Friday, December 26, 2008

My dad's Christmas present this year

Almost all of the people surrounding my dad (photo taken when he was about 18 years old) are direct ancestors, with an aunt and uncle thrown in there to fill it out. I created the collage, saved it as a jpeg, and then sent it over to Costo where they printed off an 8x8 square for a mere 1.49.

My next project is to create a similar collage with me surrounded by my maternal ancestors.

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Best birthday presents ever!

All my sisters and my mom decided to indulge my obsession. I'm so happy about it!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

We did this for book group this month (in May actually. I started writing this post in May!). I loved the book, and had a great time reading it. It was rich with interesting ideas and Ulrich is a great writer. I have a couple other of her books on my list to read. Like American Women, there were a lot of stories of different women and lots of them didn't stick with me. But, Ulrich did a great job tying them together, not by chronology, but by connections to three main women: Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf, now three of my heros. (I have since read A Room of One's Own and have started City of Ladies). She spends an early chapter devoted to the three of them, showing how their early exposure to an odious text shaped their views and writing about women.

There were so many great vignettes about their lives that I really related to. Every single one of them saw the disadvantages they faced as women and longed to be a man. Stanton had a brother that died at a young age, and her father ever after lamented the lack of a son. Stanton did all she could to take the place of her brother, excelling in her studies, and striving to be both "learned and courageous". But, her father could only say, "I wish you had been born a boy." She sums this up by saying, “To think that all in me of which my father would have felt a proper pride had I been a man is deeply mortifying to him because I am a woman." I loved the description of Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists invading Independence Hall in 1876 with their Declaration of the Rights of Women. "Yet we cannot forget that while all men of every race, clime, and condition have been invested with the full rights of citizenship, all women still suffer the degradation of disenfranchisement.”

In later chapters, she connects other women to key parts of their writing and lives. For example, Stanton was involved in the abolition movement and was directly or indirectly tied to four different Harriets (including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman). In the first part of this chapter, Ulrich discusses these four women, and then connects the abolition movement to the women's rights movement. Ulrich looks for women's lives in the daily humdrum of the ordinary. She has a great section on the three waves of feminism. One of the things that happened in the 70's was that historians began to refocus the historical lens, looking to see where women were throughout history. I was caught up in the section of the women's movement in the 70's with all its excitement and idealism. I love the way women tried to locate ignored women in history, to find a place for them and let their voices be heard. The story group of women that Ulrich worked with in Boston to research Mormon history and uncover my femal spiritual ancestors is inspiring and amazing.

One thing that I like in this book more than in Collins was that Ulrich draws larger conclusions and women and their place in history, rather than simply marching through lives, era by era.

Now that it's been many months since I read this: my overall reaction to this book is the feeling of excitement and empowerment--to see strong and able women through the ages and to feel a kinship to them. The quotation at the top of my blog is from this Ulrich book, and the picture of Christine de Pizan at her computer, by Mary Yaeger, were taken from the book. When I read Ulrich's concluding paragraphs, I almost leapt off the elliptical machine at the gym I was so taken with it. And if I had not just lent it out to a friend, I would quote the entire paragraph here.

Instead, I will just reiterate this sentence: "A woman who write her own stories has no fear of demons."

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Food Drive

"Hi, I'm T. We're collecting food for a food drive and were wondering if you have any canned foods to donate." (with all the r's pronounced as w's.)

After Thanksgiving, we went to every house in our neighborhood (probably about 40) to ask for donations for the food pantry. The kids did great explaining what we were doing, and who can say no to a kid asking for a food donation?

I was amazed at how much stuff we managed to collect. I wish I had taken a photo. (Above is random photo of food drive found on the internet.) We will be doing this every year.

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Christmas Music

Warning. I am going to complain.

I play the organ twice a month at church. I love it--twice a month is the perfect schedule for me. My favorite times of the year to play are Christmas and Easter. They are some of the few occasions when I can, literally, pull out all the stops. I can throw down some trumpet and really let the organ sound exuberant, joyful, and and jubilant. After all, we're talking about the birth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ here.

Christmas comes once a year. While we could sing Joy to the World in July, no one wants to do that. And with 15 songs in the hymn book devoted to Christmas topics, there isn't a lot of time to get to them all.

