The Happiest Day of my Life

Summer of 2003. I’m almost thirteen years old. My parents separated a year ago – and by separated, I mean my mother took all eight of us without warning and moved across the country because she realized Dad had left the Mormon Church for good. That their relationship had been on the rocks for a long time was no secret us kids, but we had no concept of divorce when we abruptly left behind our bantam chickens, our newborn pygmy goat, and our ten acres of Kentucky farmland.

The night before we left Kentucky, we awkwardly killed all the roosters with a blunt axe (follow the big mean black one through the nooks and crannies of the barn until it bleeds to death! Isn’t it funny how that red one runs and jumps with its head flopping around at its side?) and threw their bodies in the garbage. We divvied up the remaining farm animals – mommy goat, baby goat, two sheep, dozens of chickens – amongst our church-going neighbors, left the cats to fend for themselves, and took Delilah, our dog, with us. Mom chastised me for bringing a whole garbage bag of my stuff. She told us we’d be coming back.

But we never did go back, and so a year passed by and it was summer again. By now, I had stopped sneaking away into the unfinished parts of my grandparents’ house so I could cry in private, sobbing so hard I had to stifle my choking. I didn’t think so much about the old back pasture with spring daisies and a wide tree whose biggest branch was perfect for sitting and watching the neighbors’ horses. I didn’t miss the mama pygmy goat, Sweettart, that I had unsuccessfully tried to milk with my big awkward fingers. I hardly missed my old best friend, the yellow-haired Joanna who was in love with my older brother. I hardly missed my dad.

Now, I had a new best friend who lived right across the street and whose older brother loved, much to my friend’s consternation. I played basketball for my church team, babysat for a couple of families, and was generally liked by the girls I went to church with. My hair was finally long again, albeit with a horrendous perm, recovered from the even more horrendous buzzcut I’d had in Kentucky.

That summer, I went to a special camp for 13- and 14-year-old Mormon girls called Oakcrest. My camp counselor was a young woman named Carebear whose boyfriend lived overseas, on a mission for the Mormon Church. Carebear loved the Lord, and right away, I knew that she loved me. Every day during the week we were there, she gave us so much special attention that we probably each felt we were her favorite. I thought Carebear was beautiful and perfectly exemplified a good Mormon young woman, and I adored her. She told us her real name on the last day of camp, but I can’t remember it anymore.

During the week at camp, we hiked, we prayed, we ate and sang and did all kinds of fun, silly camp activities. I tried to keep up socially with the girls, some of whom had known each other for a very long time. Because I was homeschooled, and, as they say of homeschoolers, “didn’t get out much,” I found myself picking up colloquialisms and repeating them until I irritated the people around me. “My bad,” I’d say fifteen times an hour, whenever I dropped a pencil or misinterpreted someone. Or I’d loudly proclaim, “That’s garbage!” every time something required vocal disapproval.

But I had a great time. I was a mighty pious little Lizard at that time of my life, and I took God, Jesus Christ, and the gospel very seriously. During one sermon about only listening to that which uplifted us, I vowed to go home and snap all my pop music CDs in half (which I actually did, and later regretted sorely). I had prayerful moments late in bed at night that felt so powerful they threatened to lift me right up and ascend me into heaven. I trembled at the thought of the Second Coming, and hoped with fingers and toes crossed that I had been good enough to make the cut.

One night, the last night we were at camp, we did an exercise. Us campers were blindfolded and let out into a large field. All around us, our counselors were assigned to act as the influence of either the devil or God. I’d stumble along for a few steps, when I’d hear someone yell in a very wicked way, “Turn left! Do not go right, what are you thinking? Go left!” And, startled, I’d bump into a chain link fence and find that I had listened to Satan. Dang it.

So along I bumbled for quite some time. Into trash cans, other people, potholes, trees, etc. I wasn’t moving quickly so I never got injured, despite the urgent insistence of Satan to “Run! Move faster! Come with me, I have a special treat for you.” Suddenly, a gentle hand laid itself invisibly on my forearm, and a soft voice said, “Liz. Come this way. I’ll take you home.” The voice was Carebear’s, spoken almost in a whisper, but I knew right away. She took her hand off of my arm, but continued to urge me quietly in the right direction.

Carebear, a.k.a. the Holy Ghost, led me until she described an iron rod to my left. Just as I reached out to find it, a hideously loud shout in my ear: “STOP! Do not touch that! Back away now, and come with me!” I jumped and withdrew, but the H.G. found me again and at last I grasped the cool, smooth surface of PVC pipe/iron rod. The rod led upward, upward, through a bumpy trail, until at last I was directed to stop. Gentle hymnal music wafted from a distance. Save for the music and the birds, it was silent.

My blindfold was removed.

Standing before me was a lifesized portrait of Jesus overlooking his flock. The picture was softly lit and stood in gentle contrast to the darkening evening. My eyes, which were used to total blackness, did not wander from the picture.

After a few moments of silence, Carebear said, “What do you see?”

I started to cry softly. “Heavenly Father,” I whispered.

“He loves you, Liz. He loves you so much. Do you know that?”

Yes, I nodded. Yes, yes, I knew – God loved me. I felt it with all of my heart. A joy so total, so redemptive, encompassed me. I felt wrapped in the gentle arms of God’s care. The sorrow of the last year was gone, wholly and completely, as I stood and looked at this beautiful picture, and I was happy. I knew, right then, that that was the happiest day of my life and would be for a very long time.

I’m sharing this story because this was a powerful experience. I’ve obviously never forgotten it. But I’m also sharing it because I want you to know that I get it. I’m not just this God-hating, gun-slinging, take-no-prisoners bitch of an atheist, although sometimes I am that.

I take the positions I take having been on the other side, having stood in those shoes, having felt what I truly believed to be God’s love. Of course, now, I don’t think that’s what it was, but I can save that for another time. Suffice to say that for thirteen-year-old me, in that moment, that shit was very real. And I’ll always appreciate and remember that.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the who’s right and who’s wrong of the religious argument, we forget that on the other side of the aisle sit normal people. Some of those people have a greater proclivity towards assholishness than others, sure, but we’re all basically normal folks with histories, backgrounds, worries and cares. We all poop and we all love our kids. Neither side is necessarily smarter than the other. Neither side is necessarily nicer. The nature of humanity casts a broad net over us all, ensnaring even the kindest among us in the trap of being a dick on a bad day.

Enough pontificating – you get the point. But I’m just sayin’ – I get it. Let’s break bread together and have a conversation about it…

I will bring you to the dark side. <3

An Open Letter to the Spider in the Front Yard

Dear Not-So-Dear Arachnid from Hell,

Good evening, sir/madam. I’m writing you because a situation occurred tonight which I would like to immediately address so that it does not happen again.

You should know I don’t consider myself a homewrecker. Indeed, I have gone out of my way to avoid situations where those laying snug in their corners might feel violated by my behavior. You should also know, therefore, that when I destroyed the northernmost anchor of your web tonight, it was because you forced my hand. Nevermind that my “hand” was really a stick, gingerly held many feet away by my actual hand. I had to blast apart the very foundations of your household just so I could get into my household. And therein lies the problem, Mr./Mrs. Spider.

