24 November 2009


this year for the first time i'm entirely in charge of producing thanksgiving dinner.  i've been actively involved in making other thanksgiving dinners, but i've never planned and made the whole thing.  and it's kind of fun to sit down and plan a menu and figure out a schedule.  so here's what my thanksgiving will look like:

the menu:
  • roast turkey breast with lemon and thyme
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • oven-baked bread stuffing
  • sweet white corn
  • homemade (of course!) dinner rolls
  • pumpkin pie (need i really designate it as homemade? really?  anything but is simply inadequate)
the schedule:

  • buy challah, slice in half-inch slices and leave out over night to dry
  • make gravy.  since a turkey breast won't produce enough drippings to make gravy, i'm doing this step in advance using cooks illustrated's "all purpose gravy" recipe (which looks delicious)
  • make pie crust and filling and bake.  i may even dig out my mini fall leaf cookie cutters and decorate the pies
  • cut the dried slices of challah into half-inch cubes and leave out over night to dry out some more
  • brine the turkey (again using cooks illustrated's directions; i do love my cooks illustrated subscription)
  • mix up rolls and let dough double in size
  • peel potatoes and cover with water
  • punch down roll dough and put rolls on pan to rise again
  • prep turkey and get it into the oven
  • prep dressing and get it into the oven
  • boil and mash potatoes
  • re-heat gravy
  • bake rolls
  • boil corn
  • carve turkey
  • EAT!!!
can i just say that thanksgiving is one of the very best holidays?  yumminess! 

{p.s. let me know if you want any of the recipes i'm using.}


just a little light reading on questions of sex, gender, and culture:

  • on why "chick flicks" are not all that woman-friendly: "7 popular chick flicks that secretly hate women." (be forewarned of some profanity)
  • on the federal court challenge to prop. 8 and the broader related issues: "gay on trial." winning quote: "They [defenders of prop. 8 who oppose gay marriage] also argue that sexual orientation falls on a continuum and that sexuality is 'fluid,' a decidedly nontraditional view that has taken root in college queer-studies departments but not the sort of thing you'd ever hear from Focus on the Family's James Dobson."  i'd just love to see most conservatives who oppose gay marriage swallow that pill.
  • jessawhy's personal articles of faith, a beautiful piece: "my articles of faith."
  • on the romantic paternalism prevalent in the church and the desire to be taken seriously: "romantic paternalism."
  • on the dangers of the twilight saga (and a great example of why we should think just a little more carefully about the entertainment we consume): "ew moon: why twilight continues to hurt america."  winning quotes: "Young girls around the country are debating whether she should choose Edward or Jacob. Which abuse is better? He’s insanely jealous and stalks me or he can barely control his anger and may physically abuse me at any moment?" and " The messages behind Twilight? Be weak, let your man protect you. Be careful, don’t get him angry. If he hurts you, it’s your fault. Abuse is part of life. Accept it. If he really loves you, he’ll try not to hurt you but don’t be surprised if he does. You probably deserve it. You are nobody without your man, so don’t bother trying." is it any wonder that the author of the series is mormon?
  • and, to be balanced, an interesting feminist defense of the twilight saga, which asks some very important questions: "another feminist defense of 'twilight'."
  • and my hero for the week: the ten-year-old boy in arkansas refusing to stand and pledge allegiance because gay marriage is not legal, therefore the nation does not provide "liberty and justice for all." (no reading required, just a fast enough connection to stream video)
go forth, read, and comment.  i'd love to hear what you think.

22 November 2009


chocolate chaud.

3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
6 oz. dark chocolate (i use one that's 80% cocoa)

break chocolate into small pieces (i put mine in a baggie and beat it with my rolling pin--very therapeutic) bring milk, water, and sugar just to a boil and remove from heat.  whisk in chocolate until it is melted.  using an immersion blender, blend the chocolate for about a minute until it is frothy.  if you don't have an immersion blender, you can put the chocolate in a regular blender and blend it for a minute.  it's very yummy served with a toasted egg bread (challah or brioche, for example).  but it's best served as an accompaniment to decorating for christmas.  yummy!

