Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PRAY ALWAYS - Elder Bednar

I am finally doing something I've considered doing for years: Reading the General Conference issue of the Ensign magazine (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), article by article and studying each message and trying to apply it to my life.
I can't get over it. How could that much "gold" be dropped in my lap every 6 months??? It's one thing to hear it, but quite another to read it (okay, Nic, reading books may bring a different power than listening to audiobooks).
On pg 41, Elder Bednar talks about prayer. His 1st principle is that, "Prayer becomes more meaningful as we counsel with the Lord in ALL our doings."
"How do I apply this?" I thought. The idea came that by writing down "all my doings," all that I want/need to get done, and taking them, one by one, to the Lord. It reminds me of how Sai helps me when I'm feeling stressed. He'll say, "List the things that are bothering you, or that you have to get done." When I list them, it's generally about 5 things and right off, that doesn't seem as overwhelming as it had when they were all meshed together in my head.
Next he'll take on the things he can do to help - pointing out that I don't have to do everything.
Then, he helps me break down the other things into manageable "bites" to accomplish them with ease.
I realized that Sai has patterned for me exactly what the Lord can do, too, if I were to counsel with Him in ALL of my doings.
Another insight came from our "Grandpa" (Gawain) Wells (BYU Professor of psychology, author, etc.) He once stated that when he's working on writing (for publication, for a talk, etc.) That he starts with a prayer, asking the Lord to help him write truth and the things the Lord would have him say. Then, in an act of TRUE FAITH, he writes - and he trusts that what comes out on paper is being assisted from the Lord.
I've thought about how I may ask the Lord for help with something like that, and then I go forth with anxiety and doubt and work and re-work something according to my own will and mind.
What if I followed Elder Bednar's counsel and took each concern to the Lord, prayed with real faith, and then just followed the inspiration that came, without second guessing it? Well, we'll see what comes of it. I've made my list and there are currently 7 items on it (I must be more stressed than I thought:)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Knowledge = Salvation

Joseph Smith on Knowledge

Many people are buzzing about the "law of attraction." I had the opportunity to substitute in Relief Society 2 Sundays ago and teach the lesson (chp 22 from the Joseph Smith manual) on Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths. It was so fun for me because the topic is one I'm passionate about - being a converted "reader." I marvel at how gaining knowledge brings joy. It spawns hope, motivation, desire, enthusiasm, ambition, etc., etc.

As part of that preparation, I found this scripture, and I thought, "This is what so many in the world are calling the "law of attraction."
D&C 88: 40
40 For aintelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; bwisdom receiveth wisdom; ctruth embraceth truth; dvirtue loveth virtue; elight cleaveth unto light; fmercy hath gcompassion on mercy and claimeth her own; hjustice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

In my mind, this says we attract, or connect with, what we are. What is great is that if we can see where we're at in terms of knowledge or progression, or "light," then we can seek out others who have more light. We can consciously make an effort to be near them, associate with them, learn from them, "cleave" unto them. For example, simple stories about Apostles' lives and their family relationships provide streams of insight into how a disciple's life really looks - the mechanics of it. Seeing this has helped me desire to modify various things in my life, from my vocabulary, to my choice of entertainment, for example. As I've tried to become more like the people that I admire who have intelligence, wisdom, truth, virtue, light, etc., I've truly seen this scripture in action. It naturally breeds new relationships, new circles of friends, new thoughts, goals, new levels of conversation, etc.

What I want for myself, and for other women (I'm passionate about "women's issues") is joy and peace - because I see the opposite occurring more and more often. I want to share some points from the Joseph Smith lesson that excited me. I believe they are keys to joy and peace:

D&C 93:36-43
36 The aglory of God is bintelligence, or, in other words, clight and truth.
37 Light and truth forsake that aevil one.
38 Every aspirit of man was binnocent in the beginning; and God having credeemed man from the dfall, men became again, in their infant state, einnocent before God.
39 And that awicked one cometh and btaketh away light and truth, through cdisobedience, from the children of men, and because of the dtradition of their fathers.
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your achildren in blight and truth.
41 But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, (OR ANY OF US) you have continued under this condemnation;
42 You have not ataught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your baffliction.
43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in aorder your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.

