Review: The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

Elna Baker‘s new memoir, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance,  is billed as a coming of age story of a Mormon girl in New York, a virginal Mormon girl in the face of Carrie Bradshaw’s (surprisingly STD-free) City. But her feelings of deep faith mixed with nagging doubts and her commitment to chastity while simultaneously wanting to have sex, are feelings any LDS girl or boy will know immediately as their own, even at (any one of) the BYU(s). And that’s why I think you’ll like this book, because it’s so frank and familiar. Also, it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There are, of course, the uniquely New York stories.  Fortune cookie subway moments, an out-and-proud freshman roommate that regularly leaves a sex toy on the counter, a whole story about a  celebrity “Warren Beatty” that, even if you ran into Peter Breinholt in a Cafe Rio, would never happen in Provo. But she tells her stories, the ones known to any single Mormon and the ones particular to New York, with an honesty that is disarming.

[Read more…]

BYU Independent Study

BYU Independent Study is kind of adorable.  As far as I can tell, it’s been around in some form or another since the 1920s. You can take a huge variety of accredited college and/or high school classes and you don’t have to be accepted to BYU (though you can be if you want), and there’s no need to apply. Plus, it’s cheap. [Read more…]

Not So Bad

originally posted on the resting VSOM

My poor dead dad. I’ve blogged him to death. I’ve written him to death too as he was the theme of all my angsty teenage poetry and short stories. The recap: my parents divorced with I was 9. He died when I was 13 of complications of Type I diabetes. He was also bipolar and very unreliable. He was pretty bad at being a dad, and then he died. But 20 years is a long time to work things out. I care about him a lot now and I see more clearly the circumstances under which he was working and failing as a father. 

Mostly, I haven’t had a father. No surrogate fatherly figures. I have older brothers but luckily they were just brothers and not fathers to me. No bishops or home teachers or Sunday School teachers who felt called to take me under their wing in order to be a “father” to me. When I was pumped with hormones as a teenager, I thought I was very pitiable. My problems were due entirely to my fatherlessness. It was the state that was so bad, I didn’t even know to mourn him as a person until my 20s. 

I don’t know if I like it or hate it now, but I don’t mind my fatherlessness one bit. I’ve got issues, no doubt about it, but I know just as many people with living fathers, involved fathers that have issues too, even some of them have the same issues that I do. I don’t know how those people got screwed up but clearly no-dad status isn’t the only thing that will make you need a therapist. 

I hope everyone has two parents that love them. Or at least like them. I hope they have parents that pay attention. I hope everyone can know their parents. But if they don’t, life’s not so bad. I mean, you might turn out like me. 

I celebrate my dad this father’s day. Maybe I’ll build him a shrine. With a viola, some hiking gear, some microwaved bologna and a sign that says: “You didn’t really screw me up that bad, Dad. I love you.’

Just Like Heaven

Except instead of real hugs for your loved ones you digitally send little graphics of them. Also, you can poke or slap them. You have to ask even your family members if they’ll be your friends, and while you can be married to whatever gender you want, you can only be married to one person.  Ok, then mostly like heaven. 

[Read more…]

BCC Zeitcast 35

Season 2 Album Artwork Steve and I talk about the horrors of a horrible week and the fears of new technology. 

[Steve’s note: ironically, it was not long after this depressing podcast that both our lives got dramatically worse. THIS ZEITCAST IS CURSED!!]
[Read more…]

Sentimental Story

but hey! it’s Christmas! [Read more…]

Because God has mixed feelings about sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows

Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples

[Read more…]

Black Jesus

The story goes that in 1651 an Angolan slave, living just outside of Lima Peru and wholly converted to Catholicism, painted a mural of a black Jesus on a wall. [Read more…]

Serious Thoughts on the One Exception to the No Facial Hair Rule

The moustache.

[Read more…]

How to Not Drink in a Bar

Mormons are, generally speaking, afraid of bars. This is because people drink alcohol in bars and we do not. It is because we want to avoid the appearance of evil. It is because we want to stand in holy places (really drunk old men are not holy), and it is because we don’t like to look like total dorks who don’t know how to navigate the society of the bar. This leads others to believe that we are self-righteous, uptight and boring. This is not true, as evidenced by our impressive skills at boardgames, relay races (where one might carry an egg in a spoon) and charades.

It is my mission to help us feel a little more comfortable (and a little less nerdy) when we are occasionally obligated to be in a bar with others who drink.

[Read more…]

The Little Bird and the Red Rose

This story is good. It’s so good that it seems like something Aaron Brown would be telling and then I would tell it second-hand and try and pass it off as my own. 

