Saturday, November 3, 2018

Don't Believe the Big Lies

I don't cry often--anymore. I even thought I was all cried out, but today my heart ached and my eyes filled with tears threatening to spill onto my cheeks. It was the loud denigrating hate hurled from the occupants of a passing truck that finally brought out my emotion. "God hates all of you!" and the rest I couldn't understand but I can imagine what it was. When the truck went by a trans woman was telling her story of growing up, coming out, of transitioning, and of losing friends and family who couldn't accept her for who she is.

If you want to see bravery up close then get to know someone in the queer community and especially someone who is Transgender. But only if you are brave too, because you will hear stories that will require you set aside your preconceived notions of what gender means. It may break your heart in two to listen to someone describe being born into the wrong body and knowing at a very young age, as young as two and three even that you see yourself as the opposite gender assigned to you, that while your body says one thing, inside you are someone else.

So back to today. I was at a demonstration for Trans visibility at the county courthouse in Logan, Utah. Lately the Transgender community has taken some big hits from the current administration. And in Utah, at the last general conference of the religion that most grew up in, some less than compassionate things were said. Like many of you, not too long ago, I didn't know anyone personally who was Trans. But now I do. And now that I do, I can say with some knowledge that I don't know a more loving and brave people. Every day is a day facing discrimination and misunderstanding. Every day it takes courage just to step out the door and be themselves.

Right after the hateful words were shouted by the passerby, Pastor Derek of the First Presbyterian Church in Logan spoke. Pastor Derek is a kind and charismatic man. But it wasn't just his charisma that spoke to my heart. He spoke of the hater who had sped by and how much he lied because God is a God of love and his love is for every single person no matter what their sexual identity. He spoke about Jesus and how he served the marginalized. He told of his own love for everyone gathered there and for the Trans individuals. He brought a healers touch to what had been a peaceful and loving demonstration before the angry hate-filled words tore through the congregation. His healing words were of God. See, when someone tells you that God hates_______ fill in the blank, they really mean they hate ______.  I don't know a lot, but I know that when love fills my heart, that is the best kind of feeling, not judginess, or pettiness, or bitterness and so on. God doesn't hate people. That's a big lie. And if you believe God hates you, you're wrong. We give God all kinds of human emotions, but if there is a God, they are much bigger than all our humanity and weakness.

I was always taught growing up that I would feel the power of God in my heart. Well today, I heard God's truth. I heard it directly from several Transgender individuals and I heard it from Pastor Derek. God is Love. I'm just a bit better today for taking a little time out of my week to get to know people, to really see them, to see their hearts and to just understand that we really don't have any right to define who people are. So soldier on and just be you.

