The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – E.E. Cummings

Category: The Struggle Is Real

I side with Donald Trump. . . sort of.

Election time. Every four years our preferred primetime programming is interrupted by policy debates, town hall meetings and tours of Iowa, a state that I’m sure is grateful for elections otherwise they may never make the evening news. . . I digress.

Since my regularly-scheduled programs are being interrupted left and right, I figured the responsible thing to do is to watch some of these debates that major cable networks seem to find more important than Mitch and Cam’s marital shenanigans. So, I tune in.

Like a lot of Americans, my knee-jerk responses to the candidates were surface and shallow. Because I’m willing and able to humiliate myself in a pubic forum, I present said ‘first reactions’ for your reading pleasure:

Donald Trump: the billionaire. Since he has so much money, can we reduce taxes? Take one for the team, Donny.

Ben Carson: the doctor. Doctors are smart. He seems nice. The end.

Jeb Bush: mia familia. If nepotism were part of the electorate, he’d be a shoe-in. I hope he stops looking so worried and angry.

Marco Rubio: the Latino. He’s young and is probably a good dancer. (I didn’t say these thoughts were PC, y’all.)

Mike Huckabee: um. Didn’t they make a movie about his family? I Heart Huckabees, right? Mark Wahlberg was in that. Marky Mark. Donny. NKOTB. (I’ll admit, this one got a little long. I think it finally ended with wanting a turkey sandwich for lunch. Weird.)

Carly Fiorina: the namesake. Ok, few of you had this response because your name isn’t the same as hers but grant me a little latitude. How could I not trust someone with my name? Easy. I don’t. It’s my name. This makes her a thief. Um, let’s try that one again:

Carly Fiorina: the girl. Every battle needs one. And maybe if she wins, she and Hillary will arm wrestle at some point. That would be funny. Imagine the memes.
Rand Paul: the tree hugger. At least compared to these other folks, he seems like that. Like maybe he hikes mountain ranges in his free time.

Ted Cruz: the Cruz. He has the best last name. Think of all of the theme-song possibilities. I hope he makes t-shirts that say “Cruzin. . .”

Hillary Clinton: the repeat. She won’t go away until we elect her. What would they call her husband if she wins? The First Man? I’ll be she keeps a tight leash on him in the White House.

Bernie Sanders: the grandpa. The loud grandpa that complains and then sleeps at Thanksgiving. He’s passionate. But that passion frightens children so. . .

Because I could see the error of my ways (there had to be more to these fine folks than this!), I decided to get involved and see who I should back for president. So, I did what normal people do and turned to the internet to take a test.

I found my quiz on a political website called isidewith.org. The quiz offers up an array of questions about policies from foreign affairs to education, has you respond not only with your position but also a ranking of how important the individual topic is to you as a voter, and finally spits out percentage rankings of how frequently you agree with each candidate. I found the quiz to be fair in the way that it approached political policy and the way it drilled down on each topic, but I’m not CNN so take that for what it’s worth.

Important side note: The quiz offers baseline questions for each ‘debate’ topic but you also have the ability to answer additional questions under each topic heading, which I did. It also offers responses beyond the three or four basic viewpoints on the question. Just click the ‘other’ button and five or six additional opinion statements appear that you can also select. I did these additional steps to ensure that I was really getting down to brass tax. You know, because I’m so into politics.

Are you ready for the results? Well, at the risk of (again) humiliating myself, here they are:

I Side with Trump

Click for larger picture

85% of the time I side with DONALD TRUMP. What the . . .? I mean, I know that I’m a little more into TMZ than most people but I side with the Donald?!? Whaaaaa?

I tell you this for a couple of important reasons, none of which include endless mocking or torment from my constituents. (That’s a fancy political term for ‘my peeps’. You see, you can learn things by watching these debates.)

First, this result was unexpected. I knew I was conservative and I knew that Donald was as well. But I didn’t think he would lead the pack. In my mind, I thought I lined up perfectly with Marco Rubio because I found myself nodding each time he spoke. Apparently, the candidates don’t actually say everything they believe in these debates, just what they think will help their appearance. Weird, huh? Well, to my shock and awe, Donny beat you out, Marco. Apparently your Cuban rhythm is going to have to try a little harder to get me.

