Monday, February 29, 2016

Mothering Monday: Josef's First Official Basketball Experience

My third son, Josef, has always been the most athletic of all my sons. When he was little, he always played with balls. Over the years, he has developed a sincere interest in basketball. Because of our frequent moves, and the cost of activities, he has never had the opportunity to play on a real team. He has attended local basketball camps twice. This year he played with a city league.

Josef's team was really good. They had a good mix of boys with different skills. At first, the team relied heavily upon a few boys who were quite talented, but over the course of the season, the boys started to work together more and build on their own talents. They played and defeated each of the other teams in the league.

Because of their perfect record, Josef's team did not play in the tournament. They were automatically given a spot at the championship game. The final game was last Saturday and it was the most intense game. The opposing team went into prove themselves against Josef's undefeated team. The two teams were neck and neck the whole game. Unfortunately, the coach for Josef's team kept losing his temper and got two technical fouls against his team. Josef didn't play very much, which really disappointed me. In the end, because of a couple of fouls, the other team won.

It was a pretty bitter defeat, made worse by the coach. Instead of congratulating the boys on such an amazing season and building them up about their hard work during the game, he was so angry that he just let the boys go to feel bad about themselves and the game.

I had mixed feelings about the coach. On one hand, he did a great job helping them grow as a team and recognizing each boy's potential. On the other hand, he would yell at the boys when they made mistakes, which made them afraid to try. I saw Josef's confidence in his abilities wane throughout the season. Because he lost confidence, he didn't play as well. He is a really good player. He handles the ball with skill and confidence. He can move quickly and dribble well. He needs practice shooting, but that is something he can work on.

I realize that I fall into the same trap as the coach. I lose my temper and don't build my kids up when they make mistakes and so they lose their confidence.

I am going to do all I can to encourage Josef to stick with basketball. He is good and has a natural love of the game.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: Developing Faith in Jesus Christ and a Testimony of Him.

We had ward conference today and I was asked to speak. Here is the talk that I gave.

A few years ago my husband and I purchased a home with a wonderful garden plot. We made big plans about our garden, envisioning baskets full of delicious vegetables. Near mid-summer, our enthusiasm dwindled; we neglected our garden and harvested a small crop of vegetables. Our second year was even worse. This was frustrating, but we had not put in the effort to receive the reward and blessing of a bounteous garden.

Developing faith in and growing a testimony of Jesus Christ is much like gardening. It is a dynamic process requiring effort, diligence, time, and patience. When one is wholly engaged in developing faith in and a testimony of Jesus Christ, the fruits are bounteous and rich. Half-hearted approaches yield a half-hearted faith and testimony. Neglect is the most damaging of all and can lead to a shriveled and fragile testimony.

In order for my family to cultivate a successful and thriving garden we needed to do the following: cultivate healthy soil, plant seeds in a sunny area, maintain proper moisture, protect the garden, and weed fanatically.  I think this applies so well to building faith and testimony.  In order to cultivate strong faith and a thriving testimony of Jesus Christ, we need to have a healthy foundation, feed our testimony, protect our testimony, and weed out sin and doubt.

In gardening you need to start with good soil to grow good plants. You can test your soil to understand the acidity and alkaline levels.  By tilling the ground, mixing in fertilizer, and adding certain nutrients, you can put your soil back into balance. How does one get good soil for one’s testimony and faith? I love Alma chapter 5 because the prophet, Alma, asks a series of penetrating and discerning questions about one’s spiritual foundation. Answering Alma’s questions will give you the answers on how you need to tweak your foundation.

Once you have cultivated good soil, you plant seeds. Seeds need sun and water in careful doses to thrive. I believe that consistent scripture study and prayer are as essential to our testimonies as sun and water are to plants. I invite you to try an experiment. Does your faith in Christ feel a little anemic? Go to the Book of Mormon and start marking every reference to Jesus Christ. As you do so, ponder and pray about what the Book of Mormon teaches about the character and message of Jesus Christ. I know your faith will perk up just as thirsty plants do after they have been watered. The best way to maintain faith is to read and pray a little every day.

It isn’t enough to provide sun and water for your garden, you must protect it from pests that can attack and destroy fragile plants. Insects must be managed carefully.  We build high fences to protect our gardens from hungry deer. Likewise, we must protect our faith and testimonies from pests that would destroy us. We can set up barriers to protect our faith, like avoiding inappropriate media content. We can choose to avoid debates with others and instead share testimonies and love. We can also ask for protection and strength. When we make covenants at baptism and in the temple, we are promised blessings of protection as we are obedient to those covenants. Attending the temple regularly and partaking of the Sacrament weekly helps us remember and renew our covenants, giving us constant protection throughout our lives.

Weeds are the bane of my existence, and I suspect, almost every gardener. If you aren’t diligent about removing weeds, they can quickly overrun a garden. When a garden is overrun by weeds, you have to take drastic measures to undo the damage. Similarly, we must consistently weed out the problems that threaten to overwhelm our testimonies. Sin can quickly overrun a testimony because it becomes harder and harder to feel the Spirit and the love of Heavenly Father. It is much easier to weed sin out consistently than let it take root. Sometimes, we do let little sins take root and they grow and deepen. In our garden, we found one particular type of weed to be quite obnoxious. When small, you could uproot it. But when it grew big, it was almost impossible to remove without serious help from a good sharp shovel. Sometimes there are sins in our lives that are simply too big to uproot without help. This is where our Bishop comes in. He will help you uproot those deep sins which are threatening to overcome your testimony. Another pernicious weed that threatens our testimonies is doubt. We all have doubts at one time or another.  We can’t allow those doubts to grow—we mustn’t cultivate our doubts at the expense of our testimonies. The only way I know to really address doubt is to take it to Heavenly Father, to plead earnestly for help in prayer and to search the scriptures with diligence and care.

