Friday, February 20, 2015

Not all those who wander are lost

My deep love of and admiration for JRR Tolkien is no secret. I've been fairly obsessed with him for years now (and could tell plenty of stories all about my extreme nerdiness!). One of my favorite things about his writings is that he includes so much poetry/music (which sadly was not translated into the movies, for the most part). My personal favorite is the poem about Aragorn in Gandalf's letter to Frodo, which he receives at Bree at the beginning of his journey. The most well-known line of this is, "Not all those who wander are lost." It's been on my mind a lot lately as I've been navigating a long and very scary personal journey.

Most definitions of 'wander' include references to aimlessness. Lack of purpose. Idleness. Carelessness. These definitions don't fit with my "wandering" (although they may describe this blog post).

Over the past couple of years, I've been more vocal about my uneasiness with certain things in the Mormon church. First was my vocal support of marriage equality, and then my participation in the Ordain Women movement. Many family and friends saw these actions as some horrible choices that were going to lead me away from the church. I lost friends. Many friends. It brought a lot of pain with it, but it was still the right choice for me.

In truth, Ordain Women has not led me away from the church. Ordain Women is the reason I was able to stay for as long as I did. It allowed me to hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, the institution I'd been raised in and had played such a large part in my life could change for the better. It helped me see that you could be faithful without agreeing with every single thing the church and its leader do or say. That there is a spectrum of belief, and that that's okay.

But it's not.

Or it is, but it's not okay to talk about it. Or it's okay to talk about it, but not in public. Or it's okay to talk about it in public, but not if other people might agree with you. Or if you do it in the wrong tone. Despite President Uchtdorf's assurances that "There is room for you," there just isn't.

I have made the decision to leave the LDS church.

I cannot remain a member of the church and be authentic about who I am and what I believe (or don't). I have worn a mask for too long already, and it is exhausting. My reasons for leaving are deeply personal and I don't really care to go into all of them in a blog post. Suffice it to say that in addition to have some major problems with the inequality in the church, there is a lot of doctrine that I either don't believe or don't agree with. If you would like to have a personal, mature discussion about it, I am willing to discuss it with you. But I will not allow myself to be attacked.

It's common for members of the church to assume people leave for one of several reasons. 1) I must have committed some horrible sin. 2) I WANT to sin and don't want to be disciplined for it. 3) I don't know the doctrine well enough. 4) I haven't tried hard enough to gain and strengthen a testimony. 5) I was offended by someone. 6) I read anti-Mormon literature.

All those "reasons" are untrue. I have not "sinned". I have studied the scriptures and the gospel for over two decades. I have read the scriptures faithfully. I have fasted and prayed. Having not received the witness I was promised, I continued operating based on Alma 32:27: "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."

So I did. I wanted to believe. I wanted it so badly. I wanted a witness. I wanted a testimony. I believed Boyd K. Packer's words that, "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" I have functioned for over 2 decades based on these things. If I just keep trying. If I just keep bearing my testimony. If I just keep attending the temple. Maybe if I fast more often. Maybe if I pay more tithing. Maybe I'm not devoted enough in my calling. But nothing helped. Nothing I tried led me to that "witness".

Many would point to things I've read and cry anti-Mormon literature. Nearly everything I've read, every disturbing discovery I've made regarding the church's history and that of Joseph Smith, has been admitted by the church and can be found in the new essays in the Gospel Topics portion of the church's website. So unless the church is now posting anti-Mormon literature on their own website, that argument is fallacious.

Here's the IMPORTANT part:

I'm still me.

Who I am has not changed. I'm still a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a burn survivor, a student, a reader, a writer. I still love meeting people, throwing parties, baking cakes, hanging out with friends, watching hockey, and jamming in the car (yes, even to Let it Go). I'm still a nerd. I still snort a little when I laugh really hard. I still cry. I still dream.

