Thursday, December 27, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Vacation is so nice.

I got a Kindle for Christmas.  I used to consider myself a book purist, but I've decided that the convenience of carrying lots of books in a very small package is so much easier than trying to haul around a whole stack.

The girls got the white Christmas they've been dreaming of for two years now.

And I've discovered that I've turned into an old person.  I have no desire to play in the snow.  It's too cold.

I do wish I could go skiing, though.  Stupid costochondritis.

You can never watch The Princess Bride too many times.  And watching it with a roomful of people who also quote every line is a bonus.

The girls are spending a few days with my parents while Chris & I stay with his parents.  I think we're all winners here (except maybe Chris's parents...sorry about that.)

We got a robot for Christmas.  Best present ever.

Trying to coordinate a group of people to go see a movie I've been dying to see was probably not the best idea, because I have to wait til everyone can go.  So not fair.

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't

A bit of a warning: this is a really long post.  I tried to make it shorter, but it's just not as much fun if you don't get all the details.  Bear with me, and hopefully it will be worth it once you've made it all the way through!  

When we left all of our family behind in Utah seven and a half years ago, it was with the unspoken understanding that we would bring the grandchildren home every year for Christmas.  So every year we pack our bags full of winter gear and Christmas presents, load up the car, and drive for 12 hours to spend a few weeks with the people we love.

This year was no different.  We loaded up Friday evening and got up early Saturday morning to begin our drive.  We usually leave around 3:00 in the morning so the girls will sleep for the first part of the drive, but this year the alarm malfunctioned and we didn't take off until just after 5:00.

We warned the girls that this would be a different drive than they were used to, because they were going to be awake for a lot more of it than they were used to.  Changes in plans do not go over well for people with Ebert genes, so we wanted to give them enough of a heads up that we didn't have to deal with drama when it took forever to get to Grandma's house.

Well.  It was certainly a different drive.  Just not for the reasons we anticipated.

About 3 hours into the drive, we were passing Pendelton, and I turned around to take a picture of the girls, who had snoozed a little and were now all happily occupied with movies and various other activities.

Little do they know...

Chris and I began talking about how efficiently we must have packed, because it didn't seem like the car was quite as full as usual.

And that's when it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks, that there was a very good reason why it didn't seem so full: because it wasn't.  There were three bags of Christmas presents at home in our closet.

All of the girls' Christmas presents.  ALL of them.

While packing Friday, I had gone through all the presents we were bringing with us and organized them into bags and boxes.  All the wrapped gifts for our families and from the girls to each other were in a pile on my bed, next to a giant - closed - box of unwrapped gifts for Chris and myself and the couple of things that were for the whole family.  Everything the girls were getting was sorted into three big grocery bags and put out of sight in my closet, where they had been hiding for the last several weeks anyway.  And, due to some miscommunication about what, exactly, was in the giant box, where they still were.

Once I had finished repeating variations of "Oh my gosh" and "Oh, no, no, no, no, no" and was able to explain to Chris why I had launched into complete and utter freak-out mode, he pulled the car off at the next exit, and we got out so we could discuss the situation without three extra pairs of ears.

Our first thought was, of course, that we would have to turn around and go back.  Another three hours in the car, except this time moving further away from our goal.  Our second, happier, thought was that maybe we could continue on to Utah, and somehow manage to book a plane ticket for either Chris or myself from Salt Lake to Portland and back again.  Because he travels for work, Chris has MVP gold status with Alaska Airlines, so he called them to see if there was anything they could do for us.  And there was, to the tune of $700.  The day before Christmas Eve is not a good time to book a last-minute plane ticket, FYI.

Back to square one.

So while I freaked out some more, Chris called his dad, hoping for another, less freaked out brain to help think things through.  After determining that the only keys to our house were with us, meaning no one could get in and overnight everything to us, and that no, we couldn't just rush out and replace everything once we got to Salt Lake and then return the stuff in our closet once we got home (which was also my dad's suggestion - he even went so far as to offer to start searching right away and save us some time), his dad realized that not only had Chris's brother and his girlfriend stayed overnight in La Grande, 45 minutes down the road, but that they were still there.

After much frantic phone calling back and forth between the three parties, it was determined that we would head to La Grande and meet up with Blaine and Mel, who would then take our car and continue on with the girls as far as Ogden, where Grandma & Grandpa would then meet them, give them a car, and take the girls on to Sandy.  Chris and I, meanwhile, would take Blaine & Mel's car and head back to Portland.  It is important to note that these two are saints, because not everybody would willingly agree to lock themselves in a car for seven hours with someone else's children.  Not even parents willingly do that.

