Sunday, November 22, 2015

Laying It All Out There

I definitely don't have it all figured out. In fact, I think I have very little figured out. I am only one third of the way through life, so I still have a long way to go and a whole lot to learn. But lately I have been trying to figure a few things out. Namely my faith, you could call it a Faith Crisis. (That seems to be the term for it.) In the midst of this crisis I have had a tiny "ah ha" moment.

It all began a few years ago when I started to question a few points of doctrine. I struggled to find answers. I talked to quite a few people that I admire and trust in search of some answers. I always came up short .  This became frustrating to me, and I tried to just "put it on the shelf" as I have been told. But when I leave something tucked away on a shelf in the pantry, it tends to get moldy.  Which is what happened with these questions.  Soon, I was filling "the shelf" with so many questions and concerns I was beginning to wonder if the shelf itself would collapse.  After searching the resources, including friends, family and the church's website, I still felt at a loss. I soon found that it was easier to find answers, or at least discussion, about many of my concerns online. As a Mormon we have always been counseled to avoid "anti-Mormon" literature. But the problem I was finding is that it is much easier to learn about these topics on line than from attending Gospel Doctrine and searching the Topical Guide.  I have been very careful and deliberate in my studies. I have avoided things that are seeking to tear down the church, or break down my beliefs.  But I have also been searching for some answers that I am not finding at church.

Without question, this has been one of the most difficult struggles I have gone through.  It has not been easy.  And when I hear people talk about those leaving the Church "taking the easy way out" I have to cringe. For anyone who has had a deep, personal Testimony of the Church and it's teaching, there is no such thing as an easy way out. And for those of us who have had that kind of Testimony, we are not searching for a way out.  We are searching for a way to stay IN. I have been grateful to see articles, and even some talks from General Conference that are trying to change the way members perceive those who are struggling with their faith in the Church.  I know I had always heard that members only leave the Church because they want to sin or they have been offended.  But in my experience, this just isn't the case. Because of the struggles that I have been through with my personal crisis of faith, and the deep rooted perception of those who leave, this is a tender topic.

But I want to write about something that I just learned that has given me a small amount of peace in this struggle.

I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown recently. She is a "shame expert".  Meaning; she has extensively studied shame and it's affect on people.  In her work, she tries to provide answers and ways for others to overcome their struggles with shame. She believes that shame is born out of the feelings of unworthiness. (Which might be translated to "not good enough") When I first heard this, I thought "well, that doesn't apply to me. I'm worthy." But after careful (and very painful) soul searching, I discovered how much shame I actually carry with me. One of the hard parts of overcoming shame, is finding the root of where it came from.  This is not to blame the root, or to make yourself unaccountable for it (that would just increase your shame) it is to understand and overcome it.  Most of us learn shame as children, from our families, from our surroundings, and from the media, and our culture.  I am sure that the patterns of shame that I have learned were not intentionally taught to me. This isn't a place for me to vent, attack, or deflect. It is a time for me to leave that behind.

We use the phrase "worthy" often in the Church.  I think the way we define "worthy" is slightly different than the way Brene defines it relating to shame. But I think the effects are similar. In the LDS Church, "Worthy"is a label that we use to define ourselves. Like most labels, it can be very dangerous. "Worthy" ends up being synonymous with "Good" while unworthy becomes synonymous with "Bad".

"He was worthy to pass the Sacrament on Sunday" = Good
"He was not worthy to go on his mission at 19" = Bad
"She was worthy to get married in the Temple" = Good
"She was not worthy to attend her friends sealing" = Bad

It doesn't take long before we have invisible tally marks next to our name in a contest of good vs bad.  Of course none of us wants to be labeled, good or bad. And it doesn't take long before those labels get misconstrued and slanted.  Most of the time, when it came to the word "worthiness" at church, I felt pretty good. "I paid my tithing, I am worthy" I associated it with entrance to the Temple. If you are worthy, you are good enough to go to the Temple.  But other times I can see how this label gets foggy. "I sinned, and am therefore not worthy to hear the Spirit" I can't count how many times I have heard it taught that when you are living in sin, you can not hear/feel the Spirit. This infuriates me, as ALL of us are living in sin. ALL of us. No matter how "good" or "worthy" you label yourself, you are living in sin. I know this because there was only One man who did not live in sin. And when we attach our worthiness to our ability to feel the love of the Savior, we begin to view ourselves and our Savior in a very damaging light.  Suddenly, we see ourselves as "not good enough" for our Redeemer. Or only good enough when we repent. We see the Savior as someone who withholds love.  Someone who requires us to "earn" his love. Brene Brown calls this "hustling" for worthiness. We begin to "hustle" for worthiness.  Do whatever we can to try to earn it. In the case of the Church, that can mean all sorts of things.  That can mean feeling shame about not doing our visiting teaching (oops, just lost a little more worthiness...) It often means making sure others are aware of your "worthiness".  Mommy bloggers bragging about their FHE's for approval (yay, feeling a little more worthy already!) The result can be exhaustion from trying to "hustle" for the love of our Savior. When in truth, we believe in Charity; the pure love of Christ. This means no strings attached. This means unconditional love for the simple reason that I am His. But that is a very difficult concept to learn when so much of what we do, and who we are in the Church is labeled with "worthy" or "unworthy".

Some of my deepest shame in the Church came when I was 25 years old. I was a returned missionary and single. In the Young Adult ward I was one of the "old" ones. I felt like I had to "compete" with young (and strangely more desirable) girls. Before my mission, a loved one tried to discourage me from going by voicing his concern about my age. He felt that since I was already 23, by the time I would get back I would be getting too old to get married.  Ever since I was a young child, I had looked forward to going to the Temple to be married. In Young Women's many of our lessons revolved around this topic. It was even joked about when some friends went off to BYU that they were going to get their "MRS." (instead of a B.A. or M.D. she was just going to become someone's wife) This is what we grew up with. The end result of all of our years of training in YW's would be the prize husband.  So back to me, 25, home from my mission with the words "too old to get married" haunting me, and seeing less and less men my age at church.  When getting married is the primary goal, and you are not, shame is bound to occur.

