31 December 2008

2008 Resolution Redux

A review of last year's resolutions:

  1. Write for at 15 minutes a day. Well, so much for this. Between being pregnant and having a baby, I've been high on excuses for not writing. However, I started a new writing notebook last week in hopes of getting on track for next year.
  2. Post on the blog more regularly. Ha ha ha.
  3. Read at least 25 books. In terms of starting books, I probably came close. But finishing books is another matter.
  4. Get published. Yup. 3 times.
  5. Apply to grad school. As of 12:06 pm, FedEx is overnighting it to Seattle. So technically completed this year.
  6. Find a job. Well, I spent most of this year jobless (unless you count creating life as a job). My temp job in Seattle was alright, but not ideal. There probably won't be a job goal next year, unless I get into grad school and they let me teach little freshmen.
  7. Do 100% of my visiting teaching. Still at 0%. I have an excuse for 3 months in Seattle where we never made it to the VT/HT lists, but I'm still battling my strange aversion to visiting teaching.
  8. Keep in better touch with my family. I'll say I did a pretty good job at this. This summer we used more than half of our minutes each month. Impressive for us, let me tell you.
  9. Figure out how spices work. I'm doing better at this, but it's an on going project.
  10. Wake up early, and like it. Right now I'm feeling pretty good about mornings, especially since Baby G started sleeping through the night. Running with our new jogging-stroller-of-doom is also helping mornings be a happier time. (Never thought I'd say that.)
New resolutions tomorrow!

15 December 2008

Baby by Numbers: Brief Note of Shock

  • 8 - baby's record consecutive sleep hours, which happened on Saturday. (8 hours, 14 minutes to be precise.) I know I said that sleeping through the night would come sooner rather than later, but at 5 weeks? There must be something wrong with this baby he's so good. Maybe he's addicted to sleep? He's also sleeping almost 12 hours total at night. I am so spoiled. Poor second born child. He/she's doomed to hear stories about how great his/her older brother was for the rest of his/her life.
  • $14,613.31 - current total of doctor's bills for little G's birth.
  • $1,242 - current total we have to pay. Thank goodness for insurance, even the ridiculous student health plan with massive premiums. Of course, this is pending any more bills received.

01 December 2008

Baby by Numbers: Post-Partum Edition

Last week, Ben pointed out that I haven't updated my blog since the big day, so for those of you who don't know . . .

  • 11/7 - date George Edward Busby, Jr. was born. Yup. We went in for the non-stress test at 10:30 am on the 6th and the doctor suggested that we induce labor. Being the impatient people that George and I are, we were thrilled.
  • 23 - hours after I was admitted, baby George arrived in the world. It's not as bad as it sounds, since they didn't induce contractions until evening, and with the epidural, I slept through most of it. However . . .
  • 2 - hours of pushing is not a fun experience. They say it goes faster for subsequent babies. But it was worth it because I have my baby now! He's a total cutie! (See above or facebook for evidence.) Overall, labor was not as bad as it had been hyped to be. (Though without an epidural, I think it would have been much worse.) I'm pretty sure I could do that again. Not for at least a year, but anyways.
  • 174 - number of diapers we have changed since then. How do I know this? Because of a wonderful little site called Trixie Tracker. Yes, at first glance it may seem a little obsessive to track your baby's every nap, diaper, and bottle, but it's a life saver. Keeping track of all these things has given me a bit of sanity and a project to do through this transition. It also helps me to understand baby G's patterns. For instance, if he falls asleep at 7:30 pm, I can check how much he's eaten today and accurately guess if he's down for the night or if he'll wake up for one more bottle. I feel a lot more in control just for having all these charts and stats. For more baby G stats, you can visit his site, Baby by Numbers.
  • 20.4 - ounces of formula consumed by little G per day on average. I was hoping to breastfeed, but the doctors put G on formula supplementation because of jaundice at the hospital, and he never learned how to suck properly. After 2 weeks of trying and being on the verge of an emotional breakdown, we decided to give up and go to bottle feeding. It's sort of disappointing, but on the other hand, it means big G can help with the feeding at night. :D
  • 14 - approximate number of hours baby G sleeps a day. About 10 of these are at night, which is great. Last night, he slept 7 hours straight and only woke up because I woke up anyway and wanted to feed him before I went back to sleep. Sleeping through the night will probably happen sooner rather than later. It's very considerate of him, though the lack of naps during the day makes it hard to accomplish other things, like . . .
  • 29 - days until grad school applications are due at the University of Washington. Yup, I'm applying for next fall. I'm pretty anxious about getting in, which is a new sensation for me. When I was applying for undergrad, I knew I was a shoe-in for a full-ride at BYU, and only applied at other schools to satisfy my dad. It's weird to think about the prospect of getting rejected, though it really won't be the end of the world. I just think it would be nice to get my masters, and teaching freshman English is a good part-time job for a mom. :D But if not, I'm sure little G will keep my plenty busy.

05 November 2008

Baby by Numbers: Late Edition

  • {3, 4, 5} - days overdue I am, depending on if you calculate from the first due date we were told (Oct. 31), the due date on file at the OB (Nov. 1), or the date they gave us at the ultrasound (Nov. 2).
  • ? - number of contractions I've felt. Every visit the OB asks me if I've felt any contractions and I say, "I dunno." Because really, it's difficult to tell the difference between your stomach tightening because your silly baby is using you as a punching bag or your lunch is thinking about making a return appearance; and your stomach tightening because it's practicing for when it has to get a baby out. I have nonetheless been reassured by everyone that when I'm in labor, I'll know it. Duh.
  • 0% - how much I like being overdue. Courtney was right when she posted the following on my facebook wall: "My sister once described being overdue as every day being your birthday, but no one remembering. I thought that described it pretty well." Amen and amen. The reason it sucks the most is that there is nothing I can do about it, and each day that goes by has a handy way of transforming the excitement we had about the birth of our son into frustration and annoyance. Don't worry; we'll still love him. I just spend a lot more time telling my baby to hurry it up.
  • 2 - number of weeks I've been totally finished with my projects-to-do-before-baby list. I am somewhat bored out of my mind, but I don't want to start anything because I know it'll be left half-done for months if baby comes. My mother-in-law claims that the baby won't come until I'm half-way through a project though, so . . .
  • 2 - number of hats I've knitted in that time period, and . . .
  • 452 - number of stitches per row in the very masculine scarf I'm making for my soon-to-be missionary brother-in-law. Come on baby, you know you want to interrupt that.
  • 7 - days before election day that I voted because baby was supposed to be here by now. Though I eventually decided to vote for McCain, it was a hard choice. Not for good reasons though. I really didn't feel like either candidate was someone I wanted to lead the country, but oh well. I'm excited for Obama and hope that his actions can catch up with his amazing grasp of rhetoric. But they probably won't because, as George pointed out, "No matter who wins, the country is still being run by politicians." On the other hand, good rhetoric means people won't care as much that they aren't getting what they were promised, so maybe that's not so bad.
  • 3rd - man named George Edward Busby that our baby will be. Yup, after all that deliberation, we've come back to the easiest choice as the most likely one (ever since George bailed out on Luke for no apparent reason). George would probably like me to make it clear that the baby is being named after his grandfather and not him. Whatever. I'm kinda disappointed with the un-creativity of the name--I feel kinda gyped out of the chance to name my own baby. At least I can hold this over George's head and name the next boy Luke Tennyson. Ha ha.
Well, that's pretty much all. Hopefully the next post will have baby pictures rather than more griping.

