Thursday, December 24, 2009


It's been... a year. A lot of year. A whole lot of GoodBadGoodBad year. But, and I'm deeply, truly, unbelievably grateful for this, it has been a more good than bad year. That sounds so simple and banal so I have to repeat it - this, this year, has been MORE GOOD THAN BAD. For the first time in six years this year, as tumultuous as it has been, has been a good year.

I'll do a summation later but to catch up on the most recent, just a few days after we knew that a BeSurgeried person was going to stick around for a while to give a bit of grief to doctors and generally make life a whole lot more fun, my parents called me up to announce that they would like to drop by with a Christmas present.

I pointed out, not unreasonably, that we were going to see them on Christmas Eve and, it seemed, a gift exchange at that point was fairly likely. My father hinted mysteriously that he thought it would be good to give this Christmas gift a bit early.

Now, keep in mind that in my family this could mean anything - absolutely anything. "We thought this singing, stuffed aardvark that we find particularly amusing would be just the early Christmas gift you need." (note: I am totally and utterly guilty of this myself. I spent a very happy afternoon putting together a belly-dancing costume kit for my poor sister which involved a VERY large red bra and plastic googly eyes among other things. It's a sickness but I'm not looking for a cure) Anyway, I know when to take a hint so I agreed that meeting for an early gift exchange was a good idea.

Which is why they showed up on my doorstep with a little gift bag a couple of weeks ago. We chatted, as you do, about this and that, and I dangled that little gift bag from my hand, intending (as I'm sure my parents realized) to just stuff it under the tree and open it on Christmas day. Which is why my mother, firmly, said, "I think we'd REALLY LIKE TO SEE YOU OPEN YOUR PRESENT NOW." And, recognizing that particular timbre, I obediently opened the bag.

To find an envelope.

A very slim envelope.

With just one thing in it - a check, from the US Labor Dept.

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Game On

Right, so say you're sitting in a hospital waiting room on the surgery floor having been told, two hours ago, that it would take two hours for the be-surgeried person to be put in a private room. And say you were also told to keep an eye on a nice monitor which would scroll your be-surgeried friend's patient number past every few minutes and magically change the background color when the haven of this private room was reached. And further say that you've already read your book AND checked your email (thank you i-pod and your magical internet browsing abilities). How do you pass the time? I came up with the following three options:

1. Scrub Watch: give one point for scrubs of any solid color other than basic hospital green or blue. Give two points for a pattern, three to five for anything with penguins, ninjas or Betty Boop (actual points given to be determined by players). First person to spot a point-giving scrub claims the point. Scrubs of green or blue, take one point from each player.

2. Pregnant or Not? Point given for each passing pregnant woman. Points are removed for each person going by who LOOKS pregnant but actually isn't (note: after ten minutes of play it was realized that a cap had to be made. Highly suggest only removing points for individuals seven months on or more. Even so, lost all points after fifteen minutes when a particularly large - and large - family came by).

3. Flora: Points given for floral arrangements - players can determine whether to give more or fewer points depending on the tackiness of said arrangement. If a plastic arrangement goes by the player closest to the arrangement loses all points (rather like the cow game on car trips - you know, you get to count all the cows on your side of the car but if you pass a cemetery all your cows die and you have to start again).

I won't admit to having invented and played (hey, it was a long wait, got desperate) Mad Scientist where you divide the human body up into constituent parts (hair, head, neck, bosom, hips, bum, legs, arms) and collect the most 'interesting' part that goes by in an effort to construct the best patchwork person...

Monday, December 14, 2009


Didn't intend to disappear.

In fact I had a nice post all written about how nice it was to sit down at Thanksgiving with this small circle of people I care for and just talk and laugh and eat together. And it was, very, very nice.

But then there was this call one morning, a 6-in-the-morning call which is just late enough to be probably a work thing: someone calling in sick or someone with a question. Only it wasn't. It was a doctor from the emergency room using words like 'ruptured' and 'peritonitis' and 'surgery' and he was talking about one of those people, one of that small, dear circle of people.

So there was a year or so one day of sitting in a waiting room making up Games to Play While Waiting for Surgery to be Over (three - tell you later). Then there were a few decades in ICU watching numbers - green for pulse, next to the quadruple spike of the heart beat; blue for oxygenation with a swoopy sine wave; white for blood pressure, once every hour which nicely divided the decades up into eras.

And time did this strange, elastic thing where it stretched madly out into years and years and years but at the same time snapped past in an instant. Wednesday blurred into the previous Monday which seemed to be trying hard to be Friday and Tuesday disappeared entirely.

But after the first night, the night where there was talk of living wills and things, and after the first days or so, the numbers began, slowly, to change and finally one afternoon instead of the whoosh of the circulation boots and the bleep of the monitor there was a lively and cheery 'hullo!' from the bed. It became possible, just, to breathe again.

All of this happened of course during this rushing time (made worse by FINALLY the launch of this enormous, huge, ridiculous project that has been pending forever and ever ), this busiest of busy times when expectations are higher and resources are lower than any other time of year. And with absolute clarity the whole season has resolved itself beautifully into one simple thing: this year people I love are safe, and most of them are home and nothing, absolutely nothing else matters.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mastering - update

Phew! Right, here's where I've gotten:

1) Taking the GRE ... DONE! Last Saturday.

2) apply for a masters program ... DONE! Sorta. I'm off-cycle with admissions so I'm going non-degree this Spring and being all official in Fall

I've also

3) Registered for Spring classes and gotten everything I wanted to get

4) Met with the faculty member I'd like to chair my committee and gotten enthusiastic approval AND learned my area of focus is what 1/2 his sabbatical proposal was about which is just all kinds of cool.

5) Met with the associate chair of graduate studies and generally been welcomed and patted on the head and told I'm a bit mad with my timeline but best of luck and all that


6) Met with my boss and broken the news that I'll have to drop some of my hours what with my rather insane plan for the Spring. Fortunately my boss is either a saint or a close approximation thereof and said any number of marvelous supportive things and also pointed out that my lead-in explanation had given her the momentary fear that I was going to out-and-out quit (we lost one full-time person last week and will likely not be allowed to hire a replacement until... well... ever possibly) so just dropping a few hours each week was comparatively easy.

All of which means I'm just a little bit committed to this now! Now, to make things just a leetle more interesting, in the past few weeks I have also:

1) slogged through my more than pathetic effort for NaNoWriMo which was originally going to be a genuine novel and then had to turn into a rambling, sort of stream-of-thought memoir sort of thing that is completely self-indulgent and honestly not terribly interesting or well written. I just didn't have time to do the novel and ended up, two days before the deadline to begin, deciding to have another stab at the memoir, knowing it wasn't going to be organized or focused or even planned in any way. However, I had promised myself I would do it and I'm doing it and I have 51,268 words dumped in there. Some of it is reworked blog posts, most of it is just rambling memoir stuff. I'm not sure how they'll count it (what with the blog posts) and I still have a bit in process for this last week but it's at least there. Kind of. A little.


2) been finalizing the major project I've been working on forever which is, ready or not, to be launched with fanfare in three weeks.

So actually starting grad school should be nice and relaxing really, in comparison... won't it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last Words

Well, I hope last for a bit, but this was on my mind this morning so...

Someone sent me a link recently to a post on the Passive Aggressive Notes website. You can read the post itself here, but here's the text of the posted note:

Hi – you don’t know me but I’ve noticed that you go into #360’s apt late @ night & I sometimes see you coming out in the morning. & it’s obvious that you sleep over ther [sic] b/c your car is parked @ King Henry all night. I know that it’s really none of my business, but I my roomates [sic] & I think that it’s innappropriate [sic] to be staying @ a boy’s house all night. I feel like I should talk to someone about this problem, perhaps King Henry, but I think that you could, & should, fix this problem on your own w/out my intervention.

Thanks for your time

Have a great day =)

The post has gotten over 350 comments, ranging originally from the "Sounds like Utah," type which produced the "stop hating on Mormons" response to later an explanation on what would have produced the note and a defense of the practice (getting involved in other people's private business that is - not leaving anonymous notes on cars). The commenter was well spoken, articulate and friendly and, I think, left a generally positive impression of herself although not of the policy involved or, frankly, of the organization that drafted that policy. I think she should be commended for keeping the discussion light and polite - and I would point out that many of the non-Mormon commenters were not able to do the same.

Her explanation basically went like this:

1) King Henry is a BYU approved apartment complex and in order to be a BYU student one must live in an approved complex AND sign the BYU honor code. (I can't link you to the code itself as its showing an error message, but you can read about the code on the Wikipedia page here.) Anyone who lives at the complex must have signed the code and should therefore abide by it.

2) She had not only a moral obligation to report any activity by her roommates that violated the code, her own school standing (and her housing) were at risk if she did not do so.

In other words, students at BYU (and by extension apparently in BYU approved housing whether students or not? I'm not clear on this one) must abide by the honor code and other students or residents are required, on pain of punishment, even expulsion, to monitor others behaviors and report any infractions to the authorities.

