Friday, December 23, 2005

Nice? Or Just Tired?

You Were Nice This Year!

You're an uber-perfect person who is on the top of Santa's list.
You probably didn't even *think* any naughty thoughts this year.
Unless you're a Mormon, you've probably been a little too good.
Is that extra candy cane worth being a sweetheart for 365 days straight?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Tradition! It Lives!

For the second year running, I share with you a traditional holiday song of my people.

Happy Whatever!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quiz! Test Your Skills!

Do you speak Passive-Aggressive? Can you decode secret covert messages? Try this! Below are excerpts from an e-mail I got from my sister, J. See if you can tell what she really means.

1. Just wanted to remind you that K was in Phoenix for her radiation this past week. A full five days of it.

2. F [J's partner] has started his stint with the part-time job again. The guy who took his place left, so they recruited him back. The new-new guy will be there mid-January. So it's a nice break -- for both of us!

3. I'm having ham for Christmas. We can do a turkey breast for New Year's if we want. K [her daughter, who will be visiting from out of town] requested ham.

4. I need to go to the UPS store to mail the children's Christmas gifts. I tried to go in yesterday but their computers were down so they couldn't retrieve the address and I didn't know the zip code. I'm sure they have a zip code book, but then again, they are just kids in there and I don't trust that they would get it right.

5. Mommy has a dr appt next week but it's just a routine thing. We finally got the pills that you called about while you were here. I had to call the dr three more times before they got it right. Mommy had to go about 3 days without it, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Okay! What's she really saying? Feel free to use the comments feature! Answers are below, but NO FAIR PEEKING! I mean it!


1. I know you haven't bothered to call her, you lazy girl. I called her. I'm the oldest and most responsible. I have to do everything.

2. Having this guy underfoot every damned day is going to drive me insane, I swear to god. I thought I wanted him to retire but I was wrong! I admit it! WRONG!

3. I always give my kids what they ask for and I resent it. But she asked for ham, I'll fix ham, and maybe one day *sigh* I'll get that turkey I dream of.

4. Nobody but me can get things right. I don't trust anybody but myself.

5. See #4. Nice try, calling the doctor for a prescription refill, but you blew it and it took me three more calls to set it right. She went without her meds for three days! Luckily she's still alive! Thanks for nothing!

Give yourself one point for each correct answer.

If you scored... Then you...

0 Came from a healthy family. Congratulations!
1-2 Might be a mental health professional
3-4 Might be related to me
5 Are me! How long have you been in therapy?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Together at Last: Aging and Death Penalty

I don't blog here about criminal justice or the death penalty, though they are issues with which I'm deeply involved. It's hard to tie them to what I see as the focus of this blog: Aging, particularly of my own mother, and my family's varied and crazy reactions to it. And oh yeah, my bitter war against Mormons.

But today's headlines provide a chance to bring the death penalty into the mix:

Stay of Execution Denied for Ailing Man
Judge says decisions affecting clemency bid up to governor
Cicero Estrella, Chronicle Staff Writer
December 17, 2005

A federal judge in San Francisco rejected a stay of execution Friday for a 75-year-old man who is scheduled to be executed next month at San Quentin State Prison.

Clarence Ray Allen had asked for the stay so he could be treated for a number of ailments, which would help him prepare for a clemency petition with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said his attorney Michael Satris.

In his federal lawsuit, Allen said laser eye surgery would allow him to participate in tests that would determine if he suffers from organic brain damage. His lawyers say Allen is legally blind.

In addition, Satris said, Allen needs more time to consult with his lawyers on his clemency petition. Allen has been unavailable because he's been moved from prison to prison since suffering a heart attack Sept. 2, Satris said.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said Schwarzenegger should be the one to decide if Allen's ill health could be a factor in his bid for clemency.

"There is no question that plaintiff is old and infirm," White wrote. "These factors may be factors to be considered in a bid for clemency. But it is not for this federal court to intrude on the prerogatives of the state executive to determine what information he requires in deciding whether to have mercy on a condemned prisoner."

Satris said, "We're disappointed with the decision, but we're still exploring our options and figuring out the best way to proceed."

Allen, who suffers from coronary artery disease and diabetes, was sentenced to death for hiring a hit man to kill three people in Fresno in 1980 while he was in prison for another murder.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection Jan. 17, the day after his 76th birthday.

I recently left an online community of feminists I've been a part of (in one form or another) for over six years. I did this after yet another death penalty discussion became an attempt to help death penalty supporters feel better about themselves. This offended me. Deeply.

I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. The state should not be in the business of killing, period. It has (I believe) an obligation -- a social contract -- to provide for the safety of its citizens. Executing them violates this contract.

It was as if someone had started a discussion on the merits of molesting children in certain, special circumstances. Or how certain forms of genocide are okay if genocide's used carefully. For me, the death penalty is morally wrong and utterly indefensible. This is a position it took years to form -- I grew up a few miles from my home state's death row and have friends who are survivors of violent crime. Now it's as if, having had the veil of misinformation and the retributive rhetoric of the Right stripped away, I cannot go back to the not-seeing. Ever.

So my state, having just killed Stanley Tookie Williams, is gearing up to kill a 75 year-old man who can neither see nor walk unassisted. He is no longer a threat to anyone and is not, it could be argued, the same man who went to prison all those years ago. Killing him will serve no purpose in public safety terms. The only possible explanation for this act is that it makes us "feel better." We feel "justice" has been served. "Victims" will have "closure." Hogwash. Another person will die. At the hands of my state. This time, he's old and feeble and not a celebrity like Tookie was. I doubt Jessie Jackson or Joan Baez will show up the night of his execution. He'll be just as dead as Tookie when it's over though.

And let's be careful about justifications that start with Allen's age or disability (as in, "What does it matter? He's almost dead anyway."). That's a slippery slope no one with a commitment to fairness for the elderly and people with disabilities wants to set foot on. Placing a higher value on the lives of younger, more "able-bodied" than the lives of the older and those with disabilities? We really don't want to go there. Do we?

If you want to hear from some victims who believe killing more people doesn't bring "closure," you should visit Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. From their website:

Since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976, over 40 countries have abolished it. In December 1998, the European Parliament called for immediate and global abolition of the death penalty, with special notice to the U.S. to abandon it. Abolition is a condition for acceptance into the Council of Europe, leading countries such as Russia and Turkey to abolish the death penalty. Recently, South Africa, Canada, France and Germany have all ruled against extraditing prisoners to the U.S. if death sentences would be sought. The World Court, in a unanimous decision reached on February 5, 2003, ruled that the U.S. must delay the execution of three Mexican citizens while it investigates the cases of all 51 Mexicans on death row in the U.S. The Mexican government asserts that the U.S. has violated the Vienna Convention by not informing its citizens that they have the right to contact their consulate when arrested. The death penalty has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and countries that oppose capital punishment.

I live in a country and a state that consider killing effective social policy. Soon an elderly man with multiple disabilities will be put to death in an effort to reduce violent crime. It's enough to drive a person crazy. Or out of the country.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Don't You Dare Call Her "Feisty"

I've found a new role model:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Flora "Grandma" Green, national spokeswoman for the Seniors Coalition, led a band of freezing senior citizens, furious over the recent spike in natural gas prices attributable to manipulation of the natural gas futures markets, on an information picket of the Goldman, Sachs and Company -- one of the largest investment and trading firms in the country.

"We're here to protest the billions -- Oh, yes, I said BILLIONS -- of dollars they are doling out to their employees, while seniors across America are not going to be able to afford to heat their homes thanks to the manipulation of the natural gas futures trading markets by companies like Goldman Sachs," Green said. "We are all outraged that seniors are literally freezing to death this winter while Goldman Sachs and others are pocketing billions directly attributable to profits they garnered from their Scrooge-like manipulation of the natural gas futures markets."


"I don't think this is a lot to ask," Green said, "particularly when the likes of Goldman Sachs are literally breaking our backs by driving up the costs of natural gas in order to rake in the big bucks. You tell me, is it fair to tell our nation's most vulnerable seniors on fixed incomes to freeze this winter so a bunch of high-profile traders can buy their Christmas trinkets from Neiman-Marcus instead of Target? I don't think so."

I don't think so either, Grandma. Read more about it here. And also here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Closed" Sign on Limbo's Door

How can this be? Nicholas von Hoffman writes in The Nation that "...some thirty Roman Catholic theologians from around the world ... have been meeting in secret and have, if the report is correct, decided to put the kibosh on the place."

No more limbo! Apparently the current pope is made uncomfortable by the thought of all those unbaptized babies hanging around up there. It's unclear what will officially happen to them but von Hoffman has an idea!

This is where the Mormons come in and save the Pope's bacon. Mormons can baptize dead people. They do it all the time. They have vast databases groaning with the names of the departed, whom the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints usher out of limbo and into heaven by what is called "proxy baptism." Some Jews have objected to having the Mormons pull sneak baptisms on their ancestors, and the Mormons, displaying a sensitivity they are not known for, have said they won't do it any more.

So the only remaining question is, Are there enough Mormons ready, willing and able to proxy-baptize all those millions of Roman Catholic babies?

Nick, there are. There really are. And there's a good chance most of those Catholic babies have already been baptized into the One True Church. Relax. We're all Mormons when we die.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Keep Working! For Free!

