Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What Happens When...

....my wife doesn't have to go to work because it has snowed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Snowed Today!!!

The last time I saw this much snow, in a place I lived, was the winter before I moved from Salt Lake City to Napa, California.

It was , as they put it in the newspaper this morning , near blizzard conditions.

Instead of driving the mile to the Zendo , yesterday, we did one of my favorite things to do on a snowy morning ; we walked. A snow storm is much more pleasant to walk in than a rain storm.

Our bike trailer did well in the snow, but the front wheel attachment kept jamming up and acted more like a ski.

Snow is such a big deal here, it only snows about two days a year, they closed school. The only reason I can see for them to close school for this little amount of snow is so the kids can all go out and play.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

When looking at my stats, at Statcounter, I have noticed that some of the searches that have brought people to my blog may have been searches for help. I have added the National Domestic Violence Hot Line , just above my profile.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ruthie and Chaz Model Citizens?

The two little ones and I were at a cafe this morning. They, the 2 year old and the four year old, were eating muffins and sharing a croissant with me. There were only two other people in the cafe, two middle aged women eating croissant with egg and reading the paper.

The little people sat there contentedly eating for, a long time, by child standards. Just as I went to get another cup of coffee Chaz (the two year old) was, obvious to me, starting to lose his contentedness.

I commented that, getting another cup of coffee, was not a good idea since I could tell that the kids would soon get restless.

One of the women said that they sure were good kids, and that they sure were patient. Whenever anyone says that my kids are good I always agree with them, but, generally I find that what they see as good and what I see as good are different.

After our brief conversation it was clear to me what she meant by good. He was not running around screaming in the cafe. Of course, I knew what she meant, if your toddler is running around screaming that is not "good" cafe behavior, you might as well take your stuff and leave. You won't enjoy being there and neither will the other customers.

It is a given that there is good behavior and bad behavior, for certain situations. If Chaz is having a tantrum it is much easier for me to handle if I am not in a nice restaurant; if I am at home or even at a grocery store I am less embarrassed. It all comes down to how I feel, and how I think me and my child are being perceived by other people.

I have accepted that a two year old throwing a tantrum is neither bad nor good. Every two year old has tantrums, at least all three of mine have. As they grow and their communication skills become more sophisticated tantrums become less frequent.

So, my comment to the other cafe customer was; he is being pleasant now, but an hour ago he was screaming.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Fear Looks to A Toddler

Charlie experienced a car- wash for the first time a few days ago. You know, one of those car-washes with big moving brushes that spin around and go back and forth over the car.

Charlie, having never seen one of those things before, did not know what to make of it. I am guessing that, he must have thought, that they were big furry monsters that were attacking our car. Not like the big furry monsters on "Sesame Street" who teach you how to count , hang out in garbage cans and eat cookies .

Charlie shook with fear......I wish I had a visual.......he quaked with terror....scared. His, always practical, nonplussed, sister sat there and tried to soothe him. "It's just a car wash Charlie" "those things won't hurt you...see they are washing the car."

Then, as if to soothe himself, he started repeating: "it's just a car-wash" over and over.

When something scares him now he says "it's just a car wash." We have added others. "It's just a machine (vacuum cleaner)" "It's just a lawnmower"

But really scary things, like white movie credits rolling on a black background, is just a car wash.

( I would love to be able to see the thoughts going on in his head when he sees things)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chaz's Latest Song

A song about a legendary older brother, who, looms large in the two year olds psyche-

"My Kyle lies over the ocean, bring back my Kyle to me"

"My Kyle lies over the sea, bring back my Kyle to me"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Former Saint

Recently, I have had a few readers from the ex-Mormon and Mormon community reading my blog. For them I am posting my Exit from Mormonism story; I wrote it for the Recovery From Mormonism board.

Please comment, and ask questions, I will answer all questions to the best of my ability.

