Yes, that Utah

I believe in miracles...
I often times start posts and save them as drafts. It may take a me awhile to get back to my post. In this case I have no idea what I was about to write. I had simply written 'I believe in miracles'. I don't remember writing it and it doesn't seem like something I would write.

Maybe I was being prophetic because what happened in Utah on Friday with 'Gay Marriage' was nothing short of a miracle. I'll be watching with interest as this case proceeds.

I'm sure there will be strong opposition from the state. There will be arguments that the states have jurisdiction over marriage; therefore, state's rights are being violated. It is true; states do have jurisdiction over marriage and it is left to the states to define marriage I'm actually trying to understand this myself. 

My limited knowledge of law and order is that there are 'states rights' and this is part of what makes "our country great", (notice the air quotes), the power of the state, in defining marriage, over rule the power of the federal government. So what is going on here?

Rachel Maddow and her guest, New York University law professor Kenji Yoshino, explain it here; they mention the 'nuclear option' which means that when state law and federal law clash state law wins. They also refer to the 'Windsor case'. How does all this help us; us meaning 'We the Gay People' and our allies?

It is still difficult for me to wrap my head around the technicalities of this situation. Apparently the Utah case is different; in that it was a federal judge who ruled the Utah state amendment defining marriage as unconstitutional. 

Judge Robert Shelby says the following:
"The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," the judge wrote. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."

"The court agrees with Utah that regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states, and remains so today. But any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States,".

There's the kicker. A state cannot adopt any law that violates the US Constitution. The 14th amendment, particularly the first section, of the US Constitution, the most litigated section of the constitution, states:

14th Amendment Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

A more interesting thing is that 33 other states have a similar amendment in their state constitution. Does this mean that once Utah repeals Judge Shelby's ruling, (and I bare testimony that they will), the case will go to the supreme court and once a ruling is determined by the Supreme Court it will set a precedence for all? I hope this is what it means because this will mean a landslide of change in this the United States of America!

Since 'human dignity' is used as a main argument in the ruling of Judge Shelby I worry that the words 'human dignity' are not used in the US Constitution. There is jurisprudence however; meaning, the Supreme Court has ruled based on the philosophy or theory of human dignity being a constitutional right.

I must say I am still a bit apprehensive about what will happen. I do know that the fight for gay marriage is moving in the right direction. It seems like a slow moving train at times but we are making progress and we will arrive. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Let's take a moment to recognize the accuracy in Justice Scalia's prediction that the precedence set by the ruling in United States vs Windsor that DOMA denies plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law (5th amendment) would be setting a precedence for striking down similar amendments in state constitutions. Of course he said it as a bad thing; I personally think it is a great thing. Thank you Justice Scalia for pointing this out so Judge Sheldon could reference this in his ruling.

Thank you to Edith Windsor who at age 83 had the courage, the money and the gumption to fight her fight in court.

Thank you Judge Sheldon for your 53 page ruling declaring Utah's amendment, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional. 

Thank you, in advance, to the state of Utah for appealing this decision and laying the ground work necessary for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of gay marriage in Utah and subsequently setting the precedence for the other 33 states who still have this type of amendment in their constitutions.

Go Utah! Who would've thunk it. :o)

My Lucky Day

If you aren't familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons) you may not understand a lot of the terminology used in this post. I hope you can still relate to the story. If you are a member of the church; know that my intention is not to disclose anything sacred or mock your beliefs. The events are real. The names have been changed.

When asked why I left the Mormon Church I often don't have a fast and easy answer. There was no single reason I left. There was a lifetime of experiences, a lot of personal study, a lot of truth seeking then one day I found that my questions were bigger than the answers. I found my time in church on Sunday was no longer uplifting it had become a place where I was drained of every ounce of my strength. My leaving didn't happen over night it happened over years. There were some last straws that broke the proverbial camel's back and there were definitely some defining moments that made leaving easier. 

The following experience is one of those defining moments. Not a reason for my leaving as much as a clarifying moment when I thought 'why the hell should I stay'. My last trip to the Temple turned out to be a pretty good finale to my Mormon life. 

First the story leading up to the event.

"As your stake president I don't feel I can sign your recommend today. It's clear that you don't sustain the leaders and you don't believe in the main tenants of the gospel."

"What I am trying to tell you, President Marshall, is that though I respect the church leadership I would just like to see the church, as an entity, take a stronger stance on domestic violence... I know of individuals in my ward who deal with spousal abuse and child abuse in their homes and they are getting no support from the church."

The door to the office shut behind me and it hit me that, for the first time in my life, I was being denied the approval I needed to enter the Temple to practice one of the most important principals of my religion. I was a bit stunned and shaken up by this interaction I had just had. I stood in one place for a very long time trying to comprehend what had just happened. How can one man have this kind of control over my life?

