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Friday, October 10, 2014

Death Be Not Dignified, and Maybe That's Okay

My Facebook feed is filling up with likes for a CNN story about a woman with terminal brain cancer who has chosen to "die with dignity." She has set a date to take a prescription that will end her life before the cancer can.




Her story is touching. She is newly married, she loves to travel, she wants a family. All of these have been cut short by cancer, along with every other dream she had for her life. It's the cruelest of blows.


But she is fighting back. Not only is she getting the upper hand on death by choosing her own date to die, she's also fighting for every American to have this right. Right now only five states have Death with Dignity laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending meds for the terminally ill. She wants every state to have similar laws.




I have to admire her for using the little time she has left to spread a message she believes will help others.




But I don't agree with her.




I spent ten months watching my aunt die of ovarian cancer. Here's what I know about that kind of death: there is no dignity in it. None.




The hair and appetite loss were nothing compared to the pain no meds could soothe. I spent days with her where she spoke broken words through gritted teeth, fighting to sit upright. Her once round body morphed into a skeleton with loose flesh and dry, scaly chemo hands. Thoughts escaped her like wind-blown dandelion fluff. Always within reach, but never close enough to grasp.




Toward the end, she spent as many days in the hospital as out of it, until finally, she came home to die. I went to visit her on one of those last days before hospice came; a day when she writhed in pain and clenched my hand and her sister's hand, waiting for the searing in her nerves to stop. To hold her hand or rub her arm only caused more pain. Even to touch her hurt. Three of us had to help her to the bathroom, a ten second walk that stretched to ten minutes.




That was the worst day. But even then, she managed to smile when I said something funny.




I went back a few days later. Hospice had come, morphine was being administered, and a hospital bed occupied a corner of the family room. After the pain she'd been in the last time I'd seen her, I expected to see her in bed. Instead, she was sitting on the couch looking more alive than she'd been in weeks. Looking almost alive enough to cut through the air of waiting that hung heavy in the room. Waiting for someone to die is as painful as watching it.




She couldn't talk. The level of morphine it took to keep her comfortable also kept her too high to communicate rationally. She waved me over and held out her small, frail hands. I don't remember the color--orange or pink--but her fingernails were painted. Her fingernails were always painted.


I took her hands and she pulled herself up. I thought she wanted help somewhere, but instead she pulled me into her arms. I could feel every vertebrae in her back and there was no cushion left on her shoulders, but there was strength in that embrace.




And love.




And gratitude.




And every word her heart held that her mouth couldn't say.




Let's be honest, suffering and pain suck. No one wants it. Not for ourselves, and especially not for our loved ones. But what would life be without it?  What happens when we, as a people, decide life is only worthwhile if we can avoid suffering rather than learn from it.




I'm a firm believer in the value of paradoxes. Without pain, how do we know pleasure? Without evil, how can there be good? Without doubt, is there any need for faith?




And without suffering, how do we learn compassion?




How did Mother Theresa become Mother Theresa? How did she develop the kind of compassion it took for her to spend her life ministering to others? She surrounded herself with suffering. She didn't sit in a church talking about what to do for the sick, the poor, the destitute, the dying. She surrounded herself with them.




We don't  have to be Mother Theresa to learn compassion, and I'm not advocating for unnecessary suffering.  But I worry about the implications of making dignity the most important part of death. I worry about what lessons we miss learning if we're not willing to see the journey to death all the way through--when we cut it short before it gets too hard. Determining a date to die is a lot easier than determining whether we're finished doing all the good we may do.


If my aunt had cut her journey short--cut it off before she needed hospice or before she became a "burden" to her loved ones, I would have missed the greatest lessons she had to teach me. I can feel greater sympathy for this young woman and her family because I know what lies ahead for her and them. I haven't suffered the physical pain, but I know the heartache. I've felt that. I still feel it. And I'm a better person because of it. But it took the hardest part of her journey to teach me those things.


