The Woman Who Sang Too Loudly

If you are a Mormon, then you are probably familiar with the woman-who-sings-too-loudly-in-church phenomenon. Every ward has one. You know, that lady who projects her voice so loudly that it drowns out the rest of the congregation. She is the one who feels like sacrament meeting is a time to brush up on her amateur soprano career.

Some people are able to tune out this squawking voice, but I cannot. My husband can, but I cannot. My favorite part of church is singing hymns---I love reading the lyrics and hearing the ward's voices blend together. Music touches my soul and I look forward to learning new songs or singing old favorites. But it's hard to get in touch with my soul when Sister G. bellows from the front pew and fills the room with her semi-off-key operatic performance.

Sister G. is my nemesis at church. She became my nemesis in Sunday School a few weeks ago when we were discussing the story of Jesus and the rich man. My husband offered his perspective on the story and everyone in the classroom nodded and hummed in agreement. But one person didn't like what she was hearing and shot her hand up in the air.

"Well, that's not what this story is really about. It's about this..." said Sister G.

Oh ho! If we were living in 18th century France, I would have spit on the ground and challenged her to a duel. But I didn't because spitting is rude and I forgot to bring my sword to church. (Ba-dum-ching)

There are other reasons why Sister G. has become my nemesis but I won't reveal them here because my guilty conscious is kicking in and I feel like I shouldn't say more negative things. (But not guilty enough to erase this blog. Thus I am evil.)

I know there will be those who will chide me to forgive and to love and to befriend. And indeed, I believe in all of these things. I will also be the first to admit that I can be a prideful and surly wench at times.

But have you
heard the woman sing at church???

Oprah's Book Club Ain't So Bad

This month I joined millions of Americans in reading Oprah's newest book selection The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I'm usually not a huge follower of Oprah's book club, but I have admired her choices in the past (especially when she went on that Great Works kick). I'm also not a very big follower of Cormac McCarthy, but I've heard in my English classes that he is one of the best living writers in America.

The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic America that has been decimated by some natural disaster or atomic war. (McCarthy never defines what actually happened.) In this future America the sky is always gray and the landscape filled with dust. There are no trees or animals. Nothing lives except for a handful of human survivors, many of whom have turned to cannibalism.

The story follows a father and his son as they walk to the south---to the sea---to escape the winter's cold. They have very few material possessions: cans of food they found in long-abandoned homes, blankets to keep them warm at night, a small bottle of gasoline to fuel their small lighter, and a shopping cart to carry it all. But their most valuable possession is one another---for "each is the other world's entire."

As I read
The Road, McCarthy's simple prose pulled me into this dark gray world of some near future. I could see the barren land before me and I could feel the cold of the bitter nights. And I felt the desperation of the father as he cooked the last can of food for him and his son. Where could we get more? How would we survive? The sun shone brightly outside my apartment but inside I felt cold and sad.

Yet McCarthy offers a bit of light in the story and this light rests in the boy. Despite his horrible surroundings, the boy is infinitely innocent and infinitely good. When the two pass an old man on the road, the boy begs his father to give the man some of their food. When the father catches a thief who stole of their possessions, the boy pleads for the thief's life. Perhaps the boy is naive but his kindness is so surprising in a world that no longer knows good.

A fantastic book. Very beautiful writing, very powerful characters, a very interesting way of organization (the book has no chapters; it's just composed of short paragraphs). I would highly recommend it.

The Midnight Thoughts of a Military Wife

Sometimes I look at my husband and I think about him dying. I really don't mean to think about such an awful thing but the thought finds its way into my mind a few times a week. I can be driving to the grocery store, just fiddling around with the radio station, when I pass a tree with a big yellow ribbon tied around the trunk---and I think about losing Justin. Or I will be watching the local news and I hear the newscaster announce that there has been another war casualty from Fort Bragg. And suddenly I'm very grateful that Justin is still in training and still a year away from deployment.

But usually when I think about my husband dying we will be lying next to each other in bed. He will be sleeping next to me and I will be awake listening to his deep slow breaths. He mutters softly to himself and I think he must be dreaming. Lost in some subconscious world where I cannot join him.

Sometimes in the middle of the night Justin will have a nightmare and he wakes up shaken and clammy. He turns to me and pulls me into his big arms and I try my best to soothe him. Yet I am the one who feels comforted as I am swallowed up by his two arms with my face nestled against his chest. His heartbeat sounds like a bass drum in my ear: beating in strong and steady steps, beating life through Justin's body. And this is when I think about losing him the most.

When Justin and I first started dating I
tried not to think about the possibility of him dying or of him even going to war. He was just an all-American boy with green eyes and a casual smile and I was just a girl trying not to fall in love with him. On one of our first dates we went to a small bakery to have lunch and we sat at our table for an hour reading the newspaper and talking about the articles we had passed between us. It felt like we were seventy years old and married for forty-five. My heart had found its home.

