Monday, July 16, 2018

The Happiness Trap

There are times I feel ready to explode from the stress of (fill in the blank) and before I can even get the words out my husband will say, "Are you just so trapped in happiness that you can't even stand it?"

Truthfully when he does that it drives me nuts. 😂 It's a diverting comment that gets under my skin because it has nothing to do with what I'm trying to talk to him about. But then again...does it?

I think I'm not the only one who keeps searching for this elusive trap of happiness.  Most of the time I can never seem to really find it (at least not in a way where it stays with me for longer than a fleeting moment). But can anyone keep "happiness" longer than that? 

America was founded with the belief that a basic human right is to be free enough to engage in the "pursuit of happiness." So that's what we all do, and yet seem to always be pursuing--like we don't know how to be happy even when we get what we thought we were looking for.

Most religious ideas of heaven seem to include the belief that once you get there you'll be in "a better place"; usually we translate that into "a happy place." But if we were in a realm where we see and understand more, and even where we may be allowed as angels to help the people we love on earth, wouldn't we have to keep pretty busy and wouldn't we be astounded with the depth of pain and suffering that exists on earth? Maybe there's "stress" even in heaven. Maybe the idea that never ending happiness as our end goal is the wrong focus. What if never ending happiness isn't supposed to be our end goal? Maybe it's something different and perhaps our ideas of Heaven are a projection of what we wish we had on earth but it's not necessarily the reality. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not going to be upset if never ending happiness is a reality of heaven. That would be great, and it's okay to hope for that! But I just feel like it's likely so much more complex than that. More complex than our black/white, heaven/hell, happy/sad ideas of a place most living people have never visited. I just feel like if God is all knowing and all feeling, then He sees it all, and He feels it all, the opposition in all things included--the joy the pain, the struggles, the triumphs, and I believe He walks the path with us, so I don't personally believe that even God feels never ending happiness only. 

I recently read Brene Brown's, "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life." (Long title, I know!) The best nugget of all that I found in her book is that happiness is not the same feeling as joy or gratitude. I was sort of shocked when I read it,  but totally relieved when I experienced it. I was having a dark and brooding difficult mama day, and I was anything but happy, but amid my unhappiness I recognized joy in something my kids did that was funny, and gratitude that I could lay sick in air conditioning as opposed to on the streets in 110 degrees. I literally was feeling joy, gratitude, and unhappiness all at once. My mind sort of exploded because I'd only ever believed that if I wasn't happy then I likely wasn't grateful enough. I also used to think joy was the same thing as happiness. But it's not.  Interestingly enough, increased doses of joy and gratitude MAY lead to more happiness, but it's NOT A GUARANTEE!

I also recently read "Codependent No More" by Mealanie Beattie, and the most shocking bit of info I'm still chewing on is that "acceptance" is not the same thing as happiness. I have spent so much time in my life believing that if I could just make it to the acceptance stage of whatever grief cycle I was working on that I'd finally be happy. But that's not true. Acceptance does not equal happiness. 

Now that I am letting go of my faulty ideas of what happiness is or looks like, and now that I'm letting go of trying to keep it as a constant companion, I am allowing myself to feel it when it comes and not shame myself into oblivion when it goes. I'm able to identify other experiences and feelings that need to be recognized and over all I am feeling more fulfilled and content even if I'm not necessarily trapped by happiness like I thought was the goal of my existence. It's almost like I have more happiness since I quit trying to chase it so desperately.

I guess for a long time I have been unwittingly trapped by happiness because I was trapped in unhappiness trying to find it. I was trapped by what I thought happiness should be or should look like or how long it should stay in my life, especially if I had also done x, y, and z to deserve it. I was unsatisfied because I was pursuing something I felt I should have obtained and should have learned how to keep it steady by now. But that's the devilish side of happiness--we get caught in the game trying to keep it and happiness elusively escapes our grasp every time, almost like it's alive and it's going to do what happiness feels like doing and it won't be controlled by any human. So I guess we must be grateful when it comes and we can be grateful even when it goes but that doesn't mean it's going to stay just because we tell it to. 

Today I'm going to look at Happiness sort of like a long lost friend--we pick up where we left off last time and sometimes we have to say goodbye for a season, but just like a best friend, it won't stay away forever. When it goes, it eventually finds a way back. Til' next time, Happiness--I'll catch you on the flip side! 😘

Friday, June 8, 2018

Modern Day Leprosy

Types of Modern Day Leprosy:


       Somewhere along my path to finding the right one to marry, I had soaked in the idea that I'd need to carefully consider my relationships with people who deal with anxiety and depression because those are hard things to deal with and we knew several people whose marriages seemed to fall apart over those things. *Sigh* I fortunately got married to a winner in more ways than one, but let's fast forward to the point in time where I developed hypothyroidism and had anxiety and depression as related symptoms: the cultural message turned on ME. I suddenly became the proverbial and potentially harming factor in my own marriage relationship. Because of my negative perception regarding depression and anxiety, I felt that I was unworthy of love. 


