As a student of rhetoric and an aspiring writer, I worry about words. I worry about the way they sound or don’t sound. I worry about nuance and assonance and consonance and rhythm. But mostly, I worry about the meanings (intentional or not) that we send with our words.
Currently, I’m serving as the first counselor in my ward Young Women’s organization. Which means, not surprisingly, that I spend a lot of time thinking about the messages that get sent to our youth, both inside and outside of the church.
One of the messages we send to our youth concerns their exceptionalism–the idea that they are, to borrow Peter’s words, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” This message isn’t particularly new: I heard it 20 years ago. And there’s nothing implicitly wrong with the message–as a church, we believe that the current generation(s) were held back in the pre-existence to come to earth today.
What concerns me, however, is how this (and similar messages) may get taken up and misinterpreted. One of the difficulties with chosenness is that it only happens in opposition–one is only chosen if another is not. Exceptionalism works the same way. To be exceptional, one has to be an exception. One has to be better than others. (The Free Dictionary defines it as “well above average; extraordinary.”)
Don’t get me wrong. I love the youth I work with. They are smart, strong, vibrant young women full of integrity and faith. But exceptional? I find myself increasingly resisting that concept. The moral standards our youth (and adults) hold themselves to are exceptional. But I’m not sure it’s healthy to extrapolate from this that we ourselves are exceptional. I think it sets a dangerous precedence and expectation. Continue reading
Vivid shoes (with orange pants, naturally) with the front door paint job they inspired.
I tear open the tape, and lift the cardboard flaps to pull out my newly delivered shoes: vivid royal blue. There is no hiding this color. They felt like a bold choice when I clicked “add to cart” two weeks ago. Now in my hands, they are not just a bold hue, but a brave one. Loud unrepentant bright hues always feel brave to me. “Look at me!” they invite- they catch the eye and hold attention. That same reason was why my toddler sported vivid orange shoes at the playground; when I let go and let him climb the structures above me, I could track him by his racing orange toes through the metal grates above me. I could always see those shoes, and find my straw haired boy.
I realized Friday was the anniversary of the first time since childhood that I had broken ground into bold colors. I bought a pair of lipstick red pants. The slim cut and flaming color beckoned attention to my lower half. I’m not sure how I managed to talk myself into trying them on, buying them, and summoning the chutzpah to wear them with a flattering black turtle necked top and four inch heels on Valentine’s Day 2002. In trying to be grown up I had been stuck in muted, sensible (i.e. grown-up) colors for a few years at that point. But pleased with the transformative powers of the outfit, I didn’t change out of it. The tamer colored pants and skirts I stocked my closets with never made my butt look this good, nor made me feel so self-assured. It’s hard to color-coordinate with a fire-engine and feel like a wallflower. Continue reading
Emily is currently readjusting to life in Utah, while working at Westminster College, and teaching communications courses at Salt Lake Community College. She recently won two ribbons for photography, and a ribbon for scrapbooking at the Utah State Fair. She’s looking for her next big adventure, and a handsome yet geeky sidekick. You can read about her adventures on her faith blog: http://fumblesinfaith.blogspot.com, or her daily life observations at http://emilylynn79.blogspot.com, or her snarky commentary on ugly clothes finds at http://ooglyduds.blogspot.com/.
I was so excited when my plane landed in Phoenix after coming home from a year in Peru. I had been counting down the days until I would return to the USA on my calendar. The day I was scheduled to depart was circled with a big inked circle that said “FREEDOM!!!” Like a prisoner, I felt trapped, anxiously awaiting my release date to sweet freedom. I couldn’t wait to be free for the next phase of my life to begin. I thought I was ready. Continue reading
Inari was born in southern Finland. 22 years later she was born of water and of the spirit in the United Kingdom, where she met the missionaries while studying art in Coventry University. After completing her Masters in Media Art she served a mission in Sweden, which left her with a family of hundreds of missionary brothers and sisters all over the world. Currently Inari is working to pay off her student loan before embarking on further adventures. The attached image titled ”Amelié” is a self-portrait after Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”, one of fifteen in a series (currently underway), combining the search of identity with art history.
“The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of stories.”
I have often heard expressed the idea that we all are constantly telling ourselves a story of our lives in order to make sense of our experiences; an inner narration to structure everything into a coherent whole. This thought was brought to the fore in my life recently when I finally realised the real reason why I hadn’t been going to church for the past several months.
The backdrop to my inner story is that the world is open and friendly, and that things usually work out if you’re willing to put in some effort and not expect or think you deserve something. A mix of Lutheran humility and Mormon positivity, if you will. In my story I am the kind of character that does things. I make plans and then follow them (leaving room for happenstance, of course). I have friends in different countries, I travel, I work, and I’m a creative and overall positive, can-do, happy person.
On one such travel I met a young man (a convert like me) and we both knew there and then that this was it, and we were engaged after knowing one another for two days. What a story, right? Five months later we were bummed out by the hassle of making plans to accommodate other people (including those in bureaucracy) and decided to elope to Reno.
When things went wrong, it didn’t really fit into my story. I couldn’t make sense of it. I came back home from the States not knowing what to think. I felt like I lost control of the story. The weeks and months that followed were very unstable times. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was like my mental author had slammed into a writer’s block and couldn’t make anything coherent come out of her pen. Continue reading
Valerie lives in Boston (which she loves) and crunches numbers by day (which she tolerates). She is always searching for a creative outlet, which has led to some dabbling in learning Spanish, ballroom dancing, trying new recipes, sewing, making crafts with her nieces and nephews, and writing. When she wrote this a few years ago, she imagined someday publishing it with a bio that showed some resolution to the story, but that’s still a work in process.
“Why do you have a hole on your face?”
“What?” I am sitting in my cousin’s living room, casually skimming through a magazine. I look up, taken by surprise.
“Why do you have a hole on your face?” three-year-old Ellie repeats. I must not be understanding her correctly. Maybe she forgot the word for mole? I have plenty of those.
“Why, Valerie?” she asks.
“Okay, where is the hole?”
The little girl stands up from the mounds of books that surround her and reaches her little arm across my lap. She points her finger and touches my right cheek, just below my glasses. “There. That hole.” Continue reading