Medical Marijuana and the LDS Church

Medical marjiuana.jpg

On Friday, February 5, 2016 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed a bill in the Utah legislature brought forth by Senator Mark Madsen that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. citing unintended consequences that could come with use of the drug.

And I am angry.

I grew up being taught that the LDS church was politically neutral. Every election season a letter is read over the pulpit in every Ward in the United States written by the First Presidency emphatically stating that the church keeps out of politics.

However, this past legislative session in Utah has proven that the church’s long-claimed stance of political neutrality is false. Most people outside the state don’t understand how one religion, no matter how prominent, can have such an effect on state policies. But it does. Most of the state legislators identify as LDS and as any LDS person will tell you, when the prophet speaks, you listen, and you do as you are told. Obedience above conscious.

The reason for opposing medical marijuana?

Unintended consequences.

You mean like people suffering from chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases getting relief?

You mean like people who do suffer those painful diseases not becoming addicted to the opioids their doctors prescribe because that’s all doctors can do legally?

You mean like people being high all the time on THC? NEWFLASH – these same people are high all the time. On opioids.

And because they are having to ever increase their opioid use with no legal proven alternative available, it is leading to some patients becoming addicted. Utah has an insanely high opioid usage rate as well as heroin rate. The Utah Department of Health has noted that Utah has an experienced a more than 400% increase in prescription drug use injuries and death in the last decade. An average of 21 Utahns die a month due to prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranks 8th highest in prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Marijuana isn’t the drug you should be worried about, LDS church.

Heavy opioid use for chronic pain also leads to liver damage, digestive difficulties like not being able to keep food down and chronic, and bowel damaging, constipation.

I’m sure the LDS church leaders believe this is a moral issue, so I have to ask…

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

No one has ever overdosed on Marijuana.

I could see if this were legalizing recreational marijuana use why the LDS church would be opposed to that and taking a strong stance against it.

But this is about medicinal use in oil form. Mormons love their medicinal oils. I’m sure if doTerra was pushing this, all the prominent MLM owning Mormons would jump at having it legalized.

Luckily Senator Madsen is not kowtowing to the incredible and inappropriate overreach of the LDS church into state politics. He has proposed 8 amendments to the law that he hopes will alleviate concerns to the Bill.

Anecdotally, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in August 2007. She opted for chemotherapy treatments to extend her life and it was awful. She threw up constantly. She couldn’t keep any food down, thereby becoming dehydrated. She was in constant pain. Her doctor prescribed for her Marinol to help increase her appetite and deal with the nausea chemotherapy caused. Marinol is one of the cannabinoids.

I wish I could sit down with the leaders of the LDS church and describe to them what it was like to watch my mom suffer an absolute nightmarish hell during her last 3 months on this earth. I wish I could tell them what it was like to sit with her in her hospital room watching her writhe in pain, wake up and look at me with panic-stricken eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal, and beg me, BEG ME, her second daughter, someone she called “girl baby” and nursed at her breast until I was 15 months old, BEG ME to go find someone to kill her. Please tell me how you would feel to have your mother, a light and sunshine to everyone she knew, be suffering so much she begged you to find someone to take her life.

You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is in the hospital dying of cancer and her mother, Shirley MacClaine, goes and screams at the nurses and demands they relieve the suffering of her dying daughter? Yeah, that was me.

Please tell where the dignity is in letting dying people suffer when oil from a plant…A PLANT that God planted in the ground.. can alleviate suffering? Why are those who aren’t suffering constantly asking others to do it when they have no idea the pain that is involved?

On another anecdotal note, I’m old enough now to have several friends who suffer from various chronic, painful diseases:  Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anxiety, Erytohmelalgia (or Mitchell’s syndrome), and numerous other autoimmune disorders. THC has been proven to alleviate the pain and other symptoms that these debilitating and painful diseases cause. Prescribing people who are suffering ever-increasing amounts of opioids is unconscionable, and I would argue, ammoral.