Take away: just because you think you agree with a candidate doesn’t mean you actually do. Particularly on topics that mean more to you than the average bear. If education is a big deal for you, you had better know which candidates support the Department of Education, standardized testing and CORE math, and whether or not you agree with them. If not, you could sign your own death warrant.

Second, it’s important to note that not only did I agree 85% of the time with Trump, but I agreed that often with Huckabee but on slightly different topics. So those Huckabee supporters that are running around calling Trump a buffoon better know that actually, he agrees with your guy on most things. Monkey see, monkey do.

Take away: first, Huckabee wasn’t even on my radar. He was out of touch . . . apparently with everyone else and agrees with me so much that he could be a blood relative. I better take another look. Second, there isn’t that much separating the front-runners in regard to their policy. In fact, I sided with all of the GOP candidates over 60% of the time and even agreed with the democrats more than 50% of the time. What does this tell us? There are some issues that everyone agrees on. What do we call that? Common sense. Welcome back, ‘Merica.

Lastly, and this is important, the office of president isn’t all about policy. I’ll admit that while I side with Trump politically, I question his sometimes brash demeanor and wonder how four years of that would go over with the rest of the free world. I also sometimes secretly (now publicly) like that he says what he means and makes no apologies. Do I like it often enough to give him my vote? The jury is still out.

Take away: there is more to an election that just policy. In fact, if you watch the debates closely, you’ll see that there is a lot more agreement within the parties than disparity. The really adversity comes when the media/moderator starts asking about previous stances and actions by the candidates, to which they get defensive and sometimes loud. Take a look at policy closely – there are small nuances that could make a huge difference on topics you care about. But also step back and look at character, demeanor and core values that may or may not be issues of policy – while they won’t be on paper, they will make a difference when they are Commander-in-Chief.

Voting is a right. But voting is also a privilege. And I would be amiss if I didn’t quote a great movie of our time in saying “with great privilege comes great responsibility.” (First person to name that movie on my Facebook page under the post about this blog will get a free autographed copy of my book, “Peas are Gross: and other important insights about life”. Just in time for Christmas, y’all!)

Take the responsibility, friends. Or at least take the quiz.

The isidewith political quiz can be taken here.

And because it’s my blog and I do what I want, you can purchase multiple copies of my debut book here.

And if you decide to take the quiz, share your results on my FB page here.

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300 Sandwiches away from an Engagement Ring

A while back, I saw a story on television about a woman who made her boyfriend a sandwich. Ah, today’s news. Good stuff. Next to that was a story about how a guy forgot to put his socks in the laundry basket. The end.

Ok, there was more to the sandwich story but the obvious nature of this into lent itself too well to jokes to not run with it. Anyway. . .

The sandwich was apparently so good (it was a turkey and Swiss on white bread, in case you are curious) that the bf in this case said “Honey, you are 300 sandwiches away from a proposal.” Well if that doesn’t sound like a challenge, I don’t know what does. I know about 53 girls that would quit their day jobs and work at Subway as a sandwich ARTIST if the guarantee at the end of it all was a handsome fella and a 1.2-carat finger weight. Don’t go getting mayo on those prongs, ladies. It’s impossible to clean out.

You’ll all be relieved to know that this rad chick took the challenge and started making sammys for her man. Right around the 280 mark, he lived up to his end of the bargain and put a ring on it. See, my motto is true: sandwiches do bring eternal happiness.

For anyone on this side of the women’s lib movement, you can imagine the outrage that this story sparked for head-shaving, bra-burning ladies everywhere. “How 1950’s can you get? Little woman cooks for her man and that makes him marry her,” responses were posted from YouTube to Twitter, talking about what a misogynist this guy must be to make the little woman cook for him in order to agree to marry her. To this I say in my best Barbara Streisand impression: “Oy vey.”

