Airport adventures

22 Oct

In my last post I gave myself license to throw out a look-at-my-cute-baby post, so here goes: cute baby, airport edition!

We just survived a 13-hour trip from D.C. to Sacramento, including one trying six-hour leg. We had a couple hours of crying, squirming, and fighting sleep, but we also had a few hours with a sleeping baby and a row to ourselves, and fellow travelers who were kind and understanding. I also learned a few tricks that I may use to update my post about flying with a baby (I’ll wait to see if I survive our return journey).

The best part of the trip was the layover we had in Chicago, where my just-learning-to-walk boy had fun weaving through the rows of seats at our gate and tentatively testing out moving walkways. Once on the plane, he also enjoyed walking up and down the aisle flapping his arm in a clumsy, heart-melting wave.

This edition also features my fledgling iPhone photography skills (I’m only a few months in with smartphone ownership). I missed out on my mom’s talented-photographer genes, but lately I’ve tried to absorb the simple yet awesome photography tips from Elise of enJOY it. I got some unusually decent shots–allow me to share a few, alright?

IMG_1113

IMG_1117A wide airport window is a perfect place for a curious boy.

 

IMG_1118 A flocculent landscape.

 

IMG_1123Mama, what is this fascinating relic?

 

IMG_1126Scoping out the moving walkway.

 

IMG_1131Those eyelashes.

 

IMG_1132King of the row! Ah, if only flying with a baby were as easy as this picture makes it look. I try to be grateful for the good moments like this–and even when it’s hard, it’s totally worth getting to spend time with the fam.

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Limits, deadlines, and the blog police

19 Oct

Remember how I said I’d be writing for 31 days straight about girl power?

Well… I do plan to write about it for 31 days. Consecutively? Not so much.

I am generally a big fan of deadlines. Like, to the point I included it in my Twitter bio. And my college application essay. And a lot of cover letters. Not because I wanted to impress anyone (OK, maybe a little, but the point of all of those things is to impress people!) but because I genuinely thrive on deadlines. It can be a love-hate relationship, of course, and I usually have to give myself an earlier deadline just to make sure I finish a project in time for the real deadline. But in the end it’s worth it.

So I figured working with a daily blogging deadline would be good. And the first week or so was good. Forcing myself to write every day provided the pressure I needed to explore and develop ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise. Also, simply getting in the habit of writing daily will probably encourage me to work on the blog and post more frequently going forward. (Sidenote: The blogger that inspired the 31-day challenge actually did her month of blogging on “lovely limitations.”)

But the intensive writing schedule, combined with my tendency to over-research, over-write, and over-think everything, started to conflict too much with other priorities, like a freelance article with a very real deadline. I’m a night owl, but staying up numerous nights till two in the morning is not sustainable. Although initially setting a limit for myself was a valuable exercise, I also had to know and respect my own limits. Hence my less-frequent posts.

As I like to tell myself (in a very loose paraphrase of  Mark): blogging is made for woman, not woman for blogging.

So, what to do now? Definitely more thoughts about girl power. I have so many more ideas to pursue and I have so appreciated the insightful and supportive feedback. So stay tuned for 31 days’ worth of posts (and more!) on girl power. I’ll probably throw in an occasional look-at-my-cute-baby post and the like, but we’ll get there eventually.

I know I’m not exactly following the structure of the Write 31 Days challenge, but I’m pretty sure I can get away with it. ‘Cause guess what? There is no blogging police. The stuffy editor in me sometimes wishes there were, but the blogger in me is grateful there isn’t. The only people I feel accountable to is my readers–and you people are just lovely. So stick around for 31 days. Or not at all. Or longer. Again, no police. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

Do you love deadlines? Love-hate them? Hate them? Have you ever taken on a project and then abandoned it or switched gears?

Girls do what needs to be done

16 Oct

womepioneers-handcarts-833354-gallery{Image via LDS Media Library}

I stared down the hill, about 20 feet down, a roughly 45-degree incline. It was steep.

It was also the only way to access the park nearby my house. The next closest park is a 20- to 30-minute walk, and I didn’t have time for that. My one-year-old wanted to play on the swings, for goodness’ sake. So I did what needed to be done: I gripped the handle of the stroller, tilted the front wheels out so the baby would stay level in his stroller, and carefully plodded down the hill. When we were ready to go home, I slowly backed up the hill in the same fashion.

