Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pants Angst

(Note - this was originally a facebook post, but then it was so long, I thought I might as well get free blog mileage out of it as well.  The movement I mention you can search for on Facebook.  The pants wearing day is tomorrow, December 16.)

Is anyone else have existential angst about pants? Pants pants pants pants? Here's the deal. I love, love, love skirts. I wore a skirt today. When the weather is warm, I wear skirts about 5/7ths of the time. In the cold I wear them less, mostly because I need to up my warm weather skirt and underclothing contingent, but it's still probably around 3/7 of the time. To all the people who say that they feel better wearing pants - that person is not me. I prefer skirts. 

Also, tomorrow is a Wear Pants to Church Day. I am not of one mind on the topic. I suspect that many of the further aims of the All Enlisted group are not my aims, and not subjects I feel strongly about at all, and even some that I outright would disagree with them on (as they have not put more than general aims, I in turn cannot be more specific either). Even with this event, I do not think I really coincide on their point - I do agree that it is a cultural reason alone that women do not wear pants in America. After all Jesus Christ never wore pants in his life. But I also think that for most women in America their nicest clothing probably is a skirt or dress. And in all complete honestly, when women have worn pants to church in the past, I have always felt a little uncomfortable about it - not because I thought that there was a doctrinal reason they shouldn't be at all, but because I after all am American, and grew up in my church where I was, and where I was all women wore skirts. And as I love skirts, this seemed very right and natural to me.

I nothing else, over the last week I have taken a good, long hard look at pants and church and realized that I am the one that needs to change - not that I had ever, ever told someone they shouldn't wear pants. Not that I haven't reached out to them - if anything, I usually have tried to reach out even more, talk to them, introduce myself to them, precisely because I know that I am in the wrong and should get over it. And now I can say that I truly am more comfortable with the limitations of culture, and recognizing them as such.

I also am somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of making a statement at Sacrament meeting. But I know that for many, wearing pants is a sign of support and solidarity, and not a protest. I don't like the tone that much of the movement has - but here is the real crux - I much, much more don't like the tone of some of the people disagreeing with it. Many say things along the lines of what I have said, but there are some who I at least would never repeat, and would never want to think, either. 

Ultimately, I think I would struggle to explain why I'm wearing pants when I don't even like them in the first place. However, after talking to a man in my ward tonight who's wearing purple tomorrow (I'm looking at you Nate), I think I will wear purple tomorrow as well. I do like purple (they are encouraging men to wear purple stuff in support). And I am in support of people, all people, coming to church, regardless of what they wear or don't wear (well, I'm not really seeing a nudist Mormon colony coming in this the next though, I'd expect it. Clothing does not seem to be de rigouer in the eternities.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Truth; I struggle with what I do every day.  I love my children, but often I wish I had a job.  But not now, because I know that a career will make things more complicated, and we won't have as much time.  But I wish that I felt more fulfilled in what I do.  Not in parenting.  But in taking care of the house - in washing dishes, changing diapers, feeding kids three times a day (what, isn't one time enough?).  I know that very few out there truly love doing laundry or dishes (Anne of Green Gables does, it's in a short story about Avonlea).  And I try and tell myself that every job has its boring parts, its repetitive parts.  And today was actually a really good day. Lydia was home sick because she threw up (for the last two days), but she felt better after throwing up this morning, so I spent the morning doing 'homeschool' with her and Elisheva watching on, and it was really fun. She read to me, we worked on reading lessons, Lydia entered the world of fractions with her first grade workbook while Elisheva wrote straight lines in her Preschooler workbook, and Guinevere wrote important work on the discarded sheets.  I felt fulfilled today.

