Friday, April 04, 2014

A Note from the General Women's Meeting

**Edited with added updates below**

I’m not sure why I feel the need to share this, but I do feel it, so I’m guessing maybe someone needs to read it:

Last Saturday I took my three oldest daughters to Salt Lake to attend the first General Women’s Meeting. It was a good experience, and I’m glad we went. There’s a lot I could say about it, but what I feel inclined to say just focuses on one aspect. I’ll attempt to be brief.

Something happened repeatedly that afternoon and evening. It happened only to me and not my daughters (thank goodness), but it happened. As we rode the train, as we walked the sidewalks of the city, I saw it—watched it happen, over and over again. It was subtle, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t real. And the more I think about it the more I’m surprised…not only that it happened, but surprised that I found myself surprised that it was happening.

Women, one by one, looked at me, did a double-take, and looked me up and down. After that, with pursed lips, they’d do one of two things: either make an effort to make eye contact with me and deliver a scowl, or whisper to their friend(s) who would, in turn, do the exact same thing.

It did not happen with men (except for when a man was the recipient of the whispering I mentioned). One woman, after making eye contact with me, rolled her eyes (this was the hostess of the restaurant at which my daughters and I dined). Another woman was staring at me with such intensity that I initially mistook her stare for that thing where you’re just kind of zoning out and don’t see what’s in front of you, but after several seconds she blinked and I felt her intention.

I presume that the objective was to make me feel uncomfortable and/or out of place. I didn’t feel either of those things.

The one place/group of people with whom it (consistently) didn’t happen was at the Conference Center, with those who were on-site hosts. From those women and men I felt nothing but sincerity when they said to my daughters and me, “Welcome to Conference.”

I don’t think my girls noticed, but I haven’t asked them. It might be an interesting conversation to have.

What’s my point of writing this? I’m not sure. Like I said, maybe someone needs to read this. Maybe it’s someone who can be comforted that they’re not alone. Or maybe it’s someone who might think twice before being so inconsiderate in their reaction to what another person is wearing to a church meeting. 

When I wrote this last night, it was in a bit of a rush, and, like I said, I didn't know why I should share it other than the feeling that it might have been for someone else's benefit. It hadn't been my intention to share it immediately after it happened (which is why I didn't, duh), mainly because of potential misunderstanding that this is Just Another Pants Post: it is, and it isn't.

I shared it on facebook, where some friends added their thoughts (and even more, I suspect, didn't). While the discussion continues there, I do want to add more thoughts here (maybe mainly so that I can come back to my blog post later if I want to, which is often easier than trying to find an old facebook post). I'll begin with a comment I made on fb:

'So, yes: I was wearing pants. And maybe it was because I was Making A Statement, and maybe it wasn't. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we BE NICER to each other For The Love. More kindness, por favor. If you are inclined to scowl at someone for what they are wearing (and the presumptions which accompany) please reconsider that sort of thing.'

Also, in response to another friend who commented: So you went dressed knowing you could get a response from some people, and you did, so now what?, I said the following: 'I don't really know what you mean by asking, 'now what?'. Maybe I wasn't clear in the point that I was not, in fact, dressed in an effort to get a reaction. I have my reasons for why I dressed the way I did, but getting a reaction is not one of them; taking a political stance isn't even one of them, unless you consider teaching my daughters by example that it really is okay to wear pants to a church meeting despite what people around them might (and do) say to be a political stance. Neither my dressing a certain way, nor my writing about it, are a part of any sort of agenda or plan with an outlined next step. When I feel inclined to share my thoughts on certain larger, pressing issues I will, and likely on my blog. But for now, my aim is to share my thoughts about how we all really should incorporate more kindness into our lives, perhaps especially with those with whom we disagree (and, of course, not make assumptions - but instead ask questions - about what one does or does not think based on what they are wearing, when they are wearing it, and where they are wearing it.).'

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

To You, from my 12YO Daughter

Dear Readers, 

Two years ago you all stepped up and helped my daughter when she was participating in a fundraiser, and she has not forgotten your generosity. She's participating again, and her goal is to raise $75 online -- just today and tomorrow. Here, her words to you: 

By the end of this week I'm trying to raise at least $75 online for Jump Rope For Heart and The American Heart Association. I love doing this fundraiser and it's my last year doing it at my elementary school. I love to raise money to help kids with heart disabilities. I actually also love to jump rope. I can do double-dutch, both backwards and forward cross. I can do a cartwheel into a jump rope, and even jump rope while on a pogo stick. I really enjoy doing this and I'd really appreciate if you could help me out. Thanks! ~ Emma Eckton

Here is the link to her fundraising page. (Feel free to share.)

