Friday, April 30, 2010

Faithless - Part The Third

Pin It (Part One is here and Part Two is here)

I've been debating this post in my mind over the last couple of weeks, torn between two options.

1)  Tying it all up in a pretty package, saying "Whew - what a journey - thank goodness THAT's over," and making it vague enough to ensure that my friends and relatives will stop worrying about the eternal state of my soul

2) Sticking with the messier truth

(Insert aggrieved dramatic sigh here.)

This is the first time I've talked about religion on my blog, and it will probably be the last.  I'm about five zillion miles outside of my comfort zone. It isn't funny, and it makes me nervous to write things that aren't at least 40% ridiculous.

It makes me uncomfortable not to be able to stand up here and say something definitive to you.  But I wanted to say it, so that when you read my blog, and you know I'm a Mormon, you don't think I'm representing mormon mommy bloggers.  Let that be Heather or Nat or Kalli.  But not me.

Never me.

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So there I was.  I was trying to make sense of it all.  My brain was telling me one thing, my heart another.  I clung to my One True Miracle.

What about the blessing? I asked an athiest friend.

The body is a mysterious thing.  We're just starting to learn about the power of the brain to heal the body.

What about the blessing? I asked a Christian friend.

Just because Mormonism isn't true doesn't mean God won't still answer your prayers, she said.

What about the blessing? My husband would ask me.

I don't know, I would say.

What about the blessing, I would ask myself, and ask myself, and ask myself.  Sometimes I asked God, but He still didn't answer me. 

After a while I stopped asking.

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To me, it felt like a tornado had come through my spiritual town.  All of my landmarks, everything I used to get my bearings - all of it was gone and I felt lost.

It was weird not to be able to definitively say, Yes, I believe it, or No, I don't.

For a long time, I struggled.

For years.

YEARS.

Years that I spent going to church but carefully avoiding bearing my testimony.

Years when I bit my tongue whenever the subject of religion came up, because I had no idea what to say.

Years where I waffled and qwaffled and flipped and flopped.

(I feel I should tell you - if I mentioned it here?  It isn't something that I really had an issue with.  Those were all examples of things that niggled at me when I DID have a measure of faith - those weren't the issues that actually destroyed it.)

(And there is a difference, I think, between that normal leap of faith we all take, where we have questions and doubts about dinosaurs and gender politics and statistical probabilities, and the leap that I felt was in front of me.  Once upon a time, I had questions and doubts, but I was looking at them from a place of faith, and the gap felt very small and inconsequential.  But now I was standing on the other side, coming from a place where there was so little left that I believed, so little left that I felt was true, that I felt the chasm between me and faith was far too wide to jump over without some kind of divine intervention. And absent that divine intervention...) 

In some ways the silent treatment was very good for me.

No longer sure that God would swoop down and sort out all of the injustice in the world, I felt a lot more responsibility to do what I could.

No longer sure that I knew what was Right and what was Wrong, I was a lot less judgmental. It softened me in a lot of ways.  I didn't have much to feel self-righteous about.

Not knowing what I believed, I hedged my bets.  Kept going to church, kept teaching my children.  We concentrated on the basics - be good, be honest, be loving. I tried to keep things The Same, tried not to rock the boat of our family's faith, even though I felt adrift.

I struggled and struggled and struggled.

And then one day, I woke up, and I didn't anymore.

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I already talked to you, that one time. 

That was the impression that wouldn't leave my mind one morning.

It wasn't a gentle, warm feeling this time.  It was more like a shove.  Like, COME ON, Sue.  I don't have time for this.

And the impression I had wasn't necessarily It's True, It's True, It's All True, Every Bit, but more this is where I want you to be right now.  

I stood at the kitchen sink thinking, well FINALLY.  THANK YOU.  

(Actually, that isn't true. At first I ignored it, because it wasn't a strong impression, more like one of those things where you get a feeling, and you wonder, "OK, is this just the voices in my head talking to me again, or is this actually, you know, COMMUNICATION?"  But after a while, when the thought wouldn't leave me alone, then I said THANK YOU.)

(Although - I don't even know - is it appropriate to be grateful with God but irritated at the same time?  Like - thanks - but good grief, it took You long enough.) 

