Diligent in Citizenship

Searching for a Just Man

At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 the United States experienced one of the most polarizing political debates of my lifetime. The question was should the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) be passed or not? More than once I shared my opinion on Facebook, and more than once I had people belittle me. What could have been polite discussion or even lively debate quickly devolved into name-calling argument. It turned me off to the idea of getting involved in the political process.

Here we are, almost 7 years later, and once again the political world occupies a majority of news and discussion. This time, it’s a Presidential race that occupies most minds and it’s been even more heated and divisive than Obamacare was. For my part I’ve done my best to participate in the process by casting my vote, but I’ve tried to avoid most discussion about politics with other people.

As much as I would love to remain a silent observer, I don’t feel like I can any more. I’m still not interested in discussion about the merits of one candidate or another and will not be commenting on any of them in any way. Instead, let me share some of my thoughts and beliefs on the process itself.

Why I’m writing this post

I believe that God speaks to us through the Holy Ghost. Often we are prompted to do or say things without fully understanding why. This is one of those moments. I can’t say why I was led to share the things I am going to share, but I know that the prompting came from God. Because of that, I pray that I will be guided to include the words that need to be included for whatever benefit they are intended to have.

From the Scriptures

Mosiah was both a religious leader and a king in the Book of Mormon. After his sons all declined to become king he sent out a proclamation to his people outlining a system where they would be led by judges. He told the people that “if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, … if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.” He reminded the people of the destruction that can come from having a wicked king. He encouraged the people to choose liberty.

Today

It often feels like we are part of a never-ending political cycle where a person is elected and then we spend the entire time they are in office analyzing what they do, comparing it to how everyone else who wants the position says they would have handled it. As they reach the end of their term it doesn’t matter how much good they accomplished, because any opponents will pull out even the tiniest of bad things they did to prove why they are unfit to remain in that position. Campaigns seem to be fueled on attacking the character of other candidates as well as their political positions. As we get closer to an election the bid for attention from candidates becomes more desperate and you we are inundated with emails, social media posts, phone calls, news stories, flyers in the mail, and any other method a candidate can find to try and convince us to vote for them. We elect a new leader (or return the old one to office) and the process starts all over again.

While we go through this cycle we run across all sorts of people who want to be our political leaders. Some are what Mosiah would consider just men, but I frequently get the impression that a large portion of them are not. I do my best to spend time researching the candidates and then praying about who to vote for. In past elections I have felt a strong distrust for certain candidates that I can only attribute to the Holy Ghost witnessing to me that they are not just men. I have also felt a strong support for a few rare candidates that I feel was a witness of their character. Right now, I am definitely feeling a lot of distrust. I have listened to interviews where a candidate would say all the right things, where I would actually agree with most if not all of the points that they made, but I was still left with that pit in my stomach feeling that tells me this is not a good person. The candidate I felt was the best option is no longer in the race, and I’m not feeling good about voting for any remaining candidates.

My Plan

So, here I am, knowing that it is important to vote and participate in this process, but not having any idea who I should vote for. I will continue to pray about who the best candidate is. I will continue to research the candidates and their positions on a variety of topics. And, if it comes right down to it and I can’t support any of the candidates on the ballot, I will leave that section blank. I will not choose from the lesser of two evils, and I will not choose someone based on their ability to win.

While I will not actively participate in discussions/debates/arguments that revolve around political issues and candidates, I will continue to encourage people to participate in the process. If there is an issue or candidate that you feel strongly about, then by all means advocate for your side. If you are unsure where you stand on an issue, then do some research about the pros and cons of all sides so you can make a decision informed by more than the opinions of your peers. When it comes time to vote, choose the best candidate for the job.

And, last of all, I will participate in the process myself.

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When Neighbors Bless Your Life

DeflatedYesterday, Mike and I had an 8:30 am appointment to get to. At 8:02 am I sent my kids outside to get in the car. As soon as I stepped out onto the front porch myself a minute later I noticed a small problem. There was no way we were going anywhere with a completely flat tire on our one and only vehicle.

We were both stressed out. This was an appointment that we absolutely could not miss. Mike checked the spare, and of course it was flat too. I called the people we had the appointment with and let them know we would be late then started making calls to see if I could find someone who could give me a ride. We figured even if we couldn’t both get there like we intended that it was important to get at least one of us there. I found someone who could drop me off there and then Mike would come get me after he got the tire situated.

