Thoughts on Winter

I have a love/hate relationship with winter.

I love looking out my windows to the snowcapped mountains in the distance, especially when the sun is rising over the ones in the east and casting pink streaks of light across the snow. And when the sun is setting over the mountains on Antelope Island over the Great Salt Lake and the orange/hot pink bursts of light make the whole lake look like it is made of fire. I’m lucky enough to get a beautiful view of both where I live.

I love that in winter nature takes a break from creating to rest. I love the stillness of winter. Everything in nature hibernates for a while, and winter is just mother nature’s slumber. I love the peace I feel in the winter especially while just sitting at a window watching the snow fall.

I love watching people playing in the snow and making snowpeople. Especially since it inspired Bill Watterson’s best strips for Calvin & Hobbes.

I love winter because I have a lot of beautiful sweaters and cute boots and this appeals to the fashionista in me.

I hate commuting during snowstorms. I hate being cold. I hate that my asthma is cold weather induced and it’s harder to breathe. I hate that I have to find everyone’s coats, scarves, gloves and boots just to leave the house when in summer I can throw on a pair of flip flops and run out of the door. I hate plowing through my driveway and scraping off my car.

But however much I hate certain aspects of winter, I am grateful for this time of rest, of slumber, to let nature be quiet for a while. In two months growing things will wake up and sprout new life. I’m willing to wait for it.

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Echo Chamber?

Recently I was accused of living in a liberal, social justice warrior, feminist bubble – an echo chamber surrounded by only people who agree with me.

Cool story, bro?

Let me tell you a little bit about my echo chamber.

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Little girls who grow up in Mormon-dominated Utah in a part-member Mormon family where the only parent who is LDS (mom) does not attend church until she is 14, don’t live in echo chambers.

Little girls who attend their LDS ward alone growing up, with just her siblings, without parents but with their support, and were subjected to lessons about how every other child was born in the covenant, therefore more blessed, and members of eternal families, whereas she was not, through no fault of her own, don’t live in echo chambers.

Little girls who have kids in the neighborhood tell them they’re not allowed to play with them because her aforementioned parents don’t go to church and will probably make them drink beer (my parents rarely, if ever, drank alcohol) and watch R-rated movies, don’t live in echo chambers.

Little girls who are made fun of for having a father who did “un-masculine” household chores like laundry and didn’t go hunting or own guns because he’s a pacifist, don’t live in echo chambers.

Little girls who are raised by strong female role models and who are taught from birth they need to grow up to support themselves, despite being a member of a patriarchal religion where she was taught her only goal should be motherhood, and career and education “just in case,” don’t live in echo chambers.

Teenage girls who try to start a Young Democrats club in their High School in Republican dominated Utah, who had her posters ripped down and not a single teacher would agree to sponsor the club, letting it die before it began, don’t live in echo chambers.

Teenage girls who are told by the Student Body President their sophomore year of high school that they should be excommunicated from their shared church and humiliated in front of their entire Human Biology class, don’t live in echo chambers.

Teenage girls who are made fun of in front of an almost entire classroom full of boys in her AP American History class for being a feminist and bringing up the point that the foremothers of our state of Utah were suffragists, don’t live in echo chambers.

Teenage girls who excitedly register to vote during their senior year of High School only to have the woman registering her give a disgusted grunt when she asked if she would like to register for a party and she proudly proclaims, “yes! Democrat!”, don’t live in echo chambers.

Young college co-eds who attend one of the most liberal Universities in her state only to attend a Young Democrats meeting with 4 attendees on a campus of over 20,000 students, don’t live in echo chambers.