21 November 2009


i may be just a little crazy.  why?  because i'm taking on projects when i should be doing nothing but reading.  but i stitch during church.  and i do need an occasional t.v. break.  so here are a few projects i'm planning on in the next month or two:

for my baby C:

head bands for my nieces:

for my sister J, in gold:

20 November 2009


i live in the wrong place.  you see, i love winter.  i love cozy sweaters and wearing socks.  i love long walks through falling snow.  i love waking up to a world freshly blanketed in snow--there's nothing like the silence of that moment.  i love hot drinks and crackling fires.  i love scarves and jackets and gloves.  there's really nothing about winter that i do not like.  yet i live in southern california.  and my sisters, who both hate the snow, live in utah and upstate new york.

this year i'll get my dose of winter when i travel east for christmas.  and i hope it comes with lots of snow, complete with a snowman and maybe even a snowball fight.  just four short weeks and i'll be there, in the land of winter.  yay!!

19 November 2009


today it's only wednesday.  and it's been a long, yucky wednesday.  so i'm going to go to bed and sleep.  but first i thought i'd show you what has me plugging along this week:

come sunday, i'll be hanging ornaments (including several disco balls) and stringing lights and playing the first christmas music of the season.  and that, my friends, makes it okay that i had a long, yucky wednesday.

18 November 2009


i've been sitting here thinking about what to write about.  but the problem is that i got irritated by a man who i *know* to be an ass (which means i really shouldn't let him irritate me), so instead of coming up with something to write about for today i've just been stewing.  

so i'm not writing tonight.  back to it tomorrow.

16 November 2009


in the last year, i've gained nearly thirty pounds.  i think that surprises people when i tell them.  because i'm tall and have a fairly well-proportioned figure, i carry the weight pretty well.  but it's still there.  and i can't wear most of my clothes.  i have exactly two pair of pants and three skirts that fit.  true, i can squeeze into a few other items, but not many.  and that is why i need to lose at least fifteen pounds (though i'd really like to lose all thirty).  because i simply cannot afford to buy a new wardrobe.

the only question is how.  i've never had to really think about losing weight before.  the only time i lost any significant amount, it just sort of happened when my lifestyle changed a bit.  this time, it's going to take some concerted effort.  so here's what i'm going to do:

  • slimfast for breakfast.  because a friend used it a few years ago and it worked for her.  so i'm willing to ignore the questionable taste and try it.
  • exercising at least three times a week.  i should really try to workout daily, but i know myself well enough to know that is highly unlikely.  i figure having a more realistic goal will not only make it more achievable, but also less likely to result in guilt, which usually triggers a defeatist attitude and the subsequent indulgence in sweets.  yeah.  i want to avoid that scenario.
  • in addition to working out, i'm going to try to walk more often.  i think the fact that i walked thirty minutes a day helped me lose the weight the last time.
  • cutting down on portion sizes.  i don't much buy into fad diets that stress cutting carbs or just sugar or purges or what have you.  but i do think that cutting portion sizes can go a long way.
  • cutting down on sugar intake.  i won't cut it altogether.  i like sweets.  and i'll occasionally eat them.  but no more snacking on candy bars from the college vending machine or making a side trip to get a cupcake.  
  • cutting down on fast food.  it's just too easy to run through a drive through to grab a quick bite to eat.  this will be easier since i'm relatively poor and fast food adds up quickly.  it's much cheaper to just buy the groceries and cook.  
so there you have it.  my plan.  hopefully it will produce results and i'll be able to wear my jeans again.  and all my cute skirts.  and hopefully the slimfast will become more palatable.  this morning i drank the "french vanilla" (in quotes because it tasted neither french nor vanilla) with a diet coke chaser.


in the introduction to the most recent edition of the feminine mystiquebetty friedan argues that women's progress will essentially halt until our society makes changes in men's gender roles.  i couldn't agree more.  but i'd like to focus my discussion of male gender roles on the possibility of women's happiness, just for a moment.

