Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some of My Thoughts Lately

1) My "baby" of 12 months nurses as much as a 3 month old. It's weird and uncharacteristic of my children. I think maybe she just doesn't like food.

2) I know a lot more about insurance than I ever wanted to... this is good because writing insurance policies pays well. It's annoying because insurance is possibly one of the most boring things ever. However, Brad asked, "Would you rather write insurance or watch the stock market?" Yeah, I'd much rather write insurance. At least I get to check out cool houses.

3) I'm halfway horrified, halfway amused by the fact that my almost 5-year old daughter seems to be suffering from a constant hormonal imbalance. I am not even exaggerating when I say that you can't even look at her wrong without sending her fleeing the room in tears. Holy smokes! Someone please tell me teenagers are NOT this bad. I don't think I can take any more of this! Yesterday she had a headache and I swear, if she weren't only 4, I'd think she was PMS-ing. It was THAT BAD.

4) Writing novels set in fictional or even historical settings is WAY harder than writing novels set in current non-fictional settings. Just saying. You have got to have your ducks in a row. J. R. Tolkien probably experienced a similar stress, and, in my opinion, failed miserably at making sure he balanced story-telling with setting-description. I find his books booooooring because I really don't care about the history of the Elvish language or how the Hobbits immigrated to the Shire. *Yawn* But at least I have an appreciation for how hard it is to create a new setting for your reader to hang out in while at the same time entertaining them.

5) Every day I think, "A single-wide trailer is just not big enough for a family of 6." I've had to get used to a bit of clutter all the time because there is just not enough space to store everything.

6) I CANNOT get enough of the North Dakota sky. It's mesmerizing. I may complain about a single-wide trailer but the location of said trailer is spectacular because it is just outside of and up higher than the rest of the town which means I get an uncluttered, unspoiled, and unblocked view of the sky any time I want. I used to think you couldn't get any better view of the majesty of creation until I experienced this SKY. The sunrises and sunsets are lovely but my favorite is when the sky is littered with huge dollops of cumulus cloud and the sun bathes the tops of them and they become outlined in gold and silver. Sometimes, when there are too many, you get the sun ray effect where you can literally see the sunbeams penetrating the cloud cover. We've all seen this effect but picture it across an endless landscape. Because there are no trees or really even buildings to block one's view, you can see the suns rays peeking through the clouds for miles. I don't think I will ever get tired of it.

This is not the sky that I describe, obviously, but this the only picture I could find... Yeah, I'm not a photographer and it's a miracle when I have a camera actually on me. Still, this blue is amazing, is it not? This is from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

7) I kind of cheated last night on my raw cleanse because I had a serious craving for rice and beans. So I made some and ate them with some cilantro and tomatoes. I think the best thing about limiting yourself like this is just being able to taste food more. Usually rice and beans don't hold that kind of sway over me. I mean RICE. BEANS. Not exactly gourmet food. But because I have been severely limiting how much I incorporate them into my raw diet, I thought they were heavenly. It was a treat. I love when I can look at healthy food that way.

8) I'm successfully maintaining almost-tv-free parenting. The kids only get it once a day when Keshet naps in the morning and a lot of the time they forget to ask to watch because they're doing other things. I love it! I am a little nervous about winter though and having them all cooped up inside when it's 15 below. Have I mentioned this trailer is small?? We'll see. I'm going to have to get creative I guess.

9) I start school on the 11th of June! Yay!

10) I am in the primary presidency now. Holy wow does church go by fast! It's just go go go for the last 2 hours and it's really funny after we get in the car after church, I'm kind of starved for adult lessons so I always ask Brad about his lessons in Sunday school and Priesthood. I always want the play-by-play and I really look forward to that after church. It's so nice to know I have that hunger for spiritual nourishment.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chapter 3: Unrequited Love

So Brad and I became friends. We hung out, on occasion, worked together and enjoyed a casual friendship. Eventually, I became interested in being more than just friends, so we went on a date and saw some terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger movie... Collateral Damage I think? And we had Mexican food. But apparently Brad is some kind of Cassanova because he informed me after our super-fantastic date that he was already into some other girl, Kristen #2. He was only going out with me for fun. What a jerk....

