Friday, June 26, 2015

The Reason You Love Jane Austen-- and I Bet You didn't Even Know it

My junior year of college I signed up for a women's literature class as part of my Women's Studies minor at BYU. Shortly before the class began they notified us that there would be an instructor change, but since I didn't know either instructor I didn't think much of it. When I went to go buy my books for the class I noticed that there were two very different sets of books on the shelf. The first set was composed mostly of Jane Austen novels and several other books from the same time period, all by women authors.

The second set, which were the ones I needed for my class, looked way more interesting to me. There were books on Jungian psychology, Native American women's memoirs, poetry, and titles like "The Goddess Within". I secretly congratulated myself on somehow avoiding the women's literature class that would have just read Jane Austen novels all semester. I couldn't see how there would have been anything interesting, feminist, or important to say about women from those books. Weren't they just love stories?

My women's literature class turned out to be one of my favorite classes of my college experience, and so many of the things we talked about shaped how I see the world and women's experiences. In fact, I think that it was that class that really gave me the courage to get married even though my parents had recently divorced and I was terrified of the idea. In many ways I think that the instructor change for that class may have been a tender mercy in my life.

Yet recently I've been wishing that I could go back to school and take women's literature again but from the other professor, the one who assigned all the Jane Austen books. I would be so interested to know what she had to say and what themes and ideas we would have discussed. This is because a few months ago I watched this lecture by Christina Hoff Sommers about the history of feminism. In her lecture she talks about how there are, and always have been, two different types of feminism. This video will give you the very condensed message of her lecture.

The first type of feminism is what has historically been called "maternal feminism" and is the type of feminism that many of our great grandmothers believed in. In the late 19th century women in Europe and the United States began mobilizing to help reform society and to secure women the right to vote. Women like Hannah More in England, Francis Willard in the United States, and Nellie McClung of Canada rallied women to become involved in improving their communities and seeking the right to vote.

These maternal feminists believed that women were innately different from men, but believed women possessed a divine feminine nature that had great potential to shape the world. They saw women’s involvement in society as a natural and important extension of a woman’s innate capacity for nurturing and motherhood. Maternal feminism was widely popular in both Europe and the United States and was able to mobilize a huge group of women. It was maternal feminists who were the main force behind things like the temperance movement, women's suffrage, unions, and the huge societal reforms of the early 1900's, which included everything from improving orphanages to reforming prisons. We sometimes refer to these women as the "first wave" of feminism. For many of these women they saw political and social involvement as part of their God given responsibilities as women and mothers. As Nellie McClung, a Canadian women’s rights leader wrote,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Favorite Story about My Dad

Last Sunday was Father's Day here in the United States and since it always seems like I am three steps behind in life, I am once again going to post a belated Father's Day post. I have lots of good stories about my Dad but my very favorite story happened when I was about 15-years-old and was attending my fourth year of girl's camp. Our Ward always attended a Stake Camp at a church owned camp called Darby, nestled at the base of the Teton Mountains in Idaho. It is a beautiful camp and I have many, many happy memories from my years there. One of the best parts about the camp was that it was really close to some incredible hiking places and we got to go on some really great hikes. My Dad loves to hike and so he would always volunteer to come up to camp on hiking day and help guide some of the hikes. I don't know if he has ever realized how much that meant to me, but for me the best part of girl's camp was always hiking with my Dad.

The hike that all the girls aimed for was to hike Table Rock in their fourth year. This was the hardest hike and was nearly 12 miles long and gained 4,000 feet in elevation as you went up. It was a strenuous hike that put you at the top of a large, flat rock right in between the Teton Mountains. For three years I'd watched the older girls make the hike and come back exhausted, but exhilarated by the incredible view and the shear accomplishment of tackling a mountain. I was very much looking forward to climbing Table Rock and was excited to do it with my Dad.

