Twitter Projections; Profile in Masculine Emotional Reactivity

I had a fascinating exchange on Twitter yesterday. It started out when “Marine Now” took issue with a friend named Melissa who posted angrily about how her taxes went up. She has to pay a tax bill this year and she is really upset about it. Marine Now, who I’ll call MN for the rest of this post, first questioned the Melissa’s reality and ability to comprehend her own taxes, then pivoted to her choice of her career. She was a “writer” which in his mind clearly showed that her problems with money were due to her “emotional” choice of career. He then posted patronizingly about people like her are always letting their emotions cause problems for them. She replied to him in good faith trying to draw him out. He expanded into a tirade against “Little Suzy” who becomes a social worker because she cares so much and then she can’t pay her student loans. He further revealed himself when he unexpectedly diverted into immigration. Of course, MN was extremely hostile to illegal immigrants. No surprises there, but the fact that he brought it up was particularly telling, as no one on the thread had said anything about immigration. For some reason, taxes, caring people, social workers, writers, and immigration were all connected in this person’s mind.

I engaged with MN for a while and he revealed a few more things about himself and his career in the Marines. His profile pic was stereotypically masculine with buzz cut hair. He liked to talk about how much money he makes and how much taxes he pays. I got the distinct impression he was exaggerating, and I told him as much. He also seemed very concerned that everyone agree that taxes went down and that the country is doing great. In my typically direct Twitter way, I called him on his psychological projection of emotional volatility, saying that it was he and not Melissa that was letting his emotions lead him into assumptions, unrelated issues, and personal attacks. I explained that he was failing to take a rational and dispassionate look at the evidence: Mellissa paid more in taxes this year. The GOP was and is saying there was a tax cut for middle class Americans. She is a middle class American and feels cheated. The fact that MN in fact paid less in taxes while earning more money overall doesn’t change that reality, but does bring more questions to mind about the overall fairness of the tax situation. He was uncomfortable that Melissa’s account was threatening his beliefs about the tax cuts. He needed to own his own feelings and then engage with the facts at hand.

NM was really angry at me by this point. Naturally. His emotional reactiveness in which he was in denial about was then projected onto me. I was now the personification of “Little Suzy” the knowledgable social worker who was married to his friend and likely tried to help him with his possible PTSD or other emotional health issues. Clearly, I was overcome with emotional nonsense and buried in debt. I was this hated individual who was responsible for all his pent up rage, and I am not really a person, just a profile picture, and so he could freely vent his rage at me. He was blocked of course, and I take good care to protect my identity on Twitter. Safety first! Besides, this type of person picks fights wherever he goes. I would be surprised if he hasn’t already made a dozen enemies since breakfast.

The internet is a fascinating place because people who ordinarily don’t engage with their emotions and never express them, seem able to do so from behind the computer screen. We tend to see this as a bad thing, but I’m not sure it is. After all, MN was angry before he engaged with Melissa and I, he just doesn’t understand how to deal with it. Almost certain that he probably hides behind his job and his military career, concealing his rage which he only vents to strangers online. We, not his friends, family, and co-workers see the real man. Whether this venting is actually helpful to him, I don’t know. I do know that talking about emotions is good.

Talking about emotions is terribly healthy. Even when they are only projections. It’s wonderful when we can own our emotions, understand them, and control and manage them in our relationships, but even when we can’t, even when we can only project them, it is better than keeping them inside. For example, I scream at my counselor, “You don’t understand me! You just think I’m crazy like everybody else does. Of course I can go join the circus and make a career as a trapeze artist!! It doesn’t matter that I am out of shape, I have neck problems, and I’m terrified of heights. You just think I’m crazy. I’m going to prove you wrong!” Then I think on what I have said and my counselor says quietly, “I don’t think you’re crazy. Why do YOU think I think you are?” Now we can get somewhere. Suddenly my zeal for the circus life is fading and I come to see the reality that I feel like everyone thinks I’m crazy and incapable of succeeding at my goals. My anger at this injustice is clouding my judgement and sabotaging my efforts. Now that I am self aware of my emotions, I stop projecting them and make more reasonable goals based on my real needs and not on the perception that I need to change other’s opinions of me with a rash career shift to the circus.

Instead, MN and others conditioned in toxic masculinity cannot own emotions, so they project emotion onto everyone else. If they don’t see emotionality in others, they will provoke it with insults or pestering. Once they get the emotional reaction they are looking for, they can then project their emotionality onto the other person and get a little bit of relief from the emotional pain they are in by blaming and shaming the other person, usually a woman, but sometimes a child or a less toxic man. I suspect this parasitic process underlies a lot of unhealthy relationships and will continue to do so until these men allow themselves to feel.

Toxic masculinity word cloud concept

I don’t imagine that my clinical approach to NM will result in his ownership of his own emotional demons. However, my refusal to allow him to provoke me into an emotional response was good. My ability to maintain a sense of compassion and understanding for him even in the face of his cruelty and bitterness shows that although I have my own emotional baggage I am carrying, I am still capable of love and patience with those who refuse to own theirs.