Several years ago, I was visiting my friend who was teaching at a 2 year college somewhere in Utah. We attended the student ward that Sunday and we heard this beauty of a lesson. I’d forgotten about it but my friend heard the same story again in Relief Society and emailed me to remind me of the gems we heard there. [Read more…]

My Generosity – RIP

I am a generous person. You want my money, my time, my love. I’ll give it to you. I’m not stingy. I am not one to look for the rational reason not to give. Will this bum use this money for alcohol or drugs? He might, but I’m not one to care. He looks like he needs money, so I’ll give it. Someone wants my time in some inefficient, bumbling but good-hearted project? Sure. My time’s all yours. You’re annoying or mean or weird? I’ll still love you. I may not always be smart or logical, but I am generous.

That is, until Iquitos killed it. [Read more…]

So, You like knowing what Steve is eating

We’ve just posted our 10th zeitcast. Arbitrary, except that it’s 2 digits which seems better than 1. Anyway, what would you change? Anything you’d like us to add? We recognize occasionally we talk too much ( and our goal is usually to keep them to a half an hour. What other suggestions do you have? We’re getting to the level of professional podcasting here, so we want to make sure it’s just right. Or maybe just to know how bad we suck?

Please advise.

Adopting through LDS Family Services

Some friends of mine just adopted a baby through LDS Family Services. [Read more…]

Taking One For the Team

A small, mostly meaningless diversion from the U.S. primaries:

My cousin was set apart as bishop of his ward two weeks ago. I like this cousin. He’s a liberal academic, teaching humanities at a very cool university and he has excellent taste in TV, books and movies. We usually discuss this excellent taste over Diet Coke. [Read more…]

No More Tongue

I started studying Spanish in the 7th grade. Mostly because my friends were taking it and because my brother Andrew was on a mission in Argentina and he would need someone to talk to when he got home. I make no claims that junior high Spanish is difficult or challenging but I was good at it. Really good at it. I have noticed that when one is good at a thing, they tend to love said thing. I kept on it and chose it as my major when I went to college. I started literature classes, history classes, Latin American revolution classes (that was a goody), pre-Colombian culture classes and I loved all of it (please note above deep insight, as I continued to be very good at it). When I decided to go on my mission, I began to have dreams. I knew I was going to Mexico. It was revelation that felt as earnest and true as my connections with my dead dad and forgiveness of my teenage sins (I was a bad kid).

I got called to Tokyo Japan. [Read more…]

Important Quotes

In this week’s copy of The Economist, they have quotes from the campaign trail.

“‘I only got three [dollars] in my pocket.’ Multimillionaire Mitt Romney has to borrow from an aide to buy a cup of coffee. ” emphasis my own.

Coffee? Did they say coffee? Mitt the Mormon drinks coffee?

I wonder then if his delinquency in keeping the Word of Wisdom is what spurred this comment: “‘What they have done is, they have totally dismissed that fact that this guy’s influence is going to lead people to hell.’ Televangelist Bill Keller on Christian conservative leaders who endorse Mitt Romney, a Mormon.” (all this on page 37 of the Nov 10th issue of the Economist)

Should I be nervous about a coffee-drinking Mormon too? [Read more…]

When Our Money Looks Funny

Have I mentioned that my husband and I moved to Iquitos Peru a couple of days after our wedding? Well, we did. G-map it. It’s a town in the Peruvian Amazon, in fact we live less than a mile from the Amazon River. It’s a very poor town, the whole area is depressed and poor for even Peru. The people live in shacks of wood, leaves or tin and if they’re wealthy, they live in cement block houses. At one time or another, the Church was very successful here, with loads of baptisms and they built loads of meetinghouses to accomodate the growing number of Saints. [Read more…]

BCC and why my wedding made me like Mormons

In August, Kris Wright flew me up to her place in Canada to see where she lives, to meet her family and to celebrate my upcoming blessed event because she wouldn’t be able to come down in September. At customs, the guy asked me what I was doing there. Visiting a friend, I said. How did you meet this friend, he said. Church camp, I quickly replied. I hadn’t prepared that almost lie (we did meet in person at an Exponent II retreat) but it was like I was full of the Holy Spirit and knew just what to say. He let me through immediately. Usually those Canadian customs’ employees are tough. [Read more…]

All in My Mind the Knife in My Back

Partly because I’m oblivious and partly because I don’t care, I have never noticed if people judged me, the way I do things, the choices I make or the way I see the world. I’m sure I’ve been judged, gossiped about, made fun of, but mostly I’ve had no idea.