I knew that without a husband I was not "worthy" to enter the Celestial Kingdom.  Sure, I could attend the Temple... but I needed a husband to return to live with God. This was a very difficult doctrine for me to accept or understand. I knew that the longer I was not married, the harder it would become to get married (the pickings start getting slim, like I mentioned, there were far fewer single men at church than women). I also knew that the longer I was not married, the bigger failure I would become.

Now, you can argue that this isn't what the Church teaches, or the way that other people felt about me. But shame is learned from perception.  When the first question out of everyone's mouth at church is "Are you dating anyone?" you begin to believe that your only value is in your marriage potential.  It is difficult to not feel shame in the fact that "you can't get married". Who cares about my career, my hobbies, my interests?  The goal is marriage. Anything short of that feels like failure.  And failure often leads to the feelings of not good enough.

We can laugh about this now, after many years, so I don't mind sharing a painful illustration of this from when I was 20.  It was my older brother's wedding. In that same year, my best friend and three of my siblings would all get married. Have you heard the phrase "always the Bridesmaid never the Bride"? Well, I heard that a lot that year. It is hard enough to lose your best friend and your sisters all at once,  but to do it alone was even harder. We were at the reception, and my mom was enjoying taking pictures of my siblings and their new spouses, and new fiance. Of course she was making a big deal.  It was a big deal.  Love was in the air. At some point, during all of this adorable cuddly picture taking someone points out that my mom has not taken a picture of me. You could see the panic hit her eyes as she thinks But Kate doesn't have a fiance or spouse, how can I take her picture? Quickly looking around she spots a topiary tree for decoration and suggests "Kate, you can just stand with that tree."  That was it. My siblings had snuggled up, all lovey-dovey in the arms of the one they love, and me, alone, as an after thought, next to a tree.  With tears in my eyes, and a voice in my head I heard loud and clear "not enough".  With out a spouse, I was simply not enough.  Dont' get me wrong, I loved being single at the time. I like to think I was pretty good at it. I went out with lots of fun different guys.  And I knew I wasn't ready to settle down.  But that couldn't out weigh the embarrassment of posing with a plant. Luckily my siblings recognized immediately how awful that was for me.  And to come to my defense they lightened the mood by making jokes.  Thank goodness they were able to turn it into a joke and help me to laugh instead of cry. Even with the laughter, it still wasn't quite enough to cancel out the next 5 years of believing that I would not be enough until I was taking a picture with my husband instead of a shrub.

Fast forward to my 25th Birthday.  I was tired of feeling rejected in the Young Adult scene at church. Partly because I was "too old", and partly because most of the guys didn't want to date a return missionary. (It speaks volumes about the guys who are too insecure to date a return missionary...) I was frustrated because I felt like I was a pretty cool girl. I felt lovable, and yet confused that I was not being loved.  I gave up on Mormon boys and started to date a non member. I loved this.  He thought me going on a mission was cool. He liked going out to nice dinners, and buying nice gifts. He wasn't like the boys I heard in Provo who said "I'm not spending money on another guys future wife." (Too cheap to pay for dinner unless he knew he was going to marry the girl)  The bottom line, I didn't have to hustle for his attention. The night of my 25th Birthday I cried. He was obviously confused and asked why I would be crying. "I am so old and still single!"  He started to laugh, thinking that I was joking, but when he saw that I was sincere he was baffled. "You are only 25! Why on earth would you be married at 25??" I explained how many of my friends and family were already married and with kids at this age. He tenderly put his arm around me and tried his hardest to explain that 25 is young.  Very young.  And deep down inside I felt him saying "You are enough".  After we broke up I was sad, of course, but I had a new belief that I was enough, even at the old age of 25 (wink). I have always been very grateful for his love when I needed it at that time.  I am sure I would not have been in the right place (and I mean emotionally) to marry JT if I hadn't learned that lesson first.

Now that I have been happily married to JT for over 10 years, I can scratch that shame off of my list. I no longer feel shame about being three days younger than 26 when we got married. In fact, I enjoy remembering that I had some fun adventures first. But I can see that shame weighing on others as they feel the pain of not being enough because they are not married. As they ask themselves "what's wrong with me?" when we should be asking "what is wrong with this system that we base so much of our individual value on our marital status?"

I am sure there are single adults in the Church who are loving the single life, and not feeling any shame or questioning their worth because of their marital status. I am not trying to blame the Church entirely for the shame I felt. I am a product of my own experiences. This is just one area where I am concerned about the message that may be getting sent. It caused me heart ache, and led me to doubt in my own worthiness and my ability to be "good enough".

One of the dangers in using "worthy" as a label in the Church is the ways in which we determine and reward it.

Our worthiness is determined by a Bishop. He has a list of questions that determine our individual worthiness to enter the Temple. Once a member has been to the Temple, they begin to wear the Temple garment. For a seasoned member of the Church this is very easy to detect in other members. A few years ago, at Disneyland, I thought it was fun to play "Where's the Mormon?"  They were pretty easy to find.  It was hot outside and  you would see a young, perky, mom, with a stroller and some older kids, probably in matching Mickey shirts, and she would be wearing a really cute, stylish tank top with a cap sleeve shirt underneath and knee length shorts.  I was one of them. The modesty that accompanies garments is easy for a fellow Mormon to spot. But so is the perceived lack of modesty that can accompany those members not wearing garments.  Just by seeing if a girl is wearing a cap sleeve under her tank top or not is a quick way to measure "worthiness".

