The Church is True: My Belly Flop

 “Humiliation is the beginning of sanctification.”  -John Donne

On the fourth of July, Rick and I went golfing in a monsoon. We took cover in the clubhouse, and ordered a couple of beers to pass the time and dry out.  The bar only took cash, and we had none.  Unthwarted, Rick broke into my emergency stash of money I keep in the glove compartment…rolls of quarters I use in a pinch, or for parking.  The golf did not happen, but the beers were good, and we high-fived our resourcefulness and quick thinking in our beverage “emergency.”

Sipping these beers sort of looked like this:

Total bliss, but the flop comes next.

This brings me to the flop. Yesterday.  After a week long visit at my in-laws home in northern Vermont with the hubs and kids, I was hightailing it home to Connecticut.  Rick and the girls would follow the next day.   It was hard to leave them, despite my yearning for my own bed and the peace of being able to work uninterrupted for a day.  I was longing for home, but acutely aware of how completely alone I would be in Connecticut. I have not made many intimate connections in our new area thus far, and there is a keen sense of loneliness that swamps me when I think about my lack of people.  Home is where your people are.

To help myself not dwell in the sense of homelessness but swim in the bliss of a long four hour drive alone (glorious!)  I was cruising at a smooth 70, enjoying the sun, the AC in my car, the freedom to be silent and listen to whatever I damn well please.  I was invigorated.  Alive.


Three hours into my drive, I realized that I was approaching my last quarter tank of gas.  And that is when the image of my purse, hanging on the back of my mother in law’s kitchen chair burned a hole in my brain.  I had no wallet.  No money.  Credit card.  ID.  Nada.


That’s ok!  I thought.  I will make it!  This is a test, surely.  This is a great blessing!  A chance to rise to the occasion!  Old Megan would be cursing and panicking, New Megan was zen, calm, living in the moment. And  at the moment, I had gas in my  tank, so no worries.  I’m livin’ in the NOW my friends.

A visual:  I’m more like Carly (confident) than Lydia (nervous but willing to try the ride).


In mormon folklore, there are tons of stories about people that have tremendous faith, and they are sustained by miracles.  Like the bible story about Jesus feeding the 5,000. There are innumerable modern day miracle stories of mormon people that tithed their last cent to the church and find their supply of food magically replenished.  I may not be mormon anymore, but miracles happen, and not just to mormons!

This was going to be me.  I was going to make it all the way home, the gas tank will be sustained by my unshaken faith in the universe.  I turned off the AC, to conserve.  Just letting the universe know I was willing to meet halfway, be a little uncomfortable…(translation…sweat my ass off).

Twenty miles from home, the last bar on my gas meter disappeared.  I took the next exit, not wanting to be on the freeway as reality tapped me on the shoulder.  I pulled over, and I will admit, I said a few naughty words.  But then I took some deep, meditative breaths and chugged my way to a gas station on fumes.   I smiled, and felt safe and congratulatory for getting to a pump relatively calm and unscathed.

Ok. Time to regroup.  Maybe the miracle would look more like this:  I was going to dig through the pile of crap in my car and find a ten dollar bill.  There were mormon stories like this too.  Faith, people.

I was not losing composure.

But maybe a little more Lydia (left) than Carly at this point…


So I ransacked my car.  When all the trash had been tossed… the golf bag, tennis bag, suitcase, camera bag, writing satchel…

I found the squashed wrapper for the roll of quarters, and lamented those beers.  Just three days before, we drank away what should have been my last gallon of gas.

This is when I knew…I’m being punished for those brews.

The church IS true.*

But seriously, it was pushing 90 degrees with ungodly humidity, I was in unfamiliar territory, all of my family was four hours away. I searched for solutions, someone to help me, rescue me.  But there was no one.  I was going to have to beg for money.  This is so much worse than it sounds.  Believe me.

 First, every time I have ever turned away from a person with an outstretched hand came back to my memory like a slap in the face.  And every moment I had put money in that hand attached with some heavy judgement made me burn with shame.  I watched eight or nine cars fill up and leave.   I could not bring myself to do it.

After loitering for 30 minutes, the shame or the heat or both sent me into the tiny station.  There was a line of people with wallets. They had bags of ice and Snickers bars and cigarettes.  Over their heads, the attendant asked me “which pump?” and much to my exceeding horror, my eyes filled with tears.  I ran to the back corner of the store to wipe them frantically away.  They just kept coming.

