My Sister’s Apple Pie

My sister does not fancy herself to be a good cook. I couldn’t tell you, really, as I haven’t eaten many of her meals in years. But I will say this: she makes the best apple pie on the face of the earth.

I have no idea how she does it. It’s not like she has kept the recipe a secret from me. I’ve tried it, and I just can’t seem to replicate it despite all my efforts. It’s just not the same.

And now that we live on opposite sides of the country, I suspect that I may go years between pies. That’s tragic. But I can’t imagine apple pie would ship well, so it’s one of the many sacrifices I didn’t consider when I decided to relocate. If I had, I might still be on the East coast.

In retrospect, I think I know the one ingredient that I’m unable to add when trying to make my sister’s pie. My sister. She’s what makes it so delicious. I’m very lucky to have her in my world, even at a distance.

apple pie
[Image credit: raisingsupaman.com]

Taking on Extra Passengers

Yes, I’m traveling across country. No, I’m not picking up hitchhikers. I’d never do that. I want to live. But as the miles of asphalt roll beneath my wheels, I’m ever mindful of all the people I have pulling for me on this trip.

There are the many people who have contributed to my Indiegogo Campaign, or were kind enough to spread the word about it on their Facebook pages. So many of them are people I have never met face to face, or whom I haven’t interacted with in decades. But their support is more than just financial. It’s a vote of confidence. It says to me, “You can do this. With a little help from your friends.” I am forever grateful for these acts of generosity, and I vow to pay them forward someday.

There are also the friends who couldn’t help financially, but were there emotionally. That’s priceless, too. In the midst of melt downs, when I despaired of finding a place to live, when I lost my car, when self-doubt crept in, they kept me grounded.

Then there’s my amazing sister, who has gotten to see me on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and has chosen to make me laugh instead. She also gave me her car. Again. And money. Again. And is helping me move. Again. None of this would have been possible without her and her husband. Nothing I do in life to thank them will ever come close.

Then there are all the people who are helping me along the way by letting me sleep on their couches. And there are the many friends-to-be out in Seattle who have given me advice on how to effectively live out there. One person even looked at the house I ultimately chose to rent. A total stranger. Just because I was in need. And there’s the employer who chose to hire me sight unseen.

All these people, every single one, is with me in spirit as I drive across the continent. I can feel them urging me ever onward, encouraging me forward. Because of them I am not alone. It’s an amazing feeling that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

But you guys will have to pay for your own hotel rooms. Just sayin’. A girl has got to draw the line somewhere.

Beary good friends

[Image credit: parentlink.cc]

Sealed Without Your Consent–Mormon Ordinances by Proxy

The LDS Church performs a wide variety of ordinances, some of which are called saving ordinances, which they believe are required for salvation. One such ordinance is called sealing, and it seals you to spouses and other family members for all eternity. Fine and dandy and more power to them, I say. Everyone is entitled to their own sacred beliefs, and that is one of theirs. Even as someone who is outside their faith, I can respect that.

But wait. Hold on. It turns out that a whole group of my ancestors in Denmark have been sealed. And they passed away before the LDS even existed. How is that possible? It turns out that there’s this loophole called an ordinance by proxy.

According to Wikipedia,

“After Latter-day Saints enter the temple and receive temple ordinances for themselves, they may return and perform the saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased ancestors. These are performed vicariously or by “proxy” on behalf of the dead, and Latter-day Saints believe that it is up to the deceased to accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Only saving ordinances are performed on behalf of deceased persons.

“Ordinances on behalf of the dead may be performed only when a deceased person’s genealogical information has been submitted to a temple. Latter-day Saints complete genealogical work for deceased persons and if it is determined an individual has not received some or all of the saving ordinances, the individual’s name is submitted to the temple to receive these ordinances by proxy. Optimally, the proxy who stands in will be a descendant of the deceased person, but the ordinance proxy may also be an unrelated volunteer.”

Well, that certainly explains why the Mormons have the best, most detailed genealogical records in the world. They want to save as many people as they possibly can. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? Rumor has it they’ve even sealed Adolf Hitler, Anne Frank, and Mother Teresa. That’s a load off, knowing that their places in eternity are assured, because their actions in life didn’t already seal their fate for better or for worse, right? [Heavy sarcasm alert.]

