Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Emotional Posting

My previous comments about Utah and my vacation were a bit jumbled. Visiting my family in Utah does make me feel conflicted, though I think I came across in a couple of ways that weren't intended. I will try to clarify here a bit, though without specifics, it may be hard.

First of all, we have no current intention to move. My thoughts are for the long term. In a year I have an adjustable rate mortgage that will need attention; in two years I will have a variety of employment options and all of my kids in school all day; I will also have a child entering middle school. In the current economy it is hard to say if thinking ahead is helpful . . . or just frusturating. If we want to make life changes then two years from now is a great time to do it. The question is whether or not that move will be to a house down the street with a laundry room that doesn't double as a garage, or if that move will be a major life change.

Mike's late comments on the post were well-taken. Of course making a decision to stay or go doesn't mean more or different revelation won't come later. However, as I have gotten more settled in our current community, and ponder on my own growing up, I have begun to feel strongly that there are very real merits to putting down roots. And yes, the blog is still going to be titled "Nomad." A person might relieve restlessness in a lot of ways that don't involve renting a moving van. I finished Little Women; Jo ultimately started a school. Hm . . . .

Mike's comments were further noted: I agree absolutely that a righteous family can be raised anywhere. And so can an unrighteous family. I also recognize that even doing your best and being very committed as parents still won't take away kids' choices. I was misunderstood in my previous post if I seemed to be saying that all Utah Mormons are a certain way. I certainly don't believe that, and I willingly admit that I am largely a product of a small-town Utah background. I do think, however, compared to where I have been living, and feel very comfortable living, the outward trappings of success and properity in Utah are so apparent. Coming from a state with some deep economic depression to a place that changes dramatically every time I come (more businesses, homes creeping further and further up the hills . . .) is, quite truthfully, overwhelming.

And there are some very good-looking people in my parents' ward. And my parents live in an affluent area. And there are some incredibly righteous people in my parents' ward. Many of them are the same people. Many of them have had deep and difficult trials--they just don't happen to be things that show up when you are looking at their lovely faces and homes. Based on the friends I have had over the years, I can't really have any other opinion. I do apologize if I came across otherwise.

I know that if we stay in Oregon we will sacrifice some of of the loveliest things about my own childhood, but we will have other opportunities. I guess. Those things are unknown. I am not sure if it takes courage to strike out on a new path, or if I'm just avoiding the going back to Utah thing because being there makes me remember things that I have long tried to put behind me. Maybe staying away is just running.

So here is my short list of things I do really love/like about Utah. I can be reasonable.

1. The view from my mother's deck. When the air quality is good (half the time?) you can see 20 miles.

2. The radio station 101.9 The End. Nobody else has one like it. I heard new songs from bands I didn't think existed any longer.

3. The accent. It is just so funny. When I miss it I can just tune into RS or Young Women's General Conference.

4. A church on ever corner. My kids get a kick out of counting them.

5. There are just so many temples. *sigh*

6. Logan. I could do a whole post on what I love about Logan. Oh, wait, I have. What a glorious couple of days of true homecoming I had there.

7. The local high school and its unchanging rhythms--two a day football practice, early morning range, the teacher parking lot filling up before school begins next week, the red and black tee-shirts in the local grocery store.

8. Seeing people I know almost every where I go.

9. Wards and primaries chock-a-block full of people.

10. Aggie Ice Cream, turkey steaks, Creamies . . . you know, the food you can only get in Utah. Don't miss the Jell-o so much. (My sister brought "Y" shaped jigglers to the family party.)

11. Family parties following a day on Dad's boat.

All wasn't well this time. There was a degree of drama that threatened to overwhelm everyone. I was glad to be able to walk away, but feel guilty for not being there at the same time. Conflict, conflict, conflict. . . . maybe it isn't Utah. Maybe it is family. Maybe it is me.


heidikins said...

I'm really glad you wrote this follow-up post. I read the other day that Utah County has one of the highest and strongest economic growth numbers for the entire country. Salt Lake isn't far behind. I can see how you could be a bit, disconcerted to see such rapid growth here, but it should be something to be celebrated, right? Along with that growth, per capita Utah gives more to charitable causes than any other state (read in Newsweek). It seems to be a mostly decent mix, regardless of how much teeth whitener is used, right?


