December 26, 2007

Dog kisses and other remedies for the winter blues

Little by little, the light gets brighter each day now. Today is actually sunny, and I can see the direct effect on my mood that the sunlight has. During the gray days this week I did what I could to stoke my inner flame: snuggled and watched movies, went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and sang carols, bonded with the only dog that actually has the chance on softening my hardcore cat-person stance and let her lick my face all over, found my voice and asked for what I needed and was gentle and forgiving of myself.
The Grateful Dead's Box of Rain has always been one of my favorites when I'm feeling down. Have a listen, and remember that we're all in this together. Peace.

December 24, 2007

This little light...

Well, Christmas Eve has arrived and I have to admit, I'm a little blue this year. I was hoping that Christmas would bring a sort of vanquishing of the demons I've been battling the past few weeks, but they're still here, wreaking tiny bits of havoc on my emotional state. I mean, I really don't know how else to describe what I've been experiencing. I can objectively look at my life, see all of the love that surrounds me, all of the many blessings that abound even when I'm faced with some tough circumstances — but I feel like I've got this inner "demon" that wants to taint my life with greyness — and sometimes I feel like I'm in a constant struggle with this little bit of darkness that lurks within. Every little upset becomes a monumental kick in the gut, and every criticism proof that I am unlovable. Yet I know that my thoughts are distorted -- that I am loved. My prayers have been for the coming light to vanquish the little pest inside of myself — the one telling me that I "don't deserve" or "am not good enough."
But I'm not giving up; in fact, I'm determined to succeed. I've got waaaay too much to lose to my own negative thinking. I just need a bit of grace, a whole lot of patience from the ones who really care and some strong arms to pick me up when I stumble. I need prayers. I need gentleness. I need understanding. And most of all, I need to give these things to myself.

December 10, 2007

Is love an abomination?

You have taken away the key of knowledge; you have not entered in yourselves and you have hindered those who sought to enter" (Lk. 11:52; cf. Mt. 23:13).

This weekend, T surprised me with tickets to see the documentary that almost slipped by me, For the Bible Tells Me So, at the Music Box theater. I stiffled tears through out the half-dozen stories of religious families (of differing christian faiths) dealing with the reality of a gay child. Most notably, the documentary featured the story of Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay Bishop in the Episcopal church. The way that this man held onto his faith and became a leader in the face of everthing from harsh critcism to death threats is nothing but inspiriational.
I also took great comfort in the story of Chrissy Gephardt, whose parents (Catholic and Baptist) seemed to both accept her and resolve issues of faith from the moment she came out to them.
As the documentary moved back and forth through the stories of these families — my emotions also moved from despair to hope to anger at the way the bible is misused and verses are cherry-picked to back up an agenda of hate. Part of the documentary focused on the "ministries" of such fundamentalists as James Dobson and Focus on the Family — which push parents of gay children to reject them and seek "a cure," charaterized as a lifetime of supression — the consequences of which come as a cold slap in the story of one mother whose gay daughter commited suicide after such rejection. But even that story left me with a seed of hope as the mother grew spiritually and came to reject the fundamentalist teaching of her upbringing and really read and understand the bible the way it was meant to be understood — taking into account the historical and cultural underpinnings at the time it was written. A dozen biblical scholars appear throughout the film — to talk about what the bible really says about homosexuality, and how those verses are meant to be interpreted. They make the important point that bible literalism is a relatively new idea — only coming about in the 20th century.
Of course, as a Catholic, we were taught that the bible should be read using the scientific historical-critical method, which rejects the notion of a literal translation. Remember, Jesus himself taught through parable, which in my opinion, is the strongest argument against literalism other than plain common sense. Did you know that "abomination" really just means "ritually unclean?" So, when homosexuality is proclaimed as an "abomination" in Leviticus, (along with shellfish and wearing linen and wool together), it was pointing out that these were the customs at the time. I found the backup by these notable bible scholars (including Bishop Tutu of South Africa) to be the most edifying part of the film for me personally. While many LGBT people leave faith behind — offended and even threatened by people who claim to hold the keys to all that scripture means for our lives (Dobson has NO theological training, I learned!), I was left with a new steadfastness and resolve to hold firmly onto it. Pre-order the DVD to this remarkable film today!