So, while I was off dealing with our appointment, Mike was working with another neighbor to get the tire fixed. They got the flat tire off and then the neighbor dropped him and the tire off at BigO to get repaired. The neighbor was going to come pick him back up after finishing running an errand. Meanwhile, Mike realizes that I’ve taken all of the cash with me, so he can’t pay for the repair. We prefer to use cash when we can and keep very little money in our bank account. He tried to call me to see if there would be enough in the bank account to cover it and the people at Big O told him not to worry about it. It probably helps that this is the 4th time we’ve been in there for a similar problem just in the last year. We seem to have a knack for picking up large bolts and nails and stuff in our tires. After waiting for his ride home for a while he was just deciding to walk home and the owners said they didn’t want him to have to walk home carrying a tire and had one of their guys give him a ride home. Super brownie points awarded to BigO for their amazing customer service. Come to find out, the 15 minute errand the neighbor was running turned into almost an hour and that’s why he hadn’t been able to come pick up Mike when he thought he would.

So, Mike gets the new tire on, gathers up the kids again, gets them in the car, and comes to get me. On the way home we saw a person stalled in the middle of an intersection and trying to push their car out of the way by themselves. After as much help as we had gotten that morning there was no way we could just continue our drive without paying it forward a little bit. Mike pulled into the nearest parking lot and helped the guy get his car out of the way of traffic. We grabbed some lunch (neither Mike or I had anything to eat yet) and headed home.

Later in the day the wife of the neighbor who gave me a ride came over and brought some soup. Her husband told her that we had a rough start to the day and she wanted to check on us and make sure that we were doing better. Another friend came and picked up the big girls to go swimming and they had a blast. It was a rough start to the day to be sure, but with a little help from our neighbors everything worked out just the way it needed to.

Big Girls in SnowI got thinking back to about 2.5 years ago when we were looking for a house to rent. Like many families on 1 income we had a very strict budget for rent and we were having a hard time finding a house that would be affordable and met our needs. It didn’t help that Mike and I were living in different cities at the time either. He was staying with my grandpa and working while I was staying with my mom and dad taking care of the kids. I was checking listings daily for new houses that might work, forwarding the listings to him to check out, and more than once by the time he was able to get back to me, even a few hours later, they would already have it rented out. I kept praying that when we found the right house for us things would go smoothly.

I found the listing for this house almost as soon as it had been listed. The price was right, the size was not perfect, but would be doable, and unlike many of the other listings we had looked at it actually had a yard. Calls were made, he arranged to see it in person, and within a couple of days we were sending a deposit and getting the lease signed. We had found our new home.

Time and time again since we’ve been in this house we have been reminded that this is where we needed to be. We’ve met great people and been shown an amazing amount of support. I didn’t always recognize what a blessing it was. There is a good portion of that time that I was focused on this city not being the city where I wanted to live. I didn’t recognize the blessings I was being given. I’ve only recently come to realize just what my mindset was doing to me. I’ve been trying to spend more time truly appreciating what I have and as I’ve taken the time to look back I’ve become more grateful for all of the small blessings I didn’t even realize I was getting.

Yes, there’s still a part of me that longs to move somewhere else, to find a new way to support our family, to become more of what I feel the potential to become. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy this journey and do my best to really appreciate the great neighborhood I am in right now.

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Pioneer Day – #TYSKT

Pioneer Day - #TYSKTToday is Pioneer Day, an official state holiday in Utah. On this day we celebrate the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers to reach the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Communities and families around the state celebrate with parades, bar-be-cues, rodeos, pot-lucks, fireworks, and anything else that brings family and friends together.

Pioneer Day is also a special occasion for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. It’s a time to remember the faith and dedication of pioneers who crossed the US plains as well as those who have been pioneers in later generations in their own families or other countries.

We also remember those who helped settle Utah during the pioneer days that were not of the LDS faith. There are celebrations dedicated to preserving the heritage and memory of the native americans from this area. The ultimate goal is to help remember the history of our state.

All-in-all, it can be a pretty fun day to celebrate where we came from as individuals and as a state. Our family doesn’t have any specific traditions for the day. We just sit back, relax, and enjoy the time we have to spend together.

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Recognizing a Job Well Done – #TYSKT

Today is my oldest daughter’s 12th birthday and she is off at Girls Camp with our church. So, I’ll write more about her when she gets back on Saturday and I can snap some pics. Today you get a story of a company that did things right.

Yesterday Mike and I went to Smith’s to pick up a couple things for dinner. One of the items on our list was sliced cheese to put on our meatball subs. We went back and forth between the deli counter and dairy case deciding what would be the best deal for the type of cheese we wanted, chose the stuff at the deli, grabbed the other things we needed, and then checked out and went home for dinner.

