Thursday, January 20, 2011

play-dough prestige

I just read an article that had me riveted. It was written by a feminist atheist who has no children and openly admits to being completely enamored with "Mormon Mommy Blogs." I think that she wrote the article in very witty, interesting, insightful, and {most importantly} respectful way. The comments following? Well, in true "troll-ish-nightmare-with-nothing-better-to-do" form, some people were disrespectful, random, off-topic, delusional, etc. Others, still, were intelligent and thought-provoking. I had to tear myself away in hopes of getting anything done at all today! {But alas, here I am blogging all about it, and because of it, instead.}

In the article, writer Emily Matchar writes:

"Enter the Mormon bloggers, with their picture-perfect catalog lives. It is possible to be happy, they seem to whisper. We love our homes. We love our husbands.

Of course, the larger question is, are these women's lives really as sweet and simple as they appear? Blogs have always been a way to mediate and prettify your own life; you'd be a fool to compare your real self to someone else's carefully arranged surface self. And Mormons are particularly famous for their "put on a happy face" attitude. The church teaches that the Gospel is the only authentic path to true happiness. So if you're a faithful follower, you better be happy, right?"

Kay, so, here is where I struggle. Not only with the perceptions of feminist atheists, but with the perceptions of, well MOST people, really. I know that some blogs seem really sugar-coated. I know that not everyone has a super-happy marriage, but I do, and I don't like being regulrly bombarded with skepticism saying otherwise.

I guess I need to take a step back and say:

"Is it really all that important that people BELIEVE you when you say that you love your husband dearly?"

{Obvious answer: No, that's actually not important in the least. Duh.}

But no one likes to be called a liar. Nor do they like to have such a sentiment implied in their general direction because they openly profess to love their husband, children, and their stay-at-home lifestyle on their blogs.

I think that it's a wee bit scary that we automatically disregard the experiences of others simply on the basis that we have never had those experiences ourselves. Or on the basis that we place different values on different things. Emily {author of the linked article} was likely raised to value education. {As was I} She was likely raised to value a promising/prestigious career. {Me, not so much, though it was always made clear that my parents would be super proud/supportive of me if I did choose that path.}She was likely raised to feel that believing in God was silly, impractical, and simply a much less-intelligent thing to believe in. And that's okay. I don't disregard her experiences based solely on the fact that I have not had them.

I was raised to value motherhood.
And that's okay too.
No, more than okay, it is absolutely wonderful.

I spent the better part of Monday {MLK day, so Kort didn't have school} making homemade play-dough for Kort and a neighbor friend.  And I'm not even sugar-coating when I say: It was heaven.  
{Okay, perhaps rather than merely a much dreaded sugar-coat-er, you think I am just plain nuts, but let me explain.}

I decided to do a test kitchen of sorts in search of the very best home-made play-dough recipe out there. {Yes, I fancy myself a scientist.} I tried four different recipes and determined a clear winner. I had two little helpers who enthusiastically measured, poured, stirred, and tested right along with me. When we determined the winner, we rolled out batch after batch after batch of perfect home-made play-dough. This was so ridiculously fullfilling.

If I were an executive working in a sky scraper, I might create a great product, or a fabulous ad campaign, and my boss might pat me on the back and give me a gruff "nice work."...and my girlfriends might take me out for drinks to celebrate... and  I might get to spend the late evening eating Chinese take out on my spotless couch and watching whatever I wanted to watch into the wee hours of the morning, knowing full well that I could sleep in till noon the next day because no little feet would be pattering in around 6:00 a.m. and asking for pancakes, etc...

And this would be my reward for working my cookies off for weeks, MONTHS even. A pat on the back and a late night celebration. Sounds reasonable. But back to play-dough.

Let's talk about play-dough making benefits, shall we?