I’m mostly okay with you inhabiting the corner of the tall front-yard shrubbery – my tall front-yard shrubbery. I am aware that you may consider this area highly wooded and therefore suitable for you to stake a claim here.

However, I must enlighten you that, in fact, the heavily wooded area consists of but three small non-deciduous tress that run exactly perpendicular to the walkway most often used by the inhabitants of this home (you can see here that I am selflessly looking out for others, not just me). To further exemplify my great selflessness, I’ll let you know that on my way from the garage to the house tonight, I purposefully avoided the shortcut down the alleyway between houses, just so I wouldn’t accidentally destroy the web that one of your idiot cousins rudely built in between the buildings’ walls. I took the long way around, despite knowing you were lurking by the front walkway, no doubt watching for my return, plotting how best to ensnare me in the sticky vestiges of your lair.

And I still tried to avoid you. Are we getting somewhere yet? No?

Let me persuade you further. You may not be aware of this fact, so I’ll just briefly enlighten you. In human law, there exist the concept of aerial property rights. You may or may not be familiar with the Latin term, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos” – If you are not, I highly suggest you review your root words. You are welcome to use the underground – i.e., infero – until your little exoskeletal heart explodes. But goddammit, araneae, the caelum is mine! Mine, I say!

So listen up, you fat, hairy bitch. It is unacceptable for you to spin your surprisingly strong web in any area that I may accidentally walk face-first into. It was to both of our advantage that I am so sensitive to your locale that I did not plunge into your trap, inadvertently dragging you and all your dead prey into my very cute hair.

If there exists even the remotest possibility that a human may pass through any of the air above the ground which said human possesses, your presence is exceedingly unwelcome. You may not reside there. You may not even think about residing there. Your siblings and descendants and in-laws may not think about residing there, and if they complain, you can tell em Liz sent ya, and then shake an imaginary can of bug spray for effect.

So learn to anchor your web elsewhere, spider, or God so help my little white terrified butt, I will slaughter you. I don’t care how much you help the environment by eating bugs. I can eat my own bugs. Whether you face death by spider spray, blunt force trauma, or slow, intimate dissection, you will die.

Look, I think we can find some common ground (I hear you eat your men post-coitus). All that I ask is, during your standard housekeeping procedures, you stay far, far away from any area of my home that could even be remotely crossed by humans, particularly me. It’s not that hard.

Kiss my fucking ass, sweetheart.



THIS JUST IN: God Sends Dying Homeless Man some McDonalds, Forgets to Cure His Cancer

About a week ago, some guy named John Brantley shared an inspirational story on Facebook. I’m using his name because the story now has over a million shares, and it’s been featured on several news stations. The garish publicity is part of the silliness, and tragedy, of this whole situation, but suffice it to say that John has no issues with people knowing who he is. You can go on to Facebook and read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do that, but I’ll write up a short summary for your viewing pleasure.

John Brantley is walking to his car and sees a man digging through a dumpster, looking for food. This man isn’t begging, he isn’t talking to anyone else, he’s just minding his own business and picking discarded morsels out of the trash.

Saint John’s heart goes out to this homeless man, and decides to do him an enormous favor: Dinner at McDonald’s. So Steve the homeless man follows John to McDonald’s, and then John drives away. But John can’t shake the feeling that he should have done more for Steve.

So he turns around, goes back to Steve, and buys him some more McDonald’s. Then Steve reveals that he’s been homeless since his sister died a year ago, and then lifts up his shift and reveals a gut-wrenching tumor in his belly. Steve shares with John that he’s in great pain, that he hopes he dies soon, and that he is so grateful for John’s assistance. John asks Steve if he knows Jesus. Steve replies in the affirmative, and then they pray together. Steven informs John that he prayed for someone to bring him a hot meal, and Bam! As fast as Elijah sent the bears to kill the taunting lads, John shows up with a credit card and a big ol’ heart.

John then leaves Steve, and spends the rest of the post praising God for his greatness. What a generous God! His Almightiness sends John to buy Steve the cheapest meal on the block. But wait – He doesn’t stop there. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also uses Steve to teach John to be more grateful for how blessed he is. John reiterates his feelings of being blessed several times before he ends his post. Then the gratuitous back-patting ends and we are left to vomit freely as we will.

The craziest thing about this post was actually not how self-congratulatory John is. People bust out their inner Pharisee all the time. I’m sure I’ve done it. But 1.2 MILLION people shared the story, and local news outlets picked it up. Praise God! Thank God for John! Thank God for Steve! I’m literally crying my eyes out! Praise McDonald’s! God is great! God is merciful! God loves salty french fries, and so do we!

Are you fucking kidding me?

Let’s just break this scenario down a little bit further.

John, who wants everyone to know what a good person he is, begins the story by asserting this: “My heart literally hurt for him. I am not someone who just hands out money or even helps homeless people because so many are not truly homeless.” So it’s not like John is leaking compassion for the homeless out the ears. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. John only feels Steve is worthy of his assistance because Steve isn’t bothering anybody and he isn’t begging. John believes that most homeless people aren’t “truly homeless” – whatever the fuck that even means. It takes Steve quietly digging through trash, looking for food, for John to feel moved enough to help his fellow man. And where does he take Steve? To a sit down restaurant? To a grocery story store filled with healthful foods? No. John takes Steve to McDonald’s, the cheapest possible place to buy a friend a meal. Christlike? You decide.

John and his groupies spend so much time jacking off to the idea of God using John as a tool to help Steve that they miss what are, to me, a few critical things.

  1. Steve. Is. Dying. Of Cancer.
  2. Steve is dying of cancer.
  4. God’s way of coping with this is sending John to buy him… McDonald’s.
  5. John worships a God who uses a homeless, dying man digging through garbage to teach John about how “blessed” he is.
  6. God blesses John more than Steve.
  7. Steve is dying of cancer.

So this wonderful, caring God who blesses John with great abundance is happy to see Steve’s cancerous belly full of hot, fatty food, and that’s where His goodness stops. That to me is not one Facebook share-worthy. It’s certainly not 1.2 million shares worthy.

What would have been really incredibly is if, instead of asking Steve if he knew Jesus, John had said, “Hey, Steve. Do you know any local medical practitioners? Do you know that there are clinics who can provide discounted services for poor people suffering from terminal disease? Steve, do you need help finding these places? Do you need help finding a regular source of healthy food? Can I help you live out the remainder of your life in slightly better living conditions?”

But no. John was so busy gawking at how fucking blessed he is that he walks away, practically breaking his arm so vociferously does he pat himself on the back, leaving Steve to return to the same place he was before he met him. And, apparently, everybody in the whole world thinks John was sent by God to bless Steve.

