Leaving Isn't Easy

About a year ago, I posted about why I left the Mormon church. In the past year since that blog post, I have experienced a vast array of emotions surrounding the church, ranging from all out rage and hatred to simple indifference. I often find myself reflecting on my life up to the point I realized everything was a lie, and wonder how things would have been different. Would I have gotten married so early? Would I have had a career before children? Would I have experienced more life? Don't get me wrong - I believe the universe had a hand in everything my life has been up to this point - I believe I'm where I'm meant to be, with the people I'm meant to be with.
But I do wonder. I wonder why it took me so long to leave - why it took me so long to question things. I wonder at the type of people who stay in the church. I wonder why. I wonder, If they knew what I knew... would they stay? I wonder how I didn't see the gaslighting, the clear "us versus them" separation mentality, the indoctrination, and the manipulation.  I wonder how I ever thought true happiness could be found in fear. Because fear is what fuels so many members' faith. What kind of religion threatens eternal separation from your family if you leave? How did I ever think that was okay? What kind of religion encourages you to practice conditional love? I never realized how conditional so many people's love for others is until I left the church and saw it firsthand. "I love you, but only if you live the way I live. Only if you believe what I believe." As a member, I constantly heard the phrase, "Be in the world, but not of the world." Boom. Us versus them. We are superior - we have something no one else has. Stay with us, stay in the boat, don't stray or you'll be separated from your family for eternity, doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith, research isn't the answer, etc. etc. As humans, we all crave community - we all crave the feeling of belonging and of love. As members of the church, we know that if we leave, we lose our community, our friends, and many times the love of our family members, and that fear drives our faith. 

Leaving the church is hard. It's lonely. It's ostracizing, especially if you are in a primarily Mormon community. I feel so much love and empathy for anyone who has ever undergone a faith crisis and subsequently left the church in one of those communities. Their whole lives are turned upside-down, and many times they are left alone, with no friends or community to speak of. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people can turn their backs on a person simply because they chose to forge their own path. Parents who stop speaking to their children, friends who are suddenly nowhere to be found, and neighbors who avoid eye contact. No, leaving the church isn't easy, because if it was... I have the feeling a lot more people would leave and never look back.

We Should Talk about It - LDS Temple Ceremony Changes

Whenever I post about issues within the Mormon Church, it is inevitable that someone asks, "Why do you care so much?" I'm sure that, after this post, I will get that question again, so let me preemptively answer it for you. I still care because this organization caused me pain - a LOT of unnecessary pain. Because of this organization, I spent years of my life thinking I was not good enough, thinking there was something wrong with me, and trapped in cycles of shame and depression.

I am STILL dealing with the repercussions of leaving the church - coming to terms with the fact that the church participates in gaslighting, manipulation, and hardcore indoctrination. The emotional and mental damage done to me by the church is there, and it's real. So if you are one who wonders why I care so much, that's why. Because I can't ignore something that has caused me so much pain.
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Also... I'm going to dive deep into something that some consider "sacred," but I feel it necessary to address, since church leaders have specifically told their members NOT to talk about this. Many people wonder what happens in Mormon temples, and I will tell you that, from the first time I set foot in a Mormon temple, I was so, so uncomfortable. Before you can get married in the temple, you must go through the endowment ceremony. In that ceremony, as a woman, I had to veil my face. While my husband covenanted with God, I had to covenant to follow my husband. I could not pass through the symbolic veil without my husband bringing me through. It was clear to me that, in the Mormon church, I, as a female, was inferior. And that sucked. To this day, I regret my Mormon wedding, and that's a day I can never get back. I am not alone in these feelings - I know countless other women who were hurt by the wording of the endowment ceremony, and the blatant misogyny in the temple ceremonies.