Another example, I recently got a nose ring. It is just a tiny piece of jewelry that I have always wanted. I think they are adorable. I have spent years wishing I could get one, but I never did because of a comment from one of our Prophets.  He said that women should only have one piercing in the ear and no body piercings. This has become a pretty hot topic.  Soon after he said that, you could judge if a girl "followed the Prophet" or not just by counting her earrings.  I was convinced that this was doctrine and that it was immodest, and inappropriate to have two piercings in your ears let alone one in your nose. I respect the many stories of how women felt blessed as they followed that counsel. I could never judge anyone else's experience with the Spirit. But as time went on, and I found myself in a position where I viewed some of the teachings differently, this came back to me.  I suddenly found myself wondering how relevant this nose piercing actually is to my Savior. I knew that the purpose of the Church is to help us become more Christlike, and I was having a hard time understanding how a second piercing in my ear made me less like Him.  Yes, I have heard all of the arguments. That we are defiling our bodies, but that seems flimsy when I think that He would say "one defilement is acceptable, but not two".  I have also heard that I don't need to understand it, if the Prophet says it, then I will be blessed for following. I have heard that in order to become Christlike I need to follow all of the counsel of the leaders of the Church. And yet, when I read and I pray, I don't feel that. I don't feel like I am being less Christian by having a sparkly little piercing. I am still charitable, honest, kind, and forgiving. Throughout the New Testament those things seem to be the major attributes of a Christian.  None of that changed when I put in this little tiny stud. It could be argued that I am being defiant, or rebellious by disagreeing with the Prophet, and therefore, I am not behaving like a Christian. (Now I am headed towards my questions about what exactly is doctrine? And what is the difference between a Prophet's opinion and counsel and the Word of God? But that is a whole other post. )  To sum it up, this little sparkly in my nose, that is just there for fun, the same way I color my hair blonde and paint my nails pink for fun,  can now be a measurement to others of my "worthiness" in the Church. And to many, it is.

One of the pitfalls of having so many physical ways for Mormons to judge other Mormons' worthiness, is that it often leads to the actual judging of fellow members. As if that is anyone else's business.  Our so called "worthiness" is between us and the Lord. And yet, on any given Sunday, you can walk into a church and hear one of these mentioned. You can hear the concern as members warn against a second piercing, or condemn the hemlines of a dress.  But are these actually the things that make us unworthy? Why do we spend so much time, energy, and breath discussing the things that have the least to do with our actual Christianity. Things that have little interference with our ability to care for the poor and needy and to love our neighbors.  Is it because we are obsessed with proving that we are worthy?  Are we trying  so hard to hustle for the Savior's love and acceptance that we think that one piercing is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and keeps us from being good enough? Or worse, are we trying to hustle for the love and acceptance of our fellow members? I know I was hustling for both.

One of the hardest parts for me about moving to Las Vegas was the timing.  Here I am, in the middle of a Faith Crisis, and I move away from my loved ones.  Worthiness comes from the feelings of love and belonging, and I left that all behind in Washington.  In some ways it has been good to face this trial alone, in a new city, where I don't need to worry about my friends and family being disappointed in me. There is a freedom in moving to a new place to get a fresh start. But for me, I didn't know what I wanted the fresh start to be.

We moved here, not knowing whether or not we wanted to stay active in the Church. But, like I mentioned before, during this Crisis I have not been looking for a way out, I have been desperately trying to see if there is a way for me to stay in. (Trust me, if I was simply looking for a way out, moving out of state would have been it.) So we decided to go to Church.  But I tried to stay on the out skirts. Since I was still in a place where I didn't know what my Testimony was, I did not want to be in a position where I needed to have one. I have always loved working with youth in the Church, and it was painful for me to come here and say that I can't teach them.  I know I can't teach something I am not sure I believe. That would be hypocritical and damaging to the youth as well as to myself. But it was like cutting out a small piece of my heart.

I searched my heart to discover why I wanted to continue to go to Church.  And I found a few reasons. First, because I still have a few "undeniables", you know, the experiences and Testimonies that you just can't deny. A few things from the Gospel that I don't want to live without. Second,  I would stay at church because I had no idea where else to go.  Would I want to try to find another religion? Would it be too difficult to cross over to a new faith and a new system of belief?  Where do you even begin?  Third, in many ways, this is home and I am comfortable here in the Church. I know what to expect. I know the teachings. I know the meetings, the hymns, the routines. I knew that the members could possibly be a support to me during this struggle.  I knew that at least my kids would have instant friends with common values. In short, it was easy.

But it wasn't easy.  I have struggled to make meaningful friendships at church.  I don't blame anyone for that. At first I tried to make excuses why I wasn't finding my place here, but I now know that it is all me. I know that I can make friends easily, I always have.  But it has been hard for me to know how to engage. I don't want to appear to be a hypocrite. I don't want to sit at the park with the other moms talking about Temple Night next week, when I have no desire to go to the Temple. I don't know what to say at Girls Night when modesty comes up, and I don't share their passionate views. If I smile and nod, am I consenting that I share this belief? I don't want to do that.  But I also don't need to stand up and denounce every thing that I have doubts about either.  When I am in Gospel Doctrine and the teacher brings up the Word of Wisdom again (because you can't go a Sunday without it coming up) do I raise my hand and share my two cents, even though I know it will upset and offend some of the people in the room? I don't know where to draw the lines.  I don't know how to define myself to strangers.

Listening to Brene Brown was like having a terrible weight lifted.  It was suddenly very apparent why I am struggling at church and making meaningful friendships.  Meaningful relationships are built on vulnerability. They are built by a shared understanding and sympathy for each other.  And that understanding comes as you open up your heart to others.  Opening up my heart has never been a scary thing for me.  Mostly because I consider myself a lovable person. People usually like me. I am a good friend. I am fun to be around. I have a lot to bring to a friendship, and I know it.  But here I am, at church meeting people, and I am in a place where I need to be vulnerable.  I need to be myself and open up for people to want to be my friend. But I am also in a place where I know that others may be judging my "worthiness".  Say what you want, that we shouldn't be judging each other, or that it isn't actually happening... but I have played "Where's the Mormon". I  know it is happening.  I wasn't judging to be vindictive or to condemn anyone. I was just noticing garment lines and cap sleeves. But without even realizing it, my noticing those things was also my noticing their "standing" or their "worthiness" in the church. And subconsciously I probably made an assessment based on that.

