Saturday, April 30, 2005 

I Love Potato Chips Too Much

While I am not usually one to shy away from talking about myself, I have not been looking forward to answering this week’s question.

You may assume that’s it’s because I don’t like people to know I have weakness. Ha! Ha! Not so! If you read my posts you might have picked up on the fact that I find the revelation of personal weaknesses strangely liberating.

Simple fact: My strengths and weaknesses are a little boring, and I much prefer to be interesting.

Lately, it’s been difficult for me to read blogs of those I love and write my own (but I have been lurking!). My woman of leisure lifestyle is a farce. I have not even had the time to “leish”. There is nothing leisurely going on here…and therefore I expose a HUGE weakness. I am lazy. Or at least I WANT desperately to be lazy.

A perfect day for me is a day where I wake up to nothing pressing; the calendar is blank…my time is my own. I can do this, or I can do that…whatever. My laziness keeps me from forming worthwhile habits: scripture reading, house cleaning, exercising, visiting teaching. Some of this gets done, most of it does eventually, but it takes tremendous effort.

Kudos to the do-ers! I commend you! Really I admire you! I accept disgust and disdain for my laziness, after all, it’s to be expected.

And I know that the Book of Mormon makes an AWESOME promise that with a little effort on our part the Lord will make weak things become strong to us. I am seriously counting on that one. I NEED that promise.

But at least I am helpful. I help people do things sometimes. If you ask me to help, I will. And sometimes I volunteer. I believe in a more karmic Golden Rule. I really try to do for others what I would want them to do for me. I really believe in putting good vibes out into the universe. I know it will come back to me. Honestly, I don’t help people for selfish reasons, because I expect some kind of immediate return, but I do it because I know how VALUABLE it is.

So in conclusion:

Weakness: I am SO lazy.

Strength: I am a cheerful helper.

If you’ve had enough you can stop reading now, I won’t be offended (another strength!), but if you are so intrigued you want more, and I know you do (a weakness!) read on:

Just in case you are not convinced of my lack of embarrassment at my awfulness and jerkiness, I’ll willingly list some more:

Weaknesses:

I have a hard time saying “no” (especially to door to door salespeople…the whole purpose for the $400 dollar fence I want that I can’t afford is to hang a sign on it that says “No Solicitors”)

I am SUPER bad with money…I spend it like I’m rich…I mean I AM rich…but more like the kind of rich with negative money…

I am physically lazy and therefore technically obese, according to this one website I found…I don’t go back to that site very much…

I like to sleep more than is needful, but that really ties into the lazy thing…

I sometimes avoid people...even if I think they might need me, which really negates my calling my helpfulness a strength…see what a jerk I am?

I sometimes bite off more than I can chew.

I have to make a real effort to finish things.

I love potato chips too much. I like them more than French Fries.

I am silently critical and I don’t even realize it. I always point out huge hair or ridiculously fake chests to Todd, but I guess that makes me not so silent about it. Let’s just say I mean no personal harm or judgment, but I cannot help noticing poor aesthetics.


Strengths:

I am a Libra (although I have WAY better decision making skills than the average Libra).

In fact I would venture to say that I am a GREAT decision maker.

I am a peacemaker.

I don’t get offended hardly EVER. Seriously, it’s pretty hard to get me riled…oh, but I have my buttons….

I appear confident.

I am a good cook. I can make something out of NOTHING.

I have a strong sense of right and wrong.

I can love without reservation or condition (but only if you’re aesthetically pleasing…I’m totally kidding…)

Friday, April 29, 2005 

Uncle Spiderman had it right.

What’s a strength you have?
What’s a strength you wish you had?

In reality I am not sure I have any strength, and in reality I am not sure I want any strength. Like Spiderman’s uncle told him, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Having strength or a talent has the scriptures sometimes call them creates a lot of extra work. When I was attending a BYU ward I owned a truck. Most people at BYU don’t drive trucks, so come April I usually had a lot of girls who had never given me the time of day asking if I could help them move, (I swear 90% of the time it was Becca). Great power equals great responsibility.
Too many people in this world hide their strengths. Afraid of the responsibility they will have with it. I know I do. Take the truck for example, I am not going to lie and say I never took the wheels off of it and put it on blocks in my front yard (yeah real white trash, I know) to avoid having to move yet another sister who started flirting with me the week before in an effort to get my truck. I do this a lot with whatever strengths I have. I hide them, and fear the responsibility.

The only thing I really do not hide is the humor. I love to be funny, and the funniest thing about me is that 99% of the time most people don’t find me funny, but I still find myself funny. So that’s it, all I got going is that I find myself funny. And that’s a scary thought.

Now on to my weaknesses. To make a real list of strengths, you have to see your weaknesses. I thought about doing a top 100 list, but then my blog today would be too long. If I were to pick one weakness, an actual weakness, and not something to be funny, I would say the same thing I already said. I am afraid of my talents, and strengths. I would not say that I am afraid of success, but I can say I am afraid of potential.

Everyone has been given immense potential. Everyone has strengths and talents that they have never thought of. It’s a big responsibility to find those talents.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
Sometimes we sell ourselves short on what we are capable of. Just remember that what ever role you find yourself in, and whatever situation you are in, you have great power and you have infinite potential. Take sometime and look for your own potential, you will be amazed at what you are capable of if you just give yourself a little credit.

As my grandma always told me when I would leave her house, BE GOOD!
And have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 

Can Do

Although it may not appear like it lately, I don't actually consider "non-blogging" to be my greatest strength. Last week, guilt for not reading and technical difficulties barred my way. Today... I just forgot. But today isn't over, yet, and even if no one gets to read this, I'll feel better for having written it.

I've got this "can-do" attitude, see. It manifests itself in many forms. First and foremost, it's what sends me to work every day. There are many teachers who drudge day in and day out muddling through and not seeing any good come of whatever efforts they make. I'm not one of them. I often feel ill equipped to do what I want to accomplish, but it doesn't stop me from trying to find a way.

Just last week I was talking to a friend and telling them that our school may try out this new team-building program for all of the students next year to improve the school climate and limit bullying, gossip, etc. She said to me, "It's not going to work."

And I was stunned. My friend has been teaching for one more year than I have, albeit in a higher socio-economic bracket, and she was so pessimistic. She refused to see the possibility that the program might be helpful. Me? I'm willing to give anything a try. It might put us out a couple grand, but look at what we could gain.

I don't reserve my optimism for school... I keep it in a number of areas of life. I just started my own non-blogger blog... which I had to figure out all of the parts of... and I'm still figuring out. I only knew a few HTML codes up until 6 months ago... and now I've created my own site.

But with this "can-do" attitude, I tend to take on too much. I really wish I was better at not accepting or starting projects that I would not have the time or energy for... or when I do... I wish I was better at asking for help.

I looked over my schedule for this summer, and I must be crazy. I've got my wedding to plan, with all of the bridal shower, bachelorette party and rehersal dinners associated with that. I'm teaching summer school (how else would I pay for it all?) and taking next year's student council to a three day camp the weekend before my wedding. I'm also planning my ten year reunion, going to a 5 day conference out of state and right around the same time I'm in charge of taking the 8th graders on one field trip and the 7th graders on another.

I'm a busy girl.

But the crazy thing is that I have more that I want to do. I want to redo the back yard, create an infrustructure at my school that will make it easier for teachers to create and run clubs, and I want to be a better partner to my fiance.

If life were a buffet... you could say that my eyes are just bigger than my stomach. My strength is my belief that it can be done and it can be great. But I really wish I had the strength to pace myself, plan better, and ask for help when I need it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 

From Your Love I Grew Into Complete And Whole

I am horrible about seeing my strengths. I focus on my weaknesses until they are the only thing I can see. From myself, I demand near perfection and when I fall short (as I do most of the time) I am devastated. I can break my own heart better than anyone else. I can see beauty in most everyone around me, but seeing the beauty in myself is the most difficult thing I have ever attempted.

I started dating a young man not very long ago. I haven't really written about him, because in a way, I want to keep him to myself. I don't want to jinx anything. But, the question that was posed this week seems to fit with the events that have transpired in my life as of late. This young man who seemed to fall out of the sky and into my life rather unexpectedly cannot stop telling me how great I am. We spent the weekend talking and learning about each other. We ate good food, visited with my friends and laughed a lot. Each night when we were finished being in the presence of others he would wrap his arms around me and tell me all the things I had done throughout the day that he admired. I was floored at the careful attention he paid to the smallest things. I had thrown him into the fire of my life by having him hang with drunks, lesbians, and molly Mormons all within a 48 hour period of time. With each different group of people he held his own, was kind, smart and funny. Yet, he watched me closely, returned to me each night and reported all the good I had done. I have never been able to see the things he sees in me in myself. I have never been able to feel that I am good enough person, that I am strong enough, that I am anywhere close to the best version of myself. But he is looking where I can't see, and when he finds something beautiful he makes sure to bring it to my attention. I told him last night that this amazed me. He smiled at me and said, "Why is that amazing? You do the same thing for everyone you know and love." I had no idea. I had no idea I could feel the way I do from hearing these kind words, I had no idea I had made anyone feel this way from the things I have said. My heart jumped a little. And then I thought of all the people I love so dearly, the people who have put their hands into my heaped up heart and passed over the bad, looked past the ugly, and found something worth loving, something worth celebrating. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that, for the people who have surrounded me when I needed it most, loved me in spite of me, and showed me things I couldn't see on my own.

