Something I Didn't Have Last Time....

I know that a few people who got my newsletter this year had raised eyebrows at the contents. After all, while I didn't 'lie'... I sure left a lot out! I guess I feel like lies of omission are better for people who cannot do anything and really do not need to know what is going on. Sort of rude I know... but for the best I think. :) I feel like I can be more honest here because so few people read it... although I am still being pretty vague so I obviously do not think I can be totally honest... :D

My major trial hasn't changed for the better in many months. And yesterday, I learned that it really isn't changing for the positive at all. I know that things will get better. Things will always get better! I know this and I have faith that it will change. Think positively!

I had quite a time last night. I lay awake trying to find ways to sleep and trying to get past my fear. I ended up listening to 2/3 of the fifth Harry Potter book- draining both my phone and my computer well into the morning. But I faced my fear- on Christmas no less- and survived long enough to see the sun come up and laugh. Sometimes, life is hard... but it does go on. Remember, it always goes on. And it gets better... :)


Christmas Inspiration from the Prophets

Over the last month, I have been looking for inspiration. This last year has been really tough and I will admit that I think that this is the most painful Christmas I have ever looked forward to. Christmas has always seemed so beautiful and easy and a time for family to be together. This year my family will be together... but we will be separate in so many ways. So I have continued to do the things that I do for trying to heal my spirit- I read my scriptures, pray, try to think positive thoughts and attempt to accomplish 'good' …. whatever that might mean to my mind at the time. Over the last month as I have been searching, I found a letter that my grandmother saved with these three quotes. And so I have read them and pondered over them. It appears that she saved these quotes for at least a few decades.

Christmas is a fitting time to renew our desires and to strengthen our determination to do all that lies within our power to make real among men the message heralded by the angels when the Savior was born. Let us glorify God by seeking the good, the true, the beautiful. Let us strive to establish peace on earth by exercising that same good toward one another which God has shown toward us!...

Love for God and for one another should be the Christmas theme. Such was the divine announcement by the heavenly host that first heralded the “glad tidings of great joy!”

- David O. McKay

Christmas has had the effect of turning men's thoughts to Christ and to his doctrine and works. We are apt to forget the character of the structure which he built; and some are even prone to consider that his ideals are impracticable. Men have said that the theories which he taught are beautiful, but that under modern arrangements, these cannot be put into practice.

Yet now he is of all value, and exercises all influence, for only through him are we saved... During this holiday season there are... souls who enter into the enjoyment of the rich blessings and who do their full share to glorify the life of their fellows.... All... may well find profit in the spirit of Christmas, and by good deeds or blessed sacrifice seek for that gift of inward wealth to be found by a close study of the life, character, and gospel of Jesus Christ, and by adherence to his doctrines.

- Joseph F. Smith

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men.” Thus the hosts of heaven rejoiced when the savior was born and good tidings of great joy were proclaimed to all people. A new star appeared and a new dispensation was ushered in...

We are grateful for what he has done, and gladly honor his natal day. Remembering the offering he made, the anguish that he suffered; glorying in the resurrection and promise of eternal life, we hallow and revere his holy name. Let us so live that when our day on earth is done, we shall be worthy to be one with him, as he and the Father are one.

To my fellowmen I commend the life of Jesus of Nazareth as the profoundest ideal of the ages.

- George Albert Smith

I share these quotes with you in the hopes that I can share a tiny bit of my heart... and I hope that everyone has a good Christmas. May we all be safe and able to enjoy the time with our families, the time to reflect on our goals and our life, and the thankfulness for our blessings. Merry Christmas! :)


The "Parent Interview" Project

For a project last semester, I interviewed some friends about their families and parenting style. I really appreciated their help and boy I learned alot! Here is the project in its entirety. :)

For the Parent Interview Project, I made a few assumptions based on what I thought you (the teacher) wanted and what I thought would help me to learn the most. One assumption that I made was that I should try and find 'different' people to interview- different in gender, backgrounds, life experience, number of kids, religion, and sexuality. Another assumption was that I should really take the time to develop three questions that I was genuinely curious in the answers, thought might be helpful for my situation at home, and would also be interesting for this paper and for reading. I have listed the questions farther down in my paper. The last assumption that I made was that as I chose so many different individuals, I would find that the families would have many differences, but also distinct similarities that could easily be 'teased' into looking at the whole group in a similar manner... that was not the case.

I sent out fourteen letters asking for responses and received five back fully filled in and ready for me to study. Out of the five, four are women and one is male. Three have been through at least one divorce and two are currently married to their first and only husband. All five individuals have children in numbers from one to eight, one adult is homosexual, two of these families have at least one child with a severe disability (autism or bi-polar disorder) and one family has an adult with PTSD. The families also live in different environments as the states that can be included are California, Nevada, Maine and Wisconsin- three families live in a semi-rural area and two live in urban areas. The religions that are involved in some of these families- whether through past involvement or current activity- are United Church of Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), deeply spiritual, and atheist (one member of this group is currently in college studying seminary and divinity). Also, at least three out of the five individuals appear to have grown up in dysfunctional households (one spent some time growing up in a cult, one with alcoholic parents, abuse, etc...) Lastly, one individual is currently single, three are married and one is living with her partner and her children.

When looking at the definition of family, there were many different responses, but a lot of overlapping when the answers were put side by side and compared. One individual describes their 'family' as a large group of related individuals which included younger brothers and their families, cousins and their families as well as other extended biological family ( one quote from the answer- “Curiously, it does not necessarily include my parents or my older brother.”). Two people spoke about family as a small group of people that love and support each other and has nothing to do with blood relationships or shared parentage. These individuals seemed to have a really open view of family in the sense that family can be flexible and made and broken and reformed – a “family of choice”. The last two adults had a more rigid view of family and for them, a family is a social unit connected by blood or marriage or a family is a unit created solely by God for the rearing of children and families that are bonded through marriage, His Gospel, Commandments, and Love. The last individual described a family as having a male and female at the head of the home with rigid gender roles and family assignments as quoted from the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as written and distributed by the Mormon church.

Definitions of effective parents and good parental behavior were described with different words by all five individuals, but when reading the responses I felt that all the answer really said the same thing:

1. “The object of parenting is not to raise a perfectly obedient child but rather a responsible and contributing member of society.” “Teach them to think and empathize and not to blindly model other's behavior.”

