Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Status report

I'm back in school and already treading water.

French 1010
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Advanced Topics in Philosophy: God and Evil
Intermediate Creative Non-Fiction
TAing Intermediate Poetry
It's only 13 credits. That's plenty.

My kids are back in school and I think they are treading along with me, but everyone seems so much happier this year, in the place that we've arrived, in the schools that they are in, with the schedule that we must run.

That's all I have time to write for now. It should be plenty.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


The mythical land of Jell-O has her own Olympus. It isn't one of the Seven Peaks. It's not even 10,000 ft in elevation. But the 4100 ft elevation gain you make in 3.5 miles is a challenge cardiovascularly, if not to the musculo-skeletal system. From the saddle, which we attained in 3 hours, there is a long class 3 section of bouldering to get to the summit. It's fun, invigorating, and leaves no question in your mind as to your fitness level, nor your age.

I made this climb with a friend I've known well since we were both 16; proof that my relationships can have the endurance of time and that some people who've known me at my worst moments do stick it out with me, (though I couldn't tell you why.) I think this phenomenon speaks to the quality of the individual who is my friend rather than to any strength I may possess. All I know is this was a splendid hike, rewarding in every way. I have conquered Olympus.

Bring on Fall semester. Bring on 16 credits. Bring on French and Philosophy. Bring on Plato and his Republic. Or perhaps just my mattress—I am completely ready for a nap.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Accessing the heart blender

I am hopelessly in like with a guy friend who has expressed no interest in dating me. 

If I tell you he is something special it would ring cliche.  But one would suppose that his friendship is of high value, since I'm always wishing I could crush my heart after we hang out but I hang out with him of my own free will anyway. I tell myself this friendship is good for me because it encourages me to be a better person, to be my genuine self, to be a loyal friend in return, and because I am learning how to interact healthily with straight men.


He knows I'm interested. He sticks around anyway. We talk for hours and it is soothing, healing time for me. I need to count this as a blessing and not push for more than I've been given.

I need to find the 'puree' button.

So I go to the gym and gawk at a rat that I know only holds visual appeal and write stupid creative fluff when I'm really aching for this other friend, who is desperately seeking a 5' 10" blonde who can hold the same kind of conversations I can, but who is ten years younger and hasn't royally screwed up her life with multiple marriages and a gaggle of children.

I would say life isn't fair, but I've made my choices. Loneliness now is the bargain for having what I wanted then.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Peak #4—overlooking the summit of transformation

This week I did my best to see how close I could come to offing myself from sheer exhaustion. My friend Craig must be right—I'm tough as nails. Cuz I'm still here, if not stronger than the week before.

I have moved into my own home, a four-bedroom apartment in South Happy Towne, near the cemetery. The kids and I packed it, hauled it, and unpacked it in two days, with only a little help from my home teacher, a priest, and a few straggling high priests. We were given a couch, a TV, and two beautiful new kitchen chairs from the Women's and Children's shelter, and my bishop pitched in a $500 allowance to Deseret Industries to cover a kitchen table, three new chairs, a dresser, a desk for E—, a microwave, vacuum, glasses, garbage cans, a broom, a few dish rags, and a Bougeureau print to hang in M—'s room. 

The Lord has rebuilt us from the ground up.

It only made sense to climb a mountain on Saturday to give thanks. Timpanogos was peak #4. I'd considered it climbed on my list of Seven Peaks, even though my first time up was last year. But since the kids were off with friends and their dad this weekend, and I only had enough gas in my van to get me to the Timpaneooke trailhead and back (and only $.30 in change otherwise), it made sense to do a solo climb as long as my body held out. I was exhausted Friday, and spent the day relaxing and eating pasta to build my strength back up. Saturday morning came quietly, with a 40% chance of precipitation in the afternoon, and I found I had the energy to put one foot in front of the other for 7.5 miles to summit. No vertigo. No jitters on the final class three stretch. I know not to speak too soon, there are mountains yet to climb, but I suspect I have overcome my fear of heights. 

I signed the register, but not with anything profound. Timp is so popular there isn't room for lengthy salutations. So instead I wrote my thoughts in a thank you note that I gave to the bishop of the ward that we're leaving today. I don't remember them exactly, but I wept as I wrote them because not only am I grateful, I do understand that where much is given much is required. I promised to do my best.

Monday, August 12, 2013

This is 38

My name is not Gudridur. But I'm done hiding.
I am a survivor of domestic violence.