As I thought about my conversation with President Marshall; about the problem of domestic violence in the church I recalled a conversation with my friend Karen I had three months previous.
"Wow Karen, has anyone else read your journals? I had no idea you and the kids were going through this. Why don't you leave?"
"Craig will find me." Karen tells me; her hands visibly shaking. "He said if I leave he will find me and the kids and we will pay for it. I'm pregnant again and I do not want to put another child in this situation. My therapist at LDS Social Services has read my journals and has heard everything. He thinks I should stay and make it work. But it's not going to work."
"I can't believe anyone at LDS Social Services would read this and tell you to stay. Your therapist must be a crazy person."
"I'm going to leave as soon as the baby is born. It will be summer and the kids will be out of school. My job will be changing too and I can transfer to another city."
"You need to involve the police; this is serious, bad stuff Karen. I don't know if you are safe waiting it out." 
"I think I'll be okay; Craig is working nights and is only home when we are all away. I don't want to call the police until the kids and I are safe."
Two weeks after my initial interview with the stake president I tried again; and every two weeks for the next six months. Each interview proving to be more frustrating than the previous one. For some reason President Marshall has an issue with me and somehow believes I'm not worthy because, as he sees it, I don't sustain the leaders.

"Who is the head of your household Jill?" President Marshall asks during one of our interviews. "Is your husband at the head of your household?" My reply was evidently not what he wanted to hear. "Both my husband and I are at the head of our household. It's important to both of us that we lead together and our children see us as equals." I paused, then I asked "President Marshall did you receive a letter from Elder Marion D Hanks on my behalf?" I knew he had because I had written Elder Hanks a few weeks previous explaining the situation and asking him if he thought what the stake president was basing his decision on was a legitimate issue. I had received a copy of the letter Elder Hanks had written to the stake president urging him to reconsider his stance. Elder Hanks wrote ...I know Jill and I know her heart. I vouch for her worthiness and her honest desire to go to the Temple.

President Marshall folded his hands on the desk in front of him. "I did receive his letter and my decision stays the same. It's obvious to me you have a problem with patriarchy and if you don't honor the Priesthood you are not sustaining our leaders and you are not worthy of a temple recommend." I was astonished. "I can't believe, President, that because I am speaking up for women and children who are being abused and violated that you are concluding I am unworthy. We have been meeting for six months and I still have no recommend. What do I have to do in order to prove my worthiness and get your signature on this piece of paper?"

Three months and four interviews later I am in the church foyer waiting to talk to President Marshall. I'm a little uncomfortable because Craig, the abusive husband of my friend Karen, is also waiting for an interview. I'm not sure if Craig knows of my friendship with his wife. I'm pretty sure he doesn't; Karen would be the last person to let on that anyone knew of the situation.

"Are you waiting to talk to President Marshall" Craig asks. "Yes, you too I suppose." Craig flashes his Temple Recommend. "Yes, waiting to get my recommend signed; just got the Bishop's signature." I distract myself hoping to end the conversation with this vile man. First of all I can't believe with what the Bishop knows about Craig that he would sign his recommend. Karen has met with the Bishop, as well as her therapist at LDS Social Services, many times seeking advice only to be told to do what it takes to make her marriage work.

Why do I even care, I think to myself, this experience has been horrible I can't believe these men are inspired. Well maybe President Marshall will withhold Craig's recommend. I can't imagine he would sign his recommend seeing how he has given me such a difficult time. It doesn't take inspiration to figure out that Craig is a total douchebag.

The door to the Stake President's office opens and Craig walks in and, no kidding, twenty minutes later walks out with a signed recommend. "Must be my lucky day" Craig says as he gives me a look that somehow tells me he knows of my friendship with his wife. My stomach wrenches and I have to look away. The irony of the situation is baffling to me. Here I am, for close to a year now, trying to get my recommend signed and the reason I can't get it signed just walked out of the president's office with a little slip of paper stating his worthiness is greater than mine in the eyes of President Marshall, ergo the church, ergo God. 

My thoughts are racing; President Marshall obviously doesn't know Craig. Craig must have lied saying whatever it took to get his recommend signed. They aren't difficult questions after all. Yes, yes, yes, no, yes... the answers are simple enough.

I walked into the President's office and see the man who I have been contending with for the last several months in a strange new light. For the first time I notice the framed license on his wall stating that he is a licensed therapist working for LDS Social Services. This is too coincidental, I think, I'll have to ask Karen who her therapist is. 

"You know Brother Planter?" President Marshall asks. "Yes he is in my ward. I'm good friends with his wife Karen; we know each other quite well." My reply seems to strike a chord with him and for some unexplained reason I leave his office that day with my recommend signed. 'Must be my lucky day.'

The recommend in my hand didn't seem like a gift or a prize it seemed like a worthless slip of paper. I wanted to wad it up and throw it into the trash. So much had happened over the last year. Karen had a baby  boy and was still planning her escape from an abusive marriage. I had made my own self discoveries and was dealing with the idea of being gay and still remaining in my marriage and the church. I laughed as I thought about what President Marshall might think if he knew that story. By this time I had figured out that these men who had jurisdiction over my worthiness didn't need to know everything about me. Besides it was not a sin to BE gay only to ACT gay.

At least now I can go to the Temple with Linda. Linda had been telling me how she wanted me to go with her because she was doing work for her ancestors. I guess I could muster the spirituality to go with Linda this week; ward temple day was on Saturday. I left the President's office and headed down the hallway to attend Relief Society meeting. I sat down next to Karen. "Karen, who is your therapist at LDS Social Services?" I asked. It didn't surprise me when she told me that it was President Marshall. I didn't hear a word of the lesson that day... something about charity or some such thing.