30 October 2008

Publication #3

Not available for reading online, but as you can see in the table of contents, a critical essay I wrote on Chaim Potok and Mormon literature is being published in the upcoming issue of Irreantum, the journal of the Association for Mormon Letters. I'm really excited about this, especially since I now have a nicely edited piece of critical writing to use on my graduate school application.

Unfortunately, this is the last of my currently lined-up publications, so I guess I better get to work on some more essays! That is, after the baby comes and I recover and find something to force me to write instead of just waste time . . . .

28 October 2008

Family Portrait, 39 weeks, Medium: Pumpkin

A perfect likeness, except my belly doesn't glow so much.

27 October 2008


Since my transition from full-time student to full-time stay-at-home almost-mom, I've become obsessed with creating functionality in my home. My previous roommates will think I was already like this, but they don't know the extent things have gotten to at this point. A few of my functional innovations (which you may want to try for yourself):

  • Physical "In," "Pending," and "Out" boxes - One thing that used to drive me crazy at home was the piles of paper sitting around in various places. Now whenever I check the mail, receive coupons, receipts, invitations, or find a cool article to read later, I make sure it isn't urgent and then stick it in the inbox. Anything I need to file or mail goes in the outbox. Pending is for projects I'm not doing right now or things I have to wait for a response on. On Mondays, I go through and deal with everything in all three at once, as well as updating our financial information on Quicken. This may sound like the most basic organizing technique, but do you actually have one?
  • Date idea folder - Speaking of the outbox, it also contains the date idea folder where I stash any fliers about local events.
  • Pantry checklist - I've created a list of all the food and non-food items we need to buy on a regular basis organized by area, stuck it in a sheet protector, and placed a dry erase marker next to it. It's like the old "pad on the fridge" shopping list approach, except that when I go to make my list, I can quickly go over the list to make sure I'm not missing anything that's just about to run out. Plus I like having a list of all the stuff we need to live.
  • Cord organization - The plague of modern technology is a little thing called cords. Every device you have comes with a whole plethora of cables, most of which you won't use frequently but which you have to keep somewhere just in case you ever want to plug your digital camera into the TV. Solution: wrap cords with elastic to prevent tangling, then sort according to what they input into. I have three boxes: power cords, USB cords, and A/V cords. The A/V cords are by the TV, where we might actually remember to use them.
And that's just the more creative stuff. I don't know how a household would really survive without a dedicated homemaker. The more I stay at home, the more necessary I think it is to do so. Sure, I kept on my feet pretty well as a student, but there was always a little chaos in the areas of keeping myself running. With one person per household dedicated to do these tasks full-time, the rest of your life becomes completely free. Anyway, I like it, even if I don't particularly like housework.

And no, I haven't had the baby yet.

17 October 2008


Many people expressed doubts that it could be done in time, but I have yet to go into labor and here it is: the Wild Stripes baby blanket in all its glory!

Doing the hand sewing and embroidery was definitely the most difficult part. Now I know why people (women) invented quilting frames. I'm still unsatisfied with the bagginess of some parts of the backing, but since it's my first time I'm cutting myself a break.
I think the colors go pretty well with the baby bumpers my mom bought. So cute and so not pastel.

10 October 2008

Publication #2

the current issue of Segullah

Check me out! This essay is available online and it's my favorite of my honors thesis. Plus the editing done by Segullah is awesome.

If you haven't heard of Segullah, it's a Mormon women's literary magazine. How's that for a specialized market? But really, it's a high quality publication; the print edition they sent to me is great. Someone should buy me a subscription for Christmas.

09 October 2008

Obsessive Compulsive M&M Eating

An excellent post on OCD M&M eating disease on Light Refreshments Served:

Here’s what always happens when I tear into the bag:

1. I count the M&Ms. There are usually 21. Sometimes there are 20; occasionally there are 22. I give myself a mental high-five when I get 22, as if it were some kind of bonus or something.

2. I separate the M&Ms according to color.

3. I arrange the M&Ms in patterns, depending on what color combinations I end up with. If I have relatively equal numbers of the different colors, for example, I’ll probably do one line of each. If I have some colors with lots of candies and some with few, I’ll make flowers with the scarcer colors as the centers and the more plentiful ones as the petals.

4. Each time I eat an M&M, I rearrange the patterns to restore the symmetry or the artistry or whatever governing principle I have selected for arranging them in the first place.

5. As for the M&M that goes into my mouth, I generally prop it upright between my front top and bottom teeth, apply just enough pressure to split the colorful candy shell in half, and then let the exposed chocolate surface fall onto my tongue. Alternatively, sometimes I dissolve the candy in my mouth until the shell is all gone and I have just that tiny drop of pure chocolate left.

Um, I do all those things except the counting, although I now realize this seems like an excellent idea. If only I weren't in such a hurry for chocolate when I open the package! Also, I don't do flowers; if I have too few of a color, I usually create multi-color pyramids and eat the extras that don’t conform to the pattern. Also, I like to lick the rim of the candy shell until I get to the chocolate and then pry both halves off.

Further to this: is anyone else annoyed by the lack of purple M&Ms? They totally promised them in that "new color" contest a few years back and I still don't have them. :( It’s almost as bad as the lack of blue Skittles. Why can’t these candy makers cater to my OCD desires for rainbow colored candy?

(Light Refreshments Served is an interesting blog, BTW. I highly encourage visiting and subscribing to their RSS.)

18 September 2008

On Business, Politics, and Morality

"Not one suggested I should simply hire honest people."
- A man in Sunday School on preparing to teach a seminar on reducing business fraud and risk

If you haven't read/heard/seen the recent chaos in the Wall Street economy, I highly suggest this essay on the Freakonomics blog (incidentally one of the most interesting books I've read and one of the most interesting blogs I follow). But as Doug Wright said today on his show, the basics of this economic crunch come down to this: people have spent the past decade or two buying more than they can really afford, on the level of individuals and businesses and multi-trillion dollar organizations.

And they have been allowed to do it because everyone has banked on things going exactly right, the economy continuing to expand and grow at rates ridiculous enough to cover their unwise investment today. It's become the mindset of our country that it's better to borrow the equivalent of a year's salary to lease a new luxury car now than to spend a few months or years saving in order to own a used car flat out. The kinds of decisions business owners are encouraged to make are the same ones we panic to see children with no financial education making in their own lives: spending the Christmas bonus in November before you actually have it, treating credit cards like free money, and having absolutely no long-term plan for what to do if they were in an accident or lost a job.

I admit to being one of the last people who should write an essay having anything to do with business. I received the lowest passing score on my IB Business test, I took no business classes in college, and I don't pretend to understand why some stocks rise and some fall, excepting the obvious bad products and frauds. What I do know about business comes from growing up in a house where money was tight. In our home, we didn't eat out even once a week, much less the rumored 1-in-4 meals that school aged children consume at fast food restaurants. I certainly didn't grow up in poverty, as the fact that I was able to attend college attests, but as a child I certainly felt deprived because my parents were frugal in a spending-mad world. I didn't understand why I should have a hamburger with communal drink and fries rather than the shiny Happy Meal with the cool toys.

But it seems that my upbringing has given me a better education in business finance than much of Wall Street. When I have an excess, I don't go blow it on some new gadget or, worse, commit it to a monthly payment which I won't be able to make on my regular income. I avoid risky deals except with expendable income I can afford to lose. (This is mostly theoretical--as a young married couple in grad school about to have a baby, expendable income isn't something we have lying around, but that's my future investment strategy regardless.) And most importantly, I know to avoid debt except for reasonable investments in education and a home (which I expect to actually pay off someday, thank you very much).

