Beyond Sleight of Hand

Saturday night, Reilly emails me a final paper for one of his classes for me to proofread. The subtitle is “Implications of the Freudian Double in Coraline,” which sounds so intriguing and intellectual. He analyzes the movie through a Freudian lens. I can’t wait to read it.

We both sit on the couch. The Jazz game plays in the background on the television. I check my email and open the document. I turn on Track Changes and start reading.

I feel a little bit of movement in my tummy. There are little flutters but also some strong jabs and pokes. This activity continues as I type comments in the margins of Reilly’s paper.

***

I have been feeling distinct movement for the past few weeks, and with each passing day the pokes and kicks and rolls have been gaining strength. It’s a lot of fun.

Early Saturday morning, I still lay in bed, mustering the mental and physical strength to get up, because getting out of bed is not just a psychological challenge anymore. I turned on my Kindle and started checking headlines and Facebook.

It seemed that Baby had an easier time getting up than I did. She kicked and rolled around for a little bit. Then she calmed down and I felt gentler “ghost” movements deeper in the hollows of my tummy. I grabbed Reilly’s hand and placed it on the part of my tummy where I last felt movement. We were probably talking about a federal court’s finding Utah’s polygamy laws unconstitutional when I felt movement again. Just the slightest flutter. I was in the middle of a sentence when I asked Reilly, “Are you feeling that?” He said, “Uh, yes …?” without much confidence.

I finished my thought, then we got up and got ready to see the Hobbit.

***

As I read Reilly’s very interesting paper, Baby seems pretty active and wants to play. It’s like she tries to punch through a balloon, except with more resistance, not as much stretch. In a chamber that could be described as my stomach area. She shifts around and makes her presence known.

I scoot over on the couch. With the laptop still on my lap, I reach for Reilly’s hand and place it to the right of my belly button. I continue reading; he’s being patient.

About a minute passes. All of a sudden, I feel a strongish push right under Reilly’s hand, and at the same time, I see Reilly’s hand raise.

Reilly says, “I felt that!” And I laugh. I ask if he said he felt movement in the morning because he wanted to feel it and not necessarily because he actually did. Reilly keeps his hand on my tummy and says that was true.

And maybe Baby feels and hears me laughing and her dad reacting and responds for a few minutes with several more pokes of varying strength. Reilly feels them all. He enjoys it immensely.

About three and a half months left. It’s surreal going from talking about a baby in the abstract to talking about a baby who can actually hear me and eat and move and suck her thumb. IN MY WOMB. And then my husband wants to feel the baby all the time. At least when he’s not sleeping or writing papers or eating. His hand finds my tummy and he waits for that connection, the instant but lasting affection. Of course I don’t mind. He’s spending time with our daughter, with whom he’s obviously already in love. And I love seeing his big baby blue eyes light up during that contact.

I enjoy his joy.

A Sequence con Sequence

1. I read this article and watched the video.

2. Then I read this article, which is part of this book.

3. Then Reilly and I watched this movie.

4. Then Reilly put the book on hold at the library. Then he checked out the book when it became available.

5. Today, I finished the book. I wrote this little review on Goodreads:

Conversational, thoughtful. Balanced; I forgive the author because she admits her biases. Covers and interweaves three main discussions: bullying, being a good parent/concerned adult/assertive innocent bystander, and mental illness. There’s also an exploration of solutions and encouragement of ongoing conversation, which I wholeheartedly support.

6. At 12:05pm, I decided to write the author of the book. Because that’s what I sometimes do.

Ms. Bazelon,

I finished Sticks and Stones about ten minutes ago, and I found it fascinating. And infuriating. And heartwrenching. And, at times, relieving. I appreciate your huge undertaking of a project such as this, your first, book. Yay!

Your interview with Stephen Colbert (as featured in Slate–about time somebody made him cry 😉 ) piqued my interest in the book, but first I watched the 2012 Weinstein documentary you happened to mention, Bully. So many times people or media want to point a finger at something more concrete, more visible, such as bullying. But when I hear of suicide, I almost always think first of mental illness as a possible cause. I’m glad you explore this subject, and as I read Phoebe Prince’s case, I was disappointed that the right people didn’t consider her psychological issues. It’s always more complicated than people usually perceive.