Avram and I were talking about how I feel like I both want more children, and I want to be done, so that in five years I can go back to school, and start living for myself. But that's not it either - I know that this family is my true self.  It's Avram's true self as well - this family is what we do, what we are.  I feel petty complaining, when my life is really so good. I have a supportive husband, who does a lot of work around the house and with parenting.  He's the sole washer of the diapers, and always changes Enoch without me even asking him, if he's there and Enoch needs changing.  I also appreciate that when I started talking about needing/wanting to teach at a University, to go back to school that his only doubts were whether I had to stick-to-itness enough, because I  am notorious in our marriage for being a dilettante of hobbies and interests.  When I asked him if he had any concerns about me working outside the home, and our family, he was surprised that I had assumed he did.  I also want to do foster care and possibly adopt, and as well, I have hyperthyroidism again, and it's not a big deal (they're just watching it), but being pregnant and having a young baby is enough of a wrench to our family life, especially when one of the main movers of said life is basically out of commission, that Avram and I have both said, that perhaps, maybe, even quite possibly, we are done at four until further notice.  At least out of my womb.  I don't know, I know children are eternally important, and I wallow around in not feeling/not wanting to be good enough to be a good mother and homemaker.  Then I met a Sister who is an Amish Convert in my stake, and is pregnant with her sixteenth child.  Let that sink in for a moment.  And then I know that I am not truly at any capacity at all - I just don't want a larger capacity. I want to afford to go on vacations, and have my children leave the house before I'm in my sixties, and I want to have a house that isn't bursting at the seams with children.  I grew up in a blended family of nine children in the house all within ten years, and it was small, and crowded and poor (and there were more children then my parents really were ready for parenting either).  And yet, despite all of these difficulties, I really loved my childhood. I love my family, I loved our home, and I loved the crazy times together.  On a daily basis I'll remember something from my childhood that makes me happy, or smile.  This morning as I lay in bed it was my sister Tali and me's habit of calling each other Pookie - first as a joke, but then it occurred so often we fell victim to the habit, and even today call each other that as often as our names.

I vacillate back and forth between feeling selfish that I'm so concerned about what I want, and wanting to feel validated intellectually, and then saying that there are times and seasons, and it isn't wrong for me to want to pursue something for myself, and that truly being a stay at home mom is sucking the life out of me, or at least my brain.  And neither are true, and both are true, and perhaps life lies somewhere in the middle, where I do want something more intellectual, but there are also times and seasons, and that time will come.

I got married at 22, and have had four children by the age of 30, and I don't regret any of that.  I'm glad that I've had my children young, and that when they are gone all day at school (ie, free babysitting in this context), I'll be able to go out and first go to school and then work in some capacity (teaching at a university? libraries?) and still be a mom.  Even writing all of this out, I want to recant a lot of it. Not because it isn't true, but because truly I have nothing much to complain about.  That is the sum of human nature, I suppose, to want what we do not have.  I'm sure once I'm busy writing term papers, and trying desperately to get a publication and teach I will remember fondly my halcyon days of yore, where I could play uncounted games of chess against the computer, and had the leisure to write blog posts and check facebook to see what people think of my bon mots.

One thing I struggle with is that my religion teaches me, and I believe, that families are what this life is all about.  Having children is what this life is all about. Now, I need to take a second to put a caveat here - that doesn't mean that single people, people without children, people who can't have children, etc, etc, do not have a purpose in life, or that their lives are not fulfilled. Nor do I mean that there is some magic number of children that fulfills this purpose.  I don't care if you have one child or sixteen - in this specific context I'm talking about me (I know, how selfish. See above paragraph - this is endemic in my life).  What I mean is that the important part of my life, eternally speaking, is not going to be how many college degrees I earn.  And that I know that children truly are an heritage of the Lord, and that what I do as a mother, what Avram does as a Father, is worth more than everything else - than all of the worldly things, put together (excepting of course what we do as individuals, as Children of God, as marriage partners, as children as sibling and all the actual important relationships that make up our life).  I know that Avram can feel fulfilled with working and parenting. I also know and do believe that Mothers are the primary nurturers of children - I feel it when I'm pregnant, when I'm nursing, when I just know what my children are thinking, wanting, etc.  Back to the beginning of this paragraph - what I struggle with is that what is my will, is not the Lord's will.  This happens constantly in a fallen world, and in all aspects.  The Lord wants me to love others.  I want to judge them.  The Lord wants me to give of my substance to the poor and needy. I want a new couch, and a better decorated house.  In this respect, the Lord wants me to be a good mother.

The crux of this is that finally, I think, I believe I am coming to understand that for myself, I think I am a better mother when I feel fulfilled in my life (I think that this part applies to everyone). And I feel fulfilled in academia.  This isn't a specifically new understanding.  I remember my freshman year talking with my then boyfriend Dennis about me wanting to be a college professor, and him completely supporting me in that (except that the word support here sounds patronizing, and I don't mean it that way.  Patronizing support in my mind isn't support at all.  Avram is never patronizing either, and I love him for it.) I wrote about this years ago, and still mean what I say.  So what's new from then?  Two more kids, I suppose.  Mothering, housekeeping, takes a lot more out of me now then it did then. Also, it's always been easy for me to gloss over the young kids years. My mind has run for over a decade that I would have my children young, stay home with them, and then when the youngest started school I would go back to school myself. I don't mind that order.  I don't, honestly, even know what I want to go back to school for, except I love academia, and not even just because it's the only word that rhymes macademia.  It's good for me to keep my options open, because who knows where we'll be or end up, but I am not exaggerating when I say I've spent hours on the U of U's website, perusing their advanced degrees in areas like Anthropology. To return to the point, I want to be a good Mother, the Lord wants me to be a good Mother, and I'm learning that it's okay to not want to be a stay at home mom, and still be a good mother. But that's not it - I've always known that.  Since I can almost remember, my Mom has worked outside the home.  What I mean is, I've finally come to terms with the fact that I don't have to get to a point where I love homemaking.  I love my kids - that's enough.

