Mormon in a Small Town

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, but I’m just now getting to it. I suppose I can blame real life, which is just now settling into some sort of routine. But anyway on with the post.

While I was attending BYU-Idaho my parents (dad and step-mom) moved to Maine. My new home is in an extremely little town about 45 mins from Canada. When it came close to graduation, and I knew I’d be moving home for a few weeks before taking off on the great post-grad journey of life, I logged onto my LDS account to search for the closest meetinghouse. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the closest one was nearly two hours away and in Canada! I quickly tried to see if there were ANY meetinghouses in Maine. The closest one to me, in my state (and in the US), was four hours away!

I had no idea how I was going to get to church. I’m the only member in my family, so I’d have to borrow the car, but we only have one. I’d have to get a passport or, at the very least, a passport card. Not to mention the cost of gas for getting to and from church. It seemed an impossible feat. My parents would have no problem lending me the car for church if it was just down the road, and I knew my dad would be willing to drop me off if I couldn’t have the car for three hours.

So then my other option was to just not go. To skip church. But then I began to think about how if I was actually living at home there’d have to be some sort of alternative option. There are church members everywhere! Surely, not everyone hopped in the car and trotted off to Canada. There had to be another option even if there was no meetinghouse. But what? I didn’t even know where to begin looking. How did I find other members near me in Maine?

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I ended up only being home for one Sunday and that was the day my little brother was to report for bootcamp, so I went with my family to drop him off in Portland. Which was a very long drive, but worth it for my brother. So in my case, problem solved. Time to move on because I was moving to the booming city of New York. There were bound to be lots of nearby meetinghouses and wards for me to choose from. Wrong. I happened to have the misfortune of living just outside the city. It was easier for me to take a train into Manhattan, board the subway, and then walk the few blocks to the meetinghouse than finding one outside of the city that would require a car. It was a 15 minute walk to the train station, the train ride to Grand Central was about a half hour, then another 20 minutes on the subway, if I managed to get on a car right away, and then a 10 minute walk to the building. But that was still easier than traveling to Canada, but the total cost for a round trip to church in New York was around $20.

I then had to pick and choose when I went to church because I didn’t have enough money to go every Sunday. But once again plans changed and I hopped on a bus to West Virginia to stay with my grandmother. I’d have access to a vehicle and a meetinghouse. Going to church would be easy. Or, well, easier. It’s still a bit of a drive and if I was actually going to go to the YSA ward I’d have to go about two hours away. But still, this is easier than Canada, or the $20 a Sunday in New York.

But I still wonder about us Mormons in small towns. About those of us that just cannot feasibly make it to church because it’s several hours away or in another country. And I know it’s not even that difficult for us in America. How are we supposed to gain members if they can’t even attend church meetings? How is anyone meant to keep active when you don’t even know if there are any other members living near you? Because there’s apparently not enough to have a meetinghouse. Do they meet in homes? Do they still partake of the sacrament? Is there a hand shake or a signal I don’t know about so I can spot other members in small towns? There’s got to be more of us out there, living in tiny towns. So what do we do?

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Treasured Memories: Grandparents

I’m spending the next four months with my grandma before I head off to Florida and the great adventure that awaits me at Disney. Until then I’m taking this time to really appreciate the time I have with her. I was fortunate enough to always be close to my grandparents. When I hear that someone isn’t close to their grandparents it’s hard for me to understand. I get the concept in an abstract way, but mine were so fundamental in shaping me into who I am today I couldn’t imagine not having that in my life.

I’ll explain the names and heritage before continuing on so no one gets confused. My dad’s mother is my granny, and her husband was my grandaddy, but I was never able to meet him as he died long before I was born when my dad was still a teenager. My mother’s parents are my grandma and pawpaw. I’m the oldest, so I was given the grand privilege of doling out names to all of the grandparents. You’re welcome.

