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Archive for May, 2007

I have known since I graduated with my BA that, to really do much with my degree, I would need to go to grad school.  But the thought of going back to college made me twitch. Violently.  And I’ve pondered it here and there since I graduated, but it always made me twitch, so I knew it wasn’t time.

Well, I’ve had the feeling for a few days now that I might actually be ready to go to grad school.  It’s not making me twitch, so that’s good. In a perverse, Hermione Grangerish way, I’m actually sort of looking forward to it. That’s scary.

So I went online to the school I’m interested in attending, got some info, and need to talk it over with Joe.  If I do a master’s in education, I can do it all online, which, hey, bonus, no having to drive to Denton to attend classes. But then there’s the matter of the unpaid internship, definitely unbonus, and the question of do I really want to teach junior high/high school.  If I do a master’s in English, I will have to attend class. But that’s always fun. (Yes, I know, I’m really twisted.)  And then I wonder what I could do with an MA in English that I can’t do with a BA in English. I can teach at a community college, I suppose, provided there’s one around here that would hire me. And I could go ahead and get a Ph.D. in English, I suppose, which is a terrifying thought that makes me twitch some more, but then I could teach at a university. Again, of course, supposing that I could actually find a job.

Lots to think about.

EDITED:

I just talked to my husband, thinking he’d be encouraging and supportive. The first words out of his mouth were related to the amount of debt we have. Then he started playing devil’s advocate.  I HATE THAT GAME!!!!  Don’t mess with me! He’s got some really bizarre idea about how I can figure out what I want to do and “leverage” my credits so I can do that. Do I want to be a dentist? Do I want to be a telecommunications engineer? Do I want to run my own business?

When I responded that I’m good at writing and research, he immediately jumped to conclusions that I want to “bury [my] head in the sand” like my mother and stepfather.  Am I them? No, I’m not. But the fact remains that my strengths are in writing, research, teaching, artistic endeavors. I’m not a business person. I’m not a mathematician. I’m not a scientist. I would love to be able to think that way, and understand those things, but I don’t. I could study math every day from now until I die, and not get it.

If he wanted to marry an engineer or a dentist or a business person, he married the wrong woman. When I got a letter from the MBA program at my alma mater, he really pushed me to get an MBA. Despite my protests that I would LOATHE it, he kept pushing it.

So I guess I’m not going to think about grad school right now. Maybe I’ll figure out how much time I’d spend in classes and doing homework, and promise myself to spend that much time in my writing. And when I sell my books, and I will, I would love to shove his words down his throat.

(Oh, and in case you can’t tell, I’m really mad right now.)

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Memorial Day is tomorrow.  All I’ve been thinking of is how nice it will be to have a day off, a short work week, spend some quality sister time with Izzybella. And I am looking forward to that. My sister and I haven’t had a lot of time together lately, and I’ve been missing her.  So I am very much looking forward to going to a movie, lunch, and shopping with her. It will be fun. It’ll be relaxing.   And after all my whinging lately about how much I need a vacation, time off from work that doesn’t relate to being sick or having surgery, I cannot deny how much I’m looking forward to this holiday.

But then I feel so petty. Because Memorial Day isn’t a shopping holiday, or a movie holiday, or even a barbecue holiday, although all those things happen on Memorial Day. No, Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the history of our nation, a time to remember those people who have laid everything on the line. 

My father served in the United States Navy before I was born and while I was a small child. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Goldsborough, and worked as a hospital corpsman. He was all over the world, leaving behind a young wife and a young daughter, to serve his country.

My grandfather was in the Philippines when General Douglas MacArthur returned, as he so famously promised, serving his country in World War II.

When I was in Amarillo some years ago on a genealogy quest, I was very moved to see how many of my grand-uncles’ grave markers referred to their military service in World War II.

My family history goes further back than that, of course.  I have a something-great-granduncle who died in the Civil War, on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh. He was fighting for the Union.  I don’t know a whole lot yet about my other ancestors and relatives,  but considering that my mother’s family comes from the south, it is entirely possible that some of my relatives faced each other on those battle fields.

I can go back a little further.  I’m always amused to read how so-and-so’s great, great, great, great, great, however-many-greats, grandfather was a major or a general or a captain in the Revolutionary War. It could seem like everyone whose family history in the United States dates back that far had a relative who was an officer in this army that seemingly had all officers and no enlisted men. And they all fought on the side of the foundling nation.

