Monday, November 11, 2013

Woman Power

(Either you are a woman, or you are a man who loves a woman (wife, daughter, mom, sister, whatever). That means the picture I'm going to attempt to paint in this post could change your life. It is changing mine. And, though this isn't the place it started, I'll start, with a book.)

I bought a book the other day that came highly recommended called, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. I think I decided to grab it and add it to the pile of ten partly finished books on my nightstand because when I read it, I feel closer to my brother and sister-in-law who live on the other side of the country in Ithaca, New York; feel like I get a taste of the things my brother is thinking and studying so much about.

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic EconomicsI finished chapter two while waiting at my daughter's Nutcracker rehearsal earlier today and my brain wouldn't stop thinking about the "liken" thoughts that came (still hasn't).  In quick summary, Hazlitt takes a page from Frederic Bastiat and explains the fallacy behind thinking that a "hoodlum" braking a window has a positive side because it provides employment opportunities for others (those who would replace the window). This is an error, he (Hazlitt) explains, because there are the "unseen" effects, namely, the things the baker would have done with the $250 had he not had to spend it replacing his broken window.

Here, because I've been thinking so much lately about physical creation verses relational or spiritual creation, my mind wandered and I thought: What if the "hoodlum" didn't smash the window, but instead used his time to create something - say a playhouse out of discarded wood and tools nobody wanted (no money spent)? And what if he enlisted his father's help and as they worked on it together, it created a stronger bond between them that was lacking before? What if the boy included his friends - included a lonely boy who lives down the street and has no friends? What if he trusted this lonely boy with part of the creation of this playhouse and then included him in the "play" that later went on there?

In this scenario, nothing has been bought and nothing has been sold. No jobs were created, and no jobs were lost (at least jobs that paid in physical value), but was value created? Yes! And talk about unseen effects! The interactions between the father and son, between the son and the new friend could have positive effects for years to come.  Something so small and simple could change the course of all three of their futures for good if enough relational value was created, if enough relational pain was healed. We talk so much about creation in the physical world. What about spiritual economics? Creation like this that goes on every day in the "unseen" world?

(As we go forward, I will use words like "relational" or "spiritual" to describe this "unseen" world. That is because, to me, the spiritual realm is all about relationships; spiritual laws, covenants and ordinances are all about eternal relationships. And yes, I know I'm shifting and using a different meaning for the word "unseen" than Bastiat used in his essay that I read so long ago. Click on that link if you want to know how he used the word :).

Trying to liken these thoughts to my life, it makes me want to play a game, the how-much-value-can-I-create-out-of-nothing game. In other words, how can I use the physical seen things I already have to create something in the spiritual or unseen world? The more I play this game, the more I wonder how such actions might affect the world's. . . "balance sheet"? Because I begin to think that accountants and economists are missing a certain "asset column" in their calculations.

I was in the beginning of this train of thought on our way home from the Nutcracker rehearsal yesterday when Elise asked if we could quickly stop at the Kmart by our house so she could use money she'd been saving to buy a new LEGO set. We made the stop and she quickly chose a LEGO Creator Treehouse (huh, funny! I wasn't thinking of that when I wrote the playhouse bit haha).  As we walked back to the register, I couldn't help feel as I always do when I go there - that I wonder how they're still in business; where all the merchandize goes when people never buy it and they can no longer sell it; if there can possibly be enough people that frequent this "ghost town" Kmart to put to use the rack of Santa boxer shorts, cheap jeans, or the wall of fabric softener? Surrounded by so much stuff, I couldn't help wonder if we can possibly use it all - those who shop here.

Then the feeling grew while waiting in line: there are more people creating stuff, than there are people creating relationships.

(It's okay, you can laugh. It might sound funny, but if you keep reading, I think I can explain. And, I also think the solution might be more simple than we make it.)

 It's like we feel a lack of balance in our life and in turning to the physical world to fix it, we just get more out of balance. The evidence of this imbalance is the undeniable truth that there are more people created on this earth than there are people willing to love them (because we're too busy creating . . . stuff?).  Suddenly, the dusty merchandize sitting on the Kmart shelf month after month symbolize all the people who feel just as lonely, unneeded and forgotten. 