I have issues with the concept of being blessed in the first place. Any good Christian knows that blessings come along with being righteous, obedient, and recognizing God’s love. No matter how much you believe God loves his children, as a Biblical Christian, you accept as fact (or allegory, whatever) that God pretty consistently blesses those who believe in him and follow his word, and punishes those who don’t. It’s the biblical modus operandi: Good folks, even the unfortunate Job, get rewarded. Bad folks get Sodom and Gomorrahed.

God bestows blessings on whom he sees fit, and in this case, God wanted to remind John of how blessed he is. John has food. John has a home. John has never dug through garbage to find what he needs. And rather than John thinking, “Wow! I am extremely grateful, and recognize the factors that have led to the difference between Steve’s lifestyle and my own, most of which are entirely out of my control!” John thinks, “God blesses me sooooo much!” (and presumably follows all of his thoughts with, like, so many heart-eyed emojis).

Worse than this is John’s finishing words: “Sometimes God sends situations our way to remind us of how blessed we are! … Yes, I have been blessed, God’s so good to me! … God has been good, so good! I have been blessed!”

In John’s bizarre universe, not only is he more blessed than Steve, but Steve exists to teach John a lesson that makes John feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Steve’s purpose in this interaction is to bless John even further. Steve functions in this seriously fucked up role of being impoverished and miserable, so John can realize how much God loves him, Boniface John, the chosen and cancer-free one.

So yeah. That about sums up how shitty this stupid post by John is. And if you want me to give John some credit for buying Steve food, I will. It was nice. John did a nice thing for Steve. Good John! That’s a very good John! And even though I’ll lose a few friends by admitting I wouldn’t mind if a stranger bought me a meal at McDonald’s, I will say that John probably did more in that situation than your average Christian would have. It was nice for John to go back and buy Steve more food on a gift card, and it was nice for John to talk to Steve and try to comfort him.

But Christ almighty, 1.2 million shares? And none of the commenters, not one, felt inspired to do anything but pray for Steve and praise the Lord. I’m guessing those prayers haven’t done much to change Steve’s living situation. I’m guessing the Lord hasn’t done much to change it either. Just a whole lot of people with tears in their eyes who feel mighty blessed.

Now I’ll admit that, more than once, I have seen something and been reminded of how truly lucky I am. It’s important to remained grounded by gratitude, and unfortunately, one of the easiest ways of doing that is by seeing those who have much less than we. What better way to act upon that gratitude than by going out of our way to help others, privately, without boasting? In Matthew 6:3, we find one of the most useful lessons in the Bible: “But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does.” I’m not sure if the author of Matthew exactly foresaw John repeatedly high-fiving himself like one of those little wind-up monkeys, but the boot fits.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I think it bears repeating: Stop praying. Start doing. You’ll notice that billions of prayers have never made a dent in poverty and hunger. You know what has? People getting off their prayer-sore knees and doing something about it. And John, on the off chance that you read this, I dare you to go back, find Steve, and actually do something that will change his life more than satiating his hunger for a day or two. And then keep it to yourself.

Moving Towards Middle Class

Happy birthday to me! Blah blah blah blah blah blah. This year as a gift, I received a Kate Spade wallet. It’s new. Whoa. Not gently used, not opened and unwrapped and resold. Brand-spanking-gleaming-fucking new. Also, I’ve been shopping this last month, and gotten swell new shoes, bodacious outfits, and really nifty makeup.  I have to say that it feels mighty good.

But before you think this is simply obnoxious birthday braggadocio, let me continue.

Last year, if you had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I would have said money. The year before that, if you’d asked me what I wanted, I would have said money. The year before that, the same, etc., all the way back to when my baby brain thought our dirty green currency was only good for chewing and barfing on.

That’s because, until a few months ago, I was in debt that spiraled out of my control. During and after college, I’d never had a job that paid the bills and still had some dough left over for luxuries like non-ramen dinners. Nearly all of my wardrobe had been donated or bought second hand, and my shoes were always on the brink of wearing out. Every once in a while, I’d splurge ridiculously, and I’d berate myself for days, weeks, even months. Why did I spend that money? How would I pay it back? I’d lay in bed after going out with friends the night before, agonizing over the $60 I’d spent on food and drinks that could have gone towards *insert bill here*. I’m not asking for pity. I didn’t live in poverty, and I didn’t starve or suffer. I worried, yes, I was constantly stressed, yes, and I endured embarrassment and the occasional nervous breakdown over finances. But I paid my important bills (usually), I never lost my car (although I got very close), I managed to look like I knew what the fuck I was doing with my clothes and makeup (although I was shocked to learn that when you pick up your clothes from the dry cleaners, you just throw away the hangers and paper-wtf?).

But despite the fact that people admittedly have it much worse than I, I can still remind myself (and hopefully you) that it isn’t a contest to see who suffers the most. Sometimes I have to remember that just because I didn’t have it the worst doesn’t mean I had it easy. There were days where I’d call up friends, steeped in anxiety, crying because I was sure the next time I went out to my car, it would be booted and I would be fucked. I’d pace in my living room, hand on the “Call” button, embarrassed to ask somebody if I could please join them for dinner because if I had to eat ramen noodles with eggs one more fucking time this week, I’d puke (in which case, Lois would have gladly eaten it, but that’s besides the point). I’d lay awake in bed, sleepless for hours, wondering if I’d feel guilty for defaulting on that credit card so I could take my monthly payment and put it towards a gym membership so I could finally lose that fucking weight I gained from eating like shit for years. (Not that you care – but I did default, I got a cheap gym membership, I lost 40 pounds, and I never regretted it – even after I finally paid off the balance of the card in collections, plus numerous late fees, etc.)

But okay, you get it. Enough about how tough things were. How did things untough themselves?

Well, in my opinion, I caught a couple of very lucky breaks. First, even though I’ve always been sexually active, thanks to #PLANNEDPARENTHOOD and other sliding-scale health providers, I have never had children. That alone makes a huge difference. Second, I found a job that I loved that paid a decent living wage. Third, a few months ago, I was matched with a recipient family and donated my eggs. Between the small financial windfall of egg donation and a consistent paycheck from a job where I feel respected and valued, I’ve managed to get myself out of debt except for my car and my student loans.

That feels fucking good. It feels too good to be true. And now, I have more pocket money every week than I used to have for my monthly food budget. Every bill is paid on time – no more late fees, either. I’m not rolling in dough. But I don’t need anything bad enough that I’m going to take my Kate Spade wallet and sell it for cash. And that feels miraculously lucky.

So, I’m turning 25 and sitting in my cozy queen-sized bed with a feather comforter, with my iPhone charging next to me, and my Chromebook on my lap, my fancy anti-aging cream on my face that I bought on clearance from Amazon, and my kinda fancy perfume and jewelry on my dresser, and my piano against the wall, and my closet full of reasonably priced clothing from Target. I feel humbled that I have enough pairs of underwear and socks to go two weeks without doing laundry. I’m amazed that a parking ticket or a necessary doctor’s visit doesn’t spell financial disaster anymore. I’m #blessed that I don’t lose sleep over how to pay the rent. All kidding aside  – I am solemnized by gratitude.

