Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tammy

So a week and a half ago I get a message from a lady in the branch where I served saying a woman we taught had a testimony and was "restored in heart and health". First of all, I really hand it to her for continuing to reach out to her. Really sweet and incredible, really.

This lady, Tammy, had more problems than I had ever seen. My companion (the nice one I had) and I knocked on her door one day, and she let us in. Because it was the South, and people love to talk, we actually were let in more often than I thought we'd be. Anyway, it was always still cause for celebration when people did.

Tammy had been through so much trauma in her life, I was shocked she was even still standing. Growing up in a bad neighborhood of already-rough Detroit, she saw family members murdered right before her eyes and experienced a lot of abuse. She attended a pretty extreme Pentecostal church growing up where people spoke in tongues and there were pretty wild voodoo-like things that went on in services. She said it scared her to death, and she was pretty much afraid of God ever since then.
She wasn't able to raise the few children she had, because she wasn't mentally/emotionally able to. She still had contact with them, and said they and her grandkids were in really bad shape. Actually, the first night we met her she told us they were in a really bad situation and asked if we could pray for her, with her. I pretty much instantly liked her. Even though she was pretty crazy, she worked her way into our hearts quickly. I actually was texting the companion I had teaching Tammy a week or so ago and we both agreed we were glad we were each other's companions when we met her, because we think she would have freaked anyone else out.

Being a chain smoker, we never told her she couldn't smoke during our lessons, but on her own merit she would really try not to out of respect for us. She always had lots of really out-there commentary and lots to say about her Pentecostal upbringing. She even told us once that she had multiple personality disorder and so my companion and I would joke, "I wonder which Tammy we're going to see today?" She confided lots of things to us, even that she thought she was a lesbian and how that is 'bad'. We just told her God loves her however she is (went rogue there!! Nothing in Preach My Gospel about how to answer that- ha).

Her next door neighbors were drug dealers (we saw a drop a time or so) and they would give her drugs so she'd become an addicted customer. We'd always say hey to her bum drug dealer neighbors every time we went over, and they always said hello in a smirky kind of way. They loved to hate on what we were doing. They would tell Tammy we were just out to brainwash her and such, so I just asked her one day, "Well, do you think they're that happy the way they are? They're pretty cowardly for knocking us for trying to help you, because they're just trying to bring you down. What's in it for us? We're not getting paid to do this or anything." She said that was right on and that she despised them, and knew they were just out to get her money and see her become as miserable as they were.

We taught her to stop smoking from this really old-school lesson rubric we were given. And she actually did for a while. She put up all these self-affirmative signs we gave her all over her apartment and put this no smoking sign on her door so her neighbors would see it, and she really told them off that drugs were never allowed in her place again. It cracked us up, and also made us really proud of her.

It was during our time with her that I couldn't emotionally go on anymore and was allowed to go home. I had been having weekly therapy sessions via phone, in which I always expressed my misery and alluded a lot to my conflict with the program. At one point, the therapist told me I'd really tried to tough it out but that it was probably time to leave. I had gotten a new companion -- a really sweet girl who also was coming off a bad companionship (for opposite reasons-- her comp was extremely lazy but also extremely mean and critical). After meeting her and being able to have normal conversations about dumb things like the Kardashians etc, we soon joked we were in "rehab" because we were helping each other process and deal with PTSD from our former comps.

But the damage was still done, thanks to Fuhrer and other variables. I was still constantly berating myself over everything.  I was suicidal all the time. My physical body was also taking a hit. I am prone to neck/shoulder pain and headaches, and know pretty much what to do to keep the pain at bay (rest/massages/yoga/acupuncture). However, I wasn't allowed to do these things on the mission, so I was in constant physical pain (I even knew this going in, and told my mom one day I didn't think I would last long because I wouldn't be able to employ the tactics--but I would still try to go as long as I could because the promptings to go were just so inescapable). It was the roughest time of my life.

Tammy came to church a couple times with us. She would bring up some weird belief about how she thought we sacrificed chickens in the service or did wild voodoo things. She brought it up so much, at one point during the service, she leaned over to me and asked, "So when do they bring out the chicken?" And I just said, "Oh, that's next week."


So …. Tammy left us a voicemail the night before we were going to pack up and say our goodbyes to a few people the next day. She said the fear of God was no longer in her. I was awestruck, and also feeling so selfish that I was about to leave her when she was still vulnerable.

We saw her the next day twice. The first time we told her I was leaving and she got really sad and kind of angry and told us to leave so I just felt really horrible. We went over a second time and we found her smoking again. We were crushed and I blamed myself for being the reason she started up again.

I have thought about her every day ever since.

So about a week ago after getting this message from the branch lady, I was able to call Tammy and talk with her for the first time in over two years. She has moved back to Michigan, and sounds better than when we were with her, even though she still has some health problems. She still smokes a little, but HARDLY as much as she used to. I told her I was really proud of her. She even said something along the lines of "my body is a temple -- you taught me that!" Haha.

At one point, I said, "Tammy, I think about you all the time. I've had so much regret leaving you at such a vulnerable point." To which she replied, "Don't you feel sorry for a second; you changed my life. Heck, you got me in a skirt and going to church- that itself is a feat. We all could see you were slowing down" She even brought up the time when she asked me about the chicken sacrifice in church, saying she really liked me after I had said that back to her haha.

She expressed all these feelings of charity, saying she just wants to help other people out and that she's never felt more urgent about "getting in that water" (baptized). She's gone through other missionaries since us, and I got the feeling that they put too much pressure on her to be baptized, which annoys me. Call me apostate, but I have a much more lax attitude over it. Inviting someone to be baptized shouldn't be about 'closing the sale'-so to speak- as I always felt they were training us to do. You have to respect the individual journey; it's a huge change! Anyway...

During the time when we were seeing Tammy, we were also teaching a man we found named Alan, who I heard got baptized shortly after we left. He also had his share of problems. He was in his 50s, 95 percent blind, never married, and lived by himself. He didn't open up to us very much, and I was always really sad about his situation but glad we could bring some joy into his life.

It is a really amazing feeling to know that you've changed someone's life for the better. It's like I finally got a glimpse of how missionary work could be fulfilling if you're with a good companion and physically/emotionally/spiritually able. I still wouldn't consider the experience a net positive. Maybe someday, but it feels disingenuous now to dismiss all of the hardship I experienced just because I helped someone better their life. Maybe that's selfish?

I got to feel that gratifying sense of serving someone in dire need when I went to Guatemala the next year, so I know that there are ways to do it without doing an actual proselytizing mission. I wish it wasn't such a cultural standard, a romanticized rite of passage in Mormonism, especially for boys. It isn't for everyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things I learned about Fuhrer in therapy

As you might guess, it did seem like the Fuhrer had undiagnosed mental disorders.