I love that last line - how much time is wasted criticizing others, or justifying ourselves b/c we're somehow "doing better" than someone else. Here's the council to set our own house in order. Are we teaching truth and light to our children? We cannot GIVE what we don't HAVE. How much truth and light do we seek after, obtain and radiate? If we don't have it, what are we giving our children?
(the following are excerpts from my lesson)

"I have noted, over time, perhaps some of you have too, in various church settings, a commonly held belief among us as LDS women. It is the idea that it is not our role, our responsibility, or perhaps our capability to be “scriptorians.” Many times, I’ve heard a woman begin a statement by saying, “I’m no scriptorian, but…” And I ask myself, “Why not?” Where or when did some of us learn this verse: (Sung to the tune of “As Sisters in Zion”)

'As sisters in Zion we’re not held accountable, for doctrines of truth taught in scriptural books. If we but keep busy we’ll seem like we’re righteous, we’ll go through the motions in words and in looks.'

I feel the underlying belief comes, not from any gospel source, rather from a cultural and societal norm that teaches that women are not intellectuals and are not capable of comprehending complex thought. The gospel teaches otherwise:

D&C 42:61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive arevelation upon revelation, bknowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the cmysteries and dpeaceable things—that which bringeth ejoy, that which bringeth life eternal.

Last paragraph 263 Quote from JS. “Great joy and satisfaction continually beamed in the countenances of the School of the Prophets, and the Saints, on account of the things revealed, and our progress in the knowledge of God.”

Joy and satisfaction come from learning truths – a remedy for discouragement and despair.

Under new heading on page 265– “Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness.” Woe unto those…”knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.”

“Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is.”

Page 266 “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. (The converse, then, is true also: whatever ignorance we maintain, will also rise with us.) And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”

I’d like to challenge one other assumption common among some LDS women, that the priesthood brethren automatically know the gospel better than others, b/c of their calling or authority, or perhaps they served a full time mission. I believe this is an illusion, and a copout. I speak as a woman AND as a returned missionary and I’ll tell you that it is NOT whether or not someone has served a mission, a person’s scriptural/gospel knowledge is a direct reflection of his/her individual effort to learn it. “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience…” That opportunity to KNOW is open, and commanded, for all of us.

Have you ever noticed when the Prophet, Apostles and other leaders speak, they often quote or refer to writings from great classics – be it classics in music, theater or literature? Have you heard them recommend that we study from ALL good books? Do they often quote from CNN? Reality TV, or American Idol? Where do they spend their time? If we want to be as they are, we must follow in their footsteps.

Page 268 last paragraph – “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him…from the least to the greatest.”

NO excuses – these blessings and promises are not reserved for the elite only – “even the least Saint may know all things…”

I bear you my testimony that these things ARE true! As women, and daughters of God, we ARE intellectuals. We ARE capable of comprehending complex thought. Light and knowledge will be given to any who seeks it, honestly, with a commitment to act upon the knowledge given - which may require us to change the way we think, speak, and relate to others.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cloth Diaper Update

Nighttime cover
Daytime diaper

These are the cloth diapers we've been using for about 2 months now - and I love it. (from www.comfybummy.com) Mostly I love walking PAST the diapers at Costco and thinking that's a thing of the past! The first few days it was a little overwhelming - but then I learned some strategies and techniques and now, it's just the way we do things.
1. Our laundry room/bathroom has a shower with a detachable spray nozzle. Brilliant! For Maika's messy diapers, I just change him in the bathroom and use the shower to spray him clean. Then I quickly swish the diaper in the potty (No, I don't stick my hand in the dirty water, or need gloves. I just hold one end of the diaper and swish it in the water.) Then I drop it in the dry, diaper bucket.
2. I take two plastic bags with me in the diaper bag in case of stinky diapers while out. I just tie them up and take care of them at home. My life is flexible enough that I can wait til after the a.m. BM's before we take off for our adventures for the day.
3. I use cloth wipes, too. I have large, plastic canisters that I put purified water in (just out of the fridge dispenser) and mix with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of antibacterial handsoap. I swish that all together then stuff the canister full of cloth rags that are from t-shirts of Sai's I cut up. The dirty wipes just go in the diaper bucket.
4. I have leftover disposable diapers and commercial wipes for certain people and times (babysitters - don't want to freak them out!)
5. Laundering - This took some learning - now it's easy!
1st batch is with COLD water on a high water level. Use just 1/4 of a scoop of detergent. Then the best, natural cleaner is a BIOKLEEN brand (found at health food store and recommended by diaper company). Just add 2 tbsp. Once water is full and has swished, I let them soak about 1/2 hour then continue cycle.
2nd Cycle - turn on hot water wash and add 1/4-1/2 cup of Baking Soda. This cleans and deoderizes. Now they come out stain free and smelling nice.
I couldn't find the plain Biokleen detergent, so I use Biokleen Oxygen Plus bleach with my cold cycle wash. What I've learned is that most detergents, esp liquid ones, lock in grime and stink b/c they're so heavy and chemical. Biokleen and Baking Soda are great at stripping things clean of all that build up. White vinegar will also help remove detergent build up and clothes don't smell like vinegar. I also use the Biokleen in concentrate in a spray bottle. For messy ones, I just squirt some of the concentrate on the stain before dropping it in the bucket.

