Monday, April 27, 2015

Enjoy the rides - you never know when this ride will be the last one.

Todd's horse, Bo, the first horse I ever rode the trails on, is done trail riding. He has hurt his tendon too badly, and the vet says from here on out, Bo will only be a pasture horse. 
 
 
The first time I rode a horse on the trails: seven years ago.

The last time we took Bo and Sunny out. Shortly after this picture was taken, Todd's dad had heart surgery and we spent a lot of time staying with his parents to help them out. Then Todd's brother passed away. Then Bo hurt his tendon, and we've been trying to get him healed. Nine months later, and we now know it will never heal enough for him to go back to the mountains with us.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The real reason I was upset, and it wasn't what I thought it was.

Todd's son lives in another state. He moved there a while ago, and Todd hasn't been to visit. They've asked him to come, but it hasn't worked out yet.

A couple weeks ago, we bought plane tickets. Todd talked to them before we bought the tickets to make sure it was okay, and it was. Last night, he got a phone call: we can stay there, but we won't be sleeping in the same room.

I didn't see that coming.
I'm sure my own family doesn't love that I live with Todd, and we aren't married, but it stopped being an issue before it ever was an issue with them. We went on vacation with my parents and siblings, and it didn't seem like they cared. We have stayed with Todd's siblings, his parents, and his daughters, and it didn't seem like an issue with any of them.

I was really upset.
I am aware that asking us to sleep in different rooms isn't a horrible thing to ask.  It seemed illogical - even to me - to be so sad and hurt.
Illogical or not, it hurt.

Here's the reason. It has nothing to do with religion or intolerance or them not liking who we are or all the reasons that made sense at first. It has everything to do with what they are really asking of me (without knowing it of course).

I have a tough time at nights. I've learned to cope, and I can sleep in my own house, with Todd next to me. I learned to cope before I was sleeping with Todd - but now that THAT is my normal, it will take a long time for me to readjust. And honestly, with Todd, I feel safe in a way I never felt before. I still have some sleepless nights, but mostly his presence has changed my nightly battle completely. I coped in the past. Now, I rest.

Any new place is hard, but with Todd there, I can get comfortable. Even in my house, when he's not here, I struggle.

At night when he's not around, my body and my brain go on high alert. Hyper-vigilance is the technical term. I am aware of every noise, every smell, every movement, and they all feel like a threat. I can think it through and know I am safe, but I can't think and sleep at the same time. As I start to fall asleep, thinking brain turns off, and my PTSD brain takes over. That is a scary place to be. I stay awake all night thinking it through, so I feel safe, and morning comes without rest.

With him there, I don't have to think, I just feel safe. (Most of the time.)

Four nights in a new house with other people in it, I can pretty much plan on not sleeping at all.
(It's made worse by the fact that one of the people there is male. I'm not afraid of Todd's son when I'm awake, but there's nothing rational about the PTSD brain when I want to be sleeping.)

I feel broken. I feel crazy and stupid... and sad.
A grown woman who can't feel safe enough to sleep without someone else there. And it's just not fair... (I know, life isn't fair, so... shut up... but for just a minute, I'm going to whine.) I didn't choose this life. I didn't choose for any of the stuff that happened that left me with an inability to sleep without a lot of help. If Todd goes on a trip without me, I don't sleep. I will rarely go on trips without him, because it's not really worth not sleeping. (It turns out, now that I sleep regularly, I really like it. Even one night without it, makes me cranky and tired.) I make do with the way things are, but it sucks. It's sad. It's just really sad that I have to deal with any of this.
I'm broken. I'm crazy. And I didn't choose any of it. And I feel stupid and ashamed, as if there is something that I could have or should have done in the past... or in the present... I shouldn't talk about it. I should pretend to be fine, but I'm not... and there's a crazy battle going on in my head about what I'm supposed to do. 

So, do I talk to them? Do I tell them what's going on for me - maybe they will change their mind? Maybe they won't. (I fully support them making decisions for what they accept and/or expect in their home. With more information, they may make a different decision, but it is still their decision to make.) At least if I'm honest, I can know I was honest.

Do we just go and get a hotel room?

Do I stay home, knowing I may not sleep, but at least I will be in my own house? Todd can visit his son and his family, and I don't need to be there.

Do I do what they ask, and deal with the consequences, which might not be as bad as I suspect they will? Maybe I'll be fine...

We could always just get married to make them happy... But I'm thinking that is a bad reason to make a decision like marriage.

Here's what I know.
I want to go. I want to stay at their home. I want to have a relationship with them, which makes me want to be honest with them. I'm afraid. I don't like talking about past traumas, and I REALLY don't like talking about how it still effects me. I don't like writing about it anymore. I don't like paying attention to it (when I can ignore it). I don't like telling other people about it, and seeing the look in their face when they realize some of what I've been through. (It's a good thing I've been going to therapy, where I spend a good portion of the time letting Wendy empathize with me and the horses support me. Ugh.)

They have every right to make whatever decision they will make, and I will support their decision for their home. I also want to take care of myself, which means if they decide to still have us sleep in separate rooms, it's probably not a good idea for me to try to sleep there. There may come a day, but I'm not there yet.

Also, I'm not willing to get married just to make them happy, or so that we can stay in their house in the same room. (I also don't really think that would make them happy, or it is really what they would want anyway. Just wanted to say, if it was what they wanted, I'm not willing to do it.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A diagnosis (#Endometriosis) and it's not just in my head.

I've had chronic pelvic pain for years. I don't remember if it was there before my miscarriage eight years ago, but I remember being in pain a lot since then.

At the time I miscarried, is also when I woke up to the life I was living. It's when I couldn't ignore the relationship I had with my husband, and how unhealthy and harmful it was for me. I couldn't pretend that I was okay with the idea of being a mom, and bringing a baby into that environment. Along with "waking up", I also finally acknowledged how much Larry had hurt me with his abusive behavior in my first marriage. When I started talking about Larry, and spousal rape, and depression, and false beliefs about sex and relationships, and all of the other shittiness that had been my life, I fell apart.

Pain just seemed like it was all part of the deal.

I believed my pain was entirely body memories, or related to the trauma, and I felt so much guilt and shame that I experienced pain that I barely talked about it.

(I don't doubt doing trauma work in therapy and in life had an effect on my body, and trauma work is painful all over. But it wasn't just the trauma work.)

