Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Beginning of Better Days - Virginia H. Pearce section

For Mother's Day, my husband knew I wanted a copy of The Beginning of Better Days by Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce, so he picked one up for me.  I didn't really know what it was about, other than I knew it was historical in nature, about women, and good.  I'd also heard it rumored by the Bloggernacle whiners that it was Dew & Pearce's attempt to create a better version, their own version with more guts, of Daughters in My Kingdom.

Let me just start off by saying, it is not an attempt to show that DIMK was failed in purpose and needed a replacement.  DIMK is a brief history of women in the Church; The Beginning of Better Days is a portion of the original Relief Society Minutes taken by Eliza R. Snow of the teachings of Joseph Smith.  It also includes Dew's and Pearce's insights on the teachings, and in fact, directly addresses many of the concerns of modern Mormon feminists.

I actually considered entitling this post, Who are the Real Mormon Feminists?, but didn't want to cause an uproar, nor did I want to identify Dew and Pearce with the word feminism if they don't want to be.  But, this book is incredible.  Dew and Pearce don't shy away from the tough questions.  They question faithfully.  I surely planned to do a post about the book once I was done, but I've had so many thoughts about it as I've read, I want to do some smaller posts as I go.

So, today's post is only on Virginia Pearce's section, "Angels and Epiphanies."

On page 7, I love how she points out that we have to bring in historical context as we study the teachings of Joseph Smith.  It's just as when we study other scriptures.  We have to separate the principle from the "historical circumstances," then apply that principle to our lives.

On page 9, she reminds us that in 1842 when the sermons were given and the RS was organized, that women "rarely held offices in male-dominated organizations."  She comments that as women in the Church that we "have the opportunity and responsibility to help solve problems and attend to needs."

On page 14, she mentions that Joseph stated that women specifically "'have feelings of charity.'"  I've heard this from him and I've heard similar sentiments from MANY others.  I want to believe there is something special and unique in this statement, and I see that quality in women myself, but so many people say, "well men have that quality, too.  There is nothing in women that makes them more charitable over men."  I guess I want to see some studies showing that Joseph was right.

On page 15, I loved how Pearce reminds us of the historical context of lots of immigrants in Nauvoo , and people needed to be extra charitable as they were trying to understand new people and new cultures.  Similarly, on page 16, she points out how Joseph taught the women to "refrain from self-righteousness and gossip" particularly in light of the rumors about plural marriage and the fraudulent practice of "spiritual wifery" of John C. Bennet.  What a confusing time that would be!

On page 23, I liked how Pearce states she won't be offended when someone says men get the priesthood and women get to bear children, "but that explanation doesn't really resonate with me either."  I get it more than I used to after reading Cassler's works, but I'm not fully sold on it, or maybe I still don't completely understand it.  Anyway, I'm glad to know Pearce doesn't totally get that one either.

On page 24, Pearce reminds us that "'The priesthood' isn't the congregation of men who meet together each Sunday," but it is God's power.  On 25 and 26, I loved learning Pearce's journey through trying to understand how and why women in the early restored Church healed people and why we don't do that today.

On page 28, Pearce mentions how in the early days of the Church, worthiness was a prerequisite for membership in the Relief Society.  I knew that, but she shares details that suggest that Relief Society was practically a temple preparation class taught by the Prophet.  When you look at it that way, of course you would need to be worthy to be a member.

On page 30, she concludes that everything she is has to do with the temple and living up to her privileges that are offered there.

Anyway, I loved her essay and absolutely recommend it.  I love that she asks tough questions, yet looks and waits for faithful answers.  When I was done reading her essay, I thought, Wow!  I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Monday, May 27, 2013

How School Didn't Help Me Prepare for Motherhood

A little while ago I reworked a piece from here for Real Intent, entitled "Is Education for Naught When You Just Stay Home?"  Of course it's not, but I realized after I wrote the piece that school itself really didn't help me prepare for stay-at-home motherhood of young children.

In school we're taught to complete assignments.  At home you leave things undone.  You get half the vacuuming done, half the dishes done, and half the cleaning the bathroom done.  Hopefully, though, you get the changing of the poopy diaper completed.

In school you're supposed to be efficient and fast.  At home with small children, you walk slowly, you talk slowly, you even stop to smell the roses. When our son was three, he started stuttering.  Do you know what the speech therapist told me?  To SLOW DOWN!  I talked too fast, I read stories to our son too fast.  He needed me to slow down so he could catch up and not feel like he had to be so fast, too.

In school we're supposed to strive for perfection; strive for As.  At home, when you have kids help, you're fooling yourself if you're shooting for perfection.  When they make their beds, they're not quite right.  When they do the dishes, sometimes gunk is left on them; when they wash the windows, there are still smudges here and there.  But you know what?  It's okay, they're learning.

