Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Deliberate Decision

My divorce was a very deliberate decision and probably an inevitable one. However, I admit that it has still been painful. It hurts to see my soon to be ex-husband hurt. It hurts to see my kids hurt when they can't stay with whichever parent they're in the mood for on a given night. It sometimes hurts to be alone. And yet, I am determined.
I can't speak for myself in twenty years. Who knows who I'll be by then (or since I do edit obits, if I'll even be around then). But I do know that the me right now and the me in high school and early college just isn't the marrying type. I'm not sure why I had so much invested in listening to other people and letting them tell me what was right for my life, but I knew as far back as high school that the things I wanted out of life were incompatible with being married and having children. The only reason I eventually did both is because at the time, I thought I was supposed to.
Unfortunately, rather than joy and fulfillment, for the most part, marriage and children brought me pain and suffocation. I know that sounds ungrateful and dramatic, but it's true. It's not that I don't enjoy companionship, sex, friendship, etc. I do. But at least in my marriage, the trade-off wasn't worth it. I felt like there were all kinds of expectations and duties that I bristled at fulfilling. I felt taken advantage of, unappreciated. I tried so hard to communicate these feelings to my husband. But in all honesty, and he's realized this now, he didn't listen.
To be fair, Alistiar and I had some good times. He could make me laugh, he was always there for me when I was hurting from some outside source. He was so attentive when my mom died, he was okay with my decision to leave the church and while it scared him a bit, he was accepting of me when I finally decided I was an atheist. And I'm grateful to him for all of that. And I hope that someday, Alistiar and I are able to be very good friends. I still like him. I still care for him. But I can't be married. I can't be tied down anymore than I already am with my boys. I need to stretch my wings. I need to be answerable and accountable only to me. Even though Alistiar and I had a decent relationship, there was always a power struggle going on under the surface. Our voices were not equally weighted at all. I was sinking, and in spite of my efforts to help him understand my struggles, he continued to not listen.
Marriage isn't the happy ending for me anymore. It's not that I don't want to be loved or to love someone else. It's that I value my freedom and my independence and my power over my own life. It's not even that I refuse to compromise. It's that I resented having my compromises taken for granted. If I ever love again, I hope to never take for granted the gift that is love. And I absolutely will not stay if I feel like my love is being taken for granted. And I think this represents the paradox that may be my life: I love me best now and someday, that may mean giving me to someone else to show gratitude for them having given themselves to me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

From the Obits Page

". . . That must be an interesting job . . . " I get this a lot when I tell people that I edit obituaries at my local paper (the fact that I also edit letters to the editor seems to get lost in the shock of the word "obituary"). It has been an interesting job. I wrote a post about it right after I got hired. But in the months since, I've lost some of my sensitivity. It's still difficult for me to work directly with family members, and doing obituaries for young children and infants still gets me down, but for the most part, I've put a certain amount of emotional space between me and the people whose lives I'm reading about. Nevertheless, I still find myself thinking from time to time, "She is totally cool! I wonder if she'd . . . Lessie, she's dead. You're not going to be meeting her in the street anytime soon." Then I have a moment where I ponder the finality of death, sometimes do a mental hat tip to my mom and the other deceased loved ones in my life, and get back to looking for comma splices and misspelled words.

When my mom died, I actually got to write the obituary. It wasn't difficult. Most papers have a format for their obituaries and after reading one or two obituaries in my folks' local paper, I was able to churn out a suitable piece based on the information my dad gave me. The pattern usually goes like this: Name, age, place of residence, date of death, place of death, date of birth, place of birth, parents' names, schools attended, military service, date of marriage, notation of divorces, hobbies, we'll miss you, survivors, folks who died before, service times, the end. There are variations on the theme, but that's the gist of it.

It's the "hobbies" and "we'll miss you" parts that are the most interesting to me. These are the couple of sentences (at least in the cheap obits) that ostensibly tell you the most about the deceased (in the expensive obits, the whole damn thing might center around these two sections because the family is paying a truckload of money for that space, but I'll visit that later). These sentences usually go like this, "John/Jane Doe enjoyed cross-stitching, skiing, hunting, cooking, but especially, s/he loved her/his family. John/Jane was the kindest, most loving, patient mother/father/grandma/grandpa and spent his/her entire life doing everything for his/her family."

It was my experience writing my mother's obituary that clued me in to what these sentences actually show: the person that they wanted the deceased to be or the person that they think the deceased should appear to be to the public. That sounds pretty cynical, huh? But ultimately, it's true. We as a society are loathe to introduce ambivalence or nuance into our memories of our dead--at least in public. I wrote similar sentences into my mother's obituary.

But what troubles me about this practice is the extended pain it can actually cause. My mother was kind and patient. My mother was emotionally manipulative and judgmental. My mother was rock solid in her beliefs. My mother doubted her abilities and worthiness. My mother taught me a lot. My mom neglected to teach me some very important things. My mom loved me. My mom didn't love me enough to accept me for who I became. My mom sacrificed a lot for me. My mom took my decisions personally and was offended by them. My mom had an enormous capacity for love and compassion. My mom saw the world in black and white. Do you see what I'm getting at? I'm sure these same sentences could be applied to any number of the people whose lives I read about every day. The only thing they all have in common is that they all had the best of intentions.

But as it is, they were all human. And we humans have a tendency to hurt those we love even when our intentions are good. When we codify and make public only the idealized version of our loved ones, I think we do ourselves a disservice. We make it taboo to discuss the more troubling aspects of our interactions with these people and therefore interfere with the healing process.

I confess I'm somewhat at a loss to understand why we do this (and I'm totally unaware of how other cultures speak about their dead, anything anyone has to add in that respect would be welcomed). Do we feel bad talking disparagingly about someone when they're no longer there to defend themselves? Are we too overcome with grief when we write the obituary to see our loved ones in all their mottled glory? Are the believers among us afraid to face our loved ones later when we've been talking badly about them behind their backs? Are we afraid of how others will perceive our own capacity for love and compassion assuming we spoke about the less ideal aspects of our loved ones? Are we relieved that we no longer have to remember the painful things our loved ones (however inadvertently) inflicted on us? Do we, perhaps, welcome death as the way to bury not only the corpse, but also the painful associations we had with that person?

A penny for your thoughts (not really--I'm broke :). But please, I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Conflicting Moralities

Good Saturday afternoon! And welcome to Lessie's philosophy class :) Today we're going to talk about Kant and Nietzsche (it took me forever to learn to spell that correctly :). Now because I only have the equivalent of a minor in philosophy, this may not be a particularly sophisticated analysis, but this is how I perceive them.

Kant has a lovely thing called the "Categorical Imperative". I'm sure I have the exact quote lying around in one of my books somewhere, but I'm going to paraphrase him (glancing around at bookshelves to see if the anthology I'm thinking of is within easy reach . . . doesn't appear to be. Paraphrase it is). His Categorical Imperative states that individuals should always be treated as ends in themselves and never as a means to an end and that when deciding whether or not an action is moral, one should consider whether it is universally applicable or not. Kant was rather stringent in his application of the imperative; he was wary of stepping outside the boundaries that he believed his imperative set. From this stringency came a profound sense of duty to others.

Learning my philosophy at a religious institution as I did, Kant's imperative was a convenient co-opt of the Golden Rule (which we all knew Jesus had come up with first, regardless of the fact that the Buddha and other proponents of the rule had lived hundreds of years before him). We commended Kant on his ability to rationally necessitate the Golden Rule; we were down right smug, I think. 

However, not only did Kant give us philosophically sound ground for being Christian, he also provided me personally with a reason to stay in what was a very . . . difficult, conflicted place, id est my marriage (which I had entered into before studying philosophy, btw). Not only did being Mormon-Christian require one to live the Golden Rule, but it also required one to live the commandments. My impression of the commandments at the time was skewed by well meaning but misogynistic religion professors who managed to turn even the parable of the talents into an admonishment to get married and have lots of children. Well, I had gotten married and had a child up to that point, but it had all been under severe cultural pressure. My husband's and my relationship had consisted of making out in the back of my car and talking about whether or not we should get married. I felt like I had a duty to marry this apparently righteous priesthood holder and so I did (although I look back now and see that I was actually going against Kant's ideas of treating him as an end rather than as a means to an end). After I got married, I realized that I really had nothing in common spiritually, intellectually or emotionally with my husband. However, in Mormonism, short of abuse or adultery, divorce is frowned on. Plus, I'd had a child with this man and that increased the amount of duty I felt in staying with him (if for no other reason than out of duty to the child to be raised in a two-parent home). It's amazing that in our co-opting of Kant's imperative, we had managed to twist it to the point that we actually were using others as a means to our own purported salvation (but we were doing it out of duty, by god!).

