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Kids Should Know the Importance of Voting

 

When my oldest child was born, my dad came into the hospital room and sat at the edge of the bed where I held my beautiful baby girl. He looked lovingly at his new grandchild and said, “You know, now that you have kids you’ll become more conservative.”

I don’t want anyone to think I am telling them how to vote. I do, however, want to let parents know how important their involvement in the political process is to their kids. I probably don’t have to tell you how lucky we are to live in a democracy and choose our leaders. As much as we appreciate it, do our kids? Have you discussed politics with them? Do you vote? Do you explain to your kids the importance of voting? I was lucky enough to have parents who instilled me with a desire to get involved politically.

Ever since I was little, my parents would explain what was going on in the world to me and my brother and what they thought about it. When it came time to vote, my younger brother and I got a lecture on the importance of voting even though we were years away from being able to do it ourselves. These speeches always ended the same way, “You don’t have the right to bitch and moan when things are bad, or take credit when things are good, if you don’t vote.”

As we got older, my parents prompted us to join in political discussions. They let us form and air our own opinions as long as they were coming from knowledge. I prepared for the dinner table because I wanted to sound intelligent and make my parents proud. When I was old enough to vote, I not only became an avid voter, I knew how to be an educated voter as well.Unfortunately for my dad, I didn’t become more conservative with age or children. Dad and I love to debate those issues and candidates on which we differ. And there are many. When the discussion turns to politics at family functions, my husband leaves the room and my mom turns off her hearing aids, but to me and dad, a good argument is the way we demonstrate our love and respect for one another. And, it’s how I let him know how much I appreciate him for molding me into a United States citizen.

Talk to your kids about politics, become involved if you’re not already, and teach them how to be educated voters, because, I know it’s cliché, but they are our future.

How to Entertain the Kids on Christmas Eve and Make Mundane Gifts Cool

My Christmas Eve tradition started when my husband and I got married. My husband had a son from a previous marriage that we would get every other year for Christmas. On the off years, we struggled to come up with a way to make Christmas special for him on Christmas Eve day. We especially wanted to make it great when we gave Jordan his first no-training-wheels bike. I came up with the idea to make a treasure hunt. Each clue would lead him to one of his smaller presents, while the last clue would lead him to the bike. He loved it, and a new tradition was born.

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 9.49.13 PMThe first treasure hunt and the birth of a tradition.

 

Fast forward a few years later when my husband and I had our daughters, Bailey in 2001 and Brooke in 2003, and they became old enough to understand that their brother received special treatment on Christmas Eve. Like most younger siblings, they needed to be a part of the action. Therefore, I decided that Christmas Eve would be about a treasure hunt, scavenger hunt, or solving puzzles for gifts. Whatever I could come up with that would keep them busy on a night where kids are so hyped for the man in red. But, I also decided that save for one gift, the presents that they received would be those that nobody really wants to get for Christmas, but the ones that they need.

 

When I was a kid, we got to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and it was always pajamas. My brother and I would open our pajamas, put them on, and then count down the excruciatingly slow minutes until bedtime. Then we would go to bed in our brand new pajamas and lay awake forever knowing that Santa was coming any minute. My brother was particularly bad about going into Mom and Dad’s room and asking if Santa had been there, and if it was time to get up yet. When I had my own young children, I began thinking about how I could make Christmas Eve not only more exciting, but more time consuming, so that I didn’t have to deal with Christmas Eve bedtime struggles. And, just maybe I could keep them content enough that I could sleep in on Christmas morning. The Christmas Eve activities became all important for this goal.

 

I raided some closets and spent $10 at a thrift store for dress-up clothes that entertained the girls for hours on Christmas Eve.

 

Since then, each year I’ve done something different. I’ve done treasure hunts with written clues. Before my girls could read, I did treasure hunts with picture clues. The presents are things like pajamas, clothes, school supplies. Save for that one final gift that is designed to occupy them on Christmas Eve. As a parent, this system allows me to get my kids what they need and still enjoy my Christmas Eve. I get to eat Christmas cookies and enjoy a few adult beverages while my kids create with a new art set, watch a movie, or play with a cheap toy. It works out well for everybody.

