Quote of the Week

"I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you."
President Ezra T. Benson, To the Single Adult Sisters of the Church, 1988.

Friday, September 18, 2015

It's Not You, There's Just Not Enough Him's


Trib Talk: LDS singles in a family-centric church

I turn forty-one this month. My birthday gift to you, my readers, as well as to myself are these links validating what I've been saying for years as a single, never married, woman. If, like me, you also struggle with the fear that Prince Charming is never going to show up and choose you as his companion, helpmeet, wife or mother, just repeat to yourself this simple phrase.
It's not my fault.
Because the simple fact, ladies, remains. The reason why we're still not married has nothing to do with single women being too picky, greedy, selfish, too plain or homely and EVERYTHING to do with skewed numbers. 
I'll be reading Jon Birger's new book, Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game (2015) as soon as it becomes available at my local library (because it's a new release, they're still processing and cataloging the title)
In the meantime, please watch the above panel discussion posted by the Salt Lake Tribune where five single Mormon women discuss the challenges of how contemporary Mormonism excludes and basically ignores the growing needs of singles in a family dominated religion as well as these follow-up articles all written in response to Jon Birger's Time magazine article.
And remember, if more men would commit to monogamy and more women would hold men to this standard, there wouldn't be so many incredible, amazing single women forced to put on a brave face everyday to hide their loneliness. 

We should be wooed, and were not made to woo.
(A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II, scene i)

Have a great month. See you at Cheesecake Factory! (my favorite place to celebrate birthdays)


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Go Set A Watchman: My Review

Readers and students never forget their first Mockingbird encounter. Harper Lee's celebrated book has a place on that Great American Novel List for a reason. Everyone comes away from this book wishing Atticus Finch was their father and even if they say they don't, they're lying.

The 1962 film starring Gregory Peck is probably the greatest example of a movie adaptation of a novel Hollywood ever made. If someone never read the book, at least they're familiar with the film. It's on every Top Ten Greatest Movie List out there.

In case anyone's wondering, Go Set A Watchman will never be made into a Hollywood movie. It will never make anyone's Top Ten List. Who would play Atticus? He's about 70 years old in this prequel everyone is calling a sequel. It is no sequel. It's not even a novel but a rough draft of an idea the publishers wisely rejected in 1957. It lacks everything that make Mockingbird great.

I'm still wondering who got their hands on this manuscript and inserted their own modern day ideas and opinions because this book contains none of Harper Lee's style and prose for anyone familiar with the original story. The social consciousness is gone. Childhood's safe cocoon shattered. The heart has been removed, replaced by grim, cynical, 21st century reality that the nuclear family, not to mention the nuclear age, has been forever lost. Cast aside. Replaced by something much better. Post-Christianity.

It is a very disappointing read.

"The novel must tell a story," says Dr. John Finch on page 188 in this most anticipated novel of the year.

Was Harper Lee even paying attention to her own writing?

The setting is irrelevant. There is no plot, no character development, theme or style because this story could happen anywhere. The time period is supposed to be the late 1950's yet all featured characters, including Atticus Finch and his precocious daughter, have been reduced to 21st century stereotypes. Harper Lee has conveniently forgotten the Atomic Age came before The Feminine Mystique and the Equal Rights Movements.

Only two passing references are made to To Kill a Mockingbird. Any reader who picks up this book anticipating another fascinating and exciting "Where are they now?" tale will be very disappointed. Jem is dead. Dill Harris fought in The Good War and is currently living it up in Italy. The glaring absence of Boo Radley, the Robinson family and Mayella Ewell is why this book has no place alongside its counterpart.
Go Set A Watchman is no Great American Novel. Readers will have a hard time walking around in its shoes. It has no shoes.

Told entirely in third person limited, Jean Louise is rarely called "Scout" these days. She's grown up into a career woman. She's here in Maycomb for a visit and spends the entire novel drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, shunning marriage to Henry Clinton, and looking down her nose at everyone who doesn't appreciate equal rights and feminism the way she does.

