Thursday, March 20, 2014

All Are Alike Unto God

There's been quite a hullabaloo online since Monday when the PR department of the LDS church sent a letter to the Ordain Women movement, a fairly small organization advocating for gender equality within the church and asking the leaders of the church to seek revelation on the matter of ordination for women. Several news outlets have posted articles, many of which began making their rounds on Facebook almost immediately. Harsh, angry words began spewing from the mouths of church members towards the women and men who are part of, or support, the Ordain Women movement.

I'm not one to sit idly by when I see something going on that I don't like, or to stay silent when I have a strong opinion on something. So after seeing the response to these articles, I chose to come out publicly on Facebook in support of OW.

Yup. You read that right. I believe women should be ordained. Now, before getting all up in arms, just take a deep breath. It's okay. I'm not here to argue or to push my views on anyone. I recognize that I am vastly in the minority on this. I understand why people are so opposed to ordination for women. I do. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this. What I DO want to do, and what I hope to do, is explain my reasons for being a part of this movement. Reasons which are incredibly personal and very near to my heart, about which I have very tender feelings. So feel free to disagree with me, but please don't troll.

I believe in the Gospel. I readily admit there are aspects of it with which I struggle. But I believe I have Heavenly Parents who love me, and who sent me here to grow and to learn. I believe in Jesus Christ, my brother, my Savior and Redeemer. I believe in modern revelation, and that such revelation (both on a personal and a church-wide scale) are vastly important. I believe that President Monson can and does receive revelation directly from God. I believe in the importance and significance of temple ordinances, and that families can be together for eternity. I hope to be with mine even after I die. I believe in the power of the priesthood. I have experienced its power too many times to deny it. I believe my husband and I are (and should be) equal partners before the Lord.

I truly believe these things. They are the core of my belief and my spirituality. They are unshakable.

And yet within the church, I struggle with feelings of...well, the best way I can describe it is cognitive dissonance. (Yes, I know, that's not really a feeling.) I believe these things, but I don't always experience them the way I think I should. I'm afraid that's confusing. Let me explain.

I have Heavenly Parents who love me. I have both a Father AND a Mother in Heaven. Our church teaches that. Well, sort of. Our church acknowledges that. We sing about her on occasion. But we aren't taught ABOUT her. We don't have lessons dedicated to our Mother. We don't even really speak of her, and those who do are looked at sideways like they're crazy. Our Mother is a taboo topic. As a woman and a mother, that makes no sense to me, and I can only imagine it would be incredibly painful for Mother to be completely unknown by the majority of Her children and more or less ignored by the children who do know of Her existence. I long for a relationship with my Mother. I'm taught to strive to be like God. But I will never be male (nor do I wish to be), nor a father, therefore I can't ever really be like my Heavenly Father. I long for an example of what it is like to be an exalted woman.

2 Nephi 26:33 says, "...he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female… all are alike unto God". ALL are alike unto God.

And yet...all are not alike in His church. Women play a far less significant role than men. We can preside over children and women, but only under the direct supervision of men. Budgets and events have to be approved by men. Everything depends entirely on the male leadership within the ward. Disciplinary councils consist only of men. The entire leadership of the church, other than the three auxiliaries women are allowed to preside over, consists of only men. That's a huge disparity, and it leads to many women within the church feeling voiceless. And then, of course, there is the matter of the priesthood. I'm not going to go into detail about historical precedents for women holding and exercising priesthood authority. They exist. I'm happy to discuss them. But this post isn't about history, it's about how I feel. So let's get down to the really personal stuff.

I feel set aside. I feel...inferior, in a way. You see, I hold a temple recommend. Brett and I are sealed in the temple for time AND eternity. I'm "good enough" to be his spouse and his eternal companion. I'm told as a woman I have an innate talent to nurture and care for others. And yet, when Brett is sick, I can only tend to his physical needs. When Brett had pneumonia in August, I was powerless to help him. I could not provide the one thing I was sure would help him feel better. I am forbidden to lay hands on his head, to anoint him with oil, and to call upon the power of God to heal him. Instead, I had to call for men from church to come do so. I, his wife, who hope to be with him for eternity, was set aside in favor of someone with the right set of genitalia. Instead of blessings of comfort and council coming from his spouse, who arguably knows him better and more intimately than anyone on this planet, those blessings either have to come from someone else or they are simply not sought out.