One night I asked Justin if he was afraid of dying and he told me no. The only thing that worried him, he said, was his mother. His death would break her heart and the thought of that broke his own. I wondered if he knew that my own heart would fall apart too if he died on some battlefield in some foreign land, but I didn't tell him this because our relationship was new and we weren't supposed to talk about things like soul mates or death. So instead I asked him about politics and traveling and books and even war. And I didn't say much about dying.

I forced myself to push away my nightmares about losing Justin because it wasn't like we were married. We weren't even engaged. We were just dating and having fun and I wanted to enjoy myself without thoughts of doom looming in my conscious. Besides, I would be heading to London in a few months to start graduate school and I would probably never see him again. Our relationship would be one of those old summer romances that faded away like lightning bugs in the winter.

But as the summer drew to a close I realized I wanted more time with Justin. Even more than I wanted a year in England. My mother scolded me for being so foolish as to defer graduate school for a boy---and sometimes I wondered if she was right and if I was making a mistake---but in the end I chose to follow my heart. I stayed behind in America to be with a boy. I stayed behind to marry a soldier whose uniform made my eyes well with pride and my heart tremble in fear. My worrying days had begun.

Sometimes I am the one who wakes up Justin in the middle of the night, crying into his thick shoulder. He asks me what is wrong and I mumble that I am so afraid of losing him. His arms tighten around me and Justin whispers softly that he will always come home to me---he makes this promise to me. I can think of no response except to cry harder and nod meekly.

"Don't you believe me?" he asks and even in the darkness I can tell that his eyes are filled with concern.

"Yes," I stammer but I am lying. I will always worry about him.

In a few minutes my exhausted husband falls asleep again and I curl up beside him. For now he is safe in our bed and I must be grateful. This is a gift. But still I lie in the blackness, staring into nothing, and thinking about my husband's destiny.

On Books

I've been on a bit of a book rampage lately. Does anyone else experience this? I'll go without reading a book for a few weeks and then I'll have this sudden hunger for the library or bookstore. And then I'll just read for days and days until the hunger is satiated; all the while my husband becomes a little sad because all I do is read and I can't seem to tear myself away from the pages.

For the past year or so I've really enjoyed reading young adult fiction. Something draws me to this genre. I think this is because I had such good experiences with reading as a little girl and the books I read back then still resonate with me today. And so, I looked up a list of Newbery Award winners because I figured these books would all be good reads, and I headed to the library.

Here are some of the books I've read thus far and what I've thought of them:

1.) The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. What I liked most about this book is the protagonist---Aerin, a princess in a male-dominated kingdom. She's strong, tenacious, fiery and she fights dragons. The story flows well and McKinley does a fine job of creating a fantasy world that is believable. It's also a very mature book for the younger reader; I wouldn't call it a kid's book really, more for young teens.

2.) The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman. I read another book by Cushman a few months ago and I really enjoyed her dry wit and straightforward voice. Cushman does an excellent job of intertwining medieval history and culture into a book geared for children. It's a very short read and very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

3.) The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. These books aren't Newbery winners, but they really are a great read a la Harry Potter. I'm really impressed by the intricacy of the trilogy and how it weaves a lot of religious history and philosophy into the story. The story begins innocently enough with a girl named Lyra but it gradually expands into this vast epic about the war in heaven, multiple universes, and even the end of the world. Very entertaining. I'm really excited to read the third novel and finish off the trilogy.

4.) Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. This is another Newbery award book, but I'm only a few pages in. I really like what I've read so far though---the introduction of an orphan named Bud who wants to find his father. The book is set amidst the Great Depression in Flint, Michigan.

5.) March, by Geraldine Brooks. This isn't a Newbery award winner or even a kid's book, but I thought I'd throw an adult work into this list. March won the 2006 Pulitzer prize for best fiction and I truly enjoyed this book. Brooks writes the novel from the perspective of Peter March, the beloved yet absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. The story follows March as he works as a chaplain in the Union forces during the American Civil War. During the course of his travels, March writes letters home to his wife Marmee and their four "little women." A really great read that provides a lot of interesting commentary about slavery too. I've never read Little Women, but perhaps now I will...

What are you?

There is a mysterious vegetable in my refrigerator. It is green with curly leaves and it kind of looks like a spiky version of lettuce. I've poked at it and even tried a bite of it, but I can't figure out what it is.

It all started last week when I went to the grocery store for some arugula. I have never seen an arugula before, but I needed it for a recipe I was trying out. I walked around the produce aisle for awhile, trying to figure out what was an arugula and what wasn't, and then I finally found it. Well, at least I found the sign for it. So I picked up this weird spiky-looking vegetable---and I really doubted that this was arugula since I've heard that arugula kind of resembles spinach leaves---but I wasn't one to debate a produce-section sign.

So I took this foreign vegetable home and then I decided it just can't be arugula because it looked nothing like the picture of the recipe that I was trying to make. But I also don't have the heart to throw away this strange pointy lettuce because I don't like wasting food. Yet I don't really want to eat it either.

And so, the vegetable sits in my refrigerator and I've deduced it must be some strange alien from the next galaxy over that is trying to takeover the world by masking itself as arugula. But I've outsmarted this evil alien vegetable and it will be forced to re-think its plans as it freezes slowly in my crisper bin.