When she's not daydreaming about her coming of age experiences, (menstruation, how babies are made, her first school dance) Jean Louise Finch is screaming bloody murder at her boyfriend and Atticus for attending a KKK meeting.
The Horror!

That's the entire plot of this novel. I'm serious. Nothing happens.

After talking to everyone: Henry Clinton, Uncle Jack Finch, Aunt Alexandra, and finally her father (to whom she should've run to in the first place but that would be plagiarizing To Kill a Mockingbird) Jean Louise Finch finally comes to terms with the fact that Harper Lee was wrong to make Atticus Finch into a Christ Figure because what kind of a world would this be if men were actually good for something?

Oh, and she's never getting married. This is 1957 after all.

There is some swearing but no f-bombs, sex scenes or violence. It is appropriate for all middle-grade readers and above but it is no literary classic and will never be celebrated in freshman English classes like that Other Book.
Please, let's keep it that way.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Meeting Elder Perry

As our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this good man who touched so many lives, I consider myself blessed to have been one of those people who walked away a better person after my own brief encounter with an apostle of the Lord.
I've been keeping a journal since I was thirteen. On May 3, 1997, I was twenty-two years old, living in Cedar City with no car, working part time at Arby's, going to school at Southern Utah University and preparing to put in my mission papers. I was struggling with the decision since I'd much rather be preparing for a temple wedding, anticipating creating an eternal family of my very own, with kids and everything, but with no prospects in sight, what's a sister to do?
I was also struggling with the wound in my heart after being sexually molested in 1995.
My stepfather, whom I refer to as "Dad" in my journal, is a good man and I'm grateful to have him in my life, but too often I find myself missing the father who gave up his own eternal family and yearning for a priesthood holder of my own; determined to break the Llewellyn cycle of divorce.
In 1997, as the oldest of five kids, I was the first one to leave the proverbial "nest" in La Verkin. The shock of leaving that comfortable home life was just plain HARD. I'm a homebody by nature and I missed hanging out with my siblings, eating dinner together, passing notes during sacrament meeting; just having people around who really knew me and cared about me.
I would like to share this excerpt from my journal about that special day when I was privileged to shake the hand of a general authority. (I'll never wash this hand again!)

May 12, 1997
Time can eventually heal most wounds, or at least scab them over so they're less noticeable. Wonderful things don't always happen, but, sometimes, the Lord does see fit to send somewhat moderate events into my life to let me know He hasn't completely forsaken me.
Going home and spending a nice, long, three day weekend among my family helped tremendously. I left early Thursday afternoon with Amy Picklesimer with whom I also returned with Sunday night.
During my stay, I went to St. George twice, saw Stacy (Stacy Snider was my roommate at Dixie in 1995) and went to church with my family.
I also attended the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert at the Dixie Center with Mom, Dad and Grandma. We gave them three standing ovations until the choir finally sang Battle Hymn of the Republic and it was wonderful. One day, I too will be among the members of that choir.
After the concert, Dad and I went down to the stage. Dad knew one of the artistic directors and Elder L. Tom Perry of the "Big 12" was also accompanying the choir on their bicentennial tour through Utah and some of us got to shake his hand! I was SO psyched. I was on cloud nine the whole way home and for several days afterward. I mean, this was my first time meeting any of the BIG CHURCH LEADERS.
He was awesome. Elder Perry even said he liked my necklace. (I just happened to be wearing my medallion that night!) He was very tall, too, just like in that picture where he's standing with all the other members of the twelve.
I actually got to shake his hand twice. After I returned back to where Dad was standing, to gloat about my thrilling meeting, he said he also wanted to talk to Elder Perry. As it turns out, Dad knew one of his sons when he lived and worked in the Salt Lake area before he married Mom.
Dad knows everybody!
Since I happened to be standing there, Elder Perry shook my hand and spoke to me AGAIN!
Whatever may befall me in this life, I will never turn my back on the gospel. I love being a member of this church. I love the gospel. I have to. I am, after all, a fifth generation Mormon with pioneer "Faith In Every Footstep" ancestors behind me. 
I can't disappoint them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You'll Understand When You're Married

So, what's a good response when someone lobs this condescending bomb into the conversation?
"You'll understand when you're married."

