3 Thoughts on STUFF

Last week I saw this video entitled A Cluttered Life: Middle Class Abundance. It's a super interesting 20 minutes and got me thinking, as I do frequently, about STUFF. The video talks about researchers who went into a number of middle class homes and documented every single item in the building, and then talked to the homeowners all about it. A few highlights:

1. We have rituals built into our lives to acquire things, but not to get rid of them.
Birthdays, Christmas, Mother's/Fathers Day, new school year, new seasons, new interests... All bring things into our lives, but aside from a vague notion of Spring Cleaning or if you happen to be moving, we don't impose decluttering in any sort of regular way. I almost always have a bin in my home - a purge pile of sorts. My preference is that I wait until it is overflowing (a month or so) and then put it into the trunk of my car, where it can sit for another couple months and I can change my mind about the things I thought I wanted to get rid of (Purgatory, you may call it). Finally, it can go to a donation center. Porter, for better or worse, sees any open bin and it is out in his car and to the drop-off in a day. Sometimes he just takes things from the home he thinks are useless and I'll find them in his car just in the nick of time. Who knows how many things I haven't caught in time!
RESOLUTION: Get rid of stuff. Regularly. Some people have a 'One thing in, One thing out' rule, which I'm up for, at least in theory

2. Most STUFF belongs to kids
It's no surprise. Toys, clothes and supplies have a gravitational pull. It's easy enough to get rid of stuff that is broken or worn out, but if I'm not sentimental about it, my kid is, and if no one is I think 'maybe the next baby will want/use this' so we end up with bins of items that aren't being used and really we don't know if/how they will be used in the future, so they just sit. There's certainly a financial aspect to it. I've read a number of criticisms of the minimalist movement that point out how economic privilege is so often a factor in going minimal. I save old crap so I don't have to buy it again. But then again, if you're minimal in all ways, you're likely saving enough money that you could buy it again later if you need to.

3. My current stuff mantra: Own it if you love it, only if you love it
It's a mantra I often use when shopping. I'm a sucker for a deal and am prone to buying things because they are on sale or for perceived value. When traveling something seems so cool in the context of travels but is a dust collector at home. At thrift/consignment/antique/craigslist sales, something seems one of a kind and priced so much less than they would had it been new that I get duped into buying it. On the other hand, I'm a tightwad and hate spending money in general. So I have to remind myself that it's okay to buy something if I'm crazy about it, but if I'm not crazy about it, it's probably not worth it. So it should go for decluttering. If I love it, I should keep it, even if no one else gets it. If I don't (or someone in my family, I guess they should get a say too), then it should go.

This should be simple...right?

3 Tips for International Travel with a Newborn

Traveling internationally with an infant is possible!  My best friend got married two months after Beau was born. IN CHINA. I, of course, am not one to pass up a life moment of a love one NOR an opportunity to board a jumbo jet, so I promised her immediately upon her announcing her engagement that, assuming we were all of sound health mentally and physically, I would be there.

This is how:

1. Plan ahead for necessary documentation
Birth certificate
Birth certificates take a weird amount of time to get processed. While pregnant, I called both the hospital where I'd be giving birth and the County Recorder to get an idea of timeline. While no one could give me anything concrete about how many days it actually would take to get processed, I was able to get a general idea of '10 days to 3 weeks' and that it would be fast if I picked up the birth certificate at the county in the Live Records office. After the baby was born, I called the hospital again to ask (some may say remind) about my birth certificate. After a week I called the county and got confirmation I could pick it up from the office. In total, 9 days after my birth, 8 days after we discharged (that's when they file the paperwork)

Photo: In the week that I was waiting for the birth certificate, I got a viable passport photo. Rules are: White background, eyes open, facing forward, ears visible, chin upright. Because none of these things are very easy to count on for a newborn, I laid out a white sheet on a crib mattress on the floor and tried a few times throughout the week when baby was more alert. There is speculation that passport issuers go easy on enforcing rules on babies since they, you know, don't have their eyes open often and have no neck control, but given our timeline I didn't want to risk it. Pro tip: hold baby's head up by balancing him on your forearm, head in palm (fingers hidden from camera as much as possible), legs down by your elbow. Have another person stand and take the photo from above without blocking light. Print two copies at any photo center (We used Walgreens, Costco is cheaper, there are photo apps that would undoubtedly do the right cropping for you but it was worth $15 to me to make sure the photos were cropped right). 