However, at this point, I was quite in love with him. I don't remember when it happened. But I do know why. He was the first guy I'd met whom I felt I could stand on equal footing. I saw more in him than I did myself. I guess I really hadn't encountered much from the male gender in my short years. I always imagined I'd have marry someone I'd have to settle for rather than someone I aspired to be like. I'd been in love before, but I could actually picture myself marrying Brad. I always say you can fall in love with just about anyone but that doesn't mean you should marry just anyone you're in love with. Brad had some kind of "it" factor. I just knew he was the one for me.

But given the situation, there was nothing I could do. I remember talking to my mom about it, and she told me that if I really loved him, I should pray that he would be happy whether or not that happiness involved me. So I did. Every night.

In the meantime, Brad was in love with this Kristen girl who wasn't so sure Brad was the one for her, and some other guy who often helped me with my computer science projects was rather smitten with me, and I was in love with Brad. One big crazy love triangle or something.

Ah, but it gets crazier. Spring break was approaching and Brad wanted to go visit his parents in SC but his car wasn't the most dependable thing and was having some issues so he asked to borrow mine. My Spring Break involved flying to Colorado with a high school friend to go snowboarding. So the plan was for Brad to drop me off at the airport and then drive to SC to spend the week, and then pick me up at the end of the week from the airport.

The drive from Cullowhee, NC, where we attended school, to Charlotte, NC, where I was to fly out, was 3 hours. Brad tells me that that drive was when he fell in love with me. I can see that. During the course of my spring break week, we called each other daily. I probably annoyed the two guys I was vacationing with. What can ya do though? I was in love.

When I returned to Charlotte, I waited for Brad to pick me up and he didn't show! I had a cell phone back then but Brad didn't so we had no way to coordinate. He knew what time my flight got in but he wasn't there. I finally ended up calling the friend I'd traveled with who was staying in Charlotte that night and asked if he had heard from Brad. Brad was there, looking for me, having driven around and around the terminal for hours, because you know, those security guys at the terminal get upset if you park even though there was NO one there at midnight or whatever time it was. The issue was because the terminals all have two levels so every time I was on the top level waiting, Brad drove around the bottom level, and every time I went to the bottom level, thinking I was missing him there, he drove by the top level. It's pretty uncanny that we missed each other and it was literally HOURS I was stuck there. It was kind of a traumatic experience, getting abandoned at the airport in the middle of the night.

Fortunately we finally found each other and made the long drive back to Cullowhee during which we both expressed our feelings for each other. The complication was that Brad was still in love with Kristen #2 (via long distance relationship as she lived in another state, I know... weird) and she was Mormon. That was the kicker. Mormons believe everything goes better if you just marry another Mormon. And that's usually true for pretty much any religion. For us, marriage in the Temple is of utmost importance and when you marry a non-member, you forfeit that opportunity to be sealed in the Temple unless they join the Church later. So if Brad "chose" me, he might never be able to be sealed to me because I had no intention of joining the LDS church. Nevertheless, Brad was kind of a fringe Mormon at the time, having spent a lot of time going to other churches and being completely inactive because of the persecution he had faced in his recent past. So he wasn't Temple-worthy anyway and that kind of bothered his Mormon girlfriend. So he was kind of in a pickle, and I was in love with a Mormon who was in love with me but didn't really want to marry a non-Mormon. Sheesh. Drama.

Brad was going to have to choose, sooner or later though.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My First Raw Recipe

I know... it's been AGES since I posted a recipe, but like I said, I wasn't feeling inspired for so long. Today has been fantastic though and I'm only 48 hours into my raw food reboot. When I first decided to do it I was a little resigned because I was like, "Oh joy. Raw broccoli." But I've determined that it's far more exciting than raw broccoli and leafy salads. More on that later though, this post is really about a recipe.

