4.01.2013

The Picture-Perfect Blogger... and Me

Easter nail polish!
It's a sunny Holy Saturday as I write, shaping up to be the warmest and prettiest Easter I've experienced in the Pacific Northwest, and I spent most of the day away from my computer. It felt like a good day to pot some of my little seedlings and a pair of avocado trees, paint my fingernails—which happens just twice a year for this gardener/guitarist: on Christmas and Easter—and pound out a Chopin prelude on the piano with intense expression and, unfortunately, coffee jitters.

Lou and I plan to spend the evening at his parents', eat the traditional oyster stew, and then head over to church for Easter Vigil—the most beautiful night of the liturgical year. By the time this post goes live, the Triduum will be over and Easter will have begun. I love the whole Easter season. But there's nothing else in all of life for me like Holy Saturday.

This week, Masha and Christie and I have a three-way blogalectic topic: whether we three artsy Catholic bloggers ought to try in any way to resemble the suddenly popular Mormon mommy bloggers, who were recently examined and praised by a self-described feminist atheist over at Salon.

And as I've sat down to write, I've realized that it's an almost irrelevant question for me. I have all kinds of respect and affection for the LDS church and its members, thanks to my being an Orson Scott Card/Shannon Hale/Stephenie Meyer fangirl and having had a few lovely Mormon friends and acquaintances. But I'm not a Mormon. I'm also not a mommy.

Holy Saturday sunshine and transplanting.
What I am, what I do have in common with these young women, is that I'm a personal blogger with an artistic bent—though I'm bookish and not at all craftsy—and that I belong to a faith tradition that affects every area of my life. The question for me, then, is simply: how open should I be about faith and/or life hardships on my blog? Since both can turn away readers?

The twenty-something LDS mommies are mostly pretty subtle about their religion; it shows up in a link to mormon.org in the sidebar, in references to Utah and the temple. If they talk about faith, it tends to be unspecific but generically Christian in mood and wording. Some of them—again, not all—keep the blogs pretty positive and clean-scrubbed as far as life goes, so that after paging down through a few of them, my own first reaction was sort of like what happens when you watch a commercial and half-believe that drinking Coke will make you sexy. If I were Mormon, says that little niggle, would I be be a pretty 26-year-old wife with a couple of cute toddlers instead of a 35-year-old who had to wait till 30 to get married and still hasn't managed to have a kid, but does have gray hairs coming in? Nope. But I envy those girls their youth, their fashion sense, and their children.

Masha talked about over-share on Catholic mom blogs (gory clinical details of childbirth, anyone?) and finding a balance between posting all happy thoughts and spending too much time working out deep dark issues in public. Christie spoke of feeling never good enough in the presence of the picture-perfect young moms, and of treating a blog as a way to encourage others.

I... could go a million directions, but it seems best to just answer the question.

When the subject of faith wants to come up on my blog—in a book review, in a Friday post's interaction with the liturgical calendar, etc.—I don't hide it, but I do try to keep my readers in mind to some extent. Most of you that I know by name are not Catholic, and some of you aren't Christian at all. The golden rule seems appropriate here; for myself, I'm not generally troubled by people talking about their beliefs as long as there's no apparent attack on my own, so I do my best to make the references organic and honest but non-confrontational.

If this weren't a personal blog—if I were out to meet some public niche interest—I'd just keep faith offscreen, as I nowadays do for politics. But it is a personal blog.


All dressed up for Easter Vigil.
And because it's personal, the matter of how open to be about my imperfect life is a personal decision. For myself, I've learned that on an ordinary day, I'm happier just not thinking about what I don't have or can't do. So I don't talk about childlessness or chronic depression or adrenal exhaustion much. I focus on what I do have and what I can do, and that's what comes out on the blog. And blogging optimistically, in its turn, helps me live a more cheerful daily life.

As for what I have to offer: I try and do for guests at my blog just what I do for guests at my home. If you come here, I hope you find friendly conversation and a place to rest surrounded by books and beauty.

