I Hate Summer

Wait—who says that? Who could hate summer, with its flowers and its break from school and its long days of lingering sunshine? 

OK, maybe hate is too strong a word. Dislike. Am made uncomfortable by. Have a complicated relationship with.

I mean, it's not the kind of negative emotion I have for Valentine's Day.

Or even Mother's Day.

It's just...well, summer is my least-favorite season. Even though I love so many things about it: yes, the flowers, but also running that's rarely interrupted by weather, hiking, summer vacations, green everywhere, late-afternoon thunderstorms, mowing the lawn, backyard barbecues.

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I love all of those things.

But sometimes the things I don't love about summer outweigh what I do. Namely:

1. Shorts. Seriously. I have been shopping for my entire adult life for shorts I look good in, and I have never found them. The length doesn't matter—what matters is that my thighs look enormous in shorts. There's something about pants that balances out my disproportionate quads (just a little...I am always self-conscious about my legs) but in shorts they just look awful. And this isn't limited to regular, every-day shorts; it's also a problem with running shorts. You know those tiny little swishy running shorts that most runners wear? Yeah. Those don't work in my thigh-touching world. But running shorts with any sort of looseness also look pretty awful on me. Like I'm an escaped junior-high PE teacher. It's kind of strange, but true: the only running shorts that don't look awful on me are the tight ones. The tight long ones.

2. Short sleeves. Nope...my summer clothing disagreements are not limited to shorts. The older I get the more aware I am of my chubby arms. In every other season I can manage this self-consciousness with one of my favorite clothing items, the cardigan. But even I (with my body's occasional inability, due to my unhappy thyroid, to properly manage my body temperature) can't go around in cardigans all summer.

3. It's hot. I don't like being cold, either. (Apparently this post is devolving into one big whine-fest.) But I have a tendency to be emotionally effected by the heat. And not in a good way. Translation: I can turn fairly quickly, in a hot room or building, into a raving psychopath. (It’s not as bad outside.) Being hot makes me grumpy, and it's usually not reversible like being cold is. You can always add layers but there are only so many clothes you can take off.

4. Hay fever. This isn't a problem every year. For reasons unknown (but which I could probably uncover if I went to an allergist), some years are really bad and some years I never sneeze once. This has been my worst hay fever summer for five or six years and I am not happy to be so forcefully reminded of how miserable the sneezing and the constant throat tickle and the always-burning eyes are. What makes it worse is I can't function if I take hay fever meds. Even the non-drowsy ones turn me into a sort-of living zombie. I did have a little bit of success the year I tried Singulair. No itchy nose or raspy lungs. Unfortunately it made me bawl. Random, unpredictable crying. Not as bad as Prednizone but close.

5. Swimming. I don't mean swimming in nature. But, you know, putting on a swimming suit and sunscreen and finding the goggles and the snacks and the beach towels and then going to a swimming pool. My kids love it (well...Kaleb still loves swimming. Jake & Nathan only want to do nothing. See #6.)  and I just...don't. I can remember loving it, especially the long afternoons Becky and I spent in the pool at the Landmark casino in Las Vegas. But now that I'm grown up, swimming annoys me. It has more than a little to do with the same reason I hate shorts (chubby thighs). Maybe if I had the slender legs of women whose thighs don't touch, I'd also love swimming. (And really. Don't even get me started on swimming suits. The one part of my body that isn't chubby is the only part I wish were, as well as the part that swim suits try to emphasize. If you have any. Which I don't.)

6. The kids are home. OK, that sounds even more awful than saying I hate summer. I love spending time with my kids, and I love having them around, and I love that we don't have to worry about homework, grades, exams, forgotten projects. But Bad Mom syndrome starts setting in pretty quickly—it flashes up when I realize all that they've mostly done with entire days is watch TV, play video games, and eat snacks. (This article pretty well sums up what I mean. Really. If you're a mom with kids at home, you should read it. I'll wait.) And argue with me about the jobs they don't want to do. All of my Mom Failings are highlighted in the summer. At least for the rest of the year I make sure they, you know, go to school 'n stuff. I want to be one of those fabulous moms who has tons of activities planned for her kids...but usually that involves swimming. And, let’s face it: the teenagers don’t want to do anything else. They don’t want to go to the pool, the zoo, the mountains for a picnic. They’d rather nah. So then I feel bad that they don’t want to do anything, and I feel bad for not making them or I feel bad FOR making them, and I feel bad for Kaleb who ends up doing less stuff.

7. Sunburns. I used to love lying out in the sun. Used to, when my skin had the capacity to get brown. Now it just burns and peels, burns and peels, in an unending cycle that's only punctuated by the weird even-whiter dots I get instead of a tan. True, I do​ love peeling. Except, I don't love worrying about skin cancer and wrinkles. 

8. Miscellaneous annoyances. Bugs! (especially mosquitos, which love me, and flies, which I detest.)  It's too hot to cook my favorite meals. Traffic—one of the reasons I'm not a fabulous mom with tons of activities planned is that everyone else is also going, and the older I get the less I can deal with lots of annoying people everywhere. The electricity bill (hate it though I do, I'll happily pay it. Probably my neighbors and/or friends would be willing to pay it if I refused, because the cost of air conditioning is so much more bearable than a grumpy Amy). The untenable process of blowing your hair dry after a shower and even though you're paying a $*(#&$ fortune for air conditioning it is apparently no match for the heat of your blow dryer, which never seems to dry a damn lock of hair because the water from the shower just gets replaced with sweat.