I have to tell you a secret. I hate salad. But what I've figured out is that I hate traditional salad and how it's traditionally made. I also hate chomping on big chunks of vegetables. Can I tell you why? You'll probably laugh, but as far as I've encountered, everyone has their little pet peeves. Mine is that I like my food uniform. When I make a sandwich, for instance, it has to have equal parts on every square centimeter of the bread. So the cheese has to cover the bread from edge to edge, and so do the meat or non-meat items. Everything has to be uniformly distributed so that each bite is created equal. I will, no joke, cut cheese in exact shapes to fit the bread if one slice alone doesn't cut it. There's nothing that tees me off more at a restaurant than when my sandwich, burrito, fajita, taco, etc has a bunch of stuff clumped somewhere.

Anyway, back to salad. Usually salad has everything cut up in bite-size but biggish chunks so that it is pretty much impossible to have every item found in the salad on your fork. (Don't even get me started on salads in which the items are not bite-sized) If I take a bite of salad, it has to have something of everything in the bite so I can taste it all at once. Usually, as I'm trying to maneuver a salad, I get frustrated with how big everything is and in trying to get everything in my mouth, the dressing gets everywhere and I'm spending my time chomping through one big old piece of broccoli or something. I mean... if I wanted to just taste broccoli, I'd just eat a piece of broccoli, right?

So, yeah. I am NOT eating that kind of raw. But I've been pretty excited about what I am eating. Today, after I made this.... ummm, not sure what to call it, a Kale Veggie Bowl? I thought it was so darn pretty and my mouth was watering at the thought of what it would taste like. So I took a picture:

Fortunately it was as good as it looked. Here's the contents:

2 BIG handfuls of kale (without the spines) chopped finely
About 8 baby carrots chopped
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
1/2 granny smith apple chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli
1Tbs sesame seeds
3/4 cup chopped RAW cashews
(in a separate bowl I mixed the following and then tossed it in)
3 Tbs soy sauce
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbs grated lemongrass (optional, I know it can be hard to find)
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger

Now when I say "chopped" I really mean pretty finely so that when you eat it, you get the whole experience. (see the picture) Kale, for example, is pretty gross by itself, but kale with all those other veggies and especially the cashews, it was so good... wow I really want to make more and eat it right now.
This made about 6 cups. I easily ate 5 cups of this and would have finished all of it except that my baby got a hold of the bowl and spilled it all over the carpet while I was on the phone with my brother.
Oh man was it good. I have a few insights about raw food which I'll share later on. But I had to share this recipe. It really was fantastic. Vive le Raw!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No Joy

Most, if not all of you have no idea what movie I'm talking about but there's an animated movie from Dreamworks called "Surf's Up" which is about surfing penguins. In one segment, the young penguin is trying to learn to surf from his famous mentor and the mentor makes him do crazy tasks like hanging upside down, "surfing" on a "sand wave" and using a miniature surfing action figure to pretend to surf. Cody (the amateur surfer) is annoyed that he can't actually get in the water and do it so he goes about these ridiculous tasks with little enthusiasm. Upon completion of the final task with the action figure, the mentor says, "No joy... Fail" indicating he has not passed the test and is not progressing in his surf training. The point of his "training" is to get Cody to have fun because surfing is primarily about fun and if you're just in it for some end goal, it takes all the joy out.

I'm not learning to surf, (after all there are no waves within a thousand miles of here), but I've been in an unhealthy rut. Maybe it's because I'm adjusting to a place that is drastically different from anywhere else I've lived. Maybe it's because I miss my husband who works at least 13 hours a day. Maybe it's because of the incessant sickness present in our house, but I just don't feel well. I can't put my finger on it exactly but I seem to be wavering between vague anxiety and just a general feeling of unsettlement. I'm happy, actually quite happy. But I'm not feeling like physically, I'm thriving.

Furthermore, and most importantly, food holds no joy for me like it used to. That's really what I want to change. I haven't been cooking unhealthily per se, but I haven't actually enjoyed it at all. I kind of hate it. And I'm hungry a lot, which is even more annoying because I don't actually want to cook. I attribute the increased appetite to Keshet's getting older and still nursing 5 times a day. I'd rather eat quick snack foods than actual real food that takes effort. And I'm craving sugar all the time, which I've learned is my body's signal that it's malnourished.

