Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Are All Enlisted

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

A week ago, someone wrote a blog post
In 1848 the first Women's Rights Conference was held in Seneca Falls, outlying the goals and concerns of American women. In 1866  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to universal suffrage.

It wasn't enough. The conferences, the petitions, the marches, none of them granted women the right to vote…

But by 1920, a mere three years after Alice Paul's first act of civil disobedience by picketing the White House, women gained the right to vote.

As it turns out, the Suffragists weren't traitors, but liberators. 

Can you imagine what would happen if the Mormon Feminist movement stopped playing nice? If faithful, devoted women stood as Silent Sentinels outside the gates of the Church Office Building. If the women who loved the church enough to face accusations of apostasy and potential excommunication organized a sit-out, so that one Sunday no Mormon Feminists came to church. If we stopped organizing Friends of Scouting banquets until our daughters sat at the table, likewise recognized for their own accomplishments.

History has proven that civil disobedience works. Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Paul, Harvey Milk, and countless others faced accusations of treason when they apostatized from the status quo because they loved their country. 

"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us." 

Mormon feminists, I think it is time for some good old-fashioned Civil Disobedience.

Haste to the battle, quick to the field;
Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield.
Stand by our colors; proudly they wave!
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

Within a day a Facebook group, All Enlisted, had been created, and had over 200 members. Because that is the speed of life now in the internet age.  They--we--began to discuss ways that we could practice civil disobedience. (Lookout world, never underestimate Mormon women’s ability to organize massive productions overnight!)

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

Hark! the sound of battle sounding loudly and clear;
Come join the ranks! Come join the ranks!
We are waiting now for soldiers; who’ll volunteer?
Rally round the standard of the cross.

So, the first act of civil disobedience that was chosen: Ladies wearing pants to church. Nice pants. Dressy slacks. En masse, on December 16. There is not a church policy against this. In fact, the long-standing official church policy is that church attendees should dress nicely and respectfully. No specifics in length, style, or number of leg holes have ever been laid out.
As one friend discovered when she went to the temple directly from work (in a pantsuit), and sheepishly asked at the front desk if there was some kind of rule... The elderly worker looked her right in the eye and said  "the rule is that you come to the temple whenever you can!"

Hark! ’tis our Captain calls you today;
Lose not a moment, make no delay!
Fight for our Savior; come, come away!
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

I am joining this movement because I want to fight for our Savior and for His counsel to love one another, and judge not.
I remember a time when I was about 9 when one of the children's leaders wore pants in church. They were not even pants so much as a split skirt--I remember staring at her for at least half of the class time before concluding that, in fact, this was not a skirt. I was appalled at her. I couldn't believe she would wear pants to church. How wrong and bad!
I now look back at my nine-year-old self with sadness. I know that my parents never taught me to be so judgmental about the way a person dressed. So why did I feel so judgmental? I can only guess that it was pervasive in the culture. Actually, I know that fixations on how other people dress IS pervasive in Mormon culture. If you disagree, think about the last time you noticed someone's garment line (or lack thereof). Now I ask, why were you looking?! How is someone's underwear ever anyone else's business?!
I have never ever worn pants to church. It so happens that I love wearing dresses and skirts, and often wear them on weekdays. I don't particularly want to wear pants to church. BUT, I will be doing so because of this experience. I will be wearing pants to church to be an example to my children that I really do believe that "the lord looketh on the heart [rather than the outward appearance]." I believe in walking the talk. Is wearing pants to church a big deal? No. Will this single event bring about any of the other changes that the All Enlisted movement is hoping for? Not really. But we hope that it will help people to take a look at themselves and their socio-cultural prejudices, and take the opportunity to practice a little non-judgment.

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

So come, wear pants with us. I know we might look small now, but this is starting to get attention. There was a very perceptive blog post at Feminist Mormon Housewives, another at Like Unto Eve, another at Zelophehad's Daughters, and we got some attention on SLC's ABC news and in the Salt Lake Tribune (which includes an official statement from a Church spokesperson. Guess what, according to official sources, wearing pants to church is still a non-issue, just like it was in 1971).

Fighting for a kingdom, and the world is our foe;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Glad to join the army, we will sing as we go;
We shall gain the vict’ry by and by.

This seemed like such a little thing. Wearing pants? What is this, 1942?! Some of the people in this movement want to see major changes (including female ordination). But most want smaller things, things which don't even touch doctrine, but merely policy or tradition. (Some of these things include women sometimes saying prayers at Church General Conferences, calling the Relief Society president "President" instead of "Sister," or women being asked if they will support their husband's callings in the same way that husbands are currently asked if they will support their wife's calling.)
And yet, the kickback has been enormous. Around 600 people have "joined" the event page, but dozens have also posted negative responses, suggesting that participants are unfeminine, disrespectful, apostate, and more. Who knew this was such a big deal?!

Dangers may gather—why should we fear?
Jesus, our Leader, ever is near.
He will protect us, comfort, and cheer.
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.

It seems to me that nothing has summed up this whole "thing" as well as this recent thread on the event page. 

persons herein have given their permission for me to post this, those left not-anonymous asked to be so

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holidays After Loss ~ Special Ornaments

Recently The Amethyst Network has been working on renovating and updating our site and our organization. One new project we are launching is monthly blog circles, where we put up a hosting post and invite other bloggers to share their post on the same theme. This month the theme is "Holidays After a Loss."

customized with birthstone and name

During the first Christmas after my first loss, I had recently become pregnant again, and was very morning sick and honestly not thinking very much about the 3-month-old that I didn't have. One year later, with several more miscarriages behind me, I felt it much more keenly. I wanted a way to keep those babies as part of our Christmas. I remembered that my mother had been given an angel ornament after Amethyst passed away, and I decided to follow suit. Our living children each have their own special ornament, and so I began to purchase angel ornaments for each of my angel children. I have known families who purchased a new angel each year, but I just got one angel per baby (since there were several). Other families might prefer something other than angels, but the idea could still apply as a way to memorialize our little ones, and to keep them as part of our holidays.
Here you can see some of mine.
(the ball has l.e.d. lights so the angel changes color...)
Go check out TAN's hosting post here for links to other articles, or to add your own link to the circle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Week 6--Taikuu

So I missed a couple of weeks, but I'll catch them up.☺

 Taikuu ("tay-koo") is the Inupaq word for thanks. It is pretty standard usage up here. I even see it on otherwise-English signs in businesses and such. I like it. I think it's pretty, and also I have a geekish fascination with words that have a double-u.