The reason that I initially left the L.D.S. Church, at the moment I consciously decided to leave was pretty simple, I had no testimony. It was not an action of just slipping into in-activity but an actual thought. I could not say, with any honesty, that I knew the Church was true. This problem, and at 19  I did view it as a problem, prevented me from going on a mission.
My disaffection with the Church began earlier than that. As a kid, I probably was not much different from many other born and bred Salt Lake valley Mormons, insulated from the non-Mormon world because Mormons are the majority but enough non-Mormons so, that contact with non-members was common.
I can clearly remember that I had ingested the idea that we needed to avoid evil; in my mind non-members were not so much evil but had access to evil things so, obviously needed to be avoided; that philosophy only applied if they were doing something wrong, like smoking or drinking. As I grew up I could see how prejudiced my attitude was. Despite the awareness of my prejudice most of my friends were just as devout as I was, and I did not try to befriend people who were outside my faith.

As a teenager I was the type who took church pretty seriously, I never missed a meeting, went to seminary every day, I obeyed all the rules (I even turned down free tickets and a backstage pass to a Depeche Mode concert. Only because it was on a Sunday!)  Like many average teens the music I listened to and the look I adopted probably appeared pretty rebellious to other people; I was aware of that. Sure, I had spiky hair, wore a lot of black, I went to dance clubs and concerts on the weekend but my outer look did not necessarily reflect my spiritual life.
I was also hyper aware of what I thought of as fake righteousness. We were pretty poor, my father could not hold a job, and he suffered from bipolar disorder. When I was fairly young I was sure that my fathers mental illness  meant that he was not a righteous person.  Also If he were living the gospel he would be happier and would be able to hold a job.  When I was a teen and started battling my own depression I could see that this conclusion I made about him  was wrong but I perceived that others in the church and in our family did not see this.  I  sensed that my family, especially my dad was looked down upon for our relative poverty.  
The direction I took was to cultivate an authentic spiritual life that shed outward appearances and was more focused on my inner life; so I did all the things and tried to think the things a good Mormon should.
When I was fifteen I took some summer theater classes at University of Utah, through this I started making friends with non-Mormons, this was when I became aware that “righteousness” was not something that only Mormons had, I also discovered that even people who were not religious could be “good.”
This little realization was faith shattering. I realized that, according to my church, these people from other churches were moral, but they lacked the absolute truth that Mormonism offered. So, if they did not accept the “truth” as we saw it, even with all their good deeds, they would not make it to the Celestial Kingdom, the highest tier of heaven in L.D.S. cosmology. This bothered me, instead of just accepting this explanation I started to doubt that Mormon truth was absolute.