Thirty-eight is halfway between point (a) and point (b).
Thirty-eight is having lived hard and well enough that point (b) 
can come sooner than later
and you're completely unafraid of that prospect
except for what the loss will do to your loved ones.
Thirty-eight is already having requested cremation.

It is also waking each morning to understand beginning.
It's not kidding ourselves that we're supposed to have anything accomplished by now.
Thirty-eight is the best I've ever felt about myself, 
in spite of all the reasons others think I should not.
Thirty-eight is a whole lot of forgiveness, 
and constant reminder that anger doesn't do much more 
than fuel your fire for the treadmill.

It sags from breastfeeding four children.
It wrinkles from staring into the sun even though you've been warned not to,
and from hours and hours of consternation over doing "the right thing."
Thirty-eight is being able to begin to tell your children the truth 
about who you were at their age.
It is listening to your kids because karma says that's what someone
should have done for you.
It's realizing that treating the next generation of humans right 
is more important than being right.

It's knowing your salt and taking it too.
It's being healthy and also being alive enough to take risk.
It's knowing that every heart has some sliver that is worthy of empathy,
and that you are capable of finding that empathy in yourself.
It's getting that money and stuff really were as stupid as you thought
from the very beginning.
Thirty-eight is learning that family isn't about blood or adoption,
but about loyalty, love and patience,
and treating humans the way humans are meant to be treated.
Thirty-eight is knowing your faith in God well enough
that you'll wander in darkness and doubt to stick it out for him/her.
It's knowing that chances may be slim, and far off,
but the love you deserve is worth the ache of hope.

Thirty-eight is finally getting that there is no one worth
changing for, if changing is the only way to get love from them.
It's loving yourself enough to admit your weaknesses and faults,
and accepting that most people have just as many as you do 
even if they don't love themselves enough 
to face up to the beautiful reality
that imperfections are just that much more potential
for growth and strength.

Canyon as mother

For the last six months, each time my woes have wanted to run out from beneath me, my feet have found their way within the walls of Rock Canyon. Countless times this year I have climbed, wandered, broken down on lonely trails and wept when only the creek listened and only the eyes of cautious wildlife witnessed my weakness. Somehow this Canyon coaxed prayers from my heart, from my lips that never would have been uttered otherwise.

I visited her again tonight, walking the miles from the Refugee Camp to the erratic climbing walls soaring hundreds of feet over my head in the darkness. This time my visit was a parting. I lay my hands against the remaining warmth of her rock face and bid a kind of farewell. While there is no question, I will return to climb her trails and explore the woods behind the great wall of earth's teeth that jut from the ground at her mouth again, it will never be as a refugee resident of Oak Lane in need of her amnesty.

Those jagged fingers of perplexed bedrock held me in a sling, stars and moon cradled me from above, and far out across the city the reflection of the heavens glowed across the body of the Lake.

My questions have not been answered. I still do not understand the whys to the challenges of my last marriage. I'm not completely certain of my role or purpose in life. I'm not sure why when I am willing to sacrifice so much doing what I believe I was asked that the offering was exacted from me in other ways. But the Lord is telling me in so many ways, distinctly so that I do not mistake the message, now is the time to let my Divine Parents care for me. Now is the time to let the love in. I am being rebuilt from the ground up, much like the bedrock of this canyon. I once laid flat and smooth. But the Lord intends for me to stand, and that takes some truly awesome rearranging.

A few months ago while I wandered the backcountry, high up in the canyon, this song began to play on my iPod. It's become a sacred moment and a sacred song for me. I've learned to regard my heavenly parents as the parents I was not given here on this earth, and that relationship is precious. This song played again in my head as I walked back down the trail in the dark this evening and headed toward the last night I will have need of Oak Lane and refuge.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My blog is being stalked again. This time by my mother.


Remember when you said that you would respect my boundaries? Probably not, because any time something you've previously stated or done doesn't fit your chosen route of action, you conveniently forget.

If you will not back off, completely, I will unleash all of the literary power I hold and the world will know everything you have done as a parent to maim and disfigure the person I am and that I am capable of being.

It will destroy your career. It will destroy your standing in your community. You will wish you'd never given birth to me the way I wish I'd never been born to you. Stay away from me. Stay away from my children. We do not want or need your poison, your fakery, your lack of honesty.

You are an evil I need to be free of.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A rough approximation of a lab rat's human form

The damned rodent still does not speak. One might as well attach fish hooks to our pupils and connect those hooks with fishing line. At least then it will be established that we have one another, firmly fixed in the corners of our eyes, and the ocular evidence will pop from their sockets each time we pass and the line pulls taut. 

Why he looks at an old dam like me I'll never know.