Now let's talk about Nietzsche. How do I describe Nietzsche? The Nietzsche that you learn about in undergraduate philosophy classes is famous for his Will to Power. At my school, his was a dangerous school of thought. He was blamed for everything from the Nazi invasion to our modern materialistic culture. His Will to Power asserted that the Christian ethic of pity and charity was weak and prevented humanity from reaching it's full potential. If you give to your neighbor, don't do it out of smug superiority but out of a sheer excess of your own power. Do it because you are a truly great human and that's just what great humans do. At the same time, though, Nietzsche advocated for a tantalizingly individualistic world view. For Nietzsche, the only authority that one need consult was oneself. I still remember walking out of my class the day we read excerpts from his "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" being changed forever. At the time, he was like a revelation from God. Nietzsche offered me the philosophical permission to make my life what I wanted it to be. He freed me from listening to outside voices like prophets and apostles. I think a part of me knew even then that reading Nietzsche had given me permission to leave my marriage.

My marriage wasn't what I wanted out of life. I had wanted to go to graduate school and immerse myself in academia (originally I had wanted to do comparative linguistics, but I fell in love with philosophy and changed my mind). My mother had told me that I couldn't have a career and be a good mother and so I had decided I just wouldn't get married and have kids. When I was in high school, this seemed like a good idea. But I had also internalized the idea that the prophets knew what was best for my life, and so when I was told that my life's work was to get married and have babies, I decided to do it and give up my career ambitions. After all, it was clearly what God wanted me to do.

The Kantian model was enough to keep me in my marriage until I realized at some point that I was simply making myself into a means for other people's ends. Also, as I lost my belief in an afterlife, I realized that I only had one shot at life--if I was going to do anything, I had to do it now and chances are I'd have to do it by myself. Finally, I got up the courage to switch my morality. I work from the Nietzschean Will to Power. Is it easy? No. Does it hurt sometimes? Yes. Is it fun hurting other people? No. But ultimately, I was hurting so badly by hanging on to the vestiges of duty bound morality that I knew I had to give myself permission to live for me. And so here I am. A little lonely from time to time, but lonely on my own terms. And for now, that makes all the difference.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Faith in Humanity

I woke up pretty damned depressed this morning. I was feeling too keenly how very little control one has over one's life. I was resenting the dependency on others that, try as I may, I could not completely escape. I was also resenting the dependency of others on me. I suppose, as I write this, that a little of that is coming back into play. Part of what wasn't working for me in my marriage were the claims that I felt others had on me that I didn't want to honor. When I left Alistiar, it was in an attempt to show myself that I got to choose who had a claim on me and who didn't. Of course, it didn't take me long to realize that there are a lot of claims that I was making on other people that made my life bearable. And so it was that I woke up jaded and angry that it was necessary to give myself to others in order to be happy.

I moped around all morning, was late for church and close to tears throughout the service (not a whole lot of which I remember, by the way). When people asked me how I was afterward, it was almost impossible for me to keep my voice from breaking. I was miserable. But it was a pot luck Sunday, and so I decided to go ahead and stay (no good post Mormon would refuse free meals :). I sat with an older-than-me couple and we talked about languages and music and I started feeling better.

It was also forum Sunday. On a whim (I do a lot on a whim, it would seem . . .) I decided to stay for that as well. I attend the Unitarian Universalist Church and today's forum was a chance for members to look over their seven principles and decide if they were still relevant, if they were succinct or if they needed some revision. Quite a debate ensued. Each of us in that room had strong opinions about what we thought was important and what we thought needed to be changed. But debate we did. It was fantastic! We philosophized, we jested, we pouted. But we all got heard and we all knew that we were respected nonetheless.

I realized that I do indeed depend on others and that they in turn depend on me. Today I had my faith in that interdependency restored. I saw what could come of it when mutual respect was present. I still want this space that I've created for myself. I do need some time to figure out what kinds of claims I feel comfortable making and allowing. I still feel like we should be careful about the claims we make on other people--I know from first hand experience how damaging those claims can be if we don't keep the other person's needs in mind. But I learned a little gratitude for those who let me into their lives and their communities. I realized that the trade-off is delicate but can also be enriching.

(And now let's have mfranti and G play us a chorus of Kumbaya on their guitars :P, because I have clearly reached my sap limit for the day :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Death. Again.

I'm sorry to keep going here. I think I'm slowly starting to let the reality of my mom's death sink in. I don't expect this to be a long drawn out post. But there's something that's been bothering me that I had to get off my chest.

Something my mom always assured me of when she was sick was, "I'm going to be fine. I know the Lord can take this sickness from me." Or on days when she was scared and tired, "I'm going to be okay, right? I can do this?" God, it haunts me. I was never sure, you know? I knew cancer killed in the most random fashion. I had no idea whether she'd live or not. I wanted her to live. I wanted her to beat it. But I also knew that she was continually getting mixed reports from her doctor. The cancer kept spreading, at first in little spurts that they thought were containable. After that happened the third time, I started to realize that my mom probably wasn't going to make it through this. But I couldn't tell her that. She practically plead with me to tell her she was going to be okay.

Maybe this post will go longer than I thought. Let me tell you about the days leading up to her death.

She had just gone to seek a second opinion about her condition (her oncologist had been consistently confusing her chart with someone else's). The new doctor had looked over all her records and told her that he had a new treatment for her to use. It was a more aggressive chemo treatment. I talked to my mom when she got back from his office and was excited for her that things weren't looking grim afterall. I think that was on a Friday or Thursday.

Sunday evening, I called home with some question or other and my dad answered the phone. My mom was moaning in the background. I mean moaning. Deep, labored moans. My dad told me he'd call me back. He called me to tell me that if she wasn't better by the next morning, he was taking her to the hospital.

Monday morning he called from the emergency room of a little town near our home. They were taking my mom in an ambulance to a hospital in a larger city. I could hear my mom moaning in the background. She wasn't saying anything. Just moaning.

At the larger hospital, they put her on morphine and antibiotics and then gave her three blood transfusions. The chemo had obliterated her immune system and she had a UTI, a blood infection and possible pneumonia. The cancer had also spread to her liver and so her liver wasn't functioning correctly. The blood transfusions did nothing to increase her platelet count. Monday night, my dad called me while I was at a friend's house and told me that if the antibiotics didn't start improving the situation soon, then he would move her back to our small town hospital and put her on comfort care until the end. I could hear my mom moaning in the background. My dad was calling from the hallway.

Tuesday morning my dad called again. He had taken her off the antibiotics and was getting ready to have her transferred to the hospital near home. He let me tell her that I loved her. She moaned. I made travel arrangements and was in Oklahoma by Wednesday night.

At the smaller hospital, they increased my mom's dose of morphine and sedatives. When I went to see her Thursday, she was completely unconscious. They had taken off her wig and her false teeth. Her cheek bones protruded grotesquely under her skin and her mouth was hanging open. She had small whitish whiskers on the sides of her head. Her arms were swollen with fluids. And she was pale . . . almost grey, but not.

For all of Friday and into Saturday morning, my mom lay like that. Her breathing was shallow and clogged with fluid. If someone spoke too loudly, too closely to her ear, she moaned and coughed. My dad decided he wanted to be alone with her when she died. My mom's best friend called us Saturday morning and told us to call our dad. He told us she had died. We went to the hospital again and she lay there still. She was still. Her mouth was still and hanging open. Her eyes were still and closed. Her body was still.

It hurts me so badly to think that she may have died confused and in pain. Was it better that she be unconscious for the last few days of her life? Did it keep her from having to deal with the ultimate betrayal? And where was my mom those last few days? All I saw was a sentient being reduced to nothing but pain. Why should anyone have to lose their humanity like that? There was nothing of dignity or peace in my mom's dying. Her suffering finally ceased, but not in a way that does her any good, because she ceased with it.
And now I'm left to make sense out of this. To rebel against the idea that sometimes, the only way we can stop the suffering of another person is to obliterate them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Black v. White, Man v. Woman

Okay, bear with me, friends. I know you're probably thinking, "Great. Lessie leaves her husband and goes immediately off the deepend." But this post is in response to BiV's post and John's response.