Friday, September 28, 2018

One of the Lucky Ones

I’m one of the lucky women. I’m 61 years old and have never been an outright victim of sexual assault. When I look back at my life, I realize this has very little to do with me. I may have been protected by my own lack of social expertise and opportunities. I had friends, but I was not particularly popular. I didn’t date in high school—not by choice either. I used to stand in front of the mirror and try to figure out why no one would ask me to a school dance. Less attractive girls went, but not me. Also I didn’t get invited to many parties, especially mixed gender parties. I didn’t drink which of course meant the kids I associated with didn’t drink either—that might have been a bit of a protection too. I’m grateful now. But then… not so much. 
And I was so trusting! I was taught to be scared of the bogey man, but not the kid wearing a football jersey, not the church leader with the suit and tie, not the relative, not  school teacher, and not the boy next door. But looking at these shocking statistics, I dodged a bullet. I nightly checked for the bogey man under my bed well into my teen years, but that’s the least likely place for a predator to be. 
Once when I was a little girl, I was walking home from the swimming pool with my friend Geri. We always cut through the park and school yard by Scera Elementary School. I don’t know how old I was, maybe 8 or 9. Geri, though was a good two years older than me and ever so much wiser. She had a handful of older sisters and I always trusted that she knew more than I did about pretty much everything. This day as we walked through the school yard we were all alone except for a man standing against the school wall. He started walking toward us, but I can’t recollect if he was saying anything. Geri shouted RUN, and she started running. So naturally I ran too. When we got through the playground and to the street, she slowed down. I asked her why we were running. “Didn’t you see that man? He had his (not sure what she called it) out of his pants.” The man had been walking toward two very young girls with his man parts out. He had a big smile on his face, too or more likely a leer. If my older and wiser friend hadn’t told me to run, I shudder to think what could have happened. OK, he happened to be the exact kind of bogey man I’d been warned about. An adult man in a school yard during the summer??? But it didn’t strike me as unusual and I’m sure I went home assuming that he hadn’t even known had exposed himself to us. I never said a thing to my parents about it, but I never forgot it either. It was one of those things that I would only come to understand much later in life. The memory was etched in my mind like a string of other events that didn’t seem quite right. I knew nothing of sexual assault and unless I’d seen him carrying a knife, I wouldn’t have worried. I was terribly naive. 
This year has been eye-opening and disheartening and gut-wrenching. To see the long line of famous and powerful men fall one by one because of the total lack of respect for women is something I never expected to see. Naive. Somehow, I stayed in that bubble of belief that we’d know who the bad guys are. That’d we’d know how to keep out of dangerous situations. That we’d see them lurking in the shadows of empty streets carrying knives and guns, not wearing suits, not the family men who read their kids and grandkids stories at night. 
NAIVE Mormon girl might have been stamped on my forehead when I eventually went two hours north of home to university. I loved everything about college life. I lived off-campus, but just barely. During the first year or two I was there, there had been a violent rapist. He’d raped three women in a few weeks time and until he was caught, I was terrified. We all were. We were warned and triple warned to not walk alone at night on campus. Believe me, I heeded those warnings. Near our all-girls apartment, there was an all guys apartment. I often stopped there. I’d finally learned how to talk to guys. I felt right at home and completely safe. These were all returned Mormon missionaries. I’d play the now archaic video games pong and battleships with them. I’d visit. I’d laugh. I’d eat snacks. Well, one night one of the guys in the apartment, maybe even two of them forced me down on the living room sofa and held me down and tried to kiss me. I think I was laughing and dodging the kiss by turning my head. I still believe it was all in fun—however inappropriate—but realize now that it could have turned at any moment into something not in fun and something much more inappropriate. So anyway, I was doing everything I could to get away, but the guys were so much stronger.  Suddenly another guy friend in the apartment grabbed hold of my ankles and whipped out from beneath the guy and then held me way above his head until it was safe to put me down. 
During this Kavanaugh mess I have cried and my heart is absolutely broken to see men whom I thought were respectful care nothing about women and the very huge problem of sexual violence. So yesterday, I asked the guy who saved me that night long ago from the unwanted advances, if he’d remembered the incident and if so why he’d pulled me out from under the guy. What had prompted him? He said he did and it because I didn’t look like I wanted it. He just reacted instinctively. It wasn’t too hard to find my accidental hero because I married him. Good guy through and through. I am one of the lucky ones. I only wish every woman could be as lucky as I am. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wake ME Up when it's OVER

I have dreams that the world is ending. When I was a child, there was so much "end of the world" talk in my religion, that nightmares plagued my sleep. As an only girl, I had the "privilege" of having my own room most of the time. I never liked it. Another person gave me a buffer between reality and my nighttime imaginations. My imagination has always gotten the better of me. Then my nightmares had fire and even swords raining from the sky. I began writing stories in the third grade and have only stopped when busy schedules dictated otherwise. A story I wrote that captured my 7th grade class's attention was of piling bodies up to protect people from the danger of whatever was killing us. (I can't remember, but just remember the teacher was a bit horrified, but the kids loved it.) Such are the stuff of dreams. 

