Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye. "Love you bro"

It's strange - How quickly everything can change while nothing changes all at the same time.

Sunday, BJ and I went fishing. We found a small lake about an hour away. It's not as good as my favorite spot, but it's a lot closer. A day trip is much more doable without two hours on dirt roads.

We had a great time. BJ caught two fish on his fly rod at the same time. That doesn't happen very often, and has never happened to either one of us before. We talked about stopping to get a picture of the Nudist Camp that is at the mouth of the canyon. It is always "Closed for Mosquitoes", and I felt all of my friends on Facebook needed to see it.

We also talked about stopping for a chocolate malt at the little shop in town.

We didn't do any of that. And we completely forgot about all of the fish we caught.

Just before we got to the nudist camp, both of our phones started going nuts. I had six text messages, two voicemails, and a Facebook message. BJ's brother, two of his sisters, his nephew, his niece, and all of them said to call them as soon as we could. It was an emergency.

BJ called his younger brother. We thought for sure something had gone wrong with his parents... his mom had fallen. His dad had hurt himself and had to go back in for surgery... maybe even something had happened to his nephew's little boy. X was born very premature, and even though he is two now, he is still barely ten pounds and has a lot of complications...

The real emergency didn't cross either of our minds.

I read it on Facebook... just as his brother told him... Their oldest brother had passed away in his sleep. His wife woke up this morning, and he wouldn't move or wake up. She called the ambulance, but he was already dead when they got there.

He is only thirteen months older than BJ. As kids, they were both very close and fought all the time. For the past few years, they've been really good friends. Matt was a huge support to BJ as he was leaving the church. (Matt left years ago.) Matt was a huge support as BJ was going through trying to work things out with his ex (before he left her), and then to support him through divorce. We've been out to visit Matt a couple times, and he's been here and stayed with us a few times. With Matt's support, BJ felt less alone. BJ felt abandoned by a lot of his family because he no longer believed in the LDS church and stopped going. Matt was a lifeline for him.

(Things are much better with all of his family now. It just took time for them to adjust.)

Matt was just here a few weeks ago. When he heard his dad was going in for heart surgery, he jumped on a plane. He didn't tell anyone except BJ he was coming. We picked him up at the airport, went to the hospital to visit their dad, and then he stayed with us for a few days before he went home.

As we were all leaving the hospital to take him back to the airport, he asked me to take a picture: all of the boys. (Three brothers and their dad.) If I had known that was the last time I would see him, I would have taken so many more pictures.


We talked about when BJ and I would come out again. We talked about his garden. We talked about his grand kids. He adored those kids, and those kids adore him. They were the world to him. He was proud to tell us how his four year old granddaughter woke up crying and made her mom call "Papa". He loved being Papa. He had just built a swingset in the backyard for all of them to play on - himself included (of course).

When Matt came to visit for their dad's surgery a few weeks ago, none of us would have ever thought it would be the last time any of us in Utah would get to see him.
We didn't know it, but it was one last time to swap stories about Todd. One last time to talk about his gardens and his grand kids. One last time to talk about the trip to Portland Todd and I would make, so we could play more "combat croquet" with Matt and his family. If we had known - I would have taken so many more pictures. I'm glad he came. I'm glad he wanted a picture with all the boys before he left, so at least I had this one.
I don't have the words to express the sadness I feel for Matt's wife, kids, grand kids, (Those little grand kids were the world to him.), siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, and friends.
He gave us a hug goodbye - told each of us he loved us, and thanked me for being so kind to his brother. He said he was glad to see (BJ) finally had a friend and companion. I smiled. Now when I think about it, I cry.

BJ and I have very few pictures of Matt. Almost every one came about because he said, "We need a picture before we go." I'm glad he was thinking about it.

"We need a picture of the four of us before we go." Almost every picture we have of Matt, came because he told us we needed one. I'm sure glad he was thinking of it as much as he was

Brothers.

BJ's kids came up Sunday evening to spend time with him. We had been planning to babysit the grand kids Sunday night and Monday, because their mom was being induced Monday morning. They stayed with us. They were super sweet.

J is eight, and he is a "mini me" of BJ. He told BJ it was okay to cry, and just hugged him while he cried. Then he said, "I know you miss your brother, but there are still a lot of people here that really love you."

Ke is nine, and he came and told me that J needs some time alone to comfort grandpa, but in a minute we could all go hug him.

Ka is 7, and she asked Grandpa to dance with her, and just kept trying to make him laugh.

I am glad they were there. When we finally got them to bad at midnight, and went to bed ourselves, we both just cried.

Next week we are going to visit Matt's family. Matt won't be there, and that feels surreal. How can we go there without seeing him? All of the siblings will be there. It's pretty rare to get all of them together at the same time, but one will be missing.

This is the first death I have had to process since leaving the church. This is also the first death BJ has had to process without an LDS belief system. He says in some ways it's easier... just being grateful for everything they shared. Feeling sad. And angry. And scared. And sad. Without trying to convince yourself that it isn't a really sad thing.


Matt was not religious. His wife and children were not religious. His parents and most of his siblings were very religious. His wife has decided to have a "Celebration of Life" party instead of a funeral. That seems much more fitting.

And just for the record:
I don't want the LDS style funeral. When I die, celebrate that I lived. I don't want it to be used as a chance to preach or proselyte. Don't make my death a "missionary opportunity". I understand funerals are for the living, and I doubt I will care when I am dead... but just in case I do care, tell funny stories about me. Talk about the things I did that drove you crazy. Talk about the things that I did that made you love me. And please have really good food. Salmon tacos from Rubio's with extra lime juice.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#secretfavoritefishingspot - Just what I needed

A few weeks ago, I wrote about helping with BJ's parents care. We all felt a little helpless about what to do. They need help, but they live far away. It takes a lot of time to care for them. They need it. Care costs money. (Whether it's us doing it, or we hire someone, and we were all feeling drained of resources.)

