Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beyond

Last weekend, Emily ran a 5k. She’s joined her school’s girls on the run program this year, and she loves it in every way. She loves when her teammates all wear their canary-yellow club shirts on the same day, the self-pride kinds of activities they complete while doing their carb-loading pasta parties, and the sense of accomplishment she feels when she completes a higher number of laps than the previous practice. She doesn’t have a competitive streak – she’s always most interested in telling me about the friends she was able to chat with while running, and I’ve never heard her compare her finish time to anyone else’s. Race completed, high on endorphins, she told me she wanted to run another as soon as possible.


Here’s the thing – she’s gone beyond me. I’ve never run that far in my life. I’ve hiked far greater distances than that, ridden a bike up mountain canyons, and loved the back-and-forth rhythm of the lanes at the pool, but running? Not my scene (even back before I grew four small humans and still had a pelvic floor to speak of). Running a mile on two separate occasions for freshman PE is the peak of my running career.

This is not the first time my daughter’s skills have surpassed my own (no question that she became a better seamstress the first time she sat down in front of a sewing machine), but it is her first milestone that I will probably never complete. She’s moving forward and accomplishing things that are beyond me, and moving through social worlds that are far different than the ones I grew up in (hello, technology).

And it is good. It is what I have raised her to do. I want her to feel confident in who she is and what she loves. I want her to have the strength to stand without me, since there are so many places in her life where I won’t (and shouldn’t) be. I want her to find her own path and calling.

But it never occurred to me that I’d need to find her a running buddy to get there, you know?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Names


Baby names aren’t the only form of naming on my mind lately. I have also been thinking about how our experience in the church is limited and enhanced based on the vocabulary we use to talk and think about it, especially vocabulary around women’s responsibilities and work in church administration.

On the one hand, naming gives people and practices authority and scope. Have you noticed the way leaders trip over the wording when they try to talk about how a woman’s auxiliary service will start or end on a different time table because of her and her husband’s call to lead a mission? Names matter here. We have a clear title for a Temple Matron, for instance, that implies certain responsibilities and influence. The Mission President’s Wife does not, and it impacts how we think of her role there. Hearing a leader say, “Sister _____ will begin serving in the YW Presidency in July, as she is completing her current assignment as the temple matron of the Winter Quarters Temple” feels very different than saying, “Sister _____ will begin serving in the YW Presidency in July, as her husband is currently serving as the president of the Omaha Mission.” The second makes it feels like her responsibilities are secondary to her husband’s; the first makes it clear she currently has important responsibilities. It sends a very different message about the value of women’s work, and I am thoroughly convinced that the biggest barrier to fulfilling President Nelson’s call for women to make their voices heard is our own lack of vision about our contributions and influence.

At the same time, when you name something, it places boundaries on its scope and possibilities. When a role isn’t as well-defined, leadership has greater capacity for creativity and fluidity in what positions are created and how to perform them. I think a prime example here is making the women’s session of conference an official session, rather than auxiliary. I love that it recognizes the centrality of women’s work to the work of the church, but I’ve noticed structural changes that have occurred since it was renamed. The format has gone to the same strictly talk-and-choir-number format of the other sessions, where in the past, women’s sessions included videos that helped engage younger attendees. And I think the redefinition probably had a lot to do with the fact there were fewer total female speakers this last General Conference – women had already spoken in an official session of conference, so why did they also need to speak in the other sessions? In this situation, naming interfered with our young women’s need to have content designed for them, and to see women acting as leaders in the church.

I’m a bit torn. Going back to the Mission Presidents’ wives example, I do feel that the work of Mission Presidents’ wives is not recognized as valuable because we don’t have the vocabulary to talk about their contributions, and I feel like our rising generation desperately needs models to see themselves as leaders in the work of the church. Yet, as it currently stands, Mission Presidents’ wives have a great deal of flexibility in what work they do and how they strive to accomplish it. This flexibility allows women to play to their strengths, be flexible in how they share the workload with their husbands, and more easily adapt to the needs of their unique mission and missionaries.

I feel that our vocabulary is incredibly influential in how we think about women’s work. I want our young women to have the vocabulary to see themselves as the women of action and influence God needs them to be. But I want to change it in a way where we maintain our opportunities for innovation and adaptability.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Response


This week has made me feel indescribably sad for my country. A comedian posing with a fake severed head of our president. Nooses left in the Smithsonian African American History Museum & in front of the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum (and that’s just this week – we’ve had other noose incidents in our capital in recent months that haven’t gotten the same press). An anti-Muslim terrorist stabbing people on a train and calling it patriotism. I’m grieving our lack of empathy, our inability to see beyond our own priorities.

But here’s the thing: my current sadness isn’t because these actions are anything new for our country. We’ve been doing this and much worse from the start. My current state of sadness is based on how connected our emotional response is to where we identify politically.

I believe the vast majority of Americans are sad about these actions. But we only become livid if it is something the other side has done.