  1. I'm thankful for the gift of literacy, and for all the doors it opens.
  2. I'm thankful for the gift of writing, for the fulfillment it brings, for the things I am able to accomplish with it.
  3. I'm thankful for the gift of travel, and for many places I have been able to go in the world at various points in my life.
  4. I'm thankful for teamwork, and for the fantastic people I work with at The Amethyst Network and other organizations I am part of.
  5. I'm so SO thankful for the technology of the internet. That I can communicate with people from around the world, even in real time. I'm thrilled to be able to have video chats with multiple family members at the same time, so we can have a monthly sisters' book club even though we are spread across 4 states and 4 time zones, and so that I can see my grandparents on thanksgiving even though they are 3000 miles away
  6. I'm thankful for my family far away. For the phone calls and emails and letters and texts.
  7. I'm thankful for my family right here. For the hugs and cuddles and "Honey I'll make dinner tonight"s and "Mommy I'm happy"s. I sure love my crazy boys.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learning Place Value

Place value is a difficult concept for many kids. Bear has been regularly mixing up places, usually just guessing at whether "41" is fourteen or forty-one. I've tried to help him see the patterns in the hundreds chart, and help him hear that "four" comes before "one" in forty-one, but in the long run he has mostly still been guessing.

Today the math lesson (we are using Horizons kindergarten math) was about place value. I read the teachers manual which said to make a big visual aid showing two columns, and then to put different numbers in them and talk about it... Matching color-coordinated columns were in his workbook. (I do want to note that I have really liked this math curriculum, today is the first time that I have felt like I needed to come up with something additional of my own.)

He has already been learning about pennies and dimes for several weeks. This includes counting them up and writing the total amount of cents (dimes and/or pennies). So, rather than use numbers in the columns demonstration, I used coins. (These happen to be plastic coins from the Horizon's manipulatives set, but obviously real coins would work!)

I made the two columns and labeled and color-coordinated them like his book. Then I got out ten pennies and a few dimes. I made nine spots in the 'ones' place column, so that he could visually see when it was 'filled up.'

Currently he is practicing writing numbers and using number lines up to the 40s, so basically I just counted with him. I put on one penny at a time, and we counted. When we got to nine, I said "uh-oh, I don't have any more places for pennies, I will need to use a dime instead to make the ten cents." I slid all the pennies off the page and put on a dime. I showed him how there was one coin in the first column and zero coins in the second column ("10"). Then we started adding pennies again and counting till we got to 19, when he gleefully swiped the pennies off and plunked down a dime. We continued counting up to 40, and several times I stopped and had him take note of how many coins were in each column, and what number we were on, so that he could see the correlation between place value and numbers.

He seems to get it. ☺

I suspect that somewhere down the road we will revisit this, only adding dollar coins (or dollar bills) to a third column. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving week 5: Fresh Beginnings

This morning there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground. We had a slight dusting a few weeks ago, but this is the first real snow of the season.
As is the case with many bush towns, Kotzebue has a lot of STUFF around. People save everything (usually in their yards) because you never know when you might need it, and it's expensive to ship things out, so if it's already here you definitely don't want to throw it away. In addition, many houses are made with plywood, sheet metal and tar paper. I joked to my husband last spring that you know you might be in a bush town if you look at a house and can't tell whether it's occupied or set for demolition... A significant number of houses really do look that way.
In short, this is not a pretty town.
Until it snows.
Snow covers all the ugly things with a gentle blanket of white, and suddenly my neighbor's front yard junk heap is just a white mound... the ugliness is gone. (Well, it's not all gone, but it's going, and a little more snow will finish the job...if the mess is big enough, these things can take time.)

This is 1 of our 4 wood piles. The green shed there is also full (about 2 more piles worth).
As I looked out the window this morning I thought of the election results last night. Months of intensity, anger, and even sheer hatred all led up to one night of high emotions: elation for some, depression or resignation for others...I suspect it's some kind of mix for most. All the ugliness--theoretically--is over now. The results are what they are, and whether we like it or not, the decisions have been made. Now we all have a chance to start over fresh, with a new congress, a newly (re)chosen president, and a variety of new laws chosen by the will of the people. I hope we can move forward gracefully and kindly, in spite of whatever personal feelings might be hiding under the snow.

Today I am grateful
  1. that the election is over. I hope that the hatred and anger will calm now as well.
  2. to have the right to vote. It's only been 90 years that women have had that right in this country.
  3. that all the candidates who made significant rape-accepting comments during this campaign (such as that "some girls rape so easy" or that "if it's a legitimate rape the female body can shut [conception] down" or that "having a baby out of wedlock is similar to rape") were DEFEATED. As Stephen Colbert said, yes, abortion is a complex issue and we don't all agree on it. But I thought we agreed on rape. Yes indeed, the people have spoken. We DO agree on rape.
  4. for New Hamshire making another first: they were first to ratify the constitution (earning their slogan as "the first state"), 4 years ago they were the first state to have a female majority in their state senate, and last night they were the first ever state to elect a completely female federal delegation and governor.
  5. that we have the highest ever percentage of women in congress. 17% was our prior high. As of today, there are 19 women in the senate (with two more races still too close to call). As I explained to a friend, I have never made a political decision based on the candidates sex or race. I have always looked at issues and voting records. I'm not saying that women are superior either. I'm not saying they should run it all... I'm saying they have not been equally represented, and I think it *affects how our legislature functions, so I am happy to see an increasing percentage of women in these roles.
  6. that Elizabeth Warren got into the Senate. She is awesome. She is one of the few people I've ever seen that I think may be able to remain unsullied by politics. She has a beautiful track record of truthfulness and wisdom (she's a big proponent of fiscal responsibility, and warned the last administration of the impending financial crisis before it happened but they ignored her). It's just encouraging to see somebody honest slide in from behind and win a big race.
  7. and in my one partisan statement of the week, I am very very glad that Barack Obama won.
*How does the number of women in congress affect legislative function? In two ways:
Firstly, 51% of the population is female, but less than 20% of congress is, and obviously that's seriously skewed. Now I grant that either sex could represent either sex, but I think there is still something to women being SO underrepresented. It means that women's concerns (such as maternity leave or maternal mortality rates) are essentially ignored by our congress. Because there are not enough people there who care enough to do anything about them. (The USA has a pathetic record on maternity leave compared to all other first world countries, and our maternal mortality rate is next in line with Albania and other eastern European countries...not what it should be for a country with the most money and the best doctors...)
Secondly--I know this is a stereotype but there IS something to it--men tend to want to win, women tend to be willing to compromise for the common good. In other words, a higher percentage of women in congress may help with bipartisanship and help do away with this gridlock...
So that is why I care about there being more women in congress. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Getting Down with my Bento Self

Last fall, when Bear started going to pre-school, he often wanted to pack a lunch. (My kids sometimes like getting the school lunch, but often complain that it's not as good as leftovers from home!) I admit I've been fascinated by bento box meals for some time, and this was a perfect chance to try it out.

