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Seeing the light, signing off

October 12, 2009

I keep wanting to write the follow up post to my rants about crafts, but blogging is not really the best medium for what I have to say. Ah well. Let me just say this: that when I listened in the Relief Society General Meeting to President Eyring speak of the history of the Relief Society, I began to see more clearly. I thought about all the years where Relief Society bazaars were held–every year, that was how they raised money, because correlation hadn’t happened yet, and the RS budget was separate. So the women who belonged (and not everyone did belong; you had to pay dues. You could be a female adult member of the Church and not a member of the Relief Society.) would spend all year making things to sell, and then sell them at the giant bazaars, and use the proceeds to fund their budgets for the year.

And we don’t do that anymore. For which I am grateful. But on this particular occasion, listening to President Eyring, and thinking about the history of the Relief Society and the cause we were crafting for, it made sense.

This is another reason why whining about Church assignments is lame, because when you [by which I mean me] don’t whine and just do what you’re supposed to, then when you look back at the big picture and understand things, you don’t have to eat crow. But when you do whine, you either a-can’t see the big picture because you are so fixated on your original whine that you’re blinded to its truth, or b-can see the big picture, but would rather not admit it because it’s embarrassing to be wrong.

And I was.

And with that, I think that I am once again done posting on this blog for a good long while. I am planning to start a new blog/website at some point, and I will post here and on Facebook when I do and let people know about it. Thanks for checking in, everyone.


Segullah Summer 2009: Gifts of the Spirit

September 29, 2009

This is my last Segullah issue as Associate Editor. I was so glad when Kathy and the Segullah board decided that Gifts of the Spirit would be our theme, because every essay I’ve written could fit into that category: Finding Myself on Google, Beauty for Ashes, Daily Bread, and now Tongue of Angels, all center around spiritual gifts.* I think, based on the kind of submissions we received, that I must think of spiritual gifts in a different/weird way. For me, gifts of the Spirit are more about receiving divine wisdom to cope with my current need, than about … spiritual confirmations of truth. Confirmation of truth is part of them, I guess, but I see spiritual gifts as going above and beyond testimony confirmation. I think they help you live better, align yourself with divine currents better.

My favorite piece in this issue is one of our feature articles, my aunt Barbara’s great piece on dreams as spiritual gifts. It’s so good. I don’t always pay attention to my dreams, but when I do I learn important things about myself. I love that dreams are such a part of LDS culture. You hear dream stories in conference fairly often, and, based on Barbara’s research, this is unique among American Protestant faiths.

I am also a fan of the other essays and poems, and especially the art. Leslie Graff, our featured artist, is one of the kindest people I know, and her art reflects that deep sense of connection with each other and with God.

Go check it out online! The print edition is sold out, but you can subscribe to our next issue, which will be a double issue featuring both contest winners and writing with a dating/marriage/courtship theme. I am taking a break from editing this time around, and it’s been a good thing for me. I still blog there once a month, though.

*Google is about the gift of mothering; Beauty for Ashes about appreciating the gift of creating beauty (and creating it myself); Daily Bread about the gift of being able to eat food on my mission; and Tongue of Angels is about the gift of angelic visitations. Most of these are not listed in D&C 46 or Moroni 10, but I see them as gifts anyway.

Whine and Cheese

September 23, 2009

Lately I’ve been a whiner. I think that blogging has something to do with this, because I’ve discovered a community of like-minded people who agree with me that Doing Crafts is not an essential principle of the gospel. And while I really appreciate the support, I think that if I’d gone through this thirty or forty years ago I would have just done the craft without the whining.

I made a big point to myself when I was a missionary about not whining. Not so much as a greenie, when I was so overwhelmed that all the emotion had to come out. But I tried not to whine, and by the end of my mission I was pretty good at taking what the Lord dealt me and not complaining. Not so much anymore, though.

