Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shut Up, Stupid Brain!

It's after four in the morning.  I'm tired.  It's dark and quiet.  Why won't you let me sleep?

Don't you understand what tomorrow will be like for me?  I have things to do and people counting on me.  I want to sleep.  Why can't you shut up?

I know you have a million ideas.  I know you want to plan for tomorrow, which chores we'll do and which errands we need to run. 

I know you want to review today, thinking about what we got done.  And, more importantly, what we didn't.  Yes, I know there is still so much to do.  But it's four in the morning; we really can't do it now.

If I go out and start cleaning the living room and sorting the books and toys one of two things will happen.  I will wake someone else up and they will be miserable, too.  Or, it will just make me even more awake and I won't get any sleep at all tonight.

It's easy for you.  You don't have to worry about limited energy.  Why are you the only part of me that never seems to get tired?

And why do you take such pleasure in torturing me?  Do you get some kind of sick satisfaction from keeping me up all night?  Is there a battle being waged between you and my body?

It's not fair, you know.  I am trapped in the middle.  Trying to maintain the peace.  Trying to meet your needs and my body's needs.  Do you have any idea how difficult that is?

Of course not.  You worry only about yourself.  It's all about you.  "Look at what I can do," and then you take the stage.  Performing songs, stories, and wondrous feats to dazzle the mind.  To occupy the thoughts and senses.  To stimulate the body into producing adrenaline.  Because you are afraid that if I go to sleep you will lose your audience.

I guess that's kind of true.  You go on performing while I sleep, and when I wake up I have no memory of all you've done.  Sometimes I have a slight memory of the shows you put on while I sleep.  Quite the imagination, you have there.  They are fantastical shows.

If I promise to try to remember, will you let me sleep?  Let's give it a shot.  I will listen and watch while I sleep.  You put on your best show.  And in the morning we'll review.  Do we have a deal?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Worst Day of My Life -- When My Husband Left the Church

I have wanted to write this post for a long time.  I have also avoided writing this post for a long time.

It happened almost five years ago, but it is still so tender.

I worry that I won't be able to capture the devastation I felt.  That I still feel when I think about it.  Because, truthfully, I try not to think about it too often.  It's still so painful.

Five years ago was a difficult time in my life.  I was working.  My health was getting worse.  And my marriage was in trouble.  We'd been in therapy for a while and things were getting better.  At least, our relationship was getting better.

But it was at this time that my husband had a crisis of faith.

In order for this to make sense, you must know a few things about our faith.  I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).  I have been my whole life.  While there was a time when I was young that I followed along because it was all I knew, that's not what it is now.  I have long since quit relying on the testimony of others.  I am a member of this faith because it makes my heart happy.  It brings me peace.  I believe this is what I was taught before I came to this world.

One of the elements of our faith is a belief in a pre-earth life, this life, and a post-earth life.  We believe this life is just a tiny portion of our existence.  Most of what we do here is in preparation for the next life.  As part of that, in our temples we perform ordinances that we believe carry on into the next life.  In particular, sealings.  We believe that if we are sealed together in the temple, and live the best life we can, that families can be together forever.  We believe we are sealed for time and all eternity.

I believe this.  And I grew up believing this.  This is why I was careful about the boys I dated.  This is why I chose to live my life according to God's commandments.  As a child and teen, getting sealed in the temple to a worthy man who loved me was my main goal.  I tried to do everything I'd been taught to make that happen.

And it did.  I married a returned missionary who took me to the temple.  We were sealed for time and all eternity.  Because of this sealing power, our children were sealed to us also.  There was such safety in knowing that. 

When things got ugly between my husband and me, I knew that things would get sorted out with time and we could still be together forever.  We would find our way back to God and would do so together.

And then he said he had questions.  He wasn't sure anymore that certain parts of our faith were true.  He shared his concerns, we talked about them, and he was reassured and found his footing again.  Then he had more questions, bigger struggles.  We worked through those, too.  Then it went beyond questions and doubts.  He came to a point where he no longer believed it was true.  In fact, he felt it was harmful.  He wanted out and he wanted to take his family with him.  The months that we worked through this were incredibly difficult.  It was hard not to push him to choose the church for me, to make me happy.  Or for anyone else.  I believe in honesty.  He was honest with me and I am grateful for that.