Some might argue that I was always middle class because I’m white, in possession of a college degree, and more literate than most native English speakers. That’s true. Some would say that I didn’t have it all that bad because I had a solid cohort of people I could go to for help. That’s also true. And I’m on my dad’s health insurance, I’m tall, I’m fairly good looking, I have a name that doesn’t keep me from getting callbacks on interviews, and all those other stupid, superficial attributes that make it easier to be successful in America.

Due to circumstances out of my control, I had so many things working for me that when I paid my dues (whatever that means – I think there’s a way to give people a decent living without requiring them to suffer beforehand, right?), I got out of petty debt and into a surprisingly easy standard of living.

And it was hard. So how much harder is it for people without any privilege whatsoever? Because they’re out there. In, like, droves. Copious numbers of poor people have we here in good old America. There’s a lot of them and they could all use a lucky break. Maybe, as some of us move into the middle class, we can do a little less self-congratulation and think (aka do) more about others less lucky than us.

I have yet to figure out how best to do that – suggestions accepted.

Jewish Holidays + Nannying = Record for Longest Job Held

One year ago today, I officially started my nannying career (and yes – it is a career, but I’ll jump on that soapbox in a few). Happy Workaversary to me! And how fun that it falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah! This has already been the longest I’ve ever kept a job – the closest runners up were a couple of bars and a teaching assistant job in college that required about 3 hours a week.

Lest you think me a total flake (rather than a partial flake, which I am), do consider that I’ve been in college until fairly recently and had a few false career starts after that. But hey, I figured if I’m going to be food insecure anyway, it’s better for me to get out of a job I hate before the suicidal midlife crisis sets in. I followed my gut when it came to ending jobs that may have had promising potential, and that has paid off.

And not just because I make more in childcare than I did in any other post-college career field I’ve worked in. Every morning, I get to work and am blasted awake by either a screaming toddler – or, more often, big smiles, food-smeared hugs, and a detailed account of the places a four-year-old has planned for us to go that day. What with the every day processes of getting dressed, figuring out which toothpaste to use (Thomas? Lightning McQueen?), driving to and from school, and using enough dinnertime reverse psychology to make Freud proud, the days go by pretty quickly.

I happen to work for a Jewish family (No they don’t take advantage of me, yes they have big curly hair, no they’re aren’t miserly, yes they keep kosher). And over the last year, if nothing else, I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve learned about Judaism. I think part of the reason that I’ve enjoyed my time with this family so much is because the parents are both well-educated, kind-hearted intellectuals who are willing and able to answer the myriad questions I have about Jewish law, Jewish history, Jewish culture. They also have a great library which I borrow from liberally. As a total outsider, Jews are a people who fascinate me – in no small part because it’s entirely possible to be an atheist Jew who practices culturally. How awesome is that? Particularly in Mormonism, where absolute belief in the doctrine is mandated, it is virtually impossible to separate beliefs from culture. But boy howdy, the Jews can do it. (Not all, I know, but a lot).

And Sam, the 4-year-old – I’m sorry, 4-and-a-half-year-old – has thoroughly educated me on all things pertaining to Jewish holidays. He and his brother, Micha, both attend a Hebrew preschool, and Sam’s mind is this black hole of knowledge retention. (“Watch out,” warned my boss on my first day. “If you don’t want us to know something, do not say it in front of Sam”). Sam slowly and patiently makes me repeat new words in Hebrew until I get it right. Then I get a congratulatory “Good job!” Or once: “Liz, sometimes I can’t understand what you’re saying. Then I just say ‘Good job!’ anyway.” I can recite the first half of many of the most common brachot. I know a fair number of silly children’s songs in Hebrew, and even more in English. I can count to ten in Hebrew, I can keep a kosher kitchen, I know what to announce before the shofar blows, and I can even blow a miniature shofar, which is fucking hard, btw. Google it. It’s really interesting stuff to learn about.

And when I’m not getting Hebrew Immersion 101, I’m eating dinner with the family. Visiting the super awesome Museum of Science and Industry, or the Lincoln Park Zoo. Hanging out at parks. Playing outside with chalk. Drawing pictures. Changing poopy diapers and instructing the boys in basic anatomy. I love all of it. It’s a really fun job, and it’s often a really challenging job, and I just love it.

And it’s shown me things about myself that I didn’t know. You don’t know how far you can push your boundaries of patience until you’re nicely telling someone else’s child for the umpteenth time to Stop laying on the bathroom floor and put on your pants after you finish pooping! Or when you’re waiting for a raging toddler to finishing throwing himself at the foot of the stairs because he’s suddenly forgotten how to get up by himself. Sticky hands in your clean hair. Shit spilled all over the floor the second you get it clean. Piles of crisply folded laundry devastated in one fell swoop. Or when you think to yourself, “What’s that smel- Oh, good God, no! Nooooooooo!” and the call in the Hazmat team.

A few weeks ago, I was with the kids at a museum and we went to the bathroom. It was one of those full-on-everybody-in-together-lets-steal-the-handicapped-stall trips. I went potty. I coerced Sam into going potty. I changed Micha’s poopy diaper. We got everybody’s hands washed and dried, using both the towels and the hand dryer of course, and then we were out and on to the next adventure. Some point shortly thereafter, I realized I had not even looked at myself in the mirror once while I was in the bathroom. I had forgotten to. Getting the little dudes in and out without pissing off the fickle baby gods was my only priority, and for maybe the first time since I turned eleven, I unwittingly walked in and out of a mirror-equipped bathroom without looking at myself.

That might seem stupid. But we know why there are more mirrors in women’s bathrooms than men’s. I fix my hair, check my makeup from every angle, sneak in a quick teeth check. We all do it. But having kids around you makes you less self-absorbed. Yes, even if they aren’t your own. Taking care of someone whose needs constantly supersede your own brings you to your knees – literally, metaphorically, emotionally.

Nannying is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, and yet now, I really understand those assholes who say that you should do what you love. I always thought that was stupid – like, who loves their job? – but at the end of the work week, or the short weekend trip by the family who’s in from out of town and needs a babysitter, or the three-hour walk to the park so somebody’s mother can take an elusive nap, I get paid. And I think to myself – every fucking time – “Sweet! I just got paid X bucks at hour to hang out with kids.

I just love it. And here comes the nannying soapbox.

I’ve had a lot of jobs. My boss always teases me whenever I mention them: “Was this before you were an assassin for the CIA? Was this after you were an astronaut?” My stunts in various professions include, but are not limited to: Auction House Secretary, Dental Assistant, Editor, Bartender, Waitress, Car Salesperson, Bank Teller, Banker, Children’s Photographer, Research Assistant, Mashed Potato Scooper at KFC, Clothing Retail Bitch, etc.

Never, in any of those jobs (probably combined), did I get any kind of intrinsic fulfillment that compares to the kind I get now. There was never a sales goal or piece of paperwork or meeting that was more important to me than making sure these two little guys make it out into the big fucked-up world a little more well-adjusted and loved because of how I showed up to work every day. No promotion or bonus measures up to pre-naptime snuggles from Micha and the gut-busting laughs I get from the shit Sam says.