Until I started planning a wedding. I feel extremely exposed and vulnerable through this whole planning process due in part to my lack of planning skillz and also because so many people have their idea of what a wedding should be, how it should look, what it should include. Because it is an activity in which almost everyone has participated in some way or another on multiple occasions, everyone has firm, even rigid ideas. It’s like true religion, wedding ideas that have come through inspiration, the Holy Spirit, given them a burning in the bosom that makes them know that their visions of a wedding are the one true wedding. But like religion, when one vision doesn’t match up with another’s vision, there’s tension. And one of them has to be false. [Read more…]

Entitled to Interpret

As what may have been a joke, a friend of mine gave me John & Kimberley Bytheway’s What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Newlyweds. In the section about couple communication,  they use a story in the Book of Mormon to help illustrate their point. I don’t agree or disagree with their interpretation. It’s one reading and it does help them prove their point, but it brings up the question of entitlement in scriptural interpretation. Are we allowed to make the scriptures mean what we want or need them to mean? [Read more…]

A Mennormon Wedding

I am marrying a Mennonite. [Read more…]

Money for Life Purpose

In the book Global Values 101, which happens to be edited by someone I really like, there is an interview by bioethicist Peter Singer. Though sometimes I think Singer is crazy, his interview discusses his decision to give 20% of his yearly financial gain away to charity. He has plans to move it to 30% very soon. We clearly don’t bat our eyes at 10%, or if we do we try not to let our neighbors see the batting, but what about 20 or 30? [Read more…]

Shared Shrines

I lived in Albany NY for the last nine months and just recently moved back to Boston.  In Albany, I designed the bathroom with religious themes, mostly Christian. A 12 inch steel cross, an 8×10 framed doey-eyed Jesus with a bleeding heart, Buddha, the tall saint candles sold next to the Goya brand goods in the “International” section of the supermarket, a photo of the pope and other interesting religious items I cannot recall at this time. [Read more…]

Part-time Jobs and Part-time Daycare

I have a very good friend with a 3 year-old little boy. He’s very smart. Ask him the planets. He’ll tell you. What’s the name of our galaxy? He’ll tell you. What kind of galaxy is it? He’ll tell you. (Spiral, if you don’t remember). He can even tell you the names of the biggest moons of mooned planets. It is surprising how bright he is.

It’s also clear that she spends a lot of time with him. And she’s proud of him, but she’s also really depressed. [Read more…]

Earth Days are Easy

Every year for Earth Day, I give up a bad habit, some indulgence I love, for my good old friend, the Earth.

It’s like Lent for me and the Earth is Jesus, except the earth never gives me an Easter, resurrection, or the day I can finally go back to my old self again. It’s rough, but somehow I manage in giving these up permanently.

This year, I’ve decided to [Read more…]

A Might of Melancholy

When I was in the second grade, I entered and won the school Reflections contest. A blue ribbon and a silver dollar. My story was called The Frost Princess and it was about a land perpetually in summer. The sun was always shining, the flowers were in constant bloom, everyone was perfectly happy. Contrary to what you’d expect, the trees and bees and flowers couldn’t take it anymore. They were exhausted by all the upbeatness of summer. They complained to their local princess, every land has one, and she said she knew of a special princess that could help them out. The Frost Princess. After much begging, the Frost Princess finally came and offered winter to the flowers and the trees. She told them they would die a little bit, that it would be cold and snowy and some of them wouldn’t make it through, but summer was so hot and happy that everyone chose winter. Winter came on all the land and the trees and flowers and grass finally got to rest in the cold, snow-covered ground.

At age 8, I believed that I won because each word (word!) was written in a different magic marker color but now I think I must have struck a nerve with some frazzled Mormon PTA mom, longing for a rest. [Read more…]

Don’t Worry if You’re Not Good Enough

I joined a book club that discusses theology books and there is a strong contingency that belongs to a new, hipster artsy church. I really like these people and they’ve been asking me to come to church with them since the beginning. Last Sunday I decided to go and I really liked it. [Read more…]

Be My, Be My Little Baby

At a recent Singles’ activity, the late twenty somethings were organized into several, smaller groups and then assigned an animal. They were given these instructions: we will blindfold you, mix up all the groups, make you get on your hands and knees and then you must make the noise of your animal until you have united your entire animal group. The first animal to gather, wins.

My friend refused to play. This is what 5 year olds play, she said. Stop being immature, her friends said, and just play the game. [Read more…]

Prophet Emeritus

At the end of President McKay’s life, two men in Church hierarchy had the same idea. Though intellectually sharp, McKay’s health had been up and down for at least a decade and was definitely failing him then (he died when he was 96). These two men, Ernest Wilkinson and Hugh Brown, talked about changing the policy of lifetime calling to be apostle or prophet. There were a few versions of their idea, because as you may know, they weren’t best friends and did not entertain this idea together. One was that once an apostle reached a certain age, he would be moved into emeritus status and not considered for prophet/president position if the time came. Another was that if incapacitated, he would be moved into emeritus status so the Church could be led by the next in line. [Read more…]