Monday, December 08, 2014

Thanksgiving thankful tree

I stole my friend Tamsin's idea and we had a "Thanksgiving tree" this year. I took some of the stockier weed things we were cutting down in the backyard, took off their leaves, and put them in a vase of stones. Then I bought some luggage tag things that we wrote on and hung from the branches (I guess ideally they would be leaf-shaped, but it's fall so I am okay with having a leafless tree).

It was good to remember what we were thankful for. Here were the things I was thankful for:
forgiveness - this sounds dramatic. I was kind of rude to someone on the phone and later I said I was sorry.
baby toys/chairs
loving family
good food
people who believe in me and my abilities
pizza and restaurants
domesticated animals - I was thinking of chickens and cows specifically, but dogs are nice too.
a strong body
easily-cleaned couch - Piper spit up a huge amount one morning.
that Piper is alive and well - I tried to walk Piper and Koko at the same time, and Koko knocked over Piper's stroller while she was in it. Luckily she landed in the grass and was fine.
online shopping
home-cooked food and a clean kitchen - I wanted to capture more than this - that I have a good habit of cooking and cleaning the kitchen, and that I'm mentally healthy enough to keep up that habit.
breastfeeding - it is really convenient
running water
our dishwasher
Adam's list:
our two working cars
good friends
online palettes
our cute baby
funny internet videos
baby cooing noises

our visitors:
warm blankets
good books
I bought some more Thanksgiving history books (I'm not sure why but I just love reading about early colonists' lives).  Our Thanksgiving display improves! Now I just have to find a way to use up those decorative squash...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

roll cloud

Another baby pic post up. Here are some bonus pictures:

icey hike!
I think that is a roll cloud. I could be wrong. 
I thought artists made up the clouds with lots of fine dots/grains. But then I saw some!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rituals for Atheists (or anyone, really)

One thing I've been thinking about is if I didn't believe in God, what religious rituals would I retain? Or in other words, what does science have to say about religious rituals or values?

  • Spend time with family, get closer to family. This one seems pretty obvious. A common way to spend time with your immediate family is through family dinners, which are correlated with a lot of positive things, and have a pretty good effect on lessening depressive symptoms and helping children feel they have a stable environment. One problem with family dinner research is that it is hard to separate families who eat together from families who are middle- and upper-income brackets. This article explores the limitations of such research. There's also the BYU study about how daughters who played videogames with their parents exhibited more pro-social behavior and felt closer to their families. I like the Mormon tradition of having a night set aside to spend with families (Monday night is "family home evening"), and I think it logically follows that if you spend more time with your family, they will know each other better and feel closer to one another (whether or not your family members like being close to one another is up for debate though).
  • Gratitude. Being thankful for things in your life and for the things other people do for you is associated with feeling happy and optimistic and such. There's a time and place for cynicism, but personally I don't struggle with being a realist and I could use a dose of optimism some days. Daily prayers encourage us to be grateful, but if you don't pray, you could have some of the benefits of prayer by taking a little time each day to think about what you're grateful for.
  • Goal-setting. This isn't a religious ritual per se, but when I pray for something I feel like it's a goal I've set and I start to think of ways I can help make it happen. Of course, sometimes I pray for things I have no control over, but I think that the act of praying for something can make you more receptive to having ideas about how to help that desire.
  • Prayer. I'm not sure if you have to believe in God in order to pray. There are benefits to praying, like if you pray for your spouse or friend you are more likely to forgive them, and some people experience less pain. Maybe part of the relaxing effect of prayer is having faith that God is taking care of you, and that praying will help you in your life somehow. When I pray for someone, it motivates me to see things through their eyes and have more compassion towards them. I'm not sure what the secular equivalent to prayer would be--maybe meditation?
  • Knowing your family narrative helps adolescents have a fallback identity. In my religion family history work is part of our missionary work, since we believe that we can perform saving rituals (like baptism) on behalf of the deceased. Most people don't know very many dead people, so you start with your own family members. 
Those are a few I've thought about. I think there's probably a benefit of knowing other people who live near you (like the people you meet at church) and having adults other than family members interact with your children.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

How unfollowing everyone in my Facebook feed improved my Facebook experience

A few weeks ago I got sick of everything in my Facebook feed. Everything was vanity. First I was only going to hide articles from other sites, because I decided I wanted Facebook for people news. Then I realized I was getting a lot of updates from people I didn't care about that much. So I went through all my friends and put them in groups, and unfriended a bunch of people I barely remembered. I felt sentimental about people I had met as a child and teenager though, so I kept most of my friends from my growing-up years, even though I have little in common with them (but I put them in a separate group).

