Sunday, October 30, 2011

A better theme for young women

My youngest went off to church this morning in a new dress I bought her. She accessorized it in her own unique way and she looked smashing. A belted sweater over the top and her long, lean, tan legs out the bottom. Gorgeous. Fifteen minutes later she came rushing in the front door, disappeared into her room and came out in a skirt and top. When I questioned her, she explained the dress was too short then she hurried back out the door. Yes, the dress was several inches above her knees but was in no way immodest. Why did she need to feel so uncomfortable? She was the picture of a beautiful, talented, healthy woman-in-training. Why should she feel so bad about herself that she needed to cover up more? This got me thinking about the young women's theme she had just recited in those few minutes of church. I'm sure all you former YW remember it:

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.
We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things,
and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live
the Young Women values, which are:
Divine Nature
Individual Worth
Choice and Accountability
Good Works
Integrity and
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values,
we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants,
receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation

If I could rewrite this it would go something like this:

I am a strong and intelligent woman. I will stand tall and proud as I make my way through this life and strive to develop the traits I value:

Faith in myself and my abilities
Knowledge of my worth and unique qualities
Ability to make my own choices and accept responsibility for the consequences
Give service to others because I believe it's the right and caring thing to do

I believe as I learn to cherish and develop these values I can better prepare myself to live a life that is happy and fulfilling while enriching the world in which I live.

What would you add to the YW theme?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Big Chicken friend is good to find

Several years ago a new family moved in a few houses away. It took about a year before I started getting to know this woman. I was on my way out of the church and in a difficult place. She has special needs kids and a lot on her plate. But through circumstances we finally became acquainted.

I'd had minor surgery and was laid up for a couple of weeks. She wanted to bring me dinner. She knew I was eating low-carb so she went to Costco to see what she could find. As she roamed the store she spied the rotisserie chickens. She approached the employee preparing the chickens for roasting. What happened next is a classic example of her personality.

"What BIG CHICKENS you have! They're so much BIGGER than other stores! How do you get them so BIG? What do you season them with? Do you eat them? Do you like working here?" After peppering the poor man with questions she bought a Big Chicken and brought it to my house and presented it to me. She has been my Big Chicken friend ever since.

BC (for Big Chicken) is a completely authentic person. What she thinks, she says. If she feels like dancing, she does.  She makes a lousy mormon. There is no facade with her. She is like a breath of fresh air in the stale, windowless room of mormondom.

She was one of the first people I told about my mom having a stroke. There was nothing she could do for me besides lend moral support so she did what she could. She called the relief society president. Again and again. The woman wouldn't answer her phone so BC drove over to her house and knocked on her door. How I wish I could have seen what happened next! It went something like this:

"Zena's mom just had a stroke and is dying. I've seen how you people have treated her since she quit coming to church. She's lived in this ward for 20 years and it's time you all started acting like the christians you profess to be! "

Knowing BC, I'm sure there was much more but that's the gist of it. The end result? Meals were brought in for my family the whole time I was gone. They ate better than when I'm home. (Of course, that's not hard to top since I don't cook anymore.) She saw a problem and confronted it head on.  No fake smile, no beating around the bush. She calls it how she sees it, and with gusto!

Everybody needs a Big Chicken friend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stretchy pants are awesome

I was gonna blog tonight but I seem to have had too much Diet Coke and spiced rum. It is hard to type. But it makes me very glad for stretchy pants. I love them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where there's a will there's no way

Since Blogger is still not letting me make comments on my own damn blog (or any other one) I just want to thank my thousands of loyal readers for the outpouring of love and prayers. Ha! No, really, thanks to the handful of internet friends who have read about this wild and twisted ride my life has taken recently. All I could think about all those days in the hospital was writing everything down so I could process it and make sense of it all. Blogging has become an indispensable therapy for me.  And it's free!  Whee!

The day after the funeral we had a meeting with mom's lawyer.  Lawyer?! I didn't even know she had one. But apparently she had a will she had written not too long after my dad died. Strangely enough, at the worst of the family infighting which occured at his death (because of a certain evil sister who shall remain nameless.) Anywho, we six trooped down to the lawyer's nifty digs and were ushered into a room with a table large enough for the lot of us. It was the reading of the will (said in a deep and eerie voice). 

Just a little background of my family. It will be short, I promise. My parents were extremely devout members of the church. My father served for years as bishop, then various stake callings which involved a four hour round trip to get to meetings. He was never home and I barely knew him when I lived at home. He devoted his all to the church, giving far beyond the necessary in time and money. My mother was right along with him, birthing lots of babies and supporting him in his callings.