Easter Monday postscript: I feel more like a mommy blogger than usual today, having spent most of the day with my two- and five-year-old nieces. It was a heck of a lot of fun, but I don't know when I'd blog if I had kids that age. Since they went home, I have got the furniture mostly put to rights and the egg off the kitchen floor—the five-year-old helped me make her favorite "doubled eggs" for lunch—but I haven't gotten around to scrubbing the apple juice off the table yet. I'm exhausted. :P

Happy Easter!

12 comments:

  1. Please don't take this as a criticism, even though it is, but no cat pictures? What's up with that? ;)

    Plenty of other things I could say about the post, but for the sake of brevity, my thought has always been that you should post whatever you're comfortable posting. It is, after all, your blog.

    Of course, I realize that's not necessarily a helpful thought & there's more I could say on that also. :)

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    1. I can't post cat pictures every day. Maia gives me a dirty look when I pull out the camera. :P

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  2. You have the hands I envy!!! (despite the fact that they tend to indicate a sort of melancholia..) because they are such ARTIST hands! I mean, all hands have artistic potential..but yours..(envious sigh). They look like water hands, which are artistic, but not flighty like air hands tend to be..they tend to collect sorrows and make them over into loveliness. They tend to be musical hands (though I know some amazing musicians with fire hands..cough, Seth, cough..) that come with good vocal range (it's the whole fluid thing) and they're the hands of people whose moods and ideas are open to change and growth. Their quieter hands..like earth hands (air and fire are louder)..and your 'writing/thought' finger bends so decidedly toward your 'work' finger! It's always best for writer's when they're friends! Fantastic hands..now I suppose I should post mine and explain them as well ;)

    I do like the idea of us all converting to Mormonism and dropping 5-8 years and being supernaturally transplanted to urban apartments, already set up with hipster husbands and ideally spaced toddlers ;) I'm not dressed for urban life though, so I'll have to put off my conversion for a while.

    I really like what you wrote about choosing to be happier by not thinking about what you don't have..and it does seem to be one of the dangers of blogging - to have the audience (or perceived audience) and semi-anonymity to obsessively reflect on the hardships in life, and thereby giving them the power to damage even the good in life. I think you do a great job in balancing honest revelation of yourself and life with discretion and the obvious Rootedness of your faith..

    "As for what I have to offer: I try and do for guests at my blog just what I do for guests at my home. If you come here, I hope you find friendly conversation and a place to rest surrounded by books and beauty."

    This is exactly right! Exactly.

    Blessed Easter!!!!

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    1. Awww. :) Now I'm all smiley! Of course, I only wish I had good vocal range... maybe if I hadn't damaged the cords so many times... and now I'm curious about the ideas behind the elemental connection, and you definitely have to post your own hands. :)

      I do like the idea of us all converting to Mormonism and dropping 5-8 years and being supernaturally transplanted to urban apartments, already set up with hipster husbands and ideally spaced toddlers ;) I'm not dressed for urban life though, so I'll have to put off my conversion for a while.

      HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

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  3. Graceful..That was the word I wanted. Your hands are graceful. :)

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  4. I, for one, feel very much at home. c;

    One of the questions that has surfaced as we've talked about this is purpose. What is our purpose behind blogging? The purpose of A Light Inside is not apologetics or direct witnessing; nor is it a day-to-day journal or how-to manual for YA writers (you mentioned you dabbled in that in the beginning). It's a thoughtful corner of the internet, like the marble bench in a bit of shade in the garden, both beauty and service. Writing up a review for every single book you read is quite a commitment, one for which I am very grateful. Like in our lifestyles, it seems to me our blogs differ in execution and even practical purpose, but the same heart beats underneath the html. c;

    I never thought growing up that I would be married so young, if you consider 25 young (I do!). 30 doesn't seem late to me at all, but when you compare it with the Mormon idea that you have to be married in the temple in order to get the ultimate reward (your own planet, etc.) . . . that could pose all sorts of problems. My Mormon "cousin" has a pretty painting in her childhood bedroom of the three white gowns a Mormon girl will wear: the dedication gown, the baptismal gown, and the wedding gown. I believe she's had it since infancy. That puts an awful lot of pressure on a girl. She's expected to get married. So from that point of view, being a 30-year-old newlywed might mistakenly be thought of as "a close call." :c I just don't like that mindset at all.

