Friday, July 27, 2012

Pity Party: Table for One

Don't mind me, I'm just throwing myself a pity party.

I am sick of not feeling like I have the time, the space, or the money to invest in making my home prettier and more functional.  I hate that I feel like it's not worth it to do much, or that I'm restricted from doing much, because we're renting this apartment and will likely be moving soon.

I'm sick of having no space to put things away.  My counters are so cluttered, because my cupboards can't fit cereal boxes.  Then my kids are constantly getting into those things when I don't want them to.  My kitchen is hard to access, with a lot of cupboard space wasted in corners.  And my arms are short, so I can't reach up/back there to get stuff anyway.  I have started collecting craft supplies for different projects, but don't really have any good space to put them.  So they end up tucked in random boxes and bags, stuffed into odd corners in my bedroom or closets.  Then I can't find them later and either can't finish a project I wanted to, or have to buy more things.

I know a lot of my issues could be ameliorated by de-cluttering and purging.  But there is no space to do that!!  Maybe if I didn't have my kids for an entire week, I could get it done.  But I do have kids.  Three of them, in a two bedroom apartment.  THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.  There is no space for me to de-clutter without them getting into EVERYTHING and ruining any progress I am able to accomplish, most likely resulting in an even bigger mess than where I started.

I am sick of being poor.  I am sick of buying the cheap version, especially when I know it isn't as good of quality.  I am sick of not feeling much ownership over my space.  I am sick of being discontented and feeling so materialistic.  I desperately want my husband to get a new job, and not just a job, but a career.  I want all the benefits of that job: extra money for a nicer, bigger place to live; a minivan (mostly just to have a second car!!); health insurance for the whole family; opportunities for advancement; etc.  Haven't we paid our dues by now?  Can't we catch a break?!

I know I am richly blessed.  I know my problems are fairly minor ones, and ones that are likely to be resolved.  But right now, at this moment, I just need to wallow in my frustration.  I need to vent it so I can shake it off and move forward.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Not Many Answers, Just Feelings and Questions

Do you ever feel better after you find out some bad news?  There's been some drama among a group of friends of mine, hurt feelings and lashing out on several sides.  It's been on my mind all week and I've been worried about everyone involved.  I didn't think I was very involved in the situation, but I found out that there's been some harsh talk about me going around.  I was a little surprised with myself with my reaction.  I wasn't surprised and it didn't really bother me as much as I thought it would.  A couple years ago I would have been crushed and become obsessed with wanting to know every detail and intent on fixing it all.  But I've come to a rather zen conclusion about it: it's not really about me, I am just an easy target in this situation.  And that's okay with me.  I can understand why people may take issue with certain parts of my personality and demeanor, despite my intentions being different from perception.  But it's who I am, and I know I am not doing these things in a malicious way, intending to cause harm.  I am okay with how I've chosen to present myself and my opinions, and if someone else has taken offense and chooses not to address it directly with me, that's on them.  I would welcome that conversation, but I am not going to seek it out either, because again, I don't think it's truly about me.

I felt more settled after I heard about it.  I hadn't been sure of where I stood with certain people, what they thought of me, how they perceived me, and I had been conflicted over how to approach them.  But with this information, I know better where I stand and what would or would not be helpful.  That gave me an enormous sense of peace.  I realized my gut had been telling me to hold back for a reason, and I was so grateful I listened to it.  I know that the person(s) involved are in a really hurt place right now.  They are not lashing out from a whole, healthy place.  If hating on me is helping them get through it, I am willing to take it.  If I can't help by being a friend, I'm willing to help by being a target.  I am a big girl and can handle it.  I feel confident in who I am and what I've said or done, regardless of what may be said.  Someone else's opinion isn't going to change that or my relationship/standing with my Heavenly Father.  My family and friends who truly know me, still love and stand by me.

At the moment, the harsh words are staying fairly private and I'm not being condemned in the general public.  As long as things stay that way, I'm okay with it.  If things change and harassment or libel ensues, then my tune will change.  But I don't anticipate that so for now, I'm fine.  I won't say it doesn't hurt, it totally does!  I thought we were close friends and there was mutual affection.  I don't like the idea of someone feeling that harshly towards me or saying harsh things about me.  I wish it weren't happening.  

And I am totally cognizant that this post merely existing seems at odds with the ideas I've explored here.  For repeatedly saying "this isn't about me", this post contains an awful lot of "me" and "I".  But this is my blog, where I talk about my experiences.  So while I believe the harsh stuff going on isn't truly about me, my tangential experience is.  I also am aware that I mentioned how I wish those who dislike me would have approached me directly rather than lashing out behind my back, and this post seems to be doing the same thing.  I don't know that I have a strong answer for that.  I do believe that intention makes a difference.  My purpose in this post is just to explore my own feelings, I haven't condemned anyone's character, I've tried not to make any value judgements, and I'm trying to keep the focus on my perception and my reaction.  I imagine what's being said about me is being said in a venting tone and not truly intended to harm me.  I am sure it wasn't intended to ever come to my knowledge (and I don't have any specifics, just know that it's going on).  The reason I am not approaching the person(s) directly is because I don't believe it will help anything and I'm only interested in exploring it with them, if it will truly help rebuild our relationship.  I don't know that they are interested in doing that right now; which is probably why they haven't approached me and that's okay with me too.  I wish it was different, but considering where I imagine they are coming from, I can see why it's playing out the way it is.