Keep in mind that the LDS article of faith #2 states "we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for adam's transgressions" which, if you want to take it very literally means only that Mormons do not believe in Original Sin but, if you want to look at the broader meaning should imply that Mormons believe that each person will be responsible only for their own misdeeds - in other words, that each person is ultimately responsible for their own soul. No punishment should be meted out to the innocent based on the actions of the guilty.

In practice, all Mormons are told repeatedly that they have an enormous responsibility for others. Leaders talk of how you will feel when you die and are met in heaven on the one hand with tears of joy from those whom you have saved and on the other tears of sorrow from those you did not reach. It is partly this belief that drives the strong missionary program in Mormonism; it is this same belief that explains the way Mormon leaders and, at least culturally if not doctrinally, all Mormons feel not only justified, but obliged to pry intimately into other's lives. There is, I want to be clear, a very positive side to this - Mormons believe in service and want to know when someone is in need. They also feel that they MUST save someone's soul, particularly an apostate (or inactive member), and therefore they must, for example, know where that person lives even if the person has not been to church in years and no longer considers themselves a member. There is a special mission calling where members spend hours trying to trace what in their eyes are "lost sheep." Bishops not only can but must yearly ask intimate questions of all Mormons, including young adults (starting at 12 I believe) about their moral standing, their sexual habits and practices, their diets, their scripture study and other things.

All of this, maybe, explains why Mormons feel they can, even have to be passionately involved in the fight against gay marriage. It is after all just an expression of that responsibility for others.

What I would remind them of however is this:

The people whose lives you are so eager to interfere with did not ever sign your honor code. They are not, the vast majority of them, affiliated with your church and therefore they have no responsibility to abide by a set of regulations that you have chosen to live by. You therefore have no right, even if you feel you have the responsibility, to deny them recognition of their family. Your spiritual onus really, as I understand it, is to share the gospel and to live by its standards and abide by any covenants you have willingly and knowingly made.

I do not feel that political activism against the rights of others not of your sect is sharing the gospel and, personally, I do think that it is opposed to some of those lovely, simple ideas that are at the bedrock of your religion:

"Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won't profit you at all....

"Without charity—or the pure love of Christ—whatever else we accomplish matters little. With it, all else becomes vibrant and alive." (Joseph B. Wirthlin: The Great Commandment, Ensign, Nov 2007, 28–31).

The pure love of Christ - the one who said, "judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1) and, even more importantly, "a new command I give you, love one another." (John 13:34)

You teach that families are forever and are justifiably proud of the commitment to the family found in your doctrine. No one, no matter what the fear-mongers say in their illogical and unsupported rhetoric, is threatening your family. All they want is to form one of their own.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Right, although it is dispiriting (and... well, we'll say irritating as that sounds mild and sort of like a rash rather than something soul sucking and stress-producing and generally end-of-the-worldish) that things are still a bit nebulous and uncertain when it comes to time, last night when faced with the option of a) fretting and b) deciding that All Was Lost because it is far easier (somehow) to NOT hope for the best and instead assume the very, very worstest possible of the worst I did something rather unusual- I plumped for c) assuming that while things aren't going as smoothly as I would prefer and there might still be some bumps to deal with, things are still going to happen, the claim will be paid (eventually) and therefore it wasn't going to bring the wrath of the fates down on my head if, for once, I had a little optimism and tried a bit of hope.

I'm finding it a bit difficult now and then, as it turns out six years of steady pessimism does tend to be habit forming, but it's also rather exhilarating in a mild way, particularly as when I stop staring firmly and unrelentingly at the delightful image of The Horror That Just Might Be there is actually a not-quite-so-horrible potential out there. So, here's what I'm doing to carpe the diem:

1) Taking the GRE so that
2) I can apply for a masters program and
3) Expand my skill set (and have a rather good time as well as I do like school) and
4) Graduate at the same time as Child 3 (yipes. Which will take some doing but is just manageable) and
5) Move to a climate not quite so enervating and possibly
6) Try something new as a job for a change.

Of course that means getting the GRE, the please-be-on-my-committee letters, the please-let-me-in-your-program letter (please? Even if it's the wrong time of year?), the please-give-me-a-recommend-thanks letters AND the writing samples done in... oh less than a week. Or so. Which is a doddle when you look at the fact that I am hoping to get my MA in a year and a half rather than the more usual two years...

I can't wait!

Monday, November 09, 2009


Phew - that was fun, wasn't it!

Yes. There is a great deal I feel about the election in Maine. In fact, it's a bit split - rather like the vote. On the whole I'm going to take it as a good thing that the election was so close. Of coures, I can do that because it's not my family on the line - I can say that it's positive that an election like this was, technically speaking, within the expected error margin for a poll on a divisive issue. It isn't as though my children were being told their family wasn't a family.

There has been a bit of news though. A few weeks ago there was a message on the phone machine, a message from the lawyer who has been struggling for a year or more now to get the US Labor Department to act on the claim I filed five years ago. It wasn't a long message, it just said that there was a... chance I think is how it was put... that there would be a ruling and then they said something about needing a mailing address for checks. I actually had to listen to the message three times. Then I made my family listen to it for me because surely they weren't saying there was any sort of hope at all. Then I panicked.

I mean, as long as it was just pending there was always the chance something would happen, right? Then I could detach enough to provide paperwork, and then more paperwork, I could (as odd as it sounds) wait indefinitely just so long as everything remained... possible.

So naturally I didn't tell anyone. Child 3 knew - couldn't help but know as it actually found the message, but outside of the household no one, no one was told. After all, it had been five years - five and a half really, so who knew how long it could be now. No point in getting everyone's hopes up; best just to hope for the worst, as always.

Which meant that a week and a half ago when I came home to an, "oh, ever-so-sorry but we did TRY to deliver this registered letter and won't it be convenient for you to pick it up during normal work hours tomorrow instead?" message. Cue another rather significant dose of panic because, honestly, does anything good arrive with a green piece of card and a requirement for signature? But you can't just leave registered letters uncollected at the post office - I'm pretty sure uncollected registered letters make baby Jesus cry - so, of course, I went to pick it up.

It was a fat stapled wodge of paper, much of it in legalese. Actually it wasn't the worst legalese I've ever seen since it was, eventually, decipherable. It did take a reading or two to figure it out though. Claim it said, and filed, and something about... ordered. There was definitely an order involved and I do believe it possibly mentioned... paying.

Which sort of prompted three days of, "No. No not really, I mean, really they, no. They wouldn't. No. Really." Because we're articulate in our expression of happiness around here.

Within 12 hours I had worked out at least three reasonable ways it wouldn't work properly and it was all yet another extention of the might-be's-not-really's we've been living with for the last six years. It took another 36 hours (and an encouraging and very kind email from my lawyer) to decide that, tentatively, it just might maybe possibly be (you know, given a particularly optimistic an unlikely definition of possible).

But you know the really funny bit? It turns out that while there's an order it's nearly impossible to know what that really means. The labor department types could decide to actually act on it, or they could put things off for 30 days - or maybe 45, or they could, apparently, require another long and drawn out action of some sort that, frankly, I don't yet understand because I'm trying very hard not to imagine that they would request it. So, yes, we have a ruling! And yes, it will all be resolved. Soon. Or, maybe a little less soon, or possibly much less soon than that. It could happen tomorrow or maybe it will just keep on stretching out impossibly long, extending again and again and again this whole mess, keeping us in a sort of intolerable, infinite limbo.

It's lucky I've had so much experience at this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


There are many Mormons who are not concerned with the actions of the church. There are others though who are torn, people I know and people who have written about the fact that they feel a great deal of internal conflict about their well-loved church asking for donations and publicly calling for members to vote in a particular way on the rights of people who are not even members of their sect. Their beliefs and understanding of the teachings of Christ tell them one thing, the instructions of the church tell them another. The difficulty is that they are also told to obey leaders regardless of personal concerns:

The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are “found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray....” ( Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 9:289)

“...learn to do as you are told. ...if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it, none of your business whether it is right or wrong.” (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 6:32)

“If you do things according to counsel and they are wrong, the consequences will fall on the heads of those who counseled you, so don’t be troubled.” (William Clayton’s Journal, p. 334)

“God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me to be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 363/History of the Church, 6:319-20)

“I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95)

“Recently, at the Church-wide fireside meeting held for the women of the Church, Young Women President Elaine Cannon made the following statement: “When the Prophet speaks,....the debate is over.” (Ensign, November 1978, p. 108). I was impressed by that simple statement, which carries such deep spiritual meaning for all of us. Wherever I go, my message to the people is: follow the prophet"
The message that the Lord will never allow the prophet to lead the people astray is repeated again and again. So, seemingly, all faithful Mormons should ignore any concerns they might have and simply follow the teachings of the prophet.