Linda and I met on Saturday morning and headed up to the Temple. My heart wasn't completely in it but I knew it was important to Linda and I thought I could dig down deep and create a spiritual experience. We arrived at the Temple and eventually made our way to the room where we would be for the next hour or so to participate in, what is considered by believing Mormons, a sacred ritual.

Fast forward to the end of the session where they ask for people to go to the front of the room and stand in a circle for a prayer. Linda, myself and several others walked up front and stood at the alter. 

In way of explanation for those not familiar with the ceremony. There needs to be an equal number of men and women in the circle so when there is a man or a woman by themselves, without a person of the opposite sex with them, they will call someone up from the group to balance the numbers. Male, female, male, female around in a circle the man to the right and the women to the left in couples. 

On this occasion I am without a male partner. The man conducting the session asks for a male volunteer to stand with me in the prayer circle.

Now, you may think I'm making this up but I'm not; this really happened. I'm standing there waiting for someone to come stand with me in the prayer circle and up walks... wait for it... wait for it... yes, you're right up comes Craig. What are the chances I guess it was 'my lucky day'. Up to this point I hadn't noticed him, but now here I am standing next to him in the prayer circle. 

I hear the officiator say "If any of you have unkind feelings about anyone in the circle we ask that you withdraw..." What do I do, I do not like this man I have VERY unkind feelings towards him. Oh well, pretend... just like you have been doing all of your life... pretend. After a few more words we are asked to take the hand of the person next to us in a symbolic grip called the 'patriarchal grip' (Ironic ~ right?).

I wanted to leave the circle. I wanted to stand up for Karen, and all the women like her, and somehow call Craig out for all of the physical and sexual abuse he had perpetrated on his family. But I didn't. I stood there with Craig to my right holding my hand in the patriarchal grip. I'm not sure if he was aware that I knew what kind of a man he was, but somehow I think he did know and this was his way of being in control and having a bit of power over me. If I did sit down he would know for sure that Karen had told me things and this might put her in danger so I suppose pretending was the best thing to do.

The prayer circle finished up and we proceeded to the next part of the temple session. Eventually Linda and I are in the Celestial room where on a more typical day I would have felt calm and peace. Now I'm feeling very uncomfortable and all I want to do is run from the room screaming. I quickly exit and return to the safest place in the Temple; the ladies locker room.

Somehow, in that moment, I knew this would be my last visit to the Temple.

Testing for the God Factor-Belief Analytics

I'm resurrecting, in part, a post from last March. Take a few minutes to answer the questions below and see if you are naturally inclined to believe in God.

The point of this post is not to discover truth or unravel mystery or prove my point. I am simply exploring the mystery of the human need to believe in a higher power. I am not trying to explain my beliefs or to understand your beliefs. I want to explore why do we or don't we believe in God(s) or religion.

Maybe, as pointed out in some scientific articles I've read, it boils down to what kind of 'thinker' you are. An interesting idea, but it falls short of explaining why I have come to where I am in my thinking and my beliefs. I want to sum up one article I read this morning on cognitive thinking and how the type of thinker you are leads to a belief, or disbelief, in God.

A reflective thinker is someone who analyzes and is logical by nature; while an intuitive thinker is more likely to feel their way and go with their gut feelings. The level of cognitive thinking can be partially determined by answering these three questions:

  1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 
  2. If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long does it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? 
  3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? 
The more correct answers you get indicates you are a reflective, or analytic, thinker and the less likely you are to believe in God or other spiritual phenomena. The fewer correct answers you get indicates you are an intuitive thinker and the more likely your are to believe in God. It's not a measure of intelligence but a measure of logic and analytic abilities. 

Of course if you are a science or math whiz you might easily come to more correct answers. Are there scientists and math genius' that believe in God? Yes there are; are there intuitive thinkers who don't believe in God; yes obviously. These are just indicators and inclinations. I'm definitely an intuitive thinker.

Here are the answers: Five cents, five minutes, and forty-seven days.

The type of thinker we are is an indicator of our inclinations towards God. However; life happens and many of us go beyond our inclinations to come to other conclusions. I'm an intuitive thinker but through my life and my experiences I have come to a place in my life where I don't believe in God. Or at least I don't think it's important if there is a God or not. Even though I don't believe in God my intuitive nature still leans towards spiritual phenomena. I believe strongly in my intuitive nature which leads me towards all manner of woo woo.

I got every question wrong; however, once I saw the answers they made total sense and I was able to puzzle through the questions and come to the correct answers. This is my pattern; the way I approach a lot of things in my life. My first response is intuitive and visceral; however, I also enjoy puzzling my way through life in a more logical sort of way.

What do you think... (or feel)?

I Believe that I Don't Believe...

The more I think about it the more I believe that I don't believe; in God that is. God seems like a fictional character to me these days. I shake my head as I look back on the days when I was a faithful believer. My journey away from God has been a slow and steady one. I started out a 100% believer in God and Jesus Christ. Eventually I became a doubter then a 50/50 kind of gal. My attitude for a long time has been 'what if there is; what if there isn't... does it really matter?' I am more recently moving into the 'I can't imagine there is a God' place; the idea seems like a fairy tale or a myth.

