notes from the salt mines (now with photos)

Well. That was an unintentional blogging break, now wasn't it? It is now the second week of school, and here is what you non-teen interactors are missing:

- Harem pants are actually a thing. I was hoping they would stay trapped in the realm of back-up dancers in music videos, but alas, they are worn by girls who list "Seminary" as their favorite class. I think you can determine how mainstream something has become when conservative Mormon girls accept it as normal. And yes, I saw one tuck her EFY t-shirt into said pants. I miss pre-distressed denim now.

-More alarming, Hugh Hefner style slippers are in now too. How did that happen?

-Last year, I grew fascinated my a set of twins I saw wandering about, and I hoped I would have one or both of them in my class. They just looked so other-worldly and creepy, with their dyed black hair, multiple piercings, and dinner-plate size ear gauges. As luck would have it, I do have one of them this year, and he is very nice. I've since noticed that when they walk together, they walk so close that their shoulders touch, and they lean inward to talk. More endearingly, they subconsciously (I assume) match their strides, looking like the winners of the three-legged race at the annual Goth and Alternative music convention. I don't know why but the image makes me feel all warm inside.

Signs you will do well as a high school teacher: You find yourself fascinated by people others would not want to meet in a dark alley, and you find brotherly affection twixt teens adamndorable.

-I am teaching two Honors English classes, and find the eager-beaver mentality of some of my students off-putting. Where is the challenge in teaching a kid who triple checks his work? I'm used to reluctant learners, but shall carry the burden of working with over-achievers, somehow, if I must.

We can discuss the hideousness of harem pants, among other things, in the comments, if you would like.


But Brutus is an honorable man

Years of reading and watching romantic comedies taught me the following: the words "Do we have to put a label on it?" are the kiss-of-death in budding relationships. If you aren't willing to label your love, you aren't ready for a happy ending. You've got to be able to commit to the thing relatively early if you want to last the full 118 minutes, or  341 pages.

I suppose I also learned this lesson in high school, when I, or a significant other inevitably proposed a "DTR," an awkward chat designed to "Define the Relationship," to "put a label on it."

Thus, I am found of labels. My relationship as a wife is labeled by law, and irrational or not, I enjoy the institution of marriage and the label in a form of a marriage certificate.

I am equally proud of my label as a teacher, my teaching license and the degrees allowing me to continue my almost unholy worship at the shrine of literature and words, and get paid.

Those papers and labels remind me that I am committed. Committed to my spouse and my career, and myself.

Despite the lack of official looking cards (which I really want, by the way,) I very much associate myself with the label of feminist. Even though I don't always agree with every incarnation, or every other feminist, the overall cause is important enough to me, important enough to willingly embrace a label. Even when that label associates me with a minority few that "hate men" or burn bras.

The label of feminist reminds me of the inherent worth of every human being, of myself, and of my choices. Feminism allowed me to marry not out of economic or social need, and to teach out of devotion to education, not because it used to be one of the few "female friendly" jobs in a world with a low glass ceiling. Sometimes, I identify so strongly as a feminist that I get annoyed when other equality-minded people do not. I am aware that this is a little irrational. But truly, do you not want to commit for the long haul? Get the happy ending? Don't you know that you can be a feminist even if feminism isn't a perfect social movement?  Or are you going to lecture me on the failed institution of marriage, I mean, feminism.

I guess that is the thing about labels, what they represent doesn't need to be perfect in order to be good.

Despite my affection for labels, and my belief that perfection isn't necessary for goodness, I still hesitate to embrace any label concerning my religion. To clarify, I am quite able to embrace some aspects of the LDS label. The Of Jesus Christ part is easy, Christianity, like feminism, reminds me of the inherent worth of every human being. But the Of Latter-Day-Saints part troubles me at times. It's the cognitive dissonance keeping me up at night. The LDS label reminds me of ideas I value: family, charity, humanitarianism, while simultaneously reminding me of ideas I don't: exclusion of certain types of family, Victorian gender roles, and a degree of group-think (more kindly referred to as "Mormon Culture,") that could make Orwell shudder.

But what about embracing labels even when they are imperfect? Don't you want to commit for the long haul? Don't you know you can be a Mormon even if it isn't a perfect religion? Or are you going to lecture me on the failed institution of marriage, I mean organized religion.

Like the romantic partner unwilling to "define the relationship," because they aren't sure of the future, perhaps labels in religion are not always effective. Labeling something assigns it a degree of stasis, permanence that can be rewarding and reassuring, but can also close the door to change, halt evolution, and lead to stagnation. I like labels that help reaffirm who I am, but not when they define me entirely.

While I always want to be a wife, an educator/amateur thinker,  an advocate for human equality, I do not know if I want the stasis that comes from the label of religion. I'm not saying I don't want to attend church ever again, or that I have nothing to learn or gain from my LDS background. I'm simply saying I want the luxury of choice. Can I become some incarnation of LDS without being LDS? Can one be Of Jesus Christ always, but Of Latter-Day-Saints in part?

There is one thing I do know: labels are easier. That is certain.