Cathy said...

Finally weighing in on a conversation I've been following. I'm not sure if I have a particular direction I'm trying to go with my comments but I do have a lot of thoughts.

Roots can be created wherever you live. We just spent four years in a Chicago suburb (moved there because it was where we were directed to be). Our nearest family was a long way away. Ward members became family. And they needed us a great deal, as there was a shortage of active members willing and able to receive callings. I think my husband and I both received greater leadership opportunities and training there than we would have in a larger ward.

For the past 10 months, we've been living in my husband's home town. On so many levels, this move doesn't make sense. Financially, he took a cut in pay and we incurred much more debt. We went from literally being part of the backbone of our ward to feeling superfluous at first. There's a big difference between my husband being called as YM President one week after we move into a ward versus waiting more than two months for either of us to receive callings in our current ward of huge size. My husband's parents aren't LDS and our relationship with them is...well...guarded, due to past challenges. However, just as we had a clear directive to move to Illinois, we had a clear directive to come here.

Now that I've been here a while, I can see the positives of this move more clearly. I like the strength and variety, and the cohesiveness, of this unusual small town. Yes, I miss the more working class feel of our last ward. I'm now living in the town that according to my husband has the highest number of Ph.D's per capita of anywhere in the world. But the number of very intelligent women is refreshing--and I admit to being handicapped in forming deep friendships with people unless I can mesh with them intellectually. The community's kid-friendly, the schools are awesome, the youth programs are very strong, and we're in an excellent position to put down the strongest roots I've ever had.

I agree with you about the need for children to have roots. However, roots can grow wherever one lives. I understand the need to be connected to family. My oldest sister and her family just decided against spending a couple of years in Japan because they'd spent several in Guam and the isolation from family was enough. All of her children voted for a posting in the US rather than abroad.

Cathy said...

So many choices happen in life at inconvenient times and in previously inexplicable ways. Two years ago, both my husband and I would have strongly vetoed our living where we presently are.

I find it frustrating when I don't find a map of life; find it frustrating when I can't plan the future trajectory of life; find it frustrating when I can't make and work towards choices now that have such a definite impact on my future and my family's future. But if you don't have the information and spiritual direction you need right now to choose a definite path, then part of living a peaceful life is agreeing to wait until more information/ direction is provided.

Something I love from Screwtape Letters is the portion where the aprentice demon is encouraged to have the "patient" fret as much possible about hypotheticals, deciding how he would react to various situations and being fearful of them. His tempter is to keep him from seeing that some of those hypotheticals are mutually exclusive--they couldn't all happen, he needn't react to all of them, he needn't fear them. He is to be kept from seeing that his present trial is that of uncertainty and fear because if he recognizes that he could pray for strength to deal with uncertainty and fear. As long as he keeps focusing energy on overcoming hypotheticals his energy is diverted from his present trial.

I think this may be what is meant by the Sermon on the Mount passages about taking no thought for the morrow. Usually, we have something in our lives now that needs our energy. There are choices to be made today and actions to be taken now from which our energy and ability can be diverted if we are too focused on planning for or securing our tomorrows. Further, we can sometimes be steered into incorrect paths if we try to make choices too soon, with incomplete information or lacking revelation, just because we want to choose something so much and have a definite path in which to direct our energies.

Wait patiently upon the Lord.

Yeah, that's hard for me, too.

Cathy said...

One last thought. What if you returned "home" to live and realized you still felt isolated there when not a visitor because you and the community had both changed so much? That's what my husband has been experiencing recently. Some of the things he loved are still features of the town. It's very hard though to truly come "home".

chris w said...

I know your parents have pretty people in their neighborhood, but keep in mind that I am in No Ogden regularly and there are a good number of women that still have the original Kate Gosselin -reverse mullet hairdo. ;)

I understand all your feelings. It's hard to tell where restless feelings are coming from a lot of times and what needs to be done, if anything.

Good luck on your searching. You'll end up where you need to be.

Loradona said...