I spent 2 hours making play-dough, and what did I get?
Triumph! {When I zeroed in on the best recipe.}
Enthusiasm! {From two darling little boys/assistant chefs.}   
Satisfaction! {As batch after perfect batch rolled forth from the last usable pot I own - ahem, because I have destroyed all of my other ones in unfortunate cooking accidents- um, because I am actually a disaster in the kitchen on most days, but I am DETERMINED to ge better every day.}
Gratitude! {When I snuggled my little boy into his bed that night and he pulled my face into his with a killer neck hug and said thank you - roughly a dozen times- for taking the time to do play-dough experiments with him... and for letting him use my good cookie cutters...and for rolling the dough out into a perfectly flat workspace...and...and...and... so much gratitude.
Fulfillment! {Knowing that my actions have expressed love to my son. Knowing that he feels it. Knowing that the little person that I care most about in all the world lives in a home that is secure, creative, loving, and fun. Knowing that simple, daily efforts and a commitment to doing "mundane" tasks everyday is creating a world for my family that is loving and beautiful.
Double Fulfillment! {Because I made extra, bagged it up, and will be taking it to my seven lil' babies in Nursery on Sunday. I will get to feel joy in connection to my play-dough making efforts once again as I watch one and two year old lil' munchkins press, and mold, and roll, and inevitably try to eat those joyous balls of colorful dough.}

All from making PLAY-DOUGH?! {You may ask.}
And to you, I respond with a simple: Yes. Yes, indeed.

It's all so simple.
The rewards of home making outweight my efforts ten fold every time.

Chocolate chip cookies made from scratch and served hot out of the oven with a tall glass of milk is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize in my seven year old's eyes.

Making my husband's favorite dinner and having him "What About Bob" it up with every bite is the equivalent running a mere half mile and then being treated as though I've won the New York Marathon.

And what about taking a small, home-made birthday gift to and visiting for a moment with my dear, sweet neighbor who has terminal cancer, and will not see another birthday in this life? More fulfilling than any career you can throw in my face. More than anything you could offer to me, really.

I guess I just refuse to apologize for having a life made up of tiny little pieces and tiny little people that bring me undeniable joy.

{Kort's half-eaten ring pop that he stores in this cheapie IKEA bowl on top of our kitchen counter. Every time I walk by it, it makes me smile. And I stop and savor the image...because I know this period of my life is fleeting. I'm going to blink, and it'll be car keys. I'll blink again and it'll be a mission call. I am not going to miss out on one single opportunity to stop and realize that that ring pop is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. NOW we're gettin' crazy, no?}
I'm also going to immerse myself in the making of singed flowers. They are so much fun, and they come out beautifully every time regardless of the fact that I am not a talented crafter. And on the subject of crafts, do you want to know why women love making things so much? It's because we are natural-born creators. I don't care who you are: feminist, atheist, truck driver, career driven name it! If you are a WOMAN, there is a part of your brain that will go totally zen when you pick up a paintbrush, hot glue gun, pair of scissors, or ball of clay.

It's science. 50% of the time, it works every time. You can quote me on that.
I do all of my happy crafting with my trusty baby monitor by my side. When Tentens is up, happy crafty zen time is over, and it's reading, drooling, giggling, bathing, eating, cooing time instead. And when Kort bursts through the front door after school, it morphs into snack time, brother time, homework, and friend-finding time. {And those times are equally fulfilling.}
And when the hubs is home from work, and Kort is home from school, it just might become FAMILY happy crafty zen time, and would you even believe it? Men and boys feel its beneficial effects too! Fancy that.

In closing, I really enjoyed the article. I thought she did an AWESOME job, considering her background.

I guess I just don't understand why 
that mommy blogs are not totally sugar-coated,
and stay-at-home-moms just might be THAT ridiculously happy.
Am I nuts?

We are sheltered from the outside world.
We are loved and adored by our children for doing the simplest of things {i.e. reading a book, making play-dough, or I don't know, just listening intently to them and being genuinely interested in the things they have to say...}
We are treasured and respected by our husbands.
We get to choose who we let in, and who we keep out.
What's not to love?

I'm grateful for the small things.
Even the tiny things.
For, they truly are the things that make up our lives.

