Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dancing, mermaids, your best girls ... what's not to love?

It's summer, and if you're anything like me, you're seeing an awful lot of your kids these days. Like, maybe just a smidge TOO MUCH of them.

Not that our children aren't adorable and the smartest and the very suns around which we revolve ... but, it's probably safe to admit we'd all like a little break from them for some grown-up girl time.

Well, look no further! If you're in Arizona, I request you join me at an epic LADIES ONLY DANCE PARTY in just two weeks. Here, you will release your inner mermaid and shake your tail fin with wild abandon a welcome distance away from your cherished litttle hellions angels.

Behold, I give you ...

This is my friend Mandy Nielsen, actress and comedienne extraordinaire, in all her mermaid glory on the Santa Monica pier. She is hosting this shindig, and trust me -- she's one of those girls you want to be BFF's with. She's hilarious, fabulous and fun!

Dance Dance: Mermaid Bae is happening at Jester'Z Improv (Mesa Riverview) on Thursday, June 30 from 8 - 11 PM. Ladies 18 and up welcome -- no mermen or merbabies allowed. You can expect a live DJ spinning today's danciest hits, a braid bar (complementary fishtail braid during the first hour), photo booth and more! And yes, there WILL be dancing ... lots of dancing. Be prepared to glisten!

Mamas ... I beg you to take some time for yourselves and COME TO THIS. It's only three hours and your precious treasures will be sleeping soundly during all of it, so no mom guilt allowed!

This is you! Photo from here.

Don your most mermaid-esque attire -- sequins, colors, shimmer and anything else that says "aquatic beauty" to you and get your fins down to Jester'Z on June 30! Ladies -- let's make some WAVES!

RSVP and get your tickets here.

This post is sponsored. All expressed opinions are mine.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Why my kids are having an unstructured summer.

"What are your kids doing this summer?" the moms in my neighborhood ask each other.

In response, I hear choruses of sports camps, dance camps, music lessons, swim team, art classes, cooking classes, reading challenges and summer school, yet I'm over here like ...

"Uh, Audrey's still in piano lessons, and ... that's all!"

from WiffleGif

*awkward stares and chirping crickets*

I can't usually bring myself to tell people what my kids will REALLY be doing all summer, because Mom Guilt is real and it often prevents me from divulging any of my embarrassing secrets.

But Mom Guilt is dumb, so today, I'm here to bare my soul and help those of you in my same boat to feel a little better about yourselves.

This summer, my kids are simply doing whatever the heck they want to within the confines of this home.

For starters, it's a bazillion degrees outside, and we've got a toddler-aged non-swimmer in the family. So yeah, we might go to the pool a handful of times (at the expense of my sanity). But for the most part, we will be in this house where toys, books and other activities abound, and where my kids are mostly responsible for making their own entertainment until they go back to school on August 10.

When I was a kid, summer was about pure freedom. It meant television, video games, Disney movies, swimming, reading, coloring pictures, choreographing dances, board games, imaginative play and an endless supply of Otter Pops. Sure, we sometimes had to tag along to our little sisters' swimming lesson, or Mom would get a burst of ambition and decide to take everyone to the library, or a neighbor would invite us over for a playdate. But for the most part, we were home, and we loved every second of the non-obligatory fun we were having.

Nowadays, if you tell people you're going to hang out at your house and plan absolutely nothing -- no camps, no classes, no elaborate trips -- for the entirety of the summer, you're seen as some kind of lazy parent who has zero concern for your children's futures.

Well, I think that's silly.

My kids get plenty of structure nine months out of the year when they are in school, and also every Sunday at church. They don't need me or some other adult telling them exactly how to spend their time when they're on summer break. Emphasis on BREAK.

Plus, there are a multitude of skills to learn from unstructured play: problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, critical thinking, independence, communication and compromise, to name a few. There's even scientific research that says childhood play helps develop the brain's prefrontal cortex.