My greatest strength is the love I have for others. My greatest weakness is not being able to love myself. I don't think it is any coincidence that the Lord has surrounded me with the most amazing people who I can't help love, and who are helping me turn my weakness inside out, and make it the strength that I need. I am learning who I am. I am being shown every day by friends, family, and a loving Heavenly Father. My weakness is evolving into strength, it is changing from darkness to light, with the help of those I adore I am becoming who I was born to be. I am becoming strong.

Monday, April 25, 2005 

You Snooze You Lose!

As you can imagine it is much easier thinking of strengths that I wish I had then it is figuring out my greatest strength. I think that I am a good people person, a skill handed down to me from my mother. My dad always says that he and mom can go to Church anywhere in the world and no matter what she will be the last one to walk out of Relief Society while he stands in the hall waiting. She may not know a word of the language, but this doesn’t stop her from making a friend. My mother has passed this on to me, but maybe it is more of a skill then a strength, or maybe it is both.

I am extremely trusting of people. I assume everyone is a good, nice, wonderful person that only wants the best for everyone around them as well as themselves. So when an individual hurts another I am always shocked and trying to explain their actions away as some misunderstanding, unintentionally, only this isn’t always the case. I do believe that trusting people is without a doubt a strength of mine, but I also think that it is my greatest weakness. A too trusting person is easily taken advantage of, or blind sided.

A strength I wish I had? Oh where to begin? I wish my feelings were not so easily hurt. I wish my ego was not so tender, but most of all I wish I had more self-discipline. I am disciplined if others are relying on me, but if it is something for myself I seem to not be as motivated. For example, I am great with setting my alarm clock for 5 a.m. every morning and I am great at waking up at 5 a.m., but I’m also great at hitting snooze and waking up every ten minutes to hit snooze again until I am almost late. I am great at making plans to work out and I am great at buying equipment that will make the work out more enjoyable (heart rate monitor, arm band for the iPod, wrist band to wipe the sweat off my face… you name it I’ve got it). But actually getting from A to Z is a bit more difficult for me. If I have someone meeting me to work out I am there no matter what, but if it is only myself that I have made the commitment to I am not as good at keeping to my goals. I’d like to work on my self-discipline and stop snoozing my goals.

Saturday, April 23, 2005 

Aren’t You Lucky…

Aren’t you lucky that you can buy any book you want?

Aren’t you lucky that you can read whatever book you want to?

Aren’t you lucky that book club can be SO VERY public?

Aren’t you lucky that you can love words? Any words, in any combination?

Aren’t you lucky that you can meet with friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, anytime/anywhere you want?

Aren’t you lucky that you can make a picket sign and go picket and protest just about anything you want?

Aren’t you lucky the MAC counter is not set up in the back alley and the wearing of such products isn’t punishable by beating?

Aren’t you lucky that you are free to express yourself in the clothing you wear or by the way you wear your hair?

Aren’t you lucky that you can attend or not attend any church you want?

Aren’t you lucky that you can’t be traded for 100 white camels?

Aren’t you lucky that you can walk down the street with your head held high?

Aren’t you lucky that you can choose whom you marry?

Aren’t you lucky that you can express your agency?

Aren’t you lucky that you can walk the streets without a male escort?

Aren’t you lucky that you have access to a fair education?

Aren’t you lucky that you can be you without fear?

Aren’t you lucky that walk on the beach naked?

Aren’t you lucky that you can go to the grocery store and buy your favorite foods?

Aren’t you lucky that you can find a piece of earth to in which to grow things, even if it’s in a pot?

Aren’t you lucky that if you believe you can be forgiven?

Aren’t you lucky that if you screw up, death isn’t the automatic punishment?

Aren’t you lucky that you have friends who adore you?

Aren’t you lucky to have a mother/father/sister/brother/friend you can call day or night?

While I admit I didn’t finish the book either, it reminded me of the feelings I had while reading (the dubious) “Not Without My Daughter” and (the intriguing) “Honeymoon in Purdah”. I felt lucky.

In context of this book, why do you feel lucky?

Friday, April 22, 2005 

A true master piece of our times.....

An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people's lives. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

Ok, so maybe I did not learn my lesson from the whole USA Today issue. I really did not write the above, I stole it from Amazon.com. But here is the thing girls don’t realize. When they start talking to a guy, he usually listens to the first 1 minute, then it becomes a tune out situation. We nod, and we “act” like we are paying attention, (I think a lot of girls actually know this). So when we started discussing the end of the book week, I heard the start of the conversation, and well… tuned out, so I did not read it. I am sorry Becca, it really did look interesting, but between reading the closed caption on the Simpson’s, and TV Guide I never have any free reading time.

I promise to read it soon.

However, I did receive an email that said this….

“Like tell really cool stories about the summer we hung out and how my influnce has made you the best person in the world and how you love me and all of that... unless of course you can think of a better topic then ME>.. good luck!”

So I thought of all my favorite Becca Stories.

1- There was the time Larry King came in to the OutBack Steak House, and he left his glasses, and Becca put them on and was prancing around the restaurant and he came back to get them.
2- The night some guys (I don’t remember their names, through her in the air at the Club Omni, and broke her wrist.
3- The night we went hot tubing and they forgot to add water, to the chlorine.

And so on, and so on.

Yes Becca, I love you to death, and yes Becca I am the best person in the world because of you.

Please do not hate me for not reading, I really did think we had done away with it.
So what is everyones plans for the weekend?

Love ya’ll!

Thursday, April 21, 2005 

This Week of Not So Much

I feel guilty for not posting about this week's topic. I feel guilty that I wasn't consistent. I feel guilty that I wanted to keep book club going and didn't read the book. I feel guilty that *someone* wanted to cancel and we weren't sure what we wanted to do. I feel guilty that what I'm about to ask, I didn't ask ANYONE from our little VSofM what they thought about it. But here goes...with guilt:

This is VERY presumptuous of me, but I'd like to ask all of us readers a question. The six of us "regular" writers have a schedule that we follow each week. We've been fairly organized about all the topics and have it planned it out to the best of our abilities. The topics are all things that WE have thought of though. So...if we discontinue book club in THIS form...maybe this is a good opportunity to open up comments to ask if there is a topic we haven’t covered that might be of interest to you. Now, this could be a HUGE flop…but I thought I’d ask anyway.

Besides, I’m just trying to be semi-productive and post this question since I have so much guilt for not reading this book. Please help my guilt by presenting us with some “new” topics to write about if we replace Book Club.

My guilt-ridden self thanks you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 

Even Underlineing Nabokov When I Am Not In Love

So here's the thing... I thought we had cancelled book club, so I only read 25 pages of the book and then my life EXPLODED and I haven't had a chance to pick it up again. I liked what I had read thus far, it made me interested to read some Nabokov and I added "Lolita" to my Amazon wishlist. I'm actually very much looking forward to finishing this months book, hopefully before I DIE! Sadly, I didn't get the chance to do it before this post.

As many of you know, reading is a huge part of my life. It keeps me from doing things like interacting with other human beings, watching tv, finishing my homework and sleeping. I devour words because to me they are so sweet, so delicious to my soul. The thought that someone who didn't know me, who had no idea how I felt about the words I hold sacred, could prevent me from reading, prevent me from challanging myself and the the way I think and the ideas I form scares me senseless. I have never been one for censorship. I firmly believe in the saying, "Art is what the artist says it is" even if that art is morally or personally offensive. (See... this is the liberal in me... yeah... feel free to hate me.) I believe in being challanged, but more than that I believe in free will. Heavenly Father's greatest gift to us is the right to choose our own destinies. He does not make us victims of fate or circumstance, He lovingly allows us to make our own choices, good or bad, and to suffer the conciquences of those actions. It broke my heart to read the story of these women who had so many choices removed from them. Their free will was no longer theres, but instead they were subjected to the will of a tyrent who didn't know them, didn't love them as our Heavenly Father knows and loves us. The fact that the women of Iran were not allowed the oppertunity to make their own choices saddens me greatly. I weep whenever someone's right to choose is thwarted. I believe that Heavenly Father trusts us enough to make choices, to deal with the conciquences, seek repentance when nessicary and rejoyce in our wisdom and strength whenever possible. I only wish as human beings we could give each other more of those freedoms, more of the faith in each other I think we so desperatly need.

As for me, I choose to continue reading this book. I am facinated to see how it ends. I am thrilled with idea that these women pushed limits, made choices for themselves when there seemed to be no options, and questioned things rather than immediatly conform to them. There is power in using your God given free will. A power to become what you were born to be. More often than not, it is only a matter of YOU figuring it out.