As I trekked down and then up the hill, I thought of my pioneer ancestors. Some of my ancestors traveled from Europe to the United States and across the plains to Utah. And I’ve heard many stories of other pioneers in the larger story of Mormon pioneer heritage.

Whenever I hear these stories, I am struck by the strength and resilience of the women. Many men had to leave to serve in the Mexican-American War; some also went to serve missions elsewhere; some died. Meanwhile: The women literally pushed through the wilderness, suffering hunger, cold, illness, persecution, loss of loved ones. They comforted and mourned with their sisters and brothers who experienced similar suffering. They cared for the sick and afflicted, bore children, helped deliver other women’s children, led and nurtured their families.

As a teenager, I participated in a pioneer trek reenactment, a two-day journey that involved pushing and pulling handcarts through California’s foothills. Toward the end was a “women’s walk” where all the men and boys had to go ahead and leave us girls to pull the handcarts on our own. Whatever difficulty we endured was miniscule compared to that of the real pioneers. It ingrained in me a deeper appreciation for the grit and faith of those who came before me.

For example: A brief life sketch of one of my ancestors, Anne Halling, notes this:

“Two days after they started West, Peder [her husband] died on June 27 1856. It was hard for Anne but she continued. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley in September 1856.”

I wish I could know more of Anne’s thoughts and feelings, but I am grateful to know of her example. It was hard, but she continued. She did what needed to be done: She followed the prophet and journeyed with her family to Zion.

Then I look back further in my heritage, and I come to Eve. I come to one of the most cherished (by me, at least) statements by an apostle about Eve and the implication of her choices on womankind and mankind:

“Happily for them, ‘the Lord said unto Adam [and Eve]: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden’ (Moses 6:53). We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise.”

Eve was wise enough to recognize that she, Adam, and their future children could not progress eternally without partaking of the forbidden fruit. Though she didn’t fully understand what the consequences would be, surely she knew she would face a harder life than she had in the Garden of Eden. Yet she chose to do what needed to be done.

When I’m faced with decisions, with steep hills both literal and figurative, I look at the girls and women who came before me, and I know that I can do what needs to be done.

 

(Note: Emphasis added in quotes above.)

If you’re afraid of a little girl… you should be

10 Oct

malala1{Image by U.N. Information Center}

“She was targeted just because of her determination to go to school. The extremists showed what they fear most–a girl with a book.”

–U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at a July 2013 U.N. event celebrating Malala Yousafzai

When we hear about a terrorist organization fearing a little girl, we recognize the irony and even humor in the idea. Girls tend to be associated with weakness, smallness, fragility. It’s a piercing point to make: If you are threatened by a girl, you must be pretty weak yourself.

But here’s the thing about being afraid of a little girl: You should be.

A girl is a powerful force. Girls face oppression in many ways throughout the world, but when that oppression is turned into opportunity, as presented in the 2009 book Half the Sky, the benefit is exponential, for each girl, her family, and her community. For example:

  • Several studies suggest that when women have more power of the purse, less family money is devoted to instant gratification and more for education and starting small businesses (p. 192).
  • When women have greater power in family decision-making, child health and nutrition improves (p. 194).
  • Even after noting caveats–like overzealous education advocates cherry-picking evidence–there are several rigorous studies that suggest expanding schooling for girls, even just elementary education, led women to marry later and have fewer children (an outcome that yields health and well-being benefits in developing countries)  (p. 171).
  • A study of the aftermath of women gaining the right to vote in the U.S. showed that landmark public health legislation quickly passed and child mortality declined by 8 to 15 percent (p. 198).

Malala Yousafzai exemplifies the powerful force for good–for revolutionary change–a girl can have. She gained worldwide attention by being shot by the Taliban and miraculously surviving, but her memoir, I Am Malala, reveals the courageous choices she has made every day to defend and support the right to education.

I was thrilled when I heard a few months ago that my former employer, the National Constitution Center, chose to award Malala with the 2014 Liberty Medal (which is often a precursor to a Nobel prize). I was even more thrilled when I learned today that she’ll be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Awarding Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize sends a much-needed message that empowering girls and women is an essential part of defending human rights and working toward a peaceful world. And anyone who doesn’t want a peaceful world? They should be very, very afraid. Especially of little girls with books.

