Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fifty Shades of Embarrassment

I learned a very powerful lesson yesterday.  And though, in my mind, I've done what I needed to do to make it right, it continues to bother me a bit today.  Few were witness to it, fewer would even say that it is worth worrying about, much less writing about.  But it was important to me, therefore it made its way here.

It began two nights ago around midnight.  The house was quiet and dark.  My husband was asleep.  The pets were curled up in their respective nooks.  I was still wide awake and ready to find something new to read.  I had just finished a fun book by I Love Lucy's creator and head writer and I wasn't quite ready to delve into my book club's next selection.  I was in the mood for something light and engaging with a good story.

One of the benefits of having a Kindle is that you can either borrow certain books for free or you can download a sample of a book before committing to buy it.  I looked through the ones available for borrowing and nothing really caught my eye.  As I clicked my way back to the Kindle storefront, I saw Fifty Shades of Grey.  I knew little of the book except its bestseller status and that women everywhere were swooning over the main character.  Normally I do some research on a book before buying it.  I figured that downloading a free sample (about 10% of the book) would tell me enough of what I needed to know.

Even though the writing wasn't superb, the story was riveting .  Naive college girl interviews high-powered billionaire businessman on behalf of her sick roommate who needs the interview for the university paper.  Billionaire businessman is relatively young and dashingly handsome.  He comes to her rescue more than once after they meet and she is amazed at his interest in her.  Wow, I thought, this almost sounds like a modern-day Jane Eyre, with the powerful elusive man taking the awkward young woman under his wing.  This has promise.  The sample ended, but it held my attention enough to want to buy the whole thing.  Good summer reading, I thought, and if I get called in to jury duty this week I'll have a book to read.  I continued on, investing more and more in the characters....and then I fell asleep.

The next day I woke up and had a productive day, eager to get back to the book.  During a Facebook check-in I mentioned what I had started reading.  I suddenly had several "likes" and offers from different people to lend me the entire series.  I did have one warning, however, that the book was very racy and mildly pornographic.  This was news to me, so I went online and did a little more research.  And, yes, my friend was right.  The book dealt with sexual subjects that I had zero interest in reading about.  I thanked her and decided to keep reading a little further, but this time my shields were up.

A mixture of emotions went through me as the book quickly took a turn from riveting to revolting.  I'm not judging others who have enjoyed it, but I did not.  That, to me, isn't entertainment and it has no literary value.  I quickly went from shock, to revulsion, to anger and disappointment.  Angry and disappointed because I had started to care about the characters.  I also felt misled and embarrassed.  Misled because this is a book that has made its way into mainstream literature, which I don't think it is, and also because it touts itself as a love story, which I also don't think it is.  This is a book about sex.  Clearly not the same thing.  I'm not sure why I felt embarrassed, but I did.

Again, I'm not judging anyone who finds this book enjoyable, but I could not handle the subject matter.  After getting through one graphic scene, I decided I had had enough.  I erased it from my Kindle and iPad, annoyed that I had spent ten dollars on a book I knew I would never finish.  I just wanted to get as far away from it as possible.

So what was the lesson?  I guess the experience was a reminder that we live in a world where questionable things can easily masquerade as something acceptable.  But we all have a choice to make about the kinds of books and media we allow into our home.  In this instance, my choice was to move on.

I know, what a prude, right?  Thank you. But I'm the one who has to live with myself.  So, lesson learned.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ever After You...

It is so satisfying to find a really good song!  This morning while working around the house I was listening to The Gabe Dixon Band on iTunes and I was reminded of how much I love this song.  I couldn't find the original on YouTube (What?  Something that wasn't on YouTube?!) but these college students do a great job...Enjoy and have a great day.  Summer is so beautiful in our little corner of the world!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Primary Girls Camp--The Good Language Workshop

Finally, finally, I am at the end of my very busy week.  Today I get to be in sweats and have no obligations.  It feels wonderful!

This past Wednesday was my workshop at the Primary Girls Camp, which was a 2-day event, 6 hours each day.  I was in charge of a workshop on using good language, not using the Lord's name in vain, standing up to swearing, and using words appropriately.  I feel strongly about it, of course, but I was still a bit nervous.  For starters, I have never taught kids at church before, where the dynamic between teacher and students is a bit different than in a public school setting.

I did with the workshop what I do with my Relief Society lessons, which is to do the visual aides first.  Doing it in this order helps me to feel like I'm making progress, I have a chance to relax and be creative, and while doing the visuals the rest of the lesson starts to take shape.  I do the same process every time and I have found that it really works for me.

So, here are my visuals:
The sign

The scripture we discussed (the underlined words were ones I felt needed defining, so we talked about those in more depth)

 The strips of paper with the scripture that each girl received at the end of the workshop.

The activity (wrong choices)

The activity once the RIGHT choices were added

Poster board and glitter glue became my tools of choices, only because I wanted to make this as "light" as possible while talking about a heavy subject.

