Monday, March 30, 2020

Hiding Until the Coast is Clear

Dan Rather arguably one of the most trusted men in America said there has been nothing like this in his time, in no one alive today’s time unless you are 110 years old. The only thing comparable to this world wide pandemic of 2020 was the flu epidemic of 1918. I remember my dad talking about draft dodgers during the Viet Nam War, with disgust. He considered them the lowest of the low. I was in my teens when he said it, but it wouldn’t have mattered how old I was because I knew deep down I could not have been sent to war. I just couldn’t have done it. I was born in the right time and the right gender to never be asked to put my life on the line for our country. If I had been I would have dodged war in anyway possible. Even going to Canada to “dodge” something impossible takes courage.  

My dad had courage. He was a WW2 bomber in the Pacific theatre, even as I type this I don’t really understand what that means. I’ve read the letters that he sent home to his parents. They start with the kind of bravado I saw in my father. He signed them with “your Best son” in the beginning even though he had two other brothers and one of the them was also serving. He was a kidder and I saw that in his earlier letters, but eventually that kind of bravado changed to just, your son. I know he had to have seen and done impossibly courageous things. He would be considered by many in his squadron and those who knew him in the war to be a hero. My dad was a naturally courageous man, or seemed to be. He was born for His time. 

I was made for the kind of courage that is being asked of us today. I wasn’t made to be on the front lines. I could stay hidden in a game of hide and seek until the coast was completely clear to make my run for the safety of home. I could run faster than anyone alone in the dark to get home and away from the “bogey man.” I could leap onto my bed so I wouldn’t be grabbed by the monster beneath my bed. I had the kind of courage in school to challenge a popular idea or to propose an unpopular idea. I had the courage to be sent to the office for wearing something against the dress code. I had the kind of courage it took to defend the kid being bullied, but not to be sent to war—never something that took that kind of courage. In 2020 all that is being asked of me is to stay home. I don’t even have to run. I just need to be and that’s it. This is my kind of bravery. Courage in this day is the nurse, the doctor, the grocery clerk, the delivery person, the warehouse stocker, the restauranteurs, the emergency workers, the police, the firefighters, the school teachers and on an on. It’s Dr. Fauci, and Sanjay Gupta, local media folks, and scientists and medical workers or all kinds. It's the exhausted tireless soldiers of today. The list goes on and on and for some reason it even includes me, the person staying hidden until the coast is clear—completely clear. 

I came upon this in my reading, just minding my  “civic duty” this morning. “This one truth, the few people you adore will die, is plenty difficult to absorb. But on top of it, someone’s brakes fail, or someone pulls the trigger or snatches the kid, or someone deeply trusted succumbs to temptation and everything falls apart. We are hurt beyond any reasonable chance of healing. We are haunted by our failures and mortality. And yet the world keeps on spinning, and in our grief, rage and fear a few people keep on loving us and showing up. It’s all motion and stasis, change and stagnation. Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it’s all part of the big picture.” Anne Lammott 

In the Big Picture this moment in time will pass. Most of us, but not all, will still be here while the world keeps on spinning. We will recover. We will still hold new babies and climb trees, visit new places, and hold the hand of a loved one, and hear our six-year-old grandson declare “I wish there was no such thing as CORONOVIRUS.” I do too, grandson. I do too. This may be the most difficult time for many of us, but my prayer is for the ones who have to face it head-on. May we never take for granted again all of those “essential people” who must keep showing up to keep our world spinning. This is war, and those on the front lines are the most brave of all, but then there’s my grand children who don’t get to play with their friends, who have to stay home and do all of their school work online. I can almost hear my dad now, he would be disgusted now for those who are flaunting the rules and putting not only themselves but every one they come in contact at risk. They are the draft dodgers during this war of 2020. May we just get through this thing with grace, love, and hope, and of course good health. Soldier on friends and keep washing your hands. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Prayer for Mitt Romney

Mitt, I don't often put my prayers on paper, but maybe if I do it will make this prayer for you a little more real. Maybe it will make it reach the heavens, God, or the universe. Sometimes in the past you've cowered, and flip-flopped just a bit. Somehow I knew the real Mitt would shine through when the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so they say. My prayer for you is that in reaching inward and finding your voice, your courage, your faith, you'll be shielded from condemnation, or vile revenge and stinging accusations from your own party and president. I pray that you'll be able to withstand the punishment that is raining hatred on you like the proverbial cats and dogs we've often heard about. May the cats and dogs turn into purring kittens and licking puppies. May you rise above your detractors and feel strength throughout every fiber of your being.