Corporation for National and Community Service to Launch Multi-Year Volunteer Recruitment Campaign at White House Conference on Aging

From the news release:

This January the first of America's 77 million baby boomers will turn 60. As they reach retirement age and have more free time, this generation will have a unique opportunity to change the world, much like they did in their formative years. But how do you convince 77 million Americans to get involved?

At the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), the Corporation for National and Community Service will unveil a multi-year public service advertising campaign aimed at recruiting America's baby boomers to volunteer. PSAs will begin running in January 2006 and feature a series of English and Spanish version television, radio, and print ads profiling baby boomers of different backgrounds. Boomers share their stories of how community service changed their lives and invite their peers to join them in making a difference.

Boomer experts will join White House Conference on Aging and Corporation officials to unveil the new campaign. New research about boomers and volunteering and the health benefits of volunteering will be released.

Great! If only those retirees would get up off their tired old asses and do some free work! Because lord knows they're not worth anything otherwise!

Don't get me wrong -- I'm pro-volunteerism. I volunteer. I've been volunteering since I was a "Blue Striper" (like a Candy Striper, but with more flattering uniforms) when I was in junior high school. I believe in the social value of volunteerism and believe it can transform the lives of the volunteers. That said, this "campaign" seems to miss an important point: Seniors already volunteer. A lot.

According to Independent Sector:

[A]lmost 44 percent of all people 55 and over volunteer at least once a year; over 36 percent reported that they had volunteered within the past month. These older volunteers give on average 4.4 hours per week to the causes they support. The 26.4 million senior volunteers gave approximately 5.6 billion hours of their time — a value of $77.2 billion to nonprofit organizations and other causes in this country.

Billions! Over 77 of them! Nearly half of people over 55 are already volunteering! So what's the campaign about, really?

With ongoing cutbacks in the nonprofit world, there is clearly a need for volunteers. Jobs that once were held by paid staff are now increasingly done by unpaid volunteers. These jobs include caring for the disabled, reading to children, holding babies in hospital neo-natal units. Important stuff. And without a major shift in cultural priorities, it's unlikely government money will again start flowing freely toward charities.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has four programs: Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America and the Citizen Corps (analyzed here in 2002 by Bill Berkowitz). From their website:

Grants administered through Senior Corps provide funding for three special programs:

Foster Grandparents connects volunteers age 60 and over with children and young people with exceptional needs.

The Senior Companion Program brings together volunteers age 60 and over with adults in their community who have difficulty with the simple tasks of day-to-day living.

RSVP offers "one stop shopping" for all volunteers 55 and over who want to find challenging, rewarding, and significant service opportunities in their local communities.

Okay. Grants? So these programs don't pay the senior volunteers but they're getting grants? Oh and by the way, the Corporation receives substantial federal funding. (And coincidentally was voted by U.S. News and World Report a "Best Place to Work in the Federal Government 2005"!) So let me see if I get this. The Federal government pays nonprofits to administer programs that hire seniors as volunteers to work for nothing. I love America! Don't you? And how am I not a full-blown Libertarian by now?

(The nice folks at Americorps, by the way, are "partners" in the Bush administration's initiative, the USA Freedom Corps. So much to say about the Freedom Corps, so little time...)

Okay. So where was I? Right. The Feds are paying for a big fat, very expensive ad campaign to get retired seniors to volunteer when they're already volunteering at rates that far outshine any other demographic. What's next? The Initiative to Get Seniors to Vote?

In case you're wondering what other issues will be explored at the conference, here's a list of resolutions. If that list looks to you as if it was put together by CEOs of our nation's largest banks, then you are possibly as cynical as I am.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Long-Term Care

The Motley Fool had some good information yesterday on long-term care. Ignore their advice at your peril! It amazes me how much denial Americans indulge in regarding their inevitable decline. Then I remember I denied my ass off, when I was younger. It's what we do.

From the article:

Only about 4% (or 1 in 25) of the elderly reside in a nursing home at any point in time. Nevertheless ... one out of five people aged 65 and older has self-care or mobility limitations, while one out of nine has cognitive/mental limitations. ...

83% of people who need long-term help live in the community, and more than three-fourths who do so rely on unpaid assistance from family, friends, or volunteers. Only 8% rely solely on paid help. Even two out of three of those who require assistance with three or more activities of daily living (ADLs) rely exclusively on unpaid help. Family, friends, and volunteers, then, provide the bulk of assistance to those who receive long-term care outside of nursing homes, and they do so largely at no charge.

The author goes on to say that long-term care insurance may provide a cushion for those of us unlucky enough to need assistance and not have the free care family or friends can provide.

What I take from this is that I need to start being a lot more charming if I expect to cultivate friendships with younger (healthier, stronger) people who might be inclined to drop in once in a while to take out my trash or shovel my walk. I will start working on hilarious and heartwarming stories of The Old Days right away.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Only those who are fortunate enough to find their life slipping away, have any hope of finding it.

Reginald A. Ray

Monday, December 05, 2005

Our Bodies, Our Mothers' Bodies

While we were visiting Mom over Thanksgiving my sister J (the one who, with the assisted living home staff, looks after her) was out of town visiting her son. Before she left I asked J if there were any chores she wanted me to do for Mom. She asked me to help Mom with her shower. Mom's had a few tumbles in the bathroom so J now hangs out and helps her on shower days, just to be safe.

Seeing my mother naked and vulnerable changed me in ways I still haven't fully integrated. Helping her step into her Depends, putting on her powder and lotion, helping her pick out clothes, seeing the way her body has changed since the last time I saw her nude 15 years ago or so -- I've relived the experience every day since. I feel a new softness toward her and also sadness. This woman who was once so harsh and angry -- who has caused me to feel such fear in my life -- is now frail and weak. And she trusts me to help her shower and dress. In her most vulnerable state, she let me help her. And I did help her. Not without strong feelings and some serious internal conflict, but I helped.

It's miraculous, really.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Giving Thanks, Asking for More

I spent Thanksgiving with Mom at the assisted living facility. We (my husband and I) had taken her out to dinner the night before and she seemed to want to stay in for the big day. She said dinner was delicious last Thanksgiving.

It wasn't delicious this year, but it was okay. Watching Mom eat is extremely difficult. She has struggled since she first started having symptoms of MS over 20 years ago. She had to learn to eat with her left hand, though she was right-handed all her life. She still tends to be a little clumsy. Now macular degeneration makes it hard for her to see very well. It means if she's eating light-colored food on a white plate, she can't see it. So she basically moves her fork around the plate until it comes into contact with something and then she tries to get it to her mouth. Eating food that needs to be cut with a knife is a major ordeal. It's a wholly inefficient system of eating and her impeccable table manners are getting in her way. Her favorite food now is sandwiches. I didn't understand why until a senior friend laid it out for me: "It's acceptable to pick sandwiches UP and eat them with your hands. You can't do that with a pork chop!" So, sandwiches. Lunch and dinner, sandwiches. Until we took her out to a restaurant. And until Thanksgiving.

Saying she's shy about asking for help would be a huge understatement. She's always been an independent woman, even after MS slowed her down. After my dad died, she barely missed a beat -- she started driving herself and/or flying alone all over the country to visit her kids and other relatives. She maintained her house until a year and a half ago. She raised four strong daughters. Tough old girl, that one. Can you imagine her at this point in her life having to ask someone to cut her meat for her? Unthinkable. My sisters and I do it without being asked. We just bulldoze our way through: "Mom, I'm going to cut this up for you because it looks like it needs it." She doesn't like it but goes along. When we're not there? She either eats a sandwich or chases food around on her plate. Rarely does she ask the staff of the facility to help her out by cutting her food.

The facility dining room has a procedure for ordering meals that wins no awards for accessibility: Residents each get a menu (12-point font) on which they're required to circle the items they want and fill out their name and room number. MY MOTHER CAN'T SEE. Fortunately, one of her table-mates usually helps her out. I met this woman at lunch the day after Thanksgiving. She's about ten years older than my mother and, you'll pardon the expression, "a pistol." Thank goodness for her.

On Thanksgiving, there was a buffet set out with all the traditional dishes. I saw a lot of residents using walkers and I know Mother isn't the only one who can't see well. I asked her what those people are supposed to do with a buffet. "Oh, they [the staff] will help you if you ask them." Then I saw a woman walk by balancing her plate in one hand while trying to use her walker with the other.

See, these people aren't used to asking for help. They're of a generation (and a culture) that says asking for help is a sign of weakness. Self-sufficiency! That's the ticket! They're not likely to ask for help, even under the most dire circumstances. (My mother once fell on the bathroom floor and still did not use her buzzer to alert staff. It just didn't occur to her.)

I understand the staff is busy, and tired, and so underpaid it makes me ashamed to look them in the eye sometimes (because COME ON, they're taking care of our elders!!). Just a little bit more attention, a little more in the way of resources, could do so much to allow these old folks to live more comfortably and keep their dignity intact. Just a little.

