Saturday, January 03, 2015

Happy At Home: An Update on Me

I am continually surprised by how fulfilled I am doing nothing. My kids are in school all day now. Where do I go from here?

I am not like some people. I feel fine, happy, fulfilled, and joyful at home. Reading, folding laundry, making playlists, and not feeling busy is what I like. But I'm not a domestic goddess or anything. I'm not good at dinner, don't make sack lunches for my kids, and am bad at crafts (though I think I would like some of them if I had an aptitude for them.) I've noticed a lot of women with kids my kids' ages get really into PTA, marathons, or photography. I don't want to do any of that.

I am happy at home. I don't seek outside fulfillment. That said, I have wondered if I can really afford the luxury of time in my day where I can do what I want. If I were a billionaire the answer would for sure be yes. But Christian works very hard and shoulders many financial burdens for our family. Listen, we're fine. We're great. I have a pair of genuine Uggs and a maid. He is safely, happily, contentedly working at BYU and we have sold our food trucks. (That was fun, wasn't it?) But, like anyone, we have financial obligations. Missions and college are looming. Money doesn't grow on trees.  When we had kids we committed to having one of us mostly home with them but with kids in school all day you start to wonder, what should I be doing now?

I like the idea of writing. I still work for Babble which, in the past, has been a slog that I felt burned-out on. However, since they restructured last summer it's much more doable and even at its sloggiest it has been a fantastic job and it feels wonderful to be a paid writer. But I'm not sure how long I can keep blogging about my kids. I want to forge new ground and blog about my older children. I am the grandma of mommy blogging, after all. But their stories are not just my stories anymore so it gets tricky. You know? Of course I'll always have Doctor Who to blog about. But the Babble editors don't let me blog about it NEARLY as much as I'd like to. Point is, I'm not sure if my blogging days are numbered. I hope not. But who can say?

I also thought: "I have a little free time now. I should spend it in the service of the Lord!" So I answered my phone, said yes to everything, signed up for things, and volunteered. As it turns out, you get burned-out on that real fast. If I am going to keep doing my own calling, help my husband with his calling, and raise all 4 of my kids Mormon, I can't take every cannery assignment that comes along. Men are that we might have joy, and that's no kind of life. (At least not for this guy.)

So anyway, I got a job at BYU. It's part-time as an office manager at the Fine Arts Advisement Center. (I worked there as a student.) Applying for jobs is kind of demoralizing and undignified in many ways. I didn't even hear back from jobs I really considered myself too good for. I have a masters degree and have taught college. I've cobbled together a pretty decent little freelance career over the last 10 years. I feel accomplished and capable. But on paper and in interviews it doesn't always come out right. I was all set to talk up myself, to parlay my experience outside of a formal job into a transferable skill set that is valuable. I had no takers. To be fair, I didn't try super hard. But how horrible for people who aren't just job-searching on a lark! I guess I always thought I could get any job I wanted. Being basically a stay-at-home mom for the last 17 years has disabled me in some ways from the perspective of many employers. That makes me mad!

Then I got my BYU job. They were great and wanted me. Let the record show that for all the bad press the church gets feminist-wise, it was BYU that was willing to look seriously at what I've been doing for the last decade and validate it with a job offer. So that's pretty cool. I feel good about it and felt guided to take it and I love the people I work with, helping students, working on campus in the Harris Fine Arts Center, and going to work from 10-2. That said, I like not working better than working and I think I might be a socialist?

At any rate, even though I don't make very much money Christian appreciates the contribution I'm making. We sometimes go to work together and meet on campus for lunch—something that has never happened since we had kids. At some point I might go back to teaching. But teaching is so open-ended. Grading papers and planning lessons takes all the time you have. Blogging and writing are also that way. I can't have 2 jobs that are open-ended time-sucks. In the meantime, I'm on campus interacting with students, which is fun. A future stretches out before me with the potential to do things on my own schedule rather than the nap or school schedule of my kids. This is, I think, the prelude to my so-called 2nd Act career. Who knows what will happen!

If my kids get married and start having children I know what I hope happens: 2nd act—Same as the first.

But that's just me.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Sadness, Joy Division, and Baptismal Covenants

I've been really into New Order and Joy Division lately. I can't believe I never knew about the tragedy of Ian Curtis until yesterday when I was googling the details of the Joy Division to New Order transition.

I can't believe I never heard about (or was simply unaware of, at age 8) his debilitating epilepsy and suicide in 1980. (That's when Joy Division became New Order.) Ian Curtis had seizures on stage as the Joy Division frontman. He was only diagnosed in 1979 and there was some stigma surrounding epilepsy. He didn't have the right medicine for his seizure disorder. He struggled with depression and his fans and bandmates didn't know. Then he hung himself. It is so, so sad. What a sweet, troubled guy. I watched interviews and videos until I cried. He speaks in a pretty high voice, which is surprising considering how low he sings for Joy Division.

I was already sad about Robin Williams, of course. I mean, obviously I didn't know him but he meant something to me (he seems to have meant something to everyone.) I loved Popeye so much and bought the soundtrack with my own money in 1980, which might explain why I wasn't so up on Joy Division at the time.

