Multiple versions of Joseph Smith's 1st Vision

This article on getting the truth from an interrogation could be an explanation for why there are different versions of Joseph Smith's first vision.

In contrast to what most people believe, truth tellers are more likely to add details and revise their stories over time, whereas liars tend to keep their stories the same. “Inconsistency is really just a fundamental aspect of the way memory works,” Meissner says.

The Great Shift of 2014

So we haven't written on this blog in years, and we may never do it again. But we had some thoughts to share, we wanted to send out a New Year's card, and this is an easy way to do both. (We want to be Christmas card senders, but after this many years, let's face it—we're not). Enjoy.

At the start of 2014, the Wests were in a bit of a funk.

We planned to move to Ecuador—you know, get away from it all, away from Christopher’s ridiculous commute, away from Kathy’s schedule-juggling. The exchange rate’s lower in Ecuador and the weather’s great.

But before we booked flights, someone brilliant gave us insight:

You carry your story with you wherever you go. 

Go to Ecuador, sure, but not with a story of frustration and escape. Figure out what you’re trying to leave first, meet it, create the new story you want right here so the successful, happy story can follow you to another hemisphere.

So we did. We spent two summer weeks on serious introspection—and a dash of therapy.

And things opened up.

Christopher got a new job teaching science at an amazing classical education charter school. He reaches the end of most days tired, fulfilled, and smiling.

Kathy loves the new place we moved to, with a cozy spot to continue working remotely for the same company she has for several years.

Our little sweetie met friends at her new Montessori preschool. She responded to an important milestone in every child’s life with tears and grace (receiving her first threat to not be invited to someone else’s birthday party).

As we head into a brand new year, we invite you to examine the story you believe about your life.
And if you don’t like it, consider telling a new one.

Happy New Year.
The Wests

PS. Some of our 2014 highlights:
  • Christopher performed stand-up comedy at many venues—including intermission at a roller derby, where they cut his mic because the sound was bad and they mistakenly believed he was making fun of pregnant women. 
  • Kathy enjoyed doing some readings around Phoenix town and especially loved reading a true story about her Mormon mission at an event in LA that had the theme “Bondage.” 
  • Our girl took swim lessons and performed in her first dance recital and discovered that she cannot get her parents to do what she wants by saying that Jesus told her that we should. 

the state we're in

I've never taken heat stroke or homesickness very seriously.

But a week or so ago, Claire was bawling behind me in her bike trailer. And I pedaled away—dizzy, nauseous, the works. One of us was probably going to pass out before we got home, so I found a place to stop: a cafe/bakery where people park their BMW's and pop in for drinks, professional-looking omelettes, and designer cupcakes.

the trail where i often ride my bike with a little girl in tow.

I went inside, hot, sweaty, carrying a sobbing toddler in a princess swimsuit (the only clothes she agreed to wear that day). Since anything birthday-related makes her happy, I ordered a cupcake and the tallest glass of water in the place.

Did I want the red velvet or the ooey gooey? I told the cashier I didn't care.

Which color did I want? I didn't care.

Did I want a box or a plate? "I don't care. The baby doesn't care. Just give me a cupcake and water."

Does heat exhaustion make you louder than normal?

I refilled my glass six times before we left. When we got home, I went inside and lay on the floor until my hands stopped shaking.

even when hiking, the princess swimsuit is her outfit of choice. sigh.
We were fine—after all, cupcakes were involved.

But the whole adventure felt worse than it should have since it happened on the way back from a play group where the kids pushed my daughter out, no matter how many times she blew kisses and said, "Hi, friends." A play group where I tried to connect with other moms, but just had a series of awkward conversations (which is not rare for me, but bums me out anyway).

So I wrote a blog post that I didn't publish. I sounded whiny and tired, without realizing that the problem wasn't heat stroke or play groups or feeling like a sweaty hobo in a fancy bakery.

The problem was that everything here is always new right now.

And for one minute, I just needed the familiar, the comfortable, the worn-in. (*)

Thank goodness Christopher's brother decided to get married. Best excuse for a road trip ever, no matter how short.