When I was at home in Washington, I had some very good friends who loved me unconditionally. They listened to my doubts, they knew my struggles, but we already had a deep connection so I knew that they loved me.  I never had to wonder if I was enough. I never felt like I had to prove myself to them. When my back was out, they cleaned my dirty toilets out of love.  They liked me as much with make up as without. I didn't have to hustle for their love, it was never even a question. I knew that I was enough.  But here in Las Vegas, I don't have any of that. And without even realizing it, I let shame and fear creep in.  Suddenly I worried about the things I hadn't had to worry about. Things like how big or clean my house is, how old my car is, how successful my husband is, how skinny, or not skinny I look.  On top of that, I also had to worry about how strong my Testimony is, what kind of calling I have at church, what everyone would think about JT working Sundays, if they were looking to see if I wear cap sleeves,  and how they perceived my worthiness. These are all of the kinds of things that would make people like or dislike me. But since I was unsure of all of those things, I pulled back.  I stopped believing that I am good enough. I started to believe that maybe my lack of Mormon "worthiness" would cost me friendships.  I didn't trust my own convictions enough to be vulnerable, or even know how to be vulnerable with these strangers.

But I realized today, I am enough. I just am. I don't need to be "temple worthy" to be love worthy.  I don't need anyone else's approval or acceptance. The only approval I need is from my Savior. And from the deep, tear filled, painful, heartfelt talks that He and I have had over the past few years, I know I have His love and approval.  I know He is pleased with me.   To some members they would disagree, believing He could only truly be pleased with me if I kept all of the commandments and obeyed all of the brethren. But I don't believe that.

I think I am ready to give up the hustle.  It may be painful at first.  Some people who don't know the real me may not understand. And even the people who do know me, but don't know the struggles with faith that I have been going through, may not understand. But worthiness is about believing in myself no matter what anyone else thinks, or understands.

I'm not exactly sure what this more authentic self will look like.  I still don't know how to stay IN the church. But I know that I will not worry about any other perceptions of me. I will continue to figure things out, but hopefully, without shame and fear.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mixed Emotions

Last year our school told us they may be going to Full Day Kindergarten this year, but they weren't positive. I watched the school website all summer, and it continued to say Half Day.  Then today, I took in Macie's shot records, because her registration wasn't showing up on line.  And the office staff informed me that it will be FULL DAY! She starts on Monday.

Instantly I started to cry.  The office staff was so excited to give me the "good news". But I was filled with mixed emotions, my body got confused and just began to cry.

(Funny side note: when Macie has to go to the bathroom while we are driving we ask "can you hold it? or do you need to go right now?" She has started to answer "I can hold. I just make the water come out my eyes instead." Then her face gets pink from trying to hold it, and her eyes start to water. "See, I can wait".  That's when we know to pull over ASAP.)

So back to me crying in the school office.  The office staff are practically high fiving me and lifting me up on their shoulders to parade around the playground.

"They learn sooooo much more in full day!"
"She will love it!"
"You are free!"
"You will have 6 hours all to yourself!"
"You are the greatest mom on the entire planet!" (Some of this may be a slight exaggeration, like I said, I was in tears and things became a blur.)

My mind was racing. I loved when my older kids did full day Kindergarten.  When we moved to Las Vegas and I saw how far ahead my kids were at school I knew it was in part due to full day Kindergarten. (In Blake's first grade class they spent the entire year working on the sight words he passed off in Kindergarten.)

I also began thinking about how much Macie HATES going to the store or on errands. How frustrating it was to have to get errands, grocery shopping, and the gym all squeezed in during the two hours that she was at preschool or risk the wrath of Macie.  I felt sad last year that Macie didn't have many friends, and ended up with very few play dates after school. And was often tired of it just being her and me.

Suddenly I wanted to cheer and ride around on the shoulders of the teachers and principal cheering "I AM FREE! I AM FREE!" I was beaming with delight thinking about going to the gym without complaint. Running into the grocery store without a fight. Taking a nap in the afternoon!  Having her be prepared for first grade, like my others. But right when my hand went up for the first fist pump, I felt everything else crash down.

I would be alone.
I felt overwhelmed with regret.  Why didn't we do more art projects when it was just the two of us? Why did I drag her to the store? Did I spend enough time on the trampoline? Did we go on enough walks? I thought I had one more year! I thought I could make up for everything we didn't do this past year.

It's no secret that Macie has a strong personality. She can get upset easily.  And it can be very overwhelming for me.  I am not gonna lie, there have been times I have wished she would be in all day school, just because I couldn't handle one more fight or break down.

But now I wish I could have one more year. Maybe I could get things right.  Maybe I would be more present and take advantage of those last days together.  Two years ago, when Blake started school, I experienced the same type of loss. He has a late July birthday, and everything I read argued that it is better for a boy with a summer birthday to be held back. They would be bigger for sports, more mature and able to learn, the oldest, more confident and the leader instead of the follower. But just a couple weeks before Kindergarten began I felt strongly that I should enroll him, and not hold him back the year. I prayed and prayed, not knowing what to do.  But I was filled with peace and a clear understanding that Blake was ready for Kindergarten and may struggle more with boredom if I hold him back.  I cried then, feeling that I had lost a year with my son. I thought he would go to preschool with his friends, but instead he got on the bus with Riley.  Since then, I have seen how it was the right decision.  School came easy for him, and he had a fabulous Kindergarten teacher that stretched him and challenged him. And he loved it!

So I am no stranger to Kindergarten regret.  I know that this is the moment that all stay at home moms dream of.  All of your kids at school.  A quiet house that you might be able to clean, the chance to take a shower without interruption, the ease of grocery shopping, the chance to go back to work, the chance to volunteer more at school. It seems like there are so many things to be excited for. But right now, I am just feeling the loss.  Loss of time with my youngest.  Loss of a shopping partner (however unhappy she was) even the loss of my little friend and tag-a-long. At least in Washington, I would have still gone to Taco Time Tuesday and been able to spend some kid free time with friends taking walks around the pond, or at Ashlee's lake. But it is a whole different story here in Vegas.

If you see me on Monday, giving the Principal a hug, dancing around the playground, making "neener neener" faces at all of the moms with toddlers, and chanting "I AM FREE!" all the way to Starbucks, you can know that on the inside I am crying and planning on drowning my mixed emotions in a venti green tea lemonade.

Seriously going to miss that face!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Someday, When I am Liz Lemon...

