionalized; and the list goes on.

I’m not saying all of these issues have been completely fixed in present day, but think about how far we’ve come! As much as we fear shifting moral values, let’s not forget that some of these shifts have helped bring more love, kindness, and acceptance to our world. I for one am so glad I live in a place and time when love is triumphing over hate and shame.  What a glorious time to be alive!

heavenAnd one more thought to cheer your day. As a religious conservative, I often get the impression that people think I’m some sort of elitist when it comes to achieving “heaven.” And frankly, I think there are many religious people who believe only an elite few are actually good enough to reach the pearly gates. I’m sick of this attitude. I’m sick of good people feeling like they aren’t good enough to meet God’s standards, and I’m tired of people who look down on anyone who they don’t deem as meeting those standards.

We are all children of God. We all have a spark of his divinity within us, and he loves us more than we can comprehend. Why would our Father in Heaven, an all-powerful being, allow one of his divine children to fail if that child had any chance of success? Why would he choose to create only a few really “good” people and make the rest of us subpar?

For this reason, I believe most people in this world, deep down, are good people, regardless of their choices or circumstances. People make a lot of bad choices in this life, but I don’t think there is any bad choice our Father can’t help us overcome. It’s never too late. Do any of you really think God would condemn for ETERNITY the low-self-esteem teenager who chooses to do drugs to try to fit in with her peers? The man who lies and steals to make a living because he knows no other way? Even the suicide church micebomber, who spends his life being brainwashed into believing a dogma of hatred and fear? Are there really very many people in this world whose choices are so evil we would condemn them for all ETERNITY, as having no hope of ever changing and accepting God’s atoning love?  I can’t believe there are very many people who will not eventually see the error of their ways, learn from their mistakes, and accept the gift of repentance our loving Father offers. But maybe I’m just an eternal optimist :).

So my friends, let’s start rejoicing! Let’s be glad for the amazing world we live in. Let’s focus on the good in others instead of fixating on the bad. Let’s spend more time seeing our fellow men and women the way God sees them — as children with boundless potential they will someday live up to.

We live in a glorious time — let’s start recognizing it!

P. S. This song pretty much sums up everything I’ve tried to say.



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

My Lunatic Rantings, aka End of Summer Brain Purge

I’ve been wanting to write for weeks now, but it’s been a struggle. I’ve had so many thoughts, but nothing I can write coherently from start to finish, nothing with a clever little intro and nice, tidy conclusion.

So today, I have decided to throw convention out the window and purge my thoughts, a mental reboot. A sort of “end of summer cleaning” of my mind. In other words, I’m revealing the inner workings of my brain. Scary, isn’t it? So here it goes.why you no focus

  • Potty training: Girls are so much more complicated than boys. Namely, the lack of ability to aim. Very messy. Lesson learned: Keep the Clorox wipes handy. Crazy thought — stadium buddies for kids. Genius.
  • Will I ever again be able to sleep an entire night, the way I slept before I had kids? Ever sleep in past 8:00 a.m. again? I dream of sneaking off to a hotel room, taking an Ambien, shutting the blackout curtains, and sleeping until I can’t bear to sleep anymore. It’s like this mirage, tantalizing and terrible.
  • My husband is dang lucky to have me. He’d be lost without me. Or rather, he’d be an ornery recluse, wearing holey underwear and living off $5 pizzas. With me around, he’s much less ornery, only has a few pairs of holey underwear, and occasionally eats something with vegetables in it. I rock.
  • Girl hormones really suck. Which leads to the question, how much of what we do as humans is driven by our own decisions versus these crazy chemicals coursing through our veins that have such a hold on our mind and body? Because I’m telling you right now, there have been a few things that have come out of my mouth this week that were not the clear, rational me, but rather my girl hormones using me like a ventriloquist dummy to voice themselves. Scary.
  • Speaking of hormones, my husband is a saint for putting up with my crap. I am a pain in the butt. I am insanity. Can I spend the rest of my life curled up on his lap? Resting in his embrace? *sigh*
  • IMG_0205William started Kindergarten. I didn’t think it would be this traumatic, but the girl hormones are kicking in, so I assigned Dave to drive him to school the first day. I didn’t want to be the mom bawling her eyes out and blowing her nose in the parking lot. When did I become a mom? When did I get old? Why am I crying that I have four hours every day with only one child to care for instead of two?
  • Where’s Dave’s Mt. Dew?
  • People are awesome. I love how they come in all different types, wrapped in different packaging, no two exactly the same, never ceasing to surprise me with their crazy, bizarre choices. This world is a grab bag. (Unless you’re the Kardashians. Then you’re no grab bag; you’re a flaming bag of poop.)
  • Is there anyone more insanely happy than a two-year-old? Or more demanding, irrational, and angry?
  • Just finished North of the Sun by Fred Hatfield. Amazing. I’m ready to move to Alaska and live in the woods like Little House on the Prairie. Ok, Ok, I know there are aspects of the whole situation that would be horrible, but the simplicity of it, the chance to live off the sweat of my own two hands — these are things that seldom exist in our society today, and they are sorely missed. (I myself would also probably be sorely missed if I lived like Fred Hatfield, since I would probably be eaten by a grizzly within a day, but it’s still a nice idea.)Cat_judge
  • Helping Dave fill out PA applications on CASPA makes me want to blow my brains out. And I have started sending the company that administers the GRE daily ranting e-mails, like a crazy person, because their electronic system for ordering copies of scores won’t work. I get an error message every time I try. My girl hormones just found a worthy victim, and they are frothing.