I am "good enough" to be a mother. I can carry children inside me for months. I can endure the pain of labor and birth for hours to bring children of God into this world. I can nurse my children. And yet, when Amy (and David) was given a name and a blessing in church, I was set aside. Not only am I forbidden to participate in the blessing, I am not allowed to hold my child during the blessing. I am expected to remain in my place in the congregation, silent and reverent, along with a couple hundred other people who had no role in my child's creation. I am not even acknowledged as my child's mother. I am set aside for the very reason that child was able to come into this world: because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to raise my children in the church, to teach them and love them and help them grow. But when Amy turns 8, I will once again be set aside. Every milestone in our church (or nearly every) involves a priesthood ordinance. Not only can I not take Amy into the waters of baptism, I cannot even be an official witness--because I am a woman. I cannot lay my hands on her head to confirm her a member of the church. Because I am a woman.

I am "good enough" to care for and nurture my children, to endure endless tantrums, to clean up vomit and who knows what else. When they are hurt, they often cry for me, because I am their mother. But when Amy is in the ER, scared because she can't stop vomiting, I am powerless. I am helpless. I can pray for her and with her, but I, who believe so firmly in the power of the priesthood both to calm and to heal, cannot lay my hands on her head and give her a blessing...because I am a woman. Because I am her mother.

These things do not make me angry. I don't want people to get that impression. These things break my heart. These things make me weep, as I am now. They fill me with inexpressible sorrow. Because the very thing that allows me to be a mother, the very thing that makes me desire to serve and to nurture--my womanhood--is the thing that prevents me from doing so much.

I do not seek ordination for power, or for authority. I do not demand it. I am asking my leaders, I am asking the prophet, to seek revelation. I am pleading with them: Please. Ask.

Because I long to be able to bless my husband and children. I long to better serve them. I, the wife and mother, who so intimately knows them, want to do more. I yearn to place my hands on my daughter's head and give her council from her Heavenly Parents. I want so desperately to bless the lives of others with the power of God that I have so often felt. I want to serve my sisters and brothers more fully. I feel there is so much I am capable of, so much more I can do to serve my Heavenly Parents.

That is why I desire the priesthood. I do not feel it is an unrighteous desire. I know some will disagree with me. That's okay. God knows my heart. He knows my desires. He is the one I will have to explain myself to when the day comes. And in the meantime, I will continue to humbly plead with the prophet and apostles:

Please, brothers. Ask.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days

Being LDS, I generally don't pay much attention to Lent or really any of the "holy" days surrounding Easter other than Easter itself. Lent is more or less ignored in Mormon culture, which in many ways I think is kind of sad. But that's another topic entirely.

Many years, I choose to give something up for Lent, despite my religion's non-involvement. I like the idea of sacrificing something to draw closer to Christ. That's part of the idea behind the monthly fast Mormons participate in. I've given up a variety of things over the years--fast food, soda, ice cream, chocolate (NEVER again). Generally food items because I'm an emotional eater, and sacrificing those things really is a big deal to me. And it's a good experience (except for the chocolate). I actually enjoy making that small sacrifice (except chocolate) and thinking about the sacrifice my Savior made for me.

But after Easter, I mentally jump up and down and think, "Woo hoo!!!!" and go right back to my horrible eating habits. There hasn't been any permanent change. It hasn't really had any lasting effect on me or on my home (other than 40 days of cranky, cranky chocolate-less Laura).

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I was mulling over what I was going to give up this year and was falling flat. I wanted to DO something, not just agonize for the next 40 days about how badly I want chocolate. I wanted to do something that would benefit myself as well as my family.

And then I stumbled across this on Facebook....

join the decluttering revolution! Challenge yourself to simplify and get rid of 40 bags in 40 days. #40bagsin40days

....and I thought, "Ding ding ding! We have a winner!"

Now, I'm not a hoarder or anything. When we moved in November, I got rid of a TON of stuff (at least it felt like it). But it's March now, and the amount of crap in my house really bugs me. It's difficult to keep clean. So much still hasn't been properly put away/boxed for long-term storage. I can't find anything, which means we're spending money buying hygiene items I KNOW we have somewhere. The kids get into stuff that has been left out, creating an even bigger mess. I can't really use my craft room, because it's the default drop-zone, and has so much STUFF just dropped in there right now that I can barely walk through the room.

So, enough is enough.