The whole situation, from the initial fight between other people, to hearing about the talk about me, has brought up some really complex questions for me.  When do you let someone vent and when do you try to stand up for what they are railing against?  How do you make the decision about whether it is helpful or not?  How do you validate someone's feelings and be supportive when you don't agree with what they are saying?  Is it ever okay to give out information that was given in confidence?  Where is the line between letting someone vent about another person, giving information, and gossiping?  Is there even a line?  Does intention matter?  I don't really have any good answers for any of these.

All in all, I am at peace with the whole thing, or at least my part in it.  I am hurting for myself and my friends, but I am not angry or lashing out because of it.  My hope and prayer is that with time, all parties are able to reach out and rebuild the relationships and trust.  I'm not sure if this is just part of the normal ebb and flow of relationships or if this will end up changing our lives forever and the friendships will never come back.  I just know that I am going to just wait and see.  I have my dream of how to it will turn out, but it's not up to me.  It's up to others and I wish them peace, comfort, and love on their journeys.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers Day Talk

This year I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mothers Day.  I had several reactions to it within a short amount of time.  First there was "Ugh, seriously?! I have to work on Mothers Day?" then "Good, after my rant last year, better I get to do it this year, so I know it will be done right," (humble, I know), then "I don't even get to be with my kids on Mothers Day?  Whine!" then "Wait!!  That means I will actually get to listen to the talks and not have to be dealing with noisy, cranky children."  I went through all of those thoughts in about 3 seconds.  ;-)  I agreed to give the talk and then when I got my topic I was excited as well.  The topic was "Example of righteous mothers in the scriptures".  I thought this was a simple and good way to approach Mothers Day in the church.  

I didn't stress much about it during the week, because I knew I would just be telling stories and I would be one of three speakers, so if I ran short, it would be someone else's problem to fill the time.  Then it came to Saturday, the day before I was to speak, and I hadn't done anything about the talk.  Shoot.  I had compiled my own list of mothers in the scriptures and I started looking up the scriptures about them.  It turned out there was remarkably little information about these women!  It was hard to glean much from the stories, but I did what I could.  I was helped out immensely by a friend who spoke in her ward last year on Mothers Day and had saved her talk.  She generously offered me any part of it to use, and I ended up using some of it.  I had been pretty sure the talk wouldn't be very long but figured oh well, that's the closing speaker's problem.  When I got to church, I saw in the program that there was no youth speaker, just me, the Primary children singing, and the closing speaker.  Uh oh.  But when I actually got up to speak, it ended up taking longer than I originally thought.  It ended up being a nice talk.  I enjoyed preparing for it and delivering it (once I stopped my nervous hand wringing ;-)).  I am glad I was asked to give it.  Here is the text of it, for those who want to read it.

Good morning and Happy Mothers Day. What wonderful beings mothers are. I know we have all felt the influence of righteous mothers in our lives, whether they are our own mothers or those who has exerted a motherly influence upon us. I personally feel blessed and privileged to have had many examples of beautiful mothering in my life. I especially delight in reading about mothers in the scriptures and learning about their trials of faith and how they rose to the challenges given to them.

In the Old Testament, Hannah was a righteous woman. She wanted to be a mother very intensely. She went to the temple, year after year, praying to be given a child. One particular time, she was pouring her heart out to the Lord, weeping and begging. She was covenanting that if she could be given a child, she would raise that child in righteousness, teaching him all that she could, and would dedicate his life to the Lord. The high priest, Eli, saw her, and after an initial misunderstanding, told her that she would be given her heart's desire and would bear a child. Hannah conceived and bore Samuel and for the first few years of his life, she raised him just as she promised. Then it came time for Samuel to dedicate his whole life to the Lord. Hannah brought him back to the temple and gave him to Eli, the same high priest who had promised her this child years before. Eli taught and trained Samuel in the ways of the Lord. Samuel went on to become an important prophet. His mother Hannah returned home and bore more children. Throughout her trials, she remained faithful to the Lord, continually asking for his help and trusting that he would answer her prayers. As she was letting him go to a life of service to the Lord, Hannah was joyful and grateful,  

1 Samuel 2:1-2
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn in exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

Another example in the scriptures is found in Judges chapeters 4 and 5 where we read about a judge in Israel, Deborah, who is the first woman to have been called a "mother in Israel."

Deborah had many roles.  She was a poet, Prophetess, Judge, and Leader of military action.  As a prophetess and judge, she received instruction from God that Barak should raise an Israelite army and move against the Canaanites who held them captive.  Even after Deborah assured Barak that God would deliver the leader of the opposing army into their hands, Barak insisted that he would not go to war unless Deborah accompanied him.  Barak lead the army; Deborah, in her role as prophetess and judge, led Barak, making possible through revelation, his military victory.

While Barak's army, with God's divine assistance, defeated the much more powerful Canaanite army, Deborah advised him that "the Lord shall sell Sisera [the leader of the Canaanite army] into the hand of a woman."  True to this prophecy, Sisera fled sure destruction on the battle field and took refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of an Arab chief allied with the Israelites.  Having made Sisera comfortable and promised to hide him, Jael waited for him to sleep and then killed him.

