Friday, March 29, 2013

Letter to a Stranger: Gay Marriage Edition



Cross posted at nomorestrangers.org.

This is a private message I sent to a friend's friend on Facebook at his request. The thread was pretty Mormon-y, and so is my response. The context: you can't be Mormon and support gay marriage. My argument: yes you freaking can.

Also, in this post, I admit to the most shameful thing I've ever done. I've been keeping it a secret because I'm so terribly remorseful about it. It has been weighing on my conscience for nearly five years. I feel that in order to make restitution (and to not be a hypocrite), I need to confess. To my gay friends and family, I am deeply, deeply sorry. I made a mistake.

Hi Stranger,

I support gay marriage because while unions between a man and woman (or a man and several women as some have and many still believe) may be ecclesiastically sanctioned, what our society views as marriage is socially constructed. My marriage with my husband as it is recognized by the state allows certain privileges—like hospital visits and health benefits—but it ends at death. My temple sealing involves many more promises, but does not necessarily help me pay for my health care. My point is, the temporal and the divine can meet in places, but are generally two separate realms, especially for people who have different understandings of divinity. It seems morally wrong to say that I deserve the right to use my husband's health benefits, I deserve the right to visit my dying husband in the hospital, but that my gay friends and family should not enjoy similar basic civil rights.

I sustain the LDS church leaders because I believe they are doing their best to further God's work on Earth. I do not think they are perfect, because no humans are. To sustain means to support, not necessarily to agree with. In fact, I've read several biographies that document major disagreements between the brethren, even regarding "doctrinal" issues like the priesthood ban. (I put doctrinal in quotes because, according to David O. McKay, the priesthood ban was a policy issue, not a doctrinal one.) Recently, the LDS church changed its position on homosexuality, asserting that people do NOT choose their homosexual orientation. This is a major shift. 

I believe the leaders of the LDS church are good people who are also entitled to opinions and personal revelation, just like I am. The inspiration I've received for myself is to support gay marriage. I live in California. I agonized over how to vote on Proposition 8. Ed note: To my non-Mormon friends, this might seem silly. Vote how you want to, right? But institutional pressure looms large in a church like mine and situations like these are presented as tests. I went into the voting booth having convinced myself that Proposition 8 was some sort of trial of my faith and obedience, as if GAY MARRIAGE had anything to do with me, a straight, married woman. When it came down to it, I voted "yes" in order to be obedient, and as I walked out of the booth, I could not control my weeping. My heart, my guts, my instincts all told me I had chosen incorrectly. I truly believe I should have voted "no" on Proposition 8. 

When I went in for my temple recommend interview, I told my ecclesiastical leaders where I stand on gay marriage. They *still* issued me a recommend. That's why I find statements that suggest I'm not worthy, or that I'm somehow being dishonest by calling myself a Mormon and sustaining my leaders, so unbelievably hurtful.

I respect your right and privilege to receive your own inspiration. I believe you practice your religion with integrity. I hope you can do the same for me. 

Sincerely,

Me                                                                                     

Monday, March 25, 2013

NOLA: Day 3 and iPhone dump

Welcome to the third and final installment of our New Orleans adventures! Leaving this morning was an absolute tragedy. But there is honestly no possible way that our trip could have been more enjoyable, thanks almost entirely to Nick and Whitney. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that they are literally the best travel guides that have ever lived in history. Check out their blog, Mind on Travel, to see what sorts of wacky adventures they're up to.

Here's the final breakdown:
(It's hard to read that without hearing Europe and 
having GOB and glitter coming to mind. But I digress....)

Image grabbed from here.

Start the misty morning again with yoga at the Cabildo. New life's goal: try to make my shoulder blades "kiss."

New Orleans Roadfood Festival 2013!! (Good gravy, this event is fantastic.) Stroll down the blocked off section of the French Quarter and sample all manner of foods without regard for price or calorie count. Be shocked at the amount of food you can consume without getting sick. (Among foods consumed: Sun-dried tomato and mushroom pie, tamales, gumbo, seafood pasta, frozen custard. Food NOT consumed: the fried chicken, which I'll regret until my dying day.) Refuse to take pictures on account of the food shame.

