Friday, March 28, 2014

How I Became a Feminist

There was a time in my life when I thought that “feminists” were nothing but hedonistic, troubled man-haters who were so absorbed in their womanhood they couldn’t imagine handing over even the tiniest bit of control to the opposite sex.

There was also a time in my life when I thought buying Girl Scout cookies and showing support for Girl Scouts was “inappropriate” for someone of my faith.

It’s not.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that I was wrong. Really wrong.

Granted, there are extremists in every group, and I’m not saying I support the opinions and behaviors of all feminists.


I have gradually come to find myself listening to, understanding, and often agreeing with many of the people I once called “feminist” with a bit of disdain on my lips.

And… gasp… I now often count myself among them.

Let me pause for a moment and talk about tradition.

I love tradition. Tradition is Christmas presents and Easter egg hunts and family reunions and watching people smile awkwardly and stare at their cake while everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to them.


But what else is tradition?

From a woman’s perspective – it has meant a lot of submission, surrender, and producing heirs.

Thank goodness this country has changed so much in the past century. Women have gone from being purely homemakers with little voice to holding government office and becoming CEOs of top corporations. That is incredible, America. Good job.

But if we dig a little deeper, it’s sad to see the inequalities that still exist.

I used to justify those inequalities. I would say things like: “Men are physically capable of more. We trust them to do what we can’t,” and “We’re still equals, we just have different roles in life,” and “Men are more rational. If we had a Presidential Cabinet full of women, our country would be an emotional wreck.” Yeah, I said that.

I was raised in a very conservative, traditional home in a very conservative, traditional community, as a part of a very conservative, traditional religion. Maybe you can see where those things I used to say might have come from.

But I guess the big question here is this: Is tradition right?

It is true that in general, men are physically stronger. It is true that in general men and women often lean toward specific roles based on biological makeup. It is true that in general, they often think rationally and have fewer “emotional” moments (as long as we’re talking about sadness and not anger, that is).

But why does that mean that women should take the backseat?

Women are biologically capable of bearing children, but does that mean they have to? Women are generally more sensitive to the feelings of others, but does that mean they are incapable of making rational decisions? Women have become very good at doing laundry and making sandwiches and bringing cold beverages to men who sit in front of televisions watching sports, but does that mean they should spend their lives doing nothing else?

Proudly raising the next generation of girls who stand up for themselves.

Yes, I was certainly wrong about feminists.

And this cookie season, I proudly bought Samoas and Tagalongs from the Girl Scouts in order to celebrate the liberation from my confusion.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The What Ifs and the Why Nots

So... I hope I didn’t scare you away with my last blog post. The sentimental, ponderous, self-improvement obsessed side of me sometimes takes over and things can get oh so serious. Of course, after putting myself out there, I immediately wondered if it was the right thing to do.

Admitting that you don’t always love the life you’ve chosen is… revealing, to say the least. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, either. I love my husband, I love my kids, I love photography and being at home and sometimes I even like to clean things. I would not trade the life I have now for a different one. What I guess I’m really trying to say is that I sometimes find myself wondering what things might have been like if I’d taken things a bit slower.

I was so excited to get married and start a family. That’s kind of your basic pre-teen LDS female fantasy, really. Most of us grew up with Mom at home, cooking and cleaning and crafting and raising the small people – and from what I’ve experienced with friends and family, most of us wanted to be just like that. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

I believe motherhood is a wonderful, complex, and worthwhile piece in my puzzle. I will always be proud to have been a mother in this life and raised children who [hopefully] lived their best lives as well. But after several years of struggling to find and be the “perfect mother,” I’ve realized something – I’m not just a mother. Mothering is not the only thing I was born to do. I am still an individual with interests, hobbies, thoughts, opinions, and “issues.” Being a mother is part of me—it has changed things about me—but it isn’t all of me. And it’s okay if I sometimes scale back on the mothering stuff and spend more time on photography stuff, or writing stuff, or lunch with friends stuff, or going on rollercoasters with my husband stuff. It’s okay.

In trying to accept and make time for my individuality, I have thought a lot about what this life would mean if we all believed it were the only life we would have. Most, or many, religions believe in an after-life. Some, like Mormonism, believe in eternal life and eternal progress. And it’s a beautiful concept. We do all the things in this world that we believe will get us to Heaven and eternal happiness will be ours, right?