I bought a Goodbyn lunchbox with sections. It's not a true bento box, but we had some fun with it. (Later in the year he opted for more school lunches and fewer from-home ones, so I don't have a lot of photos, but here are a few.)

I collected lots of ideas for lunch components and contents on a pinterest board Spiffy Packed Lunches. I also bought some small picks, tiny forks, and condiment containers to use in the lunches (you'll see those in the photos). They were very cheap at (you can see them on the pinterest board too)
And although most of mine here do not look as exciting as most of the ones on the board, but in all cases, the contents of the lunches were chosen by the child... he didn't think that peanut butter and jelly rolled up into 'sushi' was cool. Oh well.

Before the lunchbox arrived, I just used several small containers in a lunchbag. Here: grapes, olives, water, and a hamburger patty cut into two pieces for easier dipping in the ketchup.

applesauce, milk, peanut butter sandwich

grapes, some chocolate chips (dessert, in the pink container), orange juice, turkey wraps
the turkey wraps are secured with the picks. The kids liked picking whether they got a rocket, robot, or truck on their wrap

milk, a hot dog, and two containers of ketchup (just in case!)

chocolate cake, orange juice, polish sausage (with no ketchup, his choice)
Although I never made it into much of an art form, I do think that having several finger foods in their own little sections is a great way to do packed lunches for kids. Although I don't seem to have any pictures with the tiny forks, they are popular at home too for eating olives, grapes, and other tiny foods. ☺

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanksgiving week 4: Safe and Secure

In the midst of the news about an earthquake in Canada, tsunamis in parts of Alaska (smallish ones, but still related to the earthquake), and of course the massive destruction of Storm Sandy in the eastern parts of the USA, today I am grateful for many things.

  1. To have a wood stove, and a huge wood pile that we spent several months building, so that my house can always be warm, even in the absence of electricity or fuel.
  2. My gas cook stove (because cooking on the wood stove is not really that hard, but the baking is terrible!)
  3. I have food stored in my house. It's not a year's supply, but we could live exclusively on it for a few weeks at least (still rebuilding it after being gone all summer).
  4. That I live in not-hurricane country. Because earthquakes and tsunamis don't scare me half as much, I admit. (And maybe that's a matter of habit, but it's true!) I'm also glad to live in not-tornado country. Blizzards don't worry me because of #1, 2 and 3.
  5. That my parents taught me frugality and self-sufficiency. Have I said that before? Probably. But I'm very serious about it. As I go through life I keep meeting people who don't know how to cook from scratch, budget, or otherwise be economical...and I am SO grateful that I was taught these things.
  6. That all my family and friends in Sandy's path are ok. 
  7. For the many people who have worked and are working to help take care of those who are not ok.
My prayers go up for the many people who are suffering right now.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Between Worlds


All Hallows Eve

All Saints Day and All Souls Day

the Day of the Dead

A time when the veil between worlds is believed to be thin, when those on the other side and those on this side can reach out toward one another, maybe even touch, and exist in the mindful space of knowing that life is eternal, relationships are eternal, and that these cycles will go on and on for always.
One heart inside another, one generation inside another
Many things are on my mind today...
Miscarriage and infant loss awareness month is just behind us and I have been working on projects for The Amethyst Network all month.
A friend who recently passed a due date for a baby who was stillborn two months ago
A friend who just found out she is pregnant (after multiple miscarriages)
A friend who is expecting a baby any day (after a difficult miscarriage almost exactly a year ago) 
My own children who are not with me here, but who sometimes seem to reach out to hold my hand or pat my shoulder
My great great grandmother Juliette who made eye contact with me through a photo this summer and whom I have been trying to learn more about ever since
Many others who have crossed over to that side, whether prematurely or very maturely, and others who are on their way to this side...
Do they see us from their side as rarely as we see them from ours? Or is the veil a one-sided mirror, where they can see us easily, but except in fleeting moments we see only ourselves?

I do not know the ins and outs of life and death.One thing I do know is that the universe and the eternities are bigger than our little minds can know in this human form. I believe in a larger interconnectedness between all generations, all times, all eternities. I believe because of times like now, where the veil is thin and we catch a glimpse between the worlds.


I was thinking about jack o lanterns this morning. A very ordinary squash, but once a year we poke through the crust so that we can see what is inside. We carve a variety of shapes and for a variety of reasons, and then we set a light inside and behold, a simple squash becomes a lantern. When I look at one now I cannot help but think of looking through to a world beyond. I just got to like them a whole lot more.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thanksgiving week 3--Feminism Strikes Again

I'm a few days late on this... but we'll all politely ignore that, ok? It's still the first half of the week. That's close enough!

This week I have been reading a book about the women's movement in the United States from 1960-2008. I was fairly uneducated on all of this, having heard snippets of "bra burning" and "ERA marches" but not really knowing the details of any of it. When Everything Changed by Gail Collins is 400 pages long and I have devoured it in a week. It is fascinating.
As I gain a better understanding of the status quo in 1960, I sympathize with why those feminists were so radical. They had to be. Women fought for 100 years to get the right to vote, but even after that they were limited in many ways. For example, a woman (even a single woman) could not get a credit card or loan unless she had her spouse (or father) to co-sign with her. One principal proudly explained that he loved hiring women teachers because they were just as good as the men "but I can pay them half as much!" As late as 1972, a woman senator was literally forced to share a chair (with a black male senator) in committee, because the committee chairman considered them each to be "only half a person."

Wow we have come a long way. And yet in some areas we continue to fight exactly the same problems. Although I love being a stay at home mom, I recognize that not everyone wants to do that, or is able to do that. While the economy struggles, more and more women feel that they need to work, even if they want to be home with their children. Most women in this country (and certainly teachers) now get paid more than half of men's wages...but the national average is 78%, so the gender gap is still there. Women are half the population, but only 17% of the US congress. Is this because fewer women run for office? Or because the citizenry believe that men are more capable? Regardless, it does mean that most of women's concerns are underrepresented in federal legislation. In households where both parents work, usually the woman is still expected to handle the majority of the housekeeping and cooking. In broken families, women usually keep the children, but about a third of fathers do not contribute financial or other child support. Only 3 of every 100 rapists ever spends even one day behind bars. In other words, we still have a long way to go.