 I cried in the Dorito isle and waited for all the wallets to leave, and then wept like a little girl as I explained my predicament to the guy behind the glass partition.  He asked me if someone was coming.  If my husband was coming, or a friend.  I told him no one was coming.  I was alone.  He suggested I begin asking customers for money and I retreated to the gatorade cooler to marinate in my mortification, unable to stop the crying.

I was humiliated.  The tears, the “damsel in distress” act I could not get a handle on… filled me with renewed shame.  I detest crying.  Especially in public. Especially  amongst strangers.

In the end, Gary B. from Windsor saved me.  I stalked him awkwardly, stifling those embarrassing shudders that happen when you are choking on intense emotion.  I watched him buy lottery tickets and gab with the attendant, who kept throwing me looks. I could barely make it through my plea, I had lost all control. He took pity on my obvious distress, and I was pulling into my driveway 15 minutes later.  My ability to stand in that humility and risk rejection was completely spent on that one request. If Gary had said no, I may have found myself enduring a long walk home, unable to gather the courage again.

 Instead of writing all night as planned, I was wrung out by the experience.  I showered, letting the shame wash down the drain, and climbed into the sanctuary of my own bed.

 I am going to tack this experience on to a growing list of excruciatingly humiliating moments I have been wading through lately.  It was probably on par with meeting the neighbors while giving Stella a lice treatment the week we moved here, but only marginally more tolerable than the school fundraiser this year.  Details withheld until I don’t feel like crawling into a hole at the mere mention of it.    Here’s to hoping the lesson I am meant to learn from marinating in humiliation is mastered soon.  Before I show up naked to Rick’s company picnic.  You never know.


* A very mormon declaration that LDS people use regularly to claim that the only church that has the complete “truth” is the mormon church.  It is often used to  “prove” that a circumstance directly correlates to the truthfulness of the gospel.

Shit hell damn fort piss. Today I am choosing Happiness.

choose to be happy

 “Shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” A string of expletives handed down through generations.  Yeah, I was raised by a prim and proper mormon woman who was in turn raised by a very prim and proper mormon lady.  But we all have our weaknesses, and the occasional naughty word wormed it’s way into the household.  I grew up hearing my mother, in moments of great frustration or pain, utter this string of expletives.  This would shock and secretly delight me.

My young mind had worked through the secret, naughty meanings behind the words, with the exception of “fort.”  When I got the courage to ask for explanation as a teen, the answer was so much better than I could have imagined.  Apparently, my regal, uber-feminine, ultra-mormon grandmother had the bad habit of using this string of words at times.  The “fort” was actually “fart,” but that word was too unbecoming and unladylike, so she said “fort” in its place.


 The moment when this string of wicked words became a part of my own arsenal, slipping out as if it had always been there…it was a right of passage.  And sometimes, I have those days where they come much more readily than others. In our home lately, our mantra has been “Choose to be happy.”  Because it is a choice.  Every moment.  BUT.  There are days. Days where there is nothing to be done but hiss “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss!” between gritted teeth… and try to laugh, as my grandmother is most certainly laughing with me from above.

 Last week, I had one of those days.  A quick synopsis:

1.  Getting Cocky

2.  Digging Up the Dirty

3.  A Smoke Monster

4.  Great Balls of Fire

5.  $10,000 Sweaty beds

6. Blue paint and Wet toilet paper

7.  A Huge Load of Crap

 Let’s get started.

 #1.  Getting Cocky

I forgot that I am not 20 anymore.  Gone are the days I could juggle 18 credit hours, a job, a sports schedule, and a boyfriend without writing anything down. Fifteen years, a husband and three kids later,  if I don’t write my own name down, I may forget it.  Or the name of my kids.  Done that too.  On this fateful day, I got cocky.  I did not check my calendar.  At all.  I could handle the basics, I scoffed at the intuitive warning bells.

This cockiness led me to believe that I could allow my children an extra half hour of play on the school grounds before heading home and into the fray.  Big. Mistake.

 After the extra playtime,  I was pulling into the driveway, the were kids hungry and filthy, and I was rattling off the list of expectations.  “Practice the piano, put on your uniform, find a book and do your reading, finish your homework.  I will pack snacks and water for the game.”   I was already feeling the rising pressure of cramming too much into too little time.  My fault, my fault.

Before the car was in park, Carly reminded me of her neurofeedback appointment.  Today.  At 4:00.  Blast!  The essential calendar reminders on my phone went unnoticed, as my three year old was busy opening every app on my phone and dismissing the crucial ding!  reminders with an expert touch.  It was 4:03.  And thus,  the beginning of my “schooling.”

 I backed out of the driveway, amidst the cries of hunger and thirst.