Ever since I was child I have played a game every time I watch a movie or TV show.  It's "which character am I?"  I can remember playing this game watching Sleeping Beauty with my little sister when we were probably 5 and 6.  It would go something like this: Every time a new character is introduced you get to pick if that is the character you want to play.  Obviously, being the older child, I immediately chose to be Aurora.  I imagined I was a beautiful princess growing up in the woods while the townspeople were drunk/asleep back at the Kingdom. (All time favorite Disney scene is when the King's servants are drunk singing "shromps" as they clinked their cups together and passed out under the table. What the...?!) I was content being Aurora and singing with a strange prince in the woods, until the scene with the 3 Fairies trying to bake the cake.  It was imperative to claim which Fairy you wanted to be before the other sister could claim one.  I was quick to shout "I'm the PINK Fairy!" (Let's review the movie real quick.  They are 3 frumpy OLD ladies. Why would I want to be any of them?) It was important to pick the Pink Fairy, because she was obviously the prettiest. You know, cuz Pink is synonymous with Pretty. Every time this happened my little sister would cry and I would comfort her by saying "You can be the Blue Fairy".  This was decades before Elsa came along and made blue a pretty princess color.  In my little sister's ears I was telling her she was the little fat, ugly (because you know, Blue was synonymous with Ugly) Fairy.  She is still hurt to this day.  Maybe one day, for her birthday or something, I will let her be the Pink Fairy.... nah.

This tradition, of picking the character, continued and evolved over the years.  In my late teens I watched "Friends" and thought "I would be Rachel, of course".  At this point, the game wasn't just picking the prettiest character in a show and pretend to be her. I began dreaming that I was actually cast for the part.  Like, I go into an audition and they say "Look at you! You are adorable, and likable, and soooo  cute! We have this part 'Rachel' that we think you would be perfect for!" This stemmed from a lifetime of wishing I was an actress. And not just an actress, I wanted to be the beautiful lead heroine.

In High School (I hate it when people reference who they were in HS, it implies that you haven't had any experiences since then. But in this case, I haven't.) I took theater.  My Senior year we did a modern version of the Shakespeare play "Two Men of Verona".  At the auditions I desperately wanted the role of Julia, the leading lady.  She was lovely, and the audience would adore her of course.  But I got cast as some small, seemingly random, role. Which I think was suppose to be someone's father in the original play, but the Director changed it to a mom, and a friend and I played the roles of the mothers together. I was infuriated! The Director was basically saying "Don't worry Kate, you aren't Julia, but you can still be the Ugly Blue Fairy!" I hated him.  After we had struggled through weeks of rehearsals he pulled me and the other "mother" aside and tried to explain to us the parts we would be playing.  He described the ladies as being a total hoot. Crazy old ladies.  He then sent us with homework to watch an old British TV show called "Absolutely Fabulous" or "Ab Fab" about two crazy ladies who are always drunk and hysterically funny.  He tried to explain to me how these characters are brilliantly funny.  They will have the audience cracking up. "You will steal the show!" he claimed.  Long story short... we were lazy seniors.  We all somehow ticked off the Director to the point that he cancelled the show, and I was never a drunk, crazy Blue Fairy in Two Gentlemen of Verona.  And I hated him again.  Why would I ever want to be the Ugly Blue Fairy? People might think I was actually ugly!  Or that I was weird and not the pretty damsel in distress. At that point, I realized I probably don't actually have the "look" of the pretty damsel in distress, and I didn't want to be cast as an Ab Fab again, so I was done with theater.  (While I have still secretly dreamt of winning an Oscar to this day... even though I am not an actor.)

Back to the game of picking the character.  I would watch SNL and laugh my head off, but I would always think "don't cast me as Mary Catherine Gallagher! Someone might think I am actually a weirdo freak".  I still watched every movie and every show, dreaming of being the beautiful lead character. It wasn't until years later that I saw a supporting actor steal the show.

It was Les Mis, and the Master of the House was dancing around the stage being creepy, and really funny.  At the end of the show when the cast came out for the curtain call, guess who got the first standing ovation of the night? The Maser of the House. Sure, we all adored Jean Valjean. He was the hero.  But we loved the Master of the House.  He made us laugh, and somehow stole the show.  I suddenly heard what my theater teacher was trying to say.  You don't need to be a beautiful lead to steal the show.  Basically, I think he was saying "Katie, you are no Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz.  Forget being the beautiful hero.  Embrace your Funny.  And just be Phoebe." (If he was saying this now he would say "Don't try to be Anna Kendrick.  Just enjoy being Rebel Wilson!")

I began looking at shows differently.  I began imagining I was the quirky side kick. I would often sit next to JT and whine about how I missed my calling in life.  I should have been "Dr Elliot Reed" on Scrubs. "I would laugh so hard working with that cast!" Could I have played the awkward, depressed, monotoned Phyllis on "The Office"?  Maybe I should have had tiny hands and been Doonise on SNL. Or what about Arrested Development?! "They cast Portia de Rossi as Lindsey Bluth? Come on.  I would have killed that! And laughed myself to sleep at night after filming each episode." I love watching these shows and picturing myself laughing on set with everyone as we film the most hilarious sitcoms of all time.

Slowly, I have let go of the desire to be the leading lady. (You are thinking, oh good, because I hate to break it to you, ... but that ship has sailed!!) And recently things began to shift again.  I was binge watching 30 Rock on Netflix.  Fighting off the desire to be the beautiful, narcissistic Jenna Maroney (who coincidentally is pretty and funny!) and loving quirky Liz Lemon.  Suddenly I didn't care if anyone thought I was weird, quirky, or say things like "Blurg!" (One great thing about playing "which character are you" as an adult, is that I never have to fight over a character!  Mostly because JT doesn't know I am playing that game, and my sister isn't there to cry.) Again, I found myself dreaming of spending the day on set with Alec Baldwin and Jack McBrayer.  We would crack each other up! (At some point my therapist and I should explore the fact that I actually think I am as funny as Jack McBrayer or Alec Baldwin.) And as I tried to imagine which character I should play, (because, you know, they might call me any day to cast me for a show that is off the air...hey, I can't help my day dreaming!) something hit me.