 

Now that they my girls are teens and my step-son an adult, it has become even more fun for me. It’s all  about scavenger hunts that make them do embarrassing things like dancing and singing, or a puzzle (like a string maze that takes them forever to unwind) that is completely impossible.

 

Each kid had a yarn color they had to find. Presents were tied at intermittent points as they wove their way around and through carsand each other. It was a masterpiece!

 

I look forward to coming up with more ideas for Christmas Eve in the years to come. I will continue doing these for my kids, their significant others, and even for grandkids someday. This year, I’m doing my take on Babushka dolls. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Idaho's Growth from a Native's Perspective

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Recently, on my Neighborhood App, a woman related the story of driving with out of state plates on her car and having a man in another vehicle roll down his window and scream, “Go home!” Then others with similar experiences shared theirs on the app. It was everything from experiences like hers to seeing signs stating that Idaho is full. I do not condone any of this, but as a fifth generation Idahoan, I do understand the frustration. I am going to attempt to explain some of the things that come to mind, but my native friends, help me out if I forget anything. My intention is not bash newcomers, but it is to provide perspective.

 

  1. It is bad form to move somewhere and immediately start telling us that we’re doing it wrong. We get really tired of hearing about how we should do things like they do in California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, or fill in any other state that people are moving here from. If things were so great there, why did you move to Idaho?

  2. We are growing faster than our infrastructure can realistically handle. I don’t think there is any state in the country that could. It would be a huge help if people moving in could help us out. Before you got here, our schools were not crowded, our housing prices were not at all time highs and our property taxes were low, our backyards were bigger and did not have three story apartment complexes or massive retail outlets butted up against them, we could get from one end of the valley to the other in 15-20 minutes, and our local and state offices were not swamped. None of us like to pay more in taxes or fees, but something has to give. facebook house  

  3. Please don’t assume because I’m a native Idahoan that I am a Republican.  Believe it or not, Idaho used to have checks and balances in our state government. I grew up knowing Cecil Andrus as my Governor. He is widely considered as one of the best we’ve had. If you’ve experienced Idaho at all, then you’ve been in the areas that Frank Church protected when he was in Congress. Of course, there were many others, but the point is, not all Idahoans are Republicans. As a teacher, I meet many people moving in from out of state, and it’s always a difficult conversation when assumptions are made about my political affiliations and beliefs. And just to add, I'm not a Mormon, Redneck, or NRA member, but I am educated, well-traveled, and I come from a hunting family who believes in gun control. In short, you know what they say about assuming.

  4. Just because you own a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive does not mean you can drive on icy roads. Slow down and know that regardless of your vehicle, driving on snowy or icy roads is different and requires skill and patience.

 

I realize I am not talking to all the people moving in to our state, just like it is not all Idahoans who are driving around screaming at people or putting signs in their windows. Moving to a new place is hard, and dealing with change in a place that you’ve spent your entire life in is hard too. Perhaps if both sides were just a little more understanding, we could grow the perfect place to live together.   

Related blogs: Lord Help Us, We Need a New House

Kids Should Know the Importance of Voting

 

When my oldest child was born, my dad came into the hospital room and sat at the edge of the bed where I held my beautiful baby girl. He looked lovingly at his new grandchild and said, “You know, now that you have kids you’ll become more conservative.”

I don’t want anyone to think I am telling them how to vote. I do, however, want to let parents know how important their involvement in the political process is to their kids. I probably don’t have to tell you how lucky we are to live in a democracy and choose our leaders. As much as we appreciate it, do our kids? Have you discussed politics with them? Do you vote? Do you explain to your kids the importance of voting? I was lucky enough to have parents who instilled me with a desire to get involved politically.

Ever since I was little, my parents would explain what was going on in the world to me and my brother and what they thought about it. When it came time to vote, my younger brother and I got a lecture on the importance of voting even though we were years away from being able to do it ourselves. These speeches always ended the same way, “You don’t have the right to bitch and moan when things are bad, or take credit when things are good, if you don’t vote.”

As we got older, my parents prompted us to join in political discussions. They let us form and air our own opinions as long as they were coming from knowledge. I prepared for the dinner table because I wanted to sound intelligent and make my parents proud. When I was old enough to vote, I not only became an avid voter, I knew how to be an educated voter as well.Unfortunately for my dad, I didn’t become more conservative with age or children. Dad and I love to debate those issues and candidates on which we differ. And there are many. When the discussion turns to politics at family functions, my husband leaves the room and my mom turns off her hearing aids, but to me and dad, a good argument is the way we demonstrate our love and respect for one another. And, it’s how I let him know how much I appreciate him for molding me into a United States citizen.