So I’m begging the leaders of the LDS church to do the right thing. I was always taught growing up in church to do the right thing and let the consequences follow. I was taught to be honest in my dealings. I was taught to put the pain and suffering of others above my own comfort. Please LDS church, practice what you preach. Again I ask,

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

Grief and Getting Through

I’ve had a lot of loved ones recently suffer the loss of someone they love. Whether that be a parent, child, grandparent, friend, significant other, etc. My heart breaks for them because I know this pain too well. I’ve been living with the loss of my mother the past 8 years and I wanted to share what I have learned.

Several months after my mother died I attended a grief support group. Everyone in the group had lost someone significant to their lives and it was healing to be with people who knew exactly how I was feeling and it was healing to be able to support each other in our collective grief. One particular night the Social Worker who was leading the group told us that we had to find our “new normal.”

I felt an instant wave of anger at that statement. I didn’t want a “new normal.” I wanted my old normal back. I wanted a normal that included a living mother to help me navigate life and motherhood. I wanted a normal where my kids had a relationship with both their grandmas. I wanted a normal where it didn’t feel like my heart was hemorrhaging at every moment of the day.

Eventually I realized how kind that Social Worker was when she talked about a new normal. Because I didn’t have a choice. Life was going to give me a new normal whether I wanted it or not.

I learned that my new normal was going to be like if someone cut off my right hand and I had to learn how to write and function with my left hand. It’s not easy. It doesn’t feel natural. It’s against my gene’s predetermined hand dominance. But eventually I learned how to write with it. And it was sloppy and messy at first, but over time, it got easier.

And although it’s easier now, it’s not perfect. Every happiness that has come to me since my mother died has been bittersweet. She’s never going to be here for all the births, weddings, birthdays, happy occasions, accomplishments. She’s never going to be able to be a grandma to her grandkids, four of whom she will never meet. She’s never going to call me again and recap American Idol for me while I pretend to be annoyed. I’m never going to cry to her again when someone is mean to me. She’s never going to cheer me on, root for me, or tell me how much she loves me again.

And that’s okay. It’s not fair. It’s not what I want. It’s never going to be alright. But it’s okay.

Despite the bittersweet, there has been joy. And when I do have those happy moments or we as a family have welcomed a new member or enjoyed a family gathering together, we feel her with us in Spirit. If I can’t have her here on earth, I’ll settle for guardian angel.

So my new normal has become honoring her life. I do this by living the best life I can. By being happy with what I have. By helping others as much I can. By raising grandchildren to be people she would be proud of. By making others laugh. By being kind to strangers and children. By leaving the world a better place for having lived in it.

Like she did.

For Whom Mother’s Day is Difficult

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and we will collectively celebrate the women who either gave us life or raised us. We will make phone calls, or take them out to lunch, send them flowers, buy them meaningful cards, and express gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us.

Except some of us won’t be doing any of those things on Sunday for a variety of reasons. There is a small club of us for whom Mother’s Day is difficult. This post is for us.

Mother’s Day is difficult for those of us who have lost our mothers, either through death, estrangement, or other reasons. It’s difficult for those who deal with infertility and Mother’s Day is just a reminder of what we don’t have. It’s difficult for those who have lost children and it’s a day that reminds us of what we used to have.

I remember the first Mother’s Day after my mom died. I was 8 months pregnant and completely dreading that Sunday. We all met up at the cemetery to see my mom’s headstone for the first time. She died six months previously and the ground was too hard to install it earlier. I think we went out to lunch afterwards. I can’t remember. Grief has a way of erasing memories. Self-preservation at it’s finest. The next month I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and my mom wasn’t there to hold my hand this time.

Mother's Day

The advertising industry doesn’t realize how hard this holiday is for some of us. They don’t realize how triggering it is to see the umpteenth commercial about the perfect card/flowers/fruit bouquet you should send your mother. They don’t realize how triggering it is for women who are experiencing infertility, or are childless due to life circumstances, to see commercial after commercial reminding them that they’re not a mother when they desperately want to be. And unfortunately some bloggers are devoid of empathy and compassion and like to shame those of us who have deep-seated hurt around this day.