"You'll understand more when you're not."
"Stop infantalizing me you condescending b----!"
"My marital status does not, in any way, define who I am as a person."
"You married folk think you're so much wiser than everyone else on the planet."

After resisting the urge to punch this person in the face, I simply turned and walked away; bereft of any Clever Comebacks.
"Well the jerk store called and they're running out of you."

Too many people in this world think that marriage is something that just happens to you. That thousands of frustrated single people can simply wake up on the morning of their choosing and *TWANG* "Look, Ma, I'm married!"

It isn't that simple.

Way too many people imply this same phenomenon to divorce. We have turned into a society that not only values marriage, but has become obsessed with re-creating it for ourselves over and over until we get it right.

Apparently, the only good marriage one can have these days, is the marriage built on the solid rock of divorce. 
I disagree.

Instead of letting my anger and bitterness stew, I had to focus on the positive things in my single life before I began to feel better:
Just because I'm single doesn't exclude me from being a contributing member of society. Until my own day of happiness arrives, I can use my gifts and talents to bring happiness to others.
I have two nephews, a sister, a brother and plenty of girlfriends who value me as a complete person and with whom I enjoy spending time with.
Every Sunday, I help teach three sunbeams and, guess what? They don't give a rat's a-- whether or not I'm married! As Sheri Dew said, "Are we not all mothers?"

Maybe there are some things I won't understand until my wedding night. Maybe stretch marks do bring greater wisdom to a woman. Maybe I do have to wait until I'm married, divorced and then happily re-married again before certain members of society will listen and accept me into their "adults-only" club.

Until then, I'm just getting more awesome.

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Week of Service

In his talks directed to single adults in the church, President Gordon B. Hinckley's most oft repeated advice was, simply, to serve others.
"The best medicine for despair is service," (To Single Adults, 1989.)
"Lose yourself in the service of others," (A Conversation with Single Adults, 1997.)
In the past, my eye-rolling response was always, "How can he possibly know what being single is like? He's married!"
I thought losing myself in the service of others meant becoming the next Mother Teresa. Then I had some amazing experiences last week proving how wrong I was. I don't have to move to Calcutta. As I started looking around this small, humble, microcosm in which I exist, I discovered there's plenty of nice things I can do, right here, in my own community.
As my week of (mostly) unplanned service progressed, I realized I was on a roll and I kept finding many opportunities, both big and small, to serve my fellow man.
Like Cher from Clueless, (who found joy in helping her friends by taking them shopping) I was feeling so satisfied, so filled with the sprit of service, I wanted to do more good deeds.
So, here is what serendipitously became "My Week of Service."

About Vinny's
Monday: Volunteer at St. Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen in downtown Salt Lake City with the Murray 11th Ward. (Because my Mom couldn't make it and sent me in her place, thanks Mom!)

Platelet Donors
Tuesday: Donate blood at ARUP Blood Services, Sandy UT (which isn't easy for me because of my pernicious anemia)

Wednesday: The ward I attend was throwing a going away party at the neighborhood park for a beloved family who was moving. Any willing volunteers to bring cookies would be very welcome. So, I stepped into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies and went. Because our ward has lots of kids, including my two favorite nephews, I had many opportunities to play aunt and help pick up the toddlers being loaded like torpedoes down the slide by their older siblings, (which we quickly put a stop to) wipe noses and kiss boo boos.

Thursday: My stepfather came down with the world's worst virus: coughing, laryngitis, fatigue, and was sent home from work where I sent him straight to bed and made sure he had plenty of chicken noodle soup (and chocolate chip cookies) to aid in his recovery.

Friday: Babysit my eight year nephew until his parents could get home from work. Then we all went to Fashion Place Mall for some shopping and dinner at the food court where I helped keep an eye on both my favorite nephews. I recommend the corn dogs, they're excellent!