Speaking of emotional baggage and masculine issues, Austin again threw his crib across the room again last night. How does a three year old do that? At least he isn’t suppressing his emotions, right! I hope I can always teach my boys that real men don’t suppress or deny their emotions. Emotions are part of what make us human, and when we use them properly, they can magnify our minds, channel our efforts, and fuel our creativity. Compassion, empathy, understanding, and courage are all virtues that are made possible with understanding and applying the the principles of emotional health, and they were exemplified by the greatest man who ever lived, even Jesus Christ.

As Pilot said, “Behold the Man!” No man who ever lived had more mastery of his emotions than He. He was sensitive as a mother with a sucking child at her breast, and courageous as a soldier in battle in his clashes with Satan. He demonstrated the exalted form of masculinity that transcends the confines of this Telestial world. As we learn of him, as we study ourselves, as we seek to bring His divine form into our own hearts, minds, and bodies, we will become saints in deed. This is my prayer!


The BYU Honor Code; Do it Right

I read this article on the NPR website today about a protest of the honor code that took place today on BYU campus. The honor code is an integrity contract all students admitted to church schools sign agreeing to abide by a code of conduct. It is rigorous and every year students are expelled for failing to abide by it. My relationship with the honor code is complicated and this post explores some of my experiences and feelings about the issue.

First, the protest itself. Protests are not bad, and I think this one provides us an opportunity to have a conversation about the obvious concerns of the rising generation. This protest is completely in line with the trends we are seeing and have been seeing for almost fifty years. America has always been a land of rebels, but in the last fifty years, rebellion against norms has really taken off. Everything must be new and cutting edge, including our values. We cast off old values like we do the last decade’s fashions. In fairness, my move from a small town in rural Idaho, to a suburb of a major metropolis might skew my perspective some about how much has changed in society verses how much has changed around me. Even with that in mind, I think our norms are changing and changing fast, and for the rising generation, the traditional head down way of handling social issues just isn’t going to work.

Change is always hard, but change right now is inevitable. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is changing. I used to think that the true church of God would never change; that it would be a steady anchor in changing times, holding fast to steadfast principles. I still believe that to be true, but it is a little more complicated than I thought. The church is made up of imperfect and changing people living in a time of upheaval and flux. The principles remain the same, but the ways they are enforced; the policies and attitudes behind the principles must be flexible. Compassion and mercy must be balanced with principles when it comes to enforcement– But I passionately believe that if a standard is put in place, there must be enforcement. We can decide what that looks like in order to provide the best outcome for the students, but just putting the rules in place and expecting them to be followed, or putting students in charge of reporting on one another can be a disaster, as my story demonstrates.

I was a student at BYU in Provo for a short time twenty years ago. I lived at an apartment complex called Branbury Park. I had found it online on my dialup modem at home in Idaho. It looked fairly new and very nice. They had a great website. Their pictures marketed their BYU approved housing status and featured pictures that evoked thoughts of LDS culture. They were a little more expensive than most places, but I was planning to get a job and I thought it would be worth it to have my own room in a nice complex. I had just finished my Associates Degree at BYU-Idaho, and I thought BYU would be a great place to transfer that would have similar standards. BYU-Idaho, or Ricks college as it was back then, had strict enforcement of the honor code including curfews and boys not allowed in bedrooms. The complex appointed RAs, or Resident Assistants that were in charge of honor code enforcement. They had power and everyone knew it. We signed the honor code and we were expected to follow it. The day I moved into my new place at Branbury Park, I found an eerie note on my bed. It was a legal disclaimer stating that the BYU housing approval was not a guarantee that the BYU honor code would be enforced or even that the apartment was in compliance with legal safety standards. Clearly I wasn’t at Rick’s College anymore. It got worse from there.

I soon learned that Branbury Park had a notorious reputation on BYU campus as the party place. I had no friends and struggled badly with what I know now to be depression. I was stereotyped as a Molly Mormon and was treated as an outcast. My roommates would go clubbing at night in Salt Lake City. I invested in earplugs so that I could sleep though their endless parties. I learned very early on that the honor code was nothing but a formality to these BYU students. They thought nothing of going into their bishop interviews, promising to live by certain standards, and then breaking their word the same day. I remember me and my roommate had honor code appointments back to back. As soon as we got home, she was playing card games with some dude in her back bedroom. My other roommate was making out with her boyfriend on her bed. Thankfully, I had my own room.

They knew that I took the honor code seriously, but they also knew if I reported anything, they would know who the snitch was. They would make things miserable for me. They resented and feared me because of how I could mess up their lives, and I was terrified of them. I was stuck in a contract and I didn’t want any trouble.

One of our roommates moved out, but couldn’t get out of her contract, so she left her room empty. Another girl moved into her room without paying. She wasn’t a student at BYU or anywhere, and unlike the other kids at Branbury Park who liked to live a double life, she had no desire to look or act LDS. She had a terrible spirit about her. I remember the first time I saw her and her hatred of me seemed to radiate from her person. She terrified me. I still remember the dread I felt as I heard her move her things in. I thought the worst thing I had to endure that year would be when my FHE brother asked me to do a table dance and everyone laughed at me, or maybe when that nasty guy they called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher used the class as a recruitment tool for his network marketing business. This was the worst.