The biggest lesson I have learned about my gardening failures is that growing a garden requires consistent good habits. This is also true for growing our faith and testimonies. We need to cultivate the habit of growing our faith and testimony through keeping a strong and balanced foundation, feeding our testimonies with scripture study and prayer, protecting our testimonies from pests and attacks, and constantly weeding sin and doubt from our hearts.  

The whole purpose of gardening is to produce food that will nourish and sustain our bodies. We need that nourishment and sustenance for strength to live, thrive, and sometimes, to simply endure.  We need faith and a testimony of Jesus Christ to nourish and sustain our souls.

Matthew recounts a story in Matthew 14. After feeding a large multitude with just a bit of bread and fish, the Savior sends his apostles on a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, while he spent some time praying.  In the evening, strong winds came, tossing the ship with great waves. “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. “ The disciples were scared but Jesus Christ called out to them. Peter, impetuous and wonderful Peter, says, “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  Peter walked on water, in the middle of the crashing waves and fierce wind, when he focused on the Savior. He sank when he began allowed doubt and fear to overtake him.

The truth is that every single one of you sitting in this chapel today will face challenges, storms, loss, pain, sorrow, and grief of the highest magnitude. Strong faith in Jesus Christ and a testimony of Him will allow us to walk through the storms of life with hope, courage, and even joy.

I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I testify that God loves us and is watching over us. 


Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Favorites: Summarizing scripture in a few verses, Learning Italian, and John Milton's Quest for Truth

Have you ever read the Bible summarized in 66 verses? I just stumbled across this post-written back in 2010. It's a stunning example of the thread that runs through the Old and New Testaments. The verses are wonderful and put together, gives a meaningful framework to reading the Bible.

A Mormon blogger was so inspired by this exercise that she summarized the Book of Mormon in 15 verses. Again, this provides a powerful framework for the entire text.

Jhumpa Lahiri's essay in the New Yorker three months ago about learning Italian is one of those landmark pieces, I will never forget. My own struggles with learning Swedish came to mind. Her essay encouraged me to return to my Swedish studies using the Duolingo app on my iPad.

When I was at university, I took a class on John Milton and it changed the way I thought about religious writing. Milton argued passionately in front of parliament about the freedom of press in his speech, Areopagitica, One passage in his address in particular gave me chills.

"Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his Apostles after Him were laid asleep, then straitarose a wicked race of deceivers, who as that story goes of the Ã†gyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewd her lovely form into a thousand peeces, and scatter'd them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the carefull search that Isismade for the mangl'd body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons, nor ever shall doe, till her Masters second comming; he shall bring together every joynt and member, and shall mould them into an immortall feature of lovelines and perfection."

Milton was a passionate seeker of truth and recognized that the whole truth wasn't on the earth at the time. This passage reminds me to seek diligently for truth and also to seek for guidance to recognize truth when I see or hear it.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Roots in Pennsylvania

I was supposed to do a review of May 2015, but that doesn't appeal to me right now. So you'll have to wade through a Family History post.

My great-grandmother Gertrude Anderson Fenex was the daughter of Thomas Henry Anderson and Bridget Burke (Bourque). Both Thomas and Bridget were of Irish descent. Thomas was born in New York in 1850 to Thomas and Catherine Anderson. Both Thomas and Catherine were born in Ireland between 1820 and 1825. At some point, they immigrated to New York. I found Catherine's maiden name listed on the death certificate of her son, Peter Anderson. She is listed as Catherine Seary.

Questions I wish I could answer:
Where was Thomas Anderson born?
Where was Catherine born?
Anderson isn't a typical Irish surname. Is it possible that the Anderson comes from a different country originally?
Were the Andersons Irish Catholic or Protestant?

I think that Thomas and Catherine immigrated to New York. I just learned that Castle Garden Port  did not open until 1855 to process immigrants. According to, immigrants arriving in New York before 1855 were processed by their incoming ship and doctor's onboard. There wasn't an official processing station in New York.  I think that Thomas and Catherine immigrated between 1840-1845. I don't think they moved to New York later than 1845. I do not know, and haven't been able to find whether or not they were married before they immigrated to the USA or if they were married in Ireland.

Realistically, they could have immigrated to New York before 1840 and if so, they would have come with family. There are different periods and locations of Irish immigration. If they immigrated during the 1840s, they may have come because of the Potato Famine, but it seems unlikely, because I think they most likely immigrated before 1846. However, I could be wrong.

Questions I wish I could answer:
Were Thomas and Catherine married before they immigrated to the USA?
Did they immigrate separately? Were they children or teenagers when they immigrated?
Which ship(s) did they sail on?
Which port did they sail from?
How did they pay for their passage?
Why did they choose to immigrate to the USA?
Are there are other ports in New York state?

New York and Census Records
From US census records, I found that their sons, Matthew (1847), Thomas H. (1850), Peter (1852), Terence (1843 or 1844), William (1856) and Joseph (1858), were all (allegedly) born in New York.

Questions I wish I could answer:
Some of the research I have done lists Terance twice so he is found in my tree more than once. I believe he is only one person and I need to merge him. But it is possible there were two boys named Terance.
Did the family live in NYC for awhile? Or did they live in other places in New York?

