Botox and Prozac and Diets, Oh My!

When my brother was in the hospital, I got to drive up and down the freeway many times. I soon became familiar with all the billboards. This was one of my favorites (and by favorites, I mean it made me want to beat people up.): A lovely, buxom woman smiled down upon us shapeless freeway drivers through the huge words, “All I want for Christmas is my two front … .” The meaning behind “…” became clear as you read the name and number of the Plastic Surgery Clinic that she was referring you to.

When we were house hunting in Utah, we tried to make an appointment for a second showing of a house we were interested in.  The Realtor informed us that we could not come until after 3 p.m., because the homeowner was hosting an eyelash extension party.  Excuse me, a what? I had never even heard of such a thing in my life.  I have since seen and heard about this phenomenon many, many times.

I read this article this morning, and I found it really interesting.  I recommend it.  It reported:

Though no religion-specific data exists to show rates of eating disorders or body image issues, numerous accounts from diligent parents, priesthood and auxiliary leaders of struggling girls, and women speak for themselves. And one of Forbes magazine’s annual rankings may indicate that our quest for perfection took a wrong turn somewhere along the way: Salt Lake City, home to the worldwide headquarters of the LDS Church (and where an estimated 50 percent of the population is LDS), was ranked the “Vainest City in the Nation” in 2007 and 2008, and was in the Top 5 in 2009. This ranking is due to the city’s record-breaking amount spent on beauty products and treatments like Botox, an amount that is ten-fold the amount spent in cities of comparable size. If you’ve looked at the billboards along any Utah freeway, you won’t be shocked to hear Salt Lake City has the most plastic surgeons per capita, at six per 100,000 residents, trumping New York City and Los Angeles.

Why?  I don’t get it.  Of all the people in the world, we should be the most embracing of our God-given selves.  Though the LDS doctrine does teach us to strive for perfection, with an emphasis on following the example of Jesus Christ, it absolutely does not teach or endorse that we should make our bodies measure up to society’s definition of perfection.  In fact, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following:

I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. . . . In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us.

You may have heard before that Utah also leads the country in the use of anti-depressants.  This is, again, a mystery.  There are some who argue that it’s probably a product of the high expectations of the LDS church culture and people feeling like they don’t measure up.  I don’t buy that, because a careful study of any of the counsel that comes from the general leadership of the church never has that kind of tone.  On the contrary, there are consistently messages of love, encouragement, and acknowledgment of our goodness and power and influence.  This is especially true for women.  Not anywhere else do you find more empowering words or praise for womanhood than you do from our own pulpits.  There are also myriad talks about adversity, challenges and tribulation, and how to deal with them, which clearly eliminates the expectation of living enchanted, perfect lives.  So what gives?

I’m obviously not an expert on these sociological matters, but I think I can see where some of this struggle originates.  LDS women are like other women throughout the world; we have struggles and sadness and insecurities.  There are also rampant mental health issues throughout our society, to which we are not immuned.  As I have become more and more of an adult, I have begun to see how many people, including many friends and family, struggle with depression, anxiety and consistently high stress.  Life is a pressure cooker that seems to take a great toll on our mental health.  We often need help.  It is safe to say that we all self-medicate.  When pressures are high and our ability to deal with them feels low, we turn to something to help us feel better.  Within the LDS faith, because of our doctrinal principles, we do not turn to the same things that many, many other people turn to in times of stress– drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography or self-serving sexual behaviors, for example.  Perhaps our anti-depressant numbers are seemingly skewed because of this.  Other people with the same struggles self-medicate differently.  (I want to make clear that I do not have an anti-medication stance.  At all.)  Perhaps this also explains, in part, the obsession with beauty issues.  When women feel overwhelmed and empty, they look for ways to make themselves feel better, and for LDS women, fake eyelashes is not “against our religion.”  Whatever the reasons, which I really don’t know, I think we all need to do a better job of turning to the right place for help.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew 11:38

I am not advocating throwing out your mascara or your Prozac and just dedicating yourself to scripture study.  That would be naive.  I do think that no matter what level of struggles we face, we can find much more relief the more and more we learn to rely upon the Savior.  We will find more sense of self-worth.  We will find forgiveness for our imperfections.  We will find strength in our trials. We will find love and acceptance and be filled in the places we feel empty.  A careful study of all those Your-Life-Will-Not-Be-Perfect-So-Be-Prepared talks that come from the general leadership of the church will point us in the direction of Jesus Christ.  So this is basically a war cry to LDS women everywhere:  When life hurts, and it will, you are not alone.  Turn to your Savior and let Him share your burdens and remind you how beautiful you are, just as you are.  As a completely average, A-cup, almost 20 pound “overweight,” frazzled mother of young children who’s still wearing my pajamas, I give you my word that it works.  It really does.  Let’s get a few billboards for that.