Mostly we talked about ways to handle uncomfortable situations when people around us are using bad language.  Almost every young girl (ages 8-11) had a story to share of a classmate who has said bad words in front of her.  Sometimes their efforts to say something were successful and sometimes they weren't.  I think that just sharing those experiences had a positive effect.  We also talked about words like "hate," "kill," "stupid," and the importance of trying to eliminate them from our everyday conversation.  I read them a quick story about a little girl who was constantly having to say "Please don't use those words around me" to her friends and they learned that getting the desired results is not an immediate thing.  We also talked about the No Cussing Club, which is an actual club started by a boy in South Pasadena, CA in an effort to stand up to swearing.  

When the half hour was up, each girl got a strip of paper with the scripture we discussed and her copy of the No Cussing Club certificate.  

The time went very fast.  Four workshops in 2 hours. Bam, bam, bam, bam.  By the last group I could tell that the girls and their leaders were tired.   I was too!  I didn't get a lot of feedback because things were just moving too quickly and there were still 45 minutes left by the time my last session was done.  The feedback I did get was positive, so that's a good thing.  Still, in retrospect, I can think of things I would do differently next time.

It was definitely a learning experience for me.  If I was ever asked to do something like that again, this experience gave me a good foundation.  What really impressed me, though, is how the subject hit home, even with the youngest girls, and how many of them have already been courageous enough to stand up to bad language that was being used in their presence.  Good for them!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Political Differences...Among Friends

I don't normally do this,  but this is a topic I feel strongly enough about to include on both of my blogs...

Recently I was placed in a social situation where the guest of a guest--not knowing or caring what everyone's political opinions were--carelessly demonized one of the candidates.  What had started as a relaxed and fun party turned tense and thorny.  It was neither the time or place for such talk and one by one (starting with myself) people began to leave the table until this person's audience dwindled to nothing.  He did what so many people do, which is (1) assuming that we have "enough" in common that we must agree politically and (2) being so over-confident that his views were the right ones that it made up the difference, in other words, not really caring whether people agreed with him or not.

Those few awkward minutes (which felt much longer) reminded me of the climate change in conversation that always happens during an election year.  It is a mistake many people make, and it usually begins with the first thing that this party guest did.  They take a quick look around the room, the table, email contacts, or even their Facebook friends list; then they do a brief statistical analysis of the group (naturally we can't know everything about everyone, but it doesn't matter)  We have about 80% of things (probably) in common.  Or at least the fundamentals.  Good enough.  And then...the political opinion sneeze is unleashed.

What I find interesting is that very rarely does anyone talk positively about who they are supporting.  It is usually negative or harshly derogatory about who they are not supporting.  It is mud-slinging at the public level.  If the political candidates and their teams are aware of it, they must love that people do this.  It certainly makes their job a lot easier.  It is so much simpler to talk about what someone is doing wrong than what we are doing right.  And religious beliefs?  The Golden Rule?  Treating others with respect and kindness?  When it comes to politics and political opinion those things are usually non-existent (unless the mud-slinging involves bashing a candidate's religion, either real or assumed, and how it will play a role in their platform.)

As for myself, I am in a precarious position.  As an educator, most (but not all) of my former co-workers belong to one political party.  As a Mormon, most (but not all) of my church friends belong to another.  So, lucky me, when I go on Facebook, half of my friends  and family align themselves with one side and half align themselves with the other.  My extended family is mixed, my in-laws are mixed, and my husband and I both tend to rest somewhere in the middle.  That doesn't mean we don't have opinions on heavy issues.  Believe me, we do.  However, he enjoys talking about politics and I don't.  (For me, it is right behind getting my toenails pulled out one by one.)

But what I really see when a political topic is brought up is the emerging of that basic human need to categorize things.  Privilege or right?  Rich or poor?  Deserving or undeserving?  Entitled or not?  Liberal or Conservative? Democrat or Republican?  As the categories hit closer to home they start to define us.  And they start to define how we see other people.  Why is that?  Why do we let ourselves play into that kind of thinking?

We know why, although we don't like to verbalize it.  It is because we like to categorize ourselves as well.  We like belonging to a group, a way of thinking, a side, and supporting a possible victor.  We want to feel like we are on the winning team.  And even if the person we are supporting doesn't succeed, we are comforted by the fact that so many others supported him, surely, we cannot all be wrong.  To admit we were wrong is unthinkable.  Many will spend the duration criticizing the person who was elected, shaking their heads and pouting.  I've done it too.  It's completely unproductive, but somehow it makes us feel better. And anyway, in four more years we'll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try again, certain that the person we are supporting this time will turn our country around and make it what the Founding Fathers envisioned.  The American Dream restored.

I would like to propose something.

During election years like this one, let's put a bit more energy into other things as well.  Let's not make careless assumptions.  Let's opt for kindness.  Let's be careful of the way we throw out the words "liberal" and "conservative." Let there be more discussions and less arguments. Let's do more listening and less talking.  Let's do our part and keep the mud on the ground where it belongs.  And let's be more considerate.  I am not just talking about how we voice our political opinions.  I'm talking about assessing whether the timing is right and knowing our audience--even if you're 100% sure they agree with you.  If they don't, let's care more about that.  And most of all, let's not allow political differences to affect the way we see others.

Gandhi said this: If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do. 

How true this is and it is speaking to each and every one of us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Busy Month!