Yes, my kids will still have to get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds and help out with any chores they're assigned (by me). But that leaves hours of blessed free time for them to just be kids. Heaven knows they don't get enough of that time during the school year.

At this point, several of you are surely thinking, "My kids are enrolled in 14 classes/camps/lessons/groups this summer, so Jenna hates me and she's judging me to be a bad mom and ..." well, that's your Mom Guilt talking, and you need to tell it to shut up because that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm only saying that MY kids won't be in any fancy camps or classes this summer, and this is why: they don't need it. They're going to be absolutely fine if all they learn over the next two months is:

-How Harry Potter and his friends managed to get past Fluffy in The Sorcerer's Stone
-How to construct a structurally-sound tower using every MegaBlock we own
-All of the words to the Animaniacs! theme song
-The best hiding spots for Hide and Seek
-The basics of human buoyancy
-How to perfectly roast a marshmallow
-How to whomp someone at MarioKart

I'm not the least bit worried about them.

The Foote family is bringing old school summer vacation back. Bring on the Otter Pops.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My conversion to Libertarianism, part II.

Read Part I here.

So there I was, a new believer in the principle of economic freedom, yet I was conflicted over social issues. It seemed logical to me that if you want to discourage bad behavior, you make it illegal; however, history has shown that people intent on behaving immorally don't really care about breaking laws, anyway.

I had also been taught at church and at home that it was God's will for his people to have the agency, or liberty, to choose good from evil. God made his plan known in the pre-mortal life, before Earth even existed. He stated it again in the Garden of Eden, telling Adam and Eve they could freely choose whether or not they partook of the forbidden fruit. Agency is a prominent theme throughout the scriptures and especially in the Book of Mormon. In modern times, LDS prophets and apostles have addressed the imperative need for personal liberty in both civic and religious aspects.

To say personal liberty is valued in Mormon culture is an understatement -- it's at the very heart of our doctrine.

As I continued to wrestle with myself over my conflicting interests, the libertarian voices in my life became louder. I found myself both annoyed and intrigued by their messages. One libertarian friend in particular was rather vociferous about his political opinions -- especially his distaste for "my guy," Mitt Romney. He often would say Mitt wasn't a "good" Mormon because of his political ideals. We got into a few Internet scuffles over it. It seemed to me that Mitt Romney was a man of moral character running on a conservative political platform, but my friend thought Mitt's political compromises showed he lacked integrity.

I admit, that approach didn't help my friend's cause to convert me to libertarianism. But what did help was when he offered to send any of his interested friends the book Latter-day Liberty by Connor Boyack. ANY of them, free of charge.

I was initially more drawn to the "freebie" than anything else, but I also saw a convenient opportunity to read why libertarianism was the political affiliation that most aligned with my Mormon faith. So, I told my friend I was interested, and he promptly responded he would mail me a copy. When it arrived, I was prepared for a convoluted argument backed by a few prophetic quotes and scriptures, and I prejudged the book as such. But, I was still willing to give it a chance.

I should have known if my friend was willing to give this book out for free, it must be very persuasive. And indeed, it is. From the start, Boyack presents a water-tight-logical, fact-based argument connecting Mormon doctrine with libertarianism. He references scriptures, draws on the experiences of Joseph Smith and the early Saints's search for religious freedom, and explains the historical context of the nation's founding with such expertise, citing source after source for his evidence. Boyack is eloquent but easy to understand and clearly knows his stuff -- he left no stone unturned.

Boyack doesn't advocate we should lie down and accept the unsavory choices of others, but we should first and foremost uphold the eternal principle of free will -- a God-given right we all possess through our divine inheritance. He argues the only righteous and frankly, legitimate laws in America are those which uphold this higher law of protecting liberty. It is why the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence and created the law of the land, the Constitution. Not so an overbearing government could boss its people around, but so the people could be free as individuals.