Let’s be clear about a couple of things: first, I don’t recall even once that that the guy turned to his GF and said “Woman, make me a sandwich.” That’s a very different, pack your bags kind of scenario. Second, he didn’t threaten her at gunpoint to make him dinner. This was a feel-good story on GMA, not Dateline. No cooks were harmed in the making of these sandwiches. Lastly, and I know that this is what most of my readers are concerned about, she did not make 300 grilled cheese sandwiches. She actually went out and researched amazing sandwich recipes and cooked them up with and for her man. Breathe easy, readers. There was no inundation of cheddar and the worst intestinal blockage of this guy’s life. (I think now is a good time to warn you ladies that if your plan is to make grilled cheese for dinner for a year, abort mission! Cheese is good for the soul but not for the tummy, if you catch my drift.)

I actually thought that this story was totally charming for several reasons: first, this guy recognized his woman’s prowess for making delicious sandwiches and told her about it. If only every husband or wife would pay such homage to their spouse’s talents, I think there would be more wedded bliss. I’ve been waiting for just over five years for my hubs to tell me how amazing I am with our Kirby.

Second, this girl heard what made her man happy and decided that she wanted to keep doing this seemingly small act to bring him joy. In the grand scheme of things, sandwiches aren’t a big deal… except when they are. You never know what’s going to melt someone’s butter (mmmm, butter) so it’s important to pay attention. More times than not, what seems like a big deal to someone else may be a fairly insignificant sacrifice for you. Little sacrifices on your part could (and likely do) mean the world to someone else.

I loved this story so much that I’m issuing a Sandwich Challenge to my readers. The upcoming holidays are a good time to implement this because they are all about giving and sacrifice and yadda yadda yadda. . . This isn’t just about finding or taking care of your romantic interest (although I’m certainly all about that). This challenge will be equally effective in any relationship you hope to make stronger… like with your rich uncle. Jokes, jokes. Sort of.

The rules of the challenge are below. And of course, I would adore reports back on how this worked out for you – if you dare.

Carlee’s Sandwich Challenge 2015

First Step: Focus. Focus in on one or two people that you want to improve your relationship with. Again, this doesn’t have to be a romantic interest but absolutely can be. Even if it’s a “kind of stranger” that you feel like you want to know better, this will work; a neighbor, an acquaintance, the good looking nurse at your local clinic . . . ok, that last one may be a little more difficult unless you plan on getting a flaming case of strep throat on a weekly basis and even then . . . flu shots! Flu shots are coming up. Ok, we’ve solved your issue. I especially recommend this for you singles out there trying to snag a date with a particular someone . . . this will be a rad experiment for you.

Second Step: Listen. This is a toughie because we are so self-involved these days but this is the critical part of the challenge and without it, we’ve got nothing. Listen to the people you’ve decided to focus on. Listen for hints or flat our declarations of things they love or would like to do, see, visit or eat. People are dropping these hints ALL THE TIME even though they don’t’ realize it. “I love watching (feel in favorite 80’s movie here”; “I wish I knew how to make cake pops” (me, too. I for sure know how to eat them but. . .); “I love the fall and the leaves and pumpkins”; “I hate doing the dishes”. All of these seemingly insignificant statements can give you a lot of great ideas and insight into what makes your people tick.

Third: Write it down. We don’t want to make any hasty decisions right away as this could be dangerous: someone will make mention that they really like expensive cars and you’ll go out and take out a $70,000 loan and then you’ll hate me and. . . My point is not to go crazy. Be methodical. Take down some easy notes for a few weeks: likes campfires, wants to learn how to knit, needs an hour away from children, etc. This “listing” serves two purposes: first, it helps you keep track of individual “sandwiches” of each of your people – you’d hate to take a plate of peanut butter cookies to someone with a raging peanut allergy, am I right? Experiment over. Second, and this is the sentimental part, it generally means more to someone if you remember the things they said. If I said, “Gee. . . I sure love cupcakes,” and then you showed up with one 20 minutes later, it not only wouldn’t mean as much but it might seem like you are trying too hard. It, however, would blow my mind if you showed up with a cupcake three weeks later and said, “I saw these and REMEMBERED that you like them so I thought I would pick one up.” Mind. Blown.