I told my husband that night, "I think we should start having Family Home Evening. And family prayer. We should try that. I'm thinking we should get our act together."

He gave me the curious eyeballs, but didn't ask many questions, probably because some of our talks on religion don't really go All That Well, if you want to know the truth.

He didn't know what to make of my apparent change of heart.

Neither did I, frankly.

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It wasn't as though I had some big spiritual epiphany.  I didn't get neat answers to all of my questions.  I still have questions. I still have doubt.  I still hate reading my scriptures.  I still skip church a little bit too much.  I'm incredibly skeptical about a lot of things.

I am, I will admit, a cafeteria mormon.  I grab my tray and take portions of the stuff I can get on board with, like service and Jesus and loving one another, but I steer away from things like Prop 8 and the Book of Abraham and temple work.

I know a lot of people will disapprove of this.  They will tell me to get off the fence.  But I think the Lord gets it.  I think He knows I'm a work in progress, doing what I can.

My ex-mormon friends will say I've talked myself into it.  Maybe I have, I don't know.

But I feel at peace with it. I feel that I can believe some things, even if I can't believe all things.  When I pray now, I feel something.  Not anything big, but something.

Enough.  For now, it's enough.

Because what I feel? In my heart?

Is that this is where I'm supposed to be.

And hallelujah for that.

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UPDATE:  I feel compelled to update this.  After a few years I couldn't maintain the mental gymnastics required to stay active and believing and I more or less left the church, although some of my family still attends.  I was mostly kidding myself in the last installment of this post.  I didn't believe it, but I WANTED to believe it, because it made my life so much easier to believe it.  I also didn't want to hurt my mom, but I'd written myself into a corner where I had to tie it up somehow, and this was the way I wrote myself out.  

I know I'm supposed to be "fallen" now, but I'm good.  I'm happier.  I'm less anxious.  I'm no longer conflicted and I no longer second guess every decision I make.  I've been mormon for so long that I basically still live my life as a mormon, just - without the guilt and angst.  I feel much more of a responsibility to do good things in the world, since I don't feel like God is going to swoop down and make everything right.  My family is happy and healthy, and we're doing great.  I know what kinds of things I want my children to learn and know, and I strive to teach them those things.  I still love and appreciate the millions of mormons in my life, and respect you all to bits, even if we no longer believe all of the same things.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Faithless, Take Two

Pin It There is this story in the Book of Mormon.

Lehi announces that he's had a vision that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed.  He tells his family, including his sons Laman and Lemuel, that they need to gather a few items and leave their home, to set off into the wilderness immediately.

Laman and Lemuel are the villains of the story.  They follow their father, but they're skeptical. They start off in the story merely questioning and grumbling, and eventually, over time, become more and more rebellious.

I always sort of related to Laman and Lemuel. 

If my father had announced he'd had a vision, that we were leaving our home and going to live in the desert, I would've thought he was nuts too. I understood their reluctance to do all of those hard things based only on faith. 

And it's not as though they didn't GO into the wilderness.  They did.  They went.  They were, at first, outwardly righteous.  They started off doing what they were supposed to be doing.  But it all went to hell later on, because they just didn't have enough faith.

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I was always a fairly skeptical child.  I believed because I'd been brought up to believe, because it was just what we did - we believed.  I had a strong desire to be good, or at least to be THOUGHT OF as good. 

But now and then I would turn to my mom and say How can we think WE'RE right when there are all of those people in China who are just as convinced THEY'RE right?  How can we know for sure?  There's a whole lot more of them than us.

It didn't make sense to me, why God would allow so many people not to know our truth - missionaries or no missionaries.  It didn't make sense to me, statistically, that we would be the ones who were right.  Those people probably had testimonies of their truth too. How could we be sure?

As a kid, sometimes I felt like the stories I heard - from the bible, from the book of mormon, from church history - they seemed almost too fantastic. Somebody walked on water?  Somebody survived in the belly of a whale?  Somebody found golden plates?  Somebody rose from the dead?  An ark?  Really?  If I'd told stories like that, I would've been soundly spanked and sent to bed with no dinner.

Oh, I believed God was there and could see all of the naughty things I was doing, that He was writing them down and OH BOY WAS I GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE.

