Embarrassed

Some days I’m embarrassed to be an American.

Trump represents the worst of how some people see Americans: egocentric, stupid, arrogant and crass. How did we end up with this degenerate?

America has incredible wealth. Yet we can’t figure out how to provide healthcare for every citizen. Drug companies are raising drug prices so fast that people go across the border to Mexico or Canada to get what they need to stay alive for a fraction of the cost.

Religious groups worm they way into local politics and we end up with teachers forced to teach intelligent design and abstinence only sex education. Yet they can’t teach about safe sex practices because these religious zealots think talking about condoms will lead kids having sex. They think chastity vows actually work though.

What is the least religious state? I need to move there. Utah is a beautiful state but enough is enough.

Friendships

Are rare, but are one of the best aspects of life, if not the best.

As I age, I value my close friendships more than ever. I also understand they are fragile and require regular attention.

I don’t believe they should be perpetually difficult. If I’m the one instigating 90% of the interactions, something isn’t right. Reciprocation is healthy and keeps a balance to things.

Moving away from friends has been a regular part of my life. Few survive the distance. Those that do may become stronger.

I wish I had more friends. But that’s probably more of a reflection in me than anyone else.

Big Groups

I don’t like them.

They make me feel insignificant. They make me feel awkward.

If I find myself in a big group I will move to the edges. And then watch.

Tonight my teenage daughter told me she feels the same. We connected and spoke the same language.

I do much better 1×1. As I get older there is nothing I enjoy more than connecting with my spouse, one of my children or a close friend 1×1.

Throw your big parties. Invite a dozen or two. Many will find joy in the crowd.

You’ll find me on the edge.

What Did I Sign Up For?

What did I sign up for?

What did I commit to?

If I intentionally signed up to perform a task, deliver a product or help a friend, I should do that without much confusion or hesitancy. Both parties are on the same page.

What are you expected to do that you didn’t sign up for?

Are you expected to go to a certain college or study a certain discipline because that’s what would make your family proud?

Are you in a relationship because you’re expected to be? Did you have children when you wanted to or when you felt others expected that of you?

Do you drive a certain brand of car or dress a specific style because that’s what people in your line of work or neighborhood expect?

Do you attend a church because you signed up to attend? Or is it the church of your parents, and you never really considered anything else?  For years, I assumed I’d found the only true church and was rocked when I began to research its history.

Did you sign up for your political affiliation, or was it handed down to you?

Consider what you’ve actually signed up to do. Is it what you want? Or are you doing it to please someone else?

It’s not easy to say, “Hey, I didn’t sign up for this.” You may lose friendships. Others will shun you when you step outside their tribe.

But it might be the best thing you ever do.

Too Much Social

I deleted my Facebook account about a year ago. This past week, I took it a step further and disabled my Twitter and Instagram accounts.

I don’t recommend you follow my actions. And I’m not going to disparage any of the networks because I know many people enjoy them. If they bring a net positive to your life, then stick with them.

But they were taking away more from my life than they were adding to it.

Will I miss things? I’m sure I will. But I found that my closest friends were not the ones I interacted with on any of the social networks. My closest friends know how to reach me.

My hope is that I take some of that time I spent on Twitter and redirect it to this blog. Maybe some of the time I spent searching for that perfect picture to post to Instagram will be better spent learning something new on my Kindle.

I never regret reading too much. I don’t regret spending time with Kim or my kids. I don’t regret going for walks around my neighborhood or jotting down my thoughts here. Maybe I will call my dad and my siblings more than do now.

Wish me luck.

Saying Goodbye to my Mom

I rolled over in bed, grabbed my phone and made my way through a dozen messages that had arrived earlier that morning.

None of the messages were very long, but it was clear something was wrong. Each one was a puzzle piece that taken individually didn’t make a lot of sense.

Mom wasn’t feeling well. 
My dad was taking her to the hospital. 
Should the kids gather at the hospital? 
My dad needs help. 

I leaned over to see if Kim was awake. She wasn’t and I decided to let her sleep. I sat back in bed and thought about my mom. We’d driven up the week before to celebrate her birthday. She was frail but alert. Her spirits were high as they always are when she’s around her children and grandchildren.

Maybe 20 minutes had passed, and I decided to wake Kim. “My mom isn’t doing well. I don’t know what to do.” As I contemplated making the 5-hour trip from St. George to North Ogden, a message from my sister arrived:

“Mom is gone.”

It seems fitting to hear of my mom’s passing by text message. I’ve lived a state or two away from my parents and siblings for the past 20+ years, and I’m accustomed to hearing news about the family via text, email, and phone.