I went to a doctor a year ago. I told her I had been raped many years before, and now I was in a lot of pain all the time. She ordered an exam, said there was nothing wrong, and I just needed to go to therapy.

Six months ago, I went to another doctor. She didn't do an exam, but told me she could order an ultrasound if I really wanted one. And told me to keep going to therapy.

I walked out of that appointment frustrated with Todd. He pushed me to go to the doctor. He promised they would help me. I told him they wouldn't - they would dismiss me and my pain, because that is what all doctors have always done.

At seventeen, I was told I was being selfish and controlling when I said I didn't want the doctor to touch me. And nobody cared or asked about WHY... The doctor just did what he wanted, quick, painful, and entirely insensitive.

At nineteen, I was held down while a doctor did a pelvic exam, because I was freaking out. I was shaking and kicking, because I didn't want that man touching me... So the nurse held my legs, and I walked out with a huge fear of doctors.

At 28, I got pregnant, pretended like I was fine with exams, because I didn't have a choice... At eleven weeks, they told me I would miscarry, and sent me home. (They asked if I wanted surgery to remove the fetus, or to go home and try to let it happen on it's own. I was eleven weeks, so I was on the border of when surgery would be required. I was afraid, so I went home.) Three weeks later when I was still cramping horribly, bleeding a little, but had also added a high fever and throwing up to my list of symptoms, they prescribed antibiotics over the phone. Luckily, my husband at the time talked to the pharmacist, and the pharmacist told Dann to get me to the hospital "right now".

My general experience with doctors left me feeling shitty. I felt disrespected. I felt used. I felt scared and silenced and I didn't like it. Todd reminded me of a good experience with a doctor I had two years ago, and he suggested that I see her.

I gave him all kinds of excuses: She's not a specialist, she's just a family practitioner. If the other two didn't see anything, what makes me think SHE would. They didn't even ask me about my pain, they just dismissed me... All doctors would dismiss me.

Except that two years ago, she hadn't. She had made me feel like a person, and she had made me believe it was okay to tell the doctor I was hurting. She also made me feel like she could help.

Last week, I finally worked up the courage to call and set up an appointment. On the phone, I told the office girl why I was coming to see the doctor, and she emailed me a questionnaire about chronic pelvic pain.

I cried as I filled out the questionnaire. It was not easy to describe the pain, and I still felt shame for feeling pain at all. I felt disgusted with myself for not being able to power through the pain... I felt disgusted with myself for talking about that part of my body. I wanted to hide, because deep down I knew the pain was all my fault.

If I could just relax, it wouldn't hurt.
If I was good, I wouldn't care about the pain.
If I was good, I would be quiet and submissive.
Along with many other messages that came straight from being a survivor of abuse.

Then I read the message from Larry asking for my forgiveness, and I cried a lot. By Sunday night, something had shifted within me.

Trauma, sexual assault, rape, and abuse have hugely affected my life. (Duh.)
This pain has been there for years, and the biggest effect that sexual trauma has had on this pain, is my inability to talk about it. My fear of talking, and being dismissed. The shame and the guilt that kept me silent. The fear... It was crippling.

By the time I went to the doctor on Tuesday, there was no doubt in my mind that the pain I was experiencing was not caused by rape. I wasn't going to dismiss the pain as just something I needed to work through. I was no longer going to accept "relaxing" as a way to cure it. I wanted help, and I fully believed I deserved help.

I volunteered information. I answered her questions. I didn't shy away from or sugar coat what I was experiencing.

I told her that it felt like someone was shoving a hot poker inside me and twisting. It is usually around my bladder and up the right side, but sometimes it moves. I explained that it burned and cramped when I peed. I told her that it always hurt, but got almost unbearable just before and during my period. She asked about bleeding, and I told her what I had observed. She asked about nauseousness and indigestion, which I also experience a lot... Turns out those are symptoms of severe Endometriosis too.

She gave me the diagnosis, offered a few treatment options, and prescribed painkillers for in the meantime. (The least invasive and least expensive treatment option is birth control, so I am trying that first. If that doesn't work, I can move to hormone blockers, and then possibly surgery.)

This is a huge relief. It's not just in my head. I'm not just making it up. There are ways to treat the problem, and to find even small relief from the pain.

Even though I don't feel any better at the present - finding some hope that it will get better, makes a world of difference.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Free from the Other. It is not my problem, and I won't make it mine either.

Facebook has an "Other" folder for messages. It's where messages go if I'm not Facebook friends with the person who sent it. I think I knew it was there, but I had never checked it until yesterday.

I discovered some nice messages from people thanking me for my Ordain Women profile, and for the Sunday spotlight interview I did a month or so ago. It also had a message from my ex-husband. It had been there a while, so for him this is way old news. For me, it's pretty darn fresh.

I didn't know what to do with it. I don't know what to do with it, so I guess I have decided to write about it here.


This post isn't to him, but of course he's welcome to read it. This is for me, and for anyone else who is trying to figure out what to do with past abusers, forgiveness, apologies, etc.

A couple years ago, I wrote the blog post "The Letter I Will Never Send", because I was contacted by the Catholic church asking what I thought about his getting remarried. They asked me to describe my marriage and my experiences with him. I chose not to do anything with their questions except to write my experiences FOR ME.

I guess he read it.
"Hey Jen,
I wanted to write you because there is a lot I have been thinking about for a long time. Someone alerted me to the blog you wrote and it solidified what I think I didn't quite understand before. Where I didn't think rushing you into sex so often was kind, I didn't understand how bad it was. I didn't know to you it was a forced obligation. I thought because I had your consent it was o.k. --I didn't realize how abusive that was to you. I think aside from that, we both went into things unprepared and unrealistic and hurt each other. I am truly sorry, I realize now how hurt you were. I don't want there to be any tension in the future and I hope you are and continue to do well in your life. It would mean everything to me if you would forgive me.
-L"
Since writing the letter, and the response to it, I hadn't thought much about him. I am still dealing with some false beliefs about relationships. I am still dealing with a lot of guilt and shame that is left from a lifetime of abuse - which included my life with him - but was not limited to just him. I have had to completely reconstruct my whole emotional/mental/spiritual foundation, which takes a lot of time and a lot of work. (That could be the understatement of the century.)


Reading his message, my initial reaction was fear. I was afraid that he could find me, and I wanted to hide.

Then I felt like I needed to write back and apologize for not responding sooner: to tell him that I hadn't seen it, but now that I had, give him a response that would make him feel better. I felt like I should tell him I wasn't angry and I had totally forgiven him... but I didn't do any of that.