I get asked a few questions about nannying pretty often, usually with this weird, “Don’t mean to offend you but I’m about to say something offensive” tone.

  1. How do you not swear in front of the kids?
  2. Aren’t you bored?
  3. But you’re not going to do this -*awkward pause*- forever, right?
  4. Don’t you think you could be doing something more intellectually stimulating?
  5. This isn’t, like, a career, though?
  6. What are you going to do when they grow up?

My answers:

  1. How do you not have sex in front of your parents? There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s not that hard to sort out.
  2. No. Absolutely not. Things change every day in this  job. The kids get older and start doing new funny and adorable and weird shit. They stop doing other things. Family comes to visit. Holidays are celebrated. When I do “boring” things like laundry or dishes during naptime, I put on NPR podcasts and learn something.
  3. I very well fucking might. It pays well, it’s fun, it’s one of the few careers that often lets you bring your own children to work with you.
  4. Such as…. sitting at a desk, trying to convince people to take out loans they don’t need? Writing? (Which I do on the side). Music? (Which I do on the side). Art? (Which I do on the side). I have time and money to pursue my interests because of this job, and I’m plenty intellectually stimulated, even when I’m not trying to explain to Sam why the sky is blue (you try doing that for a four year old and get back to me on how that works out for you.)
  5. Yeah, it is. You get raises and PTO and everything, by golly! You get better jobs with experience. You learn new things. Some people are lifers. Have you been in your career forever, anyway?
  6. Cry a little. Be happy for them. Miss them. Find another family, repeat. Maybe start fresh as an FBI operative. I don’t know! What did you do when you were fired? When you company merged? The kids growing out of needing a nanny ins’t some existential career crisis, even if it’s a little sad.

Anyway, down from my soapbox. That about sums up what I have to say about that.

Shanah tovah, motherfuckers! 🎉

The Profound Philosophy of #ShortHairDon’tCare

When I recently cut off more than a foot of hair, I made my appointment with the salon only three hours beforehand. I didn’t make up my mind until right before I made the appointment, and I wanted to cut it off before I had a chance to change my mind again. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going and why. I just went and did it.

Sitting longhaired in the salon chair, I was overcome by the feeling that this was the right thing to do. I guess after all those years of ignoring Mr. Jesus, he still decided to bless me with the Holy Ghost’s warm spirit, letting me know that He gave a shit about my hair and that he condoned the decision I was about to make. Or maybe it was the bubbly.

Anyway, the stylist asked me if I was nervous. “Nope,” I said, in my most cavalier tone. “Not at all.”

“Wow,” she said. “You’re, like, so brave.”

I’m really not, though. Because a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rather unusual thing happened, and lucky you, you’re about to hear all about it.

Nigh unto fifteen million years ago, in that aforementioned galaxy, there existed a remote solar system; in that remote solar system there existed a small, bizarre planet called Kentucky. And somewhere in the deepest, darkest corner of Kentucky sat Millersburg, population 750.

In Millersburg, it was perfectly acceptable for the wife of a dead cosmetologist to run her deceased husband’s business, as if his license posthumously passed on to her. Ah, Millersburg: the clarion bastion of all that is good and fashionable in the universe. (It is also socially acceptable to marry your first cousin there, but that’s beside the point.)

So thus it came to be that Marjorie* – who was lovely, albeit egregiously underqualified – owned the sole barbershop/luxury hair salon in Millersburg. Like her husband before her, may he rest in peace, Marjorie performed all functions necessary to a salon owner, including leaving in perm solution for so long it burned off the front of her clients’ mullets. Just for the sake of brevity, we’ll withhold speculation on whether Marjorie was making a commentary regarding whether mullets should be worn at all, nonetheless permed.

Some time after Marjorie began operating her late husband’s salon, a small family of ten moved to Millersburg; and not long after that, several family members were in dire need of haircuts. One day, half of the intrepid young family sojourned into the heart of Millersburg, braving the presence of many a large cow and neighbor, both of which roamed freely throughout the region.

One of the family members was a young girl – we’ll call her Liz*. Liz was in the twilight of her eleventh year; taller than all the boys, Liz had no boobs and no ass, and wasn’t old enough to wear makeup. Accompanying Liz were three brothers, and Liz’s father. At the time, Liz’s hair was a very grown-out pixie cut; and when Liz took a seat in Marjorie’s sole styling chair, she requested that Marjorie simply give her another pixie.

“A pixie?” boomed Marjorie, ex cathedra. “Are you sure?”

“Well,” said Liz, a little hesitantly, “Yes?”

“Describe it to me.”

“Okay, well, it’s short all over, you know? With uneven bangs in front.” Liz shook a hand in front of her face to show what she meant.

“Mmmhmmm,” said Marjorie. “Okay.” And she turned on the clippers.

By the time Liz’s paternal parental unit looked up from his colossal subway sandwich, several inches of shorn hair sat around Liz’s shoulders, and Liz herself sat trembling mightily. Their eyes met, and in hers he saw fear, and extreme dubiety.

“Liz,” said her father reassuringly, “You’re getting a buzz.”

And later, after they got home:

“Liz,” said her mother kindly, “You guys left with three boys. And you came back with four.”

“Liz,” said her brother sincerely, “Even though you look like a freak, we still love you.”

To Liz’s credit, she only cried once, after she got home. To her father’s credit, Marjorie was paid (and tipped) for all five haircuts. And to Marjorie’s credit, there have been worse buzzcuts – not many, yes, but a few.

Later on that infamous day, Liz had a pool party with her Girl Scout Troop, which she had been looking forward to with great zeal, but which she now feared. What if everybody thought her hair was just too damn weird, and nobody would talk to her because of it? But in the end she went, and made friends with another eleven year old named Midge*, who was also pretty damn weird, because she only had one arm. So the two weird girls spent the evening together, had the time of their lives, and remained friends until Liz left Kentucky for another, stranger planet called Utah. 

From that experience, Liz took away this: Arms don’t grow back, but hair does. And even if it didn’t, the fact remains that there is a lot more to a person than superficial things like a haircut or how many arms one possesses. People liked Liz whether or not she had long hair or no hair, and ever since then, when Liz is considering whether she ought to be adventurous with her hair, she almost always answers Yes.

The end.

*names in this story have been changed

As seen on national television.
Liz’s new hair, as seen on national television.

The Man on the Train

It’s very late, and I have to be up very early, but I want to share something that happened just now.

Tonight, I worked a job downtown, and I took the train home. It was roughly midnight, and as I finished reloading my train card, a short, portly man stood at the terminal next to me and talked to himself. His strong lisp and dramatic intonation clearly indicated that he was not going to hit on me.

“What do I do?” he said. “What do I…”

He turned to me, his unfocused eyes watery. “If I lost my Ventra card, sweetie, what do I do?” The sour-sweet smell of fresh alcohol assaulted my face, and I slightly turned my head so I could make eye contact while offering my nose some reprieve.

