Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kids Choice Day

We made up a new holiday today.  It's called "Kids' Choice Day" and takes place the day after Christmas.  Today was a trial run, and we all rated it a smashing success!  It came about because of my thinking about how we need to be better about playing with our children, and letting them take the lead on play more often.  Here's how it works:

Kid's Choice Day


  • The family needs to stick together
  • There is a set budget 
  • All the kids need to be in agreement
  • The kids get to choose what the family does all day!
  • The grown-ups can't be involved in the decision-making unless requested
We had a blast.  The kids watched a couple cartoons in the morning (including watching UNICEF's Global Handwashing Dance three times--a family classic), then we went to the awesome College Park Aviation Museum for the rest of the morning.

 From there, we went to the park to try out our new Christmas scooters.
Next up on their list was Chuck e Cheese.  Where in the world did they even hear about it?  Well, we stuck to our guns and didn't use veto power.  But we kept it short and only spent $5, and they seemed to have a good time.  We were too embarrassed to take pictures.

Then we came home and had pizza and watched Fantasia and read books.  We all had a great time, and it's something that they'll definitely be looking forward to for next year.  After all, it's the only other day besides their birthday when they don't have to do ANY jobs!  For us, it was fun to have a relaxed vacation day, where we were not in charge of entertaining, and the kids liked talking with each other about the plan and informing us.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Story: "Christmas is for Sharing"

I love Christmas stories. This one is from the childhood of my great uncle, Richard Warner (as told to his sister, Emma Lou Thayne). My mom read it to me when I was a girl, and before bed tonight, I read it to my inseparable boot-loving boys. I hope that as they grow, they will be as loving and good to each other as the sweet boys in the story. Enjoy!

Christmas is for Sharing

I knew that Homer had wanted canyon boots for as long as I could remember. He was eleven and I ten, and we had spent many nights under the blue quilts at the cabin talking about how great it would be to have some real boots — boots that would climb through thorny bushes, that would ward off rattlesnakes, that would nudge the ribs of the pony; we had planned the kind of leather they should be and what kind of decoration that should have.

But we both knew it was just talk. The depression had been hard on Father's business, and even shoes for school were usually half-soled hand-me-downs.

Christmas that year had promised as always to be exciting, though mainly because of the handmade things we'd worked on in school for our parents. We never had money to spend on each other, but we had caught early in our lives a sort of contagion from our mother. She loved to give, and her anticipation of the joy that a just-right gift would bring to someone infected our whole household. We were swept up in breathless waiting to see how others would like what we had to give. Secrecy ruled — open, exaggerated secrecy, as we made and hid our gifts. The only one whose hiding place we never discovered was my Grandmother's. Her gifts seemed to materialize by magic on Christmas morning and were always more expensive than they should have been.

That Christmas I was glowing because Mother had been so happy with the parchment lamp shade I'd made in the fourth grade, and Father had raved over the clay jewelry case I had molded and baked for him. Gill and Emma Lou had been pleased with the figures I'd whittled out of clothespins, and Homer had liked the Scout pin I'd bargained for with my flint. Then Grandma started to pass out her presents.

Mine was heavy and square. I'd been in the hospital that year and then on crutches, and I'd wondered how it would be to have an Erector set to build with. Grandma had a knack at reading boys' minds, and I was sure that's what it was. But it wasn't. It was a pair of boots, brown tangy-smelling leather boots.

I looked quickly to Homer's package. His was a sweater. He'd needed one all fall. I wanted to cover my box before he saw what it was. I didn't want the boots; they should have been his. He came toward me, asking to see, and I started to say, "I'm sorry, bruv."

But he was grinning. And he shouted, "Hey everybody — look what Richard's got." He swooped the boots out of the box, fondled them like treasure, and then sat on the floor at my feet to take off my half-soled shoes and put on the brand new boots.

I don't remember how the boots felt, nor even how they looked. But Christmas rang in my soul because my brother was glad for me.

Richard Warner
As told to Emma Lou Warner Thayne
December 1964

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hurry Up and Play!

