5/8/17

My Closet Shelf


It's a weird time in my life right now.  I just left my teaching job that I've been doing for 13 years and I have this one summer of free-mindedness before I start law school.  Another of my marriages tanked.  I'm nearing middle age (currently 36?).  My children are becoming more sentient as they transition into tweenhood -- they notice things and need emotional, religious, and familial structure that they can rely upon. And I cannot provide it.
You see, I feel like I have mentally, emotionally, socially, and financially put in my oar with the Mormon church.  I've written good things about it because it has provided stability and community for my family.  I have felt the feelings.  I have done the things: married in the temple not once but twice, baptized my kids, hauled them to church by myself throughout their infancy and spent my life in the church hallways, read the scriptures, paid my tithing, accepted my place as a woman in the church, written a book that revealed my testimony, attended the temple regularly, at least attempted to do my callings (despite the fact that they are always made up or minor and never really crucial because c'mon we can't put a woman with pink hair in any real responsibility), given talks and banded with my ragtag band of misfits together around the church.  I feel like I've done my due diligence with an open hopeful heart.
When something doesn't quite sit right with Mormons they often "put it on the shelf in the closet" to deal with some other time.  We're taught to turn a blind or patient eye and just keep on keeping on and put whatever testimony problems we run into on our closet shelf.  We most certainly don't talk about the squirrelly issues like say the Joseph Smith wives thing, or the kinder hook plates thing, or the lgbt thing, or that massacre part, or, really, Christ is the God of this world but God is the God of other worlds so that's like at least two Gods and are we polytheistic?  Little things. Many more than included in this post. Shoved up on my closet shelf.
And we do not talk about these things, hence the shelf.  You feel like a jerk when you learn something that contrasts to what you learned in primary and try to ask about it.  So, the shelf!  Also voicing worries or doubts shoots your family's worry in the stratosphere.  I usually don't make waves publicly because it creates a headache for my parents.  If you're one of their friends don't ask them about it.  Anything other than gun-ho religion is super embarrassing to many families.  Furthermore, I don't like rocking their boat (in that way.  Other ways, haha!) I want my family to not have to worry that the grandchildren aren't getting exactly the religious experience that I received.  And I respect them and their choices.  Would that I could just say "I'm in, I don't care if you tell me I have to only make left turns like Derek Zoolander for the rest of my life" or whatever comes next down the line of authority.  I admire and counted myself amongst the people whose attitude was "I made my decision long ago, this is the right path.  Not reexamining it." That's a legit position. I wish I could close my eyes, shove stuff on my closet, and hope for better times.  But Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living and I have all the weight of my children on my shoulders, and mine alone.

One thing that is on my shelf is the guilt and self loathing I experienced as a teenager in the Mormon church.  I can't make heads or tails of it.  I was a fairly normal teenager who occasionally made decisions not inline with the teachings of the church.  Nobody made me feel less than, but I certainly judged myself and I wrestled with what I felt my life should be like and what my religion tells me my life should be.  Other times I would pray for guilt because I knew I was supposed to feel bad for doing teenager things but I really didn't.  My self worth and self image was foundational designed by the fact that it is nearly impossible to feel like you ever live up to all the standards.  Aren't we supposed to be praying like seven times a day?  Your life problems would be better if you read the scriptures more.  I've been trying like a hamster on a wheel for all 18 of my adult years and I feel very similarly to the way I felt as a teen: jamming that square (rainbow) peg into the round (beige) hole.
Another thing on my closet shelf are my marriages.  One of the reasons I get married (and I would wager many of you too) is for guilt-free sex.  How lame and misguided is that?  I get married because that's what normal acceptable members who want to have temple recommends do.  Because it's better to just seal the deal, for reals seal in the temple, than it is to follow any other path. I believed the other options were bad.  Marriage is what is socially acceptable and religiously expected.  I don't know how to be single in the Mormon church.  I obviously don't know how to be married in it.