Young married females who are shamed for hyphenating their married last names (17+ years and counting), don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who have their gynecologist tell them that the very real physical negative side affects of their birth control are all in their head, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are pressured by their church leaders to have a testimony of a President and a war they don’t support, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who have news articles written about the good work they’re doing in their career and are met with comments about how awful it is that a mother would dare to work, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are shunned from being in the cool mommy group in the neighborhood for not being a stay-at-home-mother, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who have to constantly fight the culture of sexism and misogyny that permeates modern day America so she can raise her daughters in strength and sons with respect for all of humanity, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are told by their supervisor that the quarter inch of cleavage that shows when they fold their arms at work, even though they are dressed perfectly modestly and their garments are covered, might entice a clinical male client to rape someone, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are censored at work for having a feminist voice and threatened with the loss of job and income, not to mention their covenants since they work for their church, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who vote their conscience and then are shamed for not voting for members of their faith and told they are being deceived by Satan, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are glared at for wearing pants to church by so-called loving members of their religion, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are asked  by their church leaders to gain a testimony of exclusion of LGBTQIA members, their children from baby blessings and baptism, when it goes against everything she knows is right and Christ-like, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who want more authority in their church than their 12-year-old son who can perform one of the most sacred rituals, passing the sacrament, and she can’t despite being an adult and temple recommend holder, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who break their own hearts and walk out of the church that informed their entire spirituality and into a church where they feel peace and no cognitive dissonance and aren’t asked to compromise their values and conscience, and can just worship the Christ that they love found in the New Testament, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who have half of their neighborhood no longer talk or wave to her or unfriend her on Facebook because of her changing and evolving religious convictions, don’t live in echo chambers.

Women who are feminist liberals living, working, and raising their children every day in Utah, don’t live in echo chambers.

So, please consider the reason why you’re having a strong, negative reaction to my opinions is perhaps because you live in an echo chamber? You’ve grown up and lived in a conservative state, surrounded by conservative people, and a conservative religion, where the people in your life (friends, family, and neighbors) all share your conservative opinions. I might be the first person who has ever disagreed with you and offered a different perspective. Perhaps I do it in an assertive and strong voice, which makes you uncomfortable because you’re used to women deferring to men, backing down from confrontation, speaking to you in dulcet tones, and when they do disagree, keeping it to themselves.

Well, that ain’t me. I’m not a shrinking violet, I’m a damn iron daisy, and if you condescend to me, cast aspersion on my character, shame me, insult my intelligence, or question my spirituality, you will hear from me and it WON’T be in my Relief Society voice, but the strong, clear, voice of the strong, independent, proud woman my parents raised me to be.

I’m not a night owl anymore

I used to be a night owl. There wasn’t a morning that I didn’t want to sleep through.

Since I was a child I delighted in the dark, calm, still hours of the night. In high school and college I would stay up late reading into the wee hours. In the  morning, 10:00 am was too early for me and there was nothing I loved more than sleeping in. Frankly, there was nothing I loved more than sleeping as I would usually also require an afternoon nap after morning classes.

As a young mother I was blessed to have babies that started sleeping through the night at about 2 months old. I think the universe knew that I couldn’t handle the sleep deprivation that most parents are forced to endure. Even if my young children woke me up at an early hour, I remember half sleeping on the couch while they would watch “Sesame Street.” By 10:00 am I would be able to function, but I definitely napped when they napped.

Then something changed.

Now, there is not a sunrise over the Wasatch Mountains that I want to miss.

I witnessed years of gorgeous hot pink and orange sunsets over the Great Salt Lake.

Now I also get to bear witness to the audacious morning breaking almost every day.

A little over two years ago I accepted a job that required me to start work every week day at 8:00 am. With a half-hour commute and having to drop off my youngest at her beloved babysitter’s, I have to leave my house about the same time I used to wake up to get my kids off to school (and then promptly went back to bed).

It took me a while, but I began to appreciate the beauty of an early morning.

Then after numerous attempts to get back into an exercise routine, six months after I started my new job I resigned myself to the fact the only time I had to work-out was when the gym first opens at 4:30 am to give myself enough time to get ready for work, and my children ready for school. The thought of waking up at 4:00 am was obscene to me, but I did it.

And I noticed a swift transformation in me.

No longer a night owl.

I emerged as a morning person.