People are so afraid of mental illness and understand so little about it that they'll often try to deny it exists. I overheard a man speaking about his family member who had died tragically in a drug overdose. He made it clear that no mental illnesses of any sort ran in the family. Not trying to judge harshly, but it's not typically a usual event for an overdose after prolonged drug use to have no connection to the individual needing a mental health outlet, right? Technically an OD could happen without other related factors but this was not the case. Are we the kind of society that lives in denial about what we deal with inside until it's unfortunately way too late? Are we so conditioned to being out of touch with reality that we can't even talk about mental illnesses and identify how to help others or help ourselves? I often wonder if it is a worse form of "mental illness" to believe wholeheartedly that it doesn't exist in your own family or in yourself than to openly embrace and accept it when it does.


We read about people with leprosy who historically have had to live in colonies. I could be wrong but I believe they were as feared for WHY they were different as much as whether or not what was different about them would rub off onto others. 

As a teacher today, being different is celebrated in classrooms. It's even pretty well accepted as second nature by most kids to embrace differences. But outside of that environment--both in adult life and online, being different seems to be feared. Differences are used to polarize and vilify the opposite groups into usually faulty "good-guy/bad-guy" stereotypes. People will often unintentionally or intentionally cyber bully others as a reaction to not understanding something they hadn't considered before or first. We feel that we can't hear someone else's perspective because it might change what we think we know or have been so sure of our entire lives. In a very real way for the day and age we live in, being around or getting along with people who are different than we are is as difficult for us now as knowing how to deal with leprosy used to be. 

It's really sad to me the way that we treat each other's as humans when we feel threatened by the things we do not yet understand including depression and anxiety, other mental illnesses, and fearing what it means to be different instead of coexisting in healthy and kind ways. We no longer live in ancient times where it was acceptable for people to battle to the death for sport or isolate others physically as a common practice but aren't we just as barbaric if we do this to each other emotionally? 

We've got to learn how to live and let live, and that includes accepting ourselves when there's something new about us that we've never understood before. We're doing better than before but a Modern Day Leprosy still exists and the only way we can get past it is to understand what we're doing to others and ourselves.

Photo credit:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Someone Says Enjoy this Because...

Mother's in the thick of raising toddlers are pretty exhausted. They may already feel that they aren't cutting it, that they can never meet their childrens' endless list of needs, and that they are not capable of enjoying every moment in all the ways they had planned to when they entered the journey of parenting. 

People who are far past the season of raising young children will typically share sentiments like, "Enjoy it while it lasts," or "The time flies by so fast," or "Remember that one day you're going to miss this."

While those statements may be true they may also drive in the message that if someone is not enjoying every second of a child's potty training accidents, sleepless nights, frustrating tantrums, power struggles, speech delays, sensory needs, financial strain with raising a family, and even lost and forgotten personal dreams, that that parent is failing because their attitude must be in the wrong place as this season is to others the most enjoyable of all.

Now before you say, "That's not what I meant." ...or even before you say, "But all the hard times are worth it because this time with your kids is priceless...."  I want to speak up real quick for the tired moms.

You're so far beyond tired. I hear you. Your fatigue causes a myriad of joy inhibitors. That wasn't exactly what you imagined before you became a parent and that really stinks! You feel like you have to work for 10 hours or more to get a rewarding moment with your child that only lasts 10 seconds long before it's over. You want to put your child in extra-curricular activities so they can find themselves, but you don't often have the time or resources. You want to give your child the world, but it's too much to give and you feel disappointed because you lose a dream every time you can't give your child what you wish you could give them. I feel all of that with you, because I'm there.

The last couple years of child raising have been so hard for me that even tho I never thought I'd never say it, I'm actually grateful my kids are growing. I am not physically or mentally capable of maintaining this stress level for the rest of my life so I know the Lord is good to us that children do eventually grow up. 

My message to you is that it isn't always going to be this bad. Nothing lasts forever--everyone knows the good times can't last forever (they're only 10 seconds long, right?), and the blessing of that message is that even the bad times won't last forever.

I know you're cherishing these days, because I do, too--10 hours apart and 10 seconds at a time. It's a cryin' shame the joyful moments aren't closer together. The rest of the time I'm just paddling upstream, wondering why I thought it was a good idea to trap myself in a life with so much responsibility. Most of the time I question how on earth I thought I could handle having so many kids. Most of the time I wonder if there will ever be an end to the stress and duress, an end to disappointment of comparing reality of the mother I am compared to the mother I'd hoped to be, or an end the chaos overload. I'm pretty sure there will be some end--and at the end of it, will be a short little nugget of joy that I will not need help being told to enjoy because I will have worked my buns off in order to earn it. Like my twinners' Kindergarten graduation last week. I really enjoyed that. I cried. I beamed. I was so proud of my kids. I ate up their funny faces and cute dance moves. I smiled and took a million pics. I hugged my kids and squoze them tightly. I lived and LOVED that moment with my babies like no other. And then at the celebration after school my kids started fighting so my day turned suddenly back to the grind of mothering. That shift happened sooner than I planned. I had no control over their whining and crying. The joyous feeling everyone was sharing together came to a screeching halt and I had to teach them on the spot: the notorious work of a parent in order to earn another moment in time that would later be joyous for me.