That is why we need to be patient with our tender little hearts. We need to do some self-care and allow ourselves to feel what we feel, without guilt or shame. (For self-care I like to take baths and read, exercise, watch silly movies with my kids, and make snarky jokes). If Mother’s Day is difficult for you for any reason your feelings are valid. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for feeling bad. Give yourself the same empathy and compassion you would give your best friend. Celebrate, or don’t, however you choose this day. For this one day, it is all about you and your tender heart. Protect it.

I acknowledge that I am incredibly lucky. I have four children whom I love and who love me. They keep talking about the things they are making at school for me or the present they all want to buy me to celebrate me on Sunday. They are so sweet. What I want to do on Mother’s Day is gather them around me and embrace each one of them and tell them just how lucky I am to be their mother. They are such good kids with such big hearts. I also have a wonderful mother-in-law, who has always treated me like one of her own kids and is just about the best grandma in the whole world. I have no problem honoring her on Sunday and thanking her for all the sacrifices she has made for her family. All the things she has given to us to help us make our lives better.  All the times she has cheered us on and picked us up when we’ve fallen. Even when we’re ungrateful or don’t acknowledge just how special she is. Sometimes angels masquerade as people, and she is one of them.

mother day

However, Mother’s Day will always be bittersweet to me. No matter how thankful I am to be a mother and to have had a wonderful mother and mother-in-law, there is a part of my heart that will always be missing. It’s in the shape of my Mama Sue. On this day I will wear the necklace I gave her on the very last Mother’s Day we celebrated with her when none of us knew she was sick. I will lay flowers on her headstone and I will thank my God above that one of the bravest, funniest, most loving people I’ve ever known gave birth to me. But I will also mourn because I wish she were here for me to tell her why I’m so grateful I was lucky enough to be her daughter. Alas…alas…

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of us, the motherless, the neglected, the infertile, the childless, the discarded, the abandoned, the weary, the sad. This day is for you too.

This post was featured on The Huffington Post

To the jerks saying Robin Williams was selfish

I was once a jerk like you. I thought that anyone who would take their own life and leave behind grieving family members was the most selfish person in the world. I thought suicide was the most selfish thing a person could do.

I was wrong.

I know through devastating personal experience what it’s like to have your depressed brain lie to you and tell you that you are worth nothing. That no one loves you. And that everyone would be better off without you. In that moment you don’t feel selfish. You believe that best thing in the world would be to remove a burden, yourself, from the people you love.  In that moment you contemplate ending your life it feels very selfless.

Depression lies to you. Depression is a brain disease that distorts a person’s world view. Depression is debilitating and it’s the ultimate act of betrayal to have your own brain make you believe that the world is better off without you. I know, because I’ve been in the “pit of despair” where I have contemplated taking my own life because I believed it’s what I deserved. I believe my family members would be happier with me gone. The pain. The unimaginable pain you feel that makes death seem like an option better than taking another breath. It’s a hell I can’t adequately describe. It’s why I work so hard to stay out of that dark place and surround myself firmly in light.

I have nothing but compassion for Robin Williams. He must have been in a torturous state of mind to believe that this world was better off without his light, his passion, his humor, his grace, his art. Who among us wasn’t touched by one of his performances? Who didn’t he make laugh? Please, if you have a soul, have compassion for this man and what he must have been going through to feel so desperate that taking his own life was the only answer he could think of to get out of his horrific pain.

To those of you who can’t understand, please look past your own feelings and accusations of selfishness and try to imagine the hell someone with depression might be living with that death is the better option than life. Look past your own life’s paradigm to see the people around you who are hurting and have some semblance of compassion for where they might be at. Reach out in love and remind those whose brains are lying to them that they do matter, they are loved, and that life is the better option.

And if you’re depressed and contemplating suicide, please reach out to someone. We need you here.

Suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255

 

robin

Bangarang, Peter. Until we meet again.

 

That Tuesday Morning

I wrote this in 2010. This being the 12th anniversary I thought I’d repost it  since I have some new readers.

 

That Tuesday Morning

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

 

It has become my generation’s, “where were you when?”

 

Where was I? Sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. I had the worst kidney infection that week than I’ve ever had before or since. Monday I started feeling the pain in my kidneys, but knew I had to work for the next two days. I thought I could just take some Ibuprofen and deal. That night I passed out in the shower and my husband called my boss at home (she was a close friend) and told her what had happened. Being my boss she forbade me to work and ordered me to go to the doctor that morning.