Talk to your kids about politics, become involved if you’re not already, and teach them how to be educated voters, because, I know it’s cliché, but they are our future.

The Reasons Why Women Don't Report

reporting

I did not watch Dr. Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh hearings, nor have I read more than blurbs on social media written by strongly opinionated people on both sides of the issue. What I do know, from experience, is that the validity of Dr. Ford’s story cannot be based on the fact that she did not report thirty years ago.

 

My abuse from an uncle began when I was twelve and continued until I was sixteen. I am now forty-six. Dr. Ford and I have the 80’s in common. I have still never reported my abuse to the authorities, but like Dr. Ford, I did decide to tell my story to possibly help other women who have been through, or are going through, similar experiences. Luckily for me, I don’t have to testify at a confirmation hearing, and my life is not being threatened. Although not everyone in my life is happy about the release of my book, A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage, my existence is largely unchanged.  

 

As a teen in the 80’s, I belonged to a conservative Mormon culture in a tiny Idaho town, but in the 80’s, there were a lot of conservative cultures, and women were not encouraged to speak about things like sexual assault or abuse. Going to the authorities did not cross my mind, just as I’m sure it didn’t for most victims at that time. We knew it felt terribly wrong personally, but we could not be sure that if we came forward that we would be protected, believed, or if we would be punished because it would be somehow our fault. I recalled the following memory in my book:

I know you don’t start dating until you are sixteen, but you need to decide now to be young women of value,” said Sister Pigg, my Sunday School teacher. She held a white rose in her pudgy hand as she spoke. “Do not tempt our young men, our priesthood holders, from the straight and narrow.” She pointed her rose at each one of us as she said, “You must save yourself for marriage because your purity is the most important thing you bring to an eternal union. The temple is not for the immoral, and the gospel tells us the Holy Ghost does not communicate with those who are im-” Sister Pigg drew her rose back behind her ear. “pure.” She flicked it forward with such flourish that the snowy white bloom flew off its stem and fell to the burnt orange and gray-green industrial carpet. (pg. 105)

We were a generation of women who did not know Anita Hill yet, had heard time and time again that ‘boys would be boys’, and knew there was a limit to what we could do or be.

 

We not only felt insecure in our world, but often in our relationships with other women, even other women in our family. Although I never reported to authorities, I did tell my aunt at age twenty-two what her husband had done to me because she had also been abused by him. He had gotten at least two of his young, innocent secretaries pregnant. And, we had no idea how many other victims there had been. My friends, Jeanne and Bert, convinced me on a backpacking trip through Europe to tell my aunt what had happened to me in hopes that she would leave him for good. She did divorce him, and she paid for my counseling, but she also asked me not to report.

    “Who else have you told? Have you gone to the authorities? Do you plan to?”     “Uh, I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. Jeanne and Bert are the only people who know besides you.”     “I want you to do something for me. Don’t prosecute Ray. He would be disbarred and if he’s disbarred, he can’t support the boys. I know you must hate him but promise me you won’t go to the authorities.”     I would do whatever Steph asked me to. Besides, I still believed bad people got what was coming to them one way or another. “Okay.”

I don’t blame my aunt. She was in the same culture I was, and she was trying to protect her kids. My uncle has not really ever gotten what was coming to him. He was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for a total of six months. My aunt was told that he called everyone he had hurt, and they had forgiven him. I never received a phone call, but I did receive a message very loud and clear. A man’s way of life, his integrity, his future, is to be protected, while a woman’s is not nearly as valuable, perhaps even expendable.  

 

In hindsight, I wished I had reported, but there is nothing I can do about that now. What I can do, is tell my truth and possibly influence someone to stand up for themselves and other victims. It would be a travesty if Dr. Ford, myself, or any other victim, is labeled a liar because they did not report at the time of the incident. For many of us, we had to process the events and heal, we had to wait to feel supported, and  we needed to gain the courage that only maturity and experience can bring before we can tell a very difficult part of our life story.

