Saturday, December 28, 2013

how i lost my testimony and found myself, part II

today one of my cousins was sealed to his sweetheart in the temple.
this was the first temple event i wasn't able to attend. travis wasn't home, so i didn't have anyone to watch remy anyway.
i did join the family for the luncheon afterwards though.
when he and his new bride walked in the room, i looked hard at their faces, wondering what their experience in the temple had been like.
i thought back to mine.

growing up in the lds church, you are taught from birth that the ultimate goal is to be sealed to your family in the temple. this is the only way you can be with them forever. i can recite handfuls of primary songs that talk about the importance of entering the temple and participating in the sacred ordinances there. of  course, you don't really learn much about what to expect, besides the sealing ordinance.

and if you are starting to get nervous that i'm going to reveal all the secrets of temple ordinances, rest easy. i may not believe, but i still respect others who do. i'm going to talk about some things in the temple, but nothing i covenanted not to reveal.

growing up, there was enormous pressure to marry in the temple. just about every young women's lesson had some piece that involved being worthy to marry your eternal companion there. i knew i would be married there, no question.

as the time came closer, i wasn't worried. if you were raised in the church, you have heard all the stories about people being "weirded out" by their first experience in the temple. no one ever tells you why, besides that there are rituals that seem strange to our modern culture. but everyone says, "it gets less weird."

i had great faith, so i knew it would be okay. i was excited to finally discover the secrets i'd waited 22 years to learn. i was nervous about the garment thing, but i knew i had to deal with it if i wanted a temple marriage.

travis and i went for interviews with the stake president to declare our worthiness to enter the temple and receive our endowments. we entered the stake president's office together first. this is where things became uncomfortable.

the stake president was an older man, like most stake presidents tend to be. he smiled and was charismatic. then he started making comments, comments like, my eyesight must be bad, because it was a "mormon miracle" that travis and i were engaged. those were his words. he exclaimed about my looks, that i was a beautiful girl. he asked me all about my exercise routines. travis and i exchanged looks several times; we were uncomfortable with this man. i felt like i was being hit on by this leader in our church who was there to interview us for our worthiness. then i was alone in the room with him answering the questions, yes i have a testimony, yes i pay my tithing, yes i keep the law of chastity. he leered at me. i felt uncomfortable.

travis and i were so bothered that we requested to speak to the president of his parents' stake. we told him about the interview and the man just said, "that's strange. he is such a nice man."

that was the end of that. just another awkward encounter with a man in a position of power, making me feel very small.

the day soon came when we were to take out our endowments.
travis was nervous going in. i was calm. until i was standing in a changing room putting on garments for the first time. i had had a terrible time figuring out which size i needed, because you aren't allowed to try any on before being endowed. the ones i had bought were far too small in the waist and i felt like i was being cut in half. deep breaths kept me going. i had so many questions during the initiatory portion. we were late for our session because i kept asking the matron concern after concern. there were beautiful parts, yes, but there were things i was worried about, like the part about my obedience to my husband. i wondered if he was promising to be obedient to me in another room in the temple. i doubted it.

during the endowment session, my heart sunk further.
i had to promise to hearken to my husband, while he promised to hearken to God.

this was long before i identified as a feminist. i hadn't been "indoctrinated" by any secular classes or ideas. this was just me feeling like i was being told "you aren't equal to your husband." there were many other similar things that made me feel like my husband was the boss of me. i was not comfortable with any of this. but what was i supposed to do? i had been promised all my life that this was the only right way, the only way to be with my husband forever. how could i choose between eternity and feeling comfortable? maybe i just didn't have enough faith. there had to be more meaning behind all this.

everyone hugged me. tears were shed when it was all over. i felt that at least i was making my parents and grandparents proud. that had to mean something. but inside i was screaming, doesn't anyone else feel completely freaked out right now??!

the next day travis and i drove downtown to get our marriage license. sitting there in the parking garage with travis, i had a meltdown. "i'm so confused. are we equals? are you my boss?" he assured me that our relationship was still the same as before, that he didn't consider himself above me. i trusted him. i tried to put my fears aside. guests were flying in. arrangements had been made. we had already booked the bluegrass band and the photographer.

i wanted to marry travis. i just wasn't sure about the temple anymore.

