As if I needed another reason to love Emma Watson …

9.22.2014

There is so much I love about this speech.

I love the way she describes her journey to feminism. It’s so very much like mine. Becoming a feminist happened slowly for Emma as she grew up and experienced life. “I decided that I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me,” she says. It wasn’t until later that she realized how much controversy surrounds the word.

I love that she laments that feminism has a history of man-hating. It’s counterproductive. And it’s one of the reasons so many people reject the label. “If you still hate the word,” she says, “it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it.” What matters is whether or not you embrace the idea of human equality.

I love that she points out the many ways gender inequality hurts men. “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s,” she says. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of men, or less of a man. … I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are.”

I love that she understands that because we are all connected, the solutions are all connected as well. “When (men) are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence,” she says. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

And I love how humble she is as she speaks. The vulnerability in her voice allows you to feel how much this means to her. It means that much to me too.

Listening to: Shovel and Rope, “Lay Low”

Plus Two

9.19.2014

ApplePickingWe went apple picking tonight with the Darden Partner’s Association Family Committee (i.e. everyone who is crazy enough to do this whole MBA thing with kids). We went to Carter Mountain Orchard and picked about ten apples in about two minutes, and spent the rest of the evening chatting. The view was incredible. The general store sat on top of a big hill overlooking Charlottesville. All in all, it was a nice little night after a long little week.

I submitted an application to be a Partner Blogger for Darden, documenting my experience having a significant other in the program. My application essay was, in all honesty, a mini diatribe about how being an introverted “Plus One” in a fire hose of social events is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. And then you add a baby. This little “Plus Two” is happy to hibernate. Essentially I wrote about how I have a bad attitude about getting to know people and write off everything as schmoozing. I also wrote about how so far, I’ve been proven wrong about these events at every turn. I’ve walked away from every mixer and meeting thinking, “Wow, that was great.” The people are gracious and interesting and I have every confidence that eventually my social metabolism will shift and I’ll stop feeling sapped when I look at the events calendar. I’ll become a nice person and go home from these things proven right about people’s wonderfulness instead.

I guess they liked my bluntness (or nobody else applied), because I’m Darden’s newest Partner Blogger. Follow our adventures at www.scarlettcalledscout/categories/darden.

Cheers!

Fall Reading List

9.15.2014

Anybody care to read along?

ReadingList

 

Lovin’ It

9.15.2014

I remember my friend Scott once telling me about his sister-in-law’s first Sunday attending church in a ward of married students. The speakers, like most of the congregation, were wide-eyed newlyweds. They introduced themselves in the following manner:

We just got married. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we started a new semester. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we just moved into a new apartment. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And so on and so forth. Trent and I have spent years mocking this, until a few weeks ago when we found ourselves making similar introductions in all sincerity. Life is getting into a groove in Charlottesville and guys, we’re lovin’ it. We really, truly, annoyingly are.

Our apartment, even sans dishwasher, is lovely. It’s got warm wood floors and lots of charm and our furniture filled in nicely. It’s in a good location, close to grounds (UVA lingo for “campus”) and a Trader Joe’s so I can splurge on $3.99 bunches of fresh flowers at maximum convenience. We still have a washer and dryer sitting in the middle of the kitchen waiting for us to figure out how to hook them up. We hung curtains that are either slightly too long or too short in every room on every window. And the view from my bedroom is a perfectly framed dumpster, but hey—at least we don’t have to walk far to take out the trash. I’m a woman whose emotional state is highly affected by the state of her living quarters and I’m sitting pretty at the moment, all things considered.

Trent is also loving school. Like, he’s on cloud nine. (I just Googled the phrase “cloud nine” to make sure I was using it correctly. Fruitless search. Where does that come from? Anybody?) I think he appreciates how good a fit this MBA program is because he has things to compare it to, things that were a bad fit. I know I do. The difference in his level of enthusiasm and overall happiness is striking here at Darden. I do not mourn medical school one bit. Trent and business are like peas and carrots.

And I’m lovin’ the days that are passing like woah. My baby is nearing six months. How did that happen? For the love of every cliche in the book, where does the time go? I fall asleep surprised and I wake up surprised—this time is so simple. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s strangely simple. So few things in the world are. I find myself clinging to this phase already. Don’t go, sweet simple days. Who knew I’d feel so content in this? Scout and I go to the library, explore walking trails, cuss the DMV. We make meal plans and grocery shop and then watch our fresh produce and good intentions go bad until Trent pulls something processed and sodium-rich out of the freezer and saves us all from starvation. We lay on the floor and play with toys. We splash in the bath. I read books. Scout slaps books. I freestyle lyrics to children’s songs I didn’t realize I’d forgotten. Scout laughs. Oh, she laughs. And on my honor, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to hear that sound every day.

