Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Kindness Challenge

The presidential election has been decided, and Donald Trump has been declared the winner.  I never thought I would be typing those words, but there they are.  In actual letters.  On my actual computer screen.  (A friend of mine summed up the situation best when he quoted the immortal words of Clark Griswold: "If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now.")

But if this election has taught me anything, it's this:  Words have power.  For good or evil, they have power.  Which means that I have power.  And I'm going to use it for good.

As Thomas S. Monson said, "Life is perfect for none of us.  Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life.  May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out."

We need to choose kindness over judgment.  Compassion over indifference.  Love over anger and understanding over hate.  We need to recognize that none of us can truly know what's in another's heart, and that we should not speak of their decisions as though we do.

We need to make America kind again.

Want to join me?  Here's the challenge:

For the next two weeks until Thanksgiving, act on the good.  When you have a kind thought about someone, say something to them.   When a friend needs help, do something for them.  When a stranger needs their grocery cart taken back to the stall, take it back for them.  Make a phone call, write a thank you note, and let someone merge in front of you.  In the words of Camilla Kimball, "Never suppress a generous thought."
  
On the flip side, if you have an uncharitable or unkind thought about someone -- whether it's their political views, their life choices, or their personality quirks that are using your nerves as a banjo -- keep it to yourself.  Don't add to the pile when others are throwing stones; only add to the good.

As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit."  If we want healing, this is where we will find it. 

Two weeks of kindness.

Who's in?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Kindness For President

You might have noticed by now that it's an election year.  If, by the grace of God you forget this fact for three blissful seconds, don't worry... Facebook will remind you.

The choices -- according to an informal poll of my newsfeed -- are your drunk uncle Donald, who got his start in politics when he saw that the Misogynist Party was not properly represented (votes for boobs!... I mean women!) and career criminal Hillary McMob Boss.  If you really want to flush America down the toilet, you can "throw away your vote" by backing Gary "Weed for Aleppo" Johnson or Evan "San Dimas High School Football Rules!" McMullin, who threw his hat in the ring for Junior Class President and accidentally ended up on the presidential ballot.

But I digress.

The point is, there's a lot of name calling going on.  A LOT of name calling.  Like, if my Facebook feed were my children, they would all get sent to their rooms for approximately 365 years level of name calling.  Which is decidedly uncool.  I mean, if you can't support your candidate without saying "All [other candidate's] supporters deserve to be slowly devoured by flesh eating bacteria" then there is something very, very wrong with you.

So I'll let you in on a little secret.  Ready...?  I don't care which candidate you support in the election.  Like, not even a little.  You know what I care about?

What kind of person you are.

Are you compassionate?  Are you kind?  Do you try to understand where others are coming from?  When someone's views conflict with your own, do you malign their character and insult their intelligence?  Or do you listen and consider and learn?

The fact is that there are good people who support Clinton and there are good people who support Trump.  And no matter which candidate you vote for, we can all be friends.  We can all choose kindness.  We can all choose to listen.  We can all choose to love and to help and uplift.

So let's throw away the pitchforks.  Choose kindness.

It wins every time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Anxiety and a Telephone Walked Into a Bar...

I don't like making phone calls.  I don't like thinking about making phone calls.  I don't like answering the phone, listening to my voicemail, or calling people back.  There are only a handful of people on this planet that I will regularly answer the phone for -- my husband, my sisters, my mom, and my friend, Kristin.  If you are not one of those people and you are trying to get ahold of me, I'm sorry, I'm hiding in my bed recovering from the shock of your calling me WITHOUT ANY WARNING and scaring the bejeebers out of me.

It's not that I'm a wimp.  It's just that only hateful, horrible people still use phone calls to communicate.  (Kidding!  Kidding!  Sort of...)

So you can imagine how being a parent and calling doctors and dentists and schools because my kids "can't do it themselves" (gosh, Jonathan, you're 19 months old!  Make your own appointment!) gives me anxiety comparable to what a normal person might experience if they were about to have their head chopped off with a sword.  Because of that, I only make these phone calls when I really need to.  The problem is, I never know when I really need to.

For example:

Once Michael was running a fever on and off and complaining about his throat hurting for several days.  I called the doctor and arrived for the appointment, whereupon Michael's symptoms magically disappeared as soon as we stepped over the threshold of the waiting room and I got to sit there feeling stupid while the doctor looked him over and pronounced him "perfectly fine."

The next time Michael had similar symptoms I thought, it's not that bad.  I don't need to call the doctor.  And then he developed a mysterious rash all over his body, so I made an appointment and the doctor said, "He has scarlet fever!  Why didn't you bring him in three days ago??"

