What is a JayDiva?

JayDiva (noun) a writer of blogs who is an attorney, feminist, New Englander, child advocate, reader, hiker, cancer survivor, Mormon.



Friday, April 14, 2017

Q1 Report

Quarterly Progress Report for Q1 of 2017:

Because it is too hard to remember things from Q1 when I am trying to reflect on the entire year in anticipation of New Year's, here are some stats…

  • 1 Executive Director job—look out, world!
  • 30 years old (birthday!)
  • 2 political protests
  • 9 appointments at the hospital
  • 548 miles run/biked/swam (in past 6 months)
  • 6 blog posts on alikeuntogod.wordpress.com
  • Donated to NPR like a real adult.
  • Donated to the ACLU like a real liberal.
  • 1st business trip ever!  + mini Seattle trip with Mom and Grandma C
  • Went to Disneyland!  With Gwen!!  Three days in a row!!!
  • Book finished: Short Stories by Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine; Love and the Light, Orson F. Whitney.
  • Books currently reading: Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman; The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore; All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne;  Mormon Feminism Essential Writings; Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. (I have a big problem with not being able to wait to start another book before finishing my current read, and thus taking forever to finish any one thing…)
Not too shabby for the dead of winter!




Sunday, April 2, 2017

Seattle + Disneyland(?!)

Now that I'm a big (small) shot executive, I went on my first ever business trip out to Seattle and was joined by Mom and Grandma in the city they love so much!


I look big-time, right?  Right??






We went on an unexpected visit to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and it was incredibly moving and inspiring:



Pioneer Square glass blowers- a Seattle favorite since my childhood:




We had a marvelous time, but the best part of all is that when three days straight of my flights home were projected to be cancelled because of the East Coast blizzard, my amazingly persuasive husband convinced the airline to fly me down the coast to California for free so I could stay with my parents and not have to pay for continued hotel fare.  (Love him!!)

So, the best kind of vacation ensued!  One that required no stress to make sure I had the vacation time, one that required no airfare, and one that required no hotel fees.  And to add to it, my brother, #1 sister-in-law, and #1 niece were down at my parents at the same time to go to Disneyland!

You guys!  I got to go to Disneyland with my niece instead of endure the blizzard out east!  I could not have planned this better if I had tried!








God is good!  And so is my family!


UP WITH THE MATRIARCHY

Sunday, February 12, 2017

O Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Another funeral. Another one. I selfishly loathe that, yet again, our leisurely Saturday morning is robbed.   We are practically in the back yard of my husband's large side of the family, and their connections run deep in this community. Although it defies reason, I swear that every single person to enter the local morgue is somehow my husband's god-parent. Seeing a corpse in a casket practically every weekend, we talk about death all the time.


Perhaps I am still numb to funerals, even of close family members, after attending the third one in so many months when I was a fifth grader. I hated my fifth grade teacher, but even she felt sorry for me after #3, and gave me a genuine hug in front of the whole class.

Numb, perhaps. But certainly not indifferent. In our home, we talk about death all the time. Hubs has spent the last couple years professionally counseling people about death taxes, death benefits, etc. He freely admits that his job his hard because "nobody wants to think about their own death." 

Maybe that is why my first doctor was adamant that I didn't have cancer, not wanting death to enter the conversation. Whereas the oncologist he passed me off to, after hearing me flippantly throw out, "but I don't actually have cancer, I'm only here as a precaution..." looked at me, troubled, and staring squarely into my face said, "I don't know why someone would have told you that. Yes, you certainly do have cancer." I was literally in an oncologist's office scheduling my radiation treatment, and nobody had bothered to admit that I was a cancer patient until that very moment.

As a natural necessity to our complicated lives, we talk about death all the time. It is an omnipresent threat. My husband saw his mother choke and die right in front of him without any warning. His sister, a nurse practitioner, was present, but nothing could save my mother-in-law. Whether one is good, bad, or indifferent, my husband and I understand that when one's number is up, there's no hiding from it.