After the Israelites' victory over the Canaanites, Deborah sings in praise of God that "the inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel."  How is it that she arose "a mother in Israel" as she first revealed Gods plan and then accompanied the army into battle as it fulfilled God's plan?  At the end of her song of praise, Deborah sings: "So let all thine enemies perish O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.  And the land had rest forty years."  Deborah's efforts, Jael's actions, and the Israelites' obedience to God's commands resulted in forty years of peace.  While we do not know if Deborah actually had children, her righteousness fostered the spiritual life of her community.

Rebekah, who eventually became the wife of Isaac and the mother Jacob and Esau, is an example of a woman who exercised charity.  In the normal pattern of her daily tasks, she was kind to Abraham's servant who was visiting her village on the dramatic mission to secure a wife for Isaac.

The Lord knew Rebekah's heart; he knew how she would respond when she observed a need.  He answered the servant's prayer that the young woman who was to become Isaac's wife would offer him water.

In Genesis 24:15 we read, "Behold, Rebekah came out...with her pitcher upon her shoulder" and went down to the well.  The servant asked for a drink.  Whole family trees hung in the balance of her answer.

In verses 18-20:
18 And she said, drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher up on her hand, and gave him drink.
19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for their camels also, until they have done drinking.
20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

Her brother Laban invited him to lodge, and not until the servant was introduced did she discover he was the servant of her uncle.  Her charitable response to this stranger was automatic.  She did not stop to think, I am giving service, nor did she consider the station of the one in need.  She hastened to serve water--even to camels.

Respectfully, she offered an act of service, a simple one, and from that act was born a family of great influence for whole dispensations.  Rebekah loved with worthiness and willingness as a daughter of God.

Elisabeth was righteous before God, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances”. She and her husband Zacharias followed the Lord and obeyed his word. They didn't have children and in their old age, Zacharias served as a high priest in the temple. One day the angel Gabriel appeared to him, prophesying that Elisabeth would conceive and bare a son and his name would be John. Zacharias was incredulous that such a thing could come to pass because of their advanced age. The angel rebuked him and struck him dumb. When he returned home, Elisabeth did conceive and was 6 months pregnant when her young cousin Mary came to visit. As the cousins embraced upon Mary's arrival, the baby in Elisabeth's womb leaped with joy and Elisabeth was filled with the Spirit. Mary stayed with her for a few months before journeying home right before Elisabeth gave birth. The baby boy arrived and his parents named him John, fulfilling the angel's prophesy and restoring Zacharias' powers of speech. That baby boy grew up to become John the Baptist. Because of his parents' loving guidance and teaching, he was able to teach and prepare the way for his cousin Jesus Christ, eventually baptizing the Savior.

Mary was a pure and clean. She was a precious daughter of our Heavenly Father and one he trusted with the ultimate calling, to be the mother of Christ. In Luke 1:28-38, the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said:

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, the cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God, nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

She carried and bore the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father. She loved him, raised him, guided him. At the end of his life, she was still there, caring for him. As he hung on the cross, he asked his disciples to take care of his mother. I think that may be one of the most beautiful tributes to motherhood. What better expression of love, than that of concern for his mother, while he was suffering and dying himself.

Sariah is one of the mothers we get to know the most in the scriptures. She is Lehi's wife and Nephi's mother. She is asked to give up her comfortable life and home in Jerusalem and venture into the wilderness with her husband and four sons, based on a dream. That's a lot to ask. But she did it, because of the faith she had in her husband and the Lord. They traveled in the wilderness for three days before Lehi informs them the boys need to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, the sacred records of their family and the gospel. Her sons are gone for a long time, on a dangerous errand. Sariah begins to murmur and complain against her husband, because she figures her sons have been killed and it's all Lehi's fault.

1 Nephi 5:2-9 reads:
2 For she had supposed the we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
3 And after this manner of language has my mother complained against my father.
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them powers whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

Sariah faltered in her faith temporarily, but after being comforted tenderly by her husband, she is bolstered up and renews her faith and commitment to the gospel. The strength of her testimony increases greatly and she changes from just believing to knowing. And with that greater knowledge, also comes humility and gratitude as they offer sacrifices unto the Lord.
Later in the Book of Mormon, Helaman was fighting a war and had an army of 2,000 brave warriors. They were young and had no experience as soldiers, but they wanted to defend their people and had faith in Heavenly Father. During a fierce battle, some of them were wounded, but not a single one died. All 2,000 were preserved and saved, through the grace of God. Helaman called these young men his sons. He was amazed, impressed, and incredibly heartened to hear them show their faith.

Alma 56: 46-48 reads:
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.

They did not doubt their mothers knew it. Their mothers had taught them from their youth to believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Their mothers showed an amazing example, through words and actions. We don't learn of these mothers by name, we don't know all the details of how they raised their sons, but the important part comes through. Look at the effect these mothers had on their young children. Their sons had no doubt, just utter faith and peace that the Lord would take care of them.