Okay, back to the will. There was one small property which was worth a little. But first it had to go through probate in two different states and after paying the lawyers fees it wouldn't come to much but we figured our brother could use it. He'd almost lost his business and so wasn't able to take the time off to come to the hospital and funeral. I thought mom and dad would want any money to go to him. But according to the will, the remaining money would go to...drum roll...the church.  Yep. Because it hadn't extracted enough from my family already. Even my TBM sisters were appalled. One sister was asking about the costs associated with probate and how much money would actually be left, then another sister pointed out, IT DOESN'T MATTER. IT ALL GOES TO THE CHURCH ANYWAY!

We trooped out of the building cracking jokes and ribbing one sister about the gas she gotten at the funeral luncheon. Apparently it was the only tangible thing she'd get. I didn't even get that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Got teeth?

My mom had had the same dentures for 50 years. That's probably some sort of dental record. It's hard enough to keep real teeth that long, let alone fake ones. A few months ago she paid for some dandy new dentures and waited and waited for them. Ironically, she had the final fitting and tweeking the day she had her stroke.

When the mortuary picked up her body from the hospital, her new teeth were tucked into a plastic container in my sister's purse.  We were all going there the next day to make the final arrangements and take a recent picture of mom so they could make her look "natural". We planned on taking the teeth then too.(A slight aside on the barbaric practice of displaying the empty carcass of the deceased.  They NEVER look "natural" because they are dead! Hello!)

Anyway, in the 24 hours that they had her body they had already done her face. They placed spacers in her mouth and did whatever the hell they do to try and erase the empty look of  death. They said they could not put the teeth in at that point.  Mom's expensive new chompers had nowhere to go. We thought and thought. The teeth were of no use to anyone and were completely non-refundable at that point. I thought they should go in the ground with her, if not in her mouth then in the casket somewhere. She'd waited a long time for those suckers and they should be with her but we couldn't just toss them in. Tucking them in her hand seemed strange as well.

The morning before the funeral found us at Hobby Lobby to look for a suitable container to house the teeth for mom to take to the great beyond. One sister liked a leapard print box with a feathery pouf on the top. We could practically hear mom's scoff. There was the tiny box marked "Baby's First Tooth" that seemed fitting but was way too small for a whole mouthful of them. Finally we spied it. The perfect box. Pretty, tasteful, and with a little handle on the top for easy toting. We added a little monogram and it was ready to be tucked in with mom. A little tooth casket, so to speak. But a whole lot cheaper than the Silver Sunburst that mom was in.

So somewhere down in southern Utah County there resides my mom, finally united with her new teeth. Hope you enjoy them, mom.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The energizer mommy

If you know anything about me, you might think this post is about my near obsession with But you would be wrong. Very wrong.

I got a call as I was finishing up a late shift at work. My mother had fallen and was being transported to the hospital. That was pretty much the only information available so when I clocked out I headed south into the depths of hell. Otherwise known as Utah County.

For the past decade or so, when I look into the mirror in the mornings, I see my mother looking back at me.  The same drooping eyes, the same almost-sagging jawline, even the same nose. As I walked around the curtain in the ER that night, I saw my face on my mother, lying unconscious in a hospital bed. It gave me quite a start and I felt like I was viewing my future. Her parchment skin was stretched across her bones and blotched with deep red. Bruises covered one side of her head which was pulled to one side, as was her mouth. She had suffered a massive stroke and was bruised and battered from the resulting fall. She would grasp your hand if you held it but was otherwise unresponsive. We sat for hours as the doctors and nurses bustled in and out. When she was stable she was transported upstairs to a room. At that point, I left one of my sisters to sit with her and took off for home to grab a few hours of sleep.

Sleep wasn't coming easily so I grabbed an overnight bag and threw in an extra shirt and pair of undies. (The only clean pair I had was a black and white zebra stripe which seemed rather irreverent to wear to such a solemn occasion but there was no choice.) I drove like a bat into hell, hoping I would make it before my mother passed. Most of my other sisters had gathered there (including one that took a red-eye from California) and we started our vigil. The stroke had taken one entire side of mom's brain and there would be no recovery. She had been explicit in her living will that she did not want any "heroic measures" so no oxygen had even been administered. She was not coming back from this. We voted to also stop the fluids she was receiving since it would only prolong her death.  She would have morphine to keep her comfortable and that was it. It was all we could do and we were at peace with the decision.