As I wrote my list, I realized something: most of the things I dislike about summer are things I wish I could change about myself. Or maybe just accept with more grace. Maybe, in the end, that’s the reason I don’t like summer: it forces me to see more clearly my faults. They’re easier to overlook in the other seasons. 


I Don't Believe in Princesses

There's a regular patron at the library where I work who, whenever he sees me, says "hey there, beautiful princess." He's one of those people who think they are being solicitous but really comes across as slightly creepy. I mean, I'm not seven years old.

So the other day, he said "hey there, beautiful princess" and I said, "you know, I don't believe in princesses." He looked perplexed and said, "how can you not believe in princesses? Princesses are real things. That's like not believing in...trees."

I nodded and didn't explain. Except I've been explaining in my head ever since. Sure, real princesses both have existed and continue to exist today. I just don't understand the fascination with them. Especially because the focus is not often on their accomplishments, but what they wear and how they look and how hard their pregnancies must be! (It's rough to be pregnant and sick, I get it. Having a billion nannies and personal assistants probably makes it a little be easier though.)

And that's modern princesses. Even historical ones like Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth I, the ones who really did change the world, get a little bit short-shifted because they are exceptions, not the rule.

Don't get me started on princesses in fantasy novels. And don't even ever ask me about my opinions on most of the Disney princesses! (Actually, my opinion is fairly complicated, because even though I see the problems in their stories, a part of me still loves Aurora and Cinderella and Snow White.)

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Haley & Belle, who is my favorite "princess," because books, but still...it's mostly about the dress, isn't it?

It's not like I can dismiss every princess, of course. There are examples of strong princesses who changed the world, both in history and in novels. But, in general, there's a princess ethos, and it's about being pretty. Princesses are pretty in delicate, traditional ways. They care about dresses and jewelry and romance. They are well-mannered and elegant. They are absconded by scoundrels, tricked by evil _____ (stepmothers, enchantresses, crones...), rescued by princes. They rarely act for themselves, but are acted upon.

I want to think this is the result of men ruling the world, but I think women are as likely to want to turn each other into princesses. Or themselves. The princess ideal creates an idea of what it means to be feminine that is both unattainable in its quest for perfection and just downright inane. Beauty matters to princesses. External appearances matter. How the world sees you is most important. 

And here is my deal. I don't care how old you are. You can be that slightly-creepy 80-year-old charmer at the library, or a 45-year-old peer, or the friend of my teenage son. I don't care if you see me as beautiful or ugly. I care if you see me as intelligent. As a capable person who gets stuff done. As a runner and a writer and a creative person. As someone you could talk to about important, meaningful topics or someone you could laugh with; someone with a sarcastic edge and a tender side. As someone who, sure, likes clothes and make up and jewelry, but not because of you. Because of me.

In the end, the reason I don't believe in princesses is because princesses are made up. They are very carefully created versions of women, idealized and plastic. To be a princess is to pull on a mask made up not of individual forms of beauty, but of stylized and regulated ones. To be a princess is to fulfill a role created by society, not to live inside of a personality created by experiences.

I don't believe in princesses because I believe in myself, and who I am is focused on strength and intelligence and rescuing myself. 


from the Old Moms to the Young Moms

​I followed a link from someone's Facebook feed (I can't remember whose now!) to this article this morning, and it's been driving me crazy ever since. She makes some important, true points, especially about it being OK to tell the truth about motherhood not always being easy. We all need to be gentle with each other and take care of instead of criticizing each other.

But as the "be grateful for this time" isn't a criticism, it also triggered my "yeah, but" reflex.

I know it's A Thing. I did it once and was swiftly rebuked and I haven't done it again. It's just not cool, as the mom of teenagers (when did I get this old?), to tell a mom of young kids that she should be grateful for her experiences, or that she should savor the time she has with her little kids, even when she's covered in poop and as thoroughly exhausted as she could ever imagine being. Who would be grateful for those days when your kids are little, and you feel like all you do is change diapers and nurse the baby while you're playing with Fisher Price toys with the toddler and the preschooler is drawing flowers on the kitchen wall with metallic Sharpies? When there are no adults around except you, and no possibilities of a break, and yes, even when you do get to bed there's often a little body already there, one who takes up an impossible amount of space for all its seeming tininess. When days are long and downright boring sometimes, and if you have to have one more tea party where you sip imaginary tea and eat imaginary cookies you might just lose your marbles.

And then some stupid old mother, with all of her kids at school all day, tells you you should be grateful? Have all of the old mothers forgotten just how hard it is, taking care of a bunch of little ones? Have their memories of tinies been filtered of the hard, exhausting, boring, repetitive details, leaving only the blissful ones, when the baby is clean and sleeping, and the top of her downy little head is the softest and most heavenly thing imaginable?

Of course we didn't forget.

Because here's a truth: being a mother is always hard. We didn't forget how hard those days were. We just know that harder things are coming. Not the early school years—those, in general, are pretty good. I'm talking about the universal truth you don't learn until it's too late: you didn't have a baby. You just had a premature teenager.

Changing diapers all day long is hard. Never feeling like you can leave that nursing baby who refuses to take a bottle is hard. Mothering little ones is hard, hard work. But I promise: you meet an entirely new kind of hard when you start raising a teenager. Because then it's not just poop. It's shit. The difficult parts of raising teenagers are life changing. If they don't keep their grades up their chance at a scholarship will be ruined. If they don't figure out why their best friend suddenly hates them, they'll feel like a social pariah. If they don't dress right, have the right hair or make-up or clothes or car or shoes or cell phone or ___________ (insert whatever is currently popular) they feel like freaks. There is heartache and backstabbing and pissy teachers and overwhelming amounts of homework, the Amazonian piranha nightmare that is junior high and high school. Plus acne and boobs and armpit hair and what the hell is my body doing.

