A Welcome Message

It's a great big world we live in. And yet-it's a small world (after all). There are so many different cultures and opinions and theories and beliefs, but there is one thing that exists among them all, and that is FAMILY.

I firmly believe that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

On this blog, I'll share information from my classes, experiences from my own life, thoughts and feelings from my heart-all on the subject of FAMILY.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Family System

Remember how one of the main points of the Family Systems Theory is that the whole is larger than the sum of its parts? Well we were given an assignment to come up with a metaphor to represent our family. I came up with an orchestra for my family.

My dad is the stage. He's in the background, but provides for his children just as a stage provides a place for an orchestra to perform. He's made of a strong, sturdy foundation of good character, integrity, and testimony.

My mom is the composer. She works behind the scenes to make life the best it can be for us children. She's not always pleased with the way we interpret some things in life, but she's always there to show her love and support of our efforts anyway.

Rebekah is the 1st violin section. She is talented, intelligent, has strong opinions and preferences, and is always working to be her best.

Ammon is the bass section. He's the protective big brother and a strong steady support in the family. He's always willing to host or help others and gives good, logical advise.

Elann is the conductor. I know everyone would expect this to be one of the parents' roles, but Elann is always managing multiple projects, callings, and her nine busy children. She's also the one that many of us look to for an objective point of view when we're lost in our frustrations. She encourages peace and harmony among all the family members.

Steven is the cello section. He's mellow and soft spoken but daring and adventurous like a cello solo. He's always looking on the bright side and is everything good and wholesome.

Lora is the viola section. She's the bridge between the big kids and the little kids. She takes pride in being her own person with very specific ways of doing things, but she is constant and successful as a wife, mother, teacher and musician.

Seth is the percussion section. He makes things fancy with a matter of fact attitude. His emotions ring out loud and clear. He's creative and confident and a hard worker.

I am the woodwind section. I love and live a simple life just like the simple, clear tones of the oboe. But just like the woodwinds have a wide range from high to low notes and instruments, I am able to get along with all of my siblings because of the time I've spent with their families.

Samuel is the brass section. He demands a lot of attention just like the sharp notes of the brass instruments, and yet he's enjoyable to be around. He's intelligent, considers all variations, and tries lots of new things.

Anna is the harp. Not only does she play the harp beautifully in real life, but she is soft and kind. She is a true introvert, but surprises us with striking insights and glissandos of humor.

Andrew is the 2nd violin section. Last but not least, he's an important member of the family. He looks up to the rest of us but has his own unique harmony to contribute. He has an enthusiasm and love for life and family that makes him valuable.

Each of us can play alone, but when you put us all together working cohesively, we perform wonderful music, memories, and good deeds.

Now, that's my family. What about yours? What can your family be likened to? What role do you play in your family? Are there any important members missing and if so, who has filled their role?
How are the relationships between the individuals or between the different sub-systems of your family? How do these relationships contribute to patterns in the family? What will you do to change the worst patterns and keep the best?

Brother Williams kept saying something in class this week in regards to family patterns and cultures that I totally love:

Borrow the Best and Learn from the Rest

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Things First

Last week we learned about theories. Specifically, family theories. 

For example, here are some concepts from two of my favorite family theories:

Family Systems Theory
 - the whole is larger than the sum of its parts
 - everyone has a role to play
 - families are driven by rules
 - circular causality

Symbolic Interactions Theory
 - perception of individuals
 - we're always communicating, though sometimes not what we mean to
 - we form meaning based on our perception of interactions

How can theories help families?
Consider the following scenario. Overall, Dean and Janet are happily married. However, Janet has been so upset with Dean lately. It seems as though he's been deliberately doing or neglecting simple things just to frustrate her. For instance, Janet is always the one who has to replace the empty toilet paper roll, so the last time she noticed it empty, she decided to leave it and make him take care of it. The next day, it was still empty, but Janet refused to change it. She noticed she had a hard time being more than civil with Dean that day. The next day, it was still empty! And Janet finally snapped. She tore into Dean about how lazy and inconsiderate he was. Dean sat stunned, and when he asked Janet where this was all coming from, she took it as an unwillingness to take responsibility for his neglect and stormed off fuming. Feeling confused, guilty, and a little defensive, Dean kept his distance the rest of the night and the rest of the week because he didn't want to be accused of anything else he wasn't aware of. Janet noticed Dean's distance, considered it an action of his guilt, and became more and more infuriated with him as the days went on.....

