Monday, November 30, 2015

Post-Holiday Blues

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving -- one of the best ever. My brother Nathan and his wife Michele came, along with their little guy.

We ate food,
read books,
went on long walks,
and threw frisbees and footballs and basketballs in the warmer weather.

We built a fire in the fireplace in our apartment.
We played games, stayed up late, woke up early (baby in the house), and had a very truly lovely holiday.

This morning, Nathan and Michele packed up. They took leftover food. They took the picture books. They took the board games. And they took the little guy.

And now we are sitting around feeling sad about going back to work tomorrow, and leaving here soon. And moving and changing.

No fair. I want to start the holiday over again.

Monday, November 23, 2015


We are approaching the end of the month of November, and I realize I haven't written much recently. That isn't because there isn't anything to write about. It's partly because I've chosen not to write until my life and my head have been calmer.

The last time I posted, I had just bruised my arm badly. That bruise has been taking its time to heal. It isn't healed. But it's been so colorful that I've been taking regular pictures of its progress, though. Unfortunately, the phone camera by the mirror trick doesn't work so well at capturing all the rainbow shades of bruises. But here is what the evolution of a bruise looks like, anyway.
Nov 7
Nov 9
Nov 12
Nov 15
Nov 18
Nov 19
It isn't quite as puffy anymore, although the colors are still spectacular. It didn't really hurt at first, but as the weeks have passed, I've noticed it more when I lean on the arm the wrong way. A couple of times it has ached at night. It was a worse injury than I initially expected.

The original post with the original bruise picture was actually a post about religion, and about going back even when it hurts. I have decided that this bruise analogy was really a very very good one. As a few weeks have passed since the religious event that bruised me badly, my feelings about that event have evolved. Some days it didn't hurt as much. Some days it hurt a lot. In all, I think the damage done to my religious observance was actually worse than I expected, like the bruise. It hurts. A couple of nights I have awakened aching. It's still shades of purple. But I can see that I am healing. Still, I cannot see things the same as before the bruising.

For the eight years I was working at G.O.D. University, I felt afraid to speak up about anything related to my religion. It would be so easy for Them to take away my job if they knew how I felt. I am still affiliated with G.O.D. University, at least until my PhD student defends his thesis and I drain some more money out of my US grant. But now that I don't work there anymore, I have more flexibility to say something when I am hurt, although I have many of the same fears.

At the encouragement of a brave friend, I finally wrote a message to my local bishop stating how I felt about the new policy. How it broke my heart. How it strained my mental capacity to believe. And how it hurt real friends of mine, people directly affected. My bishop met with me today and wept, and told me how my letter articulated some of the things he had been feeling himself. He had shared it, without my name, with the stake presidency, the local leaders one step above him, and he says they read it carefully, and it touched them. And they referred to it at least three times in a leadership meeting he attended this week.

In a church with lay clergy, you play leadership roulette. You never know what your local bishop will say or do in a difficult situation like this one (which is one of the main reasons I left G.O.D. University, by the way). But this man told me, with tears, of how he spent hours on the phone after the policy broke, speaking to his friends directly affected, and how he could see that so many people were hurting.

And yet apparently mine was the only letter. He thanked me for it, because he was able to share it, and use it explain. And he said it did make a difference, in spite of my fears. When I wrote the letter, I expected it to be received with outward kindness, because good people are kind. I expected maybe to feel some closure.

I did not expect the bishop to weep.

In the last three weeks, as I've thought about religion and my relationship with my church, and whether or not I wanted to stay, to continue to participate, I've been thinking mostly about people. I don't believe my church has a monopoly on goodness, and I no longer believe their exclusivity claims. But I do know that there are many amazing people in this religion, people I aspire to be like. These include several people who think deeply and laugh deeply in Melbourne, where we are moving, who are already good friends and with whom I expect to become even better friends. I don't want to give those people up. And apparently these good people also include my local bishop in New Jersey.

So what do we do now? When a policy is wrong, but the religion is good, and the people within it are great? We wait, and we hope, and we pray that it doesn't take long for the policy to change. And, apparently, we act when our conscience tells us to act, and speak when the heart and mind tell us to speak. And we wait upon the Lord.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

This post is actually about religion

Today I have a big bruise on my elbow. Really big. Bright turquoise blue and puffy. And yeah, it hurts.

I got this bruise while ice skating. I was trying to skate backwards on one foot, and somehow that foot slipped out from under me. As I was falling, I thought, "Oh no, not again!" I was pretty sure this fall would be bad, and would really screw up my back. But luckily, possibly because of some sort of latent feline abilities I didn't realize I had, I landed on my hip, not my back, and apparently, the elbow. It hurts, and the bruise is huge and purple, but the fall didn't screw up my back.

