Day One

My sister gave me a T-shirt for my birthday in August that read:

In August. As in, the summer.

That’s how bad 2020 was. I wanted that year of my life to end also, but it seemed like a lot of pressure to put on 2021. “Does The Universe know that it is a new year and that we pin a lot of meaning to that change of numerics? Does it care?” I was, of course, looking for an end to the shit show that was 2020. But I didn’t want to put my one fragile egg in that basket.

Before long (but also years later, 2020 was weird that way), November came. I spent election day working the polls at my local precinct. It was a sixteen hour shift indoors, interacting with my fellow poll workers (who were strangers) and hundreds of other people (strangers), helping them to vote. That night, after the last person voted and we secured the machines and cleaned the precinct, I drove – not home – to Park City. I rented an Airbnb for fourteen nights (AKA a fortnight! That’s what that word means!) in order to isolate from my family after that prolonged exposure, “just in case!” It was partly out of my own concern about the COVID risk, but also deciding that A) it was important to me to follow through with the commitment and B) to prove to Matt’s ex that I did give a damn about COVID prevention (an ongoing argument in the family).

It was a one room apartment with no natural light, and the main light in the room was out. I contacted the owner, and she wrote back and said that the guy who did those things for her was busy, but might contact me at some point. (He never did.) I could have gone out to get a light bulb, but I wasn’t about to go out and buy a ladder. So, I moved the lamps around as I did my work and I went for walks to get some sunlight, but it was snowed in and 30 degrees, so those turned out to be short damn walks.

Mostly I sat there, bored and lonely, watching an unhealthy amount of cable TV, and wondering if Steve Kornacki would ever be allowed to change his pants. And, also, crushing a little bit. (Oh, Steve! Tell me more about Maricopa County, you nerdy boy!) It took days, but eventually there were developments. Joe Biden was (finally) declared the winner. A few days after that, Pfizer declared success in the development of their vaccine.

This was of particular interest to me, because I volunteered to be a Guinea pig in that clinical trial! And here they were, saying that their projected effective rate was 95%! I had a fifty/fifty chance of having received that vaccine! (Also a fifty/fifty chance of having received the placebo.) “So, 50% chance of having received a vaccine that was 95% effective equals…” I was talking to myself, obviously, “fuck if I know? Less than 50%? I feel like that’s math done right.” I stayed put in my isolation hovel.

And THEN! a week later Moderna made a similar announcement about their vaccine! And people (still on MSNBC) were saying that vaccinations might be available as soon as December! And, damn me if I didn’t start to have a little hope. Hope that Steve Kornacki’s pants would be donated to the Smithsonian for all to appreciate, and hope that 2021 might be different. Could it be that there was light at the end of the tunnel?

It was somewhere in that time that went home, but also I saw a pin that called to me. So much so, I ordered one for me and another for a friend. It said:

I decided that these would be my “words” (in the Game of Thrones sense of things) for 2021. Because, in addition to copious amounts of fried food and barrels of wine, I ate a lot of shit in 2020. Bags and bags of pungent, gluey, unsalted shit. From The Universe, from the pandemic, from my boyfriend’s ex, from the world in general. I was getting plates of shit served to me on a daily basis, and I was ready to say, “No, thank you!”

And so I got onboard the “2021 Will Be Totally Different!” train and got my ticket punched.

But you know what? I was right to begin with. The Universe doesn’t care if our year changed (aren’t we cute, though? With our fireworks and our kisses and such?). The horror show of last year is not done with us yet. Clearly.

We had Ethan for New Year’s so we took a little road trip to Arizona. It was fun, and we saw some really cool birds and animals (some that I had never seen before) and then we headed back toward Utah. It was January 1st, the first day of my new mantra, and we broke up the driving to Salt Lake City with a night in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Again, we were doing the Airbnb thing, and we had a little spot reserved near the university’s campus. We met the couple who were in the next apartment over as we were coming in and parking our cars. We chatted briefly and mentioned that we would be driving to Salt Lake the next day. The woman exclaimed (with a notably gruff voice) about the length of the distance, but that was the end of the conversation.