In the months following my return home, I was telling my therapist about the things Fuhrer would do and she said pretty quickly, "Sounds like that girl had Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder."  (Different than just OCD)

So naturally, I Googled it when I got home, and what I found was incredibly reassuring because it was spot on!

Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Shows significant rigidity and stubbornness

Even down to the hoarding thing- she was SO stingy with handing out Book of Mormons...I was just like, isn't that why were here? And if we run out, we can get more? But no, the fact that we had ONLY 13 to give out every month stressed her out. "We should only give them out if we know they're actually going to read it," she would say. And I would think to myself, isn't that kind of out of our control? What about the whole "flood the earth with the BOM" prophecy anyway? I think we gave away 2 or 3 our entire transfer. Missing the point, much? I suppose.

She did have a problem connecting with people. At the time, I dismissed it in the name of 'professionalism' I guess. In my next companionship (with the nicest girl ever), someone from the ward kind of winked at me like "Oh, you got a new companion" with a knowing kind of look. Another woman in the branch also confided in me that she hadn't had the sisters over for dinner again after Fuhrer had asked her non-member husband point blank why he wasn't baptized.

One day, when I broke down crying she just said "I'm sorry I don't have any experience dealing with someone with depression." (I had previously told her because I got sad a few days before and told her it wasn't her fault, that I have a predisposition) She seemed sincere (as she could be), but here shows the conundrum I have. It bugs me that she might think she's completely justified in her behavior...that I'm 'the messed-up one' since I was the one who had to go home. Not that I wanted to stay, but in a way it seemed unfair that I was the one who had to go home 'because I was sick' when there was so much sickness about her. Like I was the one who was wrong, the mission pariah. The one who served a mission…with an asterisk. (Although to his credit, my mission president (the nice new one-- not the outgoing one who had sided with Fuhrer) told me I was 100% a returned missionary, that there was no asterisk-- isn't that nice?)

But then I'm conflating wrong with being sick. So I don't know…I need to develop that a bit more. Does that even make sense?

She friended me on Facebook and it took me a couple months to decide to accept. When I did, I really let her have it a message. I was careful not to blame her for anything, but I sure called her out on her behavior and tried to illustrate what it meant to me and others that I had to leave early. To her credit, she actually apologized. Whether she really meant it or not, it gave me some good closure, but it's not like it erases the past.


On a somewhat related note, I've been forwarded mission letters from a cousin who mentions in every letter something he has baked that week (we're talking homemade bread from scratch, multiple step baking). I honestly rack my brain because I cannot for the life of me figure out when he finds the time. Because after the chores, cleaning, the errands, doing emails, and writing letters home, you have like 45 minutes of true free time until you have to go back to work at 6pm. As I would quickly find out, P-Day is not really a day-- it's 10am-6pm. I once made cookies for Elders for a meeting and it used up my 45 minutes of free time. I was so disoriented from all the things we had done that day (and the other 6 of the week), I told myself it probably wasn't a good idea to do that again, that I should instead find some alone time (in the apartment) to just be still.

But then my cousin talks about all the people he's teaching and his successes and "great experience" -- in a European mission! Scandinavia, not exactly known for its God-worshipping (to make a broad stereotype).
So then that makes me think rules are not of utmost importance after all since presumably he's breaking some to bake? (Presumably.)
Am I missing something? Oh, yeah, I was 'sick'. But I didn't break any rules! Aha- there I go conflating being wrong with being sick. I guess it's just frustrating for me to just neatly label my experience with that since it was something so out of my control and because I was trying my very best. As if all my effort was for naught since my sadness held the trump card. (Again, does this even make sense?)

Just a glimpse into my thought process.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Efficiency

As I reflect on my mission experience, efficiency just wasn't Fuhrer's game. She is a work harder rather than smarter person. And I am a kind of person who is always looking for better or more innovative, efficient solutions.

This mentality even came down to in the morning when we were getting ready. 
Our apartment was 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom- a pretty standard American college sized apartment. All our neighbors were students at the local university, or at least their age. One bedroom we slept in (a rule, that you have to be together), the other one we stored our stuff and got dressed. 

She, not speaking to me of course (remember she said nary a word from 6:30-9am. She'd even blow dry her hair sitting on her bed cross legged reading her scriptures or Jesus the Christ plunked in front of her), would walk back and forth between the two bedrooms and the bathroom getting dressed and whatever. As she would enter and leave a room, she would flip on and off the lights respectively. Since they were pretty close quarters and I was getting ready, too, I would walk in a room right as she was exiting one. Room dark, I would then turn on the light again. As I moved between the rooms, I would leave the lights on and she would keep turning them off. On. Off. On. Off. Flip up. Flip down. It became sort of a joke on a subconscious level because it fit her personality: ordered, controlled, measured, following rules to the T down to the one about not wasting electricity. Or so she thought. 

I know from life experience I guess that leaving a light on for a period of time is more electrically efficient than turning it off and on multiple times. I've heard the figure is about 30 minutes-- that turning a light on from off is equivalent to half an hour of it running. So by flipping lights off and on multiple times (every few minutes or sometimes seconds) over the hour minutes or so uses more electricity than just keeping the lights on for that amount of time.

So one day when it was kind of annoying me to keep walking into dark rooms right after she had exited, I brought up this concept of lighting efficiency. 

"Well, I was raised to always turn off lights when I leave a room," she said flatly. 

"I was, too, don't get me wrong, but it's actually more efficient if you just leave the lights on for this amount of time. I mean, we're both moving in and out of the rooms getting ready passing each other back and forth. It takes a lot of electricity to turn on a light initially from the off position."

She just kind of looked past me with this glazed over look like the wheels in her mind were turning, deciding if I was right or wrong. Then she just walked away, not saying anything.


This concept of efficiency reared it's head again as she always insisted we go tracting instead of doing service or visiting less actives or looking back into past investigators from our 'Area Book' (a record book for everyone taught in the area- their progress and such). Tracting is the LEAST efficient method of missionary work-- I think they even told us that, too, being shockingly honest about something for a change -- but I guess to her it felt like she was working the hardest, so tracting we went.

So funny because, I kid you not, probably a week or two after I had been shot down for suggesting we visit less actives, we had a whole Zone Conference about it. I was just rolling my eyes saying "Duh!" in my head the whole time. But I refrained from saying "I told you so" or "See!" or something else on our (silent) ride home because contrary to what these posts might make you think, I really dialed down the snark out there. I was really trying to be meek and humble and forgiving because I wanted to be changed by the experience. I kept it all inside and really only let myself be candid for that one hour a week when I wrote home. I always had this distinct feeling that people were going to get the wrong impression of me, but I also had to be honest about what I was really feeling. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"We can't count that."