recently, mfranti over at feminist Mormon housewives called attention to a little article in the mormon times which begins by asserting that feminism tacitly implies "that in order for women to have worth they had to be just like men" and ends with the pithy statement that "it's interesting, important stuff, feminism, i'm just not sure why anybody ever believed it was the ticket to happiness."  let's start with these two lovely points and work from there.  first, i--a staunch (some would say flaming), long-time feminist--i have no desire to be "just like men."  i'm a woman, thank you very much.  and i'm perfectly happy being a woman, even if i engage in a little gender bending on occasion.  feminism has never claimed that women will only have worth if they're just like men, even if it has claimed for women the same rights men have.  perhaps this subtle distinction is lost on palmer.  and then there's the question of feminism and happiness.  i'm not sure anyone has ever claimed that feminism was a "ticket to happiness," either, though i'm sure most feminists would argue that feminism has very clearly allowed for more equal access to things that generate happiness.  but more on that in a moment.

aside from earning my scorn for its rather superficial and inaccurate treatment of feminism, palmer's article got me thinking about the question of having it all.  contemplating the question of why it is, after 40 years of feminism, women are reportedly unhappy, palmer proposes that said unhappiness "is a product of the crashing reality that, no matter what we may have heard, and despite all our options, we still can't have it all. No matter what we choose, it will inescapably come at the cost of something else."  now, i'm not going to argue with the fact that making choices involves cost.  if i choose to work full time, i clearly will not be with my (hypothetical) children full time and vice versa.  but i maintain that there is a way for women to have it all--including happiness.  and that's where men's gender roles come in.

i'll pause a moment for the head-scratching.


and to continue.  so what does women's happiness have to do with male gender roles?  everything.  in a recent article examining gender roles in the workplace in the american prospect, courtney martin argues that "we have to stop using 'work/life balance' as coded language for 'working-mom stress.' despite ample evidence that men are served by investing more time and energy outside the workplace and 'coming out' as fathers while in it, there are very few men who are taking on this issue in a substantive, political way."  according to martin (and i agree with her), questions of balancing the demands of work and the demands of life have too often been framed in terms of women's needs, which ignores that men, too, are human beings with lives outside of the workplace.  so long as we equate masculinity with earning capacity and the ability to provide (coughcough--i'm looking at you, mormons), we'll perpetuate a situation in which women (even working women) carry the burden of making the home function while men just fund it. (aside: i know this is changing because i've witnessed it; part of the change is simply generational; but part of the change also needs to be conscious and proactive on the part of both men and women.)

but this brings me to a point martin made in another recent piece in the american prospect: it's not enough for us to identify what men should not (and, if my experience is in any way indicative, do not) want to be.  we (and by "we" i mostly mean men) need to develop a positive image of what a progressive, enlightened, post-gender man is.  it's not enough to want to get rid of machismo and entitlement and patriarchy; we need to have some sense of what will take their place.

it's tempting to simply say that men should be free to be themselves.  but is that enough?  simple freedom?  is that what the feminist movement earned for women?  in some ways yes.  we're now free to educate ourselves and earn for ourselves and become what we want to be.  we're free to make the attempt at having it all, while accepting the costs that come with it.  perhaps the answer is that we need to open to men what has been traditionally available to women: nurturing, educating, caring for children; maintaining and designing and operating a peaceful, productive living environment; being the primary caregiver rather than the primary breadwinner.  these things need to be options for men--real options that don't come with social condemnation attached.

perhaps most importantly we need a society in which individuals make choices for themselves about what works best for themselves in their own individual circumstances.  if we can reach a place where both women AND men AS INDIVIDUALS are free of gender constraints, i have no doubt that we can have it all and happiness, too.  because, as martin points out, "neither heterosexuality nor fatherhood is a prerequisite for wanting a more flexible, healthy workplace. anyone who hopes to be a balanced person with relationships and passions outside of work has a stake"--specifically a stake in policy issues that allow for balancing all of the demands of life, not just those of work.

in my mind this will take two radical (radical, as in 'of roots' implying a return to roots) changes (especially radical for mormons): 1. the breakdown of traditional male gender roles; and 2. seeing people as individuals first rather than members of a couple.  perhaps i'll leave you there, with the intention of following up on number two another time.  thoughts?

