Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where does adulthood really begin?

I guess in America there are varying degrees of adulthood. At 16 you can get a job. At 18 you are considered an "adult". At 21 you can drink. At 25 your car insurance premiums come down. If you don't have a 401K by 30 you are already in trouble...

I moved out of my parents house at 21. I went on a mission at 23. I finished my B.A. later than many at 25. I moved to Louisiana at 26 and got a grown-up job. I moved in with my girlfriend at 30.

I'm 34 now. I've been paying my own bills for 18 years, have lived on my own for 13, and despite being a tax paying, contributing citizen for quite some time now I have only recently felt like an "adult".

Why this delay? Why this mental block?

I think part of my not feeling "adult", my arrested development, has come from the church. The view of "adulthood" that I was raised with was marrying a worthy priesthood holder, buying a house, having kids, probably trying to be a stay at home mom, serving in multiple callings, and being an active believing Mormon FOREEEEVERRRR.

Lucky for me that is not what happened. However, that was the only brand of adulthood that I had ever truly been presented with. Rewriting that image has been strangely tough but for some reason it has happened. I feel like an adult. I feel "grown" as kids in Louisiana would say.

I attribute my mental adulthood to a few things.

1. I am responsible for making the entire Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever. I started bringing the turkey yesterday, made the flaky, decadent pie crust today, and have purchased all ingredients necessary to put on our feast tomorrow... A feast for two since we live so far away from family and the job demands have prevented us from really building community in our new Phoenix home.

2.  My parents both turned 60 this year. They are starting to have the health problems that lots of 60 year-olds do. The realization that they are going to die someday was a jolt.

3. I finally, seriously want kids for real and we have starting to plan for them. Jesus! If kids are a shove into adulthood I'm not sure what is?!

4. Recent realizations that I am not dependent on my parents for anything at all is interesting. They are optional. Cutting them off is totally an option.

SO STRANGE. Adulthood is a bit mentally liberating. I can fucking take care of myself like a boss!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for feeling like an adult.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


This week really highlighted why building a new community and finding new family members is so crucial.

We went to the UU church here in Phoenix today for the first time and it just felt good. Every word was welcoming. There was diversity in the seats. There were other gay people who got to be contributing and full members of the congregation.

I was both touched to see it and saddened. The UU don't have required beliefs and long lists of what "worthy" means. It really is about warm hugs, support, and love. The UU is more "Christian" though they are not Christians than the Mormons who so desperately want to claim Christianity.

I had joined the UU in Baton Rouge several years ago and so it sounds strange but going to the UU  church today felt like going home.

I am going to cut down my contact with the Mormon church. I am going to go through my friend list and unless we have met or interacted in some way some of the ex-Mos are getting cut. It is time to build.

The crazy thing is that one of the lesbians we met at the service, I am pretty sure she is a former ex-mo blogger. Her name  was familiar... I may have to see if I can dig up her email or just ask her next week at service. Her name is not all that common so I would not be shocked if it turned out to be her.That would be cool.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I just ache

Leigh quit her job this week. This is both exciting and scary. Her freelancing business has become big enough that holding down a full time job and freelancing is just too much. She makes more on her own now than working for her station.

Her job in the news industry/media has meant that she has never had a holiday off since we have been together. It has meant that we eat Thanksgiving dinner late after she gets off. It means that we open Christmas presents and celebrate in the evening. This year it would have meant that being so far away from all family that we probably would not have been able to travel to see anyone. (How awful would it be for me to abandon her to got visit family and for her to spend holidays totally alone?!)

She quit though! Which meant holiday travel was an option. She turned traitor though. She suggested that we go see my family in Utah. She pressured. She asked. She requested. Her logic gave me hope. The more exposure they have to us the warmer they might get...

So I called. It was bad timing. All of this stuff with the church and "disavowing" and kids being cut off made for terrible holiday planning. If we were going to travel though we really did need to start making decisions.