It was a cozy spot with only one bedroom so we just piled in. Unfortunately, their sitting space was adjacent to our sleeping space, and the walls turned out to be wet pasta thin, and we could hear every word of their profane conversation. The bedroom had a TV so we found some episodes of Shaun the Sheep (turned up louder and then slightly loud) in the hopes of reminding them that we had a child with us and, also, “Did you notice these walls are super thin? Guess we gotta work together, to coexist, ya?”

They did not take the hint. We wanted to be in bed by 10pm to be fresh for the long drive (about 520 miles), especially because we let Ethan stay up until midnight the previous night for New Year’s. We turned off the TV, but after a bit Matt pounded on the wall to try to send a stronger message.

That had the opposite of the desired effect. The woman exploded with expletives, outraged that we would complain when it wasn’t even ten yet (by minutes), and who did we think we were? It was clear to me from the sound of her voice ( imagine either Patty or Selma Bouvier, without the redeeming qualities) that they had been drinking for a while and that we probably shouldn’t provoke them. At the end of her rant, we heard her say to her man fellow, “Jesus, are the walls that thin?”

Matt said, speaking directly to the wall, “Yes. They are.”

There was a brief pause at that before the couple’s profane conversation started up again, as if they hadn’t heard every word, easing back into their conversation made of words that I didn’t even learn from my sailor father.

There was nothing to do but try to make the best of it. We all went to bed, tucking Ethan in between us. I tried to fall asleep but, tired as I was, it was just impossible. It is annoying enough when you can hear muffled noises coming from the next room, but when you can hear every word? She was ranting left and right, it seemed, about everyone they knew. But there was a moment where she was tearing yet another close friend to shreds, and I was thinking, “Poor girl. She does sound like a mess. I wouldn’t have called her that word, but I do hope she can get her shit together.”

Matt got up and moved to the couch. The next day he said he tried to get my attention, but I didn’t respond so he decided I was asleep. Without my contacts I am blind as a baseball bat so I’m not surprised. And in the dark? Forget it. I was glad though, because he was driving and so it was most important that he got some rest. Ethan was out like a hibernating hive of bees. I shifted to my back and tried to conjure the sounds of the ocean as a meditation, but I suck at meditating. Eventually, as time droned on, I began to think about revenge. For hours. From when we went to bed at 10pm until they went to bed at 1am, I had a lot of time to think about things I could do to them that would give me some sense of vengeance.

I thought about getting up at first light, walking Murphy, and then, upon our return, writing “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” on their windshield in dog shit. I smiled, starting to relax a little. “Finally, a type of meditation that is actually helpful!” It was no good though, I realized, coming back to a state of stress. They would know it was us. It might make it on to Matt’s Airbnb review and that would be bad for us in the future.

Lotion? I could write it in hand lotion! It would take some effort to clean it off. Especially in the cold weather. And I had a bottle with me that I bought but found I was having an allergic reaction to the fragrance… No, no, no. If they are going to know it is us, it might as well be dog shit.

Dog shit, but just on the door handles?

No! They can’t know it is us. Matt rented this place. Any blow-back would be on him. Not me.

That’s when I got an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea.

I was thinking about car sabotage and suddenly remembered the time that I last had an issue with a tire. The tire was low, so I filled it up. A few weeks later, it was low again, so I took it in. There was a nail in the tire, causing a slow leak. It had been weeks since I picked up the spike, so who knows when or where it happened?

“Oh,” I told sleepy sleepy me, “that’s bad. So mean and so bad! And anyway, where are you going to find a nail? It’s not like you have one in your purse for just such an occasion (note to future me).” But the idea of it, the thought of this tiny sharp little thing making such an impact… soon? Or in a week or two? It made me smile and relax, and I finally fell asleep.

A few hours later, I was awake. My first thought was of my last thought. It seemed strange that I was still angry after getting some sleep, but I was. I was still in that same crazed place. These people fucked with my family. In 2021. The year when I told myself that I would be done taking shit! I had drawn a line in the sand, and I said, “No more!” And yet, on day one of 2021, these people gave me shit. And I took it. I laid in bed next to my stepson, trying to get some sleep, but taking shit instead. My mind hadn’t changed. I needed to give these people their shit back. Because I am not taking it! I made a promise to myself, goddamit!

