Monday, January 7, 2019

This Is To Be My Symphony

 photo by Justin Hackworth

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury;
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable;
to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasion, hurry never; in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and
unconscious grow up through the common,
this is to be my symphony.
-William Ellery Channing

photo of Christmas morning by Erin Caroline Kendrick 

Now that it's finally funny, I can talk about how I broke my toe on Christmas. When I tell people this they usually think I mean Christmas as in the season, but no, no. I broke my tender big toe on December 25, 2018.

I am not sure exactly what happened, and my kids seem to be equally confused witnesses, but the summary of it is that I was handing my kids plates of food to take next door for Christmas dinner (with our best friends and neighbors the Deans) and somehow a glass plate landed on my toe. I can't even tell you where this plate came from exactly, but I know it landed on my big toe and triggered an emotional reaction from me that seemed to come from the depths of my soul.

And it hurt five times worse than a simple stub of the toe. After it happened I screamed and wobbled into the kitchen, over to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and went full-fledged Nancy Kerrigan on Christopher who stood dumbfounded as I screamed, "Why me? WHYYYYY MEEEE?"

Because you know what hurt worse than having my big toe bone fracture? The fact that for weeks and weeks leading up to that very day (Christmas) I had given all I had. ALL I HAD. I cooked and baked and wrapped and cleaned and organized and wrote cards and shopped and budgeted and showed up for all the recitals and school programs, and concerts. I brought house-warming gifts to all dinner parties and tried to be a good guest and not make people feel uncomfortable and wear something fun but sensible in all places. I planned an entire trip to Idaho including activities and events for the whole Kendrick family. I shopped for those who couldn't shop. I insisted on weekly community service projects for my kids. I planned and executed the greatest Christmas Eve extravaganza I could conjure up complete with treasures hunts, marshmallow snowball fights, Christmas crafts, a full five course meal with five different tablescapes, a staged nativity with live violin solos, and storytelling and even a visit from the gracious Auntie Claus who brought silly gifts individually wrapped for young and old. And yes, it was me who dressed up as Auntie Claus (with an entire disguise worthy of such a socialite) and it is important enough to me to mention this even though someday my kids might read this and feel smug about it ("Mom, we knew it was you dressed up as Auntie Claus all along."). I even...ohh boy dare I include this...I even experimented with Jell-O molds until I created the most perfect of all gelatin creations--the cranberry two-toned circular that only my own Mormon ancestry could envy. And this--this cruel personal injury and trauma--was the final punctuation to it all. This was my thank you!

(the triumphant jell-o...please ignore the steak knife it took to cut it due to a surprising thickness)

So what the eff universe? Why me? Why me AND Nancy Kerrigan? Why the most hard-working women in their respective sports (ice skating, domesticity)? It hurt more than just the fracture of the bone, the bruising of skin, the radial pain reverberating throughout my entire foot. The indifference of a Universe is the cruelest of all human realizations. We are alone. Even on Christmas. There is no karma, there is no grace. There is only pain, and after that, DEATH.

Christopher helped me into bed and there I stayed for the next five or so days. The pain didn't retreat even in the face of medication. Janna came from next door to feed me and check on me from time-to-time. I did my best to bear it all cheerfully, and do it all bravely. My kids blissfully lived a Lord of the Flies existence, subsiding on left-overs and well, screens. Christopher played his perfect part as gatekeeper ("Your mom is out of commission, if you need anything you'll have to go through me") which is very honestly, at the end of it all, the reason why I married him in the first place. He is a human brick wall.

Lawd, that's so sexy.

photo by Justin Hackworth
p.s. ;)

photo of the glamorous Auntie Claus by Janna Bateman Dean

Monday, November 12, 2018

This Mormon American Life

Hi everyone it's me CJane here. I mean, who else would it be? And yet, you never know these days with all the hacking and fake newsing and straight-up video altering going on these days in the world! Wow what a time to be alive.

You know it's me because of my own special grammar rules--which includes a ton of dashes because I don't know when to use , or ; and I am too old to learn new tricks so enjoy a ton of these...too.

This morning This American Life published a podcast which I alluded to earlier here. It's about Mormon bishop worthiness interviews. And it's good. I was able to sneak in one little quote about wine, weed and sex. Which is surely going to give me some more social points here in Provo, but what can you do? Hahahahahaha, cry, sob, sob.