But WHAT IF this is it?

Just consider it for a moment… what would we do differently if we believed that this life was our only life?

Aside from sky-diving and climbing Mt. Everest, is there something we would really like to do to truly live? Would we see the world? Would we write books? Become actresses on Broadway? Have a passel of kids akin to that of the Duggars? Eat cheesecake for dinner?

So what’s really stopping us?

Is it that belief that this life only leads to another so we might as well just live quietly and wait for whatever wonderful thing is next? Is it a lack of funds? Heaps of responsibility? The horrifying thought of wider hips?

Or is it just… us?

Cozumel, just after sunrise. Awesome.

Why not climb mountains and eat cheesecake and write books? Why not follow our more spectacular dreams? Why not become the people we wanted to be at age six? Why not enjoy and celebrate every moment with loud voices and exuberant hearts?

Why not live this life as if it were the only one?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shifting Gears and Finding Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, and about my life in general. I like to make you guys laugh. I know most of you can relate to many of the things I rant about here, and I hope it makes you feel a little more at peace with who you are and what you’re doing at this point in time, because that is so important.

But as I’m putting things out there for you to read I also wonder what else I could be doing to make life a bit lighter – for me, for you, for mommies and wifey people and just women in general. Because of the things I was taught and the convictions I adopted as a child, I knew from an early age that all I wanted in life was to marry, have babies, and stay home doing crafts, cooking, and cleaning.

Well, now I’m here, approximately 7 years later and wondering… Where am I going in this life and why does the peace I thought I would feel by this time still seem kind of distant?

Some of you might know what I’m talking about, others may not. I envy those of you who feel useful, love what you are doing, and are totally content where you are. The truth, for me, is that wifehood and motherhood are a lot harder than I expected. Like, a LOT harder. Really, life is harder than I thought it would be. That isn’t to say that I’m not happy in many ways, many times of the day, and really, I don’t have a lot to complain about when it comes to comparing my “hardships” to those of others.

But everyone has their struggles.

And our struggles are not always the same – but I think we can find some common ground in our journeys through this life. Whether we are SAHM/SAHWs, working moms, working wives, or just all-out women in the world, I stick to the belief that we are here to help each other live the best lives we are each capable of living.

So, with that being said, I want to take a new perspective, at least for a little while. I hope you’ll keep reading my blog, although you may not laugh as often when you come for a visit, and maybe you’ll even cry sometimes. I’m sure I will.

I want to talk to you from my heart, because this is the kind of writing I can feel. Admittedly, sometimes what comes from my heart really is as goofy and snarky as what you’ve read so far, because I really am goofy and snarky (along with many other things).  But my plan for the next few months is this: to embark on a little journey of self-acceptance, family love, marital joy, and finding my truth.

And I’m hoping… maybe you’ll join me?

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. Heavy stuff, that. I hope this all makes sense. Come back again for the first official installment documenting the discovery of the mushier parts of my brain. Love ya!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

One time, we went on a Caribbean cruise.

We just got back from a lovely trip.

A Caribbean cruise. A Caribbean cruise.

And yesterday, it snowed here.

I can’t stop thinking about palm trees and blue ocean and every kind of mocktail under the sun.

Oh, the sun.

That’s right – thanks to my dad’s super-generous Christmas gift to his family we packed up our two older kids and joined 10 other family members, hopped a plane to Houston, and spent 7 days seeing three countries, swimming in the ocean, and stuffing our faces with food better than any I’ve had in my entire life.

It was amazing. I didn’t have to cook dinner or make my own bed for a whole week. And judging by the looks of my house right now, I have obviously not yet recovered.

So I’ll be reminiscing today. But I want you to come away with some practical tips as well, because that’s how I try to run this blog. A little laughter, a little fun, and a little bit of sorta-kinda-decent advice from someone who learns everything the hard way.


Leavin' on a jetplane.

Cozumel, Mexico port.

The whole fam-damily (minus Dad, who was the photog)
with me, Aaron, and Big E and Sis top left.


Iguana mania in Honduras.

Shopping time!

Roatan, Honduras.

Drinking from a for-real coconut.

