Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar...

helps the medicine go down. Whether we realize it or not ... we are swallowing (or giving) sugar with the medicine we take (or give). Sometimes, however, the "medicine" may be more toxic than healing. You know, the whole, "My neighbor is such a sweet person, but she ......"; "I love him to pieces, but sometimes he...."; "I really am grateful for all I have been given, but...."; "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that, but....". Maybe I'm being a little too heavy handed with anecdotes and analogies. Humor me, por favor? Thanks.

I have come to realize that "but" is rarely followed by something positive and uplifting. Beyond that, it seems like saying a general and vague positive thing about someone makes people think that they have carte blanche to say as many negative things they can think of about that same person - all while getting a free pass with no guilt attached.  I am definitely not innocent of offending in this department, yet I have truly made an effort to watch my tongue and be mindful of what I say.

Perhaps it is my profession, but I make a point to not say something unless I truly mean it. Words can hurt - even words with good intentions can turn ugly and deliver unintended wounds. The difficult truth, when delivered with love and discretion, can be the best tool to bridging a gap, righting a wrong, or communicating feelings. That being said, spreading an ugly truth can be just as spiteful or sinful as starting or spreading a rumor. While imperfect, I am beginning to master watching my own tongue. The next step to this constant work in progress is to be mindful of what I am taking in - to be mindful enough of the destructive nature of some words that I ask that they not be passed along to me.

I try to limit my sugar intake but, in this case, perhaps I will begin asking for the sweet stuff a la carte - hold the spite.


Monday, December 12, 2011


I might post on Facebook about an amazing dinner that I made with appetizers, sauces from scratch, and a dessert that would put a pastry chef to shame - but that will mean that nearly every other night that week I punted by making grilled cheese sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, or something else that took nearly no effort! I might have posted pictures from my son's first birthday with a three tiered cake, a homemade banner with his name, handmade party favors, food for 30+, and decorations to the hilt - but I learned that spending that much time and money on a child's party is absolutely ridiculous and ensures that I, the mother of the honored guest, will be so stressed that I can't revel in the blessed day with my precious child (never again). I might "check in" at a restaurant with my hubby making some think that we are the perfect couple who finds time to date each other and keep the romance alive - but the reality is that my man is so busy with grad-school that we barely see each other and, when we do, it is usually with a poopy diaper in my hand, my hair in a pony-tail while I don sweatpants, and a peck is pretty much all that can be slid by before Robby has to lock himself in another room to study.

I think you get the picture. :)  What is that little saying? Oh yes, "Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes"...or something to that effect. Well I'd like to coin my own phrase, "Don't paint your shoes to be four-inch Luis Vuittons which make your neighbors swoon with envy when, in fact, you rock your Toms every night of the week until the cameras are out."

I think we all have compared ourselves to each other at one point or another, and you know the old adage: You are your own worst critic. I think that a problem in our culture is also this: we hide our true selves behind the pictures we paint. I am not saying we each have to own up to all our bad habits, post pictures of ourselves without makeup on, sing our weight digits from the rooftops, and chronicle every tiff we get in with our significant other. But, it also isn't necessary to try and paint a picture that we hand-make every child's stocking, bake on a daily basis, have all of our laundry done and folded at any given time, and always look like the picture of perfection when our husbands walk in the door. (No - I don't practice polygamy - I am trying to garner your support be referring to you if we are together in this. Clever. I know.)  

What is the problem with these beautiful pictures we paint? They make others believe that we can - and do - do it all. It has become more and more apparent that our culture is plagued with women who are trying to be the perfect everything (and to put off that image) and then become depressed or get down on themselves when they aren't keeping up with the picture of perfection next door. This is a whole new era of Keeping Up With the know?

No one can do it all. I can't work full time, be a perfect homemaker, an always cheerful wife and mother, a chef, a seamstress, etc. Can I try my hardest to get things done and be happy in the process? Yes. Should I prioritize my life and try to focus on what is truly important? Most definitely. I guess I am saying that we all need to be a bit more real. You know? To portray our own realities a little more often.

