Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pillows for Prisoners: My Sister's #metoo Story



This summer, my little sister was incarcerated for a month and a half at the Salt Lake County Jail for drug and alcohol related charges. The experience has affected her, our family and our community in the most unexpected of ways. Her #metoo story, is one with life-changing consequences.

I hope you'll take a moment to read about Celeste's story and consider making a donation to a neglected and forgotten public. Find out more at www.pillowsforprisoners.com.www.pillowsforprisoners.com.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I sit down for a chat with my eight year old...

Interviewed on February 2, 2016 (one day after officially turning eight.)

SSM: How does it feel to be 8?
HDM: Weird, cause your five year old sister is so hard.

What’s your favorite color?
Orange.

What are your favorite foods?
Brownies, macarons and the other kind of macaroons… and bushes [giggles]. I’m joking. You seriously didn’t write bushes did you? [I nod.]

So what are you favorite healthy foods?
Grapefruit and oranges. 

You favorite restaurants?
Um… let’s see, what is that place that cooks in front of you?

Hibachi!
Hibachi!

What are you passionate about? What do you love to do, or think about?
Art.

Sports?
Kung Fu.

What are you most excited about with turning eight?
Going to scouts.

What are you most concerned about?
Getting baptized.

How come?
Because well, cause I have to go to the Bishop’s office.
[We pause the interview and talk a little bit about the purpose of meeting with the Bishop. For those not familiar with the customs and rites-of-passage in the LDS Faith, one of the steps in being name eligible or named a “candidate” for baptism, to be included as an official “member” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is to meet with your congregational leader (or Bishop, who holds a similar roll to a pastor as “Father” of the local church.) I tell him it’s not anything to be concerned over. One thing the Mormon are known for is trying to get as many people to ‘join’ the church as possible, and he (our Bishop) is going to do everything he can to help get Holden to become an official member. That seemed to assuage his fears. So we move on….]

What’s your favorite thing about Zoë?
 I don’t really know. She’s kind of mad at me all of the time….[now I giggle].

What do you like to do with her?
Whack toys, I’m joking. [Sees me typing his answer.] Noooo!

OK what then?
Um, playing legos.

Alright. What are some things you like about school?
Playing “Three Little Creatures.”  [I’m perplexed.]

What subjects?
[In German Accent] de zoology.

What does that mean?
Zoology.

And your favorite bands?
ACDC! And the Beastie Boys.

If you could see any show in the world, what would you see?
HAMILTON!

When you grow up what problems do you want to solve?
I want to destroy the wall… cause it’s baaad.

I’ve noticed your fascination with Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Are you a libertarian?
I’m half libertarian.

Which half?
I think I’m like 80% Hillary Clinton and then another 80% whoever that guy is… did you seriously have to write “whoever that guy is?”

Anything you want to document about turning eight?

Watching Gremlins and Beetlejuice.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I March

Today, a wonderful thing happened. A 'cousin' called to ask me about the Women's Marches. She comes from a family that has a heavy conservative influence. She's a student at Brigham Young University. She is smart, compassionate, fun and articulate; and due to the nature of our ever polarizing news  (and facebook feeds), she was having a hard time dissecting and distilling down the barrage of information about the events. We spent just shy of thirty minutes talking...it inspired me to better articulate why I not only chose to have a friend carry my name as they participated in the march in Washington DC on Saturday, but why I will be joining Salt Lake's local response tomorrow. (There were several sister marches also in the state on Saturday, but Salt Lake's march is set for Monday to coincide with the first day of our state legislature being in session.) 

So back to "the why." Let me back up: 

I went to church today and sat in the pew as I listened to a brilliant woman (professor at the University of Utah) give a thought provoking talk about the importance of words and how we should be careful about the words we use. She cautioned about their impact and challenged us to make sure the words were are using lift others up.

My spiritual path may not seem conventional to many that share my religion, but I find great peace in the rituals of Sunday as a Mormon. I sit in the pew, take the sacrament (i.e. communion in the LDS faith) and for the most part am filled with a sense of peace at the familiarity of ritual and song I find inside those walls.

I am reminded of words from one of my yoga teachers, who was speaking about the communal aspect of yoga, but I have found it to also resonate with my choice to attend church (paraphrased): “While the practice itself is individual, we come together collectively to feel and elevate one another’s vibration.”

Within the syntax of the LDS faith, some might recognize that as “feeling the Spirit.” It is the peace and joy that I also find when attending a Catholic mass and hear the ethereal Gregorian chants, when I am surrounded by yogis practicing “metta” – the meditative practice of offering loving kindness. I felt in in college at Indiana Wesleyan University, surrounded by my Evangelical Christian volleyball teammates, as they laid hands on fellow player struggling with their health.