“Where are you going?” I asked him.

“North,” he said.

“Right. But are you just going straight home?”


“Okay. Just get a one way pass tonight, and tomorrow you can decide what you want to do about your old card.” I leaned against the Ventra terminal and watched him try to untangle a few sweaty, crumpled dollar bills.

“I’m totally getting hit on like crazy,” he said. “I don’t mind being hit on, I mean, I just don’t want to be raped tonight. Unless it’s by someone I know. Stay with me while I do this.”

I laughed and told him I’d stay. Between asking me for help and assuring me he knew “how this thing works,” we got enough buttons pushed for the machine to eject a plastic blue train card and we went on our way. Sure enough, we were heading in the same direction, and he seemed determined to make as much of his way back with me as he could.

At this point, it’s late. I’m exhausted from the fertility hormones I’m on, and feeling very… well, hormonal. But there was something about this guy that told me to stick it out with him. I only needed to ride the train for five stops before getting home. I’d never see him again. So I decided to give this stranger my full attention until geography dictated we part ways.

As we waited for the train to pull into the station, he kindly invited me to get a drink with him at the best gay bar in Chicago. But because I can’t drink on the hormone treatments, I declined.

“What,” he said. “Are you like on some program? Are you… uh…?” He waved his hand in a forward motion, and mouthed “Alcoholic?”. 

I laughed. “No. I’m donating my eggs to a couple trying to have a family.”

He looked at me seriously. “Can men do that?”

“Yes,” I said. “They can.”

“What if they’re positive? Can they wash the sperm?”

Ouch. “No,” I said slowly. “Not if they’re positive. You can’t wash it out of sperm.”

“That’s the thing,” he said, and his eyes quickly began spilling over with tears. “When you’re positive, none of your cells matter.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” I said. “You might not be able to – ” I stopped. I was going to say something placating, like, “You might not be able to sell them, but all of your cells matter to the people who love you!” Instead I just said again, “I don’t think that’s true.”

He shook his head drunkenly and reached a finger under his glasses, flicking away his tears. “Ever since my partner died, it just doesn’t matter.” He sniffed and paused. Then, “I have an attorney. For my landlord, because he comes up  behind me and – ” He lightly spanked my butt with his hand. “All the time.”

“Really?” I said. “What a creep.”

“Right. And because I don’t give in to his advances, he evicts me. But I have an attorney. But ever since my partner died, I don’t have a home. Friends say, ‘Where will you go next?’ and I say, ‘Don’t ask unless you’re going to take me in,’ because they don’t really care. Nobody really cares. My name is Danny, by the way.”

I told Danny my name. The train pulled in. We got on the train, and Danny spotted two seats next to each other. Just as another guy sat in one, Danny threw his thumb over his shoulder in a get-a-move-on kind of way. “We need those seats,” Danny informed him, and amazingly, the guy smiled and obliged. Danny and I squeezed in between a group of Loyola students. A small girl wearing a lot of dark blush and crunchy mascara sat next to me.

“Where is your family?” I asked Danny.

“Peoria,” he said. “But they gave me up a long time ago.”

I raised my eyebrows in question.

“They just didn’t want me. They gave me up. When my partner OD’d, my mother told me now I was laying in the bed I made.” More tears. He was talking very loudly now. For a moment, I felt embarrassed by Danny’s loud voice and gestures. Why? Because he talked loudly, and nearby strangers might think I was with him? Because somehow his actions reflected on me? I felt ashamed for being embarrassed of Danny and mentally chided myself. I turned and gave him my undivided attention.

“They gave me up because of who I am. But I’m the biggest activist you’ll ever meet in the world. And I fart a lot. I’ll go up to a family in Wal-Mart and just fart because I think it’s funny.” The group of Loyola students burst out in laughter.

“I don’t think you could make Wal-Mart smell any worse,” I said, “No matter how much you fart in there.”

“Yeah, well,” said Danny, and his chin began to quiver again. He wiped tears away from his left eye and commanded me to wipe his right, so I did. He said, “I told my friend. I told him, ‘Someday-‘” He stopped to calm his breathing. “‘Someday, Jesus is gonna give me a family. A family of my own.’ I love my German shepherd. But I want a family.” His shoulders shook as he bowed his head and cried. I put my arm around him.

“This isn’t happening,” he said. “I’m not crying. This never happened.”

“No, of course not,” I said. “But it’s okay if it did.” Danny nodded and wiped his eyes again.

We arrived at my station. I bid Danny and the Loyola students goodbye, and Danny yelled after me how pretty I was. I blew him a kiss and stepped off the train.

Phew. So just another crazy-train experience in Chicago. But here’s the thing.

Danny might have been drunk, but he isn’t crazy. He’s not morbid, or weird, or anything of the sort. His partner, who OD’d, wasn’t crazy either. People who OD do it because they’re addicted to drugs, and people who are addicted to drugs almost always lack a familial support network. Danny also lacked a familial support network. And, given just the small amount of life I’ve seen thus far, I’d confidently bet that Danny and his dead partner were rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation, and nothing but.

Some people are tired of hearing about this. They think it’s old news, that it’s been resolved, that it’s not their problem. I say fuck that. Because every day, all around you, are gay and lesbian individuals who are hurting because their family rejected them. I can’t count how many friends in college came out and were immediately forbidden from speaking to their little brothers and sisters. Whose parents cut off all financial and emotional support, who took back these kids’ cars, their furniture, their tuition, anything they could leverage to change something that cannot be changed. Some of these people fall into addiction. Some never recover.

You might think this isn’t your problem, but gay kids come from straight parents. If you think your kids won’t be gay, or it would never happen to you, think again. And then think about Danny, whose life is forever impacted by his family retracting their love and support. Danny, who is drunk on a train, crying to a stranger because the love of his life died of an overdose, and he’s lonely and confused and doesn’t know where to turn, even though his family lives less than three hours away.

LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. They attempt suicide because they think they are unworthy of love, and they learn that message from the people around them.

I always see those signs around the city, in giant letters, that say “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.” And I always think, No! Why is that there? Beauty is subjective. But the value of human life isn’t subjective. So send a different message – You have worth. You have value. Your cells matter.

I have to be up in five hours. G’night.

Vacation Ends, and a Word on Forgiveness

Dear Reader,

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Jackson, WY, next to my BF for lyfe, Leslie. We’re beginning our road trip back to Chicago today, and making a few fun stops on the way. I’m not telling you where we’re going, just in case you’re creepy and want to follow us, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be back in the Windy City by Thursday.

Pictured: Heffa and Beezy, together at last.
Pictured: Heffa and Beezy, together at last.


The family I nanny spends the month of July at a Jewish Summer Camp. I can’t overstate how much I miss them, and I’m so excited to see them when they get home next Sunday. But no matter how much one loves their job, one must get at least a little sad and nostalgic to bid the Fatherland goodbye and return to real life. Let me tell you a little about my trip.