But when I heard about this happening to my relatives I was disgusted, and my cousin and my late sister could not understand why. Here’s why. I take my spirituality very seriously. It has been hard won and required a great deal of soul searching. The thought that when I die some future relative who is a total stranger to me can perform this ordinance on my behalf, against my will, is offensive. If I wanted to be sealed, I’d do it while I was alive.

I suppose I could petition that my relatives to be “un-sealed”, but I feel I don’t have the right to do so for the same reason that the proxy sealer didn’t have the right to seal them in the first place. I have no idea what their wishes would have been, so I can’t in good conscience make that type of choice on their behalf.

My sister said, “But why do you care if you’re sealed? You’ll be dead.” I care, dammit, because we’re talking about my legacy. We’re talking about what other future family members will read about me and believe about my choices. Unless they make an effort to do their homework, they’d most likely assume that the choice was mine, and I’d hate to think that perceived choice might influence theirs. I don’t want my legacy, my hard won philosophy about this life and the next,  to be usurped and altered, no matter how well-intentioned the person who chooses to perform this rite may be.

It’s a certainty that I won’t completely agree, religiously, with the majority of my future relatives. Heaven knows I don’t agree with all my living ones. And, oh, by the way, there are some relatives that I’d rather not be sealed to for all eternity, thankyouverymuch. There. I’ve said it.

My sister also said, “What would it hurt to have all your bases covered?” To which I replied, “And what if one of those bases happened to be related to the Satanic Church? How would you feel then?”

I sincerely believe that every person has their own spiritual path to walk upon. I don’t want some “one size fits all” type of divine insurance policy. Not only does it lack sincerity, commitment and dedication, but it would deprive me of my free will. If that means I’ll be burning in hell, so be it.

So if any future ancestors are reading this and thinking of having an ordinance by proxy performed on me, thanks, but no thanks. Even if I were truly given the opportunity to accept or reject it in the spirit world, I plan on being busy, and will not want to be disturbed.

Latter_Day_Saint_confirmation_(Mayhew_1852)

Random Thankfulness

It wasn’t hard to come up with a blog topic for Thanksgiving Day. In spite of an annoying tendency to feel sorry for myself for the past few years, I really do realize that I’m quite lucky, relatively speaking. So here is a list of things that I’m thankful for. It’s not all inclusive, of course, and by no means is it in order of importance.

  • My dogs, who have always given me a reason to tie a knot and hang on when I was at the end of my rope.
  • Pizza delivery.
  • An employer who has been willing to re-hire me twice.
  • Hot water.
  • My intelligence. The thing I’m most confident about in life is that I’m capable of learning anything if I put my mind to it.
  • Seasons.
  • A car that usually starts.
  • Chocolate.
  • The roof over my head. I may not really be able to afford it, it may not be where I want it to be, but it keeps the rain off.
  • Sex.
  • Sunrises, sunsets and rainbows.
  • Immunizations.
  • My closest friends, who have always helped me keep things in perspective.
  • This blog.
  • Natural beauty.
  • The internet.
  • My government. It may be increasingly screwed up and insane, but I can be fairly confident that there won’t be a military coup, that the highways will stay paved, and that no civil war is imminent. Not everyone can be so sure of these things.
  • Train whistles and fog horns.
  • Public television and public radio.
  • My sister, who will always have my back, as I have hers.
  • Air conditioning.
  • The fact that I have never once in my life gone to bed hungry.
  • Art.

I’m grateful for these things not just today, but all year ’round. Happy Thanksgiving.

rainbow

My Mother’s Torrid Affair

It was the 1960’s and every respectable housewife had her eye on the pretty neighborhood divorcée. Scandalous. Not to be trusted. And with three kids, too! The father’s nowhere in sight. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Wonder what she did to drive him away?

And then every day at around noon a milk truck would arrive, park in front of her house and stay for a whole hour. Does that woman have no shame? An affair with the milkman, how cliche. And in broad daylight! Does he wear a wedding ring? Yes! Gasp!

Keep your husbands on a short leash, ladies! This woman is dangerous!

My Uncle Otto, the milkman in question, came to visit his favorite sister for lunch every day. He worked hard, and milkmen have to get up awfully early, so invariably he’d fall asleep sitting up at the kitchen table. My mom would keep an eye on the clock for him and then wake him up and send him on his merry way when his lunch hour was over.

Sometimes a milkman is just a milkman.

milkman

(Image credit: thefabuloustimes.com)

Views from my Windows—Part Two

For the beginning of this story, check out part one.