This last point is interesting, because one of the places I learned this principle is perhaps the least likely business school in the world: the pews of my local church. Have not the prophets been warning us for years against the very thing which caused this credit crunch? It's not all that recent; this quote from 1979 seems like it could have been written today:
Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage (President N. Eldon Tanner, "Constancy Amid Change," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 81).
Yet one of the classic ironies of Mormondom is that Utah has one of, if not the highest rate of bankruptcy in the nation. Even in the land of "Zion," it appears that we are unable to listen to the voice of the prophets. If we had, we would not be in the position that we find ourselves waking up to this week.

And the more I think about it, the more I see obedience to gospel laws as the key to solving all the major problems of our society. Corrupt CEOs and businesses with no foundation could be elimated and thousands of those without jobs or without satisfactory jobs could be rescued if we could only live according to Jacob 2:17-19. Problems with our education system could largely be solved by parental involvement and children who truly valued education. Obviously, crime could be abolished as in Fourth Nephi with charity, trust, and righteousness.

I see not much difference between the two men running for president other than which bandaid they choose to stick on the problem, because the only true way to solve the problem is the change the people. And the only way to change the people is through following the commandments that God has given us:
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior (President Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Ensign, May 2004, 79).
A moral people is the true solution to almost every issue on the presidential platforms, and unfortunately, it's one of the few things that neither of them would dare have the courage to campaign on. I probably sound a lot more dogmatic than I mean to: in reality, this is no fault of Obama or McCain. The only true solution is one that no one can campaign on because it cannot be effected by a government. Righteousness cannot be mandated upon those who are unwilling. A Zion society cannot be legislated, it must be chosen. When Zion is achieved, politics is superfluous. But without righteousness, politics will always be the least effective solution to our problems.

And because of this, sitting at home lately watching and listening and reading the news, I begin to feel like Mormon lamenting his fallen people:
O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you!

11 September 2008


Books. Where have all the good ones gone?

Rubix Cube: The Cake. 'Nuff said.

Now that's a baby blanket I can handle being seen with

My brain still hasn't figured out that I'm not going to class this semester. I miss classes.

Technically complies with my recent decision to buy more vests, but allows me to wear as a sweater, though I'm not particularly fond of the bobbles on the front

30 August 2008


Every night for the past week, my dreams have ended with me having to kill someone. Not in a war or anything. Usually some serial killer or burglar who I know will kill everyone else if I don't handle them first. Often, they've killed off people I know right before. I have no weapons, so I usually end up strangling them, bashing their head on something, or drowning them (most recently). It's slow and scary and methodical and drawn out. Often times I half wake-up but force the dream to continue because I know it's so important for them to be gone and I need closure.

I don't think we need an expert in dream interpretation to say that this is a little disturbing. Thoughts on what this could mean about my psyche?

28 August 2008

Baby By Numbers: Distance and Pain

  • 1.3 - miles between our new apartment in Springville and George's family's house. This is nice because we can hop over there when we need things, and when the baby comes they will be close by to help, but bad because . . .
  • 8 - miles between our apartment and campus. Yeah, the commute is going to suck, and I confess to being a bit worried about what will happen when I go into labor and have to call George back from campus. :( Ah well.
  • 2 - Extra Strength Tylenol I have taken today. On Saturday my back started hurting like the devil. The kind of feeling like you've been hunched over too long, only much worse. Ever since, I've been trying to decide which is worse, popping pills or dealing with the pain. Did I mention that both George and I are anti-medication? This doesn't mean I don't want an epidural or anything, just that we don't like taking medicine for everyday pain.
  • 770 - dollars we spent on dental work for George yesterday: 2 wisdom teeth pulled, 4 cavities filled. About the same time my back pain hit, George's teeth started hurting; I eventually convinced him we had to do something about it, despite not having dental coverage. Hurray for the Discounted Service Plan from BYU--I'm sure it could have cost a lot more. And the dentist we went to had the coolest office I've ever seen: massage chairs and free food! Pregnant lady paradise! But let me tell you, it's not been fun having a pregnant lady with back pain and her husband hopped up on painkillers in the same house. Nobody wants to be responsible. Everyone wants to guilt trip the other person into figuring out what to make for dinner. But to be fair, George has been really great about it. He's actually healing well (meaning no longer on prescription pain meds) and pushing me to keep doing things through the pain, which has helped. Now he's talking about having the wisdom teeth made into earrings for me. (Think again, silly brain.)
  • 4 - pounds I gained over the three weeks between my prenatal appointments. No wonder my back is hurting. And all my maternity clothes aren't fitting any more either. I take comfort in the fact that I still weigh about 15 pounds less than I did when I graduated from high school, so obviously my body can handle it. It's just the distribution that's awkward.
  • 4 - first names we've narrowed down to. Luke and Lucas are tied for first (I'm still not convinced about Lucus), with Adam and Quincy as runners-up. As for middle names, who knows.
  • 1 - years George and I will have been married as of Saturday! Come to think of it, George also had dental work the Wednesday before we got married. This better not become a tradition. Anyway, we're headed up to Logan for the weekend to celebrate, to check out the trail for the Top of Utah Marathon George will be running in September, and to get a Bear Lake Raspberry shake that I've been craving all summer.
  • 9 - weeks left until my due date! Wow, things are going fast.

23 August 2008

The Coolest Page on the Web Ever

Go here and search for me.

Now if only they would catalog it so I could coerce people into checking it out.

25 July 2008

An Argument against Moral Relativism

I'd like to say I've always held that moral relativism is an illusion, but I can't quite be certain about that--there may have been some places in high school that I succumbed to the pressure of liberal peers all participating in Model United Nations. However, somewhere between all the reading of C.S. Lewis and growing up, I've come to believe that so-called moral relativists are mostly in denial. They fixate on an aspect of morality that most people have known about since biblical times and claim that it's new and enlightened, while those who practiced it in the past were hypocritical.

I bring up this topic because of a very interesting review of Batman: The Dark Knight that I just read in the Wall Street Journal. Quotage:

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of their analysis of the film, but the moral argument rings true to me.

21 July 2008

Baby by Numbers: Beginning of the End

  • 2/3 - of the way through my pregnancy on Friday. Third trimester, here we come!
  • 1/3 - done with baby Busby's Wild Stripes blanket. And George thought it wouldn't get done in time. I had my doubts about the color substitution, but it looks really nice so far.
  • 62 - number of miles I've biked over the past month accompanying George on his long marathon training runs on Saturdays. Don't worry, there's not a lot of physical exertion involved in keeping up with a runner, even an awesome one like my hubby. However, I wish I had some exercise pants with more support for my enlarging maternal tummy. After 3 hours of bumping up and down, little Wilson is very angry.
  • 6 - names for baby Busby we brainstormed last week running that start with the letter J: Jack, Jacob, James, Jonathan, Joseph, Jonas. In methodical Busby fashion, we decided it would be most efficient to simply work our way through the alphabet for names we might actually feel comfortable calling our baby. It's very strange to face the prospect of coming up with permanent identification for another human being. Other popular letters include C (Caleb, Christian, Conner, Clayton), G (George, Grant, Gregory, Gabriel), and S (Samuel, Stephen, Saul). Please regard all information as to Wilson's actual name as a rumor pending further confirmation in 3 months. :D
  • 2 - times I threw up Saturday. Probably because I ate an entire container of movie popcorn, followed by several Oreos, and an apple. Dang baby won't let me get away with eating junk.
  • 1 - cute knitted baby hat a lady in the ward gave to us at the Friday night game night. I love it so much. It made me realize that I'm happy to be having a winter baby. Bundled up babies are so adorable.
  • 4 - days left on my temp job and George's internship. Wow, our time in Washington has flown. I'm really excited to go home. Our corporate housing feels like a hotel, right down to the lack of overhead lighting in the living area. (What makes people think that sporadic lamps will be enough? It never works.)
  • 1:58 - length of our flight back to Utah. Hopefully I won't feel too sick.