He started blogging about his feelings, denouncing the church.  He made accusations and claims that were anti-Mormon in nature.  We were in counseling with our bishop (pastor) during this time.  I told him of the blog.  He discussed it with my husband and said that if it continued, because of the things he was writing (preaching against the church), his membership in the church would be in jeopardy.  We returned to visit with him a month later, he asked about the blog and was told it was still up, my husband was still adding to it and had no intention of stopping.  And we were at a decision point.

My husband was given two choices.  He could withdraw his name from the church records or the bishop could start proceedings to have him removed.  My husband asked which of these would be easier on the bishop.  I admire that.  My husband chose to have his name removed from the records of the church.

It had been a while coming and I thought I was prepared.

But the day the letter came saying that he was no longer a member of the church I died a little.  My heart broke into a thousand pieces.

It came while he was at work.  I called to tell him it was there.  He asked me to open it and read it to him.  I did.  He said okay and that was that.

But not for me.  I held that letter.  I stared at it.  It didn't matter that I knew it was coming; I was not prepared.

How would we tell the children?  Our families?  Our friends?

And what did this mean for me?  I was unsure about who I was now.  We had been one and now we were two.  I was unsure about eternity now.  I didn't know how I fit in.  I didn't want the attention and sympathy that I knew I would receive.  I fit into a new classification now.  I was a woman married to a non-member.

It was the most lonely day I have ever experienced.  I had this information that seemed to stop the world from spinning and I couldn't talk to anyone about it.  The person I usually talked to about things that made me sad was my husband and he didn't understand.  He was happy and relieved about it.  I felt like a widow.  I walked around in a daze that day.  I cried a lot.  I felt so lost.

I had a friend whose husband died around this time.  I remember feeling like she was lucky because he was living a righteous life when he died and at least she knew her sealing was intact, she knew he would be waiting for her.  I am ashamed of that feeling.  I was jealous of her ending as opposed to mine.

It felt like an end. 

He and I are in a better place.  He is more kind about the church and the fact that the children and I still participate.  But something is gone.  There is a spiritual intimacy that is no longer there.  It died that day.  And I don't know if I will ever be done mourning its loss.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Doctor Who Didn't Listen

Oh, how I wish I'd known then what I know now.

Ten years ago, in the spring of 2001, the world fell out from under me.  I was hit with unbelievable exhaustion.  No matter how I ate, how much I exercised, or how much good sleep I got I was so tired I couldn't function.  I couldn't parent.  I went to bed for about a year and a half.  More on that story another time.

After a few months (when I knew it wasn't getting better, and after much prodding from my husband and other friends and family) I finally went to my doctor.  I told him how tired I was.  I told him I couldn't get anything done.  His words are forever burned into my mind.  "You have five small children; of course you're tired." 

And that was it.  Since nothing showed up in a cursory glance, in a routine physical, there must not be anything wrong with me.  I had tried to explain that it was more than that.  It was more than tired.  I was not a human anymore.  I was a shell, a pile of skin and bones, walking around trying to participate in life.

He didn't listen to me.  I felt chastised, like how dare I waste his time?  I felt diminished, like a small child told to get over it because life is hard.  I felt like I'd been told to quit whining.  To suck it up and get back to work.

I would never stand for that now.  I would insist that he listen, I would repeat myself, I would tell him he misunderstood.  And if he still didn't listen, I would leave him and take my business elsewhere.

I was incredibly vulnerable at that time and did not know how to fight for myself.  I did not know I could insist on certain tests.  I did not feel safe questioning what he told me.  I believed doctors truly knew more about my body than I did.

I have had many incredible doctors.  Doctors who listened and cared.  Doctors who were more concerned about making me feel better than I was.  I have friends who are doctors.  I have a brother who is a doctor.  I have great respect for doctors.

But I no longer think they know more about my body than I do.  When I say something is not right, then it should be respected.  Even if I can't prove it or put it into words.  My doctor and I are supposed to be a team.  We are supposed to work together to find the solution.

I will never know if he could have helped me.  Maybe if we had run a blood test at that time something would have turned up.  Maybe I wouldn't still be fighting the debilitating fatigue 10 years later.  Maybe there were answers then that were too far gone by the time I found a doctor who would listen to me.

I will not allow myself to be ignored by a doctor again.  Ever.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Difference of Opinion

How do you handle it when you have a difference of opinion from someone else?