I make a point to dress my son like a little GQ model but I STINK at staying on top of the laundry - I swear that there is always a massive pile waiting for me and giving me the evil eye. I coupon clipped with the best of them and even taught classes - until that ball had to be dropped so that I could focus on other things that weren't getting done. I am confessing my imperfections in the hopes that those of you who appear to me to have it ALL together will do the same - making us all feel a little bit better with what we actually ARE accomplishing.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother Dearest

Growing up, I was quite often mortified by my mother who sang in the grocery store aisles, corrected my grammar incessantly ("Stephanie, it is "all of A sudden"), spoke to me in Spanish when I didn't catch half of what she was saying ... and the list goes on. Today, I find myself singing in the grocery store aisles, constantly correcting people when they use improper grammar, and going off to Robby about cases in "legalese" before I realize he doesn't have any idea what "res judicata" means or what a "plea in abeyance" is. In short, I am becoming my mother! How do I feel about that you ask? Privileged and thrilled. I have a long ways to go before I can fill my mother's shoes (assuming I'll even get there), but there is no woman that I admire more.

I have the most amazing mom. Thinking about stories from my mother's childhood, I see even more similarities between the two of us. My mother's parents did not subscribe too much to religion when she was growing up. They were principled and moral people but did not have a particular faith in a specific religion or deity. My mother began investigating various religions at a young age. She went to Episcopalian schools, attended the Catholic church  with friends, went to LDS meetings, etc. She had an independent mind and wanted to learn more about the world and the meaning of things before she subscribed to a certain religion or belief system. She eventually found and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I, too, while blessed with the truthfulness of the gospel all of my life, had an independent mind from a very young age. At twelve I declared to my mother that I was not so certain that the Mormon church was the only true church and I intended to investigate other religions. My mother asked where I would like to answer: I want to go to a Catholic mass. While I never actually followed through on it, my mother was ready to take me anywhere I wanted to go to settle that internal desire to confirm for myself what was true. I gained an unshakable knowledge that the gospel of Jesus Christ can only be found in its entirety in the teachings and works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but how blessed I am to have a mother who did not shut down questions or concerns I have had along the way. Instead, my mother has explored my questions with me. Not surprisingly, many of my hiccups in faith along the way were also difficult points for my mother.

My mother is strong and fearless in her willingness to stand up for what is right. When she was a new member of the church and just starting college, my mother was in a lecture hall where false statements were made about the Mormon church. While many would, understandably, pose only silent objections, my mother raised her hand and corrected the professor on the comments being made. What an example I have had. Observing my mother in her testaments of the truth has given me the strength to raise my voice in defense of what is right.

My mother instilled in me a love for reading (though I don't get to do this for leisure as often as I would like anymore). As a preschooler, I would have "read-ins" with my mom: each of us cuddled up on the couch with one another books in hand. I cherished that alone time.

My mother is a teacher to her core. She never missed a teaching opportunity when we were growing up and it thrills me now to see her with Connor. Just last month, Connor was at my parent's for a few hours and when I picked him up he had mastered circles, squares, triangles and ovals and could quickly identify them in a line-up of shapes. She has sleep overs with grandchildren where they attend "Indian camp" and learn about Native American cultures, watch movies, and make crafts. She never fails to instill a gospel principal in a pupil when give the chance (whether a child, grandchild or one of her high school students).

She taught me to love other peoples and cultures. When she was young my mother cried herself to sleep at night because she wanted to be an Indian so badly (I love that story). That pure love for other cultures and people has never left her. My mother travels more than anyone I know (making it out of the country at least every other year since I was about 10). She has found a way to pursue her passion for traveling while teaching students about art and culture to make it financially possible. Are you as impressed with her as I am?! You should be!

I could quite honestly go on for hours (or at least pages and pages). I am truly blessed to have been raised by such an amazing woman. My mother is one of my favorite people to spend time with and is truly one of my best friends. I am lucky enough to be able to walk to her house from mine in about five minutes and I couldn't love it more. I love that I see her often. I love that Connor knows and loves her. I love that I have pieces of her in me.

There is no woman I would rather be like than my mom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Perspective is Everything

Have you ever noticed that you can feel out of balance, inadequate, and just plain bad about yourself and your circumstances one day and the next day be on cloud nine? Without extremely significant changes, suddenly life is rosy, you are blissfully happy, and you feel completely content and at home in your own skin and shoes! What is the difference? Perspective.