Walk to Café du Monde with (surprise!) friends from San Diego who just happen to be in town for a smarty pants conference. Hi Britta and Alan! Cheer as Al boldly snags a leftover beignet from an abandoned table. Go Alan! How was it Alan? Cold.

Take a leisurely stroll back to the Marigny District through the French Quarter. 


Nap.

Head out to the bayou and for gator-gazing, zydeco, and ungodly shellfish consumption. Eat weight (roughly) in crawfish.

Terlit.

Feign enthusiasm as a "seed dancer"* for the zydeco band. Be surprised when enthusiasm becomes real.

*Person who, against all odds, tries to get other people excited about dancing.

Fall in love with your goofy husband all over again when he plays the washboard like a pro.

That's my man!

Drive back to the French Quarter and hop in line just in time to buy tickets for a show at Preservation Hall. Sit on the floor just about three fit away from this kick drum.


Get sprayed with the trombonist's spittle. Do not wash it off.

Head back to the apartment, watch nearly 15 minutes of The Sopranos, and crash.

Four hours later, roll out of bed, call a cab, and return to reality.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NOLA: Day 2 and iPhone dump

Front door of Vaughan's. So you know which door I went in.

Surprise! We did not see everything there was to see in the Big Easy last night, even though the day was jam packed with ultra travel-y goodness. We did sleep in quite a bit the morning of Day II, but then got right back on the horse.

Shower: Because you're gross.

Take a cab across town. Not the cab you ordered, which shows up more than 30 minutes late, but a cab that serendipitously drives down the street. Get really confused by the extra fees the cabby keeps mentioning. Keep handing him $1 bills until he finally smiles and says thank you.

Lunch at Boucherie Boudain balls, french fries, a cuban, and Krispy Kreme bread pudding. Ah-mazing. Die a little bit inside from happiness.

Notice all the beautiful houses as you walk toward the campus that educated your dad in the mysteries of medicine. Get jealous that you've never studied at such a beautiful campus. Covet the youth of the co-eds who ride by on their beach cruisers.

Bask in the sunny, humid, greenishness of the lovely Audubon Park. Pet a strangers dog and strike up a conversation he is surely bored with. Snap an instagram of a naked statue. Hold as still as possible until that damn hornet finally flies away and leaves you alone.


Walk down St. Charles to Jefferson where you pick up the streetcar to Canal Street. Sweat. Sit next to insufferable Brooklynites on the car — early twenty-somethings exposing their ignorance on music and ... just about everything else.

Walk back to the apartment through the French Quarter after stopping at CVS for some Diet Coke and Claritin D. Accidentally walk down Bourbon Street for a block or two until the smell of sweat and booze drives you over to Royal. Stop at a vintage boutique on Mandeville to buy another birthday present for your sister and some earrings for yourself that you don't need.

Head to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory ... I mean ... Cafe Reconcile for America's Hometown Sweets. Gorge on roughly 1 million (or 25) dessert samples: macarons, banana pudding, frozen chocolate covered key lime pie, s'mores, cotton candy.... Accidentally eat rum cake. Woops.

Strangely and unintentionally phallic 
King Cake flavored cotton candy.

Decide as group that you need salty food to bring you down from your sugar trip. Have tomato basil soup and collard greens plus diet cream soda, cause you know you'll need something sweet again after all that salt. :)

Crash.

Friday, March 22, 2013

NOLA: Day 1 and iPhone dump

Greetings from New Orleans!

We just completed Day 1 of our first non-family vacation since our honeymoon in 2008. And you guys — as it turns out, travelling without years of baggage and dysfunctional family dynamics can actually be super fun. I know. We're as surprised as your are.

Here's a little breakdown of what's happened so far:

Day 0: Fly to New Orleans from LAX on a delayed flight. Arrive at Zero Dark Thirty (I am not using that right...). Get picked up by super awesome friend Nick at the butt-crack of night. Nice guy.