But it wasn't enough! I was still getting stupid stuff in my news feed. So I unfollowed every last person in my news feed. Sometimes it was hard to unfollow someone, but I kept reminding myself that if I really wanted to know what someone was posting, I could always visit their individual page. As I started unfollowing people, friends I didn't even know were active on Facebook started popping up in my news feed (like my aunt!). I unfollowed everyone and soon I realized that my news feed could have an end. For good measure I unfollowed everything I had liked, and I unliked almost everything. It was such a relief.

Maybe completely breaking with Facebook would be good for me, but I like hearing little updates from my friends and family in our post-blogging social media world. Dividing my Facebook friends into groups was very helpful, because now I can choose who I want to hear from. If I only want to spend a few minutes on Facebook, I click the "family" friend group. If I'm bored I can explore the other groups, but I have to make a conscious decision to continue.

This method of sorting one's feeds has its pros and cons. I don't think anything is filtered this way, so I see everything any one person in the group posts, likes, or makes friends with. In some ways I like it better, because I can be sure that I'm not just in an echo chamber where I see what I like, and I can know that I'm not just seeing the most controversial posts.  But the ordering isn't based on when the post was made; if someone comments on a post it comes back to the top again. Redundancy of posts was one of the things I hated in my original feed, and I still have no way to fix this problem (although for my friends with blogs, I don't really read your feeds much anymore, I just read your blogs). I also wish that more of my Facebook friends would stop sharing pithy quotes and photos and start telling me more about how their day was or what they are thinking about.

But on the other hand, I've enjoyed reading articles my friends have posted in the past and using them as a starting point for discussion. The majority of the posts I read on Facebook are made by 3-4 people (if you post or share to Facebook more than once a day, you know who you are), and I don't feel like I am any closer to those people than the people who don't post much, but I might have more topics ready for conversation since you are on my mind more.

I don't think I'm done with Facebook experiments--some time I want to try commenting on everything in my feed, just because. And maybe there's a browser extension that can hide all the stupid "x is friends with y and likes z" I have in my feeds now.

Friday, October 31, 2014

baby vids

There's some video of my progeny laughing over on my family photo blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

God may not be omnipotent

I've been inspired to examine my beliefs about the world and God, and I started on this process in part 1 of what may become an ongoing series. I find it frustrating to make assumptions, but as this Dinosaur comic illustrates, every one of us has to make assumptions about the veracity of our physical experiences and the reliability of our sensory input in order to try to make sense of the world and survive and stuff.

The other day I was singing "The Spirit of God," which at one point says "the knowledge and power of God are expanding." Wait. If they're expanding, that means they're not infinite! So we have an LDS hymn that basically states that God is not omniscient or even omnipotent. This makes God easier for me to understand, because otherwise, why would They put Their son through all that suffering if They could just change the rules with all Their omnipotence. God's desire to rear little souls makes more sense to me this way too, because then our experiences, when exalted, can expand the knowledge and power of God (maybe too much of a stretch?). God knows all the rules of the physical and metaphysical universe, but maybe They didn't make them, and at least can't break them. So the answer to my question of "why would God make such a ridiculous rule about the price for repenting of sin?" could be "God didn't make that rule."

There's a great speech by BYU's Dr. Paulson on the problem of evil that my sister recommended to me. In it, Paulson states:
[Joseph Smith's] revelations circumvent the theoretical problem of evil by denying the trouble-making postulate of absolute creation—and, consequently, the classical definition of divine omnipotence. Contrary to classical Christian thought, Joseph explicitly affirmed that there are entities and structures which are co-eternal with God himself. On my reading of Joseph’s discourse, these eternal entities include chaotic matter, intelligences (or what I will call primal persons), and lawlike structures or principles. According to Joseph Smith, God’s creative activity consists of bringing order out of disorder, of organizing a cosmos out of chaos—not in the production of something out of nothing.
Basically, he's saying that, according to Joseph Smith, God didn't create the world ex nihilo, but that he organized it out of existing matter (although there's still the question of where that matter came from). My husband Adam and I were talking about the limits of God's powers--there are all sorts of quotes about how God has power over all the earth and is outside of time--but there's room for interpretation in it. God knows our thoughts, God knows everything on Earth, God can make stars and planets, and "all things." But perhaps there's room for God to be "bound," not just by when we keep covenants, but in other situations like how Jesus had to suffer for all of our sins, and how God cannot look upon sin with the "least degree of allowance."