Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mormon Women Project Salon Recap

I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I've never actually met Neylan or any of the MWP contributors. I went by myself and was worried about sitting alone, but silly me. I was underestimating how irresistibly awesome all these women are. I got there early because we had driven up to go to the zoo for my story (I was worried I would smell like monkeys, but it turned out OK) so Andrew and I walked around temple square for a little bit and then he settled down to do homework and I went to help out with check-in. I was pretty much the youngest person there, but it was awesome. It was essentially what I had always imagined Enrichment should be.

The theme of the salon was Deliberate Womanhood, the idea of crafting our lives rather than just letting them happen to us, and it was such a good topic for me to hear about right now. The first speaker was Emma Lou Thayne. She's a poet and among many other things she penned the words to the hymn "Where can I turn for peace?" Despite being in her eighties she was so full of life and I loved hearing her speak about growth, trials, and decisions. She told plenty of stories about her family, her husband, her writing, her accident (she had a near-death experience after a terrible car crash)... she was lively but also wise; she spoke with so much authority about life, as if to remind us all: "I've been where you will be, and you should hear what I have to say." (I apologize for the inordinate amount of run-on sentences and the jumble of words that is this post, but if I don't get it out now it will never happen.)

She shared a hilarious poem she wrote after having a toe amputated:

"Ditty to my missing parts"
Where are you waiting, my missing contraptions?

Parts so long in on my acts and reactions?
We’ll be re-united in that other life
But meantime I’m lacking what’s gone with the knife.

First tonsils at four, appendix at twenty,
Since, gall bladder, uterus, moles more than plenty.
An eardrum, a breast, and wisdom teeth, So
Are they consorting today with my nipped second toe?

Where are my actual left hip and right knee?
With substitute fixtures, is what’s left really me?
Does my lost stuff know physiology?
And the source of its real genealogy?

Do items out there know they’re all related?
Does time of departure say how situated?
With so much I was born with now distant collection?
Is restitution included in resurrection?

So I’ve been taught and I know that it’s true
But will they all fit and say, “Boy we missed you!”

Aside from being really funny, it really demonstrates the humor she seems to have about herself. She's had her share of hardships: a severely bipolar daughter at a time when bipolar disorder wasn't recognized, an accident that should have killed her... but she wrote beautiful poetry throughout all of these things and found ways to see the beauty and humor in life.

Next we went into breakout sessions, and it was hard to chose between them all but I felt drawn to the one on "Finding power in your personal story". Shelah Miner (She writes for Segullah, Feminist Mormon Housewives, and has written for the Exponent II and other mormon projects... all kinds of cool stuff) presented a workshop on writing about your life. It's been a loooong time since I've written in my journal, but her presentation on writing about yourself in meaningful ways really got my creative juices going. She gave a short presentation and then had us do various exercises to get us started. Some of the prompts were to write about a specific image in time (describe five senses, focus on a specific moment instead of a narrative/chronological description) and a few questions:

A moment I realized Heavenly Father loved me was when…
A hard choice I’ve made in my life was when…
A moment I realized there is power in what I do was when...

So we all got to work and wouldn't you know I just happened to sit down next to a fellow broadcaster! (Definitely not a chance encounter) Funny story though: when I first saw her and told her my name I started to panic because she said she had also studied broadcasting and suddenly I thought she looked an awful lot like KUTV's anchorwoman  and felt pathetic that I wasn't sure because I'm supposed to know these kinds of things and I was freaking out because here I was sitting next to the anchor of a station I wanted to intern at and I couldn't even remember her name... thankfully it wasn't her though so I was able to relax. Ha.

Anyway: DeAnne Flynn is a former reporter/anchor and has written several books, speaks at Time out for Women, has hosted a talk show and does all kinds of generally awesome stuff. Basically, everything I hope to be someday--seriously. She also came alone so we decided to be buddies for the rest of the evening and she dragged me to the group discussion on "becoming a deliberate mother" because hello, on top of being crazy accomplished she has seven gorgeous kids. (I wasn't complaining much about being dragged, it was great. So was the food, by the way.)

She was so nice and was genuinely interested in learning about me. And I in turn was happy as a clam to fire away asking her all about HOW she did it all. I've been so stressed lately about decisions that are looming ever nearer. Babies. Career. Family life. Personal fulfillment. Ugh. She was encouraging and reassuring. She told me I had a great future ahead of me, but she did say that I might need to be flexible with my career choices in order to do it all.* Just being around all these incredible women gave me hope though, that I can craft my life in a way that will bring me joy in all aspects. I need to focus on what I want to and need to do (well and my husband too :) and not worry so much about what I'm expected to do by my peers, professors, and the rest of the world. Phew. (That doesn't mean I don't still have panic attacks every once in a while.)

The deliberate motherhood discussion group was cool. I just shut up and listened because I'm not exactly a model of experience with motherhood, but it gave me lots of good ideas and things to think about. The woman leading the discussion blogs at and she talked about how mothers can define themselves rather than saying "oh, I'm just a mom" and also about finding value in what we do. Lots of  other good stuff, great discussion.

Finally we were all rounded up back to the main room for a panel discussion led by Neylan (Editor/founder of the Mormon Women Project). She asked the panelists, Valerie Hudson (distinguished BYU International Relations professor), Tiffany Gee Lewis (DesNews reporter) and Chrysula Winegar (Work-life balance advocate) various questions about womanhood, motherhood and the workplace and it was awesome. Valerie Hudson nearly got a standing ovation when she talked about the LDS doctrine of gender equality (if you haven't read this presentation she gave a while back, you need to. It changed my life. Also, I'm so sad she's leaving BYU in January--I took one class from her and desperately wanted to take her "political economy of women" class, but wasn't able to work it in. Now I never will.) and Chrysula Winegar gave me so much hope: she works hard to advocate balance between family life and work, especially for women and one of the things she said really struck me: she essentially said it was important for women's voices to be a part of the professional world and that it was possible, but women need to push back against corporations and force them to recognize that we also want and need to be mothers. One point that Dr Hudson made was that important legislation with regards to childcare, women's health, education and the family in general had come about because there were women judges, women legislators, women educators, and women activists that were active in making it happen: they understand the importance of those issues and have a unique perspective on them. They talked about so many things that I can't remember all of them, but the videos from the Salon will be on the website so I'll let you know when they're up. Oh and Chrysulla Winegar quoted Patricia Holland:

"We must have the courage to be imperfect." 

What words of wisdom. I remember at some point near the end of the Salon just sitting there, and thinking about how privileged I was to be in this assembly of brilliant people. It was humbling and inspiring at the same time, and... I can't wait for next year.

Phew, I made it through. If you're still reading, congratulations! You get to look at this really cool picture.

One last plug for the Mormon Women Project: "Far from a monochrome stereotype, the beauty and variety of our women prove that there is no one right way to 'choose the right.'" WORD

*Incidentally, here's a rocking BYU alum anchor/reporter who apparently is doing it all. HOW?! I need to write to her


  1. Baaah what an amazing recap, I wanted to be there!! Maybe next year I can tag along?! Seriously, thanks for writing about the event. Love thinking about the amazing power of women.

  2. That sounds amazing! I'm so glad you summarized. Do let us know when the vids are up. PS- you'll be a great mom and your passions will lead you to exciting places, I just know it! I can see you presenting at one of these things one day.