Friday, November 20, 2015


I have an auto-immune disease that was diagnosed when I was thirteen. Over the course of my life this disorder has caused me all sorts of grief, but as long as I keep up in treating it, it’s not likely to kill me directly. 
As one doctor who helped in diagnosing and treating a recent manifestation of the disease said, “it’s not life-threatening, but it’s certainly life-altering.” 
A little over four years ago I stopped eating gluten in an attempt to get some of the sideways mess of my health a little more under control.
And it has help exactly that much. A little.
But it has helped, and as far as I understand it, my situation will only get worse from here on in unless I stay off gluten… so, yeah. 
It’s not like I have Celiacs, just to be clear. My body reacts to the gluten, but it does it over time with joint pain and rashes and a few other phantom-like symptoms, rather than a violent, instant sick. 
Unfortunately, even when I am eating like an OCD monk I still have eczema and arthritis, so I’m always on a spectrum of discomfort to one degree or another.
I could probably just eat the bit of bread that comes with the sacrament with little to no immediate health bomb, but I have always been in wards with at least two or three Celiacs, so it has been easy to skip the bread and have whatever substitute they are already using for them. I just mention I need to have whatever GF fare they are already bringing to the Celiacs, and the Deacons add me to their list of people to deliver a Rice Chex, from a separate tray.
At least, it seems simple until the sacramental prayer has been said over the bread that has been torn and blessed by a young man holding the office of Priest, along with the tray of GF cereal bits.  Then the twelve and thirteen year old boys come streaming down the aisles. A solemn procession to pass the Sacrament to the waiting congregation. 
That’s when I get a little anxious. If the boy who has the tray is new, or doesn’t know who I am, or simply doesn't see me, should I just take a bit of bread along with the rest of my family as the tray makes it’s silent way down the row I am sitting on? Should I wait and hope the kind of sacrament I should be partaking will make it’s way to me? Do I just trust that it will get figured out?
I’ll be honest, when I am visiting other wards on vacation I just take the bread. It makes me dizzy to even contemplate making a fuss or introducing myself before the start of the meeting to ask that they bless and serve me some gluten free item or other that I provide or see if they have something they are already passing for Celiacs.
I would rather suffer a little illness or increased pain than go there.
So every Sunday I wait, trying to catch the eye of whichever young man is holding two separate trays in my own home ward.
It has been years of increased anxiety every Sunday as I navigate this. No making it up. I get a little weepy. 
I don’t mind being the special snowflake that I am, but I do mind calling attention to myself and requiring special treatment. Especially at a time set aside for sacred reflection it bugs me to feel like my needs make passing the Sacrament logistically difficult.
The past few months have been this; the hyper-vigilance over the passing of the bread, the weepiness… but with a lessening of the anxiety.
Maybe because I have been in this ward for two and a half years now, and I have gotten comfortable with an increased trust in the boys who live here. Maybe it is just the fact that I have been making a conscious effort to increase my spiritual living.
There is now something sacred about scanning the procession for the bearer of my Sacrament, and he, upon catching my eye has a moment of recognition. He was looking for me, among just a few others. I, personally am one of a particular few that he has a special duty to take a sacrament to. Along with the regular bits of torn bread in the tray in his other hand, he is looking for me.

That He might feed me that which will nourish and strengthen me as I renew my covenants. 
The past few weeks this realization has had me bawling like a baby, because I see that it has always been thus. 
The Savior of the World has always been there to serve the congregations of this world, but with a personal Sacrament just for me. He ministers one by one.

By the time the the water is blessed, and I take a cup from the same tray as all those who sit on the row with me, and drink, I ponder on the things I have learned. 

I miss bread, I do, but I am grateful for the tender mercies held out to me by The Good Shepherd. I am grateful for this example of how the Atonement works one individual at a time. It is a good reminder. 

This lesson. It is not a trade, but it is a consolation.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hoo-sus Poo-sus

We've been homeschooling for almost two years, and that means that Henry is the only one of my kids I have watched learn how to read from the start. At least... that's what I thought.

After witnessing the process, I think I can't really say I "taught" him how to read. At best, I escorted him through the experience. Language is such a funny thing... the speaking, and the reading, and the writing... it is far more organic than I had realized.

I suspect that none of the girls' teachers actually "taught" them to read any more that I taught Hen.