28 June 2008

Understanding Washington

In most states, weather advisories are issued when there's going to be heavy rain.

Today in Redmond, there's a non-precipitation advisory in effect. Good to know it's not going to rain until Sunday afternoon.

That, my friends, is Washington.

26 June 2008

Temporary Name

So I got sick of referring to baby as Baby; therefore I've given it, er, him, a temporary name: Eggar Albert Wilson Busby. I call him Wilson, ala Cast Away: he looks like a volleyball under my shirt and I feel slightly crazy talking to/about him.

Cute little Wilson.

And my yarn for the Wild Stripes blanket arrived today! Yay for having something to do on the bus that won't make me sick.

19 June 2008

The Answer

Even though that last one may look like a dinosaur, the doctors have assured me that it's definitely a baby . . . a baby boy! Wow, my commenters are so smart, or lucky. Any of you want to buy some lottery tickets for me? Anyway, George and I are both really happy and excited.

Now on to the name game. You're welcome to offer suggestions, which I will probably ignore. George's dad says if he's born on Oct 27th, we have to name him after George's grandfather (also George Edward Busby), but George isn't really sure. I personally am fond of the name we found reading the D&C that morning: Ruggles. Draco is also a good possibility if he has his father's hair. Or Earnest?

No, really, we're looking for something normal.

18 June 2008

The Question

Today's the day we find the answer to the question: is it a baby or an exotic South American parasite? The answer will be posted later this evening. Take a guess if you like.

05 June 2008

Baby by Numbers

So after having been chastized directly ("So. . . I just noticed the ratio of posts to your blog in the last three years.") and indirectly ("Now I know the big secret. . . . : Real writers write everyday.") by two of the best writers I know, I'm going to try to bring this blog into a comeback. No, for reals this time. At first, I had too little time to blog (honors thesis/finals), but lately I've had too much time to blog. That may not make sense unless you've spent a month alone in a new apartment in a neighborhood you don't know with no car. That's a recipe for ennui if I ever knew one--I couldn't get up the energy to read, much less write to my witty standard. But now that I have a part-time job, things are a lot better. I still only work 4 hours a day and it's temp work, but it's enough to force my brain to come out of hibernation and think about things.

During all that filing and stapling, I've been contemplating a little feature which I hope to make semi-regular on this blog for the next few months--i.e. until the baby arrives. After reading a bunch of websites and magazines on pregnancy, I'm highly bored with the standard pregnancy story. The excitement, the worries, all of that is all pretty much the same. At the same time, I know my friends want to be informed of my pregnancy progress. I've decided these two problems can be reconciled with the writer's favorite tool for adding interest to standard subjects: innovative formatting! And without further ado, I present "Baby by Numbers":

  • 245 - bus I ride to work which still sometimes makes me sick, even though the morning sickness has mostly subsided. It doesn't help when the bus driver is a displaced chain-smoking cowboy.
  • 5 - days at my temp job before somebody figured out I was pregnant.
  • 12 - colors in this "Wild Stripes" baby blanket I want to knit. Baby things that aren't in pastel? Sign me up! I don't know why I'm so against pastel--probably because they wash me out. Unfortunately, a lot of the recommended colors are discontinued. I'm terrified to try to pick out 12 colors that will work together! Help?
  • 3-5 - times I wake up each night. It's getting really hard to sleep. Three factors are combining to ruin my sleep: I am getting bigger and therefore more difficult to position, the bed at our corporate housing is uncomfortable (I miss our IKEA bed), and the sheets and blankets refuse to stay put and get all wrinkley. Did I mention that straight sheets and blankets are my OCD obsession? I cannot sleep on things that are wrinkley and slide around.
  • 1 - baby blankets I currently own.
  • 1 - baby outfits I currently own. I expect these last two in increase dramatically very soon because . . .
  • 14 - days until my ultrasound on June 18th! George and I can't wait to find out it it's a boy or a girl; it'll make the whole we're-going-to-have-a-baby thing a lot more real.
  • 21 - weeks until baby is due. For those of you who don't speak pregnancy, that'd be 4-5 months. :D

16 May 2008

A Landmark

Yesterday was a landmark day in the history of my pregnancy. I was walking through downtown Seattle by the Space Needle with Julie and her 6 month-old baby, Abby. Some lady noticed Abby--there are very few babies in Seattle--and said, "Oh, what a cute baby! How old is she?" Then she looked at me and said, "And it looks like you're expecting too."

A risky statement I probably wouldn't have made as a by-stander, but nonetheless, yay!

Granted, the shirt I was wearing exaggerates the size of my belly, but nonetheless, yay!

01 May 2008

Department Elevators

I've been wondering for a while now if the behavior of the elevators in a building can tell you something about the people who work there.

For example, there is a bank of two elevators in the JKB on BYU campus. One of these elevators will always be on the second floor, the main floor. If you call an elevator on the second floor, step in, and press a button, the elevator doors will remain open until the other elevator has returned to the second floor to take its place. You can actually hear the second elevator dinging down the floors as you stand there in your wide-open elevator looking like an idiot. If you call an elevator on the fourth floor and one elevator is in the basement picking people up while the other is idle on the second floor, which elevator will come to get you? Not the completely unused one on the second floor (remember the importance of manning the main level!), but the one in the basement which is full of people and will probably stop at the second floor anyway on its way up. By the way, this building houses some of the humanities department. In the other humanities building, the elevators talk.

Consider by contrast the elevator in the computer science wing of the TMCB. There is only one elevator, so it always comes to your floor. When it arrives, it dings twice to let you know its there. However, if you push a button before it finishes dinging, the elevator cuts off, mid-ding, closes, and immediately zips you up to the floor you wanted. This elevator is smart enough to know that when you push a button, it means you actually wanted to go to that floor. And quickly. Imagine that.

But then again, the fact that I've taken the time to figure out the elevator behavior tells something about me.

12 April 2008

Two Powerpoints

I find the contrast between the two powerpoints I'm making today quite humorous. They also illustrate the idiosyncrasy of my education--I pretty much only write about things I'm interested in. To hell if they don't match other people's conceptions of classic English major subjects.

And now to write my 20-page medieval exegesis of T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." Sigh.

10 April 2008

The Poets are at their Windows

This is my favorite poem from the Billy Collins reading at BYU the other month. His description of the "hard work" of writing is extremely true: if only those cooks and clerks understood how hard staring out windows is! I'm not sure of the stanza spacing of this poem, since as I said, I hear it aloud, and I'm copying the text from Amazon's product description. Oh well. Enjoy it anyway.


The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.
They are at their windows
in every section of the tangerine of earth-
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.
The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.
The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see-
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlights of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.
The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare
at the cracked birdbath or a limb knocked down by the wind.
By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.
Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.
And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman's heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.

-Billy Collins

05 April 2008

April 2008 General Conference: Saturday Morning

Once again, I'm live-blogging conference. Refresh for new comments as the talks are given.

10:26 - D. Todd Christofferson as the new apostle, eh? I was really banking on a spanish-speaking apostle this time, but oh well. Looks like lawyer-affirmative action strikes again. I wonder what Hugh Nibley would have to say about the population of lawyers in the apostles . . . . Also, I'm interested that the Young Women and Relief Society were acknowledged separately. I was under the impression that the Young Women was more of a program than an actual Church body. I may have to change the way I think about the YW program.