I have a relative–not sure if he’s a direct ancestor or not–who not only fought on the side of the British, but when he realized that Britain was not going to win the war, he abandoned his wife and family and fled to Canada.  I’m amused by that, even though of course I’m sorry he abandoned his family, because it’s a reminder to me that each of us has the opportunity to choose his/her own battles, and where each of us will stand in any given battle.

There are a lot of things wrong with this nation. I believe that the United States of America’s glory days are behind her. I loathe the politicians and their incessant arguments and lack of decisive activity when decisive activity is called for.  I hate the lawyers (Shakespeare said it best: “The first thing we’ll do is kill all the lawyers.”) and the greed that fuels their labors. 

But with everything that is wrong about this country, I’m glad to know that I can talk about it, and write about it, and express my opinions freely, without having to worry about being hauled off to prison or executed for my beliefs. I’m grateful to every man and woman who serves our country in the military, to defend and protect us. I’m grateful to everyone who doesn’t just see something wrong, think that there is nothing that s/he can do about it, and just walk on by, but who sees that something wrong and determines to do whatever s/he can, no matter how small, to try to set it right. I’m grateful to my ancestors and relatives who have served in the military. I’m grateful to my nephews who are now serving in the military.  The sacrifices they make are real. Whether they pay the ultimate cost, even leaving behind their families to serve and see such horrors that I can hardly imagine, the sacrifices are real and they are great.

So tomorrow a U.S. flag will be proudly waving in front of my house. And yes, even though I’m going to be out having quality sister time with my beloved sister, I will be thinking of the men and women in the military, of those who gave their lives, of those who were willing to give their lives. I’ll be remembering them, and remembering all the blood, toil, tears, and sweat that went into creating this nation.  I pray that some day this nation will again be worthy of their sacrifices.

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More to say

I was responding to Chicory’s comment to my first post about the book Burned, and my response to her comment was turning into another huge post. So I decided to go ahead and make it a post instead of a comment.

Chicory,

Thanks for your well-thought-out comments. You raise some valid points. I’ve only been a member of the church since 1981, and I’m sure that just as social mores have changed over the years, so have things changed within the social structure of the church.

I’m always sorry to hear about people who feel they have to leave the faith to leave a bad marriage. I’m so grateful that I’ve never come into contact with a bishop like that. I don’t know what I’d have done in that situation, but hope I’d have had the strength to do what my heart and head told me was right.

I think that a huge part of my outrage with this book was the author’s decision to make it about an LDS family because the character reminded her of an LDS person she met. I was telling a friend at work today about this book; in my not-so-humble opinion, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best idea for writers to make religion a large part of a novel unless they are intimately familiar with that religion.  I wouldn’t write a book about a person who pulls a Columbine and arbitrarily make that person a fundamentalist home-schooling Christian, for example. I think that’s just taking the easy way out. 

I do recognize that I’m feeling extremely emotional about the whole issue. I’ve been having a lot of questions lately. One of the huge issues I struggle with pertaining to my faith is the church’s stance on gay marriage. I happen to support it, whereas the leaders of the church have come out against it. So it’s got me questioning everything all over again. I have to stop and ask myself hard questions about my faith and my beliefs.

Do I believe in God the Father? Absolutely. What do I believe about Him? Well, it basically comes down to this: I know how much I love my family and my friends. I haven’t created them, I haven’t known them for eternities or anything like that, but I love them with all my heart. And if I can love them so, then how much more does God love them, and all of us?

Do I believe in Jesus Christ, and that he is the son of God? Absolutely. I believe in the atonement, the resurrection. All of it. I believe it.

Do I believe in the Holy Ghost? Again, my answer is yes. I have felt his presence and that power in my life too often not to believe in it.

Do I believe in the scriptures, that they are true? Again, yes, with the proviso that Joseph Smith placed in the Articles of Faith, “insofar as they are translated correctly.” I’ve spent a lot of time reading and studying and pondering the Bible–both Old and New Testament–, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. I’ve also read parts of the Apocrypha, and other alleged books of scripture. Some of the things I’ve read, that are not canon, I’ve been able to easily recognize the work of people trying to make an already miraculous life seem more miraculous. But yes, when I’m talking about the scriptures the LDS church has decreed canon, yes, I believe in them.