2. “A parent's job is to help their children become happy, fully developed people. Teaching children things they need to know and help them become independent and fully functional adults and able to make their own decisions.” Parenting behaviors: Setting limits; teaching; providing guidance; encouraging; seeking to understand the child's point of view; caring deeply; and loving unconditionally.

3. “Someone who is together, follows though on what they say and the rules of the home. Stick to your word and have structure in your home. Show unconditionally love and caring.”

4. “Someone who positively teaches a child how to be a functional member of society”

5. “A person who teaches a child empathy, consideration, caring and how to be a good decision maker- even if you do not like the decisions that they make. You raise them to think of themselves and those around them and how to accomplish their goals and fulfill their needs and love them.”

While there were a few statements edited due to lengths of answers, I kept the scope of the answers which show that with a few differences of ideas, the thoughts are the same: to raise happy, healthy people who think for themselves, have a positive outlook for themselves and others and are willing to help others. In a nutshell- to be productive and happy members of the world around them.

Answers about the necessary skills for communication really seemed to vary a great deal, although I think that the question itself may have been misunderstood or interpreted differently due to perception... and I must say that I love the idea of a communication answer being misunderstood! The irony is fairly laughable. One individual suggested an answer in a way that suggested to me that the question was interpreted the same way that I had interpreted it. They felt that openness and honesty were absolutely essential communication skills. Listening well and taking the time to make sure that you truly understood the other person's point of view and perspective -even if you didn't agree with it- is an essential skill for living in and around other people. Two people said that 'Honesty and love are key needs so that children feels secure and can rely and trust others'. Another focuses very 'literally' on the question - “Verbal and physical communication are absolutely essential- technology is not essential even if we and the media think that it is.”. And the last person talked about important times for family communication: 'Dinner is an important time to get together and talk as a family. You should also have one on one interviews with your children and they should learn manners and respecting others'.

The question about whether we are living in turbulent times was pretty illuminating to me and I think on of the most important questions asked. How 'turbulent times' was so defined by the individual sharing with me their thoughts expressed what those words meant to them personally. Some saw them through the lens of religion while another saw it through their lens of current political and economic hardship.

1. “I think a certain segment of every generation is prone to declaring themselves as living in turbulent times. My goal has always been to create a place of dependability and relative calm for my kids within the private functions of our family.”

2. “Yes. The protracted war and the economy have made this a very unsettled time. In a way, it may have brought families more together as they try and cope and support one another.”

3. “Yes. When family values are undermined by social acceptance of divorce, infidelity, violence, abuse, and other negative actions / emotions. These actions tear the underpinnings of the social unit and do not promote healthy conflict resolution and respect toward others. As a consequence the family unit is no longer stable.”

4. “Yes I do. Right now I think kids have it very hard. There are teens out there killing themselves because of being bullied. Kids are starting to have sex in middle school and that never happened when I went to school. The world is a lot different now and we need to raise our kids to be strong in the world because it is not easy.”

5. “Oh, yes. I think that all times have their 'turbulence' in them, but as a society we are angry, hateful, and fearful of all who are different. Since we all have differences, we are feeding off of each other and killing each other- or bullying and killing ourselves. I try to keep as much of it out of my home as I am able.”

It appears that a few interviewees stressed that keeping the 'turbulence' our of their homes was important as well as the idea that this particular 'time' may be turbulent... but other times were as well. One person saw the turbulence as an unwanted consequence towards harming families, while another thought that teaching the children to be strong would help them to deal with the turbulence (expressing the thought that this person does not believe the turbulence will not be going away soon.). And one person talked about how the turbulence could be used to strengthen families as they try and support each other through the 'storm'- really a great way to look at it I thought.

Everyone universally agreed that there were no “good ol' days” - one individual went so far as to say: “ The "good old days" are a fiction. In the past, there was incest, abuse, and child labor, etc... Women were controlled as objects and had few rights. The good old days never existed except in fictionalized memories”. If 'changes' were mentioned, they were mentioned as positives: women have more rights, no such thing as a woman's job or a man's job, women were controlled as objects- no more, and more along those lines. It was also almost universally agreed upon that families have always been complicated and have never been simple or truly “traditional”- families have always been complex depending on the society, that the size and shape of the family doesn't have anything to do with whether they are fully functional and healthy or dysfunctional, and good families are created and do not depend on gender or sexuality. One person thought about families and parents: “Are they making decisions that are in the best interests of the child/family or not? That is the only way to judge.” I think I agree with that statement.

The types or discussions that are held in the home/family varied in minutia- while the individual topics could vary and cover a wide swath (soccer, running, home renovation, animal husbandry, etc), the conversations themselves tend to focus on:

1. “But we talk about what might be going on at school or work, our plans for the future, and otherwise share interests in each others’ lives.”

2. “Activities we can do as a family.”

3. “Often we talk about my son's school and his future. As my son has matured, our discussions have become more wide ranging and adult-like in content.”

4. “We talk about everything and anything. We are a very open family. My kids are very young so things my husband and I don't talk about in front of the kids would be problems with other people but other than that just about everything.”

5. “Things we have in common, want to share, and what is happening in our lives, feelings, thoughts.”

While these answers are all different, they all have the theme of being together, loving each other and understanding and sharing with each other... which I think is a common theme for all humans in groups. We all need to feel like we belong and are appreciated and listened to.

When discussing the stresses involves in parenting and being a parent, I was a little surprised that while these individuals discussed different 'stressors', all the stressors ended up dividing neatly between emotional and physical stresses. However, even the physical stressors became emotional stressors if discussed long enough. Physical stressors discussed were the need to balance everything, to 'do everything', lack of sleep, and 'physically run down by the work involved'. Emotional stressors mentioned were the stress of watching a child struggle or have difficulties, trying to balance the needs of the children and the parent, the stress of watching children fight for their health when they are sick, and the difficulties of watching your children as they try and fail and not stepping in unless truly needed.

Family comparisons was funny... and very enlightening. I did feel like I learned a bit that was new about each person and family that I interviewed based on their responses to this question.

1. "I suppose one of those families of acrobats, where everyone is holding on to each other and balancing on each other and leaning out in different directions. There is a natural give and take, where we try to counter-balance each other and be each other’s safety net."

2. "In my home we are all experimental chefs: We work together and separately and come together often to see what we have created. Sometimes we are very congratulatory, sometimes we are mean and laugh too much, and sometimes we come together to commiserate over culinary experimental disaster. But we will continue to cook together, experiment together and help a cook who is tired of cooking."

