Paper Cuts

Paper Cuts

Sunday after church, my children occupied themselves by making paper airplanes with scraps of paper while waiting for my meeting to finish. Monday morning, while tidying up, I found one of their airplanes, made from a copy of the First Presidency’s invitation to the General Women’s Meeting later this month.

First Presidency Invitation to the General Women's Meeting

Click to enlarge

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Birth/Rebirth: Mother and Model, The Birth of The Exponent II by Claudia Bushman

ExIIcropped                Sherrie (Spunky) invited me to write a blog about motherhood and birthing for her series.  When I asked what she had in mind, she suggested something about the birth of Exponent II, the remarkable journal now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. 

                People over the years have asked why our little coven of LDS feminists in Boston was invited to edit a volume of Dialogue and why we felt called, worthy, able to write a book and begin a newspaper.  Surely we must have had some secret license, some mystical call.  Otherwise, how did we have the nerve to set ourselves up like that.

                I love those questions which accord us an authority we never had and a position of some importance.  Nobody asked us.  Nobody invited us.  Nobody really encouraged us.  We just did things.  We didt worry about permission from the far off Rockies.  We thought we were pretty much invisible out there by Plymouth Rock.  We originally met to talk about our lives as Mormon women.  We were church members, mostly wives of students or young professionals.  It was a time when women were rising, expressing some discontents, and we certainly had some, although I think those issues would seem pretty tame today.  Mostly, though, we just wanted to talk, to share our ideas and our grievances.  Much sturm and drang attended those sessions and many anxious tears were shed.

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“There’s an awful lot of writing going on that nobody knows about.” – Edward Gildea, publisher of The Diarist’s Journal

When I was about 8 years old I received a journal as a gift.  I felt grown up and responsible as I wrote in it, and I filled all the pages.  I kept writing as I grew up, and through college.  But not surprisingly I wrote with less frequency the older I got.  Eventually I all but stopped.  Then when my son was 2 I discovered blogs and started my own, recording in posts his life and the lives of his parents.  Blogging had replaced my journal.  But the trouble with blogs is that they’re made for public consumption and there’s some inevitable self-censorship that goes with that.

A private journal has the advantage of, well, privacy.  It’s a place where a person can put down what happened and how she felt about it, with the thought of someone else reading it being remote enough so as to almost not matter.  Think of this journal entry* from Eleanor Coppola, wife of the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola:

“A few days ago I got a vision of a house that I would feel at home in.  It was made of eucalyptus, glass and adobe.  A contemporary structure in a natural setting.  I would have to build it.  I walked up by the old water tank today, looking for a site.

Through the years, Francis and I have argued over and over again about our house.  He has said all he ever really wanted from me was to make him a home.  Once, in a crazy argument in the Philippines, he told me that he would spend a million dollars, if necessary, to find a woman who wanted to make a home, cook and have lots of babies.  I could never tell the truth, even to myself, because I thought it would be the end of my marriage.  I am not a homemaker.  I have always wanted to be a working person.  But the kind of work I have done over the years hasn’t earned any money, so it looks like I am playing and lazy.

Right now I am feeling a giant relief.  I am off the hook.  The other woman in Francis’s life is not the ultimate homemaker either; she is not dying to step in and take over the mansion.”

-Eleanor Coppola, 1977

There is information in the entry: she had an interesting daydream, she repeatedly has the same argument with her husband, and her husband is apparently having an affair.  But what makes it so interesting to me is the insight into how she feels the lack of a home, or at least a home she can comfortably and authentically occupy.  A place to rest and be herself.  I don’t know anything about Eleanor Coppola’s life, but I’d imagine understanding her inner homelessness would go a long way toward understanding her life in general.

That is the kind of thing I’d like my kids decades from now to understand about me, and the kind of thing I’d like to understand about myself.  I want a journal as a history, and a journal as therapy.  In some sense journal-keeping is a selfish, or self-absorbed way to spend your time.  But I think selfishness isn’t always bad.  I think there should be another word.  Self-care, maybe?  Writing in a journal is caring about your life enough to think it’s worth recording, and caring about your feelings enough to think they’re worth remembering.


Do you keep a journal?  What’s the format?  Do you write daily, according to a schedule, or just when it seems important to write?


* Eleanor Coppola’s journal entry comes from The Assasin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists, Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor, editors.  It’s a fabulous book.  You should put it on your Christmas list.

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Exponent Classics: Something About Learned Women

Something About Learned Womenby Lucy M. Hewlings,
First published in The Women’s Exponent, vol. 7 no. 17
February 1, 1879

The question has been asked, “Was there ever a time when there were no learned women?” To this query we reply, No! never since the creation of Eve, our first mother, down to the present, when the cause of women’s social and political rights has become a distinct national question; we admit there has been an unusual intellectual activity for the last twenty years, both in Europe and America, and that there has been advancement and progress in this respect within the last decade, but we are apt to felicitate ourselves, and perhaps are too indiscriminate on the progress achieved in female education.

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Relief Society Lesson #23 The Prophet Joseph Smith

Every manual in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals has at least one lesson on Joseph Smith. Before going into the lesson, I’ll link to a few other RS lessons we’ve done here at the Exponent on Joseph Smith.

The Prophet Joseph Smith from the Spencer W. Kimball manual
The Prophet Joseph Smith, God’s Instrument in Restoring the Truth from the George Albert Smith manual
Relief Society Lesson 47: “Praise To The Man”: Latter-Day Prophets Bear Witness Of The Prophet Joseph Smith from the Joseph Smith manual

I would like to start with a quick personal story and some feelings I had while first skimming the lesson to get a sense of it.

Last year when I was meeting with my stake president to renew my temple recommend and going through the appropriate “yes” and “no” responses, there was one question where I stopped and said, “Well, I try…” The stake president looked at me and said, “I don’t want any answers other than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” So I rephrased my answer into “yes” and was given a recommend. What was the question? “Are you honest in your dealings…?” The honesty question feels a bit like a trick question- who really is 100% honest in everything? Saying you are is obviously a lie! It’s a catch-22. I  am not honest with my fellow people at all times, though like I originally stated, I do try.

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