The six of us sisters have had some...severe differences...over the years. Many of us were barely speaking to each other. But we put all those things aside.  We would unite for mom. Other things could wait. We sat in the tiny hospital room on a motley collection of chairs scrounged up and crammed into all existing floor space. When a doctor or nurse came in we did a sort of sideways shuffle out the door to let them in, then closed in behind them like a tidal wave. Each one had the same dour prediction. She probably wouldn't last the day. When evening came, mom was still going strong so everyone dispersed except my youngest sister and me. Since we are the youngest we were presumably more spry (and had no local bed to sleep in) so we would stay the night in the hospital, armed with cell phone numbers to let everyone know when mom went to the light. Or wherever she was going.

The night passed slowly as we tried to get comfortable in a couple of old plastic recliners and listened to mom's labored breathing. The night nurse came in and told us that if he were a betting man, he'd put money on her going that night. It's a good thing he wasn't a betting man or he would have lost his shirt. She was still loudly breathing in the morning, her oxygen level almost normal.

The day passed with more dire predictions. She would go that day. Yeah, right.  My baby sis and I settled in for another night in those damned recliners. This night her breathing changed.  She had been taking four breaths then a 20 second silence, like sleep apnea, but tonight it lengthened to 30 seconds. Only about six breaths per minute but her oxygen level was barely below normal. Unbelievable. And she was still putting out the normal amount of urine for healthy kidneys even though she had had no fluids for over 24 hours. That gap in breathing was unnerving. I listened to the silence, willing her to breathe again even though I WANTED her to let go and head on out of town. But each time when she took that breath (finally!) I would take a deep breath too, just out of sheer adrenaline. Luckily I dozed out of sheer exhaustion.

The next day brought more exclamations of surprise as the day nurses came in and saw she was still kicking (so to speak). Surely this would be the day! The hospice people kept asking if anyone still needed to come or if something was left undone. We'd done everything we could think of to help her find closure and get the hell out of that body but nothing was working.  We'd even all left the hospital for a couple of hours in case she wanted to go alone. We had a priesthood blessing releasing her from her body. (I was dozing in another area at the time and they didn't bother coming to get me for that.  I guess I showed my skepticism.) The nurses gave her a bath and changed her gown. They hadn't done it before because, hey, she wasn't going to be around long enough to need it. Just after the bath her breathing changed very dramatically again. This time to rapid shallow breaths with no pauses.  She had to be on her way out now.

Two of my adult nieces offered to spend the third night so my sister and I could get some sleep in an actual bed. The four of us watched mom till midnight. Her oxygen level had fallen but stopped and leveled out.  Again. Finally we left for a nearby hotel with instructions to be called if anything happened.  Less than two hours into our sleep, however, a call came. Her oxygen level was dropping and dropping fast. We sped through the empty streets and streaked past security, hoping mom wasn't going to be gone before we got there. The four of us again sat and watched the numbers on the oxygen monitor with glazed eyes. It dropped into the 40s, the 30s. We called the others and they rolled out of their beds and did the same speeding and streaking routine. The eight of us sat around her bed cheering her on. She was down to 22!  The nurse told us that when a person's level gets that low it doesn't come back up again. We were giddy with sleep deprivation and relief. We started singing an old song that mom used to drive us nuts with.  And then...we watched that damn number on the oxygen meter RISE! Okay, we had to get out of the room, we were obviously bringing her back somehow. We dispersed to a sitting area around the corner. After a while I peaked in at the meter. She was back up to 55!  How was that possible?! The nurse was stunned. We were steamed. That was it.  She wasn't leaving while we were there, that much was obvious. We huffed out of the hospital in the not-so-wee hours of the morning with instructions not to be called unless she was GOOD AND DEAD. Otherwise we ran the risk of again bringing her back from the edge yet again!

Hours later we finally got a call. My nieces had even had to leave the room, leaving only a brother-in-law to watch. I never got to see the monitor fall and to see mom peacefully slip off. You know, if someone had told me a week ago that I would WANT to see my mother die I would have thought they were bonkers. But after watching the hell and battering her body went through, it would have been actually...comforting. But mom didn't want it that way. Our fraill little mom who was always complaining about how bad her health was obviously had an inner core of incredible strength. I can only I hope I inherited it too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Circular blogging

So a situation has come up that I normally would blog about because it helps me wrap my brain around things and sort them out. But this situation has come about because I blog. So, apparently blogging creates scary situations which create more blogging. Which may even create more scary situations! Agh! A never ending cycle!

