This is a story I have been meaning to share since Thanksgiving. Indeed, it has come to be regarded as a fantastic joke by most in my circle of friends, so it is only fitting to also share it, here.

This story has its humble beginnings the evening I flew home for Thanksgiving. After a grueling day of flying, followed by a terrifying shuttle drive through the Virgin River Gorge in bad weather, I made it into St. George, which my parents drove into in order to pick me up.

It was probably 8 at night, I was tired, and I was hungry, but mostly I was tired and stressed and really just wanted to be at home, in bed, away from the bad weather and my dad's bad driving.

My dad, however, insisted on getting me something to eat first. "What are you in the mood for?" he asked. I said, "Well, I've been craving some good Japanese...maybe sushi?"

And he said, "Nah, we don't wanna do sushi. The only sushi place around here is really expensive, anyway. There's this really good Mediterranean place we just found. They have great baklava."

"Um...okay....I guess."

So we go to the Mediterranean place. Turns out, it's closed. I convinced my dad to just go home.

This was on Monday. On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, it is tradition for the extended family to go to a pizza place and get pizza. My dad brought up the idea of the Mediterranean place, and how good their baklava was, but it was quickly shot down in favor of cheap pizza which would please everyone, even the kids.

Then, things got interesting. On Friday, my grandparents left early. This left Aunt and Uncle Cool, my dad's brother and sister-in-law, and Uncle Nice, my mom's brother. Between them, there were three children under the age of 12.

We decided to go the dinosaur museum in the early afternoon, because the kids were super interested. So we went, we saw, we had fun. There was a minor hitch of Aunt and Uncle Cool and their children being firm believers in evolution, whereas my dad is... well, sometimes he puts Glenn Beck to shame. There was some banter about it, which led to politics and whatnot, which my dad fervently believed he won.

Anyway, we then gathered in the gift shop, deciding our next move. It was about 4, and some of us were starting to get hungry, but mostly we just wanted a place where we could all hang out and be together before everyone went home the next day. Whether this was a restaurant or going back to the homestead, we didn't care.

So, my dad is wandering aimlessly, and we all decide that maybe we're in the mood for Olive Garden, or perhaps some Chinese. Then, my dad comes by and is like, "No, I want to go to the Mediterranean place."

Aunt Cool, quickly sensing the potential for nuclear war, said, "Well, we brought two cars. We can take whoever wants to go to the Olive Garden, and anyone who wants Mediterranean can go with you. But the last two times I had Mediterranean, I threw it up, so...."

"No. We are going to Mediterranean. All week it's been about what everyone else wants, and I want baklava." Please, imagine a 6'2'', 260 pound man saying this with all the petulance of a child throwing a temper tantrum.

The conversation continued like that for several minutes, with my dad repeatedly emphatically, "I want baklava!" I am fairly certain there was a legitimate foot stomp at one point.

Anyway, eventually he stormed out to the car. My mother went after him to engage in heated negotiations. My aunt followed shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, I looked around and noticed that the entire staff of the dinosaur museum had been surreptitiously eavesdropping. One man even noted that he had thought about getting popcorn. And also said, "Well, you have to have one in every bunch."

Too true, dear sir.

To conclude the story, after ten or fifteen minutes of negotiations, my aunt came back in and announced that we would all be going to Fiesta Family Fun, an arcade-type place with batting cages and really crappy pizza.

Yup. Baklava, indeed.


Moments I regret II

As a Mia Maid, we got a new teacher. She was the bishop's sister-in-law, but none of us girls could stand her. She was a bit forceful, and old enough that she had absolutely no way to relate to us.

So, during the monthly combined Young Women lesson, she drew the short stick and had to teach us monsters. The topic for that month was working on going to the temple.

She, right off the bat said, "This is a really hard lesson for me to give, because there are a lot of things about the temple that I don't agree with. Some really weird things go on in there that I'm just really uncomfortable with. But I'm going to do my best to teach you the principles of this lesson."

The lesson itself was dull. Or at least, I don't remember much. But I do remember that none of us were very impressed. Some of the things she said kept hinting at her earlier statements of disagreement.

By the end of the lesson, everyone--adults included--were in varying states of shock, upset, and anger. How dare this woman use lesson time to demean something as sacred as the temple. How dare she try and sway the impressionable youth from their goal of marrying in the temple for time and all eternity. If she, for whatever outlandish reason, had problems with the temple, the least she could do was step down from teaching that month. Or, God forbid, swallow her pride and humbly give the lesson out of the manual, with no personal comment.

