2019: Ownership

Wonder in 2018 ended up taking a lot of unexpected courage. I didn’t realize that stepping back to really look at my life, searching for beauty, would lead me to want to tear it all down and start over. But that’s what happened.

Late one hot night in July, I sat on the couch I had bought a few months earlier in a proper house that I had helped turn into a home. A few doors away slept a man who I had, until a few months earlier, thought I could reasonably spend the rest of my life with. For many minutes my finger hovered over the send button on a resignation letter that I knew would change the course of my life. I held my breath. I looked around. I wiped tears from my eyes. Screamed silently into my hands. And thought of a poster that used to hang on my boss’s wall in Cedar City. “Ships in harbors are safe.” It read. “But that’s not what ships are built for.”

My life in Phoenix was safe, if not happy. But growing up is all about compromise. Could I really expect to be happy and stable? So maybe the CEO of the school I taught at had threated to fire me for organizing for higher wages. I loved my students, didn’t I? So maybe my boyfriend had told me repeatedly that he wasn’t sure he loved me and didn’t really think I was beautiful. He still had a great job, and we were remodeling the house. So maybe living through summers in Phoenix made me want to crawl in a pit and die of heat exhaustion. At least there were those nice six weeks of Spring each year. I’m great at making the best of things.

But I knew it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t thriving. I wasn’t happy. A couple of weeks earlier I’d found myself on another couch in a therapist’s office sobbing my eyes out. I told her all the ways I felt alone and dissatisfied with my life. What if I didn’t want to marry this man who didn’t love me? What if I never had children? Could I ever be happy alone? Finally she asked, “What does a good life alone look like to you?” Instantly I had a vision, as holy and real as any I’ve experienced in my life. I saw myself looking out a big street-facing window. I knew immediately it was one of the old bungalow homes that surround Salt Lake City. I was bundled up, watching the snow fall, sipping something warm, with a notebook for writing in my lap. A kitty swished its tail nearby. My space. My home. My life. My terms. On my own. Peaceful. Content. Simply filled with love.

I hit send on the letter and within a couple weeks I had packed everything I could fit in my car, like I have so many times before, and drove away from the house and the man. The tears ran out before I left the city limits. The drive north on the 89 was littered with sunflowers, red and green mountains, cloud bursts, rainbows, and wandering streams. In Salt Lake I was welcomed by a new friend to stay for free until I could find work. I began madly putting in job applications, sharpening my interview skills, and considering whole new career options. It was a scary and joyful couple of months of settling in, trying to stay positive, creating a new community and working odd jobs. But by the end of September I was offered a position with a growing company for more money than I had made as a teacher. I was home. And it was wonderful.

Now I sit in my friend’s home, staring out a big beautiful window at the snow in the backyard, with a notebook in my lap. There is a dog outside, so no cat. I’m close. But not quite there. I still need to own it. And in 2019 that’s what I’m going to do. Strap in. This is gonna get real.

Owning my beliefs.

I was raised reciting the motto “Stand for truth and righteousness at all times, and in all things, and in all places.” I like to think that though my understanding of truth and righteousness has shifted dramatically over the last few years, my integrity has never budged. Stepping away from active membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was something I couldn’t have imagined until a few short years ago. Being Mormon has been as much a part of who I am as being a red-headed, left handed woman. Stepping away has been a years-long, excruciating process. It felt like being flayed alive—removing and regrowing a whole new skin. However, under that skin the core of who I am, a person of integrity, remains. Attending church became a painful exercise in cognitive dissonance. I saw the distance grow wider and wider between what the church was doing (like implementing unchristian LGBTQ policies, and excommunicating critical voices) and what I needed in my relationship with God (a stronger connection with a feminine divine, and acceptance of my hard questions regarding history and theology). To not have my new beliefs reflected in the way I lived including who I loved, when and where I shared my time and talents, would have been dishonest to my desires and disingenuous to those around me who assumed I still shared their beliefs. Through this process, I’ve also tried to be very cautious about sharing my new beliefs, especially with those who I love the most, out of fear of making them uncomfortable or hurting our relationship. More than once this year I got in hot water with people I love for expressing myself too freely. It’s terrible to hear pain or anger in the voice of someone you love and to know that you are the cause.

But, also in the last few months, I had two people who have been in my life for many years reach out to me separately and unexpectedly. They both told me they knew I was a safe place because of the things I had said or posted. Both suffer quietly, isolated from their LDS families and communities because they experience same-sex attraction. The faith these dear ones showed in me and the love and support I was able to share with them made all the pain I had endured in my journey worthwhile. Their courage has made me stronger and braver.

Most of you who read this annual blog have known me for many years, just as my brave friends have. Perhaps you are wondering now, “Do I know the person?” Here’s the thing, I promise you do! You do know someone who feels this way. (Maybe even the same person) Consider this: there is someone you know and love who is currently afraid to tell you about something important about who they are; something that they have known about themselves for years. Something just as much a part of who they are as their hair color or their right-handedness. But this person can’t tell you because they are sure it will cause you to love them less. They worry you will look at them with fear, disgust, or pity when all they want is your love, unconditional and unchanging as the love of God. I understand how they feel to some degree because I had all those same fears about letting you know that I’ve stepped away from the church.

The fact that you don’t know anyone who is gay or who is going through a faith crisis has more to do with your words and attitude about gay people and faith crises than it does with who is around you. The same can be said of all suffering. Just because you aren’t seeing it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

This year I’m ready to own all of this. Your feelings are yours. My beliefs are mine. I’m here if you need to talk about your suffering, about wanting to love better, about what you believe. Understand that I will speak my heart and that might hurt, but I will never hurt you intentionally.

Owning my body.

I first went to the therapist’s office because I was feeling deeply insecure about my body. My partner’s insecurities about himself and his self-worth were taking a toll on me. While our intimate relationship had brought me a lot of joy, it had also opened a whole new world of questions and self-doubt for me. While it seemed like everyone I knew was trying Whole 30 and Keto, I invested myself in body positivity, intuitive eating and the Health at every size movement (HAES). While I’ve been working for many years to accept my body for its strengths and limitations, I’d never really considered what it would be like to be proud of my body just as it is. Today, I’m so far away from that goal that it feels like a journey that will last a life time. So far, all that it has led me to is a gym membership, a lot of pants that are too snug, and a healthy rage at media that glorifies thinness above all. I’m always looking for new resources and ideas on how to care for my body-mind-soul connection better. Moving to Salt Lake has done wonders for my mental and spiritual health, but I still have a lot of work to do in finding a healthier relationship with food and my waistline. Currently working on trying to feel beautiful again.

Owning my space.

I need a home of my own. Because, like Virginia Wolf would have said today, “Come on y’all, I’m 35 and it shouldn’t be this hard.”

Let me reiterate how grateful I am to my friend turned wonderful roommate, who has opened her super charming home to me. She has been a lifesaver. I think my being around has been a blessing for her as well during a difficult year. Life is good for us, but I am so ready to have my own kitchen with my own dishes, my own couch with my own pillows, my own bathroom with my very own tub to use all the bath bombs ex-boyfriends have given me. Sure I could rent all that, but I’m over building landlord’s fortunes. I want to paint my walls and plant a garden. One of the lessons from this last year is that home ownership is what sets apart the people who are getting by from those who are building for a future, and anyway rent is the same as a mortgage for the kind of home I want. Will I be able to afford the dream house with the window, the yard, and the cat? The next 6 months will tell. Luckily, I can work all the overtime I want at my new job, and I fully intended to do so. The market isn’t great this year, but I need to live my life now and not on the market’s timeline.