Today, the endowment ceremony was changed. Today, I am angry. I am angry because, instead of recognizing and acknowledging the pain that was caused, the leaders of the Mormon church are telling their members not to talk about changes. Instead of apologizing for the sexism that has been so prevalent in the LDS church since its founding, they are sweeping it under the rug. And just like the blood oath that was removed from the temple ceremonies in 1990 (look it up), the fact that women used to veil their faces will be forgotten by members, and my hurt won't matter anymore.

The LDS church has a problem. They constantly marginalize and discriminate against groups of people, and then when they realize that it's affecting their membership numbers, a prophet suddenly has some big revelation that changes their discriminatory policies. Do they ever apologize for their hurtful doctrine that was so easily changed? No (see the LDS policy on race and the priesthood - still waiting on an apology for that one). So instead of remaining silent about these changes, I'm going to speak out. The fact that doctrine can so easily be changed and no one will talk about it is not okay. The fact that thousands of women now feel like their pain is not valid is not okay. Instead of being silent, we need to talk about these things.

Owning My Truth: Why I Left the Mormon Church

Recently I decided I wanted to learn a little more about makeup, so I joined a course by Michelle Money - The Money Method. I didn't realize that the course was about more than just makeup, but it is. A huge part of the course is about learning more about who you are and becoming more confident in that person. I'll talk more about the course in another post, but a section of the course was called "Own Your Truth" and was ultimately what prompted me to finally sit down and write this post (which, truthfully, has been a long time coming).

First, I want to make it very clear that I am going to be completely honest with my feelings in this post, and not all of those feelings are going to be rainbows and butterflies. This post is going to be raw, real, completely authentic, and, yes, probably long. My journey out of the church was 100% my own, not prompted or encouraged by anyone else. It was, by far, the most difficult thing I have ever done. I think a lot of people believe that those who leave the church are doing it because they want to sin, have fun, or take the "easy" way out. They think that we are lost, troubled souls who need saving. In fact, none of that is true - at least not in my case. If you're looking for the short version of why I left, here it is.

TL;DR: I don't believe the Mormon church is the church of God. I don't believe that there are prophets on the earth today, and I believe that, while it does a lot of good for a lot of people, it was doing more harm than good in MY life. I set out to find true happiness and joy, and it turns out that, for me, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was not the answer. 

If, however, you are feeling a little nosy and want to know all the things, go ahead and read on.
Let's start at the beginning, for it is a very good place to start. I was raised LDS (short for Latter-Day Saint, AKA Mormon). Growing up, my family went to church for three hours every week. I attended primary, I was baptized into the church at age eight, and I learned all about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I was taught to serve my fellow man, to love my neighbors, and to be a good, moral person. The church provided me with an avenue to discover my talent in music, my leadership abilities, and my talent for teaching and public speaking. In addition to all of that, without the church, I never would have met my amazing husband and I wouldn't have my kids. The church did provide me with a lot of good - there is no doubt there.

In addition to the things listed above, though, I was taught that our church was the only true church, that any marriage not in the temple wasn't an "eternal" marriage and that people married outside the temple would be separated from their spouse and family at death, which is really incredibly sad. I was taught that coffee and tea were bad, that sex was not something to be discussed or even thought about until you were married, that people who had piercings and tattoos had committed a grave sin, and that modest clothing was super important, because, well, if a girl didn't dress modestly, then those darn boys would be tempted to sin. I was taught that a woman's greatest calling in life was motherhood, and that that's what every woman should aspire to - to an eternal marriage in which the woman stays home and raises the children. There are a lot of other things I was taught, which, looking back, never really quite sat right with me, but ultimately, it was the things I was not taught that made my shelf crumble (my "shelf" is where I stored all those somewhat annoying things that I didn't necessarily like or agree with, but weren't big enough issues for me to question my belief in the church's teachings), so let's start there. Before I delve into my main issues, I want to point out that, growing up in the church, it was made very clear that anything that portrayed the church in a less than perfect light was considered "anti-mormon" material - even if it was a scholarly article full of reliable sources. Because of that mindset, ALL of my primary research took place on LDS.org, and many of my issues stemmed from the historical essays that the church has recently provided to the public.

