Thursday, June 27, 2013

Arranged Marriages, Anyone?

There was a thought-provoking article in Meridian Magazine today giving advice to LDS Singles as to how to deal with their single status in a productive way. I couldn't help but think of my daughter, recently returned from a mission, and feeling bombarded by daily Facebook updates of friends announcing their engagements. All of her friends but two are either married, about to get married, or seriously dating.

I emailed her a link to the article, but I wish now that I'd read it before I went to the temple this morning. You see, I ran into an old acquaintance at the temple, one whose son went to high school with my daughter. Apparently, her son is feeling just as demoralized over the whole single scene as Allison is. All of his friends--male and female--are either married, getting married, or going on missions (the girls, that is). The only solution my friend and I could come up with for our children was that maybe her son and my daughter should get together to at least commiserate.

I really liked the recommendations offered by the article's author, Jonathan Decker, a marriage and family therapist. For a long time, he was unmarried, himself. His suggestions certainly rang true for me, personally. You see, I didn't get married until I was 31. As he put it, LDS singles need to follow 3 rules to be happier:

1.Build a life worth living without a partner.
2.Be the type of person you want to attract.
3.Be open to options you’ve not yet considered.
Hey, I did all three of those and it worked. I finally met...not the man of my dreams, but the man I really needed. It wasn't until I hit 30 that I finally realized I probably wasn't going to get married, so I might as well make the best of my life alone. And I got right down to it. I began to carve out a career and was feeling pretty good about myself to the point that I'd almost lost all desire to date. But when the opportunity came to socialize, even though a good friend of mine pushed me into it, I basically followed Decker's second suggestion, dolling myself up and trying to be smart and sophisticated...that was the night I met him. And finally, I didn't let the fact that he was 7 years younger than me turn me off. I figured that if he could handle the age difference, so could I. And we have!

However, if LDS Singles like my daughter and my friend's son aren't willing to try those kinds of approaches, there's always one other solution:

Arranged marriages. Hey, it works in a lot of cultures. Why not ours?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Party in My Mind

"No one is able to enjoy such feast as the one who throws a party in his own mind."--Selma Lagerlöf

A little over 100 years ago, Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. The above quote of hers perfectly describes the reason why I continue to write despite such distractions as a romantic husband, six adventurous children, a busy church life, an adorable puppy, and several absorbing hobbies. The party in my mind keeps pulling me back.
Last night, I spoke to a group of girls ages 8 - 12 about writing. I told them the story of my journey as a writer, and then we spent a fair amount of time discussing story structure, using Toy Story and other kids' movies as illustrations. (These girls were so smart. Among other insights, they could instantly tell me when the "all is lost" moment is in Brave, or when conflict is first incited in Tangled.)
After my presentation, I answered the girls' questions--and they had such good questions. One of them asked me shyly, "Is it hard to write a book?"
"It is," I answered. "It's a lot of work. But it is so fun at the same time." 
Then I asked the group, "You know when you're reading one of your favorite books, and the real world all around you disappears, and you can almost see and hear and feel what's going on in the world of your book?"
They all nodded enthusiastically. (They had all brought their favorite books with them, and were eager to have a book club discussion of their own after I finished.)
"It's like that when you write a book--except better, because you create the world of the book exactly the way you want it. Once I've created my world and my characters and know the basics of what's going to happen to them, it's like I'm watching a movie, and working hard to write down exactly what I see. There is not much that is more fun than that."
The girls seemed impressed, and I encouraged them to create their own worlds and stories and see for themselves what it's like to have parties in their minds. 
Today, I opened up notes for the sequel to one of my books so that I could start outlining it--and I got so excited. I love these characters, and I look forward to spending the next while with them. It's almost like anticipating a reunion of real friends--getting to hang out with them, witnessing their struggles and triumphs. I think probably only writers--and some readers--will understand what I mean. 
Everyone else will just have to trust me: within the confines of my mind, I throw a fantastic party.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts on Maternal Freedom