Owning my choices.

Now that I am in the right place and working toward all these things, there are some reckonings that must be made. The scary question that comes into focus as I look over my life and the decisions that have led me to the wonderful, unexpected place where I am is: What am I left with if the one thing I always, always wanted isn’t going to be a reality? What if I am not going to be a mother? I’ve spent the last few years sorting through and trying on the beliefs I was raised in. Some have been discarded (the need for LDS priesthood ordinances), others have been redesigned (my love for ritual and symbol), but some I still hold tightly (like integrity). My desire for motherhood has remained stubbornly planted though I’ve tried setting it down, turning my back, and focusing my attention elsewhere on things like my love for arts, the need for a partner, and career goals. But my mother-heart send me rushing back, picking up the imagined child and holding it closely once again. I ache for it. It brings me to tears even now.

I know that a duel parent home is the ideal for everyone involved when it comes to raising children. I know I don’t have the financial security to go it on my own. I know there is still a possibility that I could meet a great partner and get pregnant and have a kid or two without any serious problem. But boy oh boy does that last one seem unlikely. It has been my choice to not get pregnant for the last 20 years. I’m mostly really grateful for that choice. But I can’t say I’m not envious of all my friends who are mothers, including my single mom friends who I know might struggle with finances and exhaustion everyday. I must own my choice to be childless. But I can also own my choice to look at options.

Right now my top option is to begin the process of making a home for myself and then becoming a licensed foster mother. I joined a Facebook group of single foster mothers and seeing their daily struggles and loves is making it seem real and hard and possible. There is a lot of pain and ugliness in the foster system, but also so much need and joy. I know it would break my heart to see children coming from trauma and also often returning to trauma, but at least I could be a place of respite and rest for them. I would only foster school aged children, since I am lucky to have a pretty flexible work schedule for now. I have a lot of love to give and think this is something that could really fill my heart. But it will take a lot of learning and preparation to find out if this is the path for me.

As for the other option of continuing a traditional path to motherhood- well I’ve decided to give my self the year off from the idea of getting married. Hear ye, Hear ye, Miranda will NOT be getting married in 2019. I’ll continue to pursue relationships as they come my way, but I am determined that for the first time in my adult life it’s ok to draw a line in the sand and say that I’M NOT GETTING MARRIED at least this year, and maybe ever. The old “how soon are you ready to get married and start a family?” question in my first date repartee hasn’t yielded great fruit thus far, so I’m changing it up and saying “I HAVE NO PLANS TO MARRY. Amen.”

And with that, I’m owning this blog post. It’s scary, but I’ll do it anyway. I’m so grateful for the love and support I’ve had from amazing family and friends over my WONDERful year of 2018. I wish peace, joy, and ownership for all of you in 2019.

 

P.S. Holy crap! We are only one year away from 2020- a year where hopefully all will be made very clear.

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2018 Theme: Wonder

Too recently I sat in a waiting room, caught in one of the tragic backwards dance-moments life sometimes forces upon you.

(My first backwards dance was walking up the aisles behind my father’s coffin. I walked arm in arm with my mother thinking how this was all backwards. Fathers are supposed to walk daughters down aisles, not daughters walking mothers up aisles behind dead fathers.)

It was Backwards.

I sat in the maternity ward of a hospital, waiting for my dear friend to deliver a baby that would never breath, never cry, never laugh. Never live to call my friend “mommy.” The child had died within her, with no warning, no pain, no awareness from the women who had sacrificed so much and hoped for so long to bring this boy into life. Death entered that womb, and in that moment my friend was both full and utterly empty. In a space designed to bring new life, she delivered only the death of a deeply loved, unfilled promise.

It was Backwards.

This was a capstone on what felt often like a year of Backwards. There have been many hard and unbelievable moments of living in this snarling, restless, divided, beloved country of mine. There have been moments, many moments, that I have felt like we are facing a reversal of forward progress in the spread of equal rights, like we are retreating from compassion, like the institutions we once venerated and gave our trust are nothing more than shadows who have left our trust in shambles.

It has been Backwards.

I have wept at social injustice, and wept in personal heartbreak, and wept in frustration with my own and other’s incapacity for change. Looking back, though, I do not feel to dwell so much on the tears of these moments so much as to acknowledge the slow and raw hollowing out of spaces in my heart and mind that once held my ideals and beliefs. Outside voices call to me, telling me to write off what has been lost, what was once so precious, as so many childish dreams. These voices, from opposite sides, beckon me to join them. To filling these holes with the two binaries, activism and cynicism.

Cynicism, like fast food (sorry to mix the metaphor) would be easy in the short term, but I see in the pinched cheeks and squinting eyes of those who feast on it, that it is ultimately lacking in nourishment. Activism, I have discovered this year, while vital, can be gluttonous, and therefore, equally nonsustaining. And while a generous serving of either now and again is thrilling, and even be beneficial, I am seeking long-term health.

The word that fell into my head one day, like a ripe fruit from a generous tree, immediately seemed both delicious and fulfilling to me:

WONDER

Wonder can fill the soul. Wonder does not seek to change. Wonder does not judge. Wonder sits in awareness. Wonder looks on, apart from, but in awe of. Wonder notices. Wonder hears. Wonder feels deeply. Wonder is too often reserved for children. Wonder is wrongly associated only with beauty and goodness. Wonder seeks the dark places too. Wonder is deeply spiritual. Wonder is captivated by simplicity. Wonder believes in the possibility of the miraculous. Wonder doesn’t need at the answers to HOW or WHY, but rather is content with the amazement.

I’ve really enjoyed the camera trick Boomerang for the last few years. It takes a small moment, just a few seconds, or less, and plays it backwards and forwards over, and over again. In these Boomerangs a smile, a gesture, a dance step, an accident can be lived in an endless loop. I want to cultivate my brain to appreciate these kinds of small things more frequently, be they moments of beauty, or new ideas and concepts that need some turning over, or moments of discomfort that make me want to run for the hills/blankets. It’s time to do a little more dwelling and a little less skimming. Time to make time to sit with what is in my space and in my moment and to not allow myself to be so preoccupied with what is NEXT and OVER THERE.

HOW TO BE WONDER-full:

Identify the moments of wonder in my life and name them. Point them out, write them down, tell someone else about them. Take a picture. Make a record. Sit with them for the time that I am able to sit and be still.

I.E. WORK ON ONE TASK AT A TIME.

Make time to listen to both the natural world and my internal workings. Garden, dig in the dirt, cultivate life and grow food. Do not be distracted by technology while I eat. Allow my body to enjoy, or not, but to process the experience of being fueled by foods.

I.E. PUT DOWN THE PHONE WHILE EATING.

Really listen to those who share themselves with me. Don’t anticipate what they will say or prepare a response. Think less about how their experience matches my own, but really focus on what their experience is and what they feel.

I.E. SHUT UP.