Todd told me to tell him to "Fuck off."
I wasn't entirely against the idea, but it didn't really resonate with how I was feeling.

I thought about asking how I had hurt him and apologizing for anything I had done to him, and then I realized: I DON'T CARE

I have had to work my ass off to recover from what he did. I have gone to therapy, I have read books, I have cried, I have gone through flashbacks and nightmares. I have spent countless hours thinking and rethinking, so that I could make sense of the world around me. I have spent time talking to others about how they treat their wives, and defining rape, and going to SLUT walks, and writing and writing and writing and crying and then writing more. I didn't ask him to apologize. (In fact, if he read anything besides that one post - he would have seen that I didn't want an apology.) I didn't ask him to do anythig. All I did was to go out and do MY work to make peace with what he did and what was my life.

I worked hard, and I have created a beautiful life. I didn't need anything from him, and I don't care what would mean the world to him...  What he needs and wants doesn't matter to me. I can finally say what he needs and wants and thinks and does means nothing to me. I wish him no ill will. I also don't wish him happiness. He gets to exist completely separate from me.

(Oh, and there is no tension between us, because there is nothing between us. That is exactly how I want it.)

I don't know what prompted him to write me - maybe he was trying to repent, and apologizing to me was part of that... but that's a pretty shitty apology. If I cared about him and his repentance, I would suggest that to him: Learn to apologize and take some responsibility if you actually want forgiveness. But I don't care about his repentance, or his work, or what he needs to learn or do... He gets to be responsible for his own learning and growing, and I get to completely dismiss it. It's his, and has nothing to do with me.

I have gone through anger at him. I have gone through all kinds of emotions, and now... I am at peace.  I don't know if that means I have forgiven him. (I am not a fan of the word forgiveness - I think too often it is used to manipulate and control. In too many cases, it is used to shift responsibility from an abuser to the victim.)

I have cried a lot in the last couple of days. I am not even sure what the tears were for. I just felt like crying, so I did. And now, I feel more free than I have felt in a long time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I bought a house, and all of the other new stuff in my life.

I used to use writing on this blog to process things, but I haven't done that for a while. Mostly, because there are a million things I would rather do than try to process some of my thoughts.

I'd rather go fishing.

Beautiful fish - I caught this one in Wyoming on the Salt Creek
 Or riding.
Sunny and I. I like to ride him bareback, but I forgot about that for a while. (I'm glad I remember again.)
Or go to work.
Our booth at a tradeshow in Austin, Texas.
Or visit with old friends I haven't seen in SEVEN years.
Awfully nice that we could have a tradeshow in Austin, when Amanda lives just two hours away from there.

I'd rather do yard work or organize my new house - did I tell you we bought a house? It's a log cabin in the mountains with property surrounding us for our three horses.

My house in the mountains.
We have three horses now.

Three horses. Sunny, Bo, Tii
Did I tell you we adopted a wild mustang? He was born in the wild, rounded up with his mother when he was about six months, and we adopted him when he was about a year and a half. He is now two, and we are working with him to be able to ride him when he's four or five.
Tii, the "wild" horse that likes to eat hats and cell phones.
I'd rather spend time with Todd's grandkids, because they are adorable, and a ton of fun to be with.

They are a year apart, and still about the same size.



Hiking with two of the six. We spend a lot of time with these two since they are close to us.
 Or with my new nephew. Did I tell you I have a new nephew? He's also adorable, and I love him.
This kid is already super spoiled, and he's barely three months old.
Oh look - my hair is short. I cut ten inches of it off a few months ago. Side note: Do you know why it took so long for me to cut it. I had an ex-husband tell me I was too fat to have short hair, and I believed him (somewhere deep down where I didn't really think about it), so I felt like I had to keep ti longer. Faced that fear, and now it's short.

My hair: ten inches shorter than when I woke up that day.
Or play in the orchestra - Did I tell you I joined a new orchestra? At our first concert, we had five violin players (total). We've grown a little: We are up to ten violin players when everyone shows up. (Plus three violas, two cellos, and a bass, AND two flute players.)

Paradise Valley Orchestra - our first concert.
I've been a part of this symphony for five years now. I really love it.
Life is good, so when things come up, I think about writing, but I have enough other things to keep me distracted. I keep being distracted.

So now you have the update of the fun stuff... stay tuned for some processing in my next entry. (Unless of course I get too distracted and never write it.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Five years later... CALM


Recently, BJ and I decided we wanted to go back to the CALM (Community After Leaving Mormonism) support group. When we were leaving the church, the group was very helpful. There were people there who were like me: not sure what to do, where to go, or what was going to happen. We all felt fragile and afraid and angry and sad... We could support each other.

There were also a few people who had been out for a while. They had gone through the fragile afraid place, and eventually life had calmed down. They had gone through the process of rebuilding themselves after losing their entire belief system. Most of them didn't say much, but just their presence was reassuring. They hadn't turned into murdering, stealing, baby eaters. They were still nice people - they just didn't go to church on Sunday. Or some did. They had gotten to a place where life was calm, and I desperately wanted to get to a place where life was calm.

When I said I was angry, they nodded reassuringly, listened as I told my stories, and handed me a cookie. I felt fragile, confused, scared, excited, happy, angry (again), sad, hurt, more confused, and they just listened. My story was so much like all of the other stories, but they didn't show that on their faces. They were so good to me.

I wanted to be that for someone else.
Last night I listened as people talked about feeling betrayed and deceived when they learned about issues in the church, and the white washed way Mormon history was presented. I listened as people talked about their fear that their family would disown them... or their desire for death, because they couldn't live their life to please others anymore, but they didn't want to disappoint them either... or the feeling that they deserve to suffer because they just can't be a part of the organization anymore... or the very real results of divorce and isolation because their family members did disown and distance themselves.

I didn't offer anyone a cookie, but I'm glad we went.
Life is not at all like I expected it to be, but it's turned out pretty amazing really. I don't know how to help other than to be a reassuring presence.

And as a surprise, I got to meet one of my Facebook friends in real life. Helen and I connected four years ago, but since she lives in another state, we had never met. Now we have.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Abuse and Recovery (Elizabeth Smart and Rebecca Musser as my examples)

On my mind:

Two books - one by Elizabeth Smart.
The other by Rebecca Musser.

One was kidnapped and taken against her will.
The other was given by her father to marry a man sixty years her senior.