A Missing Girl?
Today, while doing a search, I came across a really interesting census record from the New York state census of 1855 for a family that seems to resemble the Thomas/Catherine Anderson family living in Metz, Cayuga County, New York. They were living with a couple named the Taylors. The boys are listed right along the row, with the right ages and names.

What surprised me is that a girl, Elisabeth, was listed between Matthew and Thomas. That seems to make sense, but she is missing from the 1860 census, meaning that she could have died. I really need the confirmation from the 1850 USA census because she would have been born then.

At this point, I believe that Thomas and Catherine did have a little girl, who died between 1855 and 1860. I also confirmed that Elisabeth didn't stay with David and Sophronia Taylor. She doesn't appear in either the 1860 or 1875 censuses.

Questions I wish I could answer:
Did Thomas and Catherine have a daughter named Elisabeth?
Did Elisabeth die before 1860 while they lived in New York?
How can I find that information?
Did Thomas and Catherine live in Metz, New York? If so, what brought them there? Were they related in some way to the Taylors?

Move to Pennsylvania
In the US 1860 census, Thomas and Catherine are now settled in Providence, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. Their children, Matthew, Thomas, Peter, Terrence, William, and Joseph, are all listed. Thomas is listed as a laborer on the census. Their personal estate was valued at $50, which seems to be normal for the other people listed on the same census page. I also learned that Thomas  could read and write, at least a little and that neither he nor Catherine had any formal schooling.

Questions I wish I could answer:
What brought Thomas and Catherine to Pennsylvania?
What kind of work did a laborer do?
How much was $50 dollars worth in 1860? This site tells me that it would have been worth $1428.57 in today's money.

Life In Pennsylvania
In the 1870 census, Thomas and Catherine are now living in Plymouth, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania with their six sons who ranged from age 23 to 11. Thomas is listed as being a stone mason. His wife's profession was "keeping house", which made me grin because I bet keeping a house with six boys clean was a lot of work. I also imagine she spent many, many hours preparing food for six hungry boys.

There was a large Irish population in the area. Many of these people worked in the coal mines. A large rich vein of coal was discovered and workers were needed to extract the coal. I don't know if Thomas worked in the mines, but some of his sons did.

In the 1880 US census, Thomas and Catherine were still living in Plymouth, Luzerne County, PA. At this time, four of the boys: Matthew, Thomas, Peter, and William were living elsewhere (or perhaps some of them had died). Terrance (27) and Joseph (22) were living with their parents. Thomas was once again listed as a laborer, Catherine kept house, Terrance was an engineer, and Joseph was a laborer.

I was unable to find either Thomas or Catherine after the 1880 US census, so I assume they died sometime after that.

I wonder if either was buried in any of the cemetaries near Plymouth. I wasn't able to find their graves listed, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I found that Peter died on August 18, 1930 (according to his death certificate), was a coal miner, and was buried in the St. Rose Cemetary in Carbondale, Pennyslvania. This information was confirmed by two sources: the death certificate, and then a listing from the St. Rose of Lima Cemetary in Carbondale, PA listing of graves. Joseph Anderson was buried in 1939 in the St. Rose of Lima Cemetary in Carbondale, PA.

Questions I wish I could answer:
What happened to all the boys? Did they marry? Where did they live?
When did Thomas and Catherine die and where were they buried?
What kind of people were they? Did they feel like it was worth it to immigrate to America? Did they achieve their dreams?


The information I have found comes from the U,S. Federal Census Records: 1860, 1870, and 1880. I also found the Anderson family in the 1855 New York State Census. Catherine's last name was written on Peter Anderson's death certificate record around 1930.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: The Archetype of the Descending Woman

In the movie, Stardust, actress Michelle Pfeiffer plays the leader of three old witches, filled with a murderous lust for beauty. In order to restore their youth and beauty, Lamia (played by Pfeiffer) sets out across the land to capture, kill, and eat the heart of a fallen star. Throughout the movie, Lamia plays out all the cliches about older women obsessed over restoring her lost beauty, even to the point of deception and murder. The contrast is heightened by the innocence, sweetness, and beauty of the young fallen star.

This story has played itself out for centuries in our European fairy tales and literature. In Snow White, the beautiful, but deeply wicked stepmother feels threatened by the beauty and innocence of her young stepdaughter. Convinced Snow White's beauty and charm represent a significant threat to her power and station, she plots to take Snow White's life. I think Lamia and the Evil Stepmother from Snow White represent an archetype of the descending woman.

Some have labeled these figures as the villains, and while they are villains in the strict sense of the word, I think there is a deeper lesson or great nuance to be considered in the story of these women. Both Lamia and The Evil Stepmother (TES) are descending women. They have begun to age, or have already aged significantly). In a society which values women's beauty and fertility, their value and power have diminished. They view the ascending woman (usually a beautiful young maiden) with fear and distrust knowing they will soon be displaced.

The ironic thing about both Lamia and TES is that they both possess remarkable power and skills. Instead of utilizing their power to solidify a power base that would used for good, they focus on the petty and the artificial.Both of them utterly waste their talents, skills, and power in the quest for the artificial and superficial. I feel a certain sympathy with these women--not their evil actions, but the desperation behind their quest for beauty.

I live in a society which is extremely worldly. While women have unprecedented opportunities for education, meaningful careers, political opportunities, and major opportunities to wield great influence, much of modern day media would still place women in the box of beauty--from start to finish. The power of beauty and sex appeal (which I think has replaced the value of fertility) seduces women, young and old, into basing their identity and self-worth on these factors. One only need to take a look at supermarket magazines to see the message over and over again--women are powerful if they are sexually attractive to men.

