And Now For Something Serious

Later this spring I will be speaking at a conference on a panel about faith, and blogging. When I agreed to do it I was in a really great place in my faith, and I felt like I had a lot of positive, gushy things to say about the topic. But today has been hard. Today I read some hateful things online and I am starting to feel a little less delightful. I am starting to feel . . . defensive. Defensiveness is really ugly on me. I am going to use this here blog as a place of therapy, because I can. Do you mind? I hope you don't mind.

Mormonism is not terribly respected. This is depressing unto me. Our doctrine is generally misunderstood. Strangely, it is really easy to get a bunch of cockamamy ideas about Mormons without going to any real effort to find it. (Some of these ideas you may get from actual Mormons themselves, but I digress.)  I was born and raised LDS and as such I have very intimate relationship with being teased and feeling embarrassed about my church. How many moms do you have? Don't you sacrifice virgins in your temple? But why can't I get into your temple? Do Mormons really have horns? (Not a joke, this question was not a joke.)

The jokes I am okay with. I have been known to make a few myself when I am feeling saucy. But there are Christian faiths that make it a point to teach their congregations about Mormonism, and they usually have the wrong information, leading to a lot of misunderstanding. Famous rock stars have taken the most precious symbols of our faith and burned them on stage. There are Christian writers out there who pump out anti-Mormon literature like they are being paid in marshmallows. And they say some horrible, terribly untrue things. They have no problem spewing this hatred. Maybe they consider it a sign of their truthfulness, that they can identify what is so very wrong about us? I don't know.

The LDS church is plagued with a history of this. Even before my ancestors were driven from their homes and forced to trek across the country to make a new home in Utah, our early church leaders were harassed, tarred and feathered, beat up, their homes ransacked and burned, their families chased from state to state, usually by people of "faith." Usually by other Christians.

It just doesn't make any sense to me.

So, this is my story. My story of why I blog about my faith.

I've always been sensitive to Mormon bashing -- too sensitive, definitely -- and when we moved to Oregon it seemed to reach its peak. In the part of Oregon where we lived there is a big church on the southern end of town with a large youth following. Nearly all of my friends attended there, went on long religious retreats, served service missions, they were Christian and proud and as a fellow Christian I thought it was fantastic. One day, a girl who I had long considered a close friend told me her church had taught her how bad Mormons are. How dumb we are. How wrong we are. How we think we're Christians, but actually, we're not. (I'm not? News to me!) She told me that I belonged to a cult and that I needed to be saved and that my family was brainwashed. I was shocked. She stopped hanging out with me shortly thereafter.

I felt like it was my job to prove them wrong. Be the "cool" Mormon. I felt like I could prove to them that we're not prudes, we're not weird, we can be fun and normal, that we do NOT have horns, and in the course of this I put up with a lot of crap. It got really, really tiring. I started to realize that I didn't have as many good friends I could trust as I'd thought, because a lot of them were laughing at me and criticizing me behind my back. Pitying me. And I loved my friends. It got to the point where I was tired of being Mormon. (It never occurred to me to be tired of my friends, come to think of it.)

Brandon had a very similar experience when he was in high school. He struggled with the negative attention just as I did, and eventually stopped going to church all together. A year or two into college he had a change of heart, made some decisions, and served a two-year mission in Chile. He has been strong in his faith ever since. He is such a good example to me.

I met Brandon at BYU. I was his Family Home Evening "mom." How horrific is that? We got married in the Portland Temple, and shortly after we moved to New York City for our grand adventure. During this time my sister, who was in high school, became friends with some of these Christian kids who made no bones about their disdain for Mormonism. My sister was always very spiritual, and around this time she decided her path to Christianity lay elsewhere. I love my sister and will defend her choice to the death, but when she left the church it wasn't terribly gracefully. She said some hurtful things, as you do when emotions are high. I know she didn't mean them. Still, it was the straw that broke my camel's back. I was just so tired.

I considered just leaving. Not just leaving the church but leaving religion. All of it. Because everywhere around me all I saw from it was hate, judgement, and conflict. I do not do well with conflict. And I was so tired of skirting the subject. I was tired of vaguely answering "Oh, in college" when asked where I met my husband so I wouldn't have to admit that I went to BYU. When you admit you went to BYU, well, you're asking for it.

And Prop 8 . . .  I don't even want to talk about it. (Talk about being embarrassed to be a Mormon.)