I realize that analyzing something can change the thing somewhat, but stay with me for a minute. BiV and John were having fun with a cultural standard and the resulting rebellion against that standard. But as I got to thinking about it, I began to wonder what the response to either post would have been if it had been women dancing around in white shirts or posing in sexy black ones. So I'm interested in your thoughts. Does my being a woman change your response? Are women allowed the same playful license with their bodies yet, or are they still restricted to the realm of eye candy? Have I completely betrayed my sex? Or have I empowered myself (I have my own thoughts, but I'm interested in yours)? I'm interested also in discussions of how clothing styles and grooming standards differe between men and women and again, what they mean. Am I lucky because I get to wear makeup and expose more skin as a rule? Or am I playing into a patriarchal conspiracy?

Let me know your thoughts. And now, one final plea: be nice! I'm feeling very exposed (for obvious reasons and then add that to the fact that I still suck at photo placement).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Let's Talk Politics

I don't know that I've gone here before on my blog. I mean, I did the post about my being in the parade. But just for the record, I'm vice chair of the Bonneville County Democrats. I ran sort of on a whim (don't run for political office on a whim, btw. More on that later). The party here is struggling with some . . . not in-fighting, but certainly some tensions between a couple of the executive officers. They wanted some new blood and so a couple of my friends asked me to run. I had been wanting to get more involved in local politics, and so I did. Imagine my surprise when I won. That's really not where I'm wanting to go, though.

I picked rather an interesting time to run, id est an election year. The entirety of my stint as vice chair so far has been sitting in on executive and central committee meetings as we try to decide how best to help our local candidates win their respective races. In case you didn't already know this about Idaho, we are a RED state. I mean really, really RED. For the first time in a long time in our county, we have several blue candidates running for different offices not only in our state and federal elections, but also right here in our county elections. It's rather exciting.

There's only one problem: no one seems to care. Let me tell you what I've learned about politics up to this point. Behind the scenes politics are painfully tedious. The committee meetings I attend drag on and on about who was in charge of getting what data to the state, how much money for this or that activity we have available, who's going to canvas the precincts, etc. It's tempting to sit and poke myself in the eye to break up the monotony. And yet, something I've also learned about behind the scenes politics are how important they are to getting the more visible things done. The vibe I get from most people who have been involved politically is that they donated some money, attended a rally or five, went to this or that fundraiser, etc. And while I don't want to discount those efforts (god knows the money they bring in is the bread and butter of our organization), there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make real change.

The unfortunate truth is that local politics are unromantic. People will go out and canvas for Obama or (gulp) McCain. But will they go out and canvas for Laun Cook? Will they take time out of their afternoons to go and register people to vote? Will they make phone calls for John McGimpsey (although John didn't mention needing phone calls this morning, but you get my point)?

I don't want to down play the importance of our national elected officials. But I also know that on a national level, it's really hard to feel like we're making a difference. My good friend puts this quote in the signature line of her emails: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal" (Emma Goldman). I certainly understand such a sentiment. The last eight years of the Bush Administration have been some of the most painful and disasterous that the United States have ever seen. And indeed, there were certainly some stolen elections (not naming names *cough* Florida and Ohio *cough*). But now that I've been involved on a local level, I can assure you that voting does make a difference. So if you have a hard time getting jazzed up for the national elections, I don't blame you. I'm feeling pretty jaded myself. But folks, get involved locally. Gear yourselves up for mindnumbing discussions of finances and sunshine reports (which I know are important and I pay attention to, they're just so boring it hurts) but get in there and get a little dirty. It's not nearly as fun as a peace rally. But it will probably make a more immediate and noticeable difference. And we've got to start somewhere.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Separation and parenting miscellany

Well, as those of you who know me in real life already know, I've recently decided to separate from my husband. My relationship with A is something I haven't blogged a whole lot about--mostly because of the ambivalence I feel toward it. However, now that we've separated, I feel the need to explore our relationship and societie's definitions of relationships in general.
And since we're on the subject, let me tell you what happened today. I was on the phone with a friend when my daycare called. I ignored the call and let the voicemail take it. After I hung up with my friend, I forgot to check my voicemail and they didn't call back. I went about my day until about fifteen minutes ago and realized that I'd forgotten to check that voicemail. I listened to it and found out that my youngest son, Gareth, had been sick and they needed someone to come and get them. "No problem," I thought, "They would call Alistiar if they weren't able to get a hold of me." So I called Alistiar assuming that everything was taken care of. Not so. They never called him.
Is it me, or should it not be common practice if one parent is inaccessible they call the other one? I'm rather upset at the assumptions underlying this oversight. Why is it that they assumed it would be easier for me to leave my job than for my husband to leave his? Why is it they assumed that they didn't need to call him when I wasn't responding? If they insist on reinforcing these kinds of gender assumptions, then why in hell didn't they call me again?
As it turns out, he was fine afterall and I'm staying the rest of the work day, but I am absolutely incensed at their lack of effort to make sure Gareth was taken care of. I realize it's not their job to play phone tag with me all day long, but I think it should be default practice to call both parents before deciding to give up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sept. 21, International Day of Peace

The UN declared Sept. 21 "International Day of Peace". In my search for holidays that don't have Christian bases, this has been a favorite. I still haven't figured out any ways to celebrate it, but I enjoy going through my day, thinking about peace, hoping for peace and trying to think of ways that I can help bring about peace--if only in my own home/community for right now.

Karen Katz did a wonderful book for small children about the day. I'll read it to my boys later. I'm also going over to a friend's house to watch Iron Jawed Angels and talk about social issues. I don't know that that really brings my participation down from the theoretical to the practical yet, but hopefully someday I'll be in a position to do more.

Anyway, a quick quote from the book:

All around the world, children want to go to school, to walk in their towns and cities, to play outside, and to share food with their families. They want to do all these things and feel safe. No matter how we say it, we all want peace.

There are a lot of places, even here, where this isn't possible for people. Let's keep that in mind as we go about our day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Mother's Corpse

Luckily, I didn't have to dress it. I anticipated that the entire time I was journeying to Oklahoma. Mormon's dress their dead in ceremonial clothing and I was petrified that as the only purportedly endowed child, I would have to help. Luckily, I got away with something less extensive, but still somewhat traumatic in its own way. I got to pull the veil down over her face and remove the white cloth covering her ceremonial apron.

But still, it was somewhat traumatic. In general, I consider myself a pretty laid back person. Shit happens and while it bothers me, I try not to be dramatic about it. But this whole death thing is hard for me to accept with the same resignation. Every part of me rebels at the thought that eventually, my body will simply stop. I will not be able to just keep breathing and force death away. I will only be able to fight for so long before my body takes over and gives up consciousness.

Then, I will cease to be human. I will be nothing but a stiff, mottled corpse.

My mother's hands were heavy when I tried to pull the cloth out from under them. They were without any inertia. They dragged grotesquely with the cloth as I pulled at it. My grandmother and the funeral director told me to just keep pulling, and I did, but not without some consternation at the way her yellowing hands held onto the cloth without actually doing so.

I had never felt rigor mortis before. When I brushed my finger on her cheek, it was like brushing a resin or rubber figurine. I told it, "I love you," even though she was no longer "she". It's amazing the things we do to keep up appearances and appease other people. But I was so afraid that if I didn't touch her in some way, I would offend my grandmother and father, who seemed to have no qualms about kissing her goodbye. I was relieved when the apron was uncovered, the veil drawn and the casket closed.

Unfortunately, a couple of nights later, I dreamed she came to life in the funeral home. I remember being simultaneously glad to see her and terrified at the thought that my mother was alive in spite of the fact that her internal organs were in a plastic sack inside her abdominal cavity. I wish now that I hadn't touched her at all, that I had let her friend help my grandmother with her veil and apron. I confess that for now, I am repelled by lifelessness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Morbid Relief

I think one of the things I've been struggling with the most since my mom died is the sense of relief I feel at not having to hide my unbelief from her. I am too well aware that I will never be seeing my mother again. So what is wrong with me that such an idea brings me relief? Am I also feeling pain? Yes. But right now, there has been a sense of rest for me at not having to feel like she's always around the corner waiting to catch me with some words of spiritual inquiry. When I'm on the phone with my dad, I can talk freely--cuss words, blasphemes and all. I can gripe and complain about how much Mormonism screwed me over and not worry about my mother's feelings being hurt or her judgment being incurred.

