first fig

my candle burns at both ends…

Category: love

At A Window

(My father recited this poem at our wedding and I have loved it ever since. This has been a crazy week for me; I am in the process of hiring a new employee and I was asked to give a lecture about empowerment that I spent the week preparing for. I’m done with the interviews and the lecture went great so I can think about this blog again. I have a really great weekly wacko that I’ll try to get up tomorrow. Till then, here’s a little love.)

Give me hunger,
O you godes that sit and give
The World its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

~Carl Sandburg

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Mistress of History

Over the past couple of weeks I have felt very little ambition to keep up on this blog. I think this is due to feeling a little burned out with life. I wrote the following post for Exponent and with it, I am re-committing to take charge of my life. So from now on, you can look forward to much more frequent posts at First Fig because if I don’t document my thoughts and experiences, who will?

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I once had a boyfriend who told me that women have no history outside of their husbands and children. I was a young history major at the time and was only just discovering where my interests lay but his ignorant remark sparked in me a profound desire to prove him wrong. Needless to say, our relationship did not last much longer but I was left with a new found feminism and a love of women’s history.

Over the next couple of years I would study the lives of Hildegard Von Bingen, Martha Ballard, Alice Paul, Betty Friedan…all women who left a mark on history outside the framework of domesticity. Also around this time I received a copy of my grandfather’s memoir which included his version of the end of my grandparents’ marriage. As I read through this story of my grandfather’s life, I wondered how different my grandmother’s version of their divorce would be. She probably would not have painted herself in the light my grandfather had. Unfortunately, her story is lost to history and what remains of her life is only in the memories of her sons and ex-husband.

By the time I graduated from college, I knew the importance of women’s stories but I also understood that historically, women have had to go to greater lengths to get those stories heard. As an idealistic young feminist, I was determined to create my own history; husband and children might come but I would not allow them to define my life, let alone allow myself to be lost in their history.

What I did not understand as an idealistic young feminist was how easy it is for any woman, feminist or not, to fall into this trap. I fully admit that I have lost some of my resolve. None of us can write our history in advance and so as my life has failed to follow the course I imagined, it has become easy to define myself in terms of my husband and children. It is so easy to proudly talk about my husband, the orchestral conductor who is so smart and so talented.
It is a delight to revel in my beautiful Monster who dances and laughs in and out of my presence or Baby Valkyrie who thrives on my love and brightens my life with her smile. I have re-defined myself in the terms of my family because it is the one thing that I feel truly good at, that I am proud of. Yes, I have a life and a career outside of my home but those things are not as fulfilling as I imagined them to be.

I feel at times that my life is at a standstill, waiting for my husband to finish school and get a job, or for my babies to grow up a little or for me to go back and get my graduate degrees. Often I feel like I am just waiting for my real life to begin. I suppose that we all need times of limbo to help focus ourselves, to make the way forward more clear. But how sad if I allow myself to get stuck here.

And so in honor of Women’s History Month, and in honor of my fore mothers, I resolve once again to make my own history. But this time I make my resolution with a little less naivete, with the understanding that my husband and children are part of my history. Part of my history because I have given so much of myself to them and in return they have given themselves to me. And with this gift I realize that it is up to me to be the mistress of my own history.

Reasons why I love mr. mraynes

(In no particular order or importance)

  1. He lets me call him mr. mraynes.
  2. He never complains that I legally changed my name to his name but continue to use my maiden name for just about everything.
  3. He likes my nose, even though he agrees that Adam Banghert had a point when he called me “butt nose” in the 7th grade.
  4. He loves babies. I cringe a little each time he pinches Baby Valkyrie’s cheeks, sticks his finger in her mouth to feel her gums or kisses her to the point where she can’t breathe and starts crying, but I think his love for babies is really cute.
  5. He doesn’t believe in gender roles.
  6. He loves to snuggle and likes it best when I snuggle into his bum.
  7. He is single-minded and incredibly persistent.
  8. His sperm makes really cute babies.
  9. He supports me in all of my pursuits…except for the art projects I do with Baby Monster, he hates those.
  10. He lets me rail against “the patriarchy” and never gets offended.
  11. He tells me he loves me at least 50 times a day.
  12. He makes me think.
  13. He puts up with my neuroses.
  14. He makes me feel warm inside.
  15. He has allowed me to love more fully and deeply than I ever knew was possible.

I love you, darling. Happy Anniversary.

How a Feminist Falls in Love

I have been asked on more than one occasion how I managed to fall in love. I think when people ask this question, they’re not so much making a statement on my personality qualities but rather my general cynicism towards patriarchal institutions such as marriage. I think it is a fair question so I thought I would share the moment my feminist self fell in love.

I was a full blown feminist well before I met my husband. I had plans of going to Oxford, studying women’s history and becoming a brilliant academic. Falling in love was not in my life plan. I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty details of our courtship; it involves a lot of flakiness on my part, a hero’s share of patience by DH and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Suffice it to say, I knew by the second date that DH was perfect and I spent the next five months trying unsuccessfully to get rid of him.

An effective tactic that I often used to scare away BYU boys was going on frequent feminist rants. It was always amazing to me that as soon as I started talking about equality and how Jesus was a feminist the conversation/date/relationship was over.

I tried doing this to DH but he agreed with me and found my thoughts refreshing. When my soft feminism didn’t work, I pulled out my pro-choice, socialist, anti-patriarchy stump speeches hoping that would do the trick but DH only found me more fascinating and invigorating.

In May of 2005, we went to go see three one act plays about Mormon women performed at BYU. During the intermission I was flipping through the program and noticed an advertisement for one of the local jewelry stores in the Provo area. It was your typical engagement ring ad, a flaxen haired beauty with a dreamy look in her eyes bathed in warm light. What got me was the caption, “Show her how much you really love her.” Of course, the only way to show the girl of your dreams that you really love her is to buy a 3 ct. princess cut diamond ring.

This presented the perfect opportunity for me to make some comments about the materialistic nature of the marriage market which, of course, morphed into a tirade about the misogynistic symbolism of heterosexual marriage. It went something like this:

“The engagement ring is the western world’s answer to a bride price. It symbolically says that a man has paid a price for a woman and that she now belongs to him. The ring is a symbol of ownership and objectification that women wear to proclaim that they belong to somebody. With that ring, a man has bought a woman’s body, her sexuality, reproduction and domestic labor. It is blood money that requires women to give up their individuality and become domestic and sexual servants.”

Without missing a beat, DH looked at me and said, “Oh M*, that is ridiculous!”

Usually DH would nod in agreement or ignore my more militant feminist snipes but this time he proceeded to give me his perfectly reasonable and romantic view of the engagement ring, something he saw as a gift of love, freely given.

I was delighted by his response; not because I necessarily agreed with him but because he hadn’t let me walk all over him. I had had other boyfriends who always acquiesced to my opinions or, even worse, thought that my opinions weren’t worth having a conversation about. I didn’t want to be in a relationship where I was placed on a pedestal for my intellect or divine womanhood. Likewise, I didn’t want to be with a man who thought my ideas were silly and not worth responding to. I knew that with DH, we might not always agree but he respected me enough as a person to engage with me as an equal.

When I look back at our courtship, I always pinpoint this moment as the one that made me fall in love. I was looking for a man that I could be equals with; three years later, I know I made the right choice.

As for engagement rings, I still think that they are a type of bride price but my opinion has moderated somewhat. Did I get an engagement ring when the time came? Yep…but it was also my wedding band which is a symbol I can totally get behind.