3. "My family is like a small pack of wolves. We are independent and solitary, but we understand each other and come together when needed."

4. We don't compare ourselves. "We are a happy family."

5. "I don't really know. We have never compared our family to something. Maybe just a regular American family. We have our ups and downs but in the end we make it. "
There were some very pretty metaphors in there. I really liked the chef comparision- maybe because I love food, I am not the best cook, but I keep trying and sometimes I make something fabulous! (And sometimes....yuck!)

The last three questions are the ones that I needed to make up and ask. The questions that I devised are:

1. If you were able to change just two things about how your family works, what would they be? What would you prefer?

2. If you have been divorced before or are currently in a non traditional family, how has it changed your perspective of family? What changes do you see in how you view family from your childhood to now? Do you feel that your boundaries of what constitutes 'family' have changed over the years?

3. In what ways has your parenting style changed between your first child and your last? Between the 'newness' of first time parenting and now? Between family changes (death, divorce, etc)?

I chose these ideas from my heart and questions that I have been bouncing around in my head for a little bit now. So here are my responses.

The idea of changing something in your family was a pretty neat question. I realized as I interviewee people that this question could really help them to pinpoint something they wanted to change and work on it. If you never ask the question, it is very easy for someone to never try and make a change... because it never becomes very obvious that not only is change needed, but you can make it into smaller steps to work on and doesn't seem so challenging. Two quotes were really poignant to my mind.

1. “I wish there was less nagging involved in getting family members to take their turn at chores, and perhaps a little less questioning of decisions made by others. If I had to pick just one of these, it would be the first – I appreciate the intellectual skills of my family members, but sometimes I would love to skip a debate!”

2. “I would like my sons to really listen more and understand that if they listen to my guidance as their father they will do better in life and have less struggles. I would like to listen more deeply as a parent; to really seek to understand what my children are saying to me and why they think and feel the way they do about things.”

What I really liked about these quotes was that both of them were about communication. Both of these individuals are looking for better communication in their families and they recognize that there is a communication issue. Once it is recognized as a concern, making a plan to try and change it will be much easy. The last quote I am adding was a little sad for me to read.

1. I wish my husband didn't work as much. He works 60+ hours a week and so we don't see him as much as I hope. He will get home, eat dinner with us and we have 1-2 hour to spend time together before we put the boys down for bed. I wish my husband and I could have more time to go out together. We have date night once a week but it is usually at home doing something fun together like renting a movie, playing a game, making smoothies, ect. We can't afford to pay someone to watch our kids so we can go out and we wish we could.

This individual really seems to enjoy her family and wishes that she could have more time with her husband. More time and not less time. I can feel the caring and the wish for more of a physical presence in her home for her husband. I do hope that they will have it sometime!

For the question on divorce and changes in perspectives on family, I got some pretty amazing answers.

1. “I am a child of divorce who has been married for almost 23 years to my first (and last) husband. I feel very blessed and lucky to say that; each of my siblings has experienced at least one divorce, and I have seen the emotional toll taken. The most concerning part of fractured families is the lack of mutual respect often modeled by the parents (and clearly absorbed by the children). While my concept of family has enlarged over the years beyond the “one man, one woman, one marriage” nuclear family of the 60’s, I believe that the most important aspect of family is not gender or birth status but love.”

2. “I was from a broken home and grew up without a father and with an absentee mother, and was raised primarily by my grandmother. I have been divorced. I think that I have always viewed families more by the content of their actions than in a "traditional" way, and I think that this view has been strengthened over time.

3. “Divorce did not change my perspective of family, it reinforced what a functional family is. I.e. the divorce occurred because of dysfunctionality. As to the rest, I will say that I lived in a dysfunctional family growing up and knew that I wanted to create a healthy family. I have done this."

4. “I haven't been in that situation but my grandparents have. What i have observed from that is nothing i would ever want to experience. They have each been married 6-7 times and are in their late 50's. I see how it has effected my mom and wouldn't never like to be in that place. Her mom made her write nasty letters to her dad after the divorce and her and her dad still to this day don't talk. She has step sisters that don't like her. She feels like the outcast.” (sic)

5. Been there, done that...don't think it has changed my perspective except for cynicism. I am more careful now. (sic)

I am not sure that most of these answers actually answered my question, but I thought they were intriguing nonetheless.

The last question as changes in parenting style- I think the weakest question that I developed. However, one person's statement really stayed focus in my mind and is the one statement made throughout these interviews that I have found myself reflecting on quite a bit. It is :

1. “I now am more realistic about my children's potential, and my goals are to raise happy children that are self-sufficient and are the best people they can be. I want them to do whatever they want in life and am more accepting that their way is not my way. I think as you parent your second child, you become less stuck in what you want, and more open to what the child's unique personality and desires might be. Part of this may come from having experience with the first child, but part is from aging yourself. I know that I look at the world very differently at 49 than I did at 29. In a way, I think that I am more realistic, possibly more cynical, and that my expectations for my child, and also myself, have become grounded in reality more. Is that bad? Perhaps, but it is also comforting.”

Two individuals stated that their children came too close together to really be able to see a change in parenting style- one says that she has noticed that she is a lot more relaxed around other people's kids and helping now. One pointed out some physical changes like with her first she would carefully clean and sterilize binkies that fell on the floor- now she wipes them on her pants and pops them right back in! (I thought that was great and I laughed.)

So through this exercise, I think I have discovered quite a few things. While I already knew that people think differently from one another due to experience, etc... I have never taken an opportunity to really learn about these differences. I feel like I know so much about more not only about these individuals and their families, but how they think and view the world. I also found that I learned a little bit more about how I viewed families and the world around me as well. And I was able to open a door to a family member that I had been unsure how to approach due to family trauma and so I think that this assignment helped me to even increase my family a little bit. Thank you.


Going Home...

Well, my 'vacation' is almost over.  I feel so many emotions about going home- both positive and negative.

I have made sure that I have had a great time.  Allowing myself to mope and moan endlessly seemed foolish and wasteful of an opportunity that could be looked at as an opportunity... and not just as an unwelcome interruption. So I have thrown myself into many activities as well as trying to focus on the positive. I have found that a combination of distraction, work, and a slight unburdening of my soul have really helped.  While I still feel that my burden is unfair, awkward, and fairly heavy... not to mention the pain,  I feel like I am stronger.  I feel like I can stand taller and I do not feel as alone.  I know that a relationship with Heavenly Father should be enough- and in many ways it is- but I really seem to need to be close to people.  The more isolated from people I feel, the more weighed down and negative I seem to feel.  And while I still am finding it difficult some days to stay positive, I have found a peaceful feeling that comes to stay a little longer each time. This trip has had so many highlights...  where to begin?