My aunt's death was long. It was painful. It broke my heart. But, oh, how grateful I am that I got to take that walk with her.






Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear New York Times

Guess who made headlines in the New York Times...






Me!






I mean, not me specifically, but Mormon women did. I happen to be one of those, so of course I had to read these articles published back to back last week. Missions signal a Growing Role for Mormon Women and this one Mormon Women Flood of Requests.




The problem with writing about a religion is that if you are a practitioner of a particular faith it's hard to report without bias or to be seen as credible even at your most unbiased. On the other hand, if you're an outsider to a religion you're reporting on a culture you're not a part of, using a language you don't speak. Every religion has it's own language, but Mormonism's is particularly hard to understand because we use a lot of familiar terms but define them differently than other Christian faiths. (Hence the cry of "you're not Christian" you just heard from some Christians who may stumble upon this little blog).




For the most part the co-writers of both these articles did a fairly good job of speaking our language, they got some things wrong. Usually that doesn't bug me, but since their articles devolved from an interesting discussion about how the rise in women missionaries is changing the face of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, into a story about a small contingent among millions of Mormons who would like to see women ordained to the priesthood, I feel like a little interpretation is in order.  (To be clear, my interpretation = my interpretation and understanding of Church doctrine through years of study and prayer on this topic. It is in no way official).


Please don't get me wrong. I am not being critical of the woman who are calling for ordination. I'm frustrated by the way their fight for what they see as greater power and authority diminishes the power and authority women already have. But while I don't support their cause, I fully support them in their right to ask, even demand, what they see as a necessary step toward equality within the Church. My understanding of the priesthood doesn't make me think they will be successful in their fight for ordination, but I empathize with their need to fight for it nonetheless. They are bringing to light changes that can, and should, be made so that men and women more fully realize the power in the priesthood as they use it together.




But back to the articles themselves and some problems with them. Let's start with this quote:
To revise female roles in the church threatens what many see as the very foundations of the faith, which dictate that men are ordained as priests at the tender age of 18, taking the title “Elder,” while women, who can never progress beyond “Sister,” are considered holiest and most fulfilled as wives and mothers.


The "foundations of the faith" they're referring to, I suppose, are our beliefs and practices regarding the Priesthood. To be clear, however, our faith and church has one foundation: Jesus Christ. That's it. Everything we do goes back to our belief in His atonement and resurrection.


Of course, since Christ not only holds the Priesthood, but is the priesthood, it is an essential part of our foundation. Here's where things get tricky, though. Our definition of priesthood may closely match that of Catholics and Protestants, but our inferred meaning does not, and neither does our application of the Priesthood. The Priesthood can never be a career path for either a Mormon woman or man. No eighteen year old boy ordained an elder can choose to serve in certain positions that may move him up the ranks to President some day. The purpose of the priesthood is simply to bless the lives of others. While only men within the Mormon church are ordained to administer the priesthood, it is through the priesthood that both men and women do as Christ did: bless the lives of others.




Boys are ordained priests at the age of 16, not 18, while they still hold only the Aaronic, or lower, priesthood. Their responsibilities are pretty limited but do include the authority to bless the sacrament each Sunday and perform baptisms if asked to do so. They must be ordained as Elders before participating in the highest temple rituals (we call them ordinances), but are only called Elder while serving missions or if they are called (askED to serve--this is different from askING to serve) in the Quorum of Seventy or as an Apostle.




Do there seem to be some inequities here? On the surface, yes. But you know who can enter the temple and officiate in the same ordinances as men without being ordained to the priesthood? Women. So are there inequities in that also? Not when you stop defining equality as sameness (2 + 2 and 3 +1 both equal the same thing even though they look different, right?).




