Happy Birthday

The very first thing we talked about in our newly formed Relief Society Presidency meeting one year ago was this: how should we celebrate birthdays? A card? A candy bar? What should we do? What should we do? A card in the mail? Sing happy birthday just before the lesson on Sunday? A cookie? No, a candy bar. Oh, no, how about a card in the mail with a lovely stamp on it? What should we do?

Now, this was my first foray in being a part of a Relief Society Presidency, so what did I know right? But I was pretty sure accepting the call to be the second counselor didn’t require me to make sure everyone got a candy bar on their birthday. That’s not what the bishop explained to me. So I sat in my chair silently huffing about how long the discussion was carrying on.

A dipped chocolate pretzel wrapped in cellophane? What should we do?

And I kept thinking, why is it our responsibility to make sure everyone has a nice birthday?

It was torturous. Torturous because I felt like I was called because the Lord knew my testimony was slipping away. In fact, on the day the bishop called me, I had decided early that morning to give church a break for awhile. I had so many issues to resolve and somehow going to church wasn’t helping, and seeking out answers in the quiet moments in the temple wasn’t working either. I felt let-down by so-called doctrine, confused by our history, frustrated by our present, and lonely. So lonely. So when the phone call came, and the call was issued I was sure it was a lifeline from a loving God. So I accepted.

And here we were: should the cards be 4×6 or 5×7? What’s the difference in stamps? What should we do?

“I’ll do them.” I heard myself say over the chatter.

“I’ll do them.” I would’ve actually done a lot of things at that moment to avoid spending one more second in that discussion.

“What will you do?” someone asked.

“I’ll figure it out.” I said waving my hands like I was swatting flies. “Let’s move on.”

Of course there was an immediate chorus of “Are you sure?” “But you’re about to have a baby…!” and “Maybe we could trade off months?” But I was determined to buy myself a year out of that discussion so I said “We’ll reevaluate in a year.”

And that was that.

Now, I’ve never felt like my natural talents were those of a stereotypical pioneer-stock Utah Mormon woman. I’m not much crafty, not so much frugal, and not so much into cooking or canning. I don’t actually really even like social experiences (!). Church has been a lifetime of navigating awkward situations and ill-fitted callings. I’ve never felt like I was using my talents confidently at church except when I was in the Primary Presidency and I could use my story-telling skills to keep a captive audience (here’s the trick: use the microphone and whisper a lot.) So when I came home from that meeting with a list of all the women’s birthdays in our ward, I was like, now I’ve done it. I am seriously screwed this time.

But I thought, I can write. I am a fast writer (thanks to ten years of daily blogging). And, I know the best place in town to buy chocolate fudge cookies (Sodalicious!). So I bought a massive pile of blank notes and several packages of cute goodie bags and I just started writing birthday notes to the women in our ward every week. Every week I wrote a paragraph about what I had observed about them or what I had learned about them. I wrote about their histories and I wrote about their futures. I celebrated their children, and their PhDs (so many children, and so many PhDs!) I honored their humor and their intelligence. I didn’t shy away from acknowledging their triumphs over tragedy. I often used the words “brave” and “courageous”. Then I would put them in a cute bag with that delicious cookie. And every week I read those birthday tributes out loud just before the RS lesson. And when I had a baby in the spring I somehow kept on top of them.

And shortly after I started, I received feedback. Ninetysomething Sister Bateman told me she wakes up and reads her card every morning. Sister Anderson says she made her kids and grandchildren read it. After I read Sister Peters tribute she said out loud “I looked forward to my birthday all year for this!” Almost every week I was stopped the hall by someone who was touched or someone who wanted to say Birthday Time was their favorite part of Relief Society. My approach to the problem was working!

We were late to church a lot this past year because, one, I had three kids and then I had another one, and because even though I hardly edited them at all, it would sometimes take me awhile to get each card right. And my husband was the dutiful cookie-fetcher, waiting until the last minute on Saturday night to buy the cookies so they’d be fresh in the morning to deliver at church. One time we had to call our friends who own Sodalicious to stay open just a bit longer so we could pick up the cookies after closing. Also, I just used that example to show how connected I am.