Today I am having one of those days where my life seems settled and on track. I have a wonderful and loving husband who is kind, gentle, handsome, nurturing and humble. Robby's willingness to put aside his own desires and pride to stay home with our son these last 2 years has been nothing short of amazing. Trust me, it is not easy for a man to stay home with the baby when he would far rather be working himself. However, it made much more financial sense for our family for me to be the one working and for Robby to be home until he enters his grad program this fall. I am so deeply grateful that somehow I found the man who was just the right fit for me. I am one of the few who loves and likes my husband. Robby's sacrifices for our family have deepened our bond, increased my respect and admiration, and helped our family move further down the path to achieve our goals. He is my forever (as cheesy as that sounds). With him, I will be able to attain higher degrees of glory and exaltation. He makes me strive to be better in all that I do and loves me for who I truly am. No pretenses, no pressure to change, no unrealistic expectations. All at once, Robby makes me feel truly loved for who I am and yet at the same time instills a desire in me to constantly better myself.

I have a precious son who lights up my entire world with his smile. I had no idea how ones heart could quadruple in size until I held Connor in my arms for the first time. It is truly awe inspiring how deep the love is between a mother and a child. He is my greatest accomplishment in life and has brought wonderful new dynamic and meaning to our family unit.

What is the difference between today and any other day? Perspective. We are here to be tested, to gain our bodies and to form eternal bonds one with another. Do five pounds or long to-do lists really matter in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely not (well, within reason). :)

I have the perspective of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This knowledge influences and directs every step on my journey through life. If I hold fast to this perspective, and make sure that my feet are firmly planted on my path, then regardless of life's challenges or perceived problems, I can choose to be truly and happy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Women and Education

A friend of mine is doing a paper for her Social Policy and Feminist Legal Theory class at BYU law school and asked for my thoughts on women and education (particularly in relation to a talk given by President Hinckley - the text of which can be found below.) 

This is my response: 

I come from LDS parents who have always placed an emphasis on the importance of education. With a solid foundation and a fairly healthy self-esteem (again, thanks to parenting) I believed myself capable of achieving great things academically. However, in the back of my head there was always the thought – and religious teaching – the home comes first. My young mind interpreted this religious teaching to mean that being a wife and mother trumps education or vocational aspirations.

Trusting in my parents a great deal, I relied on their teachings and urgings to pursue academic goals. However, the comments, looks and/or perceived judgments that I received from fellow LDS women were (and are) ever constant. These perceived judgments often left me feeling the need to justify my decisions to church members, casual associations, friends, etc.

While I do not recall hearing President Hinckley’s talk as a youth, I believe my father gave it to me, or I came across it, as a young single adult preparing to take the LSAT and apply to law school. It was everything that my mother and father had taught me but was now coming from the words of a prophet. I felt empowered, uplifted, and vindicated all at once. No longer did I feel the compulsion to explain away my decision not to go on a mission and to pursue a legal education. No longer did I feel a pit in my stomach when the nosy onlooker would inquire if I wanted children and how I expected to make that work.

We as women must empower ourselves for so many reasons. We need to have the means to support our family if the needs arises. We need to set an example to our children that we value education. (I heard somewhere that the amount of education children pursue is often based off of the level of education of their mother – not their father.)

All of this being said, a career has followed my legal education and, while I forever stand by my decision to go to law school, I have begun to experience the guilt that comes with being a working LDS mother/wife. At times I feel plagued by feelings of inadequacy, guilt that I am not in the home full time, and fear that I am falling short in my duties as a wife and mother. However, when I begin to experience these negative feelings from the adversary, I am reminded in the quiet contemplation which accompanies prayer that I am on my path. The Lord is pleased with me for enlightening my mind, improving my family’s situation, positioning myself to help others, following the Spirit's promptings, and setting an example for my son. I may not be the perfect mother – but my son is a happy, well adjusted, bright, loving and nurtured two year old. I may not be the perfect mother – but my husband feels loved and supported while having a companion who walks in even step with him. I may not be the world’s most accomplished lawyer, but I have made a difference in the lives of my clients and I receive great satisfaction in knowing that I have followed the Lord’s promptings in pursuing an education and maintaining my career. Oh, and there is nothing like the pleasure received from an in-Court victory.

Do I think that every LDS woman should go to graduate school and work outside of the home? Not necessarily. I believe that each of us have a path that we are to follow. However, we should each educate ourselves (whether formally or informally), empower ourselves, and feed our minds and souls with both Gospel knowledge as well as some form of knowledge that will enable us to meet the temporal needs of our families.

I feel supported my church leaders in pursuing an education and career. However, I think that LDS church membership as a whole needs to catch up with the teachings of prophets and, when coupled with the gift of personal revelation, realize that an LDS wife/mother can pursue and education and/or work while still living a life in accordance with Gospel teachings.