All I do all day is read and write, and present. It's a dream. Or it should be. Sometimes I struggle with it mentally, because it's not exactly what I want to write or I don't want to do the boring computer work it takes to publish and produce the content. When I get home, the battle of wanting to write and not wanting to stare at a computer screen wages, so this is why my posting has been inconsistent.

But I know I can't neglect this, at least for me! The writing I do all day is a completely different style than one I guess I've always been working towards. It's a complete reversal to a middle-school level of writing that ironically sounds the most clear on television. My editing effort goes towards chopping up long sentences and dumbing down vocabulary to sound smoother to the ear. It's funny.

Anyways, I have another story about the Fuhrer. An endless fount of glorious memories, I tell you. But in all honesty, this has been quite cathartic to get them written down. 

Before I do, though, I just have to express how I take pause every day marveling at my freedom from a mission. Every day at some point I get flashbacks to the rules, how you go about your day, or what you can and can't do on certain days and this feeling of gratitude comes over me for my independence. I can do whatever the hell I want, whenever I want, and it is not something I take for granted since my mission experience. Even mundane things like going to the store to pick up just a few items--sometimes I'll catch myself going, "Wow, this would not be ok if I were on a mission. I couldn't 'just do this' or 'just do that', or take breaks from things or just take a break from people. I couldn't just be spontaneous like this, or deviate from an original plan of action. The other day I was lingering a while longer than I kind of planned to in the library, and I just thought, how nice is this that I don't have to worry whether someone else is wanting to leave or that I'm staying too long here. I was in a LIBRARY, and I was so grateful I wasn't on a mission right then. It really happens every day to some degree. 

The worst, though, is when I start judging people for their use of time and re-affirming to myself that how they do things wouldn't fly on a mission. It's a horrible little game when it turns into this superiority game, faulting others. It's a good thing to be reminded not to take things for granted until I inevitably cross the line of remembering how unpleasant it all was for me. 


Anyway, so the Fuhrer and I were tracting machines. Any time we didn't have a lesson to teach we were tracting. I learned with my next companion that this is not how you HAVE to do things. You can do service, for instance. Or go fellowship some inactives. One day Fuhrer and I were driving by a local soup kitchen by a trailer park, and I asked her if we could maybe sometime possibly maybe go volunteer there. I was pretty sure I saw something in the white handbook about that…after all, weren't missions supposed to be about practicing charity? 

She just stared straight ahead at the road and said with a scrunched up face, "Why would we do that?" (It was the same response I got later when I asked if we could go visit some inactive people sometime. Wasn't she great?) 

"Well, I think it'd be a nice thing to do for the community, and we'd maybe meet some people there, too."

"Yeah, maybe," she said, unconvincingly and slightly annoyed (per usual). 

I think I might have brought it up once again in the next week or so, but she just kind of brushed the issue aside and we never talked about it again. I just assumed that doing service was just a waste of time, what with all the really successful, not to mention efficient, tracting we were doing all the time! (That was sarcasm). 


We taught a few lessons here and there, but never any second lessons. Maybe it was the way she made Preach My Gospel into a formal "Discussion" like format, so we'd practice going rigidly section by section. If there was some little detail I'd miss, she'd make sure she said it during her section. And how she'd quickly say what we did wrong after we walked out of someone's door, that I said too much or too little  etc. 

However, more often than not, we'd be at some person's house who was chatting their ear off to us the moment we walked in the door. Southerners LOVE to talk, it's probably the truest thing I learned out there. Sometimes we felt like therapists just listening to their problems, so we would try to steer the conversation back to religion and kind of jump right in with the message we had planned for them, bypassing an opening prayer. Oh well, right? I mean, we always had a closing prayer, but sometimes just not opening ones. 

Well, I quickly learned otherwise from Fuhrer as we were tabulating our numbers for the day. I said something like "Oh yeah, we taught so-and-so... so we had 2 lessons today!" 

Shaking her head, she corrected me. "No. We can't count that."

"Huh?"

"We didn't say two prayers. We have to say two prayers for a lesson to count. President said it." 

"Oh! Ok then."

Our numbers were consistently super low and at District Meeting, the Elders would tell us to do better, and I would sit there racking my brain trying to figure out just what ELSE we could have done?! 

(It wasn't until I was on splits with another sister who counted a lesson where we didn't say two prayers that I knew something was fishy. The sister even counted a mini-abbreviated (but nonetheless sincere and thorough, covering all the main points) lesson we gave at someone's door with zero prayers! I was legit shocked, and relieved. #spiritofthelaw)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A defining moment of being wrong again

The biggest defining moment in the Fuhrer's and my relationship was when we were giving a lesson to a man, I think his name was Gustavo.

We had planned to ask him to be baptized (again, something I don't think you can "plan for" but I was going with it because I was really wanting to be transformed by this mission experience! In the MTC, it's a tactic they really hit hard as a primary 'goal' and have you practice in groups. It's all about 'being bold' and asking someone to be baptized the first lesson. It never quite settled with me) … so I gave myself a pep talk and said, "Well, he's either going to become our 'student' or we're never gonna see him again, so who cares if I look like a zealous buffoon…"

I threw caution to the wind and and asked this Catholic man if he wanted to be baptized. Guys, I was so sincere. It was as heartfelt as I could be, as miserable as I was. I said the right things and he responded that yes, he would. The heavens rejoiced, and angels sang. This 'committing someone to be baptized' was a valuable, coveted check-off in our planner for the day and week! It would mean that we met our goal for the day, and we'd report it this week in District Meeting and be met with congratulatory pats on the back from our leader! I was thrilled. Surely, the Fuhrer would think I was alright after all….at least for the rest of the day.

We get in the car after we finish up our lesson, and there is stone cold silence. After a few moments, I squeak out a "Yea!" to break up the ever-present awkwardness. This was our first commitment to be baptized we had ever had together!

She sighed heavily and said, "Yeah, you didn't do it correctly."

"What do you mean?"

"There's specific wording you have to say and you didn't say it."

"Huh?"

"We went over it, remember?"

"Oh, yeah… (remembering the section of PMG that goes over it but not realizing it had to be 110% word-for-word). But I thought I did."

"No, sorry, we can't count it."

 That's when I started to realize maybe I should call her out.

"I am doing the very best that I can and I don't know what else I could have done," I said, dumbfounded and a little outwardly mad for the first time.