This didn’t resolve the issue of the nail. I was still in bed pondering this issue and finally told myself, “Okay, this is the deal. I will walk Murphy up the block and back. If we happen to find a nail or similar, then great. The Universe is on my side. If not, then whatever. The Universe has spoken.”

I got up and went to the bathroom. As I sat on the toilet, shading my eyes from the too bright light, I admired the lovely and fashionable tile work of the shower. I was envying it a bit, actually. But that made me think, “This place was renovated very recently. So… maybe?”

I finished my “bidness” on the toilet and then washed my hands. And then, I got down on my hands and knees to have a look. Having completed enough bathroom remodels of my own, I had a hunch. There, under the sink, below all of the new furnishings, I could see some of the older pipes, and there, near the old shut-off valve, was a shiny brass screw. Just sitting there. Like, y’ know. Screws do.

“Oh. My. God. I thought,” having only moved six feet from the bed where this idea was hatched the previous night, wondering wherever I might find such a thing. “The Universe loves this idea so much, it is shitting its own britches!”

I changed into a preliminary dog walking dress, 50% pajamas, 50% street clothes, and I dropped the screw into my pocket. Then, slipping out in the cold, I walked Murphy for about twenty minutes, letting him explore the strange snowy neighborhood. I felt a little dreamy, not in the sexy way, but in the blurry way. “Are you seriously doing this? What the hell are you thinking?” a vague voice from far away asked me, and I patted the screw in my pocket to check that it was really there. But I felt like that questioning voice was a “put on” thing. Like me trying to have a Jiminy Cricket character on my shoulder because I thought there should be one, even though I felt fine. Not just fine; justified.

Murphy and I got back to our rental. I had a dog turd in hand and a screw in my pocket. Suffice it to say, lot’s of options. I opened the door and let Murphy in, but lingered outside for just a minute more. I checked for cameras. I looked for lights in the rooms of our neighbors, who were clearly still sleeping off last night. Then I did the deed. I could have left the screw standing upright on the concrete behind the back tire, but I didn’t. She might have backed up slowly, just knocking it over to the side as they left. I was angrier than that. I took the time to push the point of the screw into the tread, and wedge a side of the flat end into the concrete. Then I tossed the dog shit in the trash bin as I walked inside.

Like a fucking snake who takes no shit.

I won’t pretend that I feel profoundly guilty about it. Or even mildly guilty. I am not. I had several chances to remove that screw that morning as we were packing up, and then again as we left. As we drove away, I felt no compunction. No second or third thought. I literally screwed that lady and it felt great, like revenge on the entire 2020 and the let down of the promise of 2021. “This is what ‘taking no shit’ feels like!” I thought.

And then I sat in a car for eight and a half hours. I still didn’t have second thoughts or a moment of regret. I smiled each time I thought about that brassy little screw, waiting to ruin that woman’s day with no hope of teaching a lesson or sending a message or doing any greater good whatsoever. It was a point without a point.

But it did make me think. How does one refuse to take shit without doing harm? Is it even possible? Without going into details about the struggles between me and Matt’s ex, no matter how carefully I push back, (thinking that I’m just defending myself and “taking no shit”) I do harm. I do harm to the relationship, and the inevitable reaction brings harm on myself. I can only assume I am harming her also, even though that is not my intention. I spend so much time trying to draft these messages to make them set boundaries without insult, but I can’t predict the reaction and it seems backlash is inevitable.

On that long drive, I reflected also on 2020, and all the shit that it dished out. I don’t know how I will remember the pandemic year, but I hang on to the helplessness that I felt. At first, the hoarding was so disheartening, but I managed to keep my family in stock. Then, I wanted to help the people who hadn’t managed. I joined a neighborhood group to try to get essentials to the elderly or strapped who weren’t able to find toilet paper or isopropyl alcohol and other necessities. No one called. I tried to find other ways to contribute. I didn’t know what to do, but I looked for opportunities, and ended up as a subject in the clinical trials for Pfizer, and then a registered poll worker.

This sounds like virtue signaling but that isn’t what I mean (which is obviously what any virtue signaler would say). I had a box of toilet paper in my garage for all of the spring that none of my neighbors needed. Someone in my city needed it, I knew that. But I didn’t know who and finding them proved hard and I stopped trying. I want to help but there is a limit to what I will to do try. I don’t know how.

