Monday, June 27, 2011

Literary Personality


I recently finished a book and went into my *library* to pick out a new one. I usually take great pleasure in this activity. I get to walk downstairs whenever I'm done with a book and peruse in my very miniature Barnes and Noble. [If only I could just recreate the smell]. The great span of bookshelves in the study provides me with a wonderful sense of accomplishment. This day, however, I felt a little introspective. And a little troubled. What does my collection of books say about me? Am I proud of what my books convey [my classics and non-fiction sections are growing to a respectable size]? Or a little embarrassed [Breaking Dawn anyone?]? Or a little defeated when I acknowledge how many books in my collection I've never read [like a gigantic leather-bound, gold-leafed complete works of Shakespeare that I own mainly because it looks pretty on my shelf]?

I worry about this because I'd like to consider myself to have somewhat of a classy, academic taste in books. I don't normally read chick-lit or mysteries. I refuse to participate in any book club that reads Nicholas Sparks or anything with an Oprah seal on the cover. I admire people who read authors that have never appeared on the NY Times Bestseller list or whose books were never reviewed in People magazine. [Much like I admire people who totally get Indie Rock.] But perhaps I admire these people because I'm not really as academic in my reading as I hoped. My book-snobbery is a ruse!

When having conversations with adults that are much more adult-like than me, I secretly fear that currently-reading-books will come up and at that point in time, I'll be reading some embarrassing chick-lit or mass market thriller, and I'll have to lie and say I'm reading Atlas Shrugged for the third time. This wouldn't entirely be a lie because I am on my third attempt to read Atlas Shrugged, I haven't removed my bookmark, it still moves along with the rapidity of swimming through a pool of freshly poured concrete. It was in my most recent stint with AS that I began to question my literary personality. I would spend an hour reading AS and find that I'd progressed about 2 pages and was not entirely sure why I was still reading. I thought I was smarter than this, I would tell myself. Am I really enjoying this book or am I reading it because I think it adds to my literary repertoire? Why am I having much more success, and let's just say it, FUN reading Bridget Jones' Diary? [Sidenote: the above picture best represents how I felt while reading AS]

In looking at my books the other night, I started to really contemplate my choices. Other than that I bought them for about 50 cents a piece, why do I own so many John Grisham books? Do I like Grisham that much? At one point in my life, I must have. Grisham was one of my first experiences with grown-up novels. I read my first one in my early teens and loved it and was subsequently responsible in part for my early interest in the law. Likewise with my Jason Bourne series and handful of Mary Higgins Clark. They don't fit with any other genre I own nor have I read either in years but I can recall the time in my life when I read them and why I loved them. As can be expected, my taste in books has changed. I do secretly hope that my Jonathan Safran Foer and Jhumpa Lahiri are more noticeable than my Charlaine Harris. But I'm realizing that I need to embrace the diversity instead of being apologetic.

There are quite a few books in my collection that I haven't read let alone remember even buying. Those will inevitably end up in the Goodwill/Used Bookstore box. But I've resolved that I will keep these older books that I haven't cracked open in years. Perhaps the key to identifying my literary personality is not what I want to portray as a reader, but what my reading journey has brought me to. While my collection of books may not be worthy of bequeathing to the Library of Congress when I die, it is a collection of me and the various roads of life that are reflected in each book.

I think I'm ready to admit that I'm not really the literary personality that I thought I was. I'm ready to recognize my History/Political Science collegiate background as nothing more than the cause for getting more answers right on Jeopardy. I'm ready to embrace the fact that I LOVE the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich [although I stopped at book 10 because they kinda started to suck]. I'm ready to remove the guise of a well-read academic. Do I really enjoy reading non-fiction? Only sparingly and on recommendation. I hate biographies. Political theorists make me want to punch someone in the face. And why do award-winning, best-selling novels always have to be soul-wrenchingly depressing? I don't care if the writing is brilliant, it only makes the depression that much more powerfully conveyed. Why try to refuse myself the type of reading that will make me happy all for the sake of appearing more grown up? And ya know what, listening to Harry Potter #7 on audio for the 3rd time makes me pretty darn happy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Staying Home

In a little more than a month, my life is going to change in mondo huge ways. I will be having a baby (huge!), quitting my job (huge!), and sending my husband off to Iraq (huge!). All at nearly the exact same time.