And yet, for all my issues with my mother, she is still the first person I think to call when one of my boys does something adorable. When I'm upset with something that happened at work, I still think about calling my mom for a good gripe session when I get home. She was my major connection to my family in Oklahoma. She always made sure to tell me who was doing what and when. She kept me posted on my aged and ailing grandparents, my crazy uncles and cousins and the members of the Mormon branch that I still love. My dad would rather have a root canal than talk to me about makeup or clothes shopping. He couldn't care less about breakouts or shaving nicks. My mom had a definite niche in my life, and it hurts to have that empty.

I'm so torn between the relief I feel right now and the pain that comes when it hits me that she is not there. She is not on vacation. She is not at a doctor's appointment. She is not visiting her parents. If I call and she is not home, it is because she is dead. And I feel bad to feel relieved over such a permanent situation. I wanted resolution with my mother, but not in this form.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Elle est Morte

My mother died Saturday, August 30, 2008, at 10:32 a.m. Will say some more later on the plethora of emotions and thoughts that this has caused. But I just wanted to let you know what finally developed on that front. I already miss her.
Thanks for your thoughts, well wishes and suggestions on how to tell my mom about my spiritual issues. Ultimately, I decided not to say anything. So while my mom knew I didn't attend church and knew I had chosen to stop wearing Mormon garments, she never ended up finding out the full extent of my beliefs. I think it was for the best. I have no regrets about that. I regret more that she won't be a part of my children's lives. She loved them so much.
Meanwhile, I'm out in the boondocks of small town Oklahoma and am borrowing my cousin's internet connection. I'll write more when I get back to Idaho.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Coming Out in Style

Had rather an interesting evening. I went to a church function with hubby tonight. It wasn't anything overtly religious, just food and socializing (Alistiar participated in the pie eating contest). But it was surreal to see the looks on people's faces as they greeted me. I recognized the look from when I used to be a full believing member. They were so excited to see me, the disaffected, finally attending with Alistiar. They came up and touched me on the arm, gave me that penetrating look, and said, "How are you today?" They repeatedly told me they were glad we had come. They were being so nice, so sweet. I suppose some would say I was reading too much into it, except that I remember the act from when I was a member. It certainly didn't seem like an act at the time, so I know they aren't purposefully being manipulative, but now that I'm the one receiving the kindness, it just seems icky. I know I'm a project (of course, my suspicions were confirmed the other day when Alistiar came home and told me that they had told him, "Don't worry, we'll get her to church.). I know I'm a project because I used to make people projects. I meant well, but now I realize that no one wants to be a project.

I was getting cranky, having to be so nice and act like I didn't know what was going on. So when the conversation turned to blogging and they asked me if I blogged, I said, "yes." They wanted the blog address and I said, "Okay, but I should warn you, I'm an atheist, and that's what I blog about."

"We still love you," they said. But they didn't ask for the URL again. Part of me felt good to get it out, to let them know, "You want a project, then fine, have a project, but I'll be damned if I don't know what you're up to!" The other part of me wondered if I had just cast my proverbial pearls before swine and had opened up the way for even more overt lengths at saving my soul. I would go into a stream of questions about why it's so hard for people to accept that the church isn't everything and a bag of chips, but I know the answer. I remember the incomprehension. I remember not understanding why people would ever leave the church. I remember the pity, the indignity I felt upon hearing someone had left or refused baptism. The odd thing is that even though I remember it, I don't understand it anymore.

I still understand the pull that religion has. I even attend a different church because I enjoy the community that religion offers. But I don't understand the pity and the intolerance anymore. By the time I was ready to say goodbye to the idea of god, I had figured out that even assuming there was a god, the important thing was how we acted right now. And all the exclusion that happened in most religious sects didn't seem like the right way to be going if we wanted to restore some order to the planet. I don't really pity these people because they belong to what I consider to be a harmful institution. I don't look at them with the soul searching glance and ask them how their rational thought is coming.

And I suppose what bothers me about this is that until they have a similar change in perspective (not necessarily leaving the church, but in what is really important), there's going to be this pity and intolerance. And that's what makes these events so difficult for me.

Back in Business

I'm back in business (although that still doesn't mean that I'll necessarily write a lot, am kind of flaky that way)! Thanks JohnR, for coming up and saving our internetless home! He had to pick his kids up from grandma's in Utah and drove a little out of the way to bring us a computer. He's also taking our junker back with him to hopefully recover the lost family photographs, essays and short stories that we had on there.

I have missed everyone so much. I just didn't feel comfortable writing and commenting on blog posts from work (mostly 'cause I'm so damned long winded that both things take a significant amount of time for me).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For the Record

For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with my blogging friends. My home computer, however, crashed while I was gone, and so I haven't been able to write anything until now (people are dying at slow rates and no one seems to have any gripes they want published). Just suffice it to say, that mfranti, G, Chandelle, JohnR, Kaimi and others are some of my favorite people and it was so refreshing to meet some of you for the first time and see some of you again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


A friend of mine, whom I will not link to out of respect, has had a tragedy hit. And I hurt for her. Losing a child hurts so badly. I can't imagine the pain, but the pain I feel on her behalf is horrible.
This friend of mine is faithful. She's good. So is her husband. They prayed, thousands of people prayed. But it didn't change anything. And supposing this baby had lived, would that have been such a terrible thing? Would the universe really have been worse off if this child had been able to live? Do not tell me that. Don't tell me that that child didn't need a shot at life. If life is really that shitty, then why do we cling to it so desperately?
Did my friend really need such a harsh lesson? And what was she supposed to learn from it? Will she learn from it? Yes. Absolutely. She has no choice. But do not tell me that the amount of pain she's suffering was because she was deficient in some way.
It hurts because we know the injustice of it. We know that life is really special. We know what it is to love and when the loved one dies, we know what it is to hurt for the lack of that person, knowing we'll never see them again. We know how cruel loving can be. And yet we do it anyway, because it's the only thing that keeps us holding on. That's the irony that is life: that what keeps you going can almost put an end to you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Les Bruns

Well, at the request of a couple of friends, here is a family picture. It's not very good, my little sister is the only photographer in the family, and while I think she took this, she took it more as a point and shoot concept than as a professional. Still, it should give you a basic idea of who we are.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Asking me to pick a favorite color would be like asking my mom to pick a favorite child (although, that may be easier for her now that I've left the church :-). Anyway, we are building a house and I get to have my own office. I'm ecstatic, except that I can't decide on which color to paint the walls. I like reds because of the associations they've had with women, for better or worse, through out Western History. I like blues because, well, it's blue . . . and it was always associated with integrity back when I was still active and integrity has always been important to me. I like greens because I read somewhere one time that the Celts associated it with magic and growth, because the plants around them grew without a seeming explanation. I like purples because they represent royalty (and even though I'm totally not thrilled with the idea of monarchy, I find it romantic anyway). I like black because it gets such a bad rap. Browns are so warm and inviting. Yellows and oranges, while they aren't always top on my list, have some shades that just make me happy. And white, well, of course I like it. But I don't like being surrounded by it, and so that's why I want my walls to be colorful.
Anyway, this was totally superfluous, but I just thought I'd put it out there and see what you guys like. And if you have any suggestions, that'd be cool too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Here's what we did for Independence Day. Theron and I rode the Bonneville County Democrat's float. We kept it simple this year, mostly recycling the donkey from a couple of years back and then making signs based off the Idaho Democratic Platform. We had everything from "protect productive farmland" to "torture? not in my America". We also had some of our candidates walk along with us and hand out their literature. One candidate in particular, Debbie Holmes, is really exciting to me. She was a real estate agent in Boise and was seeing the housing crisis up front. She got mad and decided to run for Congress. The woman has no rhetorical/oratory skill, but is as genuine as you could want.

