Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bear With me

Please bear with me and my long absence. It's only going to get longer.
Right now, we are anxiously preparing for my brother's homecoming, and life is a bit of a mess. I'll be ready to wax all philosophical and emotional again soon.

In the meantime, here's an illustration of what life is like now that Sam is old enough to understand most of what we say.

The other day, Sam was touching something she knows she's not supposed to. It happens a lot, and she flashes this "aren't you going to come stop me?" grin every stinking time. I was super busy with chores, which is why I just looked at her and said, "Samantha, you are doing a no-no. Would you like to go to time out?!"
Sam looked right at me, yelled "Yeah!!!" and came running over for her punishment. I don't really know what to do with that other than admit that it's probably time to change our method of time out.
Since Sam is a bit of a wiggle worm (major understatement there), up until now "time out" has consisted of her having to sit on Mommy or Daddy's lap with her arms folded and not being allowed to wiggle or play. Unfortunately, now Sam is old enough to figure that out and she gets herself "sent" to time out by acting up when she just wants some cuddle time. I got played.
It's like 20% flattering, 80% super obnoxious.
Besides, now I have a conundrum, because she is still too young to sit on a naughty stool and not get up for time out, but clearly too old for the time out on Mommy's lap. Not that she seems to understand the principle of time-out anyway, it's just a good chance for her to calm down. Having a baby who is smarter than me makes me sleepy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"You Keep Using That Word..."

Near the beginning of the all-time classic movie The Princess Bride, Vizzini kidnaps Princess Buttercup with the help of his two cohorts, Inigo Montoya the Spaniard, and Fezzig the Giant, while being pursued by the mysterious "man in black." Each time Inigo announces that the man in black is still hot on their trail, Vizzini hilariously exclaims "Inconceivable!!!" complete with his insane lisp. Eventually, after a final "Inconceivable," Inigo (played by the brilliant Mandy Patankin) stares at him and responds--"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Much like the uber-intelligent criminal mastermind Vizzini, a large portion of the world today keeps throwing around a word that does not mean what they think it means, and those most energetic about its usage seem to be the most ignorant of the meaning. The word is: Intolerance.

According to dictionary.com "intolerance" means: "The quality of being intolerant; refusal to allow to others the enjoyment of their opinions, chosen modes of worship, and the like; want of patience and forbearance; illiberality; bigotry; as, intolerance shown toward a religious sect." More importantly perhaps, is what "intolerance" does not mean, and much to the chagrin of the screaming public, is does not mean "simple disagreement with others' opinions."

Intolerance is my least favorite word in the English language, because it is no longer used without making the speaker look like a hypocrite. Currently, people are labeled as "intolerant," when they do not wholeheartedly agree with and embrace the other sides' views. This is ridiculous! If one uses that definition, the word becomes utterly impossible to use. Follow me through the steps of logic if you will: If I disagree with you, I am therefore intolerant of you. However, if I disagree with you then you must also be in disagreement with me. If you are in disagreement with me, by your definition, it therefore makes you....oh my gosh!...intolerant!!! It not only makes you intolerant, however, it makes you a hypocrite for calling another what you are yourself. Bummer.
(As a side note, I was clearly paying attention in 8th grade Geometry, because I did learn how to make a proof.)

Intolerance means that you do not allow others "the enjoyment of their opinions" and I don't care what planet you are on, allowing you to enjoy your opinions does not force me to agree with them. If you can not enjoy your opinions without everyone else on earth agreeing with you in every aspect, I wish you the best of luck with finding said enjoyment, but it is never going to happen. You can believe whatever you wish to believe, I will never hunt you down, or actively try to prevent you from saying your piece--because that would be intolerant. I will not even trample on the right of white supremacists or others I find morally reprehensible because I understand that the same amendment that grants them the right to spew their disgusting vitriol gives me the equal right to call them hateful, ignorant, monsters. You can not take away the rights of one without trampling on the rights of the other, and eventually, there will be no one left to fight when it's my rights on the chopping block. When we incorrectly use the word "intolerance" to describe anyone who does not see things the same way we do, we are actually saying that our beliefs are more correct than others, and others should therefore not be granted the same rights we are because they are "wrong." What a dangerous precipice to stand on!