It came today--that new happy moment to cherish. The kids made a fort out of the kitchen table and we weren't actually able to eat our dinner on it. 🤣 It made me laugh. They're so creative. They even cooperated with each other with no glitches (#win). When our house is clean they change it and make it "better". Nothing is allowed to be boringly sterilized or magazine worthy around these parts. Crazy little humans (I adore them).

So Mamas in the trenches (and Papas)--I'm here with you and for you. I have NOT forgotten just how rotten and exhausting these days can be. I'm going to pray for you (and for me) that the hard times shorten and the good times lengthen. But we're only going to get there "One Day at a Time". I know you eat up and treasure those priceless moments. Who wouldn't?  When you're feeling like crud, tho, just remember you have permission to NOT enjoy the throw up, boogers, potty accidents, screaming, whining, financial stress, anxiety, sticky stuff on your clothes, and whatever the heck else your mountain to climb is right now. 

Just know that you're going to get over that mountain someday and so will I.  You're rocking it Mama! I'll see you on the flip side.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shiblon Syndrome Vs The Corianton Course

(By Guest Author Mitch Borden)

In the book of Mormon there is a story of a prophet named Alma who is the son of another prophet named Alma.  The second Alma is often called Alma the younger.  He had three sons, Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton.

For most of my adult life I have been a big fan of Shiblon. I wanted to be like Shiblon. When Alma the younger was about to die and giving final counsel to his sons; Helaman who was to be the next prophet received lots of  spiritual counsel and instructions, Corianton who had been wayward received a loving rebuke and lengthy instructions, and Shiblon got a verbal pat on the head equivalent to a 'good-boy'. I wanted to be Shiblon. 

I certainly didn't want to aspire to leadership or to be in the limelight. 

And I didn't want to screw up big time like Corianton I just wanted to do what was right and hope that someday somebody would tell me I've done a good job. That was my quiet secret desire. So much so that when I heard someone praising Shiblon I was jealous. He was MY hero. I, I was going to be like Shiblon, not this guy  speaking at the pulpit.

Now let me change direction briefly and I will come back around to Shiblon.

Have you ever felt that you're not good enough? Like no matter how hard you try you always fail. Have you ever felt completely insufficient? Have you ever felt worthless that you will never measure up? Do you feel like your best just isn't good enough? Well let me put all of your questioning to rest. You aren't! You aren't good enough you are insufficient you will never measure up. And it's ok. That is the message of the Gospel. Or rather; that is why the gospel message exists. That is why I need Christ. Because I have spent nearly 2 decades trying to be like somebody I know nothing about (Shiblon.)

Shiblon probably screwed up every day of his life. I can say that because I truly believe Jesus Christ is the only perfect being to ever walk the face of the earth. I imagined that Shiblon was near perfect and I was hoping to be like him. That if I could try a little harder and be a little better and sin a little less that I could receive somebody's quiet praise "good job."  But that is all a lie. I'm calling it the Shiblon syndrome. I think an overwhelming number of us are guilty of it. Cause we build up somebody we don't really know in our minds to be something they aren't and then judge ourselves for not being more like the fictitious version of somebody else. I'm done with that. I no longer want to be like Shiblon. I can be happy being like Corianton.  Corianton made mistakes, we know that because at least some of them are right there in black-and-white for everyone to read. Well I have made mistakes too. I am far from being the perfect fictitious version of Shiblon I held in my mind. But just because I have fallen short and I'm not good enough or worthy on my own does not mean the story ends there. 

As I said earlier this is why we have the gospel message this is why God sent his only son. Even though I've spent my life being taught this and have taught it to others for years and years; I am just barely really appreciating the fact. That until I accepted my own broken status. And my shortcomings and limitations I can never have the peace that he offers. I've held myself to the inaccurate belief that since I have accepted Him and repented that I need to be perfect now. I am so far from it. I am so acutely aware of my imperfections I get uncomfortable and it bothers me when I am praised for some bit of good I may have done. Because no matter how much I sacrifice, no matter how many profanities I refrain from shouting,no matter how much perceived good I do I am still imperfect in so many ways. The truth is I am insufficient. The truth is I am incapable of being better on my own.  But He, HE is capable. He is capable of taking sinners like me and Corianton and making us more. 

 There's a famous verse in the book of Mormon that says if all men were like Moroni (a spiritual and military leader alive at the same time) then the very powers of hell would be shaken forever. Less famous are the following verses that say that Helaman and his brothers were no less serviceable to the people. Did you hear that? Helaman' brothers Shiblon the good boy middle child and Corianton the sinner.  Corianton who is most famous for messing up, repented and became a force for good as strong as Shiblon, Helaman and Moroni.  I am abandoning the Shiblon syndrome of judging myself by an imaginary perfect person. And instead I'm trying to recognize that I am on what I will call the Corianton course.  I don't need to be perfect today. I would like to be, but for now I will have faith in Christ that he can turn me into who he would have me be.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Day we Gotcha

The first time I saw you, you put your face to the sky, because that's how high I was to you. You grinned the most hopeful, don't-you-think-you-could-love-me smile.