the morning of our wedding day, travis picked me up and took me to the temple. i was obsessing over the length of my dress; were my garments peeking through in the back?

before the ceremony, i made several trips to the bathroom to kneel on the floor and ask God if i was doing the right thing.
entering the celestial room with travis was strange. everyone was so happy to see us. on the other hand, i hadn't pictured myself being married in temple clothes.

during the ceremony, i noted that i had to "give myself" to travis while he didn't have to "give himself" to me. he received me. i wondered what that meant. after the sealing, we were speaking to the man who sealed us. he said, "i can tell who is 'the boss' in this relationship." he winked at me and i laughed. then he went on. "but i want you to remember that travis had the priesthood and that he has stewardship."

again, that message that because i am a woman, i am not in charge of myself.

i tried to focus on the beautiful things, like my dad tearing up during the ceremony. my parents were so proud of me. everyone hugged us and loved on us. this had to be right.
this had to be right.

then our honeymoon with the horrible, scary, painful sex and us thinking we were going to get divorced. i've covered this story before.

i tried so hard. i wore my garments day and night. i attended the temple and tried to find meaning in the parts that terrified me. was i less important to God because i am a woman? what did all this mean? i thought that if i was faithful, that someday i would understand. and in the meantime, i was uncomfortable and sad during every session.

of course i didn't really talk about this. i didn't think i was allowed to talk. once, i did ask travis's grandpa about the difference in wording in the sealing ordinance. i didn't much like his answer. "it's because the men have the priesthood."

this has been going on for years. and then i started learning about Ordain Women, a group of active LDS church members who want women to hold the priesthood too. i'm not going to debate this here, because i've heard every argument for and against it. i realized that there were other people out there who felt the same way i did about women being unequal in the church. i wanted to be able to bless my baby on his blessing day.

then these women weren't allowed into the conference center to view the priesthood session.
these women were told there wasn't any room. except that men took pictures of empty seats.
and the next day in conference, a prophet gave a talk about how everyone is welcome, there is a place for you, there is room for you.
unless you are a woman who wants to simply attend priesthood session.

i realized i didn't believe him. all the other conference talks just made me sad and angry. no homosexuality. women should stay in the home with the children. men preside over their families with the priesthood.

then the whole thing about blacks and the priesthood recently.

i realized i don't believe that prophets speak the word of God. i realized i think they are just men who are products of their time and culture. who knows what the church will be like in 50 more years when our generation is running things.

i'm sorry if all these things seem unorganized and jumbled.
it's a lot.
obviously there are lots of details i'm leaving out because i can't get it all out at once.

basically i lost my testimony of prophets.

all this started stacking up. the way my sexual assault was handled, the way i felt during pregnancy and postpartum.

the way when my baby brother was having a tough time with church, the members of the lds church were awful to him.

the way i disagree with a lot of church policies, most of the manuals, and most social issues.

why was i staying in an organization that i didn't really like and that made me feel like less of a human being for being a woman? i realized that if it were any other organization, i would have left a long time ago.

and you know the rest, that i stopped wearing my garments and going to church.

as for what i believe now, that 's part III.

i still believe in God. i've had several experiences with Him that are too real for me to explain away.
i still believe in Jesus and that he died on the cross for me.
that's about where i'm at right now.


i'd love to hear your stories of what you believe and why. we are all just human beings who want to make sense of our experiences and feel validated and loved.

thanks for listening.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

christmas with three.

as terrible and disappointing as last year's hyperemesis christmas was, this year's was equally wonderful. 

when i found out that travis was going to be working at the fire station christmas eve and christmas day, i was pretty devastated. our first christmas with the three of us, and he wouldn't be there? everyone tried to comfort me by telling me, don't worry, remy won't remember it. yeah sure, but i would remember. so i made a decision. this isn't going to be the last time travis has to work through holidays and i could either throw a fit about it, or i could make the best of it. 

and his working on christmas couldn't possibly be as hard as hyperemesis. 

so we decided to have christmas on the 23rd. we would pretend that it really was christmas, open presents, eat delicious food, have a big dinner, and it the nicest christmas we've ever had together. and our first one in our new house! (i was living at my parents' last year.)

love having a white christmas

spoiled much, remy? 
we had a good time shopping for him.

 the present i was most excited for travis to open was a "little black book" i made him. it is filled with boudoir pictures of yours truly. loved his facial expression.