If it's time for a change, just move to the Portland Metro area! There are some great wards up here, great schools, and amazing natural areas. I may be biased, however...
I just returned from an extended trip from UT myself, and the amount of growth out there is astounding. But I also started to miss Oregon's green. Sigh.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Heidikins--Since this post isn't about long term sustainable growth or Utah's shocking air quality or farmland loss, I won't go that direction, but I do want to make a comment on those outward trappings of success and the real cost of such. I worry that the youth see all of that "bling" and call it the blessing.

I'll explain. Instead of recognizing that self-control, hard work and goal setting are admirable traits/gifts for their own merits and the closeness those things can bring us to our Heavenly Father, they are seen as merely means to gaining greater wealth which in turn gives us more stuff and more beauty.

I am concerned that when Young Women see their mothers run to the spa (not as a treat but as a regular "need") or salon for whitening, bleaching, hair removal, etc. etc. then it is only one more step in the spectrum to botox and plastic surgery (telephone numbers on billboards every few miles!). Mothers are taking their girls with them at younger and younger ages for highlights, pedicures and diet plans. To increase their confidence, we say. But with so much noise and distraction from inner beauty, how can we teach young women the source of true confidence--virtue-garnished thoughts, knowledge that we are daughters of God, and feeling the Holy Ghost on a regular basis?

And I have no doubt that Utah is very good at charitable giving, that Mormons are, but I wonder how we teach our kids compassion? That writing a check is not the same as learning to love our fellow men? That true charity stems from love and not wealth?

I think for a long time I believed that God was like Santa. You act nice, tell him what you want, and then you get stuff. I think I was inadvertently raised to believe so. Too often I counted blessings materially and not spiritually. As an adult I still have to struggle to remind myself that my membership, my family, my spiritual experiences, my Plantboy, my friendships, my basic needs met are the greatest blessings any person could hope for. It is so easy to be distracted by how much is in the 401K, dreams of a bigger house, comparisons to my sister, where I wish I could vacation, etc.

Cathy--thanks for your thought-provoking comments. I think it is time to re-read Screwtape letters.

chris w said...

I feel like I need to defend Utah for a second. I realize you're not saying everyone in Utah is doing the things you described, but you also need to realize that your parents live in an area that represents a very small population of people with that lifestyle.

Are there billboards about plastic surgery? Yes. Are there women that go to spas? Yes. Do some mormons get caught up in wordly things/vanity/keeping up with the Jones'? Yes, but for the vast majority of us the idea of going to the spa or the ability to do so is so far out of our realm of reality that it's laughable. The idea of writing off a check instead of doing service fits into that category as well.

You are going to have people that are enticed by that lifestyle in any state and people that realize what is truly important. It's most likely that you wouldn't be able to afford to live in that part of town (just like most of us) so you wouldn't be surrounded by that anyway.

Frankly, I'm tired of reading on out of state mormons' blogs about how (insert bad characteristic here) Utah mormons are. They don't realize that as those criticisms come out of their mouth, in that moment, they are being just as self-righteous and judgemental as any Utah mormon ever was. They are saying, "I am better than them becase I dont do that." Well, you just did.

Don't worry, I'm not all offended, I just think this needs to be pointed out to people who continually bash the Utah culture (something I did all through college) because I live in Utah county (one of the most commonly bashed) and although there are some people with extreme views and people who judge others, I am surrounded by some of the most tolerant, loving, charitable people I have ever met.

Like I said, you are going to find those things that you worry about in any state, so your decision isn't really about where you should move, but with whom you will surround yourself.

chris w said...

I'm feeling crappy that my comment is going to come across as me snapping at you and that was not my intention (more like a tired sigh.) It wasn't even inspired so much only by this specific post or even other posts by you but rather built up from a bunch of posts/responses by lots of people. So, take it with a grain of salt and know that it comes from someone who loves and respects you.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

And out of Utah Mormons get tired of hearing in every single General Conference how evil the world is, fully recognizing that the vast majority of people we interact with are NOT LDS--school, work, neighborhoods, etc--and we find that even if these folks don't share all of our values or even our Christianity, they do have a lot in common with us. They want happy, healthy kids and safe communities. Also from someone who loves you, ChrisW, and fully recognizes that you are not a stereotype, the challenges of living outside of Utah are real and different (just as the challenges of living INside Utah are). While we strive for the same things, the realities are different, and my outsider confusion when I go to Utah is very real, even if it is unreasonable. Even if I can't properly explain it.