I'm not just giving up something, I'm giving up STUFF. And a lot of it. If I were a gambling woman, I'd wager I can easily fill up more than 40 bags. But I've accepted that I will never be organized while my house is full of STUFF.

I'm not putting pictures up (mainly because I'm embarrassed at the state of my house). I'm not doing daily posts because they get boring for the writer AND the reader, and really, it's just one more thing for me to try to remember to do. But I AM going to whip my house into shape.

I know my home will be more pleasant to be in when there's less crap in it. My house will never be immaculate. Two toddlers plus one mama who really detests cleaning more or less ensures that. But the mess can be manageable. It can be pick-up-able. And it will be. 40 days from now.

Come join me! Don't think you have 40 bags worth of stuff? That's okay. The point is to get stuff you don't need/want out of your house. Throw stuff away. Recycle. Donate. Have a yard sale. But if it's not being used, get rid of it. When in doubt, throw it out!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New look!

I've been feeling kind of...blah...lately, especially in the creative arena. Obviously, I haven't posted in a few months, partly because I was just bored and didn't like the way my blog looked anymore.

So, I decided to make a big change. Whew! It took me a few hours, but I really love the colors. It's more...funky? Fun? I don't know. But it reminds me of spring, which is nice since it's so cold!

Not a whole lot going on here other than the usual school and taking care of the kidlets. Just sort of the same old stuff that isn't terribly interesting to post about.

We did have a couple of warm days last week, though, and Brett and the kids went to the park while I was in class. (Only slightly bitter that I missed out on all the cuteness and fun!) They had fun playing peekaboo with Daddy.



Friday, November 22, 2013

The Big Move

First, I am beyond thrilled to be out of the townhome we were renting. Seriously. Beyond thrilled.

Why, you may ask? It was a decent amount of space and the rent was quite low. We had great neighbors on one side of us. Why would we be so eager to leave?

Why not?!

We have a lengthy list of reasons we left. The most serious grievances we have/had with the complex are their complete failure to perform maintenance in a remotely timely manner and their refusal to effectively treat our unit (and building) for a bed bug infestation.

Yup. Bed bugs. For real. Mainly in Amy's room, which meant she was getting bitten to pieces by the bugs on a nightly basis. Arms, legs, and occasionally face. My poor, sweet little girl who began crying out in the middle of the night because the bugs were coming for her and she was terrified.

I doubt I need to relate my immediate transformation into my Mama Bear self. Probably isn't hard to imagine. They insisted on having the pest company use chemical sprays, despite my research that the sprays are ineffective because they don't kill the eggs. They claimed they were using an additive that restricts the bugs' growth cycle, and that after a few treatments, they would be unable to reproduce. Except that my research discovered that the particular chemical needs to be sprayed every two weeks, and we were pulling teeth to get them to come out once a month. Oh, and that pesky little fact that the other units in the building weren't being treated, so the bugs could leave and come back at will. Yeah.

Grossed out yet? I know I am!

In addition to our lovely parasite problem, we had an issue with a nasty sewer smell invading our unit on a regular basis. We'd noticed the smell less than a week after moving in (more than 18 months ago) and had reported it. They basically twiddled their thumbs and told us to flush the drain in the laundry room with water. Yeah...that was helpful. (Not.) So we've had this pretty constant stench that starts in the basement and then works its way through the house via the ventilation system.

So....needless to say, we wanted OUT. And now we are! We're renting a house! An actual, for real, house. I don't share a wall with ANYONE for the first time in years! We're all pretty excited. (Although it's a little bittersweet since the house we're now renting was being rented by our very good friends, who moved to Utah.)

Pictures to come soon once we get unpacked and make the place look nice!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yes, it's really been THAT long.

And yes, I'm slightly embarrassed.

As you can probably imagine, there's been a lot going on in our house. In addition to grieving for Hannah, we've had all our "normal" stuff going on, too.

What does that mean? Well, it means:

-Visits from family (3 out of 4 sisters and their families!)
-Visits TO family (a fun 4th of July in Ohio with 2 out of 3 of Brett's siblings)
-Visits with friends
-Missouri Children's Burn Camp
-Amy's 3rd birthday (featuring a Tangled/Rapunzel theme)
-Laura's 27th birthday
-Brett & Laura's 6th wedding anniversary
-start of fall semester

In addition to the fun stuff, we've had a few bouts of illness, including Amy & David dealing with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease and Brett and I struggling with pneumonia at the beginning of the semester. Perfect timing, right?

