Monday, March 31, 2008

making music

this is what my day sounded like today...

Little buddy and his two friends. By the time they were done, my cupboards were emptied of almost every pot and tupperware container.

fortunately, they had almost as much fun putting it all back, as they had getting it all out.

Friday, March 28, 2008

the mormon woman

"...Unto the woman, I, the Lord God said; I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." -Moses 4: 22

"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy"-2Nephi 2:25

he gets the credit and the joy, she gets the blame and the sorrow.

Sometimes, when I let it, I tremble with rage.

A guest post over at Zelophehads Daughters asks about the contradictions that Mormon Women face. I copied Lynnette's response in my journal, it was that good, and put into words many of the disturbing contradictions I have been trying to reconcile:

"There are several contradictions in LDS teachings related to gender that I’ve found particularly challenging:

–We say on the one hand that Eve made the right choice, and she is honored for it. However, the Eden story remains the basis for the ritual subordination of women. Are women being punished for Eve’s transgression?

–We talk about God being no respecter of persons, and say that every human being is a child of God with divine potential. Yet while men are told that they can become like God, and are authorized to use God’s power, it’s much less clear what the eternal role of women consists of–and there are disturbing indications that their ultimate purpose is to facilitate male exaltation (along the lines of Paul’s observation that “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”)

–We emphasize that personal revelation is available to everyone, and yet in our most sacred spaces only men covenant to hearken to God directly, whereas women’s access to God is formally mediated through their husbands.

–We talk about marriage being both patriarchal and egalitarian, asserting both that the husband “presides” and that the two are “equal partners”. I see these two principles as being fundamentally in conflict.

–We say that motherhood is of the utmost importance, and that the most important thing a woman can do is raise her children–and yet we have no information about Heavenly Mother, and in fact are explicitly told that communication with her is off-limits.

All of these issues have been discussed at length here and elsewhere on the Bloggernacle, of course, and I’m well aware that many interpret them differently and would disagree with my assertion that they involve contradictions. But for me personally, one of the basic contradictions in my religious life has been between my experience of myself as a full human being and my personal encounters with God which have led me to hope that God in fact sees me that way–and LDS teachings and practices which challenge that notion. I can’t say I’ve resolved that contradiction, though for my own peace of mind I’ve tended to put more faith in the former and hope that the latter are tied up with the challenges of a fallen world, rather than being the result of divine decree."

All I can add is "Amen sister!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

spirituality and fun

"[Christianity] was the religion in which divinity was revealed by scars on the flesh." -Sara miles

For a good part of my life I felt wounded, struggling with depression and low self image. Often my art reflected this pain, imagery of cuts, wounds, a pierced and bleeding heart. While these metaphorical wounds were painful, yet I think I also held them as badges of my spirituality. A twisted token of the atonement where I felt Christ's pain and was closer to Him because of it. Spirituality, in my mind was associated with solemnity, sacrifice, seriousness... And suffering. And I was very very spiritual.

But now I am conflicted. I do not feel so wounded any more. I no longer feel cut up and bleeding inside. In fact, I feel rather... frisky? Lighthearted and enjoying life. A sense of levity. I quite surprised myself the other day, when I went shopping for a bathing suit (hadn't bought one in seven years, it was about time!) and found that the one I liked the most was a brilliant turquoise bikini. (!!!) I am having a hard time reconciling this with my 'spiritual' sensitivities (not to mention my feminist sensitivities. I remember reading The Beauty Myth and thinking that I should dress in somber grays from head to foot. But that was my misinterpretation, not Naomi Wolf's intent.) Well, I bought that flashy bathing suit... but also bought a more conservative, modest, muted one too. Just in case? Because perhaps I'd feel more 'spiritual' in olive green and with more of my tummy covered? (Or maybe I'm just worried that when it comes to actually wearing that tiny blue thing in public I will find I am really not that frisky. I guess I'll find out in a month or so.) (Don't get me wrong, the other suit I bought is attractive and flattering... but the difference in "personality" between the two is huge.)
Anyways, It got me thinking.

They say sweet is the peace the gospel brings, and men are that they might have joy, but just what does that mean?