On the other hand, the ones who were able to pull through–the ones who found new friends or went to new schools or where school administration implemented effective bullying prevention–those kids were became incredibly insightful, self-aware, and empathetic. The way they grew up really impressed me.

Anyway, I loved the book. There’s so much more I could mention! Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue in courage to have these important conversations for our families, society; humanity.

7. At 1:39, I received this reply:

What a lovely note–thank you so much! If you’re inspired to share your feelings on Facebook or via email, please do–I need ambassadors! And I am up for calling or Skyping into book groups, for parents or teachers or anyone.

All the best, thanks again,

Emily

Replies do not always happen, and I was thrilled when the message landed in my inbox.

Thing is, as I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking of the young man who took his life in front of his schoolmates just north of here. I wish there were greater awareness; I wish people weren’t too scared to acknowledge and address mental illness and to examine all the causes of bullying and not just label these kinds of events “bullycide.”

It would be great to have a constructive discussion about this. Because my husband is a school teacher, I would love to organize something to see what steps are in place in local schools to help reduce bullying. It would be so wonderful to set up a call with Emily and maybe some school administrators and some ladies at church to have a heartfelt conversation about safety for our community’s children.

I always feel drawn to the underdog. It’s getting harder just to stand by and do nothing, and feeling helpless is no longer an excuse.

8. – ∞

On Facebook This Morning

I posted an article whose headline was: “Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results.”  Assumptions emerged and a few comments followed. Six.

  1. Oh dear. Stake president FAIL.
  2. I read some of his talk, but then just couldn’t read any more. So awful.
  3. The lines quoted in the second paragraph are the only ones from the talk that I found inappropriate. I don’t agree with his pessimistic viewpoint, but I think that headline is incredibly misleading.
  4. Abortion and using tax dollars to do so, same sex marriage, take God out of the Goverment, leagalization of pot, forces alighning to stop school prayer, but allowing the handing out of birth control etc…Yeah…that sounds like something I want to fight for. Jesus would stand right beside me right?! … Matthew 24:24 Have you read his entire talk…He is quoting past prophets…. and you are offended?!
  5. The Church has made a statement that it is politically neutral, so going against that by sharing your political viewpoints over the pulpit in church is always inappropriate, whether or not you think their political party is right or wrong. There’s nothing wrong with quoting prophets, unless you’re using them toward your own personal agenda. It’s unfortunate is all, because even though they shouldn’t take it personally, some of the church members will probably be offended and turn away 😩
  6. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

The article doesn’t necessarily represent me or demonstrate that my testimony is crumbling. I hadn’t read the article when I posted it. I put it on my timeline to remind myself to read it later.

This afternoon, I read the article and the talk that the author referenced. Then I reread the comments from the Facebook thread. Then I reconsidered my initial responses to the comments.

1.

  • Before: This sounds like a heavily political talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

2.

  • Before: This sounds like the stake president is ignoring any sort of neutrality in his talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

3.

  • Before: I’ll have to read the second paragraph of the article and read through the talk.
  • After: These are the statements that the stake president could have left out. The headline made the talk sound way more politically charged than it felt to me.

4.

  • Before: Knowing my heart, Jesus would have talked to me in complete sentences and with a lot less interrobang. He probably also would have given me a hug. Basically, I find your typos offensive. Also, thanks for your condemnation.
  • After: The world does seem to be taking a turn for the worse, the divide between good and evil is definitely more distinct, and I understand the stake president’s frustration. He could have left out a few statements and still have given a powerful talk.

5.

  • Before: The Church has taken a politically neutral stance, and I can’t stop thinking of how I was accused of being offended in the last comment.
  • After: It’s a shame that people get offended either way because of a talk. In a leadership position you really have to make matters more about the Spirit and less about politics. In a leadership position, you often find it hard to separate your politics from church. I’ve definitely heard much worse from the pulpit.