Allow myself to be quiet and really take in my present, the person, or place where I am, and to think deeply about what it offers, but resist judgement. When speaking with others, be generous with my time. Find ways to compliment them, and to offer open and sincere thanks and praise for them, and to avoid categorizing them with unhelpful labels.

I.E. STOP ASSESSING.

And lastly,

Get comfortable with having questions that don’t have answers, easy or otherwise. Enjoy the WONDER.

I feel like so much of the world stands on the brink of…. all of it. I have no idea what 2018 will hold. But for better or worse, I will look at it with wonder.

E.G.

This song came back to me again and again this year. And while I was writing this post, the line from the bridge played itself over and over in my head. So I guess I’ll take a moment to wonder about it:

“Hold my gaze love. You know I want to let it go.
We will stare down at the wonder of it all,
And I will hold you in it, and I will hold you in it”

****Spends a few minutes WONDERING****

Here is what I find in the song. This is so cool!

This is a song in which Wonder, personified, is speaking directly to me.

First, the Wonder of identifies me as the wolf: frightened, searching, living on the brink, a bit hopeless.

Wide-eyed, with a heart made full of fright,
Your eyes follow like tracers in the night.
On the tightrope that you wander every time,
You have been weighed, you have been found wanting

Wonder questions me, calls to me, beckons me back into relationship with her. ‘Stop your wandering  and come love with me.’

Been wondering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for

Next, now that I am back inside with Wonder, she gives me warning. ‘There are other wolves prowling around, you’ve got to stay on guard, but if you stick with Wonder, she’s got this.’

Sheltered, you better keep the wolf back from the door
He wanders ever closer every night
And how he waits begging for blood
I promised you everything would be fine

And finally, most importantly, a final, but ongoing conversation I must have with WONDER this year:

Wonder: Hold my gaze love,

Me: You know I want to let it go

Us: We will stare down at the wonder of it all

Wonder: And I will hold you in it. And I will hold you in it.

Thanks, Wonder. I’ll trust you. Let’s do this.

Hello and welcome, 2018.

2017: Discipline

Discipline: “the suppression of base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self-control restraint and control. Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action regardless of one’s desires, which may be the opposite of excited. Virtuous behavior can be described as when one’s values are aligned with one’s aims: to do what one knows is best and to do it gladly.” (This quirky, but very apt definition comes from Blaine J. Fowers via Wikipedia.)

In early October I found myself sitting in a room with an acquaintance of some 10 years. He was teaching a workshop on acting technique to a small group of enthusiastic teens. This man is a bit of a guru. He has traveled the world studying the performance of spirituality or Ritual-something I too have studied in my own way. But he lived in a yurt in Mongolia for several years, you know? The next level. What impresses me about this man is that he is a very talented actor who seems to have a deep understanding that life is about learning how to live well, not about success on anyone else’s scale.
Anyway, he had the students sit face to face, knees nearly touching, and had them speak truth to each other. The dialogues went something like this:
A: You have brown hair.
B: I have brown hair”…   ….

Long pause…
A: Your hair is brown.
B: My hair is mostly brown.
A: Your hair is mostly brown, with some blonde.
B: I have blondish brown hair.
*Long pause*
A: You seem nervous.
B: I’m nervous. *blushes*
A: You are blushing.
B: …I’m blushing.

And on an on, and it was weird and awkward for all of us. The students were confused, but in it to win it. The exercise was about how to NOT create, portray, display, or show emotion in front of an audience. It was about actually FEELING something in front of an audience—emotional honesty and truth. n the last few minutes he opened up for questions—anything at all. A rather dangerous proposition for a room of 15 year olds. Of course, they were enamored with his charisma and good looks. So was I probably a little, and if they had felt anything profound in the workshop it was pretty well thrown out the window during this opportunity to have an open-ended conversation with who they saw as a handsome, successful actor. They ask him, “What’s the best part you’ve played on stage?” “Do you like kissing on stage?”
In true form, he answered their question frankly and with a bit of humor, but with a sincerity that encouraged them to think more deeply. Finally one asked, “You have an awesome beard. How do you groom it?” At this, the guru man opened up about the death of his mother earlier that year, and how that pain had manifested itself in his growing a beard as a physical marker of the invisible pain. He said the beard helps him remember his mother, and that he is a man. The students pondered this for a moment, and then one girl asked, “So, do you, like, workout everyday.”
After the workshop my acquaintance and I caught up for a few minutes. He mentioned that he had just turned 33. I was surprised to learn that we are in fact the same age. We first crossed paths at 24. He had seemed somehow light-years ahead of me then. I had just started my first full-time job, and still felt myself on the cusp of true adulthood. He seemed like pillar of wisdom, who had, you know, lived in a yurt.
He and I shared stories about how hard 32 had been hard. Really hard. He had suffered some professional setbacks and lost his mother. I had been dealing with physical and emotional health crises. For me 32 had felt like the aftermath of a terrible sunburn. I was (am?) sick in my heart and body, and I felt that layers of myself were peeling away, leaving what was left of me feeling tender, exposed, and raw. (And all of this was before the election that broke my heart still more deeply.)
The guru was equally raw, but said he was finding some wholeness in being the mystical 33. I knew what he meant. 33 being magic was not a new idea to me, but I went ahead a looked it up for further evidence. It’s a cool number. 33 vertebrae in the spine. The age Jesus Christ completed his ministry. The age of the those who dwell in heaven, according to some Christian and Muslim traditions. The number of times the name of God appears in the creation account in Genesis. Generally many cultures think of it as the number representing completeness, or full maturity. 33.
My friend, who I was suddenly over-sharing with, said one of the things that had helped him pull through the hard time was discipline. He didn’t go into detail about what it meant, but it was clear from our three-minute conversation that he is a man who has trained his mind and body. He has control of himself in ways that I, and I suspect many of our peers, envy.
The word stuck with me through the following days, weeks. I heard the spirit whisper “That’s the word. Figure it out.” and I scowled. This word is not my friend. Create. Connection. Service. These are words I understand. They are intrinsic parts of me. I’ve spent the last few years cultivating them—tending a garden that already existed in me. I’ve tried to make my life fruitful with these yearly themes. And I think I’ve done well. But discipline? Discipline sounds like no fun at all. Discipline is punishments and measuring sticks and scales and rules. Those are things broken people need. Discipline is not the path of the enlightened.
When I have spoken of rules it has generally been to say things like “You have to know the rules before you can break them.” And “Rules are for the stupid.” In reality, I’m neither stupid nor much of a rule breaker. The art of the youngest child is “rule negotiator.” I’m a “fly under the radar, ask forgiveness not permission, act like you know what you are doing and few will question you” kind of rule breaker. This confidence has served me well most of my life. I’ve rarely been yelled at, and gotten away with a lot of pretty cool stuff without raising any eyebrows. While there have been plenty of rules I’ve easily justified my way around, there have been a few rules, deeply trusted, logical, cause and effect rules that I have put all my faith in knowing the best rules are not just rules but promises. “If you do (or don’t) do this you will get (or not get) that.” Some rules have been inviolable, unbreakable, and for these reasons I trusted them.
But guess what? This the rules broke me. Flat on the floor, writhing in pain, sobbing, snot-faced, broke me—literally and figuratively at top speed and in slow motion. Now, I recognize my life is blessed. I have a thousands of things and people and ideas and dollars to be grateful for, but this breakdown came in spite of gratitude, logic, and objective happiness. This was the year when the pain became too real to ignore. The promises were broken and the rules that have held me in safety suddenly felt like they no longer applied.
Earlier this year a religious advisor likened my faith crisis to Jacob’s wrestle with the angel in Genesis 32. This is prescient and prophetic. Jacob wrestles with God’s messenger all night until both are exhausted. They are at a draw. Neither can win or lose. Without letting go, Jacob demands a blessing from this opponent. The angel gives him a new name. “Israel: a prince of power with God and men, the one who prevails. The one who preservers. Note that tense/time is irrelevant he has/shall/will prevail, maybe not right now, but always, all ways. Also note that this wreastle happens in chapter 32, but in chapter 33 Jacob, now Israel, assumes his new idenity and is able to settle into the new chapter of his life, which, btw, is pretty much disaster after disaster. BUT he was blessed. He knew who he was and he knew that God knew it. He had left his old identity and life and placed his trust in God to sort our the rest. He didn’t stop making mistakes (favoriatism much), but maybe, just maybe he stopped worrying about it quite as much.
The problem with this analogy, I told this good man, is that Jacob’s wreastle changed everything. It broke a lot of rules. It changed the trajectory of Jacob’s life, and the lives of his children, and his children’s children’s children. That’s scary and huge. And also, I’m not sure that my life of nominally obedience has prepared me for the level of perseverance that Jacob gave in the wrestling match. But the problem with changing your life, I guess, is that it requires changing things. Learning and trying and failing. So I will. This is where it get’s ugly and scary and new. Exercising discipline. Knowing when to say yes, when to say no. Stopping and starting over and over. Putting away what doesn’t work in favor of what might work better. And sticking the hell to what does work. Ugh. I hate that part.
A logical approach seems reasonable to balance out such an esoteric, mystical problem. Having spent a fair amount of time with doctor in the last year, I will follow their three-step process to approaching a problem:
– Understanding symptoms
– Finding a diagnosis
– Offering a treatment*