It was the end of 2011 when I read Latter-day Liberty, at the height of the presidential election between Romney and Obama. Obama won a second term. I was pretty devastated. But, I also knew that America really needed something neither Obama nor Romney was offering. We needed less intervention, and both of those men -- whether liberal or conservative in their approach -- were prepared to offer all the interventions they could muster and then some to save us.

After reading Latter-day Liberty and studying libertarianism more fully, I could no longer support government mandates, more military spending, social welfare, foreign aid, higher taxes or even laws intended to prevent immorality. For me, it all became so contrary to God's purpose for us, which is "to prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]." (Abraham 3:25) As Boyack says, "This basic responsibility is crucial to our eternal development; if we can't demonstrate to God that we can govern ourselves, would he entrust us with 'thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers' (D&C 132:19) to govern others throughout the eternities?"

And that's what it boils down to for me. We're here to learn, right? To learn to become like God? How can we adequately prepare for our eternal role if the journey is facilitated through a limitation of choices? The choice between good and evil is supposed to be hard. If it weren't, God wouldn't have permitted Satan to tempt us. Furthermore, God is all-powerful, yet he chooses to stay His hand and allows us full autonomy. Why would we not refer to His exemplary way in our own lives?

When we choose righteousness even when evil is not only available but widely accepted by society, we are truly proving our obedience to God.

Since the time of reading Latter-day Liberty, I had remained a registered Republican with the intent of changing my party from within, voting for candidates in support of small government and less spending. But with the Republican nomination of Donald Trump last week, I could no longer stand by the Republican Party as it no longer represented my ideals. I was finished. The second I learned of his nomination, I logged onto the DMV web site and changed my party affiliation to Libertarian.

"But Jenna!" You say. "How can you stand by as members of your new party support the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage and sometimes even abortion*?"

Here's how: Just because something is legal doesn't mean it is morally right, and it doesn't mean I will now take part in these things. As a libertarian, I am still free to choose good over evil. The difference is, I don't think I or anyone else should be allowed to take this choice away from others, so long as their actions don't harm others or jeopardize others' freedom.

Think of the Word of Wisdom, the Mormon doctrine which forbids the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. In the US, each of these items is considered perfectly legal for adults to use. Does that mean we have to partake just because the law allows it? Of course not. The same goes for any other immoral practice. Just because [insert inappropriate and sinful behavior here] is legal doesn't mean you must do it or support it.

But, we can stand up for what we believe is right! The First Amendment permits it and encourages it. This may be as simple as telling a friend you think pornography is harmful or as complicated as an organized protest against abortion. In a free society, our covenant responsibility to "stand as a witness of Christ" is more meaningful and valuable than it is in a place where everyone is forced to be charitable and abstain from immorality.

I believe in non-agression. I believe everyone has a right to life, property and freedom of choice, so long as their choice doesn't result in a loss of freedom for others. I believe people are capable of making good choices without the coercion of their government. I understand the world is growing more selfish, corrupt and hard-hearted every day. But, I don't think any political leader, no matter how powerful, can eliminate all the evil and temptations we face. If anything, their own thirst for power and control will lead to further corruption, not less. We can only be responsible for our own choices and for the education of our stewardship.

America's birth made her different from other nations because the Founders espoused a rule of law, not a rule of men. We are ready to get back to our roots, to stop legislating every.single.thing, to stop fighting wars for other countries, to stop spending, to stop providing for people what they are every bit as capable of providing for themselves, to live and let live and truly be FREE.

Are you on board? Need more convincing? Get Connor Boyack's book here.

*Regarding abortion, libertarians are divided depending on when they believe life begins (at conception versus at birth). Those (like myself) who believe an unborn baby is a person feel that abortion infringes on their right to life, so it should be illegal. Others who believe a fetus is not a person with inherent rights would obviously feel differently.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My conversion to Libertarianism, part I.

After Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race yesterday and it became clear all hope is lost for America, internet searches shot up for one term in particular: Libertarian Party.