Obviously, I have no skill at uploading images, so forgive me. But there we are. It was a fun day overall. In what used to be an uber conservative enclave, our float got cheers and peace signs and thumbs up. It was a pleasant surprise. As for the rest of the political spectrum in the U.S. Yeah, we still have a lot of hurdles to make it over. But at least on the fourth, I was feeling a little glimmer of hope.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Corporate Conglomerate

This is in response to Chandelle's post about corporate food. Now, I don't know nearly as much as she does about the food world, but tonight, as I was skimming through the Sunday paper, I found a rather hefty flyer called P&G brandSAVER. Now, obviously, if Proctor and Gamble is putting all their brands into one flyer to advertise, then it's not overly concerned about folks knowing they practically own the household market, but still, I was surprised by how many of the products I use on a daily basis (and indeed, how many products I thought were competing products), were made under Proctor and Gamble's label. Also, here are a couple of links about their legislative pull. Just makes you all warm and fuzzy, huh? Note especially the part where they mention that approximately 80 percent of the rest of the globe hasn't so much as seen a disposable diaper and I wanted to hurl (but for full disclosure, I haven't made the switch to cloth yet). Anyway, here's a list of all the products they make (even though one of those links also outlines it):
Pantene, Aussie, infusium, Olay, Noxema, Covergirl, Herbal Essences, Clairol, Secret, TAG, Gillette, Always, Tampax, Old Spice, Venus, Crest, OralB, PUR, febreze, Swiffer, Dawn, Cascade, Iams, Charmin, Bounty, Pepto Bismol, Tide, Downy, Head & Shoulders, Metamucil, Prilosec, and Pampers. This may not be all inclusive, but it was overwhelming nonetheless. It certainly opened my eyes. Illusion of choice indeed. Thanks for raising awareness, sista!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Today is Juneteenth. Go to the website for more specific information, but basically, on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, the last African American slaves were officially recognized as free citizens. Now obviously, there were still problems. Many slaves at that time had no land, no possessions, no connections except those with their former owners, but many modern African Americans recognize this as their own Independence Day.

I just wanted to remind those of us here in the U.S. that while our constitution contains some worthy and high ideals, we have a long way to go before we reach them. I think we've made wonderful progress. I'm so glad I live now and didn't live then, but I still sometimes wonder how long it will be before we truly recognize the basic rights that we have claimed pertain to every human. Anyway, happy Juneteenth!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fathers Day Miscellany

So, yesterday being Fathers Day, I went to an LDS ward with my hubby to show support. The opening hymn was "O My Father" which used to be one of my favorite hymns. Sure enough, at the last verse, I started crying and couldn't make it through the rest of the song. I sat there confused at my reaction and wondered if maybe I should give the church another try. The youth speaker spoke about obeying her dad (which is a generally good idea, within reason) and then the next speaker got up. She was young (approximately my age, give or take a couple of years) and was talking about how to honor, respect and otherwise kiss your husband's ass. She spewed the most disgusting patriarchal vomit that I've heard in a while. Her talk was full of archaic bullshit about how women shouldn't give their husbands too much trouble and assumptions that the husband would be the only bread winner in the family and so should be especially pampered. Ick, ick, ick. Her husband's talk was slightly more redeemable in that he spoke about not exercising unrighteous dominion, but it was still based on the idea that she should defer to him. I don't think either one of them even tried to touch on the equal partner language in the Family Proclamation (even thought that document has its own vomit issues). Suffice it to say that I left upset (although I tried to contain it since I didn't want to ruin hubby's day). Hubby simply found it amusing, because he knows how much it bothers me and thought that it was ironic that they would say those things on the one day I chose to come. Anyway, it was a nice reminder about why I was keeping my distance.

On to other Fathers Day stuff. I will now do a tribute to my own father. My dad is a pretty good guy in general. And we've definitely had our times when we didn't see eye to eye. In high school, when I was at my most zealous, I had no use for anything that my agnostic father wanted to tell me. As I look back now, I realize that even though my father's politics are generally conservative (as are his views of what married women should do), the things he tried to tell my sister and I about being independent were pretty much spot on, and I should have listened to him a lot more. He still annoys me at times, I still get angry at him sometimes, but I'm also finally learning to appreciate some of the things he says. So, here's to you, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Well, I have a new job. I edit obituaries for the local newspaper. For the most part, my job consists of reading about old men and women who have lived long, meaning-filled lives. But every once in a while, I have a day like today. First, a funeral home director sends me the obituary of a two month old infant. The grieving parents have written up some beautiful nonsense about how this baby made everyone want to live a better life. Then, a woman calls me to ask how to submit an obituary for her son.
"I'm sorry," I say, about to cry since I'm still upset over the baby.
"I've already buried two daughters," she says, "And this is so wrong."
"I know," I say, and again, "I'm sorry."
These are the ones that affect me the most, perhaps because they hit so close to home. The thought of losing one of my babies, or my husband (who is probably about the same age as the second woman's son)
almost immobilizes me.
I will be honest, death scares me. It scares me badly. The thought that I could possibly be happy again if I lost one of my boys just seems ludicrous to me.
I recently read The Voyage Out by Virginia Wolfe, and she describes a poignant death scene. The fiance sits and listens to Rachel's breathing slow and finally stop. He sits quietly with her for some time, and then, when his friends come and get him, he finally realizes what death means--he will never see Rachel again. All of a sudden, he understands. That's how it's been for me lately. Death is final. And even though eternity scared me (maybe I'll go into that later), finality scares me even more.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day

This will be somewhat eclectic. More and more efforts are being made to remind the American public that Mothers Day was originally founded by Julia Ward Howe in an effort to prevent more wars. Howe looked around at the devastation of the Civil War and thought, "I didn't teach my sons this. I taught them love, peace, and kindness. Maybe if more mothers spoke up, we wouldn't have as many wars." In the spirit of her original intent, many places around the U.S. are holding peace rallies today. I plan to participate in two--one where we are going to write the names of the fallen soldiers and civilians in Iraq (and maybe Afghanistan, I can't remember), and the other one a simple protest where we'll all congregate by the bridge here in town and let folks know that we support alternative ways of dealing with other countries.

On to the next point I wanted to talk about. Mothers Day has been hideously hijacked by Hallmark and the like. So for the last two years, I've been trying to approach Mothers Day from a non-consumerist ideal (although I admit I'm still consuming far more than I need to, so don't think I've made as much progress as I plan to). Last year, when my girl friends were getting bread machines and ice cream makers (neither of which is bad, I suppose), I told Alistiar that I wanted a day to myself. He took the boys and I rode my bike to a local park and read a book. I took a nap, I wrote in my journal, and all the time I was uninterrupted by my boys unless I went to them first. This year, as I mentioned, I'm going to the peace rallies and maybe my local UU service. I will probably ride my bike again. However, this year I'm also insisting that my boys (all three of them) join me (except maybe for the UU service). I want my boys to know how important peace is to me, and I want to set that example for them.

Lastly, a tribute to my own Mother. Right now, I admit that I have a lot of anger issues with my mom. I'm unashamedly blaming her for some of the things that are happening in my life while still recognizing that I am an adult now and will have to deal with these things from my own initiative (but that's another, whinier post). Let me just say that while I feel that my mother did some major things wrong (although nothing in the way of abuse, just not really preparing us for the real world), I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mom loves me. I know that she did her best and meant only the best for me and my sister. I know that my mom has her own demons to face and that raising children in the face of demons is daunting. I hope I do well by my children in the face of mine. I suppose the one thing I'm grateful to my mom for trying to teach me (even though I eventually had to learn it the hard way) is compassion for others. My mom realized how difficult it is to make judgments about a person's choices in life when we don't know their inner workings. She reminded me of this several times in high school when I would make blanket judgments of the kids around me. I now realize how right she was and try very hard to keep my assumptions about people to a minimum. I'm even trying really hard to do this concerning her (although it's hard considering the anger I'm harboring right now). Anyway, even though I don't plan on my mother ever reading this, I love you Mom. Thanks for everything. I hope I can succeed in raising good kids as well as you did.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Little Something

I've been reading Dale McGowan's Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Children Without Religion. Very good reference for agnostic/atheistic parents in a religion permeated society. Anyway, here's a fun poem by Yip Harburg entitled, "We've Come a Long Way, Buddy".