As a mother of teenagers, you still don't get any sleep. Sure, no one crawls into bed with you anymore. And yeah, they sleep through the night. Sort of—if you count staying up till 1:45 a.m. finishing a homework project and then getting up at 5:00 because it takes time to look this good as "sleeping through the night." But you don't, because of worrying. And there are a million different worries. Are they smoking pot in secret? Are they having sex with their girl/boyfriends? Are they looking at porn despite all your best filtering efforts? Are they drinkers or bulimics or cutters, are they depressed or manic or just normal adolescents? Is their social life proof you raised a Mean Girl? Is the _____ sports team too much or not enough? How will their current choices help them in the future that's rapidly smacking them in the face?

When toddlers make a mistake, you have to reach for some paper towels or the vacuum or sometimes even the phone to call the doctor. When teenagers make a mistake it changes their lives.

And those are just the things you worry about. There's also the way you look at them and your heart still, fifteen years later, does that fluttery thing when you can't believe that such a person as this amazing creature exists, and you helped to create him—and then he looks at you with the deepest contempt, or annoyance, or superiority. When every question is answered with a half-grunt, or a shoulder shrug, or a body language that is screaming silent epithets at you. Or you finally have to realize that the little girl who used to adore drinking imaginary tea with you would rather have her fingernails pulled off—her hair shorn—her cell phone taken away than spend any actual, real time with you. (Unless the mall is involved, but then only because you have the credit card.)

And that is why, dear young moms, we old moms tell you to be grateful. To savor. It's because sometimes we'd like to trade our hard for yours. It's because you cannot know until it happens: the little days don't last forever. That is both a blessing and a devastation. Yes, it is nice to be on the other side, the diaper-bag-free, everyone-is-potty-trained-and-can-feed-their-own-damn-selves side. But it isn't easier. It's just hard in a different way.

It's not that we old moms think you young moms shouldn't feel what you feel. The hard parts are as real as the happy parts. It's not monstrous to feel what you feel. We just want you to see that the hard parts aren't the only parts. And sure: probably no one would ever tell the mom of teenagers to savor these days. To be grateful for them. To be happy that you're so mad at your kid you just threw a block of cheese at him. Except, you know...I tell myself that. Because for all of the hard things, there are still blissful moments. Like when you're driving down the road and a song comes on that you both love (which is a miracle in itself!) and you both sing along, loudly and badly, but with laughter. Or when your teenage son gets a glint in his eye and then tells you a joke that is maybe slightly off-color but not too much. Or when you find the right bit of advice to give your teenage daughter, and she tries it and it works and then she says thank you. When you find the perfect prom dress or the girl says yes to a date. When you see them fail but keep trying, when you see them succeed, when you see them begin to stride out into the world, wearing the identity you helped to shape—those are the best savoring moments.

But I also try to savor the hard times. Or perhaps savor is too strong a word. Just not lose myself in the utter misery of them, because there is also another worse thing: they leave. You think you will always have them with you (sometimes you think you will never be free of them) but you won't. You will always be the mother of your children but you won't always be actively mothering them. They grow and grow and grow, and then they are grown up. And they leave. This time, with whatever hardness it holds, is always worth savoring. It is always worth being grateful for. Because it will always, always pass by.

The suggestion of old mothers to young mothers that they savor, that they know they are blessed and lucky even in the hard moments, doesn't come from a place of condescension. It isn't because we've forgotten. It's not because we're know-it-all jerks who want to be the boss of you. It's not because we're unstable weirdos who want to cuddle our teenagers. (They're pretty smelly.) It's just because we're farther into this journey of motherhood and we know just how quickly the time passes, and how swiftly the end comes, and because we want you to be able to look back and know you felt, thoroughly and utterly felt, the moments you were given.

It's because we want that for ourselves, too. And because sometimes, eventually, it will be too late, and the moment—good, hard, blissful, boring, mundane, extraordinary—will be gone.


My Take on the Modesty Issue

Lately, with all of the furor over those edited yearbook photos, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about modesty. Then I spotted this post on several different friends’ Facebook statuses. I’ve found myself having a fairly intense imaginary conversation in my head about modesty, and it’s not ending any time soon. 

So I’m writing it down. (Plus, Kendell is getting sick of listening to me rant about it!)

In the (prevailing) LDS culture, a lot of energy is spent on teaching a concept we call “modesty.” We teach lessons about it to our teenagers and children. We make sure that all youth activities have dress codes. We hear talks on it from the pulpit and from conferences. We take it upon ourselves to point out when someone isn’t being modest, even going so far as thinking it’s OK for children to point out to adults “you shouldn’t go running in that tank top.” (That isn’t cute, or precious, or preternaturally wise. It’s rude.) 

We pat ourselves on the back for our modesty, which we interpret as: covered shoulders, covered thighs, covered bellies, covered backs.

We forget something, though: dress is only part of what modesty is. Look it up: modesty is the quality of not being proud and flamboyant about yourself, your abilities and possessions and appearance. I know plenty of Mormons who won’t let their daughters wear tank tops and so consider themselves to have taught their children about modesty, while living in a gobsmackingly large house and driving a giant SUV. Girls in their cap-sleeve Ts and modest shorts who backstab and gossip and get all Mean Girl with their friends? That, to me, is not modest either, because it sends the message “I am so awesomely wonderful and important that being mean is TOTALLY OK behavior.”

“Not dressing in a way that draws sexual attention” is only one part of modesty, yet we seem to have forgotten that.

And listen: I get it. There is a lot of skin in the world. So I’m going to focus on that part of modesty now.