Ok that’s not really everything going on in my brain, but since I’d like you all to continue to call me your friend, I’ll stop there. At least it was a partial purge, erased a few cookies, shredded a few sensitive memos, filled a few bags to take to the Goodwill. Maybe with a little more private purging I’ll be able to write coherently again someday. Maybe when CASPA applications are done, and all my kids are house trained, and I get to take that Ambien. Right after I issue a bomb threat to the GRE. Back down girl hormones! Where is that Mt. Dew?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

Isn’t it Time We Start Talking About Sex? : That’s What She Said



As a kid I hardly dared say the word, as though it were some sort of profanity. As an adult, I evolved to the point I could talk about it without blushing.

Then I became a parent.

Suddenly I realized I was responsible for teaching another human being all the facts of life, including the facts of life. It was a horrifying thought. I mean, the last person any of us want to talk with about sex is our parents! And now I was the parent…

In preparation for the day I would have to explain to my kids the fundamentals of sex, I spent the past year picking the brains of fellow parents. I wanted to know how and when to have “the talk” with my kids. I’m raising my kids in a conservative home where we don’t believe abstinence is an out-dated ideal; however, after my year of study, I have come to the following conclusion:

The way many parents teach their kids about sex is out-dated, especially parents who are teaching their kids abstinence only.

Think about it. If you came from a conservative, Christian home, most likely your education about sex was a one-time conversation, vague, shrouded in embarrassment, and punctuated with the message of “just don’t do it!” The end result was a lot of embarrassment for everyone and a weird, abstract idea of sex as something special but also intrinsically forbidden. You probably walked away embarrassed to even say the word sex, yet fiercely curious about it.

While this method of sex education has never really been ideal, in today’s society, it’s ridiculously inadequate. We live in a world where casual sex is the norm, where teenage sex is almost expected, and where all curious minds have to do is type a few words into a Google browser, undoubtedly the worst place for kids to be looking for answers about sex.

That's what she saidFor this reason, I have set a goal. I want to make sex education at my home open, direct, and honest. It’s a daunting idea, but one I’m mentally preparing myself for now. In fact, when I told my husband my plan, he walked around the house yelling the words “penis” and “vagina” to the kids, so I think we’re on our way to nailing this one.

In reality, I probably have a little time before I have to get in depth about sex with my kids. My son is only five, and my daughter is only two, so at this point we keep our conversation focused on private parts and how to respond to inappropriate touching. However, I am trying right now to establish a habit of asking my kids specific questions about what they are thinking and feeling, so they get used to talking to me about what is happening in their lives and with their bodies.

Open education and dialogue about sex is something that needs to start when kids are young, so that it can develop into a comfortable conversation. We as adults set the stage to make sex scary, embarrassing, or a normal part of life, depending on how we approach. Asking pointed questions and taking time to listen, without freaking out or lecturing, is vital if we want our kids to feel like they can talk to us when they encounter sexual material and experiences — which WILL happen at some point.

A few months ago I read a blog post from a girl who was raised in a very strict Christian home down South. The importance of chastity was so ingrained in her that when she got married and lost her virginity, she went through a huge internal struggle that eventually lead her to leave her faith because she could not reconcile her sexual feelings and experiences with her religious life. How sad is that? And a clear example of why talking about sex in ways that emphasize only the need to avoid it is harmful.

Sex is a natural part of life, and it’s a great part of life! Turning it into something that is taboo or embarrassing to talk about cripples our kids’ development and ensures they won’t come to us for help or guidance.

So let’s talk about sex! Because if we don’t do the talking, someone else will.