I facebooked stalked a lot to get details right. I called the bishop when I was stumped. Visiting teachers were sometimes consulted for insider’s information. We’re a close-to-BYU ward (the closest you can get, actually) so we’re a bit transient. Many times I had never met the woman I was writing about. One time an elderly sister was very concerned I wasn’t going to get her card right because I didn’t know her very well. She asked another counselor to write it instead, but I didn’t get the message until it was too late. The next day I received a very apologetic email in my inbox.

Sometime after I started this project, a sister stopped me in the hall at church.

“I don’t know how you write these cards week after week,” she whispered, “it would paralyze me.”

And I thought about that for a second because it hadn’t occurred to me before that I was doing something not everyone could do. “Well, I guess I feel like this one thing that I can do for my sisters that isn’t hard for me.” I replied. And over the course of time, I came to declare this project as the very thing keeping me at church. I felt like my skills were needed. I felt like I wasn’t having to push or stretch to fulfill a calling, it was a perfect fit–including how it made me feel vulnerable. (I can write for money, or for an audience, but to write purely because you want someone to know you care? That’s a different form of writing. It’s a double-exposure–you’re exposing yourself as you expose another.) But most of all, as I wrote I started to fall in love with the women I was writing about–falling in love with their histories and their hobbies, their education and their domesticity. Falling for their newly-wedded hopefulness, falling for their widowed wisdom. I felt like I had embarked on a great adventure of discovery–except instead of traveling to other countries I was traveling to different souls.

And though my religious dissonance hasn’t let up over the year, I do believe in community. I believe in belonging to a people and having experiences together–from attending a baptism to long lines at the Pioneer Day Pancake feast. I believe in the communal practice of the sacrament–a public pledge that we will try to take care of one another and forgive one another as we forgive ourselves. I believe in visiting teaching–feeding a family pots of soup and breadsticks as their loved one slips into the next life, or arriving at the door of a new mother with nourishment for her recovering body. I believe in communal care. I believe in donating means into an account used to help people pay their mortgages. I believe in ward families. I believe in ward temple trips. I believe in ward fasts. I believe Elder Uchtdorf when he says there is a place for everyone here.

(I still don’t, however, believe in ward Trunk-or-Treats. Just want to get that on the record.)

And I believe in celebrating the birthdays of the ward members, because that’s what families do. We celebrate one another. And when we celebrate each other we also celebrate the gospel that runs through our stories–contouring into our souls the very lines that make us human today and divine the next.

So last month when my year-long tenure at the birthday post was coming to an end, I started to become possessive of my position. I came up with so many reasons why I should keep my job. I even discussed it several times with other sisters to get their opinions on it.

Should I keep up the birthday celebrations? What should I do? What should I do?

I asked it over and over.

But I wouldn’t deny someone else the experience I just had, though I will miss writing those tributes. And I’ll miss looking out into the RS room full of smiling faces and offering my words to them. And I’ll miss the kind reaction the women in my ward gave me. And I will miss eating the cookie when the birthday person was out of the town that week…

I suppose it doesn’t take a calling to keep writing birthday tributes. I still have a stack of blank note cards and a whole year’s worth of new material. I could leave little notes on the sisters’ doors the morning they wake up a year older. I could take responsibility for making sure they have a nice moment on their birthday.

Maybe that’s just what I’ll do.

Comments

  1. It’s 2:00 am here, and I am so glad to read this. So much about this post connected to me. I too am not your typical pioneer stock gal – even though that stock exists in my DNA. Your paragraph on that describes me to a T. I also am at the weary end of this faith – thing and unclear what to do. I have even had time off due to health issues and am not sure what to do. I do love community, I am inspired by the sacrament, by the personal service we give and receive. In fact Service has been my calling for 3 years and I sense it’s time is done. It is heart breaking to me. It’s been my safety net while I tried to navigate the storm I find my heart in. I too write, not on blogs but elsewhere, writing is a lifeline to me. Yet it is an un-traditional talent to our present calling structures. Tonight as I read this I grabbed a flicker of light from you, I too can write notes. I don’t need a calling and we all need a lift. Next Sunday I will get to learn the status of my calling – The Bishop has been waiting for 2 months to talk to me. No matter what happens there I already have a way to serve because you taught me how. Thank you.