I agonized over what to do. Should I notify the apartment managers that a girl was living in our apartment that shouldn’t be there? Everyone would know who the snitch was. My life was bad enough in that apartment, but I felt like the line of decency had to be drawn somewhere. There were boys spending the night and beer parties in the parking lot. I came to BYU thinking that I would be with other kids who would be striving to live the honor code. As it was, I stood out dramatically for refusing to compromise myself. A couple of slices of bread were all that was needed for the entire ward for sacrament meeting. It made me wonder why these kids came to church at all. Why did they want to attend BYU? No one seemed to care about the gospel. I thought for sure I would find someone to be friends with, but I never did. If you were a decent person when you moved into Branbury Park, you weren’t by the time you left. Everyone on the outside judged me for living there. Everyone on the inside judged me for not being like them.

That was a dark time in my life. My sister was married to an abusive man. I was living far away from home for the first time. My tonsils were bad and I was almost constantly battling strep throat infections. I decided to quit going to school and got a job with the plan to move out as soon as possible. Even though I tried to sell my contract, I wasn’t able to. I stayed the whole year. I didn’t ever tell anyone about our squatter roommate. I had a feeling that she was better off in our apartment than wherever she was living before. At least she had a place to sleep.

Even though my roommates didn’t like me much, I stayed close to the Lord and I still loved them. Eventually I gave up trying to make friends in my ward and complex. I joined the UVSC institute and took as many classes as I could to avoid going home after work. I stashed bagels in my car so I wouldn’t have to eat at the apartment. I drove the five hours home almost every other weekend. When I did see my roommates I was cordial, but tried not to involve myself in their lives. The less I knew, the easier it was to live with the situation.

At one point my roommate Katy was not doing well. Her dad was a Dentist and she was rich and messy with lots of expensive clothes that she never took care of. Her room had so many clothes on the floor it was knee deep in some places. She was pretty and blonde and fairly nice. In another situation, we probably would have been good friends. If there had been more good influences around, she might have gone a different way. Unfortunately, she started hanging out with a nasty guy. She stopped sleeping at our apartment at night, and I was worried about her. I talked to my other roommates, and they were concerned about her too. Even by Branbury standards, she was slipping. She wasn’t going to class, and she had gotten into some substance abuse. I prayed about what to do. I told a member of the Bishopric that I was worried about Katy; that I didn’t want to get her in trouble, but that I thought someone should know what was going on. A few weeks later he told me that he had called her in to talk with him. She had started the repentance process and was doing much better. He wanted me to know. I had done the right thing. After he mentioned it, I could tell she was doing better. I don’t know what ever happened to Katy after I left, but I hope she was able to stay out of trouble. Maybe she moved out of that awful place. I hope so.

After that year, I was much more careful about choosing my apartments. I made certain that I never got into such a terrible mess again. I moved to a better place on BYU campus for the summer, and then started at Utah State the next fall. Part of the appeal of Utah State, was that there wasn’t an honor code. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to live the honor code. I have always been a straight arrow. I didn’t want to go to a church school where there was an honor code that wasn’t enforced. It put me in a difficult situation at Branbury Park and I never wanted to be in that place again. Better to have no standard, than a standard that isn’t enforced except for vague expectations about peer monitoring. It isn’t that I don’t like the idea of an honor code, it just needs to be done right and in practice, it isn’t always done right.

Here’s the thing. I know not everyone wants to live by the standard of the BYU honor code. That’s okay. There are lots of other schools people can go to. Anybody who gets accepted to BYU has plenty of options about where they want to go to school, so whining about the honor code rings hollow to me. There are lots of good kids willing to live the code that are turned away every year because they don’t qualify academically. They are taking you at your word that you have the moral qualifications to handle the honor code, but if you fail to live up to it, why should they be obligated to keep you? If you sign a contract saying that you are going to live by a code and then you don’t, you are only lying to yourself, the school, and God. You take a spot at a church school that someone else is more worthy than you to have. If you commit sin, God may forgive you, but that doesn’t mean that BYU has to keep you. If you violate the honor code, you are breaking your word to the school. Choices have consequences and that’s just life. If I choose not to go to work, I can’t go to church and repent and then expect that because God forgives me that I will still have a job. That’s not how it works.

That doesn’t mean I advocate that everyone who makes a mistake is kicked out. What I’m saying is, don’t conflate the forgiveness of God with the standards at BYU. They are two different things. If you want a good school with good academic standards, why is it different to want a school that also has high moral standards? What difference is there really between wanting people to understand and practice the rules of quadratic equations and wanting people to understand and practice the law of chastity? Yes, people will make mistakes, but should we just stop grading tests? Stop failing students? Tossing out the honor code would be the moral equivalent of throwing out the grade book academically.