Application: We printed and filled out the DS-11 Passport Application for Minor Child before baby was born so we only had to add his name and birth date to submit. Fortunately for us, our local library was having a passport fair the day after we got the birth certificate, so we were able to file it immediately. Note: BOTH PARENTS HAVE TO BE PRESENT.

Also necessary: photocopy of both parents' ID. The guy who was filing my application wasn't sure what to do since Beau had not yet been issues a Social Security Number (these take a few months to arrive) so he had me sign an affadavit that my child had not yet received a SSN. This might not be necessary, but again, considering the timeline, I didn't want to risk it.

You can send everything in by mail, or if you live near a Passport Agency, you can make an appointment and everything goes way quicker. If you have proof of travel and can appear in person, you can get a passport as soon as 2 days. I chose to pay to have mine expedited.

For US Citizens, most countries either don't require a visa or allow for visa on arrival. Some (China, India, Burma and Brazil that I'm aware of, require it in advance. In the case of China, the visa has to be secured from a regionally assigned embassy, in person. Mine was San Francisco and instead of going in person or sending it with someone I knew, I opted to use FreeChinaVisa.com . It was half the price of every other service I could find, they emailed me for additional information needed (color copy of both the photo and signed page of Porter's passport, even though he was not going to be traveling with us), and they offered online progress tracking. Processing at the embassy takes 4 days, I got the visa back in 8 days. Protip: the only photo service I could find that takes visa photos for China specifically was Costco. Again, there are apps that say they crop photos right, but there have been changes to the requirements lately and I didn't want to risk doing it wrong.

2. Pack light
Best thing about babies: they don't need anything! I brought mostly footie pajamas for him (newborn socks/shoes are a joke and I figured it was some semblance of germ control) plus a few cute outfits. I figured 5 diapers a day (I came home with extras), a brick of wipes in my suitcase and a ziploc bag of wipes for on the go (and a couple plastic grocery or pet waste bags for diaper disposal), and a pacifier. No food, no toys, no bathing supplies, no bedding supplies. I just had him in bed with me. Newborns don't roll! 

3. Practice nursing on the go
No joke, this is such a life-saver. The very best thing about traveling with small children is that they sleep, eat, poop and are awake for very short stretches. For the airport/plane, wedding festivities and generally just not being at homeness that is inherent to traveling, you can't always count on there being a discreet, comfortable place to nurse. So, nurse on the go! There are tons of tutorials online depending on what kind of carrier you have and what your body is like. I brought an Ergo 360 and have small boobs (even when full of milk); for me I buckled the waistband just a bit lower than normal, unbuttoned the button-down shirt or dress I was wearing (and packed exclusively for ease of access), and helped baby get latched. Sometimes I wore a scarf, some shirts provide more coverage on the sides, sometimes, miraculously, I didn't need anything and baby just kind of nestled in. Eat, sleep, poop. 

Lastly, there much that can be said for the mantra of 'I can do this. Baby can do this. Everything will be fine.' When baby blows out on the plane and you have to dab poop out of the carrier in a tiny bathroom, when literally the only time baby fusses is during your best friend's wedding vows, no biggie. Get out on the dance floor (I did, big time), go site-seeing, love wherever you are traveling.

Also, I got almost no photos. BOO! Can't win 'em all.


3 half- formed thoughts on mommy brain

My baby is 20 weeks old now, or, in normal person speak, two and a half months. Talking about age in terms of weeks is ridiculous.  And when I am mom/queen/master of the Universe, I will require age by week reports to stop at 12 weeks (really before then every week is so so so different it really does make sense). Among the many cultural aspects of parenthood I'd like to change: not being able to leave sleeping children in a locked car, giving gifts at children's birthday parties, and blaming everything on mommy brain.

But actually though, mommy brain has been on my brain ever since I blamed something on it (likely stopping mid-sentence for the hundredth time), back-pedalled and just said I was tired and Porter said that actually:

1. Mommy Brain is a scientifically proven thing! I don't know if this makes me feel better for feeling like an idiot or just confirms that my brain power is depressingly diminished. According to studies, when you have a new baby, the neural pathways that used to be hardwired for being functional at other things, namely EMPATHY. This is necessary because you suddenly have in your care a little creature who doesn't know how to communicate with you and the sooner you can discern which coo, cry and wiggle means I'm hungry/tired/full of gas, the better.