There are times I think I handle it well.  I have a good friend with whom I frequently disagree, especially about politics.  Sometimes people come to our book club just to watch the heated discussion they know my friend and I will be having.  We argue and debate.  We get passionate.  But in the end we are still friends and we are able to let things go.  I believe it's because we approach our discussion with mutual respect.  The fact that we disagree doesn't mean we think the other person is stupid.  We don't call each other names.  We don't bring in irrelevant events to try to prove the other person is lacking in intelligence and so their argument can't be valid.  I believe I have a healthy dialogue with this woman.  We are friends who work well together in our church callings.  We choose to get together for game nights.  Despite our political differences, we remain friends.

Maybe my friend deserves more of the credit here than I do.

Because there are other people I don't argue with as respectfully.  There are some people who choose to attack when they disagree.  Sometimes I can remain in control and be polite in these disagreements.  Sometimes I lose it.  Sometimes I get right down in the mud with that person.  Even if I win the argument, I come away feeling dirty.

This is how I feel about my last post.  I responded to a post by a fellow blogger.  And I did so badly.  Something she said struck a nerve.  I did not intend to be unkind in my response, but I was.  I had a juvenile moment and attacked.  Not my shining moment.

I disagree with her point of view.  I believe women should be told they are of worth no matter how they look.  I believe women should be told they are wonderful even if they choose to spend the whole day in their pajamas.  I believe we should do all we can to build women up.  I believe we should strengthen each other and back up a woman's right to choose her own path.  I want women to feel the freedom to be whoever they want to be, regardless of society's dictates.  And that includes my fellow blogger.

Because I fought back in an immature way, my message was lost.  And I did not offer this woman the same support I was arguing for.  Sometimes I get so frustrated by women thinking they have to be what society tells them to be that I forget some women actually choose that route because it's right for them.

This woman has made choices in her life because she felt they were right for her.  More power to her.  I believe all women should be able to choose for themselves and with far less judgment.

I apologize for letting my emotions overtake my manners.  I apologize for being unkind.  I apologize for not arguing her right to choose for herself because I didn't agree with her choice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shopping in My Pajamas

As I hop from blog to blog, I frequently run into people whose lives are completely different from mine.  People who value different things and focus their energies in other areas.  For the most part, I enjoy this.  I like learning about other people and seeing a way of life that differs from mine. 

But every now and then I run across someone who irritates me.  Not because she is different, but because she is superior, snotty, and judgmental of those who are different from her.  In her world, she is right and anyone who sees things in any other way is wrong and stupid and doesn't deserve the good things in life.

This happened recently.  Through a blogging community, I found myself at the blog of a woman with whom I am fairly certain I have almost nothing in common.  We are both women.  We both live on the planet earth.  I'm guessing we both breathe oxygen.  I'm pretty sure that's where our similarities end.

She is single, lives in London, and focuses much of her attention on fashion.  And I offend her.

I know I offend her because she said so.  In the post that bugged me she said that anyone who shops in their pajamas offends her.  She said that I had no business in the grocery store in my pajamas.  That there is no excuse, no matter how tired or lazy I am.  She said shopping in my pajamas is a statement about my low self-esteem.  She then proceeded to tell me the proper way to go to the grocery store.  The GROCERY store!  Seriously?

I understand that this post was meant to be comedic.  She was going for snarky/funny.  And from the comments on her blog it looks like her audience liked it.

I found it ridiculous.

If we are going to ban people from coming to the grocery store dressed offensively then I have a few things to add:  ultra-short shorts (the kind that barely cover their cheeks); wife-beater shirts; intense cleavage; and any clothing that is so tight or revealing as to be inappropriate for public viewing (since I am making the rules, I get to decide what is inappropriate).

From now on we will all shop in uniforms.  All pants/skirts must reach the knee.  All necklines must reach the collar bone all the way around.  Your clothes must be loose enough that you can easily put them on even when you are wet.  And I want them to all be olive green.  That way, people won't clash as they walk past each other -- because that offends me.

What an incredibly lucky young woman the author of said post is.  Her life must be flowing along smoothly and without any major problems if she has time and energy to worry about this.  She must be generally healthy and have plenty of money.  And thank heavens she decided to make sure we know what is and is not appropriate to wear to the grocery store.

I guess she has never run to the store in a hurry to try to get there before it closed because her child came down with a fever and she needed medication (after she'd gone to bed).  I guess she was never told at 10:45pm that her child had a project due the next day that would make or break his grade so she decided to sacrifice her sleep to run to the store to get what he needed and stay up all night helping.  I guess she has never been so ill she didn't know how she would make it to work and had to run to the store for anti-diarrhea medication so that she didn't get fired for missing work.