December 05, 2007

Longing for The Light

We're half-way through the first week of Advent, and today is the first day of Hanukkah. We're lighting our candles, and our expectations are growing whether we are welcoming the increasing sunlight of Winter Solstice approaching, or Jesus, the light of the world, or commerating the miraculous gift of light when the fuel was sparse — this classic Christmas song and snowy immagery express the hopes of the season. We just got our first big snowfall last night in Chicago, so the wintery scenes here seem particularly fitting! Enjoy!

December 04, 2007

Venn diagram of Santa and God

As promised, here's a Venn diagram for Santa and God. Can you think of any more?

December 01, 2007

Why I hate Macy's this Christmas

Ever since Macy's bought took over Marshall Field's, I've been bitter, like most die-hard Chicagoans. And the fact that they brought back Frango mint production to Chicago this year hasn't really swayed my opinion of them. The other day, T went in there looking for Fontanini as a Christmas gift for me. I had told her that Marshall Field's always carried it. She went to the Oakbrook Macy's, and after browsing around the trim-a-tree area and coming up short, waited in line to ask the cashier if she knew if they carried my favorite nativity scene figurines. Their conversation went something like this:
T: Do you carry Fontanini nativity figurines?
Cashier: I don't know, what are they?
T: They're nativity figurines, they're 5 inches.
Cashier: Oh yeah, they're right over there (points to display back in the corner).
T: Thanks, I'll go look.


Of course, they weren't there. So she got back in the long line, and this time when she reached the front, the conversation went like this:
T: Well, I went over there, and I didn't see them. Are you sure you carry them?
Cashier: What are they again?
T: They're 5 inch Fontanini nativity figurines. You pointed to a display, but they weren't over there.
Cashier: Wait, what do they look like?
T: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Cashier: Very fu**ing funny. (with customers in line gasping in horror.)



One of the other customers who was in line stopped T and practically insisted that she complain to a manager. T did find a manager, but she didn't even get a chance to talk about the rude cashier. They're conversation went something like this:
T: Hi, one of your cashiers wasn't able to help me, but do you carry Fontanini nativity figurines?
Manager: I'm not sure. If you didn't see them over there (pointing to display) then we don't have them.
T: Well, I know that Marshall Field's always carried them, and that Macy's now owns the store, so....
Manager: Well that's just fu**ing life, isn't it.


Two f-bombs in less than half-an hour at the Oakbrook Macy's. Merry Fu**ing Christmas!

November 30, 2007

Promises, promises

You'll all have to wait till tomorrow for my list of promised blog subjects. I've been sick all day, yet running myself ragged. I had to drag my butt out of bed just to post this lousy sentence. But hey, I managed to post every day this month, and fulfill my NaBloPoMo requirements. If I happen to win any of the prizes, I hope it's this.

November 29, 2007

This blog postponed...due to impending migraine

I'll have to write more tomorrow, about
•my job interview today (which went well)
•the half-dozen reasons I can list of why I hate Macy's
•my Christmas obsession reignited: must. find. Fontanini.
• the Venn diagram of Jesus and Santa

I'm going to bed. Yes, it's only 8:30 and I've only just gotten my kiddos off to bed. My body aches, my head is throbbing. It's either the flu or one helluva migraine.