I do recommend it though, if not just to hear my girlfriend Reagan Baker tell her story, (this blog is a testament to my love of RB) and to hear the incomparable Elna Baker (not related) push church spokesman Eric Hawkins to awkward fumbling and graceless pockets of silence. I've never heard a woman in my church let a man be as uncomfortable as Elna allows Eric to be. Masterful.

One thing I feel is particularly important to say is that I don't discount that Mormons have had lovely experiences in the church. I did too. Bishops have been very helpful to me at times. The critiques I have about the church are not local issues.My problem is with the system. Perhaps there are many women who had many bishop interviews and never once was there an exchange of inappropriate questions, tones or touching. But it is the power dynamics that I refuse. I refuse men in power and authority over women. I don't care where it comes from. I refuse it. I refuse it for my daughters, for my sisters, for my friends, for my family--even if they don't refuse it themselves. And this is also important because those dynamics don't change no matter how old you are. It's as terrifying to sit in a bishop's interview at 13 as it is at 33. And yes, adult women are still expected to go into these offices alone and talk to their male church leaders who will ask them--among many things-- about their underwear habits and their chastity (no matter their marital status).

There is no justification in my mind that makes this power dynamic of men over women--which is found locally as it is found in the upper echelons of the church--acceptable. It has deep, violent consequences whether you are consenting to the dynamic or not. At worst it can be deadly, at best it allows for women to carry out the patriarchal system in ignorance (which I suppose comes with bouts of bliss...enjoy!). But as this podcast suggests, there is nothing more damaging about this destructive dynamic than when it comes to sexuality (in all its forms).

I believe you could put in a thousand checks to this system, you could go and sit with your child through every interview, you could teach your daughters to be the most feminist, but this system--designed to cultivate absolute obedience--will always seep in. And one day you'll be trying to figure out how you got so messed up about the most simplest things in life. How did you once believe that all these things were normal? Totally fine? How were you so willing to forgo your own instincts? Those instincts that screamed at you for so long desperately trying to keep you safe?

Anyway, growing up in patriarchy sure does a number on you!

Well, thanks for the chat...

For incredible insight on this subject, please read April Carlson's Why Does She Stay?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Taylor Swifting This Blog Up RN

Here's what I am going to do on this post: I am going to tell you how I am voting on my ballot before I mail it in.

Here's what I am not going to do: pretend you care. But if you do care, congratulations you just made my best friend list.

Here's why I am doing it: I have seen several people I respect be transparent about their votes for this INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT election and I figure it doesn't hurt to add my opinions to the pile. I like reading voting considerations from a variety of people because it strengthens my own, or it makes me revisit my persuasions.

Here's what I will not be persuaded on: human dignity. Humans beings have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of (their own, not yours) happiness. People of Color, LGBTQIA, Immigrants, Refugees, Folks Who Have Disabilities (physical and intellectual), Individuals Who Have Mental Illness, AND IN GENERAL ALL WOMEN AND CHILDREN are HUMAN BEINGS. And furthermore, I do not define a country's success on its economic health, but the health and safety of their most vulnerable populations. This is the underlying ethic I take to the polls.

Here's what there will be A LOT of:  CAPITAL LETTERS to show PASSION! (And "humor" but like the nerdy political kind.)

And away we go...

United States Senate: Jenny Wilson (D). I like her ideas on health care, public lands and will stand up against Trumpism. You know who won't stand up against Trumpism? Mitt Romney. However, I did appreciate the Salt Lake Tribune's endorsement of him because they posed the idea that this could be just a one-term thing for Mitty and I could probably handle that knowing that in six years there's a sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim chance we could send a moderate Democrat senator to Washington if Utah continues to lose support for the worst administration that a comic book writer could not even conceive. Ok? Let me dream.

