Book Review Series: Count It All Joy

Guest post by Quimby. You can read some of Quimby’s previous posts here, and here

Count It All Joy: Finding Peace in a Troubled World

I live in the Australian bush, in a log cabin surrounded by trees.  I love where I live.  I love the gentle contours of the land.  I love the trill call of the cockatoos as they fly overhead in deafening flocks.  I love the laughter of the kookaburra as it wakes me at sunrise.  I love the lizards, which flit in and out of the cracks in the mortar.  Most of all I love the trees – the towering sycamores, the hardy blackwoods, and the spindly gum trees.  I especially love the bark of the ghost gum, its blue-pink-brown-grey trunk like a haphazard paint by number.  In the summer, the sun heats the oil in its leaves, and when it rains, the scent is released, diffused in the air like some sort of heaven.  When there is a summer rainstorm I open all the windows and breathe deeply.

Summer also means bushfire season.  We are poised, always ready to run at a moment’s notice, to flee the smoke and heat and fire and find refuge elsewhere.  A few years ago, the fire came to within half a kilometre of our house.  Several dozen homes and outbuildings were destroyed.  Ours was spared.  When we returned days later, we saw the blackened earth, the charcoaled trees, and marvelled at the destruction.

Read More

Learning to Follow My Heart


By Jenny

I trudged slowly up the hill.  I guess you could say I was running, but really I wasn’t moving very fast.  Despite the hour that I had already been running, my legs were still stiff.  I was hoping that the sun would rise soon.  The sunrise was usually a good boost to my motivation.  I had left my passion for running at home that morning.  All I had running through my head was self-doubt.  I had all these great plans for my life.  Yes, I was just crazy enough to have running a marathon on that list.  But here I was, simply trudging up a hill, looking at the top and wondering if I would actually get there.

Like the boy Santiago, in the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Cohelo, my heart was deceiving me.

“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.

“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

“But my heart is agitated,” the boy said. “It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it’s become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I’m thinking about her.”

“Well, that’s good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say.” The Alchemist pg. 128

Santiago goes on the have a conversation with his heart that I think anyone who follows their personal legend can relate to. I have had many similar conversations with my own heart lately.  His heart tells him:

“Even though I complain sometimes…it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and people’s hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.” The Alchemist, pg. 130

I was nearing the top of the hill I was running on and it started to flatten out.  As I emerged at the top, I looked up to see the street sign above me: Sunrise.  At that moment, the rays of the morning light began to peek over the tops of the mountains.  I was suddenly wrapped in the sun’s warm glow.  It was so small and simple really.  If I hadn’t looked up I wouldn’t have even seen the sign.  But to me it was everything.  It meant that my worries and concerns were important even to God.  My sunrise had come, along with an omen from a powerful, loving universe that knows the language of my heart, my heart that was treacherously trying to deflate my dreams.  I felt overwhelmingly that there is a God, who knows me, knows what I am capable of, and knows what my life can mean.

Thinking about personal legends, omens, and the universe conspiring for my good is fairly new to me.  Most of my adult life was spent in a safe and simple mold of a specific role that I was culturally conditioned to accept.  I was sleepwalking through my life.  And when I awakened, this hill lay before me.  It was steep and daunting, filled with pain and struggle that has helped me to discover my own power and develop a deeper connection to a loving God.

As a Mormon woman, I was influenced by a consciousness that told me I had one role to fulfill in life.  Multiply and replenish the earth.  It was the same role that every woman was “commanded” to fulfill.  Commanded….the word causes a churning in my stomach now.  It is a word that doesn’t belong in a universe that I now view as infinitely good and loving.  I don’t believe in a God who commands, because I have met a God who pushes me toward my greatness through love and compassion, rather than coercion.

As a budding feminist in college, I began right away to follow my heart and my dreams.  During my first week at BYU I collected a handful of papers about study abroad programs and began working on a plan to travel.  A year later, I arrived back at BYU after an intense internship in Southern Bavaria.  My bishop asked me to meet with him.  He quickly asked me about my travels and then turned the conversation to the fact that a guy I had been dating before I left was now dating someone else in the ward.  When I told him that the guy had dumped me while I was gone, my bishop blamed me.  He told me that I needed to be more focused on getting married because that was my main priority.  Travelling and fulfilling my dreams was not as important.

Back then I was more accustomed to listening to my leaders than listening to my heart.  When I think back on this conversation with my bishop, I don’t think that his counsel changed the course of my life too much.  I don’t think the bishop’s counsel affected my choices, so much as it affected the relationship I had to those choices.  Over the last thirteen years since I sat in his office, I have spent most of my time and energy in marriage and family.  Getting married and having a large family was one of my biggest dreams.  The problem was not that I had a family and chose to stay home and raise them.  The problem was how I viewed myself as a wife and mother.  I saw myself as a martyr.  I was sacrificing my dreams for my family.  I needed to give up who I was as an individual and recreate my identity around my family.  In essence, I became my family, inseparable from my husband and children.  For a time, I lost some vital aspects of myself.

It wasn’t just the bishop’s counsel on that fateful day that caused me to feel like my dreams and passions needed to be subsumed.  It was years of cultural conditioning that told me that motherhood would be everything I would ever have or need.  It was a cultural mindset that told me life was about fear, sacrifice, obedience, commandments, and authority that existed outside of me.  I was never taught about following my heart and claiming authority to live my own life of authenticity.  Even now, as I am rediscovering those vital parts of myself and doing things that I love outside of motherhood, I am finding many harsh critics of my choices.  They say that I just don’t understand how important I am as a mother.  They say that I’m being selfish.  They say that I’m on the wrong path.