14 November 2009


yesterday i buzzed my head again.  i was trying to wait until january so my sister could see my curls again when i go visit next month.  but i just couldn't handle the maintenance anymore.  and i didn't have the money for a real haircut.  so it was a set of clippers with a #2 comb, my friend C, her baby A on my lap, and her three-year-old E throwing a temper tantrum with periodic breaks for conversation.  she was a saint to take the time to do it for me.  and now i have my edgy, gender-bending cut back.  i wonder how long it will take for someone to call me sir...


let's talk weddings.  specifically let's talk wedding dresses.

i grew up fantasizing about wedding gowns.  my sister and i used to buy bridal magazines with some regularity.  we'd pour over them, dog-earing the dresses we liked, drooling over diamonds, dreaming of the day when we could deck ourselves out like the models in the magazines.  we weren't totally without a critical eye.  we frequently made fun of mermaid dresses and models who looked like they were sick to their stomachs.  but we generally bought into the bridal image: poufy, white, bead-bedecked froth accented with pearls and a diamond ring.

i went bridal gown shopping with my sister when she was engaged a little over ten years ago.  it was fun watching her try dresses on.  and i loved the dress she chose--simple a-line with a square neck and minimal pearl beading.  but even then i had started telling my mother that i didn't want a traditional wedding.  i had long since started making fun of the dresses i had fantasized about as a 13-year-old.  and when i saw first hand all of the planning that went into my sister's wedding--well, as much as i liked the finished product (and it was a lovely wedding), i started threatening to elope.

tonight as i was flipping channels, i ran across say yes to the dress on TLC.  and i got sucked in.  except what was once fantasy is now more like horror.  the fashionista in me still kind of enjoys seeing dresses.  i do watch the academy awards mostly for the pre-show red carpet, after all.  but so many wedding dresses are just style nightmares.  and the practical, feminist, non-traditionalist me with my taste for simplicity--well, i can't help but be horrified.  there's the prices--$5000 for a dress?  really?!  that's just nuts.  and that's the low end of the budget, if this particular show is to be believed.  and then there's the princess mentality.  heaven forbid the bride not have her perfect day.

i understand that weddings are a big deal in our culture.  i'm all for celebrating such an important occasion.  and i think people should celebrate in whatever way they feel is appropriate.  but i don't like traditional weddings.  i don't like the emphasis being on the party rather than on the commitment being made.  i don't like the tradition of the father giving the bride to her husband; it smacks of the past when women did not have a legal identity of their own.  i don't like the expense.  or the stress.  and i don't like tradition for the sake of tradition.

but you know what i like the least?  i really hate the way the fantasy dominated my youth.  to such an extent that the failure to accomplish the dream has created serious emotional and psychological blocks for me as an adult.  the assumption that i would grow up and marry was so deeply ingrained that i never doubted it as a child and young woman.  but i have not lived the fantasy.  and as it became more apparent that i would not have the fantasy, my self worth and confidence became proportionately less.  i hate that.  why should my sense of value be contingent on my being married?  to my having the fantasy? that's ridiculous.

so here's what i fantasize of now: i fantasize of a world in which everyone, female and male, is valued for her- and himself.  alone.  because they are unique and individual and have wonderful things to offer the world.  and if they are fortunate enough to find another individual whom they love, then we will celebrate that union.  because it is a beautiful thing for two people to love each other and commit for a lifetime.  but it is also a beautiful thing for one person to live a full, rewarding life.  and that should be celebrated, too.

12 November 2009


today i got down.  and that made it hard to work.  and i can't afford to have another day like that tomorrow.  so i'm going to make a list of good things and when i start to get down tomorrow, i'll come read it.  so in no particular order, here are a few things that make my life lovely:

  • little birds hopping happily in the bushes outside the window
  • good news about a friend's progress in a particularly tough class
  • talking to my sweet little niece  on the phone today
  • hearing another sweet little niece coo (this one's only 2 1/2 months old)
  • cool enough weather to justify wearing a cozy sweater when i went out tonight
  • my mama telling me she loves me
  • talking with the dean about the progress i'm making in my program
  • making plans for a visit to the beautiful huntington gardens 
  • dark, delicious sipping chocolate at my favorite cafe 
  • the smell of rain and fresh cut grass when i stepped out the door tonight
and these little things are enough to pick me up.  g'night.