Two weeks ago I went to my niece’s wedding. When we were leaving, Nathan spotted one of the bridesmaids, who had changed out of her fluffy bridesmaid’s gown into a very tight and very short dress. Her bum was barely covered and she wasn’t wearing a bra. “Look, Jake!” he said. “That girl is so hot.

(I had the strangest reaction to that moment, which doesn’t really related to this post but which I’m sharing anyway: part of me was horrified that despite my lofty goals, my 14-year-old son still saw a girl in a tiny, tight, sexy dress as a sex object. Part of me was embarrassed to realize I never looked that good and I never will.)

I confess that I only could sputter. Part of me (and I’m not very proud of this part) was judgy: wow. Could that skirt be any shorter? And part of me was thinking Nathan! Just cover your eyes! And another part was all you are too young to notice her. And there was even a small part that thought I wish she wouldn’t dress like that because look what she’s done to my kid. So I sputtered and didn’t really say anything (then…we talked about it later) because there were so many things I wanted to say, but in my heart, even in all of those warring responses, what I know is this: he’s fourteen, he’s going to notice a hot girl in a tight dress.

 And really, that is the foundation of my philosophy on modesty. We notice each other’s bodies. Instead of prescriptive rules about skirt length and sleeve style, why aren't we teaching our teenagers how to deal with the thoughts and emotions and ideas that come into our minds when we see each other?

I refused to teach my daughter that she needs to dress a certain way in order to help a boy control his thoughts. When she was five and six and seven, I let her wear sundresses that showed her shoulders. When she was eighteen we were still seeing her shoulders. She wore a two piece bathing suit. She wore tank tops and shorts that didn’t cover all of her thigh. And I talked to her. I talked to her about picking clothes that made her feel pretty and self-confident. I talked to her about modesty in dressing. I talked to her about her body—that she should love it and take good care of it and be proud of it. I talked to her about dressing in ways that please her, rather than pleasing boys, or trying to draw a boy’s attention.

Mostly I wanted her to know the same thing about her clothes that I did with nearly everything in her life: it isn’t about getting a boy to like you. It’s about doing the things that make you happy. Because she doesn’t exist just to catch a boy. Her life doesn’t only have to be about romance. She is made for so many different experiences, love being one of them, but not the only one. I don’t want her to make any choices that are based on “what would make a boy like me.”

Which in a way sounds like I am saying the same thing that the church does: your clothes don’t exist to draw a boy’s attention.

But really it’s not the same thing at all.

Take this recent very popular video. In theory, I get it. It’s about letting girls know that there are boys who will like them even if they don’t wear short skirts or tank tops. That is an encouraging thought. As I listen to it, though, I get madder and madder. You’ll like the girls who dress modestly? Awesome. What about you like a girl because she is smart, kind, funny, athletic, energetic, whatever. You know…like her for who she is, not what she wears.

And these lyrics that make me insane:

“Being the way that you are is enough”

 

“If only you saw what I can see, you’d understand why I need your modesty”

 

“Virtue makes you beautiful.”

 

“We don’t know why you’d want a guy that only cares what he sees with his eyes.”

It’s that last one that gets me the most. It makes me want to punch all those smug faces right in the sunglasses. Because no one is seeing the logical flaw: those boys are singing about caring what they see with their eyes. If they didn’t only care about what they see, they would be able to see the person underneath immodest clothes. This is a song written in praise of modesty in dressing, which is just as much about what someone sees with their eyes as immodesty in dressing. If a boy looks at a girl, and sees she’s modestly dressed, and thinks, hmmmm, that’s a girl I think I should ask out because of how she’s dressed it’s the same as him seeing a girl in a tank top and thinking, hmmmmmmm, now that’s a girl I should ask out because of how she’s dressed.

It’s a false dichotomy and it all based on the exactly wrong things we should build a relationship on. That we should build our characters on.

I don’t want my daughter to think she has to make choices to please other people. I want her to choose what works for her. I want her to date boys who see her for who she is, not for how she dresses, no matter how appropriate or modest it is.

And who is teaching boys that? How much time do we spend on teaching girls the “right” way to dress modestly? And how much time do we spend teaching boys how to treat girls? How much time was spent by those rich white boys to make that video that inversely does the same thing as the bridesmaid at the wedding: teaches that how you look is what matters most? Teaches, in essence, that a girl only is what she looks like. By connecting integrity and virtue with clothing, we (again) turn women into objects.

So this is what I try to teach my sons: girls don’t exist just so you can look at them. They are people, just like you. Sure, they have boobs. They also have thoughts, ambitions, dreams, and goals. They have a long life history and many stories to tell. They are more, much more, than their sexual possibilities.

And I also teach them this: you are responsible for your own thoughts.

I know. That’s a hard thing to control. I know it is natural for boys to see girls in a sexual light. And maybe I’m being naïve, but I also think it’s entirely possible. I think Nathan can learn that the hot girl in the tight dress is a person, and the way she dresses is her choice. (Hopefully her mother also taught her to dress to help herself feel pretty, not to catch someone’s attention.) Most likely, her choice doesn’t have a single thing to do with him. He doesn’t have to jump into bed with her in his mind just because she’s there in her dress.

I had this conversation with a very close friend once, a friend who thinks differently than I do about this topic. She talked about wishing that girls would think about how their clothes affect the boys around them. That is what the song lyric “you’d understand why I need your modesty” refers to—the idea that a girl is doing the boys around her a courtesy by dressing modestly. And, I suppose that’s true: it is easier for a boy to not let his thoughts wander if he’s not surrounded by skin. But I reject the idea that he needs her to dress modestly in order to control his thoughts.

And that is the other truth: he needs to learn. Because certainly the world is filled with girls’ knees and shoulders and thighs and backs. He will see girls like the hot girl at the wedding every day of his life. And if all he ever learns is dressing like that is bad, then all he ever learns is judgment. Instead, what I am desperately trying to teach him—and wish, I confess, what the church would also teach him—is that he’s going to see chests. He’s going to see shoulders. But if all he sees are body parts instead of people, he is failing in part of his humanity. Because the chests and the shoulders belong to people, and as a grown up, functioning adult man, he will interact with people who are women. Who happen to have woman parts. But who also have ideas and creativity and input. I want him—want all my sons, and all of their friends, and my nephews, and the boys down the street—to know that women are people. And it is only by seeing a woman’s humanity (instead of just her woman parts, covered up or not) that you are truly treating them with respect.

Nathan told me the other day about a video he’d seen, where someone had taken the titles of Disney movies and censored them. So, instead of Finding Nemo, for example, it was ****ing Nemo. Isn’t it funny how, by covering something up, it changes your perspective? Just what is being done to poor Nemo?

All of the proclaiming of modesty does the same thing. It draws attention to something that doesn’t have to be the focus of our thoughts. Our actions should be the focus of our thoughts. How we treat people. That is what matters most. Not how long our shorts are, or how much shoulder we show. Not if we have visible cleavage. How we act.

I wish we’d put more focus on that. 


1-800-psychic healing

We were driving, dropping Nathan off at the pool for a party with his friends before we went to see a movie (World War Z, which was basically almost nothing like the book but as I expected that, I could enjoy it for what it was instead, which was fairly good) and there was an SUV in front of us with a big business decal on its back window*:

Dial 1-800-xxx-xxxx

We offer emotional, spiritual, and psychic healing to restore your natural energy

And Kendell & Nathan started to guffaw a little bit about how silly it was but in my head I was thinking you know...that is exactly what I need.

Even though I don't really know what psychic healing is.

A little emotional and spiritual Neosporin would be good about now. Just because I feel, lately, like I have a bad case of spiritual (or is it psychic?) road rash.

I don't think it's silly at all. Well. Maybe thinking that a person could offer such a thing is silly. What did they train it to offer that as a service? How much does spiritual healing cost? Who decided the healing is complete? 

But a nice spiritual balm would be soothing, is all I'm saying.

*this story would be better if I had thought to take a picture of the SUV with my cell phone but, alas, I was pondering on the nature of energy as it relates to spiritual/emotional/psychic healing and how I might engender some without having to call that 1-800 number, so I didn't even think about it.


self reflection

A few weeks ago, I found myself running down University Avenue. I've done this lots of times, but never on the east side of the street; never along the almost entire block-long length of tall, glimmering store windows. But there I was, and I looked over and saw my reflection. The reflection of myself running.

And I immediately wanted to stop running.

Because, while I know I'm not one of those stick-thin runner girls and I don't see myself that way, I did envision myself with a different gait. I thought that my slower-than-most pace would at least afford me a graceful stride. In my head, while I am running, I look lithe and strong.

In reality I run like I'm afraid of peeing my pants.

And I couldn't decide: should I immediately turn away from my reflection in horror? Or should I run up and down that small-city block in Provo, watching my reflection until my gait changed to match the one in my head? Or should I just stop running altogether and take up knitting for exercise?

This morning I had another unusual perspective of myself. I was doing the plank in the sculpting class I go to at the city rec center. Usually when I do the plank, my head is pointing toward the mirror, so that when I look down I see the long expanse of the mat, and then my shoes, and then the quivering arms of the woman behind me.

But today (we had an intervals class so my regular approach was thrown out the window as I tried to just survive the entire hour without weeping) I found myself doing the plank with my toes pointing toward the mirror. When I started doing the plank thing where you tap one foot to the side, bring it back to the middle, and then repeat with the other foot, I looked down. I saw the long expanse of the mat, my shoes, and then a lovely reflection of my underbum (not sure how else to describe it...the curve where bum meets thigh) and my quivering hamstrings.

Holy shiz.

I found myself mentally apologizing to Kendell. "Sorry, honey," I thought, struggling through that minute-long toe-tapping plank. "Sorry for saddling you with those fat thighs for the rest of your life. An eternity of chubbiness is yours."

Gah. I had no idea. Here I am, having lived 40 entire years of my life. Roughly 14,600 days (not counting leap years) and for none of them did I know how atrocious the back of my thighs is. It's chubby. And jiggly.

Once again, the image in my head matches up not even in the least with reality. And I confess: it's fairly discouraging. I'm trying to make myself feel better by reminding myself about the positive mental impact that exercise has, and how I'd be a mental case without running. Even if I do run like a girl who's trying to keep her D-cups from bouncing. (I don't have D-cups.)

But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I wish all of that (awkwardly-strode) running had done just a little bit more for my back side.

And that's not even starting on the back fat I glimpsed today.

It's enough to make a woman wish for an unlimited plastic surgery budget.

Or a stronger self-esteem.

Or just some skinnier thighs.


Abstinence Only: another Amy Rant

Last Monday while I cleaned out my pantry I found myself talking to my radio. That's because I was listening to NPR and they were discussing a bill that was on the Utah senate floor. Bill HB363 goes something like this: Utah schools can only teach abstinence-only concepts for sex education. Nothing else. If students ask teachers about something otherthan abstinence? Teachers cannot respond. This bill was fueled by homeschoolers who didn't like the fact that some of Utah's current sex education comes from Planned Parenthood.

