Friday, April 10, 2015

Top Five Tips for Moms

In the last 9 years I have learned alot about Motherhood.
I started with very little equipment and while I am certainly no "expert" now, I have come a LONG way. 

Taylor's Top Five Tips

1. Go with your gut.

Usually "Go with your gut" is terrible advice. Cause you see ... I think you are a depraved sinner and the whole "follow your heart" line of thinking will lead you down a sad, dark path of sin. "The heart is wicked and deceitful above all things, who can know it?". And I don't trust my gut, Id MUCH rather read a book on the subject. It is just how I am wired. However. God made us Mommies with a built in mothering instinct.  And I have learned I can trust my mommy instinct and should.

This addresses the "DANGER" alert system hardwired into a mommy. This means that when you get that "Danger" feeling, that unsure fluttery feeling that may be  totally unjustified in the moment LISTEN. Seriously.
 Once I let my two year old play on big kid equipment after being assured it was "fine". She broke her leg and was in a cast for months. I have many more instances where I went against "my better judgement" listening to others or ignored that red flag gut feeling that ended in disaster.

Image result for red flag
Now I have learned to trust my mommy instinct. It may mean that my children cannot have cups with straws in the car (because I envision the straw going through their palate if I slam the brakes), or that they get to climb trees...never, but nonetheless my children are safer and I am much less stressed out.

2. Attachment parent
Now I am not exactly an attachment parenting guru. But going along with #1 above, attachment parenting styles are much more natural for mommies and babies, and generally go with a mothers natural gut instinct. Why stress you and your baby out attaining some arbitrary goal? Or because you are afraid of a negative result? Or because you are in competition with Mrs. SO and SO?

What I mean by this is .... pick up your baby when they cry. Sleep with your baby close by or even in your own bed (gasp!) for as long as it works for you, 7 weeks, 7 months, or even 7 years. Nurse your baby on demand! Babies want milk... when they want it! Wear your baby. Bathe with your baby. Skin to skin. Lavish love on your baby. They are only a baby once, and I promise they will leave your bed, they will learn to sleep without the breast, they will bathe alone. Don't stress about "independence" it will come naturally. Isn't this the exact message your mommy instinct says? Find what works for you and your family and toss everything else.

3.Do not compare 
Pinterest.Facebook.Twitter. We have more ways than ever to see and compare parenting and mothering. Stop! Just Stop! Who has time to make Dr Suess themed lunches? I know I do not even want to.... and yet. I work so hard to just have a great birthday party for one kid... only to feel shame that I didnt have a huge, stylish, themed party months in the planning. I have yet to take on half the arts and crafts projects that I am "suppose" to do with them. And lets not even talk about the dinner menu. Alas I must be a total failure!

O wait. None of that matters in the least. Seriously. It just doesn't. My children will have great birthday memories. Plain ole PB&J for lunch with crust ON is fine. Providing guidance and abundant art supplies is enough. And dinner that is healthy and warm is just fine too. And sometimes if my kids have tunamac for dinner, if we miss bath night,if I buy a cake from the bakery rather than trying to bake one myself, if their socks don't's OK. Have grace for yourself Momma. And don't compare yourself to others
.Image result for pb&J

Altogether think of ways you can simplify every area. Everyone will be happier! Less stress, less mess, more time, more enjoyment. Critically examine your schedule, your routine, your stuff.

At my house this means I do not own dressers. Instead we use small plastic drawers for undies and socks and hang up the rest. Less folding, less dusting, one less piece of furniture to care for, and more play space in the kids room. It means I never match up socks, ever! I buy my husband all the same socks, and I do not care if the kids socks match or not, in fact they prefer for them not to! It means I purge my kids toys often, and only keep the best stuff and limit the number. I also do not over commit myself. 
Image result for pile of socks

Find what works for you and your family. You don't have to fit in a box. You don't have to try to be "normal". Your family is an individual family, made up of specific people. How you manage your home should be highly specialized for your families individual needs. 

For me this includes my sensitivity to noise. Noise stresses me out. So I do not buy or keep loud, obnoxious, battery operated toys. That is OK. It means we start our school later in the morning because I so highly value a quiet, laid-back, morning environment. It means I don't pressure my more introverted children to be outgoing, and I accept each of their personalities and work around individual weaknesses (while still character training of course). 