We went to a really fun park. All the kids ran up a hill together, giggling with a ball. The sun was shining. It was like the Sound of Music. It felt like heaven. I swear there were rays of light all in our eyes from the sun rays in the sky. It felt like a movie scene. Mitch and I looked at each other in the moment. We both felt it. "THIS. THIS is what we were searching for. We found our kids."

Everything went perfectly and Big Sis started calling the boys "bruthuhs" but towards the end Little Sis had her first running episode. A glazed look came to her face, she paused, and ran straight for the road. A car was coming. Strange (I thought) for a kid her age. I later learned that some kids with Autism are "runners". Sometimes it happens when they have a sensory overload and in this case an emotional overload, too.

One of the first times you came into our house to visit, Little Sis, you were timid. Emmett showed you our pink unicorn. You warmed up to play and eventually jumped excitedly and soared thru the air. You overshot the unicorn and bonked your head on the tile.... You also wanted to swing. For like ever. I looked at Mitch. Should I keep pushing her on the swing? He grinned patronizingly, "Haha, are you going to be her mom or not? You get to swing her for AS LONG AS SHE WANTS!" It was forever. Like seriously forever that you wanted to swing--another sensory cue that I would later understand for Little Sis.

We pushed you in a stroller and went to the hot dog stand as a family. You got a shake.

Big Sis was like the perfect little child. Followed every rule. Didn't cry. Later I would understand that was an attachment issue. She was in shock with this life change and the real hell didn't manifest itself until a few months later which I have found out was fortunate that the awakening and her breakdown came so soon. Many adoptive families experience that up to years later, but we were able to start therapies sooner than most.

The first night you stayed with us, you couldn't sleep Little Sis. You kept running around. You were scared and crying. You were confused, sad, and angry. You cried so much that finally in the middle of the night I took you for a ride because nothing would help you calm down. Not singing. Not a movie. Not holding you. You were a solid, bright, and "old" kid it seemed but you were acting like an 18 month old baby, but worse. Much worse.  We drove to help you calm down but you were screaming. You wanted your other mom. You wanted your other bed. Where were they? Why weren't they with you? You were hurt, scared, and mad. I felt it all with you. I cried with you. I tried to soothe you. Nothing worked. I finally turned to look at you during a red light. Desperately and emphatically I was trying to explain, but you couldn't hear me until I yelled it as loud as you were wailing:  "I'M ANGRY ABOUT ALL OF THIS, TOO! THAT'S WHY I'M HERE! I'M GOING TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES; I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU BECAUSE I LOVE YOU! NONE OF THIS SHOULD HAVE EVER HAPPENED TO YOU! I AM MAD ABOUT ALL OF THIS, TOO!!!"

You listened enough that something changed in your face, but you were still crying. I drove longer and you finally calmed down with the vibration of the car seat. I dreaded the moment you'd be jostled enough to wake up and realize again that you were in yet again another home. How could you trust any adult in your life ever again? They all let you down. 

You woke up when I took you inside. I fell asleep before you did as I held you because with the emotional and physical exhaustion I simply could not manage to stay awake. It was the middle of the night and I left the front door open, the car door, and your big brother was still inside. God woke up your dad. Literally. I had tried calling him on the way home during the screaming fits. Nothing woke him up. He was beyond tired too and in shock. It was God who woke up your dad. Big brother got carried in. The door got locked. 

The next day your voice was gone. You had cried so much in anguish over what you knew was happening to your life. "Mine mouth broke," you whispered raspily.

The first legal day we "got" you, I met your relatives. Your case was in part joined with your brothers. We had small talk. I sat in the court room. Birth mom was in heaven, and birth dad abandoned. I looked over and saw your young teenage brothers resolutely sitting there. They heard everything I heard the judge say, and I watched them take it ALL like men. Little men. Too young to be these fierce kind of men. They had lived the hell that lead up to this moment, so they were not showing emotion. Maybe they were numb to it by now. I was the only one crying. I had previously served as an alternate juror on a lengthy murder trial. The months of jury service and the weight of that experience was the worst I had seen in court UNTIL those 20 minutes when your birth parents rights were severed and when your brothers who were kids themselves had to be men. NOTHING else I'd been through compared to the intense sadness, and horrific emotion that came into my heart and soul the day my children were legally free for adoption.

Your dad and I decided that we would not let you into our home as a placement unless we had decided to keep you beforehand. If we could help it, we weren't going to do that to a kid. We wanted to be in it NO MATTER WHAT. Of course nothing is final for anyone until the adoption happens… So we couldn't promise you completely that you would never have to go anywhere else until it was legally done.  That window of time was trying because no offense you are the hardest children we've ever had the pleasure of raising. But it's because you've been through the hardest things. Only one week after you moved in, I started to crumble. 