All I can say is it's about danged time.

I've been a mostly-closeted libertarian for a few years now. Closeted, because a lot of people equate libertarians with crazy, pot-smoking, gun-toting tax-evaders. But the truth is, we're not. Actually, I believe most people can identify with the Libertarian Party more than they think -- they just don't know it. So what I'm saying is, you're probably a closet libertarian, too!

My conversion to libertarianism is a story 10 years in the making.

It started in the fall of 2005, during my freshman semester at Brigham Young University. I wanted to major in business at the time, so I enrolled in ECON 110. At that point, I didn't know much about economics, except for the basics. But I didn't really understand how economic policies could affect me.

The professor, Dr. Kearl, taught the class from two perspectives -- one that supports a totally free market, and another that relies on government intervention to steady the market. On the first day of class (right after my chair collapsed in front of a billion people in the packed lecture hall -- yeah, that was awesome), he told us to keep an open mind about the two schools of thought we were about to study. He challenged us to think about which would work best and decide for ourselves which we would espouse.

Thus began my enlightenment.

Before ECON 110 opened my eyes, I thought taxes were a necessary evil. I thought people had to be forced into charitable giving because they'd never behave altruistically on their own. I believed the price of goods was inherently unfair because people were meanies and wanted to screw their buyers over, so the government needed to step in and protect us little guys. I felt the concept of supply and demand worked just fine in a vacuum, but not in reality. I thought if I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, there were a lot of pesky rules I'd have to play by, but I just accepted this as a fact.

As I learned about Adam Smith his philosophies regarding self-interest and the invisible hand in the free market, I wondered, how had I not learned these things in high school? Even earlier? The concepts were so simple and made so much sense. It was like I intuitively knew all of it, but I had somehow unlearned these basic truths along the way. I had been conditioned to believe that if the government can help a little (by, for example, eliminating negative externalities), it can help a lot.

As Dr. Kearl taught the Keynesian approach to economics during the second part of the term, it took everything in me to keep an open mind and not discard it all entirely. I came away understanding the government does have its place in society, to be sure. But the market functions best when government is extremely limited. 

I couldn't un-know what I had learned in economics class. I watched the free market work beautifully all around me as student entrepreneurs started companies of their own, some which quickly flourished and others which fizzled out as competition drove them out of the marketplace. It fascinated me to see Smith's principles in action.

Then, we witnessed the economy fall to pieces as the subprime crisis turned in the Great Recession of 2008 (good read on that here). It became apparent to me that the government was causing the ruin of the American economy, not the people. Many economists are starting to agree that a slew of government policies -- quantitative easing, low interest rates and homebuyer facilitation programs, to name a few -- are what caused the GDP plunge of the late 2000's, leading us straight into the recession.

I saw something else happening, too -- right at BYU. As I walked from one end of campus to the other for work each day, I passed a few electrical boxes spray-painted with the words 'Ron Paul Revolution,' along with the image of a man's face.

I was initially curious, so I Googled the name. Then, I was turned off. Who are these anarchists running around tagging stuff in the name of some unknown politician? I wondered. Ron Paul sounded ... well, crazy. And if his supporters were spreading his message by defacing public property, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Mitt Romney was my guy. See, as much as I supported the idea of a free market, I was also raised in a staunchly-conservative Mormon home. The idea that drugs and other immoral activities should be legal appalled me. I believed the government was responsible for upholding Christian values, and I erroneously thought if something was against the law, most people wouldn't do it.

Since Mitt holds my same Mormon values and he's a capitalist with gubernatorial experience, I threw my support in for him during the 2008 and 2012 elections. I watched as Ron Paul ineloquently fumbled through Republican debates, trying to share his message of liberty with the world only to be mocked to scorn. At first, I was annoyed by this kooky codger. Then, I started to feel bad for him. The things he was saying seemed lunatic on the surface, but actually made sense when I further examined them. But he struggled to be heard, and eventually dropped out of the race.