*Often symptoms can be related to one another—rather than directly linked to causes, and sometimes treatments bring on additional symptoms that might cause the diagnosis to change. So this three-step process can get a bit messy. But I’m going to try to follow it for now.

Symptoms: What hurts?
It hurts me that I do not talk about my stress or my pain. I power through until I physically breakdown.
It hurts when I physically break down. Spending the first week of school in miserable pain in the hospital was not what I wanted.
It hurts to have your gallbladder removed.
It hurts me that I feel my body getting older and less and less controlled. There are strange pains at times and strange changes that I think would be lessened by an increased focus on a healthy diet and more physical activity.
It hurts when someone I chose to trust and love betrays me. It makes me feel foolish and worthless.
It hurts my heart to know that many of my neighbors and fellow Americans, who I thought I shared values with, voted a despicable buffoon into our nation’s highest office.
It hurts that my attempts at activism (knocking doors, posts on social media, quiet conversations, small donation) do not seem to be changing the world at the rate I wish they would.
It hurts that I live in a world where the millions who are currently suffering are kept at a manageably sad distance from me. That I do not know how, or what I should do to help either the homeless man outside of Wal-Mart or the victims of war in Syria.
It hurts when I feel or am told that I simply care too much. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? Care less? If yes, HOW?
It hurts that all of these pains have led me into a spiritual transition. An upheaval of belief that has left me breathless, hurt, and frequently feeling at a distance from the community and people who I loved most. This is the sharpest pain of all. It has consumed my mind for the last 18 months or so with the word crisis becoming more immediate since July, coinciding with a physical breakdown (I’m not surprised by this at all).

Diagnoses: What is the problem? Where has my heart been out of line with reality?

The world is not what I thought it was.

People are messy and some are downright bad.
Relationships, even ones I care the most about and give my everything to, are a subject to failure.
Too much faith in systems, not enough faith in myself.
Too much focus on things I cannot control.
Too much sugar and fat in the diet.
Rules matter, but not necessarily the ones I’ve focused on.
Suffering will be a part of life, I can’t change that, but I can try.

General course of treatment: How to get back to healthy

Continually separate the two categories of pain sources into things I can control and things I cannot. I have always understood the wisdom of not trying to control things that I have not power over, but it a lesson I must learn, relearn, and learn again.
Remember: I cannot change another person’s vote, or solve a war, or end another’s suffering. But I can control my reaction to those things. I can choose to love and to cultivate love in my life. I can only do my best—and some times I can even do that. Sometimes I can only do what I can do. Maybe, in fact, and this is hard to say, I can’t do anything. Maybe, I have to let go. Ooooff.
Assess the activities in my life that take up the most time and decide what I really want from them, how they are feeding my soul and how to proceed in a way that better serves me.
Assess the things I put into my body the same way. How does this feed me? Does this really give me what I need?
Apply the same assessment to my personal and romantic relationships.

Prescriptions:
Not have my phone be the last and first part of my day.
Set aside about 15 minutes for meditation/pondering/prayer each day.
Connect my body and mind through sweating profusely once a week.
Develop moderation in mental and physical consumption.
Strictly limit my time on social media—especially Facebook. I want an alarm to loudly go off every time I’m scroll for more than 3 minutes. I get a lot done on FB, but not enough to justify the amount of time I spend sponging useless info from it.

Risks of Treatment/Possible Side Effects:
Give myself space to change and grow without getting too down on myself and giving up because it all seems impossible. Avoid burst of manic “I can do it all” energy in favor of “one step at a time, you don’t have to be perfect today” progress. Beware of burnout and bingeing.
Do not become simply selfish and self-serving. Watch for signs of disregarding/disrespecting other’s feelings in favor of things that make me short-term happy.

Future prognosis:
Peaceful determination to improve the world and myself within it without becoming overwhelmed by fear or failure. Set small goals for what I want, take practical steps to reach those goals. Be intentional in choices—do not just go with the flow, unless it doesn’t matter, if it doesn’t, just enjoy going with it, but know what matters.
If you read all this, I’m sorry there are not more jokes, no pics, and it’s long and doesn’t have details of what exactly my issues are or what exactly I’m gonna do about them. If you want to talk I’m here, just let me know. Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear how this year treated you and what you are looking forward to doing better in 2017.