    *I hope you don’t mind that I riffed off of your genius and service.

  2. Thank you for these thoughts. I was called as a RS president some months ago and cards for me with brief ‘happy birthday’ just didn’t seem to cut the mustard. I love this idea. I too, love our sisters and their stories. I love the community of sisterhood and am daily humbled by their courage and sacrifice. Their sacred works. I feel honoured to be a part of them. I cry because I love them and I cry for their pain. A busy but amazing call.

  3. Wow, thanks for this!

  4. Love this. Just what I needed. Thanks.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Outstanding.

  6. Joseph Green says:

    Powerful. Thanks.

  7. I, too am a note-writer, though outside of a formal calling. The church supplies saving ordinances, but I think we all improvise individual, saving-our-sanity-at-church ordinances. For me, note-writing–or the process of hearing a talk/comment/conversation during the three-hour block and feeling the inspiration arrive to write a personal note later–is one of the latter. (I’ve got two notes in production from yesterday.) Since there are LEGIONS of ways in which I’m oblivious to inspiration, I keep buying stationery and plugging away with the one functioning channel I’ve got. Great to see this post from a kindred spirit! Would love to meet and swap note-writing stories, preferably over some of these yummy cookies…

  8. Lovely, CJane. I think that our community–and our sense of it–have salvific relevance and potential, and I love that the community can push us to discover alternative ways to serve and help that community (even when, as I often do, it drags us into it to avoid utter boredom or for other putatively bad reasons). And I love the way you leapt into that breach, and truly made a difference in the lives of the people around you. Thanks!

  9. it's a series of tubes says:

    The church supplies saving ordinances, but I think we all improvise individual, saving-our-sanity-at-church ordinances.

    This is a wonderful insight. Thanks for this.

  10. liz johnson says:

    I absolutely love this. Thank you, CJane.

  11. Wow, Courtney.

  12. There’s hardly anything that would make me want to live in Provo. But the thought of a birthday note from Courtney makes it awfully tempting…

  13. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m going to bookmark it and come back and read it every time I directly face the things that feel ridiculous about our church. I’m going to read it every time I think about Joseph Smith marrying a 14-year-old, every time we get another ironic “man and a woman” lesson, every time I have to listen to another “the temple is so special” talk, and every time I see one more church-sanctioned bit of nonsense that doesn’t have anything to do with the God I believe in. THIS I do believe in. I’m also in a RS Presidency (and I’m always, always surprised that I haven’t been fired yet. I feel like a poser. I am not RS presidency material, and I do not have an RS presidency testimony, and I have less and less of these things all the time). I stick with it because I have a testimony, also, of taking care of others. Thank you for giving me another tool to help me swim through the garbage.

  14. I’ve been in the exact same meeting. The huge task of birthday cards is in so many ways a waste of time and money – and for what? Most sisters are going to take one glance at theirs, throw it directly in the trash, and never think about it again. (I’m one of those, except I do think about it again because I feel bad that the already overworked RS presidency members had to spend time writing and sending cards to every woman in our ward.)

    But then again, there are the 2 or 3 women that are going to treasure that card and keep it in their nightstand to read every night before bed for the next year, and will feel loved and included and return to activity again because of that birthday card… and I guess in that case it’s all worth it…

    So what’s the answer? Is there some way to make it less tedious and wasteful (and draining on the RS budget?) Something besides cards? Recognize birthdays on Sundays in RS and only send cards to less-active sisters we don’t see on Sunday? If I were the RS president, I’d be tempted to do away with birthday cards altogether. (Maybe that’s why I’m not the Relief Society president in our ward!)