I'm sure there are friends and family shaking their heads at this thought; wondering what they are going to do without me in the eternities. And to those loved ones I say... sorry, I know eternal life will be boring without me there. I believe we live then we die... I don't believe there is a place where good people go and a place where others go. 

I have yet to define the 'ism' I subscribe to. For now I'll call it myism; a belief system of my own making.

I believe we have this life and we should make good choices. The choices that bring us, and those around us, happiness and love. 

I believe morality is not something exclusive to religion or religious people. The most important tenant of my life is to love and respect. Love and respect myself; love and respect others; love and respect all the people, animals and objects in my world. I believe everyone is my equal and no one is more important or lesser important than me.

I believe Excel is a miracle.

What I think about, what intrigues and fascinates me, is why do masses of people believe in a higher power? What is it in our human nature driving us to form religions and beliefs in something or someone who is in charge of things somehow. Is it our need to have answers? Our need to have power and control? Our need to know that somehow things will be made right through some eternal reward and punishment system? What if Hitler gets away with it? What if there is no eternal damnation in store for the horribly cruel and evil people who have lived on this planet?

There is one bit I have not quite let go of and I'm not sure how I reconcile this feeling or belief with my disbelief. I want to know that somehow when death occurs and we lose a loved one that they are still with us. I want their presence to be real and significant. My heart aches to think there is no contact with loved ones who have passed. 

So I still believe in ghosts and spirits... why? I'm not sure why. When horrible and tragic things happen to me or those close to me I still want to have contact. Imagine losing a child and not having any further contact. I use my powers of cognitive dissonance and I say 'maybe it's science'. Perhaps spirits and ghosts can be explained through science.

We are made up of energy and that energy is connected to everything else made up of energy. When we die our energy disperses into the universe and remains present. Maybe that energy hangs around us and comforts or haunts us. Energy vibrates at different frequencies and under the right circumstance we are sensitive to that frequency and we experience something paranormal. 

So it makes sense doesn't it? Energy, ghosts, spirits... or is this just one other attempt to bring me peace of mind; maybe it's simply infrasound.

Think I'll just let the mystery be.

A Crisis of Faith - redefined

I've been skimming a lot of online writings and blog posts addressing the many reasons individuals leave the Mormon church. 
As I read different accounts there seems to be this notion that 'insiders' identify 'outsiders' as people who have experienced a 'crisis of faith'. The idea started gnawing at me and bothering me just a bit. I've never imagined my leaving the Mormon church as a crisis of any sort. What many say is a crisis of faith to me was a truly enlightening experience. I didn't lose anything; I gained a broader knowledge, a broader perspective and a much more complete, fulfilling and happy existence. Leaving the church possibly saved my life.

I have posted previously about my personal journey; the outline of my trek through inner darkness and a personal hell resulting in my coming out into a glorious world of love and respect for myself and others. If when you speak of a 'crisis of faith' you mean a difficult experience followed by a greater empathy and understanding of life then, I suppose, I did have a crisis of faith. However, if you are thinking that a 'crisis of faith' is a weakness or a failure and the result is a lost sole, then no, I did not suffer a 'crisis of faith'.

The Mormon Church is simply a religion, like many other religions; it is an evangelical entity that believes there is an eternal reward for unquestioning faith. Once you start looking at the stories and the teachings of the church it quickly unravels. My exodus from the Mormon church took place before the internet. (BG-Before the Googles.) The research and study I participated in was scripture, books, discussions and symposiums. Even BG it was easy to dispel the myths and see the inconsistencies and conflicts with reality.

My own experience was one of six or seven years of picking and choosing the tenants of the gospel I could believe in and leaving others alone. I looked at every question I had and determined if it was Mormon doctrine or if it was Mormon folklore. If it was the latter I dismissed it, if it was the former I studied it out and determined if it was something I could stand behind or if I needed to turn the page and get past it. Over time there was a lot of page turning and before I realized it there was very little left for me to stand behind. 

Was there fear? Was there anger? Was there confusion? Yes to all three. I had spent a lifetime affiliated with a religion quite the opposite of my nature. I had dedicated my time, my talent and my treasure to what? To an entity that I now feel is broken and, at least for me, a place of confusion and unhappiness. I had spent nearly two years of my life proselyting full-time telling others of the truth of the church. My tithing helped fund the fight against women's rights and gay rights. I know... what was I thinking?!?

*The final straw for me was hearing a talk by Boyd K Packer in general conference stating that the three greatest enemies of the church are gays, feminists and so called intellectuals. Three strikes I'm out; okay 2 1/2 strikes, because I don't count myself an 'intellectual'. I was only guilty by association with the intellectual rebel rousers. 

That was the last general conference I attended and, not long afterwards, I shed my temple garments and stopped all activity in the church. Since the timing of leaving the church was close to the timing of coming out as a lesbian and asking my husband for a divorce it seemed a good time to leave the church as well. Why not; I might as well get it all taken care of in one big nervous breakdown rather than three smaller ones.

I believe, in my own situation, that the 'crisis' would have been staying in the church. My partner, Suzie, always says that she doesn't understand why anyone would stay in a bad relationship. Her method of determining if a relationship is worth staying in is to ask herself this question: Is your life better, or potentially better, with this person in your life? 