Liberty. Freedom. No unnecessary stress.

What are some of your stress releasing, freedom finding tips that have worked in your own family?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Birth and Beyond

(Liberty Lucille 3days old)

 If there is one momentous event in a woman's life that will be remembered into old age, it's birth. Ask any woman to recount her birth stories, and she will be able to remember minute details. Who was there, the location, the lighting, the date, the hour, the entire experience from the first contraction to the last push.  Even old women suffering from Alzheimers can fill you in on details from births long ago. It is etched into memory. Because there is no other other event that changes a woman so dramatically in such a short time. All of a sudden you enter Motherhood.  

I have had four births (so far). And each one different from the last. I can tell you exact details from each and the impact that the birth experience has had upon me.  My last two babies I had at home with a midwife . My first two I had in a military hospital with lots of intervention and epidurals. I have had taken both routes to birth twice. So maybe you are wondering which way was better? Home birth. Hands down. Let me explain.

After my first two births in a military hospital I was pretty determined to never go through that again. I, personally, despise feeling out of control and full of fear. Most hospitals do nothing to help decrease fear or increase the sense of safety and security that all laboring women crave. Birth is so personal and private and I felt that everything was done that could be, to invade my privacy and medicalize my births. Alone in a place far from family (being a military spouse) and part of a hospital system run by the government, its no wonder I was left with a feeling of fear, apprehension, and emptiness. As though I had somehow missed something important. I remember shaking the feeling off again and again with thoughts like " I have a baby to show for this!" "There is nothing missing! I have a healthy baby". After a serious bout of undiagnosed postpartum depression the second time around, I promptly sought an IUD with the thinking "I surely cannot put myself through that awful ordeal again".

Image result for IUD
Fast forward three years. God changed my heart so much in that time! In another post I will address birth control, all of the ill effects, and moral, ethical, and spiritual considerations Suffice it to say I had my IUD removed and hoped God would bless my womb once again. But this time it would have to be different! Because I still couldn't fathom having to put myself through the medicalized hospital birth system again. It saddens me to wonder how many women don't have more children simply because of their fear of birth.

“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”-Ina May Gaskin

So I thought "Surely there must be a better way". And my journey to homebirthing began. Still completely full of fear, still holding every doubt and anxiety any first time mother would have. Still wondering about everything that could go wrong and really thinking deep down " I can't do this". I found a midwife and slowly my thinking about birth started to change. But very slowly. I still remember my midwife asking me in my third trimester "How are you preparing for birth?" and my answer "I'm trying not to think about it". Seriously, that was my approach. Don't think about it and hope it is over quick. O Dear. 

The day approached and my water spontaneously burst at 2 am on a very cold Alaskan winter night in January. Did I mention it was in the driveway? Tip to very pregnant Mommas. Do not stay out late when your due in two days, and do not think you are limber enough to step from a Jeep onto an ice covered driveway. Kersplash! However the look of shock on my best friends face? Priceless. I called my midwife and promptly went to bed knowing I needed all the energy I could get for the upcoming event.

I will recount all the memorable details some other time. But the next day came... and went with no baby and no labor until about 8pm.  Liberty made her way into the world about 5am the day after. And my feelings about birth, labor, and life had changed. There is nothing like facing your worst fears and coming out victorious.

I had changed.

 Although I had been a mother for 6 years it was quite different emerging from birth with a healthy baby and a smiling midwife in my own home. My sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. I did it! No hospital, no drugs, no IV, no epidural,no episiotomy,no glaring hospital lights, no yelling PUSH, no tension, no FEAR. And I knew even in that moment that I could do it again.

(Liberty and I in our post birth glory)

As I cuddled down with my new, sweet, 7lb baby girl, my fears and doubts had been put to rest as well. Birth wasn't scary after all. Birth was wonderful. Natural. Normal. I have never felt more confident in my own body and completely aware of the momentous miracle that God can accomplish through me. I was made for this. And so are you.

Comments and questions welcome!