The power of supportive women

9 Oct

To begin, watch this (and if you’re wary of SNL being unfunny and crude, this one is actually neither of those things):

 

Basically, it’s about a “forgotten” TV show called Supportive Women, “the first serial drama to break away from the soap opera cliché of catty, back-stabbing female characters and instead portray them as nurturing and empathetic. Audiences tuned in in whatever the opposite of droves is.”

You don’t have to be a Debbie Downer to agree that the stereotype of back-stabbing women is bad. Out of curiosity, I searched “backstabbing women stereotype” on Google Scholar and found a fascinating thesis called “Women at Work: Working Girl, Disclosure and the Evolution of Professional Female Stereotypes.” The author, Hayley Strickland, analyzes the representation of working women in film and TV over the past few decades, arguing that the increasing inclusion of professional female characters “were simply façades used to both mask and perpetuate longstanding gender norms.”

I don’t think Hollywood types are huddling in boardrooms conniving the various ways they might keep women in their subordinate place. I do think they see contention as the only or easiest way to create a compelling drama. I think they’re risk-averse and myopically interested in money and see these damaging stereotypes as simply a tool to appeal to audiences. Oh, and also, they’re mostly men, which kind of makes it difficult to offer realistic representations of women’s experiences. (I’m not saying men can’t do that, I’m saying that can’t do it without talking and working with women.) Consider a few numbers from the Center for the Study of Women in TV and Film–in 2013, women made up:

  • 6 percent of U.S. directors
  • 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films
  • 10 percent of writers

Hollywood needs more girl power. Until that happens, film and TV will continue to send the message that, as the paper says,  “the way for women to succeed in the American workplace is, first, to become like men and, second, to betray other women.”

But I’ve seen in my life and with many other women I know that betrayal is not the key to success and happiness–we find our power in supporting each other. We can avoid judging other women for their choices, and even better, we can find ways to actively help and support other women along the way. Like today–a friend knew I had a writing deadline coming up and offered to watch Lars for me. I was touched by her thoughtfulness, and it was seriously helpful. I also love listening and participating in discussions among Aspiring Mormon Women, a community that exemplifies loving, constructive support.

There is something unique and powerful about sisterhood. Nowhere have I seen that more evident in Relief Society (the women’s organization of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints). I have seen women share their joys and their triumphs with their sisters–sometimes in superficial ways, but many times in courageously vulnerable ways–and have other women put their arms around them, literally and figuratively, to fiercely support them. I love what Bonnie Oscarson, Young Women general president, said:

“The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. … There is nothing that is worth us losing our compassion and sisterhood over. We just need to relax and rejoice in our divine differences. We need to realize that we all desire to serve in the kingdom, using our unique talents and gifts in our own ways. Then we can enjoy our sisterhood and our associations and begin to serve. … We must stop concentrating on our differences and look for what we have in common; then we can begin to realize our greatest potential and achieve the greatest good in this world.”

***

P.S. Apparently Mean Girls Day is a thing, and I missed it! Since it’s applicable to the discussion at hand, there’s this:

mean-girls-gretchen-i-am-such-a-good-friend

I like to ride my bicycle

8 Oct

Actually, my cycling skills are severely lacking, but a Queen reference was in order for the title of this post.

I just had to share this piece from Brain Pickings about how the bicycle advanced the emancipation of women. It explains:

“From allowing young people to socialize without the chaperoning of clergymen and other merchants of morality to finally liberating women from the constraints of corsets and giant skirts (the “rational dress” pioneered by bike-riding women cut the weight of their undergarments to a “mere” 7 pounds), the velocipede made possible previously unthinkable actions and interactions that we now for granted to the point of forgetting the turbulence they once incited.”

wheelsofchange5{Image (c) Beth Emery Collection via Grist}

Consider this gem from Susan B. Anthony in 1896:

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”

It’s all enough to make this girl want to get back to the pedals and practice biking again.

P.S. Brain Pickings also has a roundup of anti-suffragette postcards. They are ridiculous and hilarious. Check it out.

Off-topic but awesome

7 Oct

I know, I’m delivering yet another I.O.U. post in the 31 Days of Girl Power department. Just working on an article that I’m submitting for legit publication that necessarily detracts from blogging time. Theories about Harry Potter and feminism do not write themselves, people.