I love being a wife, mother and lawyer and will forever work to achieve the perfect balance amongst the three. 

This is the talk from President Hinckley: 

Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.
Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution.
The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.
I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.
For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Particularly, pay no attention to what some boy might say to demean you. He is no better than you. In fact, he has already belittled himself by his actions. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.
Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience—positive, wonderful, purposeful experience—that will lead to life eternal. He has given you this glorious Church, His Church, to guide you and direct you, to give you opportunity for growth and experience, to teach you and lead you and encourage you, to bless you with eternal marriage, to seal upon you a covenant between you and Him that will make of you His chosen daughter, one upon whom He may look with love and with a desire to help. May God bless you richly and abundantly, my dear young friends, His wonderful daughters.
Of course there will be some problems along the way. There will be difficulties to overcome. But they will not last forever. He will not forsake you.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. …
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Look to the positive. Know that He is watching over you, that He hears your prayers and will answer them, that He loves you and will make that love manifest. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do as you look to become the kind of woman of whom you dream. You can do it. You will have friends and loved ones to help. And God will bless you as you pursue your course. This, girls, is my humble promise and prayer in your behalf, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eyes of Love

When my mom was a little girl she used to cry herself to sleep wishing that she had been born Native American. I inherited my mother's love of other peoples and cultures. When I was ten I dressed up as a middle eastern woman (veil and all) for Halloween. When I was twelve I purchased disks and books trying to teach myself Hebrew so that I could go live in Israel. I have a Guatemalan sister who is the embodiment of love and kindness. I see the richness that different cultures, backgrounds, religious beliefs and traditions can bring to our lives. 

Growing up I was lucky enough to travel to nine countries in Europe with my mom. I have been so privileged to see other places and learn of other cultures. I have been blessed with a mother who has constantly taught me to love other learn about their traditions and judge each individual on their heart and not their skin color, religious beliefs, accent, etc.

I stumbled upon this talk during my personal study and wanted to shout it from the rooftops. There are so many great quotes from Elder Morrison's talk but this one seems all encompassing:  "Sadly, however, deep divisions of race, ethnicity, politics, economic status, and culture still separate people the world over. These divisions corrode, corrupt, and destroy relationships between neighbors and prevent the establishment of societies where there is “no contention in the land, because of the love of God which [dwells] in the hearts of the people” (4 Ne. 1:15)."

It is so important that we are accepting, tolerant, and respectful to others - including those with whom we do not agree! I truly believe that the type of person we are is not measured by how we act when things are easy but, instead, when we are confronted with something that it hard (whatever that may be). It is easy to surround yourself with people who look, talk, and think like you. It is divine to be accepting, loving, and tolerant of everyone. We need to celebrate diversity in its many forms.

The consequences and pain that come from judging others hastily and without love can be lasting and severe. As Morrison stated, "We must look beyond the superficial stereotyping which influences too much of our thinking about the worth of those who seem on the surface to be different than we are. We must learn to look at others through the eyes of love, not as strangers and foreigners, but as individuals, fellow children of God, of one blood with us."

I quote this talk not only in relation to race, but also gender, sexual orientation, political persuasion, religious affiliation, and the many other areas in which we differ from one another. We have all judged too hastily and found ourselves proven wrong. We have all been wrongfully judged. If only we could each strive to view each other with "eyes of love" we would find ourselves in a better place (both without and within).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Moirae

The Fates seem to be guiding my path in life. Although I do not believe in Polytheism (I simply liked the reference to The Moirae as a title to this post since it fit perfectly), I do believe in some type of predetermined path (or foreordination) - subject to change as a result of our own agency.

Like most everyone else, I have made some seriously poor choices along my path of life. Low-lights including: dating a bejeweled hockey player and having flings with various rock boys donning guy-liner. (Hey, after dating the same guy for years I had to spread my wings a little, right?!) However, after minor deviations, I seem to find my feet back upon the path that was meant for me.

If there is one constant that I have felt throughout my life it is this: if I listen ever so closely to the whisperings of the Spirit, I can feel myself being propelled (or compelled to follow) a foreordained or predetermined path for my life. Break-ups. Law School. Robby. Moves. Jobs. Baby. Being a working mom.

While I have rejoiced over some of these events (Robby and Connor being the best two decisions of my life), others have brought mixed emotions. I love being a lawyer. I hate being away from Connor as much as I am.
 Are you sensing a theme in my blog posts? It is because my life seems to have been overrun with mommy guilt lately. (I promise that I will try to move away from this subject in my next post.)

