Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Books. And Joy. And Timing and Stuff.

I'm on a reading marathon now. I tend to go in waves --read a million books for weeks, read nothing for weeks. It's just how I roll with literature.

I just finished:
"Cranford" by Elizabeth Gaskell
"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
"Not My Type" by Melanie Jacobson
"The List" by Melanie Jacobson

on my list to read next:

"The Undaunted" by Gerald Lund
"Bitten" by Robert Smith
"Letters in the Jade Dragon Box" by Gale Sears
"To Say Nothing of The Dog" by Connie Willis
"A Study in Valor" by William T. Garner (which was our book club book this month, but I just got it yesterday and book club is tonight, so I probably won't get it read before book club...)

What I want to talk about:

Melanie Jacobson

I usually don't like to praise LDS romantic fiction to the sky because, frankly, it's not that awesome. I expect a lot from my book choices, and sometimes/usually/most of the time, LDS romance is way too fluffy/feel-good to fit the bill. For me. Now, I'm not saying there isn't a great place for the genre, nor am I saying I don't appreciate the cleanliness of LDS romance --however, I'm always a tad disappointed in the writing.

But not this time!

If I'm right (I could be wrong), those two books ("Not My Type" and "The List") are Melanie's only novels out right now. So, she's pretty new on the scene. But let me tell you, dear reader, I am Im.Pressed. Not only is a she a great story teller, but she is a fantastic writer! Her books were long enough to weave in and out of great characters and plot twists, including the great dilemmas of romance gone awry (or, basically, obstacles to true love). They were believable, and very entertaining. She's got some great wit about her (Melanie), and it shows. Loved these books. Can't wait for her next one!

Next thing I want to talk about:
"The List" is about a girl who has written a list of things she HAS to do before she gets married. Instead of talking about the book, I want to talk about the things a woman/wife/mother can do AFTER she gets married.

It is a lie, perpetuated by our society, fueled by satan, that a woman cannot do ANYTHING after marriage/babies except be a wife/mother and cook/clean/raise babies. Or, or, or, if she DOES get married, she must postpone children for decades in order to fulfill all her dreams. There are many other lies we women are fed, too, but I'm going to focus on this one, because the book is really good at talking about it very subtly.

I had a lot of plans my freshman year of college. I remember very clearly, that Spring of 1998, that I was going to do amazing things. I was going to do study abroad, serve a mission, major in music, get a Master's degree, move to England, etc. I had PLANS, dear reader. I didn't expect to meet my future husband in May of 1998. Or be married by January of 1999.

I was 19 years old, you know.

I found, very quickly, that my plans which changed drastically didn't automatically equate failure, though. No, I wouldn't be serving a mission. No, I had to cancel my study abroad (it was just Nauvoo, anyway). But I did try to major in music --with the support of my new husband. It didn't work out. Not my marriage's fault, though.

What I DO find interesting, however, is how pervasive this idea that men/women have to accomplish things before getting married or else they will never happen! EVER! Because it's simply not true. Do priorities change with marriage? Yes. Is it harder financially to fulfill dreams while married? Probably. But it's not impossible.

I know I've written about this before, but indulge me (again and again?). These are some of the things I've done since getting married:
*Flown on an airplane (seriously --for the first time when I was 20).
*Tried exotic foods and learned how much I love Indian and Thai food
*Traveled the world. Literally.
*Gone on 4 cruises (part of the traveling)
*Honed my writing skills (still a much needed work in progress)
*Graduated from college with a 3.5 GPA (which is a great GPA for me!)
*Worked in the mountains, worked as an accompanist (piano), taught piano lessons, worked in online marketing
*Owned a home/cars
*Gone parasailing
*Hiked mountains
*Tried boogie boarding
*Had one of my life-time dreams come true --going to England and seeing Jane Austen's home, Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, and St. Paul's.

Not bad for a girl from a small Idahoan town, eh?

And yet --the biggest part of it is my family. I've done all this while having children, raising children, and being focused on children. I've done it all with my husband by my side, encouraging me along the way.

I have girlfriends who have, after marriage (and usually having children) finished college degrees, master's degrees, started up businesses, created non-profit businesses and charitable institutions. I've had friends who have traveled the world, ended up serving missions with their spouses, lived in different countries, found new talents (sewing, photography, cooking, music of all kinds --organ, guitar, singing, piano --art, writing, gardening, and midwifery), and have found creative ways to use those talents.