I’ve pared down my journalistic gigs these past few months so I can devote some serious time to creative writing, because I feel like I’ve been a sufficiently tortured soul for a sufficient number of years. And because I feel like I have something to say. Because why not me? And why not now? And why not love the life you’ve chosen?

Listening to: Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”

Thin Things, Thick Things and Other Things

9.05.2014

I’ve been lost in the thick of thin things.

At the beginning of the summer, I was worried about up and leaving in the middle of a big change. I was worried that my thoughts would be stuck in my East Coast storage unit while my body was out west with family. Things like that happen when I’m in transition. But I surprised myself—living in the present came pretty easily to me this summer. I quickly forgot about what was unfinished in Georgia and what was ahead in Virginia and I just lived where I was—in relatives basements. Out of suitcases. With nothing on the calendar but lunch dates with old friends. With nothing on the to-do list but staring at my baby. And watching other people stare at her. There were so many people to stare. It was a lovely summer.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been so bogged down. It’s my own fault really. I want too much. I want to become a decent cook and delve into floral design. I want to speak French and play the guitar. I want to be on committees and in clubs and out on the town every weekend. I want to start a travel blog and know CSS and how to shoot instinctively in manual. I want to take post-bac classes. I want them to be more than a means to an end. I want to groom myself daily. I want to want to groom myself daily. I want to be organized, to have a house that’s organized, to be a minimalist without throwing things away. I want to exercise. I want to like it. I want to read religiously and write prolifically and I want to be the best dang mother this side of the Mississippi.

But I can’t be all that. I can’t do all that. I can’t even say all that in one breath. I’ve been paralyzed for several weeks in the face of my ambitions. It’s too much, friends. I don’t know where to start. So I’ll start by picking two things. I only get two things. Everything else will just have to float away. I’ll seek after the rest, all that’s lovely and praiseworthy, in a different time and season.

1. I will stare at my baby.

2. I will write like the wind.

Listening to: Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off” (The day this music video came out, I got the following text from my brother: “Sam, if you were ever to release a music video, I’d imagine it’d be something like that.” Oh, how right he is. #tswiftbandwagon)

Family Pics

8.10.2014

Untitled-1I’m kind of a photography snob, but I’m not too snobby to refuse a free family portrait session. We’re all about free stuff over here on our back-to-school budget. We didn’t really get a good one of all three of us, but these two of Scout and her Dad are pretty stinkin’ wonderful, don’t you think?

 

Also, I love her. I do. I do.

JDP_0734

Radio Silence

8.01.2014

Hey.

I’m here.

Trent’s here. Scout’s here. We’re all here. And there. And everywhere.

And the next two weeks are really going to be a doozie. We’re flying from Spokane to Atlanta then driving our crap to Virginia. Then we’re heading to Pennsylvania for a few days. Then to Maryland. We’re hopping on a flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake for a quick weekend wedding and taking a red-eye back to Maryland three days later. Then we’re driving back to Virginia in the wee hours of the morning, praying we make it in time for Trent to shower before orientation.

We’re crazy. But we’re here. And when my life has some semblance of a routine, I’ll blog.

Over and out.

Summery Sweet

6.22.2014

Man, it’s been busy. We’ve been buzzing all over Utah catching up with friends and family and today, Sunday, we’re resting. Finally resting.

Scout has been a dream baby. Truly. She’s still a good eater and a good sleeper. She’s captivated by the TV, particularly World Cup soccer. She’s constantly playing with her tongue and letting out little barks in her sleep like a puppy. She’s always cocking her head back to yawn so big you can finally see her neck beneath her chins. She’s growing. Oh, she’s growing up and out of six-month clothes like it’s her job. She loves her car seat, stroller and carrier and Lord knows we need her to love them cause we’re always on the move. Routine is something of a foreign concept to her, but she doesn’t seem to mind. And honestly, routine isn’t really our style.