I’ve made fun of morning people my whole life. How can anyone be that happy at ungodly hours? I remember my mother getting ready for work in her bathroom while I was in Junior High and High School, singing and dancing to the oldies station, with a curling iron in her hair. She would chatter away at me all morning while I scowled over my cereal and wondered how I ever emerged from this woman’s womb. She didn’t even drink coffee.

And now, I’m that annoying person in the office who is so happy in the morning I even get on my own nerves. While most of my coworkers won’t even speak to me until they’ve had at least one cup of coffee, by the time I get to work I’ve already been up for four hours and I’m ready to engage and talk, while they scowl at me over their steaming mugs.

My favorite time of day now is when I leave the gym in the summer. I look to the East as the sun creeps over the purple mountains in the distance. I have a great view of Weber Canyon and the tilt of the earth at that time of year is just such that the sun shines through the break in the mountains.

It’s those times they I say a silent prayer of gratitude. That every day I was able to witness a sunrise and a sunset. To put myself in the way of beauty, as Cheryl Strayed says.

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“Wasatch Sunrise” by Chad Dutson

The ultimate Tom Cruise rankings

It’s obvious that there are only five movies of Tom Cruise’s that really matter. They are (in no particular order):

1. Top Gun
2. Jerry Maguire
3. Interview with the Vampire
4. Risky Business
5. Rain Man

Honorable mention goes to Days of Thunder, A Few Good Men, Born on the Fourth of July, and The Firm. I only mention them because I’ve heard they’re good, but never seen them, and have no desire to do so, so I cannot critically analyze them. So, you are left really with the top 5 movies of Tom Cruise’s career that I’ve seen.

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Tom Cruise winning the “Teacher’s Pet” award for L. Ron Hubbard’s “How to act like an Asshole” classes at the Scientology Celebrity Center

Top Gun

This is Cruise’s role that made him a star and household name. I think it was because he started taking Xenu classes at the local Scientology Celebrity Center and all the L. Ron Hubbard learnin’ really helped him hone his fine skills of acting like an asshole. Let’s be honest, this movie is just a homage to masculinity or homoerotic love (why can’t it be both?). You have a bunch of well-muscled bad ass dudebros, like Val Kilmer and Rick Rossovich, flexing the shit out of them in naked locker room and sand volleyball scenes. Then you have Anthony Edwards and you’re like, “hey Goose, who the hell let you in here?” But Goose has a wife who wants his D on the reg, so it’s obvious he’s a dynamo in bed. Spoiler alert, Goose dies because reasons and that’s supposed to make you cry but really you’re like, “is this necessary? Killing off the only comic relief in the movie?” This might be the best Cruise movie if it wasn’t for the complete lack of chemistry between him and Kelly McGillis. I mean, just thinking of their tongues touching in the “Take My Breath Away” love scene gives me the willies. It’s no surprise that years later McGillis came out as a lesbian. I think a Kelly McGillis/Meg Ryan love scene would have 100% more believable and palatable. 5 Cruise points.

Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire is a movie about guy named Jerry Maguire at his full Jerry Maguireness. He’s a sports agent who gets a sudden attack of conscience (so unrealistic) when he realizes that dun, dun, dun sports is all about making money no matter what! Wow, Jer, that’s super insightful. Glad they made a whole movie about this. Jerry writes a 100 page manifesto in the middle of the night during which can only be described as a manic breakdown. I was worried about old Jerry and I’m sure he could have benefitted from a few milligrams of depakote at that point. Jerry is delusional enough to think his quirky little spiral bound manifesto will CHANGE THE WHOLE SPORTS INDUSTRY BECAUSE OF INTEGRITY! Instead he gets fired and a single mother named Dorothy agrees to follow him to his new agency because she was so inspired by his writing. (Let’s be honest, Dorothy was after the Jerry Maguire D for a while and she knew this is how she could get it). Blah blah blah, Jerry loses all his clients but one. This client is a small football player from Arizona who steals the whole movie from Jerry with his charisma. Jerry sleeps with and then marries Dorothy, like ya do with your employees just because you like their kid. And like every sports movie, small footplayer overcomes to WIN THE BIG GAME and gets his BIG CONTRACT and then everyone wants the Jerry Maguire D! Something something, you complete me, end scene. This movie does get extra points because Kelly Preston is a stone cold bitch, which makes me love her (probably also took the L. Ron Hubbard total asshole classes) and Regina King is almost the best thing about this movie. She and her husband majored in Marketing and they came to play, baby! 10 Cruise points.