"Fine," she sighed. "I guess you can still text President X and tell him." (That was a thing the President liked to be texted about, affirmatively answered baptismal invitations)

And then I started to get passive aggressive, for the first time putting off my "keep forgiving"/"keep respecting"/"keep deferring"/"keep trying to make her happy" attitude.

"Nah, I don't need to," I said. "I mean, after all, I didn't do it correctly, so why would it count?" I was never in the mission for numbers, and I honestly didn't need to be congratulated because deep down I thought it was a ludicrous thing to count this guy as basically baptized because I had asked this baited question that made it kind of impossible to reply in the negative.

( I was just talking the other week with a spouse of a returned missionary who said people in his mission would ask drunk people on the streets of Brazil as they were walking by if they wanted to be baptized just to get numbers. I laughed and said that even though I would have never fathomed that on mine, I guessed it made total sense, since the mission is, above all, a marketing program. )

We got home and still, I didn't text the President and she never brought it up. I forgot if we actually counted it in our planner after all (I'll have to check…standby for a while…it's at my parents' house).

I opened PMG to see what I had done wrong. I think maybe I was 3 words off. I hadn't said "priesthood" or "authority" or I had used one but not the other, and I just became numb with this sense that I could never succeed and never be correct unless I was perfect in a Pharisitical sense.

A few days later, we saw the Mission President in person and I asked to have a private meeting. I wasn't going to "go through the proper channels" because sorry, I didn't trust 19-year-old boys with handling my issues. My bad.

I sit down and I don't even cry because I'm just so emotionally checked out and wanting to die. I tell him that I think Fuhrer is a little intense and that some things she does aren't quite in the spirit of mission work. He asks me to elaborate, and I tell him the story of incorrectly asking Gustavo to be baptized, shrugging my shoulders in defeat, telepathically begging for some kind of sympathy.

"Actually, she's right," he said. "There is a correct way."

I told him that yeah, I did know about that section in PMG, and I was 3 words off. He just sat there and said, "We have been instructed to use the format in PMG."

I just sat there, numb for the rest of our meeting, as he told me I needed to love her more etc etc and incredibly enough, that I needed to help her grow, too. I was utterly confused with the mixed messages and what he meant.

Fuhrer also had a private meeting with the President. She came out, teary, and we walked out and she said, "I really do love you, Sister." I told her I loved her, too, but man, it was tough to believe her when her actions said otherwise.

Normally in the real world, I would have texted my mom or something for a 3rd party opinion, but this was a mission and so I rode home that night, back up into the hills of God-fearing Appalachia, carrying an even greater weight of loneliness, thinking I could never do anything right and could never talk to anyone else about it who would understand. I would have to wait until P-Day for a few minutes to vent, but that was it. This loneliness depressed me further and made me think erroneous thoughts like there was truly no one who loved me, not even my parents. They, too, would agree that I had not done things perfectly. Or would they? Could I still be their daughter?

I was alone in this, and I was completely wrong about everything. My world kind of collapsed around me as I questioned why God would let anyone experience this kind of loneliness and worthlessness based on wording a sentence wrong and threats of not being "perfectly obedient". Everything in my life I had experienced would point to the Fuhrer and Mission President being pretty Pharasitical, but since I had no one else to talk to, I had to accept their way as absolute. I I then got into a vicious cycle of chastising myself for being so selfish with the whole "starving kids in Africa" cliche, and my sadness compounded from there.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Study time

Waking up every morning in the bed next to the Fuhrer was also something.
She would wake up, pray, go to the bathroom and start doing her "workout" in the living room, all without saying a word to me.
I'd say some variation of Good Morning! or Hey! or try to lighten the situation with some aside, but I was only met with a stone face and one or two word irritated responses if I asked a question. I came to see that she would not talk to me from the time we woke up until 9am, when we'd begin companionship study. I tried to accept this as normal, but it made me really sad and likely contributed to my misery! I know you might not be a morning person, but there's a certain warmness and decency you can still display even when exhausted....maybe I'm wrong.

At 7:58am, she would silently kneel to pray to open up her personal study time. She'd start reading her scriptures or Preach My Gospel, wordless still, eating cereal, sitting across the table from me. Then, at 8:58 she would get up and walk over to the carpet and kneel to pray solo. I would just imitate her behavior, worried that if I didn't kneel while praying or if my prayers were shorter in length (as they typically were), she would think less of me.  

At 9am she would finally talk to me, quizzing me on what I had studied in my one hour of "personal study" time. She would ask certain questions, and I'd answer in a way that was more personal than a rote response from the manual. For example, if we were studying prayer, I'd offer something like- "One time Elder Oaks came to our ward and made a great statement that prayer isn't a monologue, it's a dialogue. So that makes me think that....etc etc etc" But I quickly came to find that this was not correct. She would make a crooked face while looking in her PMG, shaking her head to indicate I was somehow wrong…or even flat out telling me, "Hmm, no. It's actually X…."
The only time I was 'right' was when I gave her word-for-word answers out of the book. She would hardly even look at me, checking for comprehension on elementary topics like "the spirit", "prayer" or "holy ghost". I hated to be prideful but so much of me wanted to scream out some variation of "HEY! Not even a year ago I was in an East Village bar recanting the Joseph Smith story to a nonmember friend who wanted to know. I think I know how to talk to people about this stuff! And even if I didn't, you think I didn't go to Primary or was paying attention even a fraction of the time in Seminary?" But no, she'd just get frustrated and ask me things like "Well, what DID you study in your personal study time, anyway?" And I would bring up things that were ultimately deemed "off topic" (even though they weren't…they just weren't rote).

But I just tried to accept the Fuhrer's method as The Way It Was Done, figuring that it was part of that "refiner's fire" that all missionaries go through. But part of me couldn't help from racking my brain thinking of all the people I knew who had served missions. I made myself think that ultimately, everyone else had gone through the same experience with study hour… so why was I having such a hard time? This question made me spiral into a lot of self-criticism:
"So-and-so did a mission and they are the most dim-witted person you know! And you can't answer the Fuhrer's questions 'correctly'?"
or
"Even lazy so-and-so did a mission, and you are having a hard time here? Get it together, you piece of shit! You aren't even learning a language!" I would tell myself over and over again.