United States House of Rep District: James Singer (D). In working for an election for this very seat last year it became apparent to me that the biggest three problems this district faces are: economic diversity in rural communities, public land protections, and quality of life issues for tribes in San Juan County. And among all three of those the one MOST pressing is the latter. There are roads in SJC that are so bad in the winter that kids from the reservations cannot get to school. There are troubling trends with racism, including voter suppression. There are third-world issues in these communities that cross all sorts of bureaucratic wires. We need a rep with federal accessibility to bring commodities to this corner of our state--someone who has the patience and time to unravel the crossed wires. We need someone who deeply cares. As a Native American with family in this district, James Singer brings a passion to this issue along with a vested interest in protecting the highly precious and vulnerable public lands in this district. I wish those of us along the stable and highly functioning Wasatch Front could put our votes towards those who need the most protection and help in our district.

Utah County Commission Seat A: Teri McCabe (UUP). Teri has been out doing strong civic work for years now. I appreciated her citizen support in my former capacity at the Provo mayor's office. She is informed and invested, and most of all, not a candidate pinning for a career in politics. She's not running to go up any ladders, she's running because she cares. And that is some tea for all you who have read this far.

Utah County Commission Seat B: Jeanne Bowen (D). I am going to be honest, a piece of white bread could be running against Bill Lee and I would still vote for the bread. (Hey, now there's some bread to go with the tea I poured in the paragraph above.)

Ok...skipping a few here...

Excited to vote for Mckay Jensen for School Board because he's an incredibly kind civic leader who has done a phenomenal job. I am really impressed by the job he's done getting new, safe schools for our kids. Plus he's running unopposed so I have no choice really, and speaking of running he wears fantastic shoes.

Judges  seem to be good to go, except did you read Holly's post about Christine Johnson? I need to revisit that vote before I make it permanent.

Constitution Amendment A: FOR
Constitution Amendment B: FOR
Constitution Amendment C: AGAINST. Our state leg DOES NOT need more power and I cannot believe that as a DEM voter I am having to vote against "small government" GOP on this one.

Opinion Question #1: FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR. Creating a pathway to get more funding INTO our classrooms has been sorely needed for my entire life as a Utahn. This pathway is the most substantial thing I have seen proposed. Please vote for our kids, our teachers, our classrooms. Please Utah, do NOT leave this up to the legislature to figure out, they have failed us for years on this MOST IMPORTANT, VITAL issue. For more info, see here (oh my goodness I just linked to Doug Wright-strange bedfellows!).

Prop 2: FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR. I have watched friends fight for medical cannabis for years now. They are fighting for their children. The latest antics between the LDS Church and the legislature disgusts me. This initiative has been hard fought BY PATIENTS and PARENTS and should not be the result of church and state backdoor negotiations. We are not a theocracy Utah, please support the people. Again, I cannot believe I am a DEM fighting "small government" GOP on this one. For more info, see here.

Prop 3: FOR FOR FOR FOR expansion of Medicaid. Why? Please see "human dignity" paragraph at beginning of this post. Children in our state need more coverage, as do our most at-risk populations. Utah, vote like Jesus on this one. Heal the people.

Prop 4: FOR FOR FOR FOR ending gerrymandering in our state. It's ridiculous. Everyone should welcome an independent counsel--including the "small gov" GOP who I don't even know anymore. Who are ye GOP? I hardly knew ye. But seriously, this is a decent Prop and fair-minded, moderate people should have no problem voting FOR.

Lastly, Provo Police, Fire & City Facilities Bond: FOR. I worked inside this building for the last 3 years and despite the fact that NOT ONE PERSON in my life has asked me my opinion on this (BUT I AM TOTALLY NOT HURT ABOUT IT OK?!) I can tell you that every single day I worked in that office I worried about my safety. I worried about an earthquake toppling the structure like Jenga yes, but also just a general very strong wind. I worried about an active shooter and the choices I had to get out of the building. I worried about the ancient elevator getting stuck because it was known to happen (I confirmed several times that PROVO RESCUE could save me in that clunky machine.) I worried about my co-worker who had to pump in a small bathroom stall shortly after she returned from maternity leave because the building was not built for working mothers in mind. We worked at options for a day care inside the building but nothing would pass code. And that was in the mayor's office which was supposed to be the C-suite, the luxury offices, you know? I can't imagine what it's like for those in the other parts of the building. Please Provo, care about those who care for you, vote for a city building that makes us all safer.