Related blogs: Writing a Memoir Can Come with a Cost

Writing a Memoir Can Come with a Cost

Memoir Cost

I spent over twenty years writing my memoir,  A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage . The book is about my trip through Europe with my boisterous, silly, and hilarious friends, Jeanne and Bert. It is also about the journey that propelled us into confronting the baggage we carried including grief, sexuality, and for me, the abuses of an uncle and a powerful, patriarchal religion. Like many memoirists, I want my story to help other women who have been in similar situations, or help them avoid those situations altogether. Despite full disclosure about the book and my desire to publish, my memoir is coming at a cost I did not anticipate.

 

I published this book for a time in 2013, but pulled it because I didn’t think my aunt (the woman who was married to my abuser) was ready, and I knew I hadn’t been as upfront with her about my plans as I should have. In 2017, I decided I was ready to try it again. I did my due diligence with my aunt and let her know of my plan to publish, and I sent her the manuscript nine months before my proposed publish date. She told me she hoped that writing the story would be therapeutic for me and said she was happy that I was writing it, but she didn’t know if she could read it herself. I thought all was well.

 

My aunt’s support ended when I revealed the July publish date during a family gathering for Memorial Day. I’m not sure if she thought I wouldn’t really publish, or how the friend she had read my book and “tell her what was in it” presented it to her, but she freaked. She called me a liar, selfish, self-centered, a “little girl”, and a shit. My aunt has disowned me, threatened that her boys are “coming after me”, her ex-husband should sue me, and that my “story doesn’t matter because hers is so much bigger than mine will ever be.” Luckily for me, the rest of my family is incredibly supportive and are as confused about my aunt’s reaction as I am.

 

Was I prepared for this? Not at all. Is it still worth it to publish this book? Absolutely! Perhaps even more now because I realize that I have been protecting my aunt since I was twelve years old. I cannot do that anymore. It is not good for me, and it is not good for her. She needs to deal with her story and come clean with her sons. And, A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage is not just about me. Jeanne and Bert’s stories should be told as well, and I am honored that they are allowing me to do that.

 

My best advice for anyone looking to publish their story is this:

 

  • If you are publishing to make money, don’t. Few memoirs make money. Of those few that do, they are usually written by someone who is already well known. It has to be about something bigger.

  • Be transparent with everyone involved. That includes not just the people who are in your story, but family and friends who are close to you.

  • Know the legalities of writing a memoir. Change the names to protect the innocent and the guilty. Talk to an attorney who works with authors. Publish with someone who has liability insurance, or purchase this insurance yourself. Just because you can win a lawsuit doesn’t mean you have the money to fight one.  

  • Remember it is your story, and if you want to tell it, that is your right, but also know there may be consequences.

 

DIY Washer and Dryer Platform

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My family's washer recently crapped out after twelve years of worthy service. We are a tall family, so we thought that this would be a great opportunity to save our backs and purchase washer and dryer pedestals. We did not realize these pedestals would cost $250 each. After muttering a "Hell's Friday!" I decided to build a platform myself. It's really pretty easy, especially because we didn't care about using it for storage. And, it saved a bunch of money. 

Step 1: Measure the appliances and the area, including height, where you want your platform to be. As you can see, my laundry room is small. My platform would be 59" x 30", and I could safely do a height of 12 inches.

Step 2: Build a sturdy frame that will support the weight of your washer and dryer. I used 2x12s and 3" deck screws. 

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Step 3: Cut the top for your platform from 3/4" plywood. I bought sanded plywood so I could prime and paint easily later. I attached the top with 2" deck screws. 

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Step 4: Add whatever you would like to the front to give it interest. I decided on corner molding, and I happened to find a piece of panelling in the clearance area at Home Depot. The cashier decided that nobody on earth would want this little beat up piece of panelling except me so she gave it to me for free. It was really quick to attach the panelling and corners with glue and finishing nails.

Step 5: Prime and paint. That's it! The only thing left is getting your washer and dryer onto your platform. I recommend purchasing delivery with your appliances or having strong friends who can be bribed with beer. 

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The cost to build the platform was about $100. Definitely cheaper than the boring metal pedestals. Of course, spending time at Home Depot on a weekday morning when the customers are other teachers off for summer break or retirees who love to hear about your project, and using your hands to build something useful, are priceless side effects.