While I have left the church, this doesn't mean I'm now an anti-Mormon. The church doesn't work for me. But I also recognize that many people, including many closest to me, find meaning, comfort, and peace within the institution. While I disagree with many things the church does, I strive (with varying degrees of success) to voice my opinions without bashing the church or those who believe in it. That will not change. I won't attack people for their beliefs, just as I expect (and demand) not to be attacked for mine.

Not all those who wander are lost. I'm not lost. While I have "wandered" away from the church, I am not lost. My departure is no one's fault. I'm not seeking to take anyone with me. I'm not suddenly some wicked, sinful person who should be kept away from anyone faithful for fear I'm going to..I don't know, eat babies or something. "Infect" people. Lead others "astray". Be a "bad influence". I'm not suddenly amoral.

I'm still me.

I'm finally me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Adventures of Yellow

Amy has a security blanket she calls Yellow. Yellow was a gift from her Aunt Nancy when Amy was born. It's not fancy (or glittery, thank goodness!), but Amy formed an early attachment to it and it's become her comfort object. You've probably noticed it in many photos, because Yellow is pretty much always present at home. (Yellow is not allowed in public, except for rare occasions when he has to stay in the car.)

Yellow's been around for 4 years. And in 4 years, Yellow has been THRASHED. He's faded from numerous washings, stretched out, and Amy began chewing on his corners a few months back, so there are now actual holes in a couple of the corners.

To put it bluntly, Yellow was gross. He doesn't look as bad in this picture as he actually looked in real life. (In case you're wondering, Amy is the one who determined Yellow is a boy. No idea why, but whatever. She's insistent.)

So, Brett and I have been working on her for several days now about letting us "help" Yellow. A replacement blanket was out of the question. Identical fabric is nowhere to be found (believe me, I looked), and there was no way a "different" Yellow was going to fly. So, we finally managed to talk her into letting me add some "fancy" fabric to Yellow. Once she agreed, yesterday, we wasted no time. We went to Joann Fabrics (my favorite store in the entire world). Amy even got to bring Yellow in so he could "help" pick out fabric. We got some cute purple polka dot flannel, yellow minky fabric for the back, and yellow satin blanket binding.

Once we got home, the kids went to bed. We'd told Amy she could take Yellow to bed one last time, and that after she was asleep, Daddy would come get Yellow so I could help him grow. About an hour later, Brett snagged Yellow from her room and I got to work.

I really wish I'd taken photos of my different steps. But I didn't. I was a woman on a mission, and that mission could not be interrupted for pictures. I took Yellow apart and then cut Yellow slightly smaller to try to square him off. Then I added a purple border with the flannel I'd bought. In hindsight, I totally did it the hard way, but I like the way it looks. Then I attached the minky to the back, sewing along 3 sides and most of the fourth. Turned it right side out, sewed up the hole I'd left, and attached the satin binding.

It sounds simple.

It wasn't.

For interested parties, minky fabric is a NIGHTMARE to work with. Seriously. Worse than the fabric I picked for Livvie's blessing dress. It's slippery AND it stretches. A lot. So you have to pin like crazy, and hope you didn't screw something up. Well, I did. On 2 different sides. So I seam ripped. And resewed. And realized I'd done it right the first time. So I seam ripped. And resewed more carefully.

Instead of doing straight blocks of purple fabric, for some psychotic reason I decided I wanted the purple to have diagonal corners. I seriously did not even think of doing straight edges until I was writing this post. I have no idea why. Suffice it to say while it wasn't the most difficult, it was tricky to get things to line up.

The satin binding was honestly the easiest part. I've only done blanket binding one other time, and I struggled with the corners. So, before doing this blanket, I looked up some tutorials on Pinterest. Lifesavers. That binding flew on, and my corners look decent.

So, here's the front of Yellow after his growth spurt:
Not the greatest picture, and it's taking Amy some time to warm up to "big" Yellow. She started crying this morning that she wanted tiny Yellow back. Yikes. Little too late, kid. Fortunately, Brett talked her down and she seems to be accepting big Yellow a little better now.

And yes, I stayed up all night sewing this blanket. I was still awake at 7:15am to give it to her.