Several months ago, I happened to look at two magazines promoting physical fitness. One was a magazine geared toward women and the other was focused on men. On the women's magazine, a celebrity posed seductively, her breasts barely contained by a bit of fabric. This celebrity was extremely talented and gifted at her profession and that in an of itself was noteworthy. But her value on the magazine cover was her body--a body that was probably photo-shopped excessively. This young woman had probably spent hours to eating a certain way and exercising obsessively for long periods of time to try and mold herself into the "ideal" woman.

The contrast of the men's magazine was startling. A male celebrity was featured on the cover of the fitness magazine. He was completely covered, with just a hint of bicep showing from his t-shirt. The cover highlighted his professional accomplishments. In our world, we celebrate the beauty of women and the accomplishments of men.

If this tendency is that pervasive in our current culture, where women have incredible options available to them, how much more so would this have been prevalent in the culture where Grimm's fairy tales sprung up? Women's options and power were limited and were dependent on their fathers, and hopefully, husbands for them to be able to progress and develop. Can we really blame TES or Lamia for panicking about the threat of the ascending young woman poised to take their place and position? Who is to say that Snow White didn't grow up and fear the beauty of next generation as she started to descend from her own position of power? Could TES be a shadow of what was to come for Snow White?

I think this relentless message of beauty=power is a trap to destroy women from developing and strengthening their own power. There is power in developing one's natural talents and utilizing them well for good. There is power in developing character traits of integrity and virtue. One of the greatest powers that is often unrecognized or misunderstood is the power of motherhood. (And I mean motherhood in the broadest sense where a woman nurtures and teaches another individual--be that a child, friend, student, etc.)

It's easy to see how destructive objectifying women's bodies is to our culture. I think the desire of young teen girls to send sexually explicit selfies stems from a false understanding of what power and strength really is--fed to them by the media. I think the way women seek to reconstruct their bodies with plastic surgery, obsessive exercise, and fanatic diets is just as poisonous and dangerous as Lammia's effort to obtain the heart of the fallen star to restore her lost beauty. I see girls and women engage in brutal competition and bullying for the sake of maintaining prominence as destructive as was TES's quest to destroy Snow White. Every little girl (and woman) identifies with Snow White, but TES probably lurks inside of all us, planted by a shallow and superficial society.

It requires tremendous effort and care to counteract the effects of this society.  It requires courage to develop self-worth that isn't based on the outward appearance. It requires constant effort to cultivate and maintain genuine power based on character and genuine accomplishment.

How do we counter-act the culture of objectifying women? How do we create a culture which values women for who they are instead of what they look like? How do we nurture strength of character in our young daughters and teach them to develop themselves instead of their bodies?


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Washington Headquarters in Newburgh, NY

One of my favorite parts of living in Hudson Valley is that you can hardly throw a stone without hitting some important relic or place that relates to the Revolutionary War. I have gotten a lot of pleasure out of exploring the different historical sites. I'm not so sure about my children as they seem to mostly tolerate my explorations.

Over the course of the American Revolutionary War, George Washington occupied several different headquarters as he moved up and down the colonies. He would settle where it was strategic and convenient. One such home was located on the west bank of the Hudson River in Newburgh, NY. There he spent several months with his staff writing letters, directing the war, and planning. Washington resided in this home for longer than any other headquarters throughout the duration of the war.

To get to the museum and headquarters, you have to drive through a rather unfortunate part of town. As I understand it, Newburgh used to be a gorgeous river town. You can see it in the decrepit Victorian homes that must have been stunning at one time. Sadly, the town has gone downhill in almost every way. You are safe enough parking by the museum, although the first time I was worried about my car. 

There is a separate museum by the original headquarters with artifacts and information to give you context about the war. The Hudson River was a really important part of the Revolutionary War and both sides tried to gain control of it so they could control access and hopefully prevail. 

For a small fee, you can go on a guided tour of the Headquarters. I think that is the only way one is allowed to see the interior. No photos are allowed of the interior, so you'll have to go see for yourself what it is like.

The home itself was rather small by our modern standards with all the rooms on the main floor, with a grand staircase going up to an empty attic. The interior of the home is set up so you can see how Washington would have set up his staff, what accommodations they had, and what kind of work they did, which mainly involved a lot of letters. I most enjoyed seeing the camp beds that the staff brought with them. Many of them were raised beds that had curtains allowing them a modicum of privacy when they were packed in the rooms like sardines. They had a bit of comfort instead of sleeping on the hard floor. 

I think this is a great place to visit to get a feel for the period and how daily life unfolded while trying to conduct a war with the superpower of the world at the time. 

If you go, I recommend that you visit the NY State Parks site to see the fees and hours operation. Try to go on a sunny day when you can enjoy gorgeous views of the Hudson River. 


Monday, February 22, 2016

Mothering Monday: Mindful Mothering

I only recently learned about the concept of mindfulness, to be present and observant in the moment. There are times when I kind of space out when doing my mom thing. I don't listen to every word my kids say, especially when they are talking about Pokemon. I also try to tune out arguments so I don't lose my temper. And sometimes, I go inside of myself to regroup. However, I do appreciate the value of being mindful, especially with parenting. With that thought in mind, here are a few things I want to remember about right now--February 2016.

1) I want to remember how my kids helped as my husband and I worked on our bedroom makeover. They helped cut, measure and paint. Several times, I watched my husband teach my older sons the finer points of building.