THAT, I believed.

But sometimes the details gave me pause.  Having a testimony required a suspension of disbelief that was sometimes difficult for me.  The whole cognitive dissonance thing.

Before I got married I was on my way home from a ski trip with The Boy Who Shall Not Be Named and I was pontificating about dinosaurs, and wondering out loud about how on earth could anyone possibly deny the reality of evolution, and he bit my head off, told me to stop focusing on such trivial crap and look at the big picture.  I was wounded, but managed to snap back, I SEE THE BIG PICTURE, but it doesn't make the little pictures invisible you big freak.  I just meant that someday I'll have a lot of questions for God. GOSH.  You're such a JERK.

That was pretty much how I felt, minus the insulting comments.

I had doubts, but I had enough faith to get past them.

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When we lived in Las Vegas, shortly after I started having issues, I was called to be a Relief Society teacher. (Relief Society is the women's organization.)  I will be totally non-humble for a second and tell you that I was a GREAT Relief Society teacher.  I could make people laugh, make them cry, get a good discussion going. 

Every time I gave a lesson crowds of people would come up to me afterward, thank me for the lesson, tell me how strongly they felt the spirit.  That they could feel my testimony.

I would go home even more confused because - how could that be?  If a whole room full of women couldn't distinguish between the spirit and a charismatic speaker, how was I supposed to be able to recognize it?

I went to girl's camp as a teenager, stood up in the testimony meeting we were having around a campfire and gave a cathartic, weeping declaration of faith, then sat down feeling drained and bonded and happy, but another part of my brain thinking, well THAT was a bit much, wasn't it Sue?

Angel on one shoulder, devil on the other.

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The few people I confided in would say, Sue, you just need to have faith.  

I would say, THAT'S THE PROBLEM.  I don't HAVE any.

They would tell me to pray, to read my scriptures, to take it to the Lord.

I would say, I'm doing that, I promise - because I WANT TO BELIEVE.  I WANT ANSWERS. I LIKE being a mormon.  I ROCK at being a mormon.  It's MY WHOLE THING.  I want these doubts to just - go plague someone else.  To get out of my head. I'm doing that and I'm getting NOTHING.

Usually, that's when they would imply that it must be because I was sinning.

After all, God talked to THEM, so clearly, I must be doing it wrong.  Or I wasn't recognizing it. 

But I'd heard His voice before.  I knew what it sounded like.

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One starry night, Laman and Lemuel are beating their brother with a stick and an Angel of the Lord comes down and tells them to knock it off, Or Else.

They forget this lesson approximately 12.2 seconds after they learn it.

People are always perplexed by this story.  How could this be?  If an angel came and told you to stop doing something, wouldn't it make an impression?

If God intervened in your life that directly, how could you ever forget it?  How could you ever deny it?

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When I was twenty-nine, my husband and I had been married for five years.  He was almost done with his degree and attending the police academy, and I was firmly entrenched in a challenging, well-paying job that I absolutely hated.

We had no children. This made us sort of an oddity in the Mormon world.  Nearly thirty and childless in a mormon context is like nearly forty in the rest of the world.  We'd been trying, but my uterus was not cooperating, and when we finally did get pregnant, I had a miscarriage.  My best friend got pregnant right after my miscarriage, and I tried hard to be happy for her, but I was heartbroken.

In the mormon world, teenagers get this thing called a patriarchal blessing. You go see the patriarch for your area and he gives you a special blessing with guidance just for you - specific to your life. They record it for you and give it to you to keep and refer back to throughout your life - kind of like a road map, or (as I rather mystically believed) like a fortune cookie, but from God, and typically more realistic.

I'd never gotten mine. When I was a teenager, I was sure that an invitation to have God speak directly to me would invite him to say things like "YOU FOOLISH GIRL" and "I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING IN THE BATHROOM LAST NIGHT."  It was not something I wanted to deal with.  And then later on, it didn't feel right, so I didn't get it.

But at 29, without children, without a clear path for my life, I felt like maybe it was time.

We showed up there one Sunday morning at the appointed time, and chit-chatted for a minute, awkward small talk between strangers, before going into another room where he laid his hands on my head and pronounced a blessing.