I will start with family. I was lucky to see so many people on this trip including two people who have been like family to me for decades... but more about them in a moment.  :) I was lucky enough to hang out with my favorite Grandpa in Heber and almost all of my uncle's and aunts. (I didn't make it to Provo to see my aunt there, which is one of my disappointments on this trip- I hope she knows I love her!) I have spent very little time with some of my cousins in my lifetime- one I hadn't seen since I was ten years old.  And I was blessed to spend some good quality time with them, was able to spend time meeting and learning about their spouses and children... and I feel like they are more than names and pictures to me now. I was also blessed to see other family out of state and I left each family member genuinely sorry and torn to go.  I truly made some great memories this trip and felt like I truly have some extended family that love me and support me- no matter how crazy I act or how many strange twists my life takes as I forge ahead. I haven't always felt that and I am so grateful... grateful for caring and supportive people and just grateful for supportive family.

I was also able to see two great friends on this trip... and a few awesome new friends who are supportive and fun to be with.  I haven't seen my friend Tru in years.  We have shared so many things together like theater and friendships and over time, he has become as close as a brother.  If we are unable to talk for years, five minutes or less are all that is needed.  I was so lucky through a few twists of life to be able to see Tru and his new wife Sarah on this trip as well as his daughter- both of whom are so beautiful and kind.  They took me out for a night on the town and then several hours of conversation- I didn't go to sleep until 5:30 in the morning.  It was definitely memorable.  They even introduced this 'ludite' to Wii - by the way, I stink at it.  Still clumsy after all these years...  :D

And I have been able to spend lots of time in Washington with my best friend.  Another name I call her is 'sister'.  She may not share my blood, but she has all the other attributes of a person whom Heavenly Father has attached to me.  She is caring, kind, honest, loyal... so many things.  When I am broken, she helps me stand, listens even when I am sure she must be tired of hearing some of the same things over and over and over again.  I have gained almost ten needed pounds on this trip and my head feels 'steadier'.  I think it is easier for me to really make decisions and I have found it so much easier to pray and really feel like my brain is clear enough to possibly hear answers.

I have been able to do lots of shopping as well.  Christmas presents and church textbooks and discs with talks are tucked into my bag for the flight home.  Some packages are winging themselves to Maine as I write this.  I was able to buy the materials for a quilt- and make it as well... plus learned how to play two new games (I think I liked Ascension best) and just had a blast.  Even had my first trip to a mall in eight years- I don't think I was missing much though :)

So I have managed to have a lot of positive things and interactions happen on this trip.  But I am aware that the situation that compelled me to take this trip has not changed and in some ways is worse.  I have some fear of returning home and I know that I have my work cut out for me... as well as patience and loyalty.  I am not always sure that I am up to the task, but I do need to try.  I can already feel some of the stress and fear and hurt creeping under my skin... and except for prayer and patience, I do not think that there is anything I can do to change it that I am not already doing. Change is hard, but inevitable.

Wish me luck- I'm going home!  :)


Overheard in Sacrament Meeting - 12/12/10

So this last Sunday I got to attend church in Washington state- Renton to be sort of precise. It was an awesome service... although I will admit that it was just awesome to be able to go to church! This last week, the topic was on the sacrament. And I learned a few things that I thought were neat as well as heard things that I knew...but it was nice to hear them again. Here are some highlights:

1. The sacrament is a reminder of a covenant that we make with the Lord.
2. Brigham Young was the first prophet to set it up so that 'children born under the covenant, but had not yet made the covenant' could take the sacrament.
3. The sacrament is a sign of the true love that Jesus has for all of us.
4. The sacrament is also a 'giving' ordinance, particularly for sinners... of which we all are. :)
5. Everything that is said, sung or performed in the sacrament meeting should contribute to the grandeur of this sacred service.
6. The scriptures say that we should think about the body. Why? It was given to each of us as a sacrifice. It was shown to us after his body was a perfected, glorified body still maintaining the scars from the crucifixion.
7. Sacrament and the ritual of sacrament are the most important reason to attend church- it is truly the main reason for attendance.
8. The words sacrament and sacrifice share the same root 'sacra' which means holy.

Taking the sacrament from as young as I can remember has always felt like a 'right' and it felt funny to realize that children were told at one time not to take the sacrament. I love the idea that Brigham Young (if he did- I am not sure why he changed the rule) realized or decided to use human habit to teach children. If, as a child, I was told that I couldn't take the sacrament and saw an adult who couldn't take it because they were 'bad', I think I might have decided that I was a bad child and that was why I couldn't take it. I also think that if might have taken at least a decade for me to figure out that particular idea was wrong... as I probably wouldn't have asked people at church, definitely wouldn't have asked my parents and assumed that was common knowledge and doctrine. (I do wonder how much stuff people commonly believe AND believe is common belief and/or correct doctrine that is more correctly labeled as false doctrine... a question I will never be able to answer in this life I am sure.)

The idea of teaching the meaning and ritual of the sacrament in small steps- first the habit of partaking of the sacrament, then teaching the knowledge of what is and what it means, and then the wish and genuine want of the blessings that come from being worthy for partaking of the sacrament and the ritual of 'renewal' every week. Taking a special time every week to remember what the meaning of the sacrament is and wondering how much suffering that Jesus Christ suffered specifically for me and attempt in take a special moment for repentance that is separate from daily prayer feels really appropriate and important. Nothing feels so humbling than imagining the suffering he had for me... and me alone.

In my mind, sacrament is the one action that we can do that makes us the most holy. We are forced to remove ourselves from our home and go join with other believers. To participate in a ritual that is older than ourselves... and is more than ourselves. A time of introspection and thankfulness. I really enjoyed this meeting.


2010 Poetry Corner # 8 - "Genealogy"

Why am I so obsessed with dying?
Why do my senses seem to yearn
toward the animals and people whose
souls are no longer fully here?


How do you know that you are ready for marriage?

A few weeks ago my teacher asked this question:

"How do you know if you are ready for marriage? Discuss this issue, and formulate some guidelines to help people decide whether they are ready to marry. How do  "The roles of forgiveness and sacrifice play in the readiness for marriage"? Please include some of the material from Olson in your answer."

