17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't Come to Me for Holiday Cheer

I have to admit to being in a bit of a funk this holiday season. It started out so well....after Thanksgiving we decorated the house, listened to some great Christmas music and I even finished most of my shopping early. But recent news stories and the general state of our world has really gotten me down this holiday season.

- This story about the Kim family's misfortunes driving home to California after their Thanksgiving holiday really affected me. Oregon is home for me. I am familiar with the area where they were stranded. I am the same age as Katy, the wife and mother, and we also have two small children.

When Katy and the children were found after a week in their car, it seemed to be a miracle in the making. Just a couple of days later, James' (the husband and father) body was found after he walked 16 miles through deep ravines before succombing to hypothermia. Apparently, if he would have walked the opposite direction, he would have run smack into a hunting lodge. It was later discovered that the road where the family was stranded should have been gated and locked for the winter, but a vandal had cut the lock and opened the road. Every time I think about what the family went through, I tear up. Even my mother, who has more faith than anyone I know, told me over the phone, "It's hard to understand why this happened..."

- The daily headlines of deaths in Iraq are just too much.
Yesterday, I awoke to my morning Washington Post with a picture of an Iraqi woman feeding her baby with absolute terror in her eyes. Her home had just been burned to the ground and she was out amidst the anarchy in the streets in Iraq, probably trying to figure out what to do next.

It is especially difficult for me to know that the policies of my own country are at least partially responsible for the current problems in Iraq (not trying to turn this into a political debate, just trying to explain why it is so difficult for me to read these headlines day after day).

- And, of course, there are the autrocities in Darfur. I don't pretend to completely understand the politics behind the violence, but I wish it would end! Unfortunately, the recent media and celebrity attention doesn't seem to be helping much yet.

There are always horrible things going on in the world and the rest of the year I deal with this reality. It seems to be harder during the holiday season. Maybe because we are supposed to be joyous and the dichotomy between my priveleged life and the rest of the world is just too great. Maybe it is my middle class white guilt kicking in, all the more apparent as I look at my Christmas tree overflowing with presents and my kitchen cabinets full of food. Or maybe it is the general stress this time of year tends to bring.

Does anyone else have these I-can't-believe-I-bore-children-into-this-world moments? What do you do when you are feeling this way?

Some suggestions I have already heard:

-Stop reading the newspaper. I don't like this advice. I don't want to be ignorant. Plus, we are a newspaper family (DH is a journalist), so it doesn't work for me. And, no, I don't have CNN on at my house 24/7 like my 75 year old grandmother.

-Pray.I like this advice more. I have definitely been blessed by other's prayers.....but isn't there anything MORE we can do?

-Find ways to act. I ALWAYS love this advice. I would love to hear your great examples of service stemming from tragedy.


  • There's a great song by Everything But The Girl called "The Night I Heard Caruso Sing." It talks about not wanting to have children because the world is so messed up:

    "I've thought of having children, but I've gone and changed my mind.
    It's hard enough to watch the news, let alone explain it to a child,
    to cast your eye cross nature, over fields of rape and corn,
    and tell him without flinching not to fear where he's been born."

    But then comes the hope:

    "Then someone sat me down last night, and I heard Caruso sing.
    He's almost as good as Presley, and if I only do one thing,
    I'll sing songs to my father, I'll sing songs to my child..."

    Concentrate on the good. Pray for inspiration to know what you can do for those around you. You can't save the world, but you can be a good influence on those nearby.
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 12/15/2006 07:38:00 AM  

  • For me, the Christmas season is filled with hope, which makes the state of the world seem much more bearable than any other time of the year. It is a time where people are focused on the gift of the Savior and on giving and helping. During Christmas, money rolls into charity organizations and shelter shelves are overflowing with food and goods. These images remind me that there is good in the world and people are still helping people even when there are huge tragedies that seem so out of my control.

    I agree with Susan, doing small things to make the world better around me and doing what I can to help out with the big tragedies, brings me hope and helps me to focus on the good instead of all the bad.

    I do admit to feeling overwhelmed sometimes with all the good causes that are out there. It's hard to know where to start.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 12/15/2006 08:10:00 AM  

  • Jen, I feel the same way. We live in the Bay Area and I was so wrapped up in the Kim story. I was elated when they found the mom and girls and devestated when James was found dead. DH and me are the same age as the parents and we too take long drives through the snow from San Fran to SLC - it hit too close to home. I've even been to one of their stores in the city. I felt a little better by emailing the family and telling them how much they've been in our thoughts and prayers - I imagine they are getting a lot of notes/emails like that.

    I have learned to edit what I read/watch in the news because I know that I'm not strong enough to handle certain stories - it's too overwhelming.

    I pray to find opportunities to serve in whatever capacity is needed. This ALWAYS works - there are millions of ways to serve, we just need to be willing. This year and last we worked with an organization here in the Bay Area called the Family Giving Tree (http://www.familygivingtree.org/) and this has been great for our family. This year my kids helped and it was a good teaching experience. Carrie, I went to the Kim site and volunteered Spongy Feet to be a part of the auction - thanks for posting this - I had no idea it existed!

    It is overwhelming how much tragedy and violence there is in the world. I believe that Satan uses this overwhelming feeling to bring us down and make us think there is no hope. Try to focus on the positives, the blessings in your life because all of these things come from Heavenly Father and it's good to remember that.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 12/15/2006 08:46:00 AM  

  • Jen, I had that moment on Sept. 11th when I sat there pregnant watching CNN. It was such a hopeless and devestating feeling.