Totally worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Photos and Catfish

It just occurred to me that some people might be wondering why, suddenly, my blog URL is on every (new) picture I'm posting. Yes, it's obnoxious. Yes, it's a lot more work.

I've been seeing/hearing a lot lately about catfishing on the internet. In addition to dating sites/facebook, it's also really prevalent on parenting-themed message boards. I've seen catfish uncovered, and I've even been accused once of being one, which was infuriating to me.

Basically, a person will pull photos off the web and pretend the photos are theirs. I've seen an entire LIFE created around another person's photos. Convincingly, for a time. Often these catfish use the photos to create stories and generate sympathy for themselves, sometimes leading to actual monetary benefit from donations from concerned strangers who don't know any better.

So, I've started adding text to my photos. It's annoying (certainly to me, since I have to edit each individual picture). It means you can't download pretty, clean pictures for your personal use. It also means my family will be more difficult to take advantage of if someone were to try. So...yeah.

If you want a specific picture or pictures to download and print off, just let me know. I'm happy to email photos.

Olivia's Baby Blessing

Usually in the LDS church, a baby blessing is performed for an infant. They're surrounded by a group of men (generally male relatives of the family and close friends) who help hold the baby, and the baby is given a name and a blessing. This is usually done in the congregation the baby and her parents live in, but can be done elsewhere. Since we were going to be together with Brett's family, we opted to do the blessing at their home on Thanksgiving. Brett, Barry, Bodie, and Gary participated in the blessing while the rest of us (including Brandon and his family via Skype) observed.

It is culturally traditional (though in no way required) for the baby to be dressed in white. (Yeah, I know "culturally traditional" is kind of redundant.) I've been on a sewing kick lately, and I really wanted to make Livvie's dress myself. It was definitely difficult, but there were only a few minor hiccups that I overcame pretty readily. In the end, I'm extremely pleased with the result. I love how it turned out. The "bling" on her sash is a pin I purchased, and I also purchased her headband.

And for some reason, I'm only now realizing we didn't do pictures with everyone. So, um...sorry guys. I feel like a complete schmuck now. That was not intentional.

Kids at Play (COSI Edition)

Thanksgiving this year was special for us. The Sunday before, Barry & Barbara came through St. Louis on their way home. They brought one of the Kansas cousins, and picked up Amy and David for a fun few days with Grama and Papa before the holiday. Barry and Barbara do this pretty regularly for their grandkids, especially during the summer, but this was Amy & David's first time with them. Apparently they did quite well, and they look forward to a special "vacation" in Ohio again soon!

After an incredibly productive 2.5 days with only one child, Brett, Livvie, and I drove up to Ohio on Wednesday. And we weren't the only ones! Both of Brett's siblings living stateside (Brandon and Co. are in China for 2 years) also came to Ohio for Thanksgiving. We haven't all gotten together in a LONG time, so it was really special! We even got to Skype with Brandon and his family on Thanksgiving, which was the next best thing to them actually being present.

One of the fun things we did with everyone was to go to the COSI museum in Columbus, OH. It's an interactive science-y thing. For St. Louisans, think a combination of the Science Center and the Magic House with a little dash of the City Museum.

Kids at Play (David Edition)

David is tough. Well, pictures of David are tough, because this boy can't really even be bribed into holding still for them very often. So, most pictures of him are blurry. The few that I've got that are decent often also feature Amy, but...we'll go with it. They're pretty inseparable most of the time. Eventually he'll get into the whole picture thing and actually let me snap a few occasionally without it being like pulling teeth.

And yes, that is my son wearing pink snow pants. He survived. We hadn't had time to get him new pants yet.

Kids at Play (Amy edition)

We've definitely been having some fun times!

Mama-Amy date to get our hair cut and have ice cream:

Being her usual silly/sweet self:

Brushing a baby goat at the Zoo:

Insisting on trying on some of Daddy's chain mail:

Playing in the first "snowfall" of the year:

Modeling her new, Mama-made nightgown (which she often refuses to take off):