Related to the last one, in school you're supposed to do it once and do it right.  At home there's that constant monotony of redoing things again and again and again and again.  The teachers who send kids back to fix their mistakes are the ones who have it right.  That's what happens in mom life.

In school you're taught to do your own work.  At home you work together as a team and learn from each other.  I'm becoming a bigger fan of school group work as that is more how it is at home and even in the workplace.

At school you go by the rules and structure of the school or teacher.  At home you have to be flexible, and any structure you may wish to follow just might fly out the window depending on the day.

In school you get immediate feedback and praise for a job well done.  At home it might take nine years to see the fruits of your labors.  In the short-term, you may not even get any appreciation or recognition for any of the hard work you've done.  In school we get accustomed to knowing how well we're doing; at home you hope and pray you're doing a good job.

So, if I were to design school to help me prepare for motherhood, there would at least be more group work and more re-doing assignments.  I'm not sure if I'd want to slow down the pace of school, or interrupt school studies, or discontinue grades just to make certain points about real life, but there's surely room for improvement in preparing young people for eventual parenthood/life.


5/28 Addition:  I want to think more about this, but after sharing this with some friends on Facebook, Jessica reminded me that there are some great things that come out of school such as critical thinking/reading/writing,  understanding other viewpoints, enabling curiosity, learning how to research, assimilating information, doing things you don't want to do, and realizing you can do more than you think you can.  I use all those things now, and I can greatly attribute them to my formal schooling.

I must add that I also see a big benefit of putting kids together of the same ages in school.  They're developmentally similar and teachers can reach them in so many ways -- ways I can't because I'm juggling other children of different ages (however, I'd love to see kids broken up into interests and abilities within their age groups, too).  If I had to homeschool my kids, I'd probably get the basics in, but would miss out on reaching related topics.  I'd also miss certain things because I just didn't think of them!

So, in sum, education -- any kind -- is huge to enhance one's life and make one a better person; school itself may not prepare a person for parenthood and the realities of life, but it can in ways, and there are definitely transferrable skills.  My grandmother used to say, "Don't let school interfere with your education," and I believe it in many ways to be true.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's the Greatest Gift You Can Give Someone?

The other day a question popped into my mind: What is the greatest gift you can give someone?  I realized it was motherhood (or fatherhood, or just parenting for that matter).  If you bear the child, that is huge, but that life-long loving, caring, and nurturing that comes along with it is life changing!

Weeks before I thought of the above question I was thinking about our difficult (understatement) baby and how (this is terrible) we could just give her up for adoption or into foster care, but then I realized if we did that, someone would probably beat her.  Because I love her so much, I would never want that to happen, so I decided we should keep her, and she actually has it quite good.  It is great that she has parents to coach her through life---what a wonderful gift we can give her, even if she is quite a nuisance.

Can I just ramble here and tell you two funny things?  During her first year, I took a picture of her every month for her month-by-month frame.  When it was complete, my husband looked at it and said, "That is such a misrepresentation of her!  You got the one time every month when she was actually happy!"  Yesterday, he took her and our son to some batting cages.  Some girls came over to awe at her and later my husband said it kind of ticked him off because she was being so good, and they didn't know what she was really like.  That's the baby for you.

Also yesterday while we were juggling kids and schedules, it struck me that I need to decide how I'm going to share my life with my children.  I need to stop thinking about sending them away for this and that, but think about how we are a unit that influences and relies on each other.

I think I spent all my growing up years dreaming about Prince Charming and spending my life with HIM, but I spent very little time thinking about how to share my life with our future children.  It's not like we have servants who rush them off once the are born.  They are a part of my life, and I need to include them in the game plan just as much as I planned to have my husband in it.  They're not EVER going to go away.  I'm sure many of you have already figured this out, but it's a new perspective to selfish me.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The World Congress of Families

If you haven't been following any of the information coming out of The World Congress of Families, Kathryn Skaggs is posting notes about it.  I'm finding it really fascinating following what is going on.  Check it out!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Is Water

You've probably already seen this, but I wanted to save it.

It's not about ME; it's about the choices we make every day in reaction to everything around us---about even the monotony.

Now give me the motherhood version.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Life is Just a Bowl of . . . Trials? BYU Women's Conference

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to BYU Women's Conference for my first time.  Since becoming a mom, I've made it to Education Week for a day a few times, but this was my first time at Women's Conference.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but wanted to give it a try because I'd heard such good things about it.