One summer when I was a teenager, I met some second-cousins and we soon started playing together and having a great time outside their family cabin.  After about a half hour or so, their mom came outside and said, "I was washing the dishes inside, but I had to leave them and come out here and play because you looked like you were having so much fun!"
Evelyn obviously has too much unsupervised play
I was so impressed that she would leave her work half way through to come play with us that I determined to be "that kind of mom."
After reading and playing by himself for a half hour, Benjamin came upstairs like this.
I, unfortunately, don't think that I've held to that determination very well.  When the kids are playing happily by themselves, instead of thinking, "That looks fun!"  I think, "Look how much I can accomplish!"  And when I'm done with the urgent things on my "To Do" list, I often read to myself or to the kids, but not often enough do I think of playing with them.  
The holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of the kids being around and playful, but it's also very convenient to keep hacking away at the endless "To Do" list. It's not always a get things done OR play decision.  I've been surprised how much faster my chores go when I really make an effort to go fast. And it's more fun!  When I work hard to make child-led play a priority, there are big payoffs in our relationship, and it's also really fun! 

Are you good at remembering to play with your children?  What do you like to do together?  How do you find time, and how do you remember?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How to De-Seed Your Pomegranate in 30 Seconds

I love pomegranate season. Our California trees are laden heavy with fruit, begging to be eaten yet simultaneously defying us to try to pick all those scrumptious, nutritious, versatile little seeds from their insides. Only the most patient among us can win, right?

Not anymore!!

Up until recently, I used to boast that the ultimate way to de-seed a pomengranate was to dismantle it in a bowl of water: the seeds sink, the membrane floats. No juicy mess! Yes!

And NO FUN! And still soooo LONG.

May I present an infinitely better technique? (If you already know about this and didn't ever tell me, you are in big trouble.) We have been eating so many more pomegranates these last weeks for the ease of it. The bowl of water method doesn't even hold a candle!

Items Needed
wooden spoon

STEP 1: Score pomegranate with a knife, about 1/8" deep.

STEP #2: Twist apart to open the fruit.

STEP #3: Loosen the membranes a little by gently pulling back around the edges with your thumbs. If you do this too hard, you could crack the fruit (the technique will still work, but might be messier).

STEP #4: Turn upside-down and whap it hard with a wooden spoon, rotating the fruit in your palm as you strike. Smile.

Demonstration video:

The video cut off just before I finished, but it literally takes seconds to strike out all the seeds (see here or here for extra proof). Behold the finished product:

STEP #5: Gobble down those precious seeds so you can have another whack at it!

Happy smacking! May it make your holidays a little brighter and a little tastier.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Clean, Clear Face

Twice now I have tried this great recipe for DIY pore strips, with great success.  It's quick, cheap and easy, and really does the job!
It's just unflavored gelatine and a bit of milk to make it a wet paste, microwaved for a 15 seconds.  My only changes was that (like everything), I didn't measure very exactly and it turned out fine.  Also, you don't need a disposible cup, as it washes out easily when warmed up, and you can just apply it with your finger.  Also make sure to apply it thickly, and avoid your eyebrows if you intend to keep them!

What natural ways have you found to keep your face clean and clear?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Books

Andrew and I read together last night an old email from his wonderful scholarly father that was a wonderful compilation of quotes from church history about books and study.  Enjoy!

Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion 296

We are commanded in D&C 109:14-16 . . . to build a house of study.  There people were to "seek . . . out of the best books words of wisdom" (D&C 88:118).  A list of the best books had not yet been supplied.  We must find these ourselves by diligently searching.  If the scriptures bind the worlds together, the writings of man bind together the generations and the dispensations.

Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine 235

Read good books. Learn to sing and to recite, and to converse upon subjects that will be of interest to your associates, and at your social gatherings, instead of wasting the time in senseless practices that lead only to mischief and sometimes to serious evil and wrongdoing; instead of doing this, seek out of the best books knowledge and understanding. Read history. Read philosophy, if you wish. Read anything that is good, that will elevate the mind and will add to your stock of knowledge, that those who associate with you may feel an interest in your pursuit of knowledge and of wisdom.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson 304

With the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). In your reading you would do well to follow the counsel of John Wesley's mother:  Avoid "whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, [and] increases the authority of the body over the mind."