Those of us who are younger than my mother need to learn to ask for what we want. We need to put all our years of activism and complaining about our government to good use when our time comes to depend upon others for care. Speak up! If you can't ask for help now, start practicing. Just once a week, ask somebody to get something for you even if you could get it yourself. Ask a younger person to help you. Practice until you're comfortable. You will need these skills later, I promise you. If you already have these skills, teach others -- especially women -- how to do it. Tell them I told you to. Tell them you're preparing them for old age.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

L, the Closing Arguments

The thing is, L is good and evil. She's caused me more pain than just about anyone in my life so far and she's also given me joy. She's sucked the life out of me in long, long, LONG conversations in which she complained about every aspect of her life (past and present) and criticized virtually everyone she knew for hours, literally. She has also made me laugh so hard I cried. Many times.

When I graduated from my masters program, she flew across the country to attend commencement. She called me on my (first) wedding day, a wedding that was 3,000 miles from home, to share the day and tell me she loved me. She and I shared secrets for many years. Most of the really big secrets I wouldn't tell her because she can't be trusted to keep them. The juicy ones especially.

She helped create a lot of conflict between my mother and me. I now see it was about jealousy and competition for Mom's limited love. At the time I thought she had my best interests at heart. I once cut ties with my mother for over a year, due in part to L's encouragement.

I'm really not sure what changed or if anything did. I know that we can't be friends now. I know that she's incredibly angry, and has severe emotional problems that may have nothing to do with me. I know she's talking about me behind my back because she has never met anyone she didn't do that to. Ever.

I don't miss her, really. I try to rouse feelings of missing but I can't. The memories of the good times are tainted by the sharp, painful memories of the bad times. Really bad times.

Because I know she can't be assertive or honest about her feelings, it's possible I'll never know what changed or why she's so unhappy. That's actually okay with me.

When we were young L and I fought. A lot. My dad used to tell us, "You girls shouldn't fight -- when you grow up all you'll remember is the figthing." Which has turned out to be a little bit true. The fights usually went like this: L (who's seven years older, remember) would egg me on and get me going. Or I'd annoy her in the way only a kid sister can do. No matter who started the fight, when L had enough she would burst into tears and run to her room, slam the door, and fling herself onto her bed where she would cry until an adult (usually my dad) came in to check on her. When my dad found her, and heard her side of the story ("It's ALL HER FAULT!"), he'd find me and make me go in and apologize, without hearing my side of the story. Her words were sufficient evidence for indictment and conviction. Sentence: Apology. Sometimes I simply said, "I'm sorry." When I felt I'd been seriously wronged I said, "Dad said to say I'm sorry." I don't remember L ever apologizing to me. Not once in all these years. For anything.

We haven't spoken since last summer. I blocked her e-mail address. There will be no Christmas card this year, at least not from me. I'm freeing myself of her hurtful, toxic influence, a little bit at a time. This time there will be no apology from me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

In Defense of L, Part V

L has four daughters. They're now 13 to 20-something. I held each one as a newborn. L was always happy to let me be close to her girls and she shared a lot about her pregnancies, deliveries and child-raising experiences with me. I think I was usually the second or third person she (or her husband) called after the babies came. The girls and I were pretty close when we lived near each other. L's family would always come over to my place Christmas Eve for our open houses and having those kids around always made the holidays more fun. For years I had their school pictures on my refrigerator. I had kids in my life for many years thanks to L.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Defense of L, Part IV

When my dad died I was 21. In the year that followed, I made a lot of crazy decisions. One of those was to quit my relatively secure, well-paying job and go back to school to finish my degree. I didn't plan very well and ended up very, very poor as a student. Poor to the point of having no heat and going hungry sometimes. L knew how things were for me. When I'd go out to visit her, she always sent me home with a bag of groceries. Like a huge container of oatmeal and other staples, along with homemade baked goods. She and her family didn't have much in those days either but she always sent me home with food. She also told my mom I didn't have any heat, which caused Mom to send me a check. L never made me feel small or weak for being poor. She just did what she could to help. More than once the food she gave me was the only food in my cupboard. I'll always be grateful for that help.

Monday, November 07, 2005

In Defense of L, Part III

When I was in my 20s I worked for a big hospital/HMO in their mental health department. One day a co-worker went a little crazy and started telling everyone's secrets during a staff meeting. She shared something I had told her in confidence a year or two earlier. I fell apart. I left work and didn't go back for two days. I couldn't stop crying and had an IBS episode like no other before it. During this time, L called and I told her the whole story. She told me to come out to her place a little before lunch and we'd go for a picnic. One of her kids was still at home so the three of us took a lunch L packed (including egg salad sandwiches, the best comfort food sandwich EVER) and headed for a local park. We went for a long walk, with the little one in a stroller, and talked. Then we ate our lunch. It healed me.

A year or two later, I got a dog from the shelter. She was an excellent dog, if a little neurotic. One evening she got loose and wouldn't come back when I called her. Eventually she did come back, with a tiny dead kitten in her mouth. I screamed. The dog dropped the kitten. I started crying and couldn't stop. Leaving the baby cat outside, I dragged the dog (now completely freaking out because she evidently thought she'd done a good thing) into the house. I called L, sobbing uncontrollably. I didn't have a clue what to do. She told me I had to go around to the neighbors and try to figure out who owned the kitten. She told me to call animal control if I couldn't find the owner. She calmly walked me through all the steps I needed to take and promised to call back later to check on me. Somehow I managed to visit some of my neighbors (oh and did I mention I was new to the neighborhood? And sobbing uncontrollably? I wonder why the neighbors avoided me...). Eventually I found the kitten's owner, a pretty "eccentric" old guy who had dozens of feral cats and kittens all over his property. I called animal control and left a message. Then I called L and cried some more. She was soothing and maternal and didn't laugh at me even once. Tempting as that might have been.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In Defense of L, Part II

L threw me the only birthday party I ever had for non-family members. When I turned 10 (and she was 17) we invited a few of my girlfriends over for an afternoon cake-and-punch party. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but she gave it her best shot. There was cake and punch and sitting around in a circle on the patio, talking. I don't think we knew there should be other activities. After my guests left, L cooked dinner for me and the rest of the family. She burned the chicken. I was mad at her for that. Thinking about that still stings. If we ever speak again I'll tell her I'm sorry for being an ungrateful brat.

Monday, October 31, 2005

In Defense of L, Part I

Long time coming, this one. Sorry about that.

My parents never told us a thing about sex. Under pressure, Mom told me the basics of menstruation, but nothing whatsoever about sex. This was completely the norm at that time. My sister L decided I needed to know more than she'd been told. One night she took me for a drive in the family car. I was probably nine or 10; she'd have been 16 or 17. She asked me what I knew about sex and if I had any questions. I remember telling her I already knew (which of course wasn't completely accurate) because my friends from school told me. She said I should always feel free to ask her if I had questions. She told me she wished Mom and Dad had told her more. She told me she'd basically been forced into her first sexual encounter and didn't want that to happen to me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Case Against L, Part V

For most of my life, most often when I was small, my sister L has told this story: "When I found out Mom was pregnant, I prayed that Heavenly Father would give me a baby sister. After you came, I prayed he'd take you back."
Then she laughs.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Case Against L, Part IV

I had three interactions with L around the time of my wedding seven years ago this month. She flew out from Michigan for the wedding and to visit family. I saw her first when she came to my apartment the day before the wedding. She asked to see my wedding ring, so I showed her. She asked, "Did you try it on with the engagement ring? A lot of people don't think of that." I told her I'd tried them on together. She had nothing else to say.

L and my other two sisters helped set up for the reception the day of the wedding (for which I was extremely grateful because I was a basket case). During the wedding, I didn't see much of L. I was busy trying to visit with all the guests and dancing. When a polka came on, I went over to ask L to dance with a friend and me since I knew she knows the polka. L turned ugly: "I don't know how to polka!" I tried to cajole her, to cheer her up. She was having none of it. Yelling now, she repeated, "I DON'T KNOW HOW!"

The day after the wedding, my new groom and I hosted a brunch at a nice waterfront restaurant. There were traffic problems getting out to the restaurant as there was road work underway. We didn't know about it before the brunch and neither did our guests. Some of us were late. L was especially late. When she arrived, red-faced and clearly mad as hell, she headed straight for me and yelled, "Thanks for telling me about the construction!"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Case Against L, Part III

L is seven years older than I am. My parents never paid for a babysitter. L looked after me when my parents weren't around. Since she resented me from birth, this created problems, sometimes. She has a tendency to be cruel. Here are Exhibits A and B:

One year L took me trick-or-treating. I was probably six or seven years old (which would make her 13 or 14). She'd stand on the sidewalk while I went up to each house to collect my loot. We started to pass one house that was completely dark. She told me to go up and ring the doorbell. I said I didn't want to. She made me go. I rang the doorbell. No answer. I started to walk away. She said, "Ring it again!" I rang again, reluctantly. She might have insisted a third time; I can't remember for sure. Eventually a very old, very sad looking woman answered the door. "I'm sorry dear, but we don't have any candy. We're very poor." L could hardly keep herself from laughing. Once we got past the house, she was hysterical. Until I told her to stop a few years ago, L called me every Halloween to tell the story and laugh again. Every year.