11 November 2009


i've been thinking.  i need to find a better way to manage my bad habits.  because, you see, they tend to assert themselves in waves.  for instance, a while ago i committed to not drinking quite so much diet coke.  so i was good for a while.  then i had this party for which i, of course, bought diet coke, which left me with most of a flat of diet coke, which of course had to be consumed...you see where this is going?  and last week it culminated in consuming a 12-pack in just under 48 hours.  that's just a wee bit too much diet coke to be healthy.

i do the same thing with television.  i go days without watching, weeks with only an hour or two of viewtime, and then--BAM! it hits.  i spend hours in front of the television (which is how i've managed to watch most of season three and four of bones in the last week).

this is clearly not a good thing.  so i'm resolved: i will now indulge in my bad habits in small bits on a more regular basis.  because surely it's better to watch a little tv every few days than a lot of tv in just a few days or to drink a little diet coke in the space of a week or two than twelve cans in 48 hours.  this seems a positive resolution: just a bit of bad habit indulgence here and there.  you know--to save myself from myself.

some bad habits i'll occasionally indulge:

  • watching tv.  most likely bones.  or occasionally NCIS.  and, if i can keep myself awake long enough, the daily show and once in a while the colbert report.
  • drinking diet coke.  though this is one that my recent headaches have indicated i should try to weed out altogether.
  • eating chocolate.  clearly this is not going to stop altogether; that would just be dumb.  so i'll try to only eat really good chocolate.  and as i'm poor, this will likely only happen on the rare occasions i feel rich or someone else decides to give me really good chocolate.
  • laying in my bed awake for hours in the morning while doing nothing but listening to NPR.  i mean, NPR is certainly worth listening to, but surely it's better to do it while cleaning or cooking or getting ready for the day--something that's more productive than simply laying there.
i think that's a good list to get started on.  so here's to being bad more often in smaller doses.

{p.s. i know i missed yesterday for NaBloPoMo, but you'll have to forgive me as i actually did not have access to a computer; odd, i know, but true.  i think being disconnected on occasion is an acceptable reason not to post daily.}

09 November 2009


tonight i was very disturbed.  you see, i was innocently minding my own business, driving home from a doctor's appointment, when this story came on the radio.  all about a library that GOT RID OF ITS BOOKS.  excuse me!?  how can a library be a library without any books?  it makes no sense!

okay.  granted the library subscribed to a database with millions of digital books.  and it acquired some kindles students can check out.  but i'm very sorry to say digital books and digital book readers do not a library make.

now, don't get me wrong.  i recognize the value of digital resources.  i use them all the time in my own research.  i love searchable text databases.  i love having online access to full text articles.  but i also print up the articles or chapters that i find pertinent to my research.  why? because there's an enormous difference between reading material on a screen and reading it in print format.

it's true that most digital readers allow for annotation in some way or another, but from what i've heard it's cumbersome at best.  i've also been told that accessing footnotes on digital readers is difficult.  both of those tools--annotating a text and accessing that text's notes--are invaluable to academic reading and research.  and then there's the small detail of memory.  i frequently find things in a text because i remember that it was at the top of the left side of a page (or somesuch).  maybe i'm weird, but there's just something more memorable about  a physical text than a nondescript screen of text.

and all of that doesn't even touch the physical beauty of a book and of stacks of books.  there's something magical about a library that cannot be duplicated.  books have lives, beyond the life they contain in their text.  they represent the interests and tastes and loves of the people who owned them, the priorities and emphases of the institutions that acquired them.  when someone dies and leaves behind a library, some part of her continues to live.  when someone gives a book, he also give some little bit of himself.  how could we possibly imagine that a world without books, even one in which all of the same information was immediately searchable and accessible through digital means, would be a world in which we would want to live?

i love digital tools.  i use them all the time.  but i hope i never get to the point that i choose digital texts over my lovely, beautiful, wonderful books.

08 November 2009


tomorrow, november 9, is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall.  i remember learning about it as a freshman in high school, recognizing its importance.  but i think the most powerful experience i had regarding the wall and what it represented was when i visited the imperial war museum in london.  outside, on the museum's peaceful grounds, i found a chunk of the wall with wide open eyes and an even wider open mouth shouting the words "change your life."

i spent hours alone at the imperial war museum, wandering exhibits that captured and explained the horrors of the great war and its successor, world war II.  i've always had a fascination with these two wars--with how the entire world could get caught up in such violence.  my visit to this particular museum was as much an act of homage to those who died and fought in the wars as it was an educational excursion for my own benefit.  because i had lived through the end of the cold war and the fall of the wall, this particular piece was especially powerful for me.