remington hated opening presents. the sound of the wrapping paper ripping apart scared him silly. he would scream and then bury his head in my lap. pretty much the funniest thing ever. 

later in the afternoon, we had dinner with joe and cari, who are also living on B shift. (joe would be working christmas eve and christmas.)

check out this gorgeous pie cari made! 
pie envy. 

christmas dinner was pretty delicious, if i say so myself. i am not a huge fan of turkey or ham, so i followed the tradition of my family growing up (i was a picky eater and would only eat noodles) and made pasta. travis requested this sauce and if you are into using lots of butter and cream, the recipe is found {here}. (i also added a can of tomato sauce.)

later that night, we headed downtown to see the lights on temple square and hang out at city creek mall. we tried to take remy to meet santa, but he was "booked up" for the night. apparently the santa at city creek mall is just a clever ruse to get parents to pay for mediocre and expensive pictures. so remy didn't meet jolly old saint nick. talk about killing a young boy's dreams. 

we were so very blessed and spoiled this christmas, by our parents and each other. i think travis and i were trying to make up for the awfulness of last year. having a baby around at christmas is pretty magical too, even if he has no idea what is going on. 

the next day, travis got up and headed out for a 48 hour shift. 
we headed to my grandparents' for christmas eve dinner and annual music program. 

how adorable is this holiday outfit? 
thank you baby gap and grandma julie! 

christmas eve was very special. i mentioned last year that there is a song i sing every christmas eve, called "mary's shawl." last year i was too sick to sing it, and instead watched and cried through my mom's rendition. 

this year, my grandma called to ask if i would sing a song to remy, like i was singing him a lullaby. i had no idea if he'd hold still long enough to let me sing him an entire song in my arms, but i was game to try. the minute i started singing, he quieted down and watched me with wide eyes the entire time. being healthy and having the product of all that suffering in my arms, singing him the song i sang the entire time i was pregnant, was a moment i'll never forget. 

christmas morning dawned clear and sunny. my excitement woke me up even before remy did. my family came over for breakfast and presents. 

my brothers and i loved surprising our parents. 

we squeezed everyone into my little dining room for oat flour waffles with pomegranates syrup and baked egg casserole.

later, we made the rounds to our families and opened more presents.

we visited travis at the station and remy gave him the gift of sleeping on his chest for over an hour. that just never happens anymore. i played apples to apples with another  fire fighter's kids.

trav was a little sad to have to celebrate at the station, but what can you do, right? someone's gotta do it. 

overall a wonderful holiday with the people i love. 

now on to the next adventure, hawaii in a week! 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

how i lost my testimony and found myself, part I

what a day.

i'm surrounded by gifts i just finished wrapping, scraps of paper, a variety of cookies from the cookie exchange i hosted today, and a bowl of popcorn.

feeling consistently happy is pretty much the best.

it's been tricky to figure out how to write this post. i'm in a really great place now, and when you feel happy it can be hard to explain how you felt during the unhappy times in life. our memories are often tainted by our present state.

plus it's a lot of information, emotion, and history to write down in an organized fashion.
but here goes.

about a month and a half ago, i had a big realization.
i was in the bathroom, fresh out of the shower, trying to decide whether or not to put my garments on.
i had been having the same argument in my head for months, whether or not to wear them, whether or not to stay in a church i wasn't sure i agreed with or believed in. this wasn't a decision i took lightly. i had covenanted to wear my garments both day and night, for the rest of my life. i had learned a lot from wearing them, as i've written about in the past. i never enjoyed wearing them, because they just aren't comfortable, but i was willing to make that sacrifice because i believed.

so standing there in my towel, water dripping on the tile floor, i realized something.

during the two most difficult times in my life, dealing with sexual assault and then my hyperemesis pregnancy and postpartum depression, the lds church didn't help me. not only that, but my involvement in the lds church only made my life harder and sadder.

i pulled my bra over my bare skin and left my garment top sitting on the counter.

you may be wondering how i came to this realization.