The fact that a book or publication is popular does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of your reading. Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people's garbage. It is harder to purge the mind of rotten reading than to purge the body of rotten food, and it is more damaging to the soul.
Brigham Young, JD 9:174, January 26, 1862

Novel reading--is it profitable? I would rather that persons read novels than read nothing. There are women in our community, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and sixty years of age, who would rather read a trifling, lying novel than read history, the Book of Mormon, or any other useful print. . . . I would advise you to read books that are worth reading; read reliable history, and search wisdom out of the best books you can procure. How I would be delighted if our young men would do this, instead of continually studying nonsense.
As a side note, there were also two interesting and relevant food news stories on NPR this morning, one bad one good:

I can't find the original NPR story, but this is about the same study

Nut consumption reduces risk of death

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Garlic Magic

I just ate a whole clove of garlic.  Raw, and crushed.  Normally I just eat it with a spoon and then take a few big swigs of water.  Today I tried putting a thick layer of butter on a piece of toast, crushing the garlic onto it, and folding it in half.  I think I'll stick to the spoon method from now on, because it just took too long to get it down.  (Don't get me wrong --- I LOVE garlic.  Cooked.)

I found the following infographic in this Huffington Post article.  (You'll probably have to visit the page to be able to see it up close and read all the benefits of garlic.)  Become a garlic believer!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Autumn Greens with Cider Vinaigrette

This is a great option for your salad on Thanksgiving.

1 shallot, minced
1 T apple cider (or wassail!)
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c walnut oil ( or peanut with a little sesame oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 c mixed greens

Options for salad toppings include toasted nuts, orange zest, pomegranate seeds. 


In a small bowl, whisk together cider, and vinegar. Whisk in walnut oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the greens and divide among four plates. It says serve immediately, but i think its delicious after sitting a while, too.

Garnish with twisted orange slices.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Menstrual Cup: the solution

My menstrual cycle: officially revolutionized.

Can I share with you one of the greatest discoveries of my life?  This is a TMI post, but don't be embarrassed and stop reading even if you are a guy, because you might want to change your wife's life with this.

I'm into natural living for two reasons.  One, because it's the big fad right now.

Just kidding.  One, because I care about my health.  I want to consume foods and other products that do not introduce any toxins to my body.  (Beyond that, products and foods that nourish my body are highly preferred).  Two, because I care about the earth.  I really care about the earth.  And I realized a couple years ago that my way of living --- the standard American way of living --- was hurtful to the earth.

I have a long way to go in averting hypocrisy on both counts, but I've come a long way.  More on that some other time.

Today lets talk about my reasons for questioning my lifelong use of menstrual pads and tampons.

Even the ones made from "organic cotton."  

Even the ones with "biodegradable applicators."  

Even the "chlorine-free" ones.  

The catalyst to my research was the realization of how much WASTE I was creating every month.  (This book estimates that the average woman throws away up to 300 pounds of feminine hygiene products in a lifetime --- and that doesn't take into consideration the destructive production processes for these products).  But I soon realized there was so much more.

It came down to this: menstrual pads are slightly more destructive to the environment than tampons because of their plastic components.  (See this study done by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm); tampons are more destructive to the body because they simply make more contact with some of the most absorbent tissues in the body, exposing them to dioxins --- yes, even since bleaching processes have been changed to reduce dioxin content.  (See page 22: "Dioxins are known to cause cancer in animals, and probably cause cancer in people.  People exposed to high levels of dioxins may be at risk for a damaged immune system, increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, and reduced fertility."  Here's what the EPA has to say about dioxins.)  Both products are also likely to contain BPA or BPS, as most paper products do, as well as phthalates and DEHP.

All this in one of the most sensitive and absorbent areas of the body!  Not to mention that these plastic/paper products restrict air flow, promoting yeast infections and bacterial growth in the vaginal area.  Tampons also absorb not just blood, but all moisture in the vagina, including healthy fluids that are necessary to protect the vaginal walls and maintain the correct pH level and beneficial bacteria populations.