Let's talk about polygamy, because goodness knows that it was kind of a taboo subject when I was growing up. I was taught that polygamy occurred because there were widowed women who could not provide for themselves financially, and these selfless male members of the church were marrying these women purely to care for their financial and emotional well-being. Well, imagine my shock and surprise when I learned that good old Joseph Smith was not only marrying multiple women without Emma knowing, but he was marrying women WHO WERE STILL MARRIED TO OTHER MEN and girls as young as 14. I could go on and on about my disgust and issues with polygamy, but I'll spare you the details and encourage you to read the LDS.org essays on polygamy, then head over to mormonthink.com if you'd like to learn more. Basically what I learned from this essay was that I no longer believed Joseph Smith to be a godly man, let alone a prophet.

My research on polygamy led me down a sort of rabbit hole, and I discovered much more of the church's unsavory history. I cried, I prayed, I read everything I could, and I ultimately reached the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a good man. I felt sick to think that I was part of a church who has hymns like "Praise to the Man." That was not a man to whom I could ever shout praises.

I pleaded with the Lord to help me find any reason to stay. I thought to myself, "Maybe I'll stay for the kids - surely the church could do good things for them?" I went to church the next week, and as I was preparing for my calling as primary chorister, I was flipping through the primary songbook and came across the song "I Love to See the Temple." I sat there for a second and realized that I had my answer -I needed to leave the church. I hate the temple. I hate it. I remember the first time I went into the temple, I was so excited. I thought to myself, "This is it - THIS is where I have waited my whole life to be." But as I went through the endowment ceremony, I felt anything but peace. I listened to the covenants and felt uneasy. I went to the temple a few more times, thinking that things would surely get better the more I went. In fact, the opposite was true. Every time I went to the temple, it was more uncomfortable than the last. I later realized after reading through the scripts that, as a woman, I wasn't covenanting with my Father at all, as the song said. In the LDS church, women can't get to the celestial kingdom unless they have a man to get them there. There are many other things about the temple ceremonies that made me uncomfortable, but because they are sacred to members of the LDS faith, I will not discuss them here.

After that day, when it dawned on me that I needed to leave the church, I didn't just let it go. I wanted so badly to find something that could justify a decision to stay. Why? If I didn't believe any of it anymore, why in the world would I want to stay? Because staying in the church is easier than leaving. When you leave the LDS church, you become a project and an object of discussion. Your name is brought up in church leadership meetings, and suddenly people who have never cared to talk to you pop up out of the woodwork because they are concerned about your eternal salvation. I've seen parents and families disown and shun their children. I've seen neighbors and friends talk behind "apostates'" backs. I've seen firsthand the judgment and speculation that happen when people leave the church. I've seen the disappointment, the subtle attempts to bring people back, and the outright disrespect that people have for those who have decided to leave. So, yeah... if I could have found any reason to stay, even one, I think I would have. Because sometimes it's easier to just not rock the boat.

When I realized there was nothing that could keep me in the church, I decided to stop wearing my garments, and secretly hoped that I'd have some sort of crazy prompting to put them back on and go back to church. That didn't happen, though - what did happen is that a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. As I got rid of them, I realized that I was living authentically for the first time in many, many years. I was unapologetically me. I felt an immense amount of peace with my decision to leave the church in that moment.

Over the next several months, I underwent the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance for those of you who need the refresher), spending a large amount of time going back and forth between anger and acceptance. Now, about nine months later, I feel that I'm in the "acceptance" stage about 95% of the time. There are certain things that trigger me (mostly topics regarding sexuality/motherhood/LGBTQ), but for the most part, I can think about the church without being consumed by anger and grief.