2016 Theme: Home

I got some good news the other day. After several months of mild anxiety I have found a new place to live. It’s a little condo in Chandler, very close to the school where I began teaching in August. It’s a sweet little place in an area that I think will be good for me, and though I will eventually have a roommate, it is the first place time in a long time I’ve had on my own. And most importantly I have decided it will be my home.
With 2015 being the year of connection, I met a lot of new people. Which was great, but most times that initial conversation includes some version of the question, “Where’s home?” For a long time this questions has induced complicated emotions for me. It’ a question without a simple answer and one that reminds me of several of the pressing issues in my life, primarily my issues with impermanence.
I am writing this from my mother’s house. I have inarguably spent more time in this space than than in any other in the world. This is the home to which my parents brought me from the hospital. It is the home from which I returned after my first and last days of school, and from mission service.
Growing up, the kids who moved homes seemed exotic. I wondered what would be like to be the new kid. Sometimes I envied their opportunity to start fresh with new friends and teachers—to not be surrounded at age sixteen by all the same people who knew me at age four. But even then the idea of leaving behind the physical space of my home filled me with nostalgia. I knew and know every corner of this house. I’ve sat on its roof and dug into the earth around it. I’ve seen the bones inside the walls and the concrete of its foundations. It has been a distinct character in the story of my life with an arch all its own. Instead of remaining fixed the place of my memories, it has transformed again and again to suit the needs of my extended family. The rooms have been repurposed, the carpets changed, and since I moved out at age seventeen, the house has been home to more than a dozen of my kin-folk with as many as four generations at a time living under the roof my dad put on it. But through it all, it has been home: the place to which I return.
For many years after I left I felt disloyal whenever I referred to any other place I was living as “home.” What temporary dwelling could compare with the home of my youth? None. I’ve had 15 mailing addresses in 14 years. A few lasted as long as 18 months, but many were less than 12. And some, like my mission home and the PO Box in Italy were more like tethers securing me while I wandered. And as the years have passed, though I have always been welcomed back home, this home has released some of it’s hold on me. I have found that I am increasingly able to define home on my own terms. Just as my mother has refurbished her home again and again while maintaining its basic structure, so have I redefined myself to fit changes in location and personal development while still remaining at my core the same person.
Yet, as I have moved further and further away from home both physically and emotionally, I’ve never been sure what exactly what I’m moving toward. I’d always intended to define the specifics of my home with an as yet as unknown husband. In the years around my mission I kept a list of ideas (have General Conference camp outs), to dos (plant a garden), and even specific items (collected works of Dr. Seuss) that would ensure that I would be the cheerful mistress of a happy, productive, and peaceful home with a husband and children of my own. While I wasn’t aiming to win any mother of the year awards, I figured that with a little preparation I could do as well or better than the average Mother in Zion.
Here you see my miscalculation. Instead of focusing on building a home for myself (even a portable one that mostly fits in my car—as it has had to do) I bought my favorite children’s books and Disney film and set my sights on my future prospects rather than living in the hear and now. I’ve spent years trying to become the kind of person I would want to marry, which while it has certainly done me no harm. This focus, however, has had the side effect of making me less present in my life than I might have been. I want to change that. I want to make a home for me.

Home is a process of self-definition.
In an ice-breaker game I love, participants take turns stepping into the circle and completing the phrase “Where I’m from…” in order to learn more about each other. If I step in to the circle and offer “Where I’m from there are lots of big family dinners” and you remember how your mom’s best friend’s kids would come to supper on Sundays, you could choose join me in the circle, then you and I would change places and someone else would step in and make the next statement about where they are from. We’ve identified each other as being from a place where families eat together—and we know who isn’t from that kind of place. Everyone seems to love this game. The key, as I explain to participants, is self-definition. Though I say “lots” and “big family” and “dinners” you have to decide how that applies to your life. How many is big? How frequent is lots? What time is dinner? No one can define your home but you.
So, what is home to me? Where am I from and where do I want to live? How, based on my experiences and desires, should I define and then create home? What do I want for my home? What will I welcome? On what will I shut the doors? Here are some of the things I know I want my home to be:

From my childhood: I am able to sing loud and play dress up, or make silly faces and wear ugly pajamas. When friends come over invite them to stay for dinner—even if it’s not fancy. It might get loud because there is a lot of coming and going. Relatives may show up unannounced. Cereal is eaten before 10AM and ice cream is eaten after 6PM. There is a fruit bowl. Things can be messy, but not dirty. Clean up as you go. Christmas lights don’t go up until the day after Thanksgiving. Pans can live on the stove so you are ready to cook. We don’t say “shut up” and we don’t use harsh language. Family stories get told. And cleaning is much more fun with music playing. Books are the best decorations. Take what you want, but eat what you take.

From my time with roommates: Keep the Tupperware in order. Clean the toilet regularly. Paper towels are money down the drain. Dance parties are a go. Movie nights are much better with friends and extra butter on the popcorn. It’s better to do the dishes yourself than to be annoyed about them. Introduce yourself to the neighbors with homemade cookies. Don’t leave a mess in the living room. It’s worth the effort to put up Christmas décor, but be sure to take it down before February. Use the nice dishes now as they will likely get broken later. Have potted plants and keep the porch tidy. Always use a hair catch in the shower drain. Separate the rubbish and take it out before it stinks. Recycle. Cooking at home is better than eating out. Don’t lose the mail key. Eat real food, not too much, mostly vegetables.

Things moving forward: Learn how to compost. Spend more time in my home with the people I like. Make a space and a time for writing. Build a place of community with the people I like, doing the things that I like. Exercise. Play. Dance. Sing. Kiss. Don’t worry about measuring up to anyone else if you are enjoying doing what you are doing. Big dreams don’t have to take up a lot of space. Buy less. Make more.
While some of these things may seem piddling, life has taught me not to underestimate the importance of these small details. It is on these delicate balances that larger happiness rests. These details and freedoms breed feelings of peace, acceptance, and settlement.

On settling
Among the last words my mission president said to me were “never, never settle.” He was talking about making a choice on a husband. Boy, did I take it to heart. I do not regret not marrying any one I have met thus far, but perhaps there has been an element of fear wrapped up in my choice not to fall in love. Perhaps I have been prideful in my expectations. My best friend’s husband once said of me, “She’d fall in love if she ever stayed in once place long enough.” I think there may be some truth in that. In the last year I went on LOTS of dates. It’s been fun. I’ve discovered that there are men out there who genuinely like me for who I am. It stuns me a little every time I discover that. For one reason and another, it didn’t work out with any of those guys. One cause behind my singlehood is my constant view of my life being in flux. I am always half expecting to move in a year. Even as I sign lease documents on this new place I am questioning the decision. I love my job, but I still don’t know if I am supposed to stay in Arizona. Should I move back here to California and be closer to my mother? Is there a place where I am supposed to be? Is Mr. Right waiting in Salt Lake? Does anyone ever really feel settled or is everyone just pretending like they are sure they are in the right place?
I wonder if this is the curse of my generation. Being raised in the 80s and 90s I was taught to dream big and expect a wonderful life. But graduating and starting my career in the 2000s showed me that hard work and a degree are not the magical keys to prosperity and happiness they were purported to be. As it turns out, I have to make my own happiness, and it better not depend on having a Barbie Dream House.
Settling in might be connected to another new popular mantra, leaning in. (A book I will admit to admiring without reading.) One of my take-aways from it’s premise is to focus on what you can do here and now. Don’t start thinking about how maternity leave will impact your life until you are actually planning to have a baby. Don’t make judgements about a long term relationship after a first date. Don’t worry about what is going to happen next. Enjoy the moment as it is presented to you. Be present for the present. Be home.

2015: Connection

Life is hard alone. Unbearable even. I have felt the pangs of The Lonelies a time or two in my life.

They are real, and they are awful, but I have recently been privileged with some up-close looks at how much worse they can be when compounded with poverty, addiction, disability, grief or regret. Often these are root causes of loneliness—not just correlated symptoms. To varying degrees they are for me. Is loneliness possible without having experienced companionship? Does poverty feel povertous without an awareness of lack? Connection is both the problem and the solution.