And besides all this, I guess she is so worried about what other people think of her that she feels she must put on a show every time she steps out of her house.  Some of us are actually self-confident enough to be seen in whatever we happen to be wearing without caring if the people around us approve.

I sometimes shop in my pajamas.  Sometimes because it takes every last bit of energy I have to get to the store so my family has milk.  Sometimes to get a treat for my daughter who had a difficult day.  And sometimes just because I am comfortable in my pajamas.

When I mentioned this to my friend, she pointed out that when super models are trying not to be noticed they walk around without makeup on and in sloppy clothes.  (I guess that's because they're so insecure, right?)

So I would say to the author of that post, next time you see a woman shopping in her pajamas just pretend she is a super model in hiding.  Maybe that way she won't be so offensive to you.

**********

No question, this was a full-on rant.  I was not proud of how I handled myself and addressed it soon after in A Difference of Opinion.

Who Asked You? -- Smartly

My essay Who Asked You? is up over at Smartly today.  I invite you to go check it out.  And read a few more while you're there; they've got some great stuff.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Sunday in the Life of a Mormon, part three

Go here for part one.
Go here for part two.

We attend Sacrament Meeting as families.  It ends at about 2:10pm.  We then have ten minutes for transition.  During this time people might get chalk from the library or have copies made for a lesson.  Others take time to get a drink or go to the restroom.  The kids generally make a mad dash to Primary.

Sacrament Meeting is followed by Primary/Sunday School. 

Primary is for children 3-11 years old.  There is also a nursery that is part of the Primary program; children 18 months to 3 years attend nursery.  In nursery they play with toys, have a lesson, have a snack, make a craft, have singing time.  Children change classes in January, so they are in nursery until the January after they turn three.  Children 3-7 are in Junior Primary.  Children 8-11 are in Senior Primary.  In our ward there is one class for each age group (3-year olds, 4-year olds, etc.).  Primary begins with an opening song and a prayer by one of the children.  Junior Primary starts in sharing time.  This is a time when a member of the Primary presidency gives a lesson to several classes on topics that fit the theme for the year.  (This year's theme is I Know the Scriptures are True.)  The Primary music director then has about 20-30 minutes to teach and review songs.  Junior Primary then goes to class.  Each age group has their own teacher(s) and classroom.  This schedule is reversed for Senior Primary.  About 15-20 minutes before our block meetings end, Junior Primary comes back into the Primary chapel and the two groups have closing exercises together.  They recognize and welcome visitors, sing to birthday children, recognize children who were baptized that week, give announcements, and recite an Article of Faith or scripture.  Then one or two children give 2 1/2 minute talks (assigned the week before).  A child reads a scripture of his/her choice.  They end with a closing song and a closing prayer by one of the children.

After Sacrament Meeting (when the children go to Primary) the youth and adults go to Sunday School.  Sunday School for the youth is divided up every two years: 12&13-year olds, 14&15-year olds, 16&17-year olds.  The 12&13-year olds are taught about the past presidents of our church.  The older groups are taught about whatever the course of study is for that year.  (This year it's the New Testament.)  Adults are offered varying classes.  Right now we have two Gospel Doctrine classes on the New Testament (the course of study rotates each year).  People can choose which to attend.  Sometimes there are other classes offered, as the bishopric deems necessary:  Temple Preparation; Marriage and Family Relations; Family History; and Teaching, No Greater Call (a class to prepare members to teach).  Sunday School is about 50 minutes.  Each class is opened and closed with prayer.  We usually do not sing as part of Sunday School.

After another ten minute transition, the youth go to Young Men or Young Women and the adults go to their Priesthood quorum (men) or Relief Society (women).  In these settings we have lessons directed specifically to our lives and our responsibilities.  YM and YW are divided in ages like in Sunday School.  Since I work with the Young Women, I go there instead of Relief Society (on the second week the YW meet with the RS for opening exercises).  These classes are about 50 minutes as well.  They open with song and prayer.  We usually have announcements.  We then have a lesson of about 40 minutes on varying gospel subjects.  Tomorrow I am teaching a lesson about agency and responsibility.  We close our class with prayer by one of the young women.

Five minutes before 4:00pm the librarian rings a bell (like a school bell, it goes through the whole building).  This is our five-minute warning.  Then on the hour, the librarian rings the bell twice (hopefully not right in the middle of the prayer).