2. I don't remember being this brain dead last time.
Maybe because I just had one. Maybe because I went back to work 10 hours a week by month 4 so I was taking back some of those neural pathways. Maybe I just don't remember. All I can say is I feel dumb. I've always been someone who can make conversation with most anyone and chitty chat about garbage. Not at the moment. Errrything is rill slow.

3. My brain is still there
Every once in a while I'll get wrapped up in a conversation or passionate about a subject and I'll feel it. There will be a day when I'm back to normal (or at least close...right?)


3 Months with my Beau

Here's a belated publishing of a recap of the fourth trimester with my newest little one, in no particular order:
  • It is unreal how quickly and how strongly Jamie has an affinity for his brother. He is most certainly mimicking my baby voice and some wording ("Don't worry, Beau, I'll keep you company!") but he loves his brother without instruction. I remember reading about how President Obama met some half-sibling for the first time in like his thirties and had an immediate affection for him (or her?). 
  • I sleep so much better with a baby in bed with me than in a crib. It is amazing. I totally understand how people get preachy about bed-sharing. It was a game-changer for Jamie when I finally gave up getting him to sleep on his back in his crib. 
  • Related: If I could bottle up one heart-melty parent moment I think it would be curling my body around this little tiny body curled up by me. 

(photo credit, my main J Kirk Richards, whose art never ceases to move me)
  • Beau is currently in the in-between land of being over laying on his back but not being coordinated enough to hold his head totally upright or sit without falling over. 
  • New baby poop is so much less stinky than 3-year old poop, but such a gross consistency.
  • Also, Jamie, one week after his third birthday decided he's over diapers. Hallelujah
  • And, newborn and size one diapers are laughably tiny. Their bodies are laughably tiny. 
  • I feel a lot more tethered breastfeeding this time than last. Maybe because Jamie took a bottle so easily so I wasn't so so tethered. We're still working on getting Beau to take one.
  • Baby sounds are almost painfully cute. Beau has started babbling and I can't even.
  • Porter is just starting to get to know Beau. Between finishing our garage/ADU construction and taking care of Jamie, parenting is currently in a 'divine and conquer' state of being. My conquering here being, of course, resting, healing, and cuddling with this tiny human. I'll take it.
  • I've watched so much TV. It's so great. 
  • Related: I think I'm dumber than I used to be. 
  • I keep telling people how different Beau felt from Jamie from his very first moments. As Beau's cheeks are filling in, he's starting to look more like his brother. This makes me both very happy and a little sad. 
  • Tiny babies are so easy to cart around, it's crazy. I totally understand how people get preachy about baby wearing and the ease of carriers. They make life so much easier. See: Beau came to China with me at 2 months old and rocked it.
  • I'm emerging from my hunkering down, slowly but surely. I am leaving my house, having thoughts I'd like to fully form into blog posts and other forms of writing, and ... (I literally finished this post without finishing this sentence and now going back I'd like to just leave it that way. Brain not totally back on, clearly)
  • I have been cooking a ton. Eating so much. I'm starving.
  • This time around body healing has been easily 250% better. Woot feels like an odd interjection here but it is truly how I feel.
  • I am so grateful for a healthy, full-term baby with quick labor, who eats and sleeps relatively normal. I spend a probably unhealthy amount of time feeling guilty that it is so often not the case.
  • I am so tremendously grateful for the village that made my first month especially, so easy. We had meals for almost an entire month; Porter took Jamie to the gym in the morning then straight to my mother in law's until afternoon so I could just have slow time with baby; my parents came, my sister came, my husband is such a dreamboat he just made life easy for me. Again, I think often how many people go through this phase alone, physically and/or emotionally and it sucks. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.
Photo dump:


3 Things That Cause Disproportionate PAIN

I'm preparing for childbirth again and I'm uncomfortable well, most of the time. The pain of childbirth is talked about all the time, but it's gotten me thinking about things that are teeny tiny that cause unexpected amounts of pain or annoyance.

1. Finger wounds (and stubbed toes)
A nick from extra sharp knives, slamming a knuckle in a door, a hammer on the nail bed, being smacked by something heavy that your two-year-old threw at you (angry face emoji), paper cuts (oh dreaded paper cuts). All such small injuries, all such infinite pain. And why do they take so freaking long to heal??

