Monday, July 24, 2017

Tess of the D'Ubervilles

Tess of the D'Ubervilles

I've been especially grateful for the time to get back to reading for pleasure. It is such a simple joy that I had missed dearly.

I very much enjoyed this novel. Honestly, this book made me appreciate the work of early feminists ever so much, and helped me gain a greater appreciation for the rights I currently posses as a woman of the modern era.

Hardy did an incredibly job of encapsulating the deep shame that Tess carried as a result of her rape. It was fascinating to see the heavily entrenched notions of right and work in the book and of the observation of early Christian philosophy. I didn't care for Angel Clare much, and definitely not for Alec Stoke. I often felt like Tess had been stripped of any real personality post-rape, but was instead ascribing to the views that society had of her as being worthless and a scorned being.

My favorite characters were Tess' stalwart dairymaid friends who were without guile and always had Tess' best intentions at heart. I watched the latest BBC adaptation of the novel, and was very pleased. Gemma Arterton's Tess brought the character some spunk and zest to the character. Perhaps this was something Tess possessed all along, but I recognized it even more in a live-action adaptation. Eddie Redmayne served as the perfect complement to Tess, he was all I expected an Angel Clare to be.

"Thus, neither having the clue to each other's secret, they were respectively puzzled at what each revealed, and awaited new knowledge of each other's character and moods without attempting to pry into each other's history."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

THIS American Life.

My maternal grandparents Margarita Galindo Mendoza and Jesus Raul Quesada who wholeheartedly embraced the idea of the American dream.

The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday—hot summer days, trips to ballparks, barbecues, and beautifully colored lights that light up the black night sky. But this year, my heart feels heavy. I've been trying to reconcile my love for my country, and feel happiness for the celebration of the Independence of this nation, but also reconcile it with the deep pain I feel for the plight of my Latino community—a community that knows no borders.

We stood and sang The Star Spangled Banner as our closing hymn at church today, and I couldn't help but notice how much my heart hurt. This phrase from the third verse stayed with me, "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'"

Last summer, I volunteered at a nonprofit in downtown Long Beach where I helped put together DACA applications and looked over people's applications for Naturalization. It was also the summer before an election, and my mind was troubled over "the Immigration question" and the rhetoric surrounding it. I felt confused and hurt and unable to really voice why I felt how I felt about immigration. I began praying for help with this question and delved into the scriptures seeking answers to my questions. I wanted to know what Heavenly Father had to teach me about the immigration.

My answer came in the form of Alma 27 in the Book of Mormon. For those who may not be LDS, the Book of Mormon tells the story of an ancient people that lived here in the Americas before the birth of Christ. In this particular chapter, a group of people who have just been taught about the coming of the Messiah are being persecuted for their beliefs by fellow countrymen. Ammon, the missionary who taught them and who so "dearly beloved" them, saw "this great work of destruction" and was "moved with compassion" so much so that he felt a need to return to his own land and plead on behalf of this people, asking that his own kingdom welcome them so they would not perish. Now, a little backstory this group of people being slaughtered for their belifs, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, had committed "many murders and sins" against the people of Ammon, so let's just say there was a lot of pain involved in this negotiation.

I absolutely love the response from the people once they've been asked if they're willing to take these people in:
And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon...And behold, we will set our armies between the land Jershon and the land Nephi, that we may protect our brethren in the land Jershon; and this we do for our brethren lest they should commit sin; and this their great fear came because of their sore repentance which they had, on account of their many murders and their awful wickedness.
It hit me.
This is a story about immigrants. about refugees. And while I don't profess to know how God wants the immigration reform handled, I do know how he wants me to treat my brothers and sisters no matter WHERE they come from. He wants me to show love and brotherly kindness. This message is repeated time and time again

From Leviticus 19:34
"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as theyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." 

Hebrews 13:2
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."

Matthew 25:35-36
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

It is clear that Heavenly Father wants above all for us to love one another.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, "I like Immigrants. I just want them to come here legally..." I hear this a lot from members of the Church. The USA has a history of carving out immigration policies and putting caveats on "undesireables." It's easy for someone to say this when they don't grasp the conditions of people who come to this country or just how difficult it is for someone with no family members with citizenship to get a green card. It's so interesting to me how we'll celebrate stories from Pres. Uchtdorf  about his  illegall border crossing with his mother from East Germany to West Germany, and yet belittle refugees or complain about immigrants from Latin America.

I don't get it.