Important side note: This is the most important warning I can give in the entirety of this blog: It’s critical to not be creepy. If the girl you are hoping to ask out makes mention that she loves her purple underwear (why would you say that? I don’t know. I’m old. I don’t know what you kids are up to these days!), maybe just don’t write that down. Turn on your “creeper” radar before you write just anything down; ask yourself, “Could this get me arrested?”, “Could this possibly make anyone mad?” or at the very least, “Will this cause extended conversation about me that includes concealed weapons permits and restraining orders?” If your answer to any of these things questions is even “maybe” let alone a resounding “yes”, I would recommend keeping it off the list. Also, anything that involves the word “poop”, but that’s just a personal recommendation.

Last Step: Divide and Conquer. Look through the list(s) that you’ve made and discard anything that is going to require a crazy amount of money (that you don’t have) or irrational wishes (that you also have that aren’t fulfilled like a trip to Italy). While these “bucket list” items are important for all of us to have (dream, people, dream), that is not the point of the Sandwich Challenge. The point of our little experiment is to see how much of an impact the seemingly insignificant sacrifices mean to other people and make a difference in their lives.

Once you’ve disregarded all of the impossible or even seemingly difficult tasks, you should have a nice little list of things you can do for that person (or people) without too much effort on your part. Look for things that:

• You can do without purchasing anything over a couple of dollars (or purchasing anything at all).
• You have a resource to help with (she wants to learn how to knit and your mom happens to be an expert).
• Acts of service that won’t take much time to complete (weeding a flower bed, babysitting for an hour, etc.).
• Things that you can to together. This last one is one of my favorite categories because it not only shows that you listened but that you want to spend time with the person completing a task or learning a new skill. Part of the appeal of the sandwich story was that not only did she research and make a lot of sammys for her man but that she got him involved; they researched together, they cooked together, it quickly became their “thing”, and having a “thing” is almost a guaranteed bond – a wonderful one at that.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to do. Make a plan and execute.

The purpose here isn’t to blow someone’s mind by taking them on a hot air balloon ride (unless you know a guy, of course, then just go for it). The point is to do several small things that make a difference – make someone in your life some sandwiches. It’s these seemingly small acts that can make a huge difference to someone else. Try it. And while you’re at it, eat a grilled cheese.

If you are interested in sandwich recipes (literal ones, not the figurative ones I’m talking about above), check out our sandwich vixen’s cookbook here.

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I’m a Believer

“Why are you Mormon?”

I’ve been asked this question multiple times in my life but it’s never as important or life-changing as when it’s self-directed, me asking myself to really think about why I live the life that I do. I think people of all life styles should (and do) encounter these quiet moments of introspection to evaluate the life they are living and better understand if they are truly happy. I remember the first time, and I was in 12th grade.

I had just sat down in debate class. When I was in high school, debate was that controversial class that high-schoolers took to prove that they were free-thinking and liberal and all of those words that were not part of my vocabulary at the time. The most liberal thing I had done in my short 18 years was being late for curfew . . . and even then I called first to let my mom know I’d be tardy. I’m such a rebel. I took debate because it counted as a fine arts credit and it was the only way to get out of art and ceramics. That’s me, always doing things for the unconventional reason: naivety.

Anyway, as in most Northern Utah high schools at the time, there were more than a handful of students in debate that shared similar religious convictions but there weren’t a lot that liked to wear them on their sleeve – literally. How many shirts can you own with a picture of Che on the chest? I digress. My point is that it was a decisive time for a lot of students – what do I believe? What do I want to do with my life? Can I really get away with wearing socks and sandals? You know, really critical issues.

One day, some topic I’m unable to recall now was brought up and there was a clear divide in the room as to opinions on the subject. I could have taken a Sharpie and drawn a line called “Religion” down the middle of the room and it would have only cemented the obvious difference in perspectives. Debate ensued. And as with most high school seniors, we all kept our cool and had a pleasant discussion about religion and belief systems. The end.

Or, we did what is more “high school” than I want to admit and we argued, because that’s when you do when you are 18 and know everything. Debate went back and forth about who was correct and I, in all of my life wisdom, decided to offer up my obviously Mormon-based opinion. Before I knew it, a classmate who I thought I knew well was in my face with the following retort:

“You don’t even know what you are saying! The only reason you think that is because your parents make you! You go to seminary* because your parents make you. You don’t even know what you believe! You just follow the crowd.”