I need to hit the reset button on my body. I guess people call this a cleanse and that term will suffice also. When you spend too much time eating the wrong things, your body gets confused and thinks that it needs the wrong things and then you get confused about what you should be putting in it. That's where I'm at. My life has changed quite a bit in the last year and I've gone through a bit of emotional trauma and changes. I also lost almost all of the weight from my last pregnancy which can release all kinds of weird toxins and stuff so I have become convinced, more and more, that I need to do something drastic. I've also prayed about it quite a bit and wanting to feel better physically and it's no coincidence that I've been prompted that a cleanse is in order. I feel like everywhere I look, people are doing all kinds of cleansing, juice fast, water fast, raw cleanse, etc. I guess you could say I am jumping on the bandwagon, but I prefer to think of it as a message and an answer to personal prayer that this is what I need to do.

So because I'm nursing, I can't do anything super drastic. But I need to do something so I decided the best bet would be a raw diet for a while. I'll be eating a 98% raw diet. The exception will be on food items that cannot be reasonably eaten uncooked like beans and some grains like rice. I still need a good portion of protein and fats to maintain healthy milk and if I'm struggling with hunger all the time, I certainly don't need to severely diminish my caloric intake. I'll also be eating absolutely 0 dairy, refined sugar, and processed foods. Whole food is the name of the game and I'm also going to try to get in 64 ounces of water a day as well.

My goal is not to be a raw vegan. My goal is to get back to the place where I'm eating what I need and not what my body thinks it needs and giving into cravings for things that are obviously not health foods.

I start class for my Master's in creative writing on June 11th so that is my goal date to reach. It's a little over 3 weeks away, I started yesterday so I guess that makes it 26 days. Here's hoping that in the end I can feel a little more in control of my body and it's cravings and complaints. I want to be master of it once more. And I'm certain I'll feel better mentally was well even though monetary stability can go a long way to helping mental stability. I feel like I've got a good spiritual vibe going and I could probably get more out of it if I were more in tune with my physical body and not letting it run a muck.

And lastly, I hope to bring the joy back to food. As the person that cooks/prepares 3 meals a day for my family, that's a lot of time to hate what you're doing. I don't want to hate it anymore. When I've finished preparing an excellent meal for my family I want to take an internal inventory and think, "Joy?.... Yes! Pass!"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

There's more than one way to skin raise a child

The following is my pre-child parental to-do list:
-My children will always eat their vegetables or they'll starve.
-I will never modify or make a separate dinner for my children.
-My children will never have a meltdown in the grocery store.
-I will never buy my kids useless toys... only ones that stimulate the mind.
-I'm not going to breastfeed.
-I will never cut the crust off their bread.
-I will never peel their apples.
-I will never let them get the better of my emotions.
-I will never co-sleep.
-My kids will never talk back.

This is really all I could think of off the top of my head and just so you know, I've broken every single one of these rules. I've gone through a parental migration of sorts in which on my journey to becoming the parent I am today, I've picked up things here and there that have changed my way of thinking. The priorities I have for my children is different than it once was and so my parenting style has varied. Furthermore, my children are each so drastically different that I've had to change things up from time to time. One thing I might have disallowed with one child, I give in with another because I recognize that their needs are different and I want to make sure I choose the right battle.

So, my friends, when I see something like this:

I don't even bat an eye. They could have even said the boy was 5 and I wouldn't have come to an immediate judgment on the mom. The reason is because I have seen enough of motherhood to know that just because something may seem immediately crazy or gross or culturally unsavory doesn't mean it's bad. I can understand the freaked-out gut reaction a lot of people have. I admit I was once one of those who would have thought internally "if they're old enough to ask, they're too old to have it." To me now, that statement is just as ignorant as my past rule that I would never cut the crust off of my child's bread. I have different information now. Different experiences. It's not that I've had some breastfeeding epiphany. It's just that I've struggled so much to do what's right as a mom and witnessed other moms doing the same that I cannot even begin to tell you exactly what the right choices are for you as a mom.