Good news. We found a couple sisters who live in the same (very small) town that BJ's parents live in. For a small wage - they will come in and take care of the things BJ's parents need. Since they are close, they can come in for an hour in the morning, leave, then come in for an hour each in the afternoon and evening. They also are willing to be "on call" and come in to help if there is an emergency.

The three siblings will still come in for a couple of a days a week, but that means that no one has to stay at the house and a few days a month is much better to manage than a few days a week.

So... all of that... just to say.... we didn't have to cancel our camping trip!
We have a secret favorite fishing spot that we love. For the past two years, we have gone camping at least once every summer. The season to get in is really short. (There is still snow there in July, and we got closed out in October last year.)

We also invited my sister and her husband to come up for a couple of days as well.

I was SO looking forward to the trip and feeling really depressed that it might not work out.
(How do you say, "I'm sorry. I can't help out so you can go to your son's wrestling tournaments and you can go to your one year cancer follow up appointment, because I need to go camping and fishing."? Also... by the way... BJ's sister one year cancer follow up gave her the ALL CLEAR. A year and a half ago she was making plans to just live out the rest of her short life as best she could. Modern medicine is amazing.)

Camping.
Setting up Camp
We got there Sunday. Set up camp.

Fished. Ate dinner. Fished.

Drove down the canyon to find my sister and her husband. Helped them set up camp. Slept. Woke up. Ate. Fished. Hiked. Fished. Mellen (my sister) caught her first fish ever! And even on a fly rod! Hiked. Ate. Fished. Hung out. Ate. Fished. Elliot (BIL) made dinner and he did a great job. They went home the next morning, and BJ and I spent the next day fishing.


Mellen and Elliot setting up their tent at 11 pm.



We hiked in to a smaller lake (about a mile in). BJ taught Mel and Elliot to fish a little bit.

She caught her first fish!
Playing in the lake with the dogs.

We wore Sadie (the dog) out. She was very ready to go home.

The four of us at the end of the trip.

Hot shower while camping. Brilliant.
I took a hot shower - in the heated shower that BJ had given me. (It was a birthday present in February, but this is the first time I've used it. EXCELLENT!)

We spent some time just hanging out and relaxing.



Once the dogs left, the chipmunks were out (stealing our food).


I wore out my magic fly. 100 fish (on the same fly) would do that.
We fished until well after dark. We both caught a lot of fish. (I was trying to keep track, but I kept losing count. I do know that from the time I said, "I can't hold it anymore. I'm going in to pee." until when I actually got off the lake to go pee, I caught sixteen fish. (That was thirty minutes max.)

The fish aren't big, but they are fun and beautiful. And a variety of trout.
Brook. Tiger. Rainbow. Cut Throat. Cut Bow

It was wonderful.

With all of the worries about work and BJ's parents and my family and his kids and life... I have felt pulled in many directions for the past few months. While camping, I was very present. The farthest my mind would wander was from the lake to the outhouse - 500 ft away.

It was just what I needed.

This weekend, we are back with BJ's parents, and then any day - BJ should be a grandpa again. His daughter is expecting her third child: a baby boy.

Next trip planned is to Yellowstone. My brother is in three plays there, and I CANNOT WAIT to see him.

Monday, July 7, 2014

#ObamaCare It actually helped me.

Several years ago, I wrote about the Affordal Healthcare Act. It had just passed, I didn't know how it would affect me. I was aware that I was the target market - the person that was middle class, without employer insurance, and couldn't afford to pay for it myself.

Some insurance companies have considered me uninsurable. Four years ago, I looked at buying insurance privately and found one company willing to cover me for catastrophic only: $800/month. That was just me, and that didn't cover any basic medical care. I decided if I was diagnosed with cancer or in a car accident, I would just have to accept I might not get care. And I definitely couldn't afford basic healthcare, so I just didn't go to doctors.

Life happened. I got insurance by being BJ's domestic partner through his work. (I should have written about the panic of signing that paper, but I didn't. Maybe I'll do an entry on it soon.) That helped a ton. I went to the dentist, got work done, had oral surgery, and even thought about getting a physical done. (Never happened. Not worth the emotional stress it caused.)

Then in April, he decided to leave his job. He wanted the time to work on his own business, and the only reason he stayed was because they offered him health insurance. They fired their CEO, and the new CEO decided that cutting insurance to part time employees would save them money. So, we went looking for new insurance.

"Obama Care" was in effect, and there was a public market place to find insurance.
Going through Utah, we couldn't get insured together, because we are not legally married. Utah doesn't have domestic partner laws, but the federal government does. Through healthcare.gov, we were able to get on a plan together.

Because pre-existing conditions no longer exist, and no medical exam needed to happen to get insurance, I found insurance for just me, fairly good coverage for $180/month. (MUCH cheaper than $800/month, and it covers well-check visits and has a deductible of $2000. I will probably never hit that, but if I did... $2000 is a doable amount for me to pay in a year.)

Based on my 2013 income, I qualified for some subsidies. Based on my projected 2014 income, I would have had to pay it all back, so I didn't use it. 

Our plan together is $350/month. Same coverage as the plan I found on my own, but a family deductible of $4000.

I don't know what will happen in the future. In the present, I have health insurance, and I am again considering getting a physical done. I've even looked up doctors covered by my insurance and called a few to "interview" them. (Ain't nobody sticking their hand up there if I don't feel VERY comfortable before hand.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Feeling helpless - feeling triggered

A couple months ago my life and my summer plans took an interesting turn.
We had big plans for camping trips, fishing trips, horseback riding, etc. We weren't going anywhere extravagent - I just bought a new car. BJ just bought a new truck. We were planning on doing a lot of grand adventures, just close to home adventures.