I don't actually think I should be stealing the show (because, remember, I am not actually an actor).  Maybe I should be writing the show! I should be sitting with Frank and Lutz cracking ourselves up as we write together. Forget day dreaming about getting "Best Actress". In this case, I can get the award for "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" from the Writer's Guild Awards.  (And I can still dress up all fancy, and walk down the red carpet, and take home a shiny statue to go next to Riley's soccer trophies on the fireplace mantle.) I have an all new day dream!

Screw "Best Actress" and playing the role of the Pink Fairy (who would have actually just been a supporting role anyway). I am taking home the Award for "Best Writer!"

Never mind the fact that I have never taken a writing class, or written a script, or even a rough draft... of anything.
First things first, I think I will start by writing my Acceptance Speech.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


(DISCLAIMER: this post was actually written a few years ago and I guess I forgot to hit "Post". It's just been sitting as an unfinished draft.  I stumbled upon it and had to share it!)

I have spent the last few years working on my ability to forgive more easily.  Sometimes it is a pretty easy thing to forgive someone.  (Particularly if they say "sorry"-  JT can tell you I am a big fan of that word and I get frustrated when people don't use it.)  But sometimes it is really hard for me to forgive someone - especially those who don't say sorry, or worse: they don't even feel sorry for hurting me.

Right now, I have one particular relationship that I am struggling with.  I feel like I am at a crossroads.  This is one of those relationships where I feel like I am constantly on the forgiving end of it.  I know that Christ taught that we should forgive 7 x 70 if we need to- and I feel dangerously close to that number.  (Ok, we all know I don't remember how to multiply double digits and so I don't even have a clue how much 7 x 70 actually is-  but it sounds like a lot, and if I could find my phone I could use the calculator, but my phone is lost again so for now I will just have to imagine a really big number)  So when is it OK to say I have had enough?

In some circumstances I would advise a friend to just forgive the other party and then distance themselves from that person.  And in many cases that might work-  but not in mine.  There is no avoiding this relationship.  I can't simply walk away.  Trust me, if you have read my blog the past few years, you know I have tried moving away and all of my attempts have been thwarted!  So am I doomed to just have to face this over and over?  Do I need to keep putting myself out there-  just to be disappointed?  Do I forgive and try to forget- when I know it will happen again immediately? Or do I hold a grudge?  Can I just accept that this is our relationship and get used to it?  No.  It hurts too deeply to be able to accept it for what it is.

I hate feeling like the victim.  I hear others saying things like: you knew what you were getting into when you signed up for this relationship.  Or others say that they are happy with the way things are- and some how that means it should be fine for me as well.  So I wonder if it is my fault?  Maybe I am to blame.

And sometimes I find myself defending the times that are good.  Because when things are good with us- they are really really good.  But when things are bad- it is unbearable. That is the danger in a relationship like this.  Where the other party can be charismatic and charming and delightful.  So delightful that I can forget our past issues and begin the healing process.  But it always comes back to bite me.  It never lasts.

And that is when I ask myself how I keep finding myself in the same situation over and over.  Back in the place where I need to forgive. 

I wanted your advice on this situation. You know, telling me how you are able to forgive those who hurt you - over and over.  Or you could tell me how you are able to cope with things like this.  But after talking to some of you - I feel like I may be the only one.  It is so isolating.

 I wasn't planning on telling you who has been tormenting me all these years, because that would be gossiping... unless you guess it, right?

That's right! That is the rule! If you guess who I am talking about it isn't considered gossip at all!


Uh oh, was I that transparent?  It was that obvious?   So what do I do?  You are right, I just have to address the situation as best I can and go on from there.

Here goes:

Washington.  You are killing me.  I want to love you, I really do.  I was born here- in your green hills and mossy damp woods.  (Ok, I was born in a Hospital, but around here you are never more than 5 feet from some kind of moss or slug)  I appreciate your green grass and the money you save me on watering it in August.   And I am thankful for your mild winters that don't require snow tires or an ice scrapper.  (That is probably because I park in the garage and don't leave my house before 9 am. after the frost and ice have melted.)  And I especially love the fact that this is the home to my family and friends.

But seriously,  your sky sucks.  (Was that too harsh? I can't think of a kinder way to say it)  I can't handle the gray sky year  round.  The only thing that got me through the winter and spring was the hope of blue sky in July.  But you let me down, again.  And here I am in August- the undeniable month of summer (in the northern hemisphere, at least)- and I am under a gray cloud cover wearing shoes (not flip flops like is customary for this season) and trying to forgive you.

The problem is- sometimes you really deliver...

Days of splashing and laughing in the pool.   Hours of sunlit fun on a camping trip.  And even moments of swinging in our own backyard.

But it is Summer.  It shouldn't be moments, hours, or even a few days.  It should be weeks.  Preferably even two months of Summer! 

Is it too much to ask for a small commitment like that?  To just honor the seasons as they come?  To give us an actual break from the gloom?

The anxiety is too great.  When you do grant us some legitimate sunshine I am forced to abandon all structure and plans.  After all, we never know when it will come again.  I leave the laundry half folded, the dishes dirty in the sink, and the vacuum still running while I hurry the kids out doors.  Because, if you are from Washington you know, there is nothing worse than thinking that the sunshine will last while you finish brushing your teeth only to discover that by the time you spit it has all vanished behind the curtain of gloom.

And when I do find myself basking in the sun and eating right off of the BBQ (we do BBQ year round, it just requires that JT wear a rain coat for most of the time) I find it in my heart to forgive you. I find myself agreeing with the Washingtonians who sing your praises.  I feel true happiness.

Why?!  Washington, Why?!  Why must I forgive you, and believe in you, and even trust you?  How long must we have this relationship?  Can't we agree on something? Can't we agree that summer is from June till August?  Ok, fine, I will compromise.  Can't we agree that summer is from July till August?  Can't I count on you to give me at least that?

This is what I mean.  A relationship where I am always forgiving, always compromising, always losing.  I can't move.  (I tried, and for the next two years we are here- no exceptions)  I can't ignore or walk away from the situation.  It is everywhere.  It is my very environment.