When I moved to Idaho I was still going to church but my heart wasn't in it. I was miserable. One of my dearest friends stepped in and introduced me to a few of her LDS friends, who were all writers and bloggers, and thank heavens she did. These women were Mormon and proud. They knew who they were and what value it was and they were not afraid of backlash or criticism. Because the honest truth of it is, whatever LDS doctrine you may not agree with, we are a wonderful group of people. We teach of Christ, we follow His example, we believe we are saved by Grace, we practice charity and goodwill -- not to win "heaven points"-- but to be as Christlike as we can be. We might not believe what you believe, but since when is that any big deal? Isn't that what life is about? The Mormon church is a fine church. There is nothing wrong with it. So I decided to stop feeling like there was.

And I guess that is why I write about my faith. To pass it on. To help someone like me who struggles. Someone like me who curses and has progressive political opinions and sometimes feels like a black sheep on Sunday mornings. Sadly, I also write about my faith from a place of hurt. I wish that were not so.

When I read those comments today, I just felt sick. There it was, right there, my whole history with my faith. Hashed out by other Christians with little regard for me and mine. I thought of my upcoming panel. And I felt like I wanted to say something. So, here is my something: People of Planet Earth, what the what, friends? Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, Mormon . . . Whatever! As long as we are not hurting others, we should be allowed to follow our conscience and worship our Savior as we feel is best, am I right? I mean, for crying out loud.

I have been wonderfully lucky to have the world's best readers, serious as a heart attack. Whenever I've discussed my faith or name-dropped my Mormonism it has been met with nothing but love and acceptance. I am blessed by you every day. So, here is my thank you. THANK YOUR!



The Best Part Of My Day, I'm Mostly Sure

The following is a true story. So, it actually happened.

Today I went to the Walmart to buy some lace (as one does). I was buying lace because I had just fallen head over tea kettle for a sweater at the Anthro that was priced higher than a jet airliner, and I figured I could just rig one up myself using all my know-how and be done with it. I found my lace, had it cut up by a very nice gentleman named Titus, and then on my way around the store tragedy struck and I became very distracted by the cereal aisle.

Oh, the cereal aisle.

I am not allowed in the cereal aisle.

I am not allowed in the cereal aisle because cereal aisles and I do not go well together. Mostly because I have never met a box of cereal I did not instantly love and wish to have babies with. Also because cereal tends to stick right to that fleshy part of my stomach. You know the one?

When I am in the cereal aisle all bets are off. I have been known to buy so many boxes of cereal that there becomes no room for them at the inn that is my kitchen cabinets. And cereal boxes are super hard to carry in those little plastic sacks they give you at the store. Please, I know you are relating to this.

So anyway, I was flagrantly eyeing the cereal aisle, and I decided to go ahead and break the cardinal rule, really live life on the edge, and buy a box. Just one! Let's not get carried away! I thought fast and grabbed Brandon's favorite, under the guise that it was actually for him, not me, I had no plans of eating the whole thing by tomorrow afternoon, nope!

Then I wandered the aisles some more (as one does), thinking various thoughts about Miley Cyrus.

The sad fact of life is, I really love the Miley Cyrus line at Walmart, and loving the Miley Cyrus line at Walmart is only a step behind loving Twilight in an unironic way. Which is to say . . . I mean, you know what I mean.

So I texted my sister who knows about these things:

There is a major haul of the Miley Cyrus at the Walmart right now! So help me, I loooooooove the Miley Cyrus!

That's what my text said and I sent it off quick as a whip, and then I continued my aimless about-the-Walmart strolling.

Oh! Dog food!

So there I was, perusing the canine cereal aisle, when the following text came in to me over the wire:

If you buy a large drink at Jack In The Crack you can get a free toasted ham something or other!

That's Alex for you, always coming through in a pinch!

I texted her back, my thumbs a blur of agility:

The Holbs looooooves Jack In The Crack! I will tell him.

Then I turned the attention of my frenzied fingers onto the Holbsinthecrack himself:

Hey! If you buy a large drink at the Jack In The Crack you can get a free toasted ham something or other! Did I just make your day?

Then, to really put him over the top, I sent him this one:

In other culinary news, I just bought you a box of Honey Bunches of Oats Pecan Clusters, because you are a TURKEY.

Then I laughed at my own cleverness.

Then I frowned, because I realized I had just turned into my grandmother.


How Does One Even Name A Post Such As This One, I Wonder?