So, in the words of Ms. Frizzle of "The Magic School Bus" (another favorite book of mine) "Ask Questions! Get Messy! TAKE CHANCES!"

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 18, 2005 

"Curiosity is insobordination in its purest form." - Nabokov

Here we are back at book club week again and to be honest even though it is the book that I picked I am not that excited about being here reporting on it again so early. I have a tough time with book club week. I would really like to do away with it. I don’t feel visitors are all that into it and it is the only week that I ever feel is a chore posting. But I know that some of the VSoM writers love it and I do think that everyone should be a part of a book club. I am really torn. Any suggestions from our readers would be wonderful. What are your thoughts on Book Club Week?

Saturday morning I picked up My Sister’s Keeper, I am reading this book for my book club that meets a week from Wednesday. I had about 100 pages left. Before I knew it I was figuring out the ending before it was over and then all of a sudden it really was over. I hate finishing books... I feel that as soon as I get wrapped up in them they end. The second I was finished reading the book I wanted to call some of my girlfriends from book club to discuss, but I couldn’t. What if they were not finished? Plus we are discussing the book a week from Wednesday, it is not fair to the host for everyone to discuss it before hand. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest book, in fact I wouldn’t even recommend it unless it is being read for a reading group. It is a great book for discussion and an okay book to read on your own.

After I finished the book I felt like I should do something, but wasn’t sure what. I thought maybe writing was the answer. I would love to do a piece for my own blog, I have so many thoughts floating around in my head that I would love to put down, but I seem to keep pushing my blog to the end of all of my priorities. I thought maybe I could get a head start on my VSoM post. Possibly create drafts rather then publish drafts as my finished product. Organization might be a nice change of pace for me. I opened up our chart and discovered it was already book club time again for VSoM. I’d purchased the book last week, the same day that I purchased my other book club book, the one I had just finished. I had hoped to do so many things this weekend but here I found myself doing what I have done with every single book club book for VSoM, re-prioritizing my weekend to fit in reading a book... only this time it was the book I had picked.
Some weekend priority’s could not be shifted and as a result I was unable to pick up Reading Lolita in Tehran until Saturday evening around 11 pm. I fell asleep quickly, but woke up early and then finally threw in the towel around 2 pm today and went back to my old list of priorities... laundry, cleaning my house and having an enjoyable diner with my roommate Mike before my week of work starts up again.

So be it known I am about 75 pages shy of finishing what I have found a very enjoyable book. Reading Lolita in Tehran has made me think about the roll my own book club has played in my life. I feel almost guilty even discussing my book club in comparison to Azar’s. Our book club is not illegal, our books can be purchased easily, our discussions are not nearly as intense, we show up in whatever we want to wear, none of us have been in prison for being strong women and we only meet once a month rather then every Thursday.

Yet the book still reminded me of my own book club because ours is all women, we don’t all see eye to eye, but we educate one another and learn about each others views and lives in a way that can’t be done at a dinner party or a dance club or over Sunday brunch. We, like the girls in Tehran, each read the book a bit differently, associate our own lives to the work somehow and enter book club with a different understanding of the book then the girl sitting on either side of us and leave with a different understanding of one another, a much more personal one then when we began.

Inspired by Azar Nafisi I want to tell you just how I became part of a book club and why it has changed my life for the better and why this book club will always be something I look back on with fondness.

About two and a half years ago a girl was hired at the company down the hall. Commercial rents have increased so significantly over the past few years that many companies had moved off our floor so that when there was a new body on our floor everyone noticed. The girl, Marta, seemed to be about my age and we seemed to always need to use the restroom at the same time. We said hello often and were cordial, but not much beyond that. Then one day my company had a political event for Gavin Newsom which I played a heavy role in planning. I invited all of the companies on the floor. Later this girl’s company was also having an event and so she came to me to see who we had used to cater, etc. One happy hour later we discovered we enjoyed each others company. Before I knew it I was invited along to parties, dinners and then one day I was invited to book club.

My first book club Renee hosted and we read The Curious Incident of a Dog in The Night. Renee lived in a beautiful apartment on Arguelo and California. I didn’t know anyone. I had met a few of the girls at Suite One 8 One at a party that Marta threw one evening, but had spent most of the evening talking to other people so I didn’t even remember their names and some even their faces. I felt a bit out of place at book club and Marta seemed to be making an effort not to hang out with me, forcing me to be friendly with all of the other girls, forcing me to mingle and meet. It was a lot of work, especially considering that one of the very first girls I met I wished I had never met. She annoyed me to no end. But then we started discussing the book and the book club turned a book that I hadn’t thought much about, that I thought was mediocre into something that I thought was really great. It also made me realize that I was surrounded by many wonderfully intelligent women, women that I realized I wanted to be around more.

That night I walked home with Jen, a girl I had just met. For two girls that new nothing about one another we had told some of our deepest and darkest secrets in the most matter a fact comfortable manner imaginable on that walk home. This was definitely a result of the book club. Not one of us had a child suffering from autism, or a sibling, but somehow we each were able to draw part of our own life from the book. Letting one another into our thoughts creates this bond that Azar describes so eloquently through out her book.

Due to a broken wrist from a snow boarding accident, a broken wrist that needed to be broken again (for the second time by the hospital), I missed my second book club, The Last Girls. I didn’t mind too much because the book was horrible. I don’t need to imagine women the age of my grandmother having sex until I am the age of my grandmother. I can’t imagine that any discussion would have made this book a better book. But still I am sure I missed out because now all I am left with is my own view of the book.

My next book club was Lolita hosted by Beth. Ironically I think this book club will stick out in my mind as the one where I learned the most about everyone. I had been hanging out with Marta for a few months and as a result had met many of the girls in social settings so their faces were no longer unfamiliar, but book club isn’t necessarily a social setting. We may begin the night talking about celebrities and gossiping about who is dating who and who just broke up and what our most recent purchase was, or what we would like our next purchase to be, but our true personalities come out when we begin discussing a book. Most of the girls hated Lolita and for good reason. Some didn’t enjoy the book because they had younger sisters Lolita’s age and kept picturing their little sister as the character Lolita. Others thought it was the most tragic love storey ever. Others didn’t like the way it was written and others did. Everyone spoke, sometimes all at once. Nobody was wrong and nobody was right, but sitting and listening to everyone and seeing such different perspectives taught me so very much about each individual. I left that night feeling very special to be a part of such a wonderful discussion.

Since then we have read Blue Angel by Francine Prose; Perfume by Patrick Suskind; The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomas; The Dirt by Motley Crue; The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory; A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That by Lisa Glatt; Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Cather in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera; The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth and now My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

I would like to sit and tell you about every single one of these books and about every single one of the discussions - who likes what and who didn’t like what and why, but I think it might not be as interesting for you as it is for me. Each book has taught me something about myself and something about my friends. We are all so different and all so similar. To have the freedom to gather together and discuss a book, and not have to worry about how we are going to get the book or how we are going to explain being gone from our home or why we need pastries is very very lucky and something we should all take advantage of.

In many ways I think Marta handed me a life line when she invited me to book club that very first time. I know that Azar provided a life line when she began her book club in Tehran. I would like so badly to do away with VSoM's book club, but I then I think that everyone should be a part of one.

Oh what to do?

Saturday, April 16, 2005 

If I Were a Mormon Celebrity…

This is what my day would be like:

5.oo am Pray for 30 min., being famous requires a lot of “favors”

5.3o am Read scriptures for 30 min. making notations for Book of Mormon commentary I will be publishing later in the year. Drink a cup of Mockaccino, my own brand of Mormon “coffee” sold in fine food emporiums in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.

6.oo – 7.3o am Work out with Utah-equivalent of Radu, trainer to the stars. LaVell will do, I suppose, although he tends to over work my glutes and neck muscles.

7.3o – 10.oo am Early temple session (all clothing rentals and breakfast in the cafeteria are on the house, of course…must also enter and exit through special “celebrity” entrance, no recommend necessary…)

Personal Assistant: Pick up white custom Escalade with gold-leafed chrome and custom Moroni antenna topper from car shop.

1o.oo – 11.oo am Appointment at Beehive Clothing for custom fitting

11.oo – 12.oo pm Sit for interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER’s “Radio West” show…promote new book and CD. Harmlessly flirt…like we always do. Set up lunch date for next week to get my ideas for interesting topics.

Personal Assistant: Take documents to accountant. Make sure he sees the celebrity tithing voucher (only 8% this year!)

1.oo – 2.oo pm Book signing at Deseret Book in University Mall…overwhelmed by crowds…need police escort.

2.oo – 3.oo pm Photo shoot for modest swimwear. It’s the next big thing!

Personal Assistant: Field any calls from Sherry Dew concerning October’s General Conference suit. Tell her to go with blue.