When I saw this cover photo, I have to admit that I went to the comments to see what the general feeling was. Usually I don't touch controversial story reader comments with a ten-foot pole. They always just make me hate being a human. But I did. And I hated it. Of course. I should have known that the general sentiment is one of complete judgmental ignorance. With every comment I confirmed my suspicions. People are not open to ideas that differ from the social norm. I will say this, I did not approve of the fact that the child was being exploited by that cover photo. I also very much doubt that that exact scenario happens at the mom's house. I've seen breastfeeding past 3 and it doesn't look like that. Provocative? Yes. As it was intended. I hope the writer wrote something thought-provoking and not just sensational.

Do I nurse my children past 2? No. Will I ever? Maybe. I don't know. It just depends on the intuition and spiritual guidance I receive for that particular child and that particular time in my life. I don't make ultimatums anymore. Mothering is much too difficult to think that there is only one right way that fits every child and every family.

There is only one rule I really live by when it comes to parenting and that is that one must educate themselves. Never assume the status quo. I will read just about anything relating to parenting methods because it's good to have those ideas bouncing around up there because you never know when you'll try it and it just might work. Knowing that there are so many methods is helpful. For example, before I had Novan I met a Samoan family and the wife told me that in Samoa that kids are often and regularly nursed to 5, 6, 7 even. Its not weird or gross there. That's when I really became open to breastfeeding because I thought if these people do it for so long, it must be really beneficial. Have you ever met a Samoan? They are some of the most loveable people around.

Social perceptions are dangerous. They limit us. Parenting requires the utmost in open-mindedness and flexibility. You simply can't be stuck on one way of doing things. So I find myself kind of grateful for a photo like that because it means that maybe some woman out there who's nursing her 2.5 year old and feels it's right will be uplifted to know that she's not the only one. She won't have to face as much guilt over how she knows she'll be judged if her friends knew. And then maybe others will see that it's not so uncommon and will become more open-minded about other methods of parenting and so they'll become better parents themselves.

We're all just trying our best, right? Can we remember that please when Time Magazine tries to get us to say contentious, judgmental, and ugly statements about each other in a public forum? Can we leave our minds open and accept that we don't know everything?


My side of the family doesn't really do holidays. But Brad's side (not including Brad) thinks that birthdays and mother's day are akin to a religious holiday that simply must be celebrated or you risk family expulsion. My MIL is probably going to put some obnoxious comment on here in retort but that's cool, she knows I love her. But since I have a blog and Mother's Day is almost here, (and my MIL should have her M-Day card soon so she's covered), I figured I should dedicate a post to my own mom.

As a kid, I was pretty much in awe of how much she could accomplish in a day. I rarely saw her sitting down unless it was in the evening and Dad was watching Star Trek or something. In the summers it seemed like she was always mowing or string trimming something. It'd be a tropical 95 degrees and she'd come in with flecks of grass all over her sweating from head to toe and I'd hide because she made me look like a lazy bum. If she wasn't mowing, she was in the garden which was HUGE and she had every single year. We had a 20 acre or so peach orchard for a time that we also managed during the summer which, for the record, my mom hated because she, like me, really isn't a people person and people that buy peaches, apparently, are some of the rudest. I think she also didn't like how much the orchard literally consumed our lives during the summer months. Staying on top of it was a never-ending task. We loved the peaches however, and my mom is an expert canner. I've only ever canned refrigerator pickles. She canned all kinds of things from tomatoes to green beans to chicken and guinea meat... ah guineas.
 I told you my family had strange hobbies didn't I? We hatched a batch of chicken eggs every other year or so to have laying hens but one year my mom thought it would be neat to get some guinea eggs because she'd heard guineas were good watch-dogs.

They were cute little baby buggers but those guineas were kind of a nuisance.
For one thing, you couldn't catch them. They are not just smarter than chickens I think, but faster too. So we could never catch them in order to clip their feathers to keep them from flying out of the pasture. So they were almost always out, roaming free. The funniest thing about guineas was watching them chase bugs. I don't mean bugs crawling on the ground but dragon flies and beetles flying around. They're like bug sharks, stopping at nothing to try and catch a bug. And their most telling characteristic is the sound they make, "Buckwheat! Buckwheat! Buckwheat!" (emphasis on the "wheat" syllable) And they were uuuugly too.
The guinea hobby is just the kind of thing my parents did though.