On the way to Utah, I called my brother, Matt, and asked him to prep a bed for me. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Totally.” Great, thought I. I’ll actually have a place to sleep this time. Congratulating myself on thinking ahead, I sped forward along I-80, feeding myself and Lois our combined body weight in Cheetos, and listening to the Grapes of Wrath on CD.

When I arrived on Saturday afternoon, I was greeted enthusiastically. Lois immediately bullied the other dogs into submission, and I was pointed in the direction of my bed. My “bed,” as it turns out, was a carefully constructed row of three couch cushions on the floor, with a pillow placed on the northernmost cushion. “Um,” said I, “I’ll just take the couch.”

I basically spent the next two weeks on the couch, drinking Utah beer, watching Mad Men, and eating corndogs and other healthful foods prepared by the little bros. I did get off the couch for a few nights of rabble rousing with old college pals, and I went to a lovely wedding reception for my old ladyfriend Alexa. We all got good and drunk, shot a terrible game of pool, and talked late into the night. It was swell.

Growing up, my grandparents had a cabin in Island Park. It was built on a forest preserve, so Grandpa was always yelling at us for nailing forts out of the trees and trampling the grass down too much, but it was one of those building blocks for good kid memories. After we all came to live with my Dad, he began renting a cabin in Island Park every other year or so, and this year was a lucky year!

Thankfully, my family sees vacations the way that I do: an opportunity to sit on my ass, have a smoke with coffee in the morning while I appreciate the scenery, catch up on sleep, read, eat, drink beer, burn shit, and otherwise get fat. So that’s what we did. Sure, we went to Yellowstone, but Old Faithful is basically Old Hat after all these years. After our amazing-slash-awful hike to Union Falls a couple of years ago, we played it safe and preserved ourselves from overexertion in the form of aerobic exercise of any kind.

And then, like we do every time we go to Island Park, we drove down to Jackson, and blew way too much money on a once-a-year meal with such excellent food and wine that it nearly makes me weep just to think of it (I got roasted duck boob, and gnawed the bones of Dad’s Leg-o-Lamb. Cakebread Cabernet. Superior old fashioneds. Cue weeping).

So here I sit in the hotel room, slightly hungover, simultaneously dreading and looking forward to the drive home. It’s sure to be filled with me vehemently advocating for Bernie Sanders and Leslie listening patiently, even though she’s heard it all before. She’s a hell of a friend. I hope you all have a Leslie in your life.

On a more serious note, I got a message today from somebody I haven’t thought about for a very long time. It doesn’t do anyone service to tell the story here, but a long time ago, in college, I had a friend who did some awful things. Not just to me, but to everyone around them. Most, but not all, of these things came in the form of lies so big and fat that, in retrospect, it’s almost easy to chide myself for believing them. But believe I did, and when the facade eventually came crashing down, I invited this person in no uncertain terms to never involve themselves in my life again.

Then I unconsciously set about the process of forgiving him. It look a long time. Sometimes I could ponder on it, detached enough to wonder what would drive anyone to do the things he did. On those days, I felt pity and empathy, and sorrow. Other days, I was still so angry about everything that I had to distract myself just to keep my heart rate from skyrocketing. (Side note: About a year ago, I found a can of corn in my brother’s room that had a massive dent in the side. Apparently, in a fit of rage about this person’s obscene bullshit, I had thrown the can at the brick wall in the basement. It hit the wall so hard it dented halfway through the can and my brothers kept it, although I must say it hasn’t been an effective reminder to them about what happens when Lizrage breaks loose.)

The process of forgiving is a funny thing. You almost have to forgive yourself to forgive the other person – forgive yourself for hating them, for hating yourself for allowing yourself to be hurt by them, for going through the seemingly endless cycle of anger, hurt, resentment and still not quite coming out on the other side.

But, at some point, you realize that you’re not doing yourself any good by not letting go. You certainly aren’t getting back at them. And life continues to go on, regardless of what this person did. At some point, you realize that most of the time people hurt you, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. You begin to truly experience empathy for them. And then, maybe one day, maybe over the course of many days, you realize that you are breathing easy again. Thinking of that person doesn’t catch your breath painfully in your chest, and you don’t want to throw canned corn full-throttle at brick walls anymore. You’ve forgiven them.

So anyway, this person wrote to me to apologize and ask me to forgive them. And because I know you read my blog, person, and because I said some really awful things about you to a lot of people who read my blog, I just want to say that you are fully forgiven. You were a long time ago. I still think of you from time to time, wondering where you are and what you’re up to. Sometimes I’ve even asked mutual friends if they know anything about you. I’ve wondered if you’re alive, if you’re happy, if you’ve learned how to love yourself enough to be honest with everyone else. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever hear from you again, or whether you’d remain this occasional figure in the dusty vestiges of my alcohol-reduced college memories.

Everything that happened during that year was a period in both of our lives that caused huge amounts of growth (I guess I can’t speak for you, but it certainly pushed me to be better in ways I didn’t even know I needed to.) To not forgive you would be to forget all of the wonderful times we shared together – convincing other people that we weren’t in love, reading each others’ writing, eating ramen, bitching about Mormons, and drinking boxed wine into the night.

I Facebook stalked you a little bit. You’re married. You look amazing. I’m happy for you. And you are forgiven, you dumb little shithead.

Day The Last

Lois and I have been talking tonight. We’ve been doing that a lot this week, what with getting ready to move and reminiscing on our first home in Chicago – really, the only home Lois can remember. Because our conversations have been so touching and poignant, I thought I should share.

Stage: Me, sitting in bed, drinking wine. Lois laying on the floor, pointedly staring at my crotch area.

Lois: “You know, when we first moved here, you mostly ate Ramen and eggs when we were at home. I noticed because the only time I truly pay attention to you is when you’re eating.

Me: You’re a bitch, but you’re right. I didn’t have much money for a long time, although I had these fabulous friends who had me over for dinner here and there. I guess you missed that.

Lois: That makes you the bitch. Where were my leftovers? Anyway, those friends donated a lot of furniture, which I promptly chewed. I guess that’s justice and democracy in our modern world for you.

Me: Fair enough. Have you seen the stairs at the new place? You know, the ones that lead from the downstairs to our new bedroom, that are really steep and twisty?

Lois: Yes, and I have to say, I feel like it’s a plot to keep me out of the bedroom. I should also say that, in all honesty, I think Ulises put you up to this. I like that guy, but I hate how he keeps me from sleeping in the bed. You’ll probably despise me for this, but Christ, you’ve lost a lot of backbone with him. You know?

Me: Uh-huh. I could blame him, but you’re right. I acquiesce to his requests. Your dander makes him stuffy, and you can sleep on the floor. He can’t.

Lois: Debatable. There’s these things called Benedryl and Kleenex. Also, when you guys are having fun wrestling and jumping around and wiggling in bed, and I try to join in, and you seriously kick me away like I just peed on you? It’s extremely rude. And the floor is fine; you could at least talk to him about switching nights with me. Like joint custody, but more important.