All the way to La Grande we discussed with the girls what was happening.  The hard part was being as clear as we could about why it needed to happen while still being vague enough to keep from destroying certain beliefs.  We told the girls we forgot the presents and needed to go back and get them.  Ellie, who was sitting in the way back, immediately piped up, "No we didn't!  I can see them!  They're right here!"  And Vicki said, "Yeah, I carried them to the car."  And we said, again, "Nope, we forgot the presents."  Vicki caught on then, and started telling Ellie, "No, just trust them, they forgot stuff.", all the while with a look of horror on her face as it dawned on her just what had been forgotten.  Lexi didn't say much, but I think she's trying hard to hold on to certain beliefs, despite her brain telling her otherwise, and she didn't want to think about it any more than she really had to.  Once they understood that a return to Portland by some of the people in our car was inevitable, they immediately promised to be good for Blaine & Mel.  With the alternative being more time in the car, it was an easy promise to make.

So we got to La Grande around 9:30 in the morning, and, after a gas and potty break, Blaine, Mel, and the girls took off in one direction while Chris & I took off in another.  Four hours later, we were back home in Portland, where we headed straight upstairs to the master bedroom closet, pulled out my three very organized bags of presents, and put them in the car before grabbing a quick lunch and getting back on the road.

At one point, I called Mel to see how things were going, and she answered with, "We just had the best experience at a gas station.  With llamas!"

Llamas make any trip worthwhile

So things went great for them.  Fears were unfounded: the girls behaved, no one threw up, I was the only one who freaked out the entire trip.  It's not surprising, really, considering they've made this drive twice a year for the last seven years, but it's good to know they can do it.

And it's a good thing Chris and I like each other.  We talked, we listened to podcasts, we enjoyed music that we wanted to listen to... it was like a very long date, in a car.  And we decided to enjoy every minute of it.  What else could we do?

As much as we just wanted to get to our final destination, we knew that it would be too much to try and drive straight to Salt Lake, so we stopped around 10:30 at the Super 8 motel in Boise and had an impromptu overnight date.  After breakfast at Denny's we set off again at 8:45 the next morning, stopping in Ogden to trade cars with Blaine before finally arriving at Chris's parents' house just after 2:00 Sunday afternoon.

The total driving time for us came to 20 hours.  Yikes.

But, guess what?  It was totally worth it.  Because on Christmas morning, we got to see this:

Roller skates!
Perfect for the budding artist
Google Nexus tablet - she's been dying for this for a year now
Robotics 101
She didn't take the skates off or put down the
bunny all day long

I will be the first to admit that this was truly a first world problem.  There are so many people in this world who didn't even have presents to leave behind.  And, of course, we know that Christmas isn't about the presents, but the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Still, we were blessed this year to be able to provide some things for our girls that they really wanted, and it would have been sad for all of us if they'd had to wait for two weeks to receive them.

It turned out to be the best Christmas we've ever had.  I don't know whether everything was better because we had to work so hard to have it here, or if it's just that we really scored this year as far as knowing what the girls wanted, but whatever the reason, it was an excellent Christmas.  Well worth 20 hours in a car.

And, besides, now we have an awesome story to tell.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pants, part 2

I did it.  I wore pants to church.

Between Wednesday morning, when I made the decision to participate in Wear Pants to Church Day, and today, I've had a lot of time to think about this event, and what it truly means to me.

I did not expect the backlash that swelled around this event.  It seemed fairly innocuous to me, a great way to make a statement without really making a statement.  As people have said over and over, on both sides of the argument, it's not about what we wear to church, it's about what's in our hearts.  But for most Mormons, dressing up for church is a very important sign of respect for our Father in Heaven, and a way to separate Sunday, our Sabbath Day, from the rest of the week.  And I completely agree with this.

But I also agree with the many Mormon women who feel that the scales are out of balance when it comes to men and women in the Church.  I listed a few reasons for this in my original post on pants, but since I wrote that I found this excellent post, which lists more, many of which resonate with me.  Knowing there are women who feel like they do not have a voice or a place in this church that they so fully believe strengthened my resolve to participate in the event, to wear pants to church today, not to protest the "dress code", but to show solidarity and support for women everywhere in the Church.