My mom was not really happy to hear from me. She immediately sounded tired. Just the way that her "hello" was so flat. We don't talk about religion but when something like this happens it is obvious we are both aware of it.

We generally stick to school. She talks about her first grade class in Utah. I talk about my first grade class in Arizona. We share stories. We share suggestions. We share materials. We complain about how undervalued we are... Blah. Blah. Blah. It is the only safe topic.

We talked about school. She brought up the holidays. She did not know that Leigh had quit and might be able to come with me. So when she brought it up. I mentioned that we had talked about visiting for a few days.

"You can't stay with us. You are welcome to visit but you know how I feel. Your relationship is not of God." Each word hit me like a rock.

I responded in a rather flat voice, "I didn't ask to stay at your house. We had already planned to stay in a hotel. I'm not sure why you felt the need to say what you just did Mom. Was that a passive aggressive way of continuing to show that I need to repent?"

"You know what is right. I don't have to tell you."

"Bye Mom."

That was actually her second jab at me on the phone this time. I had ignored the first one. Discussing schools I had  mentioned not wanting to put our future kids through public school if this was how they were run... Her first jab was, "Well, you won't have to worry about that. You two can't have kids."

I heard it. I ignored it. I ignore a lot of things when we talk.

It was just too much today.

I decided that I am not going home for the holidays. If I make a trip to Utah it will be to see friends, cousins, and siblings. Part of me hates how it would look going to Utah and visiting everyone but them but sometimes I just think it would be easier if they went ahead and just "disavowed" me instead of saying hurtful things.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Does the wound ever heal?

I have struggled over the last few days. I posted yesterday but with little thought. Yesterday's post was more an attempt on my part to fill the craving to blog without actually reflecting and thinking about what I felt. As the day has gone on the whole issue of this policy change has nagged at me. I have not really wanted to confront the reasons why. 

I am not someone who really likes to feel emotions. I am not someone who really likes to engage. After getting involved with Leigh I have put a lot of effort into distancing myself from Mormonism even more. Back in the days when I was blogging nearly daily I felt like it helped me get over things, but also kept the wounds fresh in some ways. I felt like getting into a relationship with Leigh and sort of dropping the blog helped me move on. 

I have since learned that I may not blog but dealing with Mormon issues is something that I will probably never get past. I will probably never truly totally get over Mormonism. How can we ex-Mo's? We have family still in that serve as a constant reminder. Not just family, but so much of who I am was programmed during those super formative years. I really resent the parts of me that are Mormon. It is frustrating.

This year I have this blond haired, blue eyed, roly- poly little boy in my class. He looks just like all of my cousins' children. He looks just like what my kids will probably look like. We could be related. Is it terrible for a teacher to admit but this child bugs the hell out of me. He has an air of superiority. He acts "chosen" and "special" if you know what I mean.

We had an awards assembly on Friday. I was pulling the six kids out of the line that needed to sit on the stage because they would be getting an award while directing the others to sit down on the gym floor. This little boy with a sort of dumb but expectant look on his face hopped into the award line. "You aren't getting an award Devon. I didn't call you over. Please go sit on the floor." He looked shocked and offended. He always expects to be getting the award. He always expects to be getting recognition. It bugs me.

I knew he was religious. He comes to school talking about the ten commandments, the Bible, and Heavenly Father. He talks about Heavenly Father in that way that lots of Mormon kids do. Like this is an actual person that he has a relationship with. I had my suspicions… I found myself wondering if other religions refer to God as Heavenly Father or if that was just a Mormon thing. Teaching in the Morridor so close to Utah… I tried not think about it too much.

Confirmation came one day. He walked into class with a huge stack of pass along cards with a temple on them. He started trying to pass them out before he had even hung his backpack up. I gathered them all up from the other children. I handed them back to him and told him that he needed to put them all away and take them home. Passing those out at school was not appropriate.
He glared at me and told me he was going to tell his mom. Go ahead. What's she going to do pray for me? Or complain that I was protecting the rights of children by keeping religion out of my classroom?