2) I want to remember how eager my daughter is to help and do things by herself, like scramble her own eggs for her bedtime snack.

3) I want to remember how my son Josef is so good at helping his little sister. On Sunday, he dressed her and did her hair while I was curling my hair. I was touched at how gentle he was as he combed her hair.

4) I want to remember how my oldest son has started learning how to drive. He isn't scared--probably because I am doing all the worrying for him.

5) I want to remember how my girls snuggle together and just love each other.

6) I want to remember my son, Trent, finding panda bears all over the store and teasing me about them just because.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: Developing Spiritual Habits

Do you remember the story of Peter walking on water in the New Testament? Christ had sent his apostles ahead of him on a ship on the sea of Galilee (which, incidentally, is a fresh water lake in the upper part of Israel). A storm had cropped up and the apostles are alarmed. (I always kind of wonder at this. At least some of these men were fisherman so they probably knew the lake in and out. Incidentally, the Sea of Galilee is shaped like a bowl, so when a storm comes around the waves getting going pretty high.) Anyhow, in the middle of this tempest tossed sea, Christ comes walking to them on the water. Peter, in a burst of faith, jumps out of the boat and starts walking toward Christ. Then, he starts rethink his situation, loses his focus on the Savior and starts to sink. He reaches out to the Savior, who saves him, and reminds him that if his faith had been stronger, he would have been fine.

Peter seems to have a bit of a hot head and jumps impulsively into situations. I think there have been so many times when my faith is like a bright flame that burns out too quickly, much like a lit match. In an effort to cultivate a steady faith, I've been working on developing habits to nurture my faith. I study my scriptures daily (most often in the morning before my children awake) and I'm feeling a steadiness and stability in my soul that is very comforting.

I don't know why it took me so many years, but I'm finally starting to realize that slow and steady wins the race. I need the benefits of consistency to sustain me. I need a steady, strong, stable faith to help me weather the storms that are inevitable.

What do you do to cultivate your faith through daily habits?


Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Favorites: Best stuff on the internet right now (February 19, 2016)

I love family history mysteries and the ways people are able to solve questions. This story about a family mystery that was solved by a train ticket  was really touching to me.

Speaking of family history, BYU has a cool Relative Finder that connects to your FamilySearch account and tells you about all the historical people you are related to, like US Presidents, Mormon prophets,

For years, I have been thinking about how women (and men) are objectified by the media and our culture. In particular, I find it very alarming that with all the advances and opportunities for girls and women today in education, career choices, etc., women are still obsessing over their appearance and the power they feel they gain because of their bodies. I really like the website, Beauty Redefined, which addresses these issues. I particularly liked their most recent article which is A discussion of the objectification of women and two different camps fighting that.

Heather over at the blog, Women in the Scriptures, has an excellent discussion of the use of the word "unclean" in ancient Biblical times.  She has been doing solid work for the last several years studying women in the scriptures. I'm not sure I agree with all her conclusions but she does have some interesting things to share and reading the piece is well worth your time.

Lynne Wilson gave a powerful presentation about how Christ's coming and his teaching and treatment of women made significant changes. In particular, her discussion of the way men and women were segregated during that period and the way women were treated was startling. Christ's Emancipation of Women in the New Testament is interesting and thought-provoking.

What did you read that interested you this week?


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The 1990 Wyoming Centennial Wagon Train

In 1990, the great state of Wyoming celebrated 100 years of statehood and I entered my teen years. In order to celebrate Wyoming's centennial, the state organized a grand wagon train in June--that went across the state diagonally ending up in Cody.

My maternal grandfather had a team of burros--obstinate, and cranky little burros. He really wanted to be a part of this wagon train adventure. The wagon train rules were pretty loose. People could join for a few days at any point during the month long trek. My grandpa invited a few grandchildren along to help and enjoy the experience. I was one of the kids who got to go. Just from my recollection--which is a bit dim on some of the details--and I can't remember where my journal from that period is stashed, my cousins, Shane, Travis, Glen, and Lee all went for some part of the adventure. Travis, Lee, and I were pretty close as kids so we were all pretty excited to hang out together for a few days.

In packing for the trip, my parents were a little paranoid and over-conscious about what I would need. They made me pack snowgear, including a big snowsuit and heavy snowboots. Turns out none of that was necessary because it was hot as heck that summer. Some nice person allowed me to stash all that crap in their trailer. Good thing because those burros couldn't pull more than the wagon because they were THAT stubborn and THAT lazy.

Those burros were such nuisances. They mostly did fine walking on dirt, gravel roads, or through the brush. But when they got onto paved roads, those darn things would lay down on the ground. Talk about mortifying! Since they were stubborn little things (kind of like my grandpa) my cousins and I would walk beside the wagon, hitch a ride with someone else, or if we were lucky find a horse we could ride. 

When my cousins and I joined the train, one of the wagon masters gave us a bunch of centennial pins. Our job was to go around and sell as many as possible. I wanted a pin really bad and he told us if we sold enough, we could get our own pins as commission. We had so much fun going around to the different companies and selling those pins. People were friendly and we explored as much as we could.

We made a lot of friends quickly. I have never had trouble talking to people or meeting them. Some of the friends I made were adults. In particular, Edie and Olen Tackitt from Arkansas and a man who had a carriage and some pretty horses. I exchanged letter with Edie Tackitt for several years after the wagon train ended. Olen was a singer and after the days travel was over and camp all set up, he would get his guitar and harmonica out and play practically the whole night. I sang a lot myself. Those campfire music sessions are some of my happiest memories of all. I also made friends with an older man who had a pair of Morgans (I think). He was all by himself so sometimes I would ride with him to keep him company--meaning I talked his ear off. He also let me ride his horse sometimes-which was a real treat. I was a pretty decent rider in those days. We had horses and I rode often. 