Let's take a few paragraphs and extend this question to my relationship with the church. Of course the answer to a question like this isn't yes or no/black or white there is a list of pros and cons. For a long time the list of pros was longer than the list of cons and I was happy with the relationship. It brought me peace, friendship and purpose. 

In the early stages of our relationship I felt loved and protected. Of course there were conditions to that love; as long as I did as I was told then I felt the love and protection. It was easy, for a long time, to be what Mr. Church wanted me to be. 

Early in our relationship the stories told by Mr. Church were inspiring and faith promoting. I believed so strongly in what he said; I never thought to question. As is true of a lot of relationships one partner grows and learns and develops while the other partner doesn't change at all. Well I grew and Mr. Church refused to change.

As I grew and practiced the principals of unconditional love and compassion taught to me by Mr. Church I started to realize he was all talk and no action. I then started looking at all of the stories and teachings he had given me throughout our relationship and realized that many of them were inaccurate, shameful and some were outright outlandish. 

I didn't give up on the relationship right away. I needed to try and make it work. But after six long years of giving it my best effort I started feeling depressed and very alone. At one point during the struggle of resolving these relationship issues I realized he wasn't going to change. I could see so clearly the emotional abuse, the mind control and the bullying that was going on. 

I grew stronger and more independent over time and one day just decided that this relationship I had with Mr. Church was more harm than good. So I left the relationship and I have never regretted it. Now, outside of the relationship, I see so clearly what was going on. 

Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for the good things that came from our 36 years together. When you break up with someone there are always those things you miss. I miss the friendship and connection I had with the other members of Mr. Church's family. Many members of the Church family are still in touch and I still have a relationship with them. I have also found strong and meaningful connections outside of the Church family. 

The more time I am away from Mr. Church the better it gets. I know everyone's relationship is unique and I hope others who are in a relationship with Mr. Church can be happy; however, if anyone else feels the need to leave that relationship I hope they find the strength, courage and support to do so.

I know I made the right decision for myself and my family. I propose that a 'crisis of faith' is only possible if one fails to examine their relationship with the church and then take action to either stay in the relationship or leave the relationship.

My advice; don't suffer a 'crisis of faith'. Figure it out; decide what enhances your life and be honest with yourself and your loved ones. There's no crisis in being true to oneself and doing what is good and right for your life and the lives of your loved ones. Don't live in fear and don't operate out of guilt.

* I don't find a reference for the conference talk by BKP. I have searched and as far as I can tell it is no where to be found on the internet, in official church writings or in conference issues of the Ensign. You'll believe me or you won't. I can only say that I was there, I heard the talk and it had a tremendous impact on me. This was not the talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council that you can find referenced online; however, it is similar in nature and timing. The talk I heard was a general conference address to the general, world-wide membership. The words I use are paraphrased because I can't find them quoted exactly as I heard them.

**Since posting this blog I have learned from an internet buddy (see comments below) that the conference talk I heard may not have been a general conference, but rather, a regional conference. 

Now I Know What is Meant by the 'Sandwiched Generation'

Now I know what is meant by the 'Sandwiched Generation'. I thought I knew before; however, as I was lying in bed frustrated to tears because my son and his friends were up at 3am while my 90 year old mother was sleeping in the room above them; I realized what it meant to be sandwiched; dealing with the emotions that come with caring for my children and my parent.

"But it has never been a problem before" Jacob reminds me. "We'll be more aware and try to be more quiet. Has Grandma said anything?" "No", I admitted, "she said she can't hear a thing, and she's been sleeping fine." Jacob looks at me funny and asks "then is there a problem?"

Truthfully there was no real problem. The problem was that I hadn't slept in two days because I was afraid Mom was going to hear the boys coming and going. I was the one who wasn't sleeping, I was the one who was having the problem. The solution was an easy one it was called 'ear plugs'.

My mom moved in with us, at my invitation, at the beginning of the month. She's 90 years old, in great health and has a clear mind, more so than most anyone I know. She's adjusting well, and other than a few moments of emotional ups and downs, she's happy and thriving. When asked if she's glad she made the move she answers yes with no hesitation. 

I'm so happy to have her here with us and I think it's going to be great. She's very easy to be around; the button pushing between mother and daughter dissolved long ago, okay not so long ago, but it has dissolved. It only bothered me a little bit when she told me I needed to exercise more. (Thank God she told me that because I wasn't aware.) Other than that I haven't been bothered at all by anything she's done or said.

Mom's name is Cleone. Cleone is one of the more amazing people in my life. I love and admire her for the life she's lived. She has always worked hard. In her 80's she was still working; she was a caregiver, taking care of 'older' ladies. The women she has cared for over the years have been important to Mom. She loved each one of them and her life has been enriched by the friendships. 

I'm grateful to have this opportunity to be close to Mom and spend time with her. There are a whole lot of lessons I have yet to learn from her. In fact, just the other day, I learned how to tuck sheets army style. Who knew that all these years I've been doing it wrong. Seriously though, I'm going to learn from her character, her experience and her love. I have been given an opportunity to be close to my mom while she is still able to enjoy life and laugh everyday. 

As for my children; they have their own lessons to learn. Jacob is no longer a child and is perfectly able to make life's decisions and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Paul and Katie have both launched successful careers and have relationships that are healthy, strong and full of goodness. So as far as being sandwiched; I believe I am sitting between two damn good slices of the best bread ever made. 