An ape, who from the zoo broke free,
Was cornered in the library
With Darwin tucked beneath one arm,
The Bible 'neath the other.
"I can't make up my mind," said he,
"Just who on earth I seem to be--
Am I my brother's keeper
Or am I my keeper's brother?"

So there's your evening chuckle.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Are Child Molesters an Anomaly?

I recently got a temp job at the local newspaper. I get a lot of time to read the news now and I'm glad. However, this morning a coworker pointed out a story to me that made me mad, and sad, and a little depressed. A ten year old girl from a nearby town gave birth to a baby in the hospital about two weeks ago. She was raped. No one even saught help for this girl until she went into labor. The rapist was thirty-seven. I have a few questions. What factors go in to making a person decide that they want force sex on a ten year old? Are people like this an anomaly? Or do they have severe sexual entitlement issues? Were they sexually abused as children (in general)? Are cultural values to blame? Perhaps my readers could give me some stats, some information, some understanding of what leads to behavior like this so that we can take active steps toward eradicating it.

I know that the media can sometimes make different crimes seem more common than they really are because they only publish the worst crimes--but really, it seems that child molestation is becoming more common, and I want to know why. I also want to know what contributes to it, because I have two boys and I don't want to screw up so badly that they decide it's okay to have sex with ten year olds. Can you imagine the trauma that this young girl and her family (although why the hell didn't they seek help earlier) must be going through after all this? I don't want to be responsible for perpetuating hell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two Sides of the Same Coin

I can tell you that because I have seen these images, I see plenty of evidence that our society and the media normalizes child sexuality and pornography every day. Go to your run of the mill child dance recital and you see over-sexualized children doing a bump and grind, all to the applause of LDS parents who think they are cute. That is exactly what is being done here - the normalizing of child sexuality. It is appalling.
Michelle, in a post on fMh about Miley Cyrus disrobing for Annie Leibowitz (#38).

Throughout the world and over time and cultures, girls who begin menarche are considered women. They begin to marry and bear children. It has been in the past 100 years only that we have decided that young girls should have more choice and should put off childbearing until later. As a feminist, I believe this is a good thing. But who is to say that it is the only true and proper choice? Some studies have shown that childbearing at younger ages is healthier and more optimal for infant and mother. I believe in the right of this group to choose their family patterns and customs. Teaching their children to submit is not abuse, it is a different lifestyle choice. There are many tenets of this faith which are clearly healthier and more moral than mainstream teachings.
BiV in a post about the alleged FLDS teenage pregnancies.

Now, my question to my readers is, how are these two things really that different? In both cases, we are having young, under-aged girls reduced solely to their sexual power. Indeed, groomed for it. One could argue that Miley has simply been introduced to a different lifestyle choice than that of these young FLDS women (that hers is mainstream isn't really an issue for me right now). Either way we are telling young women that their only power is in their bodies. I am aware that the implications of these two lifestyles are different--in the FLDS homes, these young women will go on to nurture kind, polite, loving children. In the mainstream world, we really have no way of knowing where Miley will end up literally, but we do know that it will be determined by her continued willingness to be a sex object. But will either way yield strong, public role models for other young women to watch? Will either way show young women that they have options, that they can be whoever they want to be, achieve whatever they set out to achieve? I don't think so. Neither of these extremes shows young women what feminism has been reaching for for years--that they are capable (alongside their motherhood/sexuality if they so choose) of being not only singers/actresses, but also lawyers, doctors, school teachers, social workers, engineers, IT experts, scientists, political leaders, or Nobel winners (in any field). When are we going to escape these two extreme portrayals of what women can be (even though they're based off the same biological power) and show young women all the variations in between?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


So this probably won't be very long, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. Several posts (xJane's comment #8 over at Mind on Fire, G's post at Figuring It Out, and Chanson's mention of a Carnival of Sexual Freedom) have had me thinking about women's bodies and sexuality. I figure that which ever way we look at it, we're pretty much doomed to be making a choice that someone else will see as blatant submission to the patriarchy. For example (and shukr, I hope I don't say anything that will offend you) we sometimes criticize Muslim women for wearing a hijab, or a head scarf (and I'm making an assumption here that they are two different things--I'll edit me if I find out later that I'm wrong). We accuse them of being an accessory to men's ideas about not being able to control themselves at the sight of an attractive woman. However, we also criticize women who wear revealing clothing. We accuse them of objectifying themselves and giving men an excuse to not control themselves at the sight of an attractive woman. Either way, it's all too easy to hurl accusations of submission to the patriarchy. Either way women come out reduced to objects of sexual desire. Supposing I dress "modestly" one day and "immodestly" the next, different people are going to respect or despise my decisions depending on how they look at the issue. I just wanted to put that out there. Because really, I don't believe that the way we dress ultimately matters one way or another. Maybe I'd even go so far as to say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Then, where ever I am, I'll fit in. I'm beginning to think that fashion shouldn't have to be a moral decision (even though I've been making it one for myself lately). Indeed, I'll go ahead and say it and then stop torturing myself and others about it. Fashion shouldn't be a moral decision. You know you. Dress in the way that makes you like you. To hell with everyone else (can an agnostic say that?:).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Acceptance and Love

Tuesday was a really long day. I didn't sleep well Monday night for worrying about different things going on in my life, then that morning, I got turned down for some financial help that would have been really, well, helpful. My son's vision teacher came Tuesday as well. She is definitely what I still sometimes think might be a blessing (don't you love the convolutions we agnostics go through?). We each have our issues with the church's doctrines/cultures. She remains active, I don't. But anyway, I was discussing a dilemma I have with her, and she was sharing some of the stuff that she's dealing with now. We were both crying by the time we finished our visit (not because we were angry at each other, but because we were hurting together). So here's my dilemma and maybe later some thoughts about where I am right now spiritually.

My mom is a faithful Mormon in what most of us would consider a very traditional, by the book sense. My father is agnostic, maybe even atheistic (he's actually reluctant to define it, which is his prerogative). Growing up, my sister and I heard my mom lament his inactivity and talk about how she didn't understand why he deprived her of the blessing of a righteous priesthood holder in our home. At times, she even considered leaving my dad in order to find someone else whom she could rely on for eternity. When C (my sister, I don't know if she'd appreciate me using her name assuming she knew about my blog) and I left for college, we picked a university that was half way across the country. We still hear from our mom about how much pain it causes her that we don't live closer so that we could shop together, hang out together, etc. Fast forward to now--my mom has breast cancer.

While she was here in Idaho last, she expressed to me that she thought maybe God was giving her this cancer so that she could die and not have to live with the pain that my dad's agnosticism and our long distance gave her. On the other hand, she also believes that she has received a revelation that she will be cured. So. As it turns out, she really is responding incredibly well to treatment. It really does look like she'll be in remission very soon. My dilemma is whether to tell her about my own agnosticism. I worry that if I actually tell her, she'll give up her mostly positive attitude and let the cancer overtake her. However, I've also been blatantly lying to her when she asks how church is going etc. (it's been almost a year since I quit going). I know that that will hurt my mom immensely. Especially considering what Kathryn (my son's vision teacher) and another older friend have told me regarding their adult children keeping things like this from them. Basically what it boils down to in their opinion is that my mom already knows something is up, but just isn't willing to ask what it is. So if that's the case, we're stuck in this passive-aggressive battle just waiting for the other one to break the ice and really get things out in the open.

The other thing making this difficult is the pressure I feel to be the perfect daughter that I used to be (okay, not perfect, but definitely compliant). That's another reason I haven't said anything to her. However, it's also killing me to lie to my mom (and other assorted family members I guess). My integrity is one of my most . . . cultivated (?) values. It's killing me to lie to her. I AM NOT A LIAR. At least, not most of the time. But now I am lying and it's killing me. It's also killing me to act out a person I no longer am. I have dreams where I tell my mom the truth and it's such a huge relief. It sucks waking up and realizing that I'm still dealing with that emotional burden.

Lastly, my folks are coming this summer for about a week. In most circumstances, I would say a face to face revealing would be better, but since my dad will be gone for most of the week (he's camping with a seldom seen friend), it would be just me and my mom for the majority of her visit. I don't want to have to explain everything to her and then spend the rest of the week dealing with all our drama. I'd rather tell her before she gets here so that we can at least begin the healing process before she gets to my house. That way, my box of Earl Grey tea, my striped underwear, my tank tops, aren't going to be a shock for her. I may not partake of anything but the underwear while she's here, but still, she'll see them around and I don't want those to be a surprise to her.

Anyway, thoughts? Ideas? HELP?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Green Magazine Question

Just a small dilemma that I hope my few readers can help me with. I really am trying to be greener in my habits. However, I subscribe to a couple of magazines (and assuming our financial situation improves, hope to subscribe to a couple more in the near future) and they obviously use up a lot of paper (I do try to recycle these magazines when I'm done with them). Some of these magazines have the option to receive only an online copy. The only problem is, I don't like sitting in front of my computer monitor to read all of my media--sometimes a good book or magazine that can accompany me to the couch is great. I could print off the magazine if I wanted to, but there we are back at the too much paper option. What do you guys do? Does anyone know about the impact of magazines and other paper media on the environment? How do you deal with the issue of staring at a monitor for long periods (which if I'm not mistaken, can be minimally unhealthy)? Anyway, ideas please.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I was reading a post over on fMh (which I don't feel like linking directly to--it's the one about "Are Skirts Eternal" or something) when I realized I was getting bored with the discussion. Everyone is talking about gender, sex, enforced vs. natural gender roles etc. and whether or not things will be like that in the after life. I found myself thinking, "Who the hell cares?". There are so many more important things to worry about right now. I think that's one thing that my agnosticism has done is forced me to focus on the present. I'm not going to say I never think about death or the future (that's an entirely different post). But I find myself being much more concerned with taking action right now, changing things right now. If you think gender roles are a problem now, then do something about it now. If you think gender roles are going to be a problem in the afterlife, then decline to participate--for me that was how my journey away from religion started. If that's what God wants from me (not just the gender role thing, there were tons of other issues) then I decline to participate. There are more important things to worry about.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Meme

Okay, so the book laying closest at hand was Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out.

The full and romantic career of Evelyn Murgatroyd is best hit off by her own words, "Call me Evelyn and I'll call you St. John." She said that on very slight provocation--her surname was enough--but although a great many young men had answered her already with considerable spirit she went on saying it and making choice of none. But her donkey stumbled to a jog-trot, and she had to ride in advance alone, for the path when it began to ascend one of the spines of the hill became narrow and scattered with stones.

So, pick up the nearest book that is at least 123 pages, find the first five sentences, post the next three. Then tag five people.

I tag g, shukr, mr. pink's mom, and any two other people who might be reading this post (my blog community is still pretty small and anyone else I might have tagged has already been tagged). Thanks to John and Chandelle for tagging me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Haiku for Summer

Au milieu de l’hiver

J’espère à l’été

Si le ciel garde sa teinte grise,

Je vais perdre tous.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day! My hubby left before I woke up, but he left me with a rose and some chocolate dipped strawberries and a box of pecan sandies. He's a sweety. And I feel bad, because we usually don't make a big deal out of Valentine's Day and so I didn't do anything in return. Sigh.

When I Grow Up

I love literature. I love philosophy just about as much, maybe a little bit more. I love feminist thought and all the ways it's taught me to look at life. So I thought that when I grew up, I would probably teach feminist philosophy at a university somewhere. However, as I've been looking at the social issues that feminism has opened my eyes to, I've been feeling the need to take responsibility for this knowledge and go into something that will allow me to effect real change. I didn't study much sociology, but I'm thinking something along those lines would allow me to get into the ugliest parts of the fray where I could closely observe, assist, and analyze the roots of some of these problems. I've also thought about going into law (something I would have laughed at had someone suggested it even a year ago). But law would allow me the language tools I need to not only understand how things are currently set up, but also how to change them. I've also considered politics. That way I can be in the thick of the decision making process--whether at the local, state, or national level. Really though, I think that these different fields are all rather inter-dependent (whether any of them would admit it or not). But I don't really have the time and money to go about pursuing each of them. So I'm having a hard time figuring out where I want to go next in my life.

I'm also aware of the endless list of problems that need to be addressed and I'm having a hard time settling on one. I want to help women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse: I want to help educate women; I want help women brake the wage barrier that still exists in the lower income levels; I want to help women learn to love their bodies for what they are and not fall pray to our horrendous beauty culture; and I want to help with the plethora of other issues that I didn't address in this paragraph. The thing is, I know that if I spread myself that thin, I'd never really be able to make a significant difference to anyone. However, I feel bad "turning my back" so to speak, on the other issues that I end up not taking part in.

Right now I'm full of idealism, full of energy that's driving me crazy, but what happens after I've actually encountered the evil, the ugly, the hopeless? What if I don't have what it takes? What if I waste a lot of my and my family's time towards the goal of trying to help only to find out that I was too weak. Worst of all, what if I wind up a cynic (although I already have strains of that from time to time)? And yet, I don't want to risk raising boys who think that it's okay to feel sorry for the bad things around them and yet not do anything. I don't want them to get too comfortable with life. I want them to see their mother actively involved in changing the bad things that happen in this world. I just don't know where to start. And the immobilization is killing me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Spirit

For a lack of more obvious communication with the spirit, I decided that whenever I felt moved to tears, or got tingles all over, I was feeling the spirit. As a child, I remember this happening once--while I was watching my sister get baptized. I was so proud and even though I was only two years older than her, I felt like that gave me the right to say things like "I can't believe how much she's growing up" etc. As an adolescent, I felt it all the time. At church, out in the woods where we lived, watching church videos, reading scriptures, at youth conference (which means basically a huge emotionally manipulative boot camp for the young and spiritual). The only places I didn't feel it were when I was praying for a witness that the Book of Mormon/Gospel was true and when I was praying for comfort during rough times. When I left for school, I continued to feel it mainly in the above referenced contexts. Until I started dating my husband, then things began to change a little. We broke off our relationship for about a month (he said he needed more time to think about this whole thing). I was heart broken, but I talked to my bishop and he said to pray that the enabling power of the atonement would be with me. I did, it seemed like it was, and after a lot of chocolate and self pity, I was finally bouncing back and being okay with life by the time he re-proposed. However, when I prayed for a confirmation of whether or not I was supposed to marry him, I never got one (should have been my first clue, eh? lol).

It turned out my hubby just wasn't spiritual (I was blind to this at the time, but oh well). I would be on the verge of one of these moments, and he would say some goof ball thing that would ruin it. For instance, when we were looking out over Adam Ondi Ahman on our honeymoon, he said, "It's just a field of dirt." Good feelings gone. I was rather upset. He did this during the romantic scenes of movies too, in Sacrament Meeting, where ever I was about to have a little moment of excitement. It took me forever to finally figure out that he's just like that, he didn't mean anything by it, and to just let it slide and enjoy my moment anyway.

However, early on in our relationship, I had a miscarriage. I was certain that God was punishing me for my wicked thoughts of not wanting to have children. I prayed and prayed for comfort. It never came and it started the series of events that followed and eventually led to my leaving the church. Anyway, around the same time, I began taking philosophy classes and learned that it was okay to ask questions. I asked tons of questions. I also continued to try and find some comfort in what was a very painful situation for me. I began feeling the spirit less and less in church and more and more in nature, listening to different music (classical, opera, etc.) reading more in depth literature (Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov was life changing), and looking at artistic works. I would be moved to tears at museums, modern dance concerts, and have tingles and tears at concerts where I was introduced to the spiritual music of other faiths. But still, when I would beg for comfort, for reassurance that I was doing the right thing, in the right place, I would feel empty inside. I began to realize that I was feeling more inspired by what humanity could do than by what God had supposedly done. The spirit wasn't manifesting comfort so much as it was manifesting beauty. I would feel optimistic after watching a well executed performance that if we were capable of such beauty, then perhaps we were capable of learning to coexist peacefully. Gradually, I began to wonder how important it really was for everyone to join the same religion. I decided I thought it was more important for us to simply make beauty together. And I felt that some of the rich cultural/artistic efforts of different faiths was a good place to start.