 I called your dad and voiced the terrible things inside of me: "I can't do this. Is it too late to turn back now?" He said, "Yes it's too late. We CAN do this and we ARE doing this. We're doing this TOGETHER."

We were here for you no matter what.

Once that choice was really made and tested, God reminded me:

Little Sis was the angel who told you in a dream what her name would be before you could have kids. You lost 3 babies and thought you'd never have one, but you had a dream and you were told her name and here she was--bearing the same name from your dream.

Then God reminded me. When you were pregnant with your third boy and you knew without a doubt you were having a girl, that was the same month birth mom was pregnant with Big Sis.

A lot of miracles and a lot of struggles brought our lives together so that you could be my child and I could be your parent. Your dad had steady faith along the path of uncertainty that led us to you and he held us all up through our doubts and dark days.

Now it's been one year since we legally "gotcha".

That day was magical….Just like the day at the special park. Adoption Day actually changed our household. The judge let Big Sis hold the gavel and say "This case is this dismissed."  Something connected and it changed you. You both started doing things you wouldn't do before--simple things like being more obedient. You acted more calm. Something settled in your heart and soul and ours too. You were finally ours. You could believe our promise that you were going to stay.

Things didn't get completely better like everyone believes adoption can  magically do. Most of our days have still been dark as we continue this uphill journey together.

But I am learning a lot from you. I am learning how to love the people that did this to you. I'm learning to accept you for your whole story and not wish it had never happened. I am learning how to be grateful for the hard things that happened because without the hard things that happened I wouldn't actually have you.

But it still hurts because no one should ever have to go through what you did. 

Somehow God has blessed (or cursed) me to feel what you are feeling so that I can understand you. Somehow God has blessed (or cursed) my path with painful awareness in my own struggles to show me many ways that I actually relate to you. Somehow God has shown me how to understand and relate to the people that you still love because they are a part of you. I have developed secondary PTSD and secondary trauma in the process of helping you work through your primary trauma and PTSD. The journey for wholeness is happening slowly, and also in magnificently personally eye opening ways, but we really are getting better. We're getting better together.

I think I really can say now that I wouldn't change the story. You don't ever have to say that, tho. Every day I see your hearts' deepest struggles to accept us as your parents and to accept what's happened to you. I want you to know that I will love you no matter what and that everything you feel is okay. I don't have to be jealous of you or who you love or what you wish for. I don't have to be jealous that your heart actually belonged to somebody else before it belonged to me. But I do know you were my child before you came to me and that we have a very special spiritual connection that's shared only between us and it transcends whose womb or home you were in before you were able to be called mine. 

Savage Garden's song comes to my mind: "I knew I loved you before I met you. I think I dreamed you into life." When people say dreams really can come true, you are my proof. 

Every birthday, holiday, and life event for you includes extreme emotions of joy and pain at the same time. No reason in the world is good enough to cause a child that much pain. But you live with this and that’s just what you do. 

You have taught me so much about what it means to be human. What it means to feel. What it means to overcome. What it means to fight. Every day you fight the way your brain was wired. Wired for fear, for abandonment, and for loss. You’re strong and independent. You’re teaching me how to be independent, too. Some days you might be the death of me but simultaneously you’ve given me new life, too.

We want to throw a party and talk about the miracles, love, and blessings that brought our lives together, but that brings all the bad back too. So our gift to you is to let it be like you’re a kid who doesn’t have to worry about deep past hurts. We're not really going to talk about Gotcha Day even tho it's really special.

We’re at the splash pad with you and you’re dumping water on me. The little boy at the table next to us is giggling because you’re rambunctious and funny. You’re impulsively smearing sunscreen all over your arms and rubbing it in like crazy because that’s what you do. It looks like I have to teach you girls to not be wet before applying sunscreen.

Normalcy. Simplicity. A plain and regular day. That’s our gift to you today.

I could never adequately explain to you how much your dad, your brothers, and I love you.

Happy “Gotcha Day” to our dreams come true.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Red For Ed bringing Historical Focus to AZ Education

Before the local districts decided to close schools for safety in the event of the upcoming walkout, I was planning to go to work because I can't afford to not be paid when I have 6 kids and need the steady paycheck. One of my closest co-workers reminded me there are single parents and couples who BOTH get their incomes from their school positions. My fears compared to what they'd have to face paled in comparison. Once our superintendent explained how a school closure would be handled, it basically answered every personal fear I was facing (including my own internal conflict of wondering if my motivation to stay in school was selfish or even justifiable when compared to my deeply rooted feelings on the situation at hand) and I realized AGAIN that I have something amazing at my job. I also know that it's NOT like this everywhere in AZ. There are teachers who will face legal action and job loss. There are laws and people above them who manipulate them OUT OF using their voice to positively influence the very topics and passions they spend their lives devoted to teaching. BECAUSE my school will be closed down, I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY to stand FOR the teachers in AZ who do not have what I have. And I am happy--excited even--to stand for them. Only 3 weeks ago this was something I didn't think I could do. But tomorrow, there will be teachers and students who CANNOT stand.  I will be at the Capitol FOR THEM and their situations.