Sigh.

But seriously, you send your kid to school with an upset stomach and he vomits all over his desk.  You keep the same kid home and he's bouncing off the walls three minutes after the tardy bell rings.  No matter what, there will be phone calls.  And no matter what, you'll be wrong.

Which is why I think the entire world should operate solely by text and email.  Communication in loco phonentis.  Who's with me?

If you're with me, please send me a text.

Only hateful people make phone calls.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympics Bingo

After watching the women of Team USA spend their entire pursuit of Olympic Beach Volleyball glory picking their swimsuits out of their butt cracks, I thought, "This should be a drinking game!"  ("Kerri Walsh-Jennings saves it!  And pauses once again to stop her bikini from performing a colonoscopy!"...)

But I don't drink.  So I made Olympics Bingo instead.

You're welcome.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Picture Perfect

I keep getting tagged on Facebook in those love-your-spouse-rah-rah-marriage things.  Which is awesome because I love my spouse and I love marriage and I especially love snorting my way through everyone's photographic evidence of Aquanet and wedding dresses with shoulder pads.  (I mean, how is it that nobody in the eighties looked in the mirror and thought, good heavens, WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?)

Marriage is awesome!  And my husband is particularly awesome!  But we aren't perfect people and our marriage takes work.  Which is why this is my all-time-favorite photo of the two of us together:  


Awww.  Isn't that adorable? 

But the reason it's my favorite picture isn't because of what you can see, it's because of what you can't see.

If you could slip through the camera lens into this memory, you'd see my 19-month-old twins screaming and crying as they tried to climb up my legs.  You'd see a four-year-old dumping an entire bottle of water inside my diaper bag as he searched for a fruit snack.  You'd see that it was a cold day in October and that my pants were covered in snot because both babies had bad colds and had been using my legs as a kleenex for the entire photoshoot.  You'd see that the reason we were laughing is because there is nothing less romantic than two screaming toddlers trying to claw their way up your thighs as a photographer says things like, "Look like you love you each other!"

But in this picture you see none of that.  You don't even see how red my nose was from the chilly temperatures, thanks to a quick switch from color to sepia tones.  What you see is only part of the story, captured from only one angle.  And isn't that the case with all of our marriages?  We have perfect moments, and perfect snapshots, and we tend to share only those perfect portions of our lives with others.  But what we share is never the whole picture.

And the whole of this picture is what makes me love it.  Knowing what we've worked for and been through and survived and that right there in the center of our family's little universe my husband and I will be laughing and crying and sticking it out together for the rest of eternity.  Because family IS the whole picture.

Imperfect parts and all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Church of the Holy Toddler of Terror

Church is at 1:00.  I have a toddler.  Combining these two things is basically like taking a jar of highly unstable anti-matter out for a game of kickball and hoping it won't break open and destroy the known universe.

LDS (Mormon) congregations are divided by geographical boundaries, and are assigned a meeting time that rotates yearly.  In our meetinghouse, one year you have meetings at 9:00, the next at 11:00, and the next at 1:00.  In our case, due to our large size (which necessitates the use of every single classroom in the building), we are stuck on a permanent hell-cycle of 1:00 church for the foreseeable future. 

Huzzah.

Okay, I love church.  I really do.  It's where I need to be every Sunday, and it's where my kids need to be -- even the one who has to miss his nap.  I have no doubts about this, which is why I go.  The blessings of church attendance are real, and the gospel is true, even if you don't get to hear a word that is said.  But have you been to church with a toddler in the middle of his regular nap time?  Because it's about the only thing that makes me consider taking up drinking.

Every week is mostly the same.  The only thing that really varies is how much Excedrin I need after the meetings are over.  Every once in awhile I find myself hearing one sentence of what must be a really good lesson and thinking, "Wow, no one is bothering me.... INCOMING!" and then I have to duck as my toddler tries to whack me in the head with his sippy cup.

Last Sunday I pulled a book out of The Church Bag (what goes in The Church Bag stays in The Church Bag until the following Sunday), opened it, and my oldest son looked at it quizzically and then slowly peeled back what appeared to be a perfectly preserved specimen of a fruit snack from the cenozoic era.  Approximate quiet time afforded by said book:  30 seconds.

Each week is a variation on how long The Church Bag can ensure quietness.  You pull out another book or quiet toy, but the toddler rejects it by throwing it at the person in front of him.  You apologize.  Then three seconds later you apologize for the fact that he just pulled that person's hair. He tries to escape down the aisle and you block his exit only to have him crumble to the ground and shriek like he is being devoured by piranhas.  You hand him a piece of cheese to shut him up, but remember too late that breaking a whole food item into pieces causes the food to undergo a chemical change that makes it taste like cat pee.  Your toddler reacts accordingly.  Your other kids pick this moment to renew their fight over who gets to sit on Mom's lap.

