Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Little Bit of Politics and A Whole Lot of Feist

Dear fellow Americans,

I have been attending caucus meetings for many years now. I love them. I loved it when they were held in my home growing up and I loved it when I had a home of my own and we had the caucus meeting right at my house, with refreshments and everything.  I love the whole process of electing and voting. It's all quite amazing to me that Joe Smoe, next door, can be our next state delegate.

I went last night excited that 16 year old son, Jonny, was going to join me and see first hand what we've talked about and what he's been learning in his government class. But last night something happened that I've never seen happen before. We had 8 nominees and we only needed four to be state delegates. That's not unusual, but, for the sake of time, we were told that "because we didn't want to be there until midnight, we would forgo any questions." I was waiting for an objection. My heart was racing as I realized no one was saying anything. I was clear in the back and I don't have a very loud voice, but someone had to say something. I raised my hand with my typical, "Wait!" My face flushed and I wasn't sure how to say what my heart was pounding about. "We can't do this the lazy way," I blurped. "We need to be able to ask our questions."

It doesn't surprise me that the pleadings of my heart came out so tactless. I'm not an on-the- spot speaker. I'm glad others, in their eloquent way, jumped on the bandwagon and things got changed. We needed a change.

I've thought about last night a lot. If I was a speaker, what would I have said? First I would stand up, holding the chair in front of me for support. I would then point to my 16 year old son and say, "I have brought my nearly 17 year old son to this meeting tonight. There were many mothers of the Revolution who gave their 17 year old Johnnys so we could have a voice here tonight. I can hardly believe they felt a whole lot differently about their boys as I feel about mine, the apple of my eye. It's one thing to silence my voice, but in silencing my voice, you silence my Jonny's voice. In silencing his voice, you silence the voice of all my children and then my grandchildren. That is where a line is crossed and when that line is crossed, the cries of the broken hearts of the Revolution are also silenced. This is where we need to step up and make it stop. Our voices, their voices, cannot be silenced.

Our founding fathers would roll in their graves if they knew we were quieted for the sake of a couple of hours. Do we not remember the many hours and days and weeks they sat in the smoldering heat- Benjamin Franklin being in exquisite pain the entire time? Have we also forgotten that there were some who left? Some who couldn't stay for health problems, some for family or business issues they needed to attend to. Some just plain 'didn't want to be there until midnight.' And that's fine! Do you know why it's fine? Because this is America, and in America we don't have to stay until midnight if we don't want to, and that's totally okay because it's our prerogative to stay or to leave. What is not okay, is being told we cannot stay until midnight."

In this fast paced, everything right now world, it's easy to forget what is important. Once in a while a little voice needs to holler 'Wait!'

With much love,
The Little Voice


Friday, January 16, 2015

The Real Myth Behind Beauty and the Beast

We had a wonderful time in Disneyland this past week, so when we got home the children naturally wanted to revisit their old Disney favorites on the big screen. Since they aren't playing on the big screen, we settled for our new-to-us television in the family room. We pulled out the old stack of  VHS we own, yes, that's right, there are still people who own those, and sat down to watch Beauty and the Beast.

I've had a few qualms about this old favorite in the past, but this time as I watched, my blood began to boil.

The villains got to me, like really got to me. There are two of them, you know. Gaston, the big muscly conceded man who is determined to marry the beautiful, intelligent, kind-hearted, family centered Belle. Of course no one wants that to happen because he readily admits he will have her only to serve his every whim. The other villain, disguised by our sympathies of a curse he brought on himself, is the Beast! He is a mean angry beast-of-a-man who selfishly despises all that is happy. We first meet him when he puts an old father in a dungeon prison because he dares enters his precious domain as an alternative to dying in the cold of the night.

Kind Belle comes along and begs for her father's freedom so his life will be spared. In complete fear and distain, she offers to trade her own freedom for the freedom and life of her precious father's. Beast is obviously surprised by her generosity, not understanding the meaning of sacrifice and love. He readily accepts, thrusting the father and daughter apart without even being able to say a final farewell.