That brings me back to this pin. The “take no shit, do no harm” motto I spoke about. That clearly doesn’t work at all. It is a nice idea. It sounds so nice. Something that could elevate one above the fray, into a position of purity and faultlessness. That isn’t the world I live in. Even if it was, it isn’t a position that is meaningful, that might effect change. That isn’t who I want to be. I want to find opportunities, not just to be harmless, but to do good. As bad as 2020 was, I found some of those opportunities. Things that I could tell my great nieces and great nephews. With a wobbling voice, I might talk about the vaccine trials, or about wearing a mask while registering first time voters to participate in the 2020 election. And then I might say, with grandmotherly wisdom. “Some’a those cunts didn’t know their ass from a gov’ment issued ID!”

As for my new pin, I will hang on to it. The message is completely impractical, but who doesn’t like to imagine a quixotic future of easy coexistence? Also, it looks kinda baddass. Meanwhile, my words for 2021, I have decided, will be, “take some inevitable shit, and look for opportunities to do some good.”

It wasn’t an intentional goal but it guided me well last year. In that way, it was a better year than I realized at the time. That said, may we never see another like it.

P.S. To the lady I ‘screwed,’ I can’t apologize in earnest, because I listened to you spew your rants about everyone you knew for hours and you seemed awful. Thank you, however, for being so awful and allowing me to be awful with a sense of justice, because, if it wasn’t clear before, you are a dick and being a dick to you felt really good.

Happy New Year! (in dog shit).

That’s worse, right? The dog shit? I feel like you (and not a mechanic) would have to deal with that, and you wouldn’t like it. Therefore, making it worse? But whatever. You suck. And I may always backslide. Just like Mrs. Hedgehog.

Proof of Life

I had better luck today! I didn’t get as close as I would have liked because I didn’t want to scare him into the basement again. I feel confident that it is my same old owl because he has the same asymmetrical left “ear” tuft.

It’s weird, but it really hurt my feelings when he hid from me the other day. It was a flashback to those early tween years when you realize that life isn’t like the movies; your crush doesn’t always (or ever) crush back. That’s the “crushing” part.

I guess that’s why I love dogs so much.


What Would Myra Do?

So, I chose the wrong time to start The Handmaid’s Tale.  Jesus.

I wanted to hide from my phone.  I knew that Brett Kavanaugh was going to be confirmed over the weekend, and I wanted to think about other things.  I stayed in, I knitted, and I watched episodes of Handmaid.  I emerged from my basement on Monday morning unsure of what year it was.  Where am I, again? The black and white past?  The red and white future?  Oh, no.  It’s just the dystopian present.  Goddamn.


I can’t stop thinking about the episode where all the women are sent home from work because a law has been passed making illegal for them to have jobs or bank accounts.  They decide to protest but discover it is too late; the moment to take a stand slipped by and they have been slowly “boiled to death in their bathtubs,” as June says.

It is so disturbing to think about. Where is all the progress that I thought women had made since 1991?  There another credibly accused creep on the SCOTUS and a majority of Republicans polled said they supported the nominee even if the allegations against him were proved true. And now I’m reading that proposed restrictions to demonstrations at the White House and places on the National Mall are being considered.  I don’t want to sound like an alarmist crazy person, but keep protesting while they let you.  Watch the Handmaid’s Tale to see why I’m feeling urgency.

Last week, before I realized that the FDA investigation was a complete fraud, I kept thinking about Myra Bradwell, and wondering what she would think about all of this nuttiness.  You’ve probably never heard of her, so here is a brief summary of her badass life.

Myra Colby was born in Vermont in 1831.  After she completed her formal education at the age of 24, she became a school teacher.  In 1852, Myra married a law student named James B. Bradwell.  In 1855, they moved to Illinois where was admitted to the Chicago Bar and became a successful lawyer and judge.  Myra was also interested in the law, but women were prohibited from attending law school.  Instead, she studied under her husband and apprenticed in his law practice.  She was quoted in the Chicago Tribune in 1889, saying:

“I acquired the idea [of studying law] from helping my husband in his office. I was always with him, helping in whatever way I could.… I believe that married people should share the same toil and the same interests and be separated in no way. It is the separation of interests and labor that develops people in opposite directions and makes them grow apart. If they worked side by side and thought side by side we would need no divorce courts.”

