Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On the eve of the eve

The idea was that I'd sit and blog while we watch The Beginners.

We went to Home Depot this afternoon to buy a hook and chain and birdseed for the bird feeder my husband gave me for my birthday. Tomorrow I will be forty. I've been telling everyone that is my age this past year. A second year of forty is definitely suspect.

Our Christmas was hours of making soup for Happy Towne's homeless while Mr. PNU read me long passages from Eugene England essays and Hawthorne's My Kinsman, Major Molineux. The day before we took turns reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol while we did a week's worth of dishes and cleaned the house. Our children opened presents, and the day after we walk the perimeter of Happy Towne Mall, discussing the heat problem; the state of no clearly drawn lines, the blurred edges of life.

After 26 days of crazy, mad love the only thing that shows up in tests are three or four calcifications in my kidneys and phleboliths in my pelvis. Rinse. Repeat. This is the only positive in three months of the same pattern of unrestrained coitus, more sex than I had in the entirety of my last marriage. I begin taking a medication for enlarged prostates to relax my ureter enough to accommodate the stones I have created. The doctor asks if I would like a strainer to catch them when I pee. I turn him down, but later wonder if I shouldn't have collected these calcium pearls for setting in a mother's pendant. We go to the drug store, purchase vitamins, baby asprin, a basal body temperature thermometer, ovulation prediction kits, and four of the largest available bottles of cranberry juice. I pee a lot. I groan for an hour beginning at 3 a.m.

My oldest son turned 17 on Sunday. I'm not certain my step-daughter even remotely likes me anymore. My youngest daughter turned up just before Christmas with a scalp infested with lice, and after treatment still begged to shave her head. She then asked me to do the same. You see, I'd made the mistake of saying I was jealous. What I meant was, I miss being young and carefree. A week later the hair that is growing back in is shot through with white, an aging scalp speckled with flecks of pepper. I don't regret my show of maternal solidarity, but the night after I cut off all of my hair I cried myself to sleep because I know my husband misses my blond locks and so do I. My oldest daughter has been given a full-ride scholarship to The Pie Tin. She could have gone to Rhode Island, Chicago or San Fransisco. She stays in Utah for her 16-year-old bipolar boyfriend who struggles with social anxiety and will not have sex with her when she's on her period. My youngest son wants desperately to call his step-father "dad." He tries it out every so often, and then slips back to calling Mr. PNU by his first name. There's another nine months before paperwork can be finalized to make having a father legal and therefore reliable. The idea of permanence, of things that stick is one of those problem areas like heat.

Tonight, when we made love, my husband was careful with me, and I had to focus on relaxing the muscles in my abdomen. I imagined that this might be what it would be like for the first time as a virgin who was afraid of sex. It's the best I will ever do. I sometimes wonder why we are trying to start over with parenting when we are struggling in the thick of children on the cusp of autonomy, when our marriage is solid. Complete. Sometimes I think this is the best reason there is.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Auction poem

My Relief Society held a service auction two months ago. Sisters were asked to donate items in the form of time and talent, so I offered to write a poem for anyone for any occasion. I missed the actual event, but afterward one of my cul de sac neighbors informed me that she'd purchased it for 10 points (a low-bid item), and that she wanted me to write a poem for Christmas for her mother who was recently unexpectedly widowed. I've thought a lot about what I could write, and finally, not feeling that I had adequate inspiration asked my neighbor for more details to give me the needed insight. She sent this:

"There are a lot of things going on right now, and I'm a writer myself; being brief isn't one of my strong suits, so please bear with me. Basically with the passing of my father, things are just piling on top of her and she's feeling a lot of different things right now. One of them is that with my sister being married in June, this was going to be "their" time to be together. She is his second wife, so my Dad already had three boys when they married,and then they had us, so with my younger sister being married they were "done" with the raising kids part of life and finally would have time to just be them and focus on themselves. My Dad is sealed to his first wife also, so she struggles with the fact that even after she is reunited with him, it might not be the two of them still. She feels she's lost her chance at that. We talk a lot about how we don't know what will happen and that Heavenly Father won't put us in a situation we're unhappy with, but in a way that feels like a cop out to her, and we can't help having a mortal perspective right now. Another thing is that my parents were very very close. My dad is the most Christlike person I have ever met. I know people tend to put those who have passed on a pedestal, but he really is the best man that I know. He didn't have any really big character flaws, he was kind, he did everything for my mother, not because she demanded it but because he loved to serve her. He worked from home, so they were literally never more than 10 feet apart. Whenever she was home, just hanging out, he was there, and working in the background. Even growing up, and moving out of her own home she never lived alone, she always lived with friends and then was a live-in nanny for a few families (that's how she met my dad, although of course she never really knew him until after his first wife passed. She and Linda were closer than sisters, too, actually. It's a really sweet story.) and then of course, she married my Dad. October would have been their 25th anniversary. So being alone is a huge struggle for her. She does have a testimony of the gospel, but my Dad was her rock. It is really hard for her to go it alone. With all the other financial troubles that my father's death has brought upon her it is easy for her to feel discouraged and that Heavenly Father has forgotten her. A lot of the things people tend to say, unfortunately come off as sounding canned, like platitudes. You know, "Your Heavenly Father is aware of you," "Loren is in a better place," "He was needed more there than here," "Just have faith, this is only a test," all those types of things. They can be a lot more frustrating and turn people away from the church than towards it. And of course she's dealing with all the usual emotions with the passing of a loved one- she lived for him and to care for him and serve him. She struggles with feeling like she has a purpose or that life is still worth living without him because he was her purpose (she's not suicidal, though, I've watched out for that), wondering if maybe his death was supposed to be some lesson or punishment for her, some trial she needed to go through, and of course not knowing why. That is especially hard for her. She feels like if she had some clue of why he was taken from us, that it might help her to cope, but of course there's no way to know why. She's always struggled with self-worth, she wasn't raised in a family that built up her self esteem at all and she can't see her strong points. She thinks everything is her fault all the time, so that's exacerbated by my father's passing. She feels alone, because no one will ever be there for her like he was. We can help, but I can't call out my brother on how his wife isn't being considerate towards her, because it isn't my place. My Dad would do that. And at the end of the day, as much as it is hard for me to admit it, my priority is my own children and marriage. It's painful even to type that, and I am trying to convince her to move in with us, and be a part of our family; my husband and I would welcome her with open arms; he is incredibly supportive of me and her, but it isn't the same as having a spouse who's number one priority will ALWAYS be YOU. Does that make sense? She has moments of joy and happiness, especially around my two boys, but the rest of the time is a struggle to keep going and see the point of it. (Again, she isn't suicidal. It's more just a desire to "give up" and stay at home/in bed and stop trying.) She's had to take on an extra job, and a demeaning one at that, and get renters in our house since Dad was the sole income provider. Her first job was more of something to get her out of the house. So between having strangers here and not being comfortable in her own home, and having two jobs that are exhausting and not incredibly rewarding, it's hard for her to see the point. she does have good days and moments, and I personally believe when she moves with us and gets in a new space and lifts those burdens of renters/two jobs it will improve her spirits dramatically. I don't mean to paint a grim picture, but it's what she's going through right now. I hope I wasn't too verbose, I just wanted to give you a more rounded picture of what she's going through. It doesn't have to be super literal either. I'm sure you know that! I apologize for the lengthy response. I hope it was helpful and not annoying. Thanks!"

So no, not annoying at all. Quite helpful, in fact. But here I am, three days from Christmas, realizing I'm writing a poem to myself 25 years in the future should Mr. PNU suddenly die. I'm not meaning to avoid the work, but I don't know if I've ever been called on for such a task as this.

And to think this struggle was purchased for only 10 points.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Children in limbo

Yesterday, two things happened. 

I found the original text containing a quote from Joseph B. Worthlin, a former member of the LDS quorum of the twelve apostles, that Ex-#Nightmare had posted on Facebook just after my release from Happy Towne Psyche Ward nearly two years ago. The quote reads: 

"The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."

At the time of its posting by my ex, these words were an awful stinging slap. I couldn't understand what he thought he'd lost. After a year and a half of marriage I fled this man, who had teetered wildly between emotional remoteness and strict control of my every move with demeaning reprimands, physical and sexual threats, and hungered-for roller coaster bursts of affection and meager kindness, for my safety and the safety of my children. We left behind home, friends, financial security, and the support of our religious community. Prior to my flight, my words were always dismissed when I approached the bishop. My plea for help in dealing with repeated verbal cruelty, an attempted sexual assault, physical abuse that covered almost everything short of blows fell on deaf ears, and I assumed God's ears were closed as well. I'd been shamed as the "crazy," sperm-hungry, pre-menopausal wife who hadn't tried hard enough to "make her marriage work" by my ecclesiastical leader. And so reference to the compensation of the faithful for their losses seemed to me a blatant statement of my ex-husband's righteousness and an implication of my wayward nature in my desperate departure. 

When I re-encountered the passage yesterday, however, I felt the tables had turned. Here I am, saturated in love, acceptance, health, self-determination, respect, support, friendship, and a bright future. Indeed, I have found compensation, and I am glowing in it. My husband is the kindest, most Christ-like person I know. He is patient and gentle, compassionate and fair. My concerns are his concerns. My happiness is as important to him as his is to me. 

And then M— came home from seminary. Her teacher had been fielding questions about doctrine from students, many of whom are in a general sort of faith-crisis stir over recent essays about changing policies and former practices of the Church. I don't want to go into these. I settled my mind about unpleasant historical choices of former prophets some time ago, and frankly, I have no problem accepting that even men of God are fallible. I believe in an infinite atonement, and Christ only has imperfect people with whom to work. M—'s teacher, on the other hand, isn't in my boat. He was trying his misguided best to smooth over the hard problems in the faith, and failed. Twice. 

First, he told the students that if they couldn't accept plural marriage as instituted and implemented by Joseph Smith Jr. to be from God, divinely directed and ordained, that they should just leave the Church. Not keep praying to understand—leave. Second, he tried to insist the equality of women to men in the sealing ordinance by telling students that his widowed mother was sealed to both his dead father AND her new husband. This is what got me scratching my head. At the moment, and for as long as is historically documented, women don't have equal access and utility of sealing that is afforded to men. It's a present fact in the universe. 