10:40 - Russel M. Nelson (Apostle) - "The gospel is an individual matter--each is born individually, thus each is born again individually." "We cannot be released as parents." Yay! A talk on parenting! (I apologize in advance that I'm probably going to latch onto every quote having anything to do with children. You understand.) "The Church is to assist and not replace parents in their duty to raise children." Teach your children to believe in God, to honor their parents. It seems that parenting is a matter of rhetoric, largely--learning to pursuade and not force. "Salvation is an individual matter, exaltation is a family matter." I should really write sometime about the distinction between salvation and exaltation--it's really one of the most glorious principles of the restored gospel because it clears up so many things.

10:54 - Ronald A. Rasband (Presidency of the Seventy) - Experiences as the building blocks of faith: sounds like the doctrine of the personal essay. :D Everyone needs "a personal treasury of experiences." I think this is one of the reasons I write personal essays--because I want to remember my store of experiences.

11:03 - Cheryl C. Lant (Primary General President) - The gospel as a family tradition--interesting idea. At first I have a bad reaction to this, since we don't want people being members of the Church simply because their parents are. They need their own testimonies. But how often is a person's family tradition a barrier to their reception of the gospel? And I think there's a difference between making the gospel a tradition and simply being a member. It means making the gospel more than a checklist; it ought to be something we celebrate and enjoy. In that way, the gospel as a tradition can be a positive thing: "traditions of righteousness," not something we mindlessly do, but something we want to return to because it meant something to us as a child.

11:14 - Kenneth Johnson (Seventy) - Ooh, scientific analogy! Discovering the principles of the gospel as scientists have discovered natural laws. I like this analogy because it allows the teachings of the Church to change easily with new revelations--we're discovering new gospel principles, line upon line. President Monson: "Youth need fewer critics and more models." Additionally, no matter how much we want to change them, gospel principles are not a matter of common consent, just as natural laws. George says, "Who votes that gravity goes down?"

11:27 - Joseph B. Wirthlin (Apostle) - Interesting to hear testimony of the personality of the First Presidency. Addressed "the erroneous idea that all within the Church should be the same." Have compassion for those different than us. "Don't be held back because you feel inadequate." "Church leaders ought to be mindful of the limitations of members." "To those who have strayed because they have been offended, can't you set those things aside?" "To those who have strayed because of doctrinal concerns, we don't apologize for that. . . . But the foolishness of God is stronger than men." Way to tow the line, Elder Wirthlin, you rock!

11:53 - Henry B. Eyring (First Counselor in the First Presidency) - "The keys of the Priesthood remain on the earth so long as we have faith in them and that they are being passed down." Disobedience and loss of faith caused the loss of the priesthood in the Apostasy, as the apostles died without passing on the keys. Sustaining our leaders requires repentance for our own sins. So long as we are faithful, the Church will remain on the earth. This talk seems really old fashioned to me--talking a lot about what we have to do to keep the Church from falling under condemnation and how the Church is being prepared for the return of the Savior.

UPDATE: Ha ha, well so much for the other sessions. Saturday morning is always my favorite anyway.

02 April 2008

April is the Cruellest Month

For National Poetry Month, I'm going to share a few of my favorite poems, both by me and by much better poets. I can't promise it'll be every day, but I'm going to try. This will be a bit of a stretch since I'm not a huge reader of poetry, but maybe it'll force me outside my shell and get me to remember the ones that I like. I like the idea of reading poetry, but actually doing it is pretty hard. Very few collections of modern poetry are readable outside of a classroom setting, with someone to guide you through them.

I'm sorry for the cop out of starting with such a famous poem, but I can't help thinking of the irony that April is NaPoMo when I read these words. Also, for a student at BYU with no spring break forthcoming, at least the first part of April is always the cruelest. This is also one of the more lucid passages from "The Wasteland"--besides the chess match, which I also love. I like Eliot's very British reflection on the character of the seasons. It seems that as a suburbanite, I tend to not notice their character as much as I do the inconveniences they cause me. I'd like to be more British in that way--to have a knowledge of the seasons planted in my brain.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland" (lines 1-11)

31 March 2008

In Which I Have an Announcement to Make

Or rather several. This blog has fallen severely behind on my personal life. Don't worry; classes will be over in 2.5 weeks and then I am done with my undergrad, leaving much more time for the important things in life, like blogging.

On to business, from least important to most:

  • I'm playing a very interesting ARG (alternate reality game) in connection with the upcoming summer olympics entitled "The Lost Ring," which is about the suppression of a secret olympic sport and the synchronization of alternate universes. If you're interested in conspiracy theories, weird quantum science fiction, or translating stuff from Esperanto, you should check out the wiki and get involved. If I can find ten other people in the area, maybe we can try playing the lost sport of the olympics--labyrinth running!
  • Our car got squashed on St. Patrick's day, all because we decided to get pizza instead of cooking. After picking up the food, George parked in a really nice spot near our complex's parking lot entrance, which is usually great, except that someone in a blasted U-Hall didn't notice the 6' height clearance bar. They plowed into it and knocked one of the supporting beams down on the hood of our car. Of all the lameness! The car still runs, but we'd like to be able to open up the hood again, especially since our car eats oil and needs a refill every few weeks. Alas, it could take a while to be repaired since no one's insurance wants to take responsibility for the accident . . . .
  • I won first place in the Vera Hinckley Mayhew essay contest! The winners aren't up on the website yet, but I thought I'd link that in case anyone cared to find out more (especially you future BYU students). First place is $300, which marks the first time I've been paid for writing since 8th grade when a poem I wrote was in the top ten in some Rocky Mountain youth poetry contest--I got $50 dollars. I guess that means that a high school and (almost) college diploma have earned me a 600% pay increase?
  • A shortened version of the essay that won said contest is being published in Segullah this summer, so keep an eye out for it. I've also got a book notice coming out in the Journal of Mormon History, but that won't have a byline, so it's not as exciting.
  • [UPDATE:] I also won third place in the David O. McKay essay contest. Which makes me a runner-up to the most awesome writer I know: Brooke Larson. Plus publication and money. Am I bragging? Well, I won't put a dollar amount, mostly since I can't find it online anywhere and I haven't gotten an official letter from them yet. :D
  • I'm having a baby! I'm 9.5 weeks along now, which means that the baby is due on Halloween-ish. I'm really deadly sick right now, which is making it difficult to finish up classwork, but supposedly most morning sickness goes away around week 12-14. I can only pray.

04 March 2008

Heidegger and Mormonism: A Possible Literary Aesthetic

Another cross post from Mormon Renaissance--please leave comments over there.

In my last post, I discussed the idea of Mormon literature as an aesthetic–an idea of how writing should be, rather than a specific genre. I briefly mentioned one possibility for a Mormon aesthetic, the idea of respect towards all human beings and the belief in the power of human choice. Many commenters rightly suggested that this idea is not unique to Mormonism–it is a general Christian, or even humanist, ideal.

So I’d like to present another possible “Mormon” mode of writing, this one derived from the philosophies of Heidegger. The major realization of Heidegger’s philosophy is that one can gain only so much from creating a system of knowledge. He believes that conceptual knowledge is reductive of reality, imposing limitations where none exist. The key to overcoming the barrier of human thought is not more human thought but human experience, for in situations that our intellect cannot make sense of, our experience has no trouble participating. As a result of this emphasis on experience, Heidegger thought that writing ought not to seek systematic views but out to be participated in as an experience–a poem should not represent a world view, but be experienced as a world of its own. This idea about writing seems to fit well with Mormon conceptions of what the written word can do and what it is.