A good school offers tutoring to those who struggle academically. I believe BYU should also provide support to those who struggle to live up to the standards of the honor code. If the code is wrong, that also needs to be addressed, but that isn’t what it seems to me that this protest was about. It is about mercy, forgiveness, and having a standard at all. In that, the core issue is the conflagration of divine forgiveness and the consequences of sin; the violation of divine covenants with the contracts of men. If I break the law, I have to pay a fine or do my time. That has nothing to do with whether God has forgiven me.

Of course, as a church and as a society at large, we are re-evaluating our sexual norms. The LGBT movement cannot be ignored. We must have faith that God understands what is beyond our knowledge and that as we extend mercy to those who struggle with these issues, and seek his wisdom, we will know the way forward. Sexual assault, or the situation in which I found myself with my roommates are not the fault of the students in impossible situations. We need to be careful in our judgement that we don’t condemn victims or give power to their abusers. No matter how careful we are, I still don’t see the future being warm and fuzzy when it comes to these issues. They are hairy and difficult for everyone. Still, we need to make sure that we aren’t neglecting our responsibilities when it comes to our own due diligence.

For example, if you are going to make money off kids paying rent at BYU and you market your complex as BYU approved housing, you should make sure that your rooms comply with legal safety standards and that the honor code is enforced. That disclaimer flyer may have protected Branbury Park legally, but God won’t forget the hell I went through that year. There are some people who profited from the mess that was allowed to happen at that complex. My mom and I were deceived and swindled and I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones.

My Branbury Park story is a cautionary tale. Don’t assume that when you send your kids off to a church school that all is well. There was a rumor that my family home evening brother was pimping out my roommates. I found it plausible. Seriously. Also, I’m all about compassion, forgiveness and second chances. I can see how the honor code might be a way to persecute and shun someone who is struggling to live a standard that is a little out of reach for them; but keep in mind that the opposite is also true, as my story shows. As our society re-examines shame and the enforcement of sexual values, we need to remember that if the standard is put up for our youth, it should be fairly and consistently enforced by the adults who preside over them. Not holding students accountable for keeping their promises rewards liars and punishes everyone else. If the standard isn’t enforced fairly and consistently, its better that it isn’t there at all.

Expecting young people to self monitor and report one another for honor code violations is unreasonable. I felt guilty at Branbury Park because I felt like I needed to tell someone about what was going on. I felt complicit because I was looking the other way and not reporting my roommates. Still, I knew that nothing I reported would have any effect. Obviously, the problems at that complex were much larger than I could do anything about. At one point I talked to one of the members of the bishopric hinting vaguely about how the honor code isn’t enforced like it was at Ricks. He seemed to know the burden I carried. He said, “This is a hard place for a girl like you to live.” He was right. I took his sympathetic response as permission to disregard the honor code violations of my roommates, but I never felt comfortable with it. I did the best I could, and looking back, I think I was a good example to my roommates, especially to Katy. I struck a good balance between compassion and obedience in a very difficult situation. Not everyone can do that, but I showed those kids that you could still live the honor code even at Branbury Park, even if it meant that you didn’t have a single friend for a whole year. Even if it meant eating bagels for dinner in your car every day.

I never wanted to be a hero or a Molly Mormon model of righteousness for a bunch of rebel kids. I just wanted to go to school and be accepted like everyone else; maybe go on a few dates. The Lord had other plans for me that year. Still, I wouldn’t wish it on another twenty-year old girl. We can and should be better at our church schools. My oldest son wants to go to BYU. I’ve never told him my horror story. I like that he has a BYU placard hanging in his room and wears BYU socks. In our world of shifting values, I hope BYU can make the honor code work. Clear and unchanging principles are rare and vanishing on our college campuses, and they are needed more than ever IMHO. Even though I never graduated from BYU, I can respect what they are trying to do-I just want them to do it right.

The Testimony of Notre Dame

Watching Notre Dame burn yesterday, I felt as though something of myself was being consumed. One year ago to the day, my husband and I were walking through this majestic cathedral, drinking in this masterpeice of faith and devotion, home to thousands of lovingly created works of art; a testimony to the devotion of generations and centuries of people.  The destruction of so much beauty, history, and value brought me to tears.  After spending the day in morose reflection, I have again found my faith.  I see the images of smoke rising like incense as a prayer; a sacrifice, a reminder.  Everything on this earth is fragile. No matter how beautiful, no matter how much human blood, sweat, and tears have been invested, everything on this Earth was made to die.

I also watched this church video yesterday about a man who backed up his truck and accidentally killed his nine year old son. The senseless and terrible loss of this child seemed to mirror the loss of Notre Dame, with obvious differences, of course. Still, whether a cathedral, a child, or even civic virtues like civility and honest; all loss feels the same. The sense of incredulity, the desperate wish to make it different, to change what is, to repair and restore what once was.

But eventually we must accept the reality; nothing in this world will last. Every creation that exists is temporary and fallen.