  “Remember this, for it is as true and true gets:  Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine.  The Creator is not a careless mechanic.  Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” `Ina May Gaskin

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beauty in Books, an education revelation

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not the pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid"
-Northanger Abbey

From childhood, most of my cherished memories were really imaginings, created by a world of literature. After about third grade I had immersed myself in the written word. And never looked back. My love for good literature has only grown, a good book is worth more than diamonds! At least in the eyes of an avid reader. Long ago Beauty and the Beast became my favorite Disney movie.... the heroine reads, and how does beast win her heart? By giving her a library! Much better than riches or jewels.
                                                    Image result for beauty and the beast library

My love of books has had such an impact upon my life. The words of beloved characters entwined in my heart. I declared when I met a dear friend of mine " We are kindred spirits!" and I was right. I must reread all my favorite classics and relive again the joys found in Jane Austen, Alexander Dumas,Margaret Mitchell, LM Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder... to name but a few. How sorry I am for those who haven't discovered the joys and sorrows found in your average library!

If I give my children nothing but my love, a love for Jesus, and love for literature it will have been enough. 

 It is a great sorrow that our society continues to grow more and more illiterate. That once, titles like "Little Women" were aimed at young adults... and now have been replaced by such grand works as "The Hunger Games".  Although it certainly inspires my own writing. For certainly if such drivel as that can get published I should have high hopes! 

Self education really is the only education. For if you are not educating yourself you really aren't learning at all. In fact, you are actively choosing to be ignorant. If only all young people learned this one small fact. Or if only our normal education system didn't actually try to squash a love for books. I fear the future ... a generation of texters instead of readers. An entire generation of people who are far more comfortable behind a computer screen than sitting across a table. Conversation that is so far removed from real humanity it holds no meaning at all. They tweet, they facebook, they have their own YouTube channels. But they are ignorant, illiterate, and loveless.

Communication abounds in our society! Faster, more concise, more convenient communication than ever before. But, I fear, it becomes more meaningless, more inhuman, more empty. Information and education are more readily available than ever! Even my "sheltered" homeschooled children know if you have a question "Just Google it" and the magic Google God will supply the answer.  Yet ignorance and illiteracy are at an all time high. The world at your fingertips....but no desire to learn. Books, literature,information of every kind available on demand basically for free. However it is lost and useless upon a generation that worships entertainment and entertainers.

I will let you in on a little secret. Shhhhhhhh. I am not educated. Not "formally" anyhow. I have taken zero college classes. I have no degree... of any kind. Not even a GED.  -crickets-

Image result for cricket bug
 GASP! And I choose to educate my children?!  What!? What will people say?! What will people think?! How will they survive?! 

Ok.OK. Now stop and remember that people used to be educated.... with books. That education is not summed up in any degree, there are many fools with degrees. That a piece of paper never defines who you are or what you are. I have met many ignorant people with a high school diploma, and do you really think that half of those college students are really educated? Education doesn't take place in a building from a teacher. 

Original Webster definition of education :
EDUCA'TION, n. [L. educatio. ] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction

New definition :
Image result for books
: the action or process of teaching someone especially in a school, college, or university
: the knowledge, skill, and understanding that you get from attending a school, college, or university

Notice a difference? So by the new standard definition of education I have one not at all.
 But this allows someone else to define you, someone else to decide how educated you are. In a world where information and education are available to everyone, we have now packaged it with a price and a definition that you must attain in order to have the status of "educated". Student loans, private schools, certifications.... I am not saying that some of these things dont have a place. But I am saying you may attain all those things and still be less educated than I.
 Most people are quite taken aback at my level of education. I mean ... I DID complete freshman year in high school, from a small school, in a low income area.So you know... if you find my opinions offensive, illogical, or just plain incompetent I have now given you reason to completely ignore me.
 I quit school for a number of reasons, none of which was because I didn't desire more education. They were good reasons let me assure you. Not everyone has the opportunity to pursue higher education. I am speaking for lots of people here, not myself only. But I am thankful! I have had the opportunity to pursue my own education in the subjects that interest me and help me to improve myself and my position in life. I may have continued in school believing the lie that a degree will qualify me as "educated". Now I know better.
I will tell you one more little secret. All I did to educate myself was.... Read. Ahhhhhhh. I could now pursue a "higher education" if I so desired. But I have no need to prove to others that I have a degree. I have no desire to accumulate student loans and debts to conform to societies definition of education. I am confident and content to remain as I am... just your average southern gal with a love of books. And chickens. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Big Blessings

They come in small packages.