Where is the liberal rage over Griffin’s photo? We had plenty of it when we witnessed images of effigies of Obama hanging from nooses. We’re very fast to pull them out in response to Trump’s comment about liberal violence. But we are not mustering the same level of rage over Griffin’s photo that we are over the Nugent/Palin/Kid Rock photo in front of Hilary Clinton’s portrait, and it is hypocritical and intensely wrong. Griffin’s photo was inexcusable, and we need to stop sitting quietly and ignoring it – we need to speak up.

Where is the conservative rage over the nooses and stabbings? You’ve told marginalized groups that white supremacists didn’t reflect the average Trump voter and you absolutely weren’t voting for that hatred when you voted for Trump, that your policies would better protect people of color than liberal policies, and even in some situations that the images we’ve seen are a liberal plant to make conservatives look bad. Yet when I’ve scrolled social media, I have yet to see a conservative friend even talk about these acts, let alone express sorrow or outrage. They have been largely ignored. Why aren’t conservatives speaking out about this? It flies in the face of conservative values. The stabbings are not patriotism, and were motivated by a rejection of religious freedom. The nooses do not make America safe. Vigilantism rejects the justice system our founding fathers created.  

Americans, we are fighting the same fight. This is the same fight. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The dignity of human life. Pluralism. Empathy. Civility. Our faith that democracy can solve our problems by bringing people with different views together and finding compromises so all can be free. If we only speak out when the other guy violates these principles, we’re going to lose this fight.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rusty


Yes, I am aware that personal blogging isn’t a thing that is really done anymore. But here I am.

Writing has been something that has slipped from my life. It had previously been something that held me together, something that allowed me to process my feelings and exercise a part of my brain that had fewer outlets when I was spending most of my hours with magnificent little people whose most complex sentences consisted of, “mean Spiderman take pizza away!” Yet with the exception of occasional journal entries and Goodreads reviews, writing isn’t really a part of my life anymore.

Now, I have been given some writing opportunities that matter deeply to me, and I realize I am wildly out of practice. I feel like in the past few years, my thinking has become more nuanced and sophisticated. I’ve learned to ask better questions when things trouble me, to listen to a broader range of perspectives, and to be more patient with the process involved in gaining understanding. I’m more comfortable in my own skin, more willing to make mistakes on paths I care about travelling. Yet, when I sit in front of the computer to write, everything comes out slowly and awkwardly, and it frustrates me.

Turns out there’s something to that practice thing after all.

I’ve realized that if I want to maximize these opportunities, I need to invest more time into my craft. I can’t expect to sit down after a multi-year hiatus and write moving and persuasive prose.

I assume no one really comes here now, but regardless, I want to start writing again. It shouldn’t be this way, but putting pieces up here instead of in some folder makes me finish them instead of endlessly and aimlessly toying with them, and consider how the reader would respond to what I’ve written. Thank you for being my sounding board.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Diverse Views


On the evening of the Obergfell decision, a friend made a comment on facebook that I can't get out of my head. I'm too lazy to look up her precise wording (it has taken me over a year to write anything at all here, so humor me), but she essentially said, “My coworkers criticize my habit of unfriending people that don't agree with me politically, but let me say this – it has been awesome to scroll through my facebook feed today and see nothing but love.”

I have the opposite experience on my feed, and I love it. For me, the one of the best parts of my facebook feeds is its diversity of opinion. I'm not claiming perfection – I'll admit that I did unfriend an acquaintance that repeatedly insulted Muslims without cause. But when I go through my feed on any given day, I feel like I'm viewing a sample of the hearts and minds of people in America, and I understand the world so much better for it.

It can be so easy to stereotype people you disagree with. You can label them ignorant, naive, bigoted, willfully stupid, apostate, evil, and wrong. And suddenly, it doesn't matter what is at stake for them in the decision – all that matters is that they are silenced or shamed because you are right. But these aren't random talking heads at Fox News or MSNBC. On my facebook feed, these views are attached to people I know and care about. I don't get the privilege of labeling them other. It reminds me that any hot button issue is a hot button issue because it deals with people's core values.

My feed has diverse views, and I need them all. I need advocates drawing attention to the staggering social costs of police brutality, AND the police officers discussing the almost never considered mental toll of showing up to work every day knowing someone will yell at you and try to emotionally manipulate you, knowing that any given day you will probably see nightmarish cases of abuse and cruelty, and knowing that any given day you may be assaulted or killed. I need the Trump enthusiasts and Sanders enthusiasts; the Mormon Women Stand members and Ordain Women members; the evangelicals and atheists. I need the people that were furious that BSA's decision still allows discrimination against gay leaders and the people that were furious that BSA's decision may open the door to discriminate against religious organizations that use that exemption (was anybody happy about the BSA decision? Not on my feed).

And yes, sometimes what I find there angers me. But then I take a step back and ask, “Why? What is at stake for this person?” And often, I realize the costs are high and the history is messy. Any solution that actually works will only work if it understands and addresses the real concerns of the real people that hold them, not the straw men we hold up.