By the time I was 19 these doubts were fairly solid, they were helped by the fact that, despite my often desperate prayer sessions, where I would ask god for some sign of the Church's truth, I expected the "burning bosom" that was often referenced, this feeling often came in church when we were singing hymns and it came at a Public Image Ltd. show when John Lydon  screamed "anger is an energy."  I never did get the witness that so many had promised so, instead of doubting the church I doubted my sincerity.  It was really easy to tell my bishop when it became time for my mission interview that I could not put my papers in until I had some personal revelation.  My view was that my faith and testimony should be solid, so that when I went out looking for converts I would be able to really believe what I was doing.
My bishop told me I should just go and my doubts would be lifted. I can see now the wisdom in this statement; yes, sometimes you just have to jump and maybe if I had just gone I would not have left the church. With all the doubts I had, a mission may have just cemented my feelings even more, and I probably would have gone to a place with even less Mormon influences than Salt Lake City.
When my mission interview took place I was living with my girlfriend  who was not Mormon and we lived in a part of SLC where, as the local singles ward bishop put it, kids who don't want to be in the church anymore go. 
 After my initial break with the church my Girlfriends mom was pretty influential in my post-Mormon “spiritual” development. During the Late sixties she had become involved with a group of American Hindus. She had a guru and practiced yoga.
She gave me a couple of her guru's  books plus some others in the eastern philosophy bent. What grabbed me from the outset was that their idea of god fit mine easily. My idea of god had gotten fairly large in my imagination;  god was not this judgmental character who had a chosen people but one who loved all his children and gave them several ways to get back to him.
I began practicing yoga, not just as physical exercise, but as a spiritual one. I also devoured books about yogic philosophy and Buddhism. I read books by Alan Watts, Ram Das, and Jack Kerouac. I spent a couple of months living at an ashram in California, where I learned meditation and various yogic practice’s, and met other young people like myself who were searching for an authentic spiritual life.
This was an incredible time in my life, being free from Mormonism, I felt free to choose my experiences without fear. I believed fervently that I could free myself up with yogic practice and truly worship god with my whole self, not the limited self I felt I was as a Mormon. Once I achieved that state, I thought that I would really be living “righteously” and the appearance of righteousness would be because of what was inside.
I was also free to do things that are denied to a member of the church, which meant that I could make mistakes and not worry about whether or not I would still go to heaven.
By the time I was 24, I was as far as I could get from Mormonism. I was not interested in it, I did not think about it much, except when I traveled and people would ask me where I was from. My pride in my Mormon pioneer heritage became apparent to me; I loved to tell people that my relatives were involved in the beginnings of the church and had scouted out and settled the Salt Lake valley. My disaffection from the church did not change my feelings for my family, nor did it seem to change how they felt about me. I am aware that for many exmormons this is not the case and I know I am lucky in this respect.
By the time I was 27 I had begun practicing Zen, I had a 2 year old son, and an ex-girlfriend with whom I was sharing parenting duties. At this time, I met a woman who was about six months from departing on a mission for the church, to Bolivia. She was attractive, intelligent, well educated and a devout Mormon.
We discussed and debated religion a lot, which, I found to be one of her more attractive attributes. My Zen practice softened my bias against the church significantly enough so, that when she suggested to me that I take a second look at the church, I did. I also had the thought that I might go back to the church. I can’t say honestly that my attraction to my friend did not influence this; mostly going back would have been out of my nostalgia for simplicity. I decided that the best route for me would be to take an institute class.
I chose a class at Salt Lake community college which was taught by one of my former high school seminary teachers, this teacher was the only person who suggested to me that exploring other religions fully was not a bad idea. The class did not sway me in any way to go back to church. In fact during the class I got the impression that Mormonism was much more convoluted than I had originally thought. I also found it devoid of the pragmatic approach to spiritual development I had found if Zen practice. The other effect it had on me was that I could now admit that Mormonism was fine for other people, but not me.
At the time of this writing it has been 17 years since I decided to leave the church, I finally had my name removed about three years ago. I currently am a practitioner in the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Leaving the church has been more of a journey than a destination for me; a journey that brings me back to it, in mind, frequently. One of my struggles has been to accept the parts of myself that are still Mormon, and respect those who practice it. The immediate benefit I can identify from this struggle is that I have good relationships with the members of my family who are solidly L.D.S.

(Now it has been almost 21 years since I left.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Absent Kids

For the first ten years of my older sons life we were rarely apart for long; a month at the most. The two days of the week, plus the weekends, that he would spend with his mother seemed like an eternity at times. When he was with us I would just get to feeling like a normal family; normal as in the constant reminding him to "pick up your socks" or " no computer until you have finished your homework" normal. Then I would whisk him away to his moms.

I would drop him off, and drive away reminded that this was not what I considered "normal."

I was used to it, so was he.

This situation had its perks, my wife and I never had to find a babysitter if we wanted to go out; until the little ones were born.

When we moved to Eugene, I knew it was drastic, it would be a change that we all had to adjust to. I knew it would be hardest on him.

For the second year he spent winter break with us. Two weeks of 11 year-old boy. Light-saber fights, stinky socks, wet towels on the floor, one or two days of emotional turmoil.

Me, resenting that he wants to spend more time playing with his neighborhood friends than with his step-mom and two, drastically younger siblings. (he assured me that this was not the case, and I adjusted to his need.) We all had a great time with him, most of all his two younger siblings; who worship him.

His last day came. After I ordered him for the....millionth time...to please get your stuff together and pack; his step-mom found him sitting against his bedroom door sobbing. He did not want to leave.

Later on that day, at a pizza place in Portland, we talked about how temporary his whole situation is. Only six years and he will be able to settle where he wants, visit who he wants. We talked about the difficulty of our situation and who has it harder, him or me?

We both have it hard and the reasons are numerous.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Chaz turned two yesterday. What can I say about him; just six months ago he was freaking other parents at the park out by climbing higher than they thought he should. When he did fall, I would ask if he was OK, he would say yes, then get up and keep playing. (sometimes he would cry and want to be held.)

I can't remember what his first word was, but I notice that, he says "thank you" every time I give him something he asks for, he used to say wow a lot, and there is the ever present "that's mine", no and " I want that.........." whatever dad does not want you touching.

Happy Birthday Chaz! It sure has been fun.