When Avram and I were first married, I quite quickly transitioned into being a homemaker.  I finished all but 3 1/2 credits of my undergraduate degree before we were married, and after a first summer of working together as window washers, I took up a part time job at a daycare just until I had Lydia, whom I was already expecting. I was alright with that - at the time, I had lost much interest in pursuing a career, and had the vague notion that I would go back to school 'someday.' (that has always been in the works).  In the meantime, I loved my little Wymount apartment, with its 600 or so square feet.  For some the transition to marriage and motherhood is very rough.  Of course there were the normal wrinkles (how do I get this child to sleep, again?!) but overall my first couple years post school, post single life, were a dream - a happy dream filled with all I could read classics and fluff books, including an entire read through of the major Arthurian legends.  I love perfecting cooking, which I already enjoyed.  I made homemade bread - and have since then in spurts. I painted furniture a little.  In England later on I learned to knit, and knitted a little.  I pursued homemaking crafting hobbies a bit at a time.  After Guinevere, I went on a sewing stretch, and sewed curtains and duvets and skirts for the girls. Slowly, though, many of my fun hobbies started feeling not so fun.  I became tired of crafts, or crafting.  Sure, I still like a painted piece of furniture, but the fun of doing it waned.  More and more in recent years, what I really crave isn't endless homemaking time, filled with crafting and reading whatever I feel like (usually fluff) and cooking new exciting things.  I'm tired of all of it. I even struggle to not be tired of my kids, because of course they come needing to be fed, and clothed and with so many needs.  And parenting isn't bright and shiny and new anymore.  It's not a hobby, where I get to tote my darling baby around with me while mostly still living my own life.  Now I have a six, four, two year old, and a darling baby, who still needs to be toted around, but it's not cute any more.  It's tiring and overwhelming, and what used to be fun side things (make new time consuming desserts for no reason!  plan things to sew/craft in any capacity that is not a necessity and will take countless hours to finish!) now seem like dragging weights, another set entirely of children, except these ones have nothing to do with my eternal salvation, and they'll never give me grandchildren to cuddle and spoil.

A year ago, I declared out loud, "I don't like crafting." It felt good.  Not that I begrudge others crafting - life is short (unlike this blog post), and you should do what you love.  Not that I have not in the past enjoyed crafting - I have.  I have loved many aspects of homemaking.  Some I even still like, and I will tell you what they are once I think of them. Mind you, this is all being written when I have a three month old, so although this is all true, it's a tiny bit tinged with the slightly deranged mind a lack of sleep will give you, not to mention a lifestyle that includes forced breaks on the couch every couple of hours for twenty minutes of bonding time with your baby, that although welcome and lovely does not conduce to accomplishing anything of note.  Regardless, since that declaration, I have released all guilt I had previously felt from seeing blogs where people are feeling fulfilled by doing anything with their hands that involves paper or fabric or glue.  I had not been the type in my life to live in constant comparison with my fellow (wo)men.  I have marched to the beat of my own drummer since childhood, and what's more, I've never even  had to work at it - I have always been very comfortable (too comfortable) in my own skin.  Until about the time I had Guinevere, so two and a half years ago, when this all began to come crashing down.  In the last year I have felt myself returning to my own skin once more.  I've allowed myself to not like cooking as much, just because I have done so in the past, even for most of my life.  I don't have to make homemade bread to love my children, or even myself, even if it does taste patently better.   I can buy cute things, I don't have to make them myself.  I got the idea of giving my girls real wool felt plush food to play with last Christmas - and then I picked up the phone, called my sister in law Aleatha, described what I wanted, and commissioned them from her.  It felt good, and I have never regretted not making them myself, even though I had the materials, and obviously the time.
I'm learning to love myself as is, and as I want to be, which means looking at thrift stores for super cute kids clothes, not sewing them.  I can cook good food, but I don't need to plan herculean dinners that take all day.  And ten minute burritos and easy pasta are on the menu every week, but who really cares?