I'm not saying we shouldn't fight against things that attack our core values – I'm saying we should take the time to understand why we are fighting the battle in the first place.




Friday, June 6, 2014

Need


I recently participated in an interfaith fast one of my friends organized on behalf of the kidnapped Nigerian girls. Over 3500 people participated, and I was given the name of one of the girls to specifically pray for. It was an important moment in my spiritual development.



I don't fast very often. Between pregnancy, breastfeeding, and blood sugar issues, my body can't support the traditional Mormon 24-hour fast. I tried to be extra prayerful when friends and family had specific challenges they were facing, but when most fast Sundays rolled around, I didn't treat the day any differently. But the organizers of this fast provided information on alternative fasting, and fasting practices of different faiths. I decided for this fast, I would try sticking to a diet of very simple foods, and make sure my thoughts always turned towards my assigned student when I did eat.



I learned some important things in this fast. I learned about the value of keeping my heart open to the realities of others. It is easy to feel hopeless when faced with the ugliness of the world, and easy to feel powerless to stop it. Tuning it out would hurt less. But God wants us to mourn with those that mourn, and just because I can't do much to stop hatred and cruelty doesn't excuse me from doing the small actions I can. I learned about how I understand and act differently when I focus on individuals, rather than groups. I learned that even when we reach out to God in imperfect forms, he reaches back. And I am energized to experiment with different forms of fasting in upcoming months. This was a big moment for me, and it will hopefully to continue to be important.



My friend that organized this fast is part of Ordain Women. And many people have told her to her face that if she doesn't like the current system, she should just leave the church.



I have no problem with people saying they disagree with Ordain Women. I have no problem with people joining counter facebook groups asserting their faith in the current system. I don't even have a problem with people saying they just don't understand Ordain Women, given the speaker has put even a little bit of effort into hearing these women explain their feelings in their own words. But what I can't stomach is people saying that if they are so unhappy, they should just leave.



Lots of words are thrown around about the small minority of Mormon women that want female ordination, based on the 2011 Pew survey. Let's ignore the fact that the study was done before Mormon Feminism became the known phenomenon it has become in the past few years, and I'm positive the numbers are different now. Even though it is a small percentage, in a church of 15 million, YOU ARE ASKING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TO LEAVE.



I have several friends and acquaintances that have participated in Ordain Women events, and many more that support female ordination. So let me tell you about these women you are asking to leave. You are asking my friend that I mentioned above to leave. You are asking the woman who felt prompted to take notes of my child's beautiful baby blessing to leave (I reached into my bag and realized I'd forgotten my notebook and all I had was a crayon and a mostly-filled coloring book to take notes with – she caught details I hadn't remembered). You are asking the woman that made me feel at home when I attended my first relief society activity in a ward where everybody but me seemed to have kids, and I felt out of place, to leave. You are asking several primary teachers my children have loved and learned important lessons from to leave. You are asking the friend that loaned me her car for SEVERAL MONTHS so I could get out of the house and stave off the baby blues to leave.



And every last one of these women have children, and you are by extension telling them to just leave. Those generations will be gone.



I know these women. They are not the kind of women that attend church when they feel like it, and keep the commandments when they feel like it. They worship regularly, the engage in their faith meaningfully, and they serve diligently. They strengthen those around them. And they feel A LOT of pain from the current structure.



My relationship to Ordain Women is complicated (I'll tackle it another day), but my relationship to the women in it is not: they are my sisters, and I need them. I am better for having them in my life. I need their courage, empathy, creativity, and open hearts. I need their ability to see suffering, large and small, and act to improve it. I need the reminder not to coast through life, but to always examine my spirituality and my relationship to my faith.

So by all means, tell them you disagree with them. But say it with love, and say it in a way that allows me to continue to grow alongside them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Charlotte


:) I'll start with the baby photo because I know that's what most of you come here for.

Charlotte is at my favorite phase for babies: old enough to sleep through the night, smile, and coo, but not able to crawl around and get into mischief. Not to make y'all jealous, but I got an awesome baby. She usually sleeps for at least 10 hours at night (she's done 14). She has a powerful gentleness about her, and she's really go-with-the flow. She adores being held and holding onto hair. We've finally persuaded her to take bottles when needed. I feel so blessed to have a healthy, happy baby.

Emily adores being a big sister. She's told me that Charlotte is her best friend, and she tells me, "I love Charlotte the most. Not you. Not daddy. But don't worry, I still love myself." (At least the girl has self-esteem, right?). It is fun that she's old enough that she can really help. When Charlotte wakes up partway through cooking dinner, and Emily can hold her and give her a pacifier, I think to myself, "why don't all babies come with big sisters?" Both kids love Charlotte's interactive phase. They drop whatever they are doing and come running if they can tell Charlotte is having a smiley period, and laugh and laugh every time she smiles at them.

I feel so blessed the transition to three has gone so smoothly.