The Awakening: On SAHMs

Note: I have done my best to write a clear post that presents my current thinking, but I know there are going to be many questions. I appreciate the conversation we have with each other, and will do my best to step in and clarify when possible, but it will not be possible for me to address every person and every concern. Thank you so much for all of the encouragement I’ve received thus far!

To understand this next shift, I think you have to take a moment to try to understand where I was coming from. Raised as a member of the LDS Church I understood that the living Prophet was God’s literal mouthpiece on the earth. Whatever the prophet said in an official capacity it was as though God Himself was right there letting me know what He wants for all of us. At least that’s how I interpreted things. Throughout this period of Awakening, I have realized that I am no longer interested in just accepting what I am told, I want to figure out for myself why the advice in question is right/wrong/best for me/best for everyone.

Lately That Husband has been pointing out some of my tendencies toward being a martyr. I would think, “We should move to Poland!” Why? Because maybe God wants/needs us to build up the Church there. Living in Poland would be difficult due to language and cultural barriers, but by golly, we would be able to serve as the bishop and relief society president and provide an example to the new converts of what a happy little Mormon family is like (no matter that it would mean never seeing my husband between his work and church responsibilities). In some weird way I felt that the only way to please God was to suffer a little bit. The natural man is an enemy to God, and so I needed to put my own desires aside, look toward  the men who lead the Church, and let them tell me how to deepen my relationship with my own Father in Heaven.

What I didn’t understand until recently is that the leadership of the Church can do no more than teach general principles. With a membership that numbers in the millions, filled with members from Japan, Poland, Africa,  Brazil,  Utah all looking to the same handful of men to tell them how to fit the Gospel of Jesus Christ into their culture and lifestyle. One of those leaders, Elder Oaks, once said:

“As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”

I wrote a post about one of these general principles titled Mothers Working Outside the Home and made a lot of people really angry. As I said before, this was not my intention. I needed to believe that this was the key to being what God wanted me to be, because then the sacrifice of myself would be worth it. It was a topic that kept coming up, and I wanted to explain my perspective on what I considered LDS doctrine to be on the subject. I think this sentence from my previous post is key:

I try to seek out the teachings that I believe came from God and apply them in my own life

I was seeking, but I wasn’t asking. I looked at the source (church leaders) and then tried my best to fit the idea into my life, because I was *going to be obedient*. It’s that martyr thing popping up again. It didn’t matter if I enjoyed staying home, or if I’m the best at it, I would force myself to work harder every day to make it work because that’s what we’ve been told to do.

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Brain Dump

The list of things I’m constantly thinking “I’ll post on this soon” is growing. Time for a Brain Dump.

Jenna Cole

My Aspirations full day session is approaching capacity. Anyone else out there who might have been putting off finding out more? Email me! And in the spirit of my latest post on Jenna Cole, I decided to cancel the half-day session due to lack of interest. Whew! That was hard for me to admit, but sometimes we try things and they don’t work, right? I think I’m ready to keep trying new things, even if it means failing sometimes.

Try This

I discovered a fun new game. Put your camera on the floor and teach your toddler how to push the button. Do all sorts of crazy things in front of the lens while they peer at the screen on back. Laughter and smiles will follow.


I am currently allowing myself to write this post as a little pat on the back for making it through two whole sections of Statistics today! I’m on track to getting to where I need to be. To fill you in since my last psot on this topic, I decided to take Calculus online, but first needed to bump up my math skills to the algebra level. After almost a decade of no serious math classes, my skills were rusty, as in write 2x+2=10 on a piece of paper and I will rip that paper up and tell you it’s impossible for me to figure it out. After dedicating myself to Khan Academy for two months, I was working with linear equations once again and felt ready to give Calculus a try. Before I could start on the course material, I had to take an algebra pre-test to prove I could handle the course.