I want it to be known that I have never felt so truly happy, at peace with myself, and loved as I do at this time in my life. I am able to live authentically and be completely true to who I am as a person. This has led me to some of the most beautiful, honest, and genuine relationships I have ever had. I don't beat myself up over little things, I don't have a constant sense of shame or guilt hanging over me, and I am a better person for it. I find that, since leaving the church, I am much more open-minded, I am more empathetic, I am less judgmental, and I am ultimately more understanding of other people. I know now that truth is not universal, and neither are beliefs. Truth is not a one size fits all type of thing, and neither is joy. What brings one person joy will not bring everyone joy, and that is also true of religion.

You may be wondering what I do believe if I no longer believe the teachings of the LDS church. The truth is... I don't know. I believe in kindness, positive thinking and positive energy, respect, and love. I believe in authenticity, friendship, and honesty. I believe that religion and beliefs don't define a person, but actions do. <3 

How to Keep Store-Bought Flowers Alive

Hey guys!

The other day I posted a photo of my Costco flower bouquet that I bought almost two weeks ago on my Instagram and I had a few people ask me how I keep my store-bought flowers alive and healthy for 12-16 days. I'm no pro, but I can share what I do know! Hopefully it helps you, too, because there is just something so refreshing about having fresh flowers in the home! I will tell you that I owe almost all of my knowledge to my friend Laura - she is the one that gave me almost all of these pointers!

So, without further ado, here is how to keep your store-bought flowers fresh. 

1. Choose a vase/mason jar/container for your flowers. Fill it up with approx. 1- 1.5 inches of room-temperature water.

2. Add about 1/4 of the packet of flower food that came with your flowers to the water and swirl it around until it dissolves. DO NOT dump the entire packet of flower food into the water! That's a total waste. The ratio for the plant food is actually one packet to one liter of water, so a little bit goes a long way!
3. Take a sharp pair of scissors and trim about 1/4 inch from the bottom of your flowers. Make sure you trim at a diagonal. 

4. Arrange your flowers and enjoy! 

Things to note: 
You will notice that the flowers drink up the water fairly quickly. You should be doing the above 4 steps every 3-4 days, or as you notice the water is almost gone.

If you notice the water is getting low and forget to change it, it's okay! Your flowers will start to droop, but they can usually  be saved! Just do the above steps as soon as possible.

Every flower has a different "life-span." I've noticed that peonies and roses are exceptionally difficult to keep alive past 8-10 days. This method doesn't guarantee that every flower will stay alive for 2-3 weeks, but it does make your flowers last longer than they would otherwise.

Bay Area Hikes | Mori Point

Hey all!

I think it is pretty common knowledge at this point that I LOVE hiking, and my kids have grown to love it, as well. Elsie asks to go on a hike at least three times per week, and I have loved finding easy hikes in the bay area.

One of my favorite places to take the kids hiking is Mori Point in Pacifica. It's a family friendly hike, which is great for the kids and dog. 
The hike starts near Highway 1 and takes you to a cliff peak that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. If you hike Mori Point in July, you might be lucky enough to see blue whales as they are migrating. The total trail length if you start at the trailhead by the highway and do the complete loop is a little over 4 miles. Easy enough, but if you have kids, you may want to start at the path located at Mori Point Rd. and Bradford way. If you walk the path to the beach, then take the stairs on the left, you can still get a great view of the ocean, but only clock a distance of about 2.5 miles round trip.

Anyway, here are some photos of the area. It really is a gorgeous kid-friendly hike in the bay area. 

Real Product Reviews | Rodan and Fields Lash Boost

Hey there, people! Long time, no talk.

As most of you know, I love to support other women who are doing the MLM thing, because I know that it's not a get rich quick thing. It takes a lot of time and work, and I will support that. Plus, let's be real - I like to know if that crap actually works.

Enter Rodan and Fields. I have about a billion people on my Facebook friends list who sell Rodan and Fields, and I see the before and after pictures ALL the FREAKIN' TIME. I've always wondered about it, and finally decided to try it. I'm going to give some backstory, so if you're not interested in that part and just want the completely unbiased review of Rodan and Fields Lash Boost (I paid for my lash boost serum with my own money, I am not receiving any compensation for doing this review, and I am 100% honest in this review), feel free to scroll down to the divider line. 