Table Rock Mountain is the flat plateau
He'd arranged to come up the night before the hike, but something (I can't remember what) prevented him so he sent word he would be there in the morning at 7 AM to meet us for the hike. That night we had our hiking meeting and I was horrified to learn that we'd be leaving at 5 AM the next morning and not 7 AM like my Dad was planning on. It was too late to get word to my Dad and since this was before the days when cell phones were popular there really was no way to reach him the next morning. The leaders decided they would just have to go ahead without him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eve: In the Beginning {Book Review}

Way back in February I was asked if I'd be willing to review H.B. Moore's new book, "Eve: In the Beginning." It has taken me such a long time to get around to it that I sort of feel bad, but I figure that it is better late than never. I think it took me such a long time to read it because they sent me an ebook version of the story and I really don't like reading ebooks... at all. In fact, I've decided that I probably shouldn't agree to do book reviews unless they send me a hard copy, or it will take me nearly six months to get it done!

Okay with that out of the way... on to the review.

Moore's book is a retelling of the Adam and Eve story, alternating between both of their viewpoints. It follows them from the Garden of Eden into the Fallen World up until they have their first son Cain. I enjoyed how Moore portrayed Eve and thought she did a good job of helping readers understand the struggles that Adam and Eve would have gone through, especially after their fall from the Garden of Eden. In fact, I think that I liked the second half of the book, the part after they leave the Garden of Eden, best. Mostly because I think it if fun to think about how life would have been for Adam and Eve as the first people on the earth, and how they would have had to figure things out for themselves. I also enjoyed Moore's depiction of Satan and especially with Eve's struggle with Him, I think Moore really did a good job on that part.

In the preface of the book Moore states that she drew from several different religious traditions to write the story, and that it doesn't profess the beliefs of any one faith. I could see that in her book because a lot of what she writes is speculation, myth, or personal ideas about our First Parents. But I also felt like her perspective was overwhelmingly an LDS perspective on Eve, the Garden and the Fall. In fact, there were times when reading the book felt like watching parts of the temple videos. She didn't share anything inappropriate but I felt the whole time I was reading it that everything was pretty familiar, and that I'd already heard the same story, told the same way before.

Even so, I think that the LDS perspective on Eve is one of the greatest strengths of the book and is what could make it AWESOME for people who are not LDS to read. In fact, I think that this book would be a great gift to give to someone from a different religious background because it presents Eve in such a different, positive light, than how most religions usually portray her, and does it in a fun engaging way. 

Overall I enjoyed the book and really liked Moore's insights and thoughts about Adam and Eve and the Fall. I think she did a good job and really made them come alive.  It did take me a long time to read which I think was one, because the books moved a bit slow (at least for me) and because I was reading it as an ebook, which I don't enjoy. But this would make a good summer read, and a good gift for someone in your life who needs a new, and in my opinion, better perspective on Eve and the Fall.

You can read more reviews and purchase "Eve: In the Beginning" on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Divorce is as Hard as Death

Eleven years ago my aunt died. She was an incredible person-- beautiful, vivacious, kind. Her death was completely unexpected and it was a tragic shock for her three daughters and for our entire extended family. When my Dad called to tell me she had died I was at work, and since I was living near my aunt and uncle's I headed straight to their home after I got off. When I got there the room was dim and full of people mourning and comforting my uncle and his daughters. For a long time I sat with my arm around my cousin (we are about the same age) as we mourned the loss of a great woman. We shared stories about her, we looked at pictures, and we cried together until our faces were raw . It was a sad night but there was something sacred and holy about it as well.

Three days after my aunt's funeral I got another phone call from my dad, this time much more frantic and upset, telling me that he had come home to find a moving truck emptying our house of all the furniture and a note saying that my mother was leaving him. She'd taken my two sisters and he didn't know where they were. In those moments as I cried with my father on the phone it felt like the world had come crashing down. My mother had been struggling with mental health issues for years, but things had been going better and I hadn't been expecting this.

I went through the rest of the day in a daze and that night I headed to my grandmother's house in Salt Lake City to spend the night before driving home to Idaho to be with my Dad. I've never felt more alone than I did that night. I laid on the couch in my Grandmother's parlor and my wonderful, saint of an aunt held my head in her lap as I bawled. She didn't say much but just stroked my hair as my heart bled out through my eyes. 

I arrived home to find our house almost completely empty and life as I had known it for twenty years over-- just like that.

No funeral, no flowers, no cards, no meals from neighbors. No crowd gathered in my home to comfort and mourn with me. No happy stories to remember, no eulogies, or assurances that we would be a family forever. No grave to commemorate what once was. Just a lot of hurt feelings, unkind words, confusion, and anger.