Now my nightmares have creeped into my nights again and have intruded into my otherwise idyllic days. The realities of today are scarier than my imagination ever created. It's the Twilight Zone. It's not fire from the sky. It's not swords raining. It's not bodies piled around my life. What is raining from the sky and keeping me awake at night is the normalization of cruelty. It's turning callousness toward the suffering and the poor, into patriotism. It's blaming victims of poverty and abuse, instead of the bullies in power that keep them there. It's blaming women who are targeted by sexual predators. It's using celebrity and power to do whatever one wants at the expense of those without it. It's not doing enough to change the climate that rewards rapists and lewdness above decency. It's withholding healthcare, education, and basic need from our most vulnerable populations. It's taking us steps backward from racial equality. It's denying the reasons that our LGBTQ populations are at high risk of suicidal ideation. It's selling off our public lands to the highest bidder. It's a short-sighted evil that is reaching down to the core of our society. The truth is that our days are darker than I ever imagined possible in the "land of the free, and the home of the brave." 

I hope that more of us wake up. I hope that more of us become Senator Flake's and call out the crap that is going on in Washington and in our own state governments. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

One Way to Stand for Truth and Righteousness

Recently I was dismayed to hear that a former LDS General Relief Society President, Elaine criticized the women's march that happened through the nation and the world in January after the inauguration.  While speaking to a group of LDS women, she praised them for being leaders in "contrast to those women who marched." She assumed that LDS women didn't march. "We were in a cab, and as I watched those women marching and yelling," Dalton went on to say, according to a report in the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, " ... behaving anything but ladylike and using language that was very unbefitting of daughters of God, my heart just sunk and I thought to myself, 'What would happen if all those women were marching and calling to the world for a return to virtue?' "

I grew up in the church. I loved serving young women and standing to repeat a motto that includes the words, "I will stand for truth and righteousness..."  Ironically as I participated in the march locally in Ogden, Utah--those words kept coming back to me. I will stand for truth. I will stand and more, even march for righteousness. Those words that I must have repeated aloud hundreds of times and in my mind hundreds more times. To me, standing for something means to defend it. How we choose to defend something we believe in can take many approaches. My approach has been "boots on the ground." Even though for an introvert this is way out of my comfort zone, it feels right to me. I've defended the rights of my LGBTQ friends in Pride marches. And I will continue to defend women in any way that I can. I'm sure Sister Elaine Dalton spoke from a place of misunderstanding rather than purposefully disparaging a diverse group of women, which included in every march around the world, LDS women. 

Dear Sister Dalton, 

Thank you for your countless hours of service on behalf of women (this is sincere--you've certainly given and continue to give your all for our church and for women.) My heart sunk recently when I heard what you said about those of us who chose to participate in solidarity for women and march with over a million others worldwide. You might be surprised to hear that one of the reasons I chose to march was to "call the world for a return to virtue." Virtue by definition means goodness, integrity, decency, honor, ethics, morality etc. I believe that if you had taken the time to get out of your cab and talked to some of the vulnerable and brave women marching you may have found out that their varied reasons were something that you would have supported and believed in. It doesn't take more than a casual observation of the news in the last year leading up to the election to see that decency has been eroded by arrogance and misogyny. Our current president is anything but virtuous in his treatment of women, regularly calling women who dare challenge him the b word and even sometimes the c word. He called Hillary nasty. He said a woman reporter would look pretty "on her knees." I can't even write those words as they are so offensive to me and others. The man bragged about assaulting women and grabbing them by the "pussy." Numerous women have confirmed his own admission. Many women who participated in pageants including our own Miss Utah said he would walk in the dressing room and kiss woman without asking. Need I go on? We were marching to denounce this kind of lewd and unvirtuous treatment and assumed ownership of women. As our own Sister Laurel Thatcher Ulrich a Pulitzer prize winner for history said, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." 

The march may have sounded like a group of loud misbehaved women, but we were standing for truth, equality, and a return to decency and kindness. And yes virtue. Next time Sister Dalton, I would welcome you to join us. I have a friend who will even crochet you a darling hat. 