I opened up the open book pre-test, and within 10 minutes had giant tears running down my face because even with Google’s help I had absolutely no idea what they were asking me for. Khan Academy had been (and is) great, but once you rephrased the questions into a different format I felt lost, confused, and frustrated that the last two months I had just spent were a waste of time. And if the pre-test was this hard, how would I ever make it through the actual course?!?!?!

Within the last week I switched to Statistics and things are much, much better. This stuff is interesting to me, much more applicable to my normal life, and so far I’ve been doing really well on my Speedback quizzes. I have to have the class finished by the end of March if I want to have time to finish my other online course, Brit Lit, so That Wife posting should continue to be sparse (if I’m posting everyday again, feel free to remind me of my responsibilities).

This summer I’ll be taking Managerial Communication, American Lit, and the class I’m most looking forward to… women’s culture, women’s folklore as my senior course. If ever God gave me a sign that I was headed in the right direction, this is it. I cannot imagine a class that’s a better fit for me, as the Intro to Women’s Studies class and multiple Folklore focused courses at BYU were my very favorites. SQUEEEE! I’ve actually had the professor before (in one of the aforementioned Folklore courses) and I really enjoyed working with her.

House Hunting

We want to live somewhere along the peninsula south of San Francisco. I thought we had a great lead on a house, but it’s not the right situation for us. We’d really like to rent, but I can’t seem to find anyone to advise us on when we actually need to be digging in our heels and trying to find a place if we are moving in this August. Everything on Craigslist right now is listed as available immediately.

T1′s Therapy

We’re still loving our speech therapist, and haven’t sought out a new developmental therapist. He keeps having these wonderful mini-explosions which are delightful to hear. Last night it was the word “cracker”. He used it over and over and over, and we kept giving him crackers until he stopped asking for them. This morning on the changing table he tried out poop, diaper, pants, cup, up, and down. We’re making progress!

Weight Loss

Are you a part of That Weight Loss Challenge Facebook group? Because I haven’t been doing a good job of checking in here regularly regarding my weight loss efforts, but you’ll find all sorts of motivation and support over there! To try to summarize where I’ve been, when TWLC2 launched I weighed about 155 lbs. I went all sorts of crazy eating truffles over Christmas and when I came back to Chicago I weighed in at 160 lbs. Of sugar and refined-carb induced bloat. After a week of drinking my calories, mainly via fruits and vegetables, and a few more weeks of really trying to limit carbs, I’m back down to my pre-Christmas pants again. My plan is to continue limiting carbs and drinking lots of soup/smoothies to get where I haven’t been since my wedding day… below the 150lb mark.

As far as exercise, I’ve fallen hard for the Ripped in 30 workout DVD by Jillian Michaels. Remember that time I said I wouldn’t Shred? Well I still won’t Shred, but not because I think Jillian is a hypocrite selling diet pills and making unrealistic weight loss claims (she is) but now it’s because I like her other DVD better. Ha! After almost 3 months of doing the Ripped in 30 DVD an average of 4+ days/week, you can actually see my biceps when I flex. I don’t know that the rest of me looks any different yet, but my biceps are significantly bigger than they were in this photo. (A note to say that I’m working out to build muscle, not to lose weight, as I think that’s where diet comes in). We’re probably about halfway through, right? I should do some progress pictures.

Florence: What We Did

After Bologna, was Florence. We slept in at Aemilia, grabbed a taxi, and made our way to the train station. After our last overwhelming experience at the Bologna train station we had a better handle on how to read the schedule, and we made arrived in Florence late in the afternoon (the trip flew by for me because I was busy listening to the first Hunger Games book (I learned from this trip that starting a REALLY good book when you are vacationing with someone else is a mistake, as I started to prefer spending time with my headphones in to spending time with my adorable travel companion, ooops))).

We checked in to our hotel on Monday evening with just shy of 48 hours to explore. At the front desk were told that due to a strike, we wouldn’t be able to see David and some of the other must-see attractions of the area.