At any rate, every now and then tears would just start streaming from my eyes thinking about Ian Curtis or Robin Williams. There are people more immediately affected by their loss for sure. I know that. I wasn't even crying for my own loss of Robin Williams in my life. I guess I cried because I'm sorry there are people who are that sad. I don't have depression, but I've been down. Without minimizing it, I think I can kind of imagine what it might be like. I remember after 9/11 (and I know it's unusual to conflate the death of a rock star or Robin Williams with 9/11, but that's what I'm doing) I would cry intermittently as well (and if you know me you know I'm not a big crier). Again, I was not personally affected by 9/11 the way so many people who lost loved ones were effected, but every now and then it was like this massive grief just settled on me. And I let it. It's like, I'm willing to feel some of this sadness. It's not that I'm a masochist and I hope I'm not trying to horn in on someone else's tragedy. Because that's tacky. But if there is that much suffering I wish I could take some on me. When my kids give a talk or do something they are scared to do I feel nervous for them and I always wish I could take the nerves off of them and have them on me. It's kind of a moot point though because no one feels as nervous as I do about giving talks.

It doesn't seem like there is any point in this willingness to share grief or bear the sadness of another person. I don't think it lessens the overall grief or takes away someone else's sadness. Certainly me feeling sad about Robin Williams doesn't help his wife or kids feel any better. Does it? I don't know. I wish it it did. 

I am wondering about this because there seem to be people who breeze through this life unscathed because they don't care. I'm jealous of them. They make decisions that affect other people without agonizing over it. They don't feel guilty. They don't worry that they said something dumb or that someone took it the wrong way. I hate them! They don't suffer! I wish I were like that.

But then again, in Mosiah when Alma explains the LDS baptismal covenant (which I have made) he says that we should be willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort and "willing to bear one another's burdens that they may be light." 

So maybe helping bear a burden does lighten it? Literally helping someone carry something lightens their load. I don't know how it works with sadness or depression but it is clear that whether it is for us or for them or for the sake of humanity we should mourn, comfort, and bear the burdens of other people. Probably sitting around feeling sad is not exactly doing this, but a lack of sympathy is worse. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Men Should Talk Less About the Modesty of Girls

I don't think men should talk so much about the modesty of girls. Let me preface this by saying that I know many (probably a higher-than-average concentration, in fact) thoughtful, fair-minded, good men. I'm not against them. Of course some pervs always sneak through but in terms of leaders with good intentions and wise fathers who care about daughters—They definitely exist. Good for them. But there are so many other things to worry about besides the sleeve and skirt lengths of young women.

"Modesty" is a big thing right now. It's en vogue to talk about it. I'm sick of talking about it, personally. I understand the issue and I think it's good advice to dress modestly. I am not blind to provocative dress. But I sort of wish men were. At least, I wish they would stop talking about how cap sleeves help them keep their thoughts pure. Even if it's true. Because it strikes me as kind of gross.

Guess what I saw at Girls's Camp? Priesthood plumber's crack. Do I wish it had been covered? I guess. But I'm not going to make a big deal about it. It just seems like a funny slip up, not a moral failing on the part of the person bending over. And when I dropped my son off at scout camp almost all the boys there were wearing shorts. What if I came home and breathlessly insisted that they make a rule to cover boys' legs because they were too provocative? I would seem kind of pervy. (As if the musk of Webelo weren't enough to drive me wild!)

I don't think General Authorities who explain guidelines are pervy. We need guidelines. I'm a huge fan of guidelines! I refer to For the Strength of Youth a lot. I'm so glad we have it. It's there. We can read it. We don't also need Facebook tirades and viral videos (well-intentioned though they may be) of young men singing "If only you saw what I can see you'd understand why I want you so desperately. . . That's what makes you beautiful."

I like how Pope Francis talks about modesty better. He reminds us to live a modest and humble life and to treat others with dignity. This kind of discussion is so much more uplifting to me than most of what I hear about modesty. At girl's camp I heard some girls chatting (from a different stake, OF COURSE) about how they were, like, so mad that they had to bring their $100 jeans to camp. Bless their hearts. I don't judge. But: If I were to judge, I'd probably want to curtail that kind of braggy, worldly talk more than I would want to curtail capris, which aren't allowed at camp (which is OK because it's a rule and I respect rules) but come on—which is worse? Immodesty or "immodesty"?

When I was in graduate school we talked about "the gaze" and "the male gaze." Basically, in media and advertising the gaze is a concept for analyzing visual culture. How something or someone is viewed is determined by the person doing the gazing. Women are usually the objects of the gaze rather than the possessors of the gaze.  You can see how this would apply to literature and how graduate students would love to talk about it and feel smart.

I haven't thought much about the male gaze until now when it suddenly springs to mind as a completely apt way to describe contemporary discourse on modesty within the church. There's a lot of gazing going on. I don't like being the object of it and I like it even less when my daughters or any of the young women I work with in my stake are objectified by these discussions about modesty. It sexualizes them more than any tank top ever could.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Mom/Old Mom

When I was a new mom I was like
 Now I'm an old mom and people act like I'm all

 But they should be like

Because I feel like




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