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GCBC Week 18: Two Lines of Communication

Holy cow.  Has it really been 18 weeks since General Conference?  Crazy.

This talk is a talk I’m excited to go back and read because (for me) it was a tiny bit difficult to follow while listening to it.  I’m just looking forward to studying it on paper so I categorize the different points.

“Two Lines of Communication”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

What did you learn and/or understand better from this talk?  What did you feel like it encouraged you to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)

Find-a-Friend Friday?

Blogging has introduced me to some really cool people. I think I’ve met in real life now at least a dozen ladies that I’ve met first through blogging, and it’s always been a pleasure. So that got me thinking, I bet all of you are really great women and I wish I knew you better. (And it’s obvious you’re great if you read my blog. *snort*  Whatever.  It at least means we have something in common.) That’s when I had one of my genius ideas*. What if I “interviewed” some of you on my blog to find out more about you? The extra bonus is that other readers with similar circumstances or interests can find you too and maybe more friendships can be formed. Strength in numbers, ladies, strength in numbers.
What do you think? Any volunteers?

*disclaimer: I have lots of genius ideas that may appear to be abandoned. (Like when I was writing this, I remembered that I never published those “fake” General Conference talks you submitted.) BUT. I will do it. And some of you may wonder whatever happened to my Protecting Innocence Project that I went on and on and on about over a year ago. I confess that it temporarily (if a year can count as temporary) fell through the cracks, but it is not forgotten. (Give me a break.  We finished law school and I moved across the country.) A lot of work has been done behind the scenes, and lately I’ve had a little fire in my bones to get it up and going. And I will. I promise. Okay, disclaimer done. Feel free to let me know if any of my other genius ideas went completely forgotten.

Loving what I love, on purpose.

Winter is dreary.  I don’t care for it much.  Last year I got in a winter funk for a while, and the thing that helped me come out of it was realizing that I needed to pray to love what the Lord loves.  Doing that helped to to recognize the previously unrecognizable joy that can be found in what may be otherwise considered boring drudgery.  I did not start dancing around on tiptoes and whistling happy tunes all the time, but it really did help.

Today I realized that in addition to loving what the Lord loves, I need to do a better job of loving what I love.  It’s easy to focus too much on things that bug me, especially the things that repeat themselves over and over again.  I found today that I could distract myself from that kind of annoyed-out-of-my-brain-zone by thinking about stuff I really love and then intentionally reaching out for it.  This afternoon it was as simple as putting on some of my favorite tunes and singing along while I cleaned the kitchen.  When I realized what a positive effect that had on me, I started listing in my mind as many things as I could think of that I LOVE, and then I started planning out how to make those things a bigger part of my days.  So, for my own record-keeping purposes, and for your reading (or time-wasting) pleasure, I give you . . .

THE LIST OF THINGS I LOVE:

1.  Music I love: Latin music.  My Contemporary Latin channel on Pandora.com.  Alejandro Fernandez, Enrique Iglesias, Luis Miguel, Juanes, Soraya, Shakira.  I love it.  And on Sundays, I love having peaceful, inspirational music playing in the kitchen.  English is fine.  🙂

2.  Books I love: As I wrote about recently, I’ve rediscovered my love for reading.  I love a good book. I always love Jane Austen, and I’ve reread her books a couple times this last year.  I just finished Man’s Search for Meaning yesterday, and I started The Shadow of the Wind today.  Yay.

3.  Shows I love: Right now, I’m into watching Masterpiece Classics on Netflix after the kids go to bed.  Last night I watched a couple episodes of Jane Eyre.  I love watching House Hunters International on HGTV and pretending I’m house shopping throughout the world while I fold laundry.  One day Matt’s going to wake up and find out I accidentally bought a beach house in Nicaragua while he was sleeping.  I kind of like American Idol and shows like Top Chef or Project Runway.

4.  Things I love to look forward to: I love planning fantasy vacations, even though I rarely end up taking them.  My favorite travel site is travelzoo.com.  I find some kickin’ deals on there.  Last week I booked 4 nights in Cancun, all-inclusive, for all five of us, for $306.  !!!  I probably won’t end up going because I can’t find affordable airfare, but still.  (Never fear, I called and checked on the cancellation policy before I booked.)  Travel agent is high on my list of Jobs I Know I’d Be Awesome At (along with children’s librarian, restaurant critic, and real estate agent).  I also love to plan parties or group dates or girls’ nights or other get-togethers… not necessarily all the details of parties– I’m pretty simple, but I like to come up with reasons to have parties and have something to look forward to.