     Some of mine are blonde, and some are bald. Some of them greet me every morning, no matter how grouchy or tired I may be, with a " Morning Mommy!" as though its the first day of the rest of their lives! And some just smile up at me and gurgle from the crook of my arm (the only place she will sleep peacefully). Some of them display excitement at all the little things. As though nothing can go wrong if we are having doughnuts for breakfast! And some of them greet me with coffee and burned toast, " Look Mom! I made you breakfast!". Ahhhh. Big Blessings, small packages.

   Jesus said we are to be like little children. O how I envy them! The joy they find in the changing of seasons. The wonder of butterflies. The gratitude in small favors. The trust they have and sense of peace and stability. The fun they can have with simple toys. The love they give, willingly, abundantly, without restraint. Its the example God gave us. To be like children. How blessed I am to be surrounded with children! 

   But of course I don't always feel blessed. Some days are more difficult than others. The days where it feels like you just do "damage control" and clean up behind littles   all   day   long. Or where you have cleaned up more poop than you ever would have imagined. Or where you are reminded that Yes Indeed we are born sinners. The days where you feel very alone and in an uphill battle. Where you feel like you just want quiet. The days when you feel completely inadequate to fill everyone's needs.

   I think all Mamma's have days like this. Days that end in feeling defeated. Days that end in dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, and possibly tears. Close to the edge of despair. At least for me, that feeling of inadequacy, as though you will never quite be enough, that qualifying as a "good" mommy is just out of reach. That feeling is always bearing down, waiting for a weak moment to sweep in with every doubt and fear of motherhood, marriage, and just life that you have ever had.  That burden is so heavy. It waits until my weakest moment to fall upon my shoulders and whisper..."Give will never be enough... you are failing... your children will suffer because of you ...give up".

  "My burden is light and my yoke is easy" And I remember the gospel. I remember that I was made with a purpose. I remember that God doesn't expect me to be perfect, only to love Him and love others. That dirty dishes are not a sin. And that false guilt is deceitful and does not come from the fountain of Truth. And I feel that burden lift, sweet relief!  How quickly do I forget to live in the light of the gospel. And with eyes wide open again I can yet see my beautiful blessings.

  I have to say I had many more tearful days when I only had one or two children than I do now at four. The difference is not how many children you have, how much money you make, how well your marriage is, or how clean your house is. The difference is only in how close you are to Jesus. Jesus is the difference. That is it. It is living in the light of His Word, the truth of the gospel. And then walking out that truth. Grace,grace,grace. Remember His grace for you, and extend that grace to others.

  So Momma-who-is-overwhelmed, you are NOT alone. God has given you a special calling and made you with a purpose. His burden is light and his yoke is easy. Go jump in the shower and turn up the music. You will get to the dishes. Go grab your bible and absorb some truth. The laundry can wait. Really. And look at your blessings. Listen to them.

   One day your little blessings will no longer be little. And your laundry will no longer be big. And no one will remember if that closet was organized, or if their socks match. So pray. And then "Let it go.. let it go.." yep... you can sing that song one more time. And soak in your little blessings.

   Be encouraged! Have you had one of those days or moments?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Are You Done?!

The inevitable question everyone must ask when they see your four (or more) little ones.  "Are You Done?!"  I think every mother of a "large" family hears this question. Especially if you go out in public. But from friends and family too. Its a natural question isn't it? But ... does it really make sense? 

    Lets examine it. "Are you done?" First of all.  Are you done ..what? Certainly they can't mean "Are you done having sex ?!" Because, of course, that is an entirely inappropriate question for anyone, let alone a stranger, to ask. And to which my answer would be "No we quite like it, Thank You!".
    But of course what is meant is "Are you done having children?" (usually accompanied with a large eyed astonished look and a bit of condescension). I am not sure that people (at least of the general wal-mart variety) put much thought into this. So for that I try to give them grace.  I try.

    So if we give in to the assumption that I plan on continuing to copulate with my husband (and I do), then what exactly are they asking? They know we have sex, as evidenced by our "many" children, and will continue to do so. So really they are asking if we are "done" by questioning our birth control methods or lackthereof.
    Lets lay aside the fact that it really is an intensely personal question. Or that you don't really want to discuss your birth control options (or your sex life)with total strangers and generally not even with family and friends. Or even that most people are not actually interested in your prayerfully thought out life decisions, the theology behind it, and your conclusions. In fact most people already have made up their minds regarding family planning, birth control, and their worldview about children, and are not open to hearing a dissenting opinion (although they are more than happy to share their popular cultural one). When was the last time you asked someone how often they have sex and when or if they are fertile? No? Huh. Because that would be entirely too blunt and obnoxiously personal. And I do not think anyone is looking for a breakdown of my menstrual cycle and my ovulation rhythms.  
   What they are really asking is if you agree with their ideology.