You should know that she has complete confidence in strong online communities. Thank you, all of you, for continuously showing her how good and helpful people can be. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maybe It's About Manners

My friend Alexis posted this on fb:

"The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism... the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances." -Hugh Nibley*

I'm not sure if Brother Nibley would welcome additions to that list, but I would add the following:

"...those who insist that anyone who questions or disagrees is simply unenlightened or uneducated, even to the point of not sustaining the prophet (which accusation is at best insulting and rude, and at worst damning) when, indeed, we, at our core, are (or ought to be) a questioning and seeking people...." - me

Maybe it's politics, maybe it's equality, maybe it's something else entirely. But here I speak to my friends who reside with their opinions on all points of the spectrum of such issues: When you sweepingly dismiss those opposing your side, when you make accusations of individuals (or groups) which are in the arena of final judgments, when you mock based on your own perspective without bothering to attempt to understand where someone else might be coming from, YOU ARE NOT STRENGTHENING YOUR OWN CASE. Indeed, you weaken your credibility. It is a sign of maturity to acknowledge that your worldview is not shared by everyone, and to be able to be friends with people who may not share your views. Asking questions and listening to answers instead of jumping to conclusions is just good manners.

People want to know what you have to say. Your opinion is valuable. Others' opinions are valuable. When you (or they) make assumptions,  or don't listen, or call names, or declare dramatic and illogical conclusions without listening, etc. -- what you (or they) have to say doesn't get heard. You want to be heard, don't you? So do they.

Srsly, guys.

Jesus said love ev'ryone;
Treat them kindly, too.
When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you.**

*Hugh Nibley, Waterman, Brian and Kagel, Brian Kagel. The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU. Signature Books. 1998.
**Words and music: Moiselle Renstrom, 1889-1956

Sunday, March 09, 2014

mid-night crisis

Some thoughts on a late Saturday/early Sunday (it's been a while since I've done this.

~ I've been rereading my blog lately. Have you done that? I mean, with your own blog, not mine. Or, if you don't have a blog, maybe your journal or diary or something. It's a cool thing to write down our real thoughts and later look back to see if we still agree with our former self, or to see if we've grown/changed (and if so, how much). I think I've resolved to write more about what's going on in my life. So as to remember. Excepting what's on my blog, and the evidence the existence of most people who live in my home, I don't really remember my twenties.

~ Someone rang my doorbell after 11:pm tonight and then ran away. I think I'm the only one awake in my house at this hour, but the dog kind of went off. I'm glad his barking didn't wake anyone. And I hope whomever rang my doorbell was hanging around my porch close enough to hear me heave a loud and annoyed sigh.

~ When do midlife crises typically occur? Asking for a friend.

~ Today was a weird day. I had another round of callbacks for an audition, and I did alright. I got a flat tire on the freeway. Luckily Cyndi loaned us her car so we could go to Marcia's viewing and funeral. Funerals can be so downright sad, but Marcia's services were different. She'd been ill for so long, and I've heard so many say something along the lines of, "I miss her so much, but what a relief she's not suffering any longer." I learned today that a funeral can have moments of being uplifting and comforting when it's about the celebration of a life well-lived. Afterwards I took Punkin to a birthday party, then drove to Springville; back to pick her up and bring her home. I had hoped to go to Costco but was not in the mood to battle Saturday crowds. So I took a nap. When I woke up it was dark. Turns out, even an inspiring funeral can leave one feeling overcome and, frankly, exhausted.

~ I'm watching SNL and I keep laughing out loud. Lena Dunham is hosting, and I don't watch Girls so this is the first thing I've seen her on, other than - what, The Daily Show, and the like. I like laughing out loud when I watch TV - it's a nice surprise to myself.

~ Speaking of laughing out loud when I watch TV, I've decided I want to be best friends with the person(s) responsible for writing any and all lines uttered by Craig on Parks & Rec.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

High-Quality Preschool in Utah

Think about preschool for a minute. What role has preschool played in your life? As for myself, I remember going to 2 different preschools in New York. My kids have gone to preschool; some loved it and others preferred to lie down on the floor to go to sleep instead of participate. Even so, I have seen the benefits in my kids  - from their attitudes towards school and how they get along with other classmates, to solidifying letter sounds and learning how to follow classroom rules.