The idea of a truly free people, governed on an extremely limited basis, sounded beautifully simplistic to me. It was what the Founders had intended. And, it was even kind of ... Mormony!

But, there was still the issue of social liberalism which comes with a libertarian mindset. I couldn't accept immorality on a widespread basis! All my life, I'd been taught to "stand for truth and righteousness" in everything I did. How could I reconcile the "live and let live" attitude of the libertarians with this concept?

Maybe you're thinking the same thing. I'll tell you how I did ... another day.

To be continued ...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How Target failed everyone.

Image credit

This week, Target announced it welcomes transgender employees and customers to use the gender-specific bathroom or fitting room with which they feel they identify most. And subsequently, half of America collectively lost their minds.

Target assured everyone its policy is in the best interest of "inclusivity," a principle it deems a "core belief" of the company. Problem is, in trying to include one group of people, Target excluded another -- those who simply aren't comfortable with the idea. And not necessarily because they don't want to share a toilet with transgender people, but because they are worried sexual offenders will use the policy to their sick and twisted advantage.

And, they might just do that. But, that's not what this post is about.

It's about how Target had an opportunity to make a revolutionary, forward-thinking decision about its bathrooms and instead, it made a brazen, in-your-face sociopolitical statement. In so doing, Target is not only alienating customers who disagree with the policy, but also the transgender community it attempts to include.

The Internet is blowing up with inflammatory comments from all sides. Many parents are loudly expressing their fears and boycotting Target over the policy, while others are praising Target effusively and deriding those who feel any concern. A huge segment of the population is visibly outraged and transgender people are the target (ha).

Is it really likely that transgender people will feel comfortable using Target's restrooms now that they know what people really think about the idea? Furthermore, seeing how mad people are, I'll add it might even be dangerous for transgenders to use their preferred bathroom now. I wouldn't put it past some of these angry commenters to turn violent.

What could Target have done differently, you ask? A realistic and truly inclusive solution: completely change the current restroom model to include greater privacy and safety for ALL its customers.

One of my favorite local restaurants, Liberty Market, has a restroom designed with total privacy for any and all types of people. Males, females, transgender individuals and families -- you name it, and the restroom provides a safe, comfortable experience for them.

It's quite simple, really. Each toilet is enclosed in its own room -- three walls and a heavy locking door. They're even relatively soundproof! The sinks are in an open area and shared by everyone. And since the common area of the restroom is open, you don't have to worry as much about shady business going on behind closed doors.

Here's a video about this amazing bathroom.

The first time I used the restroom at Liberty Market, it didn't even dawn on me that I was in a gender-neutral space until I went to wash my hands ... next to a dude. I freaked out for two seconds, thinking I'd wandered into the wrong bathroom and HOW EMBARRASSING and then, will I get arrested for this?! But my panic quickly turned to amusement when I realized it's just a restroom that actually makes sense.

This way, parents can easily accompany their children to the restroom for safety (personally, I NEVER send my children into the public bathroom alone anyway, but this makes family bathroom trips more feasible). Those who are concerned about their privacy have all the seclusion they want. And all but one of the stall doors have both an 'M' and 'W' on them, clearly showing they're for everyone (the remaining one has a urinal in it, so ... take that to mean what you will).

How groundbreaking would it have been if Target had announced they would implement this style of restroom in their stores? This change wouldn't negatively affect anyone -- except for Target, who would have to invest some extra money in making renovations. But even then, the return would've been worth it in the long run. Think of the reputation it would earn for being not only equality-minded but smart, too.

Instead, Target now has previously-satisfied customers threatening to take their money elsewhere and they're convincing their family and friends to do the same. Internet users are leaving insensitive comments about transgender people which, in turn, further alienates them from using the bathroom. And Target has made progressivism look pushy and bullish by basically saying, "We don't care if you feel threatened in our restrooms -- we're doing this, anyway."