Perhaps the hardest part of this internal conflict is that I know without a doubt that Robby and I were inspired to have Connor when we did. However, on top of that, I was undoubtedly inspired, and expressly directed, by the Spirit that I was supposed to go to law school....and practice law. Apparently just because the Lord wants you to take a certain step, or head a certain direction, that does not necessarily mean that said step will mesh well with the other inspired choices in your life. Hmmm. I am not really loving that reality.

There is nothing like the thrill of winning a case, or slaying an oral argument in Court, but I wish that I could have a little less of that and a little more time playing hide-n-seek with Connor during the day. I truly don't intend to abandon the practice of law entirely until I reach retirement age, but I wouldn't mind being part time. The problem: part time is not in our cards for a long time. The reconciliation: I must continue to find joy in the journey and let go of the guilt that I am not at home with Connor all day.

There it is again. That ugly 5 letter word g-u-i-l-t. (Four letter words pale in comparison to guilt in my mind.) I have decided that instead of allowing that dirty little pest to crowd out my ability to rejoice in the monotony of life, I must embrace that I am on my path. I am following the promptings I am given, counseling with my husband, and we are moving forward down the path that the Lord intended for us. Just because it is right for my sisters to stay home with their children does not mean that I have to feel guilty for being unable to stay home with mine.

Connor is happy, well adjusted, and developing just as he should be. Robby is supportive, strong, reliable, and worthy to lead our family. And so....I must accept that The Fates have a different plan in mind for me than anyone else.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Obvious Realization

Have you ever found yourself having an epiphany - a smack you in the face insight into the true importance or meaning of something - about something that you've been told (or "learned") a million times before? I have. I do. I did on Valentine's Day. I had the epiphany that you need to date your spouse. I know, this is the most novel concept you've ever heard, right? 

Don't get me wrong, Robby and I date but usually we double date, hang out with a large group of friends, or have our precious little Con Man come along. One thing that we have failed miserably at is going out just the two of us. We had not planned on doing anything special for Valentine's Day but at the last minute Robby's sister said she would watch Connor and off Robby and I went to Cracker Barrel. (We decided to live on the edge and go to dinner on Valentine's Day sans reservation. Yeah, we're crazy like that.) 

Without the distraction of group conversations (which I love, crave, and which definitely have their place), I was able to focus on my own personal, quirky, adorable (in every sense of the world), and amazing Prince Charming. I was reminded all over again why I fell in love with him. We have such easy and endless conversations but the deep ones (where undivided attention can be given) are few and far between. And so, nearly three and a half months into the year, I have finally made my New Year's Resolution: go on more dates with my man.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Internal Conflict and Life Balance

I often feel the different sides of myself playing tug-of-war over my time, attention and conscience. This awareness of internal conflict is most often brought to the forefront of my mind when one part of me is feeling guilty for neglecting the others. Am I alone in the ever constant desire to be a better mom, a better wife, a better member, a better professional, a better me? I think not. But is it healthy to torment myself for being unable to do everything full throttle - all at once? Definitely not.

When I feel overwhelmed by my shortcomings and guilt ridden for my lack of perfection (or anything near it), I have to force myself to breathe - in and out, in and out. It is when I am quiet and contemplative that I remember this: balance is the key to juggling my many hats (and every juggler drops a ball -or hat- now and then).

Why is it that we each must be our own worst critic? It is a horrible (yet necessary) plague from which so many of us suffer. If we didn't see our own failures or flaws what would push us towards self-improvement? I can only resolve to allow a bit more self-forgiveness in all areas so that I can fully enjoy the time I spend in each.

And so today I will clean (but not scour), make a meal (but feel no pressure to create a culinary masterpiece), play with my son (and not think about my list of to-dos at the home or office), and revel a bit more in time with my husband (without obsessing that my tummy isn't rock hard when he touches it).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It Begins

I am taking the leap and starting a blog. This is not a blog dedicated to any topic in particular. Rather, I will write what I feel (whether good or bad), ask questions that plague me (whether deep or superficial), vent or delight about life in general, and have an online home that is made for me.

I just spent a good chunk of time creating the header for this blog that I may or may not actually post on. However, my intentions are good. I want the world (whether you be friend, family or stranger) to get to know the real me: the flawed, eccentric, insecure yet oddly confident, me!

And begins.