His mom is ironically the science teacher at our school. I look down on Mormons with science degrees. I automatically wonder how well they studied for their degree if they can manage to still believe in the church while being scientists. The whole science department at BYU blows me away. There have got to be closeted atheists hiding in that department. I have little linguistics degree in a soft science and even that amount of science helped blow holes in my testimony while at BYU.

His mom must know about me. She must have figured at least part of my story out. She knows where I got a degree from. She has seen my triple pierced ears, short hair, and sleeveless shirts. She knows I grew up in Utah. All of these things were obvious when I had to introduce myself to the staff this year. She asked me how I learned Spanish at Back to School Night and knowingly nodded but said nothing when my response was that I had lived in Spain for about a year and half. Her laugh and comment that God puts us where he needs us when she asked how I ended up in Louisiana for seven years… God… I try not to be irritated by this kid or his mom. She is just as pretentious as he is though.

I think my irritation with him comes mostly from the link. I was this kid. I regularly invited my first grade teacher to church. I regularly tried to give Books of Mormon to my non-religious friends in elementary school. This kid could have been very like my kid had I "turned it off" and managed to hold back the gay and get hetero-married to a worthy priesthood holder. My kids would be about his age if I had followed the Mormon life track.

It makes me nauseous.  

I know not all Mormons are like them. I know that the individual members of the church are not responsible for the dumbass policies of the church but I can't help but find myself blaming them when they fail to see the light. I'm mad because it feels like willful ignorance. "Faith" feels like a choice to purposely not see the truth.

I struggle sometimes to understand where my anger comes from? How has it not all burned out yet? I have been out for awhile. I have moved on in so many ways. I feel like I am a completely different person. A person who is more real, sincere, present, and actually able to feel happy.

I am disturbed by how things like this can happen and the rage, and anger, and pain all come roaring back. How the hell does the church still have the power to invoke these feelings in me?

As I think about my current relationship with the Mormon church the anger is no longer for myself. The anger is no longer for my past. My anger really is always for my family and my friends that are held hostage by this cult. My anger is for those children that are now forced into a position to choose the church or their parents. My anger is for those people inside the church that believe and are locked in their closets by fear of losing all and by guilt for who they are.

I HATE that church can make people so afraid of themselves. So afraid to be who they are and truly live and embrace sunlight and love and dance.

I hate the church for the relationship that I will probably never have with my parents. Policies like this are directly responsible for adding layers of brick and mortar to that damn wall between us.

I hate the church for its pretension. The idea that they are truly better than others and that by some command they declare that people like me are on par with rapists and murderers. Really below rapists and murders because the children of rapists and murders can seek their brand of "salvation".

I am sad because I never would have gone back but I had secretly hoped that some of the church's more recent moves did appear to be moving toward softening. Towards real love. I wanted that for people that still had to deal with the church. I had hoped that after the death of assholes like Packer that change could come. This move however is a strong and violent swing towards exclusion. Banning members. Banning who can be members.

This is not a church. It is hard for me to not place them on the exact same level as the KKK and the Nazis. I guess the only thing keeping them from that level is the lack of mass executions. 

Why am I posting? I am not really adding to the conversation. I guess that I just need to get it out. I just need to push it away. I just need to rant a little and try my best to move on. God. I hate that fucking organization. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Church of Hate

It has been an emotional few days.

I see the changes that the church made this week to its policy handbook and I wonder how much longer any sane and rational person can bury their head in the Mo-Tab CDs, Greg Olsen paintings, and sickening desserts and sing that "all is well in Zion"?!

I thought nothing was worse than reading the two short pages in the Church Handbook outlining that LGBT people in loving relationships were evil on the same level as murderers and rapists. The kids of gay people, the evil spawn of sin, can't get baptized, can't have a blessing, and don't get to learn noxious songs like "Popcorn Popping" and "Follow the Prophet".

