29 April 2011

Becoming Centered

Everyday we visit families in trailers, houses, condos, duplexes, apartments, and the occasional mansion. We visit military homes and civilian homes. We visit broken homes and happy homes, clean homes and dirty homes. In my opinion, though, the most important aspect of a home-- regardless of physical condition or retail value-- is the personal and familial values that the home emits.

If you value your family, hang a family portrait in the entryway. If you value God, keep your Bible out on the coffee table. If you value the color yellow, hang yellow curtains! When family values are everyday elements of a home, the joy it brings to individual family members can be shared with others who enter the home.

What do you value? How do you share your values with other?

25 April 2011

bits and pieces

I am in the process of moving from Brazil and things are a bit mad, so allow me to just share a few rad links (both old and new) with ya'all about women today. Is that alright?

Here you are!:

Wonderful, quick discussion on the relevance of feminism. This has been in the news quite a bit of late, and i love what is written here.

This is an oldie, but SUCH a goodie - the work of the absolutely amazing Dr. Hawa Abdi in Somalia. Truly, read it and be inspired.

The Smithsonian has a photostream of gorgeous women from the ages. (Thanks to my lovely friend Jordan for this one!)

Did you know about this fab new academic and social initiative out of Toronto all about motherhood advocacy? I think it is just brilliant.

Finally, on a bit sadder note, this is a profile of a woman I really admire. She's an artist and is the widow of incredible writer David Foster Wallace. I find her so refreshingly honest and forthcoming about life, death, marriage, and love.

beijos to you all,

22 April 2011

[photo by angela comperry]
I merged so completely with Love, and
was so fused, that I became Love
And Love became me.

18 April 2011

I am me

I always knew I wanted to do something important. Travel. Study. Help people. I wanted my education to mean something. I wanted my life to leave a mark. So I moved forward, heading toward that ever so broad goal of “accomplish something of meaning.” But plans were always thwarted, either by finances, simple bad luck, and, let’s be honest, by my own fears and apprehensions. Time after time, year after year, I never quite reached a sense of self. Even with the progress I was making with my formal education, I felt something was missing.

And, I saw a pattern: I was defining myself not by what I was doing and who I was, but by that I wanted to do.

Don’t misunderstand: there is great worth in our goals and aspirations. But I was putting too much stock in those goals and aspirations, basing my sense of self on them alone. Someday, I will become a world traveler. Someday, I will have career. And when those things happen, my life will have a meaningful impact on the world.

But life has a way of changing those plans for us. And I let it. I lived in Germany for a year and spent another six months in Austria. I learned a new language. But, that was not the way that I had planned it. Then I got married younger that I had anticipated (I planned on being a well-established 26 year old) and had a baby much quicker than my younger self had ever imagined. Although not part of the plan I had so determinedly created, I wouldn’t change any of those for the world.

However, I have been left wondering: if I was not going to be a career woman who traveled the world, then who was I going to be? Would my life have meaning beyond the walls of my little home? How would I leave my mark? Would I leave a mark at all?

I began to think of the people who left marks on my life, people who affected who I was, and people who I admire. I began to see the mark that I could leave. Even without a paid career to push me along, I leave a little mark all along the way. And that is what defines who I am.

I leave my mark by bringing my friends from all aspects of my life together to be in a book club, where books are chosen that help me see the world through different eyes and where we share our ideas and passions. I know that I can define myself by the charity I show my neighbors by making them dinner when life is just too much for them to handle or by stopping to ask how they are doing. By creating a home where creativity, inspiration, and love are present, I can help our daughter gain a love and appreciation for the arts and sciences, just like my husband and I have.

Who am I? I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, and a neighbor. I can be kind, thoughtful, creative, and motivated in those individual relationships. I have hobbies and interests that are unique to me. I may not be paid for what I do every day, but I know that I am not defined by that.

13 April 2011

Guest Post: A Heritage of Women's Literature

i've been swamped with finals. lucky for you, that means you get to hear from someone else! natalie's writing is delightful. read more at her personal blog (which is fantastic!). enjoy...

Greetings! My name is Natalie, and I’m excited to make a guest appearance on this blog. My sister Jessica is a regular, but she asked me to fill in for her today.

My thoughts today on womanhood drift towards one specific aspect of women’s contribution to society. I recently graduated with a BA in English, and as I learned to both analyze and create literature, I couldn’t help but notice how priceless the female voice is in our literary canon. Western history shows that before the 19th century, education for women was rare; thus, it was a struggle for female authors to be published and recognized. But the brave souls who paved the way for a future of women and literature would not be silenced.

Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the advocates of women’s literacy, publishing A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. A Vindication argues for many aspects of women’s rights, including that of education. Wollstonecraft describes the dangers that generated from the ignorance of women, writing that their ignorance injures their moral character, ability to raise children, and encourages vanity and sentimentalism. Wollstonecraft’s Vindication was a near-immediate success, showing that the world was ready to take a serious look at women’s education.

Perhaps a more recognizable name than Mary Wollstonecraft is Mary Shelley, Wollstonecraft’s daughter, and author of Frankenstein. The daughter, like the mother, became an accomplished writer, and Frankenstein is canonized as a beloved romantic/gothic novel. It successfully explores the dangers of playing God, the consequences of obsession, and many other themes and motifs. One of my favorite moments in all of literature comes from this book, as young Frankenstein beholds his creature come to life and realizes the horrific monster he has created:

“It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered against the panes, and my candle was nearly burned out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”

Doesn’t that just give you a shiver?

Thank Mary Shelley’s genius for that little shiver. We should also thank her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, for advocating a woman’s right to be education and educating her daughter accordingly. One mother’s passion translated into her daughter’s success, and both mother and daughter live on in the wonderful legacy of women’s literature

01 April 2011

An Eternal Perspective of Families

 dad, mom, me, brother. january 2011.
Before I came to the South to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had been working toward my degree in family science. While studying people and relationships sounded interesting, I realized that truly making a career out of my degree would be heartbreaking: I had a desire to help individuals and families, but I am no where near emotionally strong enough to do so as a career. So when I felt prompted to serve a mission and teach others about Christ, not only did that sound like a wonderful experience to begin with, but it also meant a break from school, and more time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. I never would have guessed how much my time out here would matter not only to the people I work with, but to my individual progression and knowledge.

One of my greatest blessings thus far is the chance I have had to interact with families daily. I have been able to enter a variety of homes and see a variety of family dynamics, an experience I would have never received as a single student in a college town. I get to see the concepts I learned in family science lectures and textbooks play out before me.

The most incredible thing I've witnessed on my mission so far is the power of transitional characters: people who
1. learn from and overcome difficult and destructive pasts, and
2. create a happier home for their family of procreation (their spouse and children).
I have met several individuals who exemplify this concept:
A woman gave birth to four children as a teenager (a single baby, then triplets), but gave them all up for adoption. She wanted them to have a better life than she could provide them at that time. Even though they are out of her life, she still speaks of them with love. She is now working at a fast food restaurant with her boyfriend, who suffers from PTSD after being deployed in Afghanistan. They help care for a pregnant friend's two children while her husband is deployed.

One man traded a 6-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes for his first tattoo at the age of 14, got his girlfriend pregnant at the age of 17, then stepped up and joined the military to support his family. He now is married to a wonderful woman and helping raise two of her children from a previous marriage. Love abounds in their home.

After 17 years, a woman left a mentally and physically abusive marriage with her two teenagers in tow. She struggles both emotionally and financially now, but is strong in her faith, and loves her children above all else.

A young mother is struggling to forgive her unfaithful husband, who is out of the country for work, while raising their child as a single parent. Despite his emotional and physical distance, and his indifference toward religion, she is turning to God to find peace in her life. Her home is a little bit brighter everyday as she continues to endure her hardships with faith that everything will be okay.

When an individual has the courage to redirect their life toward a brighter path, not only will they flourish as an individual, but their families will feel the blessings and strength from that action as well.

I have never understood the divine importance of family more than I do now. God gave us all families to safely learn and grow in. Sometimes that family structure comes through close friends, adoption, inter-generational living arrangements, or through one's future family of procreation. Regardless, God has a plan for us, and that plan is based around family.

I have seen strong men and women tear up their families through negligence, addictions, and pride. But I have also seen valiant men and women build their families up through faith and devotion, caring for God's children as He would himself. A family isn't just a temporary organizational unit, but an eternal one. When we realize the sacred nature of family relationships, we will be blessed and our families will prosper.

To learn more about families and the gospel, click here.

To read more about what I believe, click here.

Love, Sister Allison Barnes

(P.S. Please disregard the religiosity of this post if that is not your thing. I'm a missionary right now, so it's my pleasure and responsibility to be religious!)