Despite this new found happiness, I have still struggled with the other looming trifecta of homemaking (children, what one does with ones time (crafts/projects/etc., and then of course the housekeeping).  Avram has stepped it up this last year.  He'll regularly throw laundry in, sweep floors, pick up rooms in addition to his already long established chores of bathroom cleaning, lawn mowing, garbage emptying, etc.  And I know that a house will not disappear just because I work outside the home.  Yet somehow I often feel chained to my 1300 square feet, seeing in its rooms more and more work to be done.  At my best I'm about a B + housekeeper, and I'm okay with that. But I get tired of feeling like the apex of every day is trying to keep the floor uncovered with all the junk that seems to filter out of the ether.  I feel like much of my life is being led in all the areas that I don't excel at.  Sure I never mop my floor, but did you know that I got a 1600 on my SATs back in the day?  Of course you don't know - SATs aren't really important, but when I did well, they were to me.

I spent my whole life really good at one thing; school.  Well, two things - reading beat out school.  I used to read under my desk in school, from first grade on up through sixth (and I'm sure later, but I've blocked it out) .  All my childhood my teachers would tell my mom at parent teacher conference that I had so much potential.  My fourth grade teacher told me that when I published my first book I needed to send one to her. I got straight As the first two years of high school, and then spent the next two year at a college prep boarding school, where I had a scholarship (mostly need based, but also a quarter was academic).  Even among the children of doctors and lawyers and well off business men I was among the best academically, me, who lived in the west side, in Glendale in Salt Lake, who instead of having countlesss enriching classes in dancing or sports or whatever had a library card. My senior year I took four AP classes.  (And my junior year one).  My identity was shaken when I got my first Bs in Physics.  At BYU I had a full tuition scholarship for four years.  The Summer before I started my freshman year in 2001, I had a conversation where I asserted that I wanted to get married at age 26, when I would be graduating with my Ph.d. (I also had a foreshortened belief that I could do all my grad work in four years -oh, the young and optimistic).  Also at BYU, starting with my first semester, I discovered something I liked more than school, even more than reading ; boys.  I had four relationships in college, and with the advent of love, out went my clearly defined academic self.  Sure,I still got decent grades  - I graduated with a 3.63, which is alright, but was far beneath my capacity, and I knew that then, and didn't care.  I don;t regret most of my college experience  I did work alright  but I played much harder  and I am glad I had those years of carefree fun.  Yet by my second year in, I had no real intentions of continuing schooling after my undergraduate, unless I din't get married.  I was sure I would get married - I had a missionary plus boyfriends (yep, I was also cocky.)

When I went with Avram to an academic conference in Wisconsin two and a half years ago, all of these long ago desires surfaces, and something awoke in me, and it was strong.  It turns out that although I spend decades feeling that I was smart, and that my self worth was in someways linked to that, I was not completely wrong.  I value myself more, when I feel smart.  Not because my intrinsic worth gains, but because I feel fitted to what I am doing.  To freely borrow a line from Chariots of Fire, "God created me for a purpose (Motherhood), but he also made me smart; when I use my brain, I can feel his pleasure."  Not that I don't use my brain in motherhood - I do. I think children deserve the best we can give them and that have educated mothers at home, and fathers at home can only help them, but I want something more.  I need something more.  Lately I struggle with even feeling smart anymore.  On the one hand I assert that I want a master's possibly a Ph.d., but on the other hand, I worry about getting in anywhere.  I feel inadequate to teach at a college level.  I feel like I have few salable skills, few academic skills.  Where does changing countless diapers teach one to survive in a career? (perseverance, I suppose). I know this isn't true, that people say all the time after being out of school in 'real' life for a while that going back is much easier because classes are so simple compared to the great complexity of three dimensional living.  Yet, if I was once a sharp sword, now I feel like a rusty wall decoration, with an unbalanced hilt, and even some hokey metaphors.