Except that the church also teaches that 'man shall be punished for his own sins,' which means that they will be held responsible for their actions, and the excuse of simply following the prophet becomes less tenable. Perhaps it would be wise to take a closer look at the claim of prophetic infallibility. Is it really true that a prophet has never misled the Mormon people? And even if, as in the Adam-God theory taught by Brigham Young (declared in General Conference in 1852 and published as doctrine in the Journal of Discourses - remember it is Brigham Young who declared that everything he preached as a sermon and released to the members was Scripture; this theory is now disavowed by the church) some teachings are later declared to be non-doctrinal by the authorities, have any of these early 'inspired' teachings caused the loss of either spiritual or civil rights, or have they caused distress or harm to anyone?

Joseph Smith, while originally upholding slavery and slave laws in the interest of public order, later declared himself an abolitionist* and, in fact, bestowed the priesthood on a black member. For non-members - Mormons teach that an essential part of the restoration of the true gospel (the foundation of the LDS church) was the return of the priesthood to the earth. There are two orders of priesthood, the Aaronic which is the lower level and is usually held by boys aged 12 - 18 (although adult convert men will also hold the Aaronic priesthood first). The Aaronic grants "the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." When proven worthy, and if you're old enough (although the early church didn't have hard and fast rules about age and very young men were often given the higher priesthood), you are ordained into the Melchizedek priesthood which, among other things, gives the recipient the power to give blessings of healing, comfort and counsel to others and to preside over the family. The priesthood is a fundamental part of Mormon beliefs, and many ordinances are dependent upon holding it.

After Joseph Smith was killed the policy of the church changed and righteous black members were not only excluded from the priesthood, they had their temple ordinances revoked because of their 'negro blood.' Keep in mind that in the Mormon idea of heaven, temple ordinances are essential in order to achieve the highest degree of glory. The justification for the revocation of ordinances was that black skin was the outward sign of a curse of God - in the case of blacks, the curse of Cain. This idea is found throughout Mormon scripture with the Lamanites (native Americans) having dark skin as a result of a curse, and scripture in the Pearl of Great Price reading, "For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people." (Moses 7:8).

At Joseph Smith's death, after a certain amount of jostling for position, Brigham Young was declared the next appointed prophet and a fundamental change in church policy began. On February 13, 1849 Brigham Young responded to the question, "What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?" by saying, "the Lord has cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the priesthood." Black members could no longer bless their children if they were ill, or act as priesthood leaders in their own families. Non-Mormons will not realize how significant, how seminal this is but members will recognize just what this ban was doing to faithful black Mormons.

What makes the policy even more pernicious is the teachings that became common in the church to justify the position. Remember that, according to Article of Faith #2 "we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgressions," so why were blacks being banned from the priesthood for a sin that was not theirs? The answer was, according to then Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, "according to the doctrine of the church, the negro because of some condition of unfaithfulness in the spirit — or pre-existence, was not valiant and hence was not denied the mortal probation, but was denied the blessing of the priesthood." Smith made it clear that this was his own opinion, but the concept was popularly taught throughout the church until well into the 1970's. I remember asking about the ban and being given this response.

In 1942 an official statement was released that said:

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. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."
The same statement goes on to say that the conditions people are born into are predicated by their pre-mortal behavior - again, a teaching I personally received (we commonly prayed giving thanks that we had been born as Americans for example, and were subtly encouraged to feel superior to other nations because we had been so valiant as to be born into the 'greatest' nation).

The ban went beyond priesthood however, it also kept black members from the highest ordinances of the temple - temple endowments and temple marriages, effectively barring black members from the highest degree of glory. These ordinances could, of course, be performed after the member had died and the ban had been lifted, but during their own lifetime these members could not enter the most sacred areas of the temple.

Why does that matter? The temple, Mormons believe, is the place on earth where no evil can enter. It is the place where a member can truly feel the spirit of the Lord, receive personal revelation unsullied by outside influences, and have the deepest spiritual experiences. Mormons attend the temple regularly after having gone through on their own behalf to receive their own endowments, performing work for the dead but also garnering "the blessings of the temple" which most faithful members will regularly testify to. Black members, however, were not allowed these blessings.

Further, the teachings, both official and unofficial, and the policies of the church provided an atmosphere of fear and bias. It justified many members in racial beliefs and actions and built a barrier, one formed of not only misunderstanding but of an institutionally created bias, between white members and blacks. In the late 1960's an alleged prophecy by John Taylor began to spread among Mormons, a prophecy that the U.S. Constitution was going to hang by a thread (a common theme in early Mormon prophecies) and the streets would run with blood. Blacks would invade the temples and rape and murder the members. The belief in this "prophecy" was so strong that all bishops were instructed to read a statement that debunked it. However, it was church policy and culture that made the radical and ridiculous belief possible.

So how long was the ban meant to last?

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree." [prophecy that slavery will not end until blacks somehow are no longer 'cursed' with a dark skin]

"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity. He deprived his brother of the privilege of pursuing his journey through life, and of extending his kingdom by multiplying upon the earth; and because he did this, he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God".

"How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed"

So church policy was to bar black members from some of the most essential rights and blessings of the church and to implicitly (and at times explicitly) encourage their white members to view them as 'less valiant' and inferior. This policy was, according to more than one prophet, to last until everyone else on earth, every other human being both living and dead, had been taught the gospel and given the opportunity to accept baptism and the other ordinances.

Until, of course, 1978 when President Spencer W. Kimball announced a revelation that black could now enjoy full membership in the church (note - they'd tried to get the ban lifted in 1969 but were blocked by then apostle Harold B. Lee).

So, church policy can indeed be reversed and the beliefs of prophets, publicly stated, aren't always actual true revelation from God. In fact, many statements of past Prophets, statements that they themselves clearly and sincerely believed to be of God, are now said by church officials to be times when those prophets were "speaking as men." The problem is, apparently the prophets themselves can't tell the difference, and in the mean time the members of the church believe and act on those statements.

Many faithful Mormons, particularly between the 1950's and the revelation of 1978, chose to disbelieve the teachings that blacks were somehow different and inferior. They chose to treat all people with compassion and empathy. They chose to follow the second commandment of Christ to, "love your neighbor as yourself." While the church chose to remain silent on Civil Rights and, according to the NAACP, made "no effort to conteract the widespread discriminatory practices in education, in housing, in employment, and other areas of life," there were members actively promoting equality, marching for civil rights and demonstrating and protesting.

I would hope that Mormons today would view those members, the members who were willing to look beyond the cultural conditioning and institutional bias of the church, as true followers of Christ. I would hope that they would imagine that some day, a revelation could be made that found that homosexuality has a biological foundation and that gay members do not choose their sexual orientation but are created with it by a loving God, a revelation that all those who are faithful and wish to form loving, permanent, eternal families are to be granted that privilege and that previous biased actions and statements were merely well-meaning leaders "speaking as men." I would hope that they could think now about how they would want to have acted, whether they would, knowing that, have preferred to extend rights to their brothers and sisters that they themselves hold dear, knowing that the exercise of those rights in no way changes or diminishes their own families and relationships.

I would hope that they would act with love.

*In fact anti-slavery statements by church leaders in Missouri were among the things that caused friction between Mormons and gentiles (the Mormon word for non-members). In 1833 W.W. Phelps published the statement, "in connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the blacks, in Africa," causing outrage in the community and forcing Phelps to publicly recant his statement. After this, Joseph Smith and others published statements outlining a far more racist (and thus acceptable) stance, outlining the Curse of Cain theory and providing the foundation for the later actions of the church.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's hard to say exactly when polygamy started in Mormonism. There is no official record for what is generally felt to be the first plural marriage (by non-Mormon historians and Mormon historians alike. Please note that of course there are dissenters who do not accept this marriage). According to journals and notes however, Joseph Smith married Fanny Alger, aged 16, in Kirtland, Ohio some time in 1833. The next marriage has no official documentation either, to Lucinda Harris in 1838 in Far West, Missouri (already married to faithful saint, George Harris). Official church records list the first plural marriage to Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell on December 11, 1841, a woman already married to faithful saint Norman Buell.

1833 or 1841, those early polygamous marriages established Mormons as a minority community, a community that would be shunned, reviled, harassed and even threatened because of their family structure and sexual practices.* Rumors ran wild in the surrounding community, stories about how depraved the Mormons were, how they would break up families and destroy lives. Joseph Smith, aware of how polygamy was viewed not only by non members but by many of his own flock, practiced in secret (the formal announcement of what was known as the 'everlasting covenant' [see Doctrine & Covenants section 132] was not made until 1852) which meant that the women he and a small number of high church officials had married were unable to be recognized as family members, unable even to talk about the difficulties they faced. The thought of what those women, faithful women, went through in the years before they could be acknowledged is heartbreaking.