When I was a teenager I had knee problems. A few times I was in a full toe-to-thigh plaster cast. I had to use crutches. Once day when I was in a cast, L and I were walking into her apartment. She picked up something -- I'm not sure what it was, maybe a small fuzzy toy -- and threw it at me while saying, "Look out! It's a dead rat!" I tried to run out of the way. In a cast, it was hard. I freaked out. L laughed until she cried. She still laughs when she tells this story. It's a story she loves to tell.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Case Against L, Part II

For as long as I can remember, L has had a mental list of the things from Mother's house she wanted "When Mom dies." It was common for her to begin sentences to our mom, "When you die, I want..." She said this with a smile, but it was a smile that failed to mask serious intent.

Before we all went to Mother's house to help Mom move out, L said, "I really don't want anything. It's just STUFF." She did say she wanted a small hand-printed note from our dad that Mom had framed on her bedroom wall.

When she and her family arrived, L made a bee-line for the garage, where sale items were being sorted and priced. She and her kids pawed through the goods for about half an hour before even going into the house to greet Mother.

Here's some of what was in L's car when she drove away from Mother's house last summer:

* Mother's silver
* A lace tablecloth made by our great-grandmother (the only one)
* Mom's small stereo system (which my sister K had explicitly asked for earlier)
* So much other stuff that her husband complained they wouldn't have room to sit in the van on the way home

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Case Against L, the Prequel

A couple of months before we all went "home" to get Mom's house ready to sell, I called my sister L. It was May. I know because it was around her birthday. We talked about plans for the week together and at some point she said their family car was going to need repairs before they could make the trip. She said she was thinking of asking Mom for the money, since "she's helped K out so many times in the past."

I told her it never hurts to ask.

Months went by, and nothing was said about the car repairs.

A short time before we were all scheduled to travel, L sent an e-mail to all of us, saying she didn't think they'd be able to make the trip, as their car suddenly needed repairs and they couldn't afford to have them done.

At some point she asked our oldest sister J if she thought Mom would be willing to pay for the repairs, which would cost at least $2000. This is not an amount Mom's accustomed to giving anybody but her church. It was the same amount L told me she'd need for repairs when I spoke to her in May. Now she was pretending as if the car had suddenly gone bad without warning, hoping Mom would step in and pay up.

I don't remember how it all came down, but at some point I asked L if this was the same repair she talked about in May. Around that same time, J talked to Mom who said $2000 was more than she was comfortable paying.

Within a few days, L and her husband found the money for the repairs! They were on their way.

The Case Against L, Part I

I'm ready to talk about it.

Last summer my sisters and I went to our hometown to help my mom move out of her house and into an assisted living facility in Arizona. This included clearing everything out of her house, cleaning and fixing and painting, and holding a garage sale. Closing down the house she'd lived in since 1967. We knew it would be a huge job, requiring long, difficult days. We also hosted an 80th birthday party for Mother which seemed a good chance for her to say goodbye to all her friends before she moved away forever.

My oldest sister (J) more or less put me in charge of organizing all of this, including arranging the sale of Mom's house and all that entails. I gladly agreed, because J has been the sole provider of personal care for Mom and she handled all the assisted living arrangements. It seemed fair.

Our other two sisters (K and L) were given the plan.

K arrived the same day J and I did, a week ahead of our deadline for having Mom moved. She brought her fabulous husband along, a guy who likes nothing better than laying Visqueen down in a dirty smelly crawlspace and rewiring old light fixtures! They're both hard workers and they worked their guts out, often working into the night after the rest of us had gone to our motels exhausted.

My cousin D, who lived near Mom, came every day to help us. She did some of the most physical, dirty work, including landscaping (for which she has an amazing gift). J and I call her "the fifth sister." She's done an awful lot to help Mom and us through all these transitions.

L arrived three days after the rest of us. She and her family had driven from Michigan, a trip that took several days. When they arrived we all went out to greet them. When I put my arms around L, she kept her arms folded and turned her head away. She headed for the garage, where all the sale items were being organized and priced. She started looking through everything there.

Later I asked my other sisters and cousin if they'd gotten hugs or kisses. They had not. At least I knew I wasn't the only one.

The rest of us continued working to get Mother's house ready for the realtor and inspector. It was about 100 degrees outside. L? She sat inside the air conditioned house eating Doritos and talking to Mom.

On Wednesday, she did the same. Her husband and one of her four kids helped us with our projects. At some point, someone asked me if I thought we should put Mom's dining table out for the garage sale the next day. I said I thought we should, since nobody was really using it and it stood a better chance of being sold the longer it was out. A short while later, I overheard L whispering to J (because they were only standing FIVE FEET AWAY), "I don't know WHY she wants to move that dining set outside!"

I said, "I'M RIGHT HERE. I CAN ACTUALLY HEAR YOU." On my way out the door, I said, "If you have something to say to me, you need to tell ME." Then I went back to work.

L then did what she's been doing for as long as I can remember: She went into her room and flung herself down on the bed, crying. This went on for the remainder of the day. My cousin D went in to see how she was doing. L told her the story just about like I've told it here, except at the end she said, "The first seven years of my life were fine. Then SHE came along." And started weeping again.

For the next two days, L wouldn't make eye contact with me or speak with me. On one of those evenings, the four of us daughters got together to divide up Mom's most precious things, the ones that weren't going to the garage sale but would stay in the family. These included a lace tablecloth made by my great-grandmother, a quilt, some jewelry and a million other odds and ends. L sat with her arms folded, eyes red from crying, saying almost nothing throughout the evening. When my husband returned from a trip to another part of the state to visit his family, he greeted L and her husband warmly. L didn't speak to him.

The stress between us had an effect on everyone. At one point J became so frustrated she burst into tears and told me, "I wish L would just take her shitty attitude and GO HOME!"

Eventually, L decided to start speaking to me again. She came out to the garage sale where I was working. She started talking about something trivial, maybe something that we were selling. I was overjoyed that she was speaking to me again. I put my arms around her and hugged tight. Again, she acted as if she didn't notice she was being hugged, but just kept on talking.

The week went on. The garage sale was a success, the party was sweet and everybody worked from sun-up to sun-down making it all happen. Except, of course, L.

After everyone was back home and in their routines, I got an e-mail from L asking what the status was on the sale of Mom's house. I'd gotten a note earlier, with a similar tone: chatty, friendly. I answered her questions, but then I told her I didn't understand why she was acting as if nothing had happened between us. I told her she had spoiled for me what would probably be the last time I'd be with all my sisters and their families until Mom's funeral. I told her I was angry about her failing to help us with all the work that had to be done. I told her she needed to let go of her disappointment at my being born 40-plus years ago. I honestly believed that by being honest we could get to the heart of the problem and possibly work it out.

I was wrong. She shot back another e-mail telling me she was shocked at my behavior and calling me, basically, a drama queen who ruins every family gathering. We haven't spoken since then.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Daughter: Today is a Celebration of You...

That's what's on the front of the birthday card I got from my mom yesterday. Here's the inside:

It's a day for thinking back
on all the ways
you've touched so many lives
with your spirit of giving
and your love of living.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a remarkable daughter.

Since my mom can't see well any more, my sister K picks out all her greeting cards. Mom probably didn't even know what it said when she signed it. There's a chance at least two of my sisters got the very same card on their birthdays this year.

I cried anyhow.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Where Would This Blog Be Without Frog?

A meme from frog:

Please leave a one-word comment that you think best describes me.

It can only be one word, no more.

Copy and paste this in your journal so that I may leave a word about you.

Make Frog Stop Tapping

Since frog's over here tapping her foot at my lazy writing habits, I will try to think of something to say. My mother's birthday is this weekend; so is my oldest sister's. I spent a week with my inlaws since I last wrote. There's a lot going on in Tennessee that has to do with medical care for seniors and people with disabilities. I have no shortage of issues.

The thing I'm most interested in at the moment is myself, though. Or my self. I've been doing some work on my habits of negativity and complaint. Without going into too much detail about the process (because maybe you are as easily bored as I am), this has been a time of profound realization. When I am asked to focus on my body, to name what I feel there, my mind looks for the pain. Immediately. "What hurts?" I'm beginning to learn that it's possible to consider the comfortable places in my body, too. The places of ease.

So too with my life and my relationships and the world. When my mind goes to these, I look for "what's wrong" first. Maybe it's possible to take in the whole view. To include what's right. Or at least what's neutral. Maybe.

These possibilities are changing me. It's a slow change. I don't expect I'll ever lose my analytical edge or my ability to imagine every worst case scenario. But maybe I'll start to see more than that.

I know why these habits arose. I also know that leaving them behind will mean leaving behind my relationship with my family, as it exists today. This causes me grief. It also causes my heart to soar.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Falling Down

Since I didn't have a chance to call Mom over the weekend, I called her last night.

"I fell down."

I hate hearing those words. More than that, I hate the sad, pitiful tone of my mother's voice when she tells me: "I fell. Again."

This time, though, she didn't pass out and lie on the bathroom floor for some unknown period of time. She got nailed by a little kid running at church. This was good news!

"What did you fall on? Your butt?"

"My knees."

"Are you okay? Do you have bruises? Are you able to walk okay?"

"I'm okay. I have a couple of bruises, but I seem to be able to get around okay."

What a relief.

"The little kid -- just didn't see you? Did his mother apologize?"

"I guess. He was just running all over the place and I didn't see him coming and he crashed into me. I fell down onto my knees. His mother didn't say anything. She didn't even apologize."