First, a disclaimer: The opinions, choices, and viewpoints expressed in this post are by no means to discredit, demean, or belittle any woman's choice to be a career mom or to be a stay at home mom. These are only my personal views and what I have chosen for my life and do not by default project judgments on those that do things differently than me.

When I was in college, I struggled with the counsel that mothers should stay at home, when possible, to raise children instead of pursuing careers and that it was the husband's responsibility to provide for the temporal needs of the family. I saw this as women getting robbed the opportunity to create very successful careers and that any talents and abilities with which she was blessed would be completely pointless. Regardless of how talented or skilled a woman may be, the only place she can utilize those talents is in the home? That seems completely unfair and unsatisfying. 

Also while in college, I read and wrote a critique on The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. [Highly recommended reading, by the way, especially as an LDS woman]. In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan conducts a study on why middle-class housewives were unhappy with their lives [this is going to be a very short, choppy summary]. She concluded that women should engage in education and meaningful work as the ultimate method to avoid becoming trapped in the feminine mystique. The "feminine mystique" being defined as "the idea that women were naturally fulfilled by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers", which she claimed, is the trap women were falling into and causing their unhappiness.

I didn't agree with her conclusion regarding why these women felt so unhappy in their roles as mothers and housewives. Instead I concluded that Friedan and these women lacked full understanding of their divine role as women. That is clearly evident merely by her conclusion that "meaningful work" can only be found outside of the home or in a career, instead of as a housewife. After I read this book, my viewpoint began to change. It reminded me that the family structure is not as simple as mom stays at home and dad goes to work. Women are blessed with, among many other things, the opportunity to spiritually enrich the precious spirits that Heavenly Father has entrusted in our care. When we understand the entire plan of life, the roles we play, and our responsibilities as men and women, it's tragic to think that anyone could call being a housewife meaningless work.

Part of my college mentality is still there. I sometimes wonder, "Will I be able to reach my greatest potential being a stay at home mom?" The better question I need to ask is "HOW do I reach my greatest potential?" Whether I am working or staying at home, have kids or don't have kids, it is always my own responsibility to magnify my talents and abilities and work to progress to my greatest potential.

For the past five years, I've had the opportunity to live a career life.  I've worked as a full-time paralegal. I graduated from college. I completed a secondary degree. I obtained state and national certifications in my field. I'm good at my job. I did this whole career thing pretty thoroughly. I did what Friedan said I should do to make sure I'm happy. I furthered my education and pursued a career. But my feeling of being unfulfilled is still there. Having had the blessing of working, I've learned that I will never be able to reach my greatest potential sitting behind a desk.

Growing up, I assumed that when the time came, I'd be a stay at home mom. When Jericho and I were talking about getting married and our views and expectations of what our married life would be like, we both agreed that we'd do whatever possible to make sure I'd be able to stay at home to raise our children. Now that the time to make that decision in real life is staring me in the face, it's a lot tougher than I expected it to be. I have a great job. I love the people I work with. I have a great boss. I have financial security. I know it's the right thing to do, but at times, it still scares me a little. Will I get bored? Will I be able to transition into this entirely different lifestyle? Will I completely face-plant at this whole mom thing?

My boss and I have had numerous conversations about my decision to leave. She was very surprised at my choice. She said she saw me as an academic type and that I wouldn't be happy staying at home to raise children. She thinks I'll get bored. She says that I have the type of mind that needs to constantly learn and grow. She also said, "If this is what you're going to do, then you need to write. Promise me, that you'll pursue your writing." I don't know yet how I'll fulfill that promise, but I intend to keep it, eventually.