We young women were enjoying the opportunity to exploit the division between the adults, and perhaps some of us were sincerely upset by what she had said. I mean, none of us had actually been to the temple, none of us knew the history of the ordinances, so of course we had no idea what she was talking about. In our heads, we had built up the temple to be this grand place of mystery and enlightenment. A place where people saw the Savior, received guidance, and learned about the building blocks of life itself. So, in our minds, what she had said was so far off-base it wasn't even in the same playing field.

Well, to make a long story short, she was called into the bishop's office and severely reprimanded. I've no doubt that some form of disciplinary action was imposed upon her. If I had to guess, it'd be informal probation, because she continued her calling as our teacher for another year or so.

But, she was forced to stand up at the beginning of our next Young Women meeting and apologize for what she had said, and say that she didn't really mean it.

If I could go back in time, I would slap myself silly for not standing up for her. For succumbing to the ridiculous groupthink mentality and not allowing her to have her own opinions. I wish I could have asked her what she was talking about. Maybe I would have actually learned something from that lesson, instead of sitting, eyes glazed over, through another correlated lesson that I had heard numerous times before.

As it is, out of the seven years of Young Women, very, very few lessons stick out in my mind, easy to remember. This is one of them.


Round 2

So, earlier I blogged about the conversation with my father over Christmas, and how he sort of hounded me about tithing and such. I felt like a big girl and told him that I was making an adult, informed decision and that I didn't want to discuss it. He pushed a little bit, but eventually moved onto other topics.

Well, the day before yesterday, he called again. I've been avoiding him lately because he's been hounding me a lot, trying to micromanage my life in a bunch of little ways, so I've dropped off the radar a bit.

Anyway, he called me. I ignored the call but texted him to tell him that I was working (a blatant lie), but asked what was up. This is my way of finding out whether it is actually important--as in, does this have something to do with my mother's health? Anyway, he sent back that he left a message. So I listened to the message and it was basically, "Hey, this is your dad, I've got your mom right next to me. We're kind of worried about you, we haven't heard your voice in a while, and would like to hear from you. We'll both be up until ten, so just give us a call when you can. Your mom misses you."

This effectively guilted me into calling them. I fully expected to be able to talk to my mother, since it sounded like she wanted to talk. Right?

Well... they had me on speakerphone, but my mother didn't say a single thing during the conversation. Nada. My dad dominated, even when discussing my mom's chemo treatment, or how she was feeling. He gave me all the information. "Yeah, your mom went in for chemo the other day. The lump is reacting really well, it's shrinking and isn't hard anymore..." Fantastic, but can I hear it from Mom?

But then, I asked if we should be planning for my next visit. You know, so that we can budget for it and save up the money, so that I'm not hanging out here in the Great White North waiting to see my mother, who could die, and then get an earful this summer about how you had to use a credit card to get plane tickets. It seems like a reasonable proposition, right? Start planning now so that come March or April, we'll have saved enough for some cheap tickets, and I can see my mother by May.

No such luck. Dad started going on about how we'll start talking about it after I've gotten on my feet financially, and he's gotten himself a little better off, and oh yeah, I need to start paying my tithing, I just need to.

I said, "Dad, we've already had this conversation and I'm not willing to revisit it."

And he said, "I know, I was just reminding you, because it's really important for you to pay your tithing."

So I said, fully conscious of my silent mother listening in, "Dad, I've made my decision on it, you aren't going to change my mind, and I am not going to talk about it again."

He made a couple more attempts to posture and make it seem like he was just reminding me, was just concerned for me, et cetera, then we moved on.

But it really makes my blood boil. This whole conversation does, in fact. First, he coerces me into calling him under the pretense that my mom wants to talk to me, which I'm fine with, but then he dominates the conversation and doesn't let my mother talk at all. Then, he gets all holier-than-thou and acts like because he is the presiding authority in the family, he has direct authority to tell me what I need to be doing, trying to micromanage my life. THEN, he reopens a topic that he KNOWS I won't budge on, which I made clear in a previous conversation I was not willing to discuss, in front of my mom whom he knows will be upset by any argument over the subject, and who was not feeling well that day due to her chemo. What the hell?

And don't even get me started on the presumption of getting me back on my feet financially before I can visit my mother. The last time I checked, I was doing better financially than my dad. I am only about $5,000 in the hole, all from student loans which I had to take out because my father, who had promised my entire life that he would take care of college for me, but in return I would forfeit any inheritance in his will, got stupid with his money and dug himself a hole roughly to the tune of $100,000. And that isn't counting his half-million dollar home he decided to build.

Oh, and one final thing: is it just me, or did it kind of seem that he's holding tithing over my head as something I must start doing or he won't let me come down to visit my mother?