Regards, Carole

Monday, January 23, 2017

Turning the Corner on 25th Street

A hand gesture conveys so much. On Saturday, I reluctantly joined hundreds of others who gathered at the Union Station in Ogden. Reluctant because it was cold, snowy, and I’m an introvert. I much prefer to spend a stormy Saturday home with a cup of hot cocoa and reading a book by the fire. Besides sometimes gatherings of people no matter how well-intentioned can get out-of-hand. Unlike Pride in SLC which I’ve participated in several times, we didn’t have police escorts or security of any kind. But this is Utah, and we’re a tame bunch…right?

The group of marchers started the half mile walk and I got in line. Our first hurdle came within minutes or even less. The intersection WALK sign only allowed a handful to cross the street, so a man who I believe was a veteran stepped out into traffic and began to direct, rather professionally to get more of us across the road. A truck who could have mowed down dozens of people and didn’t seem to care if he did, began to rev his engine and pushed his way through the crowd, forcing marchers to jump away. Their were children with us and some older folks too. A couple others followed the driver’s example and did the same—honking all the while. It’s interesting that we could usually tell the cheerful honks, the we’re here with you sisters, to the get the hell out of my way honkers. Inevitably the supportive honkers would open windows and cheer. The cheering buoyed me an I'm sure others. The hand waves, made me smile. Some of the business owners on Ogden’s Historic 25th street came to their windows as we passed and waved—most seemed sympathetic to the cause—and if they weren’t--we didn’t know because they were respectful. 

What a difference between the cheerleader passersby, the peaceful happy marchers and those with trucks rev-ing, horns blaring, middle fingers saluting, and obscenities flying. I’m really a very timid person. I hate confrontation and go way out of my way to avoid it. Some of you, won’t believe that because sometimes I find myself right in the middle of it. I’ve been accused or complimented depending on the person’s point of view many times over the years of being “brutally honest” or of “speaking my convictions.” My answer to that is that you have no idea how many things I keep to myself, of how many times I scroll past a Facebook post, or overhear something that makes me cringe, or just like on Saturday, how often I feel that punch to the gut that comes when someone looks right at me/us and flips us off and tells us to go to hell. On Saturday when it happened, I felt a visceral reaction, that I squelched. Then smiled. I actually felt sorry for the guys who have so little respect for a group of peaceful, mostly women, marchers carrying anti-misogyny, pro-equality, anti-Trump signs that they feel that they need to lash out. I understand that because I often have to look the other way when I feel my values are confronted. I guess they didn’t have enough self-control to look the other way. And yes, Mr. Middle Finger, I am you. I’ve childishly flipped someone, more than one someone off when I haven’t been in control of myself. And guess what, it did not make me feel better. It made me feel stupid. So I’m not too angry with you. I’m just glad your finger wasn’t on a trigger—because sometimes hate out of control, in the moment leads to disaster. I’m so grateful that all over the women’s marches were peaceful (not to be confused with the rioters who had nothing to do with us.)

So why did I march? Because my daughter was marching in DC and though I’ve always been so proud of her, I was especially proud on Saturday. I wanted to be there myself with her, but let my fear cower me into staying home. Because we raised our children to care very much about equality, even though they’ve lived a rather privileged life. Because we taught our children to stand up for right and truth. We taught them to care about the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised. Because I didn’t want to look back on one of the most historic marches in my life-time and say that I chose to stay home and read a book about feminism instead of participating in feminism. Because stepping out of our comfort zone to confront principles we believe in head-on isn’t easy. 

But the main reason I chose to march was because a friend asked me if I would do it with her. See we all need friends who say, I’ll do it if you will. Without that friend, I would have stayed home and read that book and I wouldn’t be writing this, instead I would be envying those millions of people world-wide who said, we are in this together. We will not let fear reign.