We hadn't even seen anyone yet when we arrived on a stretch of I-15 that I've driven at least a thousand times. Is it odd that a certain turn in a road could feel like home? Because it did. Plus, the weather was cool enough to wear my favorite sweater.

no sign of heat stroke here.
We're back in AZ. Today's temp should hit 103. The little one and I are going out on the bike again. And I have a feeling there will be no heat stroke or homesick stories to tell this time.

(Update: No heat stroke stories to speak of. It was hot, but wonderful. Claire played with a girl her age who shared her Elmo and gave her a hug. And I talked to an amazing mom about the emotional and mental space that creativity requires.)

*I don't doubt that this place will become the familiar one soon.

Christopher started a new hobby that I'm not allowed to tell you about yet.

And I discovered a poet (!) who lives across the street.

cute claire

Claire had some difficulty adjusting to AZ.  Our first week here, she decided to not sleep in her bed.

Claire generally refuses to wear clothes, including diapers.  She is much happier if she gets to pick the outfit.  I think you'll agree, we have a stylish baby:

11 days in arizona: a report

Shame on me. No pictures? Well, my hard drive croaked.

I feel like a hard-drive crash is something that only happens in theory, not in real life. Turns out, it's real. So go back up your photos. Right now. Then come back for my hearty hello from sunny Arizona.

Back already? Hello!

If you ever move to Phoenix in April, you may notice...

  • Arizonans seem to measure their time here in summers... Game of Thrones characters measure their lives in winters. "This will be my 5th year here. Get ready. Summer is coming..." 
  • Warm weather means more people exercise?
So many people around here look like they're fresh off the best, most active summer of their life. Toned. Sunglassed. Wearing footwear they can run in. Maybe this is only partly true. Either way, I'm waking from a winter hibernation I didn't realize I was in.

Christopher's fabulous stepmom took me on a 5-mile hike, which feels like a good place to start.
  • The Apple Store rocks.
I'm sure this is true of Apple stores in general, anywhere in the country. But I hold a special place in my heart for this particular Apple store, where I was told that in a month, my laptop will be considered "vintage."

I'm especially grateful for a certain subdued, detail-oriented genius who spent two hours and all his genius tricks saving nearly every last picture of my baby girl that I thought I'd lost. (Rock on, Type 2's. If you and I have ever talked about Energy Profiling, you may know what I mean.)
  • People show up when you need them. 
By the end of last week, Claire's whining had become insufferable. She needs friends—or she loses it. And I could only draw so many pictures of the friends she left behind and use silly voices to pretend they were talking to her.

We'd already seen random kids at the park down the street about six times, but yesterday, I got her dressed and told her that this was the day we would meet some real friends. And some woman invited us to a massive play group where we moms sat on blankets and talked about summer (it's coming...) and they put me on their mom-group email list.

When the two of us came home after play group today, my baby was singing to herself again.

So far, so good. I'll let you know when summer arrives.

what to ask me when i'm old (or after we're done moving)

Storyteller genius, Donald Davis, says not to ask old people what they remember about their childhoods.

Instead, he says you should ask about their childhood home. Or their third grade classroom. Or the hard church pew they sat on every Sunday. In other words, if you want to retrieve a memory, access the location where it's stored. Open the door and go inside the space where it happened.

Since we've been married, we've gathered a whole collection of spaces.

And here we go again. Arizona. For a good job. To the place we will be when we make that final student loan payment before the end of the year. I will experience that victory in a sunny spot on the globe.

You wouldn't know it from all our gypsying, but we really hate moving. We had a sweet babysitting swap with some friends in the neighborhood. My sweetie girl has a crush on one of the boys in nursery. When we first boxed up my books last week, I cried.

And maybe I'm making too much of this, but I've been thinking about how we simultaneously live in the spaces by which we access those memories later. By leaving that space, we have to accept that another chapter in our lives has closed—those moments are now memories, and not the present. Time keeps moving and so do we. 

I know which memories happened in this familiar space, but I haven't yet seen which ones happen in the new one. We always seem to fall in love where we're living, though, so I'm hopeful and excited. Each move, we're just as reluctant to leave as the last.

So here's to fabulous memories in new spaces. And here are some of my favorite images of the one we've just left—where things have been so happy, sometimes hard, and altogether wonderful. If some young whippersnapper ever asks me about that basement apartment I lived in down the street from the bakery, I'll say it was one of my favorites.