I have already mentioned what I do not have the right to do, so what remains is to assert what I do have the right to do. If, you ask me a direct question, or ask me to vote and therefore choose sides on a controversial issue, I have every right to answer you with what I believe--no matter which side it falls on. That does not make me intolerant any more than choosing the opposite side makes you intolerant. It makes us different--which is why we have a democratic process in the first place. The founding fathers obviously picked up on the fact that you can't please all of the people all of the time. This is the most fair system we've got. If you did not want to hear what I had to say, you shouldn't have asked or backed me into a corner and forced me to choose sides.

So, what is a real-life example of intolerance, according to proper use of the word? Hmm, I don't know, let's see... Oh, how about firing someone for giving the "wrong" answer to a question you asked that wasn't supposed to have a "right" answer? Miss California USA may have been fired for "not upholding her commitments," but I can not help but wonder--not upholding her commitment to what? Her commitment the unspoken rule that she must fall to one specific side of a controversial issue? Her commitment to agree with a gossip columnist whose only "credibility" and "celebrity" comes from harsh comments on real celebrities goings-on and wardrobe choices? I'm sorry, but the whole point of asking controversial questions in a pageant setting is to that the contestants have the right to fall on either side, as long as they defend their points. If there's a specific answer to be found, maybe they should ask obviously one-sided questions such as "Puppies--cute or ugly?" or "Adolf Hitler--horrible monster or stand up chap? What do you think?" They should avoid the hornets' nest of issues that divide voters virtually in half altogether! Heck, maybe to avoid confusion in contestants who might actually speak for themselves, instead of asking questions, they should just make statements. "Gay marriage is right. Please expand on this established fact."

Regardless of what side of the gay marriage issue you stand on, this is just not right, any more than it would be right for one of those creepy little girl pageants in the deep South to decrown a contestant for saying she did agree with gay marriage (which by the way, the ACLU would be all over like white on rice). Disagreeing with someone is not intolerance, but firing them as a passive aggressive "punishment" for disagreeing with you, surely is "a want of patience and forbearance." It's real intolerance, by definition.

So, stop using that word, unless you are willing to understand what it means and use it correctly. Understand that the meaning of a word does not change just because the actual meaning does not meet your immediate needs. The more you call me "intolerant" for simply believing differently than you, the more it's not myself I consider ignorant, and it makes me want to buy you a dictionary.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Compare and Contrast

I've been thinking a lot lately about making comparisons. It seems like human nature to always being comparing yourself to another person in every way imaginable, and women seem particularly addicted--"I could never get my hair to do that! I can't can homegrown vegetables! I could never be a stay-at-home mom like her! I could never be a working mom like her!"
The whole thing is insane, but I'm right there in need of a straight-jacket myself. The real question is why are we so nuts?

Considering how few years I've actually been old enough to hold "grown-up" callings in the church, I've certainly done my time in nursery, and in multiple wards at that. When I was in college, I'd work in the nursery whenever I was visiting home. Once, we were having a lesson on Easter Sunday, and it was about the resurrection of Christ. The teacher held up a picture of Christ during the crucifixion when suddenly, one of the three-year-old boys screamed at full volume "NO FAIR!!!!!!"

Thinking that the picture of Christ in pain had frightened or touched him particularly strongly, we stopped the lesson to make sure he was okay.
The little boy continued with the meat of his complaint by adding "my mom never lets me go outside in my underwear, and there is Jesus in his underwear!! Outside! And my underwear even has Spiderman! His is boring."

There you have it, folks. He was not upset that Jesus was undergoing a horrible, violent death at the hands of his own people, he was jealous that the Savior of the world was sporting what looked to be underwear, outdoors. He was out of his mind with envy. Apparently, every boys' dream--running around in your underpants. Basically, he was three. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard, or tried to hold it in so poorly.

This brief but hilarious experience has been popping up in my muddled brain constantly lately. I can't help but wonder how many times we look at someone else, and not seeing the whole picture, we assume we are getting a raw deal and they are the lucky ones. Certainly, if he had understood what the picture really depicted, my little jealous friend would not have given his right arm to trade places with the Savior, at least not in that particular moment of time. Someday, of course, he will understand what it means, but how many years did he waste in envy before growing up enough to figure it all out? I think of all the people I know that I think have it better than me, and I think about all the people I don't know that I think have it better than me. I can make myself feel so picked on--and to what point and purpose? To waste my time being jealous of a situation I don't even understand?