Sometimes, more than one theory can come into play for one situation. This one, I believe, uses both Family Systems and Symbolic Interactions Theory to understand what's happening. Do you see the circular causality that's happening? Janet feels Dean has been neglectful, so she accuses him of being lazy -> Dean feels attacked for doing nothing wrong, so he distances himself -> Janet notices his distance and feels even more neglected. Each of their perceptions affects their actions and feelings toward the other person. Janet perceives an empty toilet paper roll that Dean refuses to replace. Dean perceives Janet attacking him for no reason. But what can the couple do to understand their situation?

Our teacher, Brother Williams, quoted something that he first heard from Elder Harold B. Lee - "We need to communicate so we cannot be misunderstood."

Now let's rewind a little and change the initial interaction between Janet and Dean. Janet approaches Dean and says, "Dean, why don't you replace the toilet paper roll in the bathroom? I feel like I'm always the one doing it." Dean looks at her a little stunned at first, then with a look of realization. "Oh," he says, "I didn't know it was empty. I haven't used that bathroom in a little while. I usually use the hall bathroom just because it's closer."

Do you see the difference? Understanding that Dean's neglectfulness and Janet's accusations were not what was actually hurting the relationship, or at least not the core of the problem, helps family therapists (or anyone who's trying to help) get to the root of what is actually the problem. In this case, Janet and Dean were not clearly communicating with each other. They were communicating-it's impossible not to-but they were not communicating what they actually felt or perceived and therefore perplexed the situation more.

What kinds of misunderstandings have you been in that have caused a strain on that relationship for even a short period of time? Looking back now, what could you have done differently to avoid or remedy the misunderstanding?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's the Matter with Guys These Days?

NOTE: This is not my regular weekly post-it's rather an observation and my strong opinion on the subject. This week's post on what I learned from class this week is coming.

I often hear people of all ages complain about the dilapidated state of dating nowadays. More often than not, I hear that it's the guy's fault for this decline in the dating trend. "Guys just don't ask girls on dates anymore." "Guys just want to hang out." "Guys don't like commitment." Admittedly, I've been guilty of some of these, and I still don't think they are wholly wrong. Talks and addresses given by latter-day prophets and apostles even confirm some of them. But I had an opportunity in class today that never should have been mine, and it made me think of another reason for this dating decrease, and it's NOT the guy who's at fault this time.

The class is Family Relations. So naturally, we talk about families A LOT. Today our professor decided to have us act out a family therapy session to demonstrate how a certain successful family therapist (please forgive me for not remembering his name) used his interviews to help families. My teacher asked for 3 volunteers-someone to play a 9 year old boy, a mother, and a father. The first to volunteer said he'd be the boy. Then another guy volunteered to be the dad. There was a long awkward pause. The teacher asked again for someone to volunteer to be the mom. Another very long, awkward pause. I sat and watched, waiting for one of the single ladies to jump up. No one did. So I volunteered-I am almost always willing to volunteer, but I really wanted someone else to seize this opportunity and I'll tell you why in a minute.

When I was young and single-ha! I sound like that old person... don't worry, I do realize I'm not that old-dating was a thing. Boys and girls talked and flirted. Girls found excuses to be near or talk to the boys they liked. Boys asked girls out on dates, girls said yes. Boys and girls went on all kinds of dates; single dates, group dates, first dates, blind dates, second dates, exclusive-we're-a-couple dates, getting-to-know-you one-time dates. What changed between then and now? Are guys really just not interested in dating like they used to be? Are girls less interesting now? Are young people honestly not wanting to get married? I doubt it. Young people I know wish they could find the person who is best for them. They seem to long for marriage. Things that I see popping up on Pinterest hint at the idea that girls nowadays spend just as much time thinking and dreaming up their future wedding as they ever did "back in my day" with a game of M.A.S.H.. But here's where I get frustrated... many of those (not all) who are wishing and longing and dreaming don't do anything beyond the wishing and longing and dreaming in order to achieve dating and marriage.