I am reminded of that story about the person who went to see the prophet Joseph Smith and found him rough-housing with some kids and was shocked and offended that a 'prophet of god' would behave like that. (Or something along those lines... can anyone give me a reference for this story? I am too lazy right now to try to find it right now.)

I no longer feel so serious, somber, or wounded... and sometimes it makes me wonder if I am no longer spiritual.

Is spirituality compatible with levity? I'm trying to find out.

(P.S. yes... this also means that yet another source of my artistic inspiration has dissipated... still trying to work through that artists block.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

a petty god

From Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife;
"There are two great powers and they have been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side from the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit." (pg. 320)

This passage brought back, quite vividly, a memory from about ten years ago. I was newly returned from serving in the mission field. I was saturated in the gospel, my testimony rock solid, I had never been more assured that I would never lose my faith. Then one day I was sitting in the temple, my mind wandering just a tad during the endowment session, and an idea began to grow of this petty God who knew that his only way to maintain the little power he had was to make his subjects think they had to constantly humble themselves before him, never question him, always obey and always submit. this God knew that if they ever stopped debasing themselves before him they would gain great power, and not need him anymore, and he couldn't tolerate the idea of his losing what little authority he had. What an idea to pop into my (fully faithful) head during the temple endowment (a ceremony set up to re-enforce the notion of submission and obedience to God). I was quite shocked at what my mind had conjured up. Where did that come from? This little fantasy of God as a petty power-hungry manipulator using a smokescreen of omnipotence and mercy, what dark part of my mind did that crawl out of? Later, I remember mentioning it to my father; "so, have you ever wondered if...?" The response was immediate: "Absolutely not!!!" Of course, I didn't believe it either... but I was a little disturbed that I had thought it.

Reminds me of another passage from The Subtle Knife, the words of an officer of the magisterium (the church;) "By their fruits shall ye know them. By their questions shall ye see the serpent gnawing at their heart..."

Now, ten years later, it is the church that I don't believe in. Perhaps I had a little snake snacking on my heart, perhaps not. Who knows all the different paths I could have taken. But this is where I am. I have no faith in any religious organization to represent God. But I do still believe in God. Sort of. Sometimes. Okay, I have to admit that my concept of God is taking quite a beating. Really not sure what to think about deity right now (aside from a lingering trust that there is something bigger out there).
But that is for another post.

P.S. my copy of The Amber Spyglass is at the library, waiting for me to pick it up! I have really enjoyed this trilogy.
P.P.S my copy of God's Problem just came in the mail!!! more about that one soon....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

midlife crisis.

So far, only one family member has made mention of my new little piece of jewelry. It easily hides under my hair, but by this time I am sure that they have all SEEN it... just aren't sure what to say about it. At least to me. I am pretty sure after we went home Sunday night G's new earring was probably a topic of discussion. (Would love to have been a fly on the wall to hear that conversation. Then again... maybe not.)

But my dear little bro, the one who just got home from his mission in Brazil, probably the believing sibling who I am most likely to confide, in whispered in my (newly pierced) ear, 'what's this? A midlife crisis?'. I just laughed, and replied 'Maybe'. Then tossed out that I was thinking of piercing my nose too. We both laughed, but we were also both measuring each other. Just a little bit. He, trying to measure what I really meant (and if I was serious about the nose). Me, trying to measure what I could tell him.

How I would love to talk openly to some of my family members about 'what is going on with G'... but I haven't. Not yet.
Whenever I think about how that conversation would go, I get overwhelmed with task of even finding where to begin. And overwhelmed with trying to find the words and sentences to use that they will understand, will not be automatically discard as "being deceived by the devil". (Does that sound funny? Don't laugh. That is exactly where a conversation about this would go with my father.) So I have shared none of my thoughts and struggles and changes in faith with them. Therefore, the idea of a midlife crisis is probably what makes the most sense to them.

Hello, I am a bit young for that. And besides, the crisis was last year when I felt like I was aging ten years each day and was thinking about all the different ways I could kill myself.