And so in that spirit, I would like to share a list of things that this feminist is grateful for this week

  1. That my husband (both financially and otherwise) supports my desire to be a stay at home parent.
  2. That my parents (especially my mother) taught me frugality and sustainability as a way of life, so that I have the skills to live modestly and within our means.
  3. That I have sufficient education (and in an appropriate field) that I could support my family if I needed too.
  4. That I and my family have been able to take advantage of programs such as WIC and medicaid to help us make ends meet when we were struggling.
  5. That, in spite of how notoriously low teacher's pay is, that it also comes with good medical benefits.
  6. For the many women--and men--who went before me, fighting battles for women (such as getting the right to vote, or to get loans, or own property, or escape abusive marriages) so that there is a little less left to fight for now.
  7. For the many women--and men--who are still fighting the good fight, in their many ways. Whether they are teaching their daughters that they are equally important with their sons, or giving them the skills and education to go somewhere in the world. Whether they are making laws or catching babies or counseling victims. And for the many who will continue to do these things in the future.

Why this Pro-Lifer Votes 'Pro-Choice' (for now)

I hope you don't mind if I share a thought on an issue (which is a realization that led me to shift my political stances significantly a few years ago).

I am heartily pro-life. In the past I had sometimes let that issue be the single issue that determined who I voted for. After all, killing babies is evil, so anyone who doesn't fight abortion must also be evil. But in light of the facts I've changed my mind.

I appreciate that there are a GREAT many arguments about when a baby becomes a baby...certainly in the first few hours or days after the sperm meets the egg it doesn't seem like much of a baby. A significant number of these joinings don't manage to implant in the uterus and are miscarried...sometimes this is the result of a birth control pill or an IUD or something like a morning-after-pill, and probably just as often it just happens naturally. I, personally, do not consider this to be an abortion. I think that morning after pills should be readily available to victims of rape and incest, and you know what, frankly, probably to anyone who wants them. A morning after pill taken the day after sex works the same way as a birth control pill taken the day before.
Once we get past implantation though, things change. Human babies have a heartbeat by about 5 weeks gestation (this is 1 week after mom has missed her period, or within a few days of when she gets a positive pregnancy test). I know plenty of people who will argue about whether the spirit/soul of the child is in there yet at this stage--the baby certainly doesn't look very human yet. [see image]
But a heartbeat seems to me to be a fair designation of "life." In other words, I think a baby is a baby by the time that mommy knows it is there.

Without equivocation, I affirm that I want to protect the lives of babies before they are born. I also state, equally vehemently, that I want to protect the lives of people of all ages after they are born. I think that someone who values life needs to value comprehensive healthcare and welfare programs for the impoverished, because every year far more people die preventable deaths outside of wombs than in them.

I really hate abortion, personally. I cannot imagine a circumstance where I would ever have one, nor would I ever advise a friend to do so.  BUT, currently our society has SO LITTLE support for poor parents, single parents, working mothers, etc that I have sympathy for why some women feel that they simply cannot have a(nother) baby. They can't afford the child, the diapers, the food, the clothes, the childcare, etc etc. Giving up babies to adoption is stigmatized, keeping a baby and raising it alone is stigmatized... it's a lose-lose-lose situation. Some of these women are married and simply feel they cannot afford another baby, or are afraid to bring a child into an abusive situation. I know we sensationalize stories about abortions for gender-selection and things like that, but those are such a small minority. The one person I have personally known who got an abortion did so because she had been drinking and using drugs at the time she conceived and she feared that her actions would harm the child for a lifetime. She considered abortion the humane choice. Whether anyone else agrees with her is not the point. The point is that she took the matter seriously, and was trying to make a moral choice from her perspective.

If we make abortion illegal, then women are still going to do it, but instead of going to doctors in clean offices they will be doing it with coat hangers in basements...that's what they were doing before 1972 and I have no hesitation in thinking they will do it again. Women used to die from those abortions. Yes, babies are dying now, but the death toll was twice as high when both baby and mother died. Making something illegal doesn't make it stop. Consider marijuana! Or the speakeasies during prohibition!

I would love to see the abortion rates go down in this country, but I don't think that overturning Roe vs Wade is the solution. In order to reduce the abortion rate, the first step is to reduce those unwanted pregnancies. This requires easy and affordable access to contraceptives for any woman who wants them. It requires reducing the cultural stigma that surrounds rape, so that women who are raped will not be afraid to go to the hospital (and get the morning after pill). It should include reducing rape--a good first step there would be to prosecute and punish more than 3 of every 100 rapists, or to even report more than the half that get reported currently. It also requires more comprehensive sex education for every young person in the country. I love the idea of having parents do this teaching, but since most of them don't, then it should be available in schools. (Abstinence is a great part of sex ed, but should never be the only thing taught, because there will always be kids who simply are not going to do it.)
Once we've reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies, there remains the question of how to address the ones that do happen. Here again, society needs to step up. These women and girls need to be supported. They need to know that if they have this baby, they will be able to afford those diapers and clothes, that food, that childcare. They need people around them who will help them through the pregnancy, birth, and parenting processes. If they choose to give the child up for adoption, they need to have the option of choosing the adoptive parents, having an open or closed adoption, or whatever else feels most comfortable to them. AND they need to be supported before, during, and after the adoptive process (I hear that giving up a child for adoption can feel very much like losing a child, and that intense grieving is normal, even for a mother who felt sure in her choice. If she felt pressured into it at all, I'm sure it is much worse.)

I am pro-life, but I believe that abortion needs to remain legal in this country, at least for now. I certainly support there being some limitations and restrictions, but until the social structure and support is in place for these women and girls, I find it counter-productive to try to make abortion entirely illegal. There is a letter here which provides an excellent example of someone who is trying to work on that social support (I know it's long, but it is really really good). It is one tiny step and we have so much further to go, but it is heading in the right direction. My hope (and my vote) go toward supporting the social policies that will reduce the unplanned pregnancies, and support those who have them: it is the most pro-life option I can think of.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Paper plate eyeball experiment

This semester we are studying the human body. I remembered doing this experiment as a kid, and my kids (kindergarten and 7th grade) both enjoyed it.
This is something that is easy to do, you probably have all the materials on hand already.  It's a really good visual aid for how our eyes work. I had seen diagrams of this in books, but it never made as much sense as when we did this experiment.