6.

  • Before: I can tell you have something articulate and inspired to say.
  • After: Without even saying anything else, I know what you mean.

Two Sundays ago a guy gave a talk in Church and he said he’s majoring in communications and political science so that one day he can have his own conservative talk show like Brother Glenn Beck.

He went on to tell stories about Bible bashing on his mission. He brought up the scripture about casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). He kept saying, “Why NOT cast your pearls? You’ll never run out of pearls.”

He made it quite clear that he referred to those against whom he Bible-bashed as swine. And then he pretty blatantly compared pearls to ammunition. You’ll never run out of pearls. You’ll never run out of ammunition. You can just keep shooting at the swine.

His talk was about studying your scriptures with faith.

The aforementioned Matthew 24:24 is about being deceived by false Christs and false prophets. Much of the chapter uses apocalyptic language to describe the world before the Second Coming. I would guess that my friend, commenter #4, attributes the decline of morality in the world to these falsities.

I was bothered by the politics in both talks, not so much because I disagreed with them but because I knew there would be people in each congregation (and now among those who have read the article) who would cling to those few statements and use them as an excuse never to come back to church.

It’s definitely easier to say to hold strong in a church regardless of its imperfect members. But part of the reason the Church has a stance on political neutrality is to protect its imperfect members from themselves, to help us to use our hearts, to look past politics and into souls. Our souls are bigger and worth way more than the limits this fallen world puts on them.

There’s definitely a lot more to say. I’m tired.

Friday Hodgepodge

Tears, people. And partial bafflement.

This morning a new post appeared on my reader from my friend Amy’s blog. On Fridays she tries to post a Special Needs Spotlight, but today she decided to feature a video about the beloved American gymnast who emancipated from her parents when she was 16, Dominique Moceanu. If you know Amy’s blog, you’ll have a deeper understanding of why she posted the video. It’s inspiring even outside of this context, but nonetheless, I’m grateful she shared this video:

Two books, by worthy prizewinners:

Yesterday I finished Blindness, by JosĂ© Saramago. Toward the end of my commute to work I finished a particular heartbreaking scene and held back tears while making sure my fellow commuters didn’t see how distraught I was. On my commute home I read another scene that brought joyful tears to my eyes.

This morning I finished The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. She won the Newbery Medal in 2012. This book also made me cry, also because of sad and happy moments.

Excellent writing about important issues. Call to action and most definitely to contemplation.

I highly recommend both novels.

The other day I observed a conversation where one person said to the other,

I don’t know what your political leanings are, but there is one side that does whatever they want, and then there’s the other side with principles.

As I observed this conversation, I realized I was the other person, and the one person was talking to me. Approximately 67 trillion assumptions bounced around in my head, attracting and repelling each other until an image formed — like the kind with a magnet and iron shavings — of a big question mark. I didn’t say anything, because there were stray thoughts circling this question mark, trying to find a niche but also seeming to defy the magnetic force. In this defiance, these stray thoughts kept my brow from furrowing; they allowed me to have mercy on the one person’s soul. And if all I wanted to say was, “Huh?” I know that the one person’s “principles” would have tried to replace my metal shavings with shavings made of soap. Because the one person stands on a box of soap. Which is fine. I respect the one person’s opinion and I won’t treat the one person like less of a human being. This kind of understanding and regard is a principle the one person and I have in common. So we’re actually on the same side.

But we’re so, so not.

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

The Poets I Know

My penultimate semester at BYU I took a poetry class as a complete novice. Along with the curriculum and the professor, a couple of classmates awakened me to the vast and diverse world of poetry. It blew me away, intimidated me. Our class would have weekly workshops and while they did have nice things to say about my poetry, classmates were often brutally honest and mercilessly constructive. It was hard not to feel discouraged.

I read a poem every day. Occasionally I’ll write down a tentative idea for a poem. I’ve fallen out of practice; it’s easier to read than write. It hasn’t always been that way. But it’s always been easy to write crappy poetry. Here, let me whip up a gross haiku for you right now:

vulnerable brain
months of oxidizing then
flaking rust matter

See? That took less than a minute. And not something I’d be proud to show even Stephenie Meyer.