Which finally brings me to the event that inspired this post. Last Sunday, my husband and I went to a choral performance. It was at a Baptist church here in town. My son's vision teacher sings in the choral and had invited us to come. We walked into the chapel and I was briefly overcome by the urge to cry (what I would formerly have identified as the spirit). The chapel had a vaulted ceiling and was paneled with juniper or cedar. There were several stained glass windows on one side. It was beautiful. I'd never been inside a different church before--only LDS ones. I wondered what it was about us that sometimes made us deny ourselves beauty simply for fear of rocking social norms. Why are we so narrow minded sometimes about the beauty that each of us can bring to this life? Why do we legitimize beauty only when it fits into our own narrow context of understanding? Perhaps, after humanity lost the need to explain the cosmos in terms of the divine, they started seeing divinity in the beauty that they were able to create. In the movie, The Davinci Code, Tom Hanks' character asks the female lead, "Why can't human be divine?" I think it is. I think divinity became a way for us to connect with what was most beautiful in human experience. Now if only we can recognize that in each other.

Monday, February 4, 2008


After reading Lisa's post over on fMh, I decided to do an introduction post. I mean, there's my profile over there on the left side of the screen, but it doesn't really have a whole ton about me. I was raised in Oklahoma--some time in Oklahoma City and some time in a little town called Clayton. Oklahoma was a fun place to grow up. Clayton was in the middle of a little range of mountains. They were covered mostly with pine as the logging industry had long ago cut down almost all the deciduous trees. We lived an hour away from the nearest Walmart and forty-five minutes away from the nearest branch of Mormons. There were thirty five people in my graduating class. I have duel citizen ship in one of the Native American tribes. However, my family was largely ignorant of what this meant except for free pencils and notebooks at school. My mom really romanticized our heritage. We did fur trade re-enactments as a family and while me, my mom, and sister where all white as you could wish, she always made us dress in Native American garb for these re-enactments. I was basically prejudice against my own tribe for years without really realizing it because we were never really taught anything about modern tribal issues, etc.

I was also a horse nut as a kid. When we moved to our small town, I begged and begged for a horse. I read books and magazines about horses. I put horse posters on my bed room wall. Finally in the eighth grade, I got a horse. An old, twenty four year old gelding. But I was thrilled. Unfortunately, I was also very quickly disillusioned. I wouldn't admit it, though, because I had begged for so long. It turned out that I didn't like getting up early to feed, water, muck out stalls, pick up rocks in the pasture, clear brush, etc. However, that was the image I had picked and become known for in high school and so that was the image I kept. I still love horses--they're beautiful animals, but if I ever own them again, it will be after I've decided I'm ready to make the necessary sacrifices.

I had said that I wanted to major in farm and ranch management (that only took an associates degree and I was pretty sure I hated school). However, my sophomore year, while studying French, I decided that I'd like to go to school and eventually get a Ph.D. in linguistics. Then, my senior year, inspired by my English teacher, I decided I'd teach high school English (and get that Ph.D. later).
I went to Ricks college on a whim (it was the only college I applied to--crazy, I know, but no one clued me into this until later). I majored in English, but still had a thing for languages and so I ended up taking two semesters each of Ancient Greek, Classical Latin, and Biblical Hebrew (they didn't offer anymore than two semesters of each one). So I know the basics of a few dead languages, but not really enough to read them at leisure. I minored in French and Philosophy. I love unmarketable thinking stuff like that. I puzzle over metaphysics, epistemology, mind/body problems, etc. when I take the time from blogging and feeding small children.

I actually met my husband while he was serving his mission in the tiny little branch we attended. I was one of five Laurels (in Mormon speak that means I was in a class of other young women approximately 16-17 yrs. old). The only young men there were twelve and I was their Sunday School teacher (a calling that I loathed, by the way). I walked into church and the missionaries were greeting people at the door. "Elder B" had gorgeous brown eyes and I was smitten. According to mission rules, however, the missionaries aren't allowed to flirt, date, etc. and so I kept this to myself. He was from Idaho, and by that time I had been accepted to Ricks college and had announced it to everyone at the branch. When he eventually got transferred to another area, he said, "I'll see you in Idaho." When he got off his mission, we dated long distance for a mere nine months and got married after my sophomore year. We had a little boy (Theron) about a year and a half later and another three years later we had another little boy (Gareth) who is now a year old.

So, there's my life story in a nut shell. I'll probably be drawing off of it from time to time as it has obviously shaped who I am and how I think now. However, the ways in which I was influenced by those things are subject matter for a different post, so I decided not to go into them here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Til Death do Us Part

A common enough phrase, whether raised in the LDS world or not, wouldn't you say? I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Especially in regards to the Mormon response of Time and all Eternity. I went to the Rexburg Temple Open House today and got to hear some prophets and apostles talking about how heaven wouldn't be heaven without their wives and children, and how they were so grateful for the idea of time and all eternity (and of course they got that dreamy, happy look in their eyes that we always see on missionary videos). Now, I don't know how I feel about an after life (a post unto itself), but supposing we do live on after death, what would our relationships be like afterwards? According to non-LDS Christianity, we would go to heaven and not have our familial relationships. We might recognize people that we'd spent time with on earth, but we wouldn't necessarily look at them as spouses, mothers, etc. but rather as fellow praisers of God Almighty. According to LDS theology, not only will we recognize others in the same relationships as we have now, but we will also stay in those relationships if we've been through the temple to have them sealed up.

This got me to thinking about the way we practice time and eternity. Historically (from a Christian view point) a man married a woman and they (at least in theory) stayed faithful to each other until one of them died, then the other one was free to find a different spouse if the need or desire arose. In early LDS practice, a man could marry more than one wife regardless of whether or not wives could marry other husbands. However, if the husband died, then the various wives, if so inclined, could try and find another husband. Now, a woman marries a man and they stay faithful to each other until the other one dies and then the left over spouse is free to marry again. Is it me, or has "til death do us part" been in force throughout?

I know that some will say, yes, but because of the temple, they can be married after they die. What I'm saying is that "til death do us part" has been severely misinterpreted. "Til death do us part" simply refers to the life long commitment that couples have made to remain faithful to each other. It means that they are not to go forming other marriage-like relationships while their current spouse is living. However, once that current spouse is dead, all bets are off and they can find someone else. It works this way with or without a temple sealing. You don't see a widower/widow who was sealed to his/her deceased spouse staying single for the rest of her/his life (well, not regularly at least) do you? No, because death has parted the two of them and so the living one is free to find another partner.

So what I'm saying is that if there's an afterlife, then we will indeed either have our relationships as they are now or not, but I don't think the sealing power will really be relevant. Those who marry again waited for death to part them from their first spouse (at least ideally) before moving on. I don't think we need to worry about not having our spouses there with us. They'll be there waiting for us either way.

Friday, January 4, 2008


I don't think this will be my "issues with motherhood" post, but I was reading Vada's post over on Mormon Mommy Wars and it got me thinking about my own son with disabilities. My youngest son is a year old. He's blind. It was such an odd experience, when even at a month and half old, I could tell that something was wrong with his eyes. I knew it was true, but didn't want it to be true. I kept telling myself that blindness wasn't so bad, that there are worse disabilities to have, that if he was really blind, he's still be able to live a functional life. But when we finally saw an ophthalmologist at six months, we were heart broken to have it confirmed.

I don't know how to express how overwhelming it is to be the parent of a blind child. How painful it is to hear people tell you how special you must be to have received such a child when you know so deeply your own inadequacies. To feel the pressure that such statements put on you to do a stellar job of raising your child. People keep telling me that I'm the perfect mother to have such a child, but only I know how dark my parenting days get sometimes. Only I know how resentful I sometimes get at being a mother when I could have been doing other things right now. Only I know how much I struggle doing little kid things. They couldn't be more wrong when they say things like that. I live in constant fear of having my son grow up and think that he might have been better off had he had a more adequate mommy.

And to make it worse, I know how important it is to do things right. To balance his needs with the needs of my older son who is normal. To make sure I explain enough to this little guy so that he makes those connections that are second nature to my sighted child. And yet I feel like most days are abject failures. Days when I get so scared and overwhelmed that I sit and stare at the computer so that I don't have to deal with all this. I love my boys more than I ever thought possible. I feed them, clean them, clothe them, but sometimes I worry that I'm failing them miserably because I'm not emotionally able to handle their needs. Do they know I love them? I think that's what scares me to death--is that they might doubt that. That they might grow up, look back, and doubt that I was doing my best and that I loved them.