I'm in good company with Suzie, the love of my life, who has been sandwiched right along with me. She's been through all of the ups and downs. She's encouraged me and supported me in every decision and effort. 

So yes, I am sandwiched, and I am finding it quite an amazing journey so far.

The Five Elements in Nine Star Ki

In my introduction of 9 Star Ki I included a calculator. If you played with the calculator you may have noticed that each of your numbers correlates with an element in nature.

Water (1); Wood (3,4); Fire (9); Earth (2,5,8); and Metal (6,7)

The image above illustrates how the elements work together and effect one another. When we understand the elements and how they support and control one another we begin to see how we can make small shifts in our energy to achieve balance.

For instance if I start feeling a depletion of my 'earth energy' (meaning I'm feeling over spent and I've been giving, giving, giving); I pull energy from 'fire' which if you look at the illustration above you'll see that fire nourishes earth. How do I pull energy from fire? I do something fiery like put on a red shirt and go out with my best friend to eat spicy foods and have a lovely drink. Do something fun and adventurous. 

On the other hand if I'm stuck and have too much earth energy (I can usually tell because I start to worry or feel resentful) then I push my earth energy forward in the cycle to metal. Metal, to me, is clean, shiny and organized. So I do something useful or do something to perfect my surroundings (even if that means cleaning one corner of my room) I then start to relax, unwind and put things into perspective. Another approach to too much earth energy might be to draw on the 'controlling element' which, for earth, is wood. Wood energy to me is active and forceful. Do something, go for a walk or a hike outdoors. Go to the gym (if you're so inclined) I would rather mow my lawn or clean my house. The key is to pull from the element you need to in order to maintain or regain balance.

Each element has certain qualities and challenges. We are complicated beings and though we have elements that are more prevalent in our personalities and nature we our a combination of all the elements. I think of it all in terms of balance. As an example I am a 5.5.5, or a triple earth; earth individuals are grounded and nurturing. Earth enjoys taking care of people; and depending on the individual and the yin/yang of their qualities the scope of their nurturing can become the world or it may be focused on their family and their close loved ones.

Balance is the essence of yin/yang. There is a light side and a dark side interconnected and combined for balance. Our character is made up of light and dark energies; combined to achieve balance. I find it a challenge to maintain and achieve that balance, but when those energies are balanced; life seems to flow.

We sometimes fall into the habit of considering 'light and dark' the same as 'good and bad' or 'positive and negative'. I consider the light and dark as both equally positive and negative. Oftentimes the same quality of nature can be our greatest strength as well as our greatest weakness.

Consider day and night; both essential, both equal in beauty, both life giving. I can think of things I love about both like the movement and brightness of the day and the stillness and darkness of the night. I can also think of things I'm not so crazy about for both like the movement and the brightness of the day and the stillness and the darkness of the night. The energies stayed the same yet I am in tune or not; depending on where I am and how I feel in the moment. Depending on if there is a balance of energies both with me and around me.

Another way to understand it might be to consider the people in your life. I have people in my life who would do anything for anyone. Can this trait be both good and bad? It's about balance. I keep coming back to center to balance, this is what I consider the way to happiness.

I hope to write more on the subject of the five elements. It quickly becomes easy to identify the traits of each element. We can use this understanding to help ourselves stay in balance. We can also use this knowledge to see the interactions between individuals and group dynamics. 

I have learned to approach others according to what element they express themselves in. I have found the 5 elements to be the most comprehensive and easiest way to understanding and dealing with myself and others.

From Holy Ghost to Holy Roast

The transition from inspiration by Holy Ghost to inspiration by Coffee was seamless. I haven't missed the former in the least. In fact I find coffee is far more predictable and reliable; it's certainly easier because there's no 'worthiness clause'; coffee is non-judgmental, non-discriminating and available for everyone.

The following passage originally referring to the HG now makes more sense. I simply replaced any reference to Mr. HG with 'Coffee'.

The Tolerance Trap

"We need to be careful of the'tolerance trap' so that we are not swallowed up in it."

"Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice..."

These are quotes from a recent talk given by Boyd K Packer, anti gay champion and General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he is referring to the legalization of gay marriage.

Seriously Mr. Packer? This is so "1984".

Saints and Sinners

"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin"

I don't like the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin". It raises my blood pressure. I find this phrase offensive on so many levels. I think those who use this phrase when referring to my sexual orientation mean well; in fact I think some feel they are being quite generous.

There are people claiming to have the 'bigger picture' or the 'eternal perspective' yet these are often times the most narrow minded individuals.

Definition of a Bigot

Here's a recent post of a facebook friend of mine. 

"Disagreement is not hate; high time we realize honoring man-woman marriage is not hatred or bigotry."

A good example of words used as trickery. The words, in and of themselves, are perfectly true. I will stand up for anyone's rights to disagree with me and I truly hope people will honor man-woman marriage; I do.

Bigotry and hatred come in when you disagree so much with someone, or a group of someones, that you seek to withhold basic human rights and dignity from them. Or you express hatred and intolerance. Just saying; if the shoe fits...