PSA: If your child is running around and old people with canes are in the area, this is not good. Some of these seniors can't see your little kid zooming toward them and can't move fast enough to get out of the way even if they can see. They are doing well to be upright. Give them a hand, huh? Send your kids outside to run. Away from people using canes. Also: If your child actually knocks an old person down? Have the kid apologize. Then you apologize. Profusely. Stop by with a goddamned homemade cake later and thank your lucky stars the oldster isn't in the hospital with a broken hip, talking on the phone to her lawyer. Because she's not that kind of person. She's a good, religious woman, not the kind to hold a grudge or come looking for you if a serious injury results. She's not, but her daughter is.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Over the weekend I completed the Shambhala Heart of Warriorship program, along with about 40 other people. At our graduation ceremony, we were all given pins symbolizing the Great Eastern Sun. I put mine on and was wearing it when I rode the train home.

Also on the train were two Mormon missionaries. They sat across from me. Each wore a missionary badge (just like the ones worn by these young missionaries).

I looked at my pin. I looked at their badges. I had to laugh. I'm pretty sure they thought I was crazy. Which could explain why they left me alone for the duration of the trip.

They both looked worn out, though. A little discouraged, maybe. Yesterday was Pride here in the city. Poor kids must think they've been stationed in Sodom. Or Gomorrah.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Old folks' homes are in the news today. The first story I heard on NPR's "Morning Edition." It was about the Green House Project in Mississippi. They're basically reinventing the nursing home concept, scrapping the old model because it doesn't serve the needs of elders. Instead of packing seniors and people with profound disabilities into big, institutional facilities (which the Green House director calls "prisons"), these folks are building small homes for up to 10 residents and their caregivers. They've even re-named caregivers -- instead of "CNA" or "assistant" they use "shahbaz" -- a "made-up" name that forces everyone involved to start thinking differently about the nature of care-giving. Elders are thriving in these new spaces, where they have freedom and comfort they only dreamed about in the old facilities. One dear senior began talking and feeding herself after being moved from the old institution to the new home. It's a great story. If you have a few minutes, you should have a listen at NPR's website.

Speaking of creating homes for elders, the Supreme Court is doing exactly the opposite. With your tax dollars. In a 5-4 ruling, the (let's just say it -- elderly) Court gave a Connecticut city the right to take away property from its citizens when it's believed the community will benefit. According to USA Today, "The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years."

But wait -- there's good news: "City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum."

Maybe some of those seniors who used to live along the river can go to work selling trinkets to the tourists. That would be nice.

If you're a legal geek, the opinion's here.

If you're pissed and wondering what to do about that, send some love to the Institute for Justice , even though they're libertarian. They're representing the homeowners of New London. Finding lawyers to take cases like this one is tough. They're good people for taking on Big Government.

You can direct your anger toward the National League of Cities (Executive Director: Donald Borut), which is helping New London kick the homeowners out. How do those guys look at themselves in the mirror? When their mothers or people at cocktail parties ask them what they do for a living, what the hell do they say? Do they have trouble sleeping at night? I hope so.

Also on the Evildoers List is the New London Development Corporation (Chief Operating Officer: Dave Goebel). When you visit their website, you will see that "The New London Development Corporation (NLDC) is committed to creating public-private partnerships that act as an engine for economic development in New London. The goals of this private, not-for-profit organization are to increase the city's tax base, to promote an increase in the number of jobs available in the city and to enhance the quality of life for New London's residents." Well, some residents. Not the residents who worked for 30 or more years to pay off their mortgages. Other residents. Like, say, Pfizer.

Secrets Revealed

It would be a stretch to make this topic seem even remotely related to the overall themes of my blog (aging parents, Mormonism, all that). So I won't even try.

Now tell me this isn't the same person:

As this:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Who is Sally Denton and What's She Doing With My Axe?

It seems Sally Denton has it in for the Mormons. How did I not know this? She's written a book about her great-great grandmother, who got snookered by the church leaders back in the 1850s. Seems they neglected to tell Denton's ancestor (Jean Rio, who gave the church all her belongings and left her home in England to travel with the Saints to Zion) about a couple of teeny-tiny doctrinal matters. Like polygamy and blood atonement. This upset Ms. Rio (can you believe it!?) and she headed for California just as soon as a railroad was built to take her there.

Denton also wrote a book about the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre a few years back. The massacre has been on people's minds more since Under the Banner of Heaven came out last year. It would seem that the One True Church has a history of some violence. And deceit. Surprise.

Both Carolyn See and Bookslut mention Denton's bias against the church. If you're writing about atrocities and misdeeds by a religious organization, should you remain neutral? I haven't read either book. And naturally, since Denton's bias is virtually identical to my bias, I'm not inclined to feel too troubled. That's the way biases work.

I have added Faith and Betrayal to my book list. Any enemy of woman-hating churches is a friend of mine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Sunday, when I talked to my mom, I asked her some questions about her mother: "Did she have a temper?" "Did she hit?"

Mom laughed.

"Oh, she yelled! She had a temper. I can't remember why, but one time she broke a broomstick on LM!" LM is Mom's younger brother. Mom kept chuckling. "I remember her chasing after him. He told me last year why she beat him, but I can't remember."

"Did she ever hit you like that?"

"Oh no. I don't think so."

"Because you were better behaved?"

"Oh yes."

"You never did anything to 'deserve' it."

"Not that I can remember!"

Once when I was about five or six, I broke Mother's stick -- the one she used both for pushing laundry down into the washing machine and also for hitting us. I balanced the stick on top of a rubber ball and stood on both ends. I probably got the idea from some book or T.V. show. The stick broke. She replaced it with the leg of a disgarded chair.

Lately, she's been heard telling relatives she never hit or yelled at us when we were small: "My husband wouldn't allow it!" Nobody corrects her. And she's not lying -- she honestly doesn't remember hitting us or yelling at us. She also doesn't remember being hit by her mother. I'm not sure what really happened to Mother when she was small. Neither is she.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Name That Tune

When I made my weekly phone call yesterday, Mom was listening to her new CD from my sister J. It's a compilation of different duets sung by country artists. Neither of us had much to say yesterday, so it was mostly small talk and reminiscences of past Father's Days.

Every so often she'd pipe up with, "Who's this singing now?"

She can't see well enough to read the CD cover. So she doesn't know who she's listening to.

Since I couldn't hear her stereo I had to tell her I didn't know. Repeatedly.

"Oh you know," she coaxed after I gave up for the third of fourth time. "It's that girl who had all those brothers. Oh, what's her name? Oh! Osmond! She's an Osmond! Who's she singing with?"

Again, couldn't hear. Since I was sitting at my computer, I Googled it by the name of the song.

"Is it Dan Seals?"

"Oh I don't know. I've never heard of him."


"Yeah. That sounds about right."

She likes me to call every weekend, even if this is all we have to say to each other.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Where Would Jesus Shop?

A while back I ranted about Mormons and tithing. I recently read about the church's plans for putting $1 billion in tithing (and accrued interest, of course) to good use: They're building a MALL! In downtown Salt Lake City! Interestingly, the link is no longer working at the SLC Tribune Site. However, here's an excerpt from the original story, by Heather May:

The LDS Church will invest close to $1 billion when it remakes downtown Salt Lake City's two malls -- which will be closed on Sundays -- according to Salt Lake City Council members.

This isn't the first time God's True Church has used its members' 10% for retail improvements:

During the 1960s several commercial and service centers were built in the suburbs, drawing business away from downtown. To help counteract this movement, the Mormon Church invested $40 million in development of a downtown shopping mall. The ZCMI Center Mall, named for Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution, a prominent retail chain which was begun in Salt Lake's pioneer days, is the result of that effort. (Link)

I'm intrigued by the overlap of religion and consumerism.

Evidently, Our Lord and Savior doesn't favor Nordstrom or Target:

As it redevelops its two malls on Main Street, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't want the city to allow department stores to locate in The Gateway and property surrounding the shopping center west of downtown.

In a letter Thursday, the church's attorney for its real estate company urged the Planning Commission to keep regulations in place that would prevent anchor stores such as Nordstrom and Target from opening in The Gateway.

Church attorney Alan Sullivan, who helped his client gain the city's easement through the Main Street Plaza, also suggested that allowing department stores to locate west of the core downtown could harm the church's ability to redevelop the ZCMI Mall and Crossroads Plaza. His letter to the Planning Commission -- a volunteer citizen board -- and the City Council and Mayor Rocky Anderson says the city's current zoning that forbids department stores in The Gateway district is "crucial to attract the investment necessary to strengthen the downtown area."

Do you wonder what church leaders are doing meddling in retail decisions? Should we assume from this action that the One True Church (and therefore God Almighty Himself) considers Target and Nordstrom tools of Satan?

The Almighty apparently favors Walmart. Less than 10 minutes after leaving Temple Square, with the heavenly voices of the Tabernacle Choir still ringing in your ears, you can be shopping at Walmart. (Proof) Maybe our Heavenly Father has it in for labor unions.


Tagged by Emilin, so long ago maybe she's forgotten. She has other things on her mind right now, as you'll see when you read her blog. Which you should do. Right now.

List your 6 favorite songs and tag 6 others to do the same.