In this article by Dr. Mercola, a few other tampon/pad risks are mentioned:
  • Conventional tampons contain pesticides: A whopping $2 billion is spent annually on pesticides to spray cotton crops.
  • Conventional tampons probably contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). According the USDA, 94 percent of all U.S. cotton is genetically engineered.  
  • Tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and artificial fragrances are virtually a chemical soup, laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness and infertility.
Finally, tampons have been known to cause Toxic Shock Syndrome on occasion, due to build-up of bacteria growth.  TSS is a life-threatening condition, and while it is rare for women to incur it from tampon-use, it is a noted risk.

So What On Earth Am I Supposed to USE?!

Rags, right?  You want me to use rags like the pioneer ladies.

Sure, use rags.

It may alter your gait for one week of the month, and increase your laundry pile a bit, and use a bit more water for cleaning, but rags are a great option.  Lots of people use homemade menstrual pads and love it.

But I use a menstrual cup.

I ordered one, 2.5 years ago, and before I got the chance to try it, I was pregnant.  I gave it away --- since you need a bigger size after vaginal birth --- and a few months ago I finally ordered a new one.  Best buy of the year, maybe the decade!

Yes, it just fits right inside.  It catches the blood.  Then you remove it, dump, rinse, and replace.

Mine is a Diva Cup, although there are lots of brands out there.  Here is a forum for people to compare and discuss brands and trouble-shooting that might be useful to you.  (See?  I'm not the only one.)  Keep in mind that you will need a larger size if you have given birth vaginally.

You fold and insert, and give it a full turn so it opens up and suctions to the vaginal wall. Source.
These are the reasons I LOVE my menstrual cup:
  • No waste.  This thing will last for years, and I will not need to throw away a pad or tampon (or its packaging) ever again. 
  • This also means I'll be saving a lot of $$ on hygiene products.  It's a one-time purchase of $30 or so.
  • No paper or plastic.  Made of medical-grade silicone (non-latex).  Goodbye dioxins, phthalates, BPA, etc. etc. etc. etc.
  • You only have to change it every 8-12 hours, depending on how heavy your cycle is.
  • NO LEAKING.  Mine only leaked once the first cycle I used it, and that was because I left it in (overnight) longer than 12 hours, and it overflowed.  So it leaked just a tiny bit onto the panty liner I was wearing as an extra precaution.
  • It is completely comfortable: I don't even know it's there.
  • I went camping during a cycle, and didn't have to pack a whole bag of STUFF.  I just used my cup.  Thankfully we were car-camping this trip and there was a sink I could use for rinsing, but I think it would be just fine backpacking too.  You could use a water bottle for rinsing --- away from the camp so as not to attract bears.
  • Rinsing the cup is easy.  If you are in a public place and don't have access to a sink in your stall, you can put it back in as is and rinse when you get home.  Since you don't have to dump it more than every 8-12 hours, probably you won't need to rinse it while you are away from home much.
  • A lot of people say that it takes some getting used to, some trial and error.  Mine worked perfectly the first time.
  • It has been enlightening to know visually how much I actually bleed during a period.  As someone who charts, this data is somehow interesting to me.
  • While reusable cloth pads are great, this allows for freedom of movement (and swimming, etc.) the way a tampon does. 
  • It comes with a cute little bag for storage.  I put it in my purse when I know my period will be starting that day.  (I always know because I chart my temperatures).

A menstrual cup might not be for everyone... maybe.  

But for now, it is the only thing for me.  I know I won't be going back.

Friday, November 8, 2013

LDS Perpetual Christmas Advent Calendar

LDS Holistic Living made a beautiful advent calendar that you can print off and use how you will through out December.  We'll definitely be taking advantage of it!
Yep, Christmas Music has definitely started at our house.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Suppa' Time

Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. chaos erupts in the cute little ranch-style house with the white picket fence. Fiery explosions come in blasts from a tired one year-old, crashes come from a penned-up toddler who loves to romp through walls and furniture, and an almost-teenage angst comes from a kid who wants to play but needs to work a bit, even after a long day of school. 