Still, there were many who stayed true (not all, but hey, it's a blog post and contrary to all evidence I don't want to write a novel!). It was a choice they had after all, a choice to accept this commandment. When an angel with a flaming sword told Joseph Smith that he had to marry multiple women to establish the principle of celestial marriage those women could have refused. But, caught between what society felt they should do and what they knew to be right, they chose polygamy.

Polygamy is more than a footnote in Mormon history. Joseph Smith spent considerable time and energy countering the rumors but Mormons, many of whom didn't know that polygamy was, in fact, being practiced by a few elders, continued to suffer from the fear-filled reactions of the surrounding community. Joseph Smith himself was arrested after he ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper that was going to publish information on the practice of polygamy (again, long story, historically accurate, available from acceptable Mormon sources). Following his arrest he ended up in a small jail, a house really, in Carthage, Illinois. A mob stormed the jail and Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed - a martyr to the church, a martyr arguably to polygamy. Brigham Young was anointed the next prophet and president of the church and, under his leadership, polygamous marriages were continued and the practice was expanded. There were threats, discussions and multiple laws passed on the national level all to try to abolish the practice of polygamy - again, a practice that was not only accepted by the Mormons but was the law of God, the true nature of family, the celestial and holy order of things. Eventually, after unbelievable (and unconstitutional) pressure the church announced that they were abandoning the active practice of polygamy.

It's only the active, for now practice that's abandoned. Mormons still believe in the doctrine of polygamy in the next life. Dalin H. Oaks (for one) is sealed to his first wife and to his living wife and will, in the celestial kingdom, be with both women for all eternity. Bruce R. McConkie , in a non-scriptural book wrote: “the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming and the ushering in of the millennium.” Doctrine & Covenants 132 remains scripture, meaning that doctrinally the Mormon church still puts themselves in a minority group, a group that has an unusual definition of family, a group that believes, at least on some level, in a marriage that is not one man and one woman.

If anyone could have empathy for the situation gay Americans find themselves I would think it would be the Mormons.

*Note: while modern Mormons often argue that Joseph Smith's many marriages were spiritual in nature the earlier church actually fought bitterly to prove that his plural wives were his physical as well as spiritual partners. Testimony was gathered by the church to counter claims by the splinter Reform LDS church founded by Emma Smith, Joseph's original wife, who contended that he had never practiced polygamy and any partnerships he formed were not consummated. There are numerous journal entries and testimonies that document that Joseph was indeed a fully practicing polygamist, testimonies that support his own contention that polygamy was a sacred doctrine introduced to 'build up the kingdom' - in other words to produce children.

Uncensored II

So what outed me?

Proposition 8.

I know.

Me and how many others? But it's important, because in some ways the fact that the church got involved in an election in California over the civil rights of a minority, the rights to pledge a commitment to each other, to publicly pronounce that they were a family hits a pretty tender nerve.

Some of you might not have been following this whole drama (maybe? How far was this covered in Europe?) so a bit of back story.

California, the state that has San Francisco in it - you know, THAT San Francisco - had seen a bit of judicial history happen when the supreme court ruled that same-sex couples should not be descriminated against but should be allowed the same civic standing as heterosexual couples. That ruling happened in May, 2008. In June, 2008 a request for a re-hearing was denied. Apparently the legal types, the ones who really study constitutional law, had decided that constitutionally there's nothing to bar same-sex couples from marrying.



So a measure was put on the ballot for November, 2008 to change the constitution of California - to actually re-write the bit of the law that says who gets to do what to whom and what just ain't right, thanks. What they wanted to write into law was a bit that said, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." And all hell broke loose.

It wasn't just the Mormons. I want to make it clear that the Mormons were not the only people who rallied the troops and fund-raised and made advertisements and spread information (please note my restraint. I did not put a 'dis' in front there). In fact, the Mormons found themselves in company with a bunch of people who had, historically, spent a lot of their energy being contra-Mormon. But I was Mormon. As I have been reminded many, many times, Mormonism is part of my heritage, and so the Mormon involvement in this particular bit of political history, hit pretty close to home.

The first presidency actually issued a letter which urged people to, "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." Keep in mind that the prophet (the first presidency consists of the prophet and his two councilors) speaks for God - I mean really, truly, he has a direct, one-on-one, seriously hearing the Voice, link to God - so, to Mormons, God was telling everyone to get involved in this political battle. In fact, about 45% of all the non-California contributions to the pro-Prop 8 group, came from Utah. According to Wikipedia (don't say it, I know all about using Wikipedia as a source) about 80 to 90% of the door-to-door volunteers in the fight to pass Prop 8 were Mormon. The church itself disclosed, after a bit of palaver, that it had donated nearly $190,000. There are some reports that put contribution by Mormons in general at over $7.5 million. I can't verify the figures. Honestly, I hope they're wrong. I really, really hope that $7.5 million was not donated to STOP other people from having civil rights.

The church, way back in the 90's some time, issued what is called The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The very first paragraph states, "We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

A man and A woman.


As in one.

One man. One woman.

Anyone want to say it?


Yes, this is the church founded by a man who married at least 30 women. Those women include several teenagers, including Fanny Alger(16) and Helen Mar Kimball (14). Of those women, 11 were already married (according to my quick and possibly dodgy research).

There were a lot of scare tactics used in this campaign, ugly, nasty scare tactics. Mormons, it was said, would have to open their temples to the unworthy and be forced to perform gay marriages. Please, if you were concerned about this or any of the other fear-based claims made, check out this rebuttal here. (pdf)

I'm not gay. I have never faced the particular prejudices that my gay friends have faced. I have never, as one friend did, had to see a beloved partner of 12 years go into hospital with a possibly life-threatening condition and hope desperately that her family would allow me to be at her side before surgery. So I've been asked why I feel strongly about this, why the narrow, judgmental, poisonous behavior of the church has stirred me so much. After all, I'm not gay.

But I am human.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Uncensored I

I've been rolling this post-I-wasn't-going-to-post around in my head for the last few days and it's funny how once I took off the various restraints of offensensitivity it ballooned up and grew out of all sensible proportion. I had to spend an hour or two hacking off the more egregious branches just to get it down to size, and even now I know it's a two-post post. So, here's the back story.

I was raised Mormon: well, nearly, and practically totally raised Mormon. My mother comes from a genuine, old-school polygamist ancestor while my father was the son of an Episcopalian priest. By the time they met and married my mother was, as she puts it, a heathen and my father, according to her, was practically a beatnik with a pipe and a weakness for black t-shirts (I didn't know what a beatnik was for years but that didn't stop me telling the story). For the first six years of my life we were not a religious household.

Until, that is, a nice set of Mormon missionaries knocked on our door in England and were met with my father who rubbed his hands together and said, 'right! Now, about the Journal of Discourses...' which as a lot of Mormons could tell you is practically announcing yourself as a Joseph Smith hating, Salt Lake City bashing ANTI [the Journal of Discourses is 22 volumes of writings - mostly sermons - from early Mormon history including stuff from Brigham Young. Many of these sermons are now a bit... distant from what is taught in the Mormon church, including the Adam-God theory (Brigham Young taught that Adam was God), a whole lot of polygamist rhetoric and some pretty egregious racial statements among other things]. According to family lore, as far as I remember it, the missionaries recruited a particularly bright young woman to deal with my irritating father and, somewhere along the line, she gave him the traditional Mormon challenge:

"10:3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down unto the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

My father accepted this challenge, to his own surprise he felt he received a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, within a few months, he was baptized.

My mother, as far as I can remember, was furious. She even gave him a dire warning that those darn Mormons would make him a bishop. (Mormons have, mostly, a lay ministry and a bishop is like a parish priest) She was quite right, they did, and kept him there for seven years. It took her another year or so to come around but she became, and is to this day, a deeply faithful and very happy Mormon.



Not so much.

The trouble is, and it's something that non-Mormons don't really understand, Mormons teach that their church is absolutely true, the last and final truth that had been withheld from the earth for generations until it was restored, in perfect form, by Joseph Smith. There is a lot of reference to 'the fullness of the gospel' and in every meeting, at every gathering, you will hear the reiterated testimony of the members that 1) the church is true, 2) Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and 3) the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I was taught that there are bits of truth to be found in other religions, but no other church has everything - that all of it is True. It's not quite complete yet, mind you, there was a section of the Golden Plates (the ones that Joseph Smith translated to create the Book of Mormon) that was sealed off until 'the last days,' but what is known, what is here now is undeniably, and most importantly FOR EVERYONE, true.

We learned about it in Primary - the children's meeting - about how the true and everlasting gospel was restored to this earth in latter days and, here's the kicker, how everyone, every last person is promised a personal witness of the truthfulness of these things - the one prayer that will be answered no matter what is Moroni's promise.

We sang about it, we talked about it, we knew the correct answers to all the questions. How does the spirit speak to you? The Still Small Voice, the Warm Feeling. What does Heavenly Father want us to do? Pray and be good... but always, always we knew that we, little grubby souls that we were, would receive an answer to prayer.