5.  Things I love to feel: Sunshine.  Sunshine and breeze are even better.  A warm fireplace.  My cozy bed.  Holding hands.  Soft, comfy clothes.  Warm socks.  The sound of wind blowing through leaves on the trees.  Hot cocoa in my hands.  Love. Contentment. The Holy Ghost.

6. Things I love to eat.  Lately I’ve been really craving baked sweets, like cupcakes or cookies– not healthy, I know, but it’s fun to bake something occasionally.  My favorite things to cook in the winter are crock pot comfort foods.  I make a really yummy chili, and I have a favorite soup, Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup, that I make a lot.  I love restaurants.  I don’t hate cooking, but I love to eat anything that other people make. 🙂

7.  Things I love to do with my children: There are plenty of things that I don’t like to do with my children.  I’m not a great play mom; I confess it and embrace it.  I do, however, love to read with my children.  I love to cuddle and read them stories, even better if it’s by a fire.  I love to play music and dance with them.  When it’s warmer, I like to camp with them and go on walks and hikes with them.  Lately we’ve been playing a card game called Monopoly Deal, and I actually like that better than most games.  (I’d rather stick forks in my eyes than play Candyland, but I digress.  This is about things I love.) I love to laugh with my children.  I love to take them to places that I love.  I especially love to take them to plays and theater productions.  I took Natalie to an Irish Dance show last week and I’m taking the boys to see a Broadway production of Peter Pan tonight.  I like family movie night.  I love one-on-one time with them.

10.  Things I love about Natalie (4): Her enthusiastic eyes.  She’s my brave food taster.  She remembers where everything is and always helps me find stuff.  She asks lots of questions and always understands the answers.  She loves her brothers and she ADORES her dad.  Her decided determination and positive confidence.  I can’t wait to see what a beautiful and good woman she will be.

11.  Things I love about Clark (6): His smile.  He really wants to do the right thing (sometimes it’s deep down).  He has a burning independent testimony of the gospel.  He is a quick learner and an avid reader.  He has always been a “bouncer”– he gets so excited about things that he can NOT sit still.  He is a great sharer.  Clark has feelings to the extreme:  when he is happy, it is joy.  When he is sad or angry, it’s all the way.  No one in the world loves good food as much as Clark.  I think he will surprise us with how much he can do and do well.

12.  Things I love about Grant (8): He is a sensitive soul and feels things deeply.  He is fiercely independent, and yet, doesn’t like to be alone.  He is a self-appointed leader.  He is smart and intuitive.  He is my cuddliest child; he loves and craves human touch.  He is generous and likes to heal people’s sadness.  He says the best prayers.  He’s going to be a great man, I can tell.

13.  Things I love about Matt: He is the best dad ever.  He gets me and likes me anyway.  He is a master apologizer and never criticizes (even when he should).  He has no idea how good he is.  My favorite part of my future.

14.  Things I love about myself: I am principle-driven and try to do what’s right.  I’m a pretty good problem solver and a peacemaker (if a determined conflict-avoider can be called thus).  I think I’m a good friend; I try hard to keep in touch with people I love, and I try to make them feel remembered and appreciated.  I try to give good advice.  I love to teach.

These are the things that I’m going to turn to when I start to forget how much there is to love, even on bad days.  There’s truly so much to be thankful for and to enjoy.

There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. . . . Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. . . . Let us not partake of the negative spirit so rife in our times. There is so much of the sweet and the decent and the beautiful to build upon. . . . I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good . . . What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. ”  — Gordon B. Hinckley

(Thanks to Erika who took these pictures of my family. She was fantastic and even brought us cookies.  Blogging has introduced me to such wonderful people.)

GCBC Week 17: An Example of the Believers

Well. The next talk on our schedule is one by Sister Mary Cook of the General Young Women’s presidency.

Be an Example of the Believers
Sister Mary N. Cook
First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency

I thought it would be fun to add one more into the mix this week, too, just to get another perspective on this same topic.  Elder Nelson gave the following talk during the general Priesthood session:

Be Thou an Example of the Believers
Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

What are your favorite moments or quotes from these talks?  Is there anything you learned here that you had not considered before?  What stood out to you as you studied it?  And, most importantly, what did they make you feel or want to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)

The Return to Reading

Almost a year ago, I announced that I was beginning to read again now that I’ve emerged from the fog of infant and toddler years. At that time, my readers responded with an insane amount of good book recommendations. I’m happy to report that I have read the following since then (and probably some more that I forgot to record.  I put an asterisk by the ones I enjoyed the most.):