but what was the most powerful was the location of the museum.  you see, the imperial war museum is housed in what remains of the priory of st. mary of bethlehem, later known as bethlem royal hospital, more commonly known as bedlam.  first the priory and then bethlem royal hospital specialized in caring for the insane.  the juxtapositions of this site, its current focus on two of the most disastrous wars in history, its name's popular connotation of insanity itself, and the birthplace of jesus strike me as not only interesting, but apt.  i do not believe that christianity necessarily causes either insanity or war, but i do believe that the bastardization and misunderstanding of christianity is at the root of a great deal of both insanity and bloodshed.  and this museum, with its long and rich heritage, captures that unfortunate history of christianity's bastard children.

07 November 2009


so i have a problem.  just a slight dilemma.  you see, i'm in the middle of prepping for my phd exams.  and i'm getting more and more excited as i work.  but i have to pay my bills.  which means i have to teach.  which means i really should be grading the 225 paper and 75 journals (not to mention numerous homework assignments) i have recently collected.  but i just don't want to.  i want to read.  and research.  and write.  i don't want to grade.

but then there's the little problem of rent.  and food.  so i suppose i'll grade the damn papers.  wish me speedy grading.


i grew up reading.  i remember being six years old and bored, pestering my mother about what i could do.  she took me into the living room, pulled a bobbsey twins novel off the bookshelf, and suggested i read.  so i did.  and i never looked back.

the living room in our house was a treasure trove of books.  novels, poetry, short stories, encyclopedias, dictionaries, art books, books on how things worked, volumes of fiction for children.  you think of a kind of book, and you could probably find it in there.  i thought it was normal to have a full wall of books in a room, to have books in every room of the house.  i didn't realize that some people relegate the few books they have to the closet or only buy books as decorating pieces.  for me, books were a way of living lives i couldn't otherwise access.

and now--now i'm a bit of a book whore, to borrow a phrase from an old professor.  i love just about any kind of book.  fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, biographies, essays, history.  i love the feel of a book--the heft of its weight in my hand.  i love the smell of books that you only find in a space filled to the brim with texts.  and i love the look of books on a shelf; there was one particular aisle in the BYU library that i especially loved because most of the spines were red.

but most of all, i love losing myself in a book.  which makes my current task more pleasure than task, since it requires reading and reading and then reading some more (in preparation for my exams).  last week, it was a text about relationships between women, don quixote, and community.  this week, it is the origins of the novel and a novel in verse.  and next week will bring more.  this is a life i could get used to.

{photo by john }

05 November 2009


last spring, i yet again faced the decision of whether to remain in school.  i was on the tail end of a serious bout of depression, just starting to come out of it.  i was out of funding.  and i didn't know if i had it in me to continue the program.  so i took another quarter off to really focus on getting myself healthy again and to think carefully about how to move forward.  by june, i had decided to return to school.  but i was still hesitant about making contact with my committee members and really taking the steps necessary to move forward.  i started some reading, but that was about it.

well, this week i decided it was time to make this decision a reality.  so sunday night, i had the doctor and the dean give me a pep talk and then i went home and sent emails to all four of my committee members.  tonight i met with my advisor, and spent half an hour talking about the logic of my project and receiving advice about books to add or remove from my lists.  tomorrow i'll meet with another committee member about my lists.  and next week with committee member three.  i'm still waiting to hear back from my 4th committee member.

it feels good to be moving.  for the first time in a very long time, i'm truly excited about my reading.  i'm talking back to my books.  i'm making connections between them.  i feel invigorated and alive.  and that feels very good.