So even though there are things that I don’t understand and don’t quite get, I have to say that I still align myself with the LDS church. Of course, I will be the first person to stand up and tell you that I do support things that the church doesn’t, such as gay marriage. That’s my opinion, and I cannot speak for anyone else.  There are people I know who, if they knew of my stance there, would be completely shocked. There are others who completely get it, whether they agree with me or not.

It comes back to what I keep saying.  Mormons are just like everyone else. They’re nice and they’re mean. They’re good and they’re bad. They’re selfish and they’re generous. If I had seen even one Mormon in Ms. Hopkins’ book portrayed in a positive light, I think I wouldn’t be so frustrated with her.

Going back to your example of the pedophile priest, hey, we all know there are pedophiles in the Catholic priesthood. There are also incredibly kind, honest, upright, virtuous men in the Catholic priesthood. If I were to write a book about that pedophile priest, I would show that he and his companions in pedophilia are behaving contrary to the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic church. I would not show that the Catholic church teaches them to molest children.  I would not be able, of course, to show that there was no collusion within the church to cover it up, because it has been shown over and over again that there were cover-ups aplenty. That’s a tragedy. But that represents a mistake made by people, not the doctrine of the church itself.

Am I making any sense? Perhaps I need to stop now. Maybe I’m just stuck in a loop, repeating myself endlessly.

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Too Much Crap for One Toilet To Handle

burned.jpg

Just in case you were wondering, I meant it literally when I said I was going to rip out the pages and stomp on them. 

It would have been fun to flush it, but I was afraid the toilet might get sick. I doubt it’s ever had anything this crappy down it. Plus, well, as I say, it’s probably too much crap for one toilet to handle anyway.

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I’m Still Burning. . . .

. . . about this pathetically bad novel. Here’s how the rest of it goes. 

I continue to be disgusted and appalled. I’ve made it to page 227.  Pattyn has been shipped off in disgrace to stay with her Aunt J. (her husband’s estranged sister) because no one else will have her.  She and Aunt J. are having a heart-to-heart about Aunt J’s past. Turns out once upon a time, Aunt J. was seeing a non-Mormon boy. Her brother threatened to shoot him if they didn’t stop seeing each other; and then beat him nearly to death.  When Pattyn asked what about the church, here’s Aunt J’s response:

Stephen damn near laid Kevin in his grave. But when Kevin tried to press charges, Sheriff Steele claimed there wasn’t enough evidence. See, he was also our bishop at the time. Church law before any other, you know that. I suffered his “court of love,” admitting as few dirty details as they’d allow. When I turned eighteen, I did go off to college. And I never sat through another Sunday from hell.

Again I call bull.  If a person confesses something to a bishop that is a crime, the bishop is REQUIRED to report it to the proper authorities.  Ms. Hopkins, despite her assertion that the facts about the Mormon religion are true, has filled her book with what I can describe only as the anti-Mormon propaganda Izzybella (in her comment to my previous post) claimed it to be. 

Okay, now on page 359. Pattyn is wondering if she wants to go to the Celestial Kingdom (long story if you’re not LDS, but basically the highest degree of heaven) where “women are relegated to polygamy and procreation, gestating new souls to fill earthbound bodies.”  Ms. Hopkins doesn’t know jack about LDS doctrine, despite her claims to have gotten her info from a something-great granddaughter of Joseph Smith (was that woman LDS or RLDS? There’s a huge difference).

On page 365, we learn that, apparently, good Mormon girls don’t have swimsuits. We keep our clothes on.  Can you see my eyes rolling? Trust me. They’re rolling.

Pattyn loses her virginity on page 373. She’s in love with a handsome college student who just happens to live near Aunt J’s ranch. Oh, and he’s the son of Aunt J’s old flame, the one who was nearly killed by Pattyn’s father.  Pattyn’s happy, in love, loves being with her Aunt J.

And then she gets the letter from home. Her next younger sister tells her that since their father can no longer hit on his wife (who is pregnant with his long-awaited son), he has begun beating her.  Pattyn doesn’t know what to do.