  15. A great BCC debut, Courtney, and a lovely example of how we can practice Zion (even outside of callings, as hpm wisely said).

  16. I love that you are recognizing women using adjectives like “brave” and “courageous” and I love that those women can share then with their families. Way to take an opportunity to do a little course correction in your corner of the kingdom. I also love your description of community. So beautiful.

  17. Pure religion and undefiled, Courtney. Thank you. Those women need you. We need you.

  18. The Relief Society celebrates birthdays? I had no idea. Too long outside the Mormon Corridor.

    Unfortunately this would not work in my ward, the logistics are prohibitive, but it’s nice to read about. A friend of mine did something similar on Facebook during November, highlighting about 15 or 20 friends, many of them single parents, and noting their contributions to the world. It was really touching to read the tributes and responses.

  19. Beautiful. I was thinking yesterday about my complicated relationship with those three hours every Sunday. I churchtweet for therapy to help me get through it without any lasting scars, in an attempt to avoid becoming a sacrament only saint.

    It struck me yesterday about how my family and my ward family have been the hardest part of my faith transition; I’ve reached out in Rexburg and online to find friendship, love, and acceptance to fill the void in my life that family and ward no longer filled.

    Yesterday as I pondered a thought jumped out at me. My Ward family is just like my own family – I didn’t get to choose them, and I don’t really fit in; but these are the people I am called to love. And I think that is so much harder, so much more of a Christlike act that holding fast and adoring my own friends. This is the stage God wants me in right now, tearing down the barriers with love and stepping up my level of discipleship.

    What a beautiful example you’ve given me this morning.

  20. “Love is the very essence of the Gospel.” President Monson said it and you are living it.

  21. And yet my birthday came and went without so much as a cookie from Courtney. Boo!

  22. Whenever everything else seems tenuous or unclear, this is the Mormonism I believe in. (In fact, even when everything else seems pretty solid, this is still the Mormonism I believe in.

  23. Such beautiful thoughts. Thank you for for sharing your gift!

  24. Courtney, you’re amazing, and I love reading what you write.
    I hadn’t realized your faith transition had become serious. I feel like everything you wrote was about me. I have been thinking that maybe I should take a break from the church too. And then I just got a call to meet with the bishop. Either someone has tattled on me for my Facebook activity (though I haven’t changed anything recently), or it is about a calling. I was thinking that if it was about a calling, that would be proof that the bishop’s spirit of discernment does not exist. Perhaps there is another possibility, as you have suggested.

  25. I love that you brought your own talent to your calling. I have a new calling and I am working hard on it. I hope I am bringing my own experience and expertise to the calling.
    I also love that you wanted to stop talking about it in a meeting. I now run a meeting and I don’t want us to ever get bogged down, so I sometimes say “I’ll figure it out and let everyone know.” Still remember my husband dying in a “what color should the youth dance cards be” discussion in a meeting once. Never want that to happen.

  26. This is lovely. I love examples of making things work, especially in taking a blank slate of women’s roles in the church, as Neylan calls it, and making a masterpiece as you’ve done here.

    However I do want to push back just a bit on the idea of “losing ourselves and getting to work,” which I actually love in some ways, but in others I wonder if it runs the risk making ourselves so busy in great Zion building things, that we lose ourselves. I think sometimes we make ourselves so busy in doing good, that we don’t even pause to breathe, and then for whatever reason, we are forced to pause and confront the dissonance, and it can be jarring. I wonder where we find the balance?

  27. Emily, isn’t losing ourselves the point?

  28. I don’t know. I’ve come to quite dislike the song from the youth program of the 90s where we sang of the importance of completely disappearing so that you only saw the Savior there. Obviously it quite influenced me as I can’t even remember what it’s called and not enough to google it.

  29. And I want to make it clear that I do not see Courtney doing this here. I see her using her talents and time to make Zion. I want more of this. But I did start to think about this again in reading her post.

  30. This made me cry and cry! Actually, still crying…I do want to stay in the church, I do want to love like this, and offer my children a community of love like this. Trying to figure out how to do so without crawling out my skin. Thank you for the example of how you did it.