All this sounds very dark and full of pathos, enough to make someone hardened to the harsh reality that this life is temporary. But I think that our abundant exposure to death and its threat, have redirected our mindsets from fear of death to acceptance of death. Not acceptance in a resigned sort of way, but acknowledging its necessary, and even blessed, purpose to life.

President Nelson, himself abundantly familiar with death because of his profession as a surgeon for whom he admitted, it was not a good prognostic sign to be his patient, characterizes death as neither necessarily positive nor negative, but simply as a doorway:

Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live. (See 2 Cor. 6:9.) As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven.
...
Scriptures teach that death is essential to happiness: “Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.” (Alma 42:8; italics added; see also 2 Ne. 9:6.) 


I recently finished Orson F. Whitney's epic novel in verse, Love and the Light. Near the end, the couple whom we have followed are aging and approaching their lives' ends:


Loyalty and zeal continued,
And with faithfulness unflagging
Side by side they strewed and gathered
Through their mortal years remaining.
Till the final call, “Come higher”;
When her soul—then his—responded 


Last year I took a fabulous yoga and medication class taught by a very dear friend I met at the Jerusalem Center. At one point, we sat for a guided meditation session where she encouraged us to imagine we were floating up, up, up-- higher, higher, and higher. I imagine that the moments after death are like this. In a conduit of light, we break physical barriers and cross space and dimension, floating up, up, up until we enter God's realm. We answer the call, "Come higher" until we reach pure light and true peace.

With such a vision, of the contentment that surely exists for the souls of the deceased, can you see why it is neither scary nor morbid that we talk about death all the time? We see it as an inevitable transition, our universal heritage, our only way to find rest from mortal strife. It is anything but taboo in our home, as it motivates us to be our very best while we have today to live.

With that assurance, brothers and sisters, love life! Cherish 
each moment as a blessing from God. (See Mosiah 2:21.) 
Live it well—even to your loftiest potential. Then the 
anticipation of death shall not hold you hostage. 


----


         Russell M. Nelson, Doors of Death, April 1992

Russell M. Nelson, Decisions for Eternity, October 2013

No Scrubs

Today was a Snow Day for church, so I'm getting a kick out of reading some old Conference talks.  I had a good chuckle listening to the humor of President Hinckley in a talk given in April 2000 specifically to the young women at General Conference.


"For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself."1
I actually do remember hearing this talk for the first time as a middle schooler.  At the time, TLC's song No Scrubs was very popular, so President Hinckley was certainly on-trend, and I'm sure his words connected with many young women, as they did with me.
The Church generally holds traditional family views, but President Hinckley was savvy enough to state that, "In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living..." and in this same talk, he heartily praised a female nurse whom he met at the hospital, a highly skilled woman with three children who had also followed her career goals. 
We need more people like President Hinckley to encourage our young girls to be everything that they set their hearts upon.  No woman and no mother should ever feel guilty for pursuing her heartfelt education and career goals.  With our skills, our voices, and our virtue, we can change the world.  Our girls need to know it, and our boys need to know it, too.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "Brethren, I pray that we as priesthood holders—as husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends of these choice women—may see them as the Lord sees them, as daughters of God with limitless potential to influence the world for good."2
 The sky is truly the limit for each of God's children!


#AsSistersInZion
#SmartGirlsAsk
#ShePersisted
#HeForShe
------

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I'll Drop My Burden

I'm hesitant to post this one, but the experience really effected me, and it was very therapeutic to write about it.  And remember, if you or a loved one (or even just a liked one, or whatever) are even close to being in need, please remember the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1-800-273-8255.

--



The night is dark, his mind is darker. He sits on the floor of a quiet garage. All windows and doors are secure.  His car idles. At the back of his car, he connects a hose to the tailpipe and, as his phone rings, he puts the hose into his mouth and drifts away, away, away.