My mom is also a self-taught kind. There were many things that she decided she wanted to try and then she figured out a way to do it. Once she had been wanting a food dehydrator for a long time so she built one. I mean literally built one out of wood and light bulbs and little fans. She made the dyhydrator screens too. And so we had our first tastes of fruit rolls-ups... the real fruit kind. And beef and deer jerky. I'm pretty sure my sister has inherited my mom's dehydrator and she still uses it. But mom always tried to figure out ways to do things herself that she either couldn't afford to purchase or thought she could do a better job. We had quite the horseback riding hobby growing up and she made all of our riding attire. She made horse blankets and saddle pads, show gear, and when my dad brought home this old rusty horse trailer, she and my dad refurbished it.

Cake-decorating is among my mom's skills as well. She has made dozens of cakes over the years for people from birthdays to weddings. I spent many days as a kid licking icing out of mixing bowls, eating cake scraps and having one of my mom's favorite treats, graham crackers and leftover icing.

I learned a lot from my mom, sewing being one of those. She encouraged us early to sew by ourselves and I think at around 8 or so, I was making Barbie clothes. I also learned how to garden from her although my older sister kind of takes the cake on "greenest thumb" in our family. I learned how to refinish furniture because my mom let me pick out a headboard from a thrift store for my bed it wasn't the color I wanted so she said it would be a cinch to refinish in the color I wanted. She also learned how to upholster and all of our furniture growing up were pieces she acquired for free and reupholstered. My mom always made things seem do-able. I've come to recognize that most people are pretty daunted by tasks they've never done before but my mom taught me that if you just spend some time thinking and reading about it, you can figure out how to do anything yourself. See this:

This is my house in NC where my mom installed this carpeting and the laminate flooring you see behind it in the closet. She also installed the doors in the picture as well as the storm door on the front of the house.  "Do it yourself" is just how she rolls. I'm grateful for that attitude she passed on to me. She also instilled the desire to be informed and self-taught. Long before the organic foods trend, my parents taught us that the best kind of food is the food you grow in your own garden and the best chicken is the chicken that scratches through horse manure and eats bugs. So I had an awareness early on of how things were supposed to be.

I love how my mom always gets IN there and does it. She was never a frail woman and wasn't afraid to get dirty. Honestly, I always felt like my mom was more capable and skilled than my dad who spent his evenings and weekends puttering with things. He built plenty and undertook lots of projects but my mom had an array of skills that were always apparent. She also put a lot more thought into her projects whereas my dad was more of the "jimmy-rig-it" type a lot of the time. She never let heavy lifting or grease or dirt get in her way. As a result of her example, I don't mind getting sweaty or putting my nose to the grindstone.

Mom's an excellent writer. Oh man is she a good writer. I wish my writing were as beautiful as hers. She should be published. *hint hint mom* I may not have her skill but I guess I have the same love and appreciation for it that she does.

A few of my mom's strange quirks are manual reading and navigating. My mom reads every manual for anything she ever buys from front to back. If she gets a new blender, she reads the manual and follows the instructions precisely. If she get's a drill, she's reading the instruction and care manual before she ever uses it. If she gets a car? Yep, you better believe she's reading the whole manual first. And she loves maps and navigating and trip-planning. For that reason, I let her plan out our trip when we drove together from NC to ND. She just digs that stuff. I kind of get it though. When I was a kid and there was no GPS, I would hold the map on long car trips and just get a kick out of knowing exactly where we were on the map at all times. She's the same way.

We both have this drive to need to know. If something applies to us, we need to know everything we can about it. Now, of course, I just Google it and read up. My mom would go to the library and actually get books. Ah how times have changed.

And currently my mom has taken up knitting. And in the true style of my mother, she doesn't just knit, she immerses herself in everything about knitting from studying up on how to raise Alpacas to how to make yarn from their wool (or is it just called hair?). I'm sure she's going to be amazing at it. Because she's amazing at everything she takes up.

Plus, my mom has the coolest grandma hair, doesn't she? I hope my hair greys that beautifully.