Both were treated horribly by a man claiming to be a prophet and a religious man.

Elizabeth, it seems from her book, never believed what her abuser told her. She never bought into the idea that this is what God wanted for her, or what she deserved, or was her place in life.

Rebecca, at least for a while, totally believed that this was what God wanted for her, she totally believed Rulon Jeffs was a prophet, and that to be his wife was her place in life.

Both detested the men that raped and abused them, but only one believed that she was supposed to love and revere the man that hurt her.

In my mind, it is that belief that makes a huge difference in recovering.

If you believe it is your place in life to be used and abused; if you believe it is what God wants for you; if you believe you are supposed to take it, it is so much more difficult to recover.

If you believe you will be loved if you stay and take it, or you escape, or no matter what happens, the abuse is still just as awful, but it won't affect you for as long.

I have no idea if either of the women who wrote these books telling their stories would agree with me, but I do think that believing I deserved to be in the marriage I was in, and to be used and abused has made it harder to move past.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#Horsetherapy: I feel better on horseback.

Sometimes I go to therapy, and it feels REALLY crappy.
I suppose it's like physical therapy - it hurts, but you do it in the hopes that you will build up your muscles and heal. I understand the process well enough that I keep going.

Other times, I go and I leave feeling better.
My last session was the variety that helped me feel better.

I started the session with a list of things that were on my mind. Some were things that had happened that week - some were things from the past that had been bothering me. I gave Wendy my list. She commented that for such a heavy list, she found it strange that I was smiling... and then she said she was going to go with her gut: Climb on Daisy (the therapy horse) and see what happens next.

Daisy has a bareback pad - keeps my jeans from getting quite so dirty.
I climbed up. Wendy walked Daisy around for a few laps of the pen, and then asked me what I was feeling.

Lonely.

I have felt invisible - but not because others make me feel that way, but because that is how I am supposed to be. I want to be heard, but can't handle it when people are listening.

At that moment, Wendy tied her lead rope to Daisy's halter to work as reigns. She told me to do it differently. Ask for some attention. Let someone listen and respond to me.

We rode in circles and figure eights and when I was done, we went back to the center where Wendy was standing.

I felt completely at home. Comfortable.

Wendy said (slightly awed), "To my knowledge Daisy has never ever done that before. She just did everything you asked with just a halter, and without even objecting. Why? Why do you think that was so easy for both of you?"

We were connected, and I felt connected. There was never a question in my mind that she wouldn't go with me. We were going to walk around and do figure eights, and then we were going to go back to Wendy. I didn't stop to ask what Wendy wanted me to do. We just did it.

For the rest of the session - it was Daisy and I working together with Wendy guiding us.

Wendy pointed out how different I was on horseback.
I come to session and I look rigid and "held together", but anxious and not fully present in my own body. My eye contact is limited and my shoulders are rolled forward in a sort of protective stance. I can force myself to stand differently, but it is a conscious effort.

While sitting on the horse, my posture is different. I feel comfortable and grounded and strong. 

I've tried to figure out why. What is different from the back of the horse?

I feel supported. I also feel the horse. I can sense (in a way words can't quite describe) what the horse is feeling and experiencing. I can feel their muscles tense when they are afraid or unsure. I can feel their bracing against the reigns or against my body weight, but I can also feel them relax underneath me. I can feel connected in a way that isn't possible with people.

I don't feel afraid. I feel strong. Whatever emotions come up for me, I can process them with the help of a horse. We can walk and move or just stand in place... and I don't worry that a horse has somewhere else (more important) to be. They are there WITH me.

And I guess, a part of me doesn't really care WHY it works for me to sit on a horse, because it does work. It just works and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#Horsemanship clinic with Mark Rashid: A little bit of hero worship, and a lot of learning

Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to go to a clinic with Mark Rashid.
I have read every book he's written. A few of them more than once.  I have watched DVDs of him working with horses... He has played a huge part in my life even though we had never met.

He wrote about horses and trauma, and when I read his words, they became my thoughts. So much of what he said made perfect sense, and I was able to use his wisdom to help heal my life.

I would give him credit for helping to save my life, and definitely started me on a new path.

I was just an auditor. (Although, at the last minute, I could have taken my horse down there, because  a slot opened up. Unfortunately, I didn't have the means to pay for the clinic and getting Sunny down there. Fortunately, I learned a TON as just an observer.)

The first night we spent asking questions and just chatting.
Mark believes the most damaging myth that horsepeople believe is that we are supposed to be the "alpha" horse. We watch horses pushing each other and bossing each other around, and we assumed those were the horses in charge. They are not. In domestic horses, those are the insecure horses. In the wild, the horse in charge is a wise old mare: A horse that has been around and the other horses trust to keep them safe. Be a good leader that your horse can trust, and he will trust you and follow you.

He also pointed out that a horse is not capable of "disrespecting" people. Respect and disrespect are human ideas. A horse is a horse, and he does horsey things... If you teach him to do something (intentionally or unintentionally) he will usually do it. Be aware of what you are teaching your horse.

We also had a few hours of Mark showing us how the principles of Aikido could help us with our horses. We learned how to breath, and then we learned how to soften up ourselves and our brains so we could connect with our horses (and other people).

That clinic was hard for me. Mark put his hands on my shoulders to demonstrate something, and my brain imploded. The sad (and frustrating) thing about PTSD is that it affects me when I least expect it. His hands triggered something, and my insides collapsed on themselves. I cried. I got over it. And then talked with Mark about overcoming that. (I took some of what we discussed to my last session with Green Eyes. I love how much I am learning from the horses and the professionals in my life.)

BJ made a great guinea pig for Mark.
 The next day Mark was working with individuals and their horses. He worked with each horse/rider combo for two hours. I loved it. I was also amazed at how much he put into helping the people and the horses to get a good foundation going. One day, I want him to work with Sunny and I.
This picture made me smile...
We asked him if he was posing for us to take his picture. He just shrugged his shoulders, and then I took his picture.

This horse was having a hard time - she was really worked up and stressed. By the end of the two hours, she seemed calmer.
Also - I just loved this view.

Teaching the horse to give to pressure - it's about technique and feel. This horse/rider combo understood "feel", but hadn't gotten techniques down. I felt like this was the most helpful for me. I have the feel - horses make sense to me, but sometimes my lack of technique leaves me feeling crippled.

The clinic went for another day, but we had to rush back to be here for my rehearsal, my SIL's baby shower, and a pumpkin carving party with BJ's kids and grand kids at our house.