 

Related Content: Your Peace is in Your Hands

 

Lord Help Us, We Need a New House

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The Boise area is the number one fastest growing area in the United States. So, of course, that’s where we are and where the Withers family needs a new house for reasons that should be obvious (to anyone who knows me anyway) from the picture. Despite my aversion to having complete strangers looking down into my backyard, I have been assured that my house will sell quickly because of the market we are in. The problem, however, is finding a house. In my head, picking my new dream home should go much differently.

 

I think it is only fair to reward those of us who have actually lived in Idaho the longest. Therefore, because I am fifth or sixth generation (I lose track) Idahoan, I think I should get preferential treatment in the house hunt. The way things are, new builders will not do any contingency offers, but in my world, they would say, “Oh, you are a real Idahoan? Well, then that changes everything. Not only will we take a contingency offer, but you also get the Real Idahoan Discount. Welcome home, and thank you for having ancestors that homesteaded in this great state.”

 

If only things were as just as they are in my imagination. This is nothing like it really is, so send your positive thoughts into the universe because this Idahoan needs a new house!

Just Because They're Being a S**thill Doesn't Mean You Have To

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The school shooting in Florida really threw me for a loop. So much so that I took a break from blogging and social media for a while. It's very upsetting as a teacher to see a school shooting happen, again. Even worse, however, are the idiots who come out of the woodwork to add their two cents on social media. There was so much ignorance and malice. My initial reaction was to tell them how wrong they were, to put them in their place with my wise, witty words about what education, educators, and even society really needs. I burned through paper writing rough drafts that would cleanse the internet of ignorance. But then I heard that voice telling me how things really should be handled. 

It's not my conscience. It's Gram. She said to me just like she'd done many times in the past, "Jennie Gal, just because they're being shithills doesn't mean you have to." 

And just like that, I knew that writing the most eloquent, persuasive, manifesto on our broken down, stupid system would only be adding my shit to the pile. It wouldn't change anything. I stepped away from the shithill. That doesn't mean I'm not going to fight for the safety of students. It just means that I'm finding better, more powerful and intelligent ways to affect change. Thanks Gram.  

What if We Ran Our Lives Like the US Government?

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I admit there are times in my life when I’m not getting my way that I would really love to just shut down like a toddler in the midst of a tantrum. Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, that’s not reality for anyone except our government. And, by the way, I blame all of them, not just a person, not just a party. Reality for most, if not all, of us is that we must compromise, we must figure out a way to make things work. However, one cannot help but think what would happen if we could just shut it down. For example, I have something right now that I would love to just say, “Despite the negative effects, we can’t agree, so I’m shutting it down.”

 

I create a menu and grocery shop for two weeks at a time. This menu and my grocery shopping are often a source of disagreement in my family. First, there’s deciding what to put on the menu. It seems that everybody hates something and doesn’t want it on there. I hate to cook, so shutting this down seems like a pretty good idea. Sorry kids, no dinner, we are on shut down.

 

Then there’s the grocery list. If it’s not on my list, I don’t buy it. I cannot read minds, so if my kids decide they would really like some Goldfish to snack on, that should have been on the list. If those flavor blasted crackers are not on my list, then guess what? There’s no Goldfish in the pantry. This type of absence usually leads to loud whining about there being no food in our house. Let’s shut this down. There will be no grocery shopping until it works my way.

This sounds awesome for a bit. Then my rational, adult brain kicks in. I want my family to have dinner together every night. This is the one time I can count on to find out what’s going on in my teenagers’ lives. And I want my kids to eat healthy. Running to a fast food place for their meals and snacks is not good for them or the budget. So, damn’t, we have to talk about our issues. We will probably all have to compromise, and that will be hard. There may be yelling, probably even swearing, but we’ll get it done. And, bonus, my kids will have learned something about compromise.

Let’s face it, we’ve made it easy for our politicians to act like toddlers. We have a culture where there’s winners and losers. When that’s the culture, then guess what, there’s no meeting in the middle, there’s no give and take, there’s no compromise. We cease to be a Democracy. We become a Dictatorship because it’s winner takes all. So, to our government, would you just put on your big boy/girl pants and do something?