I've got a ton of catching up to do, so I will try to put together a few posts. No promises, though, since thanks to that fun week of pneumonia I'm behind on my schoolwork.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Suffering in Silence

I am NOT one to suffer in silence. I don't cope well that way. I definitely need time to myself, but I also need access to people I love and trust, so that I can talk when I'm ready.

The more I learn about miscarriages, the more I learn how often women suffer through this in silence. Often a woman miscarries early enough she hasn't announced the pregnancy yet. I had a miscarriage like that in December of this past year. I hadn't even told Brett I was pregnant yet. I tried to deal with it myself, only to end up sobbing in the middle of the grocery store the next day. (That wasn't embarrassing at all...)

Statistically speaking, one in four women experience at least one miscarriage. Some of them are so early, the woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most of them are before a heartbeat is detected. A few of them, like mine, are after a heartbeat is seen.

And most women suffer silently.

How many women in my life have experienced the pain of a miscarriage or a stillbirth? I'm not entirely sure, because for some reason, this topic seems to be taboo. Either we want to spare the grieving mother the pain of talking about her child, or we want to spare ourselves the discomfort of talking about a loss we can't fully understand.

Because you can't fully understand it. No matter how many losses you've experienced, or when, everyone grieves differently. Everyone experiences a loss differently. Some don't want to talk about it. Some want to try to forget about it.

I'm not one of those people.

Despite the brevity of my pregnancy, Hannah was and is very much a real person to me. She's not some abstract concept. She's not a lost pregnancy. She is my daughter, and she died. I never got to see her, other than on the ultrasound. I don't have pictures of her. I never got to hold her, or kiss her. But that doesn't make her any less my daughter.

She will not be forgotten or replaced. She has a name. If you talk with me about this difficult experience, please use her name. It is more hurtful to me to feel like she is being minimized or ignored by not acknowledging the name we gave her.

As hard as it is, and as much as I miss her, I know some day I'll finally get to hold my little Hannah. Some day I'll get to hug her and kiss her and tell her how much I love her, and how much I've missed her. Until then, I will remember her.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heartbreak

I've taken a long hiatus from this and my other blog. It began with the end of the semester approaching, which is always stressful and requires a ton of work. Then, a happy discovery: we found out we were pregnant, expecting a new baby Christmas Eve of this year. My morning sickness was extremely severe, and I had a hard time keeping food or drink down, let alone trying to move off the couch.

May 30th I had an ultrasound at a prenatal appointment with my midwife. I got to see our little baby, complete with a strong heartbeat and some fetal movement. We had waited to announce the pregnancy until seeing a heartbeat since I had an early miscarriage in December. Since the heartbeat was present, we announced the pregnancy to our family and friends shortly thereafter.

My morning sickness was still very severe, and I ended up in the ER for dehydration on June 10th. I was sent up to the maternity center where I got 2 liters of fluids (after 5 different attempts at an IV...I was really dry!) and some anti-nausea medication. I was looking good, so they started my discharge paperwork. They'd mentioned wanting to do an ultrasound to check on the baby, so I reminded them about it to see if they still wanted to. The nurse practitioner said yes and returned quickly with the ultrasound machine.

I'd been laughing and joking the whole time, trying to keep the situation light since really, who actually wants to be in the hospital? A longtime friend had gone with me so Brett could stay home with the kids. The nurse practitioner started the ultrasound with all of us still laughing. I made some offhanded comment about how all I wanted was to see the heartbeat and make sure it hadn't gone anywhere. The nurse practitioner got really quiet...which is, of course, never a good sign.

After what felt like several minutes of the NP, me, and Shannon all staring at the screen, the NP said that she wasn't seeing a heartbeat. She went and got another nurse to look with her and confirm that, indeed, the heart was no longer beating.

I can't begin to describe how that moment felt. I know several family members and close friends have experienced similar tragedies.

The next day I had a follow-up with my midwife to discuss my options. After some of the information she gave me, I really felt impressed that I was supposed to have a D&C (dilation and curettage), despite the fact it was a surgical procedure. My midwife referred me to an OB she was used to working with in situations like mine. I'd actually heard of him before, as he'd come up in my research to find a natural childbirth-friendly OB.