One of the interesting things is the part where the reading level of the brains of the kid outstrips the words they actually know. That happened to Henry the other day.

We were on our way to the Land with our little Yorkie dog, Alice. She'd just gotten a haircut the day before and was shivering a little. Henry was sitting behind me in the van, trying to warm her up, and I overheard him say, 

"I'm gonna warm you up, Alice!" He waved his hands around and pronounced  "Hoo-sus Poo-sus! You're WARM!"

"Hoo-sus Poo-sus?" I asked. The words sounded odd, but right at the edge of my understanding, the way that he'd said them.

"Yeah! Hoo-sus Poo-sus! Abracadabra!"

"Where did you read that?" I was laughing by now.

"Calvin and Hobbs, he says "hoo-sus poo-sus and does magic!"


It's the hazards of not enough Bugs Bunny in the lives of children.

I admit, I've been saying it as a pretend  swear word ever since.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


The words
of your life
have been written,
but those words
never touched
on my grief.
That sorrow
I wear in my back
like a knife.
A burden
I cannot shift.
It twists
between my wings
on its course
to my heart.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Brandon's Eulogy

Good Morning. I was asked to speak today by Brandon’s mother and father, they both seemed to be pretty sure that I am the person for the job. But I am no Andrew Wiggins. Not even a standard issue Speaker for the Dead, I’m just his Aunt Bonnie.

I really wish I was a Speaker for the Dead. I wish that I could stand up here and explain the life of Brandon Christopher Butler in a way that would help you understand him, or help you heal or even just explain how we got here today.

But I can’t. Probably because this isn’t fiction. His life wasn’t neat and tidy, and the mysteries of Brandon’ life eluded not just those that loved him, but they baffled him as well. To talk about Brandon, I need to talk about the opposites and contradictions that he was made of. While I guess that most of us humans are made up of these contradictions… it has to be said that Brandons were right there in your face. He wasn’t able to hide much. To his credit and as a testament to his humility he rarely tried to hide even the harder stuff much.

He had natural gifts and trials both. Brandon was handsome man with a strong, well made physique. He was tall and broad shouldered. He suffered hyperhydrosis, the excessive sweating of hands and feet that made him feel freakish. He was always aware of it, and it bothered him.

He was a talented swimmer and athlete, but he was uninterested in the culture of competition, and as a teen, when swimming no longer was fun he was done. He was a healthy guy who loved the outdoors. Camping, hiking, long boarding, mountain biking. He was also the guy who would turn around and use hard drugs.

Of his drug use he said the following in a letter to his parents; 
“I could touch heaven, and I can delve in to hell, but I cannot return with a piece of it. I could only ever return with less and less of myself.”

He was a happy go lucky guy, well…except for when he wasn’t. From a very young age he has suffered through bouts of depression, making it difficult to keep up with his life. Of his depression he said this:

“But a feeling of languor has crept into my bones. And it is but a shadow of the demon of depression and indifference that I now sense I must face soon. I remember thinking then, marveling at how it is I ever came to be so weak. I, whose passion and life was like a great fire, consuming and lighting the way, now my soul is but a small flame on the wick, sputtering, flickering in the violent winds my life has aroused. I am proud of my many aspects but these past couple months, hell past couple years I just can’t summon up the will to follow through. It is all I can do to get by, my life is shrouded in fear.”

Brandon had all the makings of a really cool guy, He was blessed with humor and charisma and was confident in his ability to forge his own paths. All of that cool, and hIs sister will tell you that he was still a dork. He was a complete nerd-pants. He was the guy who regaled the neighbors with loud and elaborate “poop scooping raps” as he cleaned up after the family dog in the back yard. The guy who would make up and belt at the top of his voice, operatic narration of whatever he was doing at the time. He was the guy who would skip through a parking lot on the way to Walmart, with great galumphing skips, wearing shorts in a snowstorm, all by himself and he wouldn’t care if you saw. And I’m betting that’s part of why you loved him. If you are here, there is a very good chance that you are a part of that tribe as well, just sayin’. You know who you are.

Brandon was a friendly guy. He would look you in the eye and smile his infectious smile. Sometimes he could come off as cocky or even intimidating in his confidence and his barrage of ideas and questions when you first met him, but the fact was, he loved people and ideas and he wanted to understand others and really connect with them. So as briefly off putting as he could be at first meeting he really just loved people and that shone through. His lack of guile won him friends time after time.