So I will keep improving on my ability to forgive.  I will keep praying for strength and humility.  I will keep enjoying the hours of sunshine I have with reckless abandonment.  And I will start going to a tanning bed in search of Vitamin D.

(Update, August 2015: I guess I gave up on Forgiveness and moved to Nevada!... and now, I kinda miss you, Washington.  Damn you, Washington.  You are the most confusing relationship I have ever been in!)

Monday, June 29, 2015

A difference in opinion

Recently, after I tucked my kids into bed, Blake came back out to ask me a question.  It was a question about something that he learned in church that was really bothering him.  A principle that he had been taught that made him very uncomfortable.  (And hearing it from his perspective made me very uncomfortable as well.) When he asked me about it, I shared my opinion and explained that my opinion is probably a little different than what he will learn at church.  I calmed him down, and then assured him that it is Ok and said "You don't have to believe everything they tell you at church".  I have been working hard to teach my kids (and myself especially) how to sift through opinions vs doctrine.  If you are LDS you know that there is a tendency for those lines to get deeply blurred. I have been trying to teach my children (and again myself) the Power of the Holy Ghost to teach us and to lead us.  I'm doing this with the hope that they will not find themselves hurt from "leaning on the arm of the flesh" but to always know that they are trusting in the Lord.

As I tucked him back into bed, I was praying that he understood and that I had helped calm his fears.  Then he looked up at me, in a very tender and innocent way, and said "Yeah, and you don't have to believe everything your parents say".

That hit me like a ton of bricks.

For the better part of my life I have been on the Child end of that spectrum.  I only became a Parent 8 years ago.  As the child, it has been easy for me to recognize that I don't have to believe everything my parents tell me. (After all, what teenager doesn't think that they know more than their parents?)  Sometimes they have been right, and I have seen the consequences of not believing them.  In other times, they have been wrong, and I have seen the benefit in believing differently than them.  Neither of those situations have been all that difficult for me, because I have been on the child's side of the coin.  But now that I have flipped that coin, and become a mother myself, I am seeing the other side.

Of course, as a Parent, I think that I am probably right. (Honestly, I am a know-it-all anyways who always assumes I am right!)  I think that every one of my children  should probably believe me for the simple fact that I believe me.  Why wouldn't they? But when Blake said it in such a clear statement I realized that the day is coming when my children may not believe some of the things that I believe.  And suddenly, from this side of spectrum, I can understand the struggle that other's have felt as some of our beliefs change. I can be much more sympathetic to the shock, surprise, and hurt that a parent may feel as their child decides not to believe some of the things that they were taught.  I can see the risk in teaching your children that they don't have to believe everything that they are taught.  Then there is the chance that they won't believe me! But the greater risk and the greater harm would be in not allowing them to do this.  The greater danger is in not trusting my children to be able to follow the Spirit and follow their own conscience.  Whether or not it is the path that I have chosen.  (I know, some of you are snickering and thinking how you are going to read this back to me in 10 years when my kids start making their own choices and I want to eat my words.  Please, do read this back to me.  Remind me that I was once able to trust my kids. I am sure I will need it.)

After the moment of pure shock (and Blake's life passing before my eyes) I was able to agree with Blake.  I was able to tell him "Yes, that is right, you can pray about it yourself, and it is absolutely OK to not believe what I say." (SOOOOO hard to say out loud!)  To my pure relief he responded "But this time I do believe you".

Score one point for mom. Next time may not have the same outcome. And the Parent in me will probably cry like every parent before me who has watched their child choose differently.  But for now I will take comfort in having a son who is willing to faithfully question and seek out the answer that he can believe in.

Monday, June 22, 2015

TSA and me

I'm a girl who needs my sleep.  Almost as much as I need food. No one wants to see me when I am starved for either of those things.  I had an old boyfriend that would pull into the nearest Taco Bell anytime he sensed a fight coming on. He knew that 90% of the time, I wasn't angry, I was just hungry. The birth of "hangry".  (We had to break up, he was making me fat.)  But since I have a talent for taking all things to the next level.  Being hangry isn't enough for me.  So if I add sleep deprivation I can reach all new heights of crazy.  Feel free to coin a new word using Angry, Hungry, Tired and Katie.  (I threw my name in there so that future generations would know that I am the one behind "Hangry Tiratie". Or whatever word sticks.)

Some of you may have seen on Facebook, my recent adventures in Seattle.  Actually, most of my adventures took place before I even left Las Vegas. And then after I left Las Vegas again and finally made it to Seattle.  (Where my adventures mostly ceased and I pretty much just ate a lot of Taco Time with friends.)  The adventures began at 1:00am in the Las Vegas airport when they cancelled my flight.  It was past my bedtime, and no one had thought to feed me in 7 hours. (That's right, I take no responsibility for the job of feeding myself)

I had been counting down the days and hours until I could visit my friends in Washington.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  I was so excited I hardly slept the night before. (That should have been my first clue that something would go wrong.) My flight to Seattle had already been delayed 4 hours "due to weather" back east.  And, like I said, I was hangry.  After a long stressful ordeal I was able to secure a flight for the next morning at 8:00am to Seattle via Oakland. At 3:00am (the time I finally got added to another flight and found my luggage) it was not realistic to go home to sleep. (JT would have had to wake up the kids to come get me, then wake them up again at 6:00am to return me to the airport. Not gonna happen.) I had about 5 hours to kill in the Las Vegas airport before my much anticipated flight and I was in desperate need of sleep. (Oh, and food.)

After I found my luggage I wanted to go back up to the gate and sleep on one of the super comfy airport chairs. Really, airport? Why can't you make the chairs more comfortable? Or more accommodating to sleep on? Maybe a designated "sleeping area" with soft music and fluffy pillows. You know that is what all of us want to do. Do you think that if the seats are too comfy we might not leave? "Oh, there goes my flight to Paris. I would have gone, but the chairs here are sooooo comfortable I just can't bare to leave." I don't think so.

