May 2013

Core Matters
Getting to the Why of Life

After multiple requests to hear her speak, and one delay caused by a major snowstorm earlier this year, our speaker in April was Lya (pronounced “LEE-a”) Wodraska, sports columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune and holistic lifestyle coach.

Lya was born and raised in Newnan, Georgia. She grew up loving football, horses, and anything outdoors. She earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and made sports writing her profession. After many years in Georgia she was looking for a new adventure and took the opportunity to join the Salt Lake Tribune staff in 1996. She’s covered everything from high school sports to outdoor extreme races, the Utah Jazz, and University of Utah football and gymnastics teams.

A knee injury several years ago introduced her to indoor cycling as rehab. That cycling, plus an overhaul of her diet and lifestyle (as she said, “goodbye southern-fried, hello stir-fry”) led to a loss of about 30 pounds.

Now, in addition to writing for the Tribune, she’s also a certified CHECK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and a spinning instructor at BodyWise. As an HLC coach she develops training programs using a whole body approach to training, addressing issues in diet, exercise, and overall wellness to help people enjoy a new level of wellness.

Lya told us that as a holistic coach she looks not just at physical or mental wellness, but at both. She teaches about the “Four Doctors”: Quiet, Diet, Movement, and Happiness. She wants to help people find out “why am I here?” by more than just working out in a gym, but developing the whole person.

She likened personal growth to the spring season: we’ve gone through the quiet time of winter and now are watching the regrowth of spring. (Lya loves to garden—she has a small yard but packs it full of vegetables every year, growing almost everything from seed. She recently purchased over $50 of seeds including five types of squash and ten tomatoes—but no peppers, thank you!).

Lya enjoys helping clients find what they want to grow and foster. We sometimes seem to grow things we don’t want. She said our lives are so filled with the mechanical and with electronics. She urges people to slow down and get attached to the ground, back to our roots. And we shouldn’t be afraid of failure. Plants in our garden will die or not thrive, but we can move on and plant new things. It’s okay to have weeds—they’re there for a purpose—and our rows don’t have to be perfectly straight. Our individual gardens are our own and can still be successful, however we work them.

In our lives it’s okay to be wrong. Lya encourages us to grow a little bit of happiness, and reminded us that every garden needs dormancy and quiet, and so do each of us. It’s very hard to get people to do that these days, but we all need peaceful, quiet times.

Regarding diet, Lya again spoke about gardening and what we may be feeding plants that isn’t necessary or good for them, that might cause them to wilt or not to thrive.

She reminded us that no one else is going to tend our gardens. She mentioned the Mayan New Year and how whacky some people became—with some actually upset because ancient Mayans didn’t come and rescue them. We can think of ourselves as our own gods and can own the responsibility of our lives.

A lively question and answer period followed Lya’s remarks and covered a wide variety of topics. She manages her two careers by coaching classes in the early morning and attending sporting events later.

Her grandfather got her into sports writing, although the women in her family actually love football more than the men. She started out in college wanting to be a vet but hated the necessary math classes.

When asked about locker room experiences as a female writer, she said it really hasn’t been an issue to get into locker rooms. Usually the writers request certain players to talk to and the players come out and answer questions. In professional sports such as the NBA, answering reporters’ questions is very ego-driven, with players stating up front that they will answer no questions, that they’ll answer one question only, or that they’re open to questions.

She did say that college and professional players are undeveloped as people—like racehorses with blinders on. She said that if she had a child, she’d encourage them to play all sports, not focus on one, to become more rounded as a person.

Please check out Lya’s website “Core Matters” ( She teaches spinning classes at BodyWise Fitness on Foothill Blvd (

—Susan Fox

What’s Up?

As humanists we are often on the look-out for news relating to the latest scientific advances, civil rights, or the separation of church and state. We may scour the newsletters of The American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or we may attend local lectures on reducing our carbon footprints. I am as excited to learn about these events and discoveries as the next Humanist, but I am also quite busy in my day-to-day life. With a full-time job, a fulfilling relationship, and two cats to care for I often revel in an opportunity to spend a few hours away from the computer simply reading a good book, enjoying a quality glass of wine, and relishing in a good nights’ rest.

I thought that at this time of year, as we welcome the long-awaited springtime in Utah, other humanists may appreciate engaging in conversation about our favorite meals, books we’ve finished reading, and peaceful pastimes we currently value. As our beautiful state turns from the Legislative season to the hiking, biking, and camping season, I hope we can all take moments to reflect on everything that is incredible, meaningful, and joyful in our lives. Remember, we don’t believe in religious apocalyptic or end-of-times nonsense-if anything, I believe we are living in a post-apocalyptic world where we as humans have the power, sans supernaturalism, to better our world! So, how are you bettering your world, in the smallest yet most meaningful ways? I would love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook Page, online at

Elaine Ball
Certified Humanist Minister

On Humanistic Mormons

Last month there was an article in PIQUE: “’Humanistic Mormons’- You’re Kidding Me, Right?” It was in the April Fool part of the newsletter, but Google verified that Humanistic Mormons do exist.