Then church is over.  I head toward the foyer as that's where I meet my family.  I usually chat while waiting for everyone to show up.  If someone has a meeting or needs to visit with the Bishop they usually walk home.

Once we get home we have certain rules about what we do on the Sabbath.  These are our family rules.  Every family has slightly different rules.  Sunday is family day at our house so my children aren't allowed to play with friends.  We don't watch TV on Sunday.  They are also not allowed on the internet.  In theory, they aren't supposed to use their cell phones to chat with friends either.  (This isn't followed well by my 18-year old daughter and her boyfriend.)  We really only have one family meal on Sunday, usually around 5:00pm or 6:00pm.  People are responsible for taking care of their other food needs.  Sometimes we visit grandparents on Sunday.  We play board games.  Some of us take naps.  We watch DVDs (they have to check with me first to see if I am okay with that DVD on Sunday).  They might go outside and play catch together or go for a bike ride.  Maybe they do a puzzle.  Maybe we have a family home evening lesson.  Maybe they play the piano or another instrument.  Maybe we read scriptures together.  The idea is to make Sunday a day that is different from the others.  A day that focuses on spiritual things and on family.  And sometimes that means sacrifice.

We have only given up TV on Sundays for the last year or two.  It was tough.  We are NASCAR and NFL football fans.  We miss a lot of these events by not watching TV on Sundays.  That's been hard on me probably more than anyone else.  But I feel like it's been worth it.  It's changed the spirit of our home.  It helps to carry the peace we gained at church through the rest of our day.  And I believe it's important to teach my children to sacrifice some of what they want on Sundays as a sign of devotion to God.  It's a way of saying thank you.  It's a way of saying that we are willing to do what is necessary to become the people God would have us be.  (We do have a few exceptions.  We watch the Super Bowl and the Indy 500.)

We end the day with family prayer.

**********

I know I probably lost many of you through this exercise.  Sorry about that.  I'll be back to regular programming next time.  I probably included too much detail, too.  Sorry again.

Oh, and Libby made a comment on the first part of this that reminded me of a way our church is very different from most.  We do not choose which congregation to attend.  Our wards are assigned based on where we live.  Each area of the world is divided into wards or branches.  Whichever boundaries you're in, that's where you go.  I believe this helps us focus more on the gospel itself rather than just the people we like.  Plus, when we move or travel we don't have to hunt to figure out where we belong.  We check the church website to find our ward and that's where we go.  The lessons taught are the same around the world.  It's like having access to instant family wherever we go.

And our ward is truly like that.  We are a tight knit group.  A family.  We serve each other.  Watch out for each other.  Love each other.  There are easily a hundred people in a two or three block radius that I could call on for help.  And I know they would have my back.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Sunday in the Life of a Mormon, part two

Go here for part one.

After my meeting, I go home and make sure everyone else is getting ready.  (I should mention that I only live about two blocks from my church building.)

My husband had his name removed from the records of our church about five years ago, so he isn't involved in this process.  It's taken some time, but we've come to a mutual respect of each other's choices.  Sundays are his day to himself.  He spends them sleeping, playing on his computer, watching movies in his room.  It's up to him.  We don't see him much on Sundays.

When I get home I wake anyone who is still asleep.  My kids are old enough that they get themselves ready.  Boy, it was a lot tougher when they were young.

I usually use this time to put the finishing touches on my lesson, if I'm teaching that day.  Or I lie down for a few minutes.  Sundays are a long day for me.

My eighteen-year old daughter gets ready pretty fast and then starts playing the piano.  No, we don't make her and haven't even asked her.  She just really likes to.  She's self taught and is working her way through the hymnbook.  It is requested that she keep her music spiritual when playing on Sunday.

My goal is to be out of the house by 12:30, even though we live close and church doesn't start until 1:00.  This started a while ago.  When my kids were younger we were often late for our meetings.  That meant we usually sat in the foyer or in the overflow on hard chairs.  I figured out that they were better behaved during the meeting if we were in a pew.  By changing my mindset to leaving at 12:30 instead of being there at 1:00 we are always able to get a pew, even when we're running late -- because we're still early.  Also, going early means that they have time to switch into church mode, get a drink of water, go to the restroom -- hopefully, so that they won't need to do those things during the meeting.  And I get to relax and listen to the prelude music, knowing we are all there and ready.  (If one of my kids isn't ready when it's time to leave, he/she walks.)