In a church whose doctrines include those of eternal progression--meaning we continue to learn and grow forever--and agency--meaning we choose how much we learn and grow-- the idea that women "can never progress beyond 'Sister'" doesn't really work. Our progress is neither dependent upon another person, nor upon any titles given. Our progress is only dependent upon ourselves and the choices we make. To progress in the Church does not mean moving up the ladder like it does in the business world. Since our clergy is a lay clergy and callings (positions we're ASKED to fill) are often based more on inspiration than ability, a secular view of progress doesn't fit the Mormon definition, whether it's applied to women or men. There's no ladder to climb in Christ's church, nor should there be.




But for those who place importance in titles, there is another one women can be known by. I am currently serving as the Young Women President in my congregation. This means I am called to be the women's leader over girls age 12-18 and, as such, I am referred to as President by my bishop (pastor of our congregation) and his two counselors, as are my female counterparts in the women's and children's organizations and my male counterpart in the young men's organization. The young women themselves, however, call me Sister, just as the young men call my counterpart, Brother. The title of president is only important to me in that it sends the message to my young women that  my responsibility to them is equal to that of the Young Men President over the boys (this is a rare instance where  sameness does translate to equality).




As for the charge that women are "considered holiest and most fulfilled as wives and mothers," consider this statement by President Harold B. Lee given in 1974 and quoted by President Howard W. Hunter twenty years later in General Priesthood Meeting which only men attend: “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.” Did they mean Mormon men should have home-based businesses? That they should find careers they advance in within their homes? No.




Our theology teaches that families are eternal, God is, literally, our Heavenly Father, and we lived with him before coming to earth. Since God is giving mothers and fathers responsibility for His children and we will have to report back to Him about how we fulfilled this responsibility, is there anything more holy or more fulfilling (or frustrating) for a man or woman than marriage and children? I have never heard any Church leader ever say that a man will be more fulfilled by remaining single and pursuing worldly success rather than getting married and becoming a father.




See how reporters can miss all the context behind the syntax when they report on a culture they're not part of in a language that sounds like their own but isn't? I try to remember this every time I read about another religion.




Here's another example, and it's a biggie:


But when asked how they felt about women joining the priesthood, which would allow them to assume religious decision-making authority, Ms. Ensign and Ms. Scott shook their heads and let out nervous giggles. “I already have way too much responsibility,” Ms. Ensign said.


First of all, it's Sister Ensign and Sister Scott. If you're going to make a big deal about women only being able to hold one title in my church, you probably ought to use that one title. While I rarely call my fellow sisters, Sister, the female missionaries are always referred to as Sister. It is a title of respect that is the equivalent of Elder when referring to male missionaries. To give them a secular title like Ms. is to diminish the importance of the work they are doing for our church, which is what you're article started out about.




Secondly, let me put some context behind this often misunderstood statement, "I already have too much responsibility." And this one "I don't want to go to any more meetings." And all the other ways Mormon women say "I don't want the Priesthood" that make me crazy because they are so easily misinterpreted as statements of submissiveness.




Do you know what women can do? Everything. Do you know what Mormon women actually do? EVERYTHING. Seriously. Look around. The Mormon woman you know is the one running the PTA, or the classroom, or the book fair or whatever else at your kid's school. She's the one you work with who also puts in a lot of unpaid time at her church. She's the one who just signed the sheet that went around asking for volunteers for whatever it is. She's the one bringing you dinner tonight. She's the one you can count on to follow through when she says she'll do something.




And do you know why?


Because she knows that what she does matters, even if it's something small and unworthy of recognition. She knows that her power comes, not from someone ordaining her, but from her innate ability to influence the world for good.


Let me give you some examples of how we use that influence and how it works in conjunction with an ordained male's responsibility to administer the Priesthood.


It starts with our belief in Adam and Eve and our understanding of who Eve was; an understanding that is increased as men and women officiate in temple ordinances. In our theology, Eve is not the weaker sex who gave into temptation and thus is to blame for the world of sin every person is born into. Rather, Eve is the women who thoughtfully partook of the fruit that allows all of mankind the blessing of mortal life. She made the decision to leave the Garden of Eden in order to have children, knowing she and they would face hardships, trials, and temptations, but also knowing we need these things to progress and live with God our Heavenly Father again. She used her influence to help Adam see that eating the fruit was not only necessary, but also part of God's plan.