At this point Beast starts to melt the viewer's heart by giving the gorgeous captive girl a real bedroom at the request of all the other captives who are using Belle to become free from their own captivity.

Within a short period of time, Belle is no longer afraid of Beast, even though he is a violent man who rages at the slightest inconvenience. As he does a few niceties for her, it's easy to get excited to see the change in Beast. He gives her a library, he has a snowball fight with her and for once holds his temper! He does these things all while she's in every way his prisoner!

Naturally, Belle starts to fall in love. There's a name for this. It's called Stockholm Syndrome, a condition captives can develop when their captors are 'kind' to them. It's not healthy, but it's perfectly normal. And in this children's film, it's totally glorified!

"Redemption!" People scream."People change. How can you be so heartless as to not understand that people change and become good again?" I KNOW! But he's not good so long as he's keeping her locked up. Sure in the end, the kind-hearted beast decides to let her go to save her, again dying, father. Dying, again, because of him. I'm glad he let her go, but really! She comes back! Do I think she should've stayed away? No, I'm glad she came back so she could save his life. He needed to be saved, but she doesn't come back just to save him. She marries him!

I can't help but wonder how a movie like this affects a young girl. Mean guy meets beautiful nice girl and becomes nice himself. It happens all the time. Once in a while the nice girl sees the man flair, but that will all go away with time. Chances are pretty slim that the way he has responded his whole life is going to change in a few short months. What happens when she's not pretty anymore? What happens when she's pregnant and not so nice? What happens when their child spills his milk at the dinner table?

Yes, I believe people change. It's an important part of living and growing. But I don't believe a girl should be brought to believe that this slight 'honeymoon phase' in a man's life is who he really is. He really is who he has worked long and hard through many years to become.

I don't think every parent should ban their little girl from watching Beauty and the Beast, but I do think parents ought to discuss with the children the realities versus the fantasies, dispelling the myth of a happily ever after with a threatening man.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Missionary Mom's Heart

I can't even describe the feelings of my heart in sending my boy into the world to teach others about Jesus Christ. There are days my heart is so happy I can feel it jumping up and down inside of me. But there are other days I long for a "Caleb hug" more than anything in the world. He is a soothing son, and there are times I think I need him fiercely. But honestly, I wouldn't want him anywhere else in the world than where he is. Even in the moments I let the tears flow, I wouldn't want him back home right now. He is where the Lord wants him, and that's right where I want him, too. As I watched my niece being sealed to her parents in the temple last week, I loved what Caleb is doing. Everything he's doing is about bringing others to Christ so they can ultimately be sealed for this life and eternity in the temple of God. I want other families to have that, so I will "let my son go for two years so others can be with their families forever." It is worth the trade.

Caleb says he is not perfect at being a missionary. Well, I'll admit right along with him, I am not a perfect missionary mom. I count the days a little too often. I look at his picture a little too much. I still haven't washed the shirt in his closet so I can go down and smell it any time I want to. And I still call my other sons Caleb at times and feel the ping in my chest when I know he won't answer. But I am glad he is serving, and I will continue to pray for him and love him and support him in any way I can.  

And even from far across the continents, he carries me through many hard times with his love and encouragement. He is such a good son, and SUCH a good missionary. He brings honor to his father, his mother, and to me, his "second mother," an affectionate title he gave me that I will always cherish. He told me once, "You are my second mother only because you came second. There is no other reason." Well, he is my son that I share with his mother. :) It's wonderful how things turn out.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why I Love Being a Mormon Mom

I am a Mormon mom, and you know what? I love it! I think I love it most because I have answers. My children are full of questions; I get bombarded every day with whys, hows, wheres, and whats. There are plenty of questions I SHOULD know the answers to, but I don't. But because I'm a Mormon mommy, there are plenty of times I can give a confident answer to my little inquiring minds.
Sarah, Michael, Rebecca
Christina in front.

Jonny and Christina Halloween
I can answer with confidence why they live in this world, a world made beautiful by Someone who loves them. I can show them how to pray and then teach with confidence that although I won't always be there with them as I'd like to be, there is Someone who will ALWAYS be there for them- because they are that special.