The Gay Marriage Battle

I have been absorbed by the blog world. In particular the Ex-Mormon blog world. One of the blogs I have come to enjoy is Irresistible (Dis)Grace. I have found the author, Andrew, to be intelligent, respectful and eloquent. I agree with so much of what he writes and I enjoy his command for words; words that hold power and respect in balance. He has a protagonist named Seth who writes in opposition of whatever Andrew says. I don't ever agree with Seth but he is also respectful and intelligent.

Recently Andrew wrote about 'Gay Marriage'. I have some interest in this subject because I am gay and I have been in a committed relationship since 1997. I also know a thing or two about Mormonism and where many of the Mormon community are coming from. The string of comments on this post was interesting and it prompted me to write a comment as well.

Another blogger I enjoy is 'A Post-Mormon Life'. Post Mormon Girl has also recently posted about Gay Marriage. Thanks PMG :O).

I wish this battle would end (and by end I mean gays achieve the right to marry at a federal level and this arduous process of each state duking it out ceases). I look forward to the day, and I believe this day will come, when sexual orientation isn't an issue and there is no question of equality.

Below is the comment I wrote on Andrew's post:

Why Do We Believe or Not Believe in God

What I find fascinating about God and religion doesn't have anything to do with belief or proving that belief. What I find fascinating is the sociology and psychology of religion. What I truly fascinates me, is why people and societies are drawn to religion. I don't see the inclination to believe in God or a certain theology as a weakness or a strength; simply a mystery.

The point of this post is not to discover truth or unravel mystery or prove my point; it's simply my way of exploring the mystery of the human need to believe. I am not trying to explain my beliefs or to understand your beliefs. I want to explore why do we, or don't we, believe in God(s) or religion.

Helen Fisher's Personality Test

This is Dr Helen Fisher’s test for your personality type.
Read each statement and choose the number that best describes your agreement by the following scale.

Please note the number choices are ZERO to THREE. Put your choice for each statement on a sheet of paper. After completing the test add up each section to determine your type. Try to answer as honestly as you can for who you are, not who you want to be.

(0) Strongly Disagree
(1) Disagree
(2) Agree
(3) Strongly Agree

1. I find unpredictable situations exhilarating.
2. I do things on the spur of the moment.
3. I get bored when I have to do the same familiar things.
4. I have a very wide range of interests.
5. I am more optimistic than most people.
6. I am more creative than most people.
7. I am always looking for new experiences.
8. I am always doing new things.
9. I am more enthusiastic than most people.
10. I am willing to take risks to do what I want to do.
11. I get restless if I have to stay home for any length of time.
12. My friends would say I am very curious.
13. I have more energy than most people.
14. On my time off, I like to be free to do whatever looks fun.

1. I think consistent routines keep life orderly and relaxing.
2. I consider (and reconsider) every option thoroughly before making a plan.
3. People should behave according to established standards of proper conduct.
4. I enjoy planning way ahead.
5. In general, I think it is important to follow rules.
6. Taking care of my possessions is a high priority for me.
7. My friends and family would say I have traditional values.
8. I tend to be meticulous in my duties.
9. I tend to be cautious, but not fearful.
10. People should behave in ways that are morally correct.
11. It is important to respect authority.
12. I would rather have loyal friends than interesting friends.
13. Long established customs need to be respected and preserved.
14. I like to work in a straightforward path toward completing the task.

1. I understand complex machines easily.
2. I enjoy competitive conversations.
3. I am intrigued by rules and patterns that govern systems.
4. I am more analytical and logical than most people.
5. I pursue intellectual topics thoroughly and regularly.
6. I am able to solve problems without letting emotion get in the way.
7. I like to figure out how things work.
8. I am tough-minded.
9. Debating is a good way to match my wits with others.
10. I have no trouble making a choice, even when several alternatives seem equally good at first.
11. When I buy a new machine (like a camera, computer or car), I want to know all of its technical features.
12. I like to avoid the nuances and say exactly what I mean.
13. I think it is important to be direct.
14. When making a decision, I like to stick to the facts rather than be swayed by people's feelings.

1. I like to get to know my friends' deepest needs and feelings.
2. I highly value deep emotional intimacy in my relationships.
3. Regardless of what is logical, I generally listen to my heart when making important decisions.
4. l frequently catch myself daydreaming.
5. I can change my mind easily.
6. After watching an emotional film, I often still feel moved by it several hours later.
7. I vividly imagine both wonderful and horrible things happening to me.
8. I am very sensitive to people's feelings and needs.
9. I often find myself getting lost in my thoughts during the day.
10. I feel emotions more deeply than most people.
11. I have a vivid imagination.
12. When I wake up from a vivid dream, it takes me a few seconds to return to reality.
13. When reading, I enjoy it when the writer takes a sidetrack to say something beautiful or meaningful.
14. I am very empathetic.

Scale 1 = Explorer
Scale 2 = Builder
Scale 3 = Director
Scale 4 = Negotiator

Back to main post

Take the two highest scores as your results. ie... NEGOTIATOR/explorer, etc...