This question really made me think. The next four paragraphs are my crafted response:

I guess my first thoughts to this question is does anyone ever really know if they are ready for marriage? At least in my case, you can do everything you think you need to to be ready for marriage and then realize after-wards.... that you were totally not ready. It seems a lot easier to see things and problems in other people than in yourself and so deciding if you are mature enough for marriage is really easy for someone who is immature and doesn't really know that they are immature. To know whether you are ready or not, you first need to know what you need to be ready... which requires that you actually know what you need to know. I think that can be a hard topic. I did put the question out to a few friends and one friend had an awesome answer that I will post here:

"Egad. My first line of thoughts was about choosing a suitable partner, but that isn't what you're asking.  The first time I married, I was crazy in love.  I don't recall giving much thought to long-term ramifications, but I was a lot younger then, too.  We'd been living together for two years already, so the day-to-day stuff had already been resolved. We were married three weeks after he proposed.

When I agreed to marry my current cohabitation partner, I thought it over a lot more.  In fact, he had to wait almost two years from when he first broached the subject to when I agreed.  This time, I gave a lot of thought to what partnership with him would be like, and what I would need to compromise, and whether I was capable of those compromises.  I think I'm a lot more realistic this time around.  I also go into it knowing that, if the marriage fails, I'll be able to take care of myself emotionally.  I think it's important to not get married because you want somebody to take care of you for the rest of your life, in any aspect.  It's nice if they do, but if that's why you're getting married, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.  Nobody is responsible for me but me.  So I guess I feel more ready this time, if also more cynical."

I think that forgiveness is such an important thing to do and be able to do. If you hold a 'tally' of the person's wrongs up all the time (even if it is only in your own mind), it will eventually overload your marriage- my thoughts here. It's hard to stay in love with someone if you are always focused on the negative aspects of your partner and his/her potential 'mistakes' and 'mistreatment'. Grudges also harm you internally- how can you love others if you have anger in your 'self' and how can you love yourself if you are crowding out that love with anger and frustration and even hatred. Also sacrifice is important because each of us will want others to sometimes let us have what we need. Sometimes to give us what we need, we are asking others to give up wants or even put off their own needs because we feel 'ours' need to take precedence. That can be walking a fine line... but sacrifice can help a couple to stay sturdy and show support for each other and their needs so that both individuals feel truly cared for and supported... not walked on.

After a few weeks, I still feel fairly strongly about my response. What has your experience been? If you had been asked the original question that I entered above, how would you answer it? Please share! :)


A Boost!

I got a heck of a compliment today from a college professor- she was already my very favorite, but this really, really made my day! So I thought I would share. Some parts of my life are having some serious challenges, but I am doing OK at school. :)

December 9, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing on behalf of Badgerdown who has been a student in my 400 level online Discovering and Interpreting Local History course this fall. Badgerdown is an excellent student. Her work is always of the highest quality and she contributes greatly to class discussion. Many times, she has started the discussion on the discussion board and her classmates respond very well to her comments. She is also very helpful and supportive of her classmates in adding her own insights to what they have said. She responded to her classmate’s posts immediately with student introductions which helped me to create a virtual classroom experience. I think that Badgerdown and her classmates have become well acquainted with one another even though they have never met one another. Badgerdown’s work ethic, attitude and passion for history helped to make this happen.

Badgerdown’s work has been thoughtful, analytical and well written. She is a motivated student who completes her work and is willing to interact with the professor on a regular basis. Even though Badgerdown and I have never met, we correspond several times a week. I believe that Badgerdown has added so much to this class based on her own family history research experience and I believe that she has taught me as much as I have taught her. When I ask her a question or a classmate asks her a question about her experiences, she is very willing to answer the question and there have been times when she has gone online and found information that she has then shared with the class; this was never a requirement of the class, but I appreciated her wanting to help and to answer questions.
I consider Badgerdown to be an excellent candidate for your honors program. If she were an UMPI student, I would encourage her to be in the UMPI honors program and I would encourage her to become a history major so that I could have her as a student in more of my classes. When my colleagues ask me if I miss classroom interaction by teaching online, I tell them no and I then give Sonia as an example of the caliber of student I have found through my online courses. I look forward to reading Badgerdown’s comments on discussion board and her papers because she is such a good student and she contributes so much to both her classmates and to me. I highly recommend Badgerdown to your program.

University of Maine at Presque Isle

This is one of the most positive letters I have ever received in the sense that I am painted in such a good light. That isn't something I have grown used to... but I think I would like to hear good thoughts like this more often. I am going to celebrate with a sushi dinner tonight and enjoy the confidence and sense of worth that I have built up this semester. :)


Rape: The Continuing Quest for a Gender Neutral World

Abstract - While many words have one or two definitions, the term 'rape' will vary in some of its meanings depending on what words it is with or even in what state, country, or culture the word is then defined- almost all languages have a word for 'rape'. The most basic definition of the term can be stated as follows: “the act of non-consensual sexual penetration of the body using physical force or the threat of bodily harm.” While this definition is gender neutral- the commission of rape is not and the unfortunate victims of this crime are overwhelmingly female. Rape is not a problem that is limited to certain cultures or even certain situations and environments. Truly, rape is a global endemic problem that must be dealt with before any human being can hope to live in a less violent, unequal world. This paper has a few key aims and will discuss what rape is and its consequences for men, women, children, culture and society. It will also discuss why rape is a common practice, what can be done to try and change the risks and acceptance of rape, and will then juxtapose two countries (Nigeria and the United States- one “developing” and one “developed”) to compare statistics, culture, education and resources. This paper will then end with suggestions for change to start to minimize the incidence of rape.

The most basic definition of rape is “the act of non-consensual sexual penetration of the body using physical force or the threat of bodily harm.” To further explain rape and some of the environments that facilitate its use as a tool against another person, those individuals adept at defining this act will use terms such as 'date rape', 'marital rape', 'stranger rape', 'acquaintance rape' or even 'opportunistic rape', 'genocidal rape', 'political rape', 'incest', and 'forced concubinage'. Each of these terms above describe the same act of rape as defined in the basic definition listed above, but also give the respondent more information about the perpetrator and/or environment of the rape. The definition of these terms are listed below.

1. date rape – a rape that occurs in the context of a planned or spontaneous date.

2. marital rape – also known as 'wife rape': a rape that occurs in the context of a marital and sexual relationship.

3. stranger rape – a rape in which the assailant is a stranger to the victim.

4. acquaintance rape – a rape by an assailant the victim knows or is related to, but is not dating.