As I write this, it brings Mother Teresa to mind. Her words in a YouTube video my husband played the other day gave me a new perspective on what it means to help the poor and who the poor are:

 "Jesus said, I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Hungry not only for bread; hungry for love, for the word of God, for the tender concern of somebody. Naked. I was naked and you clothed me, not only with a piece of cloth. Nakedness is that loss of that beautiful human dignity of the child of God.  That dignity that I have been created to love and to be loved. That dignity of that beautiful virtue, purity. That we keep our purity pure, that we keep our chastity chaste, that we keep our virginity virgin.  This is a nakedness when that is lost.  I was homeless and you took me in. Not only for a house made of bricks.  A life homeless, unwanted, unloved, a throw-away of society. Today we have right in our country, we see the poor people, the young people with that disease - unwanted, unloved, a throw-away of society. Are we there to be that love, that kindness, that thoughtfulness to them? And share with them the terrible pain, the terrible feeling of terrible loneliness, being a throw-away, to have no one to be somebody to."

So wait, the poor don't need more stuff?! And we can be poor even if we have stuff!? Wow. Mother Teresa seems to imply the solution to the increasing liabilities on our world's balance sheet doesn't lie in creating more things or donating more money (physical world stuff) as much as in the giving and strengthening of the things that are unseen - the relational world? If this is true, I suddenly feel a big finger pointed at myself

Here's why:


My boy and all the boys I have ever taught, teach me of their natural strength to create in the physical world. They draw action verbs, they learn better while moving, and something begins to die in them if they are made to sit still and use their mind without their body involved. They want to build with blocks, LEGOS, wood and, well, anything! The cars they play with are not used to interact with each other as much as to go somewhere or build something. They grow up and this strength is balanced (or not) by the influence of the opposite sex - but I find the majority of men continue to create from this physical core. They are physical creators. They can create in the spiritual world, of course, but it seems to begin, or originate, from their core strength in the physical world. 

Think of it - when men try to wield power over other men, they use the physical realm: a fist fight, a war. When women try to wield power over men, they use the physical realm: their body.


My little girls and all the girl's I've ever taught, teach me of their natural strength to create in the inner, unseen, relational world. They predominantly draw nouns, especially people in relation to something or someone. They have little problem sitting (mostly) still to practice the piano, to draw, to read or write - and I think this is because they find those things such great tools to pretend and create with in that inner world.  And something dies in them if they have no free time to dream and think and imagine; if they are told what to think.  They grow up and this strength is balanced (or not) by the influence of the opposite sex - but I find the majority of women continue to create from a spiritual/relational core. They are spiritual creators. They can create in the physical world, yes, but it seems to begin, or originate from their core strength in the spiritual world.

Think of it - when women try to wield power over other women they use this inner/spiritual world: Manipulation and creation or destruction of relationships. When men try to wield power over women they use that same inner realm (or they use the physical realm to manipulate a woman's inner world just as well). 

Can I say how much I am loving the yin/yang symbol lately because of how it shows what I am increasingly seeing? It may sound cheesy, but I consider it one of the most important revelations of my life: Men and women need each other; we complete each other. And, as a member of the LDS church, there is a cool balance that begins to grow in my mind: men dominantly create in the physical realm and women in the spiritual realm. On the flip side, women preside over the physical ordinances of the body (pregnancy, birth, lactation) and men preside over the spiritual ordinances (baptism, confirmation, sealing). Are you seeing the beautiful balanced picture it is suppose to be?

If this is all true and if it is also true that there is more being created in the physical world than in the spiritual world, causing a poverty (or a loss on our balance sheet) as that quote describes - then wow, women, we just might be responsible. At the very least, we need to step it up.