My last hug before Caleb leaves us
 for two years on an LDS mission.
I can tell my children with full confidence that this life is not all there is. There is so much more, more before our time here and more after our time here. Because of this their value is incalculable. They have a purpose here. They have choices to make, and those choices matter.

I can tell them that I don't understand all things, but I know there is a God in heaven who does understand. They can go to Him to feel the peace and assurance they will need as life can be so very tough sometimes.

When they wonder what they should do when they are sad, I can tell them with confidence that this life is not all about them. If they find someone to serve, they will feel better.

At the beach after Sarah
 was married
 in the Los Angeles LDS Temple
I can give them many examples of people who have had rough starts, but were able to rise above them and become the people God wanted them to be: Esther, Alma the Younger, Daniel, Joseph in Egypt, Nephi, Joseph the brother of  Nephi, John the Baptist, the brother of Jared, Mormon, Moses, and many others. The Lord took these people from difficult beginnings and helped them to become great. I can teach my children that they can do the same. No matter what they have or are experiencing now, they can use their talents  to make the world a better place.
The children all dressed up
at the beach.

I can show my children that God speaks to all people, in the "old world" and in the Americas. There is another testament of Jesus Christ, even the Book of Mormon. It is so wonderful to be able to share these truths with them, the story of people who were brought to America from other lands and then were taught by people of God, and even visited by Jesus Christ Himself. 

I can tell my children that there are prophets living today, men inspired to speak for God himself. We have opportunities to listen to these great men every six months during General Conference. These men will give guidance, inspiration, and counsel to live our lives the way Jesus would want us to.

I can tell them that the priesthood of God has been restored to the earth. This is the power to act in Christ's name. Through this priesthood power families can be sealed together for all eternity. The love of their life can be with them beyond the grave as they are sealed in one of the temples of God on the earth today. What can be better than that? I can't think of anything! I LOVE being a Mormon mom!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Mom Living with Vertigo

A few nights ago I was doing the dishes when my husband, Gary, reached his arm in front of me to move the faucet. That swift movement sent my head swirling. I was immediately nauseous and had to sit down. Usually these episodes are short lived and I can resume my regular activity in a few hours or even minutes. Not this time. This time I got it good, occasionally that happens. After two days, I was still in bed. It's been four days now, and I have been up for most of the afternoon.

Learning to live with vertigo has been a process for me and my family. Not an easy one either, but looking back I can honestly say it's been an important learning tool for all of us. 

The Symptoms
-The room suddenly swirls, whether my eyes are closed or open
-Light hurts my eyes
-Noises are torture 
-I am nauseous
-There is a ringing in my ears that makes me feel like I'm going crazy
-My body is overcome with fatigue
-My balance is completely off 
The Research
When I first learned this was going to be part of my life, my mom told me of a woman who goes down a few days every few weeks. I was shocked that someone could live that way. I asked, "How can she do that?" It seriously seemed impossible. My mom said that she just adjusted her life around it as she learned to live with it. It sounded horrible to me. There had to be a fix.
I spent years searching for answers as to why I had this condition. Each doctor had his/her own theory. Is it damage to the balance nerve in the inner ear left from my first major incident caused by an inner ear infection? Is it anxiety? Is it sleep and eating habits? Is it stress? Or is it allergies?  They all have their answers. I have mine. My guess is it's probably some of everything, but the reality is it's part of my life, and therefore I've needed to learn to live with it.

The Grief
Grief is a real part of any loss. Losing my full balance (or the Jack Sparrow Syndrome, as Gary calls it), living with tinnitus, and dwelling in a spinning world is frightening. That's all there is to it. I do what I can to laugh, but sometimes, even still, I let myself have a good cry. Yesterday when I tried closing my eyes to escape the spins, I ended up spinning in the dark. When I realized there was nothing I could do to stop it, I let the tears flow. There's not a thing wrong with that! In fact, I think it's healthy.