Let's talk about church terminology for a minute. Earlier during Christmas break, my father asked me if I was inactive now. I fumbled my way through the question, heavily implying that I was inactive only because I was poor and needed to work weekends, leaving the implication open that I would go to church if I could.

So... yeah. I felt disgusting the entire time. And what's more, my hackles rose the instant the term "inactive" was applied to me. I didn't think too much on it at the time, but now that it has stewed a bit in the back of my mind, I think I can articulate better why it makes me feel the way it does.The church has a way with labels. Everyone has one or two that are applied to them, willingly or no. Return missionary. Bishop's daughter. Spiritual giant. Intellectual. Feminist. And so on. Anybody who has not been to church becomes less active, and then after a longer period of time, becomes inactive.

Less-actives and inactives become a special pet project, something to feign interest in until they've been shepherded back in the fold. Likewise, because they have fallen away from the path, they are given a special sort of status within the system. Simultaneously looked down upon and held in a special place. Kind of the way a child will act out for attention, inactives are held as inferior. It rankles, I'll be honest.

It is a handy little way to label, belittle, pity, and show how righteous you are all at once. When you talk about inactives, you are by necessity gossiping, but it is in the name of bringing them back to the fold, so the Lord won't mind. You tsk tsk and talk about how they must not want to live the covenant, all the while sitting smugly (often subconsciously) knowing that you are living the convenant, you are strong enough, choice enough, elect enough to live the law God has set forth, but this poor inactive soul has fallen down.

I never realized how condescending and how Us vs. Them the whole "inactive" label is until I had it applied to me. Now I know.



I missed the bus this year. Christmas sneaked up on me. I wasn't really feeling the Christmas spirit. Add to it that my girlfriend and I were both working Christmas, and since we work at the same place, we alternated shifts for the two days leading up to Christmas, Christmas day, and the two days after Christmas, effectively meaning that we saw each other just in time to go to sleep and repeat the cycle over.

Anyhow, this post is more for the conversation I had with my family on Christmas day. After I got home from work, I threw dinner into th crockpot and decided to tackle the phone calls I needed to make. I called my mom, chit-chatted for a bit, and then she passed the phone over to my dad, who is hard for me to talk to, even on the best of days.

All is well for the first few minutes, then he asks me if I am getting enough hours at work, whether I'll have enough money for bills at the end of the month. The frank answer is no, not even close, and I told him as much. He said, "Well, I can't help at all, I'm in the same boat."

Which, you know, is expected, but it still pisses me off. I don't ask for help, you know, and I don't expect it, so don't sound so long-suffering and condescending when you inform me that you are as strapped for cash as I am.

Anyway, he then asked me if I was paying tithing. And I said, "No, I am not."

"Well, you need to."

"Dad, let me spell this out. My last paycheck was under $200. Between paying the school and paying rent alone, I need $600 at the end of the month."

"Well, tithing works. It just does. You need to pay your tithing."

"Dad, as an adult, I am making the decision to not pay tithing."

"Okay, just listen to me. Every time I've gone to the Lord and said, 'I've done my part, I've paid my tithing, now it's your turn," the next day--the very next day--I've gotten the help I've needed. A check in the mail or whatever it is, it helps. Tithing works. And you know, I got the feeling like I needed to ask you how you were doing with money, just this deep feeling that you weren't okay."

There are many things I wanted to say at this point, like, for instance, maybe he got the feeling he needed to ask me about it because I make it no secret that I don't work enough, the very last conversation I had with him was discussing how I was only scheduled to work 9 times last month, and money is pretty tight. So, it's not a freaking miracle that his subconscious mind put two and two together and he decided to ask me about it. And, really, if tithing worked, he wouldn't be $90,000 in debt right now, would he?

I hate being preached to, and I especially hate it when my dad treats me like I am a child, like he has patriarchal, God-given authority over me to direct my life. I so badly want to tell him that I cannot in good conscience donate 10% of my hard-earned income, which is hardly sufficient as it is, to an organization which will not tell me how they've used my money, and, to the point, has a very good chance of using my money in ways which directly contribute to me living as a second-class citizen with my girlfriend.

At the very least, the next time he brings up tithing (which has happened a few times already, I fully expect it to happen again), I really want to have the balls to tell him that doctrinal teachings states tithes come from increase, and that as soon as I have an increase, or surplus, I will be more than happy to donate 10% to a charity of my choosing.

Anyway, all this is exacerbated by the fact that I cannot come out to my parents, either as a lesbian or as an apostate, while my mother is fighting cancer. I just can't do that to her. Now, more than ever, she is relying on her faith to get her through hardship. I can't take that from her, not when there is a decent chance she could die.


So much for a good omen...