I’ve experienced it in so many places-- from  funerals, to finish lines of marathons and even on Broadway. People sharing their, time, talents and energy often provoke thought and instill in me a sense that I want to be better, and do better for myself and humanity. I cannot deny there is something unique and special about people coming together with a hope in their heart to improve not just their situation, but the lives of others.

I will be the first to admit that I live a life of privilege. To the external world, I’m a cis-gender, heterosexual, white female living in the upper-east side of surburbia. My children go to private school. They are both ‘typical’ children. I have a great job with freedom that allows me to basically make my own schedule, and experience the joys of being a stay-at-home mom. I’m a member of the dominant religion in my community and my state. I’m pretty insulted, and my life –on so many levels – exists in somewhat of a bubble.  

And that is one of the main reasons I march.

Yes, I’ve experienced sexual assault and so many of the by-products of rape-culture, misogyny and sexism. I've been turned down for promotions because of the “mommy-track” and told I “might want to freshen up my lipstick” before I head into a meeting. But overwhelmingly, I have lived a life of privilege. The sexism and misogyny I have experienced, seems trite to discuss  in comparison to what so many in our country are dealing with.  I believe I have a moral obligation to help my neighbor.

There are many ways to serve our neighbors  – for me,  joining together to help raise awareness as a collective voice, feels like just one of the things I ought to do (and want to do). 

From the 'Utah Women Unite' FaceBook organizing page:

“Utah Women Unite exists to protect and advance the rights of all Utah women and girls, including Utah’s marginalized groups, women of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, women of all abilities and from every financial status. We seek to unite as an intersectional collective to address the political, legal, and cultural problems faced by Utah women and to elevate the status and dignity of all people.”

I recognize many of my friends look at the protestors as a bunch of 'sore losers throwing a tantrum' – I say this because I have seen some of them “like” FB statuses with basically those words, or similar sentiments. We don't need to get into the fact that Trump called for people to take to the streets after Obama's election --fueled by Donald's lies that Obama wasn't an american citizen; and extremists on the right had their own barrage of horrifying protests--primarily based on birther rhetoric. 

I denounce the violence on either side. 

And I would remind all of us that our country has a long history of peaceful protesting that has helped to change the tide of discrimination and injustice (e.g.  the Boston Tea Party, to the Suffragists and Civil Rights, just to name a few of the big ones). 

In the interest of full disclosure, there is plenty that I am marching for that is more personal. First, I march for my daughter and for my son. I march for friends and family members who have suffered sexual abuse.   And yes, there are things that I am marching for tied to my political beliefs: better access to reproductive care to limit the number of abortions, protections for our planet, education, civil rights and more.

I march for these reasons and more. I march for the beauty that is intersectional-feminism, and I am excited to get out there tomorrow, join collectively to raise the vibration and peacefully exercise my first amendment rights.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More thoughts on LDS Lifestyle Porn

There’s been an article floating around my Facebook feed from Mike Thayer about lifestyle porn. I’ll admit, when I first saw friends posting over it I skipped past because… well, you lost me at “porn,” (which I imagine someday I will also write an opinion piece on another time because, “gasp”  and “surprise” my views on it do not entirely line up with those being preached by Utah’s Porn Czar and the like.)

But I digress… when I read Mr. Thayer’s piece about theepidemic of lifestyle-porn consumption, I’ve got to say…overall, I agreed with a lot of what he has to say. I think he’s done a decent job drawing parallels to the fantasy of porn and the fantasy of a perfect life…

A taste of the piece:
“It is the ultimate Mormon ideal. Screw waiting until the afterlife for your mansions on high, there are people living it now, baby! In fact, as soon as they finish building one mansion, they start building a different one, because…well…they can. Any variant of perfection you can fantasize is currently being lived and blogged about by some Utah version of the Kardashians.

“But I would say this. It isn’t real. Watching all of this is addictive and it sets unrealistic expectations for marriage and life that can lead to feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. It entices women everywhere to connect with things that aren’t rea…wait a second…Where have I heard that before? It sounds so familiar…Oh, that’s right! Porn! What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a sweeping epidemic of Lifestyle Porn.”

It’s worth a read.

Where I take umbrage, (besides my initial reaction of "oh great, another male telling me how I should live my life and not feel inferior,") is that as the target audience he’s speaking to (Mormon female, mama with young kiddos, between 20-40, young professional husband along the Wasatch front #nailed it), is that I would’ve loved more discussion about our actual religion’s role in creating this ‘perfection’ to strive for… we didn’t create this epidemic in a vacuum, it’s been carefully handed to us our entire lives.