Those of us who share or who have shared your Faith know well the words, "do what is right, let the consequence follow." We've sung those words many a Sunday and hoped that we too could always do what is right. Doing right is kind of vague though and changes with person and circumstances. And so finding out what is right for you had to have been as difficult, the most difficult decision you've ever made, just as you said. As the hymn goes "finding strength beyond your own." May the consequences be a surprise of love and outpouring of support from all the corners of the world. May God, your faith, the universe help your lovely wife and family feel pride in your action and not be shamed by him who tweets and send short missives of revenge and curse upon you. May you find your armor strong and able to withstand all the fiery darts coming your way.

I pray for those on all sides of the political divides to somehow find their own courage just as you have Mitt. Because only God knows that right choices are never found in only one ideology, one party, or in one person. It takes more people of courage to vote convictions, to reach across the table and say, hey, that sounds right to me, can we talk about it. I hope that more people will look to your actions Mitt and do the same, even when it isn't self-serving, even when they fear that they won't be re-elected. I love that you said, you ignored your values and convictions at times and that you regret it. We saw that. But I believe you are forgiven, because don't we all do that at one time or another? We hide our truth and don't dare say or do what we really think, even though the whole world isn't watching us and even when the consequence isn't so huge, and even when maybe only God or the universe knows and they are not so harsh with us as public opinion, and social media and political parties and voters.

Mitt, I pray that you will be re-elected because the divisiveness in the world has darkened our view of the future. I pray that those like me whose rose-colored glasses have darkened so much that we can't see the light, the bright and the good, that we know is there all around us in our neighbors who plow driveways, and visit in the grocery store. It's there in the child with lemonade stands, in the parents pulling their children on sleds in the fields and so on and so on. We see it, but forget sometimes that the good is there and always has been and always will be. So Mitt, because to us in Utah, Mitt is Mitt and the only one who we know, so may you be surrounded and lifted by kindness and may you know that to many you have offered a glimmer of hope that we and others in positions of power can find strength beyond their own. Amen

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Question?

Sometimes pulling back is survival. I've been lying low. Has anyone noticed? I have a lot of opinions and some of them ruffle feathers. I was once told by a good man, a church leader, that "you are brutally honest." And the thought I had, was, oh yeah, you should hear all that I keep to myself. Being brutally honest isn't really a compliment and it's not the part of me that I would care to nurture. But honesty comes to me naturally. My dad who has been gone now for forty years was a man of self assuredness and perhaps some would say, brutally honest. But in the world of social media, would he have been? I doubt it. No one lasts too long without getting knocked down a peg or two. 

Sometimes I want to pull the covers over my head and not pay attention to the world. Hole up, turn off the car radio, turn off the news, turn away when I hear anything negative. I want to nurture my inner Pollyanna, even though I've never had an inner Pollyanna. Rather I feel like Eeyore, or Lucy from Peanuts, or even Chicken Little, who believes the sky is falling. 

In a world of doom and gloom, of political storms and polarization, of climate change, and immigration crisis, and so much human suffering caused by natural catastrophe as well as human cruelty, I have a hard time finding the silver linings and the inner peace that comes from hope and love and humanity. I know it's there. I see it everyday in the faces of my loved ones, and in the beautiful valley I'm apart of, but how do we not get overwhelmed? How do we continue to reach for light when darkness feels imminent? How do we balance being aware and educating ourselves with light and joy? I don't believe there are simple answers. Years ago, I taught a Sunday School class of 15 year olds, and sometimes they'd should out "BSSA" to some of my questions. I found out that stood for Basic Sunday School Answers. They might have just said, your question doesn't really elicit any real in-depth answer. Or don't bother us with this crap. It got me thinking about how often do we really want to know or do we just want to call out BSSA or BS or maybe even, don't bother me with this crap, this reality stuff. 

So I'm asking where do you find light? Where do you find hope? And no BSSA. 

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