5. statutory rape – is sexual intercourse with individuals under the age of consent or individuals that are unable to consent such as physically and mentally incapacitated persons.

6. opportunistic rape – a rape that is facilitated by taking immediate advantage of any circumstance for your benefit to the detriment of others, such as “when combatants of the police or soldiers run amok and resort to rape in areas of intermittent civil disobedience.” The term 'war rape' would fit in this category. Opportunistic rape takes place when combatants run amok, assured of impunity in a lawless context.

7. genocidal rape – a rape where the goal of the aggressors is to destroy or inflict harm on the victim's group calculated to bring about the group's destruction. In genocide, the identity of the perpetrator is essential. The woman (and by extension, her group) must know not simply that the atrocity occurred, but who was responsible for it. Genocidal rape seeks to destroy an ethnic or political group perceived as being the enemy.

8. political rape – an act of rape that is used to change power structure and politics. Victims of political rape tend to be close family members of political participants, female party volunteers or supporters. It is a tool used by the perpetrators to hurt men (in areas of the world where women are seen as property) and to force change to the goals and interests of political groups – this tends to cause a politically violent environment. Political rape punishes individuals, families, or communities who hold different political views.

9. incest - The rape or consensual sexual act taking place between a male and female who are so closely linked by blood or affinity that such activity is prohibited by law and/or tradition. Some groups of people that would fit into this category include parent and child, brother and sister, uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew, and first cousins. Also, sexual relations are also frequently prohibited among individuals who are related by half-blood, including brothers and sisters and uncles and nieces of the half-blood. The term incest can include individuals that are old enough to provide consent, but is also used to describe the relationship and rape of a family member that is unable to consent due to age or does not consent but is forced by physical force or threat of harm.

10. forced concubinage - Forced concubinage involves the conscription or kidnapping of young girls to wash, cook, porter and have sex with soldiers and militiamen. This is a form of sexual enslavement not be confused with the historical usage of voluntarily illicit sexual relations between a man and women that could be financially or politically supportive to the female and/or her family.

These definitions are all very clear, but can be reworded, gender specific or treated as non-existent depending on where in the world you are. While developed countries are more likely to see rape is a crime and punish the offenders, many developed countries (and states within the United States) see some forms of rape as “less serious” than others. For example, only twenty US states have laws with no exceptions for marital rape. Developing countries may have few laws against rape and those that do may not have the political will or resources to punish rape offenders. Also, countries may have many definitions of rape that can be utilized by the powers that be that include federal, state, Sharia, and customary law- and which can lead to arbitrary decisions depending of the person who defines the crime and their perception of the seriousness of the crime. International law also has its own definitions of what “rape” actually entails. The Rome Statute defines rape in Article 7(1)(g) of the Elements of Crimes from 1998 states:

1. “The perpetrator invaded the body of a person by conduct resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim or of the perpetrator with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body.

2. The invasion was committed by force, or by threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power, against such person or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment, or the invasion was committed against a person incapable of giving genuine consent."

Most international courts agree that rape is a human rights violation, torture, and can be a war crime.

No matter the definition of the rape, all people can agree with few exceptions that many types of rape behavior are rape and are unacceptable as such... whether they fit the exact definition or not. Rape is a crime that has been shown and well documented to cause many personal and societal difficulties. Victims of sexual assault can suffer severe physical pain and/or psychological pain and suffering. These can include reproductive consequences such as death, unwanted pregnancies, complications in childbirth, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Emotional mental concerns that stem from sexual assault can be insomnia, low self esteem, feelings of guilt and of being ashamed, depression, substance abuse, social isolation and communication and trust difficulties. Societal difficulties can include lost work time and education, more utilization of medical benefits and unplanned pregnancies, higher rates of disability and/or trauma, and other social problems. Women in certain countries and cultures have the added burden that being raped can lead to their murder, forced suicide or marriage, and social disgrace for their entire family. If the woman becomes pregnant, she may not only find she has many of the formerly mentioned problems, but now has the added burden of attempting to find an abortion provider if that is her choice. In some countries where abortion is legal, there may be less difficulty in finding a provider, but in many countries in the developing world unsafe abortions can constitute a serious public health-care problem and can often end in reproductive complications and death.

Rape is an act that is both personal and social. While rape can be performed and forced onto either gender, it is a crime that is predominately forced onto the female gender. Rape also doesn't discriminate by age either... and a three year old child or a 90 year old woman are both at risk for rape. The most common rape victims are females between 15 and 21 years of age and in the Unites States, 83% of rape cases that are reported show the victims as 24 years old or younger. Accurate statistics on the number of rapes per country is difficult to obtain for a few reasons: the social stigma of being raped discourages women from reporting the sexual assault and discrimination by the law, police and rape services can penalize the victim as well as cause more psychological damage to her. This is an act that harms women... and in turn their families and children, communities, and society as a whole.

So all of these statements beg the question of why rape at all? Why is rape tolerated and accepted in all parts of the world... or at the minimum ignored? If women make up half of the world's population, why do they carry the brunt of sexual assault, violence and rape (as well as do two-thirds of the work)? What are the benefits to a society that does not punish its offenders? The answers are not easy to define... or even decide which causal event is the most important. The answers seem to lie in culture and tradition, education (or lack thereof), fear, misogyny by both genders and political/system/governmental failure.

Culture and Patriarchal tradition have been in place and followed in many countries for hundreds of years. So while several societies in many ways have grown to value women bring to a society and have worked to give women many basic human rights (they are no longer considered male property in all countries for instance), violence against women in all countries can start before birth. Female fetuses are aborted by some because of their gender as some cultures prefer male children. Some cultures require female circumcision, a practice that can leave women maimed, traumatized and reproductively impaired- sometimes death to the women and if not, her future children are also at risk. Some cultures also promote early marriage which forces female children into marriage before they are mature enough physically, emotionally or mentally. And women in all countries are at a higher risk for domestic violence and sexual assault as they grow older. As males and females are born and grow in their cultures, many women find that their culture contains customs that are harmful to their well being. Males can grow up believing that women have a lower status or are inferior than men. They can also grow up hearing messages that males are 'superior', they 'own' women and women's bodies, and men are 'entitled' to or have a 'right' to sex. These messages help teach both men and women that women do not deserve equal treatment which in turn promotes gender-based violence and inequality. Some traditions require that females who have been violated must be killed to allow the family to retain their 'stolen' honor. Others require suicide on the part of the female and in still others, raped women may be chased out of their families to try and find their way in the world alone without the family's protection. And in some cultures, women become partners with perpetrators, luring women to be raped and physically harmed in the hopes that they will not be raped or harmed themselves- they become part of the problem, not the solution. Some cultures and societies teach misogyny so well that women themselves can become the major abusers of women, although men are more likely to rape. Women in these cultures can come to believe that there are 'bad' and inferior' and they deserve the abuse and poor treatment they receive from men and women alike.