My mom has greatly influenced the person I am today and I'm grateful for this opportunity to recognize it and appreciate it. I guess Mother's Day really is useful, isn't it?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Commandments = Freedom

Imagine you volunteered to be part of a social experiment. They put you and a bunch of other people on an island and told you to build a boat in order to leave the island. Those are the only instructions you are given. You look around and there are no tools. There are trees but you can't even begin to figure out how you are supposed to build a boat with no tools whatsoever. You and the others are pretty much in chaos. Some of you are trying fruitlessly to throw some things together to build a boat: branches and leaves and even a few fallen logs. A few others have decided it's going to be impossible to get off the island. I mean, how in the world do they expect you to build a boat with no tools whatsoever? This is NOT what they signed up for. So instead, they focus on making camp and surviving until the experiment is over. Then there are others who pretty much fed up with this whole thing so they start yelling for the people who put them there. "I didn't sign up for this!" they yell, "Get me off this island!" Meanwhile, they make no preparations to care for or feed themselves. It sounds pretty chaotic.

Now imagine, after a while, a letter is sent to the island with instructions on where you and everyone else can go to find tools that have been hidden on the island. Further, they instruct you on what food can be found on the island. They tell you what berries are poisonous and warn you about certain snakes that can be deadly. They tell you what kind of wood will be the best for building a boat. Shoot. They even give you a set of blueprints for building a boat that will be sufficiently large enough for everyone to ride in.

So immediately the tools are found, however, contention immediately arises because one guy in the group insists that he knows a better design that will be easier to build. After all, after only a few days, all anyone wants to do is just leave! The people end up being divided because some want to follow the instructions while the others want to go with what that guy said.

A couple people want to have nothing to do with building the boat. "This is ridiculous," they think. "If we just stay here long enough, someone will come get us."

Meanwhile, some are building boats. As time goes on, the work is frustrated as disagreements arise as to how to interpret the blueprints. Still others have decided to ignore the blueprints altogether. They are coming up with their own design. They note that the blueprints seem to be especially cumbersome to deal with because some parts of the design seem unnecessary.

One particular group of people spends a lot of their time scoffing at those building boats because they point out that there was no map included in the instructions. "If we build a boat, how will we know where to go? We could be lost at sea!"

There also those pleasure-seekers that decide they'll just enjoy their time on this island, eating and drinking and laying on the beach, not participating in the effort to get off the island.

A few become careless and forget about the warnings concerning the poisonous snakes and are bitten and die.

As soon as there are real deaths, many become distraught. Something is very very wrong. People should not be dying. There is much wailing, complaining, plots of revenge against those people who have orchestrated this experiment.

Meanwhile, a small group of people have been working diligently with the long discarded blueprint and instructions. They follow each instruction as well as they can. They work day in and day out constructing this boat, being careful to follow the other instructions in the letter. They eat well. They spend their days working and actually kind of enjoy the time away and the challenge of building the boat. They make mistakes along the way and the work is incredibly slow, but they keep at it until eventually they have a seaworthy craft.

The letter that was sent to these people is like the commandments. You know, in case you didn't catch on to that. People are often immediately turned off by all of the rules we follow in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And people rarely take the commandments seriously thinking that something that was written so many thousands of years ago cannot possibly apply to us today OR that God is so outdated he wouldn't be giving us new words  like The Word of Wisdom. The rules, they claim, keep us narrow-minded, keep us trapped, keep us from having fun, from enjoying life to its fullest.

I contest that they are a great blessing. Life can feel like being thrown on a deserted island with no instructions. It was by God's goodness that we were given instructions, not desiring that we should walk aimlessly. He gave them yet many of us believe that they are merely guidelines and should only be employed when it fits into our own personal system of ethics or when society agrees.

However when we do follow those instructions as best as we know how, we find a contentment in the work, a freedom from the chaos that so easily engulfs the rest of the world. It's freeing to know where you're going and what you are doing to get there. We all want to get off the island. We all do.