3.oo – 4.oo pm Meet with acting coach about cameo role in Richard Dutcher’s new “God’s Army III: In the Hood”

5.oo – 6.oo pm Dinner at Café Rio – order and pick up at celebrity drive thru

Personal Assistant: Remind Café Rio employees that on the celebrity stamp card it only takes 5 stamps to get a free meal, and if the meal is comped I still get a stamp

6.oo – 8.oo pm Secret Weekly Mormon Celebrity Seminar – Tonight’s guest host Michael Ballam on “Typecasting”
Tonight’s topics:
“How to Get Recognized in the Mall”
“Diet Coke with Lime: OK in a Paper Bag?”
“How to Act Normal in Church or in Public”
“Botox and the Word of Wisdom”
“The Face of Humility”
“Damage Control Series Part VI: When the Person You Are Dating Brings Your Ratings Down”
“Wedding Rings: I Do or I Don’t in Public”

9.oo – 10.oo pm spend quality time with family

Personal Assistant Reminder: Have nanny up bedtimes to 9.05 to squeeze out a few extra minutes for stress relieving yoga. Add to schedule.

10.oo – 12.ooam Answer fan email. Write daily blog for fan website. Lurk on other Mormon blogs to see if I’m mentioned, Google myself.

Personal Assistant: Continue to say nightly prayers for me according to list of things needed doing.

Thursday, April 14, 2005 

The Answer to the Question, who is the most famous Mormon of them all.

Back when Becca loved me and lived in Provo, and hung out with me all the time I loved pop culture. Music, fashion (more of Brent’s influence) movie stars, People Magazine, etc, etc, etc. These days I hate movie stars, I hate rock stars, I hate cry baby athletes who strike because the millions of dollars we pay them isn’t enough. I hate awards shows. I pretty much hate all pop culture these days. I know you are thinking, “well put some plaid polyester pants on Cameron and give him a golf cart and he will be officially a “old codger”. No I am just seeing things more clear these days. There has been a lot of talk about famous Mormons, and their great accomplishments before the world. But for any of you sad little campers out there that are feeling like you are not someone special I am writing to you today. I could recite the words to “Your Not Alone” and give you a warm snuggly, but I won’t, I just want to show you that you are all special……

Here’s all the reasons that I am a “Famous Mormon”

I was the first missionary to enter the area where another missionary had been shot in Brazil (and I did it at night, with my companion cowering behind me.) Of course the mission president was mad, but hey we met a great family that wanted to learn more about the Mormons.

Two times men’s winner of the Halls to Bullfrog 5K open water swim beating world famous swimmers from the college level. Of course I took second to a monster of a woman from Colorado in the overall.

I placed in the Coca-Cola Cup they held at Sundance every year. I am not sure what place but I got a trophy. The only weird thing was it looked like the trophy that all the other kids had.

I held a stick with a banana tied to the end of it with my arms straight out longer then anyone else at Provo High School.

I set the record for the most number of push ups done at Provo High. Unfortunately Travis Allen did 1 more the next period.

When I was 8 I built the biggest jump around and after going in the house and eating a banana and drinking juice (so I would have my energy levels up) I went off the jump and beat the other guys by at least 3 feet. I was held in honor for days because of that jump.


Of course I am not just a famous Mormon because of all my successes, I am famous because of some notorious incidents too.


There was the time that we all threw snowballs at a girl on her bike, I was standing in a muddy area with no snow, so I grabbed a rotten tomato and chucked it, of course hitting her in the head and of course hitting her in the eye, which nearly blinded her.

There was the Shawn M fight in 2nd grade. He still claims he won, but anyone there knows the truth.

In first grade there was the dinosaur incident, I still blame Paul for that one!

So what I am really saying is that just because someone never won a Super Bowl, or sold a million records (Donny and Marie, PS Marie was in a ward that met before my singles ward, and she is a tad chunky these days), or made the news for some great thing, you gotta remember you are all special in my eyes.

Please feel free to share all the great accomplishments you have made in your life, no matter how small. And you will see you are great Mormon too. And if you are not Mormon, that’s ok, because remember, nobody’s perfect, so feel free to post too.

 

Did I Miss the Fireside on Mormon Celebrities???

Before I begin, I have to give a shout out to my dear Abby (my youngest daughter) on her third birthday! She doesn't read and has no clue what a blog is, but what good is it to blog and not wish your child a happy birthday or your sister HAPPY ANNIVERSARY?? I mean, really.

This week’s post is really hard to write. I have absolutely no opinion on the subject. Nothing. None. Zilch. I did find it interesting how many people Rebecca found had Mormon “background” or ties to the LDS Church. I know of Sarah’s “standards” for her reading and listening choices, but still found her post interesting (well, amusing) as she applied those requirements to Mormon authors and songwriters. I agreed with Kaycee on the fact that we should NEVER forget Steve Young when mentioning Mormon Celebrities…even if he DIDN’T marry me. Whatever.

But what else is there to write about? Who else is there? Or more importantly, do I even care to write about them, even if there were more? The words “Mormon” and “Celebrity” just kind of makes me laugh. Would I describe Janice Kapp Perry a celebrity? No…I would call her a “well-known LDS song writer”. Jack Weiland? No, again. I would call him a “well-known LDS fictional writer.” Even though they are considered “widely known” and in “the state or quality of being widely honored and acclaimed” I just wouldn’t describe them as CELEBRITIES. Gladys Knight, Christina Aguilera, Roseanne Barr, Ricky Schroeder are all technically celebrities who are/were associated with the LDS Church in some way. But I wouldn’t necessarily call them “Mormon Celebrities” either. But…that is me and my opinion. Would I even be honored to meet any of those listed above? Not necessarily…even though it might be fun.

I would, however, be honored to meet some of the people who I read about nearly every day. I would be honored to meet these lovely bloggers who may not be “famous”, but deserve all the recognition and praise as those listed above. All but one of the blogs that I read faithfully are written by people who are linked to the LDS church somehow. Whether they are “Active Mormons” or “Recovering Mormons” or whatever, they are who I read about. They are our Blogging (Mormon) Celebrities in whatever “Various Stage of Mormondom” they are in. Five of those bloggers being the “regulars” here at VSofM, who are some of the DEAREST people I have ever “met” and care about tremendously. And through those wonderful people I have been “linked” to other fabulous people who always keep me coming back for more. For whatever its worth, thanks you all for sharing a part (or all) of your life with those of us who LOVE to read about it. Those are the “celebrities” I’m interested in…

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 

Who are we forgetting?

There've been a lot of "Mormon Celebrity" names thrown out already this week, but there's definitly a few that I'm surprised have not been brought up. The most shocking of these is Steve Young.

Is there a single girl out there who, before Steve Young got married, didn't think about him, just a little bit? I mean, I heard he was dating one of the DoubleMint twins, but I was sure that she was only after him for his money. I would have been after him for his good looks and his fame... far less shallow than the money. Really.

Of course, we are cousins, so it never would have worked out. We share that most prolific of all famous grandfathers, Brigham Young. I still held a silent, only slightly incestuous hope in my heart that one day... maybe...

But it was not to be. I remember the 60 Minutes episode where Mike Wallace interviewed Gordon B. Hinckley, Steve Young, some BYU students, the Marriott Hotel Chain owner, and a few others.

I couldn't help thinking, and please don't think less of my 18 year old self for this, that if I could somehow combine all of the elements represented by those men, that it would be really really great.

But, something that has just occurred to my 28 year old self is the distinct lack of female presence among those interviewed. Good thing Gladys Knight joined up... now there will be a representative of the fairer sex the next time the LDS Church is on national display.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 

You're Not Alone

I kind of have a beef with Mormon celebrities. Not so much the people who are Mormon and also happen to be rock stars or sports players, my annoyance comes more from those people who are famous within Mormonism - the Janice Knapp Perry's and Jack Weyland's that line the shelves of your local Deseret Book with their drivel. I think the talent is mediocre at best and the stuff they are creating isn't original, stylish or inspiring. But that's just me. I hold LDS artists to the same standard I hold secular artists and sadly, there is almost no comparison. Don't get me wrong, there are some LDS authors I enjoy immensely, but for the most part, those authors are general authorities and they're writing non-fiction. Fiction writing in the LDS vein is similar to LDS film making - painful to behold about 99% of the time.

The thing that really cracks me up about all of this though, is the fact that the general LDS population eats this stuff up like it's jello & carrot salad. They love it! I worked at Deseret Book for a dark period of time in my life. I was APPAULED at the eagerness with which the new Anita Stansfield novel was purchased. THERE WAS A LINE! A LINE! For a cheesy LDS romance novel that allowed bored housewives and lonely teens and young adults to fantasize about the "perfect" LDS guy who would come and rescue them from their mundane existence. It actually PAINED me to sell these books. I don't think anything good can come from them. I don't believe that they help build faith in the Savior or His gospel. They are FAR too cheesy to accomplish anything worth while.