I was sitting in Liberty Park in Salt Lake last week, nursing her in the shade with my back up against the trunk of a beautiful tree with luscious leaves. My mom and brothers were playing chess at a picnic table nearby and Trent was sprawled out in the grass reading. I tickled Scout’s toes and breathed in deep and it felt so summery, deliriously summery, so peaceful and sweet I wanted to cry. It happened again in my sister-in-law’s backyard playing baseball with my niece and nephews. Cooper hit one over the fruit trees, over the fence, and his gleeful squeals made the same summery sweetness wash over me. And again it hit driving alone to the grocery store in my brother’s car, the same car I drove in college. Windows down, music up. Jimmy Eat World and country air and gratitude swirled around me.

Listening to: Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”

Vulnerability is the Missing Piece

6.17.2014

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability again. I think about this topic a lot. And most days, I want to shout about it from the rooftops of Mormondom. Because in Mormondom, people have been socialized against being vulnerable. In Mormondom, people are immersed in a culture of perfectionism, a culture that tells us that “letting your light so shine” means hiding your shadows from view, a culture that sometimes misunderstands the gospel of vulnerability it’s built on. Christ asks us to come to Him with our whole selves, with our weaknesses, our mistakes and our questions all open wide. Only then can He help us and only then can we be useful to Him. We fail again and again to see how that philosophy translates to other things, like church history, like missionary work, like our own daily lives.

It causes problems, guys. Big problems. Like shame and addiction and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loneliness. Because when you make a mistake or feel depressed or see a problem or think, feel, do or see anything that you’re not supposed to, you start to believe that you’re somehow inferior at your core. And as much as our parents and leaders don’t want this for us, this is the water we’re swimming in.

It also causes problems for the church as a whole. It’s bigger than we’d like to admit. I’ve seen an article circulating lately, a blog post that essentially says that by speaking openly about the imperfections of our Mormon world, we alienate the world at large. It says that by talking about the flaws on the inside, we’re discouraging outsiders from partaking of Mormonism’s goodness. And oh, there is so much goodness. But when I take that idea in and swish it around a little, my urge is to spit it out like a mouthful of spoiled milk I just chugged from the carton without thinking. Because no. Like NO. That’s not how light and truth work. That explanation is missing the one thing that really, truly connects us—to God and to each other—and that is, you guessed it, vulnerability.

I believe that bearing a powerful testimony of what you believe can and does prick hearts and open minds and draw people to the gospel. But I also believe that acknowledging imperfections—in ourselves, in our communities, in our histories, in our institutions—makes people want to listen. I’ve had more positive conversations with non-member friends about the church because I’ve been willing to acknowledge its weaknesses. Many more positive conversations. Like so many more that I’ve begun to believe that it’s resisting openness that’s making people turn away, so many more that I’ve begun to wonder if people saying otherwise are conversing with outsiders at all. I believe, oh with all of my heart I believe, that honesty and humility and vulnerability will attract people to us more, oh so much more, than putting up a front of perfection. Because the truth begets truth. And light begets light. And openness begets openness.

I realize the author of that blog post was mostly talking about how she thinks Ordain Women specifically has done more harm than good. And to be honest, I’ve been disappointed by the tone of that movement. I personally know people who are a part of Ordain Women. I admire and love them. I think they really, truly wanted to champion vulnerability in their efforts, but somehow in the process as a whole, I felt humble seeking get lost. I can’t say no good has come from their efforts, nor do I want to. I sat through a Relief Society lesson last Sunday in which it was clear to me that the women in that room had been pondering, studying and praying about the priesthood with new depth and enthusiasm. If it weren’t for Ordain Women, that wouldn’t have come to pass. But I’m not sure no harm has come from them either.

I guess what I’m saying is please, please, please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Seeing how quickly that blog post circulated makes me afraid that’s exactly what’s happening. Don’t let the pendulum swing from Ordain Women to a reactionary state of Mormonism that ignores the power of transparency and vulnerability to knit hearts and change minds.

Thoughts and Feelings, Mostly Feelings

6.14.2014

When big things happen in the world of Mormon feminism, people always ask me to write about them. I guess that’s what speaking up about things does—it breeds more speaking up. Kate Kelly, founder of the group Ordain Women, is facing a church disciplinary council and possible excommunication. I don’t align myself with Ordain Women, but I’m grateful for the discussions it’s prompted. What’s happening to its leader definitely qualifies as a big thing in the MoFem world. And for days I’ve been wracking my brain over it, trying to decide what I think about it all. But the truth is, this time around, I’m not thinking. I’m just feeling, feeling, feeling. So that’s all I can really write about, I’m afraid.