Just before the passing of the sacrament, your toddler develops a strange sensation behind his eyelids that causes him to whine and claw at his eyeballs like someone filled them with flesh-eating sand.  He wipes a combo of snot and graham cracker crumbs up the entire length of your navy blue sleeve.  Gah, why did you wear navy blue?  That's a rookie mistake.  He squawks like a dying parrot.  Your husband takes him out in the hall.  Your other kids dive onto your now-vacant lap like it's the gold medal in an Olympic sport.

Your husband returns ten minutes later with a sleeping toddler drooling down the arm of his suit coat.  You think, "I should really get that suit coat dry cleaned."  You touch it up with a wipie instead.  Your toddler snoozes till the closing hymn and then wakes up with a disease I like to call Angry Waking Syndrome.

You hand him a toy, he yells.  You hand him some food, he tries to slap it out of your hand.  You open a book, he throws it.  You take him out in the hall and he falls to the floor and wails.  Even if a miracle occurs and he decides he's happy, he's happy at too loud of a level.  Minus the short sleeping period on Dad's shoulder, you repeat this scenario for the next two hours.  You consider it a win if nobody hauls you out in a straitjacket by the end.  You mark another survival X on your calendar -- THREE MORE MONTHS TILL HE IS OLD ENOUGH FOR NURSERY CLASS.

It's hard.  And it's flat-out awful sometimes.  I mean, the highlight of my meetings this past Sunday was when Jonathan gagged himself on a piece of cheese stick and I had to run him out of Relief Society just in time to catch the first heave of his stomach in my hands as he threw up all over the floor.  Bless those beautiful ladies who came running out after me and used their powers of helpfulness to grab my diaper bag and paper towels, offer support, and help me CLEAN VOMIT OUT OF THE CARPET.  (I think this act alone assures someone a place in the Celestial Kingdom.  Bless you, Kim!)  But I'll keep going.  And I'll keep doing it.  Because church on Sunday is where I need to be.

Straitjacket and all.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Me, Myself, and Whine

Meghann Foye, author of Meternity has something to say:

"I want all the perks of maternity leave -- without having any kids."

She is advocating a "meternity" leave ("meternity" as in "me me me") to balance out the apparent unfairness of women leaving the office to take advantage of that "socially mandated time and space for self-reflection" we call "maternity leave."

Hahahahaha!  This is a joke, right?  Really, it must be.  Because, let's clear up a few things.  The "perks" of maternity leave are as follows:

*Not having the extra burden of clocking in at the office added to the ten thousand other responsibilities you now have

Now for the non-perks:

*A human being making an excruciating exit of your body in one of two graceful ways: bulldozing its way out of your nether regions with all the tenderness of a mack truck, or being yanked unceremoniously through your sliced-in-half abdominal muscles.  Take your pick.
*The painful aftermath and recovery from said excruciating childbirth
*A squalling, helpless infant who is completely dependent on you for EVERYTHING at every hour of the day
*Minimal and constantly interrupted sleep
*Bodily fluids everywhere (yours and the baby's)

Honestly, time for self-reflection is pretty hard to come by when you have a human piranha attached to your nipples 20 hours a day and when you are dealing with what looks and feels like the aftermath of Shark Week in your hospital-issue mesh panties.

You want this to be fair, do you, Ms. Foye?  In that case you are going to need to set aside a significant amount of time in your "meternity" leave to get intimately acquainted with the following: Bleeding, swelling, stitches, hemorrhoids, stool softeners, bleeding, cracked nipples, hormonal upheaval, night sweats, more bleeding, mastitis, poop, vomit, and colic.  You are not allowed to sleep more than two hours at a time, you still have to manage basic household tasks, and you must host family members and friends who want to see the Cute Little Sabbatical, even if you are not up for it.

Sounds like a vacation to me.

Look, I have no problem with Ms. Foye's argument that everyone can use an extended break from work now and then.  What I have a problem with is her assumption that she is owed this break because women who have just grown and delivered new human beings to Planet Earth are getting an unfair perk by having time off to adjust and recover.  Growing, birthing, and caring for a newborn is not the same as sitting by a pool enjoying introspective chill time as you contemplate your place in the universe.  If you want a sabbatical, fine, but no one owes you one.

Least of all new mothers who already have enough to do.