Because as a woman, I look around and frankly, I'm a bit ashamed of us. If we were dominated by men before and "emancipated" now in this modern era, we sure haven't used our "freedom" well. We're looking for power in all the wrong places. Specifically, two ways:
  1. We use our bodies to control men (pornography on the page, movies, the internet, or walking down the street, let's face it - at its core, it's a power thing that we have the power to stop).
  2. We think power comes from being the same as men so we copy the way they create. In doing so, we put on the back burner our natural abilities in that unseen realm, our abilities to instigate, nurture and heal relationships.
You know this is true. You know it by that hole that tugs in that unseen place. That ache to find that something that feels like it's missing. And from personal experience, you can feel this just as easily if you are a stay-at-home mom. 

In other words, I'm saying it doesn't matter whether you work at home or away from home. What matters is if your work centers in your core strength to instigate, nurture and heal the relationships in your world. Unless a woman is taught her real, god-given power and potential and finds a way to use it and strengthen it, I believe she will have a gaping hole in her life. I believe these holes are the cause behind most depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addictions. But it could manifest itself as simple fatigue, boredom, frustration, or thinking that what you do doesn't matter. 

Women who instinctively get this are something to behold. They are powerful. They love life. They create, cleanse, heal and nourish the inner lives of their family and friends every day. That is their real work. It is these kind of women who have had the greatest impact on my life. I am drawn to them. I bet you are, too. They work together with men to complete a beautiful balanced whole in each other and in their little (or big) worlds.  They have been there to show me the way my whole life, but I'm slow. I could see it, I could copy their actions, but I couldn't fully feel it. Pieces in my understanding were missing. 

I feel it now.

So girls, this is me knocking on your door. Wanna play the how-much-value-can-I-create-out-of-"nothing" game with me? Because I think it's time we take a page out of that old Disney movie. We need to remember: Remember our strengths. Remember the way we are meant to work with men, not against them. Remember what it feels like to complete each other. There's nothing cheesy about it. It is time. . .
Remember. Remember. Remember who you are.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Words That Move Me - Thinking Generationally

It must be November. I feel it rising - that feeling of thanksgiving. It was this month I entered the world almost 32 years ago. I woke this morning many hours before my alarm with thoughts of gratitude. I come to the computer to write words that flood my mind, but before I do, the Little Red Poem Book calls to me from the glass table next to the sofa. What was it we read the other day? Ah, yes. I'll include you, too.

       Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
      But we build the ladder by which we rise
      From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,
      And we mount to its summit round by round.

I look at the rung my hands are holding this morning. I don't have to look far to realize I did not get here in one single bound. But it doesn't always make sense, the way the rungs twist and turn beneath me. Because of Clair Rasmussen's death on a motorcycle, his daughter would make course corrections that put her on the path to meet my father. They raised us (five little climbers) upon the values they had learned from those before them. Because of Barbara and Clair, my mother raised us with a passion and determination for strong relationships. Because of Mary and Chuck, my father knew how to work hard to provide for his children, but he also made sure to genuinely enjoy when there was time to play - his father's illness having taught him what it was like when your dad couldn't. Because of my mom's childhood of moving we were taught at home so a move wouldn't hurt so much. Then, ironically, we only moved two blocks our whole childhood.

Together, they chose the soundtrack to the "Circle Game" of our lives - Grand Canyon Suite, Peer Gynt, Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and a little James Taylor and Joni Mitchell sprinkled in. It was an idyllic childhood.

I count this thing to be grandly true:
      That a noble deed is a step toward God,
      Lifting the soul from the common clod
To a purer air and a broader view.

I look and see the rungs that race down through the ladder of time and I am struck by the realization: I stand on the choices of generations before me. My mom calls it a football game. Each generation takes the ball down the field a little farther. Some lose ground, the next generation picks it up and moves it down the field. Some generations make touchdowns - there are many that need to be made. We can't see how far we've come unless we see where they started; can't appreciate another's success if we don't realize the "yard" where their journey began.

 We rise by the things that are under feet;
 By what we have mastered of good and gain;

Under my feet are the rungs trod by past generations. Anything I master is because they first mastered the "yard" before. Any gain, is a gain built upon their gain or loss.