(My apologies that the photos aren't great, the angles and lighting were not conducive to good photography, as that was somewhat of an afterthought to this project!)

a large eye lens (made with a paper plate or cardstock)
several yards of string or yarn
a piece of butcher paper
2 or more volunteers
  1. First, make an eyeball. Color the iris if you like. Cut out the middle.
  2. Secure the eyeball about 2 1/2-3 ft from the floor (depending on the height of your volunteers). You can tape it to the top of a yardstick and have someone hold it, or tape it to a chair. The important thing is just that it stays still.
  3. Have someone pose in an interesting way (something non-symmetrical) a few feet on one side of the eyeball. You may want to have them on a chair, because they will need to remain in the pose for several minutes without moving.
  4. Hang the butcher paper on the wall on the opposite side of the eyeball from the poser, at approximately the same distance from the eyeball.
  5. Tape one end of a piece of string to the posing volunteer, pass it through the center of the eye, and tape it to the butcher paper (wherever it ends up after being put through the CENTER of the eye). 
  6. Repeat step 5 with 2 or more other locations on the body. (I recommend head for one, and then try elbows, knees, shoulders, or other joints).
  7. Using the strings as guides, sketch a rough outline of the person on the butcher paper. As you do this, you will notice that the person is upside down on the drawing. This is because our eyes take things in upside down, and it is then our brain that flips them back up.
our model

the eye (and strings)

the 'back of the eyeball' upside down picture

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thanksgiving week 2, "Committed" and "The Vow"

I don't know if this will continue for all the weeks of thanksgiving this year, but this week as I think over my list of things I'm grateful for, I again find myself pondering over things I have read and seen in recent days.

This week I began reading "Committed: A Love Story" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was recommended by a friend, and I didn't realize when I got it that it was a memoir (I thought it was more of a marriage advice book). Ms Gilbert had been through a really rough divorce, and swore she would never marry again...but then her boyfriend got deported and they realized that the only way they could be together was to get married... and so she spent a year researching marriage (via both reading and doing interviews around the world), to try to warm up to the idea. In the book she contemplates the religious and social functions of marriage, the purpose of it, and the implications. In many ways she gained a more mature view of marriage, and learned a great deal about what makes marriages work (or not), and how to have a healthier marriage for herself on her second time around. One of the major things she discussed was being responsible for her own happiness, rather than expecting marriage to automatically make her life into a "happily ever after," and she went on at some length about accepting each other as whole people, with our grubby parts as well as our shiny ones.

Last night I watched the movie "The Vow" which is based on a Nicholas Sparks book. In the story, a young married couple got in a car accident and she suffered a serious head injury. After she woke up, she had no memory of her husband or their courtship. She had previously cut off contact with her parents, but after the accident she had no memory of that either, and they were only too happy to have her back--and to cut him out. The husband patiently works to court her and try to get her to fall in love with him all over again. What I loved most about the story was not the (perhaps inevitable) happy Nicholas Sparks ending, but that the whole thing is based (I don't know how loosely) on a true story, and that the real couple is currently married with two kids, even though she never did regain her memory.

So, with those things on my mind, here are the things I am grateful for this week:
  1. My husband
  2. That my spouse knows my faults not only likes me anyway, but also helps make up the slack with his own strengths. (We both tend to take up the slack for the other.)
  3. My egalitarian marriage.
  4. The opportunity to be (and support from my spouse in being) a stay at home parent
  5. The opportunity to birth and raise children
  6. My children themselves, both for the fulfillment they bring me, and for the lessons they teach me.
  7. The repeated validation that the most important and worthwhile thing I can be doing with my time and energies right now is to be present with my children, and teach them to love.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why is it all in October?

Today is a microcosm of something I have felt about October in general.

Today is the first ever International Day of the Girl, but it's also National Coming Out Day. With respect for the validity of recognizing both issues, what am I supposed to put on my blog or my facebook page anyway?
(I might abstain, except I actually care about this stuff, about the courage of the people involved, so I want to participate...)

October is breast cancer awareness month. I have family members and friends who have fought breast cancer. October is pregnancy loss and infant loss awareness month; oh boy do I have feelings about that. October is also SIDS awareness month, autism awareness month, domestic violence awareness month, bullying prevention awareness month, fair trade month, German-American heritage month, national popcorn month and national pizza  month. (really!) And those are just the ones I care about.
In addition, there are weeks or days in October designated for focusing on children's books, non-violence, teachers, Leif Erikson, appreciating children, appreciating dead ancestors and friends, the purchase of Alaska by the United States from Russia, and crunchy leaves. (OK, I made up the last one, but it should be real!)

Admittedly, there are awareness months and days all year long. Probably every month is full of something. But October has a disproportionate number of things that I care about. In addition, there is an intense cultural focus on one of those things: Breast cancer. (I'm going to go ahead and guess that this is because our hyper sexualized culture likes any excuse to fixate on breasts, because in spite of the uber-pinkness of a decade of Octobers, we still are not any closer to decent treatments--let alone cures or prevention--of breast cancer.) More women miscarry than get breast cancer, and that's a fact. But breasts are cool and dead babies make people uncomfortable. And battered wives, teenage girls getting shot by the taliban, nine year old brides, slave labor and gay people make people really uncomfortable. So we'll stick with breasts. And maybe the occasional feel-good story about a girl (right here in Kotzebue) who started a movement to stop wearing makeup on mondays.

So let me see, what shall I do this month to try to be more balanced?
I'll read books to my kids.
I'll join the wave of light next monday and light a candle from 7-8 to remember my angel babies (maybe I'll light 4).
I'll hug somebody who is out of the closet.
I'll read and share stories about brave women and girls all over the world who are fighting injustice, speaking up against violence, and holding up half the sky.
I will donate to causes that are helping to educate and uplift those girls and women.
I will snuggle my kids.
I will make pizza and popcorn (and pie, for good measure).
We'll talk about our ancestors and tell stories from their lives.
And if we had any crunchy leaves here, I would stomp on them. But we don't. Before the end of the month though, I'm pretty sure I will have a chance to stomp on crunchy snow, so maybe it's ok.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving week 1, and Half the Sky

This weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.
The US celebrates Thanksgiving in about 6 weeks.
Since I began homeschooling, I spend far less time blogging, which I think is good, but I'm going to shoot for weekly posts during this time (because daily ones are laughably unrealistic!) Every week, I plan to post at least 7 things I am grateful for.

 This week's list is much inspired by the PBS Special Half the Sky (which is available to stream for two more days, and then will be available for purchase via pbs--maybe you can talk your local library into getting it. It was fantastic).
The title "Half the Sky" comes from the thought that half the sky is held up by women. The documentary (which is 4 hours long) is based on a book of the same title, written by a pair of journalists who were writing on economic and political issues in southeast asia, and realized that issue after issue related to women.
I recently heard the statistic that women do 40% of the world's work, but control 1% of the world's money. Throughout the world (especially in third world countries and impoverished regions, but truly everywhere) females are regarded as inferior. Sometimes they are even seen as completely expendable. Everything from gender-based abortions or infanticides to rape, forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, and keeping girls out of school to run the house (so that both parents can work)...the lists are long and painful. In watching the documentary, I was struck by two things: 1--how blessed I am to live where and when I do, and 2--how unconscionably selfish it would be if I did not share of my abundance.