Right now I am doing quite fine, thank you very much. Feeling energized (well... most of the time) Feeling beautiful (okay, I still have my moments) Feeling good about where my life is going (yep, I really do). And feeling like taking more time to put on jewelry and makeup and do my hair... and yes, loving the new glitter in my ear, loving the idea of adorning my self a little more than I have in the past (up until just recently, I haven't been one to wear jewelry, earrings or anything. Now I frequently put on a bracelet, an extra ring, a necklace...)

hmmm... this is ironic, I am sitting here eating Dove chocolates, you know, the ones wrapped in foil that have a little message printed inside; and the two I just opened (and ate) say "Hey, why not?" and "Decorate your life."

Well, it's working so far.

Actually, when I think about it, it would be great if what I went through the past year or so could count as whatever midlife crisis I might be slated for. Nice to think I have that behind me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

one in thine hand

(this is a pic my lover and I snapped on a little get-a-way we took about a week ago. lots of fun)

I am reading the most fabulous book right now. It is called A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom and it charts the evolution of marriage in the Judeo-Christian world through the centuries. Highly recommend it. When I finish it I'll write a review (maybe. depends on how busy I am).

And just last night I read a passage that made me think specifically about how we as mormons view marriage. In Germany in the 1500's a monk by the name of Martin Luther challenged the churches stance on a whole list of things... and one of them was the celibacy of monks. Luther didn't believe this practice was based in the scriptures, was unnatural, and that marriage (and sexuality within marriage) should be open to all, both priest and laymen. Interestingly enough, Luther also "argued that marriage was not a sacrament-a religious ceremony of sacred significance. He... reduced the seven Catholic sacraments to three; only baptism, penance, and the Eucharist remained... [as] necessary for salvation." (pg. 99)
In other words, he was all for marriage, but not as a spiritual requirement.

Which led me to think of the LDS view of marriage as an ordinance necessary for salvation (Elder Holland has even used the word 'sacrament' to refer to marriage and the marital bed). If it doesn't happen in this life, well... the LDS culture is working hard to change the view that you are a bit of a failure, and there is always the promise of being able to marry someone in the here-after. Because it needs to happen. Or else you can't go to heaven. Not only that, but it needs to happen in an LDS temple, or it doesn't count. When I read Luther's words last night, I wondered if perhaps the Church's emphasis on the necessity of being married (in the temple) to go to heaven, wasn't as unnatural as the Catholic Church's emphasis on being celibate. A situation which doesn't fit for everyone, and in the striving to fit, problems occur.

I love my husband, and we are such a good match for each other. but I have also seen some very bad matches that have occurred because of a rush to marry, to do what God requires.

(And, btw, the whole arguement that Jesus was married 'because-he-had-to-be-married-like-he-had-to-be-baptized' really trivializes the whole concept of marriage for me. Totally. It's my dad's favorite theory, and I just cringe inside at the thought of wife-as-object-for-salvation.)

Just some of my late night thoughts. What do you think?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

temple worthy

A recent post at fMh took me back to the turmoil and struggle I felt leading up to returning my temple recommend. Namely, the issue of who has authority to pronounce me 'worthy' before God. In the initial post, Carol Lynn Pearson states, "We Mormon woman have a conversation about “authority” all the time, with ourselves, with each other. No priesthood, no authority. Sigh. I can’t even remember when I last believed that." Sadly, the rest of the post didn't really seem to address that issue (though it was a touching anecdote) and many of the subsequent comments bemoaned that lack. Sonnet's comment got to the root of the issue: "...the basic fact remains that you can’t go to the temple unless your bishop and SP deem you worthy (!)..." That, for me, hit at the crux of the topic of worthiness. Another person is in charge of determining it with a set list of what makes a person unworthy (heavily dependent on what they believe, what they consume and what they wear.) The church sanctions men to stand in the place of God and determine who is worthy and who is not.

What it came down to for me, was the difference between being worthy before God, and being "temple worthy" as outlined by the church. I had come to the point where I no longer believed that God was concerned if a person drank tea, or wore a certain type of underwear or adhered to the tenants of a particular religion. Those things had nothing to do with worthiness. But is still took me a little while before I could reconcile that with the notion of being temple worthy. For a little while, I still confused the two.