Then BJ's dad had to have open heart surgery. (A quintuple bypass!) BJ's dad has been the full-time caregiver to BJ's mom. She can't walk and can't do anything for herself. BJD (BJ's Dad) was beside himself with worry about what would happen to BJM (BJ's Mom). The three kids in the area decided we would take shifts and stay with the parents to make sure they were taken care of.

Because BJ and I have to get work done during the week, our shift is the weekend. Basically, for two months, I have either been working or at BJ's parents. We took the horses out a couple of times, but they've had to be fast evening rides. We went fishing for an hour. We had his grandkids come to the house to play for a couple hours, and then had to go back to work after they left at 8pm.

It's been hard to have life plans changed, and not be able to go on our riding, camping and fishing trips. (And to know that we are going to have to cancel all of our plans for the rest of the summer too.) It sucks a bit, but also... not a big deal. I'd like to write about how this has triggered old thoughts and patterns in me.

BJ's mom is diabetic and very obese. Her dietary needs are very restrictive: Low calorie, low carb, and we have to count and keep track of everything she eats.
My dietary needs are very different. Higher calorie, high protein, and a really bad idea for me to keep track of everything I eat.
How do you match both of those at the same time? I can't keep track of what she eats without also keeping track of what I eat. If I eat when she is not eating, it's hard on her. (Probably in the same way it is hard for me to eat when she isn't eating. We are opposite ends of the same disorder. I feel bad for needing food. She feels unloved when she doesn't get food.)

I knew that would be hard for me. I compared it to an alcoholic having to poor drinks for everyone else in the room: totally doable, but difficult.

I also knew that without a compelling reason to do old behaviors, the triggers wouldn't be enough... I needed an eating disorder in the past, because my thoughts, my life, my existence were all incredibly painful. I needed an escape, and took the only way I knew "out" - at least until I didn't need it anymore and I found other ways to get my needs met.

I have to be here. I can't leave. My body is needed to lift and move and help. They also need me to appear emotionally and mentally strong. No matter what I am feeling - I need to get the work done. AND this is hard. I haven't wanted to be here. I've wanted an out - or some sort of emotional release.

Eating disorders are a way to get an emotional release. An out.

As I've talked to friends who have struggled with their own eating disorder, they have been compassionate and also said, "Remember you have to take care of yourself or you will be of no use to them."

That is when I realized, part of the trigger is that if I don't take care of myself, I don't have to take care of anyone else. I feel sad and selfish knowing that THAT is one of the reasons I feel triggered. I also understand it makes sense... I'm not so good at establishing boundaries for myself. I struggle to say what is too much, and I feel like I should give until I am dead. With that underlying belief, it makes sense to hurt myself so that I won't have to give as much.

One of the big pieces of eating disorder (and probably most addiction) recovery is recognizing the needs it fulfills, and then find a new way to have those needs met. I'm tired and I can't give as much as I have been asked to give (and be healthy).

BJ and I sat down and talked to his sister a few days ago. (Incidentally, she is the same place. She can't keep going like this without damaging her health.) BJ's dad has been doing this for years... no wonder his heart has finally said, "NO MORE!"

Sadly, there are not many resources for people who don't have money. I know what it's like to need more help, but have no resources to get that help. BJ's mom needs a lot of care.

Will she have to go to a rest home?

How will we pay for a rest home?

What happens now?

Do all of us sacrifice our health to help her? How long?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

#OrdainWomen It Feels Personal

On the topic of Ordain Women. I'm angry and hurting, and trying to figure out where the emotions are coming from and why.
 
It feels personal. Every attack on Kate Kelly and to some extent John Dehlin feels personal: like I am the one they are talking about. 

Up until a couple weeks ago, I had followed Ordain Women, but didn't really care to add much to the conversation. Be compassionate. Understand what they are saying and don't jump to your conclusions about what they want or who they are. I didn't feel the need to share my own feelings or even have my own feelings. 

Today, I am so angry and upset, I hurt. I feel sad for Kate. She will probably be excommunicated tonight. The process seems unfair for a woman who loves the church and wants to be a part of it as much as she does. I feel like I must mention her, even though my pain really has nothing to do with Kate any more. 
 
Like I said. It's personal.

I understand that not every Mormon woman is oppressed and voiceless. There are many women who are very happy with the way things are. AND the current system is definitely a breeding place for a voiceless and oppressed woman to get her start. It's where I learned to be voiceless. It's where and how I learned that it was okay to abuse and use me, and there was nothing I could do about it. And I can't help wondering how different my life would have been if the system was different. 

If women had the priesthood and were taught they were equal in authority... The night with Johnny, the Elder's Quorum president, would have gone differently. I did nothing that night, because I believed I had no right. 

If women had the priesthood and were taught they were equal in authority, my marriage to Larry would have been so different. 

Recently, on a Facebook page someone posted a picture of black men in the fifties and compared Ordain Women to civil rights. There was some backlash saying, "They aren't even close to the same thing. A few women wish they could bless their child compared to men and women that were beaten and raped."

Maybe for some, it is just a desire to bless a child, but the inequality runs much, much deeper than that. For me. If I had had the priesthood and been told I was equal to my husband, rather than being reminded of my temple covenants to obey my husband... I can't even finish the thought. If there had been women leaders. If there had been more than the bishops that gave me fucked up advice. If I had had a voice and authority. If I hadn't believed all of the stupid shit about men and women and their roles. 
 
The story of inequality for ME included being beaten and raped. It included being voiceless, powerless, and feeling "less than". The inequality nearly killed me. 

I don't know for sure how different it would have been, but I know it would have been different. I have had to completely deconstruct my entire belief system, and that changed me. I am different. (I'm still deconstructing old beliefs and changing myself, but I can imagine how different it could have been.) If I had been taught and believed women had just as much authority and right to their own authority, I would have protected myself. 