The Guilt
I beat myself to a pulp for years because I wasn't the care giver I wanted to be during these times. I almost let it stop me from adding our three Ukrainian children to our family, reasoning that no one would want a mom that goes down for days at a time. When I felt the answer come from God that these were to be our children, something inside me started to change. God would rather they have a low energy, dizzy mom than no mom at all. Hmm.... maybe I was okay after all.

Each episode is different. This one is passing me by. The vertigo is waning, the ringing is dimming, and the nausea is almost gone. I still hang tight to the walls as I walk down the stairs, and sudden movements throw me for a loop. I won't be able to drive for another day or two and the weariness may take weeks before I fully recover, but I am on the mend. :)

I do much better now enjoying the good days. I love it when I see clearly. I love being able to drive my children where they need to be. I love being able to do the grocery shopping. I am so grateful when I can play and laugh and enjoy my family without laying down or holding my head. Then when the days come when I can't do these things, I really try hard to fight the guilt. I use to let it run its painful course, now I try to be more patient with myself and also with my children when we are frustrated that I can't do something. When Gary or one of my children asks me if I need something, I let them do it. There is so much growth in them because of this. They have had to learn that sometimes it's okay to take care of Mom.

I have two college age daughters. Both of my girls work with the elderly and the disabled. They have genuine concern for those they care for, making them everybody's favorite. I can't help but think this was instilled in them as children when they had opportunities to take care of me. Each one of my children living at home have come unsolicited to my room asking what they can do for me. I can't help but smile as I realize how much I love who they are turning into through this whole process. Would I wish it upon them? No, I wouldn't, but can I see the good that comes from it? Absolutely. Do I know what it is that causes this? No, but I think little by little I'm learning why.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This Guy Really Helped Me!

One person who helped to get me through a very long and difficult hardship in my life was Nephi. Nephi just seemed to get it! He understood loss, major relocation, abuse by those who should have loved him, betrayal, fear, pain, loneliness, you name it! But he also understood love, trust, faith, forgiveness, endurance, and looking to Father to find peace. I love Nephi! From day one, I felt like he completely understood me. So, having this kind of faith in this great prophet of God, I listened to him. I studied his words; I prayed about them; and I let him teach him.

From Nephi I learned that it isn't any variety of trial that destroys our peace. It is only when we allow the Spirit to leave our lives that peace can be taken from our hearts. In “Nephi's Psalm” (2 Nephi 4:19-30 from the Book of Mormon), Nephi's heart is heavy at the loss of his father and the other great trials in his life. He takes the time here to marvel at the wonders of God that have strengthened and sustained him numberless times. He lets us know in no uncertain terms that, yes, it's been hard, but he has decided to trust in our Savior Jesus Christ.

He then asks himself, and all of us, “Why should I yield to sin...why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” I realized that the only thing destroying his peace was his willingness to give in to anger! I knew this was true in my own life as well.

Then he gives himself a to-do and a not-to-do. The to-do: “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, o my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul...Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord...” He beckoned himself to wake up and rejoice.

And the not-to-do he gave himself was simple: “Do not anger again because of mine enemies.”

I love his little pep talk, his day of decision! I love that he had the courage to say, “Hey, this is not right in my life. The Lord has been so very good to me, and I need to step it up for Him. Even if my own brothers are trying to KILL me, they are not the reason for my lack of peace. My own decisions are the only reason my kind Father would allow peace to withdraw from my heart.”

Then, in a great spirit of humility, Nephi pleads with the Lord for strength to do what he needs to do. We can do the same, and we will have the same outcome. The Lord will come to our aid; He will give us everything we need to make it through the days ahead. He will help us so we do more than just “make it.” He will give give us more than survival techniques; He will give us the power to THRIVE, for thriving is truly what living the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trust in Marriage

One day, shortly after the divorce had been filed, I was walking with my friend, Ruth. As we were talking, I mentioned something that might help in a marriage. I abruptly stopped myself and blurted out, “As if I would know!” I realized a horrible truth in that moment. I was losing more than my husband.
I had lost two things. First, I had lost my trust in marriage. Second, in that painful moment, I realized I had lost trust in myself and all I had stood for. I didn't feel I could have an opinion on the subject since I was an obvious failure at the whole thing. Who would listen to me? How could I even listen to myself?