Every time I go to Utah I reconnect with old friends or make new ones who are like me in many ways. I know that stereotypes are unfair and unrealistic . . . but I think it goes both ways. I have trouble with the "righteous" "unrighteous" or "Babylon" "Zion" line in the sand. Aren't both at war within each of us--the flesh and the spirit? The purpose of life is to seek to be sanctified in every aspect. The best any of us can do is to strive. . . arrival won't happen for many long years to come.

Desmama said...

I like and agree with what chris w said. That's all. ;)

emandtrev said...

This is probably a topic that will always be debated. I'm glad you wrote the follow-up post too. I feel a lot of it has to do with perspective. I tend to think of myself as a 30-something woman who tries hard to be a good wife, mother, employee, neighbor, and friend. I feel like I need to be at the point in my life where I'm not focused so much on what others are doing (or how much they have--although, admittedly, it's hard NOT to notice at times--Utah or not), but how I can make my family stronger and better serve those around me.

I love Aggie Ice Cream too. Aggie Blue Mint to be specific. :)

FoxyJ said...

I grew up moving around quite a bit, with parents that were slightly dysfunctional and didn't have much money. I envy those who can go 'home', because even when I visit my parents their house doesn't feel like home and they don't live anywhere near the places that I grew up. I really wanted to buy a house and settle down somewhere to give my kids roots. Surprisingly, that place ended up being Utah.

I was nervous about the cliches and the stereotypes, but after living here for a number of years I really like this place. Neither my husband nor I grew up here, but many of his family members have moved here and so we live relatively close to my mother-in-law and near many of my kids' aunts, uncles, and cousins. They have a very different childhood than I did, and sometimes I think it's great and sometimes I find it disorienting.

I have also worried about my kids growing up here because it is so different from my upbringing. I think they will have some better experiences than I did; I didn't date in high school because there were only 3 LDS boys my age at my school and none of them wanted to date me. Here it seems that the youth are much more friendly to each other and actually spend time with each other socially. Or maybe not. I'm sure my kids are still going to face many of the issues I did too.

I've also discovered after living here for a while that Utah is very diverse. There isn't just one type of "Utah Mormon", and I think the fact that wards and stakes are very geographically compact tends to emphasize the class and culture differences that exist here (like they do in any state). My experience living in Orem sounds very different from the area where your parents live.

I have to admit that I actually like the LDS majority for some reasons. Most of my family members are inactive, and so is my husband, so having friends and neighbors that are LDS feels safe and comfortable to me. I know it's a bit of a cop-out, and I do miss things about other places that I've lived. I miss having missionaries in our ward. I get sick of and question some of the cultural ideas that get bandied around occasionally (like the idea of some sort of dichotomy between 'us' and 'the world' or the idea that material wealth reflects righteousness). I hate that kind of stuff, but I also hated other aspects of the culture in other places we've lived too, so I don't think there is any state in the US without negative aspects to it.

Now I'm rambling and I'd better stop :) I never thought I'd go from being a Utah hater to a Utah lover in my lifetime. If you want to live in a great neighborhood with down to earth people, there are a few houses near me that are for sale. I'd love to be your neighbor :)

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Em should be a diplomat.

FoxyJ should be my neighbor. :)

The reality is I may settle in Utah yet and find happiness there just a I have found it in other places. I guess moving around has made me think like FoxyJ, however--there is no perfect place for us, and no matter where our roots ultimately go there will be trade-offs.

AmyJane said...

We just got back from our annual pilgrimage to Utah/Idaho as well. I was thinking about all of this as well. I miss living in Utah and at the same time I don't. I want to move back and yet couldn't wait to get away. Trade offs are a part of life I guess.
Our visit was also fraught with more drama amongst the family than usual. I didn't like it. But maybe it's just part of the lifespan of an extended family? I don't know. But it seems I'm not alone.