So, everyone that talks about why Kate Kelly should shut up.... It feels personal. It feels like they want ME to shut up and take whatever the men in my life had to offer. All in the name of God.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I really appreciate that he asks

BJ and I have lived in the same house for a while. We are "in a relationship". (It's official. It's on Facebook.) In my mind, being in a relationship was difficult to get to for many reasons, but one BIG reason was the loss of myself.

Basically, deep down I hold the belief that I have no right to my body, my wants, my desires, my possessions, because I have to give them up and sacrifice for my significant other.

Of course BJ doesn't want that for me, and since he generally holds the same belief for himself (HE has to sacrifice everything in order to make his significant other happy, or else he isn't a good man.) We're pretty funny together.

Today, we were both at work. I had driven my car. He had to go home to meet the farrier. (Horses are getting new shoes... as we speak!) I decided to stay at work and get some things done. I assumed he'd take my car, but as he was leaving, he asked if it was okay.

I felt confused... OF COURSE it is okay. How else was he going to get home?

But the truth is, I'm really glad he asks. I'm really glad he doesn't assume he has a right to my stuff. I can't picture myself ever saying no to him. (He says I should test this out sometime, but I can't see it happening any time soon. Not even as a test to see how he handles me telling him he can't use something of mine, but... anyway...)

Even if I still don't believe I have a right to tell him "no", I appreciate that he acts as if it might be an option.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Far Between: Me!

I can't remember when exactly I did the interview with Kendall at Far Between. More than a year ago... It felt cathartic to tell my story, and to see how people responded in the moment to my heartbreaks and sadness and to the hope and peace I'd found.

Today, they have the edited interview up to view.
Here it is:



You can also visit their page here: http://farbetweenmovie.com/jennifer/


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fishing Part II: The adventure

I just got back from a week long camping/fishing excursion with BJ, Brad, and Ben. I wrote about my desire to go, and the excitement of going last month.

Unfortunately, I was silly and didn't check the batteries in my camera so the only camera I had was my cell phone - and I didn't have a charger for that, so I turned it off most of the trip. Which (bummer!) means I don't have very many pictures.


We had a special guest on our flight to Seattle. In 1969, a pilot was declared MIA. Last year his remains were found in Laos, and they were sending his remains back to his family.
There was a water cannon salute as we landed in Seattle. (Fire hoses spraying over the top of the plane. I'm glad I knew beforehand what was going to happen - otherwise the firetrucks, police cars, and water spraying at the plane would have been unnerving.)
We stayed in our seats while the Air Force officers got off the plane and then accompanied the body out to the waiting family. I can only imagine how it must have felt to get that phone call. "Your son (husband, brother, dad, friend) has been missing for 45 years, but we found him. We can tell you a little bit about what happened to him."

The fire cannon salute followed by the firemen and other officers saluting as the hearse came to pick up the soldier's remains.
We got off the plane, got on a train, and rode into downtown Seattle. We met Brad at the train station. We walked through downtown Seattle, carrying our fly rods, on May Day. (Apparently May Day is a big deal and there have been riots in Seattle there every year for a long time. We found out when we got back that the police presence seemed to quell the desire to riot enough that nothing happened this year.)

We met Ben at his office, jumped in his truck and drove to "The Ford".
It was a rather bleak looking place at first. Dry, sagebrush and rock covered ground. The campsite was a parking lot with an outhouse. Just over the hill was a huge spring fed stream with BIG rainbow trout in it.

Besides the fish, I saw a rattle snake (coiled and rattling at me - about two feet from my leg. And I stood there trying to turn my phone on in the hopes that I could get his picture. He turned and slithered away before it came on... Dangit.)
Muskrat. They're funny little critters.
Turtles. Swimming in the water. I thought they were rocks at first, but they were swimming. Then one came to the surface about five feet away from me.
Frogs, Toads, Bullfrogs. Mostly I heard these more than saw them.
Pelicans - both brown and white ones.
Many other birds, bugs, and small critters.

We fished for about four hours that night. I might have gotten a couple hits. (Fish nibbling on the fly), but I didn't see them. Everyone else kept fishing long after the sun had gone down, but I don't know how. I couldn't see a dang thing!
Sunset was spectacular. Brad's "super tent" is in the corner.
We camped for two days, and spent the time fishing, talking, eating, laughing, and just being. Both Ben and Brad are smart funny. It has been a long time since I have laughed that hard for that long.

In the two days at the Ford, BJ caught one. I caught one. Brad caught four. Ben caught two. Brad and Ben are used to the fishing having much more catching involved. Lucky for me, there are lots of things I enjoy about fishing, catching is only one of them.

We also did a guided float trip down the Yakima River. (Two people per raft, two rafts, two guides. The guides do all the work: rowing, tying flies on, keeping line straight, and telling us where to put our flies in the water.) BJ out fished everyone by a lot, but everybody caught some, and it was a great day.

The four of us on our lunch break. (For the record, Ben reminds me of David Spade. They look a little bit similar, but the way he tells stories... if he wasn't a brilliant engineer, he could totally be a comedian.)
The scenery was beautiful. The company was great. We switched around boats, so part of the time Ben and I were in a boat together, part of the time BJ and I were together, and for a very short time Brad and I were in a boat together. I loved that BJ and I weren't expected to be together the whole time. I liked being able to just go wherever and do whatever.

BJ had caught six or seven before this one, but this is the first one I saw him land.

This was a screenshot of a video I was taking. I LOVE this face... and the bend in his rod, and you can see the strike indicator hovering above the river. Unfortunately, the fish got off. (The guide couldn't find a place to pull over and accidentally put BJ into a tree...)