He said the Lord knew the desires of my heart and knew how wounded I felt. He said that I would be a mother.  He said that my husband should give me a blessing of healing.  He told us the specific words my husband should say.  He told me the Lord knew how much I worried and fretted over things I'd done in the past, and that he wanted me to know it was o.k.  He said the Lord knew how hard I'd been on myself, and he wanted me to stop it, that those were no longer my burdens to carry.

And I felt something. Something I'd never felt before (or since).  Not the feeling of being kind of touched, that feeling I typically took to be the spirit (like that feeling you got after you watched a particularly moving Hallmark commercial), but a literal warmth and filling.  A physical weight, pressing down on me, an internal heater set full-blast. 

I sat there, shocked and crying.

Ten months later, Megan was born.

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My husband would say to me, how can you possibly lack faith, knowing how Megan got here?

And I would cry and say, I don't know.  I don't know.  I just have these questions and these doubts and I don't know how to make them go away.  

I figured I took my doubts to the Lord and he didn't send me any kind of reassuring feeling, so it was on HIM.

Right?

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TO BE CONTINUED
(DUN, Dun, dun)  (some more)
(Part Three is here)

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PS:  I hesitate to tell the story of the blessing, because I don't want my infertile friends to be hurt by the story. Because they are vastly more faithful than I am. I don't know why God answered that prayer for me. I only know that He did.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Faithless

Pin It I need to tell you all this. But it isn't funny. (DANCE, CLOWN, DANCE!) Sorry.  

And it might take a couple of posts. But I want to tell it anyway.  So I will.  

BOOOyah. 

This is Part One.

A few weeks ago, I got together with a few local bloggers for a kind of round-table discussion thingie (technical term) where we talked about blogging.  Eventually, the discussion got around to faith, and a few people talked about how they approach faith on their blogs.

When it was my turn, I told everyone that I didn't talk about faith on my blog, other than anecdotally.  I copped to being a coward, to not wanting to invite that kind of controversy into my silly little world.

I told them I didn't want to end up being in a position where I had to be the Defender of Mormonism - because honestly, the church could hardly have a more ineffective spokesperson.  I see the kind of crap Courtney goes through and I think - NO.  No way.  That is Not For Me.

(I'm courageous, what can I say.)

All of those things are true, but not COMPLETELY true.  I left a lot of stuff out.

The truth is, I don't talk about my faith because I have so very little of it to go around, and what I have I guard jealously - I don't usually put it out on display for people to take whacks at it.  This is not that blog.  I am not that blogger.

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When I started Mormon Mommy Blogs, I wasn't doing it out of some sense of uber-religiousity, or because I wanted to surround myself with other bloggers who believed what I did.  I was doing it because I had an ax to grind.

I was irritated with the big clutch of blogs known as the "Bloggernacle" - a group of mostly faithful blogs where people discuss doctrine and theology and issues related to the church.

I was spending a lot of time on some of those blogs, reading, thinking, trying to figure some things out about my faith.

I read a succession of dismissive comments about "mommy bloggers" and the attitude I was sensing - that we were silly and inconsequential and not at all relevant to mormon blogging as a whole - it irritated me. Grated on me. Made me want to throw stuff.

So I thought, I'll start a list.  A list of mormon mommy bloggers, to show them how many of us there were.  How NOT inconsequential we were.  To show "them" - whoever that was - how many of these women were great writers.  How many of them had readerships.  How many of them were not entirely frivolous. 

Elisa came on board at MMB right after I started it - she took care of adding the blogs whenever people asked to be put on the list (which was ALL THE TIME).  And she said This could be something more.  This could be a big thing.  We could really build this into something.  

It probably perplexed her, the way she would say, Sue, let's do this and this and this, and I would hem and haw and say, well, let's think about it for a while.  She would say, I think we should have contributing writers and I would say hmmmm.   She would email me a question and I would respond days later.  I was reluctant to do anything with my creation.

Eventually, I handed it over to her - just walked away from it, handed her the keys and signed out.  (And as you can clearly see, she implemented her ideas successfully once I got the heck out of dodge.)

I made a few excuses, but never really told her why I was fleeing the crime scene.

I should've told her the truth.