I remember being free and being allowed to just roam where I wanted. We had to be careful about rattlesnakes and cactus. But that is pretty normal for the area. Growing up, I always knew how to watch out for snakes--especially rattlesnakes. 

My parents also got to go on the wagon train for a bit. Earlier that year, my dad had bought a team of clydesdales that he trained and worked with. He sold the team to a man who wanted to do the whole wagon train from Cheyenne to Cody. He got tired for a bit and asked my parents if they wanted to drive the team for a bit so that his wagon would stay in the train the whole trek. My parents jumped at the chance. At some point though, either my mom or sisters got sick, so she left. My sisters, Lori and Trisha, stayed with me and Dad. We were there the day a man came and took a panoramic picture of the entire wagon train and by happenstance, we ended up being smack dab in the middle of the picture. That picture currently hangs in my parents' office at their house.

A couple of memorable and funny moments from the trek with my dad: the wagon masters always put us in the worst spots to camp for the night because the camps were right in the middle of the worst cactus. I wore cowboy boots and sturdy jeans to protect me from the cactus needles. One time though, I fell right into one bad patch. My backside was just covered in cactus needles--which really hurts. My poor dad had to pick the cactus spikes out of my butt and we were both so embarrassed. 

The other hilarious thing that happened was when my dad's team escaped their enclosure one night and stampeded through the camp. Listening to my dad tell that story is probably one of the funniest things I have ever heard. I hope to someday get that on video. 

Going on the wagon train was one of my favorite adventures of all time. I'm so happy I got to relive it today on my blog.

Here are some great articles about the wagon train from 1990.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Pain

I awoke this morning feeling a lot of pain, pain in my finger joints specifically, and a generalized achiness in my body. It's actually very minor compared to the flares of lupus pain that have swept through my body in the past leaving me weak and fragile.  Still it is a reminder that I live with a chronic illness that can flare up at any time.

On days like this, I engage in an intense inner debate. Do I take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and dull the pain a bit? Do I take it easy today? One part of me wants to lay in my bed and cry a bit. The other part of me urges to just suck it up and get on with life.

When I was really sick and tired, I did have to suck it up and get on with life because I literally would never have gotten out of bed. At that point, I didn't feel any better for laying in bed than I did getting up and moving around. I don't feel that way anymore because I have more good days than bad days. I don't even need to trick myself out of getting back in bed anymore.

In some ways, I am taking it easy. I had the boys prepare dinner with my verbal instructions. I can't handle a knife today in any way. I will probably do a soothing yoga routine instead of a heartier cardiac workout. Instead of cleaning with the kids, I directed them from a soft spot on the couch. I might even lay down on the couch and read for a bit. I guess that's the middle ground right there.

I think my hardest challenge when dealing with this type of pain is my emotional reaction to it. I feel cranky and irritable. My muscles clench and my stomach feels unsettled. I have a hard tempering my reactions to the normal ebbs and flows of family life. When this happens, I try to be honest with my kids by explaining my pain and then telling them I am trying to do my best to decent but I am having a hard time.

So there you go. I am unable to transcend my human body currently coping with pain. I just want it to go away.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Travel Tuesday: The Challenges of Being a Third-Culture Kid

A third-culture kid (or TCK) is a child who has spent a significant portion of their childhood living outside his or her passport country. My three oldest children definitely qualify as TCKs. I did not learn about TCKs until we lived in Riyadh. Learning about this concept helped me tremendously. But I wish I had known about it while we lived in Sweden.

Today I came across some school papers from 2008-2009 when my oldest son was in 3rd grade. As I looked through the pages, I realized that he was experiencing classic symptoms of being a TCK-something none of the adults involved recognized and consequently were not able to help him adequately.

At the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, we were still in the middle of huge transitions. We had only been living in the United States for 9 months-after spending 5 1/2 years in Sweden. My children hadn't eaten Kraft mac and cheese, sugar cereal, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They hadn't even seen television commercials for several years. They had grown up in a dual-language environment that was culturally diverse.

Moving to New York was a profound shock for all of us. We went from an apartment to living in a house. We drove everywhere in New York instead of biking or taking public transportation. The kids movements and freedom became greatly restricted. In Sweden, they had been allowed to visit friends and go places without an adult hovering around them. In New York, the kids always had to have an adult with them when outside. The cost of living was also a shock. Even though my husband received a much bigger salary, we were very unprepared for the high cost of rent, utilities, and general living expenses. Our world shrunk because along with the higher cost of living, free activities were pretty sparse in the area.

Additionally, as I tried to reconstruct our lives, finding all the doctors I needed to manage my health conditions was difficult. I neglected finding an endocrinologist and so my thyroid health spiraled downward causing severe health challenges. I would eventually enter a pretty terrible lupus flare and then become pregnant. 2009 was a intense difficult year filled with health challenges, school challenges, culture shock, and a horrible battle with our landlord.

This is just the outside stuff. My son had left all his friends the year before, all that he knew and was familiar to him. At the beginning of 2008, he went to two different second grades--one in Wyoming and then the one in New York. We hobbled along at the second school. But third grade proved to be exceptionally difficult for him.

