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... 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is the world ending?

  • SCOTUS ruling on LGBT marriage. 
  • We descended slowly into Hell Phoenix. 
  • BKP did not live forever like I thought that bastard would and kicked the bucket two days ago. 
It was a really great week. We were packing the U-Haul and found out about the SCOTUS ruling when we started getting texts from friends and family. We collapsed sobbing in an an echo-y apartment.  Such an emotional moment.

LGBT marriage to me is not simply about marriage. It is about being protected. It is about legitimacy. I am starting to get emotional just thinking about it right now in the early morning hours but I honestly didn't think it would happen so fast. I had this fear that courts would come back with some sort of ruling that would prolong or even potentially set back marriage in the United States.

Jindal made Louisiana look stupid again though. Actually, at this point I think that Jindal has become so notorious that people don't necessarily think Louisiana is stupid when Jindal does stupid things. Louisiana was last to get the marriage party going. I hate that though I moved away I will still hear about this pitiful man since he makes the national news regularly with his circus show.

I LOVE Phoenix so far. LOVE. 

Other pitiful men... BKP died! I secretly thought through sheer will he would outlive Monson. I secretly thought he would ascend the throne to the seat of the Prophet. It certainly would not have been good for the church.

I watched a strange thread unfold on a Facebook ex-Mormon group where some woman got on there and berated people for "celebrating" the death of BKP. She said something to the effect that as an atheist all life was precious... My troll-o-meter started going off. Saying all life is precious starts to sound a little bit too much like religious ideas that everyone is "born with the light of Christ", or everyone is born good, or  everyone can change.

I think there are big fat assholes in the world that the world is better off without. Thinking that the world is better off without BKP vilifying anyone who ever had a stray sexual thought or *gasp* masturbated, or is gay does not mean I am "celebrating". Though I never met the man I view him as an abuser who used his power to control, demean, and ultimately harm others. He did not teach love.

I have been personally harmed by his words. They induced enough self-loathing and shame to really hurt me.

I try to imagine what growing up in the church would have been like sans BKP's teachings alone. It would have been a much kinder, gentler, and truly more Christlike church... Am I going to far in saying that there would have been less apostasy? (There was still Kimball and his masterwork of self-loathing inducing literature, The Miracle of Forgiveness...)

Maybe I am looking at this all wrong. I should mourn the death of that dickhead because he was such a source of dissonance and pain that he drove people out of the church. Had he taken the reins I think inactivity would have gone up even more... Which apostle will step up now and fill the asshole shoes.

I am really past wishing for the demise of the church and was ALMOST indifferent enough to not even blog about it. But I woke up early, and had some time... 

Celebrate his death? No. I don't. But I do feel like there is one less sadistic cult leader out there now. One less closeted gay that has spread his own self-loathing to others too. Maybe there will be less sources of pain for LGBT members and youth now.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I am only two weeks away from hiking as much as I want

I've been steadily getting back into shape over the last year. Even before we decided to move I had visions of hiking in Utah this summer.

Phoenix may end up being the best place for me! Phoenix has so many little trails. I am so excited to be moving to a place where there is so much hiking minutes away.The heatwave there has me thinking that the only hiking I'll be doing in July is going to be super early morning hiking but I realized that with no snow or ice hiking year round in Phoenix was probably a possibility. Will I be able to finally earn my Mountain Goat Card back again?

I am so over packing and cleaning yet there is still so much to do. We are a week away from the move.

We almost have an address in Phoenix. Housing is in the final stages of approval and we will hear about it today or tomorrow.

I got two job offers this week and accepted one of them pending verification of employment. It is not as much of a pay cut as I thought. It sounds like a pretty nice teaching set up. I'm getting a giant classroom! I've never had a giant classroom. Oh the spaces I will be able to create.

If things keep falling into place this is going to be a somewhat smooth transition.

I connected online with an open Mormon/ex-mo group in the Phoenix area. I am really excited about that. There is not really an ex-mo community here in New Orleans. There are a few of us that see each other once in awhile but there are no monthly poker nights, comedy club meet-ups, and get-togethers like seem to go on in Phoenix. I've even met one of them face to face in Utah a few summers ago.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Last Day... I'm dehydrated.

I am dehydrated from crying all day long...

I have been at my school for three years now. A large majority of my students I had for two years and some of them for all three years. (I taught them to read in Spanish in first grade. Then I moved to second and taught them to read in English.) I was bawling like a baby as I hugged so many of them good-bye. Sobbing parents. Sobbing students. Sobbing teacher. Leaving sucks.

I had been toying with the idea of not being a teacher when I got to Phoenix but if this is the sum emotional impact on me, my students, and their families it is probably not the right move. I am probably sort of good at this job if it hurts this much to leave it. DAMMIT. Arizona teachers make less than Louisiana teachers. I am going to have to live with the fucking pay cut.

There was a Mormon on staff at this school. She knew I went to BYU. She knew that I was Mormon but am in a lesbian relationship. (As I just think of it "the relationship".) She was always nice to me. Today she really touched my heart. She said she wished me and my fiance well in Phoenix. That God would bless us. Maybe she is some sort of nomish Mormon and I never knew it but it warmed my heart.  (nomish = New Order Mormon)

We are down to about three week until the move.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Moving West

In just a few short weeks we will be moving west!

  • The apartment is full of boxes in various stages of being packed. 
  • Bags and bags and bags of things have been taken to Goodwill.
  • The Mormon in me wants to use up every random can of food in the cupboard rather than throw them out... 
  • There are nearly daily trips to the dumpster to get rid of trash. 
  • Transcripts, documents, all sorts of papers have been ordered to start the process of getting certified to teach in Arizona. 
  • Phones calls and email inquiries abound trying to find a place to live for a month or two while we hunt for something really good. 
Getting very excited. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Last times...

When I moved away from Utah to Louisiana seven years ago there was not really a sense of loss. I was excited to leave. I was excited to go somewhere new and different. My family is all in Utah and I intended to move back after my two years with Teach For America were over. I go back and visit family at least once a year so there was no sense of finality.

We have started throwing stuff away, donating things to Goodwill, and collecting boxes. In less than a month we will be in Phoenix. As we go about our daily lives here in Louisiana there is this realization that this is the last time I am going to see this or that friend, this is the last time I will attend this annual event at school, this is probably the last time I will eat at this particular restaurant, the last time I will see this particular student, etc. I have very few ties to Louisiana once I am gone. I don't love Louisiana culture so I will not miss drunken romps through the French Quarter or hearing about all of the crime or living the dysfunction that is Louisiana's education system. Why am I feeling a bit sad?!

The truth is that Louisiana was the place of my rebirth. It is the place where I had the space to leave behind harmful beliefs. It is the place where I finally shed sadness and depression. It is the place where I was able to come out and begin living a real and authentic life. In some ways this makes Louisiana my true home. It feels more like home than Utah does now because anytime I return to Utah the old Mormon Kiley sort of shows her face again. Being in old familiar places and spaces brings back old thought patterns and habits. I am glad that the jobs Leigh applied for in Salt Lake did not come through. It would not have been healthy for me. So despite its issues Louisiana has meant freedom to me.

Maybe the real place of "last times" was Utah and not these last few weeks in Louisiana. The things I have gained, and the growth I have made here in the south will travel with me. The nice thing is that Phoenix is new and it will be a place to continue the new good things I have gained here in Louisiana but fresh and different enough to grow even more.