Eve is the mother of all living. She was the first mother on this earth. After the Fall, she worked, struggled, and suffered to return to our Heavenly Father. She made new covenants with him and obeyed his commandments. She taught her children what they should do. I am sure she was grieved when they disobeyed and gloried and praised when they followed her teachings. To me, she is the ultimate example of someone who made a grievous mistake but then spent the rest of her life making sure to obey and teach others. Eve certainly did not shirk her duty.

In Moses 5:11-12 we learn:
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

Motherhood is certainly no easy task; but the fruits of the labor are worth it. The influence of righteous mothering can be felt not just for years, but for generations. The exact means through which that influence is exerted varies from woman to woman. We each have a different lot in life, regardless of the number of children we bear, whether none or many, we can all have a motherly influence on those around us. We can be strong examples of righteousness and uphold the responsibilities given to us by the Lord.

I bear my testimony that the Lord knows and loves each one of us, individually and deeply. He has set up this life, with the exact trials and opportunities we need to grow to our greatest potential. We absolutely have the choice of how to deal with those opportunities, but I know that no matter what is given to us, we can always learn from it. As we strive to live the commandments, we will grow closer to him. We will see miracles wrought before us. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nittany Lions? More like cowardly lions.

I heard about a news story Tuesday that really really disturbed me.  It's still a developing story but based on what I have learned I'm pretty freaking angry about what happened.  You might want to check out this link first to familiarize yourself with who are the key players in this story.   There are several details that have not been explained, many questions that need to be answered, and if they are later revealed, I will be happy to revise my opinions based on the new information.  Let me get this out of the way first and foremost: if these allegations are true (and currently, I am inclined to believe they are) the core of the fault lies with Jerry Sandusky.  He was the perpetrator of these crimes and deserves all the punishment  the law can give him.  He was absolutely in the wrong, these were evil acts, and should be condemned most vociferously.  But my purpose here is to focus on the surrounding players in this tragic saga.

I am so bothered by the lack of action by so many people, mostly university officials.  I have a hard time believing that a man with 40 criminal counts against him, including serial sexual abuse of children, fooled everyone for all those years. People had to have picked up on something being off about him, both at the university and those involved with his charity, The Second Mile, probably others as well.  Not to mention, there were at least two instances where individuals witnessed crimes and reported them to others, so some people had the idea in their heads that he might be capable of these acts.

I hate that four different people saw a young boy being attacked by a grown man and did nothing in that moment.  NOTHING.  They couldn't even muster calling out "Hey! What's going on here?" let alone physically getting involved and stopping the assault?  That is the first failure.  In that moment, they should have done something to help the boys and stop the abuse.  Then moving on, they take the time to consult other, uninvolved people?  They didn't call the police right off the bat?  Or even in the least, report it to a university official immediately so that the police could be contacted ASAP?  In one instance, the janitor told several co-workers and his supervisor, who gave him the information about who to report it to, but he never did make the official report.  It was important enough to talk to a supervisor about, but he couldn't be bothered to tell the official?  And in another, the grad assistant, Mike McQueary, called his dad and waited a whole day to talk to Joe Paterno?  He didn't immediately go to Paterno and say, "I witnessed this crime.  It needs to be reported to the police and I am going to make sure that happens.  You can either come with me or you can ignore it, but I am taking responsibility for notifying the university and the police."  Or something like that.  I am okay with him notifying his superiors (and Sandusky's superiors) at the university, but he needed to take ownership of notifying the police.  He was the witness, he needed to make the report.  If there were university policies in place that were set up so that he couldn't report it directly, then Penn State needs to seriously examine them and truly re-evaluate whether they are correct and moral.

No football team, player, coach, or university's reputation is worth a child's life being destroyed.  Self-preservation is an instinct, but we have high-functioning brains that should allow us, nay should compel us, to overcome the desire to place our careers or comfortable lives above a child's welfare.

So now, the assault has been reported to Joe Paterno, venerable, beloved coach who has emphasized 
"Success with Honor" for years, and what does he do?  He simply calls the athletic director and leaves it there.  He doesn't try to follow up?  He doesn't give the AD the same speech that I wish McQueary had given him?  Did he even encourage the grad assistant to go to the police?  Or did he tell him to hush up and wait to be contacted?  To not risk Penn State and Paterno's reputations by breathing a word of it to anyone?  Is it possible McQueary was threatened, either explicitly or implied, to leave it alone or risk ruining his career and his own reputation?  Did Paterno even recognize that a terrible crime had been committed, on Penn State property, or did he only see warning lights flash in his head and do the least he was obligated to do out of a misguided effort to guard his legacy?  Or conversely, was McQueary offered, again either outright or through implication, a more secure career, a speedier trajectory up the ranks, if he was quiet?  (Not punishment for speaking out, but reward for not.)  How did McQueary continue to work there, knowing Sandusky was still around and nothing ever came of his report?  What does that say about his moral character?