On page 441, the condom tears. Uh-oh! Does this spell pregnancy for Pattyn? Her mother, after all, has proven to be an extremely fruitful baby-making machine.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Her father orders her home just before school starts. Turns out Pattyn has enough credits to graduate and only attend school half-days. And they need help, what with the new baby coming and all.  He says he’ll come get her, but Aunt J says that’s not necessary, she knows someone who can drive Pattyn home. That someone, of course, is Ethan, the love of Pattyn’s life.  On the way home, he gives her a 10mm semiautomatic pistol. Smelling trouble yet?

Oh, here’s a good one, page 484-485. Let’s describe the meeting house:

This building, disguised as a house of worship, was rather like a hive. A backward hive, for honeybees, at least, have the good sense to worship the female that gifts them all with life. They do not hold thier drones in such high esteem. But here, in this hive of hornets, the males flitted flower to flower, pollinating and stinging and injecting their poison. I hated everything this place stood for, except the one thing it claimed–and miserably failed–to represent: my Heavenly father.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Pattyn is pregnant. She takse a pregnancy test in secret on page 502, and yep, cute little blue line.  Uh-oh. And her father’s nearly killed her a few times already in his rages of temper. What’s he going to do if–when–he finds out?  Can Pattyn get away in time?

Oh no. You didn’t make the mistake of thinking this story was going to have a happy ending, did you? Because when Pattyn calls Ethan from school to tell him, her two worst enemies are standing behind her and hear. Gossip spreads, baby, gossip spreads.

Ethan promises to marry her, but she can’t get married without permission. She asks him to kidnap her, knowing that her father is liable to kill her. He promises to pick her up from school on Thursday. But will he be in time???

The eager reader (ha!) nibbles her fingernails while turning the pages with indecent haste. (And if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you.)

Well, Ethan gets there in time, but well, shucks. Wouldn’t you just know it? They have a wreck on the icy roads. When Pattyn wakes up in the hospital, she learns that Ethan is

Dead

and her baby is

Dead

and everything she had hoped for is

Dead.

(Don’t you like my nice shiny poetry?)

Well, Pattyn’s out of the hospital. She’s been disowned by her father, so no one in her family is allowed to talk to her. She is a pariah everywhere. So guess what?

EVERYBODY MUST DIE!

I am a pariah, at church, at school. The few people I once called friends have betrayed me and caused the death of my husband, our innocent child. And so they should die too. All of them. Dad. Bishop Crandall. Trevor, Becca, Emily. With the pull of a 10mm hair trigger, their lives will end at sacrament meeting. Such lovely irony! And when I finish there, I’ll hide in the desert, reload, and go in search of Carmen and Tiffany, who started the rumors. And Derek, just because.

And so it ends. We don’t get to see the actual carnage. Thank goodness. I’m already coated in bull up to my backside, so I didn’t really feel the need to read about Pattyn pulling a Columbine in sacrament meeting.

This book sucks. I rarely say that about a book. Even those that I don’t particularly enjoy, I’m able to see something in them that is redeemable.

Ms. Hopkins has created some good characters. I like Pattyn. I like Aunt J. I like Ethan. But I’m supposed to like them.  I hate everyone else in Pattyn’s life. I’m supposed to hate them. They’re evil. Why are they evil? Well, apparently, because most of them are Mormon. And you know us Mormons, well!

Now I’m going to rip out the pages of this book and stomp on them.

 

 

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Burned

Yesterday I went to Half-Price Books, my home away from home, during lunch. While browsing the clearance shelves, I picked up a hard-bound book entitled Burned. Noting that it was only a buck, and that the protagonist was Mormon, I figured what the heck, and bought it, despite my loathing for the so-called “poetry” format.  The book is not written in poetry. It is prose. It just has funky line breaks and tabs. It’s not poetry. You want poetry? Go check out some of Chicory’s poetry. That, my friends, is poetry. But I digress.

 I made it 156 pages into the book yesterday. I didn’t take it home to finish last night, even though it would have been easy time-wise to do so. I’ll probably finish it during my lunch break today.  But I have already found plenty with which to take exception.

Mormons are no different from any other people. There are those who are virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, every good kind of person you can imagine. And there are those who are ugly, hate-filled, cruel, vindictive. There are those who are strong in the tenets of their faith, and there are those who are not. I did not object to the fact that the protagonist’s Mormon father drinks and abuses his wife. I realize that can happen to people of any faith.