 

Tuesday morning. I should have gone to the emergency room the night before, but I didn’t. We waited until the urgent care clinic opened at 9:00 a.m. We didn’t turn on the TV. We didn’t turn on the radio. Our daughter was 3 months old. We walked into the clinic and saw everyone, literally all the patients, nurses, doctors, receptionists, gathered around the TV. I was annoyed. I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted the receptionist back behind the desk so I could check in and see a doctor as quickly as possible and seek some pain relief.

 

I was in so much pain, what happened next is pretty much dreamlike. From watching TV my husband could pretty much figure out what was going on. I was in too much pain to ascertain anything of reality around me. Pain can be transcendent like that. The doctor diagnosed me with the worst kidney infection he’d ever seen. I had a high, high fever and they gave me Cipro (and antibiotic given to those who’ve been exposed to anthrax). I wasn’t allowed to nurse my daughter while taking it. They said I could pump my milk and discard it. I could barley sit upright…you expect me to pump for 10 days?

 

I remember waking up on my couch at home. The TV was on…the disaster being played over and over again on every channel. I had taken Tylenol to break my fever. I woke up covered in sweat and milk. The Lortab eased my pain but made me nauseated. I couldn’t even hold my baby. Once most of the pain was gone I began to understand what was happening. The reality of the situation hit me in an instant.

 

I was scared.

 

My best friend had just moved to New York City exactly a year before.

 

My heart was racing. My best friend. I befriended her when she was the new kid in 6th grade. She knew all my secrets. She knew all my faults and loved me anyway. She hated all my boyfriends. We spent hours giggling together until our sides ached. We endured high school together at different high schools. We experienced college together on opposite sides of the country. She’s been there for me through it all. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. She was my baby’s Godmother.

 

I wouldn’t allow my mind to embrace the possibility that she could be dead. I knew she lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan. Where in Manhattan? It’s so big. Please don’t let it be in the Financial district. I couldn’t imagine my best friend running for her life while the towers crashed around her. I saw the people jump from the buildings. It was the most awful thing I’ve ever witnessed. Please, don’t let that be her.

 

In the afternoon her mother called. The minute she said, “Marisa, this is Jessica’s mother. She’s okay,” I burst into tears. She told me that Jessica worked in Midtown, several miles away. Her cell service was sketchy. The first phone call she made was to her mother. She appointed her mother as the caller to every one she knew letting them know she was okay. At the time she was living in Queens.

 

She had no idea what would await her when she got home. Her roommate had a job interview at the Windows on the World restaurant that morning. It was at the top of one of the towers at the World Trade Center. She rode the N train all the way home to Queens thinking her roommate was dead, praying that she somehow got out alive. Her roommate was home when she got there. Her alarm hadn’t gone off and she missed the interview. A few weeks later her roommate was in downtown Manhattan where she saw a Jewish lady screaming, “It smells like Auschwitz!” She had to move to LA she was so traumatized. She should have died. A broken alarm clock saved her life.

 

That whole week was a fog of pain pills, antibiotics, sweating, and watching the disaster unfold every single day. All the channels were running the story. There was nothing else to watch. It seemed vulgar to even think about watching a romantic comedy to escape the non-stop disaster-athon on the Television.

 

Major Giuliani said that we all became New Yorkers that Tuesday. I know I did.

 

 

Monday, March 17, 2003

 

I am standing at the gate overlooking Ground Zero. It is bigger than I can ever imagine. There are signs on the gate detailing the disaster. I read the signs and tears stream down my face. I remember what that Tuesday morning was like. I take pictures. I want to remember how I feel. It feels profane to do so. Grief hangs in the air. It is heavy. It is quiet like a graveyard. All of a sudden I hear singing. I look over my shoulder. There is a group of high school aged girls standing in a circle with their arms around each other. They are singing, “Amazing Grace.” They sound like a choir of angels. My tears come quicker and faster. I grab my best friend’s hand. We smile at each other as we look at the wreckage. We know how close we were to losing each other. There is a big hole in the ground where people used to live and work. Three thousand people died on this spot. How scary were their last moments? I saw them jump out of the buildings on TV. It was better than burning alive. Over the last 18 months I have heard story after story of people’s loved ones dying, or heroic acts of bravery. It is so real in this moment. It feels like we will never recover. Later, we take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. She is like a beacon of hope calling to me. We will survive. We always have.

