This is the sixth and final installment in a series of blog posts reviewing 2014. Previous entries discussed books, food, movies, music, and television.
2015 is well under way and I’ve yet to write a darn thing about it. That means either life is busy and productive, or I’ve spent the last six weeks in a depressive, near-comatose state. I’ll leave you in suspense as to which is correct. For now, it’s time to talk about the bigger highlights of 2014.
Early in 2014, Edison stopped attending Florida Virtual School and enrolled in an honest-to-goodness brick-and-mortar school. It would be incorrect to say he went from being homeschooled to attending public school. Virtual school is not the same thing as homeschooling, and virtual school is considered public school. Still, if the technically erroneous description makes it easier for you to wrap your mind around what happened, have at it. Eddie’s first day of brick-and-mortar school was scheduled for January 29th, but it ended up getting delayed one full day because of snow! In Tallahassee! An extreme rarity, just like my son. How fitting. Melanie and I weren’t sure what to expect of Edison’s first foray into brick-and-mortar school, but he adapted like it was nothing. In fact, he was immensely happier, at least for the first little while. Having Eddie attend school has been a very positive change in our lives, for reasons that will become clearer later in this blog post.
Another big event was my applying for a job at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. I didn’t get the job, so maybe it seems pointless to mention it. However, it was my first (and thus far only) job interview for a college-level teaching position. I got a Skype interview, which suggests my curriculum vitae was at least moderately appealing. Thinking about living in Southern Utah got me rather excited, and for a while I couldn’t imagine not getting the job. I really had my hopes up for it. I felt very confident about my interview before it actually happened. But, once the interview actually started … well, let’s just say I could feel the hope bleeding out of me as the panel of interviewers watched me babble into near incoherency. I ended the Skype call knowing my prospects of working at DSU were now a thing of the past. I thought that maybe, if I got incredibly lucky, they wouldn’t throw me completely out, because of my C.V. I thought maybe just maybe, if they were merciful enough, I’d have another shot at an interview of some kind. Alas, it didn’t happen. Am I sad? I’m really not, for reasons that will become clearer later in this blog post.
Obviously, the biggest change in my life during 2014 was moving back to Utah. It was a tough decision, but the only plausible decision I could make. I couldn’t continue the graduate student lifestyle in the way I had been. And so, even though my dissertation remains incomplete to this day, I am now back in my home state. Life in Utah hasn’t been quite as I expected, but I’m not sad about that. Sure, when I think about Tallahassee and the independence we felt, the great friends we had, the close-knit nature of our family during that time … well, I can’t help but wax a little nostalgic and miss it. But I was quite fearful that I would hate Utah more than I have, and that I would subsequently feel much more regretful than I do. Overall, moving back to Utah has proven a very good decision that yet holds a great deal of promise—for reasons that will become clearer later in this blog post.
I suppose the biggest negative hurdle of 2014, aside from the obvious stress associated with moving across the country, was my carpal tunnel syndrome (or CTS). Precipitated by my migration to Utah, my CTS went crazy in late June. Instead of sleepy hands in the morning and occasional dead arms waking me up in the night, my right hand had went fully numb and didn’t ease up whatsoever by the time I had arrived in Utah. My left hand felt much better but tested almost as poorly on the “let’s hook you up to a machine and zap you” test. Due to the move, I had to work out some insurance issues before I could get any genuine treatment. Long story short, I wasn’t able to have my first carpal tunnel release surgery until late September—three months after my right hand went dead. A couple of weeks later, I had the surgery on my left hand. And today, I am back to normal (aside from some very slight residual tenderness in my wrists if I apply a lot of pressure to them). It’s been blissful, and the recovery from the surgeries was, for me, a breeze. I’d recommend the surgery to anyone who is needlessly suffering from numbness in the hands. (Hint, hint, Melanie.)
Day-to-day life has changed a lot now that we live in Utah. Not only is Edison attending brick-and-mortar school, but so is Peter. It’s actually really fun to have Eddie and Peter going to “normal” school together. They both love it, and I’ve loved being involved in small ways here and there, like going on a field trip with Peter, attending assemblies, or taking my boys to special morning events where the school feeds us donuts. That’s a benefit of being a stay-at-home dad, which is basically what I’ve been since moving back to Utah. I’ve also had a chance to bond with Beegy, who until January was in my care almost exclusively. Meanwhile, Melanie is working at an elementary school and frequently tells me how happy she is. Can you imagine being so thrilled with your life that you have to keep telling people about it? Me either. I’m jeals to the hells. But in all sincerity, it brings me great joy and peace to know Melanie is thriving both emotionally and professionally. She’s wanted this for a long time. She’s in her element. It’s really cool. I don’t think things would’ve (or could’ve) worked out this nicely had we remained in Florida or moved anywhere else, including Southern Utah. This paragraph, folks, contains a lot of the “reasons that will become clearer” you’ve been so eager to see. Just in case you missed it.