Backstory: In August of 2016, I decided to invest in lash extensions. I say invest because that sh** is not cheap. I think after all was said and done, I spent $120ish on a full set that was supposed to last 2-3 weeks. I loved having extensions.... until they started falling out. In the sense of full disclosure, I am part of the problem. When the extensions started falling off my lashes and into my eyeballs, I rubbed, picked, and just couldn't leave my eyes alone. This caused my real lashes to fall off right along with the extensions. I WAS BALD - I HAD NO EYELASHES LEFT!!! 

I started wearing falsies while my lashes grew back, and the habit stuck. I wore false eyelashes every. damn. day. for eight months. I started seeing stuff about R+F Lash Boost going around Facebook, but knew how much the skincare regimens were, so I didn't even think about trying it. Eventually it got to the point where I was considering extensions again ($$$$$), but knew that they'd ruin my stubby little eyelashes, so I decided to reach out to a consultant. And... here we are.


 Rodan and Fields Lash Boost is simple to apply. It's pretty fool-proof, really. Just swipe it on your lash line like eyeliner.
- A small amount of the product goes a long way.
- The product works on eyebrows as well as eyelashes.
- The results. I'll post a picture of my 8 week results (sorry for the crap-tastic quality). I think they speak for themselves - worth every penny.
- The shipping is fast - in an Amazon Prime world, I think fast shipping from an MLM company is an incredibly desirable thing.
- The return policy. If I had not gotten the results that I wanted, Rodan and Fields has a great return policy. The return policy is actually the reason I decided to invest in this product. Speaking of investments... let's talk about the cons, okay? 

- Price. Holy friggin' price tag. We are talking $150 (PLUS tax and shipping) for 5 mL of product. That's $30 per mL. Now, I've already said that this is worth every penny, and I do believe that, but OUCH! The price makes my cheapskate heart hurt.
- You have to continue using the product to maintain your results. Which means spending $150 on your lashes every 3-4 months.

If you have short, stubby, thin lashes that need help, I highly recommend Rodan + Fields Lash Boost Serum. It really does work, and it works well. I started seeing results after just four weeks! And now, at 8 weeks, I feel like my lashes have doubled in length and increased in volume, also. So... go ahead and go get some!

Learning to Hand Letter

So... I've been pretty MIA, and honestly, I'm okay with that. It will happen occasionally - I'll have dry spells, and then I'll have weeks where I post almost daily. Anyway, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you have probably noticed that I am learning hand lettering. I am seriously addicted - it is so much fun!

So. I'm obviously a beginner (just started learning last week, hello!), but here are the resources that I have used and that I like.

1. Hand Lettering 101 This book is a great resource for the super beginner (like myself). It is very basic. Like super basic. It touches on faux calligraphy and teaches you a basic, lower case alphabet. It also has some projects and shows you options for a fun sans serif printed alphabet. Yes, I know it is sold out - order it anyway and it will ship as soon as it's available.

2. Tombow Brush Pens Writing with brush pens has a bit of a learning curve, but these were recommended by some pros, and the more I use them, the more I love them.

3. Creative Lettering and Beyond This book is so much more intensive than Hand Lettering 101, and I recommend it as a second book. This book talks about chalk lettering, calligraphy, faux calligraphy, and watercolor, and it shows multiple alphabets, flourishes, embellishments, and gives fun DIY project ideas. I am loving it!

4. Watercolors and brushes If you just want to hand letter, you don't really need watercolors and brushes, but I love the painted look, so I went ahead and got these. If you do watercolor, keep in mind that you'll probably want some good watercolor paper. I've been using cardstock on some of my practice sheets, and the watercolors smudge.

5. A good eraser I block and draft my pieces in pencil, and then trace over with pen or paint for the final project. Once the project is dry, I erase the pencil marks.

I'm sure as I learn more, I will have more recommendations, but this is what I've used so far as a beginner!