I took my two-month-old daughter to a checkup at the pediatrician last week. She needed to get a few shots. As the nurse came toward Scarlett with the syringe, I fought the urge to knock it out of her hand with a swift karate chop and shove the poor woman against the wall. It was a primal feeling, visceral and deep—PROTECT YOUR BABY. It’s something I’m still getting used to feeling, something I’m learning to harness with rational thinking. But it’s there in my gut, there where instincts lay waiting.

When I heard the news about Kate Kelly’s possible excommunication, I felt a similar upheaval—a fight response lurching out of my stomach and lodging in my throat. But I didn’t have the energy to think through it rationally, weighing all the factors and looking at all the sides, so I just gave in to the feeling. I let the fear and frustration pulse through me for a few seconds and I let it give way to sadness. And sadness is where I’m swimming still.

I’m sad, guys. Just sad. Now the urge I’m fighting is to crawl up in a ball, to retreat into a prehistoric cave with my primordial sadness and protect my baby, to stay off the internet and out of the fray, to hold precious things precious and sacred things sacred and not think, think, think about why I’m sad and who I’m sad for.

I don’t know much about Kate Kelly. I don’t know what’s in her heart right now. All I know is that the fury of news articles being written about her are all being published with the same picture—a picture of her holding a beautiful baby girl like mine. I look at that picture and can’t help but wonder if she’s feeling the same protective instinct, the same unmeditated fight response, the same potent impulse to protect that sweet baby from sadness. So much sadness. My gut says she does.

Goodbye, Atlanta.

5.29.2014

Atlanta isn’t my soulmate. But it was an incredible rebound. It isn’t the place, if there is such a place, where I want to spend the rest of my life, but it helped me heal and it helped me move on and I’ll always love it for that.

When I came here three years ago, I was a shell of a person. I know I have a tendency to be dramatic, but that’s the ugly truth. When I set foot on Georgia soil, my legs could barely carry me. I was in a daze, fresh out of a war, weighed down with what seemed like the world. I had to slowly rebuild everything here—my relationships, my confidence, my sense of self. I had to learn how to be happy again, something I’d never realized people have to learn at all.

We’re flying out tomorrow, leaving Atlanta, closing this chapter, and I get weepy even thinking about it. And it’s not because I’m not ready to walk away. I am. Rebounds aren’t meant to last forever. It’s because this place has made me better and I can’t help but mourn the loss of anything that yields such progress. Progress feels so good. I will miss the buttery food and bluesy music, the diversity, the soul of this place, but mostly I will miss the people I’ve come to know. I have a friend here who brought me sushi and listened to me yak about myself while her brother was quietly dying of cancer. I have a friend here who has shown me how to love being a parent. She does it with such genuine pleasure it makes the whole thing look like a grand adventure. I have a friend here who has taught me how to bake a perfect loaf of wheat bread and a friend who has taught me how to enjoy reading science fiction and a friend who has taught me how to wait when waiting shakes your faith. I have a friend here who makes me want to write books and create masterpieces and go after my dreams, because I see her writing music and singing songs and going after her’s. I have friends here, many friends here, who have helped me embrace parts of myself I was ashamed of, friends who have shown me by example that integrity means being whole.

This may sound silly, but I wasn’t expecting to love these people this much. When I got here, I wasn’t capable of connection. But here I am in an empty apartment, sitting on an air mattress with a suitcase at my feet and a baby at my side and I’m weepy again, so weepy again, all over saying goodbye.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Step Out”

Voice

5.16.2014

Sometimes when I read good writing. like really good writing, I remember that I’m young. People often pay me the same compliment—that I’m a old soul, that I have wisdom beyond my years—and I let it go to my head. Because of all the compliments in the world, that one is my favorite. And most of the time, I go through life thinking it’s true of me. Like a schmuck. But then I read good writing.

When I read good writing, I remember how little I know about the world. I’ve met so few people, so few kinds of people, and I’ve experienced such a small sliver of things. I always get sad for a minute thinking about how silly I must be to soak up that compliment without question. I get self-conscious thinking about how naive I must sound at times, how forced, how unseasoned. I beat myself up for a bit until I land on some platitude like, “Art is a process,” or “You just haven’t peaked yet.”

And then I come around and keep reading.

P.S. Good writing …

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