2. Voice activated customer service
Not physical pain, but I can't count how many times I've hung up on a robot (screaming AAARRRGHHHH and throwing my phone across the room). Usually it starts with a calm, collected request for "Customer Service" or "Operator." When repeated pleas are either not heard or receive a perky "I'm sorry, I'm still not understanding, did you want to talk to billing?" my voice gets louder, more terse, and more impatient. 

3. Cold/canker sores
I was teaching a lesson to my Young Women's class a while back and recounted this one month in college that I remember still so viscerally. I was working the early AM shift so I was getting no sleep, I didn't love my classes, I was probably going to break up with my boyfriend (not that we were fighting, turns out we just didn't like each other that much), and to top it off: I had a canker sore that just about made me want to die. Of all the awful things that could have happened to me in college, the pain I remember most strongly is that of the canker sore. It pushed me over the edge of misery.

I've never been prone to cold sores (thank heaven), but I've had plenty of canker sores. As it seems, they are just tiny little bumps inside your lip. But don't be fooled, they make life hell.


Top Three Reads of 2017

I came across some excellent books this past year. Top three:

1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joyce Fowler

This I picked at random from the Overdrive app through my library. It was available, I don't think I read the summary, and it ended up on my Kindle. I hate to give too much away because I enjoyed SO MUCH some surprising elements of the story that most summaries I've read give away.

Basically it's about a woman reflecting on her childhood (I thought it was a memoir until I read more about the novel afterward). She has a dysfunctional relationship with her family, two long-lost siblings she reunites with to different degrees. One review called her a "breathtakingly droll 22-year-old narrator" which I kind of love. As a narrator, Rosemary does an excellent job portraying the holes in our memories of childhood we piece together in adulthood, and how our personal identities and self-perception are shaped in families.

2. Gut: The Inside Story of our Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

My digestive system has always basically sucked and, allergists/gastroenterologists/doctors be damned, no one seems to know why. SO I've taken to reading a lot of these public-accessible sciency books about the digestive system. Gut is my favorite so far. It's not trying too hard to be entertaining, is actually backed up by science, and is still accessible as a non-physician.

Favorite sections were on the Gut Brain (especially as it relates to emotions) and the world of probiotics (I am SOLD).

3. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rivka Brunt

I picked this up from a Little Free Library in town (a favorite way to find random books). After reading the first page I said - out loud, to myself - "I am going to like this book." The voice is so strong and the setting so unique, I could tell immediately it would be enjoyable to read. I didn't expect to spend so much time thinking about the characters and their situation during and after reading it.

The story follows June, a teenaged misfit whose best friend in the whole world is her uncle Finn. When her uncle dies of AIDS (in the 80's, in New York), she is befriended by his partner Toby (whom she'd never known about when Finn was alive). June's character feels very real and, perhaps because I was an oblivious teenage girl (not quite as emo as June, but still very much in my own world), I identified with her coming to understand her uncle's life. I've heard plenty of stories of the AIDS epidemic in the 80's, especially from a public health perspective, but never anything as personal. Even though the AIDS crisis was in the background of most of the story, it felt very real.

2018 has so far left me in a reading rut (I've started at least 8 books and haven't gotten more than a chapter or two in any of them), but I'm hopeful excellent reads will show up.


3 Things on Longing

On longing

This is the kind of post that I'd likely read and roll my eyes at, but it's been on my mind a lot- what moves me. What I long for. What stirs my soul.

On a recent long car ride to the Washington Coast, I thought

  1. Adventure in the great wide somewhere
Last month I went to visit my sister and while there we took her four girls to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast. It was Jamie's first time in a movie theater. It did not go well for him (thanks to a giant bag of popcorn he lasted until the beginning of Be Our Guest), I did get to fully enjoy my favorite song in all of Beauty of the Beast, the opening number, Little Town. Even better, actually, is the reprise, where Belle, disgusted and mystified at Gaston’s advances, escapes to a beautiful mountain meadow and sings about what she really wants out of life:

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell.

The moment is beautiful and moving even as an adult and I was surprised at how overcome with emotion it made me. I remember having a similar reaction as a little girl when watching the scene and it hasn't gone away.

I never had a Gaston or provincial life, but there's something stirring about Belle’s throwing her hands out to the universe telling it, I want you, Universe. I don't know what experiences are out there that I'm chasing, but I want them from somewhere deep inside me.

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2. Beautiful things and beautiful words

A few years ago I attended the Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair for the first time. I went by myself, it was the middle of summer. Some 500 stalls of painters and sculptors and artisans (and popsicle sellers. It was a million degrees out) set up shop in the parking garage of the mall. The setting is nothing pretty, quiet the opposite. But I wandered around with literal pangs of, I don't know, some combination of awe and adoration and lust for all the beautiful things on display and for sale. I was overcome by a desperate, pulsing desire to fill my home and my life with beautiful things. I feel it from time to time, though I rarely seek it out. There is so much art out there I think is ugly, pretentious, or downright weird. But when it strikes, I feel it down to my sternum. The last time it struck was a drive by of this giant statue in downtown Seattle (On 9th and Mercer if you want to see it), The Meeting of the Minds (by Spanish artist Jaume Pluma). IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. It's two people sitting cross-legged, facing each other. Their bodies are made up of letters and different language characters. If I could buy a shelf-sized version (this one is 12 ft tall) I would.

I have started being drawn to poetry, which elicits similar pangs. I think there might be even more crappy and ho-hum poetry than there is crappy visual art, if that's possible, but I'm trying to wade through it to find poets and styles that I'd exceptional.

3. Connection with the great web of humanity

My best friend/self help guru Brene Brown (she's not really, it just feels like it because I refer to her research so often) talks a lot about how human beings are hardwired for human connection. It fuels the development of civilization, from vast geopolitical happenings to interactions between neighbors and family. In adulthood I've come to realize that I am more of an introvert than anyone would have ever guessed. I always pegged myself as an extrovert -- I am comfortable in big groups, generally social, and enjoy gatherings -- but it turns out I get burnt out by all of these things. And, contrary to what many introverts will say, being an introvert isn't necessarily about hating people or being a loner, but rather being fueled my smaller, deeper connections. It's harder to seek these out, I've realized, than simply being surrounded by people. It requires being vulnerable (gulp...) and taking time to let trust accumulate (I'm all for rushing toward friendly intimacy, but apparently it doesn't work like that).

I feel this not only with people I know but, in this gigantic impossible way, with the world. I want to connect with you know, everyone. Everywhere. Simple, right?

While in New York in June, I bought this print that says

"I'm in love with cities I've never been to and people I've never met"

Yes. I am.


3 Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging

I've been absent from blogging since spring for three reasons.

1. First, I've never really considered myself a 'blogger' in the sense of actively recruiting and writing for readers. I like to write. I have thoughts and opinions and memories I want to keep. I started my blog when I went to Africa in 2005, when blogging was different than it is now. All that to say, my last post was viewed over 60,000 times, I still get emails and messages about it, and I've not really known how to follow up. I'm not interested in making my blog one dedicated to Interfaith Marriage strategies, even though there are internet strategists who would tell me it would be wise, because it's one tiny part of my life. It has felt really wonderful and validating to have my words read, shared and appreciated so widely by people of all faiths and in all places on the belief spectrum. It is awesome to be helpful, or at least a voice of solidarity for people in a life situation similar to mine. But following up on such a widely read post is a bit intimidating.

2. Second, I'm pregnant. I'm almost halfway now, and just in the last few weeks getting back the energy I need to function in my day to day life, let alone 'extra' interests like writing. I swear there is something in the brain and body of a woman in her first trimester that ferociously defends the woman's ability to so anything but grow a fetus. Major props to Serena Williams.

3. Third, I'm writing a book! I finished a draft in the spring just before getting pregnant and I've been trying to funnel the energy I do have toward editing and preparing it for the terrifying process of querying publishing. It's uncharted territory for me and I give major props to anyone who creates, improves and sells anything that comes from a stray idea nugget. The process thus far has tapped into a lot of latent creative energy I've had stewing for years. It's also brought up a lot of little fears and shame gremlins I didn't realize I had. At this point I feel pretty guarded and unsure of what will come of it all, but it has been a worthwhile endeavor thus far and I expect it to continue to be so.

So now I'm backlogged with the thoughts and snippets of ideas on my phone notekeeper that I'm pulling together. We'll just see how many make it to Publish!


Jamie's 3 Favorite Phrases

Oh the beauty of a child who communicates! In theory, this should mean fewer tantrums... right?

1. Dump it
Food. Toys. Clothes. Well, anything that can be dumped.

2. Jamie do it
He's two, of course he wants to do it himself.

3. Open it/Close it
These mean the same thing, and cover the scope of demanding I open a sealed granola bar and also put back together the pieces of that granola bar that he has crumbled.