Many people have made harsh and judgmental statements about the AZ teachers at this time, but they have no idea what it looks like from the inside of an AZ classroom or in the day to day, moment to moment battle to engage and inspire students. 

Many people are angry about the school closure. First let me empathize with you: I will not be able to send my own children to school either. I'm in the same boat with you, and my own family vacation plans are ALSO being affected by each day the strike lasts. My personal income may also be affected depending on the unknown factors at this time.

The current state of education in Arizona is FINALLY BAD ENOUGH and has lasted in this sub par condition for LONG ENOUGH that the collective personal discomforts and statewide inconvenience combined is actually LESS THAN what is believed could be gained for Arizona at this time--gained even for people who are incensed about the very idea of a teacher strike.

The current state of educational funding has finally lasted long enough that teachers are no longer divided among each other down the middle about needing real change. It didn't used to be this way. There used to not be enough support or courage among the teaching community to even be able to do something like what you see happening in AZ now. Not 10 years ago. Not 5 years ago. Not even a year ago. 

While there are differing opinions in education even on the current topic, there is an overwhelming majority that believes the time to address these needs is now. That's why this is the time. And it's about time.

It's about time to see this kind of unity on a bipartisan topic. Unity that will benefit our kids. Unity that if it had existed 10 years ago COULD have helped children who are facing problems now that are too late to change. Unity that we need to model for the children who are in our classes now.

If you are newly frustrated with the current situation of education in Arizona, we are glad that you are finally taking part in discussions that we've been trying to solve and work on for years. We are glad that many people are being exposed to the hideous things that are happening with the funding--both at the state levels and the local levels of government. We are glad that social media posts (even the ones against #RedforEd) are beginning to scratch the surface of the iceberg that affects so many. We are grateful people are finally hearing about the battles we have been facing the whole time we have been in this profession. Thank you for being with us in the discomfort.

And before you judge the teacher walk outs and the character of the professionals so harshly, try to remember that a short term inconvenience might bring our state a long term solution. For those of you who are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of rearranging school schedules even for just a couple days… Please remember that it is the teachers that you are mad at who have put the students first and made plans to accommodate every single child and every single variant circumstance that they could think of. The teachers you are furious with are still the ones taking care of the kids--they've arranged for students who rely on the food programs to still get it--they've personally delivered it, even. The teachers you judge for walking out (whether they had the choice to go to work or not on those days) are also the ones re-planning school events and field trips, providing new sites for daycare, meeting with legislators, along with having their own largely emotional concerns at this time. 

Tomorrow is not a paid day and it is also NOT a day off. There is NOTHING easy or stress free regarding the collective choice to have a school closure or walk out. It's a bigger deal than you can imagine and all the while that you've been mad at your teachers they are still working as hard as they can to meet your kids' needs under great stress. 

No one is walking "out" on your kids. 

Stand with us AZ. Something historic for education has finally happened in the state of Arizona. Let's take this where it needs to go. Let's do what we need to do for our kids and the professionals who work directly with them. Let's not drop out of being aware of our local School Board choices and the transparency of our state tax funds again. Stay involved with us and maybe it will get better for all of us.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Was Joseph Smith a Rat or a Good Guy? I am Ready to Talk About It.

I listened to a speaker who had promised herself she'd write a book called "The Rats of The Old Testament", so when the day came that she was asked to write a book in the area of her expertise regarding healing childhood trauma she first scribbled out a short book about "the rats" to fulfill a promise to herself. As I listened to her brief thoughts on "rats", I got to thinking.


Who are the rats in the Bible? They're usually the good guys that let us down. At some point they demonstrated faith and valor and had so much strength that maybe we thought they were superhuman, but then something major happened and we realized they had flaws. But the flaws were not just minor. They were THE BIG ONES, the REALLY BAD NO-NO FLAWS.

Let me elaborate:


I can still hear the sound effects my dad would make telling me one of my most favorite bed time Bible stories in my childhood. He made the most glorious whooshing noise as he reenacted the sling that shot the smoothest of stones right between Goliath's eyes. Had there ever been so much faith in God demonstrated by anyone in the world as there was by the David who slew Goliath? Probably not. I still adore that David. But you know? That's the SAME David who lusted after the naked and bathing Bath-Sheba even tho he was married and she was married. Do you know what he did in order to hide adultery? He tried to cover up that he had sex with her by summoning her husband back home from war but the husband wouldn't come, so just short of getting his own hands dirty with blood, King David orchestrated the MURDER of Bath-Sheba's husband. Uriah died in the front lines of battle so that David could marry Bath-Sheba and make her pregnancy "acceptable." Despicable to say the least. David became a RAT!