Anyway, after a torturous 2 hours of this every morning (you study for 2 hours as a companionship in your first two transfers while you are being "trained" instead of the usual 1) and even if I was mid-sentence in thought, Fuhrer would cut me off and we'd kneel to pray, and then head out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sister Fuhrer

I quickly came to call my first companion in the field (or "trainer", in mission-speak), 'The Fuhrer' in my letters home. I know, I know, that isn't really in the spirit of being a Mormon nun, so to speak, but I couldn't help myself after spending 24/7 with such a cold person and having just a few minutes each week to write (read: cry out!) home. So I guess I broke another rule by calling her that in my letters. One could argue that's probably why I didn't last, because I wasn't perfectly obedient. :/

Although she was as white-bread American as they come from eastern Washington state (I remember having to explain to her what hummus was), she had a German last name so I thought it only fitting.

I still haven't read back my emails home, and I've only made it a small part of the way through one of my journals because it turns me into a sobbing mess of sad emotions and anger. But I will eventually, because I know I wrote a lot about the way she treated me and I would get letters from friends and family expressing total shock and sympathy. But I digress.

So we gather at a chapel sort of in the west central NC, and we're lined up in front of a room, the newbies on display in a prison lineup. I, of course, feel completely out of place with these young kids from what seemed like predominantly Utah and Idaho. After all, I'm 24, turning 25 in just a couple months, am a college grad, and have lived in some pretty unique places. I'm not 19 and clueless. I'm thinking about Heidi Klum's perfume launch party I attended only a year previously, New York stuff, my carefree adventures in New Zealand, my Euro travels, my friends having presumably amazing summers at the beach filled with downtime, devoid of any sort of schedule.

The mission president says a few words and then assigns us. There are a few words exchanged with other people talking about where we're going, and they'd respond usually with "Oh whoa, yeah Boone. Boone is the best!" trying to conceal that they kind of pitied us.
 We load into a minivan of a really bubbly woman from the Branch, who became a real light to me over the next few months, and started the 3 hour drive north into the mountains. I came to call our area, because it was on the mission border, the "outer darkness" of the mission. Fuhrer didn't think this was funny.
We weren't allowed to fall asleep, and we were instructed by the mission president to not take any time unpacking when we got to our apartment. "We go to work in our mission," he exhorted. Fuhrer watched impatiently as I rolled my suitcase to one of the back rooms, and then I had to sign this sheet saying I was going to serve there (almost like a guest book?), and then we said a prayer before we left. She was a Fuhrer on a mission, literally. I didn't know what the game plan was, so I just kind of sat there in silence and trying to ask her questions about herself while she drove us to this neighborhood where we tracted in the rain. I didn't know what to bring with me so I brought everything in my backpack, and my scriptures got soaked. So now the crinkly pages will always remind me of her- yippee!

We went to Cookout, which is a barbecue fast food chain in NC, for dinner. We sat there in the car, eating, for approximately 35 minutes in mostly silence before she decided it was time for us to get back to it! That night we got back to our place at 9pm. But no, we weren't done yet! We spent half an hour "planning" for the next day. I'm probably sensitive to this, but planning out lessons for people involved a lot of what seemed like judging their life situations and evaluating a naive solution for what would "fix" it. Inside, I was thinking things to myself like, "Um, reading the scriptures daily or coming to church is not going to give her the tools to deal with her abusive husband." If that makes any sense at all. I will flesh out this notion of being judgey of people more in future posts….I am trying to get to the next more superficial part haha.

So after more companion prayers to open and close our planning meeting, I finally get a moment to myself (sort of) to unpack and get ready for bed. Soon enough, I hear yelling from the other room, "Sister, you have 25 minutes til lights out!" I thought to myself a combination of 'Oh my gosh, did she really just say that?' -slash 'ok, I can't judge her intensity- it's just how she rolls'. My dad would do a similar thing at home trying to get everyone out the door for things (my mom is a kind of perpetually late person), so I guess I wasn't too shocked, my mind was just spinning trying to get everything in order and showering off from the humid rain and processing my first day out, etc. "15 minutes!" she soon barked. Then the outbursts became even more incremental… "10 minutes!... 7 minutes!…. 5 minutes!... 2 minutes!" I was really jumpy and running around in circles trying to do everything. I know an hour sounds like a lot of time but it went by really fast. My stuff was sort of organized in the second bedroom. I remember thinking back to a rule at the MTC to keep your space clean or else 'the Spirit wouldn't dwell there'. I got conflicted with the two rules running through my head- do i worry about leaving my stuff there a little messy so I can be in bed at 10:30 or if I just had 10 more minutes I could have everything in order. I thought it better to obey the Fuhrer.

After a few nights of this time-calling, I approached her and asked her to please stop, that it's not necessary to give me these updates.  Since I could gauge that she really loved rules (and would come to find out she made up many of her own! it was awesome), I brought up the MTC rule to kind of broaden her horizons that it's not possible to be perfect. "Look," I said. "The first night my stuff was strewn all over that room and you could argue that the Spirit was not here, even though we were obeying the lights out rule." I reasoned I wasn't there to hang out by myself in the living room after lights-out because I want, like and need sleep, so I was always going to do my best to follow that rule. She just nodded, conceding that she agreed with me. Sort of.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The best two years were my four worst months

A huge piece of my mission conflict lay in the realization that I was raised to be somewhat unitarian, with a very liberal interpretation of heaven. Respecting and coexisting with others' beliefs was ingrained in me from a very young age. So when I got to the South, I had so much awe and respect for their God-fearing culture that I felt secretly horrible about bothering people with our "unique message". In more cases than not that I could see, teaching someone to change denominations had potentially harmful ramifications as they would likely suffer massive strain to family and community relationships. I got the feeling that the 19 year old boys I served alongside with didn't think that out.

The rhetoric that we were made to use felt divisive to me, and I never felt comfortable with highlighting so many differences as a proselytizing and teaching tactic. I've always thought that in order to have a civil discussion, common ground needs to be established, and it's not a waste of time to do so!

I obeyed every rule -ok, there were a couple times when we took a minute or two longer at mealtime. Or that one time when we were at the library and the moment before I hit send on my one weekly email, the computer shut down. Completely discouraged, I showed my companion and we stayed probably an extra 7 minutes longer than our given hour so I could compose messages to my family and the mission president. My companion was visibly seething with every second ticking by. It was killing her rule-loving spirit to break a rule! I apologized profusely but she just gave me a disapproving look and didn't really talk to me the rest of the day, per usual. Which reminds me of another thing about letters home- there is a rule that you should only talk of good things in your letters home so as not to worry your parents. Seriously. Needless to say, I look at mission letters now with a lot of suspicion and angst. In particular, I question the authenticity of any optimistic tone. For me, it was my only lifeline to tell people that cared about me how miserable I was. So I guess I broke that rule, too. However, it's hard to reconcile that I broke a rule when I shudder to think what would have happened had I kept everything inside.