Ok, this has been a marathon. If you read this entire post please let me know on facebook or twitter or instagram or text me, or email me or call me (JK DO NOT DO THAT I AM AN INTROVERT) or just wave to me when I see you out and about and I will enter your name into my drawing to win something I don't know yet should we vote about it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Divinity in the Deli Section

Yesterday I gave a pretty vulnerable interview to a national platform about sexual abuse in patriarchal religions. (I don't know if it will ever air, and I will link to it if it does.) The act of allowing the interviewer to pull some deep roots inside of me was brutal. Just when I think I've conquered my religious-centrist shame, there is always more waiting to be discovered. Even so, I gave my depth willingly (also in a literal sweat as I sat inside our homemade recording booth closet) because it's pretty much all I have to give anymore.

After the interview ended, I slipped over the garden wall to Janna's house next door where she was hanging out with Iris. We went in the backyard and sat in the new October sun while Iris pulled weeds. My dearest friend in the world is also a therapist and lives right next door. Our kids are like siblings and our husbands are also kindred friends. I have always said I know there is a God, because how could this just be luck?

I was reverberating with anxious energy and she allowed me to sit there and talk about what I had experienced. She validated me. She told me her own stories. She thanked me. I asked if I could reciprocate the babysitting by buying her lunch. She turned me down because she wasn't hungry. "I've been eating M&Ms," she told me. I need friends who just sometimes eat M&Ms.

Iris and I went to Costco. It's been weeks since I actually shopped for groceries. We've been doing the eat-quesadillas-and-toast method for awhile. I thought maybe it would ease my nerves to do something mundane.

It was while I was shopping I looked over the aisle to see Janice Allred. Sister Allred was excommunicated from the Mormon church for apostasy--for writing a book about a mother goddess  (Mother in Heaven) who is missing from the church's modern dogma. Because she dared to write about a woman of divinity, and subsequently child abuse in the church, she was rejected from her own beloved religious tradition. When I saw her and I thought about her work, her legacy, the years that she has lived in the same shared pain as mine, I felt flooded with love for her and her courage. I don't know her personally, or I would've probably knelt down there in Costco, in the deli section and wept at her feet.

Shortly after that,  I ran into a childhood friend and neighbor who I have admired all my life. Given my public pronouncements of lately, I am not sure exactly how people will receive me. But she was quick to hug me. "I want you to know I follow you, I support you, I am grateful for you." This was an incredibly validating gift she freely gave to me. We could have done the pleasantries, but she gave me more.

This just at Costco. All in the deli section!

This is when my former Mormon self would testify that God lives! And I don't feel much different from that statement, but this time I would like to say that the Goddess Lives! There is a woman up there, and she sees me, and Janna, Janice and my childhood friend and made it possible for us all to have this moment of sublime feminine solidarity out of our banal lives. And I know I just wrote about breaking up with Everything Being A Sign From A Higher Power school of thought, but I choose to believe all this because it makes my heart hurt just a little less.

Before we left Costco, Iris and I shared an acai bowl (I had to order under my breath because still do this day I mess up the pronunciation). It was pretty good. I liked the blueberries and the granola, and Iris liked the yogurt and the strawberries so between us both we licked the cup clean.

I think that's all I want to say today.
In the name of the Goddess Herself.

p.s. for further insight I greatly recommend Joanna Brook's podcast AMERICAN BEAUTY. Parts 3.1 and 3.2 have especially nudged at me, and healed me all the same.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Just An Average Celebration

I have been inundated with kindness and support for my last post. I am so grateful. Sure there have been mean comments here and there, but I understand I wrote a bra burner (ha! perfect!) and some feelings were going to get hurt. That's the chance you take I suppose.

But I don't ever want to come across as NBD about writing your truth. I really want to be honest about it. It sucks. And I think you only do it when the poison inside of you is making you so sick that there is absolutely no other way but to regurgitate. As Maya Angelou says, "There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you."

And so those supportive comments mean the world to you.

Somewhere in the middle of all that has gone on the last few weeks I got a message from an extended family member who told me I need to stop talking because I was embarrassing her. Again, I don't know exactly what it was (there are so many possibilities!) but she told me that I was disappointing our family patriarch in heaven and she warned me (through the quotes of church male leaders) that if I didn't stop there would be consequences for me in these last days. For those of you who don't speak Mormon that means "I have displeased our dead grandfather and in consequence I will not be resurrected with the Saints at the end of this world."