This week is a celebration of our Savior’s death and resurrection.  We could not have the resurrection without the crucifixion.  The horror and evil of the one makes the other the more glorious and transcendent.  The longer I live, the more the resurrection means to me.  I testified to my boys about the resurrection on Sunday and they just looked at me like, “What’s the big deal?”  To me, it is everything.

The world considers anxiety and depression to be abnormalities; the result of a pathology.  I consider them to be the natural state of a rational mind that is conscious of the fallen state we are in.  Consider the sorrow!  I have a good life with much joy and happiness, but I have lost two friends to untimely death in the last few years.  I have a good friend who lost a sister to cancer a year ago.  This same friend has lost a couple of sister-in-laws to cancer.  All of these people were young mothers and fathers with families.  I have a friend from college whose twin sons died hours after birth.  My parents will likely pass away in the next fifteen years.  Ben’s dad died of cancer a couple of years ago.  Each time I read the news, see the images of suffering around the world, contemplate on the vast capacity of mankind to commit atrocity upon his fellow creatures; the despair within me grows.  Of course it does!  How could it not?

Perhaps that is why the song, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” in our MCO concert last weekend hit me with such force.  I had never heard the Rob Gardner arrangement before, but the words combined with the inspired music seemed to resonate within my heart strings like the bow on a violin.  

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25

Each day that I live in this fallen world, I have to keep that hope before me. It is more than a good feeling; it keeps me alive. It is the only way I can bare the thought of living in this world another day. Satan did his worst to Jesus Christ. He combined all his cunning and all his evil; all his power and all his might. Like the fire that burned through the cathedral, there was nothing left when he was finished. There was the shell of a man that once gave life and light to everyone he made contact with. He was dead. Murdered. He was innocent and pure, and yet they killed him. They had won.

Then in three days, he rose again. He conquered death and sin! Not only that, he promised that all that believe on him will also live. Though Satan’s power rages against us. Though evil and darkness gathers like the cloud above Notre Dame. Though the fires of evil, lies, and contention rip through our national fabric destroying so much of value; yet He is Mighty to Save! He can restore! He can bring back what was lost. It is this faith that brings me out of the depths of despair.

For this nation, for this world, I hold the torch of faith and hope aloft. He is the way, the truth, and the life. All those who own him Lord and come unto Him will survive the evil day. There is no man, woman, or child who is shut out from his tender mercies. This is my faith. This is my testimony, born from the flames of Notre Dame.

Singing with the Angels

Silence…… It’s a little weird when you are used to four kids and a dog pulling at you on Saturday morning. I’m at a hotel in Allen getting ready for my concert tonight.

Last night the energy at dress rehearsal seemed especially potent. At one point, the youth choir sang a moving arrangement of a song I had never heard before. It was pure and radiant testimony of the Savior with the lyrics taken straight from scripture.

My eyes honed in on the face of one beautiful young girl with dusky skin and full lips, her long dark hair swept back into a casual updo. I imagined that earlier that day she had been sitting in a high school classroom with other kids, nothing special about her. Her eyes were intent on her conductor, and her face seemed transformed. She was an angel delivering a scriptural message to me.

Most of the time we take medication via pill. It takes a while, but it works. We usually read the scriptures for spiritual knowledge and nurturing. Sometimes the words are pretty meaningless at first, but eventually they work. If you want interveneous injection of spiritual power, you need music.

The power of the music we sang last night defies easy description. In this world of cynicism and doubt, conflict and cruelty, confusion and darkness, music is an underrated tool.

By small and simple things the Lord bringeth to pass that which is great. His wisdom is foolishness and confounds the wise. Music is the vehicle of the spirit; the language of the angels. It can heal the world. It can dissolve bitterness in the soul. It can cleanse the broken heart.

Come unto Him! Ye that are heavy laden! Ye shall find rest unto your souls. Come all ye children of the Most High and sing his praises from the top of the mountain for He is Mighty to Save! MIGHTY TO SAVE!

Emergency Pizza Night

Children (8-12)

Last night was an emergency pizza night. I haven’t had one of those in a while; when I can’t function even enough to get some frozen food in the oven at 425 degrees. The day started out really well. I got up early, everybody including the dog out the door, dropped the kids off at school, and took Austin and Pepper to the park. We walked two km, and I worked on training Pepper to heel. Austin played on the playground. It was great! I expected to have a wonderful productive day. It would have continued on that positive trajectory if I hadn’t checked the headlines.

Watching William Barr tell congress he had no plans to give them the unredacted Mueller report and that he suspects that the FBI engaged in “spying on the Trump campaign,” I was profoundly disturbed. I had supported Barr’s appointment, with reservations, of course. I assumed that his reputation and dedication to justice would ensure that he would not be swayed by Trump’s demands. It would seem that my hopes were misguided. This has been a big blow for me. The thought that the Attorney General is involved in the obstruction of the Mueller report is unthinkable, and yet, looking back at the way Senator Sessions was removed, I feel foolish for hoping it was not what it appeared to be.