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Help*

Kathryn Stockett

I obviously haven’t made a ton of progress, but I’m ready to really dig in to your suggestions this year. Matt got me a Kindle for Christmas, and I really love it. My favorite thing about it is easy one-handed reading while I’m all tucked in to my bed covers. Anyway, I’ve made a list from your recommendations of 49 books I’d like to read. Do you think it’s possible I can read them all in 2011?! My goal* is to at least start all of them. Despite my undying trust in your taste, I’m a super picky reader and sometimes things turn me off that don’t bother other people. However, I want to at least give them all a chance, even if I decide partway through that they’re not for me. You can click here to see my list of books I want to read, courtesy of YOU.

*by “goal,” I mean I really want to try.  I’m not going to freak out if  I don’t finish the whole list, but I bet I get a lot more read this year just by trying.

Do you have any must-reads to add to the list that you’ve read in the last year?  Keep in mind my picky criteria:  I’m kind of a book prude (hate blatant sexuality, especially sexual violence, or casual coming-of-age experimentation, as well as child abuse or crass language) and I try to steer clear of dark, brooding, or depressing literature (Seriously, I get discouraged for days just from reading sad news headlines).

Some days probably shouldn’t be journaled.

My first clue that today wasn’t going to be great was my Facebook status at 7 a.m.: “I made the mistake of reading the morning news headlines. People are stupid. And now I’m in a bad mood.” Note to self: Don’t do that anymore. It totally sucks the positive energy out of your day. From that point on, everything bugged me. The weather, the Cheerios on the floor, the last-minute scrambles for gloves/coats/boots on the way out the door to the bus, the lame breakfast options, the fact that I live here, and my friends all seem far away (because they ARE), old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive, etc. You get the point —–> Grumpy!

I’ve never struggled with any serious depression or anything (and don’t worry, I don’t credit myself for that other than luck), but I’ve noticed that I do have a lot more “bad days” in the wintertime. Today was one of those. I volunteered at Clark’s school with some very nice people who were kind and helpful, but I still couldn’t shake off the negative energy. So by the time I picked up Natalie from preschool, I could tell I needed to be more proactive about my mood status, so we went to a bakery and I bought a peanut butter brownie. That helped a little, except that there was this woman there who had obviously done so much plastic surgery to herself that she looked awful, and then I started hating the universe again. (I can already tell I’m going to regret this post.) I started having conversations with myself that were half-pathetic and half-existential. “I wonder if everyone in the world is weird, and I’m the only normal one?, or maybe everyone else is normal and I’m just weird?” (Remember I had read bad headlines this morning and I was already mad at those people.) So in a moment of self-pity, I said to Natalie, who was happily munching her cupcake, “Natalie, are you glad I’m your mommy?” She quickly replied, “I like daddy.” “I know you like daddy, but are you glad I’m your mommy?” She kept her head still but pointed her eyeballs up at the ceiling, “N-O, no.” She said something like, “Alright, alright, I’m just kidding…. yeeesss,” but overall, my trip to the bakery wasn’t that helpful either.

My next attempt at improvement was a little less stellar, but overall more effective.  When we got back to the house, I stuck “Olivia Takes Ballet” in the DVD player and selected “Play All.”  I told Natalie I was going to go lie down, and I did.  I quickly dozed off (Oh, how I love a nap!) and slept for about 40 minutes.  I heard Clark come home from school and I opened my eyes and knew I needed to get up and face the music.  (Music is a code word for a chaotic blend of snacks, chores, homework, squabbling, and other kid-induced discomfort.) I stared out the window for a minute and my eyes fell on my scriptures on the bedside table.  I thought, “Maybe I should read my five pages now instead of waiting until bedtime.”  It helped a lot.  I read about Lehi’s dream and how he found himself in a “dark and dreary world,” and I thought about how it really is dark and dreary sometimes, but then he prayed to the Lord and pleaded for mercy and was brought out of that darkness into a spacious field where he could see the Tree of Life and find his way to the joy that it offered.  So I thought about how we don’t have to get stuck in that dreary part or get tricked into thinking that’s all there is because the Lord can help us find bright open spots with a better view and blessings in sight.  By that time, Grant was home from school, too, and Clark burst in the room yelling about something, so I still have one page left to finish tonight.  And that’s pretty much when my day started over.  Thank goodness.

So I’m going to try to think of a bright, spacious field with a glowy, shiny tree full of joy-fruit the next time things seem dark and dreary, which happens sometimes in the winter. Peanut butter brownies, naps, and exotic beachfront getaways are nice, too.  Two out of three ‘aint bad.