I mean, I replied with a thumbs up emoji--cause what are you going to do? I did sort of want to point out that she didn't even bother to mention the disappointment of our grandmother (also in heaven) and that women's disappearance in this life--and in the next--is sort of the ENTIRE PROBLEM. But CK convinced me to move on because I don't see this family member hardly ever and that's probably a good thing too.

(I have critical brain. And that means I can be a critic really easily, but I also think it means I can say critical things that need to be said. So it can be sort of overwhelming to want to respond to everything. EVERYTHING. And I am learning through this process that I don't, some comments and emails and tweets are better left unopened.)

But back to my cousin's letter--it really did open my eyes to see that I've lived my life thinking of a spectrum which has EXTREME MORMONS on the right side and APOSTATE MORMONS/THE WORLDLY PEOPLE on the left side, and in the middle is MODERATE MORMONS. And that's your life. You hope to stay in the moderate spot, because it's...normal.

Then you start to move to the left and it feels so scary. It feels like you're about to jump off a gigantic cliff. You are about to be inundated with sin and frenzy. You are about to live a truly EXTREME lifestyle. Then you jump...

...and it turns out: now you're normal. You're just average. You're just doing your normal average life. You're waking up with your kids, making waffles, packing lunches, doing homework, taking walks, texting with friends. I mean, I don't mean to discount the major emotions you still experience, but you're not elect, or chosen or special anymore. You're just like everyone else in America for the most part. Wearing the same underwear as most people, drinking a delicious cup of WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT like most people, using all the free time you now have on Sundays (and other days) to going kayaking. Or just sit and do a puzzle with your kids. Not everything has to be special anymore.

And you look back at what used to be normal--average Mormonism, and it feels pretty extreme. And then you look forward to dying without some SUPER LEGACY that you always felt you had to leave and it turns out that you'll probably be forgotten in a few generations (if that) and what a grace that is. I feel exhausted at the thought of being a character that continues to grow bigger and bigger in embellished family stories up until the point where I meet my posterity in heaven and they're like--YOU? WOW THAT'S A DISAPPOINTMENT.

The weight I have felt for so long to keep up the whole charade of specialness is slowly dripping from my life. Sure I've got some skills and talents, but they no longer have to go to the express interest of building the Mormon Kingdom of God on Earth. And while I am sure this is the very reason why so many Mormons love being Mormon (peculiar! unique!) I cannot tell you what a GD relief it is. I say GD because I am still pretty Mormon, all things considered.

I don't have to worry about a patriarch in heaven looking down on me for any reason at all. I mean, maybe he is, but I don't care. I DON'T CARE! BECAUSE I'M AVERAGE! AND HE CAN DEAL WITH IT!

(My Grandfather and I had a very transparent relationship. That's not a ghost joke. I told him how I felt about everything and he was very good at spoiling us and that's also my relationship with CK.)

Sometimes I get comments that stick with me for a long time, and today I am thinking of one in particular--it came from a woman in Rhode Island after the 2008 election where I finally confessed to the world that I voted for...OBAMA. To paraphrase she said something like: I can see how much bravery it takes for you to admit to these things that get you a lot of flak in your community and comment section. But I want you to know that here where I sit in my town--you're not even close to sounding controversial. You sound like you're...almost normal.

It sounds all so funny now, but it was a huge relief to me then. At that point, I was inundated in all the intensity of Mitt Romney And The White Horsed Mormons Will Save America. Which was huge around here. And really, I got probably the meanest comments of my life on that Obama post. Mormon Mothers really hate Obama. I was told at church that I was ushering in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. To which I was like...and so what? I could use break about now.

I don't think I am making very much sense right now. I'm finding it hard to adequately describe what a relief it is to finally feel like you have the freedom to be ordinary. You don't know how much you've suffocated with specialness--how many years you've gasped for oxygen without really understanding it. How nice it is to go on a plane, meet strangers, interact with the world without the pressing responsibility of making sure everyone knows that YOU ARE SPECIAL because YOU ARE MORMON, and if they'd just listen to you they could be special too.

I am resisting the urge to somehow perfect this post...but I have to go pick up my kid from preschool.

You know, just what average people do!