So yes, I hear tremendous leaps have been made in the YW curriculum! Hallelujah!  The reality is that most of the women in this demographic --as we fall prey to a desire for this perfection--are again, only an extension of what we’ve been taught. We’ve had hundreds even thousands of lessons and “Super Saturdays” geared towards showing us and telling us how to make our homes a literal “HEAVEN ON EARTH.” (First and foremost, the importance of finding a man--or being the type of person someone will want to find you). And then how to craft, and clean, and craft and time manage and craft and cook and exercise and volunteer and … heavy sigh… more crafting. I had lessons on make-up application and how to dress “fashionably modest.” This is my reality, and the reality of so many my age.

Again, we are not the Lifestyle Porn creators… we’re just living it out on a different stage. (And just to be clear, I’m not a lifestyle blogger. My house has Formica countertops and for the most part I shop at H&M and Old Navy. But I recognize that even at the bottom of the Wasatch Front lifestyle-blog barrel, I’m still living an extreme life of privilege.)

Back to your regularly scheduled program:

We’ve heard from expert after expert about the importance of documenting our family history. We’ve been told to strive for perfection. Of course there’s an epidemic of us trying to look perfect – it’s what our leadership has told us God wants from us since the beginning.

We’ve looked at idyllic picture after idyllic picture of a family happily smiling around a table, or perfectly decorated home, pefectly pressed clothes reading scriptures and having family home evening. Long before LDS women took to sharing their successes and ideals online (whether it be for profit/attention/family & personal history) the LDS Church was placing the propaganda first--compound that with Better Homes & Gardens and fashion magazines, it's just a different type of media consumption.

The great irony is that we are consuming (and on some case doing) just doing what we have been conditioned to: strive for perfection and document your life to inspire others. 

How do we inspire when our lives don’t look like perfection? When we’ve been taught lessons on how “the spirit cannot dwell in an unclean place.” Regardless of what that scripture actually says, or the meaning behind it—so many of us have internalized that to mean every freakin’ aspect of our lives. (I’m actually laughing as I write this – so if that last bit sounded cruel to you, I promise you that was not the tone intended).

“Don’t compare your outtakes with someone else’s highlight reel.” I think Dr. Seuss said that… or someone famous.  If not, then it was probably me. (Actually, it wasn’t me, but I heard it and it’s the best ‘filter’ I use for social media.)

I don’t want to tell lifestyle bloggers (inside or outside the faith) to stop what they’re doing, because we can’t. Just like you can’t tell Hollywood to stop airbrushing. Some brave souls will come forward and chose to never be photoshopped for magazine covers, etc; but the majority will not.

For some being a lifestyle blogger is their job – they’ve created a brand and an identify associated with it. For some, they’re contributing to their family’s income. They’ve found a way to take the model and use it for their own benefit. I’m not going to tell them to stop. They’re great at what they do. (I wish I had their talent… because not even a fancy camera would give me their talent or eye for style. A camera can only do so much.)

Furthermore, I’m not going to tell people to stop looking at what they’re creating. Just like an erotic movie with my husband can heat things up in the bed room (oh. My. Goodness. Yes, I said it) lifestyle blogs can be inspiring. But yes, I need to remember that they are staged…just like Interior Design magazines, Vogue and LDS photoshoots.

Seems like a good place for a quote about moderation here (please, insert your favorite).

On a similar note, I’m pleased with the progress I see in the LDS Religion (yes, my religion and how I chose to make a spiritual path, however unconventional that path may be). Articles in the Ensign are starting to address the realities of drug addiction, mental health, LGBT issues (again, a topic worth plenty of blog posts in of itself) and how not all families look like the claims of the “ideal.”

Let’s keep those conversations going.
Let’s talk just as much about the realities of real-life as we do spend time on trying to make it perfect.

I love seeing pictures of the incredible things my friends are doing with their homes (seriously, some of my friends are interior designers and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE celebrating their talents. They shouldn’t hide those under a bushel.)

Women, we need more of us sharing and celebrating each other’s talents…we also need more safe spaces for being real. We need to be safe-spaces for each other to fail. Perhaps even more importantly, we need to provide a place and a dialogue that realizes that not being perfect, is still NOT failing. It’s just life.

I don’t know the answer to the larger lifestyle-blog consumption epidemic (I'd love to hear your solutions!) But I do know that human nature says when you tell someone that something is bad for them, most of the time they are more interested in learning about it.

I guess I’m more interested in more people--male and female--being “real” within our religion and culture, and more of us helping to create safe and judgment-free spaces to live that out. And finally, let’s not blame women for a pre-occupation with the perfect family life (i.e. lifestyle)…last I heard, we’re still fighting for our seats at the tables where the curriculum is written.