…For life is quick in passing,
“Tis as a single day.”1

Life passes especially quickly when we expedite our expiration date. Every day as I leave the hospital after radiation treatment, I pass a newsstand. All week long, several of the covers are devoted to a woman who is choosing to end her life.2 Her promised suicide, designed to outrun her brain cancer’s sprinting death march, sparks outrage, compassion, and introspection across the country and within my own heart. She is me, and I am her—innocent bystanders to cancer carving a home in our brains. But our solutions look so different. She is traveling the world and keeping her loved ones close, doing television interviews and looking confident. I barely leave the mattress on the floor of my lonely apartment, two hundred miles from my husband, sleeping my days away as clumps of hair fall to the floor. It is unclear who is really winning their fight with cancer.


A year later, I am restless. Every moment is poisoned by the unfairness of my plight. I suffered more than anyone I see, yet I deserved it less. I lost more than anyone I see, while they have everything they ever wanted. I cried for lost dreams more than anyone I see, and they take their peace for granted. I stew in a thick pot of resentment, focusing behind me, on the trauma of my cancer.

Two years later, I am drifting off to sleep next to my husband, when he receives a text message.

Austin*:          I just want to say thank you for all your family has done for me over the years
Husband:         Of course my brother! You are like family to us. What’s up?
Austin:            I’m checking out man, I’m done.

My husband shows me the texts. We look at each other, somewhere between puzzled and horrified. For the first time in our married life, my response is not, “Just deal with it in the morning; it’s late.” My husband calls Austin and I breathlessly hover near the phone to listen, worry clouding my face.

            Austin:            “Hello?”
            Husband:         “Hey, man, I got your text.  What’s going on?”
Austin:            (flatly) “Yeah, I’m over it, it’s not worth it, I’m just checking out. Thanks, though, for all that you and your family has done for me over the years. I’ll never forget your parents, they treated me like a son.”
Husband:         “Of course, my brother. You are family to us. But what do you mean ‘checking out?’”
Austin:            (laughing) “Just checking out, brother, just ending all this…”
Husband:         “Austin, where are you?”
Austin:            “I’m done, I’m done, I’m just…done.”
Husband:         “Austin? Austin? Are you okay? Where are you?”

Austin stops talking. My husband continues to text and call him for the next five minutes, without response. Then, as I helplessly look on with a hand on his shoulder, my husband frantically calls a series of police departments, trying to remember Austin’s home address out on Staten Island. When the police arrive at Austin’s home, his wife reports that he is not there. She suggests a couple places where he may be.

Time drags on; we lay silently in bed with ominous tension, hearts pounding with dread. When the police finally arrive at Austin’s workplace, stunned officers look through a window to find Austin slumped onto the floor, his mouth around a hose connected to a car’s tailpipe.  Police break glass to get into the garage, desperate to try to save him. The shadow of carbon monoxide discolors Austin’s distorted face. Although medics say he was literally moments from death, hovering between life and total darkness, Austin is revived.

The next day my husband receives a message from Austin’s wife.  She admits that they are divorcing and that she had already kicked him out. Her words pierce deep when she says, “You saved his life.”

I cannot stop the argument from surfacing, like the young woman planning her physician-assisted suicide, Austin and I are the same: he is me, and I am him. Although my past year has been full of therapy and doctors, I too was threatening my life by simply refusing to live it. I may have thought I was on the high road by choosing surgery and radiation over suicide. But poisoned by bitterness, I was not living. Austin tried to waste his precious future life by letting the present control him. I was wasting my precious present life by letting the past control me. My past and his present are and were traumatic, sorrowful, and anxiety-laden. But no matter how cankerous, they cannot tarnish our spotless tomorrows.

Trouble and Trial bind us with their gnarled, ugly claws. Trauma’s grip ever-tightens as we struggle against it or try to change it. We toss and turn, we sob and wail, we shout that, “It is not fair!” And, truly, it is not fair. But the miracle is this—bound though we may feel by our sorrows, when we let go, our sorrows let go.