I guess it turns out David needed Jesus just like the rest of us.

You know there's something else ironic about this story. Jesus himself (the King of Kings) was born out of King David's line of genealogy. But NOT the morally sanctioned lines. Jesus came from the posterity of the adulterously and murderously tainted bloodline created by David and Bathsheba.  

I have wondered: Couldn't this world provide our Savior with anything better? Apparently not. 

I used to be annoyed that the adulterers were rewarded with the Savior (of all people) on their line of posterity. Why weren't the people who made good choices rewarded with Jesus in their line?

But I don't think this sequence of events happened by coincidence. If God is real, if Jesus is real, if the Word is real, then there's a message that Jesus came to us and FOR us even in the most rotten of all of our sins.

Another quick example before I get to my main points: Let's think about JUDAH--as in the revered man who started the tribe of the Jews--the one the Bible's writings are named after referring to "the stick of Judah". THAT man had sex with a harlot, but not just any harlot, it ended up being HIS DAUGHTER IN LAW (soooooo sick and wrong). They had not just one child but TWINS came from that encounter! Judah was a RAT. Yuck. And let's not even mention how he treated his little brother.

How interesting that Jesus himself bears the title, "King of the Jews". It turns out that Jesus' genealogy is ALSO tied to the posterity that came from Judah and his daughter-in-law who "played the harlot".

So let's get on to Joseph Smith: The prophet of the restoration. The boy who saw angels, who even saw God the Father and the Son. The boy who braved getting his leg cut into without alcohol for anesthesia and who cared more about his mother not being in the room than his own pain. The boy who with little education miraculously translated ancient text from the Golden Plates that became the Book of Mormon and whose influence transformed a portion of the Christian world into what's become a world wide church with millions of members. The man who never turned back on his testimony, who lost children to exposure because of the mobs and persecution who tarred and feathered him in the bitter cold (but he still stood to preach a sermon the next morning in extreme internal and external pain). The one who DIED IN THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS as a martyr beside his brother Hyrum. THAT Joseph Smith. 

There is a scripture prophesied that says "good AND evil will be spoken" of him.  But here is my question to you: WHAT IF the evil spoken of Joseph Smith (whether blown out of proportion or not) were true? WHAT IF it were true to ANY degree?

A lot of eyebrow raising things have been said of him. Mostly about polygamy. That he was in it for sex. That men were sent away on missions so the church leaders could steal and marry their wives and the younger women. That people in the church were actually punished for not wanting to be polygamous. Not to mention that radical offshoots of the Mormon faith have produced individuals like Warren Jeffs. That polygamy was used to subjugate, manipulate, and control women, and there are even journals to prove it.  These are the uncomfortable things that have been said about the beginning days of a church and people that I belong to and dearly love.  It hurts to hear these things. 

Because I practice being honest I'll say that I have never liked the idea of polygamy or it's association with my religion and I have also never fully understood it. Some explanations people give to justify or make sense of it have just made it feel even worse to me. I've also had irrational fears associated with how I understood certain scriptures and concepts related to polygamy. I've had the abstract idea that polygamy could affect me at some point of my life or even after this life (even if only in the event of my death and husband's potential remarriage OR in the event that the scripture about 7 women needing claim to 1 man might be fulfilled in my lifetime since after all we are taught that we live in the "last days"). Those ideas and others affected choices I made in dating and marriage and the topic has tried my faith. When I was 19, as a church institute scholar and eventual graduate, after studying the Doctrine and Covenants in depth, I deliberately wanted to know (but purposely refrained from asking God) if polygamy would ever be required of ME because I FEARED so DEEPLY that the answer would be yes. I knew if I prayed God WOULD tell me, so 14 years ago I chose NOT to pray about it. I even remember where I was when I made the decision to not ask God at that time. I was terrified of the "yes" answer that I believed would surely come because I clearly understood what was written in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding the nuances of "the new and everlasting covenant" vs "a new and everlasting covenant." I didn't need the 80 page document that circulates the internet to understand that nuance because I understood what was implied by those passages because I studied the scriptures in depth.

It wasn't until recently (as in a few months ago) that I was brave enough to talk to God about it. To finally tell Him about my anger and upset on these religion related issues. The distinct impression I got back from Him was, "If you're that afraid of me, then you don't know me."

That was a personally pivotal answer that changed the way I looked at things. Thank goodness our God is not a respector of persons--not of race, and certainly not of gender.  

Everyone on this earth may end up walking a path that brings them suffering, and horrible things do happen to good people, and sad stories may be written of anyone at any point in their life, but Christ can take any of our stories and any of our heartbreaks and turn it into something good later. God himself is not the one who manipulates anyone to do anything to anyone else. Forcing people into situations they don't want to be in sometimes happens because of circumstances we cannot control or because of the choices of others, and when we're stuck in a situation like that is sometimes when God helps us the most but if we believe God wants to manipulate us then maybe we don't know Him. 

So back to the point of all of this. Did Jospeh start polygamy for sex? 