Over the last year, in several contexts, I have heard, read, and participated in conversations about motherhood and freedom. Among those that I would consider like-minded to myself I would often hear a passionate argument against “worldly messages” of self-fulfillment, ambition, and self-discovery. This always rankled me, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to put my finger on why.
I agreed that motherhood was important. I agreed that to embrace the call to nurture our children with our whole hearts was vital. So why would I squirm a little every time the topic of rejecting the idea of personal freedom, free-time, free-expression in favor of motherhood came up? Because the argument is completely fallacious.
The argument that motherhood is antithetical to being free is an example of the logical fallacy of the False dilemma, or the false dichotomy. The two choices are set up in opposition to one another, when in fact they are not. I believe this lie is a construct of Lucifer himself, used to keep women from embracing a portion of their eternal, divine nature. As long as the choice is motherhood or freedom there will always be a percentage with whom maternity will lose. Likewise, as long as we perpetuate this argument amongst ourselves, a part of us (as moms) will wonder what we might be missing, and simultaneously asking ourselves, “If motherhood isn’t freedom, what is it?”
But the foundation of this argument is a lie. MOTHERHOOD IS NOT BONDAGE!!! Every morning when I wake up I chose to embrace the imperfect process of daily living, learning, working that is being a mom. Anyone who says that I am bound, entrapped, or limited by my choice to be a mom does not know me! They know nothing about the choices I have made, the life I’ve lived, or the person I am. And if we want to put a completely practical/non-religious point on it, the law allows me to divorce my husband, turn over full custody, and walk away any time I want. I choose to be called, “Mommy,” every day. But the choice doesn’t limit my other choices the way people often believe. Choosing motherhood is not synonymous with choosing imprisonment (Take a gander at Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, for a corporate perspective in this topic).
Me and one of my favorite buddies, footloose and fancy free at the zoo.
More than that though, in being a mother I am free. I am freer from selfishness, cowardice, and my own carnal nature. My children have opened up new horizons, pools of knowledge, even facets of my own character about which I would have stayed  Those internal doors that were opened with chubby, sticky fingers, would have remained closed to me. I never would have known how much was there, and how much of what was there needed to be addressed and cleared away. I am freer from my own weaknesses and preconceived notions, a better person.
ignorant without their love and influence. Even as my incredible husband’s wife, I would never have known so much about myself, and not all of it is good.
Furthermore, becoming a mother in nature and attribute (loving, kind, patient, calm in the face of chaos, hard-working, and creative) as well as in daily occupation is the realization of the potential within us, patterned after a being of such sanctity and holiness that the Lord Almighty protects her name and her image from the ravages of the world. She is as omnipotent and omniscient as He, and it is not despite her role as our spiritual mother, but through it. The source of Her power and glory is her motherhood. Is such a being bound, a prisoner of her part in the Plan of Salvation? Of course not. Then why do we so often see patterning ourselves and our lives after her as being a path to tradeoffs?  
Because too often we buy into the lie. The lie that in order to be self-actualized, fulfilled, and achieving we must turn our children over to the care of others and seek our own interests. But what happens when we align our interests with the Lord’s interest in whole and happy families? We develop a society that needs less coddling and governmental/legal interference, we create communities where “the village” can help us raise and grow our kids because we aren’t afraid to let them be among our neighbors, and we build individuals secure enough in the love and strength of family that they can learn and apply knowledge in ways that improve life for everyone. Moreover, we in turn develop the traits and talents that will allow us to pursue whatever creative, career, or personal path the Lord has in store for us. By developing our potential as mothers, we develop our potential for everything else. It is an investment in ourselves when we run through the backyard chasing bubbles. It is personal cultivation when we try new recipes with our kids in the kitchen. It is the building of our futures when we sing to, snuggle with, read to, play with our children.
 If we truly understood this about ourselves, our very natures, we would treat each other differently. We would treat our children differently. We would hold ourselves in the highest esteem even when our house is dirty, the number on the scale is higher than we want it to be, and our “to do” list is growing in undone-ness (it’s a word now, ok?!). More than this, we would stop fighting a fight that doesn’t exist.  It’s not Mom vs. freedom. Motherhood is freedom. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Matter of Position

 The sun is not yet fully above the horizon, casting everything in an ethereal bronze glaze.  Crystal droplets of water cling to delicate green leaves like diamonds on the wrists of tiny princesses.  Silence imbues every cell of everything within the bounds of this embattled valley.  It sits heavy but it is a welcome heaviness.

 As I sit here, I watch the enemy creeping up a small rise across the plain between us. They have been trying to take the valley for the better part of the last week.  The last five days our small unit has kept them at bay.  Another sunrise and another small victory but I know they will return tonight and there will be another battle. 

 Our unit is currently under strength and made up of an eclectic assortment of soldiers.  Our commander was called to another front. He won't return in time for the coming struggle and hasn't been here for any of the previous.  The two newest privates are young, inexperienced and untrained and therefore not much help.  Their presence does give the rest of us comfort though and helps focus the rest of the troops as we see to their training.  We are also down one soldier.  She was promoted and moved to another field.  We picked up a wounded officer from our company who had been with another unit and left behind during a stealth mission.  She does her best to assist the rest of us but her injuries are too severe for much.  This has left the most experienced among us pulling extra duty to try to fill in the gaps.  We are all exhausted and in need of a good sleep.  If only we could claim victory this night. 

The enemy is insanely numerous.  We have killed hundreds and they just keep coming.  From my vantage point they appear to be well trained and function as an efficient machine. They move boldly in the open but use stratagem and hidden paths as well.  They scatter briefly under fire, but regroup quickly and move forward until we have picked the whole group off.  Even when we think we have gotten rid of them all, we find reinforcements have been sent and we are facing another group almost as numerous.  We live in daily fear that they will get around us and surround us completely.  To this point we have had the advantage only in our position, our intelligence and our superior weapons.  If we don't get some rest and come up with a more successful strategy, we won't have the advantage for long.  They out number us like the stars outnumber the moon.  

 Communications went down last month.  We have managed to get them up again for now at least.  Here is hoping that we will soon be able to finish this series of skirmishes successfully.  I have the feeling this will be a long war.  I pray that our unit will have the strength to finish with honor and that as their current leader I will have the wisdom, strength and inspiration to lead them to victory.

This post is the musings of deaing with ants as the wife of a National Guard NCO who is gone for Annual Training, a mother of adult -small children and a daughter of a mother who wants to help.