I thought surely, that transcendent moment would come when it would all make sense. I would see the light of why we were made to obey (so many) rules, plan primary-level lessons for hours upon hours, or judge people constantly and carry forward with unabashed zeal and conviction.

Instead, my critical thinking went into overdrive, since I had no technological or personal distractions. I would realize later that thinking critically is an enemy to missionary service. You are allowed no additional material to study but the scriptures. Questioning anything is discouraged. My whole line of thinking was that if it's true, it can withstand questioning and investigation. But there was no time for it, and it "wasn't important". As much as Preach My Gospel tries to get away from the memorized discussion format, you still have to study them and be able to rehash them in such a way. Or maybe that was my companion who basically reformatted PMG into discussions. Either way, I did my absolute best to try and make her happy but she only grew more and more frustrated with me.

I feel very conflicted about the prospect of sending future kids on missions. My own current level of orthodoxy to the church is very imperfect and unresolved. I question whether I'm part of something where insularity is ideal. Whether Zion is a literal utopia, or resides in everyone, everywhere to an extent. I was so tired of putting on a happy, smiling face to proclaim a purported gospel of happiness when inside I was the most miserable I've ever been. Did I mention that I was praying approximately 50 times a day and wasn't feeling any kind of spirit?

That transcendent moment never came. I became a zombie, horribly depressed, and felt more alone than I ever thought was possible. I would stare at razors in the shower and contemplate slitting my wrists. It would be so easy, and I wouldn't have to live this hell anymore, I reasoned. I would hope I'd get in a fatal car accident or I'd fall off a cliff or suffer some freak accident so I didn't have to keep pressing on. The mission was a crucible. I honestly can't fathom how anyone has a good experience with it. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Well, this just got interesting

As I sit and listen to the traffic outside my window, I reflect on life in NYC where the bedroom sound was similar. However, there are a few marked differences, and not just in that the traffic is more fluid here than the block by block gridlock.

Today I was offered a reporting job… an opportunity that I had semi-heartedly explored a while ago but thought had long dried up.

And as of the end of last week, I more or less have a job offer at an ad agency, too. I've never had such a banner month, professionally speaking. Today at pilates I even brought it up when asked, something I normally wouldn't delve into in such a relatively superficial setting. How rare to have two offers in this economy, one girl remarked. The instructor was excited for me, and advised to go with my gut.

I think about my life in New York, and how grinding it was. It. Was. Just. Hard. Things kept falling through. Blend that all together with a fledgling economy and a walloping case of self-doubt, and I became someone I knew in my heart I wasn't meant to be. Life just didn't need to be that rough, that antagonistic, that dismal. There had to be another way. Around this time of contemplating a move out of the city, I started to receive really out-of-body promptings that I needed to do a mission. They increased until they preoccupied my every other thought, and the madness of it all drove me to move home and apply.

In Myers-Briggs terms, I classify as an INTJ. The T denotes how I make decisions- in my case Thinking, instead of Feeling. When making decisions, I first look at the logic and consistency of the situation instead of people and special circumstances.

The mission decision was a complete deviation from my usual line of thinking, in that it was one made completely based on feeling. I, of course, applied my logic to the decision, which pointed to NO, but for the first time in my life, feelings were stronger than logic. Indeed it was a special circumstance.

As horrible as the experience turned out to be for me (like 50 times worse than NY), and how confounded I still am about why I needed to be there so badly, I will never deny those feelings I had. They were absolutely real, which makes it all the more infuriating. I think I sound like such a new age idiot.

For two years, I haven't been able to write about the experience, but it has mulled over in my mind every day since. I often worried that by prolonging the wait to write, I would lose details. But you know, I shouldn't have been so stressed out. The information is all in my brain. Everything I have gone through is recorded, it's the recalling of information that is tricky. Woe be our fallible minds and bodies! Luckily, I find that writing serves as catalyst to recall information. '

Anyway, I feel that moving to Los Angeles has been rather seamless, and that I find opportunities with a fraction as much effort, it seems, as I used to exert. I, of course brood over this, albeit much more positively than I used to. What does this mean? I ask myself. Is it reckless to bounce from opportunity to opportunity, or is it exactly where I need to be and what I'm supposed to be doing? To use a pertinent metaphor, however, I'm just going to ride this wave out. I've never let intuition take the reins like this, but surrendering and receiving feels nice. And if good things continue to come from under-analyzing, then so be it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Child actor parodies

It's been almost surreal to be a part of "the biz" … an industry that I fantasized about on-and-off for my entire life, but never believed was in the cards, or well-suited, for me. Yet another lesson for me to not be too critical!


Today these SNL videos had my coworkers and me rolling:

Disney Channel Acting School


Aw Nuts! Mom's a Ghost


Spotlightz Acting Camp

Monday, August 11, 2014

Navelgazing

Got to admit, it's kind of weird to be writing about myself again. Is it because I think I'm less important to the world? Is it because I think it's egotistical and somewhat indulgent? Isn't it such a millennial cliche? Yes. Yes. Yes.

However, I missed writing, and never ceased to have words bubbling around in my head when I wasn't actively doing it. When these writerly symptoms got to the point of WebMD-ing 'schizophrenia' for confirmation bias, I'd make a point to take my mind off it. Instead of freeing the words coursing inside me, I'd simmer them down. I took the pot off the stove, away from the heat. Denied the impulse. Starved the attention. I dulled myself, to an extent. I'd go read, go talk to someone, go work out, or all too often get caught up in the social media milieu.

I wanted to take myself as far away from online vulnerability via blogging as possible. I was paranoid someone would use material as blackmail. I was still conflicted about the things on which I'd opine. I'd get word-choice and grammatical anxiety.


But now I'm ready to talk again.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Portlandia parodies

I have been binge watching and loving Portlandia the past few days. The humor is so fast paced, I just don't want to miss anything. And the short sketch format keeps my attention well. It it is so damn clever and picks up on these minute, universal details of life while parodying crunchy, granola, uber-progressive communities.

Some favorites:

How was Colin, the chicken, raised?

Getting stuck in the loop of checking email, texts, Facebook, other social media.

Should have brought a bag.

No, you go. No, you tow.





So I am trying to think of some minute details of life that are universally realized but not parodied. This is an ongoing list, and highly nonsensical.

The creamer/sugar station at coffee shops. How lukewarm the milk must be, but it is an accepted addition for most? An artisanal coffee shop that doesn't have the brown kind of cane sugar? Since when does brown connote "healthier"? Is it because dirt is usually brown?

Untitled #83757664

From October 2011. A month or so before I decided to leave on a mission.