You can get a better sense of this ordinance and its purpose here, here, and here. Keep in mind that the latter is information not distributed openly to anyone outside of LDS clergy. Read: men. But because of wikileaks I have access and I reference the handbook often on hard issues, because when you want to understand the Church's policies, there is no better source than the Church itself. I poured over the section on sealing policies this evening, re-clarifying my understanding of sealing ordinances for living women. And then I read policies on sealing of children to their parents. The section is long, so I will quote only the passages that stopped me cold.

"A living woman may be sealed to only one husband. If she is sealed to a husband and later divorced, she must receive a cancellation of that sealing from the First Presidency before she may be sealed to another man in her lifetime…
If a woman who has been sealed to a former husband remarries, the children of her later marriage are born in the covenant of the first marriage unless they were born after the sealing was canceled…
Children who are born in the covenant…remain so even if the sealing of the parents is later canceled…
Living children who are born in the covenant…cannot be sealed to any other parents.
If a member has requested a cancellation of sealing, she may not schedule an appointment for a temple sealing until receiving a letter from the First Presidency giving notice that the cancellation has been granted.
A husband and wife who were married outside a temple may be sealed after one full year from the date of the civil marriage."

I don't know if I'm pregnant, and I won't for another week or so, but if I am the baby will be due September 7th. Mr. PNU and I will celebrate our first year of marriage on October 3rd. We are aware that sealing cancellations take a long time. This is why we chose to be married civilly; our bishops felt it unwise to wait. But if I am not granted a clearance and a child is born to me and my husband, in an eviscerating twist of irony that child will be born, sealed to Ex-#Nightmare. 

Tonight, after this unlikely turn, my husband and I lay holding each other on our bed in silence. He came the closest I've ever heard to speaking openly against those in authority, but still begged me not to leave the Church over the matter. Strangely enough, the reason I am so hurt by this latest revelation is because deep in my heart I do have faith. I do believe. Choosing to leave would be wrong for both of us, but our predicament certainly doesn't help our struggles over matching cultural inconsistencies with doctrinal truths. Mr. PNU shook his head that he had felt prompted that having a child with me was right, would bring us closer together, was the will of the Lord. And now that child may not be eternally tied to him at all, but rather to a man who disdained my fertility, my role as mother, and my desire to continue bearing children. A man who told me repeatedly that I was "not needed for that."

My husband and I completely bypassed the ward clerk and texted the bishop. He'll see us Thursday evening. We're prepared to bully proactively toward a speedy course through paperwork. I am hesitant to pay much heed to how my body whispers.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Forced perspectives

I'm not always certain where I am headed.
Days from 40, I've yet to determine a destination 
beyond being responsible 
for the dispensation of human kindness,
for truthful self-reflection.
I find theology still fraught with difficulties; my culture more so. 
Parenthood isn't easy, nor step-parenthood.
My recent trip to the doctor has at least clarified 
that I am hormonally balanced,
still fertile, nowhere near menopause.

(Someone might pass this info on to Ex #Nightmare. 
I regret to say that I've not found any evidence 
to back up his cruel treatment of me,
and marriage to Mr. PNU is a dream
whether we conceive or not.)

And so I keep trying at all the hard realities.

He is the Gift

Super emo Gudri wept like a baby when she watched this early in the morning:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The heart of the matter: putting the publication to bed

Last night, I hosted Fall 2014's My Word!—the semiannual release party 
for the Pie Tin's literary journal, Touchstones. 
Accompanied by my husband, 
and supported by a renown poet-advisor, 
and a talented cast of student staffers and contributors, 
I presented the artistic efforts 
of the university's finest 
artists, writers, and poets.

For an hour and a half some 80 guests enjoyed fine food, 
beautiful readings, and artists' statements 
along with the displayed original artwork. 

It was a flawless evening 
for all the flaws preceding 
to get the publication to press and printed to standard. 

Prior to the event, my advisor took me aside, 
commended my level of professionalism in completing the book, 
and informed me that she plans 
to submit the journal 
to a big-deal national undergrad competition.

During the evening, Mr. PNU told me over and over again 
how proud he was of me. 
I was just proud to be sitting next to him,
to announce him as my husband.

When we finally got home and my head met the pillow, I slept hard.
This morning, Greek wanted to know where I'd been.

Monday, December 8, 2014

As old as my tongue, a little older than my teeth

Being photographed is not Mr. PNU's thing.
But he is a good sport, and an excellent fellow trespasser,
and today he's a little older than he was the day before,
although you'd never guess our age by the way we act.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I've wrapped a fortune of colored pencils and paper in a box
that she might be so much her own person
and not so much a shadow
I stand aside to let her choose

paths that flicker with risk and potential
this is the same as every year since the day 
she escaped the cord wrapped round her neck 
which was my body's way of saying

I don't want to ever let you go
tonight she wants brownies instead of cake
chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes again
as if to say: yes, yes, but mother, it's just a number