  31. I love this. I decided that in this coming year, I am not going to “spend” … more specifically, decipher between wants and needs and only spend money on needs. I decided that when it was time to give a gift, I would re-gift or make something out of materials I already have. For birthdays, this is what I will do. Now I’m excited!

  32. Wow. Amazing post, insights, and personal vulnerability. Plus a product placement!

  33. J. Stapley says:

    Extraordinary. Thanks, CJane.

  34. I so needed to read this today! I’m currently serving as a Relief Society president and honestly feeling very overwhelmed. I’m trying to figure out the “why” of everything I do so I can cut out the useless fluff. I was considering bailing on recognizing birthdays at all next year but you just changed my mind. Celebrating birthdays and accomplishments is what families do so it makes sense for a ward family to do the same. I love that thought! Thank you

  35. Who will write YOU a birthday card? Who will tell you how good you are at observations, and expressing feelings, and exposing yourself (the writer’s way), and being vulnerable, and how important you are to the community there? I hope someone told you how necessary you and your contributions are. I hope someone celebrated you. I hope you felt celebrated as the sisters expressed their gratitude to you. I hope you feel like the important part of your family that you are.

  36. I’ve started to hate all my church meetings. I feel very alone and uninspired most Sundays upon leaving church and heading home. I’m thankful for posts like this where there is real dialogue and other people that feel the same as me. Thanks!

  37. I loved this, Cjane.

    EmJen, I believe the song you’re thinking of is called “I want to be a window to his love.” Lyrics something like “I want to be a window to his love /so when you look at me you will see Him / I want to be so pure and clear / that you won’t even know I’m here.” Bleh. I feel like Courtney’s service shows the folly of that song, actually: she used her unique gifts and talents to serve those around her, and while she didn’t do it to boast or brag, she also did not disappear or vanish.

  38. Yes. ^^

  39. Gladiolas says:

    Thank you for this beautiful piece. I’m struggling through faith crisis, too. Sometimes I feel so very alone–my friends don’t understand what I’m going through, those who have already left the church offer me little hope that I can stay even though I really want to, and the people on the blogs (hi, sorry) often seem to already have everything figured out and seem (understandably) annoyed that there’s a never ending influx of us newbies who are confused and angry and sad. There’s a hole in the discourse and in my heart today that you just filled.

  40. Ughhh to that song, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard.

  41. Now I had to find the song:

    Sigh.

    Although Courtney, I think your post has made it now that we’ve detoured into a discussion of old EFY songs. So yay!

  42. I am thrilled that CJane is now a BCC perma — especially if this is the sort of post we can expect more of — but offended that I didn’t get a personal note announcing it with an accompanying cookie. That’s on you, Evans. The only way to fix it is to ensure that I make the list when you rank the top ten people who have ever been offended by BCC.

  43. CJane making me cry.

  44. Also, a big hello to all the commenters here who I don’t recognize, especially the ones who talk about their own struggles and who left a note telling CJane that she gave them a bit of a spark.

    Gladiolas: I know more bloggers who don’t have it all figured out than bloggers who do. More than you might think. I hope you find fellow saints here, and I hope you can carry a bit of the spark back to your in-person church experience, too.

  45. Orwell, we already know who the most epic offense-taker is: Jason Wharton.

  46. He dusted his feet off on us. At that point, we figured it all out and adopted an inaccessible tone on our blog. Well played Wharton. Well played.

  47. CJane on BCC? Merry early Christmas to me!
    This was a beautiful post. I am in an auxiliary presidency and sit through most of our meetings with similar feelings. Your post has given me something to chew on…..

  48. canadiantami says:

    My birthday is June 7th. Just in case you’d like to know! :)

  49. First time commenter to say thanks for this well written post. As I am in the midst of my own faith transition for all of the same reasons CJane wrote, it’s comforting to hear that there are others that feel the same loneliness. Looking forward to more posts from CJane. Thanks again.