 After the trip, we went to "Praise the Lard" which is what Ben and Brad call their favorite restaurant. (I think it's real name is Cottage Cafe.) The hash browns are to die for. The french toast and strawberry jam were pretty darn good too.

We had planned on camping one more night, but we ended up going back to Brad's house and staying there instead. That gave us a chance to visit with Brad's wife.

After an amazing breakfast cooked by Brad, we went to the MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) in Seattle. The museum has several exhibits, and we saw only a few of them.

We spent most of our time in the Timeline: a history of people in Seattle, which is really the history of people in the US. I love history. I read a lot of books about history, and it was cool to see all of the "stuff" they had displayed: old diaries and journals, games and toys, propaganda pictures, (a copy of) the treaty of 1855 between several of the Native tribes and the US Government, etc.

There was a Revealing Queer exhibit... which left much to be desired. I know you can't put everything in to a small exhibit, but they left out a lot. (If you're going to define Queer as anyone that doesn't fit normal sexual identity, you should probably mention (at least) pansexual, asexual, etc... but the pictures were cool, and it was interesting to see the timeline of change.)

My favorite part of the exhibit was a wooden plaque where they asked people to use post-it notes to share the issues they are dealing with. They had another one that asked people to use a word to describe their identity, but that one was less powerful for me.

After the museum, Brad dropped us off at the airport, and we flew home.

Walking through the airport with fly rods is a different experience. People stop and talk to you about fishing - even people who don't fish asked us about where we were going, what we were fishing for, and that somehow went into conversations about work or family or horses.

Sitting in the Seattle Airport - the end of another grand adventure.

It feels good to be home and to be back to work, AND I can't wait for our next adventure: Camping in Moab with BJ's sister and her husband. And then we are going to Yellowstone to see my brother in plays (and to fish and explore of course). And we're going fishing, camping, hiking, riding, all over the place this summer. AND BJ's daughter is expecting a baby boy, so BJ will have another grandson (his third). And... probably a whole bunch of other things I have forgotten.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Fishing with the guys. Part I. To feel included

I just got back from a week long camping/fishing excursion with BJ, Brad, and Ben. I wrote about my desire to go, and the excitement of going last month.

I was going to tell you all about the fishing and the grand adventure, but I'm going to start with the therapeutic part of the trip.

Our first night, we set up camp and then went fishing. We were on the river until 9, then Brad made dinner, and we (eventually) went to bed. We'd arranged the cots so that BJ was next to me and between me and Ben and Brad. I was in the corner, because that's where I felt safest.

Everyone else went to sleep. I did not. I heard them breathing deeply, snoring slightly. I heard them all get up to pee. I listened to the frogs. I listened to the other critters scampering around the campsite. About the time the frogs stopped and the birds started, I fell asleep. About an hour after that, the sun came up. I stayed and tried to sleep a bit longer, but it didn't work out as well as I would have liked...

We spent all day fishing, and the next night tried sleeping again with no luck.
(I wasn't sleeping, because every time one of them moved or breathed, my entire body would tense up. Every time I started to fall asleep, my brain would say, "WE'RE NOT SAFE! WAKE UP!" and I would be wide awake again.)

We got up and spent the morning fishing, but the sun was intense, and I was tired. I tried to rest, but the hyper-vigilance that kept me up at night wouldn't let me rest during the day either.

Something else started going screwy with my brain too. I was sure they didn't want me there. I was taking all the good fishing spots, and I was in the way. I'm aware that lack of sleep makes me emotionally vulnerable, but it is REALLY hard to enjoy fishing when you believe you don't deserve to be on the water, taking up space, and nobody wants you. I was doing everything I could to fight the crazy thoughts, but I was losing.

In the tentative plans for the trip, we had talked about going to a play in town that evening, and maybe staying in a hotel that night. None of us were super excited about going to the play. (There were fish down there, and no one had caught enough yet!) BJ suggested we still break camp and go into town to get a hotel room.  His reason being that he wanted me to get sleep before the next day of adventures.


I was uncomfortable. I had made grand plans to take care of myself, but when it came right down to it... I didn't want to inconvenience anyone. I didn't want to talk about me. I didn't want them to do things for me or to help me.

We sat and talked for forty-five minutes. There was only one room available at the only hotel in town. While I think being in a bed would have helped - being in a bed in a room with two men seemed to be causing as much anxiety as being in the tent.  Ben and Brad were trying to be helpful to me, but I wasn't expressing myself well... I told them that I wasn't comfortable with all of the sounds, and although I knew I was safe, I was having a hard time feeling safe around them because they were men, but I didn't want them to feel bad...


Finally, BJ just said, "Jen was violently raped in her sleep. She has a hard time feeling safe when she's starting to fall asleep because it takes her right back to what happened back then."

Instantly... they said, "You guys will go into town and sleep in the hotel. We'll stay here and camp. We'll come pick you up in the morning. No big deal."

I cried. Brad gave me a hug and apologized for not being more sensitive. I tried to explain to him that wasn't what I was feeling. They were all great, but I didn't want to even be worrying about it. I felt like a failure that I wasn't sticking it out. I wasn't strong enough, and I couldn't handle camping. I also felt sad, because I was enjoying being there... and it sucks that something that happened fifteen years ago is still fucking with my life.

We got back to fishing. I finally caught one fish. Brad thanked me for taking care of myself. Ben said he was sorry that I had ever been through such fucky shit. (And I got to use my favorite joke, "Or just really shitty fucking.") He laughed, and then said he felt bad for laughing. We ate dinner after dark, and cleaned up what we could before we left Brad to do the dishes and Ben drove us into town.

I took a shower, and I slept.

They came and picked us up and we went fishing. Nobody treated me with kid gloves. They didn't treat me any different at all. I still felt like I belonged, and I was part of the group. I REALLY appreciated that Ben was already planning next year's adventure, and maybe the year after that. 