The realization I finally came to was the concept of respect. Respect for the rules of an organization. While I may feel that I am worthy before God, I recognize the right of an organization to impose rules as to who can enter THEIR building. Other groups have rules and restrictions with their special places (i.e. during the SLC olympics I found that there were certain parties you could go to only if you were a citizen of a particular country. I guess I didn't look Canadian enough) . Out of respect, I would not intentionally invade another religion's holy place if it was only for the initiated. And I came to feel that I should show the same respect for my own faith: it's their building, they can make the rules if they want to. And accept that while it makes me a bit of an outsider, it doesn't effect my relationship with God.

Honestly, this would be so much easier if, like Caroline, I could answer all those temple recommend questions correctly but simply chose not to go in for the interview on principle. This puts her above reproach, so to speak. My own path, however, has been different; I don't wear garments, I drink experimentally (sake anyone?), I have an array of teas I have collected and occasionally drink coffee. These things taint me in the eyes of my peers. I'd love to say that I am confidant enough in my standing before God (claiming my own authority, to take a page from Carol Lynn Pearson) that I don't need the cultural reinforcement... but to be honest, I am still rather sensitive to being viewed as 'unworthy' by my clan ("she's not temple worthy!"). Not sensitive enough that I alter my life to conform to the acceptable parameters (I feel guided in this path I am in, if that doesn't sound to corny to say)... but it is still a tender little spot that if pushed, is sore like a bruise.
Which is why, ultimately, I realized that I couldn't participate beyond a certain point in that thread at fMh without exposing myself, offending others, starting a discussion that I didn't have the energy for.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

save the children

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."- D&C 121:39

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullmam. The Astonishing Live of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, by M.T. Anderson.

I'm not much of a literary critic... but there was a rather pervasive theme in these two books that has stuck with me. In both stories you see first hand horrible things that are done by those who have the power to those who have been disenfranchised. In The Golden Compass it is children (particularly the children of the lower classes), who are kidnapped and experimented upon as the people in charge try to find a way to cleanse humans of original sin. In Octavian Nothing, it is a child of African Descent, who is made a glorified lab animal to be studied 'in the name of science' and 'for the good of mankind'.
In both books, the people in authority have been successful in at least one thing: they have convinced themselves that the end justifies the means, and their work is of benefit to society as a whole.
I don't have any profound epiphanies about these themes, or personal experiences or ponderings... just something that has been on my mind lately.

btw... I am almost done with The Subtle Knife (the sequel to The Golden Compass) and have been thrilled and astounded. It was even better than the first. I can't wait to start The Amber Spyglass (which, apparently is the most controversial of the three books.)

Friday, March 7, 2008


I take a lot of pictures, sometimes over a hundred a day. Many different things catch my eye and imagination,
the street while driving, flowers, my son, dirty dishes, lots and lots of things. but I have to admit a bit of an obsession with also taking pictures of myself. A LOT of them. But I never do anything with them, I keep them hidden on the hard-drive. It is rather embarrassing to admit that I do this, kind of like saying 'yea, I think I am SO cool'; edging up to that vague line between self-confidence and self-absorption. It got worse when we got the digital camera, I can now instantly see if the angle was good, if it masked my awkward chin and thin pinched lips, if it brought out my eyes, and made my narrow forehead look not so ungraceful... basically, does the picture make me look pretty? Click Click Click Click... do I look better now? And photoshop... oh photoshop! Adjusting colors and lighting and adding filters to 'enhance the image'. Make myself so very pretty.
I wish I didn't spend so much time wishing i was prettier. But then, I also spend a lot of time wishing I was smarter, funnier, stronger, faster, and better at math and spelling too... I bet I spend just as much time wishing I had eidetic memory, or was a competitive triathlete, or a witty improv comedian as I do wishing my jaw line was a little more graceful. Sigh... it is still all about me... I think a good thing to work for would be to spend less time thinking about ME... and instead thinking about some of the so many things in this world that could use a little of my energy. Like poverty, the environment, and at risk children, just to name a few.
Just a few thoughts I have had lately.


here is what my right ear looked like this morning.

and here is what my right ear looks like now!

and just because... here is what my left ear looks like. It hasn't changed today.

no, this wasn't a whim... I have been thinking of getting another piercing for a while now... at first I was thinking of getting one on the tragus, but ultimately settled on the helix. just a tiny flash of silver under my hair, winking away at anyone looking closely.
My beloved lover held my hand during the piercing. He is an audiologist... and loves my ears.

blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. - Matt 13:16

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Body Sacred

Okay, so I read this book months ago, and really need to return it to the library, but have held on to it thinking, 'I really should write a post about this one' but never came up with the right words... well here goes.

I was doing a lot of reading into pagan/wiccan belief systems a while back, but when I ran across this one at the library I was especially intrigued; the premise of this book (written by wiccan priestess Dianne Sylvan) being that belief in a Goddess improves body image in women. How could I resist?

Now, here is what this book is NOT; it isn't a primer for someone wanting to learn pagan rituals, it assumes the reader is fairly familiar with them already; it is not an historical overview of Goddess worship, the author sort of hodgepodges together a pantheon of various Goddess across time and locations; it is not an overview of pagan and wiccan beliefs today, merely one pagan's memoirs; and it is not a study of self esteem problems in contemporary women, just anecdotal stories from the author's life experiences.

What this book is: the words and widsoms of one particularly hilarious modern day witch. The author is a sassy, funny, raunchy, live-life-to-the-fullest gal who loves food, sex, and shocking people, and she wrote a book that was fun to read, and that had some great ritual ideas.

Now, for someone like me, raised in a patriarchal faith, seen PLENTY of severe depression and eating disorders in most of the females in my family, and trying to redefine my concept of the Gender of God... this book rather hit home. Delightful, entertaining, an easy read.

However, on different note, this book revealed somethings to me about my belief in deity. First of all... I don't really resonate at all with appropriating gods or goddesses from other cultures for my own personal worship. And second, it showed me that I have lost my belief in an all-powerful all-loving god/goddess. That was brought home to me as I read a section in this book, from a pagan's point of view, as to why bad things happen to good people; why there is so much pain and suffering in the world in spite of this all powerful mother/healer/goddess who only wants to make her children happy... I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, for the script was almost word for word from the LDS version I was raised with (which is almost word for word from the Christian version); agency, learning experiences, cause and effect, we don't understand Her ways, etc, etc, etc... (though Dianne's version of paganism doesn't go in for divine punishment of sins, something LDS/Christian theologies sometimes use to explain those bad things.)... somehow, hearing it from this perspective, really jolted me as to how paltry those explanations are. I don't buy it, god or goddess, I don't believe in that anymore. (and this realization has left me reeling just a bit.)

But more about that little epiphany later. Back to the point, I do think that belief in female deity can be beneficial to women depending on what that belief is. Because, see, regarding Mormon doctrine on a Heavenly Mother, I agree with Lynette; LDS women would probably be better off without that image of a voiceless, actionless, absent entity.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Meme's... and fortunate coincidences in sequential reading.

So, the book closest to my hand at this moment, the one I am reading most right now; The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Written by M.T. Anderson.

How doth all that seeks to rise burn itself to nothing.

The men who raised me were lords of matter, and in the dim chambers I watched as they traced the spinning of bodies celestial in vast, iron courses, and bid sparks to dance about upon their hands; they read the bodies of fish as if each dying trout or shad was a fresh Biblical Testament, the wet and twitching volume of a new-born Pentateuch. They burned holes in the air, wrote poems of love, sucked the venom from sores, painted landscapes of gloom, and made metal sing; they dissected fire like newts.

Thank you Lessie, for tagging me. I tag the bibliophile boquinha... as well as anyone out there who wants to continue this meme. What you do is pick up the nearest book that is at least 123 pages long, read the first five sentences, post the next three, and then tag five people. (I know... I didn't tag five, I really suck at these 'chain-letter' things.)

Now, a little bit about fortunate coincidences in my current reading trends... Octavian Nothing has been a quite provoking read, compounded by coming so close on the heels of The Golden Compass. Likewise, A History of the Wife is absolutely FASCINATING, especially as a follow up to the recently finished Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History. And the queue of books waiting for consumption on my night stand contains In Defense Of Food and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; promising intriguing expansions and variations upon similar themes.

love it.