November 28, 2007

Music Wednesday

During my 'sick' day yesterday, I managed to get the TV shut off and put on Paula Cole's Amen, and remembered how much her music moves me. I got into Paula Cole when I first saw her playing tiny clubs in Indianapolis while I lived there, and stuck with with her through her rise and fall. Well, she's back now after a 7-year hiatus with her new album, Courage. This track, Comin' Down, is more overtly spiritual than some of her past music, but she's always managed to speak to my soul. It's clealy inspired by the prayer of St. Francis, but with an empowering wise-woman theme throughout. It reminds me of the St. Augustine's quote that, "those who sing, pray twice."
At this time when I'm trying to summon my own courage while counting my many blessings, this song certainly does come to me as a sweet daily prayer.

November 27, 2007

Blog-exhausted

I called off of work today because M.A. puked last night, and she needed to stay home. I probably could have worked out some arrangements for her today, but I figured, what are they gonna do, fire me? Hah. So we lazed around in our pajamas, listened to music, cuddled on the couch and took it easy. I managed to get the lights onto the Christmas tree that's been up for a couple of days now. Maybe another week and it'll probably get some ornaments. I'm in no terrible rush.
I heard on the radio today that Quidditch is the sport on college campus' these days. It sounds somewhat anti-climactic to me, given that there are no flying brooms, no golden snitch and no quaffle. Still, not bad for a fictional sport. M.R. plans to get a Quidditch scholarship to a Vermont college. Yeah, she's definitely my kid.
We've reached the final stretch of NaBloPoMo, and I'm feeling a little blog-exhausted. Goodnight.

November 26, 2007

Cyber Monday

I heard on the radio this morning on my way to work that it's Cyber Monday — which reminded me to get on the ball today and order that special gift that I'm pretty sure I can only track down online. It sure does feel like a Monday morning; I'm back at the job, which is harder and harder to want to come to, now that I'm a marked woman (only about three weeks left here). I'm tempted to start cleaning out my desk. I've already taken the office key off of my keychain. And I'll probably spend the majority of the day working on my new online portfolio and job-hunting.
There is the slightest bit of panic starting to build — but I'm doing my best to supress it.

November 25, 2007

A possible sign of healing

I've been trying to stay aware of my actions and emotions when I'm feeling triggered. For maybe the first time, today I was able to recognize my compulsive urge (to flee a stressful situation), and to resist it — choosing instead to breathe, talk it through, and get support. It was really hard. There was a moment when I felt a rage building inside of me and in my mind I hurled glass against the wall and overturned the coffee table. But I just sat down and breathed, got a grip, then talked it through.
I'm hopeful that as I continue to take these steps, I'm on the road to healing.

November 24, 2007

Recovering

I spent the day putting up the Christmas tree — but left if bare until all the kids are home Sunday to decorate it. Then I became the ultimate TV whore for the rest of the day — snuggled under the blankets with my sweetie. Not much else to say; I guess it's a pretty down day and I'm still in Black Friday recovery mode.

November 23, 2007

Black Friday

You know, dear readers, that I abhor Black Friday. I have never been one who even had a vague urge to get up before the crack of dawn to attempt to get my hands on the latest must-have Christmas gift. First of all, I don't even like to shop. I think of it as something that simply has to get done (and over with), not something I actually think of as a fun time. Some people are not born to shop. Secondly, I try to keep my holiday focus elsewhere. I don't want my kids growing up with consumerist and materialist values, and Christmas, after all, is a holiday that has actual meaning. We have an advent wreath, put up and decorate a tree and a nativity scene and buy some gifts and make others. But we never go overboard.
But this Black Friday (usually celebrated as "Buy Nothing Day" by me), I did the unthinkable. I joined the herd. Now before you gasp in disbelief, know that I did this for only two reasons. First, my girlfriend is one of those curious creatures who participates in this annual ritual, and well, she has a way of convincing me to do things that I wouldn't do for just anyone. And second, I decided that instead of actually buying anything, I'd simply observe, sort of a sociological phenomenon to be witnessed first hand. So with promises of hot coffee and the chance to witness the bizarre spectacle that takes place every Friday after Thanksgiving, I set my alarm for 4 a.m. and reluctantly agreed to join all the other sleepless crazies.
We were out the door by 4:25, and headed first to Dunkin Donuts for the promised coffee. There was a line out the door. We then headed to the antithetical home of capitalist consumption — WalMart. The crowds did not disappoint; it was there that I witnessed many disgusting displays of humanity. First, a lady nearly cut us and caused a crash, then waved frantically for us to hurry and go so that she would make it into the store when the doors opened. And when they opened, there were people with camcorders recording the spectacle, making me wish I had planned better and brought my camera. People ran, threatening to trample each other. Everyone seemed headed to the back of the store, and when we reached the bottleneck, I heard on man remark to his friends that he was "fixin to go to jail" because he was about to fight someone. A huge obese man pushed through the crowd past us, calling an immigrant woman a "cockroach."
And so the day went. We got what we had come for, made our way to Target for a few more things, then were off to run some errands. T bought a black sparkly Christmas ornament to remember the day that she coaxed me out of the house and over to "the dark side." It's 8:45pm and I'm barely coherent at this point. I need to go to bed and recover. Maybe I'll wake to find it was all just a dream....