Ah, what the hell. I'm meeting two of my blogging idols, women that are smart and educated and professional. And there's me, sporting my high school diploma from a tiny rural school and my 10 credits earned at BYU. (Some of those were from a religion class so they probably shouldn't count since obviously nothing stuck.) Yeah, I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't intimidated as hell. And yet incredibly flattered that they are willing to waste an evening in my company.

And that got me thinking about how my social life has changed. I've got my ho friends that live on my street but other than that my friends have been met on the net. BGW last spring was waaaaay out of my comfort zone and something I wouldn't have EVER considered doing a few years before. But I'm so glad I opened up and did it.  I met some incredible people and learned so much. (As well as having SO MUCH FUN!)

Yes, it's amazing what happens when you get the courage to stick your neck out and look beyond the clearly marked ward boundaries. And I wouldn't change anything that's happened since I did.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm freeeee... free falling

A old high school friend of my sister's has written a book A Lost Argument: A Latter Day Novel about her deconversion from the church. I started reading it last week and a paragraph hit me like a whack to the stomach.  In the book, the character of Marguerite starts to question the strength of her testimony and it scares her. She describes it this way: (Quoted completely without permission but I hope she won't mind.)

She didn't know whether the scriptures were true. But to concede this was to stand on the edge of a black, yawning, bottomless chasm, to stand so close to the edge there was an equal chance of falling or drawing back.  If she fell, all would be lost. If she fell, she would be utterly alone in the universe, alone with nothing but her worthless, starved, battered and ugly soul. There would be nothing to grab hold of, nothing around which to orient herself, no gravity, no up or down or right or wrong, there would be nothing but nothingness and vertigo and the whistling of air rushing past her.

For the past two years I have been in free fall after going over that chasm. The chasm was especially deep for me because the church was my very identity. My family's identity. My grandfather's grandfather was an apostle and I grew up with his surname, thus being instantly indentified by any mormon I met.  Five generations of my family (and counting) have built their lives on the church, sacrificing all to build the kingdom. If the church wasn't true, then nothing was true! No right or wrong, no up or down, nothing to grasp onto. Just a long, out-of-control freefall.

I've only just begun to gain a little equalibrium and have started searching for my own truth since I no longer believe the truth of my fathers. Not an easy thing for a submissive, little mormon girl to do. I've started identifying as an agnostic since at this point, I still don't know a thing. But at least now I KNOW that I don't know and I can start finding my own truth. And occasionally I search in a big glass of gin and Fresca. And that's okay.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Silence of the farts

For some odd reason I have not been able to comment on any blogspot blog, including my own. After spending valuable minutes coming up with a pithy comment then typing it in and correcting all the typos, it gives me an error! Every time! All my inspired snark, silenced. Maybe the it's the universe telling me to shut it. Fine. I'll go have more coffee.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The sisters of the Anti-knee-highs-with-levis-skirts

I was not looking forward to general conference weekend. It was exactly a year ago that I heard the infamous talk by Packer that successfully killed any remaining testimony I had. I've tried to avoid listening to those damn talks like the plague since then and that means getting out of my house and away from the blare of TV and computer. Last April I arranged to work the whole weekend. This time, I wanted to sin. *evil chuckle* Have a sort of "anti-conference". So I gathered some ho friends and booked a hotel room.

Saturday morning session: I worked the early shift to get my hours in before taking the rest of the weekend off. Successful avoidance! And I made money at the same time! Double win!

Saturday afternoon session: Packed and loaded up the ho car. Grabbed munchies, mixers and booze and checked in at the hotel. No kids! No men! Freedom! And we found the best use for an apple since Eve listened to the serpent. However, I did learn that I should never curl my hair when I have any buzz at all. I'm not that great at it even stone-cold sober and I'm still sporting the burn on my cheek.

Priesthood session: After much drinking, smoking, curling, spraying, tucking, padding and general gussying, we mosied out to dinner. We perched at a high top in the bar drinking, eating and swearing while watching the herds of men and boys in their white shirts and ties shovel fat and sugar into their holy temples. I think I remember trying to talk the other women into a synchonized nip slip to entertainment them. 

We held our own late night session at a club. I was called a tease by a pathetic wank stain on the pillow of life. (I can't take credit for that phrase but isn't it great?!) I may be lonely but I'm not desperate.

The Sunday sessions were spent sipping coffee and shopping with the other heathens. There was a near miss when we stopped at a convenience store for a drink.  As I was walked out, a man walked in carrying a small boombox blaring conference.  He couldn't miss a sacred word as he shopped on Sunday! *snort* Gotta love Utah.

All in all, the best conference weekend ever!  I'll need to top it in another six months.