 They are looking for reassurance that you aren't one of those crazy Dugger-ites.  They are really saying "Wow! FOUR (or whatever number you happen to have above three) children? That last one must be a mistake. I hoped you have learned from it, you poor ignorant fool. Surely now you see the wisdom of modern birthcontrol. I mean really... the world IS overpopulated. Which method of artificial contraception or sterilization did you opt for? I, of course, made the responsible decision to only have two children, thereby not increasing the population, and avoiding any financial hardships that may or may not come along with having more. I don't personally like children and can't see how anyone possibly could, so therefore your offspring must either be a mistake or the result of faulty reasoning and misinformation."
    That is pretty insulting isn't it? Of course, like I said, I dont think that most people put that much thought into it. I am sure of it. But some people do. They really think something along those lines.... and sadly even the most vague, ignorant, wal-mart variety curiosity contains the worldview that children are a burden and no one seems to really want them. Or at least not more than a few. I try to have some grace. I mean, after all, it's apparent that probably their parents didn't want them, so that is one reason to extend a little grace when they obviously think children are a nuisance.
   Possibly they are also looking for reassurance "She has so many children, they must drive her nuts, my own two children test every ounce of patience I have, I could never contemplate spending all day long with so many children, why would she do that?! Surely she is at her limits and has taken action to prevent further mistakes as I did. I need to know that she is agreeable with my life decisions and if not, I will happily educate her on her foolish unprotected sex."
  Of course the expected answer when asked "Are you done?" Is "O! Yes! I am SO done. We are so done that we were both sterilized AND we are on the pill AND we use condoms." Or... Uheemmm something along those lines.

    So what do you do when the answer doesn't fit? What do you say to the whole world (who for some reason is intensely interested in your most personal details) when the answer is "No"? As in "No... we like our children. No... we trust God to plan our family. No ... we don't want to sterilize ourselves or get "fixed" because <cough> we are not broken, in fact our bodies work exactly how they were designed! No. We believe children are a blessing (not a curse). No. We think "overpopulation" is propaganda spread into our culture from elite eugenicists."  Should you say any of those things? Grace, Tay, Grace. I have a few snarky answers. More than a few ungraceful responses. Probably none of which would be Jesus' response. Because... Im pretty wretched.

   Sometimes I would like to spin the world around, topsy turvy. Start a pro active campaign to question the cultural norm! What would that look like?!
     I think I will stalk the local Kroger and ask random women who only have two children some questions. It'll be great. It'll go  "Are you done?!" You are?! Well, good for you! I am SO glad you aren't breeding anymore. I mean your children were obviously a mistake, they are expensive, and keep you from contributing to our great nation through taxable wages. The world is overpopulated you know, and since you and your husband only had two ... well at least you aren't contributing to the problem. AND youll have enough money to buy them whatever plastic thing they whine for that they saw on the commercials! Don't worry. Soon they will go to school, and our great government can educate them for the next 13 years! For free! Then you can get back to contributing to society. "  But, of course, that wouldn't exactly be graceful. And I am sure it would offend local Kroger shoppers.

So for now I usually just let my children pipe up " No! we like babies!" as I gracefully walk away.

This post explicitly deals with the "Are you done?" question. The theology and misconceptions surrounding family planning and modern birth control will be addressed in another post. Mostly I just want to vent my frustration and illustrate the inappropriateness of the question in the first place.
For those people who are actually interested in our reasons and theology behind our family planning decisions I am more than happy to share with.
 For the awkward everyday passerbys who just have no manners I cannot apologize to.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Southern Hospitality


Southern Hospitality. Sweet tea. Billboards that just say "Jesus". A culture full of "Bless your heart" and big hair. Camo and crosses. Wal-Mart and accents. Real BBQ. Deep fried... everything. And Football. LOTS of football.