Now let's go back to my example of the class enactment that I was part of. It was a great activity, by the way. It totally helped the class see the impact that healthy family bonds and boundaries can have and it was fun to participate. But here's why I was disappointed that it was me................. I'm married.  HUH?? Why does that matter? Well, as far as the educational aspect of the demonstration, it didn't. So for that I was glad to do it. But there was a whole other opportunity missed!

Here you have a good-looking, seemingly awesome young man (who very well could read this post and if so, sorry for putting you on the spot) in a class with more than a dozen eligible single ladies. Let's assume that some of them are already in a relationship, either married, engaged, or dating. Let's also assume that another portion of them are just not interested in dating right now, or in this particular guy. But some of them, even if only a couple, had to be interested in getting to know this guy better. Why should one of them have been where I was? 

Three reasons:
1) It's a chance to be NOTICED - In a room full of other single ladies on a campus where there appear to be fewer eligible men than women, a girl needs any chance she can get.
2) It's a chance to BREAK THE ICE - Sure, play acting in front of the entire class is a little awkward, potentially embarrassing. But that very thing might prove to be the perfect ice-breaker and could spark future, not-so-awkward conversations.
3) It's a chance to SHOW INTEREST - Let's face it. Guys need encouragement and who can blame them? No one likes rejection, so why would a guy willingly ask a girl out if he didn't have some sort of clue that she would probably say yes?

I can't tell you the number of girls that I've talked to who tell me all about some cute boy that they just wish would ask them out on a date. I get all excited for them and ask about the last time they talked to the guy. Imagine my surprise when they say that they haven't! What?! Why not? "Well, he never talked to me." Or, "what am I supposed to talk to him about? Nothing came up." Honey, I don't care what you talk to him about. Ask him about the color of his shirt, for crying out loud. One time, a girl had been telling me about this guy she worked with for a couple weeks. He was super cute, and he talked to her every now and then, but their jobs kept them in separate parts of the building for the most part. One day though, she told me about how that particular day, the guy had actually come up  to her and said something funny. She had laughed at his joke and then gone back to her work. That was it. I was floored. "You went back to work?!" I squawked said. She looked at me like I was dumb. What else should she have done? Again, my answer-ASK HIM ABOUT THE COLOR OF HIS SHIRT. Is that a magic question that leads to endless dates? No. In fact, it's a really weird, random question. But it's better than doing nothing at all. If nothing else, it shows him you're interested in keeping the conversation going. Hopefully he can figure out the next step on his own. Now, let me not be confusing here. First of all, I am NOT encouraging you to skip class or give half an effort to your job for the sake of flirting. Secondly, I am a firm believer of those old traditions where the guy is the one to ask the girl out and the one to initiate the first hand hold or the first kiss. But the idea that Mr. Right is simply going to see you across the room and then search the whole earth just to find you and ask you out with absolutely no effort on your part is bologna. Some people's love stories come close, but not most. Most of us have to give a little encouragement (some a lot) before any sort of relationship can develop. 

So if you're an eligible single lady reading this, check yourself. Are you a wishing, longing, dreamer only? Do you come off as unapproachable or uninterested? Don't be afraid to put yourself out there a little bit. The guy has to do it a whole lot more than you in the beginning. Don't lose hope if you try once (or nine times) and it doesn't pan out the way you wanted. The right guy is out there. But you have to be searching just as much as he is.

And to all those eligible guys, don't give up on dating! Give it as many chances as it takes. Don't let the art of dating completely die out. I know far too many amazing, beautiful, intelligent and talented single ladies who are worth every effort to get to know them. (A couple of them are here in town-I could set you up.)

I know that there can be drama and heartache and awkwardness (lots of awkwardness) throughout the dating scene that make some wonder, "what's the point??" But the point is that one very major purpose in this life is to have a family. The point is that you will experience no greater growth, joy, or measure of fulfillment than that which you experience as a spouse and parent. So even if it takes you a whole lifetime of pursuit, it's worth it. Your Heavenly Father wants that for you, and so do I.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Zero Population - NOT the answer, my friends!

There's an old song from Saturday's Warrior that argues the world is getting smaller and zero population is the answer to saving the world's resources. Many of the trends that we see in families today suggest that society at large agrees-even though there is good research that proves otherwise. Even if not for the same reasons as those listed in the song, values and patterns pertaining to the family are not what they used to be.