04 November 2009


i remember the day i proclaimed to my history class at BYU that i was a feminist.  i was 23 years old.  i had just done a group presentation about the women's rights movement.  i covered the question of abortion rights, since it would be incredibly ill-informed to explore the women's rights movement without talking about abortion rights and no one else was willing to do it.  i was alone in my proclamation.

the entire experience of that presentation was a little surreal.  it was a cold war history course.  one of the biggest assignments was to participate in a group presentation on the various civil rights movements of the 60s (and the moral majority movement of the 80s).  i naturally chose to cover the women's movement.  our presentation was to last 40 minutes.  we were supposed to make it multimedia, to dress our part, to decorate our classroom, etc.  so we did the following:
  • a video-taped sketch of a woman experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace
  • another video sketch of a protest for women's rights
  • each of us painted protest signs covering our aspect of the movement
  • in-depth research and oral presentation of our findings
we gathered on campus one saturday afternoon to film our sketches and make our decorations for our classroom.  doing my part, i painted a sign that read "it's my body! abortion on demand."  and then we proceeded to the cafeteria to stage our mock protest.  i innocently leaned my sign face out so i wouldn't get wet paint on the wall, not thinking at all about how people would react to seeing it.  we decided to move on to a quieter part of the student center so we wouldn't disturb the few people present.  we did so and began filming for our protest video, only to be interrupted by an irate woman who screamed at us about how she couldn't believe that we would do such a thing on BYU's campus, that she was going to send her children there and would not tolerate such sentiments which obviously went contrary to church teachings, that what we were doing was immoral and illegal and that she had called the police.  one of the members of my group quietly explained that we were simply doing a homework assignment, which sadly did little to placate this woman.  apparently she didn't fancy the idea of us even learning about protests for abortion rights any more than she fancied the idea of us actually protesting for them.  the police did come and we explained ourselves and then the police left.  the next week we were written up in the daily universe's infamous police beat.
after that experience, i realized i better really know my stuff about abortion before presenting the issue in class.  so i did my research--hours spent in the library and media center reading and watching documentaries.  i learned a lot doing my research; here's a sample of the more interesting points:
  • prior to legalization, botched abortions accounted for thousands of deaths per annum, comprising close to 50% of the maternal mortality rate;
  • abortion has a long history: the earliest recorded evidence of an abortion dated to something like 1500 b.c.e.
  • it was only in the 1880s that the catholic church came down hard against all abortion (prior to that it was generally acceptable for a catholic woman to abort a fetus in the first trimester and later term abortions were not deemed as serious as murder)
  • one of my roommate's mothers recalled one of her roommates being advised to attempt to induce a miscarriage by a doctor in the BYU health center
armed with this knowledge and other similar facts, i was fired up to make my case.  in class, i stood on the table, dressed like a hippy, with props at my feet--a bottle of bleach, a wire hanger, etc.--,which represented the methods of back-alley and self-induced abortions.  from that tabletop, i delivered a rally speech regarding the right to abortion, every bit as impassioned as the original protesters for the right.  you see, i had become so persuaded by the evidence i had gained that i had moved from being intellectually pro-choice to being adamantly pro-choice (a stance i maintain).
at the end of the hour, my group and i resumed our seats in the classroom and our professor took over.  he asked the class who among us would call ourselves feminists.  i was the only one to raise my hand.  i did so immediately, with no hesitation.  i remember being slightly shocked that i was the only one out of fifty students willing to claim "feminist" as a self-descriptor.
a few days later, another group presented on the moral majority.  their presentation naturally included a pro-life segment, since anti-abortion sentiment was a primary fueling force in the moral majority.  they ended their presentation by holding a press-conference where the rest of the class acted as the press.  armed with all of my stats about abortion and the horrible consequences of its illegality, i hammered the woman who had covered the pro-life movement.  relentlessly.  i called her out on her hypocrisy when it came to valuing the lives of unborn fetuses over the lives of very alive women, women who may have other children or family members dependent on them.  i threw statistics at her about the numbers of women who died annually, the lengthy history of abortion, and its dubious status as "murder."  i thoroughly enjoyed giving her hell.  and watching her squirm as she had no answers for my questions.  (i really shouldn't relish making other people squirm, but sometimes i do.)
it was an interesting class for many reasons, but i'll remember it for what i learned about the women's movement, abortion, and the culture of my church.  i was honestly surprised that not one other person in that room would identify as feminist.  i knew that feminism had something of a bad rap in the church, but i also felt very strongly that christ's gospel supported the objectives of feminism, as did many of the church's teachings.  it was hard for me to realize that i was so alone in my stance on women's issues in the church.
that realization remains a hard thing.  today i learned that BYU is closing its women's research institute at the end of the year.  and that makes me sad.  because it again underscores that my church and my culture do not value women's issues as fully as they claim to; that all of the rhetoric about women's equality and value is just that--rhetoric.  the realities don't really support the rhetoric.  mormon women remain second-class citizens and will for a long time, i'm afraid.
when the day comes that the majority of a history class at BYU identifies easily as feminist, or, even better, that the question doesn't even have to be asked because the affirmative answer is taken for granted--then i may believe that the church values women equally to men.  when we can talk openly of and pray to both of our heavenly parents--then i may believe that the church values women equally to men.  when my worthiness is not questioned because i believe in the radical equality of all of god's children--then i may believe that the church values women equally to men.  but right now i'm afraid i do not believe that the church values women equally to men.