Another cool development of 2014 is my expanded involvement with the Exploring Sainthood blog. I originally joined in 2013 as a “permablogger” (blog slang for a regular, recurring writer), but in March 2014 I accepted the invitation to become an editor and co–blog manager. Things looked iffy when in June, for reasons too complicated to explain and more complicated than you’d think, the ES website disappeared. For a while, I thought it was dead and gone and that was that. But, thanks to those with much more technical know-how than I, we got the site up and running again and even recovered almost every single blog post and podcast episode that had previously been published. We had our grand reopening in November and have since won the “Best Relaunch” award from the website Wheat & Tares (with a whopping five votes!). Yeah, we’re small potatoes, but our online presence has been steadily growing. We’ll see what happens during 2015.
If anything can rival moving back to Utah as the most significant event of 2014, it is probably this: being introduced to Community of Christ. One reason I was excited to move back to Utah is that I knew there would be a plethora of liberal Mormon–related events to attend. One such event coincided with the annual Sunstone symposium and featured John Hamer, a renowned historian of Joseph Smith’s Restoration movement. Hamer, who converted from the LDS faith to Community of Christ several years ago, gave two presentations at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Melanie and I attended both lectures and were quite fascinated. Community of Christ sounded like the kind of Mormonism I already embraced—more so, sadly, than the LDS Church to which I officially belong. This threw me for a loop. I didn’t know what to think. It seemed cuckoo to disregard Community of Christ when it seemed more in synch with my values and beliefs than what is currently practiced in LDS Mormonism. But maybe I was getting ahead of myself. Melanie and I decided we would attend a Community of Christ worship service sometime in the near future, just to see what it is like. It took a few months before we actually did attend Community of Christ, but once we did, we were immediately smitten. The contrast between Community of Christ services and what we get at a typical LDS church service is striking—in a good way. We loved it. But even after that first visit, I didn’t anticipate returning to Community of Christ anytime soon. However, the very next week, we somewhat spontaneously found ourselves returning. It was hard to pass it up, knowing how good it is. And this has basically been our predicament ever since—we simply like it soooooooo much better than the LDS Church. It has little to do with doctrine, mind you. It’s simply the people, the values, and the attitudes that come across. There is spiritual vitality at Community of Christ that I rarely feel in the LDS Church. That’s just the truth of my experience. Believe me, I wish I could say otherwise. But I can’t.
So, why do I say this is significant? Well, as I implied, we’ve been attending Community of Christ almost exclusively for the last three months. We’ve attended LDS church a few times, too, but it has been disastrous when we’ve done so. There are stories too laborious to tell, but they involve gossiping, panic attacks, a hefty dose of condescension, and what basically amounts to a 21st-century witch hunt. Even our children are so much happier at Community of Christ. The last time we announced we were going to LDS services, Peter nearly cried with disappointment. (Melanie, too.) But it’s not just that we’ve been attending Community of Christ for the last three months, it’s that we’re likely to continue attending them indefinitely. It’s what my kids want. It’s definitely what Melanie wants. And it’s hard for me not to want it, too. My story and experience is a bit more complicated. I will probably try to tell that story on my blog someday, but for now, suffice it to say that I continually see evidence that God is leading me to Community of Christ, whether I like it or not. And I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m not sure I like it. I wish the LDS Church could be what I want and need it to be, but it isn’t. Theologically, I love Mormonism, but having stepped back a little bit, it is as obvious as anything that there are severe problems in the LDS Church and community. And I truly think that I may be better able to live out my Mormon beliefs at Community of Christ than I can within the LDS Church. My theological beliefs haven’t changed. They really haven’t. But I can’t authentically or effectively live out my Mormonism in the LDS Church, it seems. That’s the great irony here. It’s as though I have to leave the Mormon Church in order to be a better Mormon. So, for me, it’s not a matter of being “converted” to anything, it’s simply that I feel God calling me to serve Him among different people, in a new place, where I can do more good. If that’s really what’s happening, it’s something I’ve been praying about for a long time. In fact, if I continue down this road, I wouldn’t be surprised if I enter the ministry full-time. That is something I felt called to long before I learned about Community of Christ, back when I didn’t think such a thing was even a possibility for me. That’s another reason this feels like something God is leading me to. I have had what seem to be spiritual impressions that are only now beginning to make sense as I learn about Community of Christ. It’s exhilarating, overwhelming, terrifying, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at once. 2015 is going to be a very, very interesting year, spiritually speaking.