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.
—Meister Eckhart


Waking up this morning, it was clear what I am most thankful for. She lay at the end of my fingertips this morning—and nearly every morning since we fell in love. I am brimming with gratitude that she and her daughter are a part of my life, and my children's lives. Together, we are a family.

I'm running out to join friends for dinner, so more on what I'm grateful for tonight. Have a great Turkey Day everyone!

November 21, 2007

Music Wednesday

With the frantic holiday shopping season about to begin, I couldn't resist posting this decidely critical song about American values. With my apologies to Canada and Mexico, here's LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum.

November 20, 2007

Chaos theory

I used to think when I was growing up that things would be okay when life just settled down. If I could just get over the rough spot, past the hurdle, I'd find quietness and peace on the other side. Then I could really live my life.
But the passing years have taught me that it's useless to wait or even look forward to that sort of calmness. The chaos is life itself. I've learned to embrace it and let it have it's way with me; miraculously, I'm still standing.
There's only one thing thats certain in life, and that is that life is anything but calm and peaceful and stagnant. Life is constant change. A writer friend of mine put it this way: after so many years of rolling with the punches, it's easy to forget that you are rolling, or that there are punches. Maybe that should actually be our goal.

November 19, 2007

Grim

It's damn grim in my office today. No one is talking about the layoffs, and no one is talking to me. And in truth, I already feel gone from this place. I'm just marking off time now. Still, it's surreal to sit at lunch with my managing editor and not have any conversation take place — which wouldn't be so out of the ordinary accept for the fact that the silence occuring is not because there is nothing really to talk about, but because there is so much to say that is not being said. We've both been laid off, he and I, but there seems to be some sort of office taboo about talking about it. Whatever.

Happy Birthday Delle! Sorry I couldn't go the special mass that V organized for you and eat red velvet cupcakes and sip tea at Metropolis afterward. I'm sure it was a lovely morning.

The weather is pretty grim today — to fit the mood I guess, but I swear, I didn't order up this grey day with slight face-misting drizzle. It's not too cold, but it's the kind of cold dampness that sinks into the bones of your feet and leaving you chilled throughout. The smoke from my cigarette mingles with the fog and just hangs there, not sure what to become. Boy can I relate.