Why do I look at him? Imagine the finer points of these four men on a man maybe, MAYBE twenty-eight.

Perhaps it is best that there is no language. What glorious gem of rodentia would continue to look once a dam's mess of hotness is exposed? 

Oh, but this buck has me bothered.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

All in a day

I'm moving into my own house next week.

I've been experiencing emotion, teetering on the edge of hypomania since this became a reality at noon today, but who wouldn't? I'd given up on the idea of moving out. Completely given up.

The Housing Authority called this morning and asked if I was still interested in the program. Even though I'd filled out paperwork and done the interviews, I hadn't been able to qualify previously because Ex No. 1 is kind of funny about people coming over and I needed a home inspection to hold my spot on the list. HA told me they decided that the recommendation of my past landlords was sufficient, they waived the home inspection, and they had a four-bedroom home available immediately if I wanted it. All I needed to do was secure deposit and first month's rent—$600. This is subsidized housing. I realize that this amount will cause a few jaws to drop. Still, my income is about $1500 a month in child support and SSI, and at the moment I don't have that much on me. I called my Relief Society president, who immediately got me in touch with my bishop, and this evening he dropped off a check for the amount I needed. 

My teens will each have their own room. I will share a room with B—. My books are coming out of storage. I've informed the kids that things will be a bit bohemian for a while. We have beds and bookshelves, but that's it. We are closer to downtown. Further from LDS University of Choice. A little more down-to-earth.

There are a few rules I expect everyone in this house to live by:

(1) Love your Divine Parents and be good to yourself
(2) Be fair with others
(3) Live a fearlessly authentic life

The last seven months have been a primer.

I don't like the "M" word. I think it is cast about too often and the real thing has lost its luster. But this, this is a beautifully close approximation to anything miraculous might be.

"Praise be!" has been on my children's tongues all afternoon.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Love letter to a lab rat—pas de deux

To that one Buck (oh, cognizant one):

I'm not sure what you were going for in the maze today, but I'm assuming from your behavior that you, too, can read, and that you got my original letter.

Yes, it was good to see you too. But I'm assuming from our pass and go that I was correct in my assessment that while you can decipher written text, you are not capable of speech. I'm sorry if my approach is too traditional, but I've already gone so far as to write to you. I'm afraid you're going to have to devise some form of gestural communication, because your posturing and close approximation to my person while I am working on problem solution for the daily maze puzzle do not constitute enough of an effort on your part for me to speak first. 

Yes, I see that you are male and that the testosterone amounts in your bloodstream are not affected by the experimental injections. Good for you. If the affects of your close approximation to my person do not account for a similar result on my estrogen level I don't know what will. 

But, my dear hair endowed rodent, if the scientific overlords are hoping for further genetic specimens produced as a result of our animal instincts, there must be speech.

I am both a patient and ascetic rat; further proof of my rapid cognitive development. (Games are fine and dandy, but if we aren't at the same level you really must do your best to catch up.) Whether you learn to speak or not will not obstruct my daily presence nor performance in the maze. 

I will continue to note where you are in the task of our daily puzzles, just as I am certain you will continue to note my placement in the maze. We will cross paths, and no doubt you will continue to purposely scurry to and fro nearby as I exercise my powers of deduction. However, should you approach me again, sit within inches of my person and pretend to take a stretching break as you watch my work, without so much as the pleasantry of a hello, I will take you for no more than Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin. Have you read that book yet?

FYI, I am not attracted to squirrels.

Until tomorrow,
The Dam-sel

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Grasping Atonement

We got a step closer toward B—'s baptism on our Sabbath walk this evening. B— isn't the kind of kid  at which you can just spout random information and expect him to retain much. It takes careful discussion at his level, stories, analogy, and gentle interconnection, and then he begins to remember. This is the child that required a full year of speech therapy to retain the names of six basic colors. Teaching him the gospel is no less involved a process and one that demands flexibility and problem solving within the context of teaching discussions.

Tonight I asked him why a person would want to be baptized a member of Jesus Christ's Church.

He thought very hard. "Because they love Jesus?"

"Yes, exactly," I told him. "And what has Jesus done for you that would make you love him?"

"He loves us. I know there's something more he's done, but I just can't remember."

"B— can you return to live with Heavenly Father without Jesus Christ?"

"No. But I'm not sure why."

"Think of that tree we saw at the Temple in Salt Lake."

"The olive tree?"

"Very good. The olive tree. What did Jesus do next to the olive tree? Not the one in Salt Lake, an olive tree in Jerusalem."


"A prayer. Who did he pray for?"