Education is an essential element of gender violence and rape. There appears to be a correlation between education and rape in some studies and surveys. In one study published in 2003, Lochner and Moretti showed that just getting men to graduate from high school reduced their chances of participation in most criminal behavior including murder, but slightly increased their chances of rape. It was not clear if that was because as women became more educated, they were also more likely to report the crime. Other groups have found other factors that contribute to the high incidence of rape which were: parent absenteeism, childhood trauma, bullying and deeply embedded misogyny. Other risk factors can be alcohol and substance use. A lack of education has shown a higher incidence of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS for both men and women which causes problems for both genders with physical and reproductive health which can include death. Possibly due to rape as well as prostitution and illicit sex, HIV infections are higher in many areas for women where rape is more chaotic and prevalent. Barroso mentions that many women actually contract HIV after they are married in Africa where they are more likely to marry not from choice and are at risk for violence and exploitation. She also states “Women and girls bear a disproportionate and increasing share of the suffering caused by the (AIDS) epidemic. Migration, inter-generational sex between young females and older men, coerced sexual relations including rape, lack of economic opportunities, low education levels, and cultural attitudes all contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls.” Education for women helps dispel unnecessary fear from myths and allows women to make more choices that benefit them in their present... maybe helping them to have a safer future. Kristof and WuDunn interviewed Mahdere Paulos, a woman who runs the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. She states “Empowering women begins with eduction.”

Legal tradition in patriarchal societies has always favored the male gender and therefore most rapists as well. Amnesty International points out that current legislation in some areas of the world may actually penalize the rape victim and not the perpetrator. A coordinator for a gender activist group, Nhlanhla Mokoena said that the “law is on the side of perpetrators [of rape], rather than of the side of [rape] survivors." In some areas of the world, rape is used by the police and government as an interrogation technique to force confessions in the accused and even as a form of bail. How can rape survivors go to the police if they know there is a good chance that they will be re-victimized? Many countries including the US have instances where rapists were never charged or were offered plea deals for other forms of violence that allowed the offenders to escape punishment for the rape. Exceptions to rape law appear to be the 'rule', not exceptions in many cases. Even where laws are in place, if there is not the political will to prosecute offenders, there is no disincentive for rapists to stop their behavior. And some women have discovered that standing up for themselves and telling people of the violence and rape not only causes problems from the original perpetrators. Some victims may get pressure to remain quiet from many levels of government- sometimes up to the president of dictator themselves.

So how do many countries rate when it comes to protecting women? This is an impossible answer to be definitive about. Many countries do not keep rape statistics or other numbers that would help paint a picture of the true numbers of gender-based crime and rape. The countries that do collect statistics are aware that their numbers may be artificially low due to under-reporting, crime downgrading by police agencies, and ignorance by victims and medical agencies. While some forms of rape seem to be more common in 'developing nations' such as Nigeria, 'developed' nations such as the United States have their own forms of rape and the numbers for both countries on rape -where tabulated- are uncomfortably high.

Nigeria is a developing country in West Africa. It is the eighth most populous country in the world and the most populous country in which the majority of people are black. However, while Nigeria is a rising economic power, its records on human rights abuses- especially based on gender- is poor. Amnesty International has documented numerous instances of Nigerian police officers, both on and off duty, committing rape in many circumstances. It has also been documented that the Nigerian government does not punish perpetrators and doesn't offer rape victims any form of reparation. In 2002, a newspaper that frequently covers violence against women in Nigeria stated that they believe 4-6 girls and women are raped each day and the frequency of rape is increasing. They also reported that families are often intimidated and harassed into dropping criminal charges. In an editorial in September 2010, PMNews wrote: “Daily, newspapers and magazines are replete with horrible tales of rape. No gender is left out but the regular victims include female teenagers, housewives, female children and even female toddlers, not forgetting young boys who are sodomized for fetish reasons and sometimes for pleasure.... Punishment for rape is too lenient in Nigeria... According the the Child Rights Law in Nigeria (31(2) enacted by the federal government in May 2003, anyone convicted for rape is liable to life imprisonment. But nobody seems to be enforcing the law. Thus women and girls continue to be raped and molested.” Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi & Biola Akiyode Afolabi, in December 2004 wrote about rape and Nigerian courts. They state: “The manner in which rape trials are conducted and the nature of evidence required exposes the woman victim to indignity, making it a man’s trial, but a woman’s tribulation. In our criminal justice system, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution and guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. However in practice the victim is required to prove that she did not consent to rape. Quite often, medical evidence will show that the victim was raped but failure to provide ‘corroboration” will jeopardize the prosecution’s case. The requirement of penetration to prove rape cases which though is not part of the definition of rape but has been used over the years in decided cases has also denied women victims of rape the deserved justice from the law courts. It has been suggested that the law needs to be redefined and the Evidence Act amended.” Sokari states,”In Nigeria 20-40% of young girls are forced into marriage and the majority of those take place amongst Northern Muslims under Sharia Law.” The penal code in Nigeria also helps to condone child rape because sexual intercourse with a child is legal if you are married to her and she has obtained puberty- menstrual period is the usually used indicator. So the crime of child rape can easily be dismissed if the 'child' can be proved to have had a menstrual cycle... and becomes a rape against an adult which is under-prosecuted, under-reported, and easily dismissed if the family forces the child to marry her rapist. A survey done in Nigeria reported that 17% of Nigerian women said that they had endured rape or attempted rape by the time they had turned nineteen.