if you'd like to voice your opinion about the closure of the women's research institute, there are some great suggestions at the exponent blog.

03 November 2009


a year ago we voted.  it was a day of celebration—celebration of the fading of america’s legacy of racism; celebration of a new, more hopeful chapter in american presidential history.  i watched obama and his family take the stage in chicago and teared up along with hundreds of thousands of other americans.  i teared up because there in front of me and millions of other americans was the evidence that what we have proclaimed for centuries was a little more true—all mankind was just a little more equal when america elected a young black man, the son of a mixed-race marriage which was not even legal in many states of the union when he was born.

i celebrated that night, but it was a bittersweet celebration.  while my presidential candidate had won, carrying his nation forward towards equality, my state voted against equality by passing prop. 8.  all night as i watched the presidential election results roll in, i kept tabs on the prop. 8 battle.  and all night, it kept a damper on my spirits.  i have no doubt that in fifty years, this nation will look back to the elections and laws regarding gay marriage and will see them as the shameful equal of laws and elections that denied african americans the right to vote and to receive an equal education and to marry where they loved.

tonight there’s a chance that this nation will start to move out of the shadow of anti-gay bigotry.  in maine, the electorate will decide whether to uphold the law passed by their duly elected representatives legalizing gay marriage.  and right now—right now they have upheld gay marriage 53% to 47%.  i can only hope that this slim majority will be as tenacious as the equally slim majority by which prop. 8 passed in california a year ago.  perhaps this small state will live up to its motto (dirigo) tonight and lead the nation another step towards equality.

02 November 2009


tonight a poem by one of my favorite poets, ted kooser.

Depression Glass

It seemed those rose-pink dishes
she kept for special company
were always cold, brought
down from the shelf in jingling stacks,
the plates like the panes of ice
she broke from the water bucket
winter mornings, the flaring cups
like tulips that opened too early
and got bitten by frost.  They chilled
the coffee no matter how quickly
you drank, while a heavy
everyday mug would have kept
a splash hot for the better
part of a conversation.  It was hard
to hold up your end of the gossip
with your coffee cold, but it was
a special occasion, just the same,
to sit at her kitchen table
and sip the bitter percolation
of the past week's rumors from cups
it had taken a year to collect
at the grocery, with one piece free
for each five pounds of flour.

i love this poem because it reminds me of my mama.  i grew up looking at her depression ware, which she inherited from her grandma.  it was so beautiful with its faceted surfaces and its warm rosy color.  and i love what it represents--the effort at refinement in spite of difficulty and poverty; the collection of beautiful pieces as part of providing for a family's needs.  i remember the surprise i felt when my mom explained that the pieces came sewn into the bags of flour purchased at the local grocer.  i couldn't imagine acquiring finery through such means.  maybe this is part of why i've always despised fine china. because in my family, the finest china was collected free with bags of flour.

someday i hope i have a piece or two of my great-grandma's depression ware to catch the light and gleam, beautifully reminding me of the simplicity and honesty of my roots.

01 November 2009


okay.  so that title is just about the ugliest sounding word imaginable, but it is what it is: the acronym for National Blog Posting Month, which i decided to participate in this year.  mostly because yesterday i actually looked at my post count for the last year and it's been rather dismal.  this is what happens when i get sucked into depression--i stop writing.  but i'm actually happy right now, so i don't have the depression excuse.  and there's a lot i've been wanting to write about.  so here i am.  committed to writing daily for at least a month.

so follow along if you'd like.  or participate on your own blog.  feel free to steal my logo on the right (my very first .pdf; i'm so proud) if you want a badge for your blog.

and that is all you get for today, because now i need to go and write some emails to my advisors.