Cotton candy on the beach.
The South American flavor didn't bother her one bit.

Riding on the tender boat to Belize.

Mayan ruins (Altun Ha) in Belize.

Ok, so now that you’ve seen a little of the awesomeness that is the western Caribbean, here’s your tips.

10 Things You’ll Be Glad You Took On Your Caribbean Cruise

1. Sunglasses – when you’ve been living on the frozen tundra withan average of only 9 hours of daylight for most of the winter, the sun is bright. Really bright.
2. Five bottles of sunscreen – ok, we didn’t quite go through five, but seriously. When you are as beautifully pale as I am (not to mention my even lighter oldest son), burn is the only thing you know about the sun. And I’ve mentionedbefore what a hypochondriac I am, so talking about my fear of death by skin cancer is pretty unnecessary.
3. Extra swimsuits – one of them is always wet and it’s nice to have a dry one to alternate with. And, if you’re like my dear hubunk, climbing into precarious motor boats may just tear your trunks from crotch to knee and leave you a bit… exposed.
4. Random medications – because sometimes people get pinkeye the first day of a vacation.
5. Your own snacks and water – I don’t care what you have to do to fit them into your checked luggage, you will never regret that you had fruit snacks and bottled water for yourself (and for the kids who have meltdowns over such things), especially when a hamburger and fries is at least $10 in American cash.
6. Cash in small bills – you won’t find anyone on an island with change for an American $100 bill, my friends.
7. Someone who likes to hang out with you – because even if you have a group of 14 people like we did, you need a special buddy who will wonder where you went when you get lost from the rest of the group.
8. Lots of underwear – Changing from swimwear to clothing and back all day is confusing. For some reason, no one can remember which underwear is clean and which ones aren’t.
9. A good camera and video camera – Aaron tried to talk me out of bringing my big camera. I told him, “Yeah, right!” What kind of photographer doesn’t take her bulky camera and bulky camera accessories to all the beaches to get covered in sand and cloud up because of the humidity? I didn’t regret it for a minute. And the videos Aaron got are priceless.
10. Your inner party animal – cruise ships are made for fun-lovers. Granted, many cruises are full of the fun-loving elderly. But you will have endless amounts of fun if you can karaoke anything from the 50's and 60's, I’ll tell you what.

Daddy and Sis on the tender boat.

5 Things You Might REGRET Taking on Your Caribbean Cruise

1. Your small children – there are kid centers on cruise ships. There are fun things to do. They have their choice of foods and entertainment practically every day. But nothing can keep them from having their typical hungry/tired/bored meltdowns at the most inconvenient times, in the most inconvenient places (such as crowded tourist areas where they shlump to the ground proclaiming their legs hurt and they can’t walk, or on the floor of the fancy dining room on the fanciest night, or on board airplanes where they pee their pants just before you land at a busy airport where you have to walk a mile to find your luggage and fresh clothing). I was grateful every day we left the 2-year-old at home.
2. Your electronics – Wifi costs too much wherever you go and unless you have international cell service, you’re not calling anybody. So why bother? Oh, that’s right… we’re all addicted.
3. A large group – maybe my dad feels differently about this, because it really was so fun to all be together. But holy moly getting everyone on the same page and gathered up every time we went somewhere was not an easy task. I was usually the crazy-lady straggling 10 yards behind the others with the 3-year-old who “couldn’t walk.”
4. Your fear of enclosed spaces, open ocean, germs, wild drivers, and strangers – You will live for a week in a tiny room sans windows, without being able to see land, surrounded by thousands of people with questionable hygiene, be driven around on South American roads by South American drivers, and not know anyone except the people with whom you travel.
5. Only a 7-day cruise – You will not want to go home. The only thing dragging me back was the sweet little boy who had spent the whole week in the homes of relatives wondering what “trip” we could all be on without him. Did you know there are 6 month cruises that go all over the world??? Yeah. Do that.

Marvelous. Ignore the wheelbarrow man's photobomb.

Someday we’ll vacation again… someday. But for now, we’re easing back into real life (it sucks) with homemade mocktails and pretending the snow will be gone again soon and sleeping all together in the same bedroom every night (still adjusting to normal sleep schedules again).

I can’t wait for someday to come.