Since we are so early, we can sit anywhere we want.  We always sit in the back row on the right.  Habit.  My husband liked that spot when he used to come with us and it just kind of stuck.

Our Sunday worship service is three hours long.  The first meeting is Sacrament Meeting.  This is the most important meeting of the day because we participate in the holy ordinance of the sacrament.  The meeting is an hour and ten minutes.  It is conducted by a member of the bishopric.  (Our bishop is similar to a pastor. He has two counselors.  Together, they make up the bishopric.  They are responsible for the spiritual and temporal needs of everyone who lives in our ward boundaries.)  It is opened and closed with music and prayer.  Announcements are given.  New callings are presented for a sustaining vote.  The sacrament is blessed and passed by the young men who hold the priesthood.  The program is presented by various ward members who have been invited to speak by the bishopric on an assigned topic.  There is often a musical number presented in between speakers.  (On the first Sunday of the month we have testimony meeting.  On this day any member of the congregation may go to the pulpit to share his/her testimony.)  On the third Sunday, the musical number is usually presented by the ward choir.  (That's just in our ward.  Each ward decides for itself when the ward choir will sing.)

**********

To answer Linda's questions:  We call our weekly Sunday worship church.  Everyone is welcome at Sunday worship, member or not.  We do have temples.  These are buildings where sacred, eternal ordinances occur.  Only worthy members may enter the temple.  They must have an interview with the bishop and stake president (a stake is a group of wards).  They must be following the guidelines of the church like paying tithing, being honest, attending their meetings in order to obtain a temple recommend.  They can then attend the temple at a time that is convenient for them.  The temple isn't open on Sunday so that all may attend their regular Sunday meetings.  It also isn't open Monday afternoon or evenings so that it doesn't interfere with Family Home Evening (a time set aside for spiritual instruction in the home and family time).  And the formal name of our faith is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

More to come.

Go here for part three.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Sunday in the Life of a Mormon, part one

No theology here today, just a glimpse into what my Sundays look like (because I think it's fun to see how others live).  Some of this would vary depending on what my current calling is.  Also, different families establish their own guidelines, so a Mormon in a different family may have a very different Sunday from mine.  I will try to explain terms that may not be understood, but if I do too much explaining this post will be a novel.

Let's go with the second Sunday of the month; currently, that's my busiest one.

We are on the 1:00pm meeting schedule.  That means our meetings start at one in the afternoon.  There are three wards (congregations) that meet in our building so we have to take turns.  The start times are 9:00am, 11:00am, and 1:00pm.  This rotates every year.

Being on the late schedule means we can sleep later.  That is both good and bad at our house.  Good because we are night people and it's easier to get people moving happily in time for church.  Bad because we are night people and tend to stay up later on Saturday knowing we can sleep late the next day.  That is why you will see that the times I am waking people up are ridiculously late.

I am in charge of Sunday dinner.  I try to prepare something that can cook while we are at church or that is really fast and can be prepared after (our church ends at 4:00pm).  Since we don't shop on Sunday, I have to plan ahead.  Usually I get up at about 9:00am (maybe 9:30) and put something in the crock pot.  Then I get myself ready for the day, knowing there won't be time again later or I will be fighting for the bathroom.

I wake my 14-year old son at 10:00am if he isn't already up.  (Funny how he can get himself up just fine for football practice but struggles to get out of bed Sunday mornings.)  He has priesthood duties to perform.  On the first and second Sundays of the month the young men go to each house in the ward to collect fast offerings (donations for the welfare needs in our ward).  Hopefully he gets up and gets himself ready and out the door.

My current calling is second counselor in the Young Women organization (YW).  That means I work with the girls in our ward who are 12 and 13 years old.  It also means I have a YW presidency meeting every second Sunday at 10:30am.  I meet with the president (who works with the 16 and 17-year olds), the first counselor (who works with the 14 and 15-year olds), and the secretary.  We open and close the meeting with prayer.  One of us shares a spiritual thought that we think can help us in our callings.  Then we discuss the needs of the young women in our ward.  We note who is struggling.  We discuss ways to help individuals as well as the group.  We plan activities, hopefully those that will meet the needs of our girls.  We review activities we've already held to note things that worked and things that didn't.  Our president presents items that we need to know about from Ward Council.  Our goal is to follow the guidance of the Spirit as we try to help these young ladies prepare to be wives and mothers.  This meeting usually lasts about an hour.