My point? Yes, as a mother/wife, you do give up some things. Yes, sometimes some things need to be postponed (missions, post graduate schooling, etc.), but not everything. When I think of all the things I've done with my eternal companion at my side, I'm grateful! So grateful that he is a part of those memories.

President James E. Faust once said:
Sequentially is a big word meaning to do things one at a time at different times. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, it says: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). It seems that the new roles of women have not decreased their responsibility because, while the new roles are challenging, the old roles of wife and mother are in the soul and cry out to be satisfied. It is in the soul to want to love and be loved by a good man and to be able to respond to the God-given, deepest feelings of womanhood--those of being a mother and nurturer. Fortunately, women do not have to track a career like a man does. A woman may fit more than one career into the various seasons of life. She cannot sing all of the verses of her song at the same time.
I mean, if you think about it, it just MAKES SENSE. Women's bodies start to shut-down baby wise in their late 30's. So, why not have them (if they can) in their 20's? And then, when their kids are old enough, a woman can go back to school, start a career, etc. at 45 years old. Don't believe me? Ask the women who do it all the time. Ask the women who purposefully wait to have kids while they do their career and then find out they physically can no longer have children. That's pain, dear reader. Real pain.

[And yes, I'm very aware that women marry later --my friend got married at 37, became an automatic mother of pre-teens, and then preceded to have four children in five years. I know it can be done. Sometimes we don't have the choices. Sometimes, the career and such come BEFORE marriage/children --but it's when a woman refuses to entertain the idea of marriage/children until after she's "lived" that I'm talking about. It's not about the ones without choices. So, please don't rant at me that you married at age 40 and had twins or whatever. This isn't about you. Sorry.]

So, my advice? Don't postpone marriage/babies for the wrong reasons. Trying to fit in a lifetime of excitement and joy before "settling down" is not a good reason (in my opinion). Besides, the excitement and joy you get from having a spouse and children makes up for all of that stuff, anyway. I mean, have you ever had to experience stomach flu, a brand new baby (literally days old), and a flooded house all in the same week!? Now THAT'S excitement! The joy comes when everything is fixed, everyone is better, and you have those blissful moments of peace. Nothing compares, man. Nothing compares.

Okay, maybe Westminster Abbey...but still... :)


Annette Lyon said...

Okay. So you probably know where I'm going, because you touched a nerve.

Yes, there are some cheesy, crappy romances in the LDS market. I could list several.

But if you know who to read, there are also a lot of really good ones. Melanie isn't even almost the only one out there.

Just a few off the top of my head:

Julie Wright's "Cross My Heart"

Michele Paige Holmes's "Counting Stars," "All the Stars in Heaven," and "Captive Heart."

Sarah Eden's "Courting Miss Lancaster," "Kiss of a Stranger," "Seeking Persephone" and coming in January (I've already read it), "Friends and Foes." Her books are all Regency era, so think Jane Austen. (Oh, yeah.)

NC Allen's Legend of the Jewel series

And many more.

(I may be delusional, but I think I've written a few good ones myself, especially my historical romances.)

I get my feathers ruffled any time I see the LDS book market painted with a broad brush of mediocrity.

It happens so much, and I'm so tired of it. A lot of great LDS-market writers never get a chance to be read by people who will really love their work because too many people assume everything the LDS publishers put out is total crap--or they find ONE book that's good, and assume it's the only good one out there.

Not that you're saying that--just trying to spread the word that there really are good, fun, LDS novels, including romances. No, not all. Maybe not even the majority. But there are many.

Okay, off my soap box now. :)

Stephanie said...

We have a running joke in my family that the only way to finish the book "Undaunted" is if you are TRULY undaunted by it. It just goes on and on! The horrible part about feeling that way is that it just tells the truth as it happened, so just imagine how the pioneers felt.

Cheryl said...

Stephanie --LOL! That's awesome!

No worries! I actually thought, as I was writing it, "what would Annette think, you betrayer!?" So, I'm glad you chimed in. :)

Cheryl said...

Mormon literature is like Mormon music...the really great stuff is buried under the cheese and fluff. Glad to get some good suggestions because I gave up long ago!

Dorri said...

I have to second Annette on suggesting Michele Holmes' 3 books. I've read them, and love them. And not just cause she's family. But I also have to admit that before reading Michele's books I haven't read much in the way of LDS romances because they did seem fluffy to me. But I have had my eyes opened and now realize that there are a lot of great LDS authors to choose from.