I didn't want anything to do with continuing to build that site because I felt like a fraud.

Here's Sue, the most faithless mormon ever, founding and running a site called Mormon Mommy Blogs.

I felt like a hypocrite.

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At that point in time I was still up to my neck in a huge crisis of faith, one that had been going on for a couple of years.

I wasn't unfaithful in any way that you could see.  I did and said the standard mormon things. I went to church (mostly). I wasn't off participating in drunken orgies.  I followed the commandments the best I could.  I think I was a pretty typical mormon - in word and deed.

But not in my fickle little heart.

In fact, I'd told my sister Diana a few months before, "I think I'm agnostic."

(How you doing Mom?  O.K.?  Hanging in there?  DEEP BREATHS, Mom.  DEEP BREATHS. IT'LL BE O.K. It was a POINT IN THE JOURNEY, Mom. A point in the journey.)

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I was born and raised a mormon - a true believer, down to the core.

Even during those times when I wasn't behaving like it, I still believed it. I just did what I wanted to do and then felt incredibly guilty about it afterward.

My whole life I had nightmares about Christ returning and sending me off to burn in the fiery pits, even though this isn't what mormons believe, strictly speaking. As a kid we lived by an airforce base and in the middle of the night planes would fly overhead and rattle the walls. I would think it was the second coming and would jump out of bed screaming, and then drop to my knees to fervently, rapidly pray for forgiveness.  As a teen I was almost pathologically religious - but not righteous - and full of self-loathing for all of the ways in which I felt I was failing to be a worthwhile human being.

Later on, after I'd sort of gotten my head on straight, spiritually and mentally speaking, I got my act together and proceeded to embark on the typical mormon experience - went to a church college (Ricks, back when it WAS Ricks), met a returned missionary, and married him in the temple.

It should tell you something about how firmly entrenched I was in my beliefs that I was absolutely, cartoonishly SHOCKED when my faithful little sister married a convert.

Let me repeat that.  I was worried because she married a guy who CONVERTED.  Not a guy with different religious beliefs.  Just someone who came to them a little later in the game.

It embarrasses me now, remembering how I expressed my concern for her and judgmentally clucked my tongue.  I meant well, I just thought it was incredibly risky for her to link up with a guy who MIGHT NOT BE THAT STRONG IN THE FAITH.

{facepalm}

Ooooooh, I was smug.  God probably thought I needed a smack-down.  I'm guessing.

One day I was "talking" (read: debating) with a friend about religion and she said something sort of shocking about the history of our church.  I told her she was wrong, that what she was saying was ludicrous.  We went back and forth for a while, each firm in our own position, and when we hung up I jumped online and googled. And stared at the screen in disbelief.

A few weeks later my faith was in tatters.  Not because of the things I read that were demonstrably false, but because of a few of the things that were actually true.

(I think this is part of why I'm so unwilling to debate people about ANYTHING anymore - politics, religion, the importance of boots - I feel extremely insecure in my positions. If my feelings about religion can change, then - anything can. I no longer feel comfortable expressing strong opinions that might come back to bite me in the future.)

I won't get into all of the study and research I compulsively, hysterically participated in for the next few months, but trust me - it was extensive.  And after that, I talked to my bishop - who had no answers for me, who didn't even want to DISCUSS my questions.  I talked to my stake president - he was more comforting, but couldn't give me the hard, solid answers I felt I needed.

I found solace in a group of mormon blogs where they actually discussed these issues from a faithful perspective and found a tentative peace with some of the things that were keeping me up at night.  (And I don't want to get into any of that here - what those issues were, or how I resolved them. This post is not about that.)

But still, I struggled.

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Can I just say that it always really bugs me when I hear stories about how people prayed to find their lost watch, and God answered their prayers?  Or about how they prayed to pass a test, or they prayed about what color of shoelaces to buy?  For one, I don't think God cares about your test - He gave you a brain for a reason and if you didn't study that's your own dang fault.  For another - if He cares about shoelaces, why doesn't He care about, say, Rwanda?  I've never been able to reconcile it.  I don't like the idea of such a trivial and capricious God.

But I did believe that God cared about spiritual things - that if you wanted to know something about spirituality, about what was true and right and good - that He would answer those kinds of prayers because that was His arena.  Ask and ye shall receive, and all that jazz.