Just wanted to share - it's not hard. I'm so glad I switched now. I feel better about the environmental impact.

This is a random addition -
I was reading the Presidential Report from BYU-Hawaii last week and just came across page 13 and found a picture with my boys, Aisea (in front) and Sikeli (last) riding on a Fijian raft at the PCC. That was taken over a year ago. Oh, how we miss that place!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All I Want For Christmas... HEALTHY KIDS!!!

Beginning on Oct. 21st when we returned from our family trip to DC, my three boys and I got a most annoying cough and congestion/runny nose. I could feel it coming on during the plane ride home - how I wish they had high grade air purifiers on those things that would kill bacteria in the air. I started to get all paranoid about all the germs - the dead skin cells on the seats, the germs on the tray tables, and wondering how many other kids had licked that window before Aisea! I couldn't wait to get out of there!

Anyway - I have done away with cough syrups for kids b/c a) they don't work and b) they don't work. (There's research that supports this, primarily for kids 3 and under). So I began loading us down daily - echinacea, fenugreek, thyme, chewable vitamins, liquid, no dairy products, no OJ (b/c it does produce mucus - like dairy does - and thus provides a host for goobers. Info provided by naturopaths). My mom asked me one morning, as I prepared our daily doses before breakfast, if I needed a pharmaceutical license to do what I was doing.

Well, it dragged on and on, literally until the end of last week! (From October!) I FINALLY did follow through with tips from a woman I met named Jaleeta. She has raised 9 children to adulthood and said only 2 ever had antibiotics. Her husband is an herbalist. She had recommended that I use tea tree oil. I was too busy trying everything else and just when I was about to crack and go to the medical clinic - it was closed. (What a blessing!) Then I remembered Jaleeta's suggestion and went to the health food store and found a small bottle of 100% pure tea tree oil. I knew it needed a carrier oil and asked an employee about putting it with Vicks Vapor Rub. She was okay with that - so off I went.
Well, I'm just here to say that Vicks and Tea Tree Oil are my new best friends. In 2 days, I was so much better and my kids too! Here are the tricks -
First, I had learned a while back that a great nighttime cough remedy is to rub vicks into your (or your kids') feet and put socks on to sleep. If you think this sounds quirky, then you just don't know that the feet are anchored to the whole body and have a great power to absorb and it has worked time and time again for us in lieu of cough syrup. I use it on myself and know for myself that just shortly after applying it, I can sleep w/out coughing.
So this time I did the feet thing, with Vicks and then a drop or two of tea tree oil too, rubbing it all in the feet and then some across the chest.
Here's to you, Vicks and Tea Tree Oil - It looks like I'll get my Christmas wish!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thoughts on Reading from My Mission Comp

Under my "Non-Reader Conversion Story" entry, I mentioned my mission comp. I failed to mention that I love her guts! She sent me this comment in an email and I like it so much, I want to share it. She has been an inspiration to me when it comes to reading great works. (Even if she doesn't think that audio books are considered "reading"). She knows so much about history and literature, it blows me away. And I just had an "ah-hah" (Oprah would be so proud) that her love of great literature and poignant, touching human relationships portrayed in that great literature, is why she is the most kind person I know. She used to rub the heads of strange kids as we passed them on the streets of Spain. I, on the other hand, was afraid of getting lice or something worse - you never know where these kids have been! Her journal entries about our days as missionaries were also filled with clever, witty, moving and tangible descriptions of the people we met and places we went, while mine were much, much more focused on sarcasm - which was my antidote for serving in Spain. Here's what she had to say:
"Whenever people say they don't like to read or they are not good at it, I think, "They just haven't found the right kind of books." People will read what interests them whether it's the sports page or Tacitus. Reading is so important, and more so with children. Children first learn by watching their parents. When children see parents reading, they become interested in reading. I wasn't that interested in reading when I was a kid. I watched my older sister reading and thought, "There must be something to this stuff because she does it for hours." When I finished my first book, Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Crooked Chimney, I was so proud of myself I went into the kitchen and told my whole family. Ever since then I have cried over too many books to count. I have laughed outloud over Aristophanes. I threw Dostoyevsky across the room. While reading Pride and Prejudice I shouted, "He loves her! Darcy really loves her!" And while I can't remember the plot of any TV shows I watched in tenth grade, I sure remember crying my eyes out at midnight finishing Of Mice and Men. That's something you want to give your children. Whenever I am faced with how little common sense I seem to have, I think to myself, "I may not know a whole lot about the practical things of life, but I know heaps of beautiful things that make life worth living." And alot of those things I learned from books."
By our "Aunt Nit" (as my kids call her - her name is Nic, short for Niccole).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Marriage Insight from Gottman