So, in order to make myself feel better, I settled down to watch some shows with Pepper during Austin’s nap. Unfortunately, Austin did not nap, he destroyed his room instead. Pepper slept, but the shows I chose to watch were disturbing to me. Crime shows can be wonderful inspiring tales of justice and dedicated law enforcement professionals, or they can be depressing tales of depravity. Usually they are a little of both. Sometimes it’s hard to find crime shows that have a good balance. I found a series called “Dark Minds” that I thought would delve into the psychology of violent criminality, which I find incredibly interesting. That was what I watched yesterday. It was disappointing. They do interview an FBI profiler who is fairly good, but other than that, the series just seems to revel in darkness. I felt like I needed to take a shower after watching a couple of episodes.

I spent a few few hours trying to manage Austin’s constant harassment of the dog while studying my music before I started finding my well of patience had run dry. I called Ben and he talked me through a strategy to get the dog in her pen and the boys upstairs playing video games to give me a break. When he came home from work, he helped me get the groceries and pick up the pizza. We fed the boys and got them off to scouts late, but at least they made it. Ben took Austin, and I read in my new art book and played with Pepper until he got home.

Sometimes I think that recovery means that I no longer have emergency pizza nights. The reality is, those nights will always be there. Recovery means that I have the strategies to deal with them and come through on the other side intact. I learned some things too. I’ve learned to stay away from “Dark Minds” and find another show. Better yet, ditch the T.V. and paint something. Another thing I learned is that exercise, while wonderful for mental health, can be exhausting. Just because I get my workout in first thing in the morning, doesn’t guarantee a day of productivity. Sometimes that happens, but not always.

As far as the news and the Mueller report, I need to take a page from Mueller himself. Sometimes he makes me crazy because he is so unruffled. He never says ANYTHING! He’s like the sphinx. Maybe he is as worried and upset as I am, but something tells me he isn’t. He likely has a quality that I wish I had, but don’t yet possess; patience. The man is patient. He knows that his work will eventually come out. The truth, whatever it contains, will come before the American people, and we will decide whether the behavior revealed is considered acceptable in our leaders. The corruption will percolate, the news cycles will rage, the pundits will pontificate, but in the end, in the long arch of our nation’s history, patient and restrained yet persistent dedication to truth and justice will prevail. I don’t need to jump into the washing machine to get the laundry done. I can let the mechanization of justice do its thing and patiently wait for the result. Easier said than done.

If I mess up and find myself in a dark place, thank goodness there is Ben, Pizza Hut, and Jesus Christ. There is another day to learn something new, and try again; a new canvass to fill with a new opportunity to succeed. There is so much more right with me than there is wrong with me! My Savior knows that, and as I prepare myself to sing his praises and testify to the reality of His divine salvation this weekend, my heart begins to soar.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God,
A sword and shield victorious;
He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod,
And wins salvation glorious!

The old Satanic foe,
Has sworn to work us woe!
With craft and dreadful might,
He arms himself to fight.
On Earth he has no equal.

Though hordes of devils fill the land
All threatening to destroy us,
We tremble not, united we stand;
They cannot overpower us.

Let this world's tyrant rage;
In battle we will engage!
His might is doomed to fail;
God's judgement must prevail!
One little word shall conquer him.

God's word forever shall abide,
No thanks to foes who fear it;
For God himself fights by our side
With weapons of the spirit.

Though goods and kindred may go,
All taken by our foes,
Though life be wrenched away,
They cannot win the day.
His kingdom is forever!

Martin Luther

Getting Comfortable at the Doors of Armageddon

Saturday night the big boys and Ben went to the Priesthood session of conference. We had managed to watch both sessions of conference earlier that day, so by the time they left the church with their dad, they had watched six hours worth of sermons. They eared their dinner at Red Robin!! Layne looked at me and said, “Tomorrow is Sunday AGAIN isn’t it?” By that he meant, “General Conference is a marathon and it isn’t even half over. We have another day of church.” I looked at him sympathetically and replied, “At least there are only four hours tomorrow.”

He looked dazed for a moment and said, “I don’t know if I will survive.” I love Layne! He has this way of being hysterically unintentionally funny. We did survive conference. Devin shared pictures of the new temple in Rome with his girlfriend who is Muslim. (Devin tells me they are just friends) He has been answering her questions about our church. She was appropriately impressed with the intensity of our worship. She gets it since her faith is the one with Ramadan.

Between the dog, the toddler, and the teenager, I didn’t get a whole lot out of conference. There were a lot of times when I would sit down to listen, hear a phrase like, “We must remember to always…..” interrupted with a scream followed by, “That’s cheating!” After breaking up the conflict, I would sit down again and hear, “The gospel plan of happiness can help us….” just as Austin would decide the dog wanted to slide down the back of the sofa. “Momma, she LIKES it!”

Between the scuffles and distractions, I did hear a few things. My overall impression of this conference and the last one is that there is a tone of urgency and intensity. Gone are the days of laid back talks full of reminiscing. The leaders of our church are saying things like, “We are at war,” “I plead with you to repent,” and “time is running out.” After a glance at the daily headlines, I see exactly why.