    So you see it's not just childless women who might be hurt by the unjust comparisons. Unmarried women. Women below or near the poverty line. Overweight women. Women raising children alone. Women who have to work to support their families. So the seeming perfection of the life presented on the Mormon mommy blogs might unintentionally suggest that these other lifestyles are lesser.

    It's something I think that is impossible to feel from yours and Masha's blog. At this point, I can't put my finger on why that is. But I could never see, say, an unmarried corporate woman discouraged by reading about your happy housewifery and flourishing garden, the pursuit of your dream to be a Writer. You're too "real." Even in your privacy, A Light Inside communicates your personhood, with its fragility and strength.

    Another thing: it takes more than conceiving and carrying a baby to term to make a mother. There are regrettably too many women in this fallen world who have made human beings biologically but who are not in any way mothers. Jenna, to me, your motherhood is apparent. I hope you can understand what I'm trying to say. c:

    Your nail polish is subtle and pretty. It looks like the shade I wore at my wedding. M., what kind of hands does Jenna have? Looks like long palms _and_ fingers.

    You and Lou are a gorgeous couple! Happy Easter. xx

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    1. "the same heart beats underneath the html"

      Yes. Nicely put. :)

      And I'm glad--deeply glad--that you're comfortable here. I have enough insecurity and uncertainty and awareness of my own failings to hope I never, never exacerbate anyone else's.

      I would think the pressure to get married would be pretty intense and painful in Mormonism, though the church does try and offer hope to those who can't manage it. And honestly, it's not much better in the conservative homeschooling circles I grew up in. I appreciate the Catholic value for the celibate life.

      So you see it's not just childless women who might be hurt by the unjust comparisons. Unmarried women. Women below or near the poverty line. Overweight women. Women raising children alone. Women who have to work to support their families.

      This is absolutely true. I have friends who deal with all these things... in particular, SO many unmarried friends, many of them older than I am. Life is hard enough without comparing yourself to those who have what you daily feel the want of.

      ...your motherhood is apparent. I hope you can understand what I'm trying to say.

      I do... and it's one of the sweetest things anyone could say to me. Thank you. :)

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  5. EDIT: Oh Masha, when I began typing this out last night, you hadn't commented yet!

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  6. @Masha--graceful hands, pianist's hands for SURE!

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  7. I would venture to comment, but Masha and Christie already said it all so beautifully! Lovely post and lovely picture of you & Lou. I think I've mentioned this already, but my husband consistently refers to you as "that refined couple". :-) I too love this "thoughtful little corner of the Internet", and I never go away without being cheered or edified or both, even when the subject matter is not sunny.

    P.S. I finally finished That Hideous Strength, and it was quite good. The power of Lewis's prose is almost terrifying, on par with Milton or Dante for succeeding in pulling down a taste of the Infinite. The only reason it took me so long to finish it was that I had to keep taking it back to the library. My poor husband tried to borrow a movie from said library a few days ago and came home and told me he had been treated like a felon due to the $6.00 and change in fines that I had racked up on his card. Anyway I found it at a used bookstore for *ahem* about one-sixth of what I am now indentured to the library for, and promptly gobbled it up.

    There were a few things that were confusing due to my having taken the trilogy out of order, but I was amazed by Lewis's gift for storytelling, and his powers of "world-building" as you call it. The inventiveness and the lack of predictability of the story continually took me by surprise. Thank you so much for recommending it!

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    1. Terrifying is a good word to describe That Hideous Strength. It's pretty much a fictional exposition of the points Lewis was making in The Abolition of Man, which I consider to be frighteningly prophetic.

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    2. Aw, thanks. *blushes* It means a lot that you like hanging out here.

      Hah, yeah--used bookstores are handy for those books that just can't be gotten through in three weeks. I tend to think, well, I'll use the library first because I can't afford my reading habit, but that can prove counterproductive... it doesn't take long for late fines to add up! :)

      I am SO glad you liked That Hideous Strength! I'm kind of anxious to read it again, actually; it's been a long time since my many trips through. And it was definitely terrifying in places. I love Lewis' prose--would like to be like him in many ways when I grow up--which is sort of like a child saying he wants to be Superman.

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