I am preparing for a new calling starting in January, to teach the church's Marriage and Family relationship class - it's a new course curriculum produced by LDS Family Services. That is what led me to review some secular marital material. (Have no fear, I went with info. from an author who is quoted in the church's instructor's manual.)

"The Relationship Cure" by the foremost renowned researcher on marriage and family relationships, John Gottman, has provided me with a simple, yet powerful concept I want to share.

In studying marriages, Gottman and team has found evidence that suggests that success or failure of a relationship directly relates to the "emotional connectedness" of the couple. Being connected does not happen in grandiose ways, during special events, or with fanfare, it happens up to 100 times per hour in situations such as dinner around the table.

Gottman has identified what he calls "bids" for emotional connection. Bids are a spouse's plea or request for connection. The "bids" can range from being overt to covert, such as, "I want to go to bed with you," or, "How was your day?" The level of emotional connection is a result of how these "bids" are received. They happen frequently when couples are interacting and happily married couples have patterns of receiving and responding to each other's "bids" in a positive manner.

Gottman says that there are 3 types of responses to "bids." They are: #1 - Turing towards, #2 Turning Away, or #3 Turning against.

When a bid - or request for attention/connection - is offered, the other spouse does one of the aforementioned 3 things. Turning toward the "bidder" means that the other spouse acknowledges the bid and interacts with the bidder, connects, & engages in communication in some way. This acknowledgement of a "bid" allows the "bidder" to feel heard, validated, loved, .... connected emotionally. Turning away is when the spouse ignores the bid, completely disconnected from the "bidder's" invitation for closeness. Turning against is when the spouse responds abruptly, annoyed, critically, antagonistically, etc. to the other's "bid." As you can imagine, couples that have this third pattern and those that commonly end in divorce.

This new understanding came at a great time for me. It gives words and even an avenue to obtaining what I've been after - a deeper friendship with my spouse. As newlyweds at Wymount (married student housing at BYU) we used to chuckle at the frequent counsel from our leaders to have a date night every week. They always said how important it was to continue courting after marriage. For us, at that point, every day was "date night." We were both in school, we had no TV, we had home cooked meals 3 times a day (not from a box) and we talked and exchanged ideas ALL THE TIME. We also attended the temple every week. Life was pretty much perfect! (If only we'd realized it then!!!) So it was impossible to imagine that our friendship would ever shift.

Joke's on us!

Three (nearly 4) children later - we look more like a tag team parenting troupe or referees at a WWF World Championship, jumping in and out of the "organized chaos" (that we call our family), than 2 best friends. We're still committed to our covenants, we still have the same foundation for our relationship, but we do not always do well with Gottman's "bidding." That will all change now that we get it, however. It already has.

Just wanted to share this. I'm amazed at what can be learned through the library - who would have guessed? (I know, I know, all you readers out there have known it all along!) And the best thing - it's free! I hope to have a home library someday, but I've decided that moving every few months, especially across the ocean at times, is not conducive to shipping loads of books, and that having a "home library" might work well if we have a "home" first.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Non-Reader" Conversion Story