I have often wondered over the fact that there is no explicit written Mormon theology. Sure, we have our scriptures and the Articles of Faith, which serve as at least a foundation, but when you think about it, they define only a very basic outline of our faith. It’s extremely easy to find points that can be and have been interpreted in multiple ways. And outside of scripture, any theological Mormon writings are a very delicate balance. Do we have room in our society for someone like CS Lewis, whose theological writings are mostly logic based rather than scripture or modern prophets? I don’t think so: I have yet to read any good logic-based theology from any LDS author. Yes, we have scholars like Hugh Nibley, but even those types are viewed warily from inside the establishment, and from outside of the establishment, it’s clear that they don’t derive LDS theology but use it as their assumption and continue from there. There seems to be a general perception that theological writings could get too scholarly and therefore detract from testimony and revelation.

From within Church correlated literature, the same is true: the ideas stay at a superficial level, never diving into the deep and controversial questions. I often feel a frustration over the fact that the Church doesn’t issue statements solving some of these basic controversial issues (particularly, of course, the ones on which I am right and other people are wrong, if they could only just understand properly). For this reason—not having a highly codified collection of doctrines like the Summa Theologica—Mormonism has often been called an orthopraxic religion, one that cares more about practice than an orthodoxic religion which emphasizes belief. This designation often feels like an accusation, and as a Mormon, I tend to be resistive to anyone who calls my religion a system of practices rather than a mode of belief. From this point of view, it would seem that writing in Mormonism is a futile exercise. The only texts that could be produced are essentially dogmatic propaganda or instructional books on practices.

But perhaps Mormonism is not really really all about practices but about their results. Like Heidegger, Joseph Smith believed there were some things that could not be understood only with words. When he commanded his followers to know the nature of God, he did not mean that we should be able to define Him in vague theological terms: to know the nature of God is not a command to study or think about him. In Mormonism, it is a command to reach out a meet him, face to face (a term that Levinas surely would have approved of). We believe that a knowledge of truth comes mostly through experience. The Book of Mormon is full of instances in which God told things to men which could not be written with language, not just that they were forbidden to write these things, but that they were unable to do so, perhaps because of the nature of language. Written things are seen as a limiting force in our religion.

Even our demand for correct practices, like daily scripture study, are really commands to find out truth through experience. In our reading of the scriptures, it’s not necessarily the words of the scriptures that we need. Rather, we seem believe that our presence in reading those books can open us up to receive other signs in our mind. It’s as though writing is not meant to convey knowledge, but to trip a switch, to create another experience all its own. We believe in revelation acting through the written word, not just through what it says, but through the very act of reading.

Perhaps this idea of literature as an experience could be a way around the much complained of didacticism of Mormon writing about spiritual matters. Instead of trying to explain our doctrines or show how those who make the right choices come to the right ends (one of the main faults of the Home Literature movement), our literature could focus on the reality of spiritual experience, trying to create literature that generates genuine spiritual experience. Of course, there are obvious problems with this: first, the highest Mormon spiritual experience, the temple, is mostly off limits in terms of writing. I have always seen this as a huge problem with taking Mormon literature seriously as a minority literature–we can’t immerse our outsider readers in the culture because it is forbidden to do so. Second, how does one go about creating a spiritual experience for the reader without presuming to be God and creating false revelations? And how do we keep this from becoming an aesthetic of manipulation? (Especially in film–cue the emotional music and fuzzy close-up.)

However, I think it still can be legitimately done. Actually, I think many Mormon artists are already out there trying to do just that–just think of the history of Church cinema. Some may think it a little manipulative, but at other times, it’s completely genuine in the world it immerses you in. The Mormon arts seem distinctively different than most post-modern literature in this way–we always genuinely have faith in the ability of arts to be an immersive experience, rather than a distant and cold examination of the world. Much of Mormon art has less regard for the nature of the medium and more focus on the subject matter.

What Mormon art has touched you in an experiential way? How can we develop this aesthetic into something legitimate rather than allowing it to devolve into a culture of propaganda and manipulation?

26 February 2008

On a Unified Mormon Fiction

A cross-post from Mormon Renaissance

On Saturday at BYU's science fiction/fantasy symposium, Life, The Universe, and Everything, Orson Scott Card gave a lecture entitled "SF&F as a Legitimate Literary Genre." Now, I'm going to ignore the primary question of his speech, since science fiction is not what this blog is all about. However, I think some of the points he raised can be legitimately applied to Mormon literature. Because, in its own way, Mormon fiction is like SF&F: a class of writing read by a small, cult-like following, a genre which many (self-proclaimed literary) people look down on because of its "juvenile" conventions.

Card's point was this--the dismissal of an entire genre is usually illegitimate. When we do so (usually by using only one example, or only its worst examples), we're really just setting up strawmen to knock down to our own literary preferences. To read science fiction with an eye for literary fiction is an experiment doomed to fail. The genres have different definitions of success. For example, Card claimed that in literary fiction, the star is the author, who as he/she writes, encodes meaning into complex layers of symbols which the reader is then to decode. This is what people who read literary fiction want, and when it is done well, they are happy. However, these conventions would be found ridiculous to science fiction readers, who are completely concerned with plot. Science fiction is about the believable linkage of cause and effect, an exploration of how we effect the world. That exploration is best done through stories rather than symbols.

I see this applying to Mormon literature in two ways. First, as I said in our opening post, it's unfair to judge Mormon lit by all that is really crappy in it. In Jeff Savage's recent post on LDS Publisher, he pointed out that we ought to look first to find literature that suits our own tastes and then within that genre to find that best books that fit that need. Within Mormon literature, there is room for sappy romances, homey mysteries, epic historicals, as well as literary fiction, as long as we don't expect them to be what they are not. Any impulse to declare any one of these as the Mormon fiction, to the exclusion of the others, would be invalid. However, within each of these genres, there are good quality works and lesser quality works, and we can work on improving each genre to its own ideal to achieve its own ends.

Second, Card's discussion of the different aesthetic approaches of each genre reminded me of what the people in the Fit for the Kingdom films movement are trying to do. This film-making group has divorced itself from the idea that Mormon cinema ought to employ the popular Hollywood conventions, instead trying to define a style of honesty and celebration of the ordinary that is uniquely Mormon. I'd like to see a similar thing happen in Mormon literature. As I said, Mormon literature covers many genres. What makes people (like me) want to unite them is that they all deal with Mormon subject matter. But in style, in approach, they seem pretty disparates: Mormon literary fiction follows literary fiction conventions, Mormon romance novels follow romance novel conventions (obviously with some amendments). This is good--romance novels would not work if the character suddenly broke out into random bouts of symbolism as they tend to in literary fiction.

However, it seems to me that the unity of Mormon literature could benefit from the definition of some uniquely Mormon style, independent of the worldly genres. I'm not sure there's a genre that could be called the "Mormon" genre, but perhaps there could be a specific aesthetic or style of Mormon writing. My personal vision would be an aesthetic of individual consideration and empowerment--a Christian writing where there are no "bad" or "good" guys, but simply sympathetic people trying their misguided best to do what they think will bring them happiness. This belief in the power of humanity and its ultimate humanness is one of the most unique beliefs in Mormondom, and I think it could make for a great literature. From the buzz I'm hearing about Angela Hallstrom's Bound on Earth, this novel seems promising in that direction.