My child would never have been raised in the church anyway. The proclamation that our future little boy Lucas and our future daughter Lucinda (Lu for short) would never have to put on a white jumpsuit and hop in the font was not what got me.

The worst part. The truly tragic part is the suffering for families that are in the church and were already divided on these issues. Who does the church's new policy hurt? Well, those gay believing parents in hetero marriages hiding in the closet now get the extra guilt of damning their children if they come out.

Children of divorced parents who's parent did come out of the closet and left the church now have to choose to "disavow" their parent.

The balls that Elder Christofferson had to say that this was about protecting families literally made me nauseous.

The church does not believe in family. They are protecting their brand.

The part of me that hurts is that any progress made with my own family is harmed by this. Leigh and I are going to have kids. We have already started planning it. There will be a little Lucas and Lu. Will my mother be able to open her arms up and receive them? Or will she hold back knowing that they will never be part of her "eternal" family and not want to get too close?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Reocurring Dreams Lately

I have had those horrible dreams where I realize that I had signed up for a class but had not gone all semester long. In the dream I keep trying to get to class but I can't find the room. I wander around campus for hours and hours desperately searching because I don't want to fail the class but I never find it.

There are variations. I realize I have been teaching the wrong class at the wrong school and that I have to get to my real class and real school or else I will be fired. I drive around and try to find my real school but I lost the address or have the wrong address and can't get there.

Anyone else know what I am talking about? Isn't it strange that lots of people have these sorts of dreams? Nearly identical.

After having those types of dreams for about two months now almost every single night I finally stopped and looked up what people say they mean. Not surprising they are almost always linked to feelings of inadequacy or of being unprepared in real life situations.

YEP. I definitely do feel unprepared. I have a very large first grade class. 29 kids. I have never had such a large class before. When I did have 25 kids before I had a full time assistant and more prep time. The student population I am serving here is also quite challenging. I have several kids that are in and out of foster homes. I have some kids of migrant workers who move every few months. I have a lot of poor kids that just don't get what they need. It is a class that really needs me but also pushes every single button every single day.

A month into school now I am getting the hang of it but it is taking time. I was pleasantly surprised when I compared their beginning of the year writing to their last test from Friday and in just the course of a month they are actually writing sentences where they were not at the beginning of the year.

Feelings of inadequacy have always been somewhat motivational to me. They push me to learn. They push me to grow. They push me to get better. Things at work are steadily getting better. The kids are learning.

Needless to say this 8th year of teaching is one of the more challenging ones I have faced over the years. This compares much more to my first or second year than it does my last few years. I have actually cried in the car on the drive home a few times. There has also been some culture shock. Even though I am from the west I have only ever been a teacher in the south and what is expected of teachers here in the west is really different from the south.

I feel like in the south I was more directly in control. Education in Louisiana is more like a frontier full of rebels and education here in the west is more like a machine where I am simply a cog required to teach from a textbook... Like if I wanted to save time this year I could just video what I do this year and hit the play button next year because they want it all to be so damn uniform. Kids are not uniform... That fact seems lost on education here in the west...

 The job stress and the move stress however have reminded me that I need to seek out balance. I need to seek out things that make me feel like a whole person.

Half of the staff is queer though. I have never run into that. There are gays and lesbians everywhere and it sort of makes me laugh. The population here is pretty conservative. Pretty Christian but that school is packed with do-gooder queers educating the next generation. I LOVE that. I LOVE that so much. We do-gooder queers who chose teaching as our profession are often the more dedicated and stand out teachers too...

I have not run into very many Mormons. The new music teacher is a Mormon. He ordered a chocolate milkshake at our teacher happy hour outing on Friday. He is fresh faced and probably just straight out of BYU. He is nice. Though he knows I am from Utah I definitely don't look Mormon so it does not seem to be an issue.