“I removed his shoulder from the burden…Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee…”3

When desperation and irrationality threaten our very mortality, I witness that the very simple solution may be to just bury what we’re fighting. If we cannot change it and we cannot live with it, then it is not time to stop living; it is time to live without it.

“And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth…that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.4

Suppressing trauma has its own dangers, but once you have re-hashed it, worked through it, and derived any potential meaning from it, the time for burial arrives. As dirt separates you from unmanageable trouble, life becomes manageable once more. Not all things are meant to be nursed and coped with; some things are destined for discarding, if we value peace.

Austin and I learned this, in our own ways. Our new lives are interconnected, though Austin may not realize it. The night that he got a chance to confront the choking hand of Trauma, was the very night that I recognized Trauma’s tight grip on me. Seeing the tender fragility of Austin’s mortality, and blessing God for preserving His suffering child that night, is exactly what helped me recognize the tender fragility of my own mortality; especially fragile with the heartless blows of bitterness I was pounding into it with every waking thought. And so we began again. Observing the present for the gift that it is, and honoring the future for its glorious promises.

“Why should this anxious load press down your weary mind?
“…I’ll drop my burden at His feet and bear a song away.”5

_______
1. Improve the Shining Moments, LDS Hymnal, 226.
2.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/opinion/maynard-assisted-suicide-cancer-dignity/
3. Psalms 81:6-7
4. Alma 24:19
5. How Gentle God’s Commands, LDS Hymnal, 125.

*This is a true story, but the subject’s name has been changed.





Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eyeballs, Brain Stems, and Stuff

I'm gonna make one of these:



So as you recently saw with the photo below —honestly one of my favorite from this entire year:


I am currently going down a Neuroscience rabbit hole at Yale Hospital, after I made the decision (mistake?) to disclose that, once or twice a week, I see these flashing, colorful spots in my upper right field of vision for a few minutes before they disappear.  Interestingly, this is the exact area where I was mostly blind after my surgery for a couple weeks.

Remember the nifty chart my mom made after my surgery?  We used it to keep track of how well I could see out of each eye for quite a while during my brain surgery recovery, and my right eye seriously lagged.

So to entertain my puzzling neuro-mess, I recently added 2 new doctors to my mix, one is Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project (seriously—confident, smart, curvy female Indian doctor with great hair), and the other knows my surgeon, Dr. Brem, and did his residency at UPenn, so you KNOW that I am big fans of these people.

So Dr. Lahiri is my new Neurologist and she thinks I’m having migraines with aura.  I think it is plausible, although it is like 99% aura and only 1% headache, so that’s odd.  But when you do a Google Images search of “migraine with aura” there are some striking similarities to what I'm experiencing.



Still, to get some more data, Dr. Lahiri sent me to Dr. Brem Jr. who is a Neuro-Ophthalmologist.  This is a field of medicine I did not know existed.  But pretty much add “Neuro” to the front of every medical field, and you’ve just listed all of my doctors.  Neuro-oncologist, Neuro-surgeon, Neurologist, Neuro-Ophthalmologist, Neuro-Dentist (not that one, but maybe??  We’ll find out…) 

Anyway, the Neuro-Ophthalmologist  had me do all of these (honestly, kind of fun) tests and concluded a few things: 
     1) I have 20-15 vision, LIKE A BOSS!  Honestly, I could have read even smaller print, but that was the smallest they had, so there!  And, 
     2) Regardless of my super vision powers, I have a VERY pronounced blind spot in my upper right field of vision.

My field of vision test results looked something like this:


Oh, and here’s some gross photos of my eyes:



Appreciate those.  The flash was so ridiculously bright that I was totally crying.  Plus I took the pics while I was still way dilated and couldn't even see what I was pointing my phone at.  I guess that was the 20-15 super vision powers helping out!

The Neuro-Ophthalmologist’s third conclusion, like my Neuro-Oncologist, was that,
     3) I may be having partial seizures, ie, unusual activity in the brain stem that wreaks (a little) havoc.  He even went so far as to suggest a diagnosis—Charles Bonnet Syndrome (pronounced “Boe-NAY”).    

