Monday, July 24, 2017

In Which I'm Thankful for Firefighters

Today, our neighbor's house caught fire when a barbecue exploded next to her house. Flames traveled up a vent and spread to the attic. We had no idea anything was wrong until we were loading the kids in the car to go to Jay's aunt's house for Sunday dinner and saw the firetrucks. As we watched, thick yellow smoke began billowing from the house and more and more firetrucks raced, sirens blaring, up our street. 

Our house is literally ten feet away from our neighbor's and isn't separated by anything but a spit of gravel that runs nearly the whole length of our houses. From the backyard, we saw firefighters battling flames on the roof. The winds shifted slightly, and our yard filled with acrid smoke. After a brief consult with the fire captain, we decided to leave as we'd planned so we could escape the smoke. He told us they hoped to have the blaze under control soon.

It was eerie to run through the house as the kids waited in the car. It felt like a dream where an impending threat draws nearer and time moves in slow motion. If you had five minutes to leave your house for what could be the last time, what would you save? What would you do?

Turns out I get panicky when there's a crisis, so my thoughts weren't the clearest, but I changed from my dress into jeans and a shirt. I grabbed my wallet, laptop, camera bag, and the girls' monkey and leopard comfort objects. Jay grabbed a file of our important papers. I unlocked the doors in case the firefighters needed access. And then we left.

(If I could do it again? I'd have moved Jay's car out of the garage and parked it down the street and grabbed a change of clothes for the kids and work clothes for Jay. Maybe the quilts I made and a box of my journals if felt the need for more. But everything else seemed replaceable.)

We squeezed the minivan between the two firetrucks blocking our driveway and counted eight firetrucks on the scene as we drove away.

We had our car, we had our kids, we had each other. "We have what matters," Jay said. And he was right, but I was still afraid. The thought of "home" didn't feel safe at the moment, and I wasn't sure how to handle the insecurity.

Kate said a prayer on our drive, and though I felt agitated during dinner, several neighbors texted awhile later letting us know the flames had subsided and our house was safe.

I feel so grateful to the firefighters who put their safety on the line to protect our neighborhood in general and my home in particular (three were actually injured on the job). My neighbor's house sustained an estimated $300K in damage. She has been in our thoughts; I can't imagine the grief and shock she's experiencing. My relief that our house was spared is tempered by the knowledge that hers was not. 


In other news, Drewby is 11 months old today, and this is the only picture I took:

He is the sweetest, happiest little nugget. We love him dearly.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Kate Turns Five

Kate had her fifth birthday last month. I can't believe it's already been five years since she joined our family. 

She wanted to celebrate her birthday by playing in the snow, so we went up to the cabin for the weekend. She loved being outside in the frigid temps and happily made snow angels and clambered up snow piles. 

Jay sledded down the hill with Kate, which she liked, and helped her trek back up the hill, which she didn't like as much. 

Jay let Kate pick out her birthday cake mix and frosting at the store: funfetti cake and super-pink frosting with pink sprinkles. 

Everyone cringed at the finished product; the frosting was so lurid that several of us didn't even try a piece (these pictures don't do it justice). Even Kate had just one bite of cake and then ate around the rest of it to finish her ice cream. 

{I have no idea what is up with Jayne's face in this picture. There were three other similar pictures, and she looked the same in all of them, so it's not like I caught her mid-blink.}

The next morning, my brother Steve looked at the barely touched cake still sitting on the counter and said, "Is it just me, or did that thing get pinker overnight?"

Drew got really excited about Kate's presents and wrapping paper.

He scrunched the paper and tried to eat Kate's presents. Typical.

And check out Jayne. I don't think I've ever seen a cuter snow-suited-up kid.

She went sledding with her daddy and loved it. 

Within a five day period, Jayne turned two and a half, Drew turned six months, and Kate turned 5. It was a week of age milestones.

On Kate's actual birthday several days later, we had a very small gathering of some of her friends. 

Event planning gives me hives, so I was hoping to not have to do a friend party for another year or two, but Jay promised her one, so I threw something together. 

It was super casual and chaotic, but Kate seemed to have a great time. Ultimately, it was a pleasure to do something for her because she was so grateful and pleased with everything. 

She said she wanted chocolate cupcakes with yellow frosting. I borrowed a friend's frosting bags/tips and piped some frosting for the first time in my life. It was far from professional, but Kate looked at the finished product and said, "Mom, these look perfect! This is exactly what I wanted!" My party-Grinch heart may have grown three sizes that day.

Drew's double chin is everything.

Happy birthday, dear Kate!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

One Year Later: The Exclusion Policy

One year ago today, my church's new policy regarding LGBT families was leaked. In essence, it says that same sex couples who marry are apostates and must be subjected to a church disciplinary hearing. It further states that the children of homosexual parent[s] in a same-sex relationship (or even who were previously in a same-sex relationship) cannot be baptized, cannot be ordained to the priesthood (just boys, obvs--girls aren't ordained), until they are 18 and "specifically disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage." These children are also not permitted to receive a name and a baby blessing (the Mormon equivalent of a Christening).