I remember several years ago, watching the show Jon and Kate Plus 8, and being slightly irked at the fact that they get so much free stuff. These people happened to have a bunch of kids (accidentally by they way), and now, they are making bank off of it! It's not like they set out to do anything remarkable, and how fair is it that there are families out there who have just as many kids, or multiples, or children with special needs, but can barely make ends meet because their surprise wasn't massive enough to sway the attentions of a cable network! Where's the justice? I know they need to support their family and all, but other families in equally bad shape don't have the option of letting people film their everyday lives and give them vacations to keep food on the table. They work real jobs! I saw the show again the other night, and I can't believe I wasted even a minute of my time being angry at the world or jealous of them. Look what all that "awesomeness" has cost them! I don't know the whole story or the real truth any more than the next gal, but just the simple fact of having your supposed marital problems splayed all over newsstands for your kids to see and the world to judge would outweigh the benefit of the money right there. I can't imagine the pain of having your children living in constant fear that the horrible things people say about their parents are true! Forget whether or not there was any real infidelity or actual "wrongdoing," just watching the way they interact now (or more accurately, don't interact) is proof that fame has affected their family in a very negative way. They are never together, they don't smile like they used to, and the real joy the show used to showcase, just doesn't seem to exist anymore. But, they do have a bus driver and a luxury bus to take them places! I can't help but feel like I was watching someone on the deck of the sinking Titanic, and feeling jealous of their beautiful bracelet I didn't have.

As my little friend reminded me so many years ago, and life has harshly continued to remind me since, there is no benefit to comparing yourself to others, because you never fully understand what we are comparing ourselves to! We never know the entire story of what exactly makes that grass greener on the other side of the fence, and it is futile and damaging to our own lives to pretend we do. Which is why, despite the fact that it goes against my nature as a human being and a woman, I am doing my best to just stop comparing and contrasting. I am myself, I am no one else. I don't think exactly like anyone else, I don't live exactly like anyone else, I don't look exactly like anyone else (though remarkably similar to my mother). I am just going to start embracing the fact that I like it that way!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Got it all figured out

I was trying to get some chores done this afternoon, when Sam decided to follow me around screaming. I'm not a fan of the new tantrum phase, which is (naturally) combined with her "if Mom is busy I must have her attention RIGHT NOW!" phase. Not a fan at all. People keep telling me she's too young to discipline, but if she's not too young to run over to mess with stuff she's not supposed to and then smile, run away and pretend she wasn't when she sees us looking at her, how can she be too young? Anyway, I decided to give her a job to do to help me, since trying to send her to play wasn't going over at all. Less than zero on the blocks, drums, little people, you name it.

I was folding laundry so I walked her over to the dryer with the empty laundry basket. I showed her how to move the clothes from the dryer to the basket and said "Put the clothes in the basket!" Sam is just getting old enough to love putting things in buckets and baskets, which means she helps clean up her toys--can I get a hallelujah??!!! Sam just looked at me, pulled one sock out of the dryer and into the basket, then smiled at me and ran to her room.

It wasn't what I was going for, but I thought I had figured out a universal rule of parenting--if you want a kid to leave you alone while you are working, give them a chore. So, I went back to my laundry pile feeling like I had gotten at least something about Sam all figured out. Apparently, she, much like her mother, is entirely lazy and will do something she doesn't feel like in the face of an even worse fate like a chore. This same personality trait is the only reason I've ever watched a Lifetime movie--much less the same one three times over in the same weekend. Anything's better than cleaning the bathtub.

After only a couple of seconds of feeling pretty on top of things and giving myself a knowing mommy smile, Sam was back at my feet waving and pulling me out of the room anyway, so I went with her to get the rest of the clothes out of the dryer myself. Imagine my surprise to find that Sam had not gone into her room to play after all. There was a plastic teething bee in my whites. She had run into the other room to get something far more interesting than T-shirts for the basket. Then she had come back to get me and show me that she understood her job--put crap in the basket. Obviously, she misunderstood the part about what specifically I wanted her to put in the basket.

And it turns out that I haven't gotten it all figured out after all. The only thing I know for sure now, is that there isn't anything I know for sure. I may have a lot of "first days" in parenting, but this certainly is not my first day feeling self-righteous for all of 30 seconds before being straightened back out. That's pretty much an everyday thing around here.