Maybe it is because I have always had boring jobs, but that seems like a terrible idea to me.  If people don’t go off and do their own thing all day, then what do they talk about at night?  “Oh, one of my co-workers made me so mad today…”

“I know.  It was me.”

“Oh yeah! That was you! Did anything happen to you when you got out of my sight today?”

“In the men’s room? Not really.”

Then the sad couple would just go back to eating their peas in silence, I imagine.  Until one of them would say, “I can’t stand it! I’m going for a walk.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and be chased by a bear. I’ll tell you about it when I get back…”

Anyway, Myra put her private studies on hold when the Civil War broke out.  She went to work for charities that raised money for sick and wounded Union soldiers.  She eventually became the president of the Chicago Soldiers’ Aid Society. After the war she went back to her studies and in 1869 she passed the Illinois bar exam with high honors.  She applied for a law license, but the Illinois State Supreme Court denied her application because, as a married woman, she could not lawfully enter into any legal contracts, which would be necessary for a practicing lawyer.

Myra continued to fight her case and appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1873, but the lower court’s decision was upheld. It was the opinion of the highest court in the land that the 14th Amendment (equal protection) did not provide women with the right to practice a profession.

Furthermore, in the opinion of Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley, “The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many occupations of civil life….The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign office of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

So that was some bullshit, obviously.  Myra Bradwell made no more attempts to gain her law license after that, but managed to stay busy.  She helped to write the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act of 1861 and the Earnings Act of 1869, allowing married women gain control of their personal wealth.  In 1968, she founded the Chicago Legal News.  (Actually, she had to get her husband’s help to persuade the Illinois legislature to pass a special law so that she could edit and manage her own newspaper.  They were really hung up on not letting married women work.)  In time, it became the most widely read legal newspaper in the United States.  The paper was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, but Myra rebuilt it and carried on.

Myra Bradwell was also a well-known suffragette.  She helped (along with Lucy Stone and others) to form the American Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869.  Myra insisted that equality for women was a non-partisan issue and  fought to help women in other states attempting to study law and become lawyers.

In 1879, an anti-discrimination bill to allow women to practice in federal courts was passed and signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  Though Myra Bradwell did not re-apply for her license, the Illinois State Supreme Court, acting on its own motion, approved the original application.  (Feel a little guilty, there, Illinois?) It was the year 1890, 21 years after she had applied and four years before Myra Bradwell died of cancer in 1894.

Myra Colby Bradwell first popped into my head when Lindsey Graham histrionically asked, “What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?”

Really?  I thought.  Tell that to Myra!  Not getting your dream job is only “ruinous” to privileged and entitled people who are used to getting what they want. Many people have been denied the opportunity to pursue careers and interests for countless unfair reasons.  And some people, like Myra Bradwell, still found ways to kick ass.  One might even say, “she persisted.”

I wish I were writing this in a snarky way to “Judge Kavanagh,” after a failed vote left him off the highest court.  “Take heart, little bean sprout,” I might have said.  “Let Myra by your inspiration to rise above!”

But it didn’t go that way.  Justice Kavanagh, to the manor born, has achieved his dreams despite all the credible accusations and his own disgraceful display in the final hearing.  No snark for me.  Not this week.

Instead, I’m still focused on Myra Bradwell because she reminds me that things have been worse.  Yes, thing have not progressed as far as I wanted to believe.  And maybe we have done some backsliding.  But I don’t believe we have passed the point of no return.  We are not yet Marthas and Handmaids to the end of democracy.  Myra took her defeat, but then kept writing and working and pushing other women around her to achieve their own goals, and things got better.  Not on its own, but because of the work of the people like Myra Colby Bradwell.

Defeat sucks, but it isn’t final.  Justice Kavanagh may be on the court for forty years (God help us), but not forever.  Damage will be done.  Meanwhile, we will keep writing and working and encouraging one another.  Take heart, dear sprouts!  We will persist!



None Shall Pass… Without Cake!

When I asked Ethan what he wanted his 6th birthday party theme to be and he said “knights,” I had to double check that I understood.  After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he responded, “Nocturnal.”

“Knights? Like, Knights of the Round Table?” I asked, knowing there was a better way to phrase this to a kindergartner.