The United States is a developed country in North America. It is the third largest and populous country in the world and is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations. The United States is the largest national economy. It has many legally protected human rights and took a leading role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948. However, the United States has been criticized over the last several years for human rights violations and for actively attempting to undermine the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States does try and keep fairly good records and documentation of rape statistics so as a society we can have a better picture of the actual numbers of victims. However, it must be pointed out again that rape is an under-reported crime so the numbers do not necessarily reflect the actual number of rapes in the country. It is estimated that one out of every three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and that the United States has the world's highest rape rate globally of the countries that actually collect and publish the data. According to 'Cease', in the United States, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That results in 78 rapes each hour, 1872 rapes each day, 56160 rapes each month and 683,280 rapes each year. It is also thought that only 16% of all rapes are ever reported to the police. According to the Justice Department, about 81% of rape victims are white, 18% are black, and 1% are of other races. It can also be shown that rape on college campuses is rarely punished by the state or the college in question – or the punishment doesn't really 'fit the crime'. Some groups are even starting to try and track evidence of 'serial rapists' on college campuses and how a rapist can become a serial rapist... because the offender rarely has serious consequences and rarely gets caught.

From looking at the statistics and the information given by NGO's, I few similarities and differences appear to me when placing the data about Nigeria and the Unites States side by side. First, both countries have large statistics of rape although some forms of rape look like they are more common in Nigeria and some may be more common in the United States. Both countries really need to look at ways of reducing the incidence of rape. While in many cases the United States does prosecute more offenders of rape, as a society, women are still discriminated against and considered inferior. On 11/17/20, the United States Senate wasn't able to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so American women will continue to still be paid less for their work- even when they are doing the same work as a male counterpart. So while the United States should take pride in its attempts to help women and work toward gender equality, failure to pass laws that require gender neutrality keep a society unequal and the individuals that 'appear' to be inferior will be more likely to have to deal with violence and rape. Rape is common in both the 'developed' and the 'developing' world. Both countries have exceptions to rape laws that allow some forms of rape to go mostly unpunished. Both countries have areas of entitlement when it comes to rape- an area or circumstance that makes the offender very likely to get away with the crime and to cause more injury to the victim. Both countries show some tolerance for rape, although it appears that Nigeria, due to a more sexist culture, has more tolerance for rape and its perpetrators. The United States has hundreds of resources for rape education and for the victims of rape and with legal human right's laws, women have a better chance of getting help after the rape than the victims in Nigeria... and that their rapists will be prosecuted. It appears that except for NGO's, Nigeria has few resources that rape victims can use to help or protect themselves.

The answers to reduce the risk for rape are easy to say, but far harder to accomplish. In the United States, sex education and self defense classes help teach women how to defend themselves from attack. Education in families and communities that enlightens men to the risk towards women and help teach both males and females when they are young about gender equality help make the smallest baby steps towards change. Even small forms of education can make a big difference. Talking about the common rape myths (women encourage rape, men can't control themselves, etc...) and why they are incorrect can help individuals to really look at their thoughts on gender, equality, and rape. Rape-Awareness workshops can also help people learn about rape and its concerns- in one survey from a workshop, both college men and women were asked separately what steps each of them takes each day to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted or raped. The forms were then passed around and this exercise showed that men do not do anything to protect themselves from rape that is out of the ordinary, but women do many things. This exercise helps to educate men to be aware of the extra steps women need to take to protect themselves and when questioned after the exercise, most of the men said that they had not been aware of the steps that women routinely take to avoid sexual assault. Some groups, such as Mentors in Violence Prevention, do visualization exercises where all male groups are given a pretend scenario where a women they care about is being raped with a bystander nearby. They are then asked to try and imagine how the women felt and how they felt about the bystander who did nothing. The scenarios are then changed as some of the men talk turns being the bystander themselves, changing their viewpoint of the situation. Men play a very important part in rape prevention by helping to reduce the occurrence of rape, helping to change situations where rape might occur or stopping a rape in progress, and helping to change the attitudes of other males that may lead to rape. A MS magazine study of 7000 students at 35 universities over a three year period show that “one in twelve men admitted to having fulfilled the prevailing definition or rape or attempted rape, yet virtually none of those men considered themselves rapists”. This study suggests that men need education on rape awareness because you must understand it, to try and stop it. Also, culture change must happen so that as a culture, we stop looking for excuses for the victim to have some responsibility for her assault. Amy Nicholson in a blog post states “A woman’s body is not a security risk. A woman’s body is not an unsecured fire, a wallet peeking out of a back pocket. A woman who wants to go to the toilet unaccompanied is not an invitation to a violent criminal, and the longer it is treated as such the more regularly attacks like this will be blamed on the victim.... Make the perpetrator, not the victim, the focus of your response. Placing more emphasis on the offender and not on blaming the victim is one of the thought processes that needs to be changed to make rape a more rare occurrence.

Rape is a crime that harms more than the victim. It causes harm to the perpetrator, the families of both and the surrounding communities. Sexual violence is not a solution to many problems and causes many problems that can take decades if ever to fix. Mohamoud Fathalla once stated: “Women are not dying because we cannot treat them. They are dying because societies are yet to make decision that their lives are worth saving.” It is the same with rape.


History of a Song: December - “Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains”

Merry, Merry Christmas all! And a wonderful holiday season. What an amazing time of the year. No matter how busy you are, the thoughts of Christ seep into a Christian's head more often during this time of year. It is almost impossible to ignore what the holiday stands for... although retailers do try in the hopes of distracting us. : D

This hymn (lyrics and music) was written by John Menzies Macfarlane who was born on October 11, 1833 in Stirling, Scotland. When he was a young adult, he joined the Mormon church (1845) and he came to Cedar City, Utah (1853) and married Ann Chatterly (He later married two other women and between the three women he fathered 26 children.) In his adult life, he worked as a superintendent of schools, a district judge, a farmer, a postmaster, a surveyor and a builder. He was also instrumental in founding the academy that later became Dixie State college of Utah. He worked with church choirs in a few Mormon towns and he also wrote the loved song “Dearest Children, God is Near You”. It is believed that he wrote “Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains” in 1869. In 1885, he fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution for plural marriage and he did not return to Utah until 1892 where he returned for medical care which was unsuccessful. On a painful and horrifying note, several sources have placed John Macfarlane as one of the approximately 100 Iron County Militia men involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in September 1857.

This hymn has stretched and jumped far from Utah and most people are unaware of its Mormon -and therefore relatively recent -origins. Many assume that it is a much older hymn. It is still a Mormon hymn- it has been performed and published by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and by Nancy Hansen (also an LDS artist). Many people outside the church have not heard of the song, although it has been published by some other Christian artists.

Is this your favorite Christmas song? If not which song is? My son loves this song and it is by far his very favorite Christmas song which he loves to sing at the top of his lungs... and after several weeks of hearing it, I am glad when the season is over so we can 'put the song away' for a few months.