And so, without further ado, this week's list of thanksgiving:

  1. I am grateful to live in a land of plenty, where even though I may get bored with what is available for dinner, I never have to go without dinner.
  2. I am grateful to live in a land where education is readily available to every child, regardless of race, sex, or income, where my parents never had to literally skip meals in order to pay for me to be literate, and where I do not have starve myself to educate my own children.
  3. I am grateful for the education that I have.
  4. I am grateful to live in a family with people with whom I can feel safe, without fear of being abused, abducted, sold, belittled, or held back from my potential.
  5. I am grateful that right now is hosting a sponsorship program, so that every new person who signs up (you can do it via me at this link) can send $25 of microloan to someone (of their choice) at no cost to themselves. If you feel able to do so (and truly, we all should) you can add some of your own money as well. If you do, then when it is repaid to you (often within a few months), you can turn around and re-loan that money to someone else. Kiva is a wonderful and reputable organization.
  6. I am grateful for the way that modern technology makes it so easy to share of our abundance with those who are in need. (Today, via kiva, I helped a woman in Peru buy a cow, a woman in Tajikistan buy a sewing machine, a woman in Albania send her daughter to school, and a woman in Ukraine buy goods for her store...all without having to leave my chair.)
  7. I am grateful for the ability of one person to be a force for good in the world. May I ever be so. May we all be so.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brief Political Musings

I have not written much here about my political thoughts this year. I have brought them up a lot on facebook, but all my blogging has backed off as I focus on homeschooling.
I do want to say a couple of things though.

Firstly, as I have said before, I am an idealist. I am frustrated by the two-party system in the US, as are many people. I have a few thoughts about what would be better (abolishing parties altogether for example, so that candidates would have to make their own statements of belief, rather than just toeing the party platform line), however I continue to believe there is one thing we can all do that (IF many of us will do it) may begin to be a voice for change. That is to vote third party. We have seen small ripples begin in the houses of congress, where "Tea Party" candidates have won elections and begun to push views that are beyond the limited (and remarkably similar) stances of the two biggest parties. Whether you like the Tea Party or not, it must be admitted that this is a voice being heard, and all because people refused to accept "the lesser of two evils" but demanded their right to vote their true conscience.
So I heartily support voting for who you believe in most, regardless of affiliation or statistical likelihood of winning. I realize that our electoral college system will stand in the way of this having much effect on presidential elections (yet), but remember how I'm an idealist? I look forward with hope to a time when that system will be adjusted or abolished. And in the meantime, voting third party CAN make real changes in all the other races.

Secondly, I very strongly urge everyone to consider two things about the issues. Firstly, obviously, the positions taken by the candidates; but even more importantly, which issues are current, pressing, and likely to come up in the next 4 years. For example, regardless of your stance on abortion, our supreme court is so evenly split that I don't see Roe vs Wade getting overturned in the near future. So how much does that stance matter right now? On the other hand, we are currently involved in multiple overseas conflicts, and know that Iran is very close to having nuclear weapons, therefore foreign policy positions and plans seem extremely important at this time.
I have reached the conclusion that, while I side with different candidates on different issues, that I should give more weight to the issues that are likely to be "on the docket" in the coming few years. So, personally, I am most concerned about foreign policy, unemployment, national debt, gay marriage, the environment, and healthcare. (I still care a great deal about abortion, education, etc etc, I just don't see them as likely to get much attention in the near future, due to the long list of more-pressing issues).

So, since it is deeply unlikely that there is a candidate (for any race) who perfectly represents your ideals, I suggest the pragmatic approach of considering what issues are likely to be the center of focus in the next few years, and focus on those in choosing your vote. When I was 18, my first vote was based almost entirely on the one issue I understood (abortion), and I think it grossly limited me. Politics, economics, and social structure are complicated and multi-faceted things, and the responsible voter should consider as broad a slice of the issues as they are able. It is unconscionable, in my opinion, to focus on one or even two issues at the expense of all the others.

A minister in Texas has issued a request for 40 days of fasting, prayer, and action (from now until election day). Regardless of the issues or candidates you favor, I urge you to take this time to consider these things seriously and carefully and not make snap decisions on anything. If you are so inclined, pray for the candidates, pray over the issues, pray for the voters, and for the leaders who are not up for election but who will remain in office over the coming years. Voting is a responsibility which should not be approached casually or haphazardly. We are blessed to live in a place where we have a right to contribute our voice to the political direction of our nation; let us live up to that responsibility.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Uno Math

Today we played a math game with Uno cards. I like Uno cards because the numbers are big and easy to see (unlike face cards), and it is just single digit numbers 0-9 (unlike Rook which goes to 14).

We were practicing numbers, so first we sorted number cards from not-number cards (sorting skills are on the list for kindergarten). We set the non-numbers (the skips, draws and wilds) aside, and played with just number cards.

I dealt out about 5 cards per person (we play open face usually because it's hard for the little guys to hold many cards in their hand), and set out a draw pile (face down) and a play pile (face up).

This game I named "Up or Down or Stay the Same."
To play, look at the card on top of the play pile. Each player may place a card that is up (one bigger), down (one smaller) or stays the same as the visible card. (Kindergarteners are supposed to practice counting both forward and backward from 10). We used the 0 card to be both 0 and 10, so the number sequence was cyclical and there were always 3 potential cards that could be played. 
We started off taking turns but soon turned to everyone just playing a card when they could. Everyone drew one more card if nobody was able to play. With a little help my not-quite 3-year-old got in on the fun too and enjoyed putting down cards.

For younger kids, you can play simply matching games, or counting only up, or play it by color rather than by numbers. An Uno deck has nearly limitless options!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Just another homeschooling day

Selected quotes from the last 30 minutes:

Me: Just a second Eagle, I will color your ears as soon as I am done cutting out Bear's brain.

Wolf: owww! you cut my fingers off! owwwwww!!!...hey look, I can grab the doorknob now.

Bear: Why is my face all bendy?

Me: Whoops buddy, your brain is sticking out of your head

What,  your house doesn't sound like this? Oh, maybe it's because you weren't making body posters and pasting up faces (and brains) because you've just started studying anatomy.

the three posters are on the door/wall/door at the end of our hall.
I couldn't get them all in one shot because it was too dark
(and too wide a frame) but you get the idea.

see the brain behind the face?

Eagle poses with his body poster. He colored that face himself.

now you get Wolf's fingers/doorknob comment, right? ☺

Monday, August 27, 2012

Turtleneck Appreciation Week

A little story

Once upon a time, there was a lovely thing called the turtleneck sweater. It was soft and stretchy, and kept people's necks warm when the weather got cool. It could roll down to cover just part of the neck in the warmer cool weather, and it could unroll for the really cold times. Everyone appreciated turtlenecks,  everyone had them, and everyone was happy.