 Last year I went with Avram to SBL, the Society of Biblical Literature conference, and I loved every minute of it.  I loved the presentations, I loved manning the booth for BYU in the dealer's hall, I loved meeting people, talking to people, thinking about points brought up. I felt alive, sparkling, like the air was clearer (a real feat in San Francisco), the conversations I had more witty, and even my outfits were well planned and cute (yes, I know, this is not exactly a staple of academia, but if/when I have a tenure track job, I shall endeavor greatly to banish all black as the color of choice for my academic wardrobe.  Someone needs to liven up biblical studies, and starting with bright pink and blue shirts is just the ticket).  I know that academia is not always like that.  I do share a house with an academic, after all.  And he works from home three days a week - so I see it all up closed.  Which means that Avram sees me all muddled up in my life, which some how makes it seem worse, if only becuase I am aware of how patheticly I'm not magnifying my current calling.

This is a long blog post to swallow.  Much of me doesn't want to publish it, since I basically complain from start to finish, which is ironic, because I am deeply aware of how much I have in my life, how essentially happy I am in the big stuff. But I'm all to aware how easy it is for people to think one thing about your life, when the reality is different. So I want to let it be know publicly, mostly so if anyone out there is also struggling that it's okay.  It's okay to love your family, but not homemaking, even if you once did.  It's okay to want to work, even if your family won't need the money. It's okay to not have answers - I don't.  I often hear people talk about how women need to find something that is them to do, so they aren't swallowed up by child-raising until there is no themselves.  I love talking to people, working with people, leaving the house and having places to go - I can't do these things at home.  I love conferences and colleges.  I love my children - I don't want to put them in daycare at the ages they are to do this. I  want to give them their childhood, too.   So how can I learn to love this stage now - how can I feel fulfilled in being a stay at home mom until Enoch, or whomever, is old enough to start preschool, and I  can get out of the house? It's funny.  My life is at the same time much less desperate  and yet sometimes in my head more desperate than this all sounds.  I'm not dying of neglect of self.  It's just after I've done all the cleaning I want to do/need to do, and when Guinevere is napping and Elisheva is playing, I don't know what to do that will really fulfill me.  I read academic books off and on, but it's hard to continue without anything outside.  I talk to Avram a lot about his studies, which keeps me mentally alive.  I edit his papers, and love the importance I feel by contributing to something.  I often spend time on the internet, but the internet is much of taking, but little of giving emotionally and I usually don't write blog posts because it takes a lot of mental energy, which I struggle to give when there are three children at my side, who need me any moment.  I've only been able to write this because a, it's burning inside of me, and things find their way out somehow, and b. Avram has had Enoch half this time while the girls have been sleeping.   I know that we find ourselves when we lose ourselves and that going to work and forgetting myself and my problems is good.  But it doesn't seem to help. So I don't really need answers, but understanding would be great.

(Here is the post I wrote two and a half years ago on this topic, generally. It was before I really started struggling; Unseen as Yet Academical).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Life as Miscellany

So many thoughts are on my mind.  I sit here, while Avram is at a Young Men/Young Women's pool party (being my husband, he went neither in pool clothes, and complete with only the most envied of pool party accessories - Greek and Hebrew bibles and a backpack full of books).  The girls are all in bed, if not asleep upstairs.  We have our own growing Nanny McPhee nursery upstairs, with two twins and a crib back to back along our cap cod's upstairs room.  Next year sometime we'll add a toddler bed that sits, awaiting its next moment of glory in our overcrowded basement, so that then we'll have all four children upstairs, minus only the magically inclined Nanny to bring order to our family.  Enoch lies asleep in our room currently, unaware of his future sleeping quarters.

Yes, we had a son - I truly did not mean to leave the Internets-at-large in baited breath for five months, but we did have a boy, born August 20th, and named him Enoch Bleys. I would put a picture in, but then that would ruin all my moments of writing - ask to be my facebook friend if you want pictures.

Four children.  I keep finding myself surprised when I catch sight of our family - six people.  All living under the same roof.  And I brought four of them into the world.  I keep saying that only old people have four children, and I don't mean that as an insult, or degrading comment.  I just can't imagine that I have been alive long enough (almost thirty years), or have been married long enough (almost seven and a half years) to have brought another four souls into mortal bodies.  I do love them, though.