*As a side note, I wasn’t trying to become a priest. In Utah, most high schools offer religious studies (seminary) for an hour during the day for those that are interested. In high school, people likely would have thought that I enjoyed it more than P.E. which was only sometimes true. (If we were doing fitness testing, it was for sure true.)

Well, after this O’Reily-type retort, I did the only thing I could think of: I kept it together long enough for the bell to ring and to go sit in my car during lunch and cry. Don’t feel bad for me – a LOT of girls do this at some point in high school. I’m actually glad that mine was over a fairly important topic and not because I had my skirt tucked into my undies while walking down the hall.

Anyway, I think the reason that I was so frustrated was that I had nothing to say back, not because I didn’t have an excellent rebuttal but because I felt like the right thing was to keep my mouth shut and move on.

The truth of the matter is that unlike a lot of religious families (not just those of the LDS faith), I actually didn’t have parents telling me what to believe or forcing me into religious practice. Despite having a fairly strong LDS heritage in my family, my parents were never religious during our (mine and my brother’s) growing up. They never asked me if I was enrolled in seminary other than conversationally, they never worried if I was attending church or not. They never forced me to do anything, other than to be nice (I’m still working on that). By the time I was 18, I had already spent countless hours getting to know my religious convictions and whether or not I was willing to commit to that phrase – “being religious” – for the foreseeable future; and I did it all on my own. No prodding, no pushing, no judgment.

So really, in a classroom that probably had multiple students that were living their religion under the direction of their parents (no shame or discrimination here), I was obviously the wrong tree to bark up. If anyone had a “you don’t even know me” bullet that could have been fired, it was me. And I said nothing. Why? Sometimes it’s better that way.

If anything, I had an a-typical, albeit wonderful, generally religious upbringing; my parents taught us to love God, to count our blessings, to be kind, to serve others, to have an opinion, to believe people were good, to be honest and handfuls of many other important general principles about life but rarely was it under the umbrella of the LDS church. I will say that it was all of those principles that lead to my activity in the LDS church and have allowed it to be fairly seamless living since then. But the actual organization of the LDS church and all of its wonderful oddities were not the lens through which religion was presented in our home.

So that day was the first of many times that I decided to take a step back and ask myself, “So why do you do it? If it isn’t your parents or your friends, why do you live the way you live? Why are you a Mormon?”

The answers that came that day are the ones that I continue to hold onto all these years later. The reasoning has likely changed slightly because life changes and circumstances determine perspective, but the basic principles are the same. So, why am I a Mormon?

Hope

As a Latter-day Saint, hope is the basis of our faith. In fact, many times in our religious sermons, those words are used interchangeably. We hope for/have faith in many things that we believe will bring happiness. These include a belief in God, faith in eternal life, trust that there is a specific plan for each of us and hope that by using our agency to make good choices, we can live as families throughout the eternities. For me, all good things. If you don’t like your family much, that may not be a selling point. Jokes, jokes.

If there is one thing that I think unites religions around the globe, it’s a sense of faith and hope. Religious people everywhere find safety and solace in the knowledge that someone who is all-knowing and all-seeing is in control, which brings hope that tomorrow could be the best day they have ever had, whether or not they have the power to make it so. There is a sense of release that comes from thinking that there is a bigger design, something in store for us all if we’ll just hold on a little bit longer.

There is a strong sense of bravado that comes with the declaration that there “is no God,” like a person is unwilling to admit that there could be anything beyond or more important than themselves. It’s amusing to me that we will esteem titles issued or demanded by men (political offices, military rankings, etc.) but refuse to acknowledge that there could be something beyond ourselves that caused all of this.

I remember being put into groups in a math class in college – we were given a pre-test and lined up around the room according to our scores. Once we were ordered, we were numbered off in groups, 1-6, starting with the highest score in the class. When the groups were finished, we all had a smarty-pants, a “will know most of the answers”, a “going to struggle” and a “probably should take a lower math class” participant in each group. Our professor figured that the two more-advanced students could help the less-advanced on homework and group quizzes.