From what I have read, Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation.  Fine, I accept that he has and is not guilty of a crime.  But his lack of follow up, his lack of seeking out the truth, his utter lack of getting the hell rid of Sandusky, kicking him off the campus is so appalling.  It seems clear to me that he placed his football program's reputation above children's safety.  From what Mark Madden of Beaver County Times said,  "Did Penn State not make an issue of Sandusky's alleged behavior in 1998 in exchange for him walking away from the program.... Did Penn State's considerable influence help get Sandusky off the hook?  Don't kid yourself. That could happen.  Don't underestimate the power of Paterno and Penn State in central Pennsylvania when it comes to politicians, the police and the media."  How scary is it that the police, the very people we trust to serve and protect us, can be pushed around and influenced by a football program?  Paterno may have fulfilled his legal obligation, but he came nowhere close to doing his moral duty.  Once an eyewitness came to him, explaining what he had seen, Paterno should have made sure an full investigation was done and that the truth was found out.  He should have had that goal and pursued it, even if only for peace of mind.  If the allegations brought by McQueary were false, why would you want him to continue working for you?  If they were true, why would you want to continue any sort of affiliation with Sandusky, let alone granting him access to the campus facilities where these crimes were perpetrated?!  No matter what the truth was, something was wrong here, and Paterno should have wanted to find it out and take the necessary actions.

Once the report was made from Paterno to the Athletic Director, again, why weren't the police called?  I don't see how in this type of circumstance the university can think it has the resources, biased or not, to conduct a fair and thorough investigation of this magnitude.  These were crimes.  Not NCAA violations that may result in fines or suspensions.  Crimes.  Violations of state laws, punishable by lengthy prison sentences.  Those laws are enforced by the police, violations thereof are investigated by the police.  Now several Penn State officials are facing criminal charges of their own, not just for failing to report the abuse, but some are facing perjury charges as well.  They are accused of lying to the grand jury.  I'm just venturing a guess here, but I doubt they were lying in order to make Sandusky look worse.

I was watching an program on ESPN Wednesday afternoon (I believe it was NFL Live) where two former NFL players were commenting on the story, by having the question "Should Joe Paterno coach this Saturday?" posed to them.  (This was prior to Paterno's firing, but after his announcement of retirement.)  Marcellus Wiley answered first, saying yes he should coach, and then went on to liken this 'scandal' to teammates who "have indiscretions off the field" and how it was important to support them during difficult times like that.  Mark Schlereth said no, absolutely not, even went as far to say that Penn State should not even play on Saturday.  I was taken aback by that, but also very impressed.  I don't know that Penn State shouldn't play, but I agreed that Paterno should not coach and when I heard about the firing later in the day I felt it was the right call to make.  But seriously, Marcellus, these accusations are not of mere 'indiscretions'.  The rape of a child is not the same as getting caught with a bag of weed or a hooker or even just having an affair.  This was not a mistake made in the heat of the moment, like slapping your spouse in the middle of a furious argument.  These are severe crimes against children.  This is not a time to circle the wagons and offer your support.  This is a time to bring the truth to light and if crimes were committed, you need to stand with the victims, stand with the right, not give 'support' to the perpetrator.

When stories like this come to public knowledge, you hear this line a lot, "Nobody knows what they would do in that situation."  What a pathetic excuse.  You see a crime, an sexual attack, being committed against a child, by an 55+ year old man, and you, a strong 28 year old football player/coach can't do anything about it?!  Here is what I think every responsible, moral person person should do for themselves.  As a youth, I was taught in my church classes to decide now what I would do in a given situation; if I was asked to do something that I knew was against my values.  By thinking about it and deciding my answer ahead of time, I would be prepared when/if that situation came upon me and not have to think about it in the moment.  I challenge everyone sit down and think about what you would do if you witnessed such a crime.  Decide now that you would do something to stop it, in that moment, and that you would report it to the police as soon as you could.  Then if, heaven forbid, you come upon such a situation, you can just act and do the right thing.

This whole situation is infuriating to me.  I am appalled that so many individuals thought of themselves first, and due to their lack of action, more young boys were attacked and abused.  I can't believe Sandusky was still allowed access to Penn State facilities even after accusations had been reported to school officials.  I am glad that those in power who failed to report these crimes are being fired from their jobs and facing criminal charges.  I don't understand why students are protesting Paterno's dismissal, and why in heaven's name they think destruction is the way to get their message across.  It is beyond disturbing that the image and reputation of a university and it's football program were consistently placed above the welfare and needs of children.  These were major moral lapses by so many people and, while I wholeheartedly believe in repentance and forgiveness, I hope they are now suffering major guilt and will forever try to repair the damage they allowed to happen.  This series of crimes could have been stopped several times, victims could have been saved, and for that to have not happened is a tragedy in and of itself.

As this story develops, I am reading more articles about it.  I encourage you to read this one by Jemele Hill and this one by Howard Bryant.  If I have any of my facts wrong, please let me know (include sources).  I want to be completely accurate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 years ago...

I have been meaning to sit down and write this out for 10 years and I am finally doing it today.  On September 11th, 2001, I was 17 years old and had just started my senior year of high school.  It was the first week of seminary and that's where I was that morning.  I remember Neal coming in late and announcing to the class that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York.  I only had a vague idea of what the Twin Towers and World Trade Center were.  When I heard a plane had crashed into one of them, I assumed it was a small, private plane and it was an accident.  I left seminary about 15 minutes early because I had to go to a Key Club meeting before school.  My sister and I were in the car, listening to Jackie and Bender's morning show, and they were very uncharacteristically somber and sedated.  It caught our attention immediately and we listened closer to what they were saying.  That's when we found out a second plane had hit the other Tower.  For me, and I'm sure for everyone, that was when it sunk in that this was no accident.  They were even saying there were reports that these were jumbo jets, not small private aircraft.  That was even scarier.