Would you like to know a secret? We were secretly relieved. This allowed us to spend time on our vacation doing the things that we like, not worrying about making sure we somehow pleased everyone else by doing what was popular. I’m glad we learned this lesson now, because we hopefully have lots of vacations ahead of us and we’re going to enjoy them much more if we plan them according to our own interests and desires. After learning about the strike we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and trying to figure out how we would spend our time over the next few days.

My favorite part about our time in Florence was the two runs I decided to go on. Running through the ancient streets of Florence, over the bridges and into the residential areas of the city felt amazing. Taking workout clothes and shoes was a bit burdensome, but if you’re a runner I would recommend making some space in your suitcase the next time you go on vacation because the experience can be so exhilarating.

The next morning or our only full day in Florence was eaten up by our attempts to figure out whether we needed to get an international driver’s permit to rent a car. We had secured them before our tip, but ended up leaving them in Chicago, with no time to have them rushed over the Atlantic to us. A nice gentleman in the government office helped answer our questions, with him speaking just enough English, and me speaking just enough Italian to understand each other. We ended up walking away empty-handed, and took the risk of hefty fines during our time driving throughout Italy. It’s a relatively recent law and thus not very well known, but if you’re planning a trip to Italy make sure you read up on licensing requirements and fees if you are caught driving with an international permit.

The sidewalks of Florence are very narrow, making walking side-by-side difficult, and causing us to step off to the side whenever we passed anyone else. I find it charming.

I admire street artists. So much work, no money, all for a temporary masterpiece.

This couple’s pose may be a bit graphic for some, but I found it to be rather romantic. Sitting on ancient steps drinking in the presence of the one you love most? Ohh la la.

Most of our day was spent walking and exploring, with our late afternoon time devoted to drinking in the beauty that is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and surrounding area.

It’s perfect for people watching, and the level of detail throughout is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

I saw a man taking pictures of bicycles zooming past, and I realized he was attempting to capture a portrait with motion blur. It looked fun, and so I started attempting the same thing. Just as I pulled my camera down and started to walk away, this couple on the right rode by. She was sitting on the handlebars laughing hysterically as they weaved in and out of the crowd. It was everything you think of when you imagine the romance to be experienced in Italy.

The next morning, our last day there, we slept in (part of our “This is our vacation now!” commitment) and walked over to climb the duomo. The line was long, so we chose to climb Giotto’s Campanile instead. I think it was 6 euros a person, and the climb was long and the stairway cramped, but the beautiful views are worth it.

We didn’t know anything about the climb going in, and it’s a funny experience because you climb up a step of cramped winding stairs and emerge into the sun thinking “Wow, we’re already at the top!”. Then you realize you’re at one floor.. of many, many floors. I liked watching people emerge from the upward climb onto each floor, because you could tell many of them had the same experience we did.

After the climb we went back to the hotel, packed up our stuff, and picked up our teeny tiny rental car. Our destination? A little slice of paradise.

The Awakening: R Rated Movies

My first change is subtle and nuanced, but the decision to alter my thinking regarding the type of media I watch is a change I’m looking forward to. To understand the change that has happened, reading this post on my media standards is essential. In short, I’ve decided to watch my first R-rated movie. (I have watched “clean” version of R rated films like Amelie, Memento, Man on Fire, but those are difficult to find because movie studios have said they don’t want people editing the films to clean them up.)

I was reading through the things I wrote previously, and when I say out loud that I’ve decided to watch R-rated movies now it sounds much more dramatic than it is. My standards for violence, profanity, and sexuality haven’t changed all that much. What is dramatic is that I’ve decided not to worry about what is said in the Strength of Youth pamphlet when I choose what to watch. Previously, I read what was said about movies (or other things in that pamphlet) and made my list of what I should or shouldn’t do, and that was it. Now, I make my own list.