One day, a Designer got it into his head that turtlenecks looked funny. He cut the turtlenecks off all the sweaters he could find, leaving wide collars and open necks. At first people didn't like it; their necks got cold, they had to use scarves and other extra things to stay warm enough. Where once just the simple turtleneck had been enough, now they needed accessories.

Of course this was good business for the Designers, and so one after another jumped on board with the new look. Low-cut necks! Scarves! Necklaces! What's not to love! Over time, people became so accustomed to the low-cut look that it became considered 'normal.' The rare person who did wear a turtleneck was considered old-fashioned or backward.

But some people remembered what turtlenecks were like. They remembered how soft and comfortable and warm and simple and practical they were. They went on wearing them, and tried to help others realize that the Designers were following whim and income, rather than practicality or common sense. Some people believed them, and even though the vast majority of the population had given up turtlenecks for over a century, slowly they started trying them again. Once someone tried turtlenecks, they almost always became an advocate for them, and so slowly the turtleneck-wearing population increased to nearly half.

The Designers were distraught. How could they make money on accessories if everyone went back to turtlenecks? So they devised a plan. Soon, the prestigious American Academy of Apparel authoritatively declared that turtlenecks were a relic of the past, and that all educated, forward-thinking people should avoid them at all costs.

This is why this week, turtleneck-lovers are uniting to call the American Academy of Apparel on their greedy and unethical behavior.  

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement supporting the routine circumcision of infant males. This flies in the face of ALL competent medical research in the area. No other medical organization in any country recommends routine circumcision. The AAP is motivated by their pocketbooks, not their ethics. (Frankly, the fact that they would make such a statement leaves me with the conclusion that I dare not trust their advice in any area.)

Dr. Bob Block, the current president of the AAP, proudly proclaims “AAP ROCKS” on his open hands in his profile picture on Twitter. In response,  human rights advocates everywhere are protesting him and the AAP by writing our thoughts on our hands and sharing them across the internet (as well writing numerous letters and emails of course). We are "washing our hands of the AAP," and showing the world exactly what we think of the American Academy of Pediatrics and their infant circumcision policy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Finding the Way

We are visiting family in another state right now. Thanks to several weeks away from home at this point, my kids' routines (especially their sleep patterns) are all out of whack. This afternoon we went to church with my sister in law and her family, but Bear (5) and Eagle (2) were really tired, and since mormon church lasts 3 hours, I decided to bring them home in the middle, so that they could get naps.
My sister in law offered to drive us home (we had all come in one car), but it is only a few blocks, so I said no, we would walk home.
On the way  home, Bear got several yards ahead of me (I was walking with Eagle at a slower pace). It's a residential area, with very little traffic, and I wasn't worried about him being quite a ways ahead of me, however he glanced back and saw how far apart we were and came running back.
"I was scared" he said. Scared of being too far ahead of me. Scared of going the wrong direction, because he didn't know how to find his aunt's house.
"It's ok," I assured him, "if you start to go the wrong way I will call out to you to come back to the right way."
"But mom, what if I get too far away and I can't hear or see you?"
"Then I will come looking for you until I find you."
"But mom, what if I am so far away that you can't find me!?"

I thought of the broader life implications as I answered that one. Beyond the few blocks walk back to his aunt's house, I know there will be times in his life (as there all in all our lives) when he feels lost, when he wants or needs direction from someone else. I hope that I can be someone he trusts for that direction, but I also know that there will be times when I cannot be the one he turns to.
So what did I tell him?
I told him that most of the people he will meet in the world are good people. I told him that if he can't find me, and doesn't know what to do, that he can ask someone else and they will help him.
And I believe that that applies more broadly than just our walk home too. There are so many sources of direction (good direction) and help. Sometimes it may be a parent or teacher or neighbor, but sometimes it might also come from a stranger. I have been inspired and directed by things I've read that were written by people I certainly don't know personally, and yet they have affected my life in significant ways. Obviously, we can also find direction and inspiration directly from Deity.
It's nice to have someone to hold hands with. On the other hand, even when there is nobody close enough to hold hands, there is still always someone (or Someone) who can help you find the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Of Hearts, Brains, and Assumptions

If you aren't liberal when you're young, you have no heart. 
If you're not conservative when you're old, you have no brain.

I've heard this several times recently.
I've also noticed that it is always said from old conservative people to young liberal people. In other words, it's something that old conservatives tell young liberals (and tell themselves) to justify the fact that they have changed as they've aged.
It's also pretty patronizing.
Because what I actually hear is this: "well, you're young and emotional, I am sympathetic to your childish feelings. But when you grow up and think about things more, you'll be like me."

How many times does one change in this regard? Because I started out very young as a conservative. It's what I was taught to be. And then in my mid-twenties I became liberal, because I learned more about the complexity of the issues and the world. When my parents were the age I am now, they were conservative... so did they get 'old' prematurely? Or do I get to qualify as 'old' in spite of my liberalism? I wonder, at what point will I be 'old'? President Obama turns 51 this year, and he's liberal. Sarah Palin is three years younger, but she's conservative.

Let us be logical here, political beliefs are not a product of age. They are the product, I think, of priorities. Consider, for example, the simple matter of finance. The average young person has very little money, and might naturally be in favor of things like economical stimulus programs and wealth redistribution. The average older person has significantly more money. They have probably worked hard for it, and they feel entitled to keep it rather than be obligated to share it. So they want to get rid of taxation on capital gains and estates.
A younger person--a poorer person--may be more likely to need assistance from welfare, whereas an older person is more concerned with investments, property taxes, and social security. This is all rational, I don't think less of a person for having different priorities than my own. I do get a bit miffed when they belittle my priorities or (especially) my intelligence.

Please, do tell me what you believe, and why. Tell me why it's important to you. I do care, and I am interested. If you can, give me statistics to back it up (because I find facts to be remarkably convincing). From time to time, new information leads me to change my perspective (that would be how I became the liberal I am today in fact).
But don't pat me on the head with a patronizing "Mother knows best" attitude. Do not belittle me, my mind, or my abilities in that way. Trust that I am capable of feeling--and thinking--rationally and responsibly.
Be willing to appreciate that we can have different interests and priorities, and that that's ok. We can still respect each other. Let's just stop pretending that our differences are a product of maturity or intelligence, because they aren't.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

In the heavens are parents single? 
No, the thought makes reason stare. 
Truth is reason 
Truth eternal tells me

A year or so ago I wrote about my experiences with coming to know Mother in Heaven. Several people subsequently came to me telling me that they had similar feelings or experiences. Others came to me with a different message. "She is sacred," they said, "we should not talk about Her, at least not in public ways. She is too special. It is not appropriate to spread pearls before swine."