The cheese factor of LDS art reminds me of a rather painful dating experience one of my roommates had. Michael McLean came to our area to perform "The Forgotten Carols" one year, and my roommate was asked by a fella in our ward if she would like to attend with him. She is a nice girl, and agreed to go. Brother McLean preformed his forgotten carols (someone should REALLY talk to him about singing in public) while this young man attempted fruitlessly to put the moves on my roommate. He attempted the yawn and stretch to get his arm around her, made it PAINFULLY obvious he wanted to hold her hand by putting his and palm up on his knee and then opening and closing it repeatedly, and so forth and so on. With her immense grace my roommate was able to deflect these attempts and physical contact. Then Brother McLean did the UNTHINKABLE! He asked the faithful members that had assembled to sing along with him as he pounded out "Together Forever" (his "hit" I would have to say). He asked the audience to hold hands - the very thing my poor roommate was attempting to avoid with the frightening and over bearing young man who had brought her to be filled with the Christmas spirit. Instead, she became filled with fear and a sense of loathing for McLean and his forced hand holding. McLean then told the audience that if they were with that someone special, or someone they WANTED to be special to them, they should sing their hearts out. The young man now holding my poor roommates hand in his sweaty trembling one began YELLING the words of the song at the top of his lungs while looking DIRECTLY at my roommate. My roommate could do nothing but stare straight ahead and pray with all of her might that it would be over soon. McLean led the assembled masses in several refrains of the song. It was a painful experience for my poor roommate. She still, almost 2 years later, has no love in her heart for Michael McLean. She is the kindest person I know, but she will curse McLean until her dieing day for his forceful hand holding and cheesy behavior.

Despite the fact I haven't had such a horrifying experience due to a Mormon Celeb, I do have to say that I don't have much love for the scads of marginally talented people the LDS population has put on a pedestal because they don't cuss and veil their illusions to anything sexual. Frankly, I expect more from an artist. I expect a writer to write well, a song writer to evoke something, a painter to be a bit more realistic in their portrayal of things. But that's just me.

Monday, April 11, 2005 

Church Celebrities:

I have to apologize for being late posting this week. I thought it would be a good idea to do some research and venture off to Vegas for the weekend looking for Celebrities, Church Celebrities. I made it back a little late and empty handed. I thought I could take pictures of people like Christina Agulera who’s parents met at BYU and married in the temple, or Jewel who was born in Payson to Mormon Parents, or Roseanne Barr who is really Jewish, but was raised Mormon, or maybe Jon Heder one of our most recent celebrities, or maybe one of my young girl crushes Ricky Shroder, or one of my more recent crushes James Valentine of Maroon 5 and Brandon Flowers of the killers, who explained that even though he isn’t the best example he still considers himself Mormon – But I didn’t bump into a single one of them. Shocking, isn’t it?

I guess I would have just as much luck bumping into Orson Scott Card or Steven R. Covey at a book store as I would bumping into an Osmond or Osmond like person in Vegas.

A lot of Mormon’s have made the history books. We have our bank robbing Butch Cassidy's and our forging Mark Hoffman' as well as our murdering Lafferty's.

Mormons have invented a lot of really cool things, like the television, the artificial heart and the zip drive.

When I was on the phone with my cousin after seeing Aviator he informed me that during Howard Hughes last years he would only be surrounded by Mormons. All of his staff had to be Mormon because they are the only people he trusted. Considering that Utah has one of the highest statistics for fraud I find this a bit odd.

And then of course there are all of those rumored to be Mormon (like some of the above). I remember hearing that Orvil Redinbocker was Mormon, but I think the person that told me that had their Quaker Oats (Wilford Brimley) confused with their popcorn. Or how about Steve Martin, remember when the "Steve Martin was just baptized" rumor went around?

Then we have a pile of people I didn’t even know were Mormon or famous until google let me in on their secrets. Take Glady’s Night for example - I had no idea. Or how about Tara Allred who many of you may not be familiar with, but my parents went to Penn State with her parents and the Faulconer family spent a Southern California Vacation, or first and only to Disneyland, with the Allred family. It was a lot of fun. And to google Famous Mormons and discover she is a published author, a Church Celebrity, is pretty fun stuff - she is now my FAVORITE Church Celebrity.

Saturday, April 09, 2005 

The Law of Chastity: Only One Part of the Big Picture

Somewhere along the way, whether it was a formal decision or not, my dad took on the responsibility of giving “the talk” to his two sons and my mom would take care of “the talk” for the 5 girls.

My mom’s version of “the talk” was instigated the very moment any one of us asked ANYTHING about sex or where babies came from. She brought out “the book” complete with medical illustrations and alien cross sections of anatomical parts and pieces. It was presented to us in varying degrees of detail according to the audience. But we generally got it. Male parts do this, and when acting in accordance with female parts which do this… yada yada yada… Not so tough to give “the talk”, no so tough to understand… Seeing as how my mother was “with child” every couple of years, the question was frequently asked, and the medical book hardly had a moment to collect dust.

My dad’s version of the talk (so I’m told), began and ended with the humorous telling of the time HIS father gave the talk to my dad’s older brother. Grandpa’s talk went like this:

“Son….*pregnant pause*…corn has a tassel…..”

Dad would chuckle with my brothers about how silly that was for a man who grew up on a farm seeing nature in all its glory to begin a talk on the birds and the bees with the fertilization of corn. If my dad was lucky, the conversation would mosey elsewhere (anywhere), and then he would probably end with something like “well, if you have any questions or want to talk about it…just let me know.”

Most people just do the best they can.

What is the law of Chastity and how are we supposed to learn about it?

The Law of Chastity is thus:

Law of Moses: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Pretty broad….

New Law (given by Jesus himself) “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” He ups the anty, makes us a little more responsible for our passive actions…

Modern Revelation: “We are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally married. No one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage. After marriage, sexual relations are permitted only with our spouse.” So much more specific…unless you are Bill Clinton.

The Church is very clear that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about the law of chastity (and what constitutes sexual relations), about modesty, and about procreation. The Church is also very clear that timing of this information is important. Some details and concepts are difficult for young children to understand, but sex should be explained reverently and correctly, when the child is curious or mature enough, so that they begin to understand, appreciate, and respect their own bodies while garnering a proper respect and appreciation for others.

While modesty by principle and example are key in teaching the Law of Chastity, it is important to also instill the attitude that our bodies are glorious gifts, remarkable structures of beauty, function, intelligence (for the most part), and endurance, and given to us in this life that we might feel and learn to distinguish between right AND wrong, joy AND sadness, pleasure AND pain. While modesty is an integral part of chastity, it is not proper to teach a child to be unnecessarily embarrassed by their bodies and their natural functions. (Gospel Principles, Chapter 3: The Law of Chistity, pp 247-253.)

Within the ward units, leaders are asked to teach about the law of chastity as a principle of the Gospel, but, out of respect to individual families, the details and the nitty gritty, the mechanics, if you will, are left to the parents, as is proper.

Personally, I think that sometimes the ward units focus a little too much on the tenants of Chastity and not so much on the why’s and how’s, putting undo blame on the young women for “causing” men to have unclean thoughts, or making guilt the motivating factor in keeping this commandment. It REALLY is not the Bishop’s or the YW/YM President’s responsibility to teach the youth about the glories and downfalls of obeying or disobeying this SERIOUS law. This is a family issue. (Let me just say, though, that I am all for sex-ed in school. I just mean that we should not expect other sources to teach our children about the importance of Chastity as it relates to the Gospel, even Church leaders. I personally feel that for it to have great impact upon the youth it must come from parents, or if that is not possible, another trusted and loving adult.)

Parents have the commandment, not a suggestion, to teach their children about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. They are also responsible for teaching them about the commandments and God’s plan of happiness, and I would be so bold as to add, HOW the keep the commandments as well. (Doc & Cov 68:25, 28).

Parents occasionally fail at teaching the law of chastity in a thorough manner. Parenting requires more boldness than most of us naturally possess. We should all be gentle in judging the thoroughness of our own sexual education. Let’s all keep in mind that the possibility of facing a child you love, one on one, and opening this Pandora’s box is not something most of us look forward to. We might fear the repercussions of that newly given information (having it shared with the neighbor’s kids), or of revealing a side of the world that we desire to protect our children from as long as possible. But is does the child NO GOOD to learn it from an untrustworthy source. This allows all sorts of evil and incorrect ideas to inhabit the place of truth. (I’m talking actual functionality here people not just morality…the 14 year old girl in labor in the bed next to my mom in the maternity ward finally asked the nurse when her belly button was going to open up and would it hurt…)

As for me, I am a “natural man” just as Alma described it: “…carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature…” (Alma 42:10) I would also add stupid; I am as stupid as they come. And yet I have faith that “There hath no temptation taken you but such is as is common to man (it’s natural!): but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (Corinthians 10:13). Any doubtful situations I may have found myself in were the results of my impropriety and not because I was ill informed. I take full responsibility…

I have also come to realize what it means to deny myself my natural desires. By studying Hinduism, I came to a new-found respect of “denying myself of all ungodliness” to achieve spiritual enlightenment. I understood that this concept can certainly be taken to extremes, but that as an LDS American, in Utah, in 2005, I am VERY UNWILLING, naturally, to give up ANYTHING. But as I make an effort to “lose myself”, or to lose my own natural desires in an effort to achieve a higher spiritual level, it is truly AMAZING what is possible. What if we never resisted a single bodily urge? What would we be like mentally, physically, spiritually?