Whether you get your news from the right and believe that there is vast conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton, the FBI, and former President Barak Obama to invalidate the 2016 election (groaning inwardly)–or you take the more mainstream media narrative, that Russia, China, and their allies are succeeding in creating division and chaos through targeted online propaganda campaigns supporting dangerous candidates and extreme policies, resulting in the election of our most divisive and mercurial president in modern history. Regardless of your perspective, the investigators are investigating, the investigations are being concealed, the investigators are being investigated, the lawyers are scheming, the misinformation is flowing, the civility is draining from our body politic like a dead deer carcass. Upon that we should all be able to agree. We are teetering on the edge of an abyss. Isn’t it time that Christians remember the being that we worship?

Jesus Christ was not a political leader. He did not seek to take from the wealthy to enrich the masses. He didn’t need their money. He took a loaf of bread and fed five thousand. Do you think that your social welfare programs and bureaucratic behemoths can compete with his miraculous power to save and provide? If he were partnered with you, then perhaps these programs would be capable of benefiting society, but without Him, you are building a Tower of Babel. You will not succeed. There is no compassionate, prosperous future in secularism, humanism, and socialism. It is a dry and withered reed compared to the firm and green stem of Jesse. The left must find the Savior.

On the left there is too much outrage and too little faith. The white male is elevated to Godlike status. He is seen as all powerful; both to blame for everything and simultaneously capable of fixing everything. He is seen as selfishly withholding the resources of society within a culture of white privilege. Although this perspective has some truth to it, it is fundamentally flawed. There is one God, and he is no respecter of persons. He is the source of all good things. Only through obeying his commandments can one secure the blessings of liberty and prosperity upon their descendants. He is the source of salvation, not the white male. Even the multicultural collection of citizens with honorable intentions and vast resources pales in comparison to His might. It is only through Him that we will find the way through this web of evil we are in.

Now to my friends on the right, a message of repentance. It is not too late. It is still possible to open your eyes to the destruction before us. You have trusted in the arm of flesh. Your fear blinded you to the scriptural and historical fact that when the wicked rule, the people mourn. You decided to vote for a man who has shown over and over again through his own words, the words of journalists, the words of confidants and friends, that he is a liar, an adulterer, and a bully. He lacks the qualities of the Master, and yet many who claim the title of Christians laud him and claim divine sanction upon his rule. He turns his back on the weak and the oppressed and causes his people to do so as well. It is time to turn away from this evil. Whatever your reasons for supporting Trump in 2016, there is another election in 2020 and another opportunity to choose a righteous leader who can thwart Satan’s designs and deliver us from the evil day. We should all exert our best efforts to find such a leader to vote for in 2020.

It is politically unpopular to stand on principle. Power is measured as a finite resource to be hoarded and defended at all cost by the puny men who wield it. The trends of public favor are scented and discerned by political pundits stylizing themselves as oracles divining the future. Let us be like Daniel of olden days and cast aside the heathen’s ways. Is there not a God in Israel that can protect us from the maw of the lion? How so, if we cast him out of our voting decisions? Have faith! Through small and simple things, the Lord bringeth to pass that which is great! Let us stand upon principle, let us open our hearts to the poor beggars at our southern border and around the world who come to us for asylum. The Master would not have us turn them away. He will multiply our efforts and our country will be better for it.

Our President insultingly referred to certain countries as “shithole countries.” In his mind, bringing people in from these countries is a terrible idea. As a gardener, I can see the value of shit. (Please pardon the language.) Manure, as I prefer to call it, is fertile and can produce incredible results when added to soil. As a gardener, I seek out manure, and add it to my soil to restore vitality and fertility to stagnant low producing garden beds. America has traditionally accepted the dross of humanity from the darkest places in the world and found them to be worthy countrymen, even a blessing to us. Saying, as our President so unwisely did, that our country is full is not only untrue, it is incredibly calloused. Shutting our doors to immigrants at a time when the number of displaced persons is at the highest point in sixty years, is as cruel as it is stupid. To give such policies divine sanction is blaspheme.

And now I leave the subject of politics. Maybe I won’t write about it ever again. That would be a relief for some, I’m sure! This is a time of extraordinary anxiety for me. I find my mind racing as I try to go to sleep. Even my sleeping pill seems to have little effect anymore. I suppose it is natural to be afraid when you are standing at the doors of Armegeddon. This is it. The last days of the last days. Tough times are ahead, so I choose to live in today.

My little Pepper sits calmly in my lap fast asleep. Her warm body sends calming waves over my mind. The warm sunshine heats the soil of my flower beds. The pungent smells of fertilizer and fresh cut grass fill my nose. I feel the tender embrace of my little boy. For today, for this moment, I am at peace. I am happy. The people I love are safe, and all is well.

The future is the hands of my God who is mighty to save! He will not leave me comfortless in the days of my affliction. He knows in whom I have trusted. I fear not the power of the wicked in high places, for he is above them all. Though times of trouble are upon us, even at the doors; I will not fear, for He is by my side.