As we said goodbye, Ben gave me a hug and told me he was really glad I had come... and that he was looking forward to our next grand adventure. Brad said he was really glad I was there, and we'd get together again soon.

I cried again. I had honestly thought they wouldn't want me to come back, because it was such a burden to have to deal with me and all my problems.
The four of us on the Yakima River.


It was really nice to spend time with guys that were just nice, normal guys. And to feel included, even though I'm a girl. Even though I have issues. Even though I was once raped, and I still have to deal with side effects of that. Words just can't quite describe how loved I feel, and how much safer the world feels today.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

what do you Really want?

Ordaining Women has been all over my Facebook, the news, blogs, etc. My family and friends all have opinions, and very few of them agree completely on the issue.

Last week, I wrote about how I left the church because it was an abusive relationship for me. I could stay and try to change the church to be better for me, but it's not my responsibility... and the trouble with trying to change someone (or something) that I have no control over - it just doesn't go well. They don't want to be changed, they feel resentful that I am trying to change them, and who am I to decide who they should be anyway?

On a completely different note, I have had a temporary tattoo on my right arm for a year. It wears off and I replace it. Not many people have seen it, because even though it reminds me of a goal I am working on, (Still. After a year.) I am embarrassed that I am working on it.

You might think I am embarrassed, because this is a goal I have been working on for a year, and I haven't made much progress, but you'd be wrong. This is how much of a struggle this is for me. I am embarrassed to be asking myself that question. A "good" person doesn't worry about what they want. A "good" person only thinks about what everyone else wants and needs, so I don't want anyone to know that I am constantly reminding myself to think about my own wants.

Six months ago, I watched the videos of the women asking for what they wanted - to be let into a meeting. A few days ago, I watched as they gathered and asked again. There weren't as many cameras there this time, but a few still caught the conversations. They asked for what they wanted. They still didn't get in, but they asked.

I've believed that even wanting something... anything... was bad. Asking is annoying and wrong and selfish. A good person doesn't do that. A good person doesn't HAVE wants, let alone ASKS... But these women belong to a church that is entirely based on asking questions. Over and over and over the church has changed because someone asked a question. Why shouldn't they be asking?

And whether they ever get what they want doesn't feel like the point today. Today, I think it must be an incredibly powerful feeling for them to ask; to hear the words spoken in their own voices. To feel supported by other women and men who care. To feel connected, even in a small way, to the woman that turned them down and asked them to listen online.

Watching them has motivated me. If I do nothing else, at least I am writing here and showing off my tattoo. I'm telling you all how hard it has been, and continues to be. I'm sharing with anyone who reads this that I am reminding myself everyday to think about my wants. Maybe one day I'll get around to asking for more too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finally driving a Subaru or "How is that like your life?"

I bought a new car.
It's pretty.

The roof doesn't leak. It isn't held together by duct tape. The windows stay up when I want them up, and go down when I want them down. It has a radio, and I can listen to it. There's even a CD player that doesn't have a CD stuck in it permanently. It has a cigarette lighter that I could plug something into if I wanted. It goes uphill with very little effort, and gets up to 60 MPH faster than 60 seconds. It also has cool features like all wheel drive, it connects to my phone through blue tooth, it has paint on the outside, and it fits more than just me comfortably.

I've wanted an SUV type car since I was 16 - something I could take to go on adventures in the mountains, but would also work around town. I have been looking at Subaru's and specifically Foresters for a year and a half, but my little duct-tape-Nissan kept passing safety inspection, so I kept driving it. I paid cash for that car fifteen years ago. I admit I didn't take very good care of it. I rarely washed it. I changed the oil every 6000 miles (maybe). It was held together by duct tape. I put more than 180,000 miles on that car. I had several friends pushing me to get something nicer, newer, safer, etc., but I felt like as long as it drove, I didn't NEED anything else.

About six months ago, I realized I WANTED something else. I checked out Subaru's everywhere I went. I read the specs on gas mileage and other functions of the car. I researched how often they broke down, what broke down, and how expensive they were to fix. I knew what colors they came in, and what year the body style changed.

In December, there were several good snow storms that made it impossible for me to get my Nissan out of the driveway. With the slippery roads, I missed a few orchestra rehearsals because I didn't feel like driving down the mountain.

My uncle has a dealer's license and goes to auctions to buy cars. I told him what I might be looking for a year ago, but in January I told him I was serious. Only two Foresters came to the auction in the next two months, and they both went above what he thought they were worth.

BJ's sister bought a Forester. I drove it from Montana to Utah for her when they moved back here, and I loved it.
My sister-in-law bought a Forester, and that just made me want one more.

On Pi(e) Day (March 14), I went with BJ to look at a new truck for him. We were supposed to go to my brother's house for pie that evening, and we had an hour to kill. So... BJ suggested we go "just to see what was available" at the Subaru dealership.

They had three used Foresters. A 2011, a 2012, and a 2014.
The 2011 and the 2012 were really nice, but out of my price range... but the one with only 2000 miles on it... was really close to what I wanted to spend. I fell in love with it.

I walked away. We got in BJ's truck and drove away.
As we were leaving the parking lot, I said, "I really like it. I want it."
"Then why are we leaving?"
"Because... I don't NEED a new car. I don't need one that is that nice. I have a car and it works. What if people think I'm greedy and entitled and selfish? Or what if they think I'm stupid for even trying to qualify for a loan on a car that nice? Or... I guess you could say I'm scared out of my mind, but I want it."

The old (in front) and the new (in the back) and BJ (in between).
And so... he turned around... and I bought a car.
I entirely missed Pi(e) Night.

And then I had two days of mental break down. TWO DAYS where I felt so guilty for spending money on a car that I didn't need. TWO DAYS where I almost couldn't function because I didn't deserve it and it wasn't okay. TWO DAYS where I kept considering taking it back, because I was comfortable in my old Nissan that was held together by duct tape.