This is what Barnaby looks like when he's about to cause some TROUBLE.

I have been thinking about a lot of pointless stuff today.  

Today when I arrived at work I discovered a giant platter of lunch meats sitting by the cashier. What is that about?

Also I have been trying to wrap my head around this Ice Dancing business. The conclusion I have reached is thus: Ice Dancing . . . is like Figure Skating . . . only not . . . there's nothing really hard about it . . . it is kind of a lot less pretty than Figure Skating . . . there are really crazy embarrassing costumes going on, and also really bizarre musical choices (Linkin Park) . . . so . . .

Basically the good news is, I have decided that I'm pretty sure I could be an Ice Dancer. 

Naturally, I took my new career path dreams to my husband, who is my "biggest support" and "number one fan" and "ringer of encouraging cow bells" and "I couldn't have done this without you." You know.

"Holbsy," I said, "Holbsy, I have decided to become an Ice Dancer at the Olympics. What do you think?"

. . .

"Well? Do you wanna be my Ice Dancing partner or what?"

. . .

"Umm, I'm pretty sure it's too late for us," The Holbs finally said. (Settlers online against a robot, if you must know.) (My husband is so cool.)

Then he laughed at something a robot competitor messaged him, which must have been hilariously nerdy, or something, I mean, I don't know.

The end.


A Report Of Varied Uninterestingness

Last night I dreamt I was a Kardashian. (I was the Kourtney.)

Brandon the youth leader went camping over the weekend. He went with an army of Boy Scouts and came home completely intact. No knife or axe accidents, no campfire burns, not even any danged hypothermia or frostbite. Just some stubble.

It is orange!

While The Holbscout was camping, the dogs and I did absolutely nothing. We made fort on the sofa. I crocheted some granny squares. Peter Pan invented and then solved a complex mathematical theorem. I drank a lot of San Pellegrino. Barnaby licked his paws and yawned. I did a lot of thoughtful thinking regarding Ice Dancing and the necessity thereof. (I am not convinced.) Then we went to bed.

I slept in the middle of the bed and for once I woke up with plenty of covers.

Gosh this is difficult.

What else . . .


Nope, false alarm. 



Well, tonight it appears that I am blogging! Holbsbreath, you are welcome!

I am going to tell you about some of my favorites things. Here we go. I will call it,

Nat's Favorites!
Because now it looks official.

Vanilla Cones from McDonald's

Cardigans are my favorite sweater. If you are wearing a cardigan I will want to go up to you and pet you, because you will look cute, because everybody looks cute in a cardigan.  

Wedge sandals are my favorite. I also love wedge salads! What are the odds of that happening?

My favorite kind of M&Ms these days are Peanut Butter M&Ms. Unless of course we are talking about M&Ms mixed in popcorn (also known as "Heaven"), in which case it must be Peanut M&Ms, and you should toss them in while the popcorn is hot so they get a little melty.

My favorite soap is Dove white soap. I use it on my face because the expensive stuff isn't as good. So there.

My favorite place to shop for clothes these days is Walmart. I know.

I love the feeling of running off a really bad day. You know when you're laying on the couch a grouchy mess, and then you decide to be a real woman and take it out on the streets, and then while you run you kind of grunt a lot? That's totally my favorite.

Today while I was working, four teenaged girls came into the store. One girl was dressed like Alice in Wonderland, blue dress and all, with a lacy apron and a blue embroidered cape tied around her neck with a huge satin bow. Another wore this frothy pink toile clogging dress, and another girl had on a blue gingham dress with sagging knee socks and lots of eye glitter, and then the last girl was wearing -- believe it -- jeans and a tee shirt. The four of them. The Alice in Wonderland girl was pushing a young baby in a stroller. I wanted to know, where did she find that baby? It just did not make any sense.

I made eyes at my Manager in the break room and said in a low voice, "youhavetocomeseethis," and then I made my way to the front of the store to go and say hello.

As I watched them swoosh around the store in their fluffy dresses I couldn't stop smiling.

Harajuku girls at my mall in Moscow. That is definitely my favorite.


Request 003: MORE DOGS

Today I would like to talk about my dogs.

This is Peter "Don't Cut My Nails" Pan. In case you've forgotten.

This is Barnaby "Poop In My Pants" MacDuff. He is happy to see you.

This is what Petey looks like when I leave the house.

And this is what Petey looks like when I get back.

This is how Petey prefers to sit and watch LOST with us.