The water in the pot bubbles to a boil, the vegetables begin to steam, and the oven temperature climbs. The heat is on at the Marshall's in those pre-dinner hours.

Dad comes home and the chaos melts into symphonic celebration. Loud joy. 

Then dinner, which is a clamor. For food, yes, but more for attention. This comes in the form of boisterous baby babbling, talking through stuffed cheeks, standing up on chairs, loud voices bouncing off the narrow dining room walls, and behavior fit for an oafish lump of vikings. 

I'm out of ideas. 

I love dinner.  I work hard to make dinner and to prepare for it.  We even breathe and stretch for a while before dinner starts to help everyone mellow out.  

What do you do so that meal prep time and dinner time are peaceful, happy times?  How do you teach and reinforce manners without making them the only topic of conversation at dinner?  How do you teach your children to be polite when other people are talking?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Easy Ranch Dressing from Sour Cream

We love this homemade ranch dressing, modified from Katie's at Kitchen Stewardship.  Sorry for the uncertain measurements.  I always do it by feel.  Find what you like!

  • 16 oz. sour cream (home-cultured if you're awesome... like I might be soon)
  • 2 Tb. red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves fresh crushed garlic
  • 1-1.5 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp. each dried parsley, dill weed, chives
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • black pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • Mix everything together
  • Salad dressing
  • Vegetable dip
  • Hamburger topping
  • Pizza dip...
  • What can't you use it for?

3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)
3/4 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream or plain yogurt (I like half of each)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (less for young children)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4+ tsp. each: dried parsley, dill weed, chives
a few shakes cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste, preferably freshly ground
salt to taste (not always needed with the fresh garlic)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Simple Crafts for Halloween: Ghosts, Pumpkins, Spiders (and the Boo Cannon)

I have generally not considered myself particularly crafty (as in: thank you cards, holiday decor, scrapbooking...).

I think it's because I'm too practical. I tend to use my creative time to produce things that have clear utility. Since crafting doesn't add to my health, enrich my mind, or clean my house (quite the opposite, in fact), I have not often sought them out. Even when I look through a book of fun and easy sewing projects, appearance is second to function. (It wasn't until recently that I decided that it might be okay to include some non-edible flowers in my garden, alongside the vegetables.)

I feel very boring admitting this.

But recently I've been thinking back with great nostalgia at some of the decorations that adorned my childhood home around the holidays. At Halloween, it was the big pumpkin in the front window, the "elegant witch" on the mantle, the gangly skeleton hanging on the wall, the flying ghosts on the kitchen ceiling fan. I can't imagine my childhood empty of these festivities.

So last week, I thought, we need some ghosts to brighten up this holiday! I ended up spending the afternoon making some inutile but completely awesome little Halloween decorations with my kids. They are a cinch (had to be for me). You probably have everything you'll need already.

I hope one of these adds some fun to your Halloween week!


Items needed: tissue paper, string, marker, tape

I have kept every piece of tissue paper I've been given for the last seven years, so I have lots! If you don't have any, it would work equally well with regular old tissues.

1) Lay a tissue paper out on the table (cut smaller for smaller ghosts).
2) Crumple a second piece of tissue paper into a ball, placing it in the center of the first.
3) Gather the corners of the flat tissue paper up around the ball and tie with some thread.
4) Draw eyes (and mouth if desired) and hang.

I used an extra long piece of string to tie up the necks so I'd have some leftover for hanging the ghosts. To help them hang straight, I brought the string up the back of the head and taped it to the top. We like watching them slowly turn as people walk through the room.

Sammy made some all on his own, preferring longer "floaters" (his term) to the smaller ghosts I made.

Items needed: paper, scissors, stapler, tape

This is basically just cutting, folding, and a little taping and stapling. These were fun to make, but I really wouldn't have made so many if Sammy hadn't insisted he needed 10 for a project he had up his sleeve. Instead of doing a step-by-step for you, I'll direct you to the YouTube tutorial I found. I tried all the sizes she suggested, then made up some of my own.

Isn't it a sweet little pumpkin patch?