Target, you failed. You could have thought outside the box a little and made a truly inclusive policy change. But instead, you took the easier route. You did succeed at making people talk about you for the time being, I'll give you that. You're all over the news and I bet that feels really good. But, you had the chance to do something monumental, something innovative, something that doesn't just talk the talk but also walks the walk, something that benefits literally every person who comes through your doors -- and you didn't take it.

What a shame.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In my last post, I discussed my chronic pain and the inspiration I received for how to cope with it. Part of my new approach includes accepting the fact I have this condition and learning from it instead of focusing all my energy on making it go away.

Honestly? I didn't want to implement this acceptance of my pain. I fought this bit of inspiration hard. "If I accept it, I'm throwing in the towel. And I am NOT a quitter," I thought.

Here's the thing, though -- there's value in knowing when it's time to quit, and this concept goes beyond chronic pain.

Many things in life are simply beyond our control. Among these, for instance, are the actions of others. People are going to say and do things to us every day -- yes, even mean things, stupid things, ignorant things and bad things -- and you and I can't do anything to stop it. We sometimes try, but it's all in vain. The fruitless pursuit of changing a person's actions leaves us feeling defeated, hopeless and bitterly resentful.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Dillon, my wise husband who's been dealt more than his fair share of challenges in life, always says, "You can't control the behavior of others, nor how others react to your choices. But you can ALWAYS choose how you react to theirs."

He truly lives by this principle. In more than 11 years of knowing him, I've seen him turn the other cheek countless times. When necessary, he reproaches others calmly and directly. He doesn't yell, throw a tantrum, manipulate or coerce them to adopt his way of thinking. He is the prime example of one who accepts what he cannot change.

Dill's attitude of acceptance is not one of resignation -- he doesn't just lay down and die when something doesn't go his way. Rather, he chooses to be grateful and optimistic in the face of adversity. He doesn't waste precious time trying to change or control what is fixed. He acknowledges the bad but capitalizes on the good. This way of thinking is something he has learned and developed through the challenges he has encountered. He'll be the first to tell you he didn't always see things this way, but he has learned how.

Some may think this positive-focused mindset lacks integrity, but I disagree. If he were to pretend the negative aspects of life didn't exist, then yes. But Dill's not under some false illusion that bad things don't happen. He creates a healthy space for both disappointment and the gratitude in his life.

Just two weeks ago on April 4, Dillon's grandfather was tragically killed in a bicycle accident. He was 92 years old, but he was as healthy as anyone. He regularly biked 10 - 15 miles a day a few times a week. He'd been cycling for about a decade, brought on by a knee replacement that left him unable to run anymore (did I mention he ran his first marathon at 76 and then another one a year later? Yeah. Also, if this isn't a prime example of acceptance, I don't know what is).

It wasn't as if he died doing something irresponsible or uncharacteristic for him. It was indeed a tragic accident, one we never saw coming.

Dill and his Grandpa Seymour at Grandma Seymour's funeral, February 2012

Of course, Dill was devastated by the news of his grandfather's death. We all were. Death is sad no matter how and when it happens -- painlessly, quickly, doesn't matter. It's not so much the death that hurts as it is the separation from that person, the idea that you won't see them ever again, at least not in this life. It's a painful realization and it stings each and every time you consider it.

This picture was taken the last time we saw Grandpa Seymour, last summer at the cabin which he built many years ago with his family.

The visit at the cabin was just a few days before Grandpa's 92nd birthday, so we had some cupcakes and sang to him. Boy, am I glad we made the trip up there. I actually had a great conversation with Grandpa about my mom. He was always so kind to me, never too busy to ask me how I was doing.

The funeral was on my birthday, April 7 (I'm unfortunately no stranger to death on my birthday). Due to some health issues Clara's had recently, I opted to stay home with her and supported Dill taking the two older kids to California for the services.