Personality Types Defined--Helen Fisher

  • Looking for adventure and change. That adventure is likely risky or thrilling but can also be more intellectual or cultural like taking classes or attending plays and symphonies.
  • An explorer is likely to be well liked and charming. Someone who has a lot of friends.
  • An explorer is less likely to be tied down by commitment. They work so they can play, they enjoy going out and being with people.
  • An explorer can be a good person to have on your team if you need new ideas and the fire of creativity and excitement.
  • When it comes to rules an explorer is likely to say "this doesn't really apply to me." or "oh yeah right…"
  • Looking for stability and are very responsible individuals. They are willing to settle down and take care of business.
  • A builder is someone who will put work or religious responsibility first; sometimes before family and friends.
  • A builder is often times involved with a religious or political group. Someone who is a change maker.
  • As a leader a builder will get things done with no nonsense. It is important to get things done correctly and with honesty.
  • Builders have a commitment to moral standards. And for a builder morals can be very black and white.
  • When it comes to rules a builder will follow it because he/she knows there is a good reason for the rule or it wouldn't be there.
  • Logical and analytical minded people who can make sense out of any situation in short order.
  • Directors are decisive and make up their minds quickly based on facts and logic.
  • Directors are straight-line thinkers and can cut through the 'nonsense' quickly.
  • Directors have a commitment to things that make good common sense and to things they can understand in their logical minds.
  • When it comes to rules a director will want to understand why the rule is put in place and will follow the rule if it makes sense and works for them.
  • Web thinkers they explore ideas and love to engage in discussion or contemplation.
  • A Negotiator will take a long time to make a decision and prefers to have time to think about a situation and doesn't enjoy pressure to decide
  • Negotiators think outside the box constantly. They are multi-taskers and have a difficult time compartmentalizing.
  • A Negotiator is a good person to have on a team because they see the big picture, they can see the consequences and they make plotted decisions that have been thought out.
  • Negotiators are committed to finding the best situation in every area of their life.
  • When it comes to rules a negotiator wants to know the 'higher' reason. And they will commit to the principal but not the rules. Rules only apply if they work for the greater good.

Using Cognitive Dissonance to Trigger Reality Change

I realized, that in my previous post, I went on and on about cognitive dissonance without making the point I started out to make. (That never happens to me)

I'll see if I can put my thoughts, which seem profound in my head, on paper and have them make any kind of sense. I've been thinking about universal laws; as defined by the 'new thought movement'. More specifically the 'Law of Attraction' and how the way we deal with cognitive dissonance helps explain the law of attraction.

Let's accept, for sake of this discussion, the idea that our reality is a result of our thoughts. Also meaning that two people can be having the same experience but each person's reality is different. One person's reality might be that they think of themselves as a victim (so their reality turns out quite dismal) and the other person's reality may be that they think of themselves as living a charmed life (so everything always turns out roses). Then because of these two opposite 'subjective realities' of victim vs charmed life; a physical reality begins to shape and both realities exist side by side; having been born from the same exact experience.

I know I'm simplifying and I know there are many hard questions not answered by this simplistic point of view. I'm not attempting to answer all questions in one writing. I'm just not that good. What I am attempting to do is answer how cognitive dissonance; more specifically how we choose to deal with cognitive dissonance, and the law of attraction are intertwined.

Cognitive Dissonance--affecting our happiness

What is Cognitive Dissonance? As I understand it, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort or anxiety we feel when we face a reality not fitting our beliefs. For instance when I was young, growing up a faithful Mormon girl, I had a very rigid and strong belief system. I knew nothing about ‘gay people’ except that it was wrong and immoral. Being gay meant someone was absolutely abhorrent and sinful; the scourge of the earth causing empires to fail. So at the age of ten when I found myself attracted to the girl up the street rather than the boy I climbed trees with I had to find a way to push those feelings aside because I knew being gay was sinful. I got rid of the dissonance by believing that I was a good person and this outweighed the feeling of being gay. I knew I was good and gay was bad; therefore, there was no possibility I was gay. Problem solved; until next time.

Feelings for the ‘fairer sex’ continued throughout my life; over and over again, getting stronger and more difficult to deny as I grew older. I dated boys but at the same time I secretly entertained thoughts of being with girls. These thoughts scared me so I would immediately try to find an explanation fitting my belief system. The explanation I came up with was that these girls and, later in life, women I found myself so drawn to were ‘soul mates’; women I knew in pre-existing life where we had been very close and had a spiritual connection so strong and unbreakable that it crossed into this life. My life was filled with soul mates, so many beautiful soul mates.

Saving Dad

Some of you know I'm making an attempt at writing my auto-biography. I've managed to get further than ever before. Yay me!!!

I wanted to post an excerpt; tell me what you think. I am trying to find my voice and my audience. So your feedback will be valuable.

Saving Dad

The Mormon Church played heavily in our lives; like a stern patriarch always present always dissatisfied, always looking for perfection, and on the flip side providing me with stability, structure, kindness and love. I knew what was what and there was no changing my mind about right and wrong. I was raised by an entire community of good Mormon folks who truly had the best of intentions.

I was eight years old sitting in my Sunday school class leaning my metal chair back on two legs against the pale green cinder block walls. I listened as Sister Powell talked about the ‘ideal’ family with the father at the head of the household. “A family that doesn't have a strong, faithful father at the head is a family in chaos; they will never be an eternal family.” Sister Powell stated. In my eight year old mind I knew my family was not the ‘ideal’ family and something needed to be done. I walked out of Sunday school that day determined to save my family from an eternity of separation and damnation.