In the last 40-50 years:
premarital sex       has gone UP
unwed pregnancy  has gone UP
cohabitation          has gone UP
delayed marriage  has gone UP
delayed parenting  has gone UP
people living alone has gone UP
divorce rates        have gone UP
number of employed mothers (with children 6 and under) has gone DOWN
household size has gone DOWN

See any correlations between any of these?

What do these trends say to you?
In my opinion, they all stem from a characteristic that has (again-in my opinion) become all too common among people today. It's a characteristic that we're not proud to own up to, which is perhaps why so many people don't own up to it or take the responsibility of changing it in themselves.
And justification for our selfishness.
Do you disagree? If so, that's okay. We can agree to disagree. But I have President Spencer W. Kimball backing me up. "It all comes back to one word, doesn't it: Selfishness" (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 313). :)  I can think of an example for every one of the above trends and how it stems from selfishness on the part of one or both persons involved in the relationship and I'll bet you can too if you think about it.

Here's one example: Premarital sex and Cohabitation. I'm going to lump these two together for a moment. I remember someone asking my brother and his then-fiancé when she found out they weren't living together and they were waiting until after they were married to have sex, "but how do you know it's going to work?" She had a point. I mean, what if my brother was one to leave the shower curtain open, or his soon-to-be-wife hogged all the blankets? And what about the sex?? Everyone knows that's a very important part of the marriage relationship, what if two people have different likes and dislikes? See where the justification sneaks in? It almost seems irresponsible and illogical to NOT live and sleep together first. But here's something to think about... which of these things can't be remedied with a little communication and selflessness? How hard is it to say, "Sweetie, if it doesn't matter to you, could you try to remember to close the shower curtain when you're done? It looks nicer and it won't get so mildewy." It's not so hard to say and shouldn't be too hard to forgive when he forgets. Better yet, it only takes a second to pull it closed yourself the next time you're in the bathroom. Now, you might say, "yeah, but the intimacy thing is pretty important." And you're absolutely right. There are issues that are important. Many of them should even be addressed before marriage, such as attitudes towards finances and religions and expectations of how the couple will work together as equal partners while fulfilling their individual roles. A good foundation for all of those issues can be worked out before marriage with good communication, except the intimacy one. To address this issue, I will turn to my friends Lamb and Brinley, whom I don't actually know at all-but I've read their book. It's called Between Husband & Wife and it's a great resource on the subject of marital intimacy. (Anyone else always look at the word 'marital' and initially think of 'martial' as in 'martial arts,' or is that just me? Anyway.) It says, "One of the great challenges surrounding the sexual experience relates to the fact that husbands and wives often have very different perspectives about sex... but [these problems] can be overcome as the husband and wife work together to find the ways to provide a positive and fulfilling experience for one another." They give more advise and wisdom on the subject later in their book, but I'll let you read it.

I would like to point out, too, that love and "making it work" comes down to our choices. We choose to love someone. We choose to marry them. We choose to stay with them. We choose to make their happiness our priority. All choices have consequences. The consequence of putting our spouse and family first is a happy family life. I choose that because my family is the only thing that will bring me eternal joy and happiness.
{Side note: I really like Sara Bareilles' song, 'I Choose You'. Have you heard it?}

Amazing things happen when you prayerfully go and do. You know? There I was, "anxiously engaged," looking for something worthwhile to share with you, and I hit the jackpot. So here it is. President Spencer W. Kimball gave an address called Oneness in Marriage. He shares the "never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and eternal marriage."

"The formula is simple.
First there must be the proper approach toward marriage...
Second, there must be a great unselfishness... [See! I was right. I told you!]
Third, there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.
Fourth, the commandments of the Lord... must be lived completely.
With these ingredients properly mixed and continually kept functioning, it is quite impossible for unhappiness to come, misunderstandings to continue, or breaks to occur."

Read the full address. It can be applied to all areas of family life. President Kimball's words make sense not only to my head (logically) but to my heart and soul as well. This post has not at all been about what I initially planned on writing, but I hope it has become what the Lord wanted me to write and what He wanted me to gain from this week's class. I know that Satan is trying his darndest to thwart the unity and happiness of the family. He's had some victories, but I also know that he won't win in the end. "Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). I will quote that phrase a lot because I believe it with every ounce of myself. Heavenly Father cares about our relationships, especially our families. He will not allow Satan to win in the end. So will you and your family be on the winning side? I hope so.