This is how Brandon feels about it.

Today I shared some sausage with my dogs, and did not bother at all to edit the photos so they wouldn't be all orange.

Barnaby, on the other hand . . .

"What is this? A snausage?"
(Please note the crossed eyes.)

This is some pretty thrilling stuff, isn't it?

The other day Barnaby MacDuff stole one of Peter Pan's babies. Barnaby doesn't know quite what to do with these toys, but he knows that the longer he keeps them from Peter, the more fun things will get. So he laid on top of that toy like a log in the middle of the living room as Peter Pan whined and cried and danced about with a worried expression. It was hysterical, and Barnaby showed no mercy, prompting The Holbs to wonder aloud,

"What will it be like when we have kids that do this too? How are we going to handle this from two species at once?"

And then we watched Peter claw at the air three feet in front of Barney's face, while Barney looked on, completely unfazed, perched comfortably on that stuffed blue stegosaurus.

"Eh, I'll be working."


On Valentine's

The Holbs and I like to do this thing, where we plan a night out, get in the car, drive aimlessly about town until one of us is able to suggest a place to eat that both of us agrees on, decide we're too lazy to go see a movie, drive to the rental store instead, wander around the shelves of DVDs for a while, disagree on what looks interesting, and leave with either a) no movies, or b) five movies.

It's romantic.

The other Wednesday I decided we were going to have a real date. With heels and lipstick. Possibly even dinner reservations.

You know it has been a while since you've been on a proper date when your husband responds with, "What does that mean?"

In my tallest shoes I met my Holbsy for our date at our predetermined meeting point - the living room.

We got into the car and drove to the new restaurant in town. We thought it was open already, but it wasn't. Confused, we sat in the car and pondered our culinary futures.

"Well, there's Applebees . . ."

"Or Sangria?"

"I feel like a burger," I added, for inspiration.

"Applebees, then." The Holbs seemed certain. I was relieved. I suppose I should not have fallen for it.

As soon as we reached the first traffic light things went awry. Our car became perfectly aimless, taking nonsensical left turns and slowing in front of restaurants so The Holbs could gauge his interest. "How about Red Bento?" he said, and I died inside. My Holbsdate was breaking all the rules. I could feel the icy desolation creeping in as we passed the Red Bento. Destination: nowhere.

And then I saw the Zips! The Zips would save me!

But suddenly The Holbs had second thoughts. 

"Zips? Wouldn't you rather eat somewhere nice? Are you really sure?"

I wasn't, but good gracious, I mean, whatever!

After our burgers (not so great) we wandered around the rental shelves for a while.

(It was a five movie night.)


How Do You Solve A Problem Like Barnaby?

This is a post that is not about Barnaby.

Contrary to what it might seem.

But also, this post is not really about anything at all.

Today in Testimony Meeting a woman from the pulpit pulled the "I know God loves me because he blessed me with a baby" line. Oh yes. And also, she did one that goes, "You can have no idea how much God loves you until you become a parent." Oh gee, thanks for that, you.

I had forgotten how much it sucks, and she thankfully reminded me. Thanks! And I've decided I have a theory about this. I have a theory that when you first have a baby you become so overcome with happiness and joy, and also probably exhaustion, that you just forget yourself completely and say stupid, completely crappy things. 

But it is okay because I don't get mad about such things anymore.

Lately Barnaby has taken to staring at me like he is a sailor lost on a sea of love. Maybe this post is about Barnaby? If we are in the same room, he is blasting me with the full force of his puppy love. I can't explain it, except to say: I am his Mary Poppins, and he is my Bert.

TOP SECRET: The Holbs really loves Kevin Costner movies. 

On another note: I have terribly dry skin. (February is such a cruel lover.)

We watched The Sound of Music tonight, and I will say, I can never not pause it when they are kissing so I can see the monkey face.

Do you know what you get when you Google "Sound of Music monkey face?"

And . . . that's all I got.


Let Me Count The Ways

All told, it was a pretty successful day, for a Thursday.

Today I finally cleaned the pancake batter off of Barnaby's nose. It had been there for almost two days. Isn't that ridiculous? The Holbs will be so thrilled.

I woke up on time for work today!

I worked a seven hour shift and then came home and ate the entire contents of my house and I didn't even feel guilty. No regret. I mean, I don't regret it as much as I expected I would. (Heaven help me, I am still hungry.)