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**I imagine I'll be editing this later today. As I stew over things a little bit more...but here's a first draft.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Life explained… or at least our Holiday Card

For those of you searching for a little more back story on the hot dude gracing our Christmas card this year… well, that’s obviously my husband. The other guy that is not too hard on the eyes is Stephen Amell: star of the CW’s “Arrow” television show. It’s basically a soap opera with superheroes; and thanks to my seven-year-old son who has a not-so-mild (but healthy) obsession with comics I got sucked in to this particular alternate universe.  You can Google his name and “Salmon Ladder” if you need more fodder.
A copy of a copy... but you get the idea. Seriously, how
did we miss that dot?!?! 

As some of you may know, it’s tradition for me and Holden to attend Salt Lake’s ComicCon each September. Last year, Zoë started joining us; and this year the whole family joined in the fun! Danny noticed that Mr. Amell was doing PhotoOps so we forked out the cost of what one might normally spend on an entire family holiday photo shoot and got about five seconds and a “smile” with him to document our fandom. It only seemed appropriate to use it and abuse it.

So there’s the backstory.  The other piece of the puzzle is the giant white snow boogie on Danny’s face that he and I missed when we both looked at the screen-print. Apparently, we need to invest in hard copy proofs next time. I volunteered to sharpie them out, but Danny said the holidays were busy enough and he didn’t care. If only I could be so cavalier. . . #typeA #ChristmasIsRuined

For those of you looking for the kid’s quoteables, here's your roundup from Facebook.

As far as the other business of the year:

This could've been our Christmas Card...
but it looked too traditional. 
Danny said I couldn’t talk about him doing CrossFit. So I won’t. I’ll just say that if my husband found something physical that he was as dedicated to as baseball, and found some friendships and a community he loved while doing it… I’d think it was pretty cool. And I’d be super proud of him. And I’d want to mention it in our newsletter. But like I said, he said no CrossFit mentions, and since 2016 has really inspired me as a woman to sit back and follow the lead of a man, I’m just going to honor his request and let it be.

So in the place of talking about his dedication to working out, I’ll bring up a few noteworthy things about him:
He likes reading gossip magazines.
He’s super excited about getting a new water softener AND a home humidifier in our house.
He’s NOT a candidate for LASIK.
He's never seen the film, but...Deadpool.
He’s awesome at making chocolate chip cookies – he started a new Sunday baking tradition and we are loving it!

Danny and I also celebrated 10 years of marriage in August with a trip to Cancun in September. It was much more relaxing than the one to Indianapolis we took earlier in the year where we got stuck in Chicago, the airlines lost our luggage and we ended up on two hour Mega Bus ride to Indiana through tornado warnings with a tour that started at midnight from a random street corner downtown in the windy city. We were thankful to brave the storm together – and especially that our kids were NOT with us to experience the madness.  #makingmemories

Speaking of the kids. Holden tried on team sports for size again this past year, and ultimately decided Saturday mornings spent sewing at The Finishing School were a way more enjoyable use of his time. We told him he needed to find some sort of physical activity – so he opted for KungFu and received his yellow belt within the first couple of months of training. As I noted in the quoteables, he said, “My heart is just telling me to do KungFu.”
School Pics -- Are you kidding me?!?!
He’s in his second year of  the “Lower Elementary” Montessori cycle at Elizabeth Academy… which in layman’s terms means we have a second grader. J He still loves the sciences – especially zoology. His current obsession, besides SuperHeroes (and trying to watch as many PG-13 movies edited for content on VidAngel before the Movie Giants put the kibosh on it), is Hamilton. We watched the PBS special, have been listening to the Grammy Winning Soundtrack and have been reading up on the Founding Fathers Stories via Wikipedia and these really cool relics called “books.” Holden really got a kick out of black man playing George Washington. I get a kick out seeing how different my kids see the world than I did.

He’s got a super huge and sensitive heart. Like a good portion of our country (and the world) Holden’s having a bit of anxiety about our new president-elect. #HeWhoMustNotBeNamed

Long before his mother’s pointed brand of feminism could get to him, Holden heard Donald talking on the Sunday Political Roundups his grandfather was watching. He caught on right away that this was not an individual that respected woman. The fact that he “says swears” was another deal-breaker for Holden. We talk about the importance of being kind to others and how now (more than ever) we have a responsibility to help those not in the same position of privilege we benefit from. They are hard conversations, and at times I wonder if I have taken too much of the innocence of his childhood by answering his questions honestly. I suppose only time will tell – but one thing I know is that he is one of the most thoughtful, considerate and esoteric children I have ever met.
School Picture Outtake -- we wanted to intake.