  50. Rudger Shortly says:

    No reason why you need a specific calling to be nice to people. Why not keep going? There was a lady in our ward that called people on the phone when it was there birthday. No one called her to do it. She just wanted to do something nice.

  51. Rudger Shortly says:

    ***their birthday

  52. God bless you Courtney. So glad to see you writing here!!!

  53. Oh, I remember Jason Wharton. And I can’t help but wonder… what would a CJane birthday tribute to Jason Wharton say?

  54. Rudger — when I was growing up there used to be an elderly woman we called “the birthday lady” that would call us all on our birthdays and sing to us. We never discovered who she was or how she got our information. My parents didn’t know. Northern Utah, by chance?

  55. Wish there were people like you in my ward!

    If I could serve with someone like you, my ward would not know what to do with a person who actually cared and got the job done. ( I guarantee the cliques would not be appreciative. Sorry for the negativity, but it is true,,)

  56. This is so beautiful. So glad you are blogging here, it makes my soul happy.

  57. I believe in these things too, CJane. Thank you for this post.

  58. I just love you, lady!

  59. Thank you Cjane for writing this post! As December 8th was my birthday, this was a most excellent and inspiring birthday gift. So thank you from the Chicago suburbs. I also don’t care for church trunk or treats. haha. I am inspired by your faith and courage to share (at least in part) your faith struggles. We are all in this together. :)

  60. Yes. This is why I stay – because, even when it all seems unreasonable and far too difficult, these are the people that I have been called to love. And because I want to live in Zion. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes we have to actually pick up bricks and spread some mortar.

  61. I am a follower who doesn’t comment on your regular blog. I am going through the same transition just a little behind you. I first found your statements on feminism a little scary, but you and others around me made me look more deeply into the social issues in our church. I went from feeling threatened by the feminist movement within the church to supporting it. Once I saw what our sisters were really saying, I realized they were saying what I was too afraid to admit out loud. That it doesn’t feel equal, even if we are told it is supposed to feel equal. Even if I don’t want to rock the boat, things must change for my 3 little girls, or I am taking them out. I very much want to stay, but I cannot let them feel like they don’t matter to God in the way their brothers do. By Common Consent felt too liberal to me 6 months ago and now it and blogs and forums like it are my new life line, the only thing keeping me hanging on.

  62. Lovely post, and way to find where you could serve with your talents!

  63. I love this post, CJane. I love that you jumped in and found a way for your skill to be useful in serving. Wonderful post!

  64. I’m a super-mom pioneer-stock tithe-paying testimony-bearing 2nd counselor in the Relief Society. Am I the only one? Today I delivered the invitations to the RS Christmas Social, baked a cake for Saturday’s funeral, and secretly raked the leaves with my college-aged son of the sister around the corner who just moved in and gave birth to a baby girl (It was HIS idea to rake!). There are reasons for me to rejoice, and I choose to rejoice. I’ll be delivering the last birthday card of the year to my sister on December 27. We divide the birthdays in presidency meeting and it works great for us.

  65. CJane, I’ve been reading this blog for several years now, and yours is the post that’s making me break my radio silence–because for a split second I thought you were somehow me. Called into the RS presidency shortly before giving birth to my fourth child and while struggling through a faith crisis, feeling both annoyed by the “fluff” and overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy. Like you, I saw the calling as a lifeline–and it truly has become one. Like you, I have fallen in love with the sisters I serve, and that has helped me reconcile with my church. Thank you, thank you for this lovely post.

  66. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one on the border of BYU (south side) that feels like a square peg in a round hole. I’m glad your ward made space for you and that you’ve found a way to connect. I’m still waiting.

  67. Love this.

  68. I am dying to know what your birthday note to me would say. How beautiful to share with another what you see, as an outsider, when you peek into their lives. Lovely.