“No,” Ethan said.  “Like knights that fight.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I got it.”

I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find good decorations easily.  At least, not as easily as if he said, “Starwars,” for instance.  But it wasn’t a problem.  I ordered a dragon pinata, foam swords for a melee, and foil crowns and stick on plastic gems for a craft station.  Easy peasy.

There were about 40 people on the guest list, so we had the party at a park in the neighborhood.  This took care of seating and shade.  Also, I thought if no one wanted to sword fight or decorate a crown, there was a playground.

I’ve never thrown a child’s birthday party before, and I admit I stressed over it more than I should have.  I didn’t sleep much the night before and then I went to the park early and claimed some tables (they don’t take reservations).  I did my best to plan for all contingencies, but there are always things beyond one’s control.  For example, a block away, a sewer pipe burst and each time the breeze shifted there was a distinct barn-yard smell.  I could have been upset, but I decided that it gave the medieval theme an air (pun intended) of authenticity.  Hopefully the guests felt the same.  (They did not, but they were very polite about it.)

The final touch were two figurines to decorate the cake – a knight and a dragon.  Once everything was set up and we were waiting for the guests to arrive, there was nothing to do but sit and wait.

“You know,” Matt – my history teacher boyfriend – said, pointing at the cake, “there is a historical problem there.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked.  “What’s that?”

“Yes, I think the knight should have a sword.  I was just reading that knights, who usually came from the aristocracy, actually looked down on archery.  Archers were from the lower classes.”

“That’s interesting,” I said.  “Also, there’s a dragon.”

“True,” Matt said.  “Very true.”


Auntie Fail

Auntie Rae tries to talk to the kiddos about bullies:

Me: So she bullied me from second grade through the sixth grade, and it was terrible. And I didn’t handle it well but I learned from it. And then, the last I heard, she was a single mom, working at the American Fork Walmart. The end.

My Nephew (9 years old): I don’t understand. How can you be single and a mom?

Me: um…. what? I don’t think I said that. Time for bed!

Ask an Atheist

Last Thursday (April 18th) was “National Ask an Atheist Day.”  I did not know that was a thing until I ended up getting sucked into a Facebook conversation started by an atheist friend of mine who was soliciting questions.

Most of the questions were some version of “how can you prove that there is no god?”  I was reminded that the way most people define atheism is wildly different than the way that I define it.  I know that language evolves and words come to stand for something far beyond their original definitions.  That is a natural phenomenon of language.  But the words “atheist” and “agnostic” do have simple meanings, and that is important to me.

Here is the origin of the word “atheist:”

And here is “agnostic:”


An atheist is without god.  An agnostic is without knowledge.  That is it.  The way I define my atheism is very much in line with the basic components of the word, and not all the other things that people want to put on top of that simple absence of belief.  I live without a belief in a god.  That is, I do not accept any version of a god that has been presented to me and therefore I do not worship one.  Do I know for certain that there is no god or anything that might take the place of a creator? No, I don’t. I accept that I don’t know, therefore I consider myself both atheist and agnostic.

Most of the atheists I know describe themselves this way. And most of us don’t want to tell you that you are wrong to believe in something we don’t accept or that you are backward for keeping your traditions.  I understand that atheism isn’t for everyone, just as Mormonism definitely wasn’t for me.  I would love to be a live-and-let-live atheist.  But then someone inevitably wants to teach creationism in science class and I can’t just ‘let live’ anymore, because I consider that an encroachment on the separation of church and state.  But that’s a whole other conversation.

I was reading the thread with interest and not weighing in, but then I lost my self-control.  I really need to get out more.  I don’t get enough human interaction working at home and I have been making Facebook debates my substitute.  I’m going to get myself into trouble.

The question was something like, “If you know that the word ‘atheist’ offends people, why wouldn’t you call yourself an agnostic instead? And if I lack belief in a god but believe in a higher power or force in the universe greater than myself, am I an atheist?”

This is what I wrote in response:

I know the word atheist is loaded and most people define it differently than I do (simply without belief in a god). I think of it like the word “feminist.” It’s loaded with controversy but its meaning is simple. I guess I would say, in answer to your question, I’m an atheist feminist living in Utah. I have accepted that my basic beliefs are offensive to the general population.