Saturday: Attended a friend's party
(OK, going to a party isn't exactly an act of service or sacrifice, but spending time with your best girlfriends and catching up on each other's lives is important too, right?)

Sunday: Sang in church.
First time I've ever been asked to sing in public so I was both honored and flattered when I was asked over a month ago if I'd be willing to do a number in sacrament meeting. I found a great piece, printed the sheet music off the internet, practiced hard and was able to perform with poise and confidence; bringing the spirit and love of the Savior into the meeting.
The many compliments I received afterward didn't hurt either!

I challenge anyone who is feeling a little down, in the depths of despair, or having too much fun indulging in their own pity-party, to take President Hinckley's challenge and find some small way to serve.

You don't have to make a week out of it. It doesn't have to be big and grand. Don't feel bad if it doesn't go viral. The littlest, most insignificant act of service you stop and provide might just make somebody else's day.

And, who knows, you might just lose yourself (or find yourself) in the process!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Can I Defend Marriage and Family When I'm Single?

We have just enjoyed another General Conference. Like many others, I was also a little shaken when five people stood during the sustaining of those we consider to be prophets, seers and revelators and shouted their dissent. I realize everyone has a right to their own opinions, but I think I speak for the majority of church members in my desire to stand up for our revered leaders declaring, “We Oppose your ‘Opposed!’”
Right back at-cha!
Noted and moving on.
The church is still true, our members are imperfect, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will always remain-steadfast and immovable.
It isn’t easy. Even for Old Maid Mormons like me who often feel like second-class citizens, listening to four separate and distinct talks delivered during the Saturday morning sessions, all focusing exclusively on the importance of heterosexual man-woman marriage, supporting our priesthood holders, the sacredness of human sexuality and family formation.
How can a forty-year old midsingle like me stand up and defend the Proclamation to the Family (given twenty years ago when I was just entering the young single adult scene) and follow the prophet’s call to increase our temple worship when I was never even asked to the temple, let alone my high school prom? Who would ever take me seriously? I’m a virgin who can’t drive.
How can I proclaim that marriage and family matters to me when I have no husband, home or family of my own?
How can I honor and sustain the priesthood when I have no worthy priesthood holder in my life?
I posted these very questions to my friends on a Facebook Group for LDS midsingles.
Their supportive and uplifting comments were wonderful. There are many singles who share my frustration, feeling like an “invisible saint” as we continue to wait patiently for our blessings. These faithful singles suggested a return to prayer, serving others and to not let myself feel inferior when the ideal is not my current reality.  
Frankly, I was told I needed to start looking at my situation in a different way.
  To begin with, there is hardly a shortage of worthy priesthood holders in my life: my bishop, brother-in-law, three younger brothers and my stepfather; all worthy and honorable priesthood holders that I can call, any time, for blessings of comfort and council.
Whatever humble structure you call home, even if you live by yourself, you can make it a place of safety, refuge and peace-like a temple.
Those people in your life you simply cannot live without: friends, nephews, siblings. They are your family and you are never alone.
Pray and study the scriptures. Find little ways to serve and make a difference.  
I struggle often with the question of continuing to live the law of chastity when isolation and loneliness are the only blessings I see.
A life free of guilt and shame are the real blessings that come from living this law. I have no reason to feel inferior. Continue to strive for the ideal and next time you feel like a second-class citizen for choosing celibacy, when the quick and easy path of cohabitation beckons, stop and say, “Opposed!”
 During his Sunday morning address, President Monson admonished us all to have a spirit of temple worship. My temple recommend expired years ago, due to my lack of motivation to attend, yet, as I listened to the voice of our beloved prophet, I discovered that spirit of temple worship continues to burn in my heart. The desire to believe and worship was there. Recalling the words of Alma, I would let this desire work in (me).
The best way to stand up and show our support for our beloved prophet is to encourage each other to study his latest words and follow his most recent council to seek the blessings of the temple.
Let’s keep our hearts open as to how we can be like that return missionary in President Monson’s talk who followed a quiet prompting and made a difference in someone’s life.
We can show our support for President Monson by increasing our spirit of temple worship and performing small acts of kindness.