My shelf is becoming filled with decisions and actions by the current church that I consider very problematic.  The cultural standards of the Mormon church are problematic, and so are the politics.  Maybe it's just because I live in Utah, but I have been routinely crushed by the public statements about homosexuality and transgender issues.  I do not understand why the Mormon church is currently part of a "friend of the court" brief that unified with five other faith groups to oppose a federal ruling that allows transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their stated gender identity. Why?  That's not very friendly.  Why zero in on the gays with the no blessing your babies policy?  That's not friendly at all.
I wish I could shove all the worthy priesthood holders (or many of the ones I've dated) who have cheated on me, screamed in my face,  grabbed me and scared me, called me names, abandoned me with our children when the electric bill was unpaid and the lights went out, vanished when I was pregnant, vanished again three days after our baby was born, threw things in the hospital while I held my day old baby, etc., etc., right up there.  I want those type of men on my shelf too.  Not all LDS men are that way, but a fair share have internalized the patriarchy and have weird sex issues.  I don't want to look at those things, but I am little by little looking at my part in the failures.  I don't want to live with the deep scars of abuse at the hands of men that I trusted and who had clearance as decent humans from the Mormon church in the form of temple recommends.  One of the nights I was married in the temple was preceded by a day of emotional abuse.  I still went through with it.  I was in too deep.  I was a believer and a truster and a fool.
So here I find myself and my children.  I am their source of education and religion.  Can I consign them to a teenage life full of either guilt or suppression?





Can I sit by while they are told half truths like last week that Joseph Smith used the Golden Plates to translate and write the book of Mormon?  Can I allow them to be taught that gay parents are horribly morally wrong?  Do I want them to sit in a room with people who do believe that? Do I want to be in a room 61% of which voted for Trump?  Goodbye moral majority.  I will never understand how Christians voted for that dude and for shame for not copping to it.  Have they not heard him speak?  Geez, man!
And what about me?  Is there really a place for me, a bleeding heart liberal rainbow who is also body positive feminist?  I mean, I've been legit trying to live the Mormon specific gospel for so many years and frankly the bad experiences have outweighed the good.  My first temple marriage?  Stolen from me.  My second?  Riddled with problems. I pay tithing but I still struggle to pay for all these children whom I bore with the expectation of a temple worthy family.  Can I remarry in this church? Would I ever want to?  What about my politics?  Can I sit through a Sacrament Meeting or Sunday school class a day after some heinous thing has happened in our country and have nobody mention it?  Can I do some of the cultural standards apparently given by revelation from God and not others because they conflict with my conscience? Can I hand down all the trouble this religion has been for me simply because it is my cultural heritage and because parts of it have given me a very real feeling of God?  Why is this religion so difficult for me? I do not try to rebel, I try to live with integrity and I grasp for happiness.  I don't want out but I'm failing at staying in.  I want the Mormon gospel and lifestyle to make my life better.  Have I not done my part?  Isn't this the part where Christ takes you the rest of the way?
There's a common saying in the church that "the gospel is perfect, the people are not."  From where I'm sitting I don't really know if what we are being handed down is gospel.  Is it gospel that my shoulders can't be exposed?  Why? I'm not going to allow my kid to be subject to body shaming brought on by morality standards.  Is it gospel that transgendered people should get the shaft? Is it gospel that it's probably a bad idea for gay people to raise LDS kids? And, as you all well know, these are just the recent things. The church's history is a minefield.  It's gospel mixed with culture in a way that chafes. You find out little things here and there.  Joseph Smith drank alcohol (the real kind) on the way home from visiting members.  All those old dudes chewed tobacco.  But then God was like "Nope, here's some Gospel" and we had the Word of Wisdom, which is interpreted in a variety of ways.  This, the "thinking man's religion," would prefer if you didn't research too much because you will go apostate.  If this gospel ISN'T perfect then the people most certainly are.  They are perfect in their efforts and the desires of their hearts to give all that they can to this organization.
There are so many things on my closet shelf that it is collapsing.
Maybe there's a reason I've never really fit in with church.  Maybe the apparently rebellious spirit that I was given isn't rebellious at all, it's just a rainbow trying to be a puddle.
Maybe I don't fit in.  Maybe I can't do all the things and follow all the rules.
We are approaching religion differently.  Most of the cultural judgments with LDS people are self imposed: if I don't go to church every Sunday what will people think of my family?  That we're not dedicated enough?  We aren't among the tried and true never wavering? We won't get much responsibility?  Will my children be less incorporated in the community if we aren't at church?  Will I be lumped amongst the disbelievers, weak testimony, or just the lower class of Mormons?
No.  It doesn't matter.  Nobody notices, nobody cares -- it's all in my head, years of self imposed cultural behaviors.  Maybe I just can't handle sitting by myself with my five wiggly children on the pew.  Why do we do that to ourselves?
But I have a strong affinity for Christ.  And I believe in religion as a way of interpreting the world around us.  I believe in family and hope.  Can I please just have the Christ part?  The loving God who allows life to unravel and helps us out along the way, not the capricious narcissist God who throws trials at us to make us prove . . . something, and be humbled enough to rely on Him.
The Mormonism I was raised in did not allow for "cafeteria Mormonism" or picking and choosing which parts you want to cooperate with, dependent on whatever your vices are.  But that is better than nothing.  Maybe we just do the parts we believe?
Since November my kids and I have been going to Presbyterian (somewhat random Christian choice, don't actually know who Presbyr is or really what the tenants of the sect are) Church for Sacrament and then we roll over to LDS Primary because my kids love it and because I will not deny them at least the opportunity to learn some basic tools to access God and the feeling of being a normal part of their community.  Presbyterian Church has a nursery during Sacrament meeting!!  I drop off both babies at the nursery and my big kids sit with me on the pew and we actually listen.  And man, the things I have heard.  The sermons are aimed at deciphering what is the most Christian path through whatever happened in the world that week.  This week touched on the new Healthcare bill.  During Christmas they focused on the refugee status of Mary and Joseph.  Is not the purpose of religion to give you a way to think about the world?  Our country is in upheaval. My family is in upheaval.  I need some help knowing what to make of it all.
Religiously I am back to the drawing board and I'm starting with integrity.  I'm not going to give money to support Friends of the Court briefs about transgenders because I don't like discrimination.  I was reluctant to have my own baby blessed if the word of the Church doesn't allow all babies to be born equally and blessed.  I'm going to turn to religion not for my culturally adopted reasons like feeling like a failure if I miss church and making my family worry but to figure out what is true and good.  I want to have religious integrity.
A few weeks ago I heard a story that has stuck with me.  Itzhak Perlman, famed Isreali-American violinist, once walked on stage at Lincoln Center in New York to play a violin concerto.  His body is crippled from boyhood polio so he walks carefully with crutches to his seat.  As the conductor began there was an audible pop.  A string on Perlman's violin had broken.  Most artists would delay the concert to fix the violin but Perlman nodded to the conductor, closed his eyes and played.  He transposed an entire concerto on the fly with just three strings.
When he finished the audience exploded in applause.  Perlman pulled himself up and spoke.  He said, "Sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what remains."

What remains here for me in my Mormon faith?  Christ.  Family.  Community. Integrity. I'm going to make whatever music I can with those.






5/7/17

The 4-6 Shift

Ya know how jobs are hard and stuff?  This month my job has been killing me, specifically the 4-6pm shift.  It's finals this week for both me and my right hand woman.   The weather has been garbage so the kids are inside and underfoot and feeling cooped up all day.  Utah Springs are the worst.  They swing back and forth between glorious and depressing and it makes me angry.  I think it makes a lot of people short tempered.  We're ready to be outside.  As I write this it is the last day of Spring Semester for college and Summer Break begins now.  It's snowing.  This is lame.

Part of my struggle with the 4-6 hours this month is my fault:  I dialed back my kid's activities this year so that I didn't have to rip babies out of beds and drive people places.  Despite scaling back we are still fairly busy:  Mimi has Girl Scouts, Jude has Boy Scouts, Jude and Si have baseball, Mimi has activity days.  Everybody has homework and chores.  

Rather than letting this stupid weather get the best of us we focused on different projects around the house and built some skills.  I believe that all mother's have their strengths.  Some are runners and that's their thing, some are good at reading with their kids, some are good at playing toys with their children, some are good at organizing everybody's lives and getting everybody to a million activities. Right now my strength is encouraging creativity in my kids.  I'm not the mom who is going to get their kid to have 1000 hours of violin playing, but I'm trying to make my kids confident with a paintbrush or a spatula in their hands.  So we create using art and food.