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I was raised by my granny. Even my parents acknowledge this. We lived right down the road from her when I was born.Even when we moved to North Carolina (only three hours away) she would visit often and I would scream and cry unless I got to go home with her. I won almost every time. She fed me my first solid food and taught me to walk on the strip of grass in the front yard next to her garden. She taught me to write. She put a pen in my hand and sat me at the kitchen table and taught me how to describe the sun streaming through the trees in the woods behind our house. She read all of my stories, the first one I wrote when I was seven. It’s still tucked away in a folder she kept of everything I ever did. My granny was my world. She died when I was fifteen. The news literally brought me to my knees because for the first time in my life I wasn’t living with her. Many different circumstances had caused me to move to Florida and live with my aunt and uncle. I was devastated. I even had to be hospitalized for part of my junior year due to depression. Now, that I’m older I realize how young fifteen is to loose someone, especially someone that was a parent. I think about all the things I wish I’d asked her, all the stories I’ll never hear, and recipes I can’t learn.

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While I spent most of the year with my granny all of my summers were spent in West Virginia with my grandma and pawpaw. Things weren’t always perfect, but they’re tinted gold with age now. I learned to swim and fish and shoot on the seven acres they own. I ran free and camped out under the stars. I caught fireflies and made campfires. I learned a million things. The same week my granny died my pawpaw had major surgery. He had been diagnosed with mouth cancer and the surgery would remove his lower jaw and tongue. It was terrifying. The strong, powerful, invincible man I’d always known would now be eating through a tube in his stomach. When he spoke he was barely understandable. I was still too young to really grasp how precious the next years with him would be.

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I was almost 22 when the cancer returned and he decided not to fight it. During the week break I had between semesters at college I was able to fly home and say goodbye. I laid beside him on the bed as the machines beeped and whirred around us. The respirator almost drowning out the sound of my voice as I told him all of my plans. The love of my life left me the week my pawpaw died because “I was too sad.” I’m just now getting over the anger I felt towards him for making a time I should’ve had to grieve over the death of my beloved pawpaw about him and his needs.

I’m writing about all of this because I know how precious this time is with my grandma. Every year I get older she does too. And being here now it’s more apparent than ever. She’s more forgetful, can’t hear very well, walks slower than I’m used to, and everything else that comes with age. She’s by no means feeble. She rides her bike and does her stretches every morning. She runs a house and seven acres all on her own. But there’s moments when I’m reminded she won’t be here forever. I’m trying to spend this time wisely. Ask the questions I want to ask, tell her all the things I want and need to tell her.

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So we make applesauce and cookies. We find no recipes to try together. We clean out the basement, which I’m pretty sure we’ve been cleaning out my entire life. We read books and learn new things together. We go to the movies. We talk about pawpaw. I want to do everything I can to be with my grandma right now because I’ve learned and I know that she won’t always be here.

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The Time is Now

There was a time I wrote every day. Words scrawled across palms and napkins and receipts. Pages of journals have been filled with my ramblings and stories. It’s always been easier for me to find the words on paper. There’s a misconception that writers are articulate. Just because I am verbose in writing does not mean I am the same when it comes to speech. Sometimes I feel that talking ruins words. Things can be twisted beyond recognition.

I’ve never really tried maintaining a regular blog. I have all sorts of other social media though. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. Why not a blog? 

This would be a great time to start one, I thought to myself. I’m at a turning point in my life, or a beginning, maybe a little of both. I’ve graduated college and moved away from my parents. I’m about to begin a career with the Walt Disney Company in the new year. Everything around me is changing, mostly for the better. And it’s not just happening to me. My brothers are both getting their lives in order and living their dreams. One on the high seas as part of the Walt Disney family and the other in Georgia in his almost third month of boot camp. We’re all a little older, a little wiser. Our lives are beginning to take off. This is a great time. Being a twenty-something is adventurous, and yes, quite a bit scary. 

So now is a perfect time to start a blog and chronicle this amazing journey I’m on. All the ups and downs. All the moments I miss my brothers. All the days leading up to my next big adventure. It’s not all pixie dust and pretty dresses. It’s a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck and a whole lot of faith. So why not start now?

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