Speaking of considerate – our little firecracker of a daughter inspired us all when she made the decision to have friends bring gifts for the less-fortunate to her party instead of collecting gifts for herself. “Mom, I already get so many presents from you and grandma and our family,” she reasoned.

Often times I am too quick to talk about Zoë’s “sass” or “spiciness.” She is not short on strength-of-mind or stubbornness. (I’m not sure where she gets it from because Danny is so mild mannered, and I am… errr, working on it.) But the truth is, she is such a passionate individual. She weeps for missing animals. She’s just barely starting to read, but has no problem recognizing the words “Lost Dog” on homemade signs.  She’s passionate about our planet ("Mom, turn off the fossil! I call faucets fossils," she tells us) and is very concerned about “glitter” (Garbage + Litter = Glitter.)

Being fabulous is exhausting...
When she asked to take the “I Side With” political quiz Danny and I had been fooling around on, she told me to mark the Refugee Crisis as her most important issue.  Yes, I chose to expose her to children’s books about Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Clinton and Malala – but they have come to be some of her favorites, right alongside Doc McStuffins and Wonder Woman.

The family that campaigns together...
Speaking of Wonder Woman, Zoë picked out a three foot tallposter of the Amazonian princess at ComicCon for her bedroom. It says “No time for naughty!” It hangs in between her poster of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” (which looks like a bad acid trip) and her Alice In Wonderland print with a hookah-smoking-caterpillar. Needless to say, when I set out to decorate my daughter’s bedroom this year, I had a different “vision” in my head of what it ought to be; but Z’s her own woman.

"Holden, you're my little Zika Virus,"
she tells him. 
She tried dance again this summer and is excited to get back to more formal lessons. She also played a little soccer and really excelled at trash talking. I keep telling her it’s better to have the skill set and let your talent be your words, but apparently yelling to other four and five year olds “You’re going down!” gets a quicker reaction. #sugarandspiceandeverythingnice 

She’s in her second year of Early Childhood Montessori – making her a PreK (4); and just turned five on December 7th. She started planning the party months ago: “I want a ‘Frozen’ party with a clown, a snack station and a art station.”  She also wanted 30 of her friends to attend at our house… since I actually love entertaining, and don’t ever want anyone to ever feel left out, we did it. But now I have a new rule – if you’re inviting more friends than the age you’re turning, we’re having the party off site. But truth be told, it was a hit – and leave it to a kid to know what it is kids want. #whoknew?  #shedid

As far as the mother of the Suite-Mangum house: my only complaint is that I wish I had more hours in the day. Lately I have become very aware of my mortality and the limited time we have here on this earth. Maybe it’s Hamilton. Maybe it's #HayesTough. Maybe it’s my spiritual journey – but I have been thinking more and more about how we just don’t know how long we (or anyone) will last.  That is also why I am trying to suck as much out of each and every single day as possible.

We had our fair share of pool time this weekend.
I’m still volunteer teaching yoga at the kids school and helping out with a community yoga class at our church most Tuesday evenings. I’ve been getting back into running after I finally got some help and healed my plantar fasciitis that had been debilitating (and seriously contributed to some extra junk in my trunk and everywhere else the past two years).

I’ve been enjoying traveling with the kids and with Danny this past year: California, Indiana, Idaho, Northern and Southern Utah, Florida and Mexico. We’ve got a trip to Yellowstone planned with my parents and the kids in 2017; and Danny and I head to the Dominican Republic together in February.

I’ve been especially enjoying my work for Neumont University. It may seem odd to some people – I mean, I work in consulting and public relations. But for me, it’s been an opportunity to see first-hand how education can break the cycle of poverty in families. I’ve also been able to help the school in the community outreach with the United Way, and a portion of Salt Lake’s refugee population. The work is truly rewarding; and I get to use my talents and time to do something I love.

My biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to fit everything (family, volunteering, work, running, yoga, worship, spirituality, etc) into the day--and still have time to watch Stephen Amell in Arrow. (A girl's gotta have some down-time).  #salmonladder 

I don’t know the secret. I’ll admit 2016 was jam packed. There were so many ups – and some horrible downs. I have not yet figured out the dance, but I am thankful for a patient and forgiving family for which I get to share the road and journey.

2017 certainly promises to be another wild ride. I will once again focus on Love, Laughter and sucking all the marrow out of Life with my people – so we can give back to this amazing world around us.  

Merry Christmas (if that's your thing, and because it's ours) and Happy Holidays (whatever or however your celebrate). 

Sabrena for the (Suite-)Mangums