This picture shows Lou doing exactly what Mimi did when she was little:  waffles and peas.  They just fit together so nicely and it's fun to watch in horror as she eats them.  Whatever you want kid, just eat.  Wide berth to be creative about it.

 Mimi recently participated in a teen's baking challenge where she learned how to make cupcakes and then invented her own twist on the cupcake.
 She created a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache, strawberry icing and a dipped strawberry on top.  And she won!  I love watching her carefully plate whatever she's making.  It's the best kind of art to me:  art I can eat!  She makes so much food I have trouble keeping up with the eating of all of it but I certainly do my best.
 I've also been working with the boys on their cooking skills.  Silas took a cue from Mimi and I found him watching Martha Stewart intently.  This kid loves to eat.  He recorded the recipe and then made this chocolate tart.  When I say made, I mean made.  I coach but my hands are hands off because I have a babe in arms.  I love how proud they feel when they make the whole thing themselves from scratch.  I love their confidence when they share what they made with other people.  And I love that I trust them to make things correctly so that I can serve it to other people.

LouLou is in a very creative phase.  She loves to paint and play with play dough.  I feel like a great mother when I actually get all the stuff out and let her make the mess she wants to make.

Having a vegan around the house means new recipes.  Our whole family LOVES these weird cauliflower tacos.

Philo has been developing his feelings.  He gets so mad at me some times!  In this case he was losing it because I wouldn't let him climb into the shark tank.  I'm obviously the worst.

During Spring Break we went up to the new indoor aquarium/animal place up in Layton.  They let you in the bird room to feed them and they land on you.  It's scary having all of those birds flitting around on you but the kids dug it.

You know how every once in a great while all of your kids are engaged in the same activity?  This was one of those moments.  I'd bought them each canvases and they were planning what they were going to do with them.  They're still in progress.

Nobody could be more pleased with herself than Lou when she's painting.  She lives for it.  Her canned smile lights me up.

IDK what's up with me these days but being a single parent of five kids has been testing my patience this month.  I'm working on it.  But sometimes it feels like they're all out to take me down.  

I want this.

Philo is about 15 months and that kid is everywhere.  He's so curious about the world and needs to interact with everything and everybody.  I love days when we can just play play play and I can follow him around being amused at whatever he gets himself into.  With these two it's literally cleaning up one room while they trash the other.  I can't remember if my other babies were this effective in creating giant messes as these two darlings.  I brought a rake inside to cope and I just make room by room piles until I can handle cleaning everything up at the end of the day.

New find: mama's lipstick.  It's a right of passage.

They're both pretty good eaters.  I'm even able to indulge whatever weird food I'm craving because they're willing to scarf it down too.  Oh Mai Pho is the very best.

Philo on the move is very risky business.

For teacher appreciation week Mimi brought three of her teachers dinner to take home to their families.  It was a hit.  

My girls on Easter.  M10 BL2

My favorite kind of creations are ones Mimi makes while I'm taking a nap.  These were for our little Easter party.

I am so taken by this little boy and his silly self that I take pictures instead of wiping him off.  Dirty faces are the type of thing only a mother can appreciate.

Blue haired Jude has taken up Rubik's cubes. They're challenging for me so we downloaded the instructions and we work on them together.  He's smart.


Here's my squad.  Five kids 10 and under.  Love my bigs, love my littles, love how they interact with each other.  


4/25/17

Winter to Spring Doing Our Thing

Alright,  Checking in.  Here's some stuff.
I don't know if you already know this but raising five kids and working and managing all my extra people and dealing with law schools and adulting in general is time demanding.  So the blog falls by the wayside.  

I've reapplied to law schools in Utah.  I got into both of them.  BYU (LDS school) has an honor code including parameters about hair.  When I interviewed with them I went in head to toe pink because why hide the ball but after I got in and had to go to Admitted Student's Day I needed to address the hair situation.  

This is my solution until I make some decisions.  I've not decided which school I'm going to yet. 
Got this wig in Las Vegas because errybody knows if you're buying a wig you go to where the black girls go.  And as far as the style, go big or go home, right?  