 For me, the grief I have felt ever since this election season began makes me want to hole up, stay home, read, watch TV, hibernate and eat Cheetos. But I know me. And what helps me get out of my own pessimistic thinking is to engage in the process, meet like-minded individuals and just do something. Marching alongside the energetic people practicing their right to come together and protest a president that has maligned every single marginalized group and then some has offered me a bit of peace, and whole lot of hope. Love to all of you millions of marchers around the world. “Love can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Coming UP for Air

I know what depression feels like. It nipped me in the heels the year I was turning 38. Up until that time, I thought depression wasn't really real. I mean, I was sympathetic or tried to be, but deep down, I thought being depressed was some kind of character flaw that could be overcome with sheer willpower. I related to the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of philosophy. But that was the year that I learned that sometimes what nips you in the heels can drag you under really quickly. And that year, I hated myself, but I also didn't care too much for anyone else either. It sort of narrowed my view down to a sliver and everything I could see in that sliver was darkness. Fortunately, it lasted only about a year, though long enough to change me forever. I think that was the year my heart changed and I really learned to empathize. 

It's hard for me to believe that was twenty years ago. Since then, I've learned that the secret to overcoming depression may be different for everyone, but for most of us it takes more than willpower. Yes, attitude is everything, but what if your mind is so cloudy you can't change your attitude on your own?

It's taken me a long time--this time--to admit that my few last years have been plagued with a mild depression, because it hasn't been as dark and relentless as that first experience. This time, I still do pretty much everything. I fail all the tests for depression because I still feel joy, gratitude, and love. I don't hate myself and I really don't hate others. I get up every morning and do my usual stuff. If you follow me on Facebook, you would not see a depressed person. You would see someone living a full life. And yes, I do. I love my life--for moments and bursts. 

I keep coming back to how I felt as a child. In Orem I spent a lot of my summertime hours playing in Scera swimming pool. Bigger boys loved to grab girls and push us under the water. It terrified me. Why? because it felt like I was drowning. Of course, they didn't keep us under long enough to actually drown, but the lack of control, the feeling of helplessness is a lot like depression.  After all playing in the water was mostly fun--except for when it wasn't. And then it was truly terrifying.The difference is that the year I turned 38, I essentially drowned emotionally. This time around, I keep coming up for air and being tricked into thinking that I'm fine. And of course I am fine. Or will be. In time. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Big Picture by Kayden Maxwell