It's a very very interesting time to be in New York City right now, with the protests in my neighborhood and coffee shops writing on their chalkboards "American Exceptionalism: Wanting every best thing but not willing to pay for it."
It's also a really interesting time to be mormon in the city. I will be the first to admit I had some kinks to iron out with how I wanted to approach my religious observance, but lately it's been really really great. I just love the people, they are awesome and there is so much diversity here.

Identity Crisis

From September 2011. I was living in NYC and had taken a trip to California for work.


I'm currently in the glorious Golden State and having a bit of an identity crisis because it is so glorious.
AND WHY THE HELL IS EVERYONE BEING SO NICE TO ME?! GEEZ!!! ;)
My love affair with NY (and other places) is a tumultuous one. He treats me terribly and also terribly well... so when I'm over being treated like a subway rat I will return to California's forgiving arms and we will have our happily ever after.
Too many people don't leave either territory, and breaking out of insularity is incredibly valuable.


However, California, you are a sneaky one. I negated that whole 'general outerwear' factor packing, only packing a cropped leather jacket for 'going out at night', because I forgot that it gets shivering at night. HA. I am such a rusty Californian!

Then I remembered over Christmas when I fled the Nor'eastern Blizzard territory and STILL wore two pairs of sweatpants in America's Finest City, San Diego.

Then up to visit my best cousin in San Fran for labor day! We had fun paddle boarding, beach-ing,and hanging out with our older cousins' families in palo alto, girl talking into the wee hours and hanging out with attractive peoples.

On Tina Fey and comedy

From September 2011. My blogging anxiety was almost at boiling point.


When I was in Rhode Island this summer visiting some family friends, the husband of the family brought up the idea that comedy nowadays seems to have a common thread of people making fun of their own mediocrity for laughs, how there seems to be a turn from witty comedic writing, timing and characters, to perpetuating the idea that the lame part of yourself is enough of a joke.

For example, half of 30 Rock is basically an on-screen manifesto of Tina Fey's personal insecurities and self-perceived shortcomings (the other half (percentages arguable) her political opinion). I love Liz Lemon but this is so different than say, Kristen Wiig's character sketches in the same vein as Molly Shannon, that feel familiar yet definitely original .... Fey's self-deprecation is endearing but all TOO familiar. Or maybe it's simply the longevity element of the Liz Lemon character that has allowed her to become familiar to us, the audience. Eh, yeah. Ok, I retract that last paragraph.

Anyway, the point of all this garble is that I thought it downright hilarious reading today that there is some girl at London School of Economics studying internet memes (Lolcats! Yes, Lolcats! and Failblog!) for her master's thesis. Fantastic. This is going to sound so urban-affected, but I can't wait to go to grad school one day and get obsessed about something really obscure.


Sorry for the scattered Kerouac-ian post that might not even comprise a coherent argument tomorrow. I'm trying to be better about my word choice anxiety. Starting with this sentence's immediate predecessor, which I won't change even though it's killing me ("I'm trying to be better..."?? -what the hell?!). OK.

Golden Granny

From September 2011.

The "golden generation" of people born in the 1920s-30s (ish) is unendingly inspiring.

My maternal grandmother being one of them, daughter of university president and wife, who obtained a Master's degree (before her husband would officially obtain his, even), was tall, played sports and was competitive, and played tennis her whole life, even after knee replacements in her 70s. Not to mention was the most feminine June Cleaver housewife to boot, even if she never let her grandchildren beat her in gin rummy until they could on their own merit.
When I was in San Fran earlier this month, I learned a story of how my uncle and his B-school friend were staying at my grandparents' house when they were on a trip, and my grandmother asked them if they'd like to play tennis one afternoon.
And they played Aussie style, it was the two boys versus the mom.
And my uncle was a 6'6" dual-sport collegiate athlete.
Aaaaand grandma schools them.
Probably would have been in her mid-50s.
Amazing.

Untitled #49508402

From October 2011. I had just gone to the Billy Reid fashion show at Milk Studios in NYC the month before (his niece was my roommate then). I was also really into calling everything bullshit.

The fashion industry is such bullshit to me. I respect it as an art form. However, fashion magazines should be looked at as Art that a Lady Named Anna Wintour Likes. And who the hell is she to tell us what to wear when all I've seen her wear is floral belted dresses with heeled open back sandals. Fundamentally, it is flawed because it doesn't design for the client...namely the real woman. Which is where commercial designers come in to reference couture for mass retailing.

Untitled #23094820

This is what I was up to December 2012. It's very scatterbrained.



I've been doing lots and lots of hot yoga.

Before my summer away this year (ha), I got into a little hobby of running about 25 miles a week with Newton and Vibram barefoot shoes, because I was thinking ahead to the possibility of my comp being a runner and not wanting her to resent me for not having the stamina to keep up. hahahaaaa (read: that scenario never played out, but I did get sent to the mountains which was the "most physically demanding" sisters area... but don't cry for me, really, because we had a car, too). While I enjoyed the strength that comes with being able to run 6 miles with ease, I didn't like the 10-15 pounds I put on (I don't own a scale- that variable is computed based on very unreliable measurements from annual-ish doctor visits). 

Other highlights as of late!

Explaining to a sweet 16 year old, labeled by the state as a juvenile delinquent, what a chador is…and Middle Eastern culture's practice of veiling in general.

Trying to get a handle on my chronic pain. 

Lunches and dinners with old and new friends. 

#OccupyHalloween

This post is from Halloween 2011, when I was living in NYC. Again, the now-outdated cultural references are so amusing to me.




For Halloween, I went as an Occupier (last year the topical costume was a Chilean Miner, this year it was Occupiers and Black/White Swans)...but not just any Occupier...


I was pretty uninspired so I was talking with one of my friends how I just wanted to put on cat/mouse ears so I didn't feel dumb, and she is in finance so she teased me by saying that was 'a 1% costume'... in the EFFORT department.  And then she calls me from the costume store later saying she was seriously considering going as Anthony Weiner. I won't expound on details, but yeah, hilarious.

Coloring in the 1% took about 99% of the total effort.

Allie also whipped her costume together in 5 seconds, piling on layers and being a Babushka. Yeah, she had to go back to work after we checked out the Village Parade, sooo....

Other favorite halloween costumes I saw were my friend Liz who went as 'Knope 2012' (Parks and Rec reference), one of Alexander McQueen's designs for Lady Gaga (remember the madness that was the Met McQueen exhibit?! I was lucky to only wait 45 mins), and Mohammar Gaddhafi.
Halloween in the city is so much fun, I just wish it weren't so DAMN COLD ALREADY.

Routine

This post was from March-ish 2012, before I served an LDS mission for an abbreviated 4 months.