I want to be happy to celebrate the America that I love, but right it just feels like we're so divided. It's hard for me to understand why a nation of Immigrants is scared of Immigrants. I get angry at times because I can't help but think, "but I'm indigenous to this land! My ancestors are from this side of the world, how can you not say we're American?!" America does not stop at the border with Mexico.

The immigration debate is one that hits so close to home because it affects members of my family, others who I love. My Father is an immigrant, and I can still remember when he was granted citizenship. We celebrated with red, white, and blue, and a delicious cake my mother made with strawberries, blueberries, and cool whip used to create an American flag.

I am a product of the Americas. I am descended from Mestizos, but also from straight up Indigenous people. I am grateful for my Heritage, and I am grateful for every decision that my ancestors took to bring me about where I am today. I am American born, but my roots lie in lands south of the border, and for that rich heritage I feel exceedingly blessed.

Whatever your stance on immigration; however passionate you feel about your beliefs, I ask that you simply remember that these "immigrants" you speak of are still human beings. They are individuals who have families just as you do, they have dreams, hopes, fears, and worries just as you do. America is a nation of Immigrants, and I truly believe that if we were to correctly embrace the diversity in this country we could progress in ways we can't even imagine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Little Women

Little Women
--spoilers! you've been warned--

I HATED this book. LOATHED it. Actually, had it ended with volume 1, I would have given it a 5 star review, but I actually really disliked the women the girls became. Meg lost any spark/personality and was almost unrecognizable by the end. Beth literally withered away after exposure to scarlet fever which may I remind you really came about because of her sisters.

You cannot expect me to be okay with Jo marrying a 40 year old man who me meet really in one chapter, and whose romantic reasoning for coming to seek Jo out was that he had recognized a poem she had written and felt she was lonely. I felt like crying out as Laurie had, "Jo! Don't marry him. I can't bear it!"

The ending just felt pathetic, and I was more than slightly peeved that Amy--the most spoiled and detestable of all the characters--ended up with the ending I wanted for my girl Jo. The one injustice in Amy's life is that she had a sickly daughter named Beth--original, really.

I literally cringed, and my heart was in knots once I got to Jo's refusal. I quickly texted my friend Amber, "I HATE THIS BOOK." I had heard beforehand that Jo ended up with the professor, but as I started reading the book I thought, "surely, they were mistaken. I heard/read incorrectly. There's no way Jo doesn't end up with Laurie."

I will say, I enjoyed the specs of religiosity because the messages more often than once aligned with lessons I'm learning. But, I'm just not at all happy with the girls' fates. My consolation prize is that the 1994 film version sort of recognized the weird pairings and tried to fix them up a bit by writing in eases into the love story (i.e. the line about wanting a first kiss from Amy, the dates we see Jo & the Professor go on). I'm still really bitter about this one though, I'm just going to pretend Laurie&Jo forever!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

farewell 97.

(Bishop signing the gratitude wall I put up in our apartment last November)

Well, it's official! This past weekend Nicole and I signed a contract for our new place--we're leaving the 97th ward. We both feel really good about it, although, I admit it's going to be sad for me to leave the ward I called home for three years! With my both my cohorts graduating, and Bishop Cardullo most likely getting released in the coming weeks though, it just feels like it's time.

Nicole & I visited the ward that we're moving into and on our walk back, we couldn't help but feel really excited about the changes that will be coming this fall! Everything has fallen into place so wonderfully (much like it did when I first moved into Hampstead) that I'm so sure really great things are coming our way. 

There's still a full summer to enjoy everything the 97th ward has to offer! It's sort of an emotion akin to what I mentioned in a previous post--the closing of a really REALLY great chapter of my life. I have been shaped in so many ways by the people I have met here, they've been an integral part of my refining process. 

I love that there's this extremely strong bond between all of us. I have run into several fellow 97th ward members all over Utah in the past month, and just as with mission reunions, the scripture from when Alma runs into the brothers of Mosiah comes to mind, 

"...therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men [& women!] of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God." (Alma 17:2)

L: I ran into a former ward member on campus, and got this great text shortly after our encounter; R: Russell found this gem on his phone from last year and sent it my way. I have two tiny scars on my right hand from this night. haha!<3

I'm not a HUGE fan of the "typical" visiting teaching visit, so instead I asked Audge if she'd be up with going to the dollar theatre for our visits. It was all fun & games till the dollar theater up & closed on us! We went the day before closing (we saw Arrival) and documented our entire visit for posterity's sake, naturally.