But that's my vision: What's your Mormon literary aesthetic? Am I wrong about Mormon literature not being about genres? Is there one genre that sticks out to you as Mormon?

21 February 2008

A Mormon Renaissance

Hey everyone, sorry for being a slacker and not writing for so long. At least one reason I've been holding back is that I have been working on a sneaky bloggy project which is now live: presenting Mormon Renaissance, a blog about Mormon artistic efforts, their progress and criticism. I've written a nice long two-part blog post as the introduction, so if you've been craving my voice, there it is. Check it out and add it to your feed reader. I think it's high time educated Mormons, including me, stopped looking down on their own culture and started doing something about it.

28 January 2008

Roll Video Footage

Courtesy of my wonderful friend Marisa, a huge chapter of my life is now available on Google Video. All those whose hugging skills need improvement, weep no more! Witness the Hug Video in all of its tripartite glory:

The Hug Video: World of Contact
From the cheesy National Geographic music to the dictionary hug, this is an instant classic. Who's Joe, you might ask? Joe is the inspiration for the hug video, whose prolific dictionary hug skills led my roommates to offer him hugging lessons. Trust me: some people need them.

Hug Video 1 Bloopers
The birth of Marisa's child and some lovely background shots of me knitting my Quidditch socks.

The Hug Video Part Dos
You may remember that I spent most of finals week winter 2006 editing this video. It's not as crisp as the first one, but we love it none the less. The invalid hug is great.

Someday I'll get around to making our final movie--the Paint Date. 50 bouncy balls, several bottles of paint, and lots of plastic wrap meet a college kitchen.

12 January 2008

It's All in the Approach

It's amazing how touchy humanities people can be when you criticize their subject. The defense of the humanities is a battle still alive and raging, and one that seems vitally (in the sense of life-threateningly) important to those involved. In my advanced literary theory class, the professor spent half of the first class period frantically justifying why a literary education was superior, even though no one had asked such a question. He claimed literary study was superior to a basic technical education (the socialization of people to follow orders in low level jobs), or even a measley "professional" education (teaching people when to apply technical logic--doctors and lawyers, this apparently means you). The professor's point was that a real leadership consists of a liberal education, one that teaches people how to think but not what to think about. He pointed to the importance of a "classical" or liberal education, implying that the English department would give us this.

At this point, I laugh. How many people in an advanced theory course can really claim a liberal education? Hello, a liberal education is supposed to include the sciences as well as the humanities. I'd be willing to risk a pretty penny that barely 2 people in that class regard Biology 100 as anything less than an annoyance--me as a chemistry minor being one of them--much less have a enough working understanding of science to be regarded as scientifically literate. A liberal education is about being a Renaissance man, about being broad not deep--the antithesis of the current mode of university education. They aren't receiving anything like a liberal education, just an education in a discipline, as Stanley Fish says in his recent New York Times article.

Not that this is a bad thing--as Stanley Fish says, it's delightful to those who study it. They shouldn't feel the need to justify its use to other people. And if they do, they shouldn't attempt to do so through the guise of gaining "critical thinking," as if the humanities has a monopoly on that. The humanities will not save us.

The key to this realization: The kinds of virtues claimed through the humanities--"those intellectual and moral habits that together from [sic] the basis for living the best life one can" (Kronman qtd in Fish)--are not part of the subject material, but the approach. One could just as easily become critically and creatively minded in studying chemistry or politics or music as literature. These are not only in literature. In fact, if that were the reason we were studying literature, we would all be studying philosophy instead. What subject we choose to approach this critical knowledge is more of a hobby, as I've stated before. What's essential is the test, not the subject matter.

04 January 2008

Best Chocolate Ever

I figured I'd go for something a little lighter today, seeing as the blog is still reeling with comments on the last post. So, I am going to introduce you to the reason why George makes the best Santa Claus ever:

The Choxie Mint Cookie Crunch Bar! I swear, this is the chocolate bar of the GODS! Although it costs like $1.80 at Target, it is worth every cent: smooth truffley dark chocolate with tiny pieces of white mint candy. The candy pieces aren't hard and crunchy and annoying--I'd barely notice them except for the occasional divine flavor burst. It is perfect and subtle. I can barely type straight thinking about it. That said, I need to go buy a bunch. As soon as BYU lets go of my excess financial aid money. Grr.

(PS. Choxie is available only at Target. Just thought I'd make that clear. And apparently they don't have the bars for online order, although they do have all of the super cute looking gift packages.)

03 January 2008

A Heresy against Feminism

Why do I find myself unable to write about marriage?

I think this is the thing that killed my blog posting this semester. Although this semester was insane, it was no more insane than the others during which I did find time to blog. But something about being married has killed my ability to write candidly about my thoughts.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m scared of bursting the bubble I’m in. Marriage has made me so insanely happy that it feels unreal. What if by analyzing it I burst that bubble and make things harder for myself? But that’s not really true—I’m not in some idealistic phase where I think my husband has no faults. He’s great and cute, but he has traits that drive me crazy. And yet they don’t drive me crazy. When I look from an objective perspective, they should bug the crap out of me, yet when I see them in him, they don’t seem as important. In fact, nothing seems as important as he does.

Another thought I’ve had is that it’s simply so new to me that I’d rather experience it than write about it. There are some experiences you just can’t write about when you're still close to them, no matter how amazing the insights you’ve gained through them. And that's okay. Because they’re so intensely personal, they are not meant to be shared. This was a huge temptation for me at the beginning of our marriage. At each discussion and resolution, I would think in my head, "This has emotional power! This would make an awesome essay!" (Seriously, this is how my life has always worked: I live in order to write about it.) I didn’t write about it though, not just because the experiences would be difficult to convey but because every time I tried to write them, or even think about writing them, I felt like I was betraying my husband, selling out my marriage for worldly gain, though nothing would have come of it. Perhaps there is no way to share these experiences vicariously. Perhaps they are like our most sacred communions with God, something that increases the understanding between us but that will be spoiled by the retelling of it.

But I think the most true reason is not that I hold myself back from talking about my life, but that there’s no one out there to hear it. Ironically enough, marriage appears to be a taboo topic in Utah County, otherwise known as the marriage capital of Mormondom. I can’t talk about my marriage experiences with my single friends, no matter how cordially they ask me “How’s married life?” Anything I say would sound either like bragging (that I’m married and they aren’t) or harassment that they should get married (look at how great it is!). Even if I could by some magic coincidence of tone and mutual understanding get past both of these barriers, what could we really talk about? They obviously have no experience with marriage, which is barely less than the one esoteric experience I have. It would be like two librarians discussing what it’s like to fly to the moon: profitless speculations and wild leaps of logic. And for what purpose would we talk about marriage? To establish what (in general) it is like and examine its purposes, characteristics, and flaws? A discussion too dispassionate and impersonal to be worth either of our times. To talk about the specific ins and outs of my own marriage? Of what usefulness could that be to them?

Perhaps I’m being too overdramatic. I suppose that discussion could be useful, for although marriage is the most intense relationship of my life, it is nonetheless a relationship, which means that no one is without some analog to relate to what is being discussed.

Maybe it’s not marriage as a subject but the attitudes of people at BYU about it that make it such a taboo topic. Perhaps the fact that it is so important to us causes heightened emotions and fear to discuss it. During my single years at BYU, I was desperate to get married. It’s extremely hard to admit, but I thought enough about it during those years to certainly qualify as obsessed. I knew it was important and much harder to do once you left college. I was absolutely frustrated by the fact that it was so unpredictable. You couldn’t tell if you were doing “well” on the road to marriage until you were actually married because before then, who knew what could happen?