Me and my siblings when I was about 12. I'm the one hiding behind the car on the left.

It has been more than 11 years now that my parents have been divorced. It has been a hard 11 years, with lots of additional struggles and heartaches. Both my parents are remarried, which has brought some big ups and downs, and we have all worked hard to make things work.

I've been thinking about writing this post for several years now, but have always chickened out. It is still a topic and a wound that is easily re-opened. Yet, I've been feeling strongly that I just needed to  acknowledge for a moment that divorce is every bit as hard as a death.

I think because the death of my aunt and my parents divorce happened so close together I really realized how similar they were. I realize that loosing ones mother and having your parents get divorced isn't exactly a straight across trade, but I think that in many ways the feelings are really quite similar. In each situation a family goes through an irreparable loss, they have lost something or someone that will never be able to be fixed or replaced. A divorce is a death of a family, of dreams, promises, and plans and I think it can hurt just as much as loosing a loved one.

In fact, I wish that as a society we treated divorce more like we do a death. That instead of trying to sweep the broken pieces aside in embarrassment and anger, that we took more time to mourn. Time to acknowledge a loss of dreams and expectations, time to acknowledge the hurt that everyone is going through. More time focusing on the good in people rather than the bad, more time speaking kind words rather than mean ones, and more time remembering the happy memories rather than all the bad things that were done and said.

Yet, I think the problem is that too often divorce is so seeped in anger, on both sides, that it doesn't allow room for real love, compassion, or kindness. It seems to me that when someone dies it is easy to forget, or minimize the bad. The person is gone, and so why hold on to  hard feelings? It is easy to focus on the positive aspects of a person when they die, but with divorce it is just the opposite. Both sides have to justify who is right and who is wrong and so every mean and unkind things that can be thought of is dug up and thrown around. I think the anger prevents healing and is the real tragedy of divorce, because anger always destroys.

As I have thought about it over the years I've decided it would be kind of nice if we could hold funeral services for and even dedicate "graves" to broken families. That it would be healing to have a place where you could consciously let go of what was broken and gone, a place where you could (symbolically) bury what had been and now  never will be again, while still holding on to all the good parts--  the memories, the joys, the pictures, the happiness, and all the things that made you a family before.

Because here is what I have learned in 11 years, that love is more powerful than anger. Anger always destroys and it never makes anything better. Holding on to anger is like drinking poison hoping that it will hurt someone else, when the reality is that it just eats at you from the inside out. I've learned that loving people, even when they are completely unlovable, can work miracles. That when we choose to love Christ can do amazing things and make hopeless situations better. I have seen first hand how anger can destroy and I have seen first hand how love can heal, and I promise you love is always the better choice, especially when it is the harder one.

So I guess here is the bottom line of this post; that if you, someone you love, or even someone you barely know has gone or is going through a divorce love them like you would if they were going through a death. Don't leave them alone, cry with them, feed them, comfort them, and don't judge them. I've learned that there is always a grain of truth on BOTH sides of the story, and that both sides can be right. It is always better to just love people, rather than try to decide who is to blame more than who. Love everyone, no matter what they have done, because the alternative is to be angry and victimized which really stinks ... trust me on that one.

I know that for me it has helped to think of my parent's divorce as a death, to allow myself to grieve, to ache, to cry, and to mourn for what was and what could have been. To acknowledge that I've experienced a huge loss, something that only Christ and His miraculous atonement can make better. I have also learned that love is always a choice and just because someone has hurt you it doesn't mean you have to stop loving them. Let them hurt you again-- no-- but love them for who they were, who they are, and who they can become--yes.

Divorce really is as hard as death, but just like love can heal the sting of death, love can also heal the sting of divorce. In fact, I am coming to see that Christ's love can fix just about anything, no matter how broken and shattered.

Eleven years down the road, I still miss the family that could have been but I can see how God has taken the pieces and created something beautiful. It hasn't been (and still isn't) an easy process but I am learning to trust Him, to let go of my expectations and trust that He is the master builder and the master healer. My family doesn't look anything like I once thought it would, but you know what, we have come a long, long way together and I can see that Christ is shaping us into something broken, but still beautiful.