A couple years ago I went to Time Out for Women, and enjoyed it, but felt like I was in a Deseret Book commercial.  As I've attended Disney on Ice since then, I'd now describe TOFW kind of like Disney on Ice for LDS Women.  So, if you like that kind of thing, great, but it was a little intense for me.  It wasn't the presenters that made me squirmish, more the overall feel of it.  I would, however, be happy to purchase the DVDs of TOFW, just maybe not attend, especially since I do live close enough to BYU to attend Education Week or Women's Conference.

I was impressed at the organization of Women's Conference; I wouldn't expect less.  I love the variety of classes offered at Education Week, so I was a little worried at the WC emphasis on women things like relationships and mothering; however, I was still filled!  I wasn't sure I'd like the schedule for the day, but ended up LOVING having opening and closing combined sessions and the three breakout sessions with the 30 or 45 minute breaks in between.  I also enjoyed that at each class I went two, two or three people spoke.  At Education Week I get so excited about so many classes, then end up going to them, and then my brain feels like it's going to explode at the end of the day.  Five total classes won't make your brain explode.  At WC I felt relaxed!  Perhaps it helped that I was crocheting a scarf from one of the WC make and take kits and wasn't concentrating as hard?

I LOVE the service emphasis of WC.  The make and take kits are brilliant as you're just sitting there listening (and sometimes taking notes).  I also LOVED the service night and all the projects!  Because I wanted to finish my scarf before leaving for the night I worked on it instead of the projects, but my friend helped with a project.

I also LOVED how friendly people were!  I could just strike up a conversation with anyone, and everyone was so helpful.  It was a little piece of heaven.  I felt like I was back at Ricks College where you said hi to everyone.  As a student, BYU was nice, but it was not as friendly as Ricks.  Plus, as an added bonus, I ran into a bunch of people I know---from a gal I worked with in 1996, to another co-worker from the Church Office Building, to a mom I swap with for volunteering at the school, to people in my ward, to two of my aunts!

I was able to stick around for the concert, which I thought would be fun.  It was, but it went a little long for my tastes, and some of the singers I didn't particularly care for.  Let's just say, I don't know what Michael McLean was smoking when he came up with Threads---A fashion show from The Twilight Zone???  It was funny, and the singer was great, but it was just a bit weird.  I also wasn't a huge fan of Justin Cash, but I would have probably liked listening to him in college.  We left during the Deseret Book boy band.  They were good, but kind of danced like they were half paralyzed.  Plus, it was after 10 and we were really tired and had an hour drive to make.  Mercy River's bedtime song made me laugh so hard that I cried.  As a mom I'd be totally embarrassed to get up there and dance like teenage rock stars like they did, but they were good, really good, and their song was SO TRUE!  I loved Sandra Turley's Les Mis mix and Josh Wright's piano playing was beautiful.  I REALLY loved Hilary Weeks new song, I Found Me (I found you, then I found me.).  I could write a whole post on that, and maybe I will some time.  So overall I'm glad I stayed for the concert, but I could have skipped a few of the artists.

OK, now back to the classes and the title of this post.  From the opening combined session by sweet Elaine Marshall, I realized that life is not perfect, it never will be, and it's okay.  We just roll with it and do our best.  I don't have this premonition that life should be perfect, but we've just struggled so much lately with some of our kids, that I wonder if it's normal, and yup, it is.

For my first breakout class, I attended "Being a Gracious Receiver" and expected it to be about accepting help when you need it; however, it was about receiving trials with grace.  There were several stories about trials, including death, yet, we just deal with it and move on, and it's okay.  Second, I went to "The World's Greatest Champion of Woman and Womanhood is Jesus the Christ."  My friend, Cheryl, presented part of this one and she and her partner spoke with such power.  After that I went to "Mothering Young Children," and realized our kids are pretty darn good.  When one mom talked about her kids making the table into a slip and slide or something, I thought, wow, my kids would never do that, and I felt really blessed. So, even though I complain about how hard this phase of life is, I'm really grateful for these wonderful little kiddos in my stewardship who really are pretty obedient and fun, even though they do have their problems and things to overcome just like the rest of us.

Mine would, however, pick all the tulips in the yard while I was gone.  (Not that it hasn't happened before.)
So, I came away feeling incredibly grateful for my own family and knowing that other people do have it worse, so I should stop whining (so much).  I felt that we're not doing too bad a job with parenting---probably better than  I imagined.  I recognized that life is full of trials for everyone, and that's okay.

In the end, would I go to BYU Women's Conference again?  Definitely---especially since my dear husband handled the day like a champion:  kids fed, to school, preschool, book club, baseball, bed, and even a clean house when I came home.  I felt like such a lucky girl.