I have not seen one damn scorpion and everyone indicated that they would be everywhere.

One morning however I woke up to go to the bathroom and heard a strange chirping sound coming from the closet. Later on a big ugly bug with long antennas came hoping out of the closet. There are crickets everywhere here. We get them in the apartment all of the time.

It has been strange on more than one occasion to have my brain work the sounds of crickets into my strange stress dreams. Crickets chirping in the background as I can't find my class...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mormonism makes family relationships difficult

I just spent a week in Utah with my parents. When I first moved to Louisiana over seven years ago I made the trip to visit frequently. I used to visit three or four times a year. I am down to about once a year now. Visiting used to be something I looked forward to and now it feels a bit like a chore. 

Each visit unavoidably causes me to face Mormonism and what I have tried so hard to shed. The problem with trying to shed Mormonism is that loved ones end up left behind and the church forever seems to loom between you… 

I want to say that I value family relationships but I find them soooooooo difficult to maintain and much of the effort is so one sided. I make all of the trips. I make all of the phone calls. I send all of the texts. I start to wonder if it is worth it. 

Last summer's visit was rough. It was the first time that I took Leigh to meet the family. My dad and I did not even have one actual conversation while I was there. My parents were somewhat rude to Leigh. We were not really and truly welcomed. My mom made a huge point of saying that we could not stay at her house. I told her that was fine and that we respected her beliefs but that she needed to realize that the extra cost of staying in a hotel would cut down on the length and frequency of our visits. 

I am not proud to say that over the last year I have made a point of somewhat passive-aggressively sharing with her stories about staying with Leigh's dad or with Leigh's mom when we were visiting them. Sharing that we saw them several times during the year because they made the effort to come to us or let us stay with them when we went to them. Parents that act like parents… Imagine that. Family that acts like family. How strange?! 

This visit last week was somewhat uneventful but my passive aggressive messages were received on one level or another. I think that my mom regretted how our visit had gone last summer but knew that it could not really be made up or did not know what to say. She said a lot of pretty things like, "Too bad Leigh could not come this time." She made small talk where she brought Leigh up. She talked about finishing a quilt for Christmas that she intended to give to me and Leigh.She mentioned that maybe now that we lived closer we could meet up in southern Utah or northern Arizona for family vacations.

I question her motives… I question her intentions… I question whether there will ever be follow-through. She has said nice things before and then the cognitive dissonance has caused her to swing back the other way where she suddenly becomes super orthodox again. 

I just found myself tired after the visit. Not angry. Not disappointed. Not hopeful. Just tired and distrustful.

The relationship that I have with my parents really reveals some of the walls that Mormonism builds. We can no longer get past simple small talk. We no longer have any sort of meaningful conversation. There is little emotional connection between us anymore. I hear us exchange the words, "I love you" and I find myself questioning what the words mean. Do they say them out of obligation? Do they say them out of memory for who they thought I was or hoped I would be? If there is real love between us it is definitely secondary to their church beliefs…

We had strong relationships before I left the church. Mormonism somehow cuts people off from being able to be sincere. It cuts them off from being able to connect with people that do not believe exactly what they believe. Mormonism somehow makes real relationships impossible if you are not all pledging allegiance to its idiocracy because if that person does not accept the Mormon god and Mormon Christ and don't forget the Mormon prophet into their heart they are suspect. 

Increasingly I want to blame someone for my parents' lack of coping and communication skills. Increasingly I find myself excusing them. They are victims of their beliefs. They have little reason to question the world that they have been presented with. They seem to reach out as much as their beliefs allow them to and it may just never be enough. 

With my mostly atheist/somewhat agnostic on some days leanings I mourn for my parents and feel that religion has wasted their lives and the connections that we might have had. I am left feeling like the church holds people that I love hostage and that white hot anger flares again for awhile...