As I continued to read, I recognized that the author was showing the people with whom Pattyn (the protagonist) interacted on a daily basis in their worst possible light. Again, I get that. Teenager girls can be extremely cruel, and they gossip. The LDS world can be a very small, insular society. Gossip spreads fast. I wasn’t overly impressed with the author’s portrayal of the seminary teacher, but again, I tried to just let it go.

But then Pattyn is hauled in to meet with her bishop because she was dating and getting a little too physical with–gasp!–a non-Mormon boy!

But Bishop Crandall, sitting smug behind his tall teak desk, made me want to scream. After an hour of his reminding me of a woman’s role, I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I interrupted, “Is it a woman’s role to keep silent when her husband hits her?” If I was looking for shock value, I was looking in the wrong place. Violence is never right. But a man has a duty to keep his wife in check. In check? Like Mom had ever asked to go anywhere or do anything other than wait on Dad and us kids? He nailed me. I hope you’re not accusing your father of such things. His tone made me waver. But I didn’t quite buckle. “What if I am?” He leveled me. Then I’d call you a liar, with nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Okay, that ticked me off. Granted, I will say again that even amongst bishops, who are the leaders of the individual congregations, there are those who are easy to talk to and some who are harder to talk to, etc. However, in the 26 years that I have been a member of this church, I have NEVER met a bishop who would respond in such a fashion. I won’t go so far as to say that one wouldn’t, but I find it extremely improbable at best. Sorry, but I’m calling bull here.

So then I decided to check out the author, Ellen Hopkins. Her website is sloppy, and I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. I clicked on the link for Burned, and found this “word” about the book:

I want my readers to know I am not anti-religion. . . However, every religion can be home to extremists. Pattyn’s family is an extreme (not to mention dysfunctional) example of the LDS faith. I do know fine Mormons, with a strong focus on family that I respect.

Still, my personal feeling is that any religion that considers women “inferior” deserves a hard look. The references to the Mormon religion are accurate. I worked with a great, great granddaughter of Joseph Smith (founder of the LDS church), who left the church in her early 20s because of concerns like Pattyn’s.

Truly, I didn’t start out to write Burned about any religion . . . . As I wrote the character, she happened to resemble a Mormon girl who I knew. I once visited her apartment. She and her boyfriend had stockpiled weapons against the coming “End of Times” forewarned by her church. The character of Pattyn von Stratten was likely born on that visit.

That said, Burned is a work of fiction. Pattyn is damaged not by her religion, but by her father. I give reasons for her father being the way he is. They involve war. His own upbringing. His own damaged past. In the face of his abuse, Pattyn begins to question her place in the world. And her religion is a big part of her world.

I wish Ms. Hopkins had kept to her original intent of not making the book be “about” any particular religion. Because I believe that she has done herself, her characters, and her readers a serious disservice.

I am LDS, Mormon if you prefer. I will never tell anyone that I don’t have questions, things that concern me. There are things that I don’t particularly understand, things I don’t particularly agree with. HOWEVER, and it’s a big however, I do not believe that my religion considers women inferior.  There are definitely men and even women within my faith who have those beliefs, but those are their attitudes and perceptions. I can understand how those came about, but people who think that any person is inferior, whether it be because of sex, ethnic background, religious background, education, money, whatever, are wrong. I have never been made to feel, at church or in anything I have read–and believe me, I read plenty–that I am inferior because I am a woman.

I probably should stop here. I’m going to finish this book, and will then go ahead and do a review. So far, though, not so good.

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Booking Through Thursday

Here’s an idea from Julie:

I had an idea for a BTT question when I was taking a peek at one of my bookcases yesterday and spotted my old copy of the Aeneid in Latin sitting there. Maybe this question has already been done—but if not… Do you have any foreign language books and if so can you (still) read them?

I have some books in both French and Spanish, and can still read them. I don’t, often–in fact, I think many of them are in storage. But when I was studying both languages, I found it very helpful to read things beyond the textbooks and the things they had us doing in class.  I also have a set of scriptures in both languages. Specifically which books, I couldn’t really say. I know I have a copy of Les Liasons Dangereuses, Le Petit Prince, Pensees, Winnie ille Pu, and Arc-en-Ciel et le Petit Poisson Perdu, to name a few of my French books. I also have the first three Harry Potter books in French, and I think the first one in Spanish also.  I have a Spanish history text that’s fun to read. So it’s kind of a motley assortment.

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