The article ridiculed the whole concept of “Humanistic Mormonism” as a hopeless oxymoron, but I say, “Not so fast!” This is potentially a very positive development.

Ethical Culture was started by a bunch of secular Jews, and I see modern Unitarianism as a form of secular Protestantism. I think most of us in SHSNY see both of those organizations as constructive regarding most of the things we believe and want to promote, and I don’t see any reason to exclude ethnic Mormons from joining our club.

The Mormon Church provides a very rich social calendar for its members, and Mormons have a history that they’re proud of, and various customs that some may want to preserve. Not insignificantly, they have a fairly convincing victim narrative. A Mormon once told me that in their early days, before they went to Utah, they were heavily persecuted by their neighbors, so much so that most of their males died in the fighting, leaving a surplus of females, which is why they adopted polygamy. (*1)

A victim narrative is an indispensable thing to have in these times. To hear many liberals talk, the terms “civil liberties” and “rights” don’t apply to you unless you can claim membership in some group that has “victim” status. (*2)

Imagine yourself to be a Mormon in Salt Lake City, and you’re having trouble believing that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. What’s more, you keep hearing about the genetic evidence that American Indians are descended from Siberians and not Middle-Eastern Jews. Do you have to abandon your thriving social network and prized victim identity to embrace rationality, or do you band together with some like-minded souls and form a Humanist Mormon community?

In addition, I would imagine many marriageable-aged Mormons are encouraged by their parents to marry “in the tribe”. It would be helpful to be able to tell a prospective mate, “I’m still a Mormon. Sort of.”

Whatever works.

—Bill Chapman
May Issue of
Secular Humanist Society of New York

 (*1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints founder (and convicted con man) Joseph Smith had 33 wives – most collected long before any persecution of the sect.

(*2) The Mormons were not always the victims, but often the aggressors, as in the Meadow Mountain Massacre.

Web Site Of The Month
The Oatmeal Quotations

A blogger who likes to draw just about anything and everything. This particular link goes to his take on some favorite quotations, but spend some time looking at the whole Oatmeal site!

 President’s Report

Sometimes after a violent act such as the tragedy in Connecticut, the question “Why are we so violent?” is asked. I don’t know why someone would go mow down little children? Perhaps mental illness; perhaps desperation, or both. But I have to say that violence is a part of human nature. Not part of our better nature at times. Yet the ability to defend oneself and others is to be able to fight back violently if necessary. As I have been thinking about the subject of violence and it’s relation to guns, I went through my memory, to see how violence was part of my life.

As a child in the 1950’s I had my share of little men. They ranged from army men to cowboys and Indians and spacemen. I had cap pistols and the like, plastic swords, and ray guns and more. Some of my earliest memories of television are of the newsreels they showed of the Korean War. As a youth I hunted deer, pheasants and rabbits. In high school I joined the CAP one year, and my parents sent me to a military school for my junior year.

When I joined the United States Air Force I was sent to Munitions and Weapons Technical School. In retrospect his was one of the most interesting things to happen to me. Spending months in school learning how to handle and use all the various weapon systems was fascinating. If memory serves right, at that time they used the acronym CNBC which was short for Conventional, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical warfare. We studied it all, from small arms ammo to the largest conventional bombs and incendiaries. We studied nuclear weapons of various kinds. We studied those lovely chemical and biological weapons also.

I was sent to Thailand in February 1968 to participate in the Vietnam War, my job was to prep Five hundred and seven hundred and fifty pound bombs to be loaded onto one of the most effect destructive weapons systems there is, the B-52 bomber. When I returned from Thailand, the Air Force made me into a cop where I worked law enforcement until I was discharged. Suffice it to say I had a bit of violence and force at times in my life.

Getting back to guns and violence, I have to say that I understand the outrage and all when something this awful happens, but I find myself on both sides of the ”gun issue.” I feel anyone who wants to own a fire arm should be free to do so. But I also feel that gun owners should have requirements and restrictions in a similar way that we have for automobiles. With guns, especially hand guns, I think you should have to license it, take a written test of the laws and safety. Plus you should be required to show competence in handling a deadly weapon.

I’m really not interested in anyone’s paranoia about the government coming to take everybody’s guns. It is stupid to think that the government would be dumb enough to try to confiscate all the guns and start an underground weapons world that would make the drug war look tiny. Never happen.

With guns or other objects and substances, I hate the idea of banning them. Because if we are going to ban guns because they can be used to kill, don’t we have to ban a lot of other things that are harmful? For example, shouldn’t we ban tobacco? It kills a hell of a lot more people than guns do. Yet we really don’t want to see this distinction. The suffering and costs from a product like tobacco is horrid to say the least. But laws should be made to deal with the actions of people not to ban things.

Returning to violence once again, I will say that one of the best ways to combat violence is to improve the human condition, even though this is a big order.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU