Halfway through our move to California, I realized that having the ability to turn my daughters to gold was even better than I thought it would be because a golden statue can not whine.
Actually, what I realized halfway through (and by halfway I mean when I had unpacked ninety-four percent of our stuff but my emotions were all still in the Penske, which was awkward because we returned it four weeks ago) was:
I got Tom fired. Er, laid off. It was my fault.
For years I’ve gone through a worst-case-scenario visual-vocalization thing when stressed. This stemmed from a difficulty falling asleep as a child because I wasn’t sure I’d finished that last page of homework perfectly. I had an ocean-waves tape and a mental exercise to remind myself that even if I failed in chemistry, the sun really would go on rising and setting (even if sometimes I/Anne wished it wouldn’t).
Then I read in a waiting room magazine that the act of lying in bed was almost as restful as actually sleeping, and that (true or not), has been my mantra to cling to no matter how often Tom looked over me and teased, “are you getting almost as much rest as sleeping?”
Once I believed that, (and I do believe it, though two pink benadryls are my backup), I moved on to a different, utterly soothing panacea in which I’d construct my three wishes. The idea was to let go of worries and responsibilities in order to sleep, so I gave myself leave to be as self-centered and silly as possible, but it was also to occupy my mind, so there had to be some sort of theme and they couldn’t be obvious things like world peace or mass conversion to reusable grocery sacks.
Usually my first wish was money. I mean, come on. Then weight loss and hair growth. I’d get pretty elaborate. Like, I wish I’d lose one pound a day every day for two months no matter what I ate and it had to be all fat cells, and not any from my bosom (when I was still nursing) and proportionally from my middle section mostly and out towards my limbs and I would never gain it back no matter what (i.e. even if I did strength training later in life that would be converting more fat to muscle, not gaining muscle).
And usually for symmetry I’d want the money and weight loss and hair growth to each contain the same number: multiples of 5 in millions of dollars, tens of pounds and inches of hair, for example. And on the money, I had a big number that would be all I would need for my humble requirements to live well the rest of my life, several intermediate numbers of diminishing lifestyle I’d like to become accustomed to, on down to the minimum amount that would allow us to pay off most of our debt and maybe travel a little and have some savings instead of trying to recover eternally from bad house-buying decisions.
That minimum amount that I came to stayed pretty constant over the past couple of years.
Then six weeks ago, Tom was laid off, and the amount of severance he was offered was very, very, very close to that minimum amount of money. Before the IRS took their 38% of course, so maybe I don’t need to draw such a strong moral of the story from this. On the other hand, King Midas, gold daughter, fair enough. Back on the first hand though, this bounty came with the unexpected huge cost of moving instead of fantasy cruises to look forward to, so.
The good news is, of course, that (knock on wood, fondle the rabbit’s foot, etc), 1) Tom found new work, 2) getting rid of most of our stuff has been as liberating as it is cliched, and 3) the kids are doing well in our new milieu.
So I can’t decide whether I should keep wishing, or stop while I’m ahead.
The worst decision I ever made was not pursuing a profession.
The best decision I ever made was marrying Tom.
I decided I didn’t need a profession because my patriarchal blessing (and church culture) said so.
I married Tom because everything in me just knew.
I’ve been angry and sad a lot lately; angry with myself, my church; sad for lost opportunities and Tom’s unemployment. Sad and worried and hopeful and worried some more on that last one. And feeling completely helpless and disenfranchised and angry some more for the “not pursuing a profession” part above.
But Tom already has a new job lined up, a small pay increase, a welcome reassurance of his hard work and determination and just plain luck.
It’s in California. Pros to California: the weather, and . . . the weather (and a paycheck! that’s really it right there, I mean.)
Everything else makes me want to stay here. Family, friends, the kids’ schools, our home, the yard and garden. It’s familiar and safe and oh-so-comfortable.
It feels dumb to admit how hard it is for me to try to stay supportive (because I’m grateful. Of course I’m grateful). I can tell the kids what a marvelous adventure we’re about to start, but I’m not always sure I believe it myself.
When I thought there was a chance of staying here and long-term un- or under-employment, I started applying for a teaching job (substitute to start). Might as well get started on that pink-collar profession. And now it looks like, for now anyway, that patriarch was right. Maybe not for my sanity and negligible stuff like that, but financially-speaking. I recognized Tom from my blessing, you see. He was mighty and strong and I knew it was him.
And maybe on a larger scale this is good, because if I stayed here in this bubble I think I’d need to take a break from church: from toxic, body-shaming, blame-shifting modesty talks in Sacrament Meeting. On Sunday I sat there, squirming and shrieking on the inside in my seat. But Sunday School was good. It (the Spirit) reminded me that marrying Tom was a good decision, the best decision, and that I do trust him on the big things, if not on the navigational aspects or certain minor logistical everyday details.
Maybe in California I’ll have a chance to come to church, again, anew, to approach my Heavenly Parents in a more open place, a place of humility in my soul and tolerance in the air.
And now some pictures from our exploratory trip:
Tom’s friend from high school says he has this same shot of Tom from (many) years ago.
Gorgeous flowering libraries are a good sign, I think.
It was a great “vacation.”
Tom was just a little stressed. (Also he doesn’t like to smile for photos. And there was no hot chocolate at the complimentary breakfast. Did you ever?
Seeing friends face to face is even better that over the internet!
The water may be cold, but it’s still pretty.
Waves really are soothing.
My goal in teaching primary this year is to fulfill the purposes of the curriculum while including apropos discussions of women. This will be an interesting challenge as the book of scripture is modern, and so the lives of contemporary women should be much more accessible than the sometimes oblique mentions here and there in the Bible and Book of Mormon. But my first week to teach is the second lesson, The Apostasy and the Need for the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church, which is not exactly modern.
The lesson is at once simple and complex. It would probably be the most controversial to any other Christian group, as it lays the foundation for our only true church claim. Three reformers who paved the way for Joseph Smith’s questioning, visions and ultimate restoration are discussed at length, with a suggestion that three children read over the provided biographies and come prepared to tell their stories next week. The three reformers are John Wycliffe (b. 1320), Martin Luther (b. 1483) and Roger Williams (b. 1620). The lesson is careful to point out that these men did not have “authority from Jesus Christ to correct the problems they saw in their churches. However, by calling attention to these problems, they helped prepare the world for the time when Jesus’ church would be restored.”
I want to add one woman to this group: Joan of Arc, who was born in 1412 and whose life and mission on earth in some ways parallels Joseph Smith’s even more closely than the three reformers mentioned. Here is the short bio* I wrote and handed out along with the other three:
Joan of Arc was born in France in 1412. She was a peasant girl who never learned to read or write. When she was about twelve years old she started hearing voices and seeing angels, including the Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret. Her mission was revealed to her gradually, and when she was about seventeen she left her home to help the heir to the French throne fight against the English and receive his coronation. After she succeeded she was taken by the English and tried for heresy. Joan’s voices had advised her to wear men’s clothing and armor for safety as she traveled and fought. She would not deny that her revelations were from God, and she was burned at the stake for committing the heresy of dressing like a man when she was nineteen years old. Joan was determined to obey God, even at the cost of angering the institutional church. Joan’s mother and others got her a retrial and she was later made a saint in the Catholic church.
Several things stand out to me about Joan (not all of which I plan to discuss). She was poor (but not destitute), she had a loving family that she desired to be with. When it was revealed to her father that she would be with the army of France, he feared that that meant she would be a camp follower (prostitute), and he said that it would be better if she died. The Catholic Encyclopedia is careful to say that Joan was not a feminist — she lived in a system in which any person, regardless of class or gender, could obtain a calling from God. Joan was rehabilitated and canonized pretty quickly after her death. And it’s interesting to compare her to the three reformers. They were ministers, professors, powerful men who deliberately and consciously criticized the Church. Joan was humble and reluctant to believe that she had any great mission, and yet her central conviction, that God had spoken to her through His messengers was blasphemous in the extreme (if untrue).
Speaking of reformers, I can’t help thinking of how some people I know think of nondenominational churches, as if they are the very devil, like, the worst thing imaginable. And yet, taken to the extreme, I think the rational end for the reformation is exactly in those nondenominational congregations. And the Mormon church has more in common today, in many ways, with the Catholic church than most Protestant sects (and those milquetoast nondenoms!).
But whatever. I love Joan of Arc. I am nigh onto obsessed with her. I saw and wept through a play about her life the night before Pants Sunday that suggested the idea that she might be called after death to inspire and guide Martin Luther. The timing is right anyway.
Joan’s similarities to Joseph Smith strike me. She was quite revolutionary, doing something completely unexpected by those around her and even by herself. She was young, unlearned, headstrong and fiery and passionate. She answered her judges much more wisely than they expected. She was wrongly imprisoned, even to being held in a secular male prison instead of a female church guard as she was entitled. And when she relapsed into her heresy of wearing male attire, for safety from rape or because her dress had been stolen, or to emphasize that her visions, with their endorsement of her clothing, were always from God, she was martyred at the stake.
On Sunday we sang happy 601st birthday to Joan and ate King cake for Epiphany in her honor. (Utter and blatant papistry!) The girls helped me gather up little trinkets as per Pioneer Woman. Tom got the dime in his slice (wealth). I got the button (increased spiritual knowledge). Avery got the thimble (increased industry). Callie the shoe (will walk in the ways of the Lord). Lucy the ring (blessings of the church). And Molly, appropriately enough, got the bean and was crowned king (queen) of the feast and has to make the cake next year.
*In writing about Joan of Arc, I reference a talk by S. Michael Wilcox that I heard at Education Week last August, Melissa Larsen’s play Martyr’s Crossing, wikipedia.org (I know) and the Catholic Encyclopedia. Any mistakes are my own, of course.
Around the dinner table tonight, Avery told us that her teacher shared the extremely relevant opinion today that “Ms.” is a foolish construction. It was Avery’s turn to tell us one thing about her day. We were fairly swimming in complacent self-congratulation up to that point. Molly got an Elmo toddler bed from the 24/7 yard sale classifieds on Facebook and Lucy won the afternoon kindergarten spelling bee and Callie had all As in her progress report except an A minus in math for sloppy homework-turn-in.)
And then: “Ms.” is stupid. And you know what? I can see his point. Or, I almost think I kind of remember thinking or hearing something that sounded reasonably like that and almost good in a smug “we’re above political correctness/lameness” and “we prefer simplicity and the unwritten order of things” sort of way.
I don’t know the history of “Ms.” (I’m going to have to look it up now.” But this is what we came up with on the spot:
Is there an equivalent male title that denotes a man’s marital status? Why?
Why do we need to denote a woman’s marital status but not a man’s?
Is there a reason people need to know whether a woman is married or not?
Are there or were there things a woman could not do if she were married? (Like teach school a century ago, or own property at different times in history or retain custody of her children or have the right to not be raped or beaten by her husband?)
Is there a good reason for society to know if a woman is married or not in the sort of situations where a title is used?
If it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask an applicant if they are married or not, is there a way for a woman to retain her legal right to that privacy if she must title herself either “Miss” or “Mrs.”?
And then –
What about, I asked her (skimming over the littler ones’ hears, I hope) the rape case in California where the state appeals court ruled that a man cannot be charged with rape if he rapes a sleeping woman while impersonating her boyfriend. It is only rape, so the archaic law goes, if he is impersonating her husband.
Is it fair if the same action with the same intent by a man is judged differently by the law based on the marital status of the victim?
No, no it is not.
Almost every day, it seems, I reach the breaking point. That’s it. I’m done. I wash my hands of this misogynistic, crappy world. I’m not happy that my blog has turned in to feminism and the church* all the time blog, but it’s not like I blog every day, any way. But I could, and every day I could write more about how this is just so not the way things should be. So not.
*I know school is different from church, but sometimes they’re the same in small town Utah. Avery’s teacher said last month that the women planning to wear pants should be worried about not following the prophet. And he is an old family friend of my grandparents, and Avery happens to really, really like him, as do we, most of the time. But she wore pants that day to church so I think she can like him and stay in his class and learn a lot from him while not agreeing with everything, and I told her to tell him she’s sorry he doesn’t understand these things but he’s probably just suffering from White Male Privilege.