My nose has gotten a lot of compliments today. Honestly, these noses. You give them a compliment and suddenly they are God's gift to my face or something.

At work today I beat the sales forecast by double. Pretty proud of myself!

I did some Googleage and found out why my hands sometimes smell funny after I put on my earrings. Seriously, that has bugged me for months. (Warning, that link will alter your perspective on reality a little bit.)

I had to leave Barnaby in the house unsupervised for seven hours today and he didn't even destroy or poop on anything.

I sat through ten whole minutes of Glenn Beck tonight without thinking any mean thoughts about what a stinker he is.

I do not mean to brag, but I am on fire today!



Lately I have noticed that my dogs and I are really starting to look alike.

Super creepy.


Snacho Hour

I have had this note on my laptop all week long. It says, "Tell the story about what The Holbs is missing out on when he plays Solitaire on his cell phone every night in bed."

So intriguing!

There are certain things in life that are just facts. Like this. The longer I am awake, the snackier I become. At 9:30 I am thinking I could go for some something and then by 10:45 my mouth is making all sorts of unreasonable demands.

The Holbs too. That's why we call 10:45 "Snacho Hour" at our house. I will be in the back room doing onesie type things, and The Holbsnacho will be on the couch "studying" (aka channel surfing with his books open on his lap), when suddenly I will hear a stirring in the kitchen as The Holbs is messing about in cabinets and fridges and shredded cheese bags.

"Is it snacho hour?" I ask,

and he answers,

"You want some?"

and I always say,

"No thanks,"

even though I really mean,

"Yes please!"

And then I try to steal chips off his plate

when I think he's not noticing.

Traditions are good for a marriage, I think.

A few weeks ago in church the second counselor in our bishopric issued a challenge to the youth to "unplug" for an entire week. Seven days. No Facebook, no email, no texting, no cell phone games.

Then he asked, "What do you think I'm missing out on when I play games on my cell phone instead of playing with my kids?" The youth pondered.

I leaned over to Kim (the bishop's wife), and I said under my breath,

"What do you think The Holbs is missing out on when he plays Solitaire on his cell phone every night in bed?"

To which Kim replied,

"I will so pay you five dollars to say that out loud."

And I thought about it, but, five dollars? Seriously, Kim?


Queens Anne, Victoria, Natalie

I know that I am about to experience some major good luck because today I saw Queen Anne and Queen Victoria while I was out on my run.

I always look for Queen Anne and Queen Victoria when I am out on my run but I almost never see them. That makes it so that when I do see them it is suddenly a very special day, which means that by law, I am in for something good.

Queen Anne and Queen Victoria are two rather large St. Bernards that live in a field next to the park on my running path. There is a house on this field, as well as no less than five free-standing garages. What could a person need with five free-standing garages? is what I always ask myself when I run past.

Last week there were three blow-up lawn ornaments on display: a mouse dressed as a turkey, a mouse dressed as Santa, and three mice dressed as ghosts. This week they're not there. It truly baffles the mind.

I named the St. Bernards Queen Anne and Queen Victoria on this one day when I had made the terrible decision to go running even though it was snowing angry buckets out.

There they were, those two silly St. Bernards, just lumbering about, intimidating snowflakes with their massive girths, and I just had to laugh because of all of the days for these mysterious dogs to be out, I mean really, and also, the snow made them look quite regal, as though they were wearing massive cloaks of the finest mink, and frilly ruffles about their saggy necks.

I almost never see Queen Anne and Queen Victoria. I think I have seen them four times total in three and a half years. When they are there it gives me the sensation of having accidentally made a wrong turn into an alternate land, where places look like places you know but are actually not those places at all. Where mystical creatures like gnomes and elves and Saint Bernards live and roam free!

Queen Anne and Queen Victoria are always filthy.

I ran past the field today and there they were, sitting in giant mud puddles the size of lakes and observing the goings-on of the peasants of Moscow. I was so surprised to find them there, just looking about, that I stopped immediately.

Then I decided I should introduce myself, maybe practice my curtseys.

They are very becoming ladies, up close. I crouched on the wet grass and they towered over my head across the fence. They let me stroke their muzzles of warm velvet and slime. Queen Victoria placed her paw against the fence, and I touched hers with mine. I asked how their day was and whether their mud was fine. They said yes, quite so, and asked about my run and was it satisfactory and I assured them it was.

We could have sat there all day long, trading comments about the weather, getting delightfully muddy. I think I might like that very much.