It’s the difference between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel really get a bad rap, IMO. Maybe it’s all those death threats against Nephi. No really though, they all start out in the same place: they’re all leaving Jerusalem because of their father’s vision, and they’re all bugged about it. Nephi prays to have his heart softened, and L&L keep whining about having to leave.

So you see the dangers of whining, the ultimate consequences of whining left unchecked: a total blindness to truth.

But whining is funny. I’ve gotten several laughs out of that crafts line. Plus whining makes me feel better about not doing something I dislike.

It does blind me though. A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, including one’s dislike of glue guns (they always burn me), never has power sufficient to save the souls of man.

Whitney Rules Update

September 22, 2009

Robison Wells has posted about a couple of new rules for the Whitneys:

1-there will be no finalists for Best Novel and Best Novel by a New Author, so that the books nominated in that category will not automatically skew the voting for the genre categories, and
2-Everyone has to read all the books they vote about, and check a box saying that they’ve done so.

Makes sense to me.

And now, Whitney-eligible books I’ve read so far this year (not enough, I’m sure; I was scrambling to read them all last time), with a brief assessment:

Warbreaker. Brandon Sanderson. Brilliant, of course. I loved it. Should Brandon Sanderson be eliminated from consideration if he wins too often? Just wondering. It hardly seems fair to anyone else writing in the science fiction category.
The Princess and the Bear, Mette Ivie Harrison. Oh this is a good book. It started slow for me, but I ended up loving it. Elegant writing.
Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George. This was cute; I found myself wanting a couple more layers, but it was a fun read.
The Hourglass Door, by Lisa Mangum. A quick Google search on reviews reveals that most people compare it to Twilight, and that’s exactly what I thought of it–it seemed to be a new take on Twilight themes, with a teenage girl falling for a handsome and unkissable stranger.
Tower of Strength, by Annette Lyon. Love the strong female protagonist! Go Tabitha! May all the other historical fiction nominees be this much fun. Or maybe not quite this much fun. 🙂
The Chosen One, Carol Lynch Williams. Oh my this is a haunting book, but the writing is stunning, and everyone should read it. With a box of kleenex.
Brandon Mull, Fablehaven 4–my son loves these. I enjoy them too, although I am not quite the fervent fan he is.

On my to-read Whitney eligible list:
Shannon Hale’s books, The Actor and the Housewife, and Forest Born.
Ann Dee Ellis, Everything is Fine.
Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz #3 (not released yet)
J. Scott Savage, Farworld: Land Keep
James Dashner, 13th Reality #2, and his other new book out from Delacourt
Dan Wells, I am not a serial killer.
Josi Kilpack, English Trifle
That’s what I come up with off the top of my head. I know there are plenty more eligible books out there, but these are the ones I am probably going to read (and possibly even shell out money for) before all the nominees are announced.

Edit to correct the title of The Chosen One (blush). At some point I will probably stick in a bunch of links as well.

What are you reading now? I know I’m missing out on some great titles.

A Rant About Crafts

September 22, 2009

Why are Mormon women supposed to do crafts? Is there something inherently divine about the doing of crafts? This is something I am struggling with right now, because I’ve been asked to make a sale-worthy craft to donate.

Here’s the thing: I have never in my life made a craft that I would ever ask anyone to pay for. Even that blanket I took a picture of, which turned out pretty cute, is not saleable. Why? If you look at it, and you don’t have to look close, the stitching is crooked, and the corners aren’t quite right. I would make it and give it to someone, because the person I gave it to would say “Aww, Emily made this, and she doesn’t even sew very well. Bless her heart. It’s soft, and my baby won’t mind that it’s not perfect.” And I really would feel my heart being blessed.

But ask someone to shell out money for it? Heck no. And the same is true of every other craft I’ve ever made in my life. I don’t mind doing crafts at Enrichment nights. I like working on a project and chatting. But if I don’t get it done that night, I never finish it on my own. I threw away an old box of Enrichment crafts from the early nineties. When I do finish a project, it’s rarely good-looking enough that I would want to display it in my own home, let alone say “hey! pay money for this!” Besides, crafts get dated easily; in ten years all the vinyl lettering that’s so popular now will go the way of Relief Society glass grapes.