 “Suck it up!  Mommy dropped the ball!   NO ONE eats!”  I wanted to yell over their whiney protests, my stress level instantly soaring.

But I took deep breaths instead. (And muttered “shit, hell, damn, fort, piss” under my breath, enjoying the release of stress it brings.  I was quiet about it.)  On the way, Lydia asked me if I was obeying all the speed limits, and could I please stop breathing so loudly, stop chewing my gum, and could I please not whisper? Her polite attempt at avoiding a misophonia meltdown  (like this and this)  made me want to claw my eyes out.

 I had to forgo walking Carly up to her appointment like the responsible mothers.  But instead, texted the therapist to watch for her and reminded her of which button to push in the elevator.


#2. Digging Up the Dirty

 I had to recover the day. I can do this. Back at home, I barked out orders to Lydia.  She ran inside, unearthed her filthy uniform from an epic pyramid of dirty clothes and puts it on.

 This felt acceptable because “playing softball” when you are in second grade means playing in the fine, powdery dirt, kicking up great clouds of it, tossing it in the air, rubbing your glove in it, innocently unaware of the large, hard ball that could smack you in your unsuspecting shins, or worse, your teeth.  Also, diving around in the grass by the dugout until it is your turn to bat.  She was going to be dirty in five seconds anyway…no one would know, right?   No big.


I grabbed four bottles of water from the basement emergency stash and we ran out the door to pick up Carly, and drive to the ballpark. I texted Rick, who would meet us at the field after work with snacks. Crisis over.  I rock.

 We arrived at the game with relief, ready to collapse on a blanket with Stella, get Carly started with her homework and watch Lydia play in the muggy 90 degree heat.   This is when Lydia’s softball coach ambled over to ask me why Carly is not playing today.  WHAT!?    I missed that Carly had a game too?  The damn calendar!  How could my “mind calendar” have gone so very wrong?

 In a pink dress, without hat or mit, I sent Carly sprinting across the field to her team, snatched Stel and drove all the way back home. At the house, I dug deep into the mountain of dirty laundry that Lydia had fished her uniform out of.   I found Carly’s balled up uniform and crammed it in a sack with a box of crackers, her hat and glove.

 Rick pulled in the driveway, I tossed him the goods and he was off to watch (both!) girls play softball.  Stella and I would make dinner.

 Whew!  All is well.

 At this point, I decided it was time to be more responsible.  Learn something from the mayhem of the day.  Be prepared.  Before grilling burgers and baking fries, I felt that doing a load of laundry would be…redeeming.

I was quite diligent and responsible as I overfilled the washer.  Shaking out gravel and mulch,  fishing gum wrappers and chewed up erasers out of their shorts pockets, pulling the balled up wad of crusty socks so they will get clean, and my favorite, seperating the dirty underwear from the pant legs.   But just as I was going for the detergent, I spotted a clump of Stella’s clothes hidden under a bath towel.  Hastily, I grabbed the lump, and shoved it in without inspection.  So it was a risk, but I felt better about myself. 

#3.  Smoke Monster

 Onward.  Here is where things get dangerous.  I could only find frozen fries, frozen burger patties, and two slightly shriveled zucchini for dinner.  I was still in the mood to compensate for the earlier catastrophes so I decided to go the extra mile and make baked zucchini fries to dress up dinner.   And, I was gonna let Stella “help” which will certainly boost me out of the disorganized, foul-mouthed hole I dug.  I turned on our oven, and let Stella wear a cute apron and dip the sticks in egg.  It was messy.  I was going with it.  Serenity, and good mom vibes abounded.  Until I opened the oven to bake up our zuchini.  My mascara melted together and I was completely blinded by a thick billow of black, acrid smoke.  The smoke detector began screaming, and in my quick thinking, I crammed the baking sheet into the smoke monster before slamming the oven shut.


I forgot that a few days ago, I had made this beauty:


A lemon pound cake. I do a lot of baking,  but I had been out of the Martha Stewart mode since we moved to Connecticut (obviously).   And, like I had never made a cake before in my life, I happily filled the bundt pan all the way to the tippy top, (seriously??)

I lovingly smoothed the batter with a spatula right to the edge,  and then licked it clean while half the cake baked and half the cake batter bubbled over into the oven.  Miraculously, we waited out the smoking mess, and it was delish.  I had decided to let the burned mess cool before cleaning up the oven…  Two (ok maybe three) slices of lemon cake later, we laid out with our sugar hangovers, and I forgot about the mess.