I haven't posted much about my life. Life is very full with fun and family and horses and mountains. It has also been good to get back to therapy. It also helps that my therapy has included horses, because horses are amazing for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's awfully convenient to have a horse in my backyard...

Biggest lesson from today's therapy session with Wendy and her horses.

It turns out, I AM capable of feeling emotions, expressing them and being relaxed.
It also turns out, all it takes to do all of that is to also sit on a horse.

My assignment for this coming week is to ride Sunny bareback for a few minutes everyday.
(My real assignment is to release some emotional energy everyday, but since riding bareback has been so effective, my plan is to release emotional energy by riding bareback.)


Sunday, October 12, 2014

#OrdainWomen I covenanted to obey my husband, and who I was to judge when I should stop doing that?

The profile I wrote for Ordain Women was published last week. Ordain Women has limited the comments, so anything "victim blaming" has been removed. There were a few comments like that... "It was your lack of testimony," or "It was your insecurities," and a few others that I never read.

I appreciate the Facebook administrators at Ordain Women censoring out comments blaming me for the abuse I experienced. I am a lot better than I once was, but it's hard not to be thrown back into old beliefs about abuse. Or about myself and how I deserved abuse, or it wasn't really abuse, or... other things that are inaccurate but I believed for a long time.

There was one comment made (and left) that has been playing with my head for days. I thought about commenting on Facebook, but decided I would rather write my thoughts here.

First, the comment. It was in response to me saying that the bishop quoted the covenants I made in the temple to obey my husband.
"Have you been to the temple? We covenant to obey our husbands AS THEY OBEY THE LORD. Abuse is not of the Lord. Nor is blind obedience to a man who is clearly not living by the spirit or honoring his covenant to love and care for you as the Lord loves and care for us. Your experience and the experience of many sister is terrible, but not the result of church doctrine. Unfortunately your Bishop's counsel was lacking and left you feeling unprotected. That is really sad, but that is not the fault of the church. We can always question our leaders counsel if it doesn't seem to fit within church guidelines and abuse or coercion are not. Holding the Priesthood would not make you anymore equal or powerful then you already are in the Kingdom of God. The idea that women are unequal or less because they don't hold the Priesthood is false doctrine. Go to the Lord in honest prayer and He will reveal the truth of it to you."
And now my response:
Yes. I have been to the temple. Every week for a three year period, and every month at the time of the conversation with the bishop. I understand what the covenant says - obey your husband as he obeys the Lord. That seems to say that I could be the judge of whether or not my husband is obeying the Lord, and then I can make the choice... but it just isn't that simple.

I had a bishop telling me he was speaking for God as our judge in Israel. He was telling me that Larry (husband at the time) was doing his part and obeying the Lord. I was the one that needed to repent. I was not doing my duty and my responsibility as a wife. I could not have the spirit with me because I was not spending the time at home that I needed. I was working two jobs, going to school, doing public speaking about eating disorder recovery, and trying to spend time with my family of origin. I was also committed to my church callings as choir accompanist and nursery leader. The bishop told me I needed to stop spending so much time away from the home, because all of those things were taking away from my real responsibility of being home and keeping my husband happy.

When I told him I didn't agree with his advice, he took my temple recommend. He told me that I was not worthy to go to the house of the Lord, because I wasn't sustaining my local leaders. I needed to go home and repent and pray. I went home angry, sad, scared. I also went home feeling sick with guilt and fear that he was right. I was sinning. I needed to repent. What he said FELT so wrong, but if he was right and I was sinning and the spirit had left me... how was I to know what was right and wrong?

Also... I had been taught all of my life to trust my priesthood leaders. I believed that priesthood authority came from God, and the bishop spoke for God... I hated what he said, but I believed he was right, because he HAD to be right.

Several months passed... My brother was going through the temple to take out his endowments. I wanted to be there. I wanted to share that with him and with my family. (I also didn't want them to know I was a dirty sinner. I had done so much work and tried so hard to prove that I was worth all of the time and money spent in my recovery - I owed it to everyone to stay good and clean and pure and WORTHY.)

I still didn't believe the bishop was right, but I believed that by humbling myself and telling him he was right, maybe I could show God (and the bishop) that I was repentant. I set up an appointment. He started right into the temple recommend interview questions... When we got to sustaining local leaders, I answered with a yes. He asked me specifically about being willing to follow the counsel of the Lord that came through him.

I told him I didn't know how I could quit one of my jobs. We needed the money. I told him I didn't know how I could quit school. I was hoping that if I worked hard enough and fast enough, eventually I could get a job that paid more, so I wouldn't have to work 60+ hours per week. I told him I would quit doing the public speaking, and asked if that was enough.

He reminded me that my duty and responsibility was to be home and keep my husband happy. If I could say I was doing my best to fulfill my true calling, then he could accept that... and he gave me my recommend.

I went to the temple with Jeff. A few months later, Larry told me he wanted to move away. I did what he said, because he was the husband. I found a way to transfer schools. I found a new job. We found a nice apartment and we went. That also removed me from my family. I no longer COULD spend time with them, so I didn't.

It's hard to describe the mind-fuckery that was the sexual and emotional abuse from Larry combined with the spiritual and emotional abuse that came from church doctrine and church leaders. I'm trying, but if you have never been there, I don't know if you CAN understand how much that combination could affect you.

It's been nearly fifteen years, and of course I no longer believe the bishop spoke for God. I don't believe that he had any knowledge or authority over my life - despite the doctrine teaching that bishops can receive revelation for the people in his ward. But I believed it at the time.

And like I said in my profile... the basic doctrine combined with all of the things that men have said and done to me have combined together to tell the story of my life. It is a sad story. It is full of horrible shit that no one should ever experience, but I did. Any number of little things could have changed to change my story. The doctrine on women and the priesthood is just one thing that could have made a difference. If I didn't believe that men had more authority in my life, and I had a right to authority over my own life, I wouldn't have allowed Larry or the bishop or anyone else to treat me the way I was treated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#OrdainWomen: My profile.

I wrote a profile for Ordain Women. I wrote it a few months ago - but they've been swamped with new profiles, so it was just published a few days ago.