I suppose this would be a bigger deal if I were 21. There's really not a whole lot to do besides buy a few more items of more-modest-than-usual clothing and get my driving record from the DMV... I don't have to sort out housing or leases or transportation information. The whole talking to strangers or moving around to different places doesn't intimidate me, nor does living with people with whom I may have nothing in common.

The things I worry about can be boiled down to health things. I'm afraid my neck injury I worked through about four years ago will flare up. I'm going to miss yoga classes a lot, a lot a lot. This has become a huge part of staying injury-free and maintaining my sanity. Luckily I'm not going to Siberia like Elle so I will have access to fruits and veggies all the time, phew. I'm a bit of a health nut, kind of a flaming organic hippie with a "pious" Judeo-Christian Mormon shell. Yay!

This week I became REALLY, I mean REALLY worried about the energy required to pull this off. I am someone who has, since college when I found out, for better or worse, the joys of napping when you pull a late night... or in the working world, when you can catch up on sleep on weekends. This week I really forced myself to acclimate to "mission hours"- for those who don't know, it's a schedule that is planned down to the last half hour from 6:30am-10:30pm every day.
This week I had a really out-of-body meltdown of many tears, rooted in sheer exhaustion, over whether or not I'll be able to have enough energy to keep to this schedule. I honestly haven't tried to sleep this little since high school, the greatest grind of my life, a time where I remember little down time and immense stress. I still bear some scars from that schedule, but I guess if I could do it for four years I can do a mish. But seriously, uh, pray for me....

I haven't been doing too much "research" on my mission, because let's face it, it isn't too foreign in appearance from what I am used to in the East. BUT! This week I also found out that Charlotte is a sort-of Evangelical hub of the South, where apparently The 700 Club is broadcast, or something? I'm kind of amped about this "challenge" of coexisting with Evangelicals. I'm not trying to sound irreverent about the religious practices of others, it's just a fact that in American culture, the Evangelicals put out the worst press and harbor the most negativity and misconceptions than any other religious group toward us Mormons, and are very vocal about their opinion that we are generally misled and hell-bound. Of course, there are more tolerant and educated members of this religion on a personal level that do not believe this. Unfortunately I don't have too much experience with them personally, so I have to resort to stereotypes I've heard and read about. Going into this Southern experience, it's honestly hilarious to me as I am presently (and yes, maybe a facade for how sad I really think it is) that someone, anyone, would believe that any positively contributing member of society is in any danger of going to hell. I've grown up in a religiously tolerant home, I don't subscribe to thinking I am any way "better" than anyone else. At risk of sounding terribly religiously intolerant, I hope that I can have some great dialogue with them, my most earnest hope being that I learn more from them than I could ever impart. Isn't it how it always works- in roles of teaching, we end up learning the most from our students?

Of course, in the above paragraph, I have used the label "Evangelical" for lack of a better way to describe their beliefs. However, it is, from my understanding, the label with which they are most comfortable. When we were in Jerusalem visiting with my mom's friend, it became more apparent to me that it's really detrimental for religious groups to "label" each other. She asked us about our "Mormon" label, and we told her it is nothing more than essentially the title that others have continued to perpetuate. I suppose it's fine to a certain extent- not offensive- but less telling of our beliefs than our official name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, we don't hold anything that Mormon, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, in higher esteem than anything of the other prophets in the Book of Mormon, the Old and New Testaments, and certainly not to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Essentially, we could just as easily be called Moronis or Ethers or Almas. It would be interesting to find out where this nicknaming originated. Part of me feels funny I don't know exactly how this label originated, but perhaps it's just not that big of a deal to me beyond what I've stated above.
Hopefully the above does not come across as offensive to anyone. It's just what I know presently from my very, very limited knowledge of what "The South" means religiously.

David B. and the Plant

It's August 10, 2014 and I found a lot of awaiting drafts in my blog queue. So I'm going to publish! Apologies if they're redundant. Actually, why am I apologizing?

From June-ish 2011 (I was living in NYC):

Besides the Carolina Herrera afternoon, one of my most poignant NY moments thusfar occurred not at night (and there have been some epic nights), but a breezy Saturday afternoon a month ago or so, sitting outside Doughnut Plant at the Chelsea Hotel briefly chatting with makeup artists on some random photo shoot for a Norwegian magazine, as I inhaled my Coconut Cream square donut semi-self-consciously (I have more body dysmorphia issues than I care to elaborate, as part of residual body image problems I have had since early youth ... I make fun of it as much as I am sensitive).

Across the street from the famous main David Barton Gym ('the most nightclubby one' ... where Marc Jacobs works out), which has the most provocative gym adverts.

Hang out for enough time at Doughnut Plant Chelsea (which, if you saw their employees, probably has a strict 'don't-eat-the-merchandise' policy) and you're bound to see a gaggle of gays coming out of it cursing the demise of their once-beach-ready body with each bite of a Valhrona Chocolate.


Which brings me to how funny I think STEFON is on SNL. And Bill Hader breaking character has really become part of the whole character, mark my words.

Here are his Mother's day suggestions.

Here are his Valentine's day picks (... wait for the 'suitcase' part. so bad. so real.)

Getting (it) down


I've decided to blog again. I know, I know. 


Many blogs are embarrassing--I used to make fun of (many of) them all the time, which I realized was a negative stimulus in my life that only coerced my own self-criticism. Duh, right?
I also noticed that I would enter into life situations with a blogger's lens, akin to a "reporter's lens" often cited in the journalism field for the way in which you approach a certain situation all for the purpose of reporting it. A blogger's/reporter's lens is something that I feel, quite ironically, inhibits your ability to enjoy, assess, or just be in a situation.
Somehow, I started reading Gawker and Jezebel all the time until I started to really notice that the same kind of victimized, snarky, accusatory tone started taking shape in my own head. Sort of like a liberal arts college student who is groomed to critically analyze any topic for its fallacies, even if it be a neutral, non-threatening topic like pizza or a pencil eraser. 

When I first started blogging, I would get that writer's high of knowing people were reading and responding positively to it. But then I started to get major anxiety over how much information I divulge to who knows who or a relevant person who you'd not like to read things for certain relevant reasons, or worrying about pleasing someone and offending another.


I'm really going to try and stop mulling, but doing. And doing, meaning writing. More than my twitter micro-blog.

And since moving to LA (which I've found to be an incredibly supportive community), I have been asked about my writing work. Rather than get into the myriad of reasons why blogging gives me anxiety, maybe I should be more vulnerable again and just write shit down.
These are all my first drafts leading up to what I hope will be a crescendo of an idea, so enjoy the ride.

Also, I'm closing comments until further notice (it's not you, it's me).