As for the second question, this is how I think about it: I am confident there are forces in the universe that we will never understand. We are so limited in our scope and ability to comprehend, that I am confident that we will never know enough to understand the questions to ask, let alone the answers that are out there. (Which is why I love the Douglas Adams answer to life, the universe and everything turning out to be 42.) But let’s just say for a second that we could, and it turns out that the answer is a physical law or a set of physical laws that guides the universe, and we all go, “Oh! Now it makes sense!” And then my bishop from my childhood jumps up and points and me and says “See! I was right! I told you there was something!” Then I would turn to him and say, “Excuse me, but is it a bearded magic man who cares a whole lot about whether or not I masturbate? No? Okay, then fuck off.”

I didn’t tell him that, yes, by my definition, he is an atheist.  I kept this to myself because it was clear that word was inherently pejorative to him. Nor did I tell him that most of the people I meet who consider themselves agnostic are actually atheist by my definition.  I don’t tell my ‘agnostic’ friends that, either.  They seem to think that agnosticism is a politer form of atheism.  Or rather, a refusal to take a side.  The Switzerland of dogmas.  My atheist friends think of themselves as agnostic, but my agnostic friends think of themselves as people who just don’t care and would like to talk about something else, now.  But they are living without a god.  They are atheists, too.

That’s okay.  I hold fast that words have meanings and those meanings are important. But I also want the right to define myself and what I believe.  I can give others that right as well.

Precision Cooking

My man is making dinner.

Me: Why is there dough on the tape measure?

Matt: The recipe says the biscuits should be 1/4 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches across.


Latter Day Saints and Sinners

I allowed myself to be drawn into another family’s facebook fight last week.  I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t help myself.  And anyway it has been so long – I think I just needed to be reminded that you aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion.  Not on the topic of homosexuality.  And not on facebook.

A little background…

When I was a kid, my Mormon bishop was unequivocal about homosexuality.  It was a choice, and it was a bad choice.  This was the message I got from everyone in my community.  But in the last few years, I have noticed a distinct evolution in the way Mormon’s talk about our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Suddenly, there was a different tone.  It is still bad, of course.  But they seemed to get that it wasn’t a choice.  I think the word I have heard most is that it is an “affliction.”  As in, “Have you heard? Her son is afflicted with same sex attraction.”

In the beginning I thought that just the fact that they were moving on the issue was good, because it showed progress.  But I quickly decided that was wrong.  In fact, I’ve decided that the new stance is as or more toxic.  They still believe you have a choice.  If not a choice in who you love and are attracted to, then you have a choice in what you do about it.

This is best explained by the Josh and Lolly phenomenon.  Josh and Lolly Weed are a couple who came out several years ago as “mixed attracted” for lack of a better term.  They wrote a long blog post that went viral and gave a lot of people in the church hope that even if their child suffered from this condition that they could still live a “normal” life, centered around a person of the opposite sex, their children and their church.  And the Saints rejoiced.

But then, a few months ago, the Weeds wrote another post announcing that they were wrong.  It wasn’t working, and they are divorcing.

As a result, in the Utah parlance, people are flipping the freak out.

Last week a woman I know through a writing group posted this blog post written by one such flipper outer titled “Actually, the Mormon Position on Gay Marriage is Stronger Than You Think.  I read the title and knew that I was clicking on danger but as I said already… yeah.  It was a slow work day.  The post has since been removed, but here is the gist: So it didn’t work out for the Weeds.  That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work!  You don’t have to be attracted to a person to love them, you just have to endure the times when you aren’t ‘feeling it’ until you develop that deeper truer Fiddler on the Roof kind of love.  Then he cites his experience of enduring his wife’s postpartum depression without filing for divorce as proof that this can be done.

It was stupid and my general response was a big eyeroll and an “Oh yeah… I forgot about the enthusiasm with which these people will turn themselves into cognitive knots out of desperation to not have to admit they were wrong.”  Then I started looking through the comments that were being posted and I saw that another person from the writing group, a young and out gay man, returned missionary and current student in good standing at BYU, was trying to have a discussion with the poster’s inlaws, cousins, and other hard believing friends.

“Oh God,” I thought.  “Calvin needs some cover fire.”