Yes... see, that's the kicker. Moroni's promise has a small out to it - you have to pray 'with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.' So, let's say you're a small child who does indeed pray diligently - or as diligently as you can with a seven-year-old attention span - and... nothing happens. No still small voice, no warm feeling, nothing. But, as you've been told over and over again by people who love you and trust you, there WILL be an answer - IF you are faithful and good enough.

Because, you see, God can't talk to you if you're bad. And we all know that the church is true, and we all know that the promise of individual answer to prayer is a sincere one which means...

And the funny thing is, I never did get an answer - not once. I tried, oh my WORD how I tried. I fasted, I prayed, I read my scriptures, I agonized over every sin, real or imagined. I repented with tears and self-loathing. I attended meetings and paid my tithing and sang hymns. And God still didn't talk to me.

Which made it clear, so far as I could tell, that I was a pretty horrendously flawed person. I mean, how bad do you have to be for God not to talk to you? It worked for everyone else - every month we had fast and testimony meeting and seven or eight people would cry and cry as they talked about the way God had spoken to them 'in the stillness of their hearts.' But not me. I was caught in an unbreakable problem: The Church is True; God has promised to tell you of its truth (as told in the Church's own scriptures); all those who pray with a sincere heart and real intent will know this truth; I did not receive this answer; See Item 1. The church had to be true, which meant God had to fulfill his promise which meant I must be Unworthy. I figured that out at the ripe old age of seven and sat, mutely miserable through my baptism interview (aged 8) waiting for the bishop to tell me I was Unworthy (he didn't. I was baptized and all my sins washed away. Which gave me great comfort until three hours later when I realized I was being Prideful and Puffed up over being spiritually washed and therefore perfect - which was likely a sin and... dang.)

By the time I married Kirk I was an anorexic and suffered from a crippling perfectionism. I also was deeply and thoroughly convinced of my own unworthiness, and, frankly, miserable whenever I thought of God, church, religion etc (which I did All The Time).

It took another five years, five years of struggle and emerging self-knowledge, five years of discussion and work and misery before, with a gasp, I decided that I would just stop. Stop going to church - just for a little while, just long enough to catch my breath and figure things out. I had had bouts of inactivity before - never more than a few weeks at a time and always, always with crippling guilt accompanying them - but this was deliberate and thoughtful and, to a certain extent, desperate - and to my great surprise I found happiness. I mean real, genuine, soul-saving happiness! Without religion I was suddenly peaceful and content and calm: I could believe in myself as a reasonable, moral person who was flawed, yes, but always trying to do the right thing. All those things I had heard about coming from faithfulness in the church - calmness, happiness, certainty, personal growth etc etc etc, all of those I was finding once I left.

Now mind you, I still believed the church must be true for everyone else because that was what I was taught. I had no idea why it didn't work for me, no idea why I was better outside of it, I just knew what I knew with, to use a Mormon phrase, a sure and certain knowledge: Mormonism was wrong for me. It's taken me quite some time to realize that I'm not the only person in this situation!

Now, why on earth would I have censored this?

Well, first (and non-Mormons will not get this) because The Church is True, and true for everyone, it is impossible for most Mormons to understand or accept that the Church isn't right for someone. Really, fundamentally, that opposes what they know to be true. So lapsed Mormons, or post-Mormons, or ex-Mormons or recovering Mormons or whatever you want to call us are judged, even by the most loving, wonderful people, judged to be wrong. They are lazy, they have been offended, they 'want to sin,' they have been deluded by Satan (or their own false pride in their intellect). These are the only reasons that people could possibly leave - no matter what they themselves say. I know this, I've heard it over and over again from people I love dearly. I don't want to hear it again from strangers who stumble over this - and I promise you I will whether in emails or comments.

Second, once you call yourself a post-Mormon (or whatever) you are immediately placed in the 'them' category - that's as in 'us against them.' Post-Mormons are believed to be anti-Mormons, whether that's said outright or not, and everything I say is going to be judged as being anti. I will never be seen as being unbiased, and there are dear people, loving people, delightful people who will stop reading (have possibly already stopped reading) because by reading this, by knowing me, they would be 'supporting, affiliating with, or agreeing with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' (re-worded from one of the questions asked in order to ascertain temple worthiness in a member).

Thirdly many Mormons feel that an ex-member writing about their disbelief or their experience leaving the church is an attack on the church - on their own beliefs and this offends or hurts people - people I love.

But there have been some things happening recently, things said, things done, that I feel pretty strongly about, and I think it's important to talk about them, and in order to do that I have to let you know who I am.

Raised Mormon, now post-Mormon.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I've been debating writing this post - both internally (I totally trounced myself on logic but I'm losing to myself with rhetoric) and externally. The thing is, like any other blogger there's a lot I don't write about. The Children, by and large, are not reportable out of respect for their privacy. I also don't talk about a lot of my personal life nor do I lay down all the boring minutiae of day to day stuff (sushi for lunch four days in a row! In a land locked state! I live on the EDGE baby). That's bog standard stuff and I don't consider it censorship - just reasonable editing. However, there are other areas where I have decided not to write something, often something I genuinely wanted to write, out of concern I might offend someone I care about.

But then what do I do when the thing I genuinely want to write is something I feel passionately about? Something where I honestly want to express my own beliefs? Something where I feel a wrong is being done and people should stand up and say so? And what do I do if writing that will possibly hurt or offend people I deeply care for?


But then, someone pointed out that dissent is just dissent, and that it can be done with compassion and care. They said that allowing those you love to know how you feel is in itself an act of love.

And, while I know that I will inevitably be judged for the opinions I express or the things I say, I also trust that the people who really know me and love me will listen even if they disagree.

So I've decided to write.

Monday, October 05, 2009


This weekend is Balloon Fiesta weekend. The city is known for its Balloon Fiesta (well, that and being so very favored by the COPS show for our particular brand of idiot criminals that the mayor had to ban them filming here for a while as they were giving us a bad name). Hundreds of balloony people come here to fly and thousands and thousands swoop in to admire the flying - well, the flying and the novelty hot air balloon in the shape of a beer stein. I, personally, have never been. I don't like crowds even a tiny bit and I loathe and despise traffic snarles and the Balloon Fiesta has both in abundance. Which is why this Sunday saw me barreling happily out of the city, past the few balloons that managed to get off the ground (naturally we had unbelievably high winds on Sunday making the main event, Mass Ascension, totally undoable) and out North to find somewhere green and gold.

Normally we hike in the local mountains as they are quite near and reasonably good fun. However the city is always visible, the trails are dusty and (often) far too hot, and there are a large number of people who find the area equally convenient. I don't actually mind the people as they tend to be hiking-running-biking-dogwalking types who are superior in general but still, it's difficult to feel one is getting away from it all when you have to meet and greet 20 people before you even get to the park entrance. Well, and to be honest there are these Uber Marathon types who have the irritating habit of passing me riiiiight at the very tippy top of the mountain when I'm doing my very best huff-and-puff and going snail's pace: passing me AT A RUN.

Anyway, the point is that after a full summer mewed up in the house due to Excessive Desert Heat, and then a week in even more heat in Texas I announced loudly that the nearby mountains would simply not do at all and we were going to head North by golly.

Which, annoyingly, means a quite long drive, but only some of it is through the boring, dry dusty desert and the rest quickly turns into spectacular red rock formations and a nice canyon floor filled with cottonwood trees and rushes and various other lovely things. Which is good enough reason to go north but what we were trying to do actually is catch this one elusive moment when the high mountains are transformed, just for a week or so, by the aspens.

Aspens are quite possibly the most beautiful trees in the world. I always forget how amazing they are because they're also high-altitude trees and you only get to see them if you really make an effort. They're gorgeous at any time of the year because of their slim white trunks but autumn is, quite simply magical. Triggered by light or temperature or something the leaves all at once turn a brilliant yellow gold while underneath the scrub oak goes from green to scarlet. But the best bit is that aspen leaves are attached with a pinched stem, so the very slightest breath of wind sets them shaking and the entire tree literally sparkles. Then a few leaves let go and you're standing there in a shower of gold.

We weren't sure we would catch it. The cottonwoods in the lower valley were just starting to turn and usually they're a few weeks behind the aspens. A few miles in and we started to see some white trunks, but the leaves were already dead and dull. It looked like we'd missed it. Still. It was a lovely day - crisp and cool with just a little cloud that would soon burn off. We drove further up and further in, nearly to the Valles Grande (an enormous extinct volcano caldera) and found a bone-rattling dirt road that had obviously not been graded since the last rain storm - or the one before that. We had to go at a careful crawl, picking the least holey of the pot holes and playing slalom with the larger boulders, which is why we could stop so quickly for the flock of wild turkeys who ran out in front of us, ruffled and ridiculous looking. Farther on we found kinglets and junkoes, hawking for insects and chirping at each other in a contented way. We were finally defeated by an exceptionally deep trench and deserted the car to hike further in.