      By the pride deposed and the passion slain,

"Pride" triggers a story as I glance downward through time: Great-Grandpa Ras (I've posted about him before HERE) was being interviewed by Bruce R. McConkie before the latter was an apostle. McConkie asked him what he would do if he were given a certain position of leadership. Ras answered sincerely what he'd try to do and be. McConkie quickly cut in with something like, "Well, I didn't say we had called you, brother, don't assume the position already!" I listen to McConkie's talks now and can imagine the tone of voice.  My grandpa's reply? "Well, you know what you can do with that, bub!" and he walked out. 

Rulon Rasmussen ("Ras"), second from the left.
Ras told the story later in life, regretting his pride. I think of where he started. How he worked for his own clothing and necessities when he was as little as six years old. How he mastered the trumpet so well, he was invited to live in California to study with a renown teacher and performed in popular big bands. How he gave it up to come home and marry Velma before another man could snatch her away. How he became a top manager of Sears Roebuck. He had pride, yes. But he learned. He moved the ball down the field. He gave all he had to his wife, his son and grandchildren.  I carry the memory of his smile and grateful hug each morning when I'd give him his breakfast he humbly let me make for him.

 And the vanquished ills that we hourly meet.

I look back another rung. Ras married Velma. Velma's father, Charles, struggled with depression. I see the dates on the family pedigree and go back farther. Charles' mother had died giving birth to him, her mother had died giving birth to her while crossing the plains. Two generations of entering life with that kind of loss - severed from the one who could have suckled you, nurtured you. Who filled in that hole? Or did the hole remain? How does that affect you? Where did you start on the "generational football field," Charles? 

     We hope, we aspire, we resolve, we trust,
      When the morning calls us to life and light,
      But our hearts grow weary, and, ere the night,
     Our lives are trailing the sordid dust.

When you hung yourself on Christmas Eve, Charles, leaving your four children and your wife pregnant with great-aunt Sally, leaving my great-grandmother fatherless at an age younger than my youngest now - how far had you traveled before you chose to lay the ball on the field? It might have been quite far. I cannot know.

 What ills did your wife, Mary Elizabeth, hourly meet that Christmas?  Did she find courage in the fact that her mother had managed being a widow with nine children ages 2-19? 

(Widow) Mary Ann Berrett Chard with her nine children. Mary Elizabeth back row far right.

Or did that make it harder to bear knowing the challenges that awaited you? Neither Mary or her mother ever remarried from the records available to me. How did they do it alone?

We hope, we resolve, we aspire, we pray. . .
      We may borrow the wings to find the way —
      We may hope, and resolve, and aspire, and pray;
But our feet must rise, or we fall again.

I have walked the ladder of my history this morning. I have examined some rungs below my feet. There are still so many ladders that branch beneath me, though. I feel I stand on holy ground, this rung in my hand, that one under my feet. I have not come to this rung on my own.

Only in dreams is a ladder thrown
      From the weary earth to the sapphire walls;
      But the dreams depart, and the vision falls,
And the sleeper wakes on his pillow of stone.

 "And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. . . and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee . . ." (Genesis 28:10-15)

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
      But we build the ladder by which we rise
      From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit, round by round.

                                     "Gradatim", by Josiah Gilbert Holland

As I look down the ladder and see the game of life that has played out before me, there are only very small words that fail to describe profound feelings: Curiosity. Awe. Love. Gratitude. And a new perspective. I begin to realize that the rungs on the ladder are relationships. Jacob was on his way to find a wife when he had that dream. Also, I see how I bring into this life spiritual and physical traces of my ancestors. I worry like Barbara, Alice and Luna. I look like the Pedersen side - especially Luna and Mabel. Get my allergies from Velma. My joint pain from Luna. I play like Martin? Like Ras? I compose like Olof? I analyze like . . .? I teach like. . . ? I love like . . . ?

It isn't so mysterious then, why when conquering a weakness, I feel almost as if someone unseen rejoices with me. Do I carry the ball they carried on the field years ago? Or maybe we carry it together; feel relief together when that ball finally reaches a touchdown?

What will I hand to my posterity? Where were my ancestors climbing to? Am I moving in the right direction? Were they? I'm finding answers . . .

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

" . . . For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect . . . the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children . . . For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died . . .  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion:
Behold, thy God reigneth!