The fall from a little while ago was much worse. I was trying to spin from forward to backward on one foot, on the inside edge of the skate, and I fell badly. I slipped, and I landed hard on the base of my spine. The night afterwards, I had shooting tingling in my toes, and since then, a mild return of the sciatica I suffered from ten years ago. The back pain has been healing; there are no more shooting tinglings in the toes, but I still haven't completely recovered. I can't sit for more than an hour. I can't lunge. Back pain is in my genes. I will probably need to manage it most of my life. The bad fall while ice skating made it worse, at least temporarily.

Why am I still skating after that bad fall, you ask? Well, there were a few days where I thought I couldn't go back to it. I wouldn't go back to it. Falling like that could really mess up my life. But when I thought harder, I decided that I wanted to go back. I really enjoy the exercise. It is a challenge, for my body and my mind. It is building muscles and brains that I wouldn't build otherwise, even though there is the falling. The falling is an infrequent part, although it definitely lasts the longest, and dominates the experience off the ice. On the ice, there is mostly just flying.

Also, ice skating is important for my child. He loves skating. He wants someone to share that with. And if he keeps loving it, and keeps working at it, I'm more than happy to take the role of the crazy side-kick in on the ice with him. He falls, too. But he is willing to take the falls, also for the flying.

So yeah, still skating. I am taking more care. I warm up slowly, do the spins on two feet first. I can protect myself a little from further pain by using that brain and those muscles. And apparently it's working, because yesterday's fall, while it hurt a lot, didn't completely wipe me out again. I'm ready to go back today, to do a little more flying. 


In June 2014 I took a pretty terrible "fall" because of my religion. My religion did something that seemed (seems) inexcusable. And I landed where it really hurt, and did serious damage. Rather than a night of shooting pain in my toes, I experienced several sleepless nights, shooting pains in the brain, leading to serious life changes that I do not regret. I cannot regret.

I didn't resolve to leave the religion at that time, but I considered it. I became aware of how very fallible religious leaders could be.

But I went back to church. Why? Because I think religion in the abstract is good for my body and my mind. Because it is good for my family. Because I want my son to grapple with hard questions about morality and right and wrong. And I want to be there when he grapples and to let him know my opinions when he asks. I want him to know that I have opinions. And my opinions don't look like those of his teachers or friends, or like your opinions, whoever you are, reading. And my opinions don't look like my son's opinions, either. But I'll continue to encourage him to find his own opinions, as long as he keeps working at it. And I'm happy to play the role of side-kick, for now. And do my own flying as well.

Last night, I fell again. My religion has put me through another painful "fall". This one seems to have battered others who are close to me more than it has battered me. I guess I only landed on my elbow this time. The bruise is big, but it hasn't screwed up my back as badly as I thought it might. I was aware when I chose to go back two Junes ago of what the consequences would be. That there would be more pain, and more bad falls. But until my back won't let me go, I'll be on the ice again. I already decided to return, even after the spinal injury. If I can stick out the spinal injury, I can withstand the bruised hip and elbow.

That being said, I have put in place safeguards. My heart is more guarded. I will not let others tell me again that they alone hold the keys to my eternity, or your eternity, while they coerce me into actions that I know are wrong. That is abuse, and I don't tolerate abuse, and I don't serve a god who tolerates abuse. And I will tell that to those who abuse and those being abused. And actually, the leaders have already lost my trust. Perhaps that's why it was only a bruise on the elbow this time. I do inside-turns more carefully. I go back, and I learn, and I serve. But trust, once lost, is not easily given again.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A thinky post

I taught Jonathan how to play War with playing cards today. We were trying rummy first, but that apparently had too many rules for a holiday in celebration of sugar, and there was a little too much excitement running around the house and attacking the family members.

"Can't we just play the rules?" begged dad. So when the round ended, and dad gave up and started making dinner, I taught Jonathan the classic two player card game. I taught him to play War.

Flip two cards. Highest card takes both. 

He wins.

He wins.

I win.

He wins. 

It's such an inane game that it needs a soundtrack, so I began singing lines from remembered Halloween songs of my childhood.

"If you're all alone in the country, and you're hiding in a ditch / just be bold, 'cause you've been told / there's no such thing as a witch..."

"Said one little ghost to another little ghost / a-haunting we will go..."

"How can that be a song?" asked dad. "That sounds like a fake song that someone made up. Where did you learn a song like that?"

Probably from my mother. My mother was once an elementary school teacher. She has a portfolio of corny songs for every holiday, including pseudo-holidays like George Washington's birthday and St Patrick's day.

And as we played War, the rhythm of the game made Jonathan sing.

"I win."

"I win."

"You win."

"I win."

So dad turned on his own music in the kitchen, Halloween noises. Screaming and creaking and noise.

"I win."

"I win."

"You win."


"Said two little ghosts to another little ghost / oh come and join the fun..."

I win.

You win.

I win.

I win.

Jonathan won.