Here are some definitions of CBS from peer-reviewed journal articles:


...
Charles Bonnet syndrome is a condition that causes individuals with vision loss to see objects, patterns or images that do not exists (visual hallucinations). These individuals are aware that these hallucinations are only illusions, not reality.  This disorder is likely caused by the brain continuing to interpret images even in their absence.  Hallucinations are more likely to occur when the individual is awake, alone, in dim light, physically inactive, or lacking distractions.  The brain usually adjusts after about a year and hallucinations begin to go away.


...
Optometry. 2009 Jul;80(7):360-6. doi: 10.1016/j.optm.2008.10.017.
Charles Bonnet syndrome: case presentation and literature review.
Abstract
BACKGROUND:
Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is an under-recognized and under-reported disorder that involves visual hallucinations in visually impaired individuals. These patients have intact cognition, do not have hallucinations in any other sensory modalities, and retain insight into the unreal nature of their hallucinations.

...
Consult Pharm. 2013 Mar;28(3):184-8. doi: 10.4140/TCP.n.2013.184.
Charles bonnet syndrome: treating nonpsychiatric hallucinations.
Abstract
Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is characterized by recurrent or persistent complex visual hallucinations that occur in visually impaired individuals with intact cognition and no evidence of psychiatric illness. Patients usually retain insight into the unreal nature of their hallucinations.


...
So at least my doctors are convinced I’m not actively psychotic—that is some consolation. 


And that’s the current story.  But if I have learned anything, it is that “diagnosis” is a treacherously fluid term, so that’s just what I’m rolling with for now.  And (Mike, Colin, Evan) don’t even think about standing in my blind spot and making faces at me; not cool.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Guests, like Fish...

...Begin to smell after three days.”

-Benjamin Franklin

(In our case, they literally smelled...)
(I’m not even a fan of Franklin, but he was spot on here!)

(Hubs might get mad at me for posting this.  In his defense, he had no part in it)


We had an odd experience recently.  I tell this tale at the risk of offending the subjects of my story.  But we were offended first(!), plus someone has to tell them.  I will gladly take their anger if it means they hear it straight from a real adult for once in their lives.

A guy who was a missionary in this area some time ago came on a trip back to the East Coast with his like 20-year-old wife.  Because Hubs has a very difficult time with the word “No,” they both ended up staying at our place for several days.  Yes, our teeny-tiny apartment with one teeny-tiny bathroom.  SEVERAL DAYS.  With virtual strangers.

The thing is, they were really very nice people.  I have no complaints about their character or personalities.  They seem like they love each other, which is great.  And there was really only one point of contention, one battleground.  But the battle raged; our bathroom was commondeered.


Their stay at our apartment was characterized by us being locked out of our one and only bathroom for hours on end while she applied a week’s worth of makeup every morning, and did ??? at night.  This peaked when Hubs was accosted with knocks and demands at the door, the second that he turned the water off after his (very short) shower one night.  I was called out of my shower early once, too.  The shower I had waited HOURS for in gross, sweaty clothes.


There is a lot that could be said, but I will fast-forward to the grand finale.  Suffice it to say that we noticed some weird stuff, like my makeup brushes being used (eww!); a piece of trash on the floor that came from an item we had in a box WAY in the back of our stuffed cupboard under the sink (she had obviously rifled around, opened the box, used the item, and left the trash from it for us to clean up for her); and the lid off of my face cream, revealing deep finger marks and so much gone that it had obviously been used for body lotion –yes, you read that right, my FACE cream used as a stranger’s BODY LOTION! 

So that was all annoying, but we just tried to carry on.  When we thought they had finally left, we awoke to find that a present had been left for us.  Perhaps the present was meant to mark the territory that they had claimed for the past several days.  That present was none other than a toilet bowl full of diarrhea and used toiled paper!  I screamed.  Hubs ran from our room and was speechless.