So you can imagine my dismay when I got the list of hymns for December and there were only four Christmas songs on the list. Four! Only four! A travesty. They included:

Silent Night
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
Joy to the World
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

I suppose these were chosen because there are supposedly the truly necessary Christmas songs??

So, which are missing? The First Noel. Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Far Far Away on Judea's Plains. Away in a Manger. Angels We Have Heard on High. How can we go through a December without singing these songs? A true travesty.

Why only four? Well,the person who picks the music has certain ideas about what music you can sing when. On Fast Sunday you have to sing fast songs, even in December. And on the final Sunday of December you have to sing a New Year's song and a hymn to commemorate the birth of Joseph Smith.

I protested. This is just not right. So, a few changes were made. We got to sing one Christmas song the first week in December--Oh Come All Ye Faithful. We don't have to sing It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (is there anyone who prefers this song to Angels We Have Heard on High? Or Hark the Herald? This is one of my least favorite Christmas songs) because someone is doing it as a special musical number.

I fought long and hard for Far Far Away. We haven't done it either of the last two years that we have been here. The person who chooses the music told me last year when I complained about not getting to sing it that it's too hard for the congregation to sing. What?? Who cares if they don't sound perfect. Let's give those basses a fun and interesting part for once.

The choir sang The First Noel last Sunday, and I got to play for them. Ok, one other song we don't have to try to squeeze in.

And then today, to top things off, church was cancelled because of the weather. I have heard that all of today's music (congregation and special musical numbers)will be rescheduled for next Sunday. But, it's a disappointment.

I have a bigger problem than the logistics of December music. And it is this: why are somber and reverent songs more important (and more often chosen) to sing than joyful, triumphant, and exuberant songs? I have a problem that the congregation does not get to join together more often to sing the hymns of Christmas. I think this is as important (if not more so--for how often does everyone get to participate together? Only through the hymns.) as having every possible vocalist and instrumentalist perform.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


On Sunday, MJ performed in both her winter recital and a Nutcracker show. She was really excited to learn two Nutcracker dances, and I let her go ahead with them, despite misgivings about her ability to learn and perform three separate dances. Well, she has been a trooper about practicing at home, rehearsing those dances over and over. She hasn't complained about it and has really stepped up to the challenge. It's been great to see her do this with such enthusiasm.

Watching the older girls at the recital, I wonder how long MJ will continue with dance. She has the interest and focus, and she can memorize her steps, but she doesn't have an abundance of grace and natural ability.

Seeing M dance recently, I thought about my brief history in any kind of organized sports. When we lived in Boise, my sister and I participated in gymnastics for several years. I was probably 7 to 10 years old. We went to meets and got ribbons. I still remember my beam and parallel bars routines. I also remember one of the coaches telling my mom that I had the concentration to be a gymnast and my sister had the body and talent to be a gymnast, and if she could just shake us up in a bag, we would be the perfect combination.
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Christmas Craziness

Between my Obama post-election glow and a late Thanksgiving this year, I procrastinated Christmas preparations. Now, I'm paying for it. Thankfully, I wasn't in charge of any church parties this year.

AJ's mom was in town last weekend and we made a gingerbread train (wow--what a huge project! How do people do that every year?), decorated the house, went to the mega-display of nativities, and finished rehearsals for MJ's Nutcracker show. Then, on Sunday, we had two dance shows and T's preschool Christmas program.

Since MIL left, I've been working furiously on a photo book for my grandparents composed of photos from the stash we discovered this summer. I worked on that all day yesterday, trying to finish it up, then when MJ got home, we ran over to Target to find a Christmas-photo appropriate baby sweater, after which I wrangled the kids into their outfits and snapped photos of them in front of the tree. Next, it was up to the computer to send my pictures to Costco and to order cards. And finally, over to the church to practice the organ with the choir for Sunday. More on Christmas music in another post. Home by 9:15 to talk on the phone with my parents about the photo book and make corrections there. And then, downstairs to tackle the unfolded laundry. I didn't make it through the socks or MJ's batch.

We still need to get Christmas presents for the kids and other family members and then mail them, finish the Christmas letter and do all the cards, finish the photobook for my sister, work on the other do-it-myself Christmas gifts that are going to be awesome (more on those later when it won't need to be kept secret), and practice Christmas music for church. The kids want to go to the Holidazzle parade and there's the ward Christmas party.

For the most part, though, I'm having a good time peppered with moments of major stress.

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