I've had one prayer in my heart constantly over the past several days: that the Lord would help me to have my heart in the right place today as I went to church in my gray slacks, and that he would help me to be able to touch at least one person in the way that they needed.  I told Him that I didn't even need to know about it, but I asked Him to just let me be a light to someone today.

As far as I could tell, I was the only woman in pants in my ward today.  Chris wore his new purple tie (purple being the color historically associated with the suffragette movement and the suggested way for men to participate), and Vicki wore her black gaucho-style pants, which she unashamedly wears to church on a regular basis (despite admitting to me that she has gotten some strange looks and a few questions).  I know people noticed my pants as I walked in, but no one said anything, and I didn't feel any animosity.  I often sing with the choir on short notice, and I was asked to join them today, but I respectfully declined because I didn't want to draw attention to myself when I'd already made it clear that I wouldn't be "parading my pants down the aisle" (although the reason I gave the choir director was that I didn't know the song, which is also true).  It was a very pleasant meeting with two wonderful talks on keeping Christ in Christmas, and I felt comfortable (both spiritually and emotionally as well as physically) and content.

And after the meeting was over, as I was standing up ready to leave, a lady that I've always admired came up to me, gave me a hug, and said she agreed with everything I'd written on my blog and wanted to let me know that she'd have worn pants if she'd had any that were appropriate.

So today I'm thankful that I chose to wear my pants.  I'm thankful for an answer to a prayer, for the opportunity to be a light, and for the strength to stand up for what I believe is good and right.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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It's been two weeks since I posted.  I have been super busy.  Did you miss me?

If you don't think I'm weird enough yet, you should read this post of mine (although unless you simply stumbled across this blog, you've probably already read it.)  I hope it will help people, especially my fellow Mormons, to understand that there are all kinds of people in the Church, doing the best they can with what they understand the Gospel to be about.

I am done with another term of school!  Wait, let's add some more exclamation marks to that!!!  !!!!!!  You truly have no idea how very, very relieved I am about this.  The bad news: I didn't do as well as I would have liked.  The good news: I didn't fail.  My GPA will not be as high as I would like it, but I made it through two very tough classes and I'm not ready to call it quits.

Next term is smack in the middle of Girl Scout cookie season.  Ask me how excited I am to sell cookies again.  Someone save me the trouble and buy 50 cases...please?

I can't wait to get my house clean and have Christmas already!

Over the course of the past week I have had a chest x-ray, a blood draw, a CT scan (and a miserable fail at an IV.)  Turns out that, except for an alarming lack of accessible veins, I'm completely normal.  I'm just in a lot of pain on my left ribcage.  Good times.

There are some who might argue about the "normal" part of my last sentence.

I have the most awesome sister.

I'm looking forward to Vicki being able to help me with my math class next term.

We may have splurged a little bit on Christmas this year.  But it will be pure awesome.  Chris is finally getting what he's wanted since he was three (so he says.)  I just have to make sure the girls get a chance to play with it, too.

My brothers are pretty awesome, too, by the way.

After seeing it all over facebook lately, I finally figured out what SMH means.  Why do we need more acronyms?

A few years ago I adopted Gandhi's admonition to "be the change you want to see in the world" as my mantra.  I'm proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and speaking up so others can see things from a different point of view.  And I'm trying to remember to let myself see things from a different point of view as well.

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The idea of dressing up for worship is an old one, and a common one in most Christian churches, though more and more churches these days have adopted a come-as-you-are attitude that encourages people to come to church with a focus on worship and not on the dress of those around them.  I have no problem with this, because I’m most comfortable in jeans and t-shirts every day of the week.

However, I also really love the idea of dressing our best for the Lord.  As someone who wears jeans and t-shirts every day of the week, I enjoy making a distinction on the day that is set aside for worship.  Sunday is a special day, separate from the rest of the week, and when I put on my “Sunday best”, it’s helping me to make that distinction.

I own a very nice pair of gray slacks.  I bought them years ago to wear to work, and I pull them out every once in a great while now that I no longer have a job that requires business casual attire.  I also own a denim skirt, which is very clearly denim (in other words, not so dark it could be mistaken for navy cotton).  It is socially acceptable (within the Church) for me to wear my denim skirt to church, but not my gray slacks.  Why is this?  If we are supposed to wear our very best for the Lord, why is it acceptable for me to wear something that would be rejected at most jobs that require people to dress up (for example, can you imagine a female senator or governor showing up for work in a denim skirt?), but it is not acceptable for me to wear pants that are much more dressy?