Anyway, I grabbed the two suitcases that I checked. (Ok, one was practically empty, I was looking forward to bringing home an entire suitcase full of fresh strawberry jam from Washington. Yum.) And I started to head back up the escalator to go through TSA to get back to the gate where I had already been waiting for hours. At 3:00am there is no line at the security check.  I highly recommend traveling at that time to avoid waiting for the jerk in front of you to unlace his shoes before fumbling for another bin. Seriously, dude, wear Toms like the rest of us. As I approached TSA I noticed it was just me and the GIANT security guard (is that what they are called? you know, the TSA guy that scrutinizes your Drivers License before letting you go through to the metal detecter).  I was pulling no dragging (my suitcases are 100 years old, with crappy old wheels not designed for lugging across entire airports) my two suitcases when I suddenly realized I couldn't bring those monstrous things through the check point.

This is when the tired hit me. Not the Hangry.  The Tiratie. (You see what I did there? Tired + Katie = Tiratie) When I am extremely Tiratie I cry. Or I just fall apart.  Or I just about get myself thrown in prison.  I stopped about 3 feet from the TSA podium with just me on the one side, and the "guard" that was twice my size, on the other.  I let go of both suitcases and put my hands to my head in a quiet sob to myself "I can't go through with this!" My mind continued to say: I can't go through the metal detecters with bags that I want to check! What will I do?! But all the TSA guy heard was "I can't go through with this."

Let's just say, he jumped up from his seat with his hands in a sort of karate pose before I even knew what was happening. And with a very nervous, but upset voice said "Girl, you're scaring me."

me: huh? oh, no, I am just so tired and this is so hard and I just don't know what to do.

TSA: What are you talking about?! (His hands still up, now he is looking around to see if  there is anyone near that he can shout to.  Of course not, buddy, it's 3:00AM!)

me: (My hands over my tired eyes trying to focus on how 3:00am hungry, tired, sad -that -her -flight got -cancelled -Katie is going to make it another 5 hours) Huh? What? No, I'm not trying to scare you. (But too tired to make any coherent sentences)

This is when I see the actual fear in his eyes. I'm tired, but not too tired to notice that this guy is about to lunge at me for some strange reason.

TSA: You are scaring me. What are you talking about?!

me: I am so tired, my flight got cancelled, I got my bags and I realized I can't take them through the metal detecters.

TSA: (confusion, mixed with some relief, but hands still poised in karate chop position)

me: Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. (Now I am very awake and aware that this guy is scared, and probably trained to know how to hurt me. Are they trained to know how to hurt me?)

TSA: Ohhhh, you have some liquids or something in there?

me: Yeah, just shampoo and hairspray and stuff.  But I was planning to check these bags, not carry them on.  I'm just so tired. (Do you think he realized that I am tired? I think I am starting to cry. But I can't be sure.)

TSA: (looks around, sorta sheepish, edging back to the seat at the podium) Girl, you were scaring me.  Saying all this 'oh no, I can't go through with it' and talking all crazy! And I'm like, 'Oh Sh*t, what is the girl going to do?! What is she suppose to 'go through with'?!

me: ohhhhh!! (catching on) Oh no! Oh no!  I am not going through with anything. No, no, no, I am just tired and sorta confused. I don't know where to go.

TSA: You need to go check those bags right now.

me: I'm so sorry! (still rubbing eyes, because even a near death experience with TSA can't totally wake me up)

TSA: Just go check those bags. You're still scaring me.

I turned around, pulling my dilapidated suitcases, in search of a sign telling me where to go.  Looking over my shoulder I can see he has still not sat back down at the podium, and he is watching me like an eagle.

Turns out, saying "I can not go through with this" Sounds a lot like "I have a bomb in my suitcase, and I am too afraid to die.  I can not go through with this."  Especially to a karate chopping TSA "guard" (will somebody please tell me what they are called?).

If only there was a universal word to let someone know when I am extremely tired, and hungry, and mad that my flight was cancelled.  A word like "Hangry Tiratie"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Time to write.

It's time.
Maybe it has been time for a while now, and I was just ignoring it.  

But I am finally at a place, again, in my life where I feel like I can write.  The words of e.e. cummings sum up my writing experience over the last two years (I know this is grossly out of context, being a love poem, but the words speak so clearly of my other experiences):

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
Our journey through P.A. school (which felt more like white river rafting on a pool noodle than just a simple journey) has finally come to an end.  And all of the things that I kept inside are ready to be let out. Well... maybe not all.

For the past few years as we have struggled to make this leap between careers, starting with pre-reqs, rejection, night shifts, and acceptance I have felt so weak in so many ways.  I felt like the "most frail gesture" could enclose me.  Even suffocate me. It has been an extremely vulnerable time for me.  After surviving the heartbreak (and sometimes anger) of rejection I felt like I was already cut wide open.  There was no hiding from it.  Our friends, our family, coworkers, and even some strangers knew of the struggle it was to get in to P.A. school. I knew there was judgement.  I knew that many others thought he couldn't do it. Some people even tried to persuade JT to choose a different path "maybe this just isn't for you".  (And if you have ever seen JT at work, or anyone who works with him you would know just how funny, and ridiculous that was.  Medicine is definitely for him.) Somehow, at the time, I was able to embrace the vulnerability, even write about.  Writing actually became therapeutic for me. I discovered an outlet that could carry me through. 

But as we came closer to actually going to PA school, and our world tipped upside down, writing began to haunt me.  The struggles that came from leaving our home and surviving the all night studying, and long distance rotations suddenly became way too close. Things that "i cannot touch because they are too near".  Suddenly, my struggles were far too personal to share in writing. The words stung even more when given life through text.  It was easier to deny and survive, when they were not public. It is, however, one of my biggest regrets that I didn't keep a personal journal at the time.  But even in secret, writing became unbearable. There was no escaping my heartache once it was put on paper. Has anyone else felt this?  I lost a place of refuge, probably when I needed it the most.   

Now, it has been almost 6 months since JT graduated with his masters as a Physician's Assistant. And the emotions from that phase in my life are starting to fade.  I am finally starting to believe that it is all real.   And the need to write is growing. 

Lately I have come in contact with a number of books, movies, and people that have reminded me of the importance of creativity in my life.  And the shambles I become in it's absence. With JT graduated from school, and stability on the horizon, I feel like maybe it is time for me. 

Time for me to breathe.
Time for me to write.
Time for me to create.