Note to those who make up their own sizes:
The width of your strip of paper = the squatiness (width) of the pumpkin
The length of your strip of paper = the heighth of the pumpkin

Items needed: egg carton, paint, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, glue gun

This idea came from my neighbor's bush, and actually, but not surprisingly, exceeded my scant crafting supplies. I lacked the googly eyes and a glue gun (Keenan says every home should have a glue gun hiding near the back of some cluttered cupboard... apparently his home was like mine!). I'm thinking about investing in one for these spiders. Anyone know of another kind of crafty glue that would stick tight and dry fast??

Each spider is a single section of egg carton, painted black, with pipe cleaner segments hot glue gunned to the sides and eyes on the front. Too cute to be spooky.


My 5-year-old was thrilled with my holiday craftiness and jumped right on the decorating bandwagon! The following gradually appeared around the house:

Window ghosts and witches
Some quick-sketch scares
A sparkly knight
The "Boo Cannon:" pull the string
and the mini-ghost pops out!

He tells me he has decorating plans to last us all week! Personally, I'm glad he's taking over so I can get back to my boring, functional life. ;)

Have you made anything fun to display at your house this year?

Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GMO Labeling: An Update and a Plea

A year ago this week, I did a post on California's Prop 37, aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically-modified organisms in our food. Narrowly, the proposition failed, thanks to a ruthless ad campaign by the opposition, who collectively donated $46 million to confuse voters and ensure its defeat. I was sad about all the misinformation that was propagated during that time.

Since then, MaineConnecticut, and Vermont have passed labeling laws, joining 64 other countries around the world.

Now the state of Washington is fighting the good fight for GMO labeling with ballot initiative 522, coming up for vote next month. As with Prop 37, recent polls show that the gap between Yes and No voters is narrowing, due again to an influx of advertising cash from the opposition.

Right now, Dr. Bronner's and Nutiva are TRIPLING donations made to FoodDemocracyNow! on behalf of I-522. Will you contribute to this cause? Even just $5.22? If you can't afford to donate but still want to help, now is a great time to make calls to voters to help educate them on this issue.

Truth be told, I am generally in favor of less regulation, not more. And there are other ways to make it happen. The Non-GMO Project is a good start. Whole Foods Market is requiring labeling in their stores by 2018. Other stores and companies are refusing to include GMOs in their products as well. I couldn't applaud them more loudly! But allowing states to legislate on this issue resonates with my strong desire to stand up to the wealthy food bullies, who, in my opinion, are good stewards of neither earth nor body.

A win in Washington is a win for all of us. So I just donated what I could. Will you?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Family Personal Scripture Study

My five year old (who has just become an independent reader) recently started asking for his own Book of Mormon.  We thought it was a great idea, and started a morning personal scripture study time right when the kids wake up. The younger siblings can only look through scripture related picture books. We do it for about ten or fifteen minutes. I've been really tempted to use the time to make a delicious breakfast for these cuties, but I feel it is important for them to see me studying my scriptures too.
 So far, the boys love it and remind us right when they wake up!  It makes sense to start personal scripture study now, while they are young and excited about it. That will make it all her to continue that tradition as they grow.
Happy Autumn!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Yin and Yang

My mother is in Argentina right now, and has had something of a monastic two weeks by herself to contemplate and meditate.  In her weekly letter to family, she included this brilliant piece about Yin and Yang.  It's worth a read, and will give you some food for thought for your weekend.  With her permission, I share it now.
In prayer and reflection time, I've thought of the concepts that eastern philosophies have words for the energy balances we need in our lives--yin and yang (my feng shui teacher insisted that we pronounce yang in a way that rhymes with "song," not the orange breakfast drink!) Life would probably have been easier for me if we had words for them in English. As I understand them, they acknowledge that a balance of both energies in each system (a life, a family, a home, a country, etc.) is ideal for well-being. 