As I listened to the radio (and argued back), my fears started to calm a little bit because every. single. person who called in to the radio show was against the bill. This made me feel a bit better because A---if the average person doesn't want this bill to pass, it shouldn't, right? And B---it seems obvious and logical that almost every average person would agree that this bill is a ridiculous idea. How could our state legislators pass this bill?

Well. I was wrong. It passed.

And I am up in arms. Never mind the fact that if people actually voted on this bill it wouldn't, I believe, pass. Never mind the fact that the passing of bill HB363 reinforces my current deep discouragement over and deep mistrust in politics actually being about American (or Utah) citizens. What really got me going is the horribly flawed concepts behind such a bill. So today I am ranting. And I am hoping that if you live in Utah OR you care about what happens in Utah, you will write the governor TODAY and ask him to veto the bill. My rants, which might be surprising to my friends and neighbors but which I need to say anyway:

1. People in Utah are so afraid of abortion that they lose all common sense. Yes: Planned Parenthood provides abortions. They also provide other services that some people don't have access to in any other way. The reality is that the fear of abortion, or anything slightly linked to it, makes people forget that there are bigger issues at play here. The reality of life is that there are going to be accidental pregnancies. Teenagers, whose brains are still developing and who don't, in a physiological sense, always really understand the fact that they are not immune to bad things, are going to have sex. Some of them are going to get pregnant. Some of them are going to get abortions. 

People here tend to think that teenage pregnancy and abortion doesn't happen in the "good" families. I personally know two friends who came from those "good" families who had abortions. They both look at that time in their lives as one of their hardest and darkest. They also feel like they made the right decision.

Unlike perhaps most of my neighbors, I am pro-choice. That doesn't mean I'm pro-abortion; I don't think I would ever personally chose to have an abortion. But the important word in this debate isn't even abortion. It is CHOICE.  Having seen first hand the affects of someone choosing abortion, I know that the idea that this is a choice made lightly is completely false. It is a HARD choice and a life-long consequence, but so is any pregnancy. I think that until you have been in the shoes of a pregnant teenager, your opinions don't really count. I am also a adamant proponent of adoption, which is a choice that not enough pro-choice supports remember. I believe that in ideal situations, a pregnant teenager should have her baby and place it for adoption. But I also know that ideal situations aren't always in the cards. Sometimes teenagers chose abortion and that is simply life. Basing so many other decisions on the people who chose abortion is illogical.

2. One of the point of sex education should be preventing teenage pregnancy—to educate students so that they never have to chose between adoption, abortion, or becoming a teenage parent. Abstinence-only concepts will fail at this because of one basic fact: teenagers are going to have sex. Sure, in the (again) ideal world, none of them would. In the ideal world, they would know that what their bodies are capable of is a separate issue from what their minds, souls, and hearts are capable of. (Meaning: they are physically able to create a baby, but not emotionally able to parent that baby, let alone the financial aspects.)

Teenagers might look like young adults, but they are not. Think back to when you were a teenager and learning about your body. Did you really have an understanding of how it really all works? Of course not. You learned by doing. And some teenagers are going to do it. When they are in the heat of the moment, some of them will remember the abstinence-only education. Not all of them will, though. (Let's face it: how many adults could stop in the heat of the moment?) But maybe if they've also been educated about condoms they might go ahead and use one. Maybe the fear of STDs might stop them. Maybe knowing that they can get pregnant if it's their first time might stop them. Maybe understanding that just because they didn't get pregnant when they had sex with their last boyfriend doesn't mean they can't do so with this one will stop them.

3.  Abstinence-only cloaks sexuality in mystery. This is because it removes the ability to talk about sexuality. It makes it forbidden; HB363 literally makes it illegal for teachers to discuss anything about sex. Let's think about what makes something intriguing: mystery certainly does that. "Forbidden" does, too. It's the same concept as banning a book: people want to read that banned book simply because it is banned.

I believe that people should talk about sex. Teenagers should talk about sex with their parents. AND with their teachers. This is because of one shocking point: teenagers don't always listen to their parents. Having another adult in the world telling them that they CAN get pregnant if they have sex and they CAN catch diseases if they have sex reinforces their knowledge. Having another source of education means that they might be more likely to believe or to listen to what they are hearing.

Sex isn't bad. It doesn't need to be relegated to darkness. And, let's be honest here: the world does not relegate it to darkness. Nearly every TV show you can think of has sexuality in it. Music is sexual. Movies. Magazine ads. Walk down the mall and you're bombarded with sexual images. Telling kids to abstain until they're married won't make the rest of these images go away. Talking about it will help them know and understand what to do with the emotions that bombardment causes.

4. One of the supports of the bill said something like this. "If we teach our teenagers that abstinence is the best choice, but then we turn around and teach them how to get access to birth control, it's just like telling them that drugs are bad but then giving them a list of places where they could get heroin." Deep sigh.

Sex is dangerous. But, you know? I think heroin is worse. If this makes me a bad Mormon then I am a bad Mormon, but if I had to chose I would rather my teenager was sexually active than a drug addict. Or an alcoholic, for that matter. (Of course, I don't want them to be either. Which is why I talk to my kids about sex. And drugs. And even...rock and roll. ) This doesn't mean I am downplaying the risks and the emotional impact of adolescent sexuality. It does mean I know, first hand, the devastation that drugs and alcoholism cause, and it is worse. The fact that some well-meaning person can make that comparison speaks to the logic behind the bill.

5. One more personal truth. Deep down, I honestly don't believe that any sex education plan will be able to help ALL teenagers. There will always be teenage pregnancy because of the way that teenagers work. That is just reality. But to me this means we need to work even harder to educate them with the facts, because if our education can help even ONE teenager from getting pregnant, catching an STD, or going through the emotional consequences of having sex before he or she is emotionally ready, then our education has been successful for that teen.