Humor me for a moment. Think of a mother that you know. Any mother, but preferably a mother with a lot of kids. Does she consider any of them to be swine? (aside from those little moments when they won't clean up their room or neglect to use a fork...) Would she want them to not know who she was? How about this scenario: some of them get to know her but some of them don't.
Can you think of ANY mother who feels that way about her children?

Speaking as a mother, as someone who knows many other mothers, I cannot.

I believe that our Mother in Heaven is there, is important, and wants us to know Her and know about Her and seek Her just as we do our Father and Brother. I believe that patriarchal cultural norms (including centuries of misogyny) have hidden Mother from many of Her children, but neither She NOR FATHER have ever wanted Her to be hidden from her children. That was and is and continues to be an entirely man-made construct.

While the rampant communication of the digital era has allowed rumors and misinformation to spread, and even allowed sacred things (that should be kept private) to be shouted from the rooftops, it has also facilitated the teaching of important truths to the world. The knowledge of Mother is a plain and precious thing, something that instantly and instinctively feels true to many when they hear it. Some people will reject it, because it us unfamiliar and belief persistence is a powerful thing. But I categorically reject the notion that we should keep this knowledge to ourselves. Mother matters, just as surely as motherhood or women themselves matter. To say otherwise is to practice benevolent sexism.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Assumptions and Attribution, or, In Defense of Wild-Eyed Idealism

"Wild-eyed idealism is noble, wonderful, and impractical. Because we ourselves do good, and because we so ardently want everyone to be good, we think that simple social legislation will enable them to be so. But people don’t do good. People are selfish, and if we don’t make them work, they won’t."
I recently received the following as part of a longer letter from a family member. I've heard this argument from several sources lately, and it seems prevalent among the politically conservative demographic. I'm studying social psychology this term though, and it seems that there is a scientific explanation for this perspective, as well as for my own.
So this was my reply.

Enter social psychology, and the note that the majority of people assume internal attribution for behavior. In other words, the natural human inclination (apparently) is to assume that a person is what he is and does what he does because of who he is (without regard to circumstances). They guy in line ahead of you is slow and bumbling because he's stupid, or lazy, or careless; not because he narrowly avoided an accident getting here, or because he just found out that his wife has cancer.

There are some people (apparently I am one, as I discovered in a class exercise), who tend to be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, and allow for the possibility--even probability--of an external attribution.
The book discussed social politics, in particular the example of welfare, and noted that the typical conservative line is that poor people got there because they were lazy or uncaring (internal attribute), and that they would prefer to just mooch off the system indefinitely. The typical liberal perspective is that people are poor because of lack of education, layoffs, lack of access to training or employment, and other such external attributes. The opinion on that side is that, given a little help, and some opportunities, they will use the system for a time, but ultimately that they want to be independent and support themselves.

So they've collected some statistics. It seems that the average person on government assistance is there for about a year. Then they are gainfully employed and support themselves. I found it interesting that the statistics seem to point much more one direction than the other...

Now I realize that in many cases the real truth is probably somewhere in the middle--that most situations arise out of a combination of internal and external reasons. It's interesting how we displace though. Several members of our family have been unemployed or underemployed within the last few years, and (knowing the specifics), we have all given each other the benefit of the doubt. We have assumed that each was doing the best he could to be employed, and we have prayed for each others' success. I did not hear any judgments about getting WIC, unemployment benefits, medicaid, or food stamps (although I know several of us have done that). Why then do we assume that the people that we don't know are any different from the ones we do know?

Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you (Matt 7:2). Christ taught that, Elder Uchdorf just quoted him a few days ago, with the simple sermon, "Stop It!" Obviously, feel free to vote as you believe is best. But in the meantime, watch your words, and your deeds, and even your thoughts (Mosiah 4:30), because a judgment within your heart is still a judgment.
I dare say this injunction against judgment applies not just to the behavior of individuals, but also to their politics. I feel strongly about my idealistic stances, and I don't think they are impractical. They may be improbable for right now, but wasn't Jesus himself the original wild-eyed liberal idealist? Is improbability (or even impracticability) a reason to give up on those ideals? Jesus didn't. And I may be the most tenacious person I know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I can see clearly now...

Nine years ago I went in for a routine eye exam and came out with a very mild prescription (+0.50 in one eye and +0.25 in the other...). They said I had very good vision, but with a slight astigmatism, and that it would probably get in the way for when I was trying to see details on things, like reading or computer work.
Initially I didn't even get the glasses made, but then I thought of my coming quarter of school (three English classes plus working as a seamstress) and decided to go ahead and get them. I picked out some slender, silver, wire-framed glasses with a "preppy" look that were as invisible as possible on my face. Sure enough, when I spent consecutive hours doing close work, I felt eye strain and the glasses really helped.

Once I was out of school, I put the glasses in their case, and rarely used them. Occasionally (when I was tired, or working at something for many hours) I'd get them out. After several years of marriage my husband came home and saw me with the glasses and stopped dead in his tracks "You have glasses?!" Mmmm, yep, got them before we even met... but that just goes to show how rarely I wore them!

Fast-forward to a few months ago when I started grad school. Textbooks and lots of papers to write led me to get out my glasses on a regular basis. And I started to notice that I needed them, not just that they helped, but that I actually couldn't read or work at the computer very well without them. I noticed that captions on movies were fuzzy, I couldn't read them from across the room. (It's a big shift from the 20/15 vision I had at 10 years old.) Wolf has braces, so every couple of months Hubby or I needs to take him into Anchorage for his next appointment. Last week was my [first] turn, and so I made an eye appointment while I was in town. When we got into town the first night, we got into the rental car and I went to pull out of the parking lot and realized I couldn't read the signs and thought "whoa, I need my glasses for driving!" so I stopped and put them on. The next morning, on the way to the appointment, I grabbed my glasses, but promptly had to stop and take them off because my depth perception was all funky with them on.

The doctor did the exam and said "well, you're farsighted with an astigmatism, so you'll probably notice most when you're looking at close range, such as reading, or when there is glare, such as a computer screen or driving at night." Oh my, this guy was good. "And if you try to wear them just walking around the house, you'll probably stumble because it'll throw off your depth perception."
I guess I wasn't crazy after all.

So I have new glasses. My prescription is up just a smidge (now +0.50 in both eyes), and this time I got hefty plastic frames with no nose pieces and scratch-resistance, so they're a little more practical for someone who routinely has children climbing on her...

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