After my last post, I got to try out my new, enlightened philosophy of acceptance right away -- accepting the facts that a loved one died close to my birthday, that I would be apart from my husband and kids on that day, and that Clara and I couldn't attend the funeral. This scenario would have previously stressed me out, but I approached it from the standpoint that it was happening no matter what and I could only choose how to react.

My parents helped my twin brother and I have a fun birthday, despite the fact we were both alone for it. We all went to breakfast and dinner together, my mom and I got pedicures, and my dad even bought me some new hubcaps and installed them for me. I taught a piano and voice lesson, and my students were so sweet to bring me treats.

There was still an air of sadness in knowing it was Grandpa's funeral day, and I honored it. I didn't dismiss it or pretend Grandpa hadn't died. I also knew Dill was probably feeling deep sorrow that day, and empathy is important to me. But I permitted myself to enjoy the day, to relax and to spend time with my family. And it was a truly wonderful day. Different from how I had originally planned, but wonderful nonetheless.

To me, acceptance is making room for both disappointment and gratitude simultaneously. It's saying, "I can't change this bad thing that's happened to me," then, allowing yourself to move on. It's acknowledging that, despite your best efforts, things aren't going how you wanted or planned, but pinpointing and highlighting the positives anyway. It's a refusal to impart your energy and time toward anything you can't control.

Acceptance is a mature perspective -- one which, I'm finding out, requires discipline and time to develop. I'm not patient by any means, but I'm trying. As I have been practicing this new mantra for the past two weeks, I have noticed a greater sense of peace and gratitude in my life. I have even seen my chronic pain take a back seat as I am no longer feeding it most of my energy. I am processing my emotions in a healthy, balanced way. I am not letting my disappointments consume me. I am choosing to end each day on a high note.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Time to get outside.

Over the past two weekends, my church's leaders addressed members in a worldwide conference. This conference happens twice a year, beginning on the last Saturday in March and again on the last Saturday in September. Each speaker chooses his or her topic and gives a 5 - 10-minute speech about it. The messages are intended to inspire as well as provide direction.

It seems each time General Conference rolls around, I have a new question to be answered. This time, all I could think about was my chronic pain, diagnosed years ago as the elusive fibromyalgia. It's like a little tag-a-long I can't shake. And for the past few months, it's been at its worst. My tried-and-true methods for quashing it just aren't working anymore and I'm exhausted. The truth is, it gets worse the more stressed I am. I have a lot on my mind with my mother's terminal cancer diagnosis, difficulties with my husband's job and now some health concerns with my toddler, Clara.

This unexplained, all-consuming pain has been a part of my life for nearly five years now. Since there's always something to be stressed out about, it hasn't gone away -- it has simply ebbed and flowed, getting better or worse but never leaving me entirely. I remain hopeless and depressed.

I wake up each day in pain, but life must go on. My children need my help getting ready for school, so I roll out at 6:00 every weekday morning. Dill helps however he can, but he has to go to work, so the morning routine falls mostly on my (sore) shoulders.

After the older kids go to school, I have a toddler to love and teach, a beautiful home to maintain and  a handful of music students who come over for lessons most afternoons. And when my big kids get home, they need a loving parent to ask them about their day, help them with homework and take them to the park to let off some steam. I also cook dinner most nights. By the time Dill gets home, I'm running on empty and my muscles and joints are screaming at me. Nighttime is the hardest because I know that when I wake up, it will still be there, staring me in the face. That stupid little companion, my pain.

My life is truly lovely, one to be envied -- a handsome, adoring and hard-working husband, three smart, beautiful kids, the perfect home and even a little job that brings in some extra income. But sometimes, my pain is so bad, it's literally all I can think about. How can I feel joy when all I feel is this blinding pain?

As the conference started last weekend with the Women's Meeting, I silently plead with God to know how to cope with this trial and others. How can I live happily and gratefully in spite of it all?