So, this whole solstice-eclipse thing. I was real excited for it, and even though I'm not sure where I am on the spectrum of belief, as a child and teenager I was very drawn to paganism (though I didn't call it that at the time). I am currently dating a pagan, who feels a very dear connection to the moon, so an eclipse on a solstice was kind of special.

Well, first of all, I live in the land of tundra and snow, smack dab in the middle of that massive storm that hit the midwest yesterday and today. So, I walk outside at 1:30 in the morning, hoping to get a glimpse of this momentous event, and lo and behold, the sky is covered in a sheet of low-hanging cloud.

Disappointed, I wandered back into the house and went to sleep, cheered up by the knowledge that, if the weather cleared up, I would be greeted by my beloved the next day, as she drove home from her trip to visit her dad.

The weather cleared only slightly. I received a text from her at 7:43, letting me know that she was departing the cities. I rolled over and fell back asleep.

I woke up at 10:40 to a phone call from a strange number. "Hello?" I muttered.

"Hi, lovely," her voice said.

"Oh, hi."

She proceeded to inform me that she had been in a car accident, had rolled her vehicle across the interstate and landed mere feet away from oncoming traffic. Her phone had been lost in the accident, she was okay, but she wouldn't be home.

Now, I am waiting for the train to come in, bringing her with it. I've been alternating between worry and relief all day, knowing how close a shave it was for her, and how her journey isn't over yet.

So much for omens, right?


What Happened Over Thanksgiving

Not much, to be completely honest. My first night home, over dinner, my dad asked me if I was inactive now. I said yes, then completely crapped out and mentioned that I have to work Sundays. this seemed acceptable.

Then, a few days later, I had a private talk with my mom to confirm that they understood that I would not be joining them at the temple. She was understandably sad, having hoped that the whole family could be there, but seemed okay with it.

Later, Aunt Cool came up to me to inform me that my father had been talking about me to her, and said, "Yeah, I mean, she's not going to church, but it's because she has to work to pay bills, not because she doesn't believe."


The REAL fireworks had nothing to do with anything I was worried about. First, let's talk about medical issues.

My mother received a call from her doctor the day before Thanksgiving, letting her know that she had positive results for an aggressive strain of breast cancer. Let me back up: the night my sisters pulled in, they informed me that my dad decided to take out all his stress on my little sister in a phone call a few weeks back, and let slip that my mom had found a lump over the summer, and they were really worried. Then, all week, my dad kept making hints about how he wished he could help us financially, but "there were things we just didn't know about" and "it wasn't his place" to tell us, but "something is going on with your mom." I had myself convinced that she had early-onset Alzheimer's, to be honest, because she had suddenly started drinking tons of green tea and was talking about all the health benefits, many of which are linked to brain health and dementia.

Anyhow, after all this drama, my mom's doctor accidentally called my cell phone by mistake the day before Thanksgiving. My number is only one away from hers, so it is understandable. But the doctor sounded really concerned and stressed that my mom needed to get in touch with the surgeon as soon as possible. I then gave them my mother's cell number and told them that would be the best way to relay information. Later that night, my mom and my aunt pulled us aside and gave us the bad news. Then, my dad came in and tried to steal the limelight a bit, and then he and my sister's husband performed a blessing.

Watching the blessing as an outsider was weird. Dad gave my mom the blessing and, frankly, it wasn't very inspiring. He wanted so desperately to be able to say that she'll be healed, but he couldn't, because he's afraid it might not be true.

Then, Dad received a blessing from Jacob, because he would have to deal with the hardship, too. Jacob was clearly speaking as himself, from his experience with my dad and his feelings toward my sister--he kept repeating that my dad needed to listen to and respect his family and do what is right for them, et cetera, appealing to him to be a better person. My older sister commented on it later, marveling at how inspired Jacob must have been. I just kept thinking that he wasn't inspired, he was just stating the really freaking obvious. And, as usual, my dad is too obtuse to figure it out.

And by this point, I had definitely decided to keep my issues to myself for now, given that my mom has a lot to deal with. We talked about it a bit, right after she told us that she had cancer. After my sisters had gone back out to mingle with family, I stuck around and she asked me if I was all right, to which I replied that I was fine. The conversation that followed basically went by me telling her that we needed to take care of her, and then we could take care of me, and that she shouldn't worry, nothing is wrong, that I am very happy and fulfilled with where my life is going. I then reiterated that we needed to take care of her first, then we'd deal with where I am in life. She told me that if I ever needed anything, I shouldn't not say anything just because of what the family was dealing with right now.

So anyway, that's the bulk of important things that happened to me over the holiday. There was more drama relating to my father--an amusing tale that includes baklava, but I'll have to tell it another time.