So I weighed in and said some pro LGBT stuff, basically stating that I know many LGBT folks in life-long partnerships that are as full of love, sacrifice and commitment as any other couple I have ever met.  Sometimes I think that the one helpful thing one can do in these circumstances is remind everyone that they are talking about real people.  Here is an example of a comment that I got in response.

A homosexual relationship cannot meet the purposes for eternal marriage. Being in love longterm by itself means very little in the scope of eternal purposes for marriage. But in reality, there are relatively few homosexual relationships that are longterm anyway. The media has been very successful in painting a certain picture of homosexual family bliss, but the reality is much much more often promiscuity, damaged people, disease, and misery.

So I said:

I think we worry too much about the afterlife and deciphering God’s plan. I would rather focus my energy on doing the most with this life and caring for my family and loved ones, who are not the promiscuous damaged and diseased people you may think they are. But even if they were, I believe that the Jesus Christ I have read about would pull them in closer and not shun them, IMHO.

That same God loving lady responded with:

It is one of the most successful tools of the adversary, to convince people that disapproval of a sin is equal to hating the sinner. It has become a most powerful lie.

Oh my mistake.  I thought you just wrote off an entire community as diseased and damaged people, which sounds a lot like hating the sinner to me, but whatever.  I don’t know how we got to this place where it is far worse to call someone bigoted than to be bigoted, but that seems to be the way of it.

I lost an entire day on this thread.  I stopped commenting, but I kept reading.  Calvin was fighting a good fight, but he was getting ganged up on and no one wanted to hear what he had to say.  I was proud of him, but was hurting me to watch.  Finally, around midnight, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I fired this off in the comments (please forgive the run on sentences – it was late and I was feeling feisty):

Calvin, I should PM you… but I’m going to just say this publicly because as we say in Utah County “what the heck.” If the article’s data is correct and 40% of millennial Mormons are struggling with their faith over social issues, then the church is in a crisis. As has been stated in this thread many times over, there is a clear choice. Accept all on faith and stay, or find that is not possible and leave (where I find myself). You have somehow made another choice. The bravest choice. You have your testimony of The Heavenly Father and you have what you know to your bones to be true about yourself… in your own heart. Clearly, the dissonance is painful for you, and yet you stay and fight for an answer. It seems to me that those of us who want the church to survive in the future might look to you and your choice and say “how do we resolve this together?” Not to lecture or to call you wicked or to say your choices are to remain celibate and die alone, without knowing love or affection, OR to leave… Here is the thing. I have what I want. I have a Supreme Court decision ruling on my side. The fact that the future of the church weighs in the balance of the next generation, and it seems they are split… a person who has been fighting this fight since the 90s might see that as icing on the cake, and there may be days where I do. But you aren’t me. You have taken the braver path. You are staying to fight the brave fight. There will be many people who will tell you to sit down and listen. Those people want to validate their own decisions. What they don’t understand is that they are validating my decision, with every young person they call wicked and push away. On my basest most broken level I want that. I want the church to fail for everyone the way it failed for me. I want my decisions to be validated. But I have – even now – an elevated level, where I see that this church has the power to help people find meaning in this world. And that part of me wants to tell you to never be discouraged. Keep seeking. Keep asking questions. Keep challenging the accepted views. Sooner or later, for the sake of the future, they will sit down and listen.

If not, the Unitarians are lovely and they don’t care if you wear jeans to church. Just sayin’.


Calvin and I ended up taking the conversation over to private message and had a long chat about all of this.  It was really good to decompress and to ease some of the frustration by preaching to the choir instead of to the gargoyles.  The next time I saw him I gave him a big hug and I felt like I had adopted a new nephew.  I know I didn’t budge any minds on that thread; we all left as self-certain as we began.  If I managed to give Calvin a little encouragement, then maybe it wasn’t a lost day after all.

Did I mean it? Do I hope he stays and fights this fight?  Not really.  It was killing me just watching him stand up to some strangers on facebook.  The actual church?  I can’t even imagine.  If I could make his decisions for him, I would get him out of that church and introduce him to some truly compassionate people.  But that’s the whole point.  I don’t want anyone making decisions for each other.  I want us all to have the space and empowerment to find our own paths, wherever they may lead.

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