When we lined up, I noticed that I was NOT the smarty pants in our group. While I did score decently on the pre-test, I definitely wasn’t the head-honcho in our little math family. At first I was a little offended that my good-grade streak in high school apparently meant very little in college algebra; but soon enough, I was so grateful Kayse, our resident genius. I can’t imagine the pressure she felt (she never showed it) to make sure she understood all of the principles we were being taught because she had to help all of us slackers. When we had a question, we went to Kayse. I’m actually pretty sure that she knew more than our professor but I could never prove that she was a Harvard implant that was being paid to help out at a junior college.  I digress.

Anyway, I thought about how hard it would be to spend a semester dragging up the grades of a bunch of math nimrods as part of your “you signed up for this class” duty. That is a lot of pressure. Having the answers or knowing where to find them ALL of the time is a huge task, one that I was relieved was relegated to someone else. Kayse gave me a huge sense of relief throughout that entire semester. I knew that if I struggled (which I did) or had times when I was unsure of myself (which I was), she would be there to help me pull through with words of advice and a reassurance that college algebra was, in fact, doable.

This little math anecdote mirrors how I see one role of God in my life – a being with supreme intelligence that not only knows the answers but is willing to teach me how to find them if I will be humble enough to ask. I still have to do work, a lot of it, because in the end, the grade is my own. But there are no rules that say I can’t ask for help along the way. In fact, it’s encouraged. I was taught at an early age that I should trust God; He knows my struggles and understands everything from my heartache to my joy and is the place that I can turn when I don’t seem to be getting it. I have always received comfort in knowing that someone else knows the answers . . . even when they were math-related.

The Big Picture

I love the sense of community that I feel when I meet with friends and neighbors to discuss issues that extend beyond our homes and our immediate neighborhood. Religious services facilitate those meetings for me. In church services, we are able to discuss welfare concerns both for our immediate community and how we can contribute to world-wide needs and concerns; we discuss safety, service, education, finances and community responsibility.

One of the biggest problems plaguing the world today is an incredible sense of self-entitlement; everyone is looking for the best for themselves and their immediate family. “How can I benefit from this situation? What can I gain? How do I make my situation better?”

I believe that religion provides and outlet to look beyond ourselves, to focus on the needs of others before we worry about ourselves. In the LDS faith, we are taught that how we use our time is just as important as the mere fact that we have time. We call these choices our “work”. Most organized religions don’t have a doctrinal foundation related to this principle as they believe that we are all saved by grace (us too, but not as a stand-alone principle. We believe that we are saved by grace after all we can do. See “work” above.). Despite not having doctrinal direction on work, I believe most people have some spiritual tie to this principle, otherwise why are most people good? Why do we make good choices? Why do we help neighbors move, donate to cancer causes, stop at lemonade stands, volunteer to help pets, the list goes on. I believe that it’s because there is a spiritual connection (feel-goods) tied to helping others and focusing on issues beyond our own. We do these things because it feels right.

My faith helps facilitate opportunities to serve, as do most. Beyond even my basic need for this, I want my kids to know how to put themselves aside and help in the community that surrounds them. Technology is only making our self-involvement worse; with each new selfie stick that is sold, my heart dies a little. By the time my kids are my age, there will be literally no reason to leave the house. I desperately want my kids to know that turning outside of themselves to serve others will help solve whatever internal battles they are facing. I have found that to be true in my own life and have witnessed the same in many others. It’s remarkable.

At this point, you are probably thinking that I haven’t been overly specific about why I’m a Mormon – hope and a sense of community are the basic tenets of a lot of the world’s religions and say nothing specific about what sets the LDS faith apart from others. In this thought, you are correct.

The most important part of all of this, the reason why I’m a Mormon, is because it suits me.  Every principle, every facet, every directive resonates in my bones. I believe it. I love it. I trust it. This same feeling echoes through the minds and hearts of millions of church-goers around the globe, and not just LDS church-goers. This same conviction exists in millions of people in a variety of denominations.

I think that this is the miracle of belief – it unites people in ways that are beyond words. I’ve always felt that belief in something is exponentially better than belief in nothing; it causes us to be better people, to love harder, to think deeper and to have trust in things we may not be able to understand as of yet. It brings peace in trial, strength in struggle and hope for better things to come.

I’m a believer because it makes me better. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, an author. And I am a Mormon.

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