3 things I'd like to tell people whose spouse (or loved one) has a change of faith

Three years ago, my dear and wonderful husband let me know he no longer believed in the teachings of the LDS Church. It's the church I was raised in, that he and his mom joined when he was young, and the vehicle to God we both committed to in our marriage vows. It wasn't a complete surprise - both Porter and I have long discussed things we didn't love about the Church and some of the more questionable aspects of Church history and doctrine. For me, these discussions were part of a well-rounded look at faith. I believe strongly in questioning and disbelieve strongly in the perfection of church leaders, history and doctrine. For Porter, though, who sees the world in much starker black and white than I do, the cracks and imperfections all added up to a pretty dramatic change in belief system. Dramatic for him because he believed it for so long with such fervor. Dramatic for me because, well, I never expected to be married to someone who was not a practicing Mormon.

There was a while where the whole thing felt very sad to me. I had a lot of fears about what this meant for me and my future children, and sadly, I admit, what people would think about me and him and our future family. Feeling the way I feel now (spoiler alert: life is still good, my marriage is great, and my eternity isn't screwed), I feel a little bit silly admitting that I cried when he stopped wearing garments, started having occasional coffee breath, and couldn't attend my brother's temple wedding. I like to say I got automatically to A-OK, but it took a bit of time to mourn certain aspects of life that were going to be different now. It has taken a while for us to get into a groove about how we talk about the things that are important to us. And now I'm feeling ready to talk about it in a more public (read:internet) way.

So, here are a few things I've picked up over the last few years that I wish I could have heard all at once, for anyone going through something similar.

1. Your life is not over. Your marriage is not over. Your eternity is not screwed. 

This is the one thing I wish I could shout from the rooftops and into the hearts of anyone whose spouse goes through a faith transition. I also sometimes want to shout it at other people when I'm feeling defensive.

A month or so after the first round of conversations Porter and I had untangling his change, a woman in my ward gave a talk in church and mentioned her 'adamantly ex-Mormon husband.' I caught her in the hallway later and, as casually as I could (because casual was the only way I could do it at that point), I told her I liked her talk, and oh, by the way, my husband doesn't think the church is true anymore and how do you deal? She's the first person who I have ever met (or at least noticed) who didn't treat a non-member or non-practicing spouse as something entirely devastating, nor something to be afraid of.

She shrugged and smiled (and not in a benevolently sympathetic way that makes you feel like you're being pitied. That's the WORST.) and said 'You know, it's honestly not that big of a deal. I mean, I'd love to go ski with him on Sundays because I like to ski, but it really doesn't change all that much about our marriage.'


There's a narrative around people who 'leave' the church that they are bound to go 'off the deep end' and that it's 'so terribly sad' for the person who chooses to stay. I get that. I've thought it. Here's the facts: the person you married is still the person you married and if love was there before, it's likely still there now. And yes, there are conflicts that come up when two people disagree, especially on things as fundamental as faith (and double especially when that faith is as all life-encompassing as being Mormon is). But marriage is, by definition and by covenant, a commitment to one another. Conflict and compromise are part of the deal. And honestly, 95% of the time, churchy things do not come up.

How to deal with those 5% of life where two majorly differing world views makes decision-making difficult?

2. Respect Breeds Respect

We have a tendency in the Church to feel a hard-earned sense of moral superiority when it comes to leading life right. Most Mormons I know (myself included), have clocked a lot of hours on knees in prayer, searching for guidance from God as well as at church, in fellow church-members' homes, in service, etc. We aren't willy-nilly about our beliefs and that can feel a little bit like we deserve to sit up on a high horse in either self-righteousness or, as is often the case for people whose spouses change their faith, anger or betrayal. The way we talk about our faith is peppered with strong words like KNOW and TRUTH and AGENCY. We don't realize we do this, I think (I hope), but even when we are trying to be understanding that someone else may have the gall (or lack of discipline/faith/respect/pick your derisive explanation of choice) to come to different conclusions about what they use their agency to know to be true, it is often cloaked in a sweetly smug, 'Oh, you'll figure it out eventually. I had doubts once too. And if you don't get the answer I got, just keep trying. You'll agree with me eventually...'

This is not OK.