The Big Picture
Kayden Maxwell
Nov 8, 2015

For about 14 years now, I have been heavily involved with music. I’ve played piano from age 4 and I’ve been in percussion playing keyboard instruments such as a xylophone or a marimba since seventh grade. For me, music is one of my lenses through which I see the world, and I think it can be used to help us understand many of life’s concepts.
One of my friends has an amazing natural gift for music. She has perfect pitch, which means she can hear any pitch and recognize what the note name is, such as a C sharp or an A flat. In fact, her ears recognize notes so well that when she hears a piece of music, she knows instantly whether the notes sound good together or if there are mistakes. This means a couple of things. First, it makes it very frustrating to play next to her in marching band, because she literally catches on to every single note I miss and she will constantly let me know how atrociously inaccurate I am. But it also means that music can be hard for her to enjoy. While I hear a piano solo and only catch onto the beautiful melody and overall performance, she hears every note. She notices each mistake. And to her a beautiful piece of music can become a set of numbers- 4 missed notes, 2 ill-placed chords, and 2 flat pitches. While it is a gift for her to naturally understand music so well, it becomes challenging for her to enjoy musical pieces because she is distracted by the flaws. Her mind gets distracted by every individual note. Her attention to detail, while magnificent, makes the overall piece actually less enjoyable for her. She has a hard time zooming out. She struggles to feel the emotion of the piece. And she often misses the beauty of the big picture.
There are many examples of how we miss the big picture in so many aspects of our lives. Music is not the only thing that can be under appreciated by too much attention to detail. My friend Daniel also had troubles zooming out on a topic. But he doesn’t have perfect pitch, and it isn’t music that he misses out on. He is a runner. I was talking with him once about hiking a particular trail. I explained how beautiful I thought the trail was and how much I loved it. To my surprise, he responded by saying he wasn’t fond of it and didn’t remember anything particularly great about the trail. I soon found out that he ran up the path. His eyes were watching the ground the entire time to prevent himself from tripping, and he only looked up once he got to his destination, caught his breath, and ran back, watching his feet the whole way down. Obviously, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with running. But he had never taken the time to walk up a mountain trail and get his eyes off his toes. He missed out on almost all of the features that make hikes meaningful and special to me. His focus was on each and every detail. Every step was carefully calculated to avoid all obstacles and dangers that could potentially cause him to fall. He never saw the big picture of the beautiful mountain path, and he never understood why it was so special to me.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are given a large amount of details for how to live a happy life. Every piece of instruction is meant to help us on our journeys and bring us closer to Heavenly Father. We know all of the notes that we should play, and we know all of the rocks that are on our paths that we should avoid so we do not trip and fall. However, I feel we could all use a reminder to zoom out and look at the big picture sometimes. What is the big picture of our church? What is the all encompassing message that we wish to share with others? The answer is simple to remember, yet simultaneously easy to forget. The overall message of Christ’s church is for all of us to love each other a little more. Be a little kinder, love a little deeper, serve a little more willingly, and smile a little more frequently. This blanket principle is outlined in Matthew 22:36-39. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Jesus Christ came to this earth and taught a message of love in its purest form. Unconditional, limitless, and sincere. One of my favorite scriptures is in Romans chapter 13. Paul discusses how love is the center of all the commandments, and assures us that we need not worry so much about each and every detail, because if we remember to love each other, everything else falls in place. Verses 8-10 read, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Sometimes it feels overwhelming to keep up with every standard, rule, and guideline set for our behalf by church leadership. How peaceful it is to me to know that the only thing I really need to strive toward and remember is to love my neighbor. To love everyone regardless of anything.
Why has it become so hard for us to remember to see the big picture of Christ’s ministry? Unfortunately, it is human nature to pay attention to detail. The natural man can almost be considered a perfectionist, OCD mess. We feel that there needs to be a checklist. A list of rules with yes or no answers that we can look at and easily determine how well we are doing on our spiritual journey. Instead of asking ourselves, “How close do I feel with Heavenly Father,” we want easy yes or no check-list questions. We ask ourselves, “Did I pray today? Do I have any tattoos? Do I have more than one earring on my ear? Do I drink coffee?” And so on. There are many check-list questions that we ask ourselves to try to determine our worthiness and spiritual progress. While these are all good things to watch for and we should certainly be striving to pass all of these types of questions, we are endangering ourselves of losing sight of the big picture. Like the pharisees living in Christ’s time, we often count our steps in a way. We have rules set and we believe that following each rule ends in our eternal happiness. But we must keep in mind that the pharisees were not right, and that they had a bigger lesson to learn. The Church of Jesus Christ is not here to send away people with tattoos, friends with coffee addictions, teenagers with immodest clothes, or even, for my sake I hope, humble Kayden Maxwells with same-sex partners. We are taught to love, welcome, forgive, and love some more. That is the true purpose of the Gospel. It is the single most important thing for us to learn on this earth. Let us try harder to not only hear the wrong notes in someone’s life symphony. Let us hear their beautiful song and love them for it. Let’s no longer run up the trail of life, watching every detail so precisely that we miss the message of love hiding in the trees above. Zoom out a little, don’t worry about the details quite as much, and remember that we will never be in the wrong for loving our neighbors in need too much. I want to thank everyone in this ward for being so loving, patient, and friendly with me and providing a safe place for me to live out my journey. I pray that all people can be as loving as those I am surrounded by today, and I sincerely hope that we can all remember a little more frequently that we are here to love each other, and that is the big picture of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

To read more about Kayden and his mother go to A-Typical Mormon Moms