Then a funny thing happened, I was driving somewhere.... Down the canyon that I live in. There's a hill. It's not super steep, but it is long enough that my old car really struggled to get up it. By the end, I was always at least ten miles under the speed limit, and that was if I hit it speeding. This time, it had no problem, my new car just breezed right up the hill.

I started to cry. Only this time, it wasn't out of guilt or shame for buying the car, I felt happy. I never knew it could be that easy, so I lived with less for a long time. I had no idea how good it could be.

That's when I heard the voice of a past therapist whispering inside my head, "And how is THAT like your life?"

I put up with a lot, because I never knew anything better was even possible.
And now, I am enjoying having a really nice car that is perfect for me.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Going fishing with the guys

I was invited to go on a four day fishing trip. I will be the only girl there. We will be camping and sleeping in a tent, fishing during the day, and I am really excited.

And nervous. A long time ago, I was raped in my sleep. Many times.
My nights are a million times better than they once were, but I still have nightmares occasionally and night terrors fairly often, and a tent with four other men could be incredibly problematic for me.

I've been invited before, but didn't go, because I was afraid of trying to sleep.
This time, I decided to do it differently.

I talked about what my nights are like. I asked for some accommodations that will make my trip more fun. We talked about sleeping arrangements. We talked about how they can help if I do have nightmares or night terrors. (BJ will be there, so I told them to just trust him.) I also promised to take care of myself - which means if I don't sleep at nights, rest during the day.

I feel guilty - that somehow I am a burden on my friends.
My friends have insisted that they want me there, and what seems like a huge deal to me is really no big deal to them.

The trip is six weeks away, but I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ordaining Women and Abusive Relationships

I want to tell you all about my new car, but I'm going to hold off... Ordaining Women has been all over the news this past week. Between their plan to go to the Priesthood session of General Conference again, and the church's news release, I can't really get away from it.

I've left the church.

I came to the conclusion that I was in an abusive relationship with the organization.
They told me who to be, how to act, what to think, what to do, where and how I could spend my money, my time, my talents. They told me I was worthless without them, and they also told me I could never leave. I was miserable with their control. I was miserable with the way they spoke of and treated women. Every practice in the church is sexist, even though much of it falls under benevolent sexism, it is still a very sexist organization.

I have friends who felt the way same way I did, and rather than leaving, decided to stay. They were going to do their best to change the organization from the inside. My therapist told me that I shouldn't leave, but I should stay and work to change the church. He believed it needed changing, and no one would listen to me if I was an "angry ex-Mormon".

I thought about staying. I thought about enduring the pain they caused, so that I could maybe make them into something else. But... I realized it is not the victim's job to change her abuser. Most abusers will resent you trying to change them. Just because I don't like the way I am being treated, doesn't give me the right to try and change someone else. And in the end, I have zero control over changing someone else anyway. One of the biggest things I had to learn, was that I was not responsible for someone else abusing me. I can't change them - the only thing I can do is get myself out of harm's way. Often, that means leaving the relationship.

So I left the church. I walked away from the abusive relationship that we had. I decided the church could continue to be just how it was. I would continue to be just who I am. And we just wouldn't be in any sort of relationship with each other.

It was terrifying to leave. I was afraid of losing my family and friends. Everyone I knew and loved believed that the church was true. As far as I knew, they also believed it was better that I died a member than if I lived as an ex-member. (Luckily, I was very wrong.) My whole life was wrapped up in the belief system I had been taught since birth. How do you walk away if you've been told you're evil/deceived/of the devil for even thinking about it? I'm pretty lucky that things turned out as well as they did, but I don't think most women (or men) are as lucky as I am.

They might be unhappy with the current policies, practices, and even doctrine, but they don't have a lot of options.

They can leave and chance losing everything: their family, their community, their friends, their spiritual home, their belief system, their faith, their whole life.

They can stay, and try to force themselves to be what the church tells them to be.

Or, they can stay and try to change things from within. They can ask questions. They can push to have their stories be told. They can write books and blogs and do newspaper interviews and hope that it will do some good - if not for them in their lifetime, maybe for their daughters or even grand-daughters.

Mostly, I think it's a futile effort. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. But their fight makes my heart ache and my insides churn.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A waterpark in January! (This is my kind of work.)

We took a business trip to Phoenix last week. Phoenix, AZ - and 70 degree weather. So, we decided to take a few extra days traveling, and we had a lot of fun.

We went hiking and fishing on the way down. Then we got to the hotel, set up our booth, played in the water park, went shopping, read (sitting by the pool in the sunshine). That evening we had a "social" for everyone at the trade show.

There was excellent food, a hot air balloon ride, a beer-toting-donkey, "old west" pictures, s'mores, a huge telescope (we looked at Jupiter and got a very short astronomy lesson), Native American dancers and drummers, donuts, and sitting around the campfire.

The trade show went great for us. I couldn't have written orders any faster - more than thirty new accounts in five hours. BJ's son came to help just as everything was slowing down, then we went out to dinner with BJ's son, daughter-in-law, and adorable 1 year old granddaughter. (They moved to AZ just recently.)

We drove on the Carefree Hwy, through NOTHING, visited the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade, visited BJ's sister, and finally had lunch with my brother before getting all the way home.

I could get used to playing in water parks and taking hot air balloon rides as part of my work.
(And now a photodump.)

It turns out, my camera has a function that I can do remote viewing with my iPhone. I took this picture - the camera was just sitting on a rock, I posed it, focused it, and TA DA!

Nat was an awesome guide. I didn't notice this in the moment, but BJ pointed out that Nat spent more time guiding me than she did him. She put me on all the fish first, and him second. I have been out with guides many times with BJ... usually, it's just the opposite. They all put BJ on the fish first and make sure he catches the most fish, and I am an after thought. Although I feel like I should feel bad, I loved the time she took to teach me and help me.