  69. Dear CJane, I love what you have written here. I feel connected to you and our greater community. I have had faith-struggles in the past and may have them in the future (I figure this is all a normal part of being a believer) and what ALWAYS keeps me grounded is serving and loving others and being served and loved. This is the most profoundly important part of our doctrine–service and love ARE the doctrine of Jesus Christ. My favorite scripture is the parable of the Good Samaritan: we are all the victim left robbed, lonely, and beaten on the highway needing the Samaritan, Jesus Christ, to heal and save us. We are all the Samaritan, lifting, saving, and caring for the bodies and souls of our brothers and sisters. Your loving birthday notes were healing balm to your sisters, evidence that they had been seen, that they are known.

  70. Heidi Gauvin says:

    Wow! That was nice….

  71. RebeccaRaye says:

    We’ve discussed this a bit. You saved me from leaving and brought me back through a simple email. #Solidarity.

    There is room for all of us. And no it’s not perfect, but there is a spot perfect for each one of us. I’m glad you found yours for a year.

  72. I loved your birthday tributes, my birthday is today and I still remember with tenderness the kind words you shared in mine about how impressed you were with my breastfeeding skills :). With a new tiny baby, you know that time when you feel like you are incapable of everything else in life, you reminded me that what I was putting so much time and effort into was important and beautiful. Thank you Courtney, thank you so much!

  73. “But most of all, as I wrote I started to fall in love with the women I was writing about–falling in love with their histories and their hobbies, their education and their domesticity. Falling for their newly-wedded hopefulness, falling for their widowed wisdom. I felt like I had embarked on a great adventure of discovery–except instead of traveling to other countries I was traveling to different souls.”

    Beautiful. Religion, pure and undefiled, indeed.

  74. I also don’t believe in ward Trunk or Treats (or “Harvest Parties” as my ward is forced to call it).

    As a relief society president entering my third year I have pondered/agonized over the sisters birthdays the past few months. Just last week I purchased notecards and stamps with a plan to do just what you’ve done! If only Sodalicious would open a branch in Maple Valley, Washington. Maybe you can talk to your people…

    ps I think my cousin is one of the PhDs in your ward.

  75. I loved this post. I’m a Courtney Kendrick fan and have followed her blog/twitter/wherever/whatever she writes, for years. I relate, disagree at times, and am always left feeling I trosoective and grateful for her point of view.

  76. Jan Beckstrom says:

    I was in your ward one Sunday when you read the birthday cards. (Seth Gartz’s farewell). I wondered how you could know so much about the sisters in your ward. I loved the words you used. I want you to come to my ward and do it for me! (I am also the RS 2nd Councilor). The sisters in your ward are amazingly blessed to have you do this for them!

  77. This touched so close to home for me. I worked closely with the RS presidency this past year planning all the activities. The president is actually my VT partner. I have felt a feeling of frustration because they were so focused on doing everything by the book and by the numbers. It was always about the numbers. Never about the person. It drove me nuts and luckily I was called to YW where I feel it is all about the individual, the person. I received my obligatory card from the RS shortly after my new calling. It was a generic birthday card with only names signed. No message. They even know me well! And it made me sad a bit, not because I was offended (I am rather thick-skinned, inherited from Pioneer stock I am sure ;) but because I know of women who need to be assured that they are more than just a name to check off the list. This is beautiful. I am so glad that there are people like you that make this confusing world a better and more welcoming place. Thank you.

  78. I loved this; I want to send it to 50 friends. :)

  79. Taking care of each other is the most important thing on this earth we can do!! You did just that cjane!

  80. RhiSkylark says:

    This is a beautiful tribute to your fellow womankind. I can’t find many good things about staying LDS (which is why I chose free myself and my small charges). I see damaged souls in the masses, but you were able to take something slipping and find a place in it for yourself. A place to keep your small life preserver afloat. I would be lying if I said I don’t miss the community. There is peace in knowing you have humans of like-mindedness surrounding you. But I’ve learned community can be found in so many places and under my own terms. Terms where I don’t have to doubt, wonder or shrivel up in guilt ridden skin. I appreciate you though, for your honesty. In this, others will be able to find peace, a home and maybe enjoy a religion that might otherwise sink their souls.

  81. Thank you so much for this! It strengthens my resolve to celibrate the differences between us. Why blend in when you can stand out?