November 18, 2007

Positively like a dream

There's been an overwhelming show of support and good feelings about my recent job loss from the people who care about me and know me well enough to know that something bigger and better is just waiting for me. And I feel it too. Sometimes the blessings we get really aren't so hard to figure out. I didn't like my job, mostly because of the terrible pay, at ten grand less than I deserve, at the very least for my skills. But I took the job because of it's many perks: not working for "the man," a month paid vacation, and a generally laid-back and understand bunch of bosses who never questioned why I was 20 minutes late or couldn't come in because of a childcare snafu. That and wearing sweatpants to work — a major perk.
Although I reserve the right to fall into a totally depressed panic if I don't procure a job by January 1, right now I'm feeling hopeful and confident that all of this is happening exactly as it's supposed to. And I'm excited for the first time in a long time about the future and all the many possibilities and chances for career growth that are now rolled out like a red carpet before me. I've already updated my resume and I'm going to spend the Thanksgiving weekend getting my portfolio up to snuff.
It seems like a dream, though, that I actually have to go back to my office and work for 5 more weeks. I'm going to ask for all of my vacation time right before Christmas, which should make Dec. 14 my last day. It's going to be tough to continue to work and I know I'll be compelled to start cleaning out my workspace and saving files on CDs when I'm not doing layout. And I'm sure the office atmosphere will be grim. Mental note: bring some cheery music to upload to my iTunes tomorrow.

November 17, 2007

Trying to be grateful

Yesterday turned out to be quite a sucky day. The Angel of Death swept over my office yesterday and I got laid-off, along with several others. The truth is, I've been wanting to leave for quite some time, but let me tell you, it's damn scary being a single-mom and not having anything lined up. They've given me till the new year to find employment elsewhere, so I'm scrambling to do what needs to be done: updating my resume, writing cover letters, sending out emails to other designer friends, and applying online for anything that fits my skills. Although at times I've found myself overwhelmed with despair in the last 24 hours, I also am sensing some peace that everything happens for a reason and that something really good may come of this. The truth is, my prospects are much better than those of several others in my office who got axed.
Today I'm gathering my energy, and recovering from the shock of all of my blood draining from my body as my boss uttered words like "inevitable changes" and "position eliminated." And when all that blood rushed all at once back into my head, I thought I might faint. I thought of Christmas gifts, of my children, of my girlfriend in nursing school. My boss asked me if I wanted to sit alone for a minute and "collect my thoughts," and I remember mumbling "no" as I stumbled for the door, immediately put on my sunglasses, logged off of my computer, grabbed my coat and headed for the door. I've been let go for financial reasons, but it still feels like a rejection.
I slept in this morning, and haven't moved from the couch accept to do a little work and grab a shower. T is working a 12 hour shift and the kids have gone to their father's house for the evening so it's quiet here. Usually I'd feel anxiety, preferring company to solitude, but right now I'm craving the silence and the peacefulness that comes as a respite from yesterday's anxiety.
I have time to find a job, which I'm thankful for. And I'm talented and qualified, which is a blessing. This really might just be the kick in the ass that I've been needing, so I'm trying to be grateful.

November 16, 2007

Wake up!

Woke up with a jolt this morning when T noticed that the alarm hadn't gone off. I guess it can't go off if no one has turned it on. Oops. Blame that one on watching TV in bed which threw off my bedtime routine a bit. I did, however, manage to set the coffee pot to brew at precisely the same time that the alarm was supposed to have gone off. Hah, priorities.
The tooth fairy brought major cash last night to M.A., who finally lost her grey front tooth last night with a little tug from me. The nerve was declared "dead" by the dentist almost three years ago, when M.R. decided to ride her little sister like a horse after her eighth birthday party, at which point said tooth met hardwood floor. The dentist thought it was likely to fall out due to the damage. It held on for nearly three years. A Sacajawea and a five dollar bill were the booty for this special tooth — destined to a place of honor in toothland.
Finally, with a little egging-on from fellow blogger and friend at Eating Rice, here's a survey to help me fill my NaBloPoMo requirement for today:


1. What is your occupation? I am a Graphic Designer for a national lefty political newspaper and the Art Director for a quarterly political youth magazine.

2. What color are your socks right now? Black.

3. What are you listening to right now? I'm listening to the phone conference meeting going on in the other room, that I am thankfully not required to attend. Some tunes would be nice though, so I think I'll put my headphones on and set my iTunes to shuffle.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? I just ate a Maurice Lenell cookie, taken from the big bowl on our office table.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes indeed. My first car was a Ford Escort with manual tranmission, and if I weren't so lazy, I'd still drive one. (A manual trans., not the Escort).