Day 1: Realize how much flexibility I've lost at Yoga in the Cabildo* (so fun to say), the museum across from Jackson square in the French Quarter. 

*Also the very same room where the previously mentioned Nick and his wife (and my yoga partner) Whitney had a ring ceremony a few years back. We couldn't attend on account of our poverty, but a sunrise yoga class is almost as good (read: not even close, but lovely all the same).

Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, and Cabildo.

$5 dollar breakfasts at cafe near our apartment followed by a Breakfast Dessert of various cupcakes. Pictures do not turn out.

Traipse around the French Quarter with Nick and Dave, Whitney's brother (a student and rugby player at Rutgers, ya'll! Ladies, I believe he's single). Step in horse s%!@. Eat beignets from aptly named Cafe Beignet. Get covered in powdered sugar while stuffing face.

Check out sweet 100-year-old hat shop on the way to lunch. 
Experience shopping anxiety and buy nothing.

Sweet mid-century hat store sign...

 
for a sweet nineteenth century hat store.


Lunch at Cochon. Discovered by Nick years ago and recommended to me by my thesis advisor. 
Experience food ecstasy.

Cochon: Best. Eatery. Ever.

Drive to Magazine Street for window shopping purposes. Take a bunch of pictures but wait 
to post them after they've been instagrammed so they'll all be the same nice square shape.
Feel ashamed for admitting that on the blog.

Dinner at Bacchanal. More food ecstasy. (Seriously. And all I had was the trout salad.) Listen to a live violin jazz trio play renditions of "Inspector Gadget" and "Roxanne." 

Post-dinner walk to Vaughan's, a local dive bar with a $10 cover. Listen to a band described by Rob as, "New Orleans Blues Funk." Hear them play the most exciting version of "Superstition" ever. Order a Shirley Temple from the bartender. Endure her confused stare followed by barely concealed amusement, because you ordered a child's drink.

Drag weary body to the car and drive to Frenchmen Street. Become re-energized at the prospect of buying tchotchkes from local artisans at a lovely flea market. Nick takes better pictures.

Flea market art, Frenchmen Street.

Fall into bed. Eagerly anticipate next day's adventures.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Mormon-y post. Cause it's Sunday.


For the past three years or so, I served as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward (local congregation), which for you nomos means I taught Sunday School to the grown ups. Recently, they assigned me to the Young Women program, which caters to girls between the ages of 12 and 18. I'm the Personal Progress advisor, which basically means I help the girls set and meet different goals. See what the Church has to say about it here.

The church has (what I think is) a problematic tendency to reduce girls' roles to only future mothering and wifery when we all know that women can be those things (or not) and also so much more. In the talk that I gave last week at New Beginnings, I tried to avoid saying the words "wife" and "mother," focusing instead on the incredible individuals that they are right now.

Personal Progress: Stand in Holy Places No Matter Where You Are
Good evening everyone. I’m thrilled to be serving with the Young Women again and to be here at New Beginnings celebrating your achievements. It’s wonderful to have parents and leaders here to support us and to remind us how valuable our young women are to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Personal Progress extends an invitation to "Come unto Christ and be perfected in him.” This should be our earthly goal: to become more like our Savior and heavenly parents. This is what makes our church so special: we are expected not just to be obedient, but also to be transformed, to become godlike. And I truly believe that the Young Women program and Personal Progress is specifically designed to help us do this by acquainting us with our heavenly parents, our Savior Jesus Christ, and ourselves.

I’d like to read two passages from the church’s official website; the first is about the Young Women program and the second is about Personal Progress, specifically.

You have a noble responsibility to use your strength and influence for good. Your loving Heavenly Father has blessed you with talents and abilities that will help you fulfill your divine mission. As you learn to accept and act upon the Young Women values in your life, you will form personal habits of prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments, and service to others. These daily personal habits will strengthen your faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ. They will also allow you to recognize and develop your unique gifts.

“The Personal Progress program uses the eight Young Women values to help you understand more fully who you are, why you are here on the earth, and what you should be doing as a daughter of God to prepare for the day you go to the temple to make sacred covenants…. Participating in Personal Progress teaches you to make commitments, carry them out, and report your progress to a parent or leader” (lds.org).

This skill—setting and completing goals and being accountable for them—will be useful in every facet of your life now and every avenue you might possibly pursue. Furthermore, each of the goals laid out for you in your Personal Progress book (and now, conveniently, online) should be considered a spiritual and intellectual investment in yourself. I promise you that you will not be able to help but grow and improve as you engage in Personal Progress.
            
Each of the eight Young Women values—which are faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue—requires the completion of six value “experiences” and one ten-hour, individually designed value “project.” As you complete the experiences and projects for each of the Young Women values, you will receive an emblem and a scripture ribbon. If you complete the experiences and projects for all the values, attend sacrament meeting and seminary, keep a journal, and read The Book of Mormon regularly, you will be eligible to receive your Young Womanhood Recognition. But more importantly, you will have invested countless hours in yourself and your personal relationship with the divine.
           
This year, the Youth Theme is “Stand ye in holy places and be not moved.” Regarding this theme, Sister Elaine S. Dalton has said, “Our hope for young women is that they will always be worthy to enter the most holy place on earth—the temple. As storms rage around us, as moral pollution continues to accumulate, we hope each young woman can be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We hope she can find refuge from the storms and come to know that she is not alone. This is a time of great opportunity for each young woman to truly ‘stand … in holy places.’”
            
Tonight, our theme is “Stand in holy places, no matter where you are.” When I was a teenager, I could attend the temple as often as I could get a ride. For about a year, my brother and I did baptisms for the dead every Thursday morning before school. But that was in Salt Lake City. Here in Los Angeles, it’s not that easy. And in your lives, it may not get easier. There may be times when you are separated from the temple by great distances, both literal and figurative. But you can still stand in holy places. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we read, “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” I truly believe that by investing time and hard work in your minds, hearts, and souls, you can come to know and resemble your Savior. I predict that as you develop these values in yourselves, you will begin to recognize them in others as well. And if we all use these gifts we’ve cultivated to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, than we will create holy places everywhere we go.  I believe that by following the teachings of Jesus and improving ourselves through programs like Personal Progress, we can truly stand in holy places, no matter where we are.

Friday, March 8, 2013

On writer's block, question marks, and life or death situations

I've been having wicked bad writer's block, you guys.

Like, wicked bad.

And it's not even like writing a master's thesis is that big of a deal anyway. I mean thousands of people do it every year, right? And then for each thesis written, there are literally three, maybe four readers. And that's if you submit it for publication, or something. 

What I'm trying to say is, this is just an exercise—a culminating activity that is supposed to show advisors and me that all this reading and studying I've done can be bundled up and made into a real, live, physical, thing. (Or at least a virtual, blinking, digital thing.)


This is not what my thesis will look like. My thesis will look like the Internet. Or invisible.

But I can't do it. Well, I started it. But I can't finish it. Because in the middle of my soul, there's a great big question mark that's always asking the world the same thing: am I good or bad? Am I valuable? Or do I owe the world an apology for being here and taking up space? Am I smart? Or do people just tell me that because I'm not that pretty? (You know how people do that?) Can I do this thing? Or will this be another disappointing failure in this life I don't really deserve to be living anyway?

Because of this question mark, everything I attempt becomes a quest for my own personal holy grail. Instead of being a question of whether I can write 50-70 coherent pages (probably), it becomes a question of whether I'm worth anything as a person. This thesis is just one of the commonplace situations that I've managed to turn into a life or death problem. My thesis advisor told me this tendency is unacceptable. It certainly is inconvenient. At first I thought this is narcissism on my part, but my therapist assured me it's just low self-esteem.

I need some good vibes. I need to believe that the I can complete an activity successfully. I need to punch my dickish superego in the nuts. 

I need to answer the question mark.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fritz whispers, speaks, eats kale, and more!


This is what childless couples do on a Thursday night when Parks and Rec is a rerun.

They video their dog eating kale.

You're welcome, though.