As the months wore on, I learned that this opinion of myself was shared by others. The most painful evidence came one day when I was offering my teenage daughters advice on dating, courtship, and yes, even marriage, although we knew it was down the road for them. One daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, not to be rude (a sure sign I needed to grip my emotional cuddly), but you giving advice on marriage is like a fat person giving advice on dieting.” (Where was my cuddly, anyhow?!)

“That may be true,” I said. But then I remembered Ruth's kind and peaceful answer when I had felt that way about myself all those months before. Her simple answer was, “Maybe you know better than any of us. Maybe, because of what you've been through, you could help the rest of us.” So I turned to my girls and surprised them with, in essence, “but maybe I'm just the one to ask!”

How did I get to this point? How did I go from stopping myself in mid sentence, feeling nothing I said or felt mattered because I failed at the ultimate relationship in life, from being so confident in myself? How did I go from doubting everything I said and did, to believing again? It was a path God has taken me down.

I had to start by regaining my testimony of marriage. I had to know. Is marriage in God's plan for all His children or is it for the few who can figure it out? I read the Proclamation to the World on the Family, I listened to LDS general conference talks on the subject, I watched as others around me kept on going. But mostly, I waited. My heart had been wrenched right out of my chest...... I had to wait.
I don't like waiting. I can be quite indecisive at times, but when I know what I need, I have a horrible time waiting for it. But wait was all I could do. Healing takes times; healing takes prayer; healing takes wisdom; healing takes patience. I was willing to work and learn while I waited- that's what made it bearable.

Elder M. Russell Ballard (in General Conference, May 1987) said, “Satan is always working to destroy our testimonies, but he will not have the power to tempt or disturb us beyond our strength to resist when we are studying the gospel and living its commandments.”

As important as I knew waiting was, I knew I could not wait and do nothing. Standing still drives me crazy, especially when I know it is actually moving me backwards. If I was waiting and doing nothing, I was going backwards, my testimony was shrinking, and my faith in myself and marriage was dwindling. It couldn't happen. So I prayed. I prayed for strength to smile when I saw a couple playfully holding hands. I prayed for courage to sit in the temple's Celestial Room with so many loving couples looking into each others' eyes. I prayed for wisdom to keep my sarcasm to myself when the pain was too much to bear, and I prayed for patience as I waited for my testimony to be restored.

One thing that helped me was that I made a decision; I chose to believe. I chose to look forward and not back. I chose to be glad in others' marriage successes. I chose not to be bitter toward the whole institution. Was I perfect at all this? Not hardly! I was horrible at times. There were times I let the hurt take over and the grief was too much to bear. I let it turn me angry inside. I'd go outside and shoot the bastketball at the backboard. I liked the sound it made- an angry, dingy, abrasive noise- a noise that matched my heart. Or I'd hit the punching bag, sometimes giving it a name. But then I would calm down and I'd remember that I had chosen. I had chosen not to be bitter, but to be believing. I would repent and try again. I believe this is what made all the difference.

One day I got up in Sacrament Meeting to bear my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I was bearing my testimony, I felt a strong urge to share my feelings on familes. I had done this many times throughout my life, but with the changes in my family, it seemed difficult to get the words out in the preceeding months. I stood with confidence on this day and said, “I know that families can be together forever.” I wasn't faking it; I knew it. I absolutely knew it. And I knew that one day my family would be whole again. Oh! How I wanted a whole family! But even without all the members there, I knew we were still a family. I knew I was part of Heavenly Father's family, and He wanted me back. I knew that one day not only would I “cleave together again, that [I] stood," ( 3 Nephi 10:10),” but that my family would somehow, someway “cleave together and [stand].” One thing I have never doubted as I've faithfully read the Book of Mormon is that Heavenly Father keeps His promises. And He has promised an eternal family to all the faithful, not the perfect, but the faithful. As I turn my heart to Him, He will not deny me my greatest wish.