One of my challenges/privileges in 2014 was to teach LDS Seminary at a local high school every morning at 6:30. My 30 or so students and I studied the first half of the prophet Joseph Smith’s revelations, LDS scripture known as The Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph’s life was concerned with connection. Joseph’s first prayer, the catalyst of his extraordinary life began with a simple question. As a 14 year-old boy, Joseph had a simple question: What church should he join? Which community of faith should he align himself with?

prayer

He spent the rest of his life building a church—a physical and spiritual gathering place with temples, cities, wards, and stakes, ordinances, and theology centered on connecting God to his children and His children to one another. Joseph wanted to build Zion—a place where all were one in heart. A community brought together by the consecration of all things to the building up of God’s kingdom. The saints were to share all that they had with one another in order to create a holy society with “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18) where all were “pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).

What a beautiful goal.

Zionplat2

Joseph’s blueprint for the city of Zion.

I have been blessed again and again by the social structure of the church. I have been welcomed in wards around the world as a visitor, even when I don’t speak the local language, the atmosphere and organization makes me feel at home. When moving into a new area I know that in my new ward I will meet new friends with whom I share a basic worldview and general life experience. Wherever I go I have what Joseph liked to refer to as ”immediate connections.’ They are imidiate not only in physical and emotional proximity, but also in speed. The church gives me ‘fast’ friends. What a blessing. This almost instant and deep level of connection is the benefit of church membership that my friends outside the church have most frequently remarked on with envy.

This powerful connection is what I try to tap into as a leader in my ward. I want all my church-mates to share this feeling of security and friendship. I see too many who feel alone. I want to reach out to them, and also give them courage to reach out to one another. By reaching out, sharing both weakness and strength they and I can find joy and peace together.

Joseph’s scripture also uses ‘connection’ to locate our human relationship to Deity. Man has the power to act in God’s name because “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C121:36) One of those principles is that we are able to access the power of God only insomuch as we are acting in behalf of others. We cannot call down blessings or cursings (I don’t recommend cursing to anyone, btw) upon ourselves. A priesthood holder cannot lay hands on himself. A person cannot baptize herself unto salvation. We need one another. Our salvation depends on our willingness to place ourselves in the literal hands of one of God’s servants here on earth. That is the power of connection—the power of salvation.

What does this mean for me?

Strangely, in the year of being unselfie I thought primarily of reaching out to others in order to bless my own life. I believe I did so intentionally, but as I have served in my calling I have seen just how impossible that mindset is to maintain. As Relief Society President, as I had when I was a missionary, I learned in .5 seconds that any thought of blessing myself through reaching out to others is swept away. (It is sooo much like being a missionary, it’s a little scary.) I had a similar mindset as a missionary initially. “Wow! I’m so awesome. I’m so great for doing this!” I challenge anyone to come up with a faster way to earn a painful slap of inadequacy upside the head from the Lord than that train of thought. My illusions of noble service were just that. The real blessings that result from service basically never come in the forms that I most enjoy (read: applause, recognition, flattery). Nor should they. They come as I am quietly reminded by the Spirit that the Lord is pleased with my service; that I am close to him as an instrument in his hands in efforts to bring to pass much righteousness. That is the greatest feeling in the world. Through service I am connected to Him and to those I serve. I become Zion.

2015 promises to be another year of change and transition. I will complete my thesis project, titled Generations Connect. I will finish graduate school. I will look for and I hope start a new full time job. I may or may not move to a new state. But staying or going, there are bound to be new connections made and continued distance between myself and those I love. How will I connect more fully?

Goals:

Phone-A-Friend: I’ve inherited my parents’s genetic dislike for talking on the phone, but I also value the conversations I have with my dear friends far away when I make the effort. Facebook makes it really easy to feel like I’m still in touch with you, even when we haven’t talked in years. I am committing to having a substantial conversation with a good friend on phone or Skype once every month. There! I just made a list 15 names long of people I would love to spend more than 10 minutes catching up with this year. So look out old friends! I’m coming for you.

Be Bold: Ask those two guys out. Enough said.

Soul-Fit: Strengthen my mind and body connection by feeding and taking care of both of them better. This requires taking time to exercise and listening to my body about what it really wants to eat and not eat. I believe that these elements are inseparably connected, so I want them working on the same team for the same purpose.

Professional Connections: I will make myself more visible in professional circles and seek out the connections that are available near and far. This will include submitting my plays for professional development and getting involved with local theatre companies.

Knitting: making connections one stitch at a time. I’m enjoying this.

Go me! There is more that could be said, but I am now anxious to get to work. Wish me well.

A year of failing to live un-selfie-ly.

2014 is at an end. I still have some odds and ends to wrap up despite it being the last day of the year, but on the whole, it’s over. Over the last month, my mind has done its job at reminding me that I need to do this. This is that thing that I do at the end of the year. I sit here at this computer and I write about what has happened, and what I want to have happen. I’ve done this four times now. It’s officially a thing. I don’t have many things like this. I am generally anti-things-like-this. But having a yearly theme has been really good for helping me maintain a focus when I am otherwise a little lost at sea, which is easy to be during the lonely holiday months.

If my tone seems a little off my usual game it may be a result of this being one of the longest, most growingupy years of my life. (Rivaled perhaps by the hellslog that was 2010. Oy.) It might also be a result of spending the last three days blowing my nose every 30 seconds, or being woken by a phone call assuring me that I am facing a few more months of paperwork nightmares from an incident, though almost expired from memory, has suddenly roared back to life like a brain-hungry zombie. In any case, on this new year’s eve, I feel less able to bask in my own bemusement than ever.

What happened this year? I enjoyed excellent health-except for that time I had emergency surgery. I earned more money than I have in a few years-except I had to pay a lot of medical bills. I enjoyed a fair amount of career and academic success-except that I also received a lot of rejection and didn’t achieve the accolades I aimed for. What “honors” were bestowed on me seemed to entail more complications than applause, but I wasn’t seeking applause. So it was fine. I wrestled with some short bouts of jealousy and loneliness, not because of any specific person or circumstance, so much as a persistent feeling of inadequacy, incompletion, or failure of potential. On the whole I feel like I “got by.” And getting by fails to impress me, especially when it’s my life that’s going by. This may be the saddest but more accurate description of  why I’ve always dreaded adulthood. Yet here I am, undeniably, A Fairly Capable Adult. (A title as appealing as warm, flat Pepsi. Gross.)

All this is not to say that I am not joyful. I am still able to laughing at my failings and the failings of those around me, and the state of the world generally.  I do. Very often. Only now, perhaps, I feel more guilty about it, feel that I might do more about it. There is no pleasure in sarcasm or ignorance left for me.

2014’s ‘Unselfie’ theme turned out differently than I expected. I still took a lot of selfies, a lot of solo jogs and drives. I ate at restaurants and went to movies alone. Lucky woman that I am, I even did fair amount of solo wandering around Europe. There were still a lot of nights when I chose to stay in rather than to go out. I’m still an introvert.  The focus of the year was never to become otherwise, just to push myself into more vulnerable situations. I did… I think I did… I tried, I really did.

There were times, especially in the first half of the year when I felt I had simply chosen the wrong theme. 2014 could have been the year of Story. My Unselfie drive lead me to something slightly unexpected. I ended up doing a lot of listening. There were hours, days, and weeks where I felt obsessed with absorbing stories. All kinds of stories: in person, on TV and radio, in the news, in books. Sad, happy, mysterious, angry, peaceful, trivial. All the Whos When Whats and Wheres that make You different from Me. I began looking at stories, fictional, fact, and in-between, like a puzzle.