So I would pray about these issues I was having, pray to get SOME KIND OF answer. Pray to know if, despite all of these sticky little issues, there was still some kind of truth there.

If this was a story in a church magazine, what would've happened next is that I would've felt the spirit and known it was all true.

What I got?

Was radio silence.

God did not, apparently, feel in any particular hurry to confirm or deny. 


TO BE CONTINUED (As in, this is not necessarily where I'm at TODAY.  It's just where I'm at in the retelling.)

(DUN Dun dun) 

(Part Two is here.)

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To be clear: This is not about Mormonism - not really...  It's just about faith.  What it's like to have it, and to not have it, and to sort of have your own version of it, and the points in between. 

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Expectations - Sucking The Joy Out Of Motherhood Since 2001

Pin It I don't know why I do this to myself.

It never fails. Once I realize the kids will be gone - at school, with friends, on an outing, wherever - I spend hours plotting ways to get the baby to sleep at the exact same time,  a fruitless quest for the holy grail of motherhood - a half hour of quiet time.

And of course I KNOW this little plan of mine isn't going to go well, I already know it - how could it ever simply be QUIET for a few minutes - what with the short people coming to the door to see if my kids can play (and the doorbell MUST be rung multiple times, purely for the joy of hearing the faint ding-dong from inside the house, doorbell sign or no doorbell sign), and the bill collectors calling at PRECISELY the wrong moment, and my constant absent minded smashing into clattery things.

But I develop amnesia and pursue the pipe dream of a moment of solitude, even though I know it's completely illogical to try.

When the appointed hour is at hand I tensely tiptoe around trying to make sure everything is Just So.

Baby fast asleep?  CHECK

Kids gone or occupied? CHECK

The book that has gone unopened for three weeks beckons from its spot on the end table where it's been collecting dust.

I settle into the couch, crack open the cover, and -

BANG.  Something happens. 

Someone calls from school because they aren't feeling well.  The baby wakes back up. A friend drops by out of the blue.  Volcano. SOMETHING.  Something will happen.

And when it does, instead of taking it in stride and going with the flow, I feel - resentment. Not towards the kids or the baby or the friend - but towards the universe. (And maybe a little bit toward the volcano.)  Like, REALLY universe? You KNEW I needed fifteen minutes - YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE.

It takes me a minute to slap back the irritation and get over myself, to get my sense of humor back, to relax and remember not to see my kids as an interruption.

I do so much better as a mother when I relax, when I expect that my day will be full of kids and unpredictability. Full of being needed for one thing or the other. Full of days where you are so distracted you wear your shirt inside out.  Full of dirt. Full of noise.

Quiet is sort of the antithesis of mothering young kids, isn't it?

And someday, my house will be quiet - too quiet.

Someday the sound of kids playing together upstairs will no longer drift down at inconvenient times, waking the baby and soliciting an exasperated eye roll because I was just about to finish something for a client...

Someday my five year old won't come creeping down the stairs after I've sent him up to clean his room.  He won't climb on my lap and ask if we can do something special together, just the two of us - since, after all, the baby is asleep...

Someday there will no longer be a warm, round lump of baby wailing from his crib and then giving me drowsy, rapturous smiles of welcome when he sees me coming...

Someday there will be solitude.

Someday soon - it will be quiet.
  
(And THEN I WILL NAP.)

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

True Confessions, Part Six-Hundred-And-Two

Pin It You know what?

I really don't like Sundays. I'm probably going to be taken off to mormon blogging jail for admitting that, but it's true.

Our family tries to do the whole "Keep the Sabbath day holy" thing and most days what it ends up meaning is that we all get stir-crazy and irritable with each other.

So that you can understand where I'm coming from, here are the rules we try to live by on Sunday:

Thou Shalt Not Work
Rest from your labors and all that.

How we do on this one:  Not bad. But by the time the kids are in bed, I usually figure the Sabbath is over and I pull out the laptop and get back to work. (Although I guess I'm probably o.k. on this one regardless - since I'm usually just pretending to work. I mean come on, I have blogs to read.) (I have to be careful with this though, sometimes I forget to keep my scowl of concentration on my face, and I'll start smiling and my husband will say, "YOU ARE SO NOT WORKING," but then I just say, "It's the SABBATH. Of COURSE I'm not working. GO READ YOUR BIBLE, SINNER.")