  82. Thank you for your beautiful words and your example.

  83. Pity the poor Mormon women who are reduced to a non-existent stereotype. We create our own cages. The Church is too big, too global for this “typical Pioneer stock” syndrome. The one thing we have not outgrown, and what does in fact tie us together, is our love of God and love of neighbor. Thank you for so beautifully exemplifying that, Courtney, as you recognized the unique qualities of the women you live among. Maybe living outside the confines of Mormon culture as it is sometimes expressed in Utah, would give you some breathing room and space so you do not feel compelled to live up to a non-existent standard. Just a thought…

  84. Im going on record that I wrote a “not so nice comment” on one of your posts long ago..in fact I got slam blasted by one of your readers, even stocked on my blog..”scary” something you wrote touched a nerve, I don’t even remember what it was, but looking back I was frustrated with life and down and so where you, I wanted to be uplifted and told it would all be okay..Questioning certain aspects of the Gospel was wrongm but you were being honest and true to yourself, I wasn’t and it made me angry, I don’t feel angry any more. i love your incite and writing style and your Gorky personality., you remind me of me and I like me, so thank you for your honest writing and Im wishing you a Happy New year and lots more amazing posts.

  85. I’m not Mormon. I was raised Methodist, mom took us to church regularly when we were little (in the 50’s & 60’s), but when she divorced the little country ‘family’ church really just abandoned all of us. My father went back & forth between being a complete evil maniac to being holier than thou every 6 months or so – very messed up. My brother ended up being a Southern Baptist minister, my uncle was at one time the president of a bible college until his past caught up with him – he sells computers last we heard – he must be retired by now. I have friends who are Catholic, friends who are Muslim, friends who are this, that, and everything in between. I raised my own two children with plenty of knowledge and allowed them to have their own spiritual walk, in their own way, at their own pace – I admit, because of my own experiences, I am very leary of organized religion.

    Hearing you women talk about being Mormon reminds me very much of my many Catholic woman friends. Big churches are about money and men run the show – why are you all so slow to get this? I saw many of my friends get really strong and ready to make changes – usually when they were in their 30’s and 40’s – but every single one has now (in their 50’s & 60’s) just thrown in the towel, sucked it up – Oh well, we’ve ALWAYS been Catholic so…

    It seem to me that this type of thinking just inhibits, it thwarts any kind of spiritual evolving, growth. God gave us brains to think, to reason, and made us all unique, not a bunch of sheep who blindly follow this ridiculous religious dogma.

    To each their own – this is how it should be (hmm – not according to my brother though) and I have to allow and tolerate everyone’s right to worship and believe as they choose – I am not judging anyone here. But to me, a outsider, the Mormon religion – especially as it concerns women, is just barbaric, ignorant. Granted, I’m no expert – I’ve read a few books, watched a few documentaries and even took a gander at the big conference – looked like a bunch of throwback old men running that show.

    Why are many of you so damned scared to just look around you, explore your spritual walks, make some changes if you want – there is a whole big world of people out there – people who believe all different things – God has plenty of room for us all. I sometimes think God is up there thinking – OK…they are still not getting it, they still don’t know..how much they are capable of, how much they can learn if they let themselves.

    Get the hell out from under all those men and think for yourselves.

  86. Oh, and I’m not a man hater – I’ve been happily (most of the time) married to the same man for over 37 years. My old grandpa, who went to the same little country church his entire life and he lived into his 90’s, told me at the end of his life – “we don’t know anything, we all just do the best we can here”, and I know he worried my brother was just to immersed in this religious thing to the point where it was sucking my brothers very essence out of him. Religion can turn in to a kind of sickness for some people. And some religions are cults. Have we not evolved past this, even yet???

  87. Thank you. I’ve been feeling a crisis of culture lately. Not a crisis of faith; I have a strong testimony, but a crisis of culture. A frustration of being blown off one too many times to make sure the weak are fed, but sometimes the strong need a bone thrown toward them. Sometimes we need to be noticed and appreciated.

  88. I loved this. So much.