The best thing she's said to me on this matter was, "As important as the work is that we do, nothing you do in this job will ever be as important as life." Whenever I waver or get worried about my decision, I remember that comment. I know plenty of women that can balance careers with raising wonderful families. But I know myself. And I know that I would go absolutely ape-crazy trying to make that work. And I'm totally fine swapping my heels for flip flops. I am tremendously blessed to even have this option. I'm grateful that I have a husband that understands and supports this choice. And whenever I get worried and ask him, "Do you think I can do this?" He never hesitates: "Of course. I've never even considered that you wouldn't."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Casa de Baby Belcher

So remember when I used to blog? Yeah that was fun. I've had some posts in the works for a while so I need to suck it up and start posting them. I've been a little busy...

I like making [some] things myself. I like to look at something crafty and artsy in a magazine and think, "I could TOTALLY do that myself and for less money." Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes I end up buying it from the store anyway because it's easier to be lazy.

I was hit with the DIY bug again recently but this time, my DIY-ness exploded in the baby nursery. Some of you have already seen my nursery in person but I thought I'd give a little explanation about what we've been doing for the past few months to get it ready for baby day. I figured now is the time to go all out since I won't have nearly as much time to put this much effort into the decor for additional babies.

First, I decided to make my crib bedding. Not the sheets. Just the crib bumper and crib skirt. I mainly wanted to make these myself because I didn't really like anything for nursery decor at Target or Babies R Us. I found some that I kind of liked at other places but they were too expensive and I wasn't registered there and people keep yelling at me for buying myself baby stuff before I had a shower. I couldn't have done the crib bumper without the seamstress skills and assistance from my sister and mother. There is great satisfaction in completing a project all by yourself. Especially in an area that I don't consider myself proficient at all whatsoever. Case in point: Jericho- "Don't you think this is a bit ambitious since you don't really sew a lot?" Me- "Probably".

Just picture a pretty white or yellow sheet on my bare crib mattress. That crib bumper was definitely the trickiest thing I've ever sewn. I used the instructions from this blog. They were excellent.
Oh and I made this curtain panel. With fabric I got from my friend Angie's cute fabric site. And bought those pictures from A Vintage Poster. Please forgive the messy state of the room. It's currently still baby nursery/army supply room.
Next, I decided on these. I Googled instructions to maybe do them myself and, of course, found some from Ms. Martha. If you want to find out how to make them yourself, I suggest you consult Martha here. I, however, did not even try. The amount of savings do make them myself versus buying them online was very marginal. If you do decide to make these poms yourself, I would suggest using more tissue paper. In the instructions from Martha, it says to use eight sheets of tissue paper. The ones I got from Etsy had 14. I think it makes a big difference.

In my last two apartments, I made a vinyl wall decal. They can be found here. I decided that as part of my nursery decor, I wanted a vinyl decal of a tree or something else big and colorful. But I've learned my lesson on making homemade vinyl decals. I proved to myself that I can do it myself and for cheaper but not without a LOT of work. While not having to do any of the work myself is tempting, is it really worth $100? I know I didn't want to try to duplicate such a large decal myself but still loved the idea. Instead, I decided to paint it in mural form. Wha?!? Yeah. Crazy idea. I'm aware. I did it anyway. And with the awesome help from some of the awesome ladies at my baby shower. As you can see, it's still in progress. Just so you know, I didn't free-hand the design nor did I come up with it. I traced it onto a transparency from an imagine from the web and then projected it on the wall with an overhead projector. See, even the non-artsy can do art.

So, that's my baby's nursery. Some little things may get added here and there but I've tackled all the big stuff I had planned for the nest of our little-one-to-be. I purposely planned a gender-neutral nursery color scheme so I wouldn't feel the need to go through all this again for the subsequent children that will use this room. Let's hope I still like it. I really don't want to paint over that tree.

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