But of course, there was no way I could admit to or discuss any of this. For one, there nothing less attractive in the world than a girl desperate to have someone, anyone, so she knows she is not a failure. So actually pursuing marriage was out of the question, because if you looked like you were looking for it, then it was certain that you would never get it. Secondly, I could not discuss the importance of marriage in my circle of friends. I was part of the intellectual crowd at BYU. We were supposed to be women who didn’t depend on men for fulfillment; getting married before graduating would be a sign of weakness to our liberated, feministic ideals.

Which I find an extremely interesting paradox: we learn and firmly believe at church that the way to happiness is not to follow worldly ideals of success, because in the end such things are illusory. But then what is the path of happiness? As soon as someone mentions family, you’re sure to have several liberated women in the room defy (at least inside their own minds, if not vocally) anyone who would “lock them up” in a house and forbid them to pursue self-fulfillment through a career.

I recently read a post on the bloggernacle responding to Sister Beck’s talk saying that they object to anyone who says that a woman’s fulfillment should come wholly or even primarily through raising children. Here’s a news flash for you: the Church doesn’t say that about women. It says that about everyone! Does the Church say that men should get a career for self-fulfillment? No, a career is clearly shown as necessary for the support of a family. Our leaders time and time again point out that men who focus on their career at the expense of their family will come out empty-handed. Why do women feel satisfied in saying they are an exception to this rule? Don't we want to be treated equally?

I guess this gets me right down to the reason I am afraid to write about marriage: I believe in it. Every last traditional gender role, anti-feminist part of it. I have come to receive a witness that the pattern of a father working and a mother running a household is not only a social necessity, but a divinely inspired pattern. This heretical thought came to me for the first time as I began going to the temple. I had read vague hints that many feminist women were less than satisfied with the temple, and when I arrived there myself, I could see why. My first time through the endowment, I noticed the gender differences with curiosity and wonder. In subsequent times, I could not keep myself so neutral: I felt a rise of resentment and questioning rise in me at those times during the ceremony. It poisoned my mind so I could not think of anything else through the whole two hours: why in such a progressive world did our church have to be so backward? Why couldn’t it just concede to the truths that were so obvious?

Then I came to wonder: why am I judging sacred things by the secular instead of the other way around? Why is the thought of the scholars of the world my standard for judging the gospel? If I really believe in God, shouldn’t I be able to trust His standards? I began to wonder if feminism—in the sense that women (and people in general) needed to seek fulfillment outside of the home and family—was merely one of the philosophies of men, one that I had been indoctrinated with since childhood, one guised under the mask of equality, but in reality having little to do with it. To me, it seemed that this movement was not so much about equity as it was about finding happiness. Women had forgotten how to find happiness. We saw the men in successful careers and said, “That is why we are not happy, because they don't let us have what they have.” Little did they realize that the men weren’t happy either. No one was happy because they weren’t looking in the places to find happiness.

And so I find myself at peace with the temple, but at odds with the world. How could I possibly justify or defend this position? It was so simple. I must be missing something critical if there were so many intelligent people who disagreed with me.

But maybe again that’s caring too much about what the world says. I for one agreed with the substance of Sister Beck’s talk, yet the only thing I could think during the whole thing was “Oh man, the girls over at Feminist Mormon Housewives are going to be livid about this.” And I felt guilty for agreeing with her. Guilty.

01 January 2008

So This is the New Year

New Year's was built for people like me. First of all, it's a completely arbitrary celebration. Those who have seen me on St. Patrick's Day know that these are my favorite kind of holidays. I love an excuse to be exuberantly happy for no apparent reason. Second, if the holiday does have a purpose, it's setting extravagant goals for becoming your ideal person with no intention of actually following through on them. Again, this is one of my favorite pastimes--I've been known to make New Year's resolutions four or five times a year, simply because I've given up on the old ones.

Hmm, this sounds a little more pessimistic than my last New Year's post. Perhaps that's because this year has spun in completely different (wonderfully different) directions than I expected and predicted. Last year I set only one solid New Year's goal--to get serious about my writing. And while I failed at the specific steps I set for myself (submitting something each month, keeping a writing notebook, writing for eight hours a week), surprisingly I have accomplished that goal anyway, just not in the ways I expected. The biggest contributor to this was my study abroad program--the year's worth of writing intensive courses have forced my to learn how to write honestly. I've learned how to inspire myself, how to approach required writing in such a way that something useful and interesting will come out. I'm coming to see the wonder of every day things around me, to write about what I know and am. And I've come out of the experience with a few rather nice pieces.

Obviously, the thing that threw off the plan for this year was George. Gosh, George! But, no, I wouldn't trade that minor inconvenience for anything. George's family has this set of ten axioms called the "Busby Bylaws," their family mottos and principles. We've been working on a set of "Muir Maxims" to go along with them, and one that came to me recently was this: "Don't let the schedule get in the way of the plan." What it means to me is that plan and scheme as we might, we never know all of the things that the Lord has in mind for us. When something comes along, we have to be willing to drop the plan and follow His will.

All in all, 2007 has been the best year yet.

In fact, I think that should be everyone's New Year's resolution: make 2008 the best year yet.

But for the sake of being more concrete: the list.

  1. Write for at 15 minutes a day. This will be a challenge during the next four months which constitute my last semester at BYU. (Yay!) After that, it should be easier.
  2. Post on the blog more regularly. Here is where I'd insert a count of the decrease of posts from this year to last year, but a) you can see the counts for yourself on the archive list, and b) my in-laws' firewall blocks my blog, so I can't actually see them. But suffice to say, I'd like to improve. Blogging has been a valuable exercise because it forces me to polish my thoughts into a presentable form, look at myself in a more objective way, obtain feedback, and of course keep in touch with friends. No, I'm not going to set a goal of posting every day, since I don't believe in posts for the sake of posts.
  3. Read at least 25 books, outside of assigned reading. I figure 2 books a month is fairly reasonable. Hopefully this will make a dent in my to-read list, which is getting entirely too long.
  4. Get published. I'm being less specific than last year, but I've got several essays that my professor thinks could get published, and I'd like to continue to write more things of that quality.
  5. Apply to grad school. I didn't make time to do it this fall (with all the insanity of being newly married and taking evil classes), but I really want to continue my education. And I don't want to just fall out of the loop because I'm taking a year off.
  6. Find a job. My biggest fear this next year is being stuck in a job I hate. The job hunt is problematic right now since I'll be in Seattle for three months after I graduate and who knows what will happen in fall, but hopefully things will work out.
  7. Do 100% of my visiting teaching. Okay, so I haven't done my visiting teaching for about a year and a half. It's high time that stopped. I know that it's important; I'm just lazy and worried about what people think. Don't ask what that means.
  8. Keep in better touch with my family. As George and I are moving to Seattle this summer (did I mention he has an internship with Microsoft to work on their search?), I'll be living away from my base in Utah for the longest period in my life. I'm really bad about calling people on the phone or writing personal (not business) emails because I take the people close to me for granted. If I don't see them, I forget they are there. I need to work on that.
  9. Figure out how spices work. I'm a fairly decent cook, but I really don't use spices because they scare me and I don't know how to do it without a recipe.
  10. Wake up early, and like it. My inner morning person got lost somewhere on the way between high school and college. I used to wake up easily (no snooze buttons!) at 5:30 am for my paper route, but now I whack my husband when he tries to wake me up at 6. I miss liking mornings.
Notice no exercising related goals--I'm letting George take care of the running this year. It's his problem if I get fat. (This is called reliance on others.)