1. Big City (written by Merle Haggard, but sung by Iris Dement)
2. Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan
3. Simple, sung by kd lang
4. Case of You, Joni Mitchell
5. Excursions, Abdullah Ibrahim
6. Forever Young, Joan Baez

That's today though. My list would be different tomorrow. Probably an hour from now, for that matter.

I'm not tagging six people, because it's an impossible task, really, limiting yourself to just six songs in a world of so many wonderful pieces. And most folks I'd tag have been tagged already.


May 10?! My last entry here was over a month ago?? I'm sorry if you've checked here expecting to find something new during that time and I promise to try to do better. I've started to write entries a few times and then deleted them because they sounded too bleak. Honestly, things with the family have not been going well.

There will be a family reunion of the descendants of my mom's grandmother at the end of July, in Salt Lake City. This reunion happens every couple of years and Mother usually goes. It's her chance to catch up with her remaining cousins and to see my sister K and her family, who live in Utah and southern Idaho.

This year, my sister J is going with Mom for the first time. They're flying together from Arizona, where they both live. Also going to the reunion is my sister L, flying out from Michigan with her youngest daughter. This will also be their first year attending the reunion. So, yeah. There's going to be a big family reunion without me. Because I'd already planned a vacation up to Seattle earlier in July, and can't really take more time off than that, and because my sister L and I are still not speaking to each other after last year's blowout, I'll be staying home while they're having their reunion.

"Mixed" doesn't describe my feelings. On one hand, I know it would be a disaster for L and me to be together. I want to give up on our relationship because I can't see any way for it to be repaired. On the other hand, my family is having a reunion without me! This solidifies my feelings of being the outcast, the black sheep, the not-quite-a-member.

This is something that needs dealing with in my life. At 46, I believe it's time to once and for all relieve myself of the fantasy that our family can be whole, and healthy, and loving, and unconditionally supportive. That they can accept me just the way I am. Without expecting me to become Mormon again. Without judging my life and decisions against the Official Mormon Checklist of Acceptable Behavior. It just ain't gonna happen. The unfortunate thing about learning these lessons seems to be that they're never learned "once and for all."

My husband tells me, "Embrace your status as outcast!" It's true that the club isn't one I'd especially choose -- I would be the only non-Mormon at the reunion, for one thing.

I do have a deep hatred of Jello "salad." Maybe I can start by embracing that and work my way up.

[Heh. I just realized I've already blogged about the family reunion. Forgive me. We tend to repeat ourselves more as we get older. Also, an issue. Clearly.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mom's Best

I was chatting with a friend yesterday and she gave me some excellent food for thought. You know those times when you feel your whole way of thinking has been turned sideways? It's like that. I've been munching on it ever since.

For many years I've realized my mother really did the best she could as a parent. Before that, I spent many years believing she could have done better but chose not to. I also spent many years punishing her for her failure to do better.

I was talking about this with the friend. She said the same: "They did the best the could with their lives at the time."

Then she hit me with this: "But maybe it's expecting too much that they give their best -- I didn't give my best as a parent."

WHAT?! You mean, cut parents some slack? Just as we do for people performing EVERY OTHER KIND OF WORK? Gadzooks.

Where did we get this idea that parents (especially mothers) must do their very best? Give 110%? Outperform all other mothers? Crazy. What would it mean to accept that my mother and all other mothers did just okay? Some days, excellent. Some days, not so good. Overall, slightly better than average.

Like I said, food for thought. Thanks, renate.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Gratitude, After a Fashion

When I called Mom today to wish her a happy Mother's Day (a day early) she told me, "I didn't get any mail today!"


"Oh there was a card from you. But nothing else!"

She meant to say, "Thank you. You are such a thoughtful daughter."


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Next Book on My List

No Saint

My mom told me Sunday that all three of my sisters are joining her at the family reunion in Utah this summer.

"You should come!"

I told her I can't because I'm using vacation time for a trip to Seattle in July. Also, I said, "They'll all have a better time if I'm not there. I'm a troublemaker."

Translation: My sister L and I are not speaking and it would be unbearable if we were both there.

I wouldn't have gone anyway. It's an event by, for and about Mormons. The family that's reuniting is made up of the descendants of my mom's grandmother, a woman who died young "because she had too many kids!" (according to my mom).

I'm sad that my family is having a reunion without me. I'm sad that they'll have a better time without me there. I'm sad that I'll never have the kind of relationship with my sisters that I dream of having. I gave up the fantasy of a perfect relationship with my mother many years ago (thank you, former therapist!). I guess I still hang on to my fantasy about my sisters and me getting along, sharing secrets, laughing a lot and ultimately forming a four-part a cappella singing group that appears weekly on Lawrence Welk. Time to let that go.

Later in the conversation with Mom, she told me (again) that she doesn't want to live to be 100. In fact, she said, "I'm not sure WHY I'm still here! Haven't I fulfilled my purpose?" Then she told me she'd been "fulfilling" her "purpose" for the past year and feeling good about it: "Your sister has been coming to church with me EVERY WEEK!"

As background, I must now tell you the Story of Mom's Purpose. Quite a few years ago, when Mom could still see well and was driving herself around in her gigantic American car, she took a trip to see my sister L and her family. She drove over a mountain pass. It was icy. Her car spun out of control on the ice. She landed in a ditch. She and the car were completely unharmed. She was "inspired" that her life was spared because she still had an unfulfilled purpose. She decided (or was "inspired") that her purpose was to bring my sister J and me back into the fold of Mormonism. Every time I hear her tell this story, I fall back on the same joke as a reply: "The only reason I'm staying away from the church is because I want you to live forever, Mom!" Ha. Ha ha ha. It's our little way of communicating something important without saying the words that could cause a huge split. Mother is saying, "I wish you would be a Mormon again. I'm unhappy as long as you stay outside the church." I am saying, "I am never going back, no matter how many times you drag out this tired old story."

So back to last Sunday. Mother tells me half her life's purpose is fulfilled -- J is going to church! Every week! The truth is, J goes because Mom needs help and probably couldn't find the restroom without J's help.

After telling me this, Mom says, "Now if I could only get that YOUNGEST child of mine in shape!"

My refusal to buckle and rejoin the church of Joseph Smith is what's keeping Mother here on this earth, instead of finally dying and joyously rejoining my father (and her parents and sister and all our family pets) in the celestial realm. It's MY FAULT. And furthermore, no matter what I accomplish in this life, it's not enough to offset this one big shortcoming.

"Nobel Prize? Sure it's nice, but you know she still doesn't go to church."

My husband asked me, "Why do you even CALL her?"

I call her because she's my mother and I want to be the best daughter I can be. For me. I know that I will never make her happy, or proud. I know that she will spend the rest of her life hoping that I will come to my senses and be a good Mormon woman. Anything short of that will mark me a failure in her eyes. But I will be able to look myself in the mirror on the day after she dies and know I did everything I could to be a good daughter to her. And I will be proud of myself for that. Because honestly? It ain't always easy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Again With the Mormons

I thought I was done blogging about Mormons for a while and that I'd get back to telling you our family secrets and sharing the hilarious hijinks of the assisted living set. But NPR goaded me this morning. Blame them.

Apparently Mormons are again being baptized by proxy for dead Holocaust survivors and other dead Jews. Believe it or not, living relatives of these new converts are upset! Ungrateful! Their dead relatives are being given the sacred opportunity to become Mormons and enjoy all the benefits of Mormon heaven and they are not one bit happy! Tsk.

Ten years ago the LDS church agreed to stop this practice when Jews found out their dead relations were being baptized by proxy and having other sacred (and secret) church rituals performed. It's an odd practice, this proxy thing -- I'm pretty sure no other Christian religion does anything remotely like it. Any non-Mormon is vulnerable -- even Hitler and Eva Braun have been baptized by proxy, more than once I'm told.

Baptisms and other rituals for the dead form the basis for all the great geneological research done by Mormons -- they're basically harvesting names from public records to add to the list of future Mormons (by proxy). It's said that dead souls can accept or reject the ordinances performed for them but honestly, Mormons don't think that's likely. Heaven! Eternal happiness with your family! Or, well, we don't really know what the alternative is. Whatever heathens get when they're dead. Not eternal joy, that's for sure. At best, eternal mediocrity. Eternal humdrum. Eternal envy of the lucky lucky Mormons (who might have been Jews or Muslims or Pagans or Buddhists here on Earth), now at the great big banquet table that is the Celestial Kingdom. Oh, and the possibility of becoming gods and goddesses of their own worlds. But that's something the Mormons don't talk about so much these days because it freaked out the other Christians a little too much.

When I finally get around to putting my will together, one key provision will be that no one performs proxy baptism for me after I'm dead. It would be just like my family to try to "save" me once I'm no longer around to stop them. If I die before I get that will written, let this be a record of my wishes: If any Mormon dares to perform baptism or other rituals in my name after I am dead so help me God I will come back and verily my wrath will be great and its days long. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I promise. Not only that, but my heirs are fully empowered to sue the living crap out of anyone daring to be dunked in my name. Sue the church, too. They have some deep, deep pockets.

KSL in Salt Lake City, of course, has a much happier spin. Notice the photos of warm hugs and handshakes between the Mormons and Jews. In Mormonspeak, Jews (and all other non-Mormons) are referred to as "gentiles." So Mormons would refer to that picture as "a Saint and a gentile" shaking hands. Crazy, huh?