See, if I could just hear enough stories I would be able to piece the whole world together, make some kind of order out of all the chaotic differences that seemed to divide our communities, country, and nations this year. I want to understand the world, and each story makes up a small part of that world. If I could just hear them all I would understand the big picture. I want to arrange them just so and make them make sense.

As it turns out, stories don’t work that way. Stories are in a constant state of flux. We can hardly know what word is going to come at the end of each of our sentences, let alone how our “story” will end? (That last thought made that last sentence incredibly challenging to type, PS.) I can never really get at the heart of your story. Because always, You are over THERE and I am way over HERE. The words YOU use to tell YOUR story enter MY ears, MY brain, and MY soul flavores YOU with MY life experience. I know who I think you are. I can never really know you, and who you think you are. But stories are our only chance.

Maybe this thought explains why I became so concerned about the telling of my own story and the stories that make me ME. I spent what must amount to entire days of hours alone at my desk researching and typing away at articles, databases, and translations. I traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to visit the houses where both my grandmother’s spent their childhoods—one in Los Angeles and the other in Amsterdam. I interviewed family members across four generations. I cross-examined myself. I wrote and read and wrote and read and wondered why exactly did it matter so much to me? Why did knowing where I came from seem so important to who I am now and where I am going? If you want to watch part of what all this study resulted in you can, here:

My YouTube Channel

All these efforts It all felt VERY Selfie, self-serving. But even in the midst, there were lessons in unselfieness. When I was struck down, on the busiest day of my semester, with a sudden illness that forced me to literally call for help there were so many ready to come to my rescue. And when I opened my heart a little to one particularly excellent man, I was rewarded with confidences, kindness, and goodness out of all measure. I traveled and communicated with strangers on trains, planes and buses who were helpful and kind because most humans simply are, even if you don’t speak a work of Polish. What blessings! Vulnerability is power, indeed.

All that was before September. As a refresher, my 2014 goals were to:

1) Do more inviting—to share my time and space with others.

2)  Giving more of what I can—financially, emotionally, in all ways.

3)  Expend more of my energy doing things that matter.

Let me share a short cut to accomplishing all these goals in just the last quarter of a year for anyone wanting to give it a go:  Get called as Relief Society President in a long established, low-income ward.

Done.

In a week, done.

Since October I have been a witness to and a participant in the selfless care of hundreds of my brothers and sisters. In a few short months I have prepared meals for families welcoming home a new baby, and for those saying goodbye to a grandmother. I have seen unfathomable generosity from those who I thought had little to share, and grateful acceptance of assistance from those who took no pleasure in asking for help. The trials I see my sisters facing each day, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual—they break my heart. They are meant to break it. There is grace on all sides. Grace for all. Grace in abundance.

Certainly grace for me, as an inexperienced by very willing woman who can’t really make a casserole or jello-salad to save her life. I am learning more about Unselfie than I ever wanted to. I was right, it is hard. Be careful what you wish for.

So on December 31, 2014, I conclude a year of trying, and failing, to live unselfiely with the determination to not give up, but instead to try a new approach: Connection.

More on that tomorrow. Maybe there will be pictures. Sorry.

The Hollywood Pantheon! (re:2008)

Today on my usual Facebook troll I found something excellent: a ready-made blog post! But because it is  I wrote it about 6 years ago it needs a little context. If you are a long time reader, you know I love Hollywood Pop. You may also have guess that I love nerdy stuff like Greek Mythology. “Surprise!” said nobody.

This post shows what I think is some pretty in-depth thinking a devotion to this little corner of my heart. So, nerds like me, here’s something to snack on for the evening. I think the list holds up shockingly well. But I look forward to your up to date nominations. I think it’s fair to say that Zeus is untenable in 2014.

waynes-world_o_GIFSoup.com_

gifs weren’t even a thing in 2008!

It was at least 4 years ago (now a decade) that my very good friend Alex J and I were carrying on our usual Hollywood Goss convo when an idea crept upon us…inspired? Faux-Divine? You be the judge.
Likely, we were reminding ourselves how silly we were to care so much about these popular idols, it was nearly worship…and how could you worship beings with such glaring ugly personality flaws? No one had done that since…the Greeks.
(Bing!)
We began matching up our current hot Hollywood celebs with what we knew of the Greek pantheon, which thanks to our extensive nerdiness was of no small sum.
The list has been a constant work in progress, it changes from Oscar season to season, but there are a few rules that have been established for the nomination process:
1. They must be living. A complete list of the All Time Hollywood gods would be a HIGHLY controversial subject for all true tabliodtiers. I’m pretty sure it would end in a slap fight. Also, it is unkind to speak ill of the dead, and this list…well, it isn’t exactly kind.
2. A-Listers only. The A-list is also a controversial subject. For our purposes this is clearly defined as a person who has:
a. Been Academy Awarded/Golden Globed, or at least Nominated in the last 5 years.
b. Stared in a movie that has made more than $50 million in its opening weekend within the last 2 years.
(This is what we shall call the popular vote vs. the Electoral College approach.) This also means that ‘Old Greats’ and ‘Super Hotties’ are not always eligible. For example: Katherine Zeta Jones is, in my opinion, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, and my choice for Hera (Having won Best Supporting Actress for Chicago in 2003, and also as she is married to another icon) but hasn’t made anything big enough to qualify her lately…somebody get on that please.
3. Actors only. Yes, I agree, Scorsese and Spielberg are probably the actual thunderbolt-throwing-kill-you-with-the-wink-of-their-eye Zeus’ of Hollywood, but we limit ourselves to the front of the camera faces.

The Pantheon:
The Greek Pantheon has also been defined as the following 13 major deities:
Listed alphabetically by their Greek name (Roman equivalents are listed as appropriate)

Aphrodite (Venus): Goddess of love, beauty and procreation. Alongside Zeus and Hera, she was also the leader of the gods of marriage, wife of Hephaestus, lover of Ares.
ajoleeCurrent Hollywood Equivalent (CHE): Angelina Jolie—A-list qualifications: GG nominated for A Mighty Heart, also, special consideration for being a UN Peace Officer. In her duel, yet unconflicted, roles as Sex Kitten and world peace advocate Ms. Jolie has proven her powers of procreation by mothering (if not birthing) 6 children. Without researching I’m almost willing to wager that she and that guy—what was his name again?—are up there for largest Hollywood brood. Though, unlike Aphrodite, Angelina is probably fundamentally against things like starting the Trojan war, we think her good looks having emerged from John Voight is as mysterious any sea foam. One more thing to think about: Hephaestus/Billy Bob.

Apollo: God of music, prophecy and healing, the most beautiful of the gods, he was the leader of both the gods of music and gods of prophecy.
Best-Christian-Bale-MoviesCHE: Christian Bale—A-list qualifications: By this time in a fortnight I can all but guarantee that Dark Night will qualify for the $50mil popular vote, seeing as Batman Begins hit a hot $48 mil, without the benefit of including a highly anticipated posthumous performance. Now, I don’t know if Mr. Bale can play a lyre, but I do know (Thank you Newsies) that he can sing, and that in a good suit, be it leather or Versace, he may be the most beautiful man on face of this earth. I also think that his penchant for selecting brilliant independent and blockbuster films makes him something of a prophet.