I cringed even just typing that out; it's so embarrassingly draconian. I remember the night of November 5th a year ago: an article about the leaked policy popped up on Facebook and I read it to Jay as we drove to Costco. I was shocked, disbelieving. In the weeks and months since, I spent hours upon hours reading articles, listening to podcasts, and trying to understand. While I feel I've been able to grasp the apologetics and reasons behind this policy, the fact remains that the gut-punch sensation I felt when I first read it has never gone away. 

I'm not looking to have a discussion about the ins and outs of the policy. I don't feel qualified to say too much about its effects because it hasn't affected me directly. But I will say that I think it is deeply harmful, needlessly inflexible, and fundamentally unchristian, and I do not condone, agree with, or support it. 

As I've looked into some of the sketchy parts of church history, I have viewed controversial (and now repudiated) quotes and practices through the lens that these early church leaders were products of their time. Indeed, the church itself acknowledges this in regards to the former priesthood/temple ban for black members, among other things. Looking at our current leaders through the same lens, however--that they are men influenced by their culture and preconceived notions about the world--seems to be discouraged. Yes, I believe in revelation. I even believe in a living prophet. But I don't believe in infallibility. I think the church can (and does) make mistakes. I believe this policy is one of them. 

In the past, I turned my moral authority over to the leaders of my church: "If the prophet/apostles say it, it must be right." If I did question, I did it under the assumption that I was the one in the wrong. It was easy, in a way, to let the church decide things for me: what God wanted me to do, what my stance was on select political issues, what is right and what is wrong. And while I do still align with the church on many issues, I don't take it for granted anymore that they're always right, especially if it doesn't feel right to me. 

I've reclaimed my moral authority, and I am at peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Happy Birthday, Drew

Andrew Jayson
Born Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 7:22 PM
9 lbs, 21 inches long

Kate calls him "The Baby Brother." As in, "Can I hold the baby brother?" She and Jayne both love helping with anything he needs. Currently, Drew's "bed" is a swing just outside our bedroom, and sometimes when I'm sleeping in the morning or taking a nap, Drew will wake up and start to fuss. I often hear Kate's sweet little voice talking to him, followed by silence from Drew. When I get up, Drew is asleep, covered by a fresh blanket, sucking on a pacifier. The small ottoman is pulled over close to the baby swing, and I know Kate sat there, offering the pacifier and watching her brother until he fell asleep.

Jayne calls him "Baby Jew." She loves touching him: "Can I touch a head? Can I touch a ear? Can I touch a hand?"

Jay was talking to a friend and said, "I'm not going to lie: it's pretty great to have a son."

As for me, I'm just trying to memorize the heavy weight of him curled up on my chest, his small, downy head cradled against my neck, his whole hand clenched around my finger. 

And Drew? He really is a little sweetheart: snuggly, easily calmed, and a good sleeper. His skin is covered in peach fuzz and his hair is strawberry blonde. He has scrawny little legs, a flat tush, and a double chin. He's three weeks old today, and it feels like he's been here forever. We love our little guy. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: A Review

I recently read The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men by Carol Lynn Pearson, and a couple of friends expressed interest and asked me to let them know what I thought of it. I'm not much of one for writing coherent reviews, but I will record some of my thoughts because this topic, and this book, are important.

In full disclosure: I do not believe polygamy is or ever was ordained, sanctioned, or commanded by God. It's taken me years to come to that conclusion, and I won't go into my reasons here (there are a great many). Carol Lynn Pearson shares this view, and this book is written through that lens. However, she never criticizes or condemns anyone, past or present, who may feel differently, and she treats historical figures (particularly Joseph Smith) with compassion and respect. This is not an angry book or an expose of the salacious details of polygamy, though you may feel angry or scandalized at times while reading it

This is a book that explores how the practice of polygamy, while officially abandoned (but never repudiated) by the church over 100 years ago, still affects us today. Earthly polygamy may be a thing of the past in the LDS church, but eternal polygamy, or the understanding that in heaven, men will be able to have multiple wives, is very much part of our present. The influence of this harmful doctrine is seen in our sealing practices and church policies and felt in our marriage relationships. 

The history of polygamy is complex and thorny, and the author dips into it only enough to give context to current practice. (If you are interested in learning in more detail about the history of polygamy, I highly recommend Lindsay Hansen Park's Year of Polygamy podcast--I'm nearly through it and have learned so much. It is incredibly well done.) Pearson's writing is smooth and lyrical, her voice calming and wise. At the end of each chapter, she shares dozens of collected experiences from anonymous, average Mormons about the ways the "ghost of eternal polygamy" has affected and is affecting their lives. The stories are all somewhat different, but they are all connected by threads of pain, of anger, of grief. After reading story after story after story they all run together, and it becomes impossible to assert that "polygamy was a long time ago and doesn't affect us anymore."