Not every family even has the option for preschool because of cost. In Utah, many kids from low-income neighborhoods begin kindergarten without knowing their basic A-B-Cs, or knowing that we read from left to right, or even knowing how to follow directions in a classroom. There is an achievement gap of 16% in language arts between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children; in areas affected by poverty the gap grows to 29%. This gaps costs Utah millions of dollars in remedial services.

Simply put, without preschool as an option, many children enter kindergarten at a severe disadvantage, requiring various resources to catch them up to be on par with their peers and basic academic standards.

United Way of Salt Lake is acting on these local needs. HB96 – Utah School Readiness Initiative – has already passed out of the House with a 49-24 vote, and is now going to the Senate. They’ve made it very easy for all of us to get involved by sending emails to, or calling, our Senators to let them know that we want this to pass. You don’t even need to know who your legislators are – simply click on the Email Legislators link and share your personal message: Why is preschool important to you? When you click send your message is sent directly to your state Senator.

This benefits our economy as well. As Scott Anderson (President & CEO, Zions Bank) points out, “Economically, investing in preschool simply makes sense. Utah could avoid spending around $30 million per year if at-risk children had access to high-quality preschool.”

Kindergarten is a critical time in a child’s academic career. Help them begin their schooling years with confidence and the advantages that attending preschool can give them.

REMEMBER: Let your voice to heard to vote YES on HB96. So often the only voices heard are those opposing a bill so join this conversation – it only takes about 2 minutes of your time. Click on the Email Legislators link and share your story. And then tell your friends.

*For more information, here’s a video, just under six minutes long, explaining many of the benefits of investing in preschool: 

This post is sponsored by Today's Mama and United Way of Salt Lake, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

2013 Top Ten

10. Arrested Development Season 4

Ahhh, remember this? Back in May I (and maybe you?) stayed up one night very late, until 1:am Mountain Time, to being watching Season 4 of Arrested Development. It’s my favorite show (if you haven’t seen it, please give it a shot and let me know what you think – also, know that you can’t watch it passively, and that there are swears in one of the versions of the pilot), and previously there had only been three seasons (I’ve got two sets each of all three seasons on DVD, you know, just in case something goes wrong with Netflix or whatever). I binge-watched the entire season, which was released all at once. I still remember how giddy I felt when I heard Ron Howard’s voice and saw, of all people, Kristen Wiig as young Lucille Bluth. I know not everyone loved it, and that’s fine. I loved it.

9. Driving Across the Country/Traveling

somewhere between Champaign and Lincoln

One of the very first things that happened in 2013 was that our van died. Died dead. Our best friends saved us by selling their car to us, a favor I don’t know I can ever repay. As our best friends currently live in Georgia, I flew there and drove the car back. I drove from Augusta, GA, to Champaign, IL – a slight detour to spend a few hours with my brother and his family. I then drove from Champaign to Lincoln, NE, to spend a wonderful evening of running and eating and talking and television with my friend Wendy. Leaving Lincoln, I made it to Lyman, WY, where I was stuck in a blizzard and spent a night at my friend Lezlie’s cousin’s motel, The Gateway Inn. I finally (and cautiously) made it back to Provo.

Other trips:
~ Washington, DC (February) – Training and lobbying for Shot@Life (see #8), and to see my friends Martha and Charlotte, and my sister.

With Charlotte

~ Augusta, GA (March) – to visit Waldo & Jen again, for the occasion of their daughter’s baptism, and Easter

With Jen

~ San Diego, CA (April) – with Li’l ~j. (not so li’l anymore) for a cheer competition; got to stay at my old roommate’s house, and see my kind-of step-brother every day we were there

With Jeff

~ Nowhere, WY (June – seriously, I have no idea where we were) – we went on a mock pioneer trek and camped as a family, with other families from our church congregation.

~ Hollywood, FL (June) – I spoke at a convention on behalf of Shot@Life (see #8). I was there for approximately seven hours total.

~ Oberlin, OH (August) – To attend my dear friend Martha’s wedding.

With Martha

8. Lobbying/Speaking at Conferences

As mentioned in #9 I traveled to Washington, DC, in February for champion training for Shot@Life, and to lobby on Capitol Hill. This year I was one of about ten in the National Shot@Life Mentor Circle, which was really cool. In DC there was a group of eight women from Utah (a great showing) to learn more about Shot@Life, and together we attended meetings and met with various representatives’ staffers. I was nervous about lobbying but it was all a very interesting process, and I hope to be able to do it again.

Awesome team from Utah

Speaking of speaking, I was able to be the keynote speaker at this year’s General Federation of Women’s Clubs Annual Convention. What a thrill to be able to associate with those stellar women, and get to know more about their organization and the good work they do.