 

Two days later we dropped bombs in Iraq.

 

 

Friday, July 2, 2010

 

Jessica and I just got off the Liberty Harbor cruise. It was a very romantic sojourn. Too bad our respective significant others couldn’t have shared it with us. We walk around Battery Park. There’s a piano just sitting there asking to be played. Literally, there’s a sign on the piano that says, “Please Play Me.” A couple stand at the piano. They turn around and ask us if either one of us can sight read Chopin. Jessica immediately outs me as the piano player. I try Chopin. He’s too hard. They have Bach. I can sight read Bach. I played “Ave Maria” at my mother’s funeral. Bach and I are peeps. Another couple comes and wants to show off their jazz playing abilities. We clap at their first song, but when it’s obvious they intend to put on a performance, we leave.

 

We walk out of Battery park. We walk along the edge of Manhattan. Jessica lives along the East River way uptown. She never comes this far downtown, she says. I take pictures of the cool buildings. We start walking toward the financial district. The architecture of the buildings takes my breath away. Everything is closed. People have gone home for the weekend. Not even a restaurant or a cafe is open. And I am hungry. Without even realizing it, we walk closer to Ground Zero.

 

I can feel it.

 

I can feel the panic.

 

I can feel the fear.

 

I can feel what the people who worked down here felt on that Tuesday morning. I imagine these almost vacant streets full of people running for their lives. Confused, scared, horrified. I feel it all. We round the corner and I see the church. The church that survived the imploding of the towers while all the other buildings surrounding the area were damaged. We can’t help it. We walk closer to Ground Zero.

 

There it is.

 

It’s massive still. Not much progress as been made since I was standing at this same spot 7 years earlier. We walk past the fire station and next to the World Trade Center museum. We round the corner and there is a memorial on the side of the fire station. A picture hangs there with all the faces of police officers and fire fighters who gave their lives that Tuesday morning. It is overwhelming. I tell Jessica it’s okay to cry. She’s not much of a crier. She’s working on it. We walk around the entire site before we find the entrance to the subway we want. The air is still thick with grief. But the grief is lighter. We will never forget but we are healing. I take Jessica’s hand. We’ve been here before.

 

Life has gone on, and we are healing.

 

 

5 years, Mom

 

Five years ago today we lost my mother to pancreatic cancer.  I can’t believe how swiftly the years have gone by.  She’s had two new grandchildren born since she’s been gone.  I was pregnant with my youngest son when she died and she promised to send me “the best one.”  I know that promise holds true for her new little granddaughter (our first niece on my side!), who is absolutely adorable and sweet and perfect.  I know she’s still watching over us, involved in our lives as a guardian angel, and is aware of all of our hurts, joys, failures and successes.  Even though I know her spirit is in a better place, a happier place, I can’t help to astutely feel her absence in our family moments.

On Sunday my new little niece was given a name and a blessing; her middle name is the same as my mom’s first name.  Oh how I wanted our Mom there in that moment.  She would have been bursting with pride and joy.  And yet, I know she was there with us.  Her Spirit was there and for a brief moment I felt it.  I’m so proud of my brother and what a wonderful daddy he is.  I know my Mom is proud of him too.  I just wish she was here with us in the flesh to watch all of her grandchildren grow up.  My daughter is the only one who really remembers her and I’m glad at least one grandchild has happy memories to share with the rest of them.

Five years is a long time to live without your mom.  My heart aches for all the motherless/fatherless children in the world no matter their age.  Having good parents who love you unconditionally and want the best for you is a blessing that should never be taken for granted.  In the last five years I’ve had to figure out who I am without the benefit of a mother to lean on.  I’ve had to endure a lot of hurt without a mom’s shoulder to cry on — the biggest hurt being her physical absence.  The hubs has been traveling a lot with his work the last year and every time I get overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a mother of three and career woman and all that, all I want to do is call my Mom and cry and get sympathy and I can’t.  I think without my mother, I’ve had to become much stronger.  It’s a refiner’s fire I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I’ve written so much in the last five years about my mother being gone.  It’s a defining moment in my life, but I don’t want it to be the only defining moment.  I had 29 years of life, love, and laughter with a wonderful woman as my mother and I’m trying, trying so hard, to concentrate on what I had and not dwell on what I don’t anymore.

So in tribute today of a wonderful woman I was lucky enough to call mother here are a few things you should know about her:

-She was hysterically funny.  She loved corny jokes and puns.  My sense of humor runs a little sarcastic and dry, but she was more of a ham, even inventing funny dances to make people laugh.  Whenever she was in a crowd of people, she made it her goal to make each person smile or laugh.

-She was a lover of books and of words.  I spent almost every Saturday of my childhood in a library because she always had two or three or more books checked out.  I never saw her without a book.  And one of my favorite things to do with her once I became a teenager and adult was share books with her.  We had our own private book club.  She was the best speller and grammatarian.  She used to say that back before computers when she was a secretary, “I was spellcheck!”  I owe my large vocabulary to my mother.  The hubs says I even use big words in my sleep.

-Her favorite color was yellow and her spirit totally embodied that color.

-She was enormously proud of her children and wanted nothing more than hordes of grandchildren.  Every time I talk with one of her old coworkers or friends they know so much about me and my siblings and it’s because she always talked about us.  I ran into one of her coworkers at Target a few months ago and she said that a day didn’t go by where my mother didn’t mention how proud she was of one of her children or grandchildren.

-As out-going as my mother was in groups, she was very much an introvert who preferred the company of her books to people.

-She was fiercely independent, raised us kids to be the same way, and whenever I hear my four year old say he wants to do something “himself,” I think of my mother and laugh.  Her independent spirit lives on in them.

-She and the hubs used to work a block away from each other and so they would carpool to work together (which really meant she drove him to work because she was too controlling to let someone else drive).  The seats in her cars had their own heaters and in the winter she would heat up his seat so by the time she got to our house his seat was nice and toasty.  It was a little thing, but it shows how considerate she was of others.

-She loved carnations and preferred a bouquet of them to roses any day.

-She was generous.  She always sent birthday cards and presents to people even when that thoughtfulness was never returned.  She and my dad helped out the hubs and I so much financially when we were first married there is no way I’d ever be able to repay them.  That was probably her alternative to us living with them 🙂

-She was extremely proud of her Danish heritage and her Mormon pioneer heritage.  A lot of our Christmas traditions are things my mother did with her Danish grandparents.  And there wasn’t a time where my mom heard the Mormon hymn, “Come, Come ye Saints” where she didn’t bawl her face off.

-She loved Elvis, which is pretty typical of a woman of her generation.  She took it a little far with all her Elvis memorabilia, even an Elvis Barbie doll.  I can’t listen to an Elvis song without thinking of her.

-She and my dad eloped after only knowing each other for 7 weeks.  She didn’t tell her parents until after the wedding.  She would have killed any of us had we done that, but my Mom was the kind of person who did things the way she wanted, when she wanted, and how she wanted.  And frankly, I’m very glad my parents were so impulsive because I wouldn’t be here!

There are so many things to be said and written, but most of all I want to say I’m thankful that I was given a mother like my Mom.  I’m thankful I had 29 years of her being an active parent in my life.  I’m thankful for the mother that she was.  I’m thankful for all the lessons she taught me, the example she was to me, and the unconditional love she always gave me.  I miss her.  Every day I miss her.  Every day I wish she was here, not just for me, but for me and siblings and our children.

I love you, Mom.  Until we meet again…

 

Mom in her 20s at her parent’s house at Christmas

 

 

My parents right after their wedding.  It’s my most favorite picture of my parents and it’s my screensaver.

 

 

My parents on their 25th Wedding Anniversary in 1996

 

My parents with my brother outside the Ogden temple right after he took out his endowments before his mission (2003).

 

My family after my brother’s missionary farewell (2003)

 

A few months after my brother came home from his mission (2006ish)