You know what I’ve always wanted to watch? Schindler’s List. But I never did because it was rated R, and I wanted to hold on to the statement that I had never seen a rated R movie. Not because I thought it made me “better” in some Mormon sense, but because I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I had done it, and they could to. Now I guess I will tell them that I’d like them to follow my example through high school, and that I think they will likely be better off for it, but once they are in college and developing their critical thinking skills it’s up to them.

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The Awakening: Introduction

Over the past several months I’ve experienced what is best described as an Awakening. I opened myself up to possibilities different than what I was raised in, and my world turned upside down. Those who have followed me for a long time know that I’ve always been a firm absolutist, and I attribute that to my upbringing. Not my parents exclusively, but the small-town, conservative, Mormon culture that I came from. Is this the experience for all Mormons? Of course not. There are many millions of us, and we come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that shape our views in a variety of ways.

In some respect it’s been a long journey, initiated by classes at BYU like Intro to Women’s Studies and The Gospel and World Religions. Casual reading of By Common Consent and Feminist Mormon Housewives introduced me to alternative ways of thinking. A few months ago I started listening to some podcasts like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, Mormon Expressions, and Daughters of Mormonism and the doors were thrown open. I’ve never felt “brainwashed” in the LDS Church (even though I know there are those who would argue otherwise) but it’s very much an environment where  you are simultaneously expected to rely on God speaking to you personally while sustaining the leaders of the Church (and this is often interpreted as “If you feel like God tells you something contrary to what the leaders say, you need to ask again until you get the right answer”).

Once I allowed myself to question a few things, the dam burst and I started questioning everything. It was so freeing! Now when we hear something That Husband and I turn to each other and ask “How would you interpret that?” and “What do you think about that?” We talk things over, sometimes coming to a conclusion, sometimes not. We search, develop theories, talk them over with our friends, revise, and commit to learning more. It’s so liberating!

I wanted to write a series “coming out” on four major topics where I’ve experienced dramatic reversals in my thinking because I want to continue to be genuine and honest with you. I want to share my perspective on some of the deeper meanings of life, and I can’t do that if it constantly leads people to say “But you said X 3 years ago and why is that different than what you are saying now?

I admit that this almost prevented me from speaking out. The fear that I would be attacked for… changing my mind. For educating myself and growing and developing. The worry that I would spend my time deleting comments asking me how it feels to realize how wrong and stupid and ignorant I was.

This sort of discourse is not productive, and I hope that my fears will be unfounded. I hope that by writing about these shifts in my thinking I will come into contact with those who encourage me to continue thinking critically. I hope that those who might feel threatened by one of their own speaking out about sensitive issues will engage with me respectfully that we all can represent our faith in a positive way. I think this fear of mine has come from the political rhetoric we see so frequently in the media right now in the run up to election season. I know we don’t want politicians to do a 180 after we elect them, but at this point we aren’t even allowing someone to change their mind within their entire lifetime! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not hypocritical or wrong to change my position on any given topic. I’m not running for political office which happily means I can switch positions whenever it feels right for me based on my knowledge and experience.

Some of these topics I’m going to cover are things that I’ve written about in the past, and the way I wrote about them or the positions that they took were hurtful. I never intended harm. I’ve long thought, and still do believe, that the best approach in life is to think critically and pick a position that feels right to you, only know that I’ve made this move toward Relativism I am much less likely to say “I’m right and thus you must be wrong”, and instead think “I’ve thought about this, and based on everything I know this is what seems right to me.”

Right now my belief about the LDS church can be summed up by a statement I heard on one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to:

The LDS Church is the truest church, but not true enough.

This is why I want to speak out, because I think we can do better. In some small way, these posts will be my way of paying it forward, because I would not have reached this place if other before me had not stood up to say they had questions they were still seeking out answers for. I look forward to sharing and conversing with you via four separate posts with you over the coming weeks regarding my evolving beliefs and my move away from Absolutism, toward Relativism.

The Awakening Series

R-Rated Movies