In other words: education is only going to stop some teens from having sex. How many teens will abstinence only stop?

If you want to contact the governor and ask him to veto bill HB363, you can do so HERE.

(I hope those of you who know me in real life will still be my friend after reading my rant and my opinions.)


My Devices are Not My Religion: an Amy Rant

Yesterday when I was rushing home to make dinner, I passed a silver Camry going super slow in the middle lane of a busy road. While I try not to get all road-ragey, I did turn to glare a little bit as I passed this car, and discovered that the driver was holding her data phone against her steering wheel and texting as she drove. Apparently steering, texting, watching the actual road and pushing on the gas pedal was more multitasking than she could manage, because she went slower and slower. Then we got to the light at one of Orem's busiest intersections. Her car had already stopped actually moving  before she made it to the line of cars, so there was a FOUR CAR length between her car and the one in front of her. (I know because I counted.)

This makes me insane. And grumpy.

I confess: if I am stopped at a red light and I know it's one that will take a long time to turn green and I have a text waiting, I will read it. At the red light. But I sort of have a Thing about Not Texting While I am Driving. The thought of getting in a car crash and possibly killing someone simply because I neededto write something to someone right then while I was driving is horrifying to me. I don't want to risk it. I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I think that texting and driving is completely and utterly selfish. What is so important that you must text it while you are driving? And if it really is that important that your message goes out right this second then pull your damn car into a parking lot and write your text there instead of putting everyone else on the road around you in peril.

But you know what bugs me even more? the iFans. I don't mean people who just happen to love their iPhone. I mean the people who are obnoxious and ostentatious about it. The iFans. One example is a member of my extended family (who doesn't read my blog but shall remain nameless on the odd chance that she might). At a family Christmas party I listened to her go on and on and on about how much she loves her iPhone and her iPad and how awesome it is and how Apple is just the most amazing company ever in the existence of companies. "I mean, I just can't use anything other than Apple products. I just can't. I honestly don't know how anyone can."

O.
M.
G.

I honestly can't think of one single product or company I am that dedicated to. I love my Burt's Bees chapstick but if I need some lip balm and some other brand is all I have? OK, pass over that Chapstick brand chapstick! And seriously, I understand. Some people like Macs. Some people (me!) like PCs. (One of the reoccurring dreams I used to have while I was working on my teaching certificate was that some nameless IT guy was making me use a Mac for all my teaching stuff. And I seriously asked, during the interviews while I was looking for a teaching spot, if the school used Macs or PCs. The high school where I taught did, in fact, use PCs. I think an all-Mac high school would have gotten a "no thanks" from me.) I understand that you get used to how things work and you like the way it operates and looks and feels. I get that because I don't want to switch to a Mac.

But the slavish dedication to all-things-i? I just don't get it. More than not getting it: I think it's ridiculous. It's fatuous and fabulous and, well—flashy, I guess. The iFans aren't just about using what they own. They're about making sure that everyone else knows what they own. They want everyone to convert to their iReligion, which is ironic because hello: if everyone converted then who would you make feel inferior to you for not owning an iSomething?

Honestly, what this all does, more than anything, is discourage me. It reminds me of how we as a society are changing, pinned as we are becoming to our devices. This week's Time had an article about how our brains are in The Cloud---it is literally harder to learn and remember something if you think you can just google it instead. (There are research studies to support this idea.) Devices, be they iSomethings or Androids or our PCs or our Macs or whatever, affect our physical selves. The way that iAnything is a status symbol will only fuel this connection. And while the technology is great, I still think we are too connected to it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not exempting myself (even though I am decidedly not an iFan). I know I spend too much time putzing around online. Sometimes I check Facebook from my phone when I should be talking to my kids instead. I refresh my email from my phone too many times when I'm out and about, just to see if I have any blog comments to read. I'm too connected, too.

I just think this: if a person is going to be slavishly dedicated to something, it should be an idea. A belief, a cause, an art. Something that does something for the world. I think we should be slavishly dedicated to fixing the environment, finding alternative energy sources, ending war or curing Alzheimer's or cancer or diabetes or depression. Or hangnails. And I also think this: if you have an iPhone and you love your iPhone, then that is awesome. But what *I* love about you is not the kind of cell phone or table you use. It's how you think and what you say and how you treat people. Not your iPhone. Slavish devotion to devices creates, in my opinion, shallow and meaningless lives.

And it creates people who think it's perfectly fine to text while they're driving.

So, tell me, what do you think about devices?


The Answer to That Question is Always Yes

It's December 16---single-digit countdown to Christmas. I've wrapped nearly every present I've purchased. I've had the traditional Santa-Claus-is-not-real-and-all-this-magic-making-occasionally-takes-me-away-from-the-fing-laundry argument with my husband. I have freaked out by losing a Very Important Gift in one of my super-secret hiding spots but then found it again. I have panicked about failing to maintain my "wow, she's crafty" status and set myself an overwhelmingly impossible-to-finish-in-time sewing task. I have had a meltdown in the middle of Victoria's Secret. I've eaten approximately 1,289 Lindt Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles (must. eat. as. many. as. possible. They are a limited edition after all.)

I've reached the snarky stage of December.