But not all who wander are lost. (Tolkien.)


snooze button panic button

There is a single blog that I read in order to keep relatively up-to-date on things I am interested/invested in: politics, feminism, race relations, education.  Doesn't that sound like a dream blog? All that information all in one place?

I unsubscribed from that blog two weeks ago, because I felt it was crowding up my reader. Then I felt extremely guilty. I have a whole separate file for sewing and craft blogs, and another for read-to-mock lunatics,  but I can't handle a single grown-up blog? I re-subscribed.

But the blog is making me stressed. Ten posts on how the economy is going to hell?  Five posts promising that my kids will probably be fighting in Iraq by the time they are 19? Rape and bigotry 60 years after the Civil Rights movement and Women's lib?

Shit. SHIT.

Forget the stress of resuming teaching in two weeks, is there even going to be a planet in 10 years? (According to said blog, probably not, and if so, will be run by Republican zombies.)

I'm feeling anxious and stressed, and I don't know where the line is. As a human, and especially as an educator, I feel obligated to be relatively well informed about the world around me. I do not want to be yet another ugly blissfull and ignorant American buying luxury goods when people in my own country can't afford groceries.

But I cannot read one more article on how corporate America indirectly supports Rape-culture, or how we are entering another Great Depression (but without the hero-making WWII panacea.) I find myself struggling to sleep at night because haven't you heard? We are all going to be jobless in two months.

So what do I do? Keep reading my happy sewing blogs? Occasionally pick up a Time and hope for the best? Accept my role as a future minion of the well-coiffed* Zombie Republicans?

Talk me through this.

*I bet you can guess who the president is in that scenario, long-term readers.


Gluten-free Mormonism

Sometimes, it is easy to enter a Zen-like* state during church meetings. A lot of the stuff, while sometimes meaningful and faith-affirming is simply a repeat of last weeks, months, and years meetings. In Relief Society, I had just settled into my center, breathing slowly to the familiar mantras spoken by the instructor: Faith is like a seed, there is always one conference talk that I believe was "just for me," conference is intended to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, so it is important that we don't become "Cafeteria Mormons" who try and pick and chose what doctrines to follow....

Hold the phone.

What does it mean to be a "Cafeteria Mormon?"

Like the title implies, a "Cafeteria Mormon" is someone who doesn't like the "yucky" food that comes with the Lunch Of Mormonism. For instance, a Cafeteria Mormon probably tries to pass on the brussel sprouts of tithing, and goes instead for seconds on the "yummy" stuff like Ward Ball and Super Saturday. Bad, bad, Cafeteria Mormon! You cannot go to recess (Celestial Kingdom) unless you eat the brussel sprouts (pay tithing.)

There are several things wrong with the Cafeteria Mormon analogy, starting with the basic assumption that if you do not clean your plate, you aren't a "true" Mormon. But if we extend the analogy even further, it reveals some disturbing ideas about what it means to eat in the LDS cafeteria:

1. God is a grumpy lady in a hairnet, who does not care about your individual nutrition needs or desires; you are simply one of many "customers," who paid for the same meal as everyone else. If you want special treatment, or need an extra serving of mercy, grace, or forgiveness, you're out of luck. The God of the Cafeteria does not see every sparrow that falls, or number the hairs on your head.

2. Not only is there no accommodation for those who would like some extra chocolate pudding of the Atonement, but there is no recognition of individual allergies, implying that an inability to digest certain foods is a faith issue, not a blessing of personal revelation.

For the record, I am allergic to modesty lessons that teach people certain body parts are "bad” and set-in-stone life "roles" based on gender. I cannot tolerate the gluten found in polygamy (Apparently, most people are born moderately gluten-intolerant, but their body adapts over time..)

I wish the cafeteria would serve more talks by Uchtdorf, and am sad the cafeteria seems out of talks Elder Faust. I loved that man.

3. The Cafeteria does not serve "spicy" food very often. "Spicy" food must be cleared by a priesthood holder, does not pray in General Conference. It is naturally more "spiritual" than regular food, and therefore doesn't need to be served very often, even in the Young Women manual.

4. Even when laced with preservatives, all food eventually goes bad. You wouldn't eat moldy canned tomatoes, so why do some members still claim the counsel against inter-racial marriage and women working outside the home as their favorite food? We have fresh tomatoes now! President Hinckley and Elder Cook grew them outside in their gardens! They may even be organic...

Trying to eat both the moldy and fresh tomatoes leads to indigestion. There is no shame in passing on the moldy food in favor of the fresh stuff, especially when polygamy is involved.

Lastly, the "Cafeteria Mormon" analogy is flawed since we all know Cafeteria food is bad for you. Eating all of it simply means you ate a lot of preservatives in the form of frozen chicken nuggets. Not exactly what we want to be serving under the auspices of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In reality, the best cooked meals are made from scratch, using fresh ingredients, and cooked al dente. When you make your own food, you can use as much spice as you want, and just a pinch of the stuff you don't want. You can be a vegetarian, should your own personal revelation guide you there. You can use recipes passed down by people that love you, or create your own. Either way, when you pray over the food, you can rest assured that it wasn't made by an angry lady in a hairnet, but with the aid of Heavenly Parents that care about your nutrition.

And know that you are allergic to polygamy.