(I think it might be kale...)

The Weddin'

Here are some more photos of the wedding day. Enjoy!

The Mommy Wars is getting old

In Sunday's Washington Post, feminist Linda Hirshman wrote an editorial about the income gap between American men and women. Even in our supposedly equal 21st century, a woman's salary is a mere 69% of her male counterpart's. This is indeed a sad statistic.

Hirshman, however, does not spend her time lamenting the woes of our social system and the misogyny that still exists. Instead, she blames women for choosing the wrong major in college. It turns out that women choose majors that usually don't lead to lucrative careers. (Example: I studied history at BYU, a major which is king to all other majors in the "So what are you going to do with that?" category. Well, art history or English may have history beat. Might I add that I minored in English too.) Women are still more prone to enter into the field of education versus engineering, the liberal arts versus the hard sciences. And so, they get paid less because a teacher's salary is far less than a New York investment banker's. The math is pretty simple.

What pushes the salary gap even further is that women are more prone to give up their jobs after they have children. New mothers reason that it would be more economical to give up their teaching jobs rather than for their husbands to give up their banking/engineering jobs simply because their husbands make more money. And so, the income gap between the sexes is continually strained.

I agree with Hirshman that the salary gap is a problem in our country, but I don't really agree with her solution. She basically hints in her editorial that women need to choose more "masculine" majors that lead to more lucrative careers that inevitably lead to women remaining in the workforce rather than opting out to stay at home with their new babies. I see a lot of problems in this rationale.

1.) A woman should choose whatever major she wants. If she wants to study ancient Greek tablets and spend her life digging around in Athens, then she should do it---even if she makes $35,000 a year. Women shouldn't be forced to choose a career simply because it will lessen the income gap. Doesn't this reasoning go against the root of feminism?

2.) Throughout the editorial, Hirshman turns her nose against stay-at-home moms. She frequently alludes that SAHMs are giving up their lives by quitting their jobs to raise kids; she even makes a snide remark about how these women gave up their careers to "pick up socks."

I have a few bones to pick with this premise. Once again, it should be a woman's choice if she continues to work after she has a family or if she wants to stay at home with the kids. Linda Hirshman, no matter how accomplished she is, shouldn't have the gall to tell people what they should do with their lives.

Secondly, this whole "Mommy Wars" thing revolves around the premise that women all have incredibly satisfying jobs. If this was the case, then I think a lot more women would try to balance their career and their family life, but the truth of the matter is that a lot of women don't love their jobs. They work because they need to work. They work for a paycheck. Not every woman in America gets to go to college, head to grad school, and then land her ultimate dream job. Many Americans---both men and women---are just trying to make a living. Thus, there may be many women in the U.S. who would like to stay at home with their kids, but are unable to do so because their husbands got laid-off or because they are divorced or because they just need to make ends meet.

3.) This may be getting a bit off-topic, but I think we Americans just place too much emphasis on work. We allow our jobs to define us; we demand that we gain so much satisfaction from it. And for those people who truly love their jobs, I commend them. That's awesome! I would love to have a job like that (but I can't because I live in Fayetteville). But I think a significant percentage of Americans---and the rest of the world---just work because they have to. We have to pay our rent, after all.

Honestly, I seriously envy the women who have a hard time choosing between working or staying at home---because this means that they have a husband who earns enough to support their family, and that they have had the opportunity to gain an education, and that they have been lucky enough to find a really great job that forces them to make such a hard decision.

Anyway, Hirshman's article just left a bad taste in my mouth. I pride myself as a feminist and I doggedly support women who try to walk the tight rope between a career and a family, but I would never feel comfortable telling another woman what she should do with her life.

So Linda, just lay off the young college girls of America. They're just trying to exercise their independence.

Trying to get back into blogging...

I haven't posted a new blog entry in SO LONG! This is due to my intense laziness and also because a few major changes have occurred in my life. So to catch everyone up on what has happened in my life in the past two months, here goes:

1.) I now go by Caroline Richmond because I happened to marry a guy with the last name Richmond. On April 20th, 2007, (yes, we got married on National Pot-Smoking Day) I married my fiance Justin who is wonderfully handsome and handsomely wonderful! I am now officially a married woman and thus old and boring. Except to Justin, of course, who finds me incredibly youthful and fun. Honestly, I love being married! I don't mean to sound mushy or anything, but it is the greatest.

2.) Shortly after our nuptials, I officially moved down to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Some call it Fayette-nam or even Fayette-stan, but I call it home for now. We should be here in da dirty South for a year---or whenever Justin finishes up his Special Forces training---and then we will head to either Seattle, Washington or Okinawa, Japan. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Seattle so I can start on graduate school. But then again, Japan would be a great adventure. Either way, Justin and I don't have any say in the matter; we will go where the Army tells us to go.

3.) Um, sex is great.

Haha. I don't really have many other updates to write about. I haven't found a job down here in Fayetteville, but then again I'm not really trying too hard because I like being lazy and getting up whenever the hell I want. But soon enough I will need to hunker down and find me some employment. Argh, but do i really have to?