Utah Hates Me

We're moving out of Utah.  Utah is not happy with us.

I need to appear on Ghost Hunters, because the vengeful spirit of the pioneers is after me.

As soon as we decided to move, there was a snowstorm.  It was as if Utah was a jealous girlfriend who couldn't handle the breakup.  But her tantrum only made us more certain that we had made the right decision.

Now, there's brownish yellow water dripping from our bathroom ceiling.  We called the lady who manages the place.  She said they'd take care of it in the morning.  Then she laughed, and said "have fun cleaning that up."  Her indulgence in shadenfreude made me think she's one of those people who'd be happy working for the IRS, in telemarketing, or for Hitler.

The brown water is dripping onto our toilet.  We have some fans set up, a bucket, and some towels on the floor.

I needed to use the toilet.  So I grabbed a towel, and was considering using it as a hood to protect me from the drips as I did my business.  But then I decided to fix the problem ghetto MacGuyver style.

With some plastic wrap and some scotch tape, I've redirected the drips so that they all converge onto one spot, into a bucket, instead of on my head.

I can now go do my business without having to get dressed in brown-water beachwear.

Take that, ghosts.

The only other plumbing I've done is in Super Mario.

bringing out the hermit in me

Last month, we pulled my desk out into our entryway to make me a tiny office amongst the bikes, the shoe rack, and our little wannabe lemon tree. It's actually a huge upgrade from my former office—which used to be the bathroom.

I'm writing in there. Finishing another draft of this novel has become a rollercoaster of panic and delight. Some days, I'm certain it won't turn into anything better than compost. Other days, I'm pretty sure I'm onto something beautiful.

My current deadline has turned me into a bit of a hermit everywhere in my life, including our little blog. (I've actually composed a few blog posts in my mind—how I worried about looking ridiculous playing peek-a-boo through my tinted car window at the gas station until I looked over at the next pump and saw a guy doing the same thing with his kid while his car was filling up—but none of them get written. Just the book. And stuff for work.)

And I realized this: I don't know how you creative people balance dream-chasing endeavors with the reality of motherhood and work and needing to shower. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Nobody's abandoned showering around here (promise), but if you come to my house, you'll see how much I've let other things slide. I like to think it's because I'm always reading books to my little girl, instead of doing chores. And while that's true some mornings, it does not entirely account for the state of my kitchen.

This has become my mantra these days: I have plenty of time to accomplish everything I need and truly want to do.

It's true. I say it if I start feeling overwhelmed, and often, I get a little clarity on what to focus on and what's not worth my time. No surprise that vacuuming often falls off the list. It never makes it into my "truly want" category. But if there's not time for it these days, does that mean I don't technically need to do it either? I'll be a hermit a bit longer, so maybe nobody will notice.

Especially not this girl, whose "truly want" list includes eating cookies on the carpet...

we're glad you were born

Happy birthday to this guy:

From the two girls who love you more than anyone else in the world:

We hope you know—especially today—how grateful we are to share this life with you.

something geeky and gorgeous about traditions

(photo by the lovely J. Lanae)
I make pizza on the same days I bake bread because it's easy that way.

After punching down the dough and dividing it into loaves, I roll the extra flat and bake it on a pizza stone. When I did that yesterday, my little 21-month helper stood on a kitchen chair and insisted on assisting with the cheese (by putting it on the pizza, and then off the pizza and into her mouth).

Watching her, I wondered if some day, when Claire and her future siblings come inside from playing and smell bread baking, they'll know it's pizza night.

Maybe this new rhythm—that I'm creating out of ease—will feel comfortable and reliable to them by then. Maybe it will become tradition. Maybe not.

But traditions. Get me thinking about a word and I'll head to the geekiest dictionary I can find. Definition number one...

tradition: act of delivering into the hands of another

Yes, traditions include a fair amount of repetition and festivity (definition #6). But I love the idea that tradition might first be about giving something, delivering a sort of gift—a gift that passes on a recurring message: "This is what life means. This is how much you mean to me. This is what to rely on when things feel shaky." I hope she gets the message that I mean to send.