Until the zucchini, today.  And 425 is 100 degrees hotter than my cake baked in, so the result was much, much worse.

 Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have preheated the oven without opening it up first…which resulted in this happy moment a few years ago:

I couldn’t get the storm windows down on the kitchen windows, and the house filled full of nasty black smoke. The smoke detector, just doing it’s job, went off intermittently for the next hour despite my efforts to fan it into submission.  Frazzled and worried about permanent smoke damage to the house, I retreated into the muggy yard to light the grill.  The show must go on.  The Rick and the girls will be home and hungry soon.

 #4. Great Balls of Fire

The starter was not working so I turned the gas on, crouched down with a match to find the small hole to poke it in, as Rick had shown me.   I poked a lit match into the hole, and took a forceful ball of fire at point blank range to the face.  A GINORMOUS ball of fire.  It engulfed my face.  Picture the fireballs the wicked witch throws at scarecrow.  Like that, in my face.  I jumped back, immediately swatting at myself like a swarm of bees were on me, certain I was on fire.  I ran into the house and turned the faucet on my scorched face, frantically patted down and wetting my hair, then feeling for my eyebrows.  Singed, but in tact thank God.

 Rick came home with Carly and Lydia as I was running ice cold water over my scorched hand, wrist and arm, my hair slicked back and wet from dousing myself.  The smoke detector was going off again., it smelled like the zuchini was actually on fire in the oven.  He informed me that in fact, Carly did not have a softball game after all.  False alarm. For the love of humanity.

#5.  $10,000 Sweaty Beds

Defeated but determined to get through the night, we sent the girls up to shower and threw together a pathetic meal.  The zucchini and fries tasted like charcoal briquettes. During dinner, Stella kept asking me, “Mommy, are you choosing to be happy?”  Don’t you hate it when your kids decide to throw your “life lessons” in your face when you have burned your eyebrows off and smoke is still curling around all of your furniture?  “You choose to be happy.”  Uh. Huh.

I looked forward to getting the kids to bed.  It was hot and sickening and smokey in our main level, but upstairs held the promise of our new air conditioning.  We paid a cool ten grand to put the AC in the upstairs last year after we moved in and I almost went bat-shit crazy in the sticky heat of summer.  Nothing can make me angrier than sweating while brushing my teeth.

 But in today’s 93 degree heat, the AC would save the mood for sure. When we got upstairs, I was gleefully expecting a cool 71, and it was 83 degrees instead.  It was now  9:30 pm on a school night.  The AC Was. Not. Working.  I sent Carly and Lydia to bed with wet hair, fighting over which way the fan should point.

Shit.  Hell.  Damn.  Fort.  Piss.  I was so close to saying “fart” too.

 #6  Blue Paint and Wet Toilet Paper

Conquered,  I plopped down on the lid of the toilet seat to comb through Stella’s wet hair, only to discover that the blue paint she had been sporting since our art project that morning had not been washed out, merely re-wetted, and clung to her hair in blue gobs.  Too tired to find something other than toilet paper, I began to sponge the paint out of her wet hair while she cried with weariness.  I felt like I was trapped in some perverse version of “If You Give A Moose A Muffin.”  Little did I know.



#7 A Huge Load of Crap

“Meg?  You wanna hear the clincher?  Should I top it all off for you?”  Rick called up the stairs.   Feeling wreckless, I bravely called out “Hit me with it!  Bring it!”

 “There is shit!  In the washing machine!” .

 Now that was unexpected.

I almost fell off the toilet seat laughing.  He appeared in the doorway, observing my indelicate pile of wet toilet paper streaked with blue paint, and Stella, defiantly sporting a long sleeved fleece nightgown, cheeks blazing in the sticky heat.  I believe he was equally surprised to see my laughter,  which quickly turned into dry heaves.

“What the hell?  (Blaaaaaaughhhaww) (Bleaaughhaaw!)  In that big load of kids clothes?” (Blawwwwwuuugha!)

“Yup. It’s everywhere. All over,”  He wiped his brow and rolled his eyes at my deafening dry heaves.

“Stella had an accident and didn’t tell me?… but I went through all of the clothes….”  I heaved again, remembering the pile at the end I hastily crammed in.  Sending Stella to her room, I started digging into my cleaning supplies.

I handed Rick a cylinder of lysol wipes and an empty laundry basket…

Moral of the story: check the calendar before giving the kids that extra half hour of play,  look in the oven before turning it on, open the grill before lighting a match,  and always shake out every piece of dirty laundry before you toss it in…you never know the hidden pile of crap you may find there.

You’ll want to deal with that NOW, not later.  It will not all come out in the wash.