We bleached the entire apartment.  It has been days, and yet the scent of our over-abundance of Lysol still remains.

Never. Again.



Reflecting on their stay led us to reflect more broadly on what I consider to be Utah Culture, a topic of great angst in our home.

I could go on and on, offending practically everyone I know, and maybe being a little hypocritical.  In the interest of brevity, I will list a mere three (out of infinity) reasons why this incident can largely be blamed on asinine Utah/Mormon cultural flaws.

We are the way we are for decently good reasons, this I readily admit.  Congealed by hardship, our sense of community, even with those we don’t actually know, is unbreakable.  Mormons implicitly trust each other, by virtue of our common faith, leading them to do things that would otherwise make zero sense.  This leads me to Reason 1:


1.  The “Crashing” Phenomenon

Crashing = coming in late at night to sleep on your buddy’s futon because you’ve had a few too many drinks, and then leaving without a trace first thing in the morning.  This is in the realm of college students balancing the interests of 1) not getting a DUI, and 2) making it to their 9am class.  And yet, for Mormons, this remains a legitimate way of taking an adult vacation.  A relic of the Law of Consecration?  A result of our penny-pinching, tithing-paying demographic?  Whatever it is, if you are not staying at a blood relative’s home, it is absurd.  And immature.  And way over-stepping the boundaries of casual friendship, in the selfish interest of saving a few bucks.  People: it is called a hotel, or a hostel, or Airbnb.  Stop taking advantage of your old roommate’s cousin’s sister-in-law.  Grow up.

2.  Over-Emphasis on Appearance

(Although, ironically, a gross under-emphasis on good fashion.) This is especially true for women. I will keep this as simple as I can, since this is a territory I could go all-out ranty about for at least 30 pages.  To be direct, the principle of marriage is essential to our faith.  But there are many fewer men than women in the Church.  Many women feel an unspoken need to compete for the few Mormon men in their line of sight. 

On the other hand, marriage is also essential for men, and they are on the hunt as soon as they get home from their missions at about 21.  So women 21 and under are theirs for the choosing.  Meaning women try to look as young as possible to stay competitive.  That means extra-skinny non-curvy frames, lest you look like you are too old.  This means perfectly powdered faces to cover any imperfections and fine lines, lest you look like you are too old.  This means acting stupid (or, tragically, just being stupid) and na├»ve, lest you look like you are too old. (Don’t believe me?  How about this recent article, entitled “Vain Utah: Cosmetic Surgery more popular than ever in the Beehive State”! http://fox13now.com/2016/02/24/vain-utah-cosmetic-surgery-more-popular-than-ever-in-the-beehive-state/ ) (I partly blame it on that horribly misconstrued “be ye therefore perfect” scripture. )

Because heaven forbid, since you all look identical (loosely curled bleached hair, over-darkened brows, chevron-patterned maxi skirt, big chunky necklace, grossly overdone eye lashes) (its creepy…), I suppose there is a real threat that your one visible blemish could separate you from all of the other eligible bachelorette clones, causing you to miss out on exaltation.  In that case, MORE BRONZER!

3.   Marrying Young

So what do we get?  A Church full of childish, under-educated, goal-less, boney, overly made-up twenty year-olds who are --shockingly-- married.  These immature teen brides then become the inattentive parents that invite this little scene from a cook out we attended this weekend:

Young Mom is piggy-backing on Young Dad, while Young Dad cracks up and tries to shoot a basket with the extra load on his back.  All the other young moms and dads think this is hilarious and join in.  (Hubs and I, meanwhile, look at each other in horror with the unspoken questions, “Is this really happening?  Are we honestly among a group of adults??”  Call us curmudgeons; we strongly prefer that to immature weirdos.)   

Moments later, Young Mom yells out, “Where is my baby?!”  And this is an actual baby.  As in, he can’t even walk yet, and yet he’s been left to his own devices in some random backyard.  Young Mom and Young Dad were too absorbed in trying to reclaim their own lost childhoods to take care of the baby (one among several) that is in their charge.  Don’t worry, the baby is found about 30 yards away, behind some wood beams.  Once they see the baby, they don’t even get him.  They just look over and then keep playing.
????????????????????