I admire and respect the women who made this request, which is why I will humiliate/humble myself in attempting to make a pathetic little contribution. But I guess I chafe at being forced into a craft-mold. I’m okay when other women do crafts. I am even okay doing them myself, as long as someone else figures out the project and shows me how and doesn’t evaluate the final result. I just struggle with mandatory sale-worthy crafts.

I spent two minutes searching for a blog mocking bad crafts, but I couldn’t find the one I was looking for, so I gave it up (the internet has shortened my attention span). But here is my kind of maudlin blog from Segullah about mean girls and charity.


September 18, 2009

I fell down in yoga today, several times, when I was trying to do crow. I cannot fall quietly. I scream and then it messes up the breathing of everyone around me. I am new to yoga. I am, predictably, pretty bad at it. But I’m enjoying it. It fills my tae kwon do void, and my leg is just not up to the pivots and kicks of tae kwon do yet.

So my instructor says I am supposed to breathe through falling, and not scream, but I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve never been able to breathe through falling. I hate falling. I have always hated falling. I can’t breathe through it. I anticipate falling with tension, and when it happens I scream, and it takes me a while to get back up again.

There are larger life lessons in this, I know–this inability to fall with grace, to breathe through the fall, shows up in just about every other area of my life. I dread falling and then react badly when it happens, as it inevitably does.

On Swearing

May 15, 2009

I hate it when a good book swears swears a lot. It hurts my brain and my spirit to swim through a lot of language muck. I don’t know how much of this is a Mormon cultural thing. But my bias in reading favors books that are story honest without necessarily being true-to-life in their language.

Is that a contradiction in terms? I don’t think so. In fact, according to Robert McKee (Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting), writers place too much importance on words as story building-blocks, rather than events:

[W]riting also demands two singular and essential talents. These talents, however, have no necessary connection. A mountain of one does not mean a grain of the other. The first is literary talent–the creative conversion of ordinary language into a higher, more expressive form, vividly describing the world and capturing its human voice. Literary talent is, however, common. … The second is story talent–the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. Pure story talent is rare. (Story page 27)

In another place, he says (I paraphrase; I can’t find the quote right now, but when I find it I will come back and replace this) that too many writers believe that their stories are made up of words. No; stories are made up of events.

And the final McKee quote:

The “personal story” is understructured, slice-of-life portraiture that mistakes verisimilitude for truth. This writer believes that the more precise his observation of day-to-day facts, the more accurate his reportage of what actually happens, the more truth he tells. But fact, no matter how minutely observed, is truth with a small “t.” But “T” truth is located behind, beyond, inside, below the surface of things, holding reality together or tearing it apart, and cannot be directly observed. Because this writer sees only what is visible and factual, he is blind to the truth of life. (Story 24)

I have heard an argument in favor of including swearing that goes something like this: Real people talk this way, characters need to be real people, therefore they need to talk this way, or else they will not ring true, and no one will believe they are real.

The problem with this argument, I realize after reading McKee, is that the truth of a character is much more about what the character does than the words the character chooses to express himself. Based on the idea that verisimilitude can actually blind us to the truth of life, you could make a case for cutting most (if not all) bad language from many stories. I will concede that a choice word may be necessary on occasion (Rhett Butler and Lady MacBeth agree there). But I really can’t think of too many stories I’ve ever read that have had their story truth enhanced by abundant bad language. I suspect that it’s actually a crutch: it’s much easier to fill a character’s mouth with swear words and call it real than than to create a real, believable character whose actions are True, whether or not the words are true to life.

Disclaimers: 1-The McKee book is fabulous. And, ironically, contains some bad language here and there. Sharlee Glenn introduced me to the joy of inking out swearing; it’s very satisfying.
2-McKee never advocates limiting swearing; this analysis is mine.