Lydia is in first grade, and is slowly growing accustomed to homework, new this year.  Elisheva is beyond excited to begin a ballet class, a once a week offering from the local recreation center.  It's our first foray into extra-curricular activities, along with a once a week gymnastics class for Lydia starting at the same time. They are only for six weeks, and are anything but intensive, which is just fine with me - I am not the kind of mother that Olympians are forged from, neither in pocketbook, but more importantly in dedication.  I fully subscribe to the belief that free play time is more important than all the planned activities with which we can 'enrich' our children's lives.  Guinevere has remembered that she is, in fact, potty trained, which moving back across the country from Utah and the arrival of a baby brother a week and a half later gave her temporary amnesia on.  I was counting on this regressment, and we had a handy system of skittles to encourage going, plus a regular routine of parent-led visits to the bathroom to counteract life's obstacles.  And now there is Enoch. I have wondered what being the mother of a son will, would, be like.  So far the greatest male development Enoch has personally accomplished was urinating on his own face.  Otherwise he has been much as my babies of the female persuasion were - cute and cuddly, newborn for far too short a time. Especially because he was born at 8 lbs and 8 oz, and already weighs about 10 lbs. On the positive side, although the delightful wrinkled knees are going away (my absolute favorite part of a newborn), we were able to move Enoch into the cloth diapers we have at two weeks old, since he grew so large, so we can officially begin saving money.  Although since I never scheduled money into the budget for diapers, it wasn't so exciting to stop buying them (the one package we bought). It was much more fun when I started cloth diapering Elisheva and Guinevere on that front.

Now Enoch has awoken, and since it's much harder typing with a babe in arms, I'll close this for now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In Which my Wildest Fantasies are Spelled out

I'm sorry I had to do it, but I have enabled the annoying word verification - I was getting swamped in fake spam comments, which is really demoralizing to the morale, when I check my blog, and I have 10 comments, and most of them are spam.  I hate the word verifications, so we can all hate them together.  Because we'll all be real people, at least.

A lot has been on my plate of life lately (as apposed to my plates of food, which have been sadly lacking in vegetables).  As I'm sure you gathered, I am indeed pregnant, and am now four and a half months along.  Doesn't a pregnancy go by fast when you never post?  We're having the 20 week ultrasound in two days, and if I were a nicer person, I would have waited to post until then, so I could tell you all what we're having.  I am not a nice person, however, which means at the rate I post, you might find out before the baby's born, but don't hold your breath.   As you also may have gathered, this baby was a surprise.  And by surprise, I mean that I had a .3 % chance of getting pregnant, compliments of modern day birth control (IUD).  It's good to feel so special in the world.

Guinevere was a planned baby, and I worried the whole time about how I would ever manage three children, and sure enough, three was a difficult number for me for quite a while.  With this baby, despite the complete lack of mental preparation, I've had an almost Zen-like acceptance and peace.  I just know that four is going to be fine (hard, but fine), and Lydia is six now, and quite helpful, and everyone always says that four isn't any harder than three (right? right? If you know differently, bite your tongue).  Also, Avram and I had begun to discuss having another baby, so it's not as if we were done with having children.  I actually am liking a lot that this baby will be right in line with the others, two years apart.  I want to have 6 children, and I'd also like to go back to school and get a Master's degree when the youngest is preschool age.  So in order to get to that stage of life, the faster I have children, the faster it will come (assuming that we have no more surprise children, or that we don't have more than six, or basically assuming life doesn't intervene).

I'm inclined to think it's a boy, but I thought Guinevere was a boy, and there she is, as feminine as anything (if by feminine, you mean a biter, fighter, scrappy almost two year old, who thinks that 'No' is the pinnacle of the English language, followed closely in line by 'Mine!'). I admit, with three girls, we do want a boy, if only to know that we will indeed have one, but the thought of four girls is kind of darling - like a little flower garden of children, in their Sunday dresses.

Another area that has been full lately has been Avram's schooling.  He passed his comprehensive exams, sometimes also called candidacy exams, in December.  This means he's done with classes (which explains why he's sitting in on one class this quarter - he's just a glutton for learning.), and can begin the next stage of obtaining his doctorate.  For most of you, this is a fairly opaque process, so I'll explain out what this all means.  First he needs to decide on a Dissertation topic, which is like decided on what specific subject to write a book on.  Then he needs to write a Dissertation Proposal, which is a 15-25 page paper that summarizes the Dissertation (book), lists out any scholarship that relates to the subject, and how this dissertation will bring new knowledge to the field, address gaps of current scholarship, etc.  It is then approved by Avram's Dissertation committee, a group of 3-4 professors, and then at that point Avram may begin writing his actual Dissertation.