A group of women have organized this Sunday, December 16, as “Wear Pants to Church Day”.  They are encouraging women to take this tiny baby step toward a little more equality in the Church and wear “...not jeans, or sweats, or yoga pants, but dress pants. Tailored suits and flowing shalwars and holiday-appropriate black velvet. Pants that are modest, elegant, and feminine, and not at all out of place in a church house (not that we think you need to be any of those things to worship God!).”

Their purpose for this event?  “…to give voice to and express support for women who don’t conform to traditional gender roles and those who seek gender equality in the LDS church.”  There are those of us out there who, for whatever reason, don’t fit in to the traditional gender roles defined by the Church.  Women who feel uncomfortable at church.  Some may still continue to attend, some may not.  Everyone has their struggles, and until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, it’s wrong to judge them.

I guess now is a good time for me to come out and say it: I am a feminist.

I’m also a Mormon.  It’s kind of an awkward place to be.

Now, before folks go getting all riled up, I’d like to address the term “feminist”.  See, there are certain individuals out there with a public presence who try to silence women, especially strong women, by distorting the message of feminism, and calling us belittling names like “femi-nazi”.  We are not demanding to be the same as men.  We are not trying to take rights away from men, or to make the world entirely gender-neutral.  I’m proud to be a woman and happy to be different from men.  What I’m hoping for, and praying for, is the equality that should be extended to all of God’s children, regardless of race, religion, or gender - the equality that is lacking in so many places and points of view.  As Sandra Ford said in her recent post on Feminist Mormon Housewives:

"We envision a world where we can participate fully in our religion, where we are afforded the same opportunities as our fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons: a place where programs for girls receive funding on par programs for boys; a place where young women are encouraged to serve missions on the same terms as young men; a place where women can finish their schooling without being criticized for putting off marriage and pursue careers without being condemned for abandoning the home; a place where mothers can bless their sick children and preside alongside their husbands in the home; a place where our spiritual progress is based on our worth as individuals, rather than on our relationships to the men around us."

I like being a woman; I don’t want to be a man.  I don’t want to be better than the men around me.  I don’t want to have more than them, or be above them in any way.  I simply want to be equal.

I consider us a feminist family.  Ask Chris; he’ll say the same.  (In fact, sometimes I think he’s more of a feminist than I am.)  With three daughters, it’s important to both of us that they grow up to be strong, independent women, that they are sure of themselves and comfortable with who they are. 

This is not about the Priesthood.  Over and over in the Church, women are placed second to men.  The budget for youth programs for girls is much smaller than it is for boys (the Young Men and Young Women programs generally have the same budget, but the Scouts often have an additional, separate budget even though they fund the same boys; Cub Scouts get a rather large portion of the Primary budget, but the Activity Days girls don’t generally get a budget at all).  I was fortunate enough to grow up in a part of the world where the Boy Scout program was not part of the youth program at church, so our activities were pretty similar, but I dread the day when Vicki, who would spend all summer at camp if we let her, realizes how many camping trips the boys take and how much more money is spent on them compared to the girls.  This is one reason why we will continue with the Girl Scout program in addition to the Church programs, at least as long as our girls want to.  Women do not give the prayers in General Conference, though two or three may speak over the course of the four general sessions.  The Priesthood session takes place the same weekend as the general sessions, twice a year, but the sessions that are specific to women take place the weekend before, are referred to as “broadcasts” rather than “sessions”, and alternate between the Relief Society in the fall and the Young Women in the spring.  Women are not called to positions such as Ward Clerk or Sunday School President, even though neither of those callings is a Priesthood position.

The fact that women do not hold the Priesthood in our church is not why I will be wearing pants to church on Sunday.   Maybe women will hold the Priesthood one day, maybe they won’t.  But I hope one day my daughters will be able to walk into church in a nice pair of slacks, maybe chat with the people in the next pew about the beautiful prayer Sister So-and-so gave last week in General Conference, and then send their daughters off to Young Women, where they’ll make plans for their next camping trip.

I believe in a loving Savior who knows me as an individual and loves me for who I am and who I want to become.   He knows my strengths and my weaknesses, and, most importantly, He knows my heart.  His Gospel is a gospel of love, of understanding, of forgiveness and mercy.  When I show up in Church on Sunday in my gray slacks, I believe He will understand why I am wearing them, and He will be proud of me.
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