I love creating.
I love that I am so richly rewarded for doing things that I enjoy doing anyway.
I love that I am so richly rewarded for trying really hard to consistently do the things that I totally have no interest in doing. {i.e. laundry, dishes, getting out of my bathrobe by 2:00 p.m. - a goal which I am totally failing, btw.}
I love that I am the creator of my world, and I get to pick and choose who gets to be a part of it.
And I get to pick and choose how I want to beautify it.
And I get to pick and choose how I want to nurture the people who reside within the walls of it.

I'm grateful that I am human, and have the capacity to REASON.
The capacity to CHOOSE HAPPINESS and LIVE HAPPINESS every. single. day. of my life.

Because it is a choice, you know.
{Clinical depression excluded, of course, that's a whole other ball game.}

and I love making play-dough.
{maybe a little too much.}

*If you found this article helpful, please feel free to share. By clicking the "f" box in the bottom of this post, you can share it with your friends on facebook. {And I would surely love it if you did!}


Miracles Happen said...

Um I want that receipe!!

May said...

A well written post Lola!!! You summed up the strength of a woman!!!!I am sharing it..:)

Stefanie said...

Recipe please!! (and I loved your post)

Housewife on Fire said...

Ha ha!
TOTALLY meant to post the recipe.

Just posted it in the post above this one :)

Life with Kaishon said...

I am glad you are so happy Lola. Who cares what that lady thinks? Am I bad because I don't even care what religion people are. When I go to blogs I go there for great ideas, great smiles, great creativity. I don't give a flip if someone is a Mormon, a Catholic or even a Athiest. I love Jesus.

the Lola Letters said...

No Becks, just the opposite, you are WONDERFUL because you don't care about what religion people are. If they are good people, and their blogs are fun to read...shouldn't that be enough?

For reals.

Meg said...

Well done Lola...Way to have a happy the play dough,oh, and welcome to my club!!!
The fake, Happy, Sappy,Lover blog Club...wouldn't have it any other way!!!
Keep up the good work little mommy!!!

Celeste said...

shared & shared.,4945,9118-1-5187-1,00.html

speaking of deciding what is inside the walls of your home, read that article. it's some powerful shish ricky bobby.

The Meyer Family said...

Does staring at the half empty part of your glass fill it up? Nope. So is it ok to choose to be happy even though things aren't perfect and put your very best out there in hopes that it will lift somebody else and help you remember how blessed you are? YES! Thanks for sharing and being honest. I love your enthusiasm, 18 years of staying at home here...and I love your honesty about bad days, messes, bathrobes and people that bug. :)

Housewife on Fire said...

That article was amazing!! Thank you so much for linking me up with it! It LOVE it. I am totally renewed and inspired for having read it.

PERFECTLY said. There just isn't anything wrong with focusing on the positive and consistently reaching for our best. At least, I'll never think so!

Love you girls!

Ang said...

Well, hello again:) Loved your darling blogs. Loved that you had so much to say about the topic and that you actually did. Hoping to get the girls trip worked out and see you again. I had a fun night with you two beautiful women!

karen gerstenberger said...

I am glad that you wrote this, for several reasons. One of the joys of blogging is the ability to communicate with real people about topics that matter to us, in real time. I love not being controlled by the mainstream media! And here you are, reading another viewpoint (or several others), thinking and responding with respect and intelligence. They could learn important lessons from you in the U.S. Congress!

I also enjoy Mormon Mommy blogs, and I will gladly tell you why. Though not a Mormon, I respect what the faith contributes to its adherents (is that the right word?) and to the larger community. I love the respect for marriage, family and home that is part of the Mormon culture. I believe sincerely that many of the ills that our society is suffering from now stem from a lack of respect and investment in having a devoted, loving homemaker at home. A family that has a homemaker has a better home life.

There were days when my intellect was not stimulated fully, when I was not as gracious as I could have been about the manual labor involved in homemaking. But gradually, I grew to value that work deeply. When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I knew the value of my role in a new way. Being wholeheartedly present with your family is what they, and we, deserve. Since our daughter's passing, I have been so very thankful for the privilege of being her mother and being with her as much as possible.
We never know what life may throw at us, but we can approach each day with a loving heart and with presence. I think that is what you are practicing, and I am thankful for your sake, your children's sake, your husband's sake and your community's sake. Rock on.