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” The Alchemist, Pg. 16

Maybe it scares them to see the change of course my life has taken.  Sometimes it scares me too.  Once I travelled the straight and narrow, and now I scale a winding hill, sometimes barely trudging.  Once I was sleepwalking through my life and now I am wide awake, following my heart, my all-too-often-treacherous-heart.  Listening to my heart has made me vulnerable and open to failure.  Even as I write this blog post and open up my vulnerable self to the world, I wonder if it will be a failure.  But like Santiago, I am on the path to discovering my personal legend.  I have seen failure, but I have also seen the universe moving me in a powerful direction.  I have seen beautiful omens placed strategically just for me.  Omens that I would have missed had I not looked up, had I not awakened from the sleep of following cultural norms, had I not pushed through my struggles and my self-doubt, had I not chosen to listen to my heart over outside influences.  Yes, following my heart, however much it hurts, makes my life more enjoyable.  It makes my relationship with my choices more empowering and uplifting.  And like Santiago:

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting,” he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and hurried his pace.” The Alchemist, pg. 11
Read More

Married and Single Friendships

My title is straight and to the point.

I attended Brigham Young University in Provo from 2010 to 2014. I, like many of my peers, started off college single, care free, and ready to embrace all that college had to offer. Fast forward to my graduation in April 2014, a great deal of my friends were no longer single. Fast forward to present day, the vast majority of my friends are no longer single. In fact, out of some of my closer friends, including me, I think only three or four of us are flying solo.

Read More

Walking with the boys

boy and mom 2About 4:00 pm I start watching my phone. I turn it face up and switch from silent to a low hum. Just in case. And again at 6:00 ish. I know their schedules. This is when my sons might call. One is walking home from school in the afternoon and the other from work at night. The windows of opportunity are from five to twenty minutes and if I miss them, it might be a few days before the walking and the inspiration align again.

I have no illusions where I fall in a twenty-something’s order of priorities. Evening plans have been texted, playlists played, messages called back and messages left. But when all other forms of entertainment have been exhausted, and if they are walking, they will call mom.

One tells me about his ideas. We discuss concepts like disruption and narrative world building and color and heteronormative bias. I ask questions and connect images and stretch beyond my day of spreadsheets and slides to keep up with his whirling, brilliant mind. One tells me about his day. We discuss strategies like workload management and incremental development and facilitation and change response. I ask questions and connect phrases and stretch beyond my day of egos and politics to marvel at his openness and ability to read and manage people. To both I agree that life is indeed hard, but also full of wonder, and that they are extraordinary and will make meaningful change in the world. Then they arrive somewhere and hang up.

Read More

How many times?

joanI sat on the floor with my legs crossed, leaning against a console stereo, my ear pressed to the textured side. I listened, intently and for hours, to the music emanating from the speaker. My mother carefully placed records on the spindle inside and from the outside I learned how to live in the world. Peter, Paul and Mary sang the questions of “Blowing in the Wind;” Bob Dylan’s poetry woven with their plaintive and impassioned harmonies. “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see? How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? How many deaths will it take ’til he knows that too many people have died?” The answers were elusive and elemental, but in the questions we were urged to look in our own heart. It was the questions that taught me the woman I wanted to be.

With this soundtrack, I went out into a world where war was on television, where kids got teased, where people with difference were made to feel that way. I fought back, cried, worried, wrote poems, and listened to the music that gave me courage. I read voraciously about rebels and holy people who stood for what was right amid challenging circumstances. Every quest began with a question that defied an established order. I read passages over and over, memorizing the words and actions of change. I internalized their stories and looked for how to enact them in my tiny, suburban sphere.

Read More

Summer 2015 Issue of Exponent II Going to Print–Subscribe Now!

what would you do

The following is the Letter From the Editor from the about-to-be-released Summer 2015 issue of Exponent II. If you’d like to receive a copy of this issue, subscribe now here.

While writing a fundraising appeal letter for Exponent II in 2012, I looked up some older essays by Exponent II founding mothers about the organization. I found this quote from Carrel Hilton Sheldon, describing the process of preparing manuscripts in the early years of the paper:

“One scene, firmly etched in my mind, is of me sitting at the end of the table typing up submissions to the paper with baby #3 balanced on my knees, in such a position that he could nurse while I typed. Children #1& #2 happily raced around our big old kitchen. At that moment I was awed by my commitment to get the job done and felt powerful in my ability to accomplish it. It was an amazing contrast to my usual feeling that taking care of three little children was so difficult that adding anything–like getting the laundry done–was almost beyond me. Somehow in the process of working on Exponent II, I became someone who could do an awful lot more than I had previously realized I could. ”

I immediately loved this quote, and used it in that letter, but I never dreamed in that moment that my life would soon mirror Carrel’s description. In February of this year, my husband and I welcomed our third baby into our family. In March, Pandora and I began work as the incoming editors of Exponent II. And in June, my family moved to a new state and my husband started a new job. Little baby Theo has spent much of his nursing hours “balanced on my knees” while I have read essays, edited, and corresponded with authors.

The cover of this issue features the art of Emily McPhie, one of my favorite artists I discovered while working as Art Editor for Exponent II. Her art weaves together whimsy and internal struggle and often features women mixing domestic work with heroism and elements of fantasy. In this piece, a woman in a blue dress and red sash stares confidently at the viewer. Interlaced through her ears and head is a slip of paper reading, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Read More