This book is for all Mormons: it's for those, like me, who have experienced grief or pain or bewilderment over polygamy, and it's also for those who aren't personally impacted by polygamy but would like to understand how it continues to shape our present culture and remains a very real issue for many of their fellow saints. 

Pearson deftly weaves vivid stories with insightful compassion. She lays out a gentle but compelling case for why polygamy is harmful, offers rebuttals for common explanations and rationalizations for it, and, ultimately, presents a way the church can choose to be rid of it, once and for all. It's more than wishful thinking: she explains precedent for her conclusions and makes renouncing polygamy and moving "from patriarchy to partnership" seem not only perfectly rational and desirable, but also completely doable. 

Before purchasing the book, I listened to this podcast interview in which Carol Lynn Pearson discusses and reads extended excerpts from it. Her words and her voice are powerful. At the end, she reads a couple pages from the end of her book that talk about her vision for our future: what life could be like if the church formally renounces polygamy for time and eternity. I listened to her as I ironed a pieced quilt top I'm making, an activity during which I feel close to my Mormon grandmothers and great-great-great grandmothers--including those who lived polygamy--and somewhere between the puffs of steam and the sliding sounds of the iron I became lost in Carol Lynn's vision and I melted into crumple faced sobs. The words were rich and strong and so hopeful, and I cried in hope and grief and desperate longing.

I left this comment on the page after I finished the podcast:

"I am, even still, even not believing that polygamy is God-ordained, haunted by this principle. I cannot see past it in the temple. If I were to die first, I would be happy to see my husband remarry…but not if it means he is sealed to another woman. We’ve talked about it, he understands, but my fear is still there. Polygamy and temple inequities between the sexes drive a wedge between me and God. I cannot hope to understand a God who forever subjugates women to men. I have always known I, as a woman, am just as capable/intelligent/valuable as any man, and to not see that reflected in our holiest spaces is devastating to me.

"I cried when Carol Lynn read the excerpt from the end of her book of her vision of what the future could be if we let go of the notion that polygamy is or ever was the will of God. I want to wrap my arms around her for expressing so beautifully the pain and the hope in my heart."

In conclusion, yes, you should read this book. It may create new wounds or uncover some you weren't aware you had, but the pain is productive, the way she tells the story is cathartic, and the resolution she proposes is healing balm. 


Here is an excerpt that was particularly meaningful to me. The words are Carol Lynn's, but many of them have been sitting in my heart, unuttered, for a long time:

"When heaven has an earthquake you fall to your knees and feel through the rubble to find the pieces of God. When my eternal, temple-blessed marriage shattered and everything that had been meaningful lay in jumbled shards around me, I had to slowly and carefully pick up every single piece and examine it, turning it over and over, to see if it was worthy to keep and to use in building a new house of meaning. As I gathered the broken pieces of God, I used only my own authority, only my own relationship with the divine, and the good, small voice that speaks inside me, to appraise them. I threw away many, and I kept many, assembling the bright pieces into One Great Thought. I asked only, "Do I see God's fingerprints on this? Does this little piece feel godly? Does it speak of love?" That made it easy. I was forever finished with the insane attempt to love a God who hurts me. When I picked up the little piece of God-ordained polygamy, I smiled because there was no question. I thanked the God of Love, and I threw that piece away.

"My choice is not between either honoring our founding prophet or acknowledging that he made a significant error. I choose both. I can love King David for "The Lord is my shepherd..." even though this is the same man who arranged the death of Uriah after taking his wife Bathsheba in adultery. Quantum physics has proven light to be at once both wave and particle. Like David, Joseph was at once both a man of God and a man of earth, and he never claimed to be perfect. 

"But this is the thing. No one today weeps in the night because in 1837 Joseph Smith made the monumental error of establishing the "Kirtland Safety Society," an underfunded bank that promised riches, failed within weeks, and caused financial ruin and loss of faith for a large number of his followers. Yet thousands and thousands, perhaps a number larger than we can even imagine--women and men in today's LDS Church--still live with sadness or fear, or anger and confusion, some weeping into the night because of the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy. Something went terribly wrong, and I believe that God insists, and insists very loudly, that we Latter-day Saints do everything we can to put it right. We will not leave the pain unattended. We are better than that.

"And now I wonder. Those who have lived very large lives, who have left legacies beyond their deaths--do they continue to feel both the positive and the negative effects those legacies have on those who are now taking their own turn on earth? None of us wants to be remembered for our errors. None of us wants to see hurt and know that it has come from our actions. I believe that seeing Joseph's polygamy as an error is the kindest way to evaluate it. And the surest way to correct it.

"Brother Joseph said that "Friendship" is a "grand fundamental principle of Mormonism." True friendship, I believe, is described in that lovely thought I have read more than once from writer Dina Craik, who lived in England during Joseph Smith's lifetime:

"'Oh, the comfort--the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person--having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.'

"I count myself as a friend to Brother Joseph, and I wish to honor him like this. I hold the fullness of his life in the palm of my hand, chaff and grain together. I keep the many kernels worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

- Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy, pages 69-71