Once I was at school, I went to the library for the meeting.  All of us waiting for it to start were milling around, nervously discussing what was going on, trying to get information.  I can't remember if there was a sign or someone told us, but our Key Club meeting was cancelled because all of the teachers were in an emergency meeting before school started.  My friend Kristen was there with me and we clung to each other, both pretty freaked out by the little information we had.  We started to gather in our classrooms and watch TV while waiting for the teachers.  I had math for 1st period and we were all in there when our teacher finally showed up.  I remember that teacher as being the most monotone, boring teacher I ever had.  But that day, I saw him choked up and struggling to speak to us as he turned off the TV and told us we were going to continue on with normal class.  There was some protest and groaning, but we made it through the class.

My second period was Women's Choir.  I rushed there, both to find more information and because my best friend Ashley was in that class with me.  It being a Women's Choir and the very beginning of school, our teacher Ms. Hitt let us girls watch the news coverage.  That was when we found out about the Pentagon crash and the collapse of the towers.  It was a punch to the gut to realize that it just kept getting worse.  We sat around in horror, some of us crying, not knowing where it was going to end.  After choir, it was Yearbook with my other best friend Regan.  Mr. McKinney let us watch as well and that was when the plane crash in Pennsylvania was reported and we learned about all the flights in the US being grounded.  At this point, I felt so out of control.  It felt like every time we turned on the TV something more had happened.  It had obviously occurred in more than one place, so I was envisioning attacks continuing in a wave across the country from the East Coast to the West Coast.  I didn't think Seattle was a super likely target, but if the day had taught me anything, it was that anything could happen.  My dad worked at Boeing's Everett headquarters.  I remember taking a tour of Boeing years before being told that they had bomb shelters and such because they had been a target during World War 2 (because they designed and manufactured military planes).  This kept nagging at me, so I finally called my dad at work and told him I wanted him to go home.  He told me I didn't need to worry, that nothing was going to happen to him.  He kind of brushed off my concerns, but at the same time, my dad was telling me it would be okay, so I had to trust that.  During that class, things finally slowed down and started sinking in.

The rest of the day, I don't remember in vivid detail.  I do know that we didn't have the TV on during 4th period, which was my 'block' class (English & Government).  I went home for awhile, and then we ended up going over to my dad's house.  I remember watching the coverage with him and that was the first time I heard the names Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and Moammar Gadhafi.  It took me a couple days to remember how to say them and sort them out in my head.  I watched the footage of the second plane hitting Tower 2, and the towers collapsing so many times and even now, the emotional reaction is no less gut-wrenching.  It was the first time I really started paying more attention to international affairs, national security and politics.  In that day, I was thrust from the safe, secure idyll of childhood into a new, harsh, scary reality of adulthood.

School went on, I remember having moments of silence over the next few days.  There was a girl in one of my classes who had family in New York that she hadn't heard from and she was obviously very worried and upset.  But I think that was the closest I got to anyone directly involved.  My dad was supposed to go on a business trip later that month to Montreal but it was cancelled.

Three months after the attacks, my dad took my brother, sister and me to Connecticut to visit his sister & her family for Christmas.  It was the first time we'd be flying after the attacks and the heightened security.  I had had jaw surgery in August of the year and had 24 metal screws put in my jaws.  I remember thinking that I might set off the metal detectors with all of the metal now in my face, in addition to my braces.  I even thought about bringing along my x-ray, showing the screws.  It ended up not being an issue, and I made it through just fine.  On that trip, we went to New York three times.  One of those days, we went to Ground Zero.  I remember the smell.  I knew the smell would stick with me for the rest of my life.  You could see ash and dust and scorch marks on the buildings around Ground Zero.  It was so surreal.  I couldn't and still can't comprehend what had happened right there where I stood just three and half months earlier.   We couldn't see too much, but a lot of the debris had been cleared and there were these big fences with green tarps around the holes left by the towers.  There was a hushed reverence there that I'll always remember.

The events of 9/11 were a foreboding start to what turned out to be a very dramatic year; it felt like we were mourning all year.  It was also the start to my adult life.  A big part of the rest of my life, and now my children's lives, have been shaped because of that one day.  I wonder what my children will think about it and what they will ask me.  That was my main reason for writing this down.  I want them to know about that day, not only the facts, but the feelings and experiences of their mother.  I lived that day and this is what is was for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I'm trying to revamp my blog a little and make it more exciting, more functional, more informational.  Thus far, I mostly just write about random stuff, whenever I want to.  I don't know if very many people read this, so if you do, comment and let me know!  Also, tell me what you would like to see from me, both general content (like, what do you want to know about me in an "About Me" page) and specific topics for posts.  I mostly write this for myself, but I'd like to be interesting for my readers as well.  :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mothers Day?

Mothers Day is a day sure to elicit strong emotions from everyone.  Each person has their own opinions on what is appropriate and who should be celebrated on this day.  I've had some rather interesting conversations about this lately, especially about how it should be celebrated at and in the context of our Church.  I thought I might put my own thoughts and feelings down.