P.S. For anyone who’s interested, I have listened to a couple of Podcasts from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a Mormon sex therapist, and she’s saying things about sex many of us need to hear. She’s kind of edgy for a Mormon. Some of you might not agree with everything she has to say, but I pretty much wish I could just hire her to educate my kids about sex! I’m including a link to her pod casts below.

Mormon Sex Therapist Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Podcasts

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

A Lesson Learned from “Murderers and People Like That”

Several years ago while teaching an English composition class, I discovered one of my students, the kid who always sat in the front row, took notes during class, and raised his hand with a good answer to every question, had recently been released from prison after serving a seven year sentence for killing his best friend. He confided in me after class one day, while discussing potential topics for an upcoming paper. He was humble and frank in his description of the events. He’d spent a night out drinking with friends, and in a drunken haze, he and his friend got into an argument; a physical fight ensued. His friend didn’t survive.

It was a startling moment, to discover the guy on the front row, the guy that all the other students probably rolled their eyes at for being the classic over achiever, was a convicted felon.

Pay attentionWhat added to the irony of the situation came a few weeks later, when we had a class discussion regarding voting rights. I’d asked the class if it was ever appropriate to take away someone’s right to vote, for instance felons aren’t allowed to vote. One girl raised her hand and responded, “For most crimes I don’t think voting rights should be taken away, but of course for serious crimes, those people shouldn’t be able to vote, like murderers and people like that.”  The girl had no idea that three seats down the row sat one of the people she was condemning.

Fast forward a few years later, I was writing a magazine article about education programs in the Pocatello women’s prison. I had the opportunity to interview three inmates. One of them in particular seemed to have a very compelling story. I didn’t know her crime, but she was serving a life sentence. She had entered prison in her early twenties and was now in her early fifties, having spent her entire adult life in prison.

She entered prison without a high school education. Her parents were vagrants who moved around from city to city, so she quickly fell between the cracks of society and dropped out of middle school. She couldn’t even read. In prison she spent her first several years angry and mean, but over time she came to realize she could choose to be happy, that she had a choice to make something better of herself. She started attending school at the prison, and though learning did not come easy to her, when we spoke, she was one test away from obtaining her GED. She told how along the way she made friends and learned to reach out and show kindness to others. The difficulty of her past was evidenced by a nervous tick and her faltering manner of expressing herself, and my heart hurt when I realized the transformation she had made and hope she held for the future, despite the fact she had little chance of ever leaving the prison system.

After the interview I couldn’t contain my curiosity as to why someone like her was condemned to spend life in prison, so I looked her up on the Internet. I was startled to find that she was a convicted murderer. When she was in her twenties, she got into a relationship with a man who was heavily involved in drugs, a habit she easily fell prey to. While they were passing through Idaho, he contrived a plan to murder an acquaintance in order to steal money and a car.  Though she didn’t pull the trigger, she knew about the plan and went along with it, so in the end, they were both caught and given life sentences. She was several months pregnant at the time, so her child was born in prison and immediately sent to foster care and later adopted.

My student, the woman I interviewed in jail, their stories have both stayed in my thoughts for years. I can’t help but think that if fate had dealt me worse cards in my own life, I could just as easily be in their shoes. It took only a few poor choices and hard circumstances to send my two friends down very dark paths. Yet astonishingly, both of them came out on the other side as compassionate, sincere people who had a deep appreciation for all they’d been given and a desire to make their lives better.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about everything I’ve been given in this life: a supportive family, wonderful friends, abundant education, a steady job, a roof over my head, good health, the list goes on and on. It’s really easy for someone like me to sit in my comfortable home and think that all the bad people in this world live behind bars or in some iniquitous den of thieves somewhere. Yet the truth is, I’m guilty of many sins. And as someone who has been given so much, in many ways, my sins may be more grievous than the uneducated, forgotten young girl who falls in with the wrong crowd or the naive young man who makes a dumb decision after a night of drinking.

Observe selfOne of the greatest sins that often goes unnoticed is how we treat our fellowmen in the little, inconspicuous moments of life. How often have I acted huffy and rude with the checkout person at the supermarket because she was moving slowly and inconvenienced my day by taking too long? How many times have I condemned a group of people for supporting a cause or promoting a belief I don’t agree with? How often have I smirked at another’s misfortune because somehow I believe they “deserved” it? How often have I thought myself “better” than someone because of the way they looked?

There are so many ways on a daily basis I fail to treat my fellow men with the kindness and love they deserve. It may not seem like a big thing. However, I can’t get past the first and second commandments — “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart. … This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

When people make mistakes out of ignorance, desperation, or lack of understanding, I believe the Lord has a very compassionate hand. But for people like me, someone who knows better, who has been given so much — what is my excuse for being judgmental, uncompassionate, or self-righteous? Could this be the beam that Christ speaks of, when he tells us we must remove the beam from our own eye in order to see the mote in our brother’s eye?

After all, the Pharisees and Sadducees of Christ’s time were blinded by their own self-righteousness and sense of moral justice, too busy finding fault with others to see the truth that stood in their midst. I pray that I am not that blind, that I can remove the beam from my own eyes and see where the real sin lies, and that when I think of “murderers and people like that,” I remember that everyone’s journey in this life is different. That doesn’t mean our destination can’t be the same.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather

To My Mother-in-Law Kristen, and the Disease that Took Her Life

I knew it would be no ordinary shopping trip, but I never expected a dressing room in JC Penny would become the symbol of a journey that would last for years to come.  I was twenty-something years old, headed to the mall to shop for pants with my mother-in-law.  I knew she would have a hard time navigating the store with its glaring lights, busy people, and overwhelming rows of clothing, so I entered the store prepared with her arm securely in mine, her pant size tucked away in my mind, and a knowledge of exactly where we would find women’s pants and an adjacent dressing room.scan0015

You see my mother-in-law Kristen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when she was fifty-six.  The disease quickly affected her speech, making it difficult for her to express herself verbally.  It systematically destroyed memory after memory, taking away abilities as simple as dressing herself or using a spoon.  Eventually it also toyed with her perceptions of reality, sending her on periodic trips to years gone by, where those of us around her became strangers or nightmares from her past.

But the irony of Alzheimer’s is that though its victims’ minds quickly deteriorate, their bodies often remain healthy and strong, necessarily making them part of the everyday activities of life, including shopping for new pants when a meager appetite results in a shrinking waistline.  And so that day in JC Penny, I strategically navigated the women’s section, quickly located several pairs of pants, and guided Kristen to the dressing room to help her try them on.

Unfortunately, despite my efficient plans, it soon became apparent that she would need a smaller size.  I hesitated to leave her alone to exchange sizes because she was so easily confused.  I knew it would be too much to redress her and take her back out to search for sizes, and the racks of pants were just a few steps outside the dressing room doors.  So with a bit of trepidation, I sat her on the dressing room chair, encouraged her to relax, reassured her I would be right back, and dashed out to make my exchanges.

moon river
Kristen and eight of her greatest achievements. So proud I can call them my family.

I had only been gone for a few minutes, but it’s funny how Alzheimer’s can transform minutes into eternities.  Kristen had moved from her chair and was standing at the mirror in the dressing room.  The mirror was actually three tall mirrors angled towards each other, allowing the viewer to see multiple views of themselves from different angles.

Kristen stood staring at the many reflections of herself, the multiplicity of them staring back, and as I entered the room, she turned to me with a face contorted in utter confusion.

“Which one am I?” she muttered, over and over.  Her hands reached out tentatively to touch the reflections, seeking to find the women staring back at her in the mirror.  “Which one am I?”

That moment has floated through my mind many times over the years, becoming an archetype of so much of what Kristen experienced as Alzheimer’s ravaged her mind.

2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s — Remembering Grandma Kristen

Like Alice in Wonderland, Alzheimer’s sent Kristen on a trip through the looking glass.  While the rest of us sat like helpless spectators, she spiraled through the mirror into a world where linear reality distorted itself into a hodgepodge of past, present, and future selves, so many many different selves.  While that day in the store Kristen lost herself among the reflections in the mirror, as the years passed, she became lost among the many shards of what was real, what was memory, what might have been.

Kristen died on December 30, 2010.  Her battle with Alzheimer’s lasted over seven years, and it was a journey that taught me a disease can rob people of their most prize possession — their self.  Until a cure is found, Alzheimer’s is a disease that has one final conclusion, and to battle it does not mean the defeat of the disease, but rather to defer the eventual outcome as long as possible.

However, though the battle for Kristen is over, the human spirit is never truly lost.  I know this life is not the end, and I know that somewhere in this universe, Kristen has been reunited with all those many pieces of herself we thought were lost so long ago.

And so I send this message to my dear mother-in-law:  While you may have lost yourself in the mirror that day, your life is found.  Today if you looked in the mirror, the faces staring back at you would show eight children who call you mother and dozens of grandchildren who call you grandma.  You would see the reflections of people who had the blessing of calling you friend, wife, sister.  You may have been lost in the looking glass for a time, and we curse the disease who took you from us, but the woman in the mirror left her mark on this world, a mark that I see reflected in the faces of the people I love most.  And I thank you for it.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestby feather