With Nancy Jones and Madame President Mary Ellen Laister

I also was one of the presenters in Utah’s inaugural ListenTo Your Mother show. It was an evening of inspiration in many forms, and I’m grateful for the friendships which have come from the experience. Here’s my presentation:

7. Communal Sock Basket

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point this year I decided I was done sorting socks. My oldest three girls can pretty much share socks with each other (as can my youngest two kids), and going through the guessing game of which belongs to whom while doing laundry is not worth my time. The blue square laundry basket, placed in an easily accessible location for all, is now the happy home to all clean-and-out-of-the-dryer kid socks. When my kids come to me before school saying they don’t have socks I direct them to the blue basket. If the basket gets too full, or if we have five or ten minutes when we’re all home at the same time, we have a quick Get Your Socks party. Laundry has long been my favorite chore, and now it’s even moreso.

6. Scooter

In August we bought a scooter. It’s not easy being a large family with just one car, particularly when the car is needed for instances when only my husband or I need to go somewhere (leaving the other of us, and the kids, without a vehicle). Learning that scooters get about 90mpg we figured out that even with the monthly payment and maintenance we’d be saving money (ga$oline), and that has held true. There’s really nothing like riding a scooter in the summer (though I could do without getting pegged in the face with bugs). For locals, I highly recommend The Scooter Lounge in Orem. We happened to purchase their 1,000th scooter, so we got some awesome stuff with it (I love the messenger bag the most). 

5. Acting

Backstage with Ames & Ben right before our final show

This year was when I really got back into (began?) acting. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on an auditioning class during the winter semester and I learned so much during those months. In May I worked a few days as an extra on the set in Goshen. In June I had my first theater audition in 18 years. In July I began rehearsal for a musical that ended in November. In November and December I worked in film at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo. In December I began rehearsal for my first-ever straight play. I love the challenge, the process, the work, the experience, the growth. A major part of me has been brought to light and I feel more like my true self.

4. Having a Job

In 2013 I began working from home. I work for Wake Up WorldCommunications and I write, mainly about global health issues, mainly having to do with women and children. My lovely boss (who is also my friend) lives on the East coast. Having this job has been a tremendous blessing for me and for my family, and I’m very grateful for it.

3. Running

Having done triathlons in the past with the attitude of I love swimming and I love biking and when it’s time for the run I figure I should just get it over with, I decided that 2013 was going to be my year of learning how to run a little better and a little farther. In January (while in Georgia, in fact) I began training for my first half-marathon and I stuck to my running schedule, even with the traveling I was doing. At the beginning of May I ran the Provo City Half-Marathon, which begins in Provo Canyon, down the River Trail, and on to University Avenue, ending at the city center. What a beautiful run and a draining experience. There are no words to describe the exact color of the mountains being reflected in the Provo river at sunrise, but golden comes close. At about 300 North University Avenue I saw the finish line and unexpectedly began to choke up, which isn’t great when you’re trying to run. It was a very emotional experience and just thinking about it as I write this makes me think I should be training for another right now.

With Lisa

As a surprise, Carina signed me up to run Ragnar WasatchBack, a relay race of 12 people in two vehicles, over two days. Together we ran from Logan (on the border with Idaho) to Park City, about 198 miles. It was exhilarating and frustrating and exhausting, and I’d totally do it again.

2. Flipagram

This is my favorite new app, and I only began using it at the very end of the year, but I’m kind of obsessed. I first heard about it from my oldest daughter when she used it as part of a birthday gift for her best friend. Essentially you put pictures together in a slide show set to 15 seconds of music. The more pictures you add, the faster they flip through. I used it to make a sort of year-in-review for myself, and one for each of my kids. Plus one of pictures of my kids sleeping, because if you follow me on Instagram you know that a significant portion of my pics are of my kids sleeping.

1. In The Heights

What can I even say about this? Being in Hale Center Theater Orem’s production of In The Heights was one of the best experiences of my life. The soundtrack, and even some of the dialogue, has become a regular in my family’s repertoire. (Heads up for those who saw the Orem production: if you get the Broadway cast recording please know that there is some language that you didn’t hear in Orem’s show.) The cast members are some of my very favorite people on this planet. The story itself, about home and community and family, resonates very strongly with me. I was just thinking the other day, about how some people talk about their Dream Role. My Dream Role is to be anything in In The Heights. If I could do any show, I’d do this one again. And again and again.


My favorite videos of the year:

 My favorite pics of the year (see also: Instagram):