Okay, I can see that this is going to take longer than I thought.  I guess I'd better break it up into several posts so as not to overwhelm anyone.  More to come.

And I'd love to read about how other people spend their sabbath (no matter what day you observe it) or how you choose to worship.  If you write about it, please send me a link so I can check it out.

Go here for part two.
Go here for part three.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let's Talk About Minimalism

A few months ago I wrote about finding my kind.  Finding my place.  Feeling at home.  In the minimalist movement.

Much of that post talked about getting rid of stuff.  And having less stuff is certainly a big part of minimalism.  But minimalism is so much more than that.

It would take many posts to give you an accurate idea of the current minimalist movement.  I'm sure I will write about it again to cover various areas and how they fit into my life.  But for now, I would like to offer a small introduction to minimalism of today.

While there is a push toward minimalist architecture and decorating and design, that's not really what I'm talking about.  The minimalism I'm talking about is a lifestyle change. 

As with any lifestyle generalization there are many different interpretations on what it means to be a minimalist.  There are probably as many interpretations as there are people trying to live this lifestyle.

A few of the things I've seen people working toward:  owning fewer than 100 things; 33 items in their wardrobe; quitting their regular job; becoming location independent; giving up their car; traveling the world with nothing but their backpack and a laptop.

I do not anticipate doing any of these things.

More commonly I read about people who are getting rid of stuff, rethinking commitments, challenging the ideas that they've been told for years, defining what they want out of life and making it happen.

My definition:  Minimalism is about creating space for the things you love.  Maybe that's physical space and you're focusing on clutter.  Maybe that's time and energy and you're adjusting your work week.  Maybe it's emotional space and you are letting go of relationships that are draining.  Whatever.

It's not about living without.  It's about only having what you need and what you love, realizing that anything extra takes away from the joy of life.  It's not all about thrift shopping.  Maybe instead of ten cheap pairs of pants I want to own three really nice ones. 

It's about choosing what I want in my life, what feels good in my heart.  It's about knowing when I have enough.  It's about living with intent.  It's about slowing down.  It's about making this very moment important, no matter what I'm doing.  It's about not choosing things based on what other people say I should want.  It's about listening to my own heart and letting it help me find myself.  Chipping away at all the garbage the world has buried me in.

It's about thinking.  Choosing.  And enjoying.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's the Opposite of Wanderlust?

Our family just got back from San Francisco.  It was perfect weather.  The completely different scenery and diverse population were fascinating.  Everyone got along almost all the time.  We had a great time -- success!

But even on the heels of this successful adventure I will readily admit I don't like to travel.  It's just not in my top ten list of things I like to do.  Probably not in my top one hundred.  And to some people that's a crime.  It's just not right to not like to travel.

About a year ago I was with a group of women, chatting.  One of them mentioned a trip she was planning and how excited she was.  The rest of the group got excited as well, talking about how much fun they were going to have.  I said I didn't like to travel (at an appropriate time, not just in the middle of everything).  The room went silent.

They stared at me like I had two heads.  How could anyone not like to travel?  How can you possibly not want to visit every corner of the earth?  (Especially the travel agent in the room.  You'd have thought I just said her kids were ugly by how offended she seemed.)

I like reading about, hearing about, or watching documentaries about other places.  Other people and lifestyles fascinate me.  But not enough to want to go there.  I just really like where I am.  There are enough incredible things to see within a two or three hour range of my house to keep me busy and satisfied for a lifetime.  Actually, there's enough in my own town to keep me happy for a lifetime.  I just honestly cannot think of another place in the world I'm dying to visit.  My life will be perfectly complete if I never leave my hometown again.

But what I found most interesting in this whole thing is how strongly it affected the other women in the room.  Why should they care if I don't like to travel?  Why would they spend the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me that if I were with the right person or "did it right" then I would love to travel?  Why isn't it okay for me to feel differently about something they love?

I bear no ill will toward those who like to travel.  In fact, I love hearing about their trips when they come back.  I love watching their faces light up as they describe each incredible thing they saw or did.

I love differences of opinion (as long as they are handled respectfully).  I think that's what makes our world function.  How would we survive if no one wanted to farm because everyone wanted to be an electrical enigineer?  What would happen if all little boys grew up to be firefighters and no one became a garbage man?  We need diversity.

So feel how you want to feel.  Celebrate what you want to celebrate.  Love what you want to love.  And please offer me the same freedoms.