I'm not convinced I'm passing.  When people look at me I don't know if they're looking at the most amazing hair a woman has ever had OR if they're trying to assess if it's a wig and why.  I feel really conspicuous when I wear it.  Believe it or not I feel as uncomfortable looking "normal" as the people who say "You're so brave" would if they had my style.  
See?  Totally comfortable.  I yam what I yam.  And I yam a little bit nuts.
 That's my update.  Bit nuts, worrying about law school, still having fun.  

And here are the kids updates.

 Lou (2 1/2) is in the best phase.  She happily entertains herself all day and she's just charming.  Other than her ear piercing shriek cultivated by the persistent invasion of space and teasing courtesy of Silas, she is an absolute doll.  She has so many words but my favorites are when you ask her if she needs her diaper changed and she says "No, I fine." and "Yas Qween."
Mimi's update is that she is doing great in school, has moved to share a room with Lou, sold a ton of Girl Scout Cookies, and is still playing with her American Girl Dolls and it makes me so happy.  She is interested in making money so here are a couple of photos that Niya uses to send her on modeling jobs.  She's helpful and doing a lot of cooking, but she's suffering with allergies and is currently planning her post-high school culinary school life in a "less dry country like Fiji."



Jude is in a macho phase, as is evident in his pictures.  He's a tough guy.  He's really into his Scout program, baseball, reading, and spending his life in the backyard.  He prefers to be outside.  

Jude's hair color of choice is turqouise right now.  Tough guy though he is he definitely has a weak spot for the babies.


The children helped Robyn with this painting which she then submitted to her school's art show.  The kids were so surprised when their names were up on the wall!

Parenting these last few months has come with a lot of politics and horror.  The chaos of the current state of American politics added upon the chaos of having five children cooped up indoors during this rainy spring leaves me feeling overwhelmed.
Mimi, however, is a light and a joy EXCEPT WHEN SHE'S ON ALLERGY MEDS.  Note to self next year:  only give her the nose spray crap because she's a total terror if you give her claritin or others.
M is living the life though.  She loves her teacher who allows for her crazy headband collection.  Yes, she still wears the headbands.  Remember when she was little and had specific headbands just for sleeping?
This is Girl Scouts.  We went on a rad field trip to the Utah Opera where they create all the gigantic sets and hand make all of the costumes.  I wished Pam could be there the whole time.

We also obtained an animal.  I fought it for a long time but then resolved that the children needed an animal.  So we went to Kitty City (pronounced titty city if you're Silas) and this old cat was super chill when the children mauled her.  I hate the way cats feel when you pet them but this one feels soft and doesn't make me want to wash my hands.  I think she's ugly.  The kids adore her.  We named her Moonshadow.
Oh Philo.  Such a babe.  He finally learned to walk at 14 months which is a great relief because that kid weighs 25 pounds and doesn't help when you hold him.  His tricks include saying a few words (mama, bye, dada, yeah, quack, all done) and messing up my house.  With so many people here it's impossible to really baby proof the house so it's mostly chasing after him as he runs with a sharpie and helps put away the knives.  Thankfully we are all on alert and make sure he's safe.
Hush is a great not living with us father.  He takes the babies every other weekend and a few times during the week. It affords me plenty of big kids time including a road trip down to Las Vegas to support Alex through her divorce from Lil' Pat.  It was fun to show them the Chihuly at the Bellagio because they'd studied his art with me last summer.
Sometimes you want a rad jacket for Jude but it costs like $1000 and you have to settle for a picture of it instead.
More Mimi.  We had like two days of nice weather last month and Mimi gave Ty and Jude pedicures.  She told them they were superhero pedicures, hence the facemasks.
Oh,  Saint Patrick's Day.  Our traditions are the mustaches, green dye in everything, gold coins, house trashed by the leprechauns.
I feel we represented in full force this year.  Greenans commit.
Philo at the Children's Museum experiencing a tactile moment of bliss.
Grandpa Jim also came to town and helped us with a bunch of yard work.  He was helpful!  He did not ski though.  He wimped out.

We also hit Mystic Hot Springs sometime in March which was rad and so much fun.


Oh, and we went to Danville to see Pam's play.  We're a busy fam.  Self explanatory pictures.