Of course our last showing would be in theater 8! My favorite number!! <tears emoji>
No explanation needed.
From the ward opening social, a pool party at Audrey's house. :)
This is sort of a worlds colliding photo. Ray & I attended our good friend Abby's wedding. I know Abby from Law School,  Ray knows Abby from high school. I know Ray from the ward, but also he's now in law school--it's a web. Abby's reception was in her backyard, and there was such a community feel to it, I loved it! It's funny because as we were walking in, Ray said, "I probably won't recognize anyone here..." Needless to say, he had a whole high school friend crew there, it was fun to observe, and made me want to see my high school friends ASAP!
*cough, cough, Misden come visit me in Utah!!*

Monday, May 29, 2017

For Rachel.

Attending General Conference April 2017, with MPA friends

A couple of months ago, I got this sweet text from a dear friend:
Hi, Lauren! I just read your blog post 'Thoughts on 26.' You've always been so committed and have dreamed so big. I was just wondering where all your motivation comes from? Is it just there, or do you have to fight for it? And how do you keep hold of the confidence in yourself that makes you dream that big when various pressures tell women that there worth lies in so many conflicting places? Maybe someday you could ponder these thoughts in your journal and share them with me. I want to take on the world like you, but I have trouble with the motivation and confidence aspects. Thanks for being a strong female role model!
I've been pondering this question ever since! This question is part of the reason why I decided to read All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation and take on a new year's resolution of reading a Church message a week from the first church-wide meeting directed at Women to the present. I'm still not quite sure what to say, but this is an attempt to gather my thoughts.

On the wall of my work cubicle hangs this picture
It features a determined girl with Pocahontas goals hair. She is larger than life, fearless and unstoppable. I like to imagine that I am that girl, that the sun is shining brightly on my path, and that I can do all things. The older I've gotten, the more that reason has started to take over my brain space and things start to seem impractical. We are our own worst dream killers. 

Why are we fearful of big dreams? During one car ride to Salt Lake, I heard a story on NPR (yes, I'm one of those people!) highlighting research about women and ambition. The study found that single women were less likely to show career related ambition compared with men and married women. While the researchers couldn't quite prove it, they believe it was linked to a desire to continue to have appeal in the dating market. 

The study focused on a class of MBA students. Students were told to fill out questionnaires about summer internship desires some students were told that only career services would see their responses others were told their classmates would see the results. The results? When they thought their classmates could see their responses, the single women reported being less driven and asked for smaller salaries than if they had been told only career services would see their responses. 

I was shocked! & honestly, frustrated and bothered. I thought about the report for the remainder of my trip and realized that I myself would sometime "downplay" my grad school studies. I was disgusted with myself and made a vow to never sugar-coat my dreams from that point on. Maybe this does stem from a false idea that ambitious women are less desirable? I'm not really sure, but to prevent any ill-effects, I've tried to remedy this by making a special effort to get out of the Provo-bred habit of asking "Are you dating anyone?!?" as soon as I run into an acquaintance. I've realized that I should take a genuine interest in individuals without inquiring about their coupling or lack of with another human being--you are interesting enough on your own!

In a world full of mommy blogs and insta models, I've been trying to highlight and recognize achievements of women (let it be noted, I say this knowing that motherhood is a wonderful achievement, and I certainly do not seek to downplay the contributions that mothers have made in this world! I have a goal to be a mother one day). I want to highlight women for more than their sense of style, their physique or the way they decorate their homes. I want to surround myself with women who have beautiful souls and intricate minds.

I do feel down sometimes. 

There are times when worldly pressures that are 100% NOT true will creep into my brain telling me that I'm not enough because of my body, my lack of a significant other, etc. But, rather than dwell and dissect my "problems" incessantly, I give myself time to mope, I give myself time to be down, and then I highlight truths I know about myself. I say a prayer, express how I feel, and proceed to surround myself with purpose. There are times when I worry about singlehood, and life after graduate school, but I hold fast to the idea that my life is in the hands of the master planner. 

I also combat negative self-deprecating thoughts by surrounding myself with amazing women! I find everyday heroes, and I try and spend as much time as I can with them. This is a bit easier for me to do because I'm in such close proximity to game changers thanks to my two grad programs. I try and surround myself with ambitious women—individuals with a drive full of endless possibilities. 

I'm all for therapy sessions and dating talks, but sparingly. There is a notable difference in levels of happiness between friends I have who consistently analyze dating and the lack of it verses my friends who see their singlehood period as time to grow and serve those around them! Seek mentors. Support is everything! Seek like minded ladies, women who will lift, support and cheer you on rather than compete with you for social graces and the affection/time of men.