Original sin? We don't have that in our doctrine (check out our Article of Faith #2). Which means we also don't share a basic belief of other Christian faiths. A belief that scores of religious men have used for centuries to justify the mistreatment or subjugation of women.


Here's a more personal example of how a woman's power to influence is as important as an ordained man's responsibility to administer. When I was fourteen I attended a special youth meeting that centered around the standards of morality the Church teaches. I sat next to a friend of my mom's, Christine Funk, as the priesthood leader assigned the topic of chastity gave the infamous "a white rose touched turns brown" talk. He ended by recounting how when he got married he sent his wife's former young women leader a dozen white roses to thank her for teaching his wife this very important lesson.


I sat through that talk convinced I was that brown wilted rose because I had kissed a boy when I was twelve. I had denied my future husband the privilege of sending any of my young women leaders a dozen white roses. Even worse, I had committed a grievous sin from which there was no return because I had kissed a boy on the lips on a dare. And since it was too late, what was the point of even living the standards being taught? What kind of man would want to marry me anyway?


I can't tell you the hopelessness I felt before Chris leaned over and said to me, "I can't believe he just said that. That does not take into account the Atonement or repentance."


With those two sentences a woman who had no official "authority" over me changed the course of my life. She taught me correct doctrine by following a feeling  to say something she had no idea how much I needed to hear. Her influence had more power than the priesthood authority of Brother So and So who was fulfilling an administrative assignment in an earnest, though woefully misguided, way.


My husband has administered priesthood blessings to a number of my friends whose own husbands were either out of town when the need arose or were unworthy to do so because they'd chosen not to live up to the standards required to administer. (Meaning, just because they were ordained doesn't mean they had the authority to use their priesthood office). On one occasion he went to my friend's house to help our bishop give her and her children blessings of comfort during a very difficult time caused by the choices of her husband and their father. Within minutes he called me to come over and help. They were so distraught he had no idea what to do.


After my husband and our bishop gave the blessings, I held my friend and her children. I shared my feelings about Christ's atonement and forgiveness while they, my husband, and my bishop listened. My words and my husband's blessings couldn't fix the problems caused by another husband and father's poor choices, but they did bring comfort. Together we used the power of the priesthood to administer, to influence, to love and to bless the lives of others.


We've had other experiences like this where he has used his power to administer in conjunction with my power to influence and nurture to bless the lives of others. These opportunities have taught us the importance of not only fulfilling our separate responsibilities, but also working together to do so in order to more fully realize the power in the priesthood. If I were ordained to administer priesthood blessings, my friends would have asked me to lay my hands on their heads instead of my husband. But then how would he have served them? When would he have learned how indispensable husbands and fathers are without the opportunity to step in when other men couldn't or wouldn't live up to their responsibilities?


I could give you a hundred other examples of women using their influence to bless the lives of others without being ordained to do so. Like the first counselor in my Young Women presidency who is a vice president at an international company. She has used her power to influence for good both in the workplace and the church by changing people's perceptions of childbirth from something to fear to something to embrace. She has used her pregnancy to teach our young women to see the connection between the agony and suffering women go through to give mortal life to God's children and the agony and suffering Christ endured to provide eternal life to God's children.


Or my young women who had the courage to report the disparaging and inappropriate remarks about women a popular teacher at their high school was making, leading to his dismissal. I can give you the examples of my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my friends, and my sisters who have had as great an influence in my life as any man ordained to the priesthood.


Women can do everything. That doesn't mean they should.


So, Ms. Reporters, when you quote a Mormon woman saying she doesn't "want the responsibility" of the Priesthood, this is the context behind it. It's not that we don't want it, it's that we already have it. It just looks different from what you, or even Mormon women themselves, think it should.


If women want to use their influence to stand in a line for a meeting, no harm can come from that. They need to be heard. Women need to be heard. More importantly, they need to embrace their power and use it.


So while I won't be standing in any lines, here's how I will embrace my power and use my influence. I will fight to change outdated conversations about chastity so that no young women who doesn't have a Chris Funk sitting next to her will feel worthless. I'll fight to change conversations about modesty so the words "modest is hottest" are never used and reverence, love and respect for our bodies is emphasized. I'll teach girls the need for education and careers along with the divinity of marriage and motherhood. I'll do whatever it takes for women to recognize and be recognized for the miracles we perform every single day just by being women.


And if some day our living prophet receives a revelation that women should be ordained, I'll step up and do what's asked of me. Just please don't call me to be the financial clerk. I watched my husband muddle his way through that calling for three and half years and. . .


 I really don't want that responsibility.





Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fear for Free

Take that elf down from the shelf, friends, Christmas is over. I don't have one of the little guys so I have to mark the end of the Season of Using a Naughty Overpriced Plastic Doll to Scare Kids into Behaving in a different way. Mainly by daily threatenings to return all gifts to Santa. (But since 2/3 of my children are no longer believers and 1/3 has a bad case of selective hearing, my threats are nothing more than idle if even heard).

Here's a question for you Elfers out there though:

How does a naughty elf encourage good behavior?

I mean, I get that it's fun to have him/her do silly things every night (actually this a lie because the thought of having to remember to do one more thing EVERY NIGHT in the month of December and then to have to make that one more thing a creative one, STRESSES. ME. OUT.), but how does that translate into outright fear of misbehavior?

Take for instance, this picture:
Shelf Elf
really, Pinterest?

 
Every morning this is the conversation I have with my children, "WILL YOU PLEASE PUT THE CAP BACK ON THE TOOTHPASTE SO IT DOESN'T GET ALL OVER THE COUNTER?? AND SQUEEZE FROM THE BOTTOM. SQUEEZE. FROM. THE. BOTTOM!!" How could this possibly help lower the toothpaste covered counter incidents in my home?  My heart is pounding just looking at this picture because, really, I don't have enough kid-created messes to clean up, I'm going to make some of my own? Do you know when this would be cleaned up at my house? June. Maybe. If my ultimate goal is to scare my kids into never misusing toothpaste again, how could this possibly help?
 
 
Or here's another Pinterest suggestion:
Funny & Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas - much needed!!!
 
 
Have your elf steal from you. Because it's not enough you paid $30 (if you got a deal)  for this creep, now he's going to take your cash, charge up your credit card, AND teach your kids it's okay. This is the guy Santa's sent to keep an eye on them, right? So either Santa's been snookered just like everyone else who's bought into Elfie/Mr. Jingles/Harvey (or whatever pseudonym he's using at your house) or Santa's standard have seriously slipped.
 
 
Or how about this:
 
Cute website for elf ideas.
You want to know what my kids' reaction to this would be? Not, "Mommy, mommy look how funny Elfie is!" or "Can I drink syrup through a straw too?" No, their reaction would be "Straws as a syrup delivery device? Why did I never think of this before? Who needs pancakes or waffles? Let's cut out the middle man! Girl 2, you get the straws. Girl 3, you watch for Mom while Girl 2 and I drink our breakfast. If there's any left, you can have some too."
 
 
Call me dense or clueless or the meanest mom ever, but I just don't get it. I mean, I'm not against fear. I'm pro-fear. Kids should be scared into being good. But how does a mirror defacing, purse invading, syrup sucking doll accomplish this? Especially when he's kept in a box for eleven months out of the year.
 
Here's how it's always worked at my house (and the house I grew up in). The kids have a week after Christmas to get all their fighting and naughtiness out without too much retribution. Hopefully they're distracted enough by all their new crap that things don't get too out of control. But starting January 1st, Santa's elves start watching again. But only Mom can see them. They're always peeking in windows somewhere. And they're are windows everywhere. Go ahead, think of somewhere without windows (okay, outside, but the elves are already out there). Dungeons, right? And let's see a kid misbehave in one of those.
 
The elves are always watching. ALWAYS. And there's more than one of them.
 
Fear can be free, my friends. Free. All you have to do when naughtiness is about to erupt is calmly say, "Oh, I think I just saw an elf peeking in the window." Stops them in their tracks. Now the focus has gone from being bad to being outright scared of something they can't see but can see them. Fear of the unknown, people, is the greatest fear of all.
 
Follow your statement by quietly signing a few of the creepier lines from Santa Claus is Coming to Town. "He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. SO BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE!"
 
Boom. Elves go from rosy cheeked pranksters to a cross between Edward Cullen and Chucky.
 
Happy New Year and You're Welcome. 
 

WARNING! This method may not actually induce good behavior. Side effects include nightmares, fear of dark hallways, fear of being alone, fear of windows, desire for window coverings, and fear.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mormonism for Drunks

Last weekend I went to Vegas to see my friend Kelly from Cleveland.
We went cooler places than the airport,
but we forgot to take pictures at those places.
It was one of the few bright spots at the end of a hard year. And, let me tell you, Kelly from Cleveland knows how to do Vegas. There's no hanging out in her mother-in-law's basement like yours truly. Nope. There's shopping, and eating good food, and winning money, and staying at nice hotels.

This is not how I do Vegas.

But Kelly from Cleveland let me live vicariously through her, asking me be her personal shopper and buying me a delicious steak at a restaurant with singing frogs and waterfalls that was not Rainforest CafĂ©.* I did, however, miss out on the club with the ladies taking waterless baths and the man wearing the bear head who may or may not have worked there.

Again, this was not my typical Vegas visit to the in-laws.

Kelly's husband Chris and her friend Kathleen also ate delicious steak  with us and later her friend--I'll call him Drunk Larry (mostly because his name is Larry and because he was, in fact, drunk)--showed up to drink some wine and eat our delicious leftovers. We had a very fine time and Larry--as he himself pointed out--was hiLARRYous.

During our lively conversation there were some questions asked/statements made about Mormons. I did an okay job of answering them, but now that I've had a few days to think them over and Larry's had a few days to sober up, I think I'd like to give it another go. I'll leave it to anyone who wasn't at that dinner who may read this blog to guess which questions asked/statements made were from the one among us who was not entirely sober.

You're a Mormon? Where did you park your horse and buggy?
At Brigham Young's house...back in 1858.

The typical form of transportation used by Mormons now looks like this:**
Based on this picture, 2 out of 9 Mormon children will have broken arms at any given time.
 
Is there such a thing as a Mormon high school?
Yes, in some parts of Utah and Idaho. Except it's called public school and isn't actually owned by the Church.
In many parts of the world though, high school age kids attend what we call seminary which is usually held in our church buildings. This is religious instruction that generally happens before school where there isn't a high concentration of Mormons. In Utah, Southern Idaho and parts of Arizona this instruction takes place during the school day in seminary buildings located near high schools and is officially known as released time. It's part of a student's class schedule, but no credit is given for the course. Except in Heaven.

Are there black Mormons?
Yes. Here's one right here:
 
There are more, but I'm not gonna lie. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--just like most other predominately white Christian churches--has a difficult history when it comes to Black Americans and because of that we don't have nearly the number of black members I would like to see us have. I found this cool site though, if you want to know more about black Latter Day Saints.

Are there gay Mormons?
Yes there are members of the Church who struggle with same-sex attraction. This one is hard because of our belief that gender is eternal and that marriage is between a man and a woman (as a side-note, not all faithful members agree with this). Sex outside of marriage is also considered a sin, thereby resigning someone attracted to another of the same sex to a life of celibacy if he/she wants to remain a fully practicing Mormon.
It's a difficult subject and one that the Church has not always been sensitive to or open about. I think this website is a huge step in the right direction toward a more compassionate approach to same-sex attraction.

Do Mormons get Botox?
At least one of us does:

 
Have you seen Book of Mormon, the musical? Is the history in it right?
I haven't seen it so I don't know for sure. But if it's about a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith who, in 1820, read in James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, decided to put that scripture to the test by asking God which church to join and was answered over a number of years with visions of God, Jesus, and angels and actual gold plates from which we get our Book of Mormon that does not include any dancing, singing, or stages; then yes, the history is correct.
 
Even telling you about it makes me think, this must sound crazy to someone who hasn't heard it before.
 
But no crazier than a virgin giving birth to the son of God and that same son coming back to life after three days and a lot more people (including me) believe those stories.
 
You can read Joseph Smith's experience in his own words here. It's kind of long and doesn't have the same humor as Matt Stone and Trey Parker's version, but I'd venture to say it's better.
 
Does your Mormon God (fill in the blank):
My Mormon God does the same thing as your Jewish/Catholic/Muslim/Christian/whatever God. They're all the same guy, we just recognize and worship Him in different ways. Mormons are different than other Christians in that we don't believe in the doctrine of the trinity. We believe God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings and that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone.
There's a lot of people who don't like that about us, but I'm okay with that.
 
If I were a Mormon I wouldn't have lost my phone.
It's true if you were Mormon you probably wouldn't have been drunk, making it easier for you to not lose your phone. But Mormons lose things too.
We even lose things bigger than cells phones. Like jobs or homes or spouses. Sometimes we even lose children. Bad things happen to Mormons just like they happen to other good people. And life can be hard and sometimes we're sad.
But we have this scripture from the Book of Mormon (not the musical) that helps: 2 Nephi 2:25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
And we have our belief that there has to be opposition in all things. In order to know joy, we have to know misery, in order to feel pleasure we have to feel pain, in order to love we have to grieve.
It doesn't necessarily make things easier when we have hard times, but it brings some peace knowing God isn't mean and basically just wants us to be as happy as He is.
 
There were more questions, but I can't remember all of them and some of them weren't entirely appropriate. Basically it comes down to this: Mormons look a lot like you. Except without the alcohol or coffee. Or the cursing (at least not as much). And maybe a few other things--like more kids--but not always. (For the record, Drunk Larry has one more of those than me).
 
So there you go. A little slice of Mormonism in a nutshell.
 
A very small slice in a very small nutshell.
 
There's really a lot more and you could probably find a lot better answers in some other places, like Mormon.org. But feel free to ask me any questions you may have. I will be happy to answer them if they're asked in a way that doesn't hurt my feelings.*** (Hard questions I'm okay with. Mean questions I'm not--I'm funny that way).
 
* Also there was fry sauce to go with our magically delicious French fries which gives me hope that the fry sauce phenomenon has crossed the Utah border and is finally making it's way West toward me.
 
** Most Mormons do not actually drive red Econo-vans. That was a joke... they're usually white.
 
*** To be clear, my Cleveland friends' questions did not hurt my feelings. Drunk Larry's surprise at finding himself dining with a Mormon was an entertainment highlight of the summer. And my summers are pretty entertaining.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One Last Good-bye

I got this puzzle for Christmas:
 
If I knew how to do that magic with pictures where you circle something important and draw an arrow to it, I would circle the place in the right hand corner that says 1000 Pieces. 1000 is a lot when it comes to puzzle pieces. Especially if you don't like puzzles.
 
But if someone you love has cancer and she gives you a puzzle, you do that puzzle. Because there's nothing else you can do. (In case you haven't heard, there's still no cure for cancer). And I figured if my aunt could survive a surgery wherein most of her insides were removed and then chemo on top of that, I could probably do a 1000 piece puzzle.
 
So I spent a few weeks (we'll call them January) sitting at my dining room table trying piece after piece until I fit two, then three, then four and the image of Christ came together. I thought a lot about Him as I built that puzzle, knowing He answers prayers, hoping He'd answer yes to mine, fearing He couldn't.
 
I got about 900 pieces in when my cousin's kids came over and this happened:

 
See those pieces on the outside? Those are the pieces I had left. See that pile in the middle? Those were all put together. See that half-finished border? That's what remained in tact when the three year old decided to play "waterfall." Can you believe I still love that kid? You would if you knew him.
 
I looked at that pile of pieces for a few days, not ready to put them back in the box, but also certain I couldn't start over.
 
It was about that time my aunt got the news her cancer was back. Not that it had ever really gone away, but we'd been fooled for a few weeks into thinking it had. I was with her that day. We hugged and we cried and then, we planned. "Let's make photo books for your grandbabies," I said. "It will give you something to do." Something to leave behind was left unsaid, but understood. 
 
Then I went home and started sorting those pieces, ready to start over.
 
I finished the puzzle in February, working overtime to get it done before the cousins came over--just in case the little one wanted to play waterfall again.
 
If I could do that magic circle thing I'd point out the two empty spots. The two missing pieces never found. I suppose there's an analogy there--something about Christ being able to fill our missing pieces. I don't know. I do know you can't ever really finish a puzzle without all the pieces.
 
That didn't keep me from leaving it on my dining room table for months. Every time we had company my husband would ask if we could put it away, but I'd say no and so we fed our guests around it. I kept hoping to find the last two pieces, just like I kept hoping for a miracle, even though I could see the cancer winning.
 
I took the puzzle apart and put it back in its box two weeks ago after my aunt hugged me goodbye. The pieces weren't found and I didn't get the miracle I wanted.
 
But I'm grateful for all the unexpected blessings along the way.
 
In the end, the missing pieces weren't important. I could still see who's in the picture.
 

 




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Careful What You Wish For...

Dear Me and Every Teacher Who Ever Said, "Put the Book Down, Girl 1,"

We did it! Hooray for us! My voracious reader has informed me that reading is boring, there's nothing to read anyway, and she doesn't want to do it anymore.

Hallelujah, right? It's not like reading could help her get into college or get a good job or expand her world view or anything. Glad we broke that terrible habit.

Know what she does want to do?

Sit in front of the computer googling and emailing. Her "grab and go" skills have also greatly improved when it comes to taking advantage of my unattended phone to text her friends or play Fruit Ninja.

That's when she's not begging me for her own phone and listing the endless reasons why I am the worst mother in the world for not letting her have one whilst reminding me that she is, literally, the only girl on the planet without some kind of device that starts with i.

So, you know, well done us...

With Sighs of Exasperation,

Me



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Remember Me?

Dear Blog,

Remember how I used to write you? I'd sit down and tap, tap, tappity-tap away at least once a week and produce something for the masses (all 100 of them) to read. Most of my posts were okay, some were really good, and one or two were pretty awesome. Collectively they all gave me a sense of being connected to a worldwide community and they made me a better writer.

That was before Home School. Before my aunt's cancer. Before the call to be Young Women's President*.

That was back in the heady days of triathlons and novel writing, Tuesday breakfasts and people watching for blog material.

Back in the days before people got tired of writing more than 140 words at a time and having to wait  hours--or even days--for comments. The Pretwitteristic Age.

I miss those days.

I think we should make an effort to get together more often.

Love,

Brittany

* Young Women's President, for those uninitiated in the ways of Mormon lay clergy, means that I was asked by my bishop (pastor) to be the president of our ward's (aka: congregation) organization for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen. For me, this means planning weekly activities and Sunday lessons for roughly thirty girls and lots of other time consuming things that I don't get paid for. It is also the best church job ever, despite the fact I can't curse in this blog anymore because, you know, I'm an example now.