In coping with his stress he started to chew non-food objects like pens and papers. This bothered the teacher and principal so much that he was referred to the psychologist. I received many complaints about my boy that year as he struggled along, trying to find his footing, friends, and stability. Despite my efforts to keep things stable at home, my health had spiraled out of control. Even though we tried not burden our kids with what was happening, the truth is that we were all impacted by what was happening.

I wish that I had known the challenges that TCKs face as they struggle to adapt to new environments. I wish I had been able to educate the school staff about what we were facing as a family in adjusting to being back in the United States. I wish that the teacher would have seen how hard we were trying as a family and how we just didn't have the resources at that time to do better. I wish someone would have loved my little boy at that school and understood him and his needs better.

As I think about that time and how my children were affected by circumstances beyond their control, I am grateful for their resilience. I'm grateful for what we've since learned. My boy (and really all the kids) adjusted and adapted. They are bright, kind, and interesting boys. I know more now and have the resources, tools, and skills to better help my kids adjust.

The paradox of life is that we all exist in a state of duality. Most of our experiences couple the bad with the good. Being a TCK comes with some remarkable gifts and experiences but it is coupled with loss, pain, and suffering. Most of the time I focus on all the great things we've experienced but sometimes, the hard stuff rears its ugly head and I have to deal with it.

What are some of the dualities of life you have noticed?


Monday, February 15, 2016

My Great-Grandmother Gertrude Anderson Fenex

On St. Patrick's Day, I always think of my great-grandmother, Gertrude Anderson Fenex. She was born in Colorado to parents who were both full-blooded Irish. I like to honor my heritage of Irish ancestry by sharing what little I know about her with my children so they can connect with their past.

This week I posted a picture of Gertrude on Facebook and tagged my sisters, cousins, and aunts. What followed was a wonderful thread full of memories and interesting facts about her life. That little bit of crowd-sourcing for information and stories was rich. I am compiling what was shared here so there is a more permanent record of this wonderful lady.

Gertrude Marguerite Anderson was born in 1896 in Pitkin, Colorado to Thomas Henry Anderson and Bridget Bourque,(or Burke, or Burk).

Thomas Henry Anderson was born in 1850 in New York. His parents has immigrated to the United States from Ireland. His family eventually moved to Pennsylvania. Bridget Bourque was born in 1855 in Ireland and immigrated to the United States from County Clare, Ireland as a teenager.

Thomas and Bridget were married in 1871 and at some point moved out to Colorado. I have a census record from 1880 in Colorado when he was 30 and she was 25.

In 1900, I found a census record from Pitkin, Colorado where Thomas and Bridget are listed. According to the census record, Thomas was a silver miner, they owned their home, both could read, write, and speak English. (I love the cool information to be gleaned from census records.) At the time, Gertrude lived with her parents, her older brother, John, who was 19 and her younger sister, Helen who was one.

(To me, this picture looks like a confirmation picture. But I am not Catholic, so maybe I am wrong.)

Sometime after this census record was recorded, Thomas went to the Yukon, where he disappeared and never returned. Bridget followed the legal protocol and after waiting a sufficient number of years, he was declared dead so she could move forward. I find it interesting to consider that in 1900, Thomas was 50 years old. I often wonder what moved him to risk going to the Yukon. Was he hankering after adventure? Was he in a financial bind? Was he a part of a group of other men who went? He certainly had experience mining and perhaps felt that he had the skills to tackle such a daunting job.

It must have been challenging for Bridget to raise the rest of their children on her own. She died in 1916 and was buried in Colorado.

Gertrude was raised a Catholic and practiced throughout her life. She was educated and trained to be a teacher. She was a talented pianist.

She married John Franklin Fenex in 1916. The lived in Wyoming while they raised most of their children. They had five children: Jack, Gladys, Lorraine, Billy, and Floyd. They also had a baby who died in its sleep. I'm not sure of the name or when it died.

Their oldest son, Jack, was killed during World War II. He was one of the construction workers who were executed by the Japanese on Wake Island. I can only imagine how painful and sad Jack's death must have been to Gertrude and John,

Gertrude and John lived in California for a time. John died in California.

Gertrude moved to Cody to be close to her daughters, Lorraine and Gladys. She was known to write letters everyday to friends and family.

She was known for her ability to understand complex grammar and to explain it. She often helped her grandchildren and great-grandchildren with grammar.

She passed away in Cody, Wyoming in 1978.


Mothering Monday: Fights, bickering, and arguing.

Our winter break started today pretty badly. My husband ran to Home Depot to pick up some things for a cool project he is doing. I ate breakfast and finished up my daily Swedish practice. I assigned the kids some chores and then once they were done, they were free to hang out downstairs and play games and watch TV. We have had terribly cold temperatures here so it isn't really comfortable for the kids to go outside and play.

While cleaning my bedroom, I heard my youngest son crying and whining. It wasn't a hurt cry--it was a mad cry. The kids play Minecraft together on their Kindles. They always end up fighting. I put Jonathan in time out and moved the other kids around. After doing some more work, another fight had blown up, involving the oldest. I took away all the electronic devices and had the kids work on different jobs. Brooke cleaned the walls in the hallway. Jonathan scrubbed half of the bottom cupboard doors in the kitchen. Josef went to help his dad with the house projects. Walter was sent to carry up boxes to the study.

Pretty soon, both the youngest kids settled down and stopped fighting. They even told me they were much happier. After finishing their jobs, they were allowed to play again. I don't know how long the playing with hold.