We had this grand plan of having Avram finish his comprehensives in December, have a subject in mind by the end of January, have written his proposal by the end of February, and achieve world peace by the end of March.  Instead, we had the surprise Christmas gift of a pregnancy (one of the specific things we were waiting for to have a baby was Avram to have his dissertation topic picked out), and then the January and February gift of lots of morning sickness.  So, Avram took over all the cooking, any household cleaning or laundry that occurred, plus most parenting.  Needless to say, our plans for the proposal timeline have changed a few times.  Now he has basically decided on a topic - the usage of animals in the Rabbinic corpus, and then somehow Myth ties in (the mythic use of animals?  The mytholo-ization of animals?).  But as he's discovering, being able to write a summary of your dissertation means having done most of the major research, so you know what you're actually going to say.  So the new and improved (although alas, minus world peace) timeline is that he will hand in his proposal by the end of May, and then have it approved so that he can begin writing this Summer, still in time for graduating next year.

Which brings us to this Summer.  Avram is teaching two freshman Book of Mormon classes this Summer at BYU.  We're excited for this for several reasons.
 1. We'll get paid!  More than we've ever been paid before!  And because he's also getting a relocation fellowship (I think they must count up the number of dependents you have, since there was no reason given for the surprise reward), we'll actually be able to maintain our two households, in Ohio and in Provo, without having to get a student loan.
 2. Avram will be applying to teach at BYU this fall, and this is a necessary first step in the religion department, because they like to see how you teach, and then you get to try out the department as well.
3. Have I mentioned we'd both like to end up at BYU  - so this is a good omen of awesomeness (although in my wildest fantasies [and you know you're old when your wildest fantasies involve job offers] we'd get a post doc somewhere really exciting, and hired at BYU at the same time, and be able to postpone the job at BYU so we could go globetrotting for a year first, but in reality, I'm not even sure the religion department does this sort of thing, and if we did get hired, we wouldn't feel so in demand we'd probably even suggest it, either).  I can see all sorts of good reasons to end up somewhere else first, but I am seduced by the thought of being able to buy a house, and maybe get chickens, and garden, and settle in, and if Avram got a job at BYU we'd be there for the long haul.  Yes, security, it's a beautiful thing.  In all reality, of course we'd be happy to get a job anywhere in the field.
 4. My family is mostly in Utah, so we can actually visit relatives without having a crazy family vacation be a part of it.

Speaking of applying to BYU, you have to have completed and defended your dissertation before they'll hire you, although you can apply while still finishing it.  So Avram also gets to spend this Summer madly writing, while I spend this Summer madly vacationing (three girls plus 7-9 months pregnant = vacationing).  Then the moment he's done teaching, we'll rush back here in our minivan, which we have yet to buy because we hate buying cars, but we really, really need, see earlier this post, so that I can have the baby.  I'm due August 24, two weeks after we return.  Luckily my Mom's coming out to help, because that's also the same week that Lydia will start first grade, and of course, Avram will still be madly writing.  Since he needs to be well (over half? three quarters?) into writing his dissertation when he applies to BYU, and other places for the matter, this fall.  Often there are preliminary interviews given at SBL, or the Society of Biblical Literature, which happens the week before Thanksgiving every year. It's the main conference in Avram's field that occurs every year. Last year it was at San Francisco, and Avram presented two papers in it for the first time.  I went with him, and told everyone that it was our second honeymoon.  And now we're (almost) having a second honeymoon baby.  Which means I won't be able to go with him to this year's meeting in Chicago, which is a shame, since I absolutely love conferences.  I really love attending all the sessions, and I even loved helping watch BYU's booth of bookness, since that meant I got to meet a lot of people. And I even got an included book bag, which I use every week as my church bag.  He'll also be presenting at this year's SBL, on the deification of Enoch in Rabbinic Literature.

 I know some of you are wondering why I said that there was a lot on my plate, and then proceeded to write endlessly about Avram's academic life.  I tell you, that is my life.  I edit all his papers (we spent the day and a half before the conference actually started when we were in San Francisco doing the final polishing and editing of his papers, only taking an afternoon out for sightseeing.  We really know how to live up a honeymoon).  It's a popular topic around our house, only next to our children, and most importantly, the seven years Avram has been in school in our marriage, of seven years, have been seven years of the whole family sacrificing, planning, hoping and dreaming (and being frugal), and I feel as integral to his Ph.d. as anything.

In Summation, I'm having a baby, but hopefully not on the trip back from Utah this Summer, where Avram will have taught at BYU, and Avram's writing a book that has to be done and finished in one year, so he can get hired somewhere, and make tons of money we'll use to buy chickens.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Small Piece of my Childhood Died Today

When I was in seventh grade, I spent a glorious two months living with my Grandparents, Porter and Lydia Merrill in tiny Duchesne Utah. I bet you'd have an easier time guessing the pronunciation and spelling of Duchesne than where it lies in Utah - I'll make it easy for you - it's in the Great Basin. Thank You. * I moved from being a middle child of nine kids, to being the only child in the household, a difference for me, to be sure (What? You want to know where I am all the time? And you know exactly who made any mess in the house?).