You can read it here:
http://ordainwomen.org/project/hi-im-jen-3/

Also, feel free to comment on the Facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ordain-Women/410211199071047

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My #IceBucketChallenge without the Ice Bucket

I was challenged to the ice bucket challenge. I was also challenged to donate to my favorite charity, rather than dump ice on my head. That works great for me... Except that I don't have a favorite charity. I have many causes that mean a lot to me.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. I have a friend, who I have known most of my life, but have really only kept in contact with through Facebook. Her daughter, Darci, has Type One Diabetes and has to deal with so much. I would love to find a cure for her and all of the kids that have to deal with this. (Also, my roommate in college had Type One Diabetes. She is now an adult, but I imagine a cure for Type One would help her too.

Glycogen Storage Disease. My cousin has two children with this disease. I know a little of what they have had to deal with, but not enough to really understand. Learn about it here. (I couldn't find a place to donate to... My cousin gave me a link that didn't work. I will update this as soon as I have one that works.

Scleroderma I'd never heard of this auto-immune disease until a few months ago. It's effecting the life of one of my favorite people, and it scares me to think there is nothing that will cure her right now.

ALS Association BJ has a cousin with ALS, and his aunt died from ALS. Also, I watched the video of the young man talking about how seeing people dump ice on their heads made him feel less alone...


Diabetes My brother, my parents, my grandparents, my friend Ron, and many other people I love have (or had, Ron and my Grandfather passed away in 2006) diabetes. Awareness and research to find a cure is pretty important to me.

After Silence, a message board and chat room for rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse survivors. This message board was a life saver. I found people that understood what I was going through. I found others that were hurting and struggling, and I felt less alone.

RAINN This organization does research and has supports for those who were raped and sexually abused. Rape and sexual abuse is a huge problem that needs more attention.


The Wounded Warrior Project I ache at the thought of soldiers coming home who have no resources to deal with the emotional and physical traumas they have been endured.

Project Healing Waters This is a cause I have actively participated in. We take disabled veterans fly fishing, or they have fly tying classes.


So... I donated to Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund
I also donated to RAINN
And to Stop Diabetes
And finally to Scleroderma
I will continue to participate in the boards at After Silence and to volunteer with Project Healing Waters. And, I wanted you all to be aware of the other causes that mean something to me.



#PTSD and Feelings of hostility, guilt and fear


I volunteer for a group called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. (They have a local chapter in Utah.) They recently posted an article about how fishing makes you a better person. I paid special attention to this quote:
"A 2009 study shows that fishing can lower PTSD symptoms and increase the mood of those who suffer from the disorder. After three days of fly fishing, participants reported a 32 percent reduction in guilt and a 43 percent decrease in feelings of hostility. The feeling of fear was also reduced by 30 percent, and sadness dropped by 36 percent. A portion of these positive effects remained even a full month after the fishing retreat."
PTSD that they are talking about is the kind that comes after serving in the military. At first, I was thinking about how their symptoms are different than mine... I kind of chuckled at how fly fishing will help PTSD. ("See. I have to go. For my recovery.")

But then... I felt really REALLY sad. I have no feeling of hostility. I experience deep and debilitating guilt and fear. Occasionally, I still feel really sad for (seemingly) no reason. ZERO feelings of hostility.

I read the article last night, and it's gotten inside my head.
It would make sense if I felt hostility. It would make sense if I wanted to lash out. It would make sense that I would be really angry.

So why don't I?

Why do I freeze up at the thought of asking anything of anyone for any reason?
Why do I believe that it is my responsibility to take care of everyone else? Why would I rather hurt myself than to ask anything? Why do I think that asking anything of anyone will hurt them?
WHY am I so afraid of hurting someone that I ignore the facts and think if I speak, move, breath I am somehow causing someone else pain? (I'm not hurting anyone by asking for love, attention, or anything else.)
Why do I feel paralyzed and anxious? 

And why do I feel so sad today?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Therapy Makes my Muscles Hurt

I had my second session with Green Eyes and her horses today.
By about 45 minutes in, I actually felt calm and relaxed and present. That's when I realized how sore my legs were. My legs were sore for about two days after my last session. I assumed it was from running around the turnout... or maybe from something else... it's not.

About ten minutes into the session, I felt anger. Thirty seconds later, it was gone. I didn't feel angry. I felt happy. I felt fine. I wouldn't even say I felt numb or shut down, but for my emotions to come and go so quickly seems a little... numb or shut down. (It seems most people feel angry, or sad, and it's not easy to just change and be happy all of a sudden. That is just how I operate.)

My legs and stomach muscles were really tight and sore though... I mentioned that to Green Eyes, and she chuckled. (I'd say that was rude, except that is one of the things I love about her. She chuckles when she sees something that will help - even if it sucks right now.)

We talked a little about the idea that going back to therapy is a negative thing. She pointed out that many people go their whole lives and choose not to be aware. I am not in therapy because I am in a bad place. I am in therapy because I want more out of life. Life is good, and I want more. If I have to be a little sore or hurt a little more or work a little harder or go see a therapist, that is worth it. I know there is more to life, and I can have it.


A few things we decided to work on:
  • Getting unblocked - especially since we know exactly where I block my emotions and where I store it.
  • Asking for what I want - it seems I am no longer comfortable not acknowledging that I have needs and wants. I am no longer comfortable waiting for others to tell me what to do. I am also not comfortable asking for what I want; acknowledging that I have wants; or trusting myself to do what I think is best.
  • Getting present in my body - I think a lot, about a lot of things, but there is a definite disconnect between my brain and my body.

I haven't been in therapy for a long time, and I have forgotten how good it can feel to process things and work through things. I haven't experienced getting present in my body much either, and it was nice to get there. Even though I "lost" the feeling within an hour of leaving. I also have hope that I can learn to do it better and for longer.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: My first session

I had my first equine assisted psychotherapy session yesterday.
Boy howdy - it was intense. Partially because I get pretty intense in therapy. (I want to get whatever work I need to get done, DONE, and move on to something less painful and more fun.)

As I pulled up to the barn, I saw Green Eyes (human therapist. At least her nickname as of right now on this blog) with a horse. Then I saw the horse, who was tied to the fence, rear back and rip the whole fence out. She took off running around the barn with the boards that used to be the fence catching her and anything in her path as she ran. Green Eyes caught her, calmed her down, and I could see the left front foot was red from her own blood.

I waited at my car until I saw Green Eyes coming back with a different horse. This horse seemed anxious and nearly ran Green Eyes over in between the barn and the turn out.