I think the conflict in celebrating Mothers Day comes from a fundamental confusion about what is being celebrated.  Are we celebrating acts of mothering?  The motherly qualities that teach and comfort, even if only in moments?  Are we celebrating the idea, the divine role of mothering?  Or are we celebrating those women who serve 'in the trenches' day in and day out?  Who sacrifice their bodies, their times, their own needs in order to give completely to their children?  The ones who are actively mothers, with children that they care for, seemingly unceasingly?  Herein, lies the conflict, at least for me.  I haven't come to any conclusions about what the day is meant to celebrate, only ideas about how to celebrate depending on which interpretation you're using.

At my church, it's traditional for all adult women to be given a small gift at the end of Sacrament Meeting on Mothers Day.  This is usually arranged by the Young Men's organization, so boys 12-18 years old and their leaders.  In order to avoid anyone having to make awkward determinations about who is or is not a mother, they have all the women stand and receive the gift, usually something simple, like a chocolate bar, a plant or a bookmark.  The first year I was an adult in a ward where there were families, I didn't have any children of my own; I had only been married less than 2 months!  I felt awkward receiving a gift and being celebrated for something I hadn't done yet.  The year after that, I was pregnant with my first child and felt a little better about being celebrated because I was on the path to motherhood, but it was still early and very few people knew I was pregnant.  I was still pretty sick at that point too.  Obviously since then, I've had a child and been a mother, in a way that was obvious to everyone.

I've found there is so much pressure on those who are asked to give a talk or teach a lesson on Mothers Day.  There is pressure to include everyone, women who have children at home, women who haven't been able to have children because of infertility, women who have grown children and some of whom are grandmothers, women who are unmarried or waiting to have children, women who never had children for whatever reason but have had motherly influences on others as aunts, teachers, leaders, etc.  Yet, I've also felt that when you say "We're all mothers, no matter what" it at least somewhat minimizes the struggles and day to day sacrifices of those who are mothers.  Let me say that when I tell people what the biggest adjustment about parenthood was for me, it was the relentlessness. Parenting does not stop.  You may do all the same tasks: cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, reading books, etc as a babysitter, a nanny, an aunt or a grandmothers, but at some point, your shift is over and you give the kids back to their parents.  When you're the parent, your shift never stops.  You may get a few hours here and there where you're not performing the childcare yourself, but you are always thinking about it, thinking about what you need to teach your children, thinking about the responsibility you have for them.  There is a never a break from that.  And that is what makes parenthood different.  So not every woman is a mother.  (The conversation about when you become a mother is a separate one.  I have friends who have lost babies or are birthmothers who placed their babies for adoption.  I wouldn't dream of telling them that since they aren't caring for their children every day that they're not mothers.  Same with how I wouldn't tell an adoptive mother that since she doesn't share genetics with her children, that she isn't really a mother.  Like I said, that's a different conversation.)

Both my sister and my sister-in-law are very involved aunts in the lives of their nieces and nephews.  They babysit the kids, take them out for special events, have them over for sleepovers, and care for all their needs in the hours/days the kids are with them.  These women are performing mothering acts, having a motherly influence.  My daughter loves her Auntie Katie so much and is just about as comfortable with her as she is with me.  But, Katie isn't her mother, I am.  At the end of the day, I am the one worrying about if Jilly is eating enough, if she is where she should be developmentally, if she has the clothes she needs, and so on.  The aunts enrich the lives of the children and teach them many things, these kids are so blessed to have them!  These ladies will make fantastic mothers when that day comes.  But at this time, they're not mothers, and while their efforts are motherly and definitely valuable, they're not the same as those I make as a mother.

But on the other side, I definitely believe that all women are endowed with special qualities and abilities from our Heavenly parents that are those of mothers and motherhood.  I believe every woman (and really, you could swap mother for father and motherhood for fatherhood throughout all of this) has the potential and the inherent qualities to be motherly.  This is what I think people really mean when they say "We're all mothers."  I think they mean "We're all motherly, because we are created in the image of our Heavenly Mother."  This is where I absolutely feel it appropriate and important to recognize the motherly influences of all different roles.

Growing up, I had a great mother.  She taught me not only day to day skills and modeled how to be a mother, but she taught me important character and spiritual lessons.  I learned how to cook, a little bit of sewing, how to change a diaper, how to make hospital corners when making a bed, how to read, and so many more things.  She also taught me, by example and by talking with me, to be confident in who I am and how I deserve to be treated, how to look for the fun and humor in life, how to find the silver lining, and how to examine and analyze a situation and look for the deeper meaning.  I also had many other women in my life who have been motherly to me and influenced and taught me.  When I was in college, especially the year I got engaged and married, there was a senior missionary couple at the Institute.  The wife, Sister Smith, took everyone under her wing, and was an especial support to me during that time.  She helped me get ready to go through the temple for my endowments and encouraged me, and most of all, was happy for me about my upcoming marriage.  She filled a void with her mothering of me.  I am grateful for hers and many other women's mothering efforts on my behalf.  I have so benefited from them.  But their influence and efforts and sacrifices, while amazing, weren't quite the same as my own mother's and I don't want to project the idea that they are equal.