Which is where we found them - the aspens, still golden. And scrub oak, and a beautiful, pale ghostly vine. And behind them all the huge ponderosas making a dark green canvas just so the aspens could shine even brighter. We kept walking further and further in, chasing down an half-remembered, elusive trail head (which we never found) and stopping every hundred yards or so to admire the next vignette. Naturally we went too far and naturally we kept meaning to turn around but naturally there was always another bend that needed to be gone around. So we were a little knackered for the steep climb back to the car, but it was a good tired.

On the way back we stopped again at a better known trail and hiked in a little way to find an overlook - maybe 1,000 feet above the canyon floor - steep and terrifying but utterly breathtaking. We saw a hawk start just above the tree-line and climb to hundreds of feet over our heads, riding the thermal for a mile or so in just a matter of minutes. We found a waterfall and chucked a few rocks in the pool simply because that's what you have to do when faced with water. We buried our noses in ponderosas to smell the vanilla of the sap. We tossed nuts out for the family of Stellar Jays who squabbled happily over the pieces and then deserted us for the chance at Cheetoes from the picnic down the way.

We had, it's fair to say, a golden day.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Child 3 had, as I think I've mentioned before, the good taste to be born on its grandfather's birthday. As we were, at that time, living in said grandparent's basement it was the least we could do. Every year they have dinner together or something to celebrate the fact that one single day in history saw the arrival of two such superior people. This year they also celebrate the nifty coincidence that while one has turned 17 the other is now 71. They do things with style, these two.

Child 3 became, rather abruptly, an only child this year. It was apprehensive about this fact in the months leading up to Its siblings's departures since It is, despite provocations of various kinds (mutual I should point out), rather fond of Its family. However It has discovered that there is a certain amount of space around the house now, along with less competition for the Play Station or the computer. Also, the very day Child 1 left Child 3 happily moved into the now vacant bedroom. It has, I think it's safe to say, adjusted.

Fortunately It's also a rather nice sort of being to have around. It's generally good natured, is willing to pick up after Itself when someone mentions that there is an ankle-deep strata of discarded socks and notebooks, and It has an excellent sense of humor. It also has the good sense to like all the right shows and things so we have been able to institute such important things as M*A*S*H Monday (which comes with a bit of a chant) or Top Gear night (no chant, but then it doesn't really need one).

It seems to have discovered somewhere the part of the brain that should have been standard issue at birth, the one that keeps track of homework assignments (or, you know, thinks to write them down), notes important meetings or events and anticipates that if one wants a copy of The Scarlet Letter in time to do the required reading one would do well to warn one's parent ahead of time. Rather startlingly, this year it has not only set its alarm but begun to get up to it which, after three years of ten minute frantic bleeping from the alarm clock with no visible movement in response by Child 1, is simply staggering.

In other words, it seems to be celebrating its final year as a not-yet-adult by growing up - handsomely.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Graduating from basic is apparently now a Big Deal. When Kirk graduated he did it pretty much on his own, celebrated with a free head shave (mandatory) and showed up at the local airport a day later bald, limping and about 15 pounds lighter. For Child 2 I was sent a large packet about two weeks in explaining all about graduation and what the FOUR DAYS would involve. Four. Days. High school graduation was all of 3 hours (two if you don't count trying to find the darn Child in the scrum after). There was information on hotels, on travel, on getting cars on and off base and, right at the end, a tasteful note pointing out that graduation was not guaranteed and so travel arrangements should definitely be of the returnable variety.

There was also a large section on the Very Exciting DVD which would be available for purchase! It was hours and hours long and had footage of every last important moment, really, with up-close bits of all the recruits's agonized little faces. Just imagine!

Still, I do quite like the Child and so we did make a hotel reservation (non-returnable. I'm just living life on the edge baby) and inform Child 3's school that it would be missing a few days. Then we drove through enormous amounts of Texas (note to self: never, never ever again, never no matter what ever, NEVER go through El Paso) and arrived tired and only slightly cranky on Wednesday night.

Thursday we opted to skip the Family and Friend Briefing because A) it was at 0-early in the morning (and would then leave us sitting on bleachers for 2 hours) and B) given the choice between sitting for an hour or so and being bored or counting on Child 2 to know approximately what we were and weren't supposed to do I totally decided Child 2 would be on top of things. So we had a nice leisurely morning and managed, with only three u-turns, to arrive at the right place in more than enough time.

In fact, we thought for a moment that we had inadvertently arrived in time for the briefing because there was a man cheerfully haranguing a large crowd of people. There was also a huge line right in the middle of the concrete pad but I have learned not to line up for something without first knowing what it is and we instead decided to find a place on the bleachers, preferably of the Easy Exit variety. It quickly became clear that the man was giving a detailed and enthusiastic pitch for the Very Exciting DVD, a pitch which went on for another 30 minutes, and the people in line were waiting in the sun for the chance to wave-and-smile for their particular recruit. Yup, along with muddy children with concrete guns and glimpses of your own child running around the base there would be about 2 hours of total strangers doing a two minute 'Hi BABY!!' humiliation message for their kid. We decided, with only a few pangs, not to purchase the DVD. However, the line of people provided at least moderate entertainment while we waited for the actual event to kick off.

This began with the traditional Introduction of the Worthies which started off with Colonel In Charge, And Wife Rhonda. For some reason that struck us as incredibly funny and for the rest of the morning we kept inserting 'and Wife Rhonda' into every announcement and giggling. We could see blocks of blue sort of arranging themselves down the street and were all getting a bit antsy what with the sun being rather warm and the bleachers rather hard so it was rather a relief when they finally set up the Drum and Bugle types (recruits - wasn't clear if they will Drum and Bugle for the rest of their careers or if they just happened to be Drumming and Bugling aficionados who volunteered out of a deep and abiding love of Sousa) and began marching in the kids. I was maintaining a dignified pose, natch, while trying to see if it was possible to tell the difference between one blue-clad person and another (answer - no. With luck gender is at least guessable, particularly as they clump the genders together and Never the Twain Mix) and had to be elbowed in order to appreciate the fantastic move the recruits were doing. They would get their little block of people into approximately the right place and then the In Charge Scary Person (they were) would bark something and the entire group would do this fantastic penguin shuffle until everything was beautifully lined up. We got to see it about eight times and it never lost its charm - 30 or so blue people all waddling rapidly in formation. Fantastic.


After all that the ceremony took about two minutes flat as each recruit was handed a Basic Training coin, were led in a Group Shout and finally announced to be released. Our bleachers swayed disconcertingly as the Rather Large Family members all stampeded forward and we all sort of cautiously approached the recruits. And there was Child 2! In blue! With a coin (that she nearly dropped during the Group Shout but saved due to clever use of Parade Rest hands)!

She wasn't allowed off base that day and had a curfew so we spent the rest of the day sort of wandering around the mini mall (being a) allowed to admire the Place Where Child 2 Shopped; b) shown the Off Limits Area; c) told that the most valuable, wonderful items in the whole wide world ever are small packs of toilet paper and disposable toothbrushes - the green ones taste best apparently). We fed the Child (ice cream) hugged it and deposited it back in its designated return area before heading back to the hotel.

Day 1 was just warm up for Day 2 though. Day 2 found us in a totally different set of bleachers (unfortunately in full sun), 2 hours before the start of the Official Graduation. We did get to see the TI's (Training Instructors? I think?) practice the parade part of the whole thing which was entertaining as apparently there wasn't a lot of communication at first so they solemnly marched past, the important types at the front peeled off and marched beautifully to one side and the rest sort of continued on, disappearing into the distance until a runner was sent to retrieve them and make them quick march back (with some choice shouting) for another go around. There was also a loud and probably normally unbearable man behind us who told a very funny story about how, when the minister at his daughter's wedding did the 'if there be any here present who knows any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined in marriage, I require him now to make it known or ever after hold his peace' bit this guy stepped forward, opened his mouth and paused a second, then snapped a photo. He said his daughter's face was a treat. I figure he was lucky to have survived the experience.

At any rate, we sat, baking and gasping in the now extremely hot sun and, at least me, wondering WHY ON EARTH they couldn't have just done something quick and simple yesterday and let us have the rest of the weekend to frolic (only I understand the military is a bit down on frolicking in general) when they finally paraded the recruits in and stood them all on the grass in their neat little rows. At which point we were all asked to rise while the base chaplain gave an invocation.

'Oh Lord,' he started, 'you formed us out of this DIRT.' there was a snigger. It wasn't me.

'The DIRT these recruits have crawled through...'

'... as their TI's SQUEEZED THE WEAKNESS OUT OF 'EM!' there were several more sniggers. I held it together.

'For their perfume was the SWEAT of HARD WORK'


'the FUNK! Of gunpowder and steel!'

At which point I lost it completely and had to be supported.

It was the best darn invocation I ever heard ever, in my whole life. And I know Child 2 will never forget it.