It is very difficult to discuss the Law of Chastity without the desire to disclose past transgressions; to let your audience understand that “you’ve been there”, that you have some authority because you know what you’re talking about. But I won’t use that tactic here.

It matters less that I have transgressed than that I have a testimony of obedience and repentance.

I want my closing remarks to focus on the fact that the Lord has given us a law. With obedience to that law we are promised blessings. With disobedience to that law, there are consequences; heavenly as well as earthly.

Is abstinence the point? Is sex bad? Is being physically attracted to or sharing contact with another human being wrong? Is it evil to feel desire? I personally think that a “yes” answer to any of these questions requires a deeper look into the beauties of the Gospel.

But is there not also nobility in self control; in discipline? Is there not also beauty in sacrifice; in purity? Is there not power in believing in something greater than corruptible flesh; in transcendence? Is there not just cause for devotion and loyalty?

I don’t know how else to end this except by saying that this topic is a tough one. I can FULLY see why a lot of people get uptight at religious people for being uptight about it, and why uptight people get uptight about people NOT being uptight about it. One cannot be happy being chaste without having a testimony of other principles of the Gospel as well. This is not a lone commandment; it is inextricably tied to other principles of happiness. It wouldn’t be wise to judge a religion by this principle alone; it would be missing the whole grand, beautiful panorama….

Friday, April 08, 2005 

George Michael taught me everything I know about sex

How come the number of people commenting and the number of hits we get are 10 times as many during the week of the “Sex” discussion?

Well here’s my Friday ramblings, I hope they make sense. I did not really have a sex talk, so I am going to have to add some "filler"

I was a late bloomer. I was pretty busy in my high school years. Actually I slept through most of them. I woke up at 4:45 AM 5 days a week and went to swim practice, then to school, then to swim practice again, home to dinner, homework and bed by 9. I slept a lot because of swimming. I slept through dates, through class, and through church. Skiing was the only thing I can remember being fully awake for. But like I said, I was a late bloomer. I went on a handful of school dance dates and that was it. I went on my first no school date when I was 18. I had not kissed a girl till after my mission and my first real girlfriend was met until I was nearly 24. I just was not interested in relationships. I blame this on my mom. She used to answer the phone, and if it was a girl, she would tell them it was inappropriate for young girls to call boys. I had a lot of friends who were girls, but there was never any real advancement due to the embarrassment caused by those situations. I went to the “maturation talk” in 5th grade, all I remember is that my dad was the best volleyball player there (we played volleyball and had treats after). I also remember my teacher was female and she was at the talk. I could not look her in the eye after that night, I don’t know why. I never got the talk from my parents. My dad had talked a little bit after the volleyball game, and that was informative. But that was about it. My parents had tried with my older brother.
It went like this: They took him into the bedroom, closed the door. About 3 minutes late I remember hearing my brother laughing, my dad snickering, and then my mother yelling at both of them. It was a failed attempt. They gave up on me, and figured I would be in college before I could really get myself in any trouble. They were right.
So that’s the history of me and the “S” word.
I don’t have too many thoughts on the subject. It’s just a rule, or commandment. It’s not hard to obey. You just do it. After my mission I drove a shuttle from Sundance to the airport. (Great tips) One night I picked up three really hot 25 year old girls from NY. They got off the plane pretty tippsy. During the drive to the report it came up that I was LDS,

“You mean you don’t drink?”
“Nope”
“You don’t sleep around?”
“Nope”
“And you are not gay?”
“Nope”
“I don’t know how you do it. I can not go 1 day without sex and a drink”
The other two girls agreed with her. There were some jokes about them giving me a tip in another form if I were to come up to there cabin with them, I respectfully declined and told them I had tuition due next week, and I would prefer money.

I have thought about that a lot since then (not the invitation to join them). I thought how sad that they could not control themselves. That they could not take the urges and control them. These girls had no control on their lives.

I was thinking about sitcoms in the 80’s. Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, and I then I thought about shows in the 90’s and those of today. Friends, Senifeld, Will and Grace. What a contrast. How long would Family Ties last as a new show today? Well if you made Michael J Fox a Gay Democrat, and Mallory a lose slut who slept with everyone, (Not just Nick) and Jennifer, well they would have to get rid of her, then the show would be a hit.
What I am saying is that sex is everywhere. Its flashed before us every time we turn on the TV. I do not think it is as special a thing as it should be anymore. If you disagree with me, send me your email and I will forward all the junk email I get daily to you.
Maybe its time that people put more thought into chastity, and morality, and in abstinence. Maybe I can make a T-Shirt that says “Abstinence—it’s not just for Mormon and Baptist youth groups anymore”.

I hope I did not offend anyone, I mean, I really do think Family Ties would have been better with out Tina Yother.

Thursday, April 07, 2005 

Kaycee Lives in Sin and I Upped the Teen Pregnancy Statistic

Not sure who wins that one. Shall we tie it, Kaycee???

I was a total prude growing up. Yes, my parents were fairly open about sex but I would say that would be generally speaking. Jess might disagree with me, but when we were kids, the sex talks were pretty basic. But maybe I didn’t ask enough questions. Maybe at that age I just didn’t want to know how I got to this earth. Perhaps it is all my fault that I was such a prude. For me, much of that openness with my parents (really…my mom) came after I had sex. I had been the “good-girl” that listened to my parents and church leaders all my life about waiting until after marriage to have sex. I had plans of marrying a returned missionary, in the temple, at the right time, right place, etc. I set my sights to all the things a “good little Mormon girl should. But sometimes even good little Mormon girls can “get in trouble”, too.

I had sex and got pregnant before I was married. Things happen. Sex happens. Pregnancies happen. I just didn’t think it would ever happen to me. Not like this. I had set my sights on the way things were supposed to be, the plan I had set. I had no clue what I was doing when nothing happened the way I had planned.

I had broken the rule that had been engrained in my brain for YEARS. And I felt like scum. Being someone who had ALWAYS done what I was told, this was a huge blow to me, my family, my friends, and people in the church. Not only did I have so much to deal with between my boyfriend (now husband) and this new baby on the way, I had to deal with the weight of guilt and the weight of my family and friends and ward. It was an immediate transition of me always being the example of “what to do” to “what NOT to do” in no time.

I realize that many of my posts surround that time period. I don’t mean to be redundant, but the story and the lessons I learned (or haven’t learned) seem to fit in many of these topics. This is the time period that shaped my life, for better or for worse. Jess had mentioned in her comment yesterday that I put this guilt on myself. I did. But I can, to this day, see the looks on people’s faces when they found out I was pregnant. I can still hear the words I heard people in the ward say when they thought I couldn’t hear. I can still see my mom and dad and the pain they felt. I can still replay the conversations in my head I had with my friends and family members. I can STILL feel the guilt I felt back then and how that guilt affected my married life and my new family. I can still remember being the very scared young woman that had to be strong for everyone else because that’s what I felt I had to do. I can still feel the tears I felt back then because I’ve had tears streaming down my face writing this post.

It is my opinion that if you want your kids to wait until they’re married to have sex then you have to be ready for constant work with your kids. I feel that sex before marriage is A LOT of responsibility. Some people can handle it. Some can’t. I know that I will teach my daughters that sex is something wonderful but that I really hope they wait until they are married. I will remind them of the responsibility and I will be ready with questions and answers for their questions and answers. I plan to be involved in their lives and try to always keep an open mind. I will always make sure that they have the resources they need to make the best choices that they possibly can.

Well, that's even if Hubby will let them out of the house on a date before they're 30. We'll see...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005 

I Live in Sin... You?

As the only member of this blog living in sin, I feel obliged to stick up for everyone who feels like they should have premarital sex. But really, they can probably stand up for themselves.

You might be surprised to learn that "The Chastity Talk," administered biannually as I attended Young Womens and my BYU wards, was really quite effective for me. I knew all of the boundaries.

The way I saw it was like this: French kissing (sometimes referred to by the Brethren as "soul" kissing) was like the caffeinated beverage of the sexual purity realm. Certainly, a prophet advised against it, but was a literal commandment? No.

Therefore, I French kissed boys almost as often as I drank Mountain Dew.

"Petting," however, was off-limits. I made up my mind over and over again, every time I got that talk from my bishop, his counselors, young women's president, the cool couple in the ward, or whoever got the "opportunity" of delivering it.

Another contributing factor to my continuing chastity may have been that my entire "Birds & the Bees" talk with my mother, after sex-education week in the 6th grade, went like this:
Mom: So, they told you about that stuff at school, right?
Me: Yeah.
Mom: Well, if you have any questions, let me know.
I think I also borrowed some of the pamphlets she had left over from her sex-ed class in the 60's that I looked over. That was a big help. In college, I was once so curious about sex that I tried to look up the Kama Sutra in the BYU library, only to find that it was under lock and key.

Basically, between being told not to have sex and not being told about sex... I knew very little about the subject until after I graduated from college.

I know that many people who made/have made commitments to stay sexually pure until marriage feel that their lives have been greatly improved by that decision. I certainly won't argue with them.