Today in Primary the theme was “God is my Heavenly Father. He knows and loves me.” Evidence for this personal relationship and paternal love were three scriptures in which God (or Jesus) calls a person by name. Those people were Enos (Enos 1:5), Moses (Moses 1:6) and Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith–History 1:17). We were then asked, “If Heavenly Father visited you, what would He call you?” This is perfectly fine, of course, and definitely something I want my own children to learn, something that, if we could get each person in this world to believe about themselves, and about each other, would theoretically solve every problem, right?
But is sharing those three scriptures the best way to teach children (all children) that they are the offspring of God? The primary presidency’s mandate is to each week “1) identify the doctrine, (2) help the children understand it, and (3) help them apply it in their lives.” They are also told to “Supplement the ideas provided here with some of your own.” So I think it’s valid, even necessary, to think, to actually ponder, how to best teach our beautiful doctrine.
I sat in Primary today wondering if/why I am the only person in the room to see anything wrong with a lesson whose sole purpose is to convince children that they are known personally and by name to God and yet the only examples given are of men that God knows? Does God only know men? Does He know His daughters and simply prefer His Sons? Does He respect His daughters so much He would not approach them personally? Does God wish to know and love me as a female or does He prefer to be inscrutable to me?
I would like to see this lesson taught with both male and female examples. The most easily parallel female example happens to be in the book of scripture we’re studying in class this year. Can you guess? Do you know? (Tom didn’t. And I’ll admit it took me a while to think of her, and now I am more heartsore than ever.) In Doctrine and Covenants 25 :1, the Lord says “Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter; for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom.
The only other textually comparable example I could think of off the top of my head was the Annunciation — in Luke 1:30 the Angel Gabriel (sent by God) says “Fear not Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.” The angel also mentions Elisabeth to both Mary and Zachariah byname. There are several scriptures about the Lord “remembering” women by name (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Hannah, Ruth) and allowing them to conceive.
In the temple we learn that God and Jesus spoke to Eve by name (and in Moses 4:19 it reads: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many.”)
And, speaking of names, when the Lord changes Abram’s name to Abraham He also changes the man’s wife’s name. Genesis 17:15 reads ”And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.” So not only did God know Sarah by name (and remember her eventually in conception), but it was important to Him to change her name as part of the Abrahamic covenant.
Finally, beyond the personal, loving relationships Jesus* had with His female disciples while on earth (e.g. Mary and Martha), in John 20:14-17 there is this beautiful exchange after the crucifixion:
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
in which Jesus both comforts Mary and makes Himself known to her by saying simply her name.
When I was first lamenting about Sharing Time to Tom, he apologetically reminded me that there are just not that many women in the scriptures, we just live in an unfair world, it’s just the unfortunate way things are.
But that isn’t true! There are women in the scriptures! Of course I wish there were more, and that more were known by name, and that they were more often discussed in terms outside their maternal function. But they are there! They are known by name to God and Jesus, even if they aren’t known by name to us!
I want my daughters to know that God knows them, and all other people, male and female, by name.
*I am a little stumped as to whether there is a doctrinal issue with saying Heavenly Father (Elohim) knows us versus Jesus (Jehovah) knowing us, but for the purposes of instilling a sense of divinity and divine love in children, I’m going to say it doesn’t matter. In the original examples, Moses and Joseph Smith are pretty clearly addressed by God the Father, but I have always understood Enos’s interlocutor to be Jesus Christ.
The pants thing is done and gone ad nauseum. In our house, too. But I have some thoughts.
First of all, imagine this: A friend, a sister, comes to you and tells you that she is hurting and that she has found a way to feel less alone, to feel more understood, to stand up for what she believes in and show solidarity for those who have made her feel less alone, a way to show God what is in her heart, a way that God has told her is an okay offering of her broken heart and contrite spirit, a way to feel more herself in God’s presence, in the community of believers that she aches to be a part of even as she too often feels marginalized, misunderstood and misused. She has decided to wear pants to church.
What is your response? And how would Christ have us respond to such a friend and sister?
a) Your contempt betrays you.
b) Your hurt for her hurt and your massive indifference to her attire is the best possible evidence that all is well in Zion.
c) Your compassion and desire to understand what is incomprehensible to you, your yearning to reach out in fellowship even when you are righteously convinced that you are right and she is wrong, your humility and love, your turning of the other cheek against such (insolent!) provocation is magnificent.