rewind ten years. and know that this is really, really hard to talk about.
i was just barely 15 and i knew i was a dirty slut, unworthy of love.
my 10th grade school year had just started and everything was all wrong.
six months earlier, the neighbor boy who i had hoped would be my first kiss, had assaulted me for the first time, and then continued through the summer.
my parents had wondered what was going on with me, as i must have seen different, and they asked me one morning.
i lied to them, because i was afraid. afraid of the boy and what he would do. i didn't even know how to explain what had happened. it wasn't in a dark alley late at night. i wasn't wearing a short skirt. could i be assaulted by a boy i liked? so i told them that i had been doing things with the neighbor boy, who happened to be one of our home teachers.
i went to the bishop to confess my sins.
sitting across from a man i barely knew, mumbling private things. afraid to meet his eyes.
i was pronounced unworthy to take the sacrament.
all the boys involved (he and his friends) and also my best girl friend, were furious with me for telling. they were all in trouble.
he lied. said i was lying.
he was ordained to the office of a priest. he wore a black shirt. everyone in the chapel raised their right hands to the square and supported him.
my parents and i sat in our pew and refused to raise our hands.
he blessed the sacrament that i was unworthy to partake.
i knew i was a dirty whore.

my grandparents bought me a church book about sexual purity. i asked them if they had bought the same book for all my cousins, who are boys. several of them were sexually active at the time.
"oh, i guess that would be a good idea." my grandma said.

i had lesson after lesson about sexual purity and modestly.
i learned that an immodestly dressed girl was walking pornography. learned that it was up to me to help keep priesthood holders worthy, a task at which i had already failed.
at youth conference when we had a water fight at lunch, my bishop told me, "you look like a wet t-shirt contest winner. you need to change your clothes."
i was wearing a yellow t-shirt that covered my shoulders, neck, chest, stomach, hips.
no one told me about rape. no one told me about consent.
this church that i just knew was true, it never taught me how to protect myself. the message i received over and over was that my body was a temptress and that if you messed up sexually, you were a chewed up piece of gum that no one else would ever want.

i knew all the repenting in the world couldn't fix me.

this isn't just my story. i have exchanged this story with countless other women.

so i spent years believing i was damaged goods. even after i came to terms with the assault and realized it wasn't my fault and that i shouldn't have had to go through the repentance process, it still lingered.
every time i went to the temple, i felt like the men checking my recommend were thinking, "she isn't worthy to be here."

and let me explain to you. i took the lds church very seriously. even as a child, i can remember the sacrament being passed and my thoughts straying to school or the book i was reading, and scolding myself for thinking of "worldly things" when i should have been thinking of Jesus.
i prayed long prayers every night, asking forgiveness for every tiny mistake i had made.
as a grade school kid.

i never tried alcohol, coffee, drugs.
i tried not to lie.
i always paid a full tithe.
i read my scriptures and prayed daily.

i followed the rules and took them seriously.

then fast forward to last year during my pregnancy.
i don't need to rewrite how sick and afraid i was.

during those months before i was getting medical help, i was home alone almost every day, and a third of the nights. caring for myself was impossible.

i remember one afternoon, i had thrown up everything i tried to eat. i was too weak to walk up the stairs without holding on to the railing. i was so alone. thinking of the countless visiting teaching stories of sisters coming to the rescue, i sincerely begged God to send someone to my house to help me. i waited, expecting a knock at the door at any moment.

none came.

during my months of absence from the church, no one came looking for me. no one offered to bring the sacrament to me so i could take it weekly. every time i had a priesthood blessing, i would half jokingly ask my dad or travis to bless me to be healed and feel completely better. i was told it didn't always work like that. i wondered why not. what was wrong with my faith, that i couldn't be healed?

i started to doubt those blessings.

there is a well known saying in the lds church about how God never gives you more than you can handle.
i disagree with that.
i don't think God gave me the trial of hyperemesis because he knew i could handle it. i only handled it because it was my only choice, and many times i wished i could miscarry or i considered ending my life. if i didn't have that deadline of my due date and i would have been stuck that way, i would have ended my life.

then i had remington and was so terrified that God would tell me i had to have another child and i would be powerless to decide for myself. i kept thinking, God i can't do this. and then i would hear the well known phrase, "i never said it would be easy. i only said it would be worth it."  after weeks of this, i started to examine why i felt that way. it was because of the many, many stories i had heard of women deciding to have more children like this. they didn't want to, but God told them they should. all the pressure to have children came from hearing things like, "there are spirit children waiting for bodies." i was having panic attacks and feeling such guilt from these thoughts. one of the worst things in the world, not feeling like you are the boss of your own body and your future.