Me: You can’t join us for coitus, Lois. No matter how much I love you.

Lois: *deep sigh* Aaaanyway…

Me: So. This is our last night here, you know. Just you and me.

Lois: Yeah. I think if I understood what was going on, I’d be feeling a little nostalgic. Instead, I’m just looking at all the stacked up boxes and feeling confused. Also, wondering if I could poop behind them and whether you’d notice.

Me: I’d find it eventually.

Lois: Yes, but you couldn’t punish me because by then I’d have no idea how it got there.

Me: Can we just focus on what’s going on right now? I’m really going to miss this place. I’m going to miss Rogers Park. I might cry.

Lois: Please do. I love to lick your salty tears.


Lois: What?! I’m going to miss it here too. I love running out into the lake, but not too deep, then into the tennis court, and the tracking all that shit into the house. But seriously, I love this neighborhood. I know I was born in Idaho and that we lived in Utah when I was but wee, but I can’t really remember that. I also can’t really remember yesterday, but that’s besides the point.

Me: You’re right. We sure have been through a lot together. You’ve really been there for me during some tough times, girlfriend.

Lois: Yup… … … Say, you haven’t got any food on you, have you?

Me: No.

Lois: Uh-huh. Okay. Well, I’ll tell you what. Take me with you to this new place. Feed me every night, and you might think about feeding me in the morning, but only if you want. Also, keep me around when you have kids. And sneak me scraps here and there. Even if I can get up those spiral stairs at first, pretty soon I’ll be too old and fat to get up there.

Me: Me too. My knees have really hurt a lot this week.

Lois: Here, let me stare at you to show you how sorry I am. Oh look, there blows a tumbleweed of my hair.

Me: The first chapter of our Chicago adventure is over, Lois. On to the new apartment. Oh – Did I tell you the new place has a washer and dryer? Also, a garbage disposal, a parking spot, and a dishwasher?

Lois: I’m going to sleep.

Me: I love you Lois. More than Chicago and dishwashers and parking spots. Basically as much as I love Ulises.

Lois: Food now, or it isn’t true. Can I just point out that he has yet to give you a foot massage, and yet I chew your feet through the blankets whenever you kick my face? Whenever you let me on the bed that is……. Where is that guy, anyway?

Me: Overseeing some structural changes at the new place.

Lois: Whatever. Goodnight…

… … … Can I get on the bed?

Me: Sure. Get on up here. Goodnight, Lois.

Lois: ZzzzZzzzZzzz

We Have Nothing To Hide – The LDS’s announcement on blacks and the Priesthood

A year ago, the LDS Church officially released a statement entitled “Race and the Priesthood.” Interestingly, although I follow trends in the Mormon community fairly closely, I just barely came across it. I’m sure it’s been discussed repeatedly by those who follow the Church more closely than I, but I find it interesting that there was been very little public discussion on the matter.

Interesting, not because I’m surprised at Mormons’ general lack of giving a shit about their shady history; interesting because, just as they did with the release on the information that Joseph Smith did practice intensive polygamy, the Church did it, as it were, in the dead of night. Quietly, with most of their constituency’s focus on Christmas and the lovely MoTab concert and the pretty Temple Square lights. If any Mormons paid attention, they’d surely forget it quickly.

The Salt Lake Tribune discussed the race publication it only a few days after its release. It took the Church-owned Deseret News six months to talk about it. In June, they finally published a ridiculously biased announcement – oops, I’m sorry, news article – that claimed LDS blacks and scholars cheered the release! In an excellently staged PR move, they gave a “special citation” to one light-skinned black man named Darius Grey, who helped write the Church’s piece. Translation: Taking a leaf straight from Fox News, the LDS Church picked a token black guy, had him help write the statement, and then gave him a fucking award for it. Well gee, if one of the people who helped write it was black, then it must be true! Yippee!

“How else could you feel but great?” That’s a quote from Don Harwell, president of the church’s Genesis Group for black Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. “They’ve renounced the silliness that blacks were fence-sitters and less valiant (in the premortal existence), all the things some members had used to justify the racism.”

Oh, right. All that trite silliness, which definitely wasn’t taught by the LDS Prophets and Apostles. Ahem:

“The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God… Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.” –Letter of the First Presidency, August 17, 1949

“A black skin is a mark of the curse of heaven…. We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white.” The Mormon Church’s Juvenile Instructor, vol 3, page 157

“The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord….The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing.” –Bruce R. McConkie, 1966

“Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures.” In his book he made clear that the contents were his opinion.” — Joseph Fielding Smith, 1935

“[t]he Negro is an unfortunate man. He has been given a black skin. But that is as nothing compared with that greater handicap that he is not permitted to receive the Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple, necessary to prepare men and women to enter into and enjoy a fullness of glory in the celestial kingdom.” — Apostle George F. Richards, Conference, 1939

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African Race? If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses

Okay. So we really don’t need to go on here. It is clear that the doctrine, whether official or no, of Mormon leaders has been racist – right up until the “restoration” of blacks having the Priesthood in 1978. But in their release, the modern Church suggests that the reason that the blacks didn’t have the Priesthood had nothing to do with poor guidance from the Lord. No, no, no, no. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege,” the Church says, and then goes on to quote the Supreme Court affording privilege only to whites.

So all that nonsense had simply to do with the times. That’s all. And by golly, if you can quote the Supreme Court as being complicit, well it really isn’t the Church’s fault, right?

I apologize for making no attempt to disguise my snarky attitude here. It’s just that, after years of racist policies, enacted by racist men claiming to be the mouthpieces of the Lord, the Church releases bullshit like this and expects that their sudden bout of honesty will make everything okay. There’s no apology. No quoting of Presidents past and asserting their wrongness. There’s no attempt to explain why God, in His all-knowing goodness and kindness, found himself bound by idiot sentimentalism of the time, rather than just being equitable from the very beginning.

No, in fact, they go in the exact opposite direction and quote how inspired they felt, how fucking hard the prophet and apostles in 1978 supplicated our Good God for the opportunity to change the doctrine. To quote Gordon B Hinckley: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren.” The Church wept for joy at the time of the change.

Yay! Here come the good, kind white people, sweating blood in their effort to share blessing of Eternal Consequence with blacks. It’s so sweet, isn’t it?

Maybe I need to take a break before I can write less heatedly on the subject. It might be a little easier if the Church didn’t sweep everything so easily under the rug and actually took ownership of their shitty behavior in years past. But they don’t, and they won’t. This is the closest they get: “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.”

So, there’s that. No apology. No refutation of former teachings. I’m sure this is just another one of those instances where, you know, these Prophets and Apostles are just men, after all. Even though they teach that “We will not and cannot lead you astray.” (That’s M. Russel Ballard just two months ago in General Conference).

Which is it, Mormons? Either your leaders are appointed mouthpieces of God and cannot lead you astray, or they were racist assholes who you should hold accountable and apologize on behalf of. You can’t have your caffeinated beverage, and drink it too.

Oh, wait. You can.