Thursday, June 13 I had an appointment with Dr. Gosser. He and his staff had worked hard to get me in quickly. I was (and am) incredibly impressed with him and his nursing staff. They were extremely gentle and kind. Dr. Gosser spoke with me far longer than I've ever spent with a doctor before--20 minutes in the exam room, followed by an ultrasound to verify the findings in the ER, and then about 20 more minutes of conversation as we again discussed my options. I told Dr. Gosser that I felt sure the D&C was the right choice, so we set the procedure for the next morning at 7am. My mother-in-law, Barbara, arrived from Ohio that afternoon to help with the kids and the house while I was out of commission.

Brett and I had to be at the hospital at 5:30am the next morning. My nurses worked hard to get an IV in me (again!), which I found mildly annoying. Usually I have really great veins, but apparently I was still pretty dehydrated, so my veins were pretty small and fickle. After several sticks from 3 different nurses, they finally managed to get an IV in. Right on time, Dr. Gosser came in to speak to us briefly before I was taken back to the OR, and he prayed with us. They took me back to the OR and the anesthesiologist put me to sleep pretty quickly. I remember him telling me he was giving me something to relax, almost immediately feeling sleepy, and teasingly telling him and the head OR nurse good night.

I started coming out of the fog of anesthesia in the recovery room. I remember knowing something was wrong because I felt horrible, and even without my glasses on, I could see several people swarming around my gurney. I was still really groggy and everything was spinning, and I was shaking badly from the anesthesia, but I knew something wasn't right, and dang it, I wanted to know what was going on. Apparently I was pretty feisty in the way I demanded information, but they were really evasive at first. After a few tries, the nurse told me my blood pressure had dropped because I had lost more blood than they'd expected during the surgery. With a blood pressure of 76/45, things weren't looking too hot! They were running fluids into me as fast as they could to try to bump up my blood pressure. I was in recovery for about 2 hours, much longer than expected, while they tried to stabilize my blood pressure. Finally they took me back to my room where Brett was waiting. I was so happy to see him! Being really out of it when things are going wrong is scary. I'm not a fan of being on that end of the issue.

I started feeling a little better, but was still having trouble with my blood pressure. Every time I would stand (or try to), my blood pressure would drop and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was really not thrilled, especially since it meant that I was relegated to a bedpan. :( Yuck. I detest bedpans. I had really hoped to avoid it, but after trying to get up twice and failing miserably, it was pretty much the only option at the time.

A few hours and 4 liters of fluid later, my blood pressure finally was staying up and I got to walk to the bathroom. Woo hoo! After passing that final test, I got to go home, with strict orders to rest and a prescription for iron pills. Despite losing 2 pints of blood, my blood counts were high enough my doctor didn't feel a blood transfusion was necessary. So, iron pills. And lots of fatigue.

Physically, I'm doing...okay. It's still hard, and if I walk too much (apparently a shopping trip to Target is too much right now) I start cramping badly. But for the most part, my body is healing--just not as quickly as I'd like. I'm impatient, and I want to be back to my normal self, not huffing and puffing after walking up a flight of stairs or needing to take a nap in the afternoon.

Emotionally....well, I'm not really sure what to say about that. It's hard. Really hard. Harder than I thought it would be. Dr. Gosser said they recommend choosing a name for the baby to help with closure and the grief process. That was really tough. I'd felt for several weeks that this baby was a girl, almost as strongly as I'd known who Amy was before I even knew I'd conceived her. I'd picked out a name for her already, although Brett hadn't been convinced yet, especially since he was convinced the baby would be a boy. But to me, the baby was a girl, and her name was Hannah Noelle.

The pain of this loss continues to surprise me, as does the range of emotions I experience. Pain, sadness, loneliness, disbelief, guilt. I know they're part of the grief process. I know I need to feel these things in order to grieve properly. But it's the strength of the feelings that really surprises me. I'll be fine one minute, and then something will trigger inside me and those feelings come rushing back.

Part of what's so hard about this is that well-meaning people make some really hurtful comments. I know I'm young, and that we can keep trying. I know I'm blessed to already have two beautiful children. I know that something was likely wrong with the baby that would have prevented her from leading a normal life, if she could have even survived to birth. I know God has a plan for us and is mindful of me. It may be that losing the baby later in my pregnancy would have been harder for me.

But these things, this knowledge, does not make the experience any easier, or the pain any less. Regardless of the brevity of my pregnancy, I knew that child. I loved her, I wanted her, I was excited to have her. She was MY child, and now she's gone, and nothing I could have done can change that. And I miss her.