FLOWERS! In January. I needed that.

Sun. Books. I needed that too.


 Hot air balloon ride. It was cool looking over the Scotsdale Valley.

S'mores!




A quick selfie of us all before we got back on the road. (My brother just moved to Southern Utah to go to school. SUPER excited for the experience he is getting there, and I miss him. A lot.)

Even the bathrooms are beautiful in a place like this.

Us. On the river. With our boat. And huge red cliffs behind us. (This is one of my favorite places. I love it here.)


These are the only fish pictures we took. My last fish of the day.
BJ's last fish of the day.
 

Macro lens = extra awesome fish picture.

A waterpark in January. (Just enjoying the lazy river.)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Time for horses to teach me something new

I've been reading the book Nature in Horsemanship by Mark Rashid. (Thanks Mellen and Elliot! Merry Christmas to me!!) He has an entire chapter about the importance of protecting yourself. He talked about a woman who let her horse run her over, because she didn't want to make him mad at her.

I've never been run over by my horse... but... I have been called "fearless" when I didn't move out of his way while he was running at me. He stopped in front of me, and I wasn't hurt. But I was lucky.

I have made grand improvement from my first day on the horse. I was willing to sit on his back, but I didn't dare touch the reins, because I was afraid of hurting him. I didn't want to be bossy or controlling or tell him what to do. I now have no problem touching the reins or asking him to do some things (like not run me into a tree, or to climb a mountain with me on his back, etc.)

Sunny has taught me a lot. That horse has been the best therapist to me, and he has played a huge part in my recovery**. Besides all that he has taught me, he has taken me all over the mountains. There are very few trails that are within driving distance that we haven't been on and all over. We have done a lot together. And lately, I can tell we are stagnating. Reading the book, I can see where we (and by we, I mean me) are stuck. I'm still afraid of hurting him... so I haven't worked with him more.

Eventually, I want to adopt a Mustang. I want to gentle wild horses. I love watching people with their Mustangs, because I know the relationship they have to build with their horses. I know how hard it is to convince a horse to do things like crossing streams or climbing mountains or standing still. I want to do that, but I'm afraid.

I also recently wrote about how my fear of hurting BJ drives me. I definitely never want to hurt him AND I don't want to be motivated by fear.

Sunny taught me that it was okay to trust another being. And now, it's time for me to learn that it is okay to ask for... and to expect... and to want... and to need... from another being. I think Sunny (and BJ) will be great partners for these lessons, but I don't think they can teach me the way I want.

I'm lucky to be surrounded by equestrian centers. I live in a teeny tiny town in Utah, but there are at least four HUGE private arenas with trainers in every area of horsemanship you could want. There is also a public arena and trainers that will meet you there.

This morning, I called one of the local trainers. I've met him before, and I like his style. I can't afford him, but I can afford to be a working student at his place. I told them that I hoped to work with Mustangs one day, but I need experience. I also told them that I am terrified of hurting the horses, or doing something that would make them into bad horses somehow... and that is getting in the way of the relationship I want with my horse. They said they had classes that could help me...

I'm afraid. Even writing about this, my chest feels tight, my throat feels tight, and I might just want to climb under the desk and hide... and I'm excited.


**I was asked today if I had recovered from PTSD. I don't think you can ever recover completely, because the trauma and the abuse are a part of me. I can't go back to when it had never happened. I can't get back the innocence. I can't go back to before I believed all of the shitty stuff about myself because of the things abusers said and did. I think it will always be a part of me. AND I can also keep moving forward, learning new things, and dealing with the old stuff in new ways.




Friday, January 3, 2014

Merry Christmas (a photo dump)

I had a great Christmas season. Here is the proof:

My little brother was in A Christmas Carol. I stole his hat. And we got photobombed.

BJ's sister took this one. We were watching a movie...
Just getting ready to cut down our Christmas tree...
Look what we dragged out!


Probably should have known at this point it was too tall.

But, we didn't realize it until we got it in the house, and BJ had to cut 4 ft. off the bottom.

We ran out of lights. And the store ran out of lights. It stayed like this for a few days.


Eventually we got the rest of the lights on... and ornaments... and some presents.
The tree with even more presents...


There was supposed to be a present in this box, but I let the cat stay there...

Best tradition ever! Christmas shopping with my dad and my sister. My sister has been looking for a pair of cute black boots for four years. She finally found them.

We watched BJ's daughter's dog while she was away for Christmas. The dog and the cat got along fine until the last day. The cat got the dog's eyelid with her claw. I was just glad she didn't get her eye poked out.

The dog and the horse were friends as long as the dog stayed away from his grain. (Dogs don't speak horse language... or cat language... She did not understand when the other animals told her to 'Stay Away!')

We took the dog to see my sister's dogs. They got along great. They played hard for four hours...

A selfie while at my parents' house.

Sometimes Christmas parties wear him out... :)

All the dogs checking out their Christmas presents.

Guess I did good... :)


She could hardly wait for her present.

And she loved it.

We went sledding with some of the kids.

He stopped. His sled didn't.

My favorite quote that day was after she went down the hill the first time, "I clearly almost died!"
My bro-in-law totally looked at the camera and smiled, but I was too slow...
Last year, they buried me. This year, it was Justin's turn.

Captain America came for Christmas

More present opening.

Guess who got a Macro lens for Christmas? ME!

"What is she chewing on? Oh... a toothbrush... excellent."

Guess who I got to meet in real life?? I've met a lot of friends online, but it was even better to get to see his face and give him a hug.

And now... holidays are over. I not only survived them - I actually enjoyed them. Maybe I can remember that fact as next November approaches.