And really. Who wants to bottle up her snark? Bottling it up is the worse thing that you can do. Bottled snark causes cancer, acne, and wrinkles. Better out than in I always say! So instead of keeping it all in the eternal loop that's been going and going and going in my head all day (the 4.5 hours of sleep I got last night? probably not helping my Snarky Stage), I am here to share them, the questions I always answer yes to:

  1. Do drivers of SVUs that are so long they trap me in the McDonald's drive thru when they've pulled up into that little "wait here while we fix your order" spot bug me?
  2. Do I feel guilty for the voice in my head that judges said SVU drivers for their negative environmental impact?
  3. Am I internally rolling my eyes when someone asks me for a happy, uplifting book with no sex, swearing, violence, or anything depressing that will change their life forever?
  4. Does my laundry room look like the overflow from an episode of Hoarders?
  5. Am I terrified to balance the checkbook?
  6. Do I go over and over the Christmas list because I'm paranoid one or another kid will think he or she was treated unfairly?
  7. Do I have a secret affection for "Sexy and I Know It?" (Well, only because it's got a beat and you can dance to it.)
  8. Have I completely failed in the exercise-and-eat-healthy department lately?
  9. Does my back hurt? And my ITB even when I'm just walking up the stairs? (the answer to that question also includes the letters W., T, and F., BTW.)
  10. Did I harangue my husband in the middle of WalMart last night?
  11. Did I screech like a fishwife at not just one but every. single. one. of my kids this week?
  12. Did I completely forget that I was supposed to bring donuts to Kaleb's class yesterday to celebrate his Half Birthday? And then take some giant steps backward in my non-self-flagellation goals once I realized what I'd done?
  13. Does my kitchen table look like...well, something no one's invented a simile for, it is that messy?
  14. Did I spend too much money at Lands' End, the Gap, Amazon, and Aeropostale? (but! Also! did I get amazing & incredible bargains!?!)
  15. Did I really eat three more Lindt truffles while I wrote this blog post?

What question do you always answer yes to?


Stuff that Bugs, the Running Edition

This weekend I ran 14 miles.

I haven't run more than 13.1 miles since I was 29 and training for a marathon. Now I'm 39 and training for a marathon again, and so far (knocking on wood, tossing salt over my shoulder, crossing my fingers and wondering if there's any other superstitious, supposed-to-bring-you-good-luck cliches I could rely on) I have not been derailed by ITB pain. (The amazing collection of blisters on my bunions are an entirely other story, but I refuse, refuse to be derailed by blisters.)

But seriously: 14 miles is a long time to run. And about a third the way through, I don't know what happened, but my music started bugging me, so I turned it off and ran six entire more miles without any tunes at all. I thought about all sorts of things while I ran sans music, but this list of Stuff that Bugs Me When I'm Running is just begging to be blogged about.

  • Dogs. Specifically: dogs that spring up out of nowhere and start running and barking next to me, on the other side of the fence. This startles me every single time, causing me to flail my arms in surprise and look like a complete moron.
  • Red lights. It doesn't matter how I try to time it, I nearly always arrive at an intersection just as the light turns red. And as I don't like to stop moving once I've started, I continue jogging in place, probably looking (again!) like a complete moron. Listen, I know that traffic lights are a necessity. But couldn't the Running Gods let me catch a break for at least half of them? What are the odds that I  always  hit the red ones?
  • Construction. Lately I think about half my planned routes have been forced onto detours for construction projects. A few weeks ago I ran through one anyway because there was no other option (turning around and going back home is never an option), and seriously: my life flashed before my eyes more than once. I wish MAPMYRUN had an "avoid construction" on its mapping tools. Plus, there's the fact that in addition to the deathly stuff like giant pot holes, innumerable construction cones to avoid, and construction vehicles flinging around gravel and enormous pipes and big cement things, occassionally those construction workers shout rude comments at me.
  • Hecklers. Yes, polite young man, I know I need to keep on chuggin'. What I *don't* know is how all you seemingly-unrelated hecklers know to shout such similar things?
  • Trees and bushes. Specifically the ones that home owners have allowed to grow so low or wide that I have to detour around them.
  • Walkers. Now, wait a second. I have nothing against people who walk for exercise. BUT! When there are more than two of them, and they're walking abreast on a fairly-crowded paved trail, they tend to take up the entire width of the trail. I wish they'd pay more attention to the people trying to pass them.
  • Walkers with dogs on a leash. Or anyone  with a dogs on a leash, for that matter. Because as soon as I try to pass the dog, it always seems to chase after me, either startling me or getting tangled in my feet. I really don't want to be knocked out of my running season by someone's dog.
  • Drivers who don't pay attention. (Wait! Yes, you're right: I have blogged about this before.) I think the worst ones are people turning right. I just always assume that drivers don't see me, just to be safe. Still: pay attention people!
  • Sprinklers. The ones that are watering sidewalks and/or driveways. Honestly: this bugs me whenever I see it, but you do tend to notice it more when you're running through neighborhoods. There are numerous sprinklers that need to be readjusted. We do live in a desert after all.
  • Sunscreen. Eleven miles seems to be the limit for sunscreen to not drip in my eyes. After that, it dissolves and starts careening down my face, right into my eyeballs. It stings.
  • Exhaustion. I'm starting to get nervous, because honestly: those last two miles? I was tired. Will I really be able to build up enough endurance to run this race?

And yeah, OK: I know that this list makes me sound whiny. For all that, I really did love last week's long run, and I'm looking forward to this week's, too. Just to prove it, I'll tell you something that doesn't annoy me. In fact, I'm downright grateful for:

  • Public parks with functional drinking fountains and an unlocked bathroom.

Because training schedule or no training schedule, running 14 miles with a slight-disturbed tummy probably wasn't one of my brightest ideas.

What bugs you when you exercise? Come on, you can tell me! Even (especially?) if it's something snarky.