My quiet summer enjoying the weather has turned into a busy one!  I don't know if I should be thankful or not that everything I need to do is all happening in the month of July, but at least it will all be finished around the same time.

This week is my "prep" week, and as long as I use my time well, everything should be fine.

So what are all of these things that need doing?  First of all, I teach Relief Society every third Sunday.  I love this calling and would do it forever if I could.  But I put a lot of time into my lessons, usually devoting an entire day to preparing.  That was yesterday.  With a few breaks here and there, I worked on my lesson from 10am to 5pm.  No joke.  Probably a solid 4-5 hours with a few other distractions and meals thrown in.  No wonder I'm always running out of time when I teach!

I have also been asked to do 2 other things at church.  One of them is to spearhead a service project that involves collecting school supplies for kids whose families cannot afford them.  At 4:30am on Sunday morning I was typing up sign-up sheets because I had just received the information on what we needed to collect.  I had no idea what kind of a response we would get as I passed the clipboard around that day.  Fortunately, it was pretty packed in Relief Society that day.  But, even more fortunately, is that we have an amazing group of ladies who always help one another.  By the time the clipboard was returned to me, most of the spaces were filled, along with $75 attached for me to buy things that had not been signed up for yet. Isn't that incredible?  I was so sure that I would only have a few people helping out.  I love this ward.  So that means that I need to hit the stores so that I can give an updated report on where we are on Sunday.

Next week is also the Primary girls' adventure camp.  Being a convert, I was never in Primary and I never went to Girls Camp.  These younger girls are going to a 2-day day camp, not an over-nighter, which is where the Young Women are this week.  I was asked to lead a workshop for the young ones, ages 8-11, next Wednesday.  4 sessions, 30 minutes each, 10-15 girls per session.  The subject is using clean language, not using the Lord's name in vain, and not using those "fake F words."  We all know what they are.  I have some ideas of what I want to do and have already bought a few supplies, now it is just a matter of sitting down and organizing my thoughts and hammering everything out.  I want it to be as visual and as "non-preachy" as possible because it is camp and it is supposed to be fun, but still a memorable learning experience.

And, last but not least, we are in the process of painting our house (Eric and his dad are painting) AND I have jury duty starting on July 23rd.  I haven't quite lost my mind yet.  This is about as busy as I would like to be, as long as I stay busy and organized.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their summer with their families!  That you're getting to go on trips and go swimming and get things done around the house.  The fun thing that we are looking forward to is seeing Jersey Boys in Portland on August 7th, which will be our two-year wedding anniversary.  It will be very fun and a nice reward once all of the current craziness is done.  Off I go!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Happy Fourth!

I hope everyone had a fun 4th of July!  This year was a little bit different because Eric had to work graveyard on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  That was kind of a bummer.  But, luckily, since we live so close to the lake, where all of the activities are happening, we could still walk down there each day and get lunch and be part of the crowds.

When Eric went to work on the 3rd, I headed down and watched the hilarious Cardboard Boat Regatta.  I made it in time for the last couple of heats of semi-finals and the finals. It is extremely fun to watch and they always have a good announcer that knows how to entertain the spectators.

On the actual Fourth there was a flag-raising and pancake breakfast at our ward building.  The neighborhood parade started at 10am and was right at the end of our street.  For the evening,  I was invited by my dear friends/neighbors/adopted parents, the Ponds, to join their family 4th of July fun.  There was a BBQ with tons of food, kids of all ages, and very nice people at their son's house.  As it got darker, I realized how very tired I was, so I headed home and listened to the snap, crackle and pop of the fireworks outside.

Considering that Eric had to work, it was still a fun 4th.  But it is so much better with him!

Here are some pictures I took over the last few days.  Click on the pictures to see the full-sized versions:

Some of the entries in the regatta.  There sure were some creative designs!  The winner, however, was a very sleek regular boat design of two canoes with 5-6 people in each, connected in the middle by horizontal rods.  There were plenty of slow boats and some that even capsized and sank, but there were others that were incredibly fast!

The neighborhood parade is very simple, but cute.  The 3rd picture is the Pond family marching for Hilander Dental, which is where I go too.  They were all wearing their camo shirts later on at the BBQ.  Such a great family.

 Gus and Shawn, the Ponds' new puppies.  So cute!  They spent the whole night licking people's toes.

 Masterpiece in progress!  Rene and her friend, Callie, worked very hard on this flag cake.

 Steve and Diane, my dear friends and neighbors

 Is this the perfect party house, or what?

 Their beautiful deck

 There was tons and tons of food!  More people kept arriving and there was more than enough for everyone.  The hamburger sliders with pretzel rolls were a real hit, as well as this salad that Tracy made with chopped nuts, kiwis, boysenberries, strawberries, and...brown sugar.  It was almost a dessert in itself!

 Ta da!!  The cake is done!  Along with some patriotic Rice Krispies treats.
 Callie and Rene with their masterpiece.

 Look at all of those yummy desserts!

 Trying to ceremonially eat the first piece.  Yes, they ended up on the floor.

 This is why it is called the Flag Cake!  Isn't that cool?