It's been argued that because he didn't have babies with anyone besides Emma, and because he was definitely fertile, it's likely that he didn't have sex with all of them and possibly none of them besides Emma. But we live in a day where we understand that there are many ways to be sexual besides the traditional way that makes unfortunately having no offspring from other wives may be EVIDENCE but CANNOT actually PROVE that he didn't have sex with them. 

If he did have sex with more women than Emma, does that make him a rat? 

Some say yes.

Some say no.

I say I hope not, and I don't really think so, but since we cannot prove either way, I feel that IF HE WAS a "rat" as has been defined above, then he would be in good company with the other rats in the scriptures. It would mean he needs Jesus, just like the rest of us. It would mean he needs Jesus just like David did. Just like Judah. Just like you. Just like me.

It's possible that perhaps back in those early days some things were taken a little out of context by an overly zealous and eager group of people who were anxious to serve the Lord (maybe even blindly). And even if some subjugation of women happened BECAUSE of polygamy, even if some sexism happened and still lingers in some circles still today, and even if some unrighteous dominion happened or still happens, EVEN IF there has been a negative ripple effect from this topic there are still good things to be found within and because of the LDS church and its people too.

There are many things that I don't know and can't prove about controversial and historical moments in my church's history, but one thing I do know is that the church I belong to has blessed my life tremendously. 

I have had personal and miraculous blessings because of the priesthood. I can say that my life path as a member of the church has been a necessary part of my personal path to find God, even tho I do believe God will make himself known to the pure in heart no matter what walk of life they are in.

Because the message of the restored gospel is beautiful, Joseph Smith is highly esteemed among Latter-Day Saints. But this can be tricky territory for most members who don't want to hear anything bad of him (even tho it was prophesied bad things would be said), because if you think he is so superhuman that he wasn't human, if you think he did no wrong, then when you find out or finally allow yourself to question the evil that has been spoken of him and if there were in fact ANY TRUTH to the evil that was spoken, it is likely to make you wonder if there is any truth whatsoever to anything you have ever been brought to believe. 

Personally, I don't think that kind of crumbling is a bad thing, though. It is a necessary experience in order to help all of us find out who Jesus really is to each of us. We need to have our faith and trust centered on Jesus Christ alone and in a personal way. 


I believe God uses broken people all over the world to accomplish His work. 

I am pretty sure that God ONLY has broken people to work with. Unfortunately some of the people who do the greatest work for Him can also be some of the people whose choices can cause the greatest harm. It may not always be intentional. 

I personally do believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and the Son. I do believe the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture, and I do believe that he was the prophet of the restoration who the Lord used to bring the priesthood and its ordinances back to the earth.

I know he was human though, and so are all people. I CANNOT and do not care so much about the answers to this particular controversy regarding the prophet of the restoration (for good or for evil). I especially cannot worry about it to the point that it becomes an ultimately deciding factor in keeping me in or out of the Mormon church and here is why: If I think Joseph Smith was a perfect person and then in research find out that he wasn't and then drop everything in my faith, then that means this whole time I believed (or that I was taught to believe) in Joseph Smith MORE THAN Jesus. It could also mean that I believed in perfectionism more than Jesus (which in my eyes could be a type of putting 'other gods' before the One I worship). I can emphatically say that that is not what my parents were trying to teach me by raising me in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

I can say the domino effect of polygamy in my church's history has affected me personally even being generations away from it, but I cannot focus on that. JUST LIKE I cannot focus on David's fall to negate the positive message I learned from the time he slew Goliath. Just like I cannot worry about the mistakes of others in the Bible--I still read the Bible even though it is considered to be "the stick of Judah", and even though Judah wasn't very nice.

There are good choices and bad choices recorded in all of history. 

There are quality moments and blinding imperfections in my own life. 

But I believe in Jesus Christ alone. I do believe that he came to save us all. He came for worst of us, for the best of us, and He walks all of our paths WITH us. He knows us. One of the most beautiful things that Jesus Christ does is give us a promise that someday all the hurt that was caused by the choices of others will be made right… Even if they were people who were well respected or well revered or even people who were not well known....  Someday all of the pains whether intentional or unintentionally afflicted on others will be made right again. Because of this everything that's been said for good or evil about Joseph Smith, no matter what may be true or not true of all the claims made, I cannot care about the details of that moment in time more than I care about Jesus' grace and ability to fix it someday.

I'm here to say that Joseph Smith, David, and Judah are individuals who are no better or worse than I am. 

I want Jesus to call my name. I want Him to call theirs. I want Jesus to heal every person in this world, and I trust in Jesus Christ more than anyone else in history. Jesus is the ultimate Good Guy. He takes our good deeds and makes them more than what we could have made ourselves. He can do His work through broken people and despite blinding imperfections BECAUSE Jesus is the One who paid the price for the Rat inside of us all.

(Picture from LDS Media Library)


1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 11, Genesis 38, Joseph Smith History, Isaiah 4:1, Doctrine and Covenants 132