Imagine our surprise when Mike was making himself a second helping and noticed the price on the tag was nearly 3 times what we should have paid. We looked closer and the item description wasn’t even close to what we had actually purchased. It’s a problem we have never had before and we weren’t sure what to do. Can you return deli products after you’ve already eaten half of it? It wasn’t really our fault the tag was printed wrong, but is it something we should have checked before leaving the store?

I went ahead and called Smith’s, explained what happened, and Robert, the very helpful person on the other end of the phone, was very apologetic and said to come in and they would refund the full price we paid. He noticed that my Caller ID came up in a different city and was prepared to call a store closer to me to fix the problem if I hadn’t been able to make it back to that store. He also made sure the customer service desk and the other manager on duty knew we were coming and what he said they would do so we shouldn’t have any more problems. As soon as I got there I mentioned to the Customer Service person that I had spoken to Robert on the phone and she said, “Are you here for the cheese? Let me get that taken care of for you.” She scanned barcodes on the receipt and the cheese, had me swipe my card for the refund to get credited, and sign the receipt they keep as verification. The whole thing took less than a minute.

So many times you read about the negative experiences that people have, I wanted to make sure that I acknowledged Smith’s for making what could have been a really disappointing experience into a really good one. Your store at 845 E 4500 S in Salt Lake City, UT has been an exceptional example of great customer service every time we have gone in. Everyone is friendly, ready to help, and you have a great way of making things right in the rare occasions something does go wrong. Thanks for all you do!

So, your Things You Should Know Thursday lesson this week is:

  1. Smith’s has excellent customer service.
  2. Be sure to appreciate the good things that happen to you and don’t just complain about the bad.
  3. Check your deli labels before you leave the deli counter.

Have you had any particularly good customer service experiences lately?

P.S. – The meatball subs were delicious.

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Home School Answers – Who do you report to?

[Originally posted at The Princess Momma Chronicles on Aug 20, 2010.]

This question sometimes also looks like this:

Do you have to participate in standardized tests?

What are you required to teach?

What standards are you held to by higher levels or state guidelines?

Does the state really allow that?

I think that what most people really want to know is what the legal requirements for a home school are. The simple answer is, it depends on where you live. In the U.S. each state gets to set their own laws about education. It is legal to home school in all 50 states, but the specific requirements do vary.

If you want to know what the laws are in your state, here are some things you can do.

  1. Ask a home school family. As a former resident of Oklahoma and a current resident of Utah I can tell you from experience about home school in those two states. Oklahoma has outlined in their state constitution that parents are allowed to choose alternate forms of education for their children. It is recommended that parents choose options that would have their child schooled for an equal amount of time in similar subjects as those who attend public school. Because there is no oversight beyond that and no reporting it is really easy for each family to decide what they think that alternate form of education should look like for them and then follow it. In Utah we do have to report to our local school district. Each year I have to send in a notarized affidavit that states which of my children will be educated at home and that I agree to school for the amount of time and in the same subjects as they would be taught at a regular public school. I get back a copy and a signed letter stating that it was received and we are good to go. There is no reporting after that, so we are free to cover that time and subject requirement however we see fit.
  2. Find a local home school association. In Oklahoma we had OCHEC. In Utah we have UHEA. A home school association or other local group can help you discover not just how to operate within the legal guidelines, but how to thrive and make the most out of your home school experience. Many sponsor conventions, conferences or workshops where the new can learn about what home school is. I loved attending the OCHEC convention. I haven’t participated in any UHEA events yet, but their website provided me with a sample letter of intent and linked me with groups that were more specific to my area, beliefs and home schooling style.
  3. Check out HSLDA. HSLDA is the Home School Legal Defense Association. Their website covers information on legal issues surrounding home schools. On their site you can find a map where they have categorized each state by the amount of regulation over home schools. It’s very interesting to get the snapshot of which states have no regulation and which states are highly regulated. From there you can link directly to each state to find out what the specific regulations are. They also track legislation at the state and federal levels and post about laws that may have an impact on those who have chosen to home school. If you choose, you can become a member of their association as well and if you come up against any legal issues related to home school they will represent you.

So, what about outside the U.S.? I think it’s pretty fair to state that each country or region will have its own view on education in general, not just on home school. If you already live in another country or are planning a move it’s a good idea to find out what the requirements are. HSLDA also has an International information page on their website. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to go look at the posted headlines to see what is happening for home school families in other countries or to check out how another country’s laws compare to ours.

In short, yes, home schooling is legal in the U.S. Yes, some states require reporting and some do not. Yes, there are families who don’t follow the rules, but most work well within the guidelines set by their state. And, yes, we do our best to work together and offer resources to help each other meet those legal requirements.

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