We are the SAME


Shel Silverstein

Minutes after posting the “bleeding spirit”, I had a brave mormon friend on FB message me a response.  She was expressing her genuine dismay at my pain, and we started a conversation.

There are several popular explanations in mormon culture for why most people leave the LDS faith.  These concerns were highlighted in my FaceBook conversation with my friend within a few minutes.  These are the most common reasons… I know them because I comforted myself with these explanations as a child being raised in a mormon family and as an adult trying to live and spread the gospel. I now face these false assumptions as an apostate, talking to my family and friends about my choices.

#1.  I succumbed to the temptation to live “in the world.”  The strict rules and regulations that mormons live by are too difficult to bear, and I am unwilling to sacrifice my time to worship and/or serve the church and it’s members.  I can not live without coffee or alcoholic beverages.  I can not handle the modesty requirements of temple garments (mormon underwear).  Being a member of the One and Only True and Living Gospel is simply too hard for me.

#2.   During my time as an active mormon woman, I was not doing my part.  I was not living a “worthy” lifestyle.  My heart was not pure and contrite and repentant enough. My inability to feel spiritually fulfilled, or even more drastically, the sensation of my spirit dying away, suffocating, was due to my own sin.

#3.  I was afraid.  I did not understand Jesus’s sacrifice for me, the concept of Grace.  I felt too much pressure to be perfect, live perfectly.

The following is part of my FB response with a worried friend, a woman who was also born, raised and married in the LDS temple.  Just as I was.  I will title it with the most important point, one that I have been unable to get an LDS person to believe.


My inability to be a mormon woman has nothing to do with grace or fear of failure or feeling like I am not measuring up. It is exactly the same thing as you choosing every day to be a mormon. You chose it because it is real for you. You feel comfort and love and a closeness to God. These are wonderful things. I am glad you have this in your life.

Mormonism simply did NOT do this for me. It suffocated me. It made me feel disconnected and distant from God. The same still small voice that we were both taught since infancy to listen to…that voice was telling me to let go, to move on, that it was not the place for me anymore. This voice was loud and insistent and forceful. You and I both were taught to honor that voice as the voice of the Lord. You are doing that, and in doing that, you are fulfilled spiritually.

I am doing that too. Finally.

The fear for me was in stepping into the unknown, of following that voice even when everyone in my world told me not too. Sometimes following your inner guidance is very hard. We are also taught this in The Church. To stand up for what you believe in, at great peril even. Mormons applaud this bravery when it comes to people joining the church, even when they have great opposition in their family and friends.

There is absolutely no difference between you and I  in our desire to follow God’s plan for us, to experience spiritual growth and enlightenment, to feel our souls nourished and expanding. You and I are the SAME. We grew out of the same soil. Told the same things, took them into our hearts, believed them. We found good, honest, loving, stalwart, gospel loving men to marry and carry us forward.

The difference lies here: I was told to get off that mormon path. It is not about “worldly things” or “rules and guidelines” or that I couldn’t “cut it.”

It was spiritual.

The same spiritual things that keep you an active mormon woman. The spirit that I was taught to listen to…it was leading me somewhere else. Staying and ignoring that insistent, still, small voice would have been easier than leaving. To leave was to risk every important relationship in my life.  My children.  My husband.  My parents.  My siblings.  My grandparents.  Aunts, Uncles, Cousins.  Friends.    My SELF. My sense of who I was.  It was a stepping off a ledge, unable to see the ground below.

 It was the hardest, bravest thing I have ever done in my entire life.

But I did it because as you know, listening to that guidance is at the foundation of all belief.  The foundation of who we are.

The only difference between you and I is that your doctrine makes a real conversation about this impossible. I know, I understand that doctrine. I was there. I lived it with every ounce of integrity and love and passion and commitment and worthiness as you are now.

This is what I mean by fear: It is the challenge that I represent…the idea that the one and only true gospel would not work for some people. That the still small voice would in fact lead me “astray.” You absolutely have no room to accept this. You simply can not and will not be able to understand that the SPIRIT guided me away from the gospel.

The same SPIRIT that binds you to it.

The same pain and anguish and darkness you may experience if you left the church and tried to do without it, was what I experienced in being a mormon woman. If you were to leave The Church, the nourishment of your divine spirit, perhaps you would find yourself curled up in the fetal position, weeping in bed every night, feeling that your spirit may cease to exist entirely.

I hope you never experience this kind of spiritual anguish. You probably will not, as you have found and plan to stay in your spiritual home.

I plan on doing that too.