I think sexual abstinence has a lot of advantages. I also don't think that it's the only way you can be happy.

More particularly, I've wondered frequently in the last few years as I've learned more about men and their sexual drive, about what a burden sexual abstinence can be for them.

As a female, I never experienced a "wet dream," like males do, and I never experienced an overwhelming desire to have sex while I was young. It's my understanding that males are genetically and biologically driven to procreate and it's a very difficult thing to counteract. I've wondered many times in the last few years about how LDS adolescent boys and young men deal with the guilt that must come from this drive and actions that they take as a result.

I have known LDS men who struggle with commandments against masturbation. Their lives are "on hold" while they learn to cope or overcome this problem, but they never seem to make it.

I think that after I had sex, it would have been difficult to have gone back to being chaste and to have stayed that way. Maybe that's what it's like for men. They cross a certain threshold (with a wet dream), over which they have no control. After that experience and the testosterone that comes along with it, maybe it's hard not to go that line again?

I hate to end this post with a question, but that's all I'm left with. It is my hope that my thoughts on this are not offensive. I own up to my ignorance on the subject (see above conversation with my mother for reference) and invite your comments, anonymous or otherwise, on the subject.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 

Your Body Is A Wonderland

My parents were PAINFULLY open about sex. When I was 13 JP came camping with me and my family. My mom was driving us highway 101 (a winding coastal highway) when she suddenly stopped the truck, pointed to the shoulder of the road and announced, "Sarah, you were conceived right there!" I was in the cab of a truck with my mother and my best friend and it was revealed to my awkward teenage self that my parents had done the nasty ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD and I was the product of that encounter. Apparently, my dad had eaten oysters for the first time and my parents went from a couple who had adopted a child because they couldn't conceive to pregnant. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and apparently He uses shellfish as a tool.

There was also my sophomore year of high school when my mom picked JP, Jaimee and I up from school everyday in our Mocha brown minivan. The three of us were in the sex ed/ drivers ed class and on the particular day I have in mind it was "contraceptive" day in sex ed. My mom was highly interested in what we were learning and questioned us as she drove us through the near empty streets of our little town. When we giggled about condoms and spermicide my mom took this opportunity to share her thoughts on the various types of contraceptives she and my dad had tried over the years. Condoms: she wasn't a fan, too "unnatural". Spermicidal: that was a no go because she could bear the thought of killing the little baby sperms. (I know... I know) So finally they went with the diaphragm. Lube that sucker up, stick it in, and you're good to go. THANKS MOM! That's JUST what my 15 year old friends and I wanted to hear about. We started lying about sex ed class shortly after that and saying we didn't have any questions or concerns with what we were being taught.

Besides my open mother, there were the COUNTLESS talks on chastity I was witness to throughout my Young Women's experience. The point of sexual purity was driven home again and again with talks, quotes, threats and tears. In my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do. In my heart I knew sex was (and is) something that is sacred and should be kept between a husband and wife. Does that mean it has been easy to maintain those convictions when I am in the arms of someone whose kisses light my whole body on fire? What about when I'm talking to them on the phone and they say my name while lighting a cigarette? (OH. MY. GOODNESS. THAT is HOT!) HECK NO it's not easy. And the reason is... I love sex. I think it's great, and would really like to get moving on having a lot more of it. But from the experiences I have had in my life, the things that have and have not happened to me, I know WITHOUT DOUBT that I DO NOT want to have a sexual relationship with someone outside the bonds of marriage. There are some things I am emotionally incapable of doing, and honestly, a sex without the commitment of marriage is one of them. And while the talks I had over the years with my parents, family members, friends and boyfriends contributed to this choice, it was a lesson I had to learn on my own. A lesson that, sadly, was partly learned the hard way. But it was the way I had to learn, they were experiences I needed to have to strengthen my convictions and cement my commitment to a commandment the very human part of me would rather not adhere to.

I don't hold everyone to the standards I have for myself. I don't expect that everyone will agree with my view on sexual activity. I think it is a very personal choice. I would never force my views and beliefs on anyone, but I know what works for me. I know that I am happiest when I am living the law of chastity, and that someday I will be blessed with a spouse and he will be very, very lucky ;)

Monday, April 04, 2005 

Morality? Overrated!

I am trying to think back to my parents talking to me about morality and chastity and while I am sure they did I don’t recall the conversation. I always knew where they stood and what behavior they thought was okay (the behavior I never managed to exhibit) and what behavior they didn’t approve of (the behavior that always left me on restriction). But truth be told I heard more about morality and chastity in Young Women’s then anywhere else. There was the Sunday the Bishop spoke to all of the Young Women, or maybe just the Laurels, and requested each of us promise to him that we would only marry a returned missionary and an Eagle Scout and in the temple. I have it all written out in one of my journals and I remember thinking that I would try, but I wasn’t sure if I could promise... it was the Eagle Scout thing I struggled with most, would I still marry him if he wasn’t an Eagle Scout? I thought I might. Then there was the trip all of the Young Women took to Salt Lake for one of our practices to sing in the Tabernacle for a Young Women’s conference that was going to be broadcasted EVERYWHERE... we all had to wear pastels and my mom got me the greatest pink top (my mom always bought me really cute clothes... they were not all name brand like I wanted, but they were extremely stylish... she is a great shopper). Anyway, my point was that I remember sitting on the Salt Lake City Temple grounds all dressed up one evening with all of the Young Women from my ward, I must have been 13 or 14. All of our leaders were there and they were each taking a turn telling us the importance of marriage and the importance of saving virginity for the day we were married. We discussed the significance of white and our own purity and why it is important to marry in the temple. That evening our leaders gave each of us a white satin hanger with a poem and potpourri attached that should hang in our closets until the day when we could put our wedding/temple dress on the hanger. Their purpose, which is already apparent, was to stair us in the face on a daily basis and remind us to stay pure for that special man that we would one day marry. Ironically I think my wedding dress (which if any of you would like to purchase for a very reasonable price let me know... I might even throw in a ring) still hangs on this very hanger. Ironic considering I didn’t get married in the temple, the man I married hadn’t gone on a mission, and my dress technically should have been off white. But the man I married was an Eagle Scout and we did meet at BYU... that is like a good third of the requirements, right? And then of course there is the “my body is a temple” lesson that I think I heard every Sunday in Young Women’s and possibly even every Tuesday at Mutual.

So did I listen and take it all to heart and remain “moral”? Oh I listened, I listened closely and then I think I created a list of everything that was said and for some reason used it as a check list of how not to live. I have had a problem with listening to authority since the day I came out of my mother’s womb. I can’t explain it, but it is true -- it has been a real pleasure for my parents, I am sure! You know though I turned out just fine - I love my family, they love me, I have amazing friends, a great job and live in a beautiful City that I absolutely love. I really enjoy the life I have made for myself even if it is one that has not and may still not include all of the “morals” that I was heavily encouraged to live by growing up. I’ve had a few hiccups here and there, maybe even a big fat belch every once in a while, but probably so has the person that followed every rule in the book, that is just life for you my friends.

But the thing with morality is that it has a flip side to it. It is supposed to be this great thing that should make everyone a better person, but it doesn’t always work that way. In fact instead it often provides guidelines by which you can judge a person. Morality, meaning “the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct; a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct; virtuous conduct” but who is it that decides the standards of right or good conduct? Is it the Mormon Church? It is for people that believe in and practice the Mormon religion, as it is for the Catholic religion and the Jewish religion and every religion out there. But the thing is we each define right and good and virtuous a little differently. We each view ourselves as moral, but not one another. I don’t live by all of the Mormon morality standards I was taught growing up, but I think I am a moral person, yet I know plenty of people who I don’t think are moral or virtuous. I’d be willing to put money on it that they think they are. So where then does this leave us? It leaves us all as moral AND judgmental individuals. We are all right and we are all wrong. So then really what is the point?

Sunday, April 03, 2005 

The Traditional Family

I sincerely apologize for the tardy post. This has been a crazy month (March) culminating in a crazy weekend. I will try and make up for it…

Normally, I would be like JP, not being able to restrain myself from sharing the traditions of my AWESOME family. But for some reason, I find myself hesitating; trying to fabricate the zeal that I know I feel.

I’m tired, and frankly, this familial retrospection has made me just a little melancholy for the good old days. While I wouldn’t trade a single new addition (infant nor adult) for the days of yore I DO miss the nuclear union of Dad, Mom and the seven kids. I miss being Dad and Mom’s kid. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that even though I am now 30, I still feel like their kid, and since I just spent time with them this weekend, I am still coming down (or up) from being in their presence…

So now to the traditions…

We are Swedish. Or rather, we choose to be Swedish. My great-grandfather and his wife came over from Sweden about 100 odd years ago, and while the rest of my heritage is generally British, we have clung tooth and nail to the Swedish bits.

I have a Swedish friend who knows our family, and his family kind of makes fun of our family for “being SO Swedish.” Not exactly a compliment.