The only real memory I have of English class during that time was a story our teacher showed us, and then the subsequent writing assignment we had. She showed us the picture book, The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, a book with fourteen illustrations, each with a title and line of text, but no more. She read us the introduction, of a book publisher Mr. Wenders, who received a visit from a man calling himself Harry Burdick, who had written fourteen short stories, and who showed him these fourteen pictures he had drawn to accompany them. Harry Burdick left the drawings, and said he would be back the next day with the stories, but he never returned. Many years passed, and now they decided to publish just the pictures.

We each had to pick one of the fourteen drawings, and write a short story about it, and the short story I wrote (based on the harp drawing) captured my imagination. It stretched twenty pages long, and that was just the beginning - I never even reached the pivotal moment of the story. It was the stuff of high fantasy, of quests, a dryad turned into a harp, a young man searching for...something. Yes, it was original - for a seventh grader, and I loved that story. I used to tell pieces of it to Halley, my younger sister as we were roommates. I even have on tape one session I recorded. I dreamed of that story, of the world, of the theology - Sun god, Moon goddess. And through the years, I forgot the name of the book, but I never forgot that sad story - what happened to the poor man? Did he die? Is that why he never came back? Did he just like confusing people? One of life's great mysteries, right there. So many years had passed, I've even wondered if I had made up the back story, or remembered it wrong, it was so mysterious.

Until today, when on a blog I saw the book referenced. I had found it! There it was - The Mysteries of Harry Burdick. I read the top review, and wait for it, so that your childhood can die too, the reviewer said, "The introductory story, I should probably point out, is utterly false. But it gives some nice context to the images that follow..." (found from the link at the top of the page). What? What?? WHAT????? Utterly false? And that is when my Childhood died. I feel deluded and denuded and maybe derided, but that's just because it makes a nice triune of adjectives.

All these years, I had worried about Harry Burdick, even if I couldn't remember his name, and there was no Harry Burdick. He never died a tragic death, on the verge of fame and fortune. There were no lost stories, just waiting to be found someday. This is like when I read The Princess Bride for the first time, but I have a thing against abridged books, so I off to the library I promptly went, and spent a long a fruitless search looking for books by S. Morgenstern. Only I feel more tragic now, since I spent 16 years hanging from a lie. Given, in both cases of the Princess Bride and The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, if I had ever given a thought to the fact that they had author bylines not by the purported author I might not have struggled quite so much.

*What, that didn't help? It's about two hours east of Salt Lake, on the road to Vernal, which is in uttermost eastern Utah, and another hour beyond Duchesne (said, Doo-Shane).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mine and Avram's bucket list

(I'll let you decide whose goals are whose, and which ones are joint.)
Bucket List:

1. Become a full professor
2. Have six children
3. Visit the five sacred places (to Avram): Jerusalem, Rome, Karnak, Jackson County, Missouri, and Nauvoo.
4. Live in Jerusalem
5. Get a PhD
6. Buy a house I love
7. Get published
8. Get a tenure track job
9. Go to Gen-Con
10. Go back to school, get a Master's and maybe a PhD
11. Visit England again, and go to all the touristy places; watch a Shakespearean play, Stonehenge, Wayland's smithy, lake country, Cornwall, Ireland, London, Monthly Queen's college dinner, walking (as the national hobby), etc.
12. Visit the Continent, especially France and Italy.
13. Visit Alaska
14. Go on a holiday, where we rent a beach house for a week, and feel like amazing people.
15. Read the Three Musketeers in French
16. Decorate a house (my house that I love - #6)
17. Go scuba diving
18. Go snorkeling again
19. Attend my children's Temple weddings/sealings
20. Finish the Hebrew bible in Hebrew
21. Read the Greek New Testament
22. Go on a biking trip in Europe
23. Teach a course on Biblical translation
24. Visit the Grand Canyon, specifically go down inside the Grand Canyon. Ideally raft it.
25. Visit Maine, stay by the ocean
26. Have a flower garden
27. Take the family to Disneyworld/Disneyland
28. Go river rafting
29. Visit the Berlin Museum
30. Do a seminal camping trip with the family
31. Have all natural births (3/3 so far)
32. Nurse all children (unless they're adopted)
33. Do foster care
34. Be a temple worker