Then there are those who believe that grace has rendered the commandments unnecessary. Christ gave us the gift of His atonement so we can just sit back and allow the free gift to change our lives. I reject this idea that what we do in this life doesn't mean anything... that all we have to do is accept Christ's atonement and bam, we're saved. If all I have to do is that, I'd like do die exactly after I say the magic words, thank-you very much. Life is much too hard for all this to mean nothing.

To me, everything I do, everything I say, every choice I make matters. It shapes who I become and whether I am am closer to being like Christ who will, if I ask, make up the difference by His grace. But grace is given after we have done all we can. Otherwise, this is a worthless life. And a god who would put me through this kind of hell just for entertainment's purposes is NOT my god. So it doesn't matter if the task of building a boat on a deserted island seems impossible, I will be anxiously engaged in that cause by following the blueprints I have been given because people make mistakes and their blueprints will always be flawed. God's are not. And I'm happy when I do. Because I'm not wasting the time I've been given here in this life. I know where I'm going. And as I said before, there's nothing worse than not knowing where you're going and not being able to place a value on every moment of your life. I place great value on every moment of my life. The commandments are not just the Law of Moses. They aren't obsolete. They allow us to stay on the path of self-perfection that we embark upon in this life and keep us free from the temptations that so commonly beset us. When we choose not to follow them in pursuit of "freedom" we almost always ensnare ourselves in the addictions of diverse kinds that will hold our will captive and take away that very freedom we thought we were embracing.

Obeying the commandments keeps me free. I love this Church that strives to remind me every day  of those things I should be doing. I'm grateful for modern revelation that addresses issues of our time and helps me to navigate what only becomes a more and more difficult world to live in.

The commandments are my gateway to freedom.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Can You Accomplish in Ten Years?

In TEN years, my companion and I have (in no particular order):

-earned 4 Bachelor's degrees and 2 Master's degrees for a grand total of about 16 years of higher education. Among those are B.S. Computer Science, B.S. Ed. dfa Biology, B.A. Philosophy focus Religion, B.S. Financial Economics, M. Div., M. Psych. (And more to come!)

-owned numerous freshwater and saltwater fish, probably blown through around $5000 towards our fish hobby in the early years. Among those fish were a clown loach named 'Spot' and a clown fish named 'Dontrelle.' The other names escape me.

-lived in 3 states: NC, CA, ND

-Moved all our belongings 10 times: lived in 4 different apartments, 3 houses, and a mobile home.

-Have owned or currently own 8 vehicles, 2 motorcycles, 1 scooter, and 1 mini-bike

-Conceived, given birth to, fed, changed, bathed, and love 4 children: two boys and two girls

-Worked at Wal-Mart for a combined total of about 12 years in just about every position available.

-Been self-employed for almost 7 years.

-Argued in varying degrees over COUNTLESS things including, but not limited to, postage stamps (our first argument), calling people on the phone, keeping the house clean, working long hours, money, health insurance, moving, family, careers, medical care, food, toilet paper, laundry, sleeping, leisurely activities, grammar, dress code, business, paperwork, TV shows, doctrine, service, cars, discretionary purchases, and clothing.

-Served in the church in Enrichment, Genealogy, Young Men's, Seminary, Relief Society Weekday Meetings, Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Principles, and currently Primary and Elder's Quorum

-Coached two seasons of High School football

-Sold Insurance for 3 different brokers and investments for two different broker-dealers

-Owned (I think) 9 computers

-Oversaw the remodel of an entire house, top to bottom.

-Changed our diet from a typical American meatful 7 days a week to mostly Vegetarian and frequently vegan diet.

-Written 3.25 novels

-Managed several million dollars in client assets

-Never paid more than 8$ for a television

-Baptized 5 people into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are still active to this day!

-Visited the Temple more times than I can count

-Researched dozens of Family names and taken about 20 to the temple for baptisms

-Made hundreds of friends. Too many to count!

-Seen the deaths of 5 family members.

-Seen the birth of 5 family members!

We've seen a lot, us two. And we're sure to see much more, and I'm glad I get to do it with my eternal companion, my best friend. These 10 have been full of tears and laughter, but overall, joy, experience, growth, progression. And Brad is the only one I have ever wanted to and still want to experience it alongside.