Thou Shalt Not Go To The Store
I guess under the premise that your patronage requires someone else to work on Sunday?

(Although really, if we're going to carry that whole idea through to it's logical conclusion, shouldn't we all then stop taking the Sunday paper, because that means someone is having to deliver it? Stop using electricity because someone probably has to monitor those power plants? Stop flushing because someone has to monitor the sewage treatment plant? WHERE DOES IT END? I ASK YOU.)

We do allow ourselves to go to the gas station - because I can swipe my debit card and I'm not requiring someone else to work.  (So basically, any business staffed entirely by robots - OK TO PATRONIZE.) 

How we do on this one: Pretty good. I mean we flush and use lightbulbs, but we generally stay away from the store, unless it's an emergency and we need tylenol or diapers or emergency chocolate.

Thou Shalt Not Play Sports
I will confess to not understanding this one.  Why no sports?  Is it because they're rowdy?  Or because you sweat, and that's kind of like working? And why are some recreational sports o.k. and some aren't?  Like, it's o.k. to take a family walk, but it's not o.k. to go hiking. You can go on a family bike ride but only at a leisurely look-I'm-not-engaging-in-sporting-activities pace. And you can go on a drive, but you can't go for a boat ride. (Because of Satan being part mer-man.)

How we do on this one:  So-so. Sometimes we go up to the canyon with the idea that we're just going on a drive, or to have a family picnic, (five minutes from our doorstep, HOW COULD YOU NOT) and we end up hiking a little. Although it isn't exactly restful because I end up worrying that God Is Angry About This and will therefore sic a bear on us.

Thou Shalt Get Thy Brood To Church
Mormons go to three hours of church, y'all.  THREE HOURS.  (Personally, I think we'd have a LOT more converts if we dialed that back a little. I don't even want to do things that are FUN for three hours.)

How we do on this one: Church starts at 9AM right now, and I will just admit right now that MOST Sundays, we don't make it there for the first hour. (DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT MOM.) We TRY!  (USUALLY!)

But by the time everyone is showered and blown dry and dressed and besocked and presentable, it's getting late. And if you get there late, you are NOT getting a pew, you are going to end up sitting in the metal folding chair ghetto at the back of the chapel with all of the other families who couldn't get their act together either, and those parents are usually all so demoralized and beaten down that they allow their children to run completely wild - beating each other over the head with chairs, eating crayons, and behaving in a generally depraved fashion.

When I see that we are cutting it close and are going to end up in the ghetto, sometimes I just make an executive decision so that my children don't have to see such poor examples of reverence.  It's ALL ABOUT TEACHING REVERENCE really.

Thou Shalt Partake of the Following Approved Activities:
Church.  Eating.  Reading.  Game playing.  Crafts.  Visiting people.  Visiting the elderly.  Making cookies for random people.  Reading scriptures.  Making puppet shows about Jesus.  Gathering around the piano singing.

Although honestly, all of these activities generally take a back seat to sitting on the couch staring blankly at the walls, pondering how we will get through the next umpteen hours of our lives without any snip-snapping at each other or the children, who we love, but let's face it - EIGHT HOURS IN THE FAMILY ROOM AS A FAMILY.

YIKES.

So basically, I'm looking for ideas.  What do YOU do on Sundays to make it - not like that?  What on earth do you do all day long? How do you keep from killing each other?  Do you have fun family/friend get togethers?  (And if so, can I come? Without the kids?)

PS:  I should add that the eight hours of family time is NOT enforced family time.  ON THE CONTRARY.  We encourage them to go a) upstairs to play, b) in the basement to play, c) outside to play, d) in the garage to play, e) up on the roof to play - I'M FLEXIBLE.  Just - GO PLAY.  Somewhere else.  Sometimes they will actually go off and have fun together, but a lot of other times they just want to be with us - and when I say "with us" I mean RIGHT WITH US, on our laps, draping themselves over our shoulders, and hanging on to our noodly biceps. (Clearly I need to be meaner to my children.)

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