And thus we see that all of these cultural flaws contributed to our having a clueless, extra young, married couple crashing at our house and spending hours upon hours doing makeup and making messes in our apartment.  This doesn’t quite explain the poop situation, but copious amounts of bleach fixed that well enough.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Army of Helaman

Today I went to a couple different Latter-day Saint congregations to meet up with some of my Online Seminary students in-person before we begin the new school year.  As I will explain, it was my particular opportunity to attend the Bridgeport Family Ward.  To give some context to where we are, Connecticut is a unique state of extremes--part New York City suburb, part redneck boonies, part racially-divided slums.  Areas of extreme wealth (like a home I went to a party at yesterday that is currently on the market for 15 MILLION dollars!), and areas of extreme poverty and violence-- Connecticut has 4 of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the entire country, all within our small borders, despite these high-crime cities being surrounded by astounding wealth.  One of these “dangerous” cities is Bridgeport, the most populous city in the state, situated in the wealthiest county in the state, yet the most violent place in the state, and among the most violent places in the entire country. (Note: just THIS MORNING Bridgeport made national news when 13 people were shot at a house party)

 

Despite its reputation, Bridgeport CT has a thriving, diverse network of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of whom I am blessed to call my friends.  Today I attended one congregation that is partially comprised of members from this city and it was a beautiful experience.   First, a smiling, humble man from China stood as his upcoming baptism was announced. Second, a beaming family, newly baptized, was blessed before the congregation to receive the Holy Ghost.  The mother, with a sweet African accent, followed by her two daughters, made their way to the front to receive their ordinances and receive the welcome of the Ward.  After the formal Sacrament service, the ward’s young women in attendance, who had recently returned from a reportedly spiritual and fun week at Girls Camp in Vermont, where they got a chance to camp together and see places of significance in Church History, shared their experiences and their testimonies with great power and conviction to the entire congregation.

Then the young women all stood at the front of the chapel and bore an even more powerful testimony through their singing.  They were a beautiful sight!   They were diverse in background- their families come from all over Latin American, all over Africa, some were black American, one is on exchange from Belgium; they were diverse in appearance- all shapes, sizes, hairdos, and fashion styles, including one that I had to compliment afterwards in gorgeous traditional African dress. (Compare that to so many American congregations where all the women look JUST THE SAME- long loosely-curled bleached hair, chevron pattered maxi skirts, big chunky necklaces, every.single.time...!)  And this choir of young women didn’t just look incredible, they sounded simply angelic as they harmonized “We’ll bring the world it's truth.”1
  In my generation, this song of strength and honor was typically reserved for the boys.  At EFY (tacky and syrupy as I hear it is), the kids sing a medley where the boys get to take the lead on this song, as if they are the only ones with the privilege of spreading truth to the world.  But here, in Bridgeport, these young women took that mantle of authority and professed to all that they are as the army of Helaman, that they will be the Lord’s missionaries, that they will bring the world it's truth2.  I was in tears; it was pure prophecy.



In an era when the young women of the church are enlisting as missionaries in greater numbers and at younger ages than ever before3, it was easy to close my eyes and see each of these young women carrying the gospel with great authority near and far, armed with knowledge and faith. 

Not only is the Church becoming more able to support our young sisters to become missionaries around the world, but local sisters across the globe are being enriched in their individual locales and growing up to become strong leaders and teachers in their communities, wherever they are and whomever they are.  What a blessing that this previously untapped force of diverse daughters is finally being recognized as the powerful Army of Helaman is has always been.4

~~~




As a tangential side note, I am also very sensitive to diverse/female non-church role models for my future daughter, so she will have a host of women to look at and say, “If she can do it, so can I.”  The recent Olympic Games and even the politically powerful women in our midst do exactly that. 






Bring the world it's truth!