That meeting was focused on refugees all over the world who are in great need of material goods as well as love and friendship in general. I was surprised and so happy to see my church take a stand of acceptance and love towards the refugees, despite the many politicians and thought leaders who loudly preach otherwise. The choir who provided the music at the meeting was filled with refugee women and girls, who sang of God and Jesus Christ with such conviction.

As I watched and listened to the many talks about these refugees and their plight, I thought, My trial isn't so bad. At least I have a warm home where I can suffer in some comfort. At least I live in a land where I am wanted and don't have to hide. At least my family is all here to support me instead of stranded in a war-torn country or dead in the sea somewhere.

Then, two days ago, the general meeting for all church members began. Again, I was approaching it from a "please help ME" standpoint, hoping for some comfort. And I did receive some -- for instance, Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that "heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow and forever."

Many other leaders spoke of God's love for us. Others talked about the Resurrection and how someday, all of us will be free from whatever ailments cause us to suffer -- chronic pain, cancer, addiction, grief, all of it.

I appreciated those words of comfort, but what I needed most was the greater message I heard repeated more often, which was:

Get outside of yourself.

This theme kept repeating, from admonitions to forgive others and let go of your pride to yet another address regarding the refugee crisis. There were also talks about harmony in the family, about apologizing and setting aside your pride. There were others which plainly stated why opposition is important in life and how it helps us become closer to God.

It was as if the whole conference was written for me.

Some personal thoughts came to me as I soaked up the inspired words:

"Allow yourself to feel joy in all the small moments." This one is hard for me as I am very empathetic. I take on the world's problems, which is why I am also very stressed out most of the time! Being very empathetic often prevents me from being happy because I feel like if someone I care about is suffering, then so must I. My empathy knows no boundaries which is unhealthy. I need to learn to better balance my empathy with my own personal emotions and find room for both.

"Accept your pain and learn from it instead of trying to fix it." I am the type of person who is always trying to fix things. As such, I spent the better part of the last five years trying to find a solution to my daily pain. Well, after so many failed attempts, I had lost all hope. The loss of hope feeds depression and anxiety which are both obstacles for living happily. Instead of pining for a fix, I need to accept the reality of this trial and focus on what it is teaching me. I can (and should) accept the advice of others and try different methods to alleviate the pain, but I should also try to find purpose in my "constant companion," pain.

"Focus on others and your pain won't be so consuming." When you're suffering, it is very difficult to see outside yourself. All you see is YOUR pain, the injustice of YOUR situation and YOUR  overwhelming sorrow. You feel it all so acutely, it blinds you to the challenges of others. But the truth is, we are all in pain, in one way or another. I know I need to do more for other people as it will help me be more grateful for my life and will give me a greater perspective. I am also looking forward to learning more about the Church's new refugee assistance program, "I Was A Stranger."

I know this is getting long, but I need to clarify one more thing.

If I feel depressed, it is because I am in pain every day of my life and there is no foreseeable end to it. It is really that simple. It is not because I married young, nor because I have small children, and it's definitely not because I actively participate in the LDS church. My husband, my children and my faith are the three things I can count on to get me through every rough patch! They are the source of my joyful moments in life, not the cause of my suffering.

Yes, I have desires to pursue endeavors outside of my home in the future, but that doesn't mean I'm currently some miserable mom wishing the days away. I cherish the one-on-one time I have with my sweet daughter, Clara and know these moments will pass too quickly. And quite frankly, I also like being able to blog in my pajamas.

Everyone has their challenges in life. I am choosing to be more open about mine in hopes that the people I love will empathize, try to help or at least understand where I am coming from. I will always afford the same courtesy to you!

Today, I resolve to get outside of myself. I know I still need time to meditate and care for me, but that time will not involve self-pity or feelings of hopelessness. I will appreciate the happy moments of daily life and know that as I do, I will see them more abundantly. I am accepting chronic pain as "my trial" and want to approach it differently than I have for the past five years. I want to accept it and learn from it, not try to fix it to no avail.

Here's to getting outside more often. Cheers.

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