    I am optimistic though, and hopeful and I would like to think positive. And if there is anything I am consciously teaching my daughters, it is that they can inspire hope and love in others.

    I am constantly talking to my 4-y-old about being a leader in her school, and making friends with everyone. I am trying to teach her to look for ways to include kids that don't seem to be fitting in.

    I am trying to teach her that it is ok to stand for something, and that she can love and accept others even if they don't have the same values. And even though she is young, she gets it, and she is making a difference.

    I see the kids in the school yard all wanting to say goodbye to her at the end of the school day, and I know that her one little person self is changing the dynamic in that classroom b/c she has the hope of an innocent child, and she carries that with her.

    Now my second daughter....she is going to be harder to tame, and teach and instill things in....and so I pray even more for her. And isn't it great that we know there is a God and that we can pray to Him? If not, think of how utterly hopeless our lives would be.

    Hang in there...funks have their purpose too.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/15/2006 09:33:00 AM  

  • This may sound ignorant, but I usually just glance through the newspaper, and I don't watch the news. Ever. Especially if it has to do with crimes against children. I just can't handle it...especially in my pregnant-emotional state. I do stay on top of keeping my children safe and know where the sex offenders live in my neighborhood, but I try not to dwell on it --it's just too negative.

    Ways we have tried to help out the world:
    --Vote. Seems so simple, yet really matters.
    --Pay a full tithe, generous fast offering, and when we can, contribute to the humanitarian fund, because honestly, the money helps out everywhere.
    --Donate, donate, donate. Whether it's to DI or MS, an eagle project, or a food drive, we know we can help, and the kids learn to help, too.
    --Focusing on the simple and wonderful things in our lives (like our children)--and being grateful EVERY DAY that we live where we live and are who we are. Gratitude makes us humble, and humility makes us kind.

    I hope the Christmas Spirit will find you again soon!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 12/15/2006 09:37:00 AM  

  • I also cling to quotes like this:

    A few weeks ago our youngest son and his wife and family stopped to see us. The first one out of the car was our two-year-old grandson. He came running to me with his arms outstretched, shouting, “Gwampa! Gwampa! Gwampa!”

    He hugged my legs, and I looked down at that smiling face and those big, innocent eyes and thought, “What kind of a world awaits him?”

    For a moment I had that feeling of anxiety, that fear of the future that so many parents express to us. Everywhere we go fathers and mothers worry about the future of their children in this very troubled world.

    But then a feeling of assurance came over me. My fear of the future faded.

    That guiding, comforting Spirit, with which we in the Church are so familiar, brought to my remembrance what I already knew. The fear of the future was gone. That bright-eyed, little two-year-old can have a good life—a very good life—and so can his children and his grandchildren, even though they will live in a world where there is much of wickedness.

    They will see many events transpire in the course of their lifetime. Some of these shall tax their courage and extend their faith. But if they seek prayerfully for help and guidance, they shall be given power over adverse things. Such trials shall not be permitted to stand in the way of their progress, but instead shall act as stepping-stones to greater knowledge.

    Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Ensign, May 2004, 77

    I take comfort in the fact that even a prophet of God has those UGH moments. But he then reminds us why we don't need to fear and can hope.

    Think also of Pres. Hinckley's address for the Christmas devotional. The Reason for the Season brings hope in spite of all the horrible things happening around us. If anything, that makes Christmas that much more meaningful to me. "Peace on earth good will toward men" WILL come through Him. :) We just have to endure this last days part of things.
    posted by Anonymous m&m at 12/15/2006 12:38:00 PM  

  • I feel your frustration as well! But I translate those feelings differently.

    For me, when I get frustrated with how crappy the world seems, it actually makes me WANT to have children. Because my mother taught me that if we, as Latter Day Saints, don't take the blessings of our lives, and raise a new genereation to become something great, who will? We have a truly solemn responsibility to teach our children well so that when their generation of people are struggling, there WILL be someone out there who has strength, and the ability to show that there is a better way to live.

    Hopefully our children can through their lives be lights of example and action to others who need it!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 12/15/2006 06:08:00 PM  

  • I am right there with you Jen. We went to the Festival of Trees this year and it was great. Then as I walked through the gorgeously decorated trees and saw cute pictures of children, babies, and teenagers I started getting a sick feeling. I didn't realize the trees were donated on behalf of people who had passed away. There were so many little children and babies and I looked at my own healthy baby and couldn't help but tear up. What? In the background was cheery Christmas music, a jolly Santa and yummy hot chocolate stands. It was such a mismatch for me.
    Anyway, I like Carries advice. This is the season of hope. It's true that so so many people are doing so much good throughout the world, especially at this time of year. In the back of the newspapers, or floating around on the internet are the beautiful stories of people who are serving each other and loving each other.
    In the First Presidency Christmas Broadcast, President Monson (I think) talked about doing annonymous service - that would definitely help.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 12/15/2006 09:38:00 PM  

  • i just finished watching "an inconvenient truth" and i have that sick feeling right now. i don't have kids yet but it made me seriously rethink whether i want children or not. maybe this isn't the best way to promote the movie, but i recommend everyone rent it.
    posted by Anonymous brenbot at 12/15/2006 11:12:00 PM  

  • Dont watch "Who Killed the Electric Car" or "Road to Guantanamo" it will just make you feel worse.

    Im glad someone else is feeling what I am right now, thanks for the post.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 12/18/2006 02:54:00 PM  

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