    Here we are back in the deep south! So many things I have missed... and some.. well not so much.
How did we get here you may ask? O the rabbit holes life takes us through! We spent about a year in Hawaii! It was grand. We snorkeled. We saw. We beached. ALOT. It was lovely.We took pictures. And for an entire year I enjoyed access to some of the best beaches and most amazing scenery in the world. At the end of our year we came to realize that as much as we love Hawaii and all it has to offer, it wasn't the lifestyle we truly desired. Although we will be going back on vacation. Hopefully often. So the decision was made to move.

    Piggggg Sooouuuueeey! Its been about 12 years since we have lived close to our families. And about 7 since we've visited. It seemed the time was ripe to come home. For so long I was very adverse to ever returning to the south. But over time, and with much growing spiritually, God has changed my heart and we returned with light hearts, feeling that we were directly in His will. My children have cousins and aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents for the first time. And cost of living is low. The climate is moderate. They have "snow days" ( every things shuts down for a few inches of snow! Its quite a novelty for us!). And its very conservative.

    We welcomed our fourth child in October. We had another wonderful homebirth. Evalyn Plumeria has given us much joy! Moving, homeschooling,toddlers,and newborns! Its been a busy season of life for our family. But in the midst of all of our bustle I seek the solitude that grounds me, the "Be still and Know". Without which I am tossed to and fro.... a small boat upon the waves without a rudder. Everyday I learn more and more what it is to be a Mother, a Christian, a Wife. Wisdom is her own reward eh?

    So life takes us in so many directions that we would never anticipate. If you had pulled me aside as a very silly,ignorant, teenage girl and informed me that in ten years I would have four children, homeschool and live in the south, I am sure I would have laughed. Or cried. But certainly not rejoiced. However. My heart is full, life is, generally speaking, peaceful and I am content.
Most days. Some days I really miss the beach. And some days I am just plain ole cranky. Doesn't every Momma have those days? But with coffee and a little chocolate I can usually endeavor to put on my big girl panties and get on with gettin on.

So now that we have officially passed the approved 2-3 child max per family cultural law we get all sorts of fun, unsolicited advice. But thats a post for another day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pretense and Subtlety

      A short note on the delicacy of conversation. Your words truly express who you are and where your heart is. " Out of the heart the mouth speaks".

       I, personally, don't do subtlety very well. Not because I couldn't, but because I see it as a way to manipulate people and conversation. I also see it as cowardice. Simply put, if I believe something to be true I should be courageous enough to say so, regardless of the effect it may, or may not have, upon the hearer. I strive to be free from pretense. Pretense is really hiding behind a facade. Pretending you agree, pretending you are something you are not. If you feel the need to do that, I should say that you should re-examine what is really in your heart. I honestly quite despise this particular character trait in people. And I highly prize people who aren't pretentious, and have no need of subtlety.

       If you believe something, then believe it enough to openly state it come what may, because you believe it to be true. Because I think this way.( i.e Logically). You never have to "read between the lines" with me. I say exactly what I mean, and I mean what I say. Some people love this about me! Others... of the pretentious kind... don't ususally stick around very long. Also, I do not communicate well with people of the more subtle variety. Because, quite honestly, it is alot of work, and I have a hard time respecting them much. If I have to ferret out your honest opinion, and pry a definitive statement from you, then honestly it wasn't worth it. Because either A. You dont have a solid opinion on the matter, one that is thought out and helpful. Or B. You don't believe your opinion enough to state it outright. Both of which undermine any contribution you might have had.

      Sometimes I am purposefully candid. Because I almost feel as though I have a barometer that takes in how much artifice is in a conversation or group discussion. I am not purposefully trying to be disruptive. I simply can only take so much of it .. before I feel the need to just speak about the matter openly, decisively, honestly. I hold my tongue quite a bit actually. But I always ask myself... is it out of politeness? Or is it fear? Pretense is really just fear behind a mask of politeness. If I had a dollar for everytime someone says something about my "personal convictions" I might be rich. But all the people I love most are those whom I know speak honestly, about their hearts, about their lives, about their thoughts. I have more respect for someone I completely disagree with, but is candid and intelligent, than I do for a host of polite, agreeable, acquaintances who never truly say what they believe. Who secretly, quietly, judge you without a single word of dispute, or ever give you the opportunity to defend any misconceptions they have formed. So speak up! Be brave and say what you believe. If you don't really believe it, then by all means ... hold your tongue.