I'll make sure of it.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I've been a bit defensive about Child II. A lot of my friends both online and off are what I would consider intelligent, educated, broad-minded people whom I both like and respect. If they were jackasses it would all be rather easier (well, okay if they were jackasses they wouldn't be my friends either, but why be logical?) because I wouldn't care what they say or think. And actually, what's making me defensive is not necessarily anything that HAS been said (although there are a few of those), it's what MIGHT be said.

Because, as charming and wonderful as all those people are, a lot of them are also a bit judgmental. It comes from having firmly held opinions and thinking about things a lot usually but, like all judgments, it also comes just a little from making broad assumptions. And I'm tender to those judgments about Child II.

But I've done a lot of thinking about it all over the last few days and I realize that I'm also making assumptions, assumptions about what people I care about will say (and thus about what they think and feel), assumptions that make them out to be simpler, narrower and less thoughtful than I absolutely know they are. So this is about Child II and what she is doing and why I am deeply, profoundly proud and amazed by her. And yes, I did just give Child II a gender which breaks all my rules but this is personal and I think it's important.

Last year as her final few months as a high school student ticked away Child II came to me with a staggering announcement. She was going to take the ASVAB - the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - because she was thinking about joining the military. It was the first I'd heard of any such idea. She had certainly never talked about such a thing and was, among the three, the only Child to show no interest in anything military at all (quite the contrary). I tried to be as neutrally supportive as possible while sort of reeling a bit inside and, when asked, dropped her off at various offices and things so the test could be taken. She had arranged it all with an army recruiter who was friendly and casual to me right up until the moment when Child II was brought back from the exam and the results were read: she scored a 99, which is 100%. Including the automotive and sort of DIW type sections - this from a Child who does not drive and has not shown the least interest in learning to do so. Immediately the recruiter became terribly keen and helpful and Child II was whisked through the list of jobs available to her (all of them) and shown facts and figures on how much the Army would give her for enlisting (a lot) and just how long she would have to be in (too long... well, that was my opinion and I admit bias). I waited until we were alone in the car and gently suggested it might be worth talking to a few other services as well.

And we talked and talked, about why she was even looking into this, about what she really wanted, about what she should do now. Child II, it turned out, had been quietly thinking things over seriously. She wanted to do something with languages as she has a tremendous aptitude for them. She also knew, as I did, that she was far from ready for university and that going now would probably do more harm than good. She didn't just want to get a retail job somewhere and see how she felt a year or so on - she wanted to learn something, achieve something, and more importantly she wanted to do a meaningful, useful job. It was a little hard to argue with.

Fast forward a bit. I dragged Child II in to talk to the Air Force recruiter as well as all the other services and, after enduring weeks of high-pressure sales from the Army and comparing it with what she saw in the Air Force office she decided that was what she wanted to do. She was whisked off to take another test, the DLAB (Defence Language Aptitude Battery) which is a strange and quite difficult assessment and again she scored extremely high. She took physical exams, passed multiple drug screens and cheerfully and patiently answered the same 20 questions a gagillion times. She was finally given a career assignment (assuming she passed basic) and told when to report to the down-town whatsit place where they administer oaths and ship everyone off to training.

She would leave in July, leaving us a few months to get her graduated (just) and wait. I spent it usefully shoving her out the door to go running and leaping out at her in the hallway to ask if she had done any sit ups or push ups that day. I also spent most days assuring her that while I supported her absolutely in her goals she should also know that at any time, any time at all, if she felt she was uncertain or didn't want to go ahead with this thing she could do so. I watched her avoiding her daily runs (she never did get up to a full mile) and fretted over whether this was the right thing, whether she would regret it, whether she could even do it.

It turned out she reported for basic training the day I left to go on holiday. She had to spend the night at a hotel the night before (I think probably to avoid last-night parties and accompanying stupidity on the part of young recruits) so I dropped her off, gave her a quick hug and said good bye. The next morning we all showed up to see her take her oath - roomful of solemn, terrified infants and their proud/apprehensive/terrified relatives. We had to leave her there but promised to try to meet up again at the airport. We missed her by about 2 minutes.

They don't let recruits have much contact at first. She was allowed one very brief phone call to let us know she was there safely, and one pre-printed post card with the relevant gaps filled in with a scrawled blue ink to tell us what her address was. I began writing a daily letter, sending them off without any idea what was actually happening with her. Then, a couple of weeks in, the first phone call. And she was... different. Confident, happy, sure of herself. Where I expected a few tears and some need of moral support there was calmness and, very evidently, a new maturity.

It's eight and a half weeks in all. Lots of running and a fair amount of shouting, some carrying around of rifles (which have been filled with cement to avoid any creativity on the part of recruits who want to make them functional), a smattering of stuff on sexual harassment, money management and first aid. The Air Force, as any Marine will tell you, is pretty soft - or maybe it's just a different approach to produce a different type of military member for a different kind of job. Still, it's not easy, and Child II, in phone call after phone call, was clearly thriving.

So last Wednesday the car was packed up with an unreasonable amount of baggage and we drove for 12 hours to go and see Child II graduate. We met up with her, recognizable in her dress blues, but slimmer, fitter and, again, more mature. She surprised us all by happily and freely hugging us (apparently bunking with umpteen women does a little to remove any lingering personal space issues) and proudly showed us around 'her' base, talking non-stop from the moment we saw her to the last minute when we dropped her off on Saturday night.

On Monday morning she flew to Monterey, California to start the next adventure at DLI. Her scores were high enough to test her out of most of the languages so, to our surprise, she will be spending the next two years learning Korean.

I know her friends and mine will, some of them, be worried for Child II. I know some of them will be bothered by association with the military. But I hope they also know what an amazing person she is, and how important it is that our military is staffed with people like her, people who care deeply, people who are intelligent and gifted and strongly compassionate: people who want to do something good in the world.

I certainly do.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I went on holiday in July.

A real one, a holiday just to be a holiday - with time off and no additional goals like, for example, moving across the country. A whole holiday intended simply to relax and recreate.

I can tick off one more item on my 'things to do in order to be a real grown-up' list. It's all very exciting.

I'm sort of going on another holiday next week but as it is a) to San Antonio, TX and b) really not intended as a holiday but as Celebration of the Achievements of Child 2 I don't think it counts. Of course, we will go to Sea World one day, but as I've already set aside ten minutes for standing near the orca enclosure and crossing my arms and disapproving of the enslavement and exploitation of our cetaceous brethren (or sistren, I'm not choosy) I think it will count as political activism rather than sheer unadulterated Good Times.

Where was I... oh yes! What I did on my summer vacation:

1) Slept in! Mostly. Well, okay, got up pretty early still BUT I could have slept in and that's the really important bit.

2) Admired green things. Claims were made that the area was suffering a drought. In fact, apologies were made - statements like, 'I'm so sorry things are so brown, we've just not had that much rain this year' while looking sadly over the verdant, velvet green lawn in front of us. Their darn brown was greener than our green.

3) Admired Historic Things. Mostly houses really as I quite like houses if they're nifty and have twiddly bits on them or are Architecturally Interesting. Or just mad - there was at least one that was simply, wonderfully mad. Still, it was quite good fun and many pictures were taken and not one, not one single one at all, was a brown adobe box. (nor were there any visible howling coyotes with bandanas on their necks OR chile ristras OR cut out silhouettes of cowboys leanng on walls. Not sure what passes for culture in this area really...)

4) Went to a Very Large Lake, which was so very VERY large that it had ginormous sailing boats on and really looked entirely like the ocean which was very soothing for someone who has had ocean withdrawal for a terribly long time. Well, it looked like the ocean until, standing at the end of the pier, I saw a flotilla of ducks on the water which was so entirely wrong that a) I mentally insisted they were cormorants until the reality based half of my brain shouted so loudly I had to abandon my delusions and b) I had to turn my back because of the horror of ducks on the ocean.

5) Ate ridiculous amounts of sushi although in a land-locked state. Sushi which arrived on a decorative boat thing because there was so much of it. Sushi which was ordered off a menu which included a Harry Potter roll (which we opted out of. There is such a thing as Too Much). Sushi which was, I admit, extremely good. Also warm saki which was also good.

6) Followed up by visiting a beer garden. Which did have a very loud band of... interesting value and very good beer indeed but was, possibly, not quite all that it could have been as it was raining. However, we managed, while sheltering on the band stand, to successfully research the names of all 9 muses which was educational. I can still name five.

7) Went jet skiing on yet another (much smaller lake). AND did not fall off although the driver braked while turning or maybe didn't brake while turning or maybe turned and then braked... anyway, the driver certainly made things exciting and while I might have squeaked I did not fall off. Also I saw several turtles and some very nice birds. Also I kayaked (and did not turn over).

There was some other stuff too making for a rather full week.