Chiweenies and Teenagers

I wrote a post yesterday that was pretty good, but I worried that it would send an unintended hurtful message to some readers, so I’m going to think more on it. See, I actually do have a filter! Sometimes. I really do care about people’s feelings, and if at all possible, I want to say what I have to say without causing pain.

Yesterday I was frantically searching the internet for everything I could find about dogs and chocolate poisoning. Pepper got into a package of Swiss chocolate cake rolls and threw our chaotic home into a whirlwind of phone calls, internet searches, and panic. Half a package of cake rolls, a $65 pet poison hotline call, and a good night’s sleep later, and Pepper is none the worse for wear. She only weighed in Tuesday at 2.5 pounds, so we have to be super careful about what she eats. It wouldn’t take much to kill her.

This is Pepper this morning eating dog food mixed with tuna. Much better than Swiss Rolls…….

As I was searching, I came across an article with a fearsome dog with hackles razed, barely contained by a muzzle. It was a jarring image with the title, Ten Most Aggressive Dog Breeds; ten meanest dogs. I clicked on the link and was surprised to see number one on the list was……the Chihuahua. Yes, the smallest dog in the world is, according to this article, the meanest, most aggressive, most dangerous dog in the world. I can only assume that size is not considered a factor because I hardly think an eight pound chihuahua is as dangerous as a 70 pound Doberman Pinscher. Still, the article gave me a moment’s pause. Consider the picture they have. If looks could kill!

I thought when I adopted Pepper that was was getting a sweet, calm, docile animal. She was. But now she is growing up, and she is finding her mean Chihuahua side. Seriously, I have probably twenty tiny puncture marks on my hands where she has bitten them. Some of this biting is typical puppy teething, but sometimes it isn’t. I get the distinct impression that this dog wants to be large and in charge. She has a thirst to dominate me.

For anyone who is concerned that I have a three year old at home with this fearsome beast, let me put your mind at ease. She bites me and Wesley mostly. Wesley is nine, and although this is not cool, he is not in danger. Austin and Pepper have a strange relationship. Austin loves Pepper. Pepper fulfills the need of all little people to find something smaller than them to boss incessantly. Austin is constantly issuing commands to Pepper, and when she does not obey, Austin picks her up under her front paws with her back legs hanging pathetically. It is usually at this moment that she turns her liquid black eyes on me silently pleading with me to take her away from her tormentor. Still, she does not bite or act aggressively toward him. I’m not sure why this is. Sometimes she has had enough from him and she will growl at him. At those times I tell him to back off. Austin is not the slightest bit frightened of her. Maybe that is why she doesn’t bite him. She senses no fear in him. Anyway, she is wise not to hurt my baby…..that would not end well.

Back to the aggressive dog list. Number two on the list is…..the Daschund. So, as some of you know, Pepper is a mix of uncertain parentage, but she is mostly a Chihuahua/Daschund mix. So yeah. I have the most aggressive, dangerous dog in the neighborhood. Don’t mess with me!!

She is a natural hunter. She has hunted down and killed probably close to ten June bugs on the back patio. She loves it when she finds the occasional mosquito eater that floats into the house. Insects fear her. Beware the tiny dog!

We are settling into our role as a puppy family. She is very good at following her sit command. She can sit, stay, jump and do combinations of those things, but we have had a few struggles which might warrant a round of dog training classes at Petco. With such a dangerous and aggressive dog breed, we can’t be too careful. I might have to get a ferret sized muzzle…… With animals living in the house that want to rule the roost, parenting can be difficult. Which brings me to my teenager.

He decided some time ago that it wasn’t worth it to do his chores which he earns a modest allowance for. His room became so messy, I couldn’t walk around in it. That’s a problem for me, because his room is also Austin’s room. Eventually I cleaned it for him, thinking that perhaps he just needed a fresh start. Nope. It is getting to be just as bad as it was before.

Eventually, Ben and I realized that this situation could not continue. We started issuing consequences. Every morning Ben gives the boys a ride to school. Now those rides are conditional on whether or not chores were completed the day before. Our other boys have responded well, buckled down and started doing their chores. Our oldest has procrastinated, whined, made excuses, and moped. It is now two hours into school, and he still hasn’t left the house. This is the second day this week that he has pulled this crap. When he asked me this morning if I would take him to school if he got his chores done, I told him I would drive him to Coal Creek, which is on my way to the preschool, and that he would have to walk from there. “What motivation do I have to do my chores then?”

I thought for a second and then answered, “That’s actually a very good question. What is your motivation? What kind of person do you want to be? Someone who respects your mother and completes his responsibilities? That is the question you need ask yourself.”

Between the dog, the toddler, and the teenager, I have a lot of things draining my energy. Good news is, I’m handling it. I’ve been painting a lot; portraits mostly, but also some flowers. Everyone is alive. Hopefully everyone is learning and growing to become the creatures God created us to be. Whether that is the most aggressive, dangerous, tiny dog on the planet, or the most stubborn teenager ever, or the strongest, wisest Mom on Crystal Brook Ct.