"Heavenly Father?"

"He prayed for all of us, every person who has ever lived, and every person who will live. And he prayed for us because he loved us. What else happened under that tree?"

"Jesus felt things."

"Right! He felt our sads and our bads."

"Didn't he also feel our hurts?"

"He felt everything we feel, so that he could comfort us and so we could rely on him when we have no one else. Do you know what that deep feeling he did was called?"

B— strains to recall. "Is it repent?"

"When he did this feeling of our hurts and our bads and sads it made it so we could repent. And it was called A-tone..."


Small steps toward larger concepts. Tonight I perceived that my autistic son is gaining understanding. He asked if we could walk to the temple again tomorrow. I think follow up is a great idea.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How to get to point (b)

This is how it works.
 (a) You begin with the destination in sight. 
It doesn't have to be a summit, 
just a point (b) to correspond with the (a) where you are standing.

 (b) Find a foothold.

(c) Find a handhold.
Move toward point (b).

(d) Repeat as many times as needed.
It's okay to admit to yourself that you're scared,
but just keep heading for (b).

I went to Sunstone Symposium with my beautiful gal pal, Heather. The whole day offered food for famished hearts. And then I signed up for an academic salon to address disability as experience by members of the Church, (the Mormons). This is exactly what I felt I needed to be doing when I moved here three years ago. Ironically, it was the sort of project my ex felt I should be involved in too. I never would have had this opportunity had I remained married to him. I never would have had this opportunity if I'd never gone back to school, if I hadn't taken that Ethics class that was a mile away from the class I took before it, if I weren't just a wee bit too obsessive in my fixations. I'm not saying obsession is a good thing, but it does serve its purpose until it brings you to point (b). I had a fairly detached, healthy conversation with Mr. PNU this afternoon. His presentation helped me to better answer questions I've long held about mental illness, agency, and the logic of the existence of the two in the Plan. He was the only panelist who mentioned Atonement. I appreciated that, deeply.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Peak #3—Mount Nebo

I'm tired. I think I have that right. I took down Nebo today in about 6 1/2 hours, minus an hour for relaxing at the summit, eating my peanut butter sandwich, drinking my Rockstar, and signing the register with some silliness that I now regret. But hey, who really thinks clearly on a mountain top at 11,929 ft with5,489 ft prominence

I've climbed the highest peak in the Wasatch range. It's class 3, which means I literally climbed a good deal of the final stretch to the summit, i.e., use of hands and sometimes knees was required. My fear of heights didn't bother me at all, which was my sole concern. There are parts of this trail that are no wider than a meter across; on the left, the west face of the mountain, on the right, the east face. There was significant wind, but we managed regardless. No vertigo, no elevation sickness. 

This was a beautifully strenuous, challenging, and completely rewarding 8 1/2 mile hike. As bonus, I had the delightful company of one of the guys from The Pie Tin English alumni that I climbed with on Mother's Day. We're good enough a hiking team that we're planning to do Cascade together. 

What have I learned? Don't ever settle. If you mean to do something and biff it the first time around, get back on the mountain and try, try again. And in all honesty, I am healing, a great deal. This Seven Peaks Challenge is lacking most of the crazy so many people assumed, and in its place I'm learning much about the woman whose feet are summiting peak after peak.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Free write

I've been helping my buddy, T—, with a summer creative writing workshop for area high schoolers. Today he taught them about setting, and as the final exercise he flashed a series of stunning landscape images on the screen. We could chose to write whatever we wanted, based on one, two, or all of the images. I chose this one. After ten minutes, my dry spell was much less arid, and when I get back from conquering Mount Nebo tomorrow morning, I will write more...

When the brave ones reached the shore, when they flexed the cavity behind their gills and found the fleshy pockets welcoming if not hospitable to the new cocktail of nitrogen and oxygen, when their land legs steadied and the skin on their back thickened, the lighthouse loomed as it had for eons, ready to greet them.

Two-by-two, the brave ones gimped along the shore, some eager to plod forward, others content with a one-time glimpse before throwing themselves back into the waves only to find the briny swill no longer satisfying. 

Those who climbed toward the lighthouse forgot the sea.

A conversation between brothers at midnight

Backdrop—Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Summer is waning. We all know it. Return to school is on B—'s mind. 
The most pressing issue?

B—: "Why are so many kids so interested in being in love?"

E—: "What!?!"

B—: "Why are so many kids at school so crazy about who's in love with who? They are always teasing me and Maddy that we're in love, and we're just friends. It seriously bothers me, and it annoys Maddy."

E—: "I don't know, bro."