He had no use for authority, and he really hated it when Authority, with a capital “A,” “Authority,” was used to control him, or even try to control him. But he had principles that he lived by. Sometimes he lived by them in a way that caused him problems for no good reason.

Like the time when in the 11th grade he interviewed for a job at a pizza restaurant and the interviewer asked him if he saw a co-worker stealing from the company if he would say something. He told them that he probably wouldn’t.
Then, the interviewer asked if he, Brandon, would ever steal from the company and Brandon told them that he might. If they were terrorists. Then he would steal their guns.
I guess they probably had to ask all the questions because the person doing the interview continued on, like there was ANY possibility of Brandon getting hired at that point! That there was a period of training that lasted 4-6 weeks, and would Brandon have any problem with that? Brandon answers with appalling honesty, that he really intended to head off to Snow college in two months, so yeah, he could probably fit the training in.

Brandon had a strong intellect, he loved logic, science and words. He had a huge vocabulary and had an easy way with speaking and writing. His conversation would range seamlessly between philosophy, quantum particles, world religions and ancient civilization. He loved ideas and he understood complex concepts and histories and could hold forth with the best conversationalists, but he also struggled with ADD, which scattered his thoughts and energies, but it did make for some fascinating conversation. Unless he was high, then he’d still talk, it just wasn’t nearly as much fun to listen to.

He was amazingly intelligent… and yet, he could be frustrating to deal with in an academic situation. That might have had something to do with his “Authority” thing. Or possibly his “ADD” thing or sometimes the “depression” thing would shut him down mid-semester, but even when he would GO to the class and DO the work. He just couldn’t seem to make it back to the teacher WITH the homework. Take the test? Please! He did it and he learned it, why would he have to prove it now? It even made him kinda mad that people expected him to toe that sort of a line.

Show up to class with a pencil and paper?!? Who do you think he is? Back to the authority thing!

He never stole from his family or friends. He would suffer through detoxing and withdrawals and intense personal discomfort rather than steal. He had a couple of times been accused of stealing from a friend or doing them dirty, and it just devastated him that others would think him capable of it. He treated women with respect and kindness and he was a wonderful big brother.

Oh. How that man loved Breanne and Ethan. He loved his friends and family and he really never left it up to chance whether you knew that. You could tell by his hugs, by his words and many other tendernesses. And I think that’s all I am going to be able to say about that.

In conclusion, Brandon has not always believed in life after death, but after losing a good friend in his early twenties he revisited his beliefs. He sought a spiritual experience, something beyond mere logic, something to hold onto. He writes of his experiences, and this is how I’d like to close my remarks to you, in Brandon’s own words,

“As I lay in bed that night, and this has been the goal of my writing, to reach this night, I was sure we are not alone in death. Thinking of you, Father, of you Mother. Though your days may eventually reach an end here, I know you will be with me, giving some logic to the ever present feeling I have always had that I am being watched. I believe you will get to see everything that I have done, everywhere I have been! Though your mortal temperaments may not now approve, I know your eternal perspective will see me true, and have always been very proud of me. All my wandering days. I am so incredibly glad that all lost to time is not truly lost! I cannot begin to express the relief that has gripped me. It comes in a great rush of euphoria!… I know it will be hard to keep my rapacious mind at bay, but I will try to always believe, that we are forever. Amen.”

Monday, July 06, 2015


I'd always thought 

I handled stress well.  

Had a picture of myself

in my head 

of a woman who 

could walk through fire… 

till I took a stroll once or twice 

in the furnace.

Abednigo, I am not.


I am well fired clay.

Strong but brittle.

Not scorched, 

but damaged 

in that I can

never be made into

something other 

than the form I was

when I entered the kiln.


I’d envisioned getting older 
as a toughening process.
I believed that when I was matured, 
when my grey hairs had arrived,
my heart would be mighty.
That each beat and each thud
would be audible to those
who claimed a bit of my love.
Instead I find I'm brittle and worn through, 
that those things which did not kill me
most assuredly did NOT make me stronger.
I suspect I 'm doing it wrong.

That Hole

It feels like you wish 
that I was different,
more perfectly suited 
to help you feel better. 
I don't think the person 
you wish I was 
exists anywhere. 
The hole you are trying 
to make me fit in 
is not 
a person shaped hole.