then remington's blessing day.
i had been the person who had suffered to get remy here.
i grew his body at the expense of my health.
i was the one who had postpartum depression and had to stay in a mental hospital. 

and yet i received no public recognition for my hard work.
i wasn't invited to stand in the circle to bless my child.
no one wanted to hear about my experience, the way a missionary is asked to speak.

here i had finally done the thing i was supposed to do as an lds woman, and i was being asked to stay in the background.

everyone was patting travis on the back, wishing him luck, telling him he gave a great blessing.
no one was saying anything like that to me.
just the mother. 

then there are all the social issues i disagree with, which is an entirely different post.

over the summer, at a family barbecue, the subject of the lds church and the boy scouting program came up. i didn't know that the lds church was supportive of the boy scouting policy to not allow gay men to be leaders in boy scouts. it felt like my best friend had punched me in the stomach.

how could this church i believed in and defended support discrimination? what other things were going on that i wasn't aware of? i started thinking that it was crazy for me to belong to an organization that seemed to support the opposite of what i believed in.

fast forward back to the day i stopped wearing my garments.
i left the house wearing "normal" undies and i wasn't struck by lightning. i felt the same. except maybe a little more comfortable in my own skin, knowing i was being true to my feelings.


Monday, December 9, 2013

a long time coming.

hi, my name is collette and i am happy. 

this is the first time i have felt so consistently happy in... ever.

it's not just the antidepressants.
it's not just that remy is sleeping through the night consistently.

i finally feel very at peace with my beliefs. i feel authentic.
yeah, that post is coming.

for now, here's what's going on.

we were doing this.

until the weather did this:

remington is a grown up baby. look at him with a sippy cup!

every month, i decide he is at my favorite age. but lately, this age really is great. remy sleeps all night. (as long as he isn't sick, which he has been way too much lately.) we put him to bed between 8 and 9 pm and he will sleep until 6 or 7. his personality has blossomed into a smiley, adventurous, albeit high maintenance little boy. we love him more every day it seems.

this was the three of us on thanksgiving day, after eating with trav's family and having dessert and volleyball with mine.

i got a pie making lesson from the master, my mom.

my pie was delicious! it's been great doing all the things i didn't get to do last year.

remy got a slew of viruses. first was that horrible vomiting one, then a cold, then another cold that had a cough, then croup. we had a lot of sleepless nights for a while there. phew! we feel like real bona fide parents who have survived the first pukes and blue bulb-y snot sucking.

the croup thing was a little freaky. remy was asleep one night and all the sudden started coughing a dry, barking sound. i picked him up and he was having trouble breathing. luckily my mom had talked to me about croup a few days before, and told me to take remy right outside in the cold air if it happened. we went to the kid care clinic a few late nights in a row getting a steroid for croup.

i was sure the doctor's wouldn't believe us, because rem was so friendly and smiley the whole time we were there. i hope he smiles like this all his life.

don't worry, it's not all smiles. he can throw some cute fits. but really, they aren't that cute when you are tired or just trying to change his diaper or get him to eat. he still refuses to eat in your lap, only his carseat. besides right before bed when he is sleepy.

also this was a pretty great moment.
we were hanging out on the floor, folding laundry one afternoon.
remy crawled over, ps he is crawling now, and went right for my pile of sexytimes underwear. got ahold of this lacy thing and waved it around for a good five minutes.

oh rem, if you only knew.

speaking of crawling, it's been hilarious to watch him get stuck underneath furniture.
mother of the year, right?

look at those darling curls!

he loves music and wants a turn with every instrument.

his favorite toy right now is this stuffed rat. he loves grabbing it and waving it around so the tail whips back and forth.


day after thanksgiving shopping. remy is easy to take, and would actually prefer to get out of the house.
fine with me.

since thanksgiving is over, (ehem, all you yahoos who set up your tree before thanksgiving...) we put up our tree. remy loves to wreak havoc on the nativity scene, throwing baby Jesus around and scattering the wise men across the room.

boy in bed, trav at the station, me in my duck onsie enjoying an hour of peace and quiet.
funny how you just want to be alone and have it completely quiet after you have a child.

things are pretty great right now.

man, it's been a long time coming.


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