Monday, April 11, 2005


My mother told me yesterday that my niece is pregnant. Again. She might be having twins. Again. In addition to her other four children. When she gives birth to this second set of twins, she and her husband will have six children under the age of six.

I said, "Oh, dear. Hasn't she figured out what causes that?"

Mom laughed. "Well you'd think so by now!"

Mom says my niece had some spotting recently and there's some chance she's now only carrying one baby.

I saw my niece last July. I think she's about 24 or 25. She had just given birth to their youngest a month or two earlier. She looked exhausted. Her kids are all healthy, active boys. She is a stay-at-home mom. She's active in the Mormon church, as is her husband and all of her (five) brothers and sisters. Her doctor put her on anti-depressants following the birth of her first set of twins, about four years ago.

I asked Mom what the church's stance is these days on birth control. She said she didn't know, because she doesn't "follow that stuff too closely." I asked if that's because it doesn't apply to her any more. She chuckled and said, "Probably."

When I was growing up Mormon, here's the basic message I heard:

The opposed to birth control. However, we advise mothers, and fathers, to be wise in their intimate relations and, if the health of the mother is involved and the welfare of the rest of the family is at stake, parents are justified in following the advice of good physicians, preferably members of the Church, who have high moral standards and will advise such measures only for the protection of the health and life of the mother and other children. (Hugh B. Brown, 1961)


It is the policy of the Church to discourage the prevention of conception by any means unless the health of the mother demands it. It is also the policy of the church to regard marital relations of husband and wife as their personal problem and responsibility to be solved and to be established between themselves as a sacred relationship. (David O. McKay, 1963)

When I attended a church meeting in around 1971 or 1972, a visiting church authority told us, "If you are using any form of contraception, you are jeopardizing your eternal salvation. Period."

I guess the church is less strict now. I've heard (from my Mormon sisters) that in fact contraception is viewed as a strictly private matter and couples are no longer officially encouraged to have more children than is practical. The LDS church's own website says only:

We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.

The tradition and theology of the church are strong in their support of big families. It's the belief of Mormons that "spirit children" are waiting in heaven to receive human bodies on earth and it's the responsibility of every person to do what she or he can to help those children come to earth to fulfill their purpose and eventually return to heaven. It's all part of God's Divine Plan. Great blessings are promised to those who follow the plan.

So my dear young, tired niece is going to give birth to her fifth child and sixth child on the same day in a few months. I'm having trouble seeing it as a "blessing." I think she might be having the same trouble. Maybe not.


During our phone conversation yesterday, I told Mom about my trip to Lake Tahoe over the weekend. I told her my husband and I had both won a little money gambling there.

"OH! You're so lucky! And you don't even pay tithing!"

It's her belief (and probably the belief of most Mormons) that paying tithing of 10% of one's gross earnings leads to financial success. When I was young and still attending church I often heard stories that went like this: "We were struggling. Then we began paying our full 10% tithing. My husband got a new job! We bought a new house! A new car! We're sending our kids to college! All because we pay our tithing. We are so grateful to God for blessing us in this way."

To my mother, it's inconceivable that tithing and income are not connected in that magical way -- the more you pay, the more you earn! She is getting close to death (she thinks) so she is definitely not willing to risk pissing God off this close to her judgement. She paid 10% of the proceeds from the sale of her house. That was a big check. In addition to tithing, she pays "building fund" and "missionary fund" and any other fund her bishop suggests she should pay. The Mormon church (unlike most other Protestant churches) does not report its income or expenditures to its members. No one knows their annual income; no one knows where all that money goes, exactly. They're not required to disclose and I've never known a member to ask.

Here's the story they tell believers: To gain entrance into the Celestial Kingdom of heaven, you have to be Mormon and follow all the rules, including abstaining from alcohol and caffeine, refraining from sexual misconduct (adultery, defined as all sex outside Mormon marriage and including all sex between two people of the same sex), attending church services and tithing a full 10%. There are other essential rules, of course. Like not killing, stealing -- all the more popular sins. Without full compliance, you do not get into heaven, period. Here's the real heft of that deal: Mormons believe heaven is a place where families are reunited after death. Mormons participate in special "sealing" rituals (available only to Mormons in good standing) that guarantee eternal togetherness with one's family. Eternity. With your family. And not just your immediate family -- your whole gigantic extended Mormon family! Can you see where this is going? This great extortion scheme is perfect, isn't it? If you do not give the church a full 10% of your gross earnings, you cannot be with your dead loved ones after you die.

Was there ever a better mechanism of control? Seriously. Can you think of anything else that would get you to pay that much money over your lifetime? Let's do some math:

Average annual income of American workers, 2002: $38,428 (source)
x 10%
= $3,842.80
x 45 (assuming one makes the same wage for 45 years -- just play along here)
= $172,926.00
x 11,000,000 (estimated number of Mormons worldwide; source)
= $1,902,186,000,000 or one enormous pile of money, even assuming a percentage of Mormons don't love their dead relatives enough to pay tithing. To offset those deadbeats, corporate CEOs like J. Willard Marriott, Jr. are presumably paying their own 10%.

Yesterday I told Mom, "You should just take your 10% and play the slots instead. Maybe craps. The odds are better." She laughed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Inevitable Exile

[I received this message this morning via an e-mail list I belong to, that generally has nothing to do with aging. I found it especially helpful. I hope you do, too. Many thanks to "Martha" for her insight and generosity.]

I once read an article by a physician who used an interesting metaphor: Having a chronic illness (or being old) is like being exiled to a foreign country that everyone dreads going to. I have found this metaphor very useful.

In this place, the customs are strange. The people are mysterious and sometimes frightening. Everyone speaks a different language. It's physically challenging or even downright uncomfortable. You have to learn a new lifestyle. You start to think about yourself differently. You realize, with dread, that you'll never be the same.

People in your native country have tried to pretend that the Republic of Other doesn't exist, or that they'll never have to go there, so they reinforce the invisible border whenever possible. If you try to visit your old country, you get treated differently. People suddenly don't know how to talk to you. They try to shut you up: They change the subject with their own horror stories.

Or they offer advice, advice, advice all the time. They're scared shitless because you prove that exile could happen to them. They're comforting themselves that they know how to stay out of the Republic. They'll never get sick or old because they live/eat/exercise correctly. They are avoiding having to take in your experience and really feel what it's like.

Even some of the country's administrators are embarrassed about being in the Republic of Other. They want to let you know that while they commute to and work there, they aren't really citizens because THEY are not sick or old. They show off their proficiency in Medicalese by forgetting to speak English. They know all the secrets and they have a lot of experience, but they're bureaucrats who've forgotten what it's like to be new there and fill out the forms. They're self-important pains in the ass and not much help.

I don't know what else to say, except if you walk around in this metaphor for a while, it is sad and softening.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Silver Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago tonight, I sped across the Cascade mountains to see my father one last time before he died. My sister L was driving. In the car with us were L's husband and daughter, then about a year old. It was a Monday night. On Sunday, my mom had called to say Dad was in the hospital. He'd been sick with what we thought was pneumonia for what seems like a long time. Maybe months. The doctors tried different medicaitons, but he just didn't get better. On that Sunday Dad felt especially bad and told Mom to call someone from the church to take him to the hospital. I'm not sure why he didn't just ask Mom to drive him; maybe he needed help in and out of the car by then.

After Dad checked in, the tests began. Later in the day they told my parents that Dad had lung cancer, late stage. They talked about the options available for treatment (bleak) and his prognosis (bleaker). An oncologist met with them and basically told them the end was at best a week away. Then he offered to pray with them. My parents were grateful and they all prayed together there in Dad's hospital room.

Then came that round of phone calls that anyone who's faced a family crisis will remember. Mother called her daughters, we called each other. Travel plans were made. My sister and I lived about a five hour drive from Mom and Dad. We decided to leave on Tuesday.

On Monday, I went to work and tried to get everything caught up, since I didn't know how long I'd be away. I worked for a title insurance company then. I was 21 and it was my first "real" job. I had some good friends among my co-workers. They were great.

In the middle of the afternoon, I got a call from Mom. She told me that Dad was worse than they'd thought and if I wanted to see him I'd better come right away.

I called my sister L, who lived about 20 minutes from me. The earliest she could leave was after her husband got off work, but he'd get off a little early. I went home to pack.

I can't remember now what I packed or if anyone was at my apartment with me. It's possible my ex-boyfriend came over. We were still friends and I seem to remember him being there at some point. I just remember the crazy, frantic energy of getting ready for the trip. The many phone calls to my big sister, making plans and reassuring one another.

My sister wanted to drive because she knew the route better than her husband and besides, she's a crazy fast driver. A trip that usually takes at least five hours took us four. She practiced the speech she planned to give any state trooper who dared to stop her for speeding. I remember we ate junk food -- barbeque flavored Corn Nuts and other nasty stuff -- and laughed a little bit too much. We were close, then. Like sisters. We were together in the crisis. We probably didn't stop talking once during the four-hour drive.

When we got to our hometown, we drove straight to the hospital without stopping at Mom and Dad's house. It was dark and the hospital was quiet. We found Dad's room in the ICU. Mom was there, of course, and so was my sister K, with one of her children. I'm not sure which one (she has six) but whoever it was, he or she was just a baby who slept on the floor of Dad's room on a blanket K brought along. Dad was asleep. We all talked in whispers, so as not to wake the baby or Dad. We each greeted Dad when we got there and he seemed to acknowledge us but he was pretty well drugged by then. I sat on the bed next to him and rubbed his arm. Gave him a kiss. I think he had an oxygen mask over his mouth, but I can't remember for sure.

Then, we waited. And watched his monitor tell us his heart rate was too fast, then slower, then fast again. We all stared at that monitor, willing his heart rate to return to normal. At one point, near morning, his heart rate slowed and he seemed to settle down. Then he died. The heart monitor showed "0" and started making a screeching noise. My memory tells me Dad made some kind of noise at his last breath, but honestly I'm not sure I can trust my memory all these years later.

I waited for the nurses to rush in with the "crash cart." They didn't. One, a woman I'd gone through school with, came in and turned off Dad's monitor. That was it. His life was over.

This being a Catholic hospital, an old nun/nurse was dispatched to assist the grieving family. She was completely unskilled. Before my mother had even two minutes to let the new reality sink in, this old woman was in Mom's face asking her what she wanted to do with Dad's wedding ring and watch, and did she want his dentures?

I was furious. I was furious at Dad for being dead, furious at that old nun for being such a callous ass, furious at myself for not realizing he was about to die and holding onto him to keep him here a little longer. I slammed my fist into the wall. Then I cried.

We all went to the house then. It was too early in the morning to call anyone from Mom's church to begin funeral preparations; we were too keyed up to sleep. We just sat in the living room and talked and cried and then fell silent. L joked that Dad, with his amazing sense of humor, would have probably liked dying on April Fools' Day, if he had to die. Mom went to bed to try to sleep. I can't remember if the rest of us did.

My sister J didn't make it in time to see Dad before he died. She was on a plane from Florida or maybe she left the next day. I can't remember. I know it still bothers her that she didn't get to say good-bye. I remind her that really, none of us did. We thought he was doing better. That he'd sleep through the night and then, in the morning, we'd have our chance to visit and tell him how much we loved him and say our good-byes. Still, it makes her sad that she wasn't there with us in the middle of the night, watching his monitor.

I miss him still, but 25 years takes the edge off the grief. I tend to have a little anniversary effect around this time of year, but it usually takes me a few days to remember why I'm in such a lousy mood. This year it's hit me harder than usual. I think that's because I realize everything has changed in 25 years. Mom no longer lives in that same house, or that same town. Nobody visits Dad's grave any more, because no one lives close enough. We've lost touch with cousins and other relatives on my dad's side of the family; he was the glue, apparently.

My sisters and I have never been farther apart. My sister J and me, well, I don't really know what happened there. We used to talk or e-mail or IM every day, several times a day. Then her partner retired and wanted her to spend time with him, then we had some disagreements and now we just don't communicate any more. Maybe once a week we'll exchange some superficial "news" in an e-mail. I miss her. L and I haven't spoken since a heated e-mail exchange last year after we put Mom's house up for sale. I sent an apology at Christmas time, but I never heard back. We'd drifted apart over the past ten or so years. I'm not sure why. She always seemed pissed off about something when we got together, but could never bring herself to tell me. The fight last year just made the break complete. I miss her, too. It hurts to remember how close we were that night when we sped through the night to be with Dad. This grief is fresher and sharper than the grief over Dad's death, which by now is an old companion.

It's hard to realize Mom has now been a widow for 25 years. She and Dad were married only 36 years when he died. She was 55 then. She adjusted to widowhood better than anyone expected her to. She went to grief support groups. She learned to take care of herself. She became active at the YMCA where she took swimming classes with other older women, many of them widows. She let her church friends and her daughters take care of her. She started walking for health, eventually logging four miles every day. She got a dog. She took a trip to Hawaii with my aunt, also a widow. Mom bounced back in a way none of us would have imagined. We all did. Funny thing about a huge loss like that -- you can never, ever know what will come from it. Until much later.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Dr. J

My oldest sister (J) lives near my mom and looks after her. Well, Mom is actually in an assisted living facility, so there are paid professionals available to look after her. But my sister fills in the gaps and honestly takes on far more than she needs to, given the other available resources. She cooks meals for her even though very good meals are provided. She drives Mom to church even though other rides are available. She gives Mom her weekly shower even though the staff is able and willing to do it. She does Mom's laundry, whereas most residents have the staff do theirs or do it themselves in the coin-operated laundry. But I'm glad she's there for Mom and Mom appreciates her a lot.

J does a fair amount of reading online and in lay reference books about Mom's (and her own, and everyone else's) medical conditions. She doesn't have a medical degree. Never took biology, as far as I know. Didn't finish college. But it is her unwavering belief that she knows more about medicine than any of the doctors looking after Mother.

At first, this was charming. Now it's starting to bug me.

For example, here are selections from an e-mail she sent my sisters and me this morning:

Took mom to the dr on Tuesday -- [my daughter] suggested that the blisters on her leg were from shingles, and I convinced myself that it was -- he said that it looked infected (I didn't because that leg is always a little red) but he gave her both an antibiotic and the med for shingles.

Then yesterday I took her to the foot doctor and he basically said as long as it's not bothering her, he's through with her. I looked at the x-rays and they don't look much different. He made the statement that "sometimes these don't heal", but basically if it doesn't bother her, not to worry about it. I think all these doctors try to protect her from knowing too much and talk in riddles -- to me.

J is a worrier. Okay, obsessive-compulsive. Like my dad was. Like I am, to a much milder degree. She gets off on tangents. She can spin out of control with a single worrisome thought for days at a time. She equates worry with love. She fears Mom's doctors will miss something important and can't let herself trust them, even a little bit. She is vigilant. Which might be a good thing in moderation but is problematic when it colors every interaction she has with one of Mom's medical professionals, when the hidden subtext of every conversation is, "I know you are incompetent and I have my eye on you, buster."

It's next to impossible to stop her. Any suggestion that she should just let the doctors do their jobs will be met with hurt feelings, defensiveness and anger. She's the one who stepped up to the plate to take on the lion's share of the burden, after all. This seems to entitle her to full control over all Mom's medical issues, with no questions from anyone.

She's bossy and she loves to be in control. In my family, who doesn't? Mom is passive and very happy to have J in control. Even if she's wrong.

At the same time, I realize that medical professionals, especially in these times, can be over-worked and do make mistakes. I used to work in a hospital. I have seen the results of malpractice up close. I would never recommend timid compliance for any patient.

It feels impossible and scary.

With the Schiavo case in the news (all day, all night, every day, every night) I have to wonder what will happen as Mother moves closer to the end of her life. As far as I know she has not signed an advance directive. I know she does not want heroic measures because we've discussed it. I will be talking to her about Living Wills when I call this weekend. I could do further damage to the tenuous relationships between my sisters and me by having this conversation. But it's a conversation that needs to be had.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Televiewing Alert!

The movie I blogged about a while back, Sunset Story, will be shown (I believe in a slightly shorter, edited version) tonight on PBS. As they say, check your local listings. Watch it, tape it, Tivo it. But don't miss it.

In a related story, the LA Times reports that Sunset Hall, setting of the movie, is facing hard times. Turns out they don't have enough new residents signing up. So if you're a freethinking senior, I beg you to check out this fabulous resource. If you're a rich benefactor, send them money. Because when I'm older I might want to live there. (Yes, it is all about me.)

Theology at Mother's Knee

A friend recently asked me if Mormons are Christians. Because she knows I'm an ex-Mormon, she (and others) sometimes asks me doctrinal or practical questions about the church. She's Jewish. I'm not sure if that matters for this story, but I think it might.

I explained that yes, Mormons consider themselves Christian, but some Christians disagree. Then she asked me about the death and resurrection of Jesus (this being Easter season, after all). I said that Mormons believe Jesus died to atone for our sins, but that Mormons don't buy the concept of Original Sin. That's one reason other Christians think Mormonism is not a fully Christian faith. Then I did my best to explain Original Sin to my friend. After we hung up I started wondering if I'd been right. It's been a long, long time since I was a Mormon and I've forgotten a lot.

This weekend when I called Mother I took the opportunity to ask her: "Do Mormons believe in Original Sin?"


"You know, the sin of Adam and Eve, passed on to all humans since that time, that the crucifixion of Jesus washed clean?"

"Well, YES! I'm pretty sure we do!"

Mom's religious beliefs have always been unemcumbered by a lot of troubling details. I don't remember ever seeing her read scriptures, although Mormons are encouraged to do so regularly. Now that she can't see, she can't read them anyway. My sister gave her a set of recordings of the Book of Mormon (which she hasn't, as far as I know, broken out of their package once in the two-plus years since she got them). She sometimes takes naps during church services (but don't tell her I told you). M0ther's parents were Mormon; their parents were Mormon. We go way, way back. It's partly a matter of simple faith with Mom. Faith and strong tradition.

I checked a few cherished religious sources. Turns out, Mom's wrong. It bothers me a little that I know more about Mormon doctrine than my Mother, to be honest.

Oh. And if you have questions about the Magic Underwear, and now that you know I'm an ex-Mormon you probably will, go here. You'll never think about Marriott hotels in quite the same way.