I think this is the conflict of Mothers Day.  Do we celebrate the efforts and sacrifices of mothers or the influence and divine nature of the institution of motherhood?  That can be a personal decision for each person in their own family.  This year, my husband made an effort to pamper me all weekend and tell me how much he appreciated all I did as a mother for our children.  And when I wrote out the card to my own mother, I wrote it only from me and thanked her for what she did as a mother.  I had my kids give her presents, hug her, kiss her, and tell her Happy Mothers Day, but it was mostly about me celebrating her efforts as a mother, not necessarily as a grandmother.  But, when you're involved in a church or organization, as I am, and Mothers Day needs to be addressed by the group, how do you best do that?  You want to value everyone and all their efforts, yet you cover such a large and varied group it's hard to do without annoying or offending or hurting someone.  Here is how I think Mothers Day should be approached, at least in the context of my church.

I think all the talks in Sacrament Meeting should be about the divine nature of womanhood and motherhood.  I want to hear about how all women are patterned after our Heavenly Mother and the qualities given to us from Her.  I want to hear about the motherly influence each of us can have on others, no matter if we have born and raised children or not.  I want it to be about those divine qualities of nurturing, spirituality, patience, faith, and love.  I feel that is a way to include all women and celebrate Mothers Day for each of us.  I do not want to hear about how being a mother is about teaching your kids how to clean the toilet or make jam or other tasks.  I'm not saying those are bad things, but I do think making the celebration of Mothers Day, by the Church, about those things can only lead to offense and upset.  Women without children will feel belittled and ignored because they can't do those things with their own children.  Women with children will feel like they're being held up to a standard that is impossible to live up to and more discouraged about things that really don't matter, like how often they sweep the floor.  Let's focus on the principles and divinity of the gifts of mothering, not on the nitty gritty details that vary for each woman and her situation.  Sunday School, I would say to ignore it completely and just continue with the normally scheduled lesson.  And for Relief Society and Young Womens, I have two ideas, depending on the ward.  For either plan, I would like it if the men of the ward took over Primary and Nursery and all the sisters (including YW) could meet together (they could do this either only the third hour, or to have the biggest impact, have the men take over the 2nd hour Primary classes as well, so the women can go to Sunday School too).   The first suggestion is to  have a lesson on motherhood, in the same vein as the Sacrament Meeting talks.  Let us celebrate the beautiful and divine influence we can have as mothers and motherly figures.  Let us encourage those future mothers (whether they be the YW or just RS sisters who haven't had children yet) about how noble and rewarding motherhood is!  Let us uplift all the women in the ward and recognize their motherly efforts.  Let us truly bond as sisters and as women, daughters of Heavenly parents who love us and have given us so much.  The second suggestion is to gather together and just 'take the day off', if you will.  This happened in a few wards of my friends' yesterday.  The women gathered in the cultural hall (or wherever) and got to sit and chat and socialize, while eating yummy treats, like a chocolate fountain or cheesecake.  Sure, it's not deeply spiritual, but it would be so nice to have that opportunity for all the sisters of the ward to get to spend time together.  I know it would be especially rewarding to those women who serve in Primary and Young Women each week, sacrificing the chance to go to Sunday School and Relief Society for their own spiritual nourishment, and instead work with small squirmy children and teenagers who resist all authority.  Often these women feel so isolated from the Relief Society and sisterhood, and one day a year to congregate with and enrich those bonds of sisterhood could make a big difference.

This also leads me to another thing about Mothers Day that I take issue with.  There is an attitude in the Church that women are saints and men are sinners.  Look at the difference between the General RS Meeting talks and the talks given in the Priesthood session of General Conference.  The women are vaunted and nearly beatified, constantly being told about how wonderful and long suffering they are.  The men are told that they're constantly screwing up, like they're all viewing pornography and ignoring their Priesthood responsibilities.  Overall, it's like "The poor saintly women have to put up with these sinful, dumb men."  And then, when a woman leader does get up and not even harshly, but gently, call the women to task, she is ridiculed and excoriated and the cry of "How dare she say that!  Doesn't she know that I can't do that because of these circumstances in my life?!  We don't all live in that perfect world!"  (Some of the uproar after Sister Julie B. Beck's "Mothers Who Know" talk a few years ago, comes to mind.)  This attitude plays out on both Mothers Day and Fathers Day.  Have you noticed the difference in how they are celebrated at church?  When was the last time you heard a Sacrament Meeting talk on the third Sunday of June contain the phrase "We're all fathers"?  Have you ever heard it?  I don't know that I have.  I do know that I've heard plenty of talks that still showcase a father's weaknesses and faults and make fun of them.  How sad!  So everything I have suggested for celebrating Mothers Day is meant to be applied completely equally to Fathers Day.  (I feel that the attitude I've described also desperately needs to change, but this is another thing that is a conversation for another day.)

Mothers Day is a day to celebrate mothers as well as the institution of motherhood and influence of mothering.  So much of the conflict and upset surround this day could be resolved, or at least ameliorated, by recognizing and acknowledging the divide in how the holiday is perceived and adjusted the celebrations thusly.  What are your thoughts on any of this?  How do you perceive Mothers Day?  What do you want to see, in how it is celebrated, specifically at church?  What is the purpose of the day?   The conclusions that I have come to aren't hard and fast.  I would like to other people's experiences and thoughts.