If you truly believe in agency and faith and what the Plan of Salvation teaches about the importance of one's personal journey, you should double super extra support that your spouse is on a journey. And no, you don't get to call it something temporary just to make yourself feel better. Maybe your spouse will indeed change their mind somewhere down the line, but making your love contingent on their maybe someday return to your once shared beliefs is condescending to your spouse and honestly, negates what you say you believe about agency and the plan of salvation. I'm not crazy about the term inactive for this reason. I also choose to not say that my husband 'left the Church.' He hasn't left, his relationship with it is just different now.

I am very fortunate to be married to a person who fully supports me in my desire to be 100% still super duper Mormon. He comes with me to church often enough, encourages me in my callings and supports parenting a Mormon baby. Maybe he would do these things regardless of my behavior, because he is wonderful and supportive by nature, but I feel fairly certain that if I tried to shame him into church activity, argued until he broke, or treated him like he was an immoral piece of garbage for coming to different conclusions than me, he would not be quite so gracious.

There was a time when Porter was actually pretty angry with the Church. It's a common thing for people who believe something so fiercely to feel a potent mix of being let down and betrayed by the God and institution that meant so much to them. NOTE: These are valid feelings, even if you disagree with them. And it's important that your spouse knows that you are there with them, no matter what. If you are with them - and I mean with them in the truest, most empathetic sense - they will be with you on the things that matter to you. Respect them and they will respect you.

Again, doesn't mean there isn't conflict. We've had our tousles with subjects all sorts of things, to name a few: tithing, church attendance on vacation, and whether or not I'm OK having a coffee maker in the house (it was a firm no for a long time, it just weirded me out. I'm OK with it now, but Porter still hasn't gotten one).

*Important to note: this is a work in progress for both of us

3. You are not alone. There is a place for you.

One of the most frustrating things I encounter is this idea that families and people who don't fit the usual configuration are somehow less-than. No one overtly says this, of course. Quite the opposite, there are a BILLION quotes and comments about how the gospel is for everyone and we shouldn't be measuring success against the stable couple with beautiful, faithful children. But we do this, of course. Everyone does somewhere in their lives. We are hard-wired to want to fit in and terrified at our very core of being different. I came from that family- the family whose kids all grew up singing in the choir and got married in the temple. My parents go on temple dates. We all get really into our callings (usually we're teachers because, you know, we're all great speakers and have such a wise understanding of the gospel...).

So it was a big shock for me to realize that was not going to be my family. And for a while I felt very self-conscious about it. Until I started looking around to see how many people also aren't that family. I'll tell you what, it's most families. Here's the rub, though, no one talks about it. During the first few months I was processing all this stuff, I was serving in Young Women's with a woman whose husband was in a very similar place and we NEVER talked about it. In the three wards I've been in since then, I have an unconscious habit of counting all the people who attend church alone, or who have different configurations of some kind. It's more than half of the ward, always. But NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT.

So this blog post is part of trying to change that. I spent a year hoping no one would notice my usually absent husband, then a year talking about my non-practicing husband in a vague way that I'm sure most people didn't catch, and now finally, I realize that I am part of the problem if I don't talk about it. The way you talk about it matters, too. The woman I talked with who shrugged and smiled about her adamantly ex-Mormon husband was an inspiration to me. Like her, I'm not interested in soft-eyed pity from church members who feel inspired by my 'sticking with him.' Quite the opposite. I don't want pity (who does, really?). I don't want my husband to be on the ward project list (he wants that even less). I want them to see how wonderful a husband and father and human being he is. I want people who feel different to feel okay in their differences. And I want to be able to participate in my church community as I am - no secrets, no shame, just reality. So far I have that. A note to any of you Faith Changers out there reading this, most Mormons genuinely do want you to feel comfortable around them, don't want you to feel judged or excluded. Most people, I've found, just don't know how to act or what to say to convey the fact that where you're at spiritually doesn't impact your ability to participate/not participate in church services and activities to whatever degree you want. And in the face of not knowing, most people just don't say or do anything. It can look the same as judgment/exclusion, but I promise, it isn't (usually :) ).

If anyone out there in internetland is going through something like this and wants to talk about it with me, I'm happy to. I won't pat your leg or tell you they will come around, but I'll listen and tell you it's OK. It's not going to be OK someday (when they come back, when you divorce and remarry someone more stalwart, when you also inevitably also choose to leave). It already is OK. You might just not know it yet.