Strange how chaotic horses made most of my anxiety go away. I was stressed about therapy. Nervous about how it was going to go, and what work it was going to take on my part. Horses being horses - even if it's a wreck - make sense to me, and I feel pretty comfortable in that world. At least I felt comfortable, until Green Eyes came back and asked me what I hoped to accomplish in therapy...

She gave me the speech on horse safety, and joked about horses tearing fences down. Then she told me how with horses, in order to get them to engage with you, you have to be totally present in your body. I KNOW that, but somehow her telling me that, brought up all kinds of emotions.

One thing I have always appreciated about Green Eyes, is her power of observation. Some people would have missed the look of panic in my eyes, but she didn't. I haven't seen her in six years, but she didn't waste a second getting started.

I'd love to give you a play by play of the whole session, but I can't remember it. The thing about being totally present in the moment is that it moves quickly from one thing to the next.

She asked me about any medical issues, and I told her I had none, but then she said something like, "Anything related to why you're here today?"

I have chronic pelvic pain. It never stops hurting. It gets worse every 30 days or so. I've been to doctors, and have been unimpressed with their medical advice. (Not to mention the terror I feel at the idea of exams!) I have just figured it is something I have to live with. I don't think about it much, and I definitely don't think of it as a "medical issue".

But... maybe with a little therapy work... and mind body work... I could find some relief.

I'm pretty tight and rigid in my core and hips. Green Eyes said we'd work on that.

I have been in a lot of therapy. I have sat on couches and talked, and it was all helpful, but this was perfect for where I'm at now.

By moving around, I was constantly feeling something.
Having the horse there, I felt pressure I wouldn't have felt if we were just sitting and talking. The horse also played different roles at different points in the session.
Green Eyes said this horse is sometimes an asshole. Something in me shutdown, but I couldn't have put words to it until Green Eyes made observations about what happened when I approached the horse.

I wanted her to like me. I didn't want to do anything wrong. And I didn't want to touch her, nor (really) have anything to do with her. We had a quick discussion about how interracting with anyone (including a horse) is entirely my choice. (WEIRD! I still forget I have choices like that.) And then it dawned on me:
"You said this horse was an asshole, and why the HELL would I want to engage with an asshole?"
At which point, the horse ran away from me and to the opposite corner - as far away from me as she could get.
Then we talked about learning to judge who will be safe. Trusting my opinion over what others say. She told me to find what I could trust about the horse. That was easy. She showed no signs of aggression whatsoever. I could see she was paying attention to us - even when she was far away from us.

I approached her again, and this time I told her (the horse), I wasn't sure how I felt about her yet, but I wanted to get to know her. She put her head in my chest and we stayed there for a minute. Then she turned and put her head over the fence (away from me).

Green Eyes pointed out that her (the horse's) body language was not that dissimilar from my own when I first came in. I was aware of the horse, but I was standoffish and wouldn't let her get close. Green Eyes pointed out how this horse will always make you work for a connection. She doesn't want you half way.

I'm kind of like that horse. I don't let just anybody in, and I wait to know I am 100% safe before I let you all the way in.

I also kept flinching. Green Eyes asked if I had ever had to defend or protect myself from my left side. Nothing that I recall, but since my session yesterday, I realized that I pull my left shoulder up when I feel afraid. And if I'm really afraid, I pull my hand up. It's not something I think about, it's an automatic reaction that I just do. I imagine my chronic pelvic pain could also be related to some automatic reaction.

There was more, but I can't remember it all now. All of that in one session. And yet, I didn't leave feeling drained or overwhelmed.
I left feeling excited.

I've been in pain for a long time. I've felt sort of stuck for a little while.
Life is so much better than it once was, so I hadn't thought much about trying to make it even better. Since I wasn't dying, and I wasn't thinking about dying, and life is really good and full of wonderful things, I hadn't thought much about the possibility that there could be more. Life could be even better.

In this first session, I can see that life can be even better. I can feel even better.
That's really exciting to think about.


Monday, August 25, 2014

#Horses and #Therapy: Starting over again

I have a therapy session scheduled for tomorrow. I haven't been in therapy since I "graduated" in 2011. When I started therapy in 2007, I was in a horrible place. Pretty much, I was going to therapy as a last ditch effort to stay alive. It worked. I lived, and life is mostly good now. Life is really good now. It feels weird to be going to therapy when I'm pretty happy, but I recently came to the realization that life could be even better if I learned some more things and did a little bit more work.

A big reason I was able to graduate from therapy was the work I was able to do with Sunny. Somehow he showed me what I needed to work on, and then helped me do the work. My therapy sessions had turned in to just telling my therapist all of the things I had learned while riding Sunny.


A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Horsemanship Clinic. I was nervous because I had never really done anything like that, but I was excited to become a better horseman. I have a lot of experience riding, but I have never taken lessons or spent time learning anywhere but on the horse.

We got to the clinic... and the first thing he said to me was, "You have to let him know who is boss, or else he'll walk all over you and take advantage of you."
I fell apart. I don't want to be the boss. I don't want to force him to do anything he doesn't want to do. If my choices are to be the boss or to let him walk all over me, I know which one I'd rather have... and it isn't to be the boss!

I was out of sorts for the next two days. I couldn't bring myself to even look at Sunny. I felt afraid and sick and angry and sad. I came to the realization that I wasn't going to be able to work through this one without help. The Horsemanship guy was willing to push me, but the more he pushed, the more angry and scared and sad and sick I felt.

I didn't think talk therapy would help me through this...whatever "this" is, so I went looking for equine therapy. The first name to come up on my search was Wendy. She was a therapist when I was at CFC, but had since left and started her own practice. AND she also does equine therapy.

I called her. I told her about my Horsemanship Clinic experience. She got excited and told me she had the perfect horse to help me. And tomorrow, I have my first session.

I'm nervous and excited.
I know how much therapy can suck. It HURTS. And I'm so excited knowing that I can do work and feel better. I will be able to enjoy riding Sunny even more than I did before. I will learn about me and about relationships. I am excited to have something to work on again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#RIPRobinWilliams and some thoughts of mine

Like most people in this country, I was deeply effected by the death of Robin Williams.

I couldn't bring myself to write about it before now. There was just one thing nagging me and bothering me, so I'm writing about it now.

Robin Williams committed suicide.
I know what it's like to feel so sad, desperate, in pain, lonely, bothersome and burdensome to those I love (and who love me), etc., that suicide seems like the best option. Some people think it is a selfish act, but I'm not one to think that. Some people say it is a "temporary solution to a permanent problem", but I don't think that's always accurate either. Lots of people have had lots to say. Some have really bothered me, but the thing that has been the hardest for me to hear was said to be comforting...