A mission companion once told me that listening to a book on tape/CD does not count as having "read" the book. I beg to differ - being very high on the auditory learner end of the spectrum. I tend to think I can absorb the same amount of knowledge as one who "read" the book with her eyes. After much debate (what else is there to do at night in your mission apartment???) we still differed on this subject - so when President Hinckley asked all members to "Read the Book of Mormon," I wondered what HE would think of those of us who listened to it????
Over three years ago, I came in contact with an educational paradigm - Thomas Jefferson Education - and it drastically changed my life.
I was invited to a youth camp (Youth For America, held annually) to observe. I arrived just before the adolescents did, and found a seat in the welcome room. I watched as each of them arrived at their camp orientation. Youth came from various states and Canada, some meeting each other for the first time, others were return participants. I marveled at their maturity in interacting one with another - introducing themselves, being assertive, seemingly quite secure, not the "typical" teenage scene (generally highly regarded as a time of insecurity). As the youth were seated and the orientation began, the speaker asked, "Who knows who Montesque is?" I was lost - the first question of the day, and I was lost! I was thinking, "Wait, Montegue (?) is Romeo and Juliet - not that I 've ever read it, or seen it, but I think that's the name. But that's not what this guy said???"
There was a low mumbling of answers, like in Sunday school when the teacher asks something as common as, "How can we communicate with Heavenly Father?" I heard the boy next to me say, "We know, he wrote the Spirit of the Laws."
"Okay, wait - What planet are these people from?" I thought. This was in 2005 - I had not just crawled out of a hole, or so I thought. I'd graduated from college, and graduate school - I thought I had earned an education. I had been married 3 years, I just had my 2nd child, but I had NO IDEA what these "teens" were discussing - and it went downhill from there.
What they were discussing, I later discovered, was a great philospher whose ideas were well known by our country's founding fathers and upon which a great degree of our country's constitution is founded.
But at the time, I had NO IDEA. What I did have in that moment, was, in psychological terms, an "existential crisis." That is what happens when everything you are, everything you know to be true, is suddenly challenged, or seemingly shattered in an instant, and you're left to figure out up from down, truth from error, and where you fit in all of the broken pieces.
My "shattering" was this: All my life I thought that "getting an education" meant going to school. And that going to college (and doing well) and then graduate school, was considered a "good education" especially for a girl my age. As I sat with these youth, however, who, throughout the day discussed subjects way over my head and articulated their "missions in life" and how they were making a "difference in the world," I began to shrink, wondering, "What did I learn in the past 18 years of school???" I felt like a preschooler among scholars.
I had a do or die moment. I could either choose to crawl into a hole and die of shame, or, enroll in a fresh pursuit of obtaining an "education."
Thus, in 2005 I entered the "preschool" of Thomas Jefferson Education (which is the modality from which these particular youth had emerged).
The first incorrect assumption I had to rid myself of was the long held belief that I could learn without reading. Having acquired that belief in elementary school, and having proven throughout ALL of my schooling years that I could "succeed" (meaning get top grades in classes I chose to succeed in) without cracking a book or dusting my feet at a library door, I had to buckle down and start at the beginning. A real education, I came to believe, comes from the study of classics - in every subject - classics can only be studied by reading them (or, listening to them, perhaps :) They cannot be transmitted through textbook summaries. I swallowed my pride and officially (I did announce it to the world) converted from a proud, "non-reader" to a "reader."
My first book was Les Miserables - the unabridged version. Loved it! It has taken me years, but I'm still trying, daily, to make myself create the time and space to read.
All of this history, was simply to announce that I had a great day today. The cosmos must have been aligned because I had time to leisurely read and I looked at the stack of books that I'm currently purusing, and I wanted to share my current picks:
Power Birth (Lydi Ronka Owen) - absolutely life changing - the BEST birthing book ever - short, simple, empowering.
The Infinite Power of Hope - Elder Uchtdorf's Oct. conference message. Holy Moly - I have to take it a word at a time b/c he's so darn right on!
What Your first Grader Needs to Know (E.D. Hirsch Jr.) - an educational alternative to "typical" curriculum
Strengthening Marriage - LDS Family Services - a new manual for the church's marriage and family class.
The Relationship Cure - John M. Gottman
and Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Ken Robinson - who I posted earlier on a youtube link).
My goal in this coming week is to share the "ah-hahs" from these picks. I'm just so proud of myself for being a "reader." It's like I've joined a new club or passed some kind of milestone in life, a "coming of age" experience, like getting your first bra. It's like now I'm "one of the girls."
My next problem is finding people to discuss these things with - I'm still an auditory learner, but I guess I read kind of quirky stuff, b/c there's not a whole lot of book clubs out there touting these titles.
However, because I am anti-mass hystery as well, I don't think I'll ever find the right book club for me. I refused to see the movie Titanic (haven't to this day) b/c of the craze. It was so peculiar to be "out of the loop" and observe the hysteria as my girlfriends would talk about it and dreamingly pant over Leonardo. Thus, I also refuse to read Twilight (Can I even spell it?).
Just give me some Gottman and leave me alone. Real life is so much more dramatic than fiction - why go anywhere else?