When I was nineteen I shaved my head. At the time I had no thought of gender social norms. I was in Europe for the first time, I had left a heady, consuming and ultimately wrong-for-me relationship, and I wanted an outward expression of my inward change of heart. I shaved my head.
Sunday I wore pants to Church.
Both times I felt like I was right with God again, that I had re-adjusted my course to walk more fully with Him, and that Jesus knew, loved and accepted the offering of my heart. That I was, and am, okay with God, and that what anyone else thinks or thinks they know about me, is immaterial.
And now some posts and articles to answer your questions (I don’t agree with everything in these posts, but they are marvelous food for thought and worth your time):
But I’ve never felt marginalized or hurt. Does anyone really? (And here is that contempt again, as the subtext is: Does anyone who matters feel hurt by patriarchy? Does anyone who is righteous feel marginalized? Does anyone with a testimony think that gender inequity is a problem?)
Neylan McBaine at FAIR, CJane Pants Part I and Part II, Joanna Brooks in Huffington Post, Wearing Pants
Why pants? What is a social norm?
Feminist Mormon Housewives, Mormon Women Who Wear Pants to Church: A Manifesto
But our church, like our country is one of the most progressive about women, can’t you be happy with that? (i.e. it could be worse!)
The dignity of your womanhood
But why must you protest in Sacrament Meeting?
The Politics (say it ain’t so) of Pants
Why do men feel so threatened by women doing something that the Brethren have specifically NOT counselled against?
How to Silence a(n LDS) Woman: You’re Doing it Wrong
People didn’t really respond so viciously, did they?
Women Wearing Pants at Church Bingo (this is a humorous aggregation. The text of the death threat on the original Facebook event page was “every single person who is a minority activist should be shot .. in the face . point blank . GET OVER YOURSELVES ..” I was also appalled at comments such as: “these dumb bitch feminists don’t understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is even about.”)
But you started it, haven’t you brought this response on yourselves?
Less than 1200 words on on pants
If you don’t like the church, why don’t you just leave?
“If you don’t like it, leave” and Religious Pluralism
How do women look in pants at church?
Wear Pants to Church Day
What is wrong with feminists? Why can’t they just accept the church?
How Mormonism Changes and Managing Liberal Expectations,
If women have agency, the same as men, how are they not equal in church?
Women in the Mormon Church: The Limits of Agency
(And even though the pants thing was really about culture and not about challenging doctrine, here’s a bonus post. Do any (faithful, intelligent) men think women should have the priesthood? Gender and Priesthood)
Did any women consider themselves feminist and choose to wear a dress?
How I feel about pants
Doesn’t God hate it when we ask questions?
Joseph Smith — History, Hear me
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I am proud of my Utah blogging friends (like Emily and Stephanie) who ran a memorial campaign for the Newton shooting victims. I don’t blog often enough to merit a pause, and I’ve always distrusted and disliked the impulse I have to personalize things. But I think this is a failing we all share, evidenced most obviously and distressingly by things like our sweeping ignorance about the 168 children killed by drone strikes in Pakistan or the 3000 children who die daily from diarrhea.
Yesterday I got an email from my children’s school saying a lot of appropriately broken-hearted things about the Newton children and teachers, and then describing the lockdown drill they ran on Friday. My kids had mentioned it in passing, and mostly I tried to shield them from the news. Until Callie complained about what we were having for dinner and I cried and told her she was lucky to be alive. We are all lucky to be alive.
And though I had cried when I listened to this and teared up at the sight of this, what brought me to sobs in a parking lot was this from my children’s school. In an effort to make the lockdown drill more realistic, they shouted in the hallways and banged on the classroom doors. They had explained to the children beforehand what was going to happen, because their intent wasn’t to frighten but to show what it may be like.
It should never be like that.
Not for any child. And the only way to make anything good come of this is to make life better for someone else.
My many failings overwhelm me. My inadequacy for even my small, simple calling of mother shames me. And the numbers of the suffering are an ocean. I keep repeating to myself:
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.
― Mother Teresa