Interview with a Vampire

This movie was highly anticipated because of the popularity of Anne Rice’s book of the same name. Ms. Rice was not happy with the casting of Mr. Cruise and Mr. Pitt as her much beloved vampires, Lestat and Louis. I don’t remember much about this movie except for a really weird makeout between Brad Pitt and a pre-pubescent Kirsten Dunst. What I really wanted was to see a makeout between Brad and Tom (Did this actually happen? I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since I saw the movie and I might have made this up during one of my late-night fantasies). Anyhoo, this movie loses points because I can’t really remember it well, therefore it didn’t make much of a Cruise-pression on me. 3 Cruise points. 

Risky Business

This movie is iconic for one thing and one thing only and it’s not the late night boinking scene between Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay on an L train around Chicago. No! It’s iconic because Tom Cruise dances around his parent’s living room in his tighty whities and button down white oxford while listening to “Old Time Rock n’ Roll.” What a card! This movie is totes realistic. I mean, what kid doesn’t think the best way to earn some cash while his ‘rents are out of town is by turning the family domicile into a brothel? My sibs and I always did that when my ‘rents took their yearly wedding anniversary trip up to Glacier National Park  (just kidding, dad. We mostly  just sat around watching TV and eating cheetos). AND OF COURSE you fall in love with the prostitute who is just a hooker with a heart of gold. I mean that trope isn’t tired or overplayed AT ALL. This movie gets extra points for starring Curtis Armstrong as one of Cruise’s friends, Miles Dalby, who is best known for his role in Revenge of the Nerds, which also starred Anthony Edwards of Goose fame.That’s known as coming full Cruise circle. 7 Cruise points.

Rain Man

This is definitely, definitely the best movie Tom Cruise every starred in that featured a Cruise. This movie really is a vehicle for Dustin Hoffman to show off his best acting chops by playing an autistic man named Raymond with an asshole of a brother named, Charlie. Charlie, played by Cruise, also went to the L. Ron Hubbard school of How to be an Asshole by Really Trying. Charlie is a selfish yuppie because it’s the 80s and it’s a requirement for anyone under 30 in a movie. Charlie and Raymond’s father left a fortune to Raymond (who has savant-like characteristics) and a pittance to Charlie because he obviously has the yuppy means of supporting himself, but this pisses of Charlie because, again, he’s a yuppie asshole. They travel cross-country together and eventually Charlie learns that Raymond is A HUMAN BEING TOO! Good for you, Charlie! Developing a soul was hard in the 80s. Honestly I get Dustin Hoffman’s “Raymond” and Sean Penn’s “Sam” from “I Am Sam” confused all the time, so I may not remember all the plot points, but I know it’s a brothers gotta bro movie and we’re supposed to have special feels about Charlie ACTING LIKE A DECENT HUMAN BEING IN THE END to Raymond, because in the 80s people with special needs were only props to teach us how to be nice instead of fully-realized human beings of their own right. I’m taking off points for the disability inspiration porn, but giving points for the actual porniness when Charlie yells at Raymond listening to him porking his road-piece. I mean, give a guy a break. He’s lived in an institution his whole life! I’m sure they didn’t show movies with the humpin’ and a pumpin’ at the Walbrook Institute. 1 Cruise point. 

In conclusion, upon further analysis and dissection of these movies, it’s obvious to see that the true Tom Cruise movie rankings are:

1 – Jerry Maguire
2 – Risky Business
3 – Top Gun
4 – Interview with a Vampire
5 – Rain Man

Fight me.

Medical Marijuana and the LDS Church

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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.