No matter our circumstances, my mother never let it be a question in my mind that I’d be pursuing higher education. She wanted more for me than she ever had herself. I got scholarships and loans and grants and she helped me as much as she could, and off I went to Warren Wilson College in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I learned what true beauty was. I made sure that there would be several state lines between me and my stepfather. As long as I draw breath, I will never know such a beautiful sight as those rolling hills in every shade of azure, and every shade of orange in the fall. I have been trying to get back there ever since. My soul resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is where I feel at home. It is where I am as safe as I could ever be. I should have never left.

WWC Barn

But I was young and stupid, so when my college did away with my major (only 3 of us had chosen it–it was a very small school), I transferred to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. I wanted to be closer to a boyfriend with whom I broke up a few months later, and I liked the architecture, too. What stupid choices we make when we’re young, not realizing they will change the direction of our entire lives. But for the next year I looked through Tiffany stained glass windows over the beautiful tourist choked streets of St. Augustine. But I never felt at home there. I was the only liberal poor kid amongst mostly rich kids who breezed through school as if it were a 4 year baby-sitting service. For them it was a way to avoid work. For me it was my life. I just didn’t fit in.

flagler_college

But I was focused on much bigger things, because that summer my sister, now stationed in the Netherlands, sent for me to keep her company. From there I traveled throughout Europe, and my views were varied, and each more spectacular than the last. All this was enhanced by the fact that I fell in love for the first time. My eyes were opened, and the world seemed full of possibilities. What an amazing world we live in! That was the happiest summer of my entire life, without a doubt. But the recurring theme in my life is that all good things must come to an end, and so this miraculous summer did. I left Europe while feasting upon a bitter smorgasbord of rejection.

After 10 days at home, I started my Junior year studying abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico. This was an adventure as well, but a scary one, because it was my first time living without some member of my family within a half day of me. I was walking this tightrope without a net, and with a completely broken heart, and temptation was all around me. Suddenly I was exotic, with my light blue eyes and my pale skin, my taller than average height (for Mexico, anyway), and my entirely undeserved “American” reputation, and because of that I was popular for the first time in my life, and for all the wrong reasons. I had adventures and misadventures in this beautiful little city, and I had a sweeping view of it from my window, along with a stone wall topped with broken glass, and a sloping cobblestone lane.

gto

I learned a great deal about myself and about others during this amazing sojourn, but I was glad to get back to the familiar halls of Flagler College. Even though I didn’t fit in there, at least I understood the game. Going from being the exotic center of attention to fading once again into the background was a bit of a culture shock, so I’m afraid I copped a bit of an attitude as I gazed through the Tiffany glass this time. When the opportunity to graduate a semester early came up, I leaped at it.

For the next two years I remained in St. Augustine, trying to get used to the fact that a college degree didn’t automatically bring me the success I was always led to believe that it would. That took some getting used to. So I sort of drifted rudderless through my life. I’ve got to say, though, that I had an AMAZING view yet again. I was in this horrible disintegrating house on the waterfront. It was built in 1888 and I’m convinced that it had the original plumbing. It was a big apartment, but there were entire rooms I could not enter because the floors were so soft that I would surely have fallen through. But I could sit on my balcony and watch the sailboats on Matanzas Bay, and if I stood on tip toes, I could see the Bridge of Lions from my kitchen window. I loved that place, but it should have been condemned. Instead, long after I left, someone bought it and must have poured millions into renovations to make it a bed and breakfast. People pay more in one night to sleep in my bedroom now than I paid in an entire month. That makes me smile.

Bayfront_Marin_rose_2

This was actually MY balcony. Sure wish it looked this good when I lived there!

But again, all good things come to an end. I lost my job, and spent a miserable, awkward and uncomfortable 6 months under the same roof with my stepfather while I searched for gainful employment. Just when I was about to lose all hope, I got a job with the State of Florida, and relocated to Jacksonville. And for 3 ½ years I had yet another spectacular view. I lived in a little studio apartment on the Cedar Creek. I could sit on my patio and watch the Muscovy ducks on the banks of the creek, and see the occasional manatee breaking the surface. At night the stars would reflect in the water and I felt like I was floating in outer space. All I had was a mattress and some lawn furniture, but I was young and didn’t care.

And then my mother got cancer.

To be continued……