I did also have a run-in with the oldest boy and oldest girl. My oldest son, who is a teenager, and therefore, not super patient with his siblings, was telling his sister that she was the cause for all his headaches. I intervened but not with a good effect. I talked to my daughter about lowering the volume of her voice (she is very loud and often speaks in a ear-piercing shriek). I wish my oldest hadn't tried to lay a guilt trip on my daughter.

This parenting business is hard. I am not good at mediating arguments because I often lose my temper. I think I did well today in assigning jobs. I will do that in the future because it defused the situation and had a positive effect. I didn't act like it was a punishment, but just asked the kids to work on jobs. They both felt proud of their work because I thanked and complimented them.

Do you have any tried and true tips for dealing with sibling spats?


On Blogging...

For the past year, I stopped blogging. I didn't know what to write about. Then I started going back through my older blogs and just found so much joy in reading what I had written. I write to record memories, share family stories, process complex issues, talk about mothering, etc. Blogging is my online journal. I want to get back into blogging on a daily basis. I have a goal to blog for a month Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday. I want to do this for a month and assess how I feel about it. To be clear, I don't care about blogging for an audience. If people read my work, I feel happy. But mostly I write for myself, to process my life and thoughts.

Here's my template for the week:

Spiritual Sunday: I will blog about spiritual things, thoughts, promptings, and my scripture study.
Mothering Monday: I will blog about parenting and my kids.
Traveling Tuesday: I will blog about my travel adventures and life as an expat. This gives me a chance to explore experiences that happened that I haven't written about yet. Also, I may blog about places I want to explore in the future.
Wondering Wednesday: I will blog about questions or thoughts I have.
Throwback Thursday: I will blog about pictures, stories, or experiences in the past. This day will also be dedicated to family history stories.
Favorite Things Friday: I will link to favorite articles and blogs I've read over the week.
Saturday: I'm not going to plan for anything this day. If I feel inspired to write about something, I will post it on this day. Otherwise, I won't put pressure on myself to produce something.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

June 2015 Review

When June approaches, my heart changes. I just want to be outside. I hate that my kids have to be in school. Homework in June seems criminal! I have a hard time making the kids do homework, because the weather is gorgeous and we all long to be outside. Thankfully, June wasn't too packed with events.

Meeting Old Friends

In May, a friend from our Riyadh days sent me a message saying she was going to be in New York and would love to meet us for a few hours. It took some planning, but we found a date and place to meet. Our friend, Alana, lived in Riyadh around the same time we did. She came as a teacher at a women's university. Her experience was quite different from ours because she lived in an apartment building with other teachers. Because she was single, her movements were restricted in a different way from our family. Alana is one of the most adventurous women I know. She is very intelligent and also quite optimistic. She found a way to live happily within the restrictions she faced. I loved spending time with her. Sometimes she would come to our house and spend the day swimming and just hanging outside sans abaya.

She moved back to the U.S. and stayed in Utah to work. We were delighted when we met her in NYC following church. We met up at the Natural History Museum. Alana and I spent the few hours together talking and catching up. I am SO grateful for the friends we have made in different places over the years. We've gained so much from our travels.

We also got to meet the Karumo family--friends who lived in New York before we moved to Riyadh. They were a Finnish family living in NY for a couple years. It was so fun to catch up with them.

Breakfast with the Little Ones

Our morning schedule is staggered. Brent takes Walter to Seminary around 5:30 a.m. Trent and Josef get on the bus around 7:20 a.m. Brooke and Jonathan go to school around 8:55. I find this schedule suits me so much more. I am less stressed because I have time to help one or two children. Once I get Trent and Josef out the door, I really enjoy the time spent with Brooke, Jonathan, and Winter. Winter has gotten the hang of eating with utensils and enjoys eating like a big girl.

Deer in our Backyard

Most people living in the west have no idea that New York is crawling with wildlife. Once you leave the confines of New York City, New York state is actually pretty rural. Our home is surrounded by many trees. It's beautiful. We also have a lot of wildlife visiting us. I often see squirrels and chipmunks running around the trees. Birds of all kinds--the Red and Blue robins are my favorite--enjoy our birdbath and bird feeders. Raccoon, foxes, groundhogs, and even coyotes hang out in the woods. They are afraid of people so I don't see them very often. Although one time a raccoon wandered into our garage. We also get a lot of deer-which are terrible pests and eat all our plants. The deer are very over-populated and with extremely restricted hunting laws this is not likely to change. I think the deer are beautiful, but they also frustrate me because they eat my roses and love my vegetable garden. Our garden is fenced but sometimes they get in there and mow their way through our vegetables. One day, I found several deer hanging out in our backyard. I just had to snap a few pictures.

Don't we have a pretty and lush backyard? I love it!

Winter's Hair

Ok, I know this is totally silly and very shallow, but I just love it when my girls start to get hair. Winter's hair has always been pretty thin and wispy. I was so excited when I finally was able to put it into a teeny ponytail. I think she looks darling!

Barn Dance

Our friends, Peter and Christie, invited us to a Barn Dance in Garrison. It was a nice chance to get out and smell cow manure (and I mean that sincerely) and tromp around in fields. When I do that, my country girl roots come roaring back to me!

We enjoyed some yummy food, pony rides, and a barn dance.

Wacky Day at School

Brooke and Jonathan had a wacky day at school. They dressed in silly clothes and we did Brooke's hair in a funny way. I think they looked pretty cute.

Last Day of School

Hooray! School's out!

Hitting the Water

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous and our favorite lake and beach are now open. We invited some friends to enjoy playing in the water and sand.