Ares (Mars): The great Olympian god of war and conflict. He was the leader of the gods of war.
1250530894_brad_pitt_290x402CHE: Brad Pitt— A-list qualifications: GG nominated 2007 for Babel. Aside from being full time lover of our current Aphrodite, Brad has a ridiculous amount of hotness, and seemingly eternal youthful beauty (Benjamin Button preview anyone?). Somehow this man has maintained a steamy level of hottness since 1987 when he appeared on Dallas. Can you really believe he is 45? Need any further convincing, let’s go with a photo comparison, see below.
Survey says: YES.

Artemis (Diana): Goddess of hunting, wild animals, and (strangely) both virginity, and childbirth. She was also known for bringing sudden death to disrespectful men and women with her arrows. Alongside her brother Apollo, she was a leader of the gods of music, presiding over maiden song and dance.
Keira-Knightley-HD-WallpaperCHE: Kira Knightly—A-list qualifications: Nominated Best Actress 2006 for Pride and Prejudice. 1. Girl can handle a bow and arrow. 2. She is young and maiden like, if not exactly virginal.

(I’m mean, choosing Jenifer Lawrence ((JLaw4Eva!)) is so obvious now. Like toats obvs. Is there even another choice?)

Athena (Minerva): Goddess of war, fortifications and the defense of towns, and of good counsel and heroic endeavor. She was also a patron goddess of craftsmen, presiding over the arts of weaving, pottery, carpentry and the manufacture of oil.
catblaCHE: Kate Blanchette—A-list qualifications: A TOP contender with $100 Mil opening for Indy 4, FOUR AA Noms (2 in the same year, and 1 win) within 4 years. Give. Me. A. Break. Perhaps the smartest, scariest, revered woman in Hollywood today. I would be willing to name a city after her.

Demeter (Ceres): Goddess of agriculture, fertility, the ‘Bringer of Seasons.’
Kate-Winslet-4CHE: Kate Winslet—A-list qualifications: Though shafted for the win she received duplicate AA and GG Noms in 2005 (Eternal Sunshine…) and 2007 (Little Children), also she is the first actress to ever receive 4 Oscar nods before age 30. Though young, she is motherly (two tikes of her own), seasoned, and unquestionably talented. Also, she has a lovely singing voice.

Dionysus (Liber, Bachus): god of wine, viticulture, and wild vegetation. Known for erratic behavior, his cult worship led to the rise of Greek theatre.
tom-cruiseCHE: Tom Cruise—A-list qualifications: Barley hanging on with GG nom 2004 for The Last Samurai. (Doesn’t that movie seem a LOT longer ago?) Though M:I:III did take in a close $47Mil in its opening weekend. Mr. Cruise defiantly has the crazy side of this god down. Also the cult worship. Evidence: Japan declared October 10th 2006 Tom Cruise Day. What.

Hades (Pluto): God of the underworld, Hades is the enemy of all life, gods, and men, sometimes he was worshiped as the god of money.
20130428-johnny-depp3-rapplerCHE: Johnny Depp.—A-list qualifications: 3 AA nominations in the last 4 years. Ello! Aside from dwelling in that underworld that is France, Mr. Depp is the obvious choice having made a name for himself by playing the antihero, and for some reason the more grungy and reclusive he gets the more we love him. I’m also pretty sure that Mr. Depp would appreciate a three headed dog more than the average Hollywood icon.

Hephaestus (Vulcan): the craftsman’s god presiding over metalworking, building, sculpture, and artistry. Also, he was considered the ugliest of the gods.
rdjCHE: Robert Downy Jr.—A-list qualifications: Nearly 100 Mill grossed opening weekend for Iron Man. Perhaps a fleeting favorite. 2 years ago no one would have put the words Downy Jr and Action Star in the same sentence, or even Hottie, very readily. But there he is in sever scruffy hotness as a high tech, terrorist fighting, Chris Martin money running, blacksmith of sorts. We are also excited about a promising looking blackface comedy (when did that even become possible?) Tropic Thunder coming out soon.

Hera (Juno): The Queen of the gods, and wife of Zeus. Hera was the goddess of women, and the leader of the gods of marriage. She was also a goddess of the sky and stars.
nkidCHE: Nicole Kidman—A-list qualifications: GG nominated 2005 Birth. We all believe she’s got the jealous wife part down. Her skin is perfect enough to be carved from marble, though we are pretty sure she and husband Keith Urban are not siblings in any way, shape, or form. Her A-list contenderness may not last long as she seems to be getting her Mommy on, you go Queen Nicole.

Hermes (Mercury): He was the herald/messenger of Zeus, and the god of herds and flocks, travel, trade, merchants, and thievery. He is the youngest of the gods.
shia_labeouf300CHE: Shia Lebouf—A list qualifications: $100 Mil opening for Indy 4. A rising star is ever we spotted one. If this kid/hottie can continue to avoid the pitfalls that plague every young generation of Hollywood he could go all the way. With or without wings on his hat this guy is flying high.

(Needs to be replaced! I’m thinking one of the Chris’s Hemsworth, Pine, or Evans. Which Chris do you love best?)

Poseidon (Neptune): The god of the sea, rivers, lakes and other sources of fresh-water, and the god of horses and chariots. Although he still attends all the councils and feasts of the heavenly gods, he had his residence in the sea rather than heaven.
gcCHE: George Clooney—A-list qualifications: 4 AA/GG noms and 2 wins since 2006, including a win for writing Good Night and Good Luck. Although our favorite Uncle George hasn’t faired so well at the box office in the last year we can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of this Olympian. Also, the ex-pat dwelling, pond hoping parallels should be more than clear.

Da-Da-DA-DAAA! The answer you’ve been waiting for:
Zeus (Jupiter): The great king of the gods, ruler of Olympus and the heavens, and leader of the Twelve. He was the god of the sky, weather, kings, fate, law and order. The man who can do anything he wants, equally loved and feared by all.
Will-Smith-1Current Hollywood Equivalent: Will Smith—I see you shaking your head, but shut your mouth and think about this for a second. A-List Qaulifications: I Am Legend $77Mil opening weekend, AA and GG Noms 2007 Pursuit of Happiness. Our Over Lord of Hollywood can boast a trifecta of qualifications in the popular and peer elected categories. Perhaps it has been his utterly charming transformation from Fresh Prince to Defender of the Universe, Legit Rapper, and soon to be down-and-out Super Hero that makes us think, ‘if I could have one buddy in Hollywood…’ There is a deft mixture of Jimmy Stewart sincerity crossed with uhhh, some one with amazing arms. Looking at Mr. Smith’s creds we are pretty sure he can actually do anything. Oh, and there is his uncanny resemblance to a certain current political figure who is likely to soon be the most powerful man in the world. Bio Pic in 15 years? We’ll be there.

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Hi. I’m in Delaware.

No. I’m not. I’m back here in 2014. So what do you think? I think I’m starting grad classes again this week and won’t have time for this much loved project until May.
But still, I’d love to hear your input. In keeping with the rules listed at the top, who qualifies for the current Hollywood Pantheon? Who is in and who is out?

olympian gods1