There’s so much to love about poetry: taking it apart, slathering the language all over me, listening to it, reading poets’ advice. I support people who are good at it, who devote their lives to capturing beauty, tragedy in such a specialized way.

From my experience in the class, it seems some of the best poets also make the best academics. They think about issues from multiple and often-rare angles. With intense focus, they express themselves with clarity and power. I covet them so, so much.

But I also want to brag about my poet friends and acquaintances, because they’re brilliant.

My poetry professor, Susan Elizabeth Howe:

Imagination, as I have experienced it, can be part of and lead to spiritual growth, and imagination is the natural province of the poet.

Someone I knew as a computer person before he became a poet, Neil Aitken:

Neil Aitken is a poet of consummate grace and skill. His poems are acutely observed, unerring musically, sensual and lyrical. Filled with longing and subtle epiphanies, his poetry plumbs the depths of the human heart, and hints towards the heights of the human spirit. His writing accomplishes what Wallace Stevens suggested—that, in the best poems, “description is revelation,” for each of Aitken’s poems reveals the world anew for the reader.  — Maurya Simon

A friend I worked with at church in New York City, Javen Tanner:

. . . he thus takes up his poetic cross and wills us to follow as he forges a path through variations on these ambiguous realities to the end of preparing us for more lasting psychological and spiritual connections and consolations.

Former classmate and also a BYU soccer player, Conner Bassett:

When reading poetry out loud, you see the poem for what it is; half of the poem is the words, but the other half is the sound of it,” Bassett said. “Reading and hearing it out loud is a completely different experience.”

Another classmate, Kylan Rice. He seems to have a relatively new tumblr:

…Stop looking so
shocked at the grammy fat. Are we not
all a tapestry of garbled hearts?

I have a few other poet friends, but I’m having trouble finding stuff about them on the internet. Which usually doesn’t happen. You’ll just have to believe they’re also talented and incredible and very awesome.

Look these people up. During any time of crisis, these are some of the people you can listen to.

Top 10 List for May’s 2012

I cannot believe this year. So much has happened, and I have only 56 entries to show for it. At least there are fewer blog posts to choose from for the annual countdown.

10. May: No one told me I’d eventually get to play against the BYU quarterback. I joined an intramural kickball team, and tonight was our first game.

9. July: Smartphone apps have a tiny dear place in my heart.  I looked around to see that I wasn’t the only one crying. I loved it.

8. July: This is the year I really got into hiking. And most of it during the season of a broken camera. Thank the Lord for making geology pretty.

7. August: Reilly’s birthday, and first time in New York City. We wondered about Glenn Close.

6. January: Careful to put ego-puffing somewhere in the middle. Being published in an academic, peer-reviewed journal would be a nice touch to my last semester.

5. September: The Oklahoma visit went along with going to NYC. Dad still finds happiness in little things. In simple things.

4. November: What an election year. I’m sorry to the friends I may have pissed off. But,  I spent maybe at least 5 minutes voting/playing with the fancy machine.

3. October: Recap of April’s commencement ceremony. I only slept because my friends who sat by me made me so very comfortable.

2.5. April: Full of transitions and excitement and bending rules for lists of 10.  The past four days have knocked me squarely on my rear. Three flights, up and down, up and down. My things, my books. His things, his books.

2. December: Can we distinguish the source of our tears in December? We talk about future names, but what is the name of our future?

1. June: Well, duh. Mindblowing. Incredible. Fantastic. Amazing. This.

This list doesn’t even include events like Christmas and wedding showers and getting jobs. It’s true that I am often vague in my blog posts, but know that these top 10 entries include the top people in my life. You’re always in my thoughts and prayers. You’ve done so much for my happiness and helped me to become a decent person. Thank you for your support. Thank you especially for your friendship and kindness and generosity, which I know will carry over into the new year and our upcoming and continued lives together.

I wish you all the blessings and happiness you deserve. Nothing less.