But we are proud of this heritage because it has become a strong tradition. Every generation since (and including) Grandpa Gustav Emil Oscarson has returned to the “Motherland” or “Moderland” to serve as a missionary, and two have returned again as mission presidents. So also has missionary work become part of our family’s tradition. It also strengthens the Swedish tradition that my family lived there when I was young (in the 70’s) and that half of us kids have memories of family, places, adventures, and friends in Gotenburg, Sweden.

We have a Swedish Christmas Yuleboard that includes some yummy and some not-so-yummy traditional foods: ham, potatoes (served several ways but always with plenty of dairy products on hand), Lingonberry sauce, meatballs, herring, hardbread, Jul Must (a beverage), and various other items picked up for nostalgia sake at the local IKEA.

Christmas also involves getting together to act out the Nativity, sing Swedish songs, dance through the house holding hands and ringing bells (to ring the Christmas spirit into every room in the house), Christmas Eve PJ’s and all the kids sleeping in one room, sleepover style, as we are read to sleep by the oldest (Amy Lynn) from special Christmas books from England that ONLY get read at Christmas.

But now on to some of the more unique traditions:

We are a play-putting-on people. A people of drama, if you will. Pageantry is in our blood. No, really. My uncle wrote the “City of Joseph” pageant that was performed in Nauvoo for 30 years, my grandma was a “Cougarette” at BYU (in 1928!!!), my aunts sing and dance and write roadshows, as do a bevy of cousins, Aunt-in-laws, and actual siblings. There was not (and still is not) a family get-together without some sort of talent show or impromptu performance.

When I was 6, Amy Lynn wrote a play to accompany the tape of “Saturday’s Warriors”. There were scenes, costume changes, and choreography. We rehearsed this performance for a WEEK! The highlight in my memory is of me and my brother Chip holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes as we lip synch “The Circle of Our Love.”

We also created performances to the records of “Mary Poppins”, Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”, “Sound of Music”, The Fifth Dimension, The Monkeys, The Beatles, The Beachboys, and Beethoven’s “Sonata in D Minor” (a performance that made me cry real tears…it was about a mother and daughter who love to dance together and the daughter dies and her ghost comes back to dance with her mother…SO sad…).

Every Saturday, after “chores” and during Mom’s errands, the kids who were old enough to stay at home alone had a dance contest. We each chose a song and created an improvisational dance for the other kids. Some of the most coveted songs were “Uptown Girl”, “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break-a My Stride”, and then later “I’m So Excited” and ANYTHING from Whitney Houston’s debut album.

The tradition that rises above all afore mentioned (and unmentioned) traditions is the one of gathering at my Grandparent’s house on Sunday evenings. Because we lived in close proximity to my dad’s parents and several of the aunts uncles and cousins, it was natural for us gather; for the adults to chat and for the kids to play. In this setting, we learned about love and obligation, respect, deference, and honor, how to “get-along”, how to have fun, family togetherness and loyalty to the Oscarson name and heritage.

And I can’t leave out the tradition of our shared religious experience. Yes, there are many aspects of Mormonism that are comfortable because they are tradition. Yes, I’ll admit that there is a strong sense of belonging and family loyalty born of common religious belief and practice, but the tradition goes so much deeper. This tradition is sealed with familial blood and literal sacrifice. What can bind a family more strongly than this?

Ah yes, the power of the priesthood. What a comfort it was to me as I spent time with my maternal grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins this weekend to know that I am bound to these good people not only by blood and DNA and shared experiences, but also by a real power; a power to seal us together in life as well as death. A power that binds me to generations of the very people who made the major sacrifices to ensure that I would inherit the same blessings they fought for.

I feel encircled by the arms of family tradition. I feel it in my bones. This is not an obligation borne of duty only, but rather born of love, respect, and admiration.

Not that long ago, I let go of the safety of tradition to create my own legacy, to start my own family, to pass on and begin new family traditions. I had to step out on my own and decide for myself whether or not that religious tradition was real, or merely for tradition’s sake; for family loyalty.

Todd and I have made a conscious decision that our religious heritage is more than just good stories. We believed it to be a true religion based on pure and true principles. We are the culmination of efforts made decades and centuries before us, and we feel honor in carrying the proverbial torch to a new generation; a new family. Honestly, I can sometimes almost hear the whispers of encouragement and feel the gently prodding hands of people who have gone on before me who are excitedly waiting to see the drama of our family life unfold. We both feel excited to pass the traditions along; the good ones, the silly ones, and the new ones we have yet to create.

 

My Life of Tradition

Since Jess is out of town this weekend, I (JP) am posting for her as our guest blogger for the week. And also...Blogger hates me today...sorry for the late post.

I showed up to an Enrichment night (formerly called Homemaking) one December a couple of years back, to find that the theme was Family Traditions. In my arrogance, I was insulted that no one consulted me for input. My family is full of traditions and fun.

I was soon humbled by the wonderful family traditions that the scheduled speakers shared. Considering the season, many were centered around Christmas. One talked about her family gathering for Chili before going out caroling (that would be a stinky car-ride). One spoke about traditions she was putting into place for the first time that year, but would carry on in the future, like reading “Three Trees” each Christmas Eve.

One other that really touched me was a family taking M&Ms each year when they went up into the mountains to pick out their Christmas tree. This tradition started many years before, when the oldest child was just 2 years old, her and her young parents set out to find the perfect tree. These parents were horrified when they realized she had gotten away from them and frantically looked for her. They soon found a trail of M&Ms that would eventually lead them to their girl.

These may seem simple, but I see them as traditions full of love and something one could depend on.

JP and I adore our family and possess a lot of family pride. Some of our family traditions are huge productions, like the pomegranate jelly and raviolis JP mentioned earlier this week. But as I learned on that Enrichment night, the simple traditions are wonderful too. I love that my younger brothers have carried on Grampa K.’s tradition of Swedish pancakes. I cherish the tradition of re-taking the 5 Generation picture when a baby is born into our crazy brood. Although, that one leans more towards huge production rather than simple tradition.

As a wife and mom I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with even more tradition. I love my husband’s family and the fun times I have with them at the holidays. Papa always bears his testimony on Christmas Eve and get very emotional when he tells us how much he loves us. Grandma & Grampa W. always have huge, huge quantities of candy for all the grandkids at Easter.

These traditions, these memories, these character-building moments are what shape us into grown-ups turn husbands and wives turn parents. Our duty now is to make them happen. We can’t get too busy or use geography as an excuse. We have to make them happen.

Friday, April 01, 2005 

It’s my turn again huh?

It’s my turn again huh?

Well everyone does the top 20 blogs and top 10 or top 100, so I am going to do the top 20 Traditions blog today.

These are in no order:

1- Christmas morning all the kids woke up (we had to sleep in the same room) and went into my parents room. We had to wait till some of the neighbors lights were on, then my dad went down and made a fire, and we were then allowed to line up on the stairs and have our picture taken, then we could go down stairs to open gifts.
2- Every spring all the male members of our house go on a 2-3 day canyoneering excursion. Its one of the funniest things we do all year.
3- Every time I get on the chairlift, I hold my poles out in front of me and bang them together.
4- When I come home from work I take off my shirt and shoes and sit on my flowery couch and watch the Simpsons and Seinfeld.
5- My family tries to go skiing together every Saturday.
6- We meet together for every birthday (Parents, siblings, nieces nephews, etc.)
7- Easter Dinner at my parents, (OK Easter dinner somewhere, but the whole family is always there)
8- My Mom always gives us a Life Saver Book at Christmas
9- My Dad buys my Mom a box of Orange Sticks for Mothers day and her birthday.
10- My dad always gets jeans for Christmas.
11- Family camp trips.
12- My parents used to own a house boat at Lake Powell, and we had a tradition of going down every other week all summer long for about 10 years.
13- My parents sit on the back row of church every week. (Habit or Tradition?)
14- Whenever something is happening (Church Talks, Running a Marathon, Triathlons, 5K’s plays at school, school science fairs etc. ) The whole (or most the family) will get together.
15- On Valentines Day my mom gives all the kids a huge pan sheet cookie in the shape of a heart.
16- My grandpa ate at the Chuck-A-Rama 6 days a week (including Thanksgiving and Christmas) for 10 years.
17- Superbowl party at my sisters house.
18- Card Games when we get together—Phase 10 or Flinch or Dominoes.
19- My Dad gives all the kids and grandkids a t-shirt from Sundance every Christmas.
20- Christmas Day- We now have a new tradition that was molded with an old tradition. Ever since I was little we would open gifts, visit my grandma, then head up to Sundance and ski all day. After that we would go to my grandpas, open gifts, then head to my grandmas for Ham dinner. This has been changed because of some deaths, and because my parents have grandkids now. We now do this: I sleep in till 8:30ish, my parents get up early and visit my brother and sister and watch their kids open gifts. I drive up to Sundance and meet everyone up there, where we spend all of Christmas day skiing. We then head home in the late afternoon and have dinner at my parents. Then around 6 or 6:30ish we open gifts.

The skiing on Christmas Day is my favorite, though the big Valentines Day cookie is awesome too.

Don’t forget its conference weekend, you can listen live at www.lds.org. Enjoy everyone!

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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