For by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Clinging to my Log

Clinging to my Log
By Michelle Llewellyn

Picture a Mark Twain log raft as an example of the traditional family unit. A man and woman meet with their two logs and lash them together. Children are added with their respective logs and soon a large raft has taken shape. Wise adults understand the importance of a well-constructed raft to navigate the often treacherous river that we call life. The man and woman work to maintain the rope lashings that hold each log in place; ever vigilant that these bonds remain secure. Everyone is kept safely aboard, protected from the dangers of the swirling, perilous water. The log raft floats lazily along in calm waters. All is well.

Until, the unthinkable occurs. The man and woman, through no fault of their own, declare this log raft inadequate for their needs. They regret their decision in coming together. The log unit they created is broken up. Perhaps the woman re-lashes her log with another. The children are left scrambling for their share of loose rope. They manage to hang on and survive the transition but his new, blended, log raft is weaker than the original. Still, everyone keeps insisting the only requirement a good log raft needs are a group of people who like each other enough to commit to creating a raft in the first place.

As the children of this blended log raft grow up, some find their own partners; break away from the log raft they grew up on to create their own rafts. The rest remain, dangling behind the makeshift raft everyone insists is much better than the original.

They aren’t alone. Up and down the river of life, these same scenarios are repeated as men and women constantly break up and re-form rafts. Occasionally they check to make sure the children’s logs are still with them but maintaining their own logs on a blended raft requires more attention. The ties once formed with the old logs from the original raft will never be the same. All they can do, they reason, is set a good example for how to keep a blended log raft afloat and hope, somehow, everything will work out.

In another part of the river, the man who broke away from his original log raft found others to create new, insistently better, log rafts with. Occasionally, he too will remember the children from that original raft and will shout his support and encouragement to his single children clinging to their own individual logs but, like his ex-log partner, maintaining connections amidst his own blended raft are more important. All he can do is hope his children understand how much he loves them and that he will always be there for them, despite the fact there is nothing he can do for them so far away; so completely disengaged from their lives.

On the river of life, it’s every log for themselves. If a log isn’t well connected to a larger family raft it is that log’s own fault. If a log can’t find another to form a strong raft with, there is nothing anyone can do for that log.

The oldest child from that original broken and reformed raft is now a single adult woman. She remains passive, holding fast to her only connection with a blended log raft. No strong, single man with his log ever floated by on the river of life and offered her the opportunity to join their two logs together to create a stable log raft. She is an outlier. She floats alone, determined not to make the same mistakes others have made in their hasty coupling and uncoupling of various log raft experiments. Logs of the same gender never interested her. Her desire was always to form just one raft in her life and she wants it to be the right one, thus securing a better future for the children that will one day come with their respective logs.

As the years on the river have passed, the meager ropes connecting her single log with her blended family raft have frayed. Her mother resents the fact she remains with this raft and has shouted numerous times over the roar of the rapids that it might be time for her to let go and create her own raft and cease this drag on her own. Just settle for the next single log that floats by, at least you won’t be alone. The daughter ignores this advice. She would prefer to be a single log, floating independent and free, than unhappily lashed to someone who felt compelled to join her.

It’s a difficult and frustrating choice. She grows weary of the pressure to either lower her standards or suffer the social stigma of a lifetime of solitude on the river of life. Holding out amidst the growing lack of strong men desirous to form a raft that will last for eternity brings no blessings. The single woman, realizing her lack of worth and value to anyone as an undesirable, single log can no longer be endured. At last, she succumbs and releases her grasp on the only connection she ever had to a stable, albeit shaky, log raft.  

Severing her connection she is carried downstream. Clinging to her log, she knows she is headed toward a waterfall. A single, unwanted woman, going to her death, yet, she is at peace. Numerous times she was told by the experienced river guides that her only hope in navigating the river of life alone was that someone or something better awaited her on the other side of the falls. Her final destination.  

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