Finally, know that the greatest champion for women's rights is the Savior. While I was serving as Relief Society President, one of my counselors shared the following passage with me:

The Savior taught women in multitudes and as individuals, on the street and by the seashore, at the well and in their homes. He showed loving-kindness toward them and healed them and their family members. In many parables, He told stories of women engaged in ordinary activities. He demonstrated deep familiarity with women's lives and drew timeless gospel lessons from their everyday experiences. He forgave them. He wept with them. He had compassion on them in their specific circumstances as daughters, wives, homemakers, mothers, and widows. He appreciated them and enobled them.
You have greater potential than you could possibly realize. I'm certain of this. Everyday can be a new opportunity for change, a chance to change your mindset. I paired with this blog post photos of my MPA/Law friends and some of the happenings from throughout the year/graduation. In many ways, the people in these photos are my inspiration. Though I'm sad that both my cohorts graduated without me this year this is more than balanced by my excitement to see where life takes them in the next year.

After our MPA Christmas party at the Wall at BYU
Mackenzie, Abigail, and I after an MBA/PA/JD retreat

The 2017 Barrister's Ball
The Annual Treat-Yo-Self Law School finals celebration
^^Elisse has QUICKLY become my law school BFF. We had all the same classes this semester, and are both passionate about civil rights and education reform. She's the kind of Mama I want to become. Not only is she getting her JD, but she just started a PhD program as well! (#goals) Elisse and I will also be running the Education & Law Journal this upcoming year, I'm so excited to be her right hand girl as she serves as Editor in Chief. 

These photos are from a little gathering we hosted for the journal at Elisse's house before school let out.
Erika, Me, and Katie MPA friends. 
My MPA cohort
I just really love this photo of Lauren A. and Ted! Lauren made the tie that Ted is wearing. Lauren & I shared an innertube during MPA orientation and floated down the provo river together, crazy to think she won't be here next year!
Katie a.k.a. Bair Bair is one of the greatest friends I could have ever asked for. I am still so grateful I convinced her to come back to grad school with me. I can remember sitting in the movie room at her house, selling her on the program and helping to edit her personal statement. I love this girl!
Law School Convocation
PRIMA! Raquel and I have been confused for one another so many times throughout our law school careers. I've gotten her address on my grades, been emailed about her law school finals, and been called Raquel many a times. We were in the same section our 1L year and always sat near each other which made it really difficult for our Professors to call on "Ms. Flores." Let's be real, they were always picking on me. 
Walking with Abby to the ceremonies.
Abby served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Education & Law Journal this year, and we just became really good friends. I knew I could count on her for CrimPro notes, and had the greatest of conversations with her! I'll miss her dearly.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
It's spring/summer! Which means I can feel un-guilty about reading for pleasure, and can therefore devote time a plenty to it. There were a couple of books on the BBC booklist that I read in between this and my last BBC entry (To Kill a Mockingbird), but I never got around to create mood boards for them. I spend two hours of my work-week day on the train commuting from Provo to Salt Lake. That may sound awful, but I'll take public transit (+reading) over driving and getting frustrated with traffic ANYDAY.

I had heard the general plot outline of Great Expectations prior to reading the book, but was really surprised with how inter connected all the characters were. I really enjoyed learning the backstories to all the characters and making discoveries every now and then that were really unexpected.

There were characters who I feel in love with. I think my favorite character is Aged P.! He doesn't appear much in the story, and his lines are more or less, "all right John, all right," but he sounds like the cutest man who has an infectious amount of happiness to share. And Joe and Biddy! How I love them. They are true north characters—individuals who never lost their way, but were so loving and forgiving to Pip after his great expectations journey.

Both Estella and Pip were raised up my adoptive benefactors, one to wreck revenge on the male sex, the other to help a convict realize his personal dreams. I'm glad that this didn't have your typical happy ending, it seemed very real. I watched the 2012 version of the movie which I really enjoyed. My one complaint with the film is that we didn't see the late Mrs. Gargery's transformation into a more docile and repentant creature. I also wasn't a huge fan of how they made Estella seem slightly softer than she really was, but I know it could have been so much worse.

I think Pip was much too hard on himself, when really there was so much goodness in him. One of my favorite passages of the book is when he reflects on his secret dealings of helping Herbert.

"Day by day as his hopes grew stronger and his face brighter, he must have thought me a more and more affectionate friend, for I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my tears of triumph when I saw him so happy. 

At length, the thing being done, and he having that day entered Clarriker's House, and he having talked to me for a whole evening in a flush of pleasure and success, I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some good to somebody."