Yin, known as the female energy, is receptive, quiet, nurturing, characterized by listening, hearing, understanding, mercy, beauty, winter, the moon and night. The male yang is a bright energy of activity and growth, action, and justice. It is dynamic and powerful, characterized by the sun, speaking, acting and giving. These characteristics should not be confused with the genders they represent, as all people have, or should have elements of both in their being, though the gender association is surely not accidental. In my unofficial observation of marriages for example, I think that in some cases the wife is the more yang and the husband more yin of the two. It probably doesn't matter.

They both sound good to me in my own extremely yin season, and yang sounds especially good at the moment.

Together, they represent perfection (think of the yin/yang symbol). But each energy in its excess leads to dis-ease. Yin can cave in on itself, and implode in sloth and inaction. Yang is hurried and competitive. Unmoderated, it leads to enmity, thoughtlessness, aggression, insensitivity and violence. Ultimately, it explodes. Consider young men at war. (Hugh Nibley's article "Matriarchy and Patriarchy" has informed my thinking on this, and is probably another way of looking at the same energies). It's interesting to consider the tendencies toward violence and ugliness (in my opinion) of very yang societies which repress or pervert yin energies, such as some in the Middle East. According to Nibley, yin societies stagnate.

As I have considered this tension, I believe one of the reasons that the world is heading toward its prophesized violent combustive ending is that yang energy is generally (but not completely) ruling the world, and increasing. Eckhart Tolle has mentioned this (see A New Earth). In some corners, yin energy is growing, as seen in the growing popularity of yoga, and meditation.

But generally, we are in a period of increasing speed of almost everything, including travel and communication, and living in general. We no longer recite or listen to poetry, sit together, visit one another, go for walks, or watch the sun set.We don't even write much, generally. (Most TV watching seems the worst of both worlds--utterly useless inaction spent watching an aggressive, self-focused yang world.) This has been coming on for a long time now, and much of it is due to technology, (which I mostly adore), but which obscures the natural rhythms of life--the gathering of darkness in winter, the cold which drives us inside to be together, to talk, to read and to listen. Now, it's always daytime, and we can always, day and night, tell and hear some new thing (Acts 17:21). Some may think this is not to be regretted, and candidly, I'm not sure how many poetry recitations I'm prepared to sit through at the moment. But I do think we are off balance when sensitivity, gentleness and growing things like marriages and children take too much time, as we rush headlong through hard and often thoughtless, activity-driven living; likewise when, as Elder Christofferson mentioned, women characters have joined the killers in video games. (And, to be current, when somehow it is weakness to negotiate compromises in a representative government, so that shallow, unexamined ideologies and enmity rule.)

My thoughts today have been that in the gospel, the Lord honors both yin and yang energies, and asks us to do the same. The Savior, with only three years in which to teach the gospel and organize His church, resorted often to personal prayer and reflection, often leaving the masses of people who wouldn't leave Him alone. (Sometimes He left them miraculously.) He made time for quiet conversation with individuals at the edges of wells, and in the midnight hour. He took naps on boats! His yang activities were mighty--cleansing the temple twice, feeding the multitudes (probably also twice), preaching at the temple many times. But He sought time with His Father always. The prophet Joseph Smith, the kingdom builder, also took much time for meditation and prayer. How he ever did anything but appear in court with the hundreds of accusations thrown against him is a mystery to me!

In the gospel, the sacrament, scripture study, prayer and temple worship are surely critical yin activities. Missionary work, service of so many kinds, provident living, and much of family life are usually mostly yang. All are essential. I think that yin energy may be growing in the Church, to its great benefit, as yang grows in the world, as the role of women in the family and society is celebrated as it was by many speakers in this conference, including Sister Stephens and Elder Christofferson and others. The importance of yin devotional time ("Abide with Me") is pared with yang work and energy ("Put your Shoulder to the Wheel"). We heard messages of "Never look back at what you have done. Look at what you still have to do," with "If you don't take time to be well, you will surely take time to be sick." And we are taught to take time to make sure we have the Spirit of the Lord with us as we engage in the yang work of teaching, serving and doing missionary work.

This weekend, I have felt the Lord's assurances that in my life, both yin and yang energies are essential, and that the Lord will allow time and strength for both, if I seek them, regardless of what my responsibilities now or in the future may be.