I stayed in bed for another hour trying to make sense of the fact that I will not see my mother again. She lived 69 years which is about 30 years longer than doctors figured she’d live once they diagnosed her with Lupus and a host of other ailments. The Prednisone that gave her energy to raise five children made her bones weak. I would have needed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all her medications. Of course, each promised to fix a condition, but at the cost of nasty side-effects.

As I’ve reached middle age, I’ve accepted that family relationships are complicated, sometimes messy, but usually worth the effort. The relationship with my mom was no different. But most of the challenges we’ve had over the years have faded leaving mostly good memories firmly in my mind.

As I wrote her obituary, I reflected on the many times my mom was there to provide advice or encouragement. But mostly my mom was present. She didn’t work outside the home so she was able to attend hundreds of my baseball, basketball and football games. I recall playing a spring baseball game in Bear River in near-freezing temperatures. When I came up to bat, I turned around to see my mom sitting on the aluminum benches behind home plate wrapped in a wool blanket. She was the lone fan in the stands on that frigid day.

When I’d return home from dates, I’d find my mom kicking back on the couch reading the Ensign or her Book of Mormon that had seen better days. She’d ask how my evening went, and we’d talk well into the morning. She was always there without being a helicopter parent. My dad bought her a Kindle a few years ago, and we’d send her books on occasion, and then discuss them during visits to her home. My oldest son inherited her Kindle this past week. Before I reset it, I noticed she’d made it 86% through the last book (Educated) we sent her before she passed away.

I inherited a love of listening to music from my mom. When I broke my arm in 7th grade, she was going through a Neil Diamond phase, and I quickly learned every lyric to the Jazz Singer soundtrack. She didn’t like a lot of the music I listened to in high school, especially groups like Ratt, Motley Crue, and Whitesnake. But I did get her into George Winston and attended one of his piano concerts at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake with her while I was attending the University of Utah.

The morning after we’d celebrated her birthday, we had breakfast with my mom and dad before heading back to St. George. As the hostess seated the 9 of us around a table near the back of the Black Bear Diner, my kids scrambled to sit closest to their grandma and grandpa. Kim and I sat at the opposite end of the table. During breakfast, I wondered why I’d let the kids take the seats closest to my parents.

I’ve thought back to that breakfast many times over the past month. That was the last day I’d see my mom, but I didn’t know it at the time. Why didn’t I take a seat down at the end of the table next to her? Later that morning, I’d say goodbye to her while she sat in a wheelchair at her home. I leaned down and put my arm around her. She kissed my cheek like she has for many years.

This evening, I put some books on my son’s Kindle he inherited from my mom. He loves to read Harry Potter and the Fablehaven series. I noticed the black canvas cover on his Kindle was well-worn and asked if he’d like me to order a new one.

His answer let me know I’d made the right decision at breakfast: “Nope. This one smells like grandma and will remind me of her each time I read.”

Goodbye, mom. I love you.

Is Truth Optional?

A number of events over the past couple of weeks has me contemplating the importance of truth. Specifically, how important is truth when it comes to storytelling, history or religion.

Augustine-Quote

A few weeks ago, Kim and I attended an event where Carol Lynn Pearson discussed her book, Ghost of Eternal Polygamy. I haven’t read the book but was interested in the topic because polygamy was one of the first major issues I had with my church.

I knew Brigham Young married a lot of women, but I was shocked when the church admitted that Joseph Smith married at least 30 women, some as young as 14 and about 10 who were already married.

The bigger question I’ve considered is this: Is it worth investing my time and resources in a church that plays so loose with the truth?

I wish the LDS church had come clean with all the unsavory parts of their history before the internet came along and forced their hand. Put it all out there. And then allow each person to decide if it’s worth the investment the church asks of them.

One of my frustrations since leaving the church is that some friends and family assume I was looking for any reason to leave the church. They assume I lost my testimony or could not resist that Starbucks iced mocha.

But I didn’t lose anything. I gained knowledge and can speak to the history of the church in much greater detail than I could as a young missionary. I was willing to go wherever the truth took me, even if that meant out of the church. I didn’t select my desired destination and then search only for evidence that supported my decision.

That’s what I’d like my friends and family to understand. Truth matters more than feelings. Every member of every religion feels their church is the true one. Good feelings can come from reading a book, watching a movie or listening to music. How some religions tell their followers that feelings substantiate truth is absurd to me.

Especially when you say you are the only church on earth that has all the truth.

Be willing to demand the truth. And let it take you wherever it leads. In the long run you’ll be better for it.