But. I do have something fun to share: You can go visit Leah’s blog The Ordinary Snowflake and read my guest post there, “A retrospective of one girl’s questionable taste in music.” You may recall Leah guest-posted on my blog on why writing is awesome. I think her writing is awesome, and totally dig reading her blog. You should go visit it right now, and make sure to share in the comments your favorite angsty teenage music.

 

Pending

6 Oct

I am posting this out of duty–it won’t be a terribly interesting post. Or will it?

The thing is, I am bursting with ideas and drafts for this series, but I don’t have the time every single day to develop them as much as they deserve to be developed. I demand quality, which of course is at odds with quantity. Some days, I push through and write my heart out till 1 a.m. with no regrets, but I can’t do that every day. Hence, posts like this.

I do love the challenge of trying to write something every day. Already, it has pushed me to explore ideas I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise.

But the interesting thing? Those posts that I’m not publishing on the blog because they’re not ready yet–I have big plans for them. I’m working through a couple of them, and plan to pitch them for publication. All, of course, TBD. Pending…

Manna to the soul

5 Oct

mannaThis weekend I’ve been absorbed watching the Mormon semiannual general conference. It’s hard not to gush about how wonderful general conference is. We get to listen to living prophets, apostles, and church leaders offer guidance and direction and love. Also (in many parts of the world), it’s a rare opportunity to watch church at home in our jammies.

Staying in line with this month’s topic of girl power: Lately I’ve wrestled with questions about the role of gender both in the administration of the church and in God’s eternal plan for His children. (In the words of Neylan McBaine: I’m not saying it is wrong, I’m saying it is hard.)

A theme I felt was woven throughout this conference was affirmation and reassurance that this church is led by a loving God and His humble servants, and that our spiritual questions require spiritual answers, which we will receive line upon line. One quote that stuck out was from Elder Neil L. Anderson:

We do not discard what we know to be true be of something we do not yet understand.”

I don’t mean to imply that one tidy quote answered all my questions. It didn’t. But it reflects the experience I had throughout this conference: reminders of what I already know, lessons on what I didn’t know, and renewed hope that I will someday understand what I don’t know. Every piece of it was manna to my soul.

Makeup-free

4 Oct

The past few days have been a blur of very little sleep and a whole lot of writing, headaches, self-doubt, flashes of inspiration, more writing, baby-tending, burnt-mac-and-cheese-cooking, procrastinating, motivating, and more writing. With not much time to spare, I decided to forego makeup.

And it turns out? The world did not end.

I was a bit anxious about it at first. I’ve always admired people who routinely don’t wear makeup but it’s been a long time since I went makeup-free myself. When I ventured out of the house, I considered throwing on some mascara, but out of both principle and time constraints, I resisted. And I began to question myself about why I felt the need to put on that mascara. How on earth would darker eyelashes help me in whatever I was trying to accomplish? Would it affect my interaction with people, or their opinion of me? Does their opinion of me based on my appearance affect my self-worth?

What helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin, what gave me power, was remembering my inherent self-worth. I thought of my closest relationships, and how none of the people I love would love me any less because of how I look.

My husband, for example: he loves, values, and respects me exactly as I am, with or without makeup. In fact, when I told him about this post, he admitted he did not even notice I hadn’t been wearing makeup. (I know, I am a lucky woman.) “I tend to think most women don’t need makeup,” he said.

Which basically proves one more way Clueless was, like, totally right:

clueless-1Anyway, the love of my husband and others helps me understand, in a small way, the love that my heavenly parents have for me.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the recent women’s meeting of LDS general conference: “Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect? … Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe? He loves you not only for who you are this very day, but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become. ”

We all know our culture reveres appearance, and that’s no more obvious than with celebrities. Somehow it is newsworthy, for example, that an actress would dare to go house-hunting makeup-free. Sigh.

But as we recognize our inherent self-worth and are confident in our appearance (with or without makeup), we can invest time and energy in other endeavors. As the women of Beauty Redefined put it:

“Our health, happiness, relationships, education and contributions to the world are damaged and stifled when we are dedicating a steady, invisible stream of mental and physical energy to monitoring and controlling our appearances.”

I’m not quitting makeup by any means, nor am I arguing that anyone else should (it’s your own decision anyway). Makeup can be fun. Makeup can help you feel more confident. It can even be empowering. It just also happens to be empowering to experiment with not wearing makeup.

 

P.S. I feel obliged to include this video as well. It’s always encouraging to see celebrities confront our culture’s unrealistic and skewed beauty ideals.