This holidaying lark is not for the weak.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


There are certain truths about movies that I think are self evident but I will outline them here just because:

1) movies are made, primarily, to provide a venue for the display and appreciation of certain arts. These arts are (in no particular order) graphic, costume, set design, art direction, typographic (well, okay credits in general), lighting, editing and... well, I'm sure there's other stuff but these are the important things.

2) the single most important advancement in cinematic arts ever, bar none, is the bonus features dvd.

3) this important advancement is egregiously and criminally underused.

4) the best way to appreciate a movie is to watch the bonus features FIRST so when the movie is actually playing you can really watch for that particular bit of color grading or the costume with the exceptional fabric weave.

5) the worst possible way to watch a movie is in the actual cinema theatre. It is vile. It is horrid. It is, further, impossible to do point 4 what with there being no bonus features released to cinema (note to movie promoters - dudes! What a great idea!). To expand on this point we'll move on to:

a] People lose at least 20 IQ points when they walk into a darkened cinema. This drop in intelligence produces behavior such as: Use of cell phones during the movie; attempting to interact/advise characters on the screen; choosing to bring infants or extremely young children to movies that are i. loud ii. violent iii. dramatic iv. dependent in any way on the dialogue being actually audible or v. longer than 15 minutes.

b] Cinema theatres are not comfortable. The floors are sticky, the chairs oddly shaped (and often... warm... or... worse), the sound is too loud and the screen often at a terribly uncomfortable angle.

c] It is difficult if not impossible to walk away from a movie without irritating or disrupting other people.

All these are, I feel, wonderful and viable reasons why watching a dvd in the comfort of your own home is actually a superior means of truly appreciating a movie.

And my Children should rest assured that these reasons are why I did not go to Harry Potter The Most Recent One with them and NOT because I'm a great big ginormous chicken who can't bear to watch:

1) People being embarrassed
2) People being threatened or tormented
3) People being unfairly accused or suspected of something
4) Several other minor things which are totally understandable and logical and shared by all right minded individuals.

Besides, I'll bet the bonus features are going to be amazing. Just you wait.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009



It's now past the Tuesday deadline and everyone who was going to bundle has bundled (you did bundle, didn't you? I mean, unless you have some horrible condition where going into a store with FIVE aisles of scrapbooking supplies and SIX aisles of Christmas gee-gaws [in AUGUST PEOPLE!! AUGUST! So wrong it's made me break out the square-brackets-within-the-parentheses {dang, where was I...oh yes}] makes you develop weeping purple hives or something /*phew thought I was going to be caught forever in a labyrinth of nested asides*/) so I can get back to that dusty old list of things I was going to blog about. Most of which I've forgotten what I was going to say...

... except the Falafel King who is, I can honestly say, unforgettable.

A month or so ago I noticed a bright yellow sign up outside what appeared to be a gas station, a sign saying something like "now open! Middle Eastern Restaurant!" The gas station seemed to still be fully functional and there were also signs suggesting an oil change might be in order and wouldn't now be a great time to consider buying a fleece blanket devoted to the promotion of the Denver Broncos?

Unfortunately at that moment I didn't have time to take a left and so sadly I did not stop for lunch.


I mean, come on - a middle eastern restaurant - plonked down inside a not-quite-7-11? Irresistible!

So a few weeks later I convinced a weak-minded friend to join me and we swung in the door to find: The display of rolled up horoscopes, the display of novelty lighters, the large sign promising meeeellleeeeons of dollars if you just buy the nice lotto ticket, the seventeen magazines about hot-rods, low-riders or customized bikes (all with EXACTLY the same woman in a bikini draped over them - and I'm darn sure she's going to burn something sensitive on that tail pipe if she's not careful), four aisles of lentils, dried chickpeas, spices and sugared almonds AND two small diner booths with tables. And flowers. And little menus. One booth was already occupied by two couples who seemed to be struggling not to giggle, but the other was free and immaculately clean so we considered sitting down but really didn't want to commit too much so we just walked up to the counter (next to the horoscopes) and cleared our throats to be heard over the arabic soap opera playing on the television.

Which is where we met the falafel king.

We would, we told him confidently, quite like the falafel sandwichy thing which had falafel wrapped up in flatbread and some sauce and pickles and nice stuff. He looked at us fondly. 'You eat here or you take it with you?' he asked and, 'oh, to go, please,' I said happily. 'You want those toasted?' 'Oh YES!' I said (because I couldn't quite hear him as the very lovely busty woman with the purple blouse had just burst into tears all over the chest of the tall man with the mustache and the green shirt with the sort of weird flowery vesty thing and it got a bit loud). He looked at us sadly and turned to his grill. We decided to browse through the lentil section for a bit.

Five minutes later he came up to us, clearly agitated.

'You see, you can't take them with you. If you take them with you, because they are toasted, they will become soggy, you see? They will no longer be crisp. And the heat, it will be gone, and the flat bread, it will NO LONGER BE CRISP. You must eat them here.'

We blinked at him. He leaned forward a bit.

'I make them, you see, I make them myself here, right here, I make them all, and the bread, when you toast it, you must eat it here, hot, while it is crisp and nice. IF YOU GO IT WILL NOT BE NICE!!'

We meekly sat down in the booth and accepted our crisp, hot falafel sandwiches. He smiled at us in satisfaction and then moved on to the other booth where he scolded them for wanting to take the remains of their hummus and pita with them.

I have to say, the falafel? It was superb.

And crisp.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bundles II

So I got some stuff on Monday, bundled everything up on Tuesday and was going to mail them today, Wednesday, until life intervened which means, sadly, I'll be bouncing off the deadline by shipping them tomorrow. But! They're all ready to go which makes me happy. Here's what I put in my two bundles:

Both have:

5 yards of fabric (a nice restrained green check as Art mentioned that less vibrant patterns were best and that green is a favorite color)
1 pair scissors
1 bundle elastic
2 spools of thread
1 set of pins
1 wheel of needles
1 seam ripper
1 thimble
1 measuring tape
1 small box of safety pins, buttons and snaps

Then one bundle has:

1 bag of sequins (mixed)
1 bag of beads (mixed)
1 card beading needles
[in the belief that kids love shiny, sparkly things and even if they can't or won't be used for sewing they can be treasure!]

The other has:

1 embroidery hoop (plastic so as hopefully not to break)
2 spools grosgrain ribbon
assorted embroidery threads
[in the belief that most little girls love hair ribbons and that embroidery thread colors make everyone happy]

They're all bundled and tied per instruction and will go off in a flat rate box (or two) tomorrow. Don't forget to check IBOL for instructions and leave a comment there (on any post at all) to get the address for shipping if you haven't yet.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Iraq Bundles of Love

Anyone out there a sewer or knitter? I'm a little late to this party but there's an amazing soldier in Iraq who is organizing a donation project to provide supplies to Iraq - bundles of fabric, thread, other notions, yarn - whatever. I KNOW if you sew you have fabric lying around and this is an amazing way to pass it along to someone who needs it.

One point: he's leaving Iraq pretty soon so you need to jump on this right away. Please make sure your box is postmarked by September 7th (that's a week from Monday so probably aim for Friday as the last day to ship it). Also, he's trying to get this done for Ramadan and the 7th is the last day to get things over there before Ramadan ends. I understand he's trying to set up a way to keep the project going even after he heads home but for now try to get things over there as soon as possible. He has nice detailed instructions for making up a bundle here on his blog: INSTRUCTIONS and a post on what to include right here: WHAT TO SEND. Finally, just leave him a comment on any post anywhere on his blog and he'll send you the address to ship to - you'll be shipping at reduced rates thanks to the APO address (he doesn't want the address on the internet since it is a time-sensitive program so I'll let him get it to you).

International folks: Check out his post here on an option for shipping.

I love this whole idea - giving the sort of stuff that no one thinks about but that can make such an enormous difference. Oh, and if you want to tuck anything else in, like small stuffed animals or something I'm pretty sure that would be okay too. I think probably no food, and (he insists) nothing for him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Child 1 whizzed through for one last weekend. It had been gone just long enough to make us all go, 'oh yes, THAT'S what it's like having another body around the house' a bit but not so long that having it back felt strange. Of course it was only here for the blink of an eye - a few meals here and there, a visit to its Grandparents, a single load of laundry and off again.

I dropped it at the airport for one of those modern goodbyes. It seems ridiculous to do the hugging and last wording part at home but at the airport it's all exhaust fumes and patrolling security guards and impatient cars so it was given a kiss and half a hug and sent on its way. I didn't even have time to watch it go through the doors; it was gone in no time anyway without even a backwards glance.

So now Child 3 and I can actually settle into The Way Things Are Now. For the past three weeks there were still belongings scattered and drawers half full. Child 3 was half moved from one room and into another waiting on that final visit.

We know it will be back of course. The internship is only until January, and although it's going to find a place of its own it will also be around for dinner now and then. But there is a door-shut sort of feeling at the moment, a lovely feeling that Child 1 has happily ended the small, play-house world of being a kid.

It's very nice of it not to have left us all behind there.