"At least he's free from suffering."
"He's in a better place."
"You're free Genie."

There was a time in my life where I envied every person that died. It didn't matter how they died, I felt envious that they got to be done suffering through this life, and I had to keep living it. I dreamed of the day that I could die, and be free. I hoped I would get cancer or die in a car accident, so my family wouldn't have to deal with the stigma and pain of my suicide, but I still would get to be done.

I wanted to go "Home". I'd been taught that after death would be happier, better, and heaven was home to me. Maybe there I would find all of the peace that I couldn't find on Earth.

When you are in that kind of darkness, hearing that someone who took their own life is free... and hearing people comfort themselves with the thoughts that at least he didn't have to suffer anymore... you have no idea what it feels like to those here fighting to live every single day.

I stayed alive because I didn't want my sister or my brothers to have to face my death, but if I thought they would feel peace and relief at my death, I would have been gone. I stayed alive because I didn't want my parents to ever question if there was more they could have done, but if I had thought they could comfort themselves by saying I was in a better place, I would have gone to that better place.

I wanted to stay and live to show my friends that they could work through their stuff too. If I found a way to be happy and to live, then anyone could.

So, while I understand the desire to comfort ourselves now that we have lost a great man, I just think it's dangerous to speak of suicide in such peaceful terms. Let those that are fighting to live every day, that the fight is worth it. Hang on just a little bit longer, and you'll find freedom HERE.

Monday, August 11, 2014

#stillnevermissedashow (Funerals, plays, and brothers)

We just got back from two trips.
The trip to Portland was unplanned until a few days before we left. BJ's older brother passed away suddenly, and we went to his funeral.
The trip to Yellowstone had been in the plans from the day I found out my brother was going to be in the cast at the Playmill Theater in West Yellowstone, MT.

It was strange having the two trips so close to each other. One where we were saying good-bye forever to BJ's brother, and one where I got to see and hang out with my brother.

I had been SO excited to go see Justin. He loves acting, and to spend his whole summer doing what he loves with other very talented people doing what they love... I was just so excited and happy to get to go see him in that environment. Not to mention how much I had missed him since he left for college, and then went straight to Yellowstone, and is headed straight back to college as soon as he is done there. I may get to see him as he drives through... but he'll be in a rush since school will have started before he gets done at the Playmill.

At Matt's funeral, I cried when BJ cried. I cried when his wife was crying. I cried when his little granddaughter asked why she couldn't open the box and see her Papa inside. I cried when I saw the sign that said, "All fresh vegetables are from Matt's garden, Enjoy!" He loved his garden, and he loved sharing his garden with the people he loved.



All of those tears were empathy for the pain everyone else was experiencing.

There were two moments where I cried for me.

After the funeral, we decided to go to Matt's house to hang out with his wife and everyone all together. I didn't want to go to his house when he wasn't there. I couldn't pull it together enough to walk in. I didn't feel like I had a right to cry over BJ's brother... He needed me to be strong and comfort HIM. I didn't want to be in a party at Matt's house, and have him not there to enjoy it. He would have LOVED having all of his siblings, his kids, his nieces and nephews, and so many friends there to share his house with. Eventually, since I couldn't seem to stop myself, I just let myself cry and feel sad that he wasn't there.

It is a Great Uncle's responsibility to teach his Great Niece to sneak frosting off cakes. She kept calling BJ and his brother "Papa", because all three sons look alike. She broke my heart, because her Papa was her favorite friend.
 The next day, as we were hugging his wife and kids goodbye, his wife told me how glad she was that BJ and I had found each other. She loved seeing how happy he was, because she loved him and he was a special man. Then she told me to take care of him. Matt and Dawna had only been married for eleven years. Like BJ and I, it had taken them a while to find each other... And now Matt's gone... and the thought of losing BJ suddenly one night while I was sleeping hurt. I felt for Dawna - there's so much she has to do now that Matt is gone, and he's just not there to talk to, to cuddle with, to watch tv with, or to eat dinner, or to text and say, "Hi!" My insides ached for her, and at the thought of someday having to say goodbye to BJ.

We came home, unpacked, and then packed up to leave again two days later.
I cried uncontrollably as we drove to see my brother. I felt guilty - as if somehow me getting to see Justin was hurting BJ. I felt bad somehow that my brother was alive, and his wasn't.

They say that losing someone makes you appreciate the people you have left - that may be true, but for me, I had a hard time (at first) enjoying seeing my brother because I felt so bad for BJ.

But then... I got to spend time listening to Justin's plans for his future. We went hiking, and I took lots of pictures. I got to meet the rest of the casts of the shows he is in. I got to watch him play two of his dream rolls.
I told them to smile... I don't think they even looked at each other to know that they were giving me the same non-smile smile...

Smile!

I don't know exactly what was happening in this picture, but it's classic. I'm glad BJ got this picture.
 After Les Mis, he asked me if I cried during the show. I did, but not in the parts that most people would cry... The story is a tear jerker - there are a lot of emotions that show can bring out, but this time... I cried when Thenardier (Justin) was waltzing with Madame Thenardier. He was doing what he loved. And he is damn good at it. And, as his big sister, I was so proud of him, and so happy for him, I cried.
When Thenardier is selling fudge, you buy it!

Thenardier after the show. I think this is the night that the rest of the cast almost had everything cleaned up before I let him go back and do his job to help. Sorry to all of the Playmill cast.

LeFou singing... except this isn't LeFou, it's Justin dressed as LeFou singing "Friend Like Me" before the show.

It made me SUPER happy to see how much he was loved. After the show, he had a whole group hanging on his every word.

They love him.
 After four days, it was time to go home, and I cried again. I miss him. I'm so happy that he is finding his place in the world, and I miss hearing him sing regularly. I miss his laugh. I miss seeing him grow and learn and talking about it.

Thinking about how much I miss him, I felt really sad for BJ again. I think how much I miss seeing Justin, and the thought of never seeing him... it hurts almost more than I can bare.

Life is short, and unpredictable, and I'm glad we got to be there for Matt's funeral and to spend time with everyone together. I'm really glad I got to see Justin perform.

Though, I'm pretty committed to my hashtag (#stillnevermissedashow), so I'll be seeing all of his shows at least once.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye. "Love you bro"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Brothers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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