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? T, to say I was sorry about the stressful morning and wish a more peaceful day for us both.


7. Do you like the person who sent this meme to you? Uh huh, which is why we're friends.


8. How old are you today? Thirty-freakin-five. Meh.

9. Favorite drink? Lately it's been coffee, but red wine is coming in a close second. Just picked up a bottle to share with my sweetie tonight, but shhhhhh, don't tell!

10. What is your favorite sport to watch? men's college basketball

11. Have you ever dyed your hair? I have been dying my hair since I was about 16. I dyed it various shades or red/auburn for a decade, but have been doing dark brown for the last couple of years. I'm tempted to go red again...feeling a little saucy these days.

12. Pets? For the first time in a very long time, I am pet-free. T discovered that she's got a severe allergy, so we handed our cat off to my ex.

13. Favorite food? Sushi. If I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, I'd be good with a selection of Maki rolls.
14. What was the last movie you watched? 'The Village'. It's an interesting statement on the psycology of grief and what legnths people will go to preserve their traditions in order to placate their fears.

15. What’s your favorite day of the week? Thursday. It means the rushed part of my week is over. (keeping A's answer)

16. How do you vent anger? On good days:Take a deep breathe, realize that I am responsible for choosing how I react to things that anger me, and try to choose a different response. On bad days: Yell and scream, grit my teeth and finally realize that I need some solitude and usually find a way to retreat. Try to come back, apologize and talk calmly about things from a more rational point of view once I've calmed down.

17. What was your favorite toy as a child? I'm not sure. I think I've blocked out a lot of childhood memories. I remember having an Atari, a Spirograph, a magic set, lots of Barbies — but I don't recall feeling particularly attached to anything.

18. What is your favorite season? Summer. Which is why I'm fighting the blues right now. It's freezing!

19. Hugs or kisses? Hugs in the morning when I wake up, kisses goodbye for the day, more of both when we return at the end of the day, and more of both when it's bedtime again.

20. Cherries or Blueberries? I love cherries. And blueberries. Particulary picking them myself in Michigan. Mmmmmm.

21. Do you want your friends to try this meme? Nah, it's all good.

22. Who is most likely to respond? No response is really necessary.

23. Who is least likely to respond? The folks who stumble on this blog after doing various google searches.

24. Living arrangements? I live in my three-bedroom apartment with my partner and our 3 collective girls.

25. When was the last time you cried? Monday, November 12, I think.

26. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes.

27. Who is the friend you have known the longest that you are sending this to? Oddly, the friends I've known the longest don't read my blog. Should I be offended?

28. What did you do last night? Got home in time to take M.R. to her basketball practice, but T took her instead while I got M.A. and J bathed. After picking up M.R. from practice, I ran a hot bath with geranium oil and lit candles for T (her first in years) and tried to get the kids settled and in bed. Watched a bit of Grey's Anatomy and ER, then fell asleep around ten, without turing on the alarm clock.

29. Favorite smell? Amber, Vanilla and Geranium. A a ton more yummy smells.

30. What inspires you? People with integrity. Art that provokes deep thoughts and questions. People who offer their lives in service to others. People who seek to be the change that they seek.

31. What are you afraid of? I have a fear of being abandoned, physically, but even more so, emotionally.

32. Plain, cheese or spicy burgers? Cheezeborger, cheezeborger, cheezeborger!

33. Favorite dog breed? I'm not particularly a dog person, but there are some that I've grown fond of. I generally like larger breeds (akitas, labs, sheepdogs) and can't stand little yappy dogs.

34. How many states have you lived in? 5, if you count a month in Hawaii when I was a baby.

35. Favorite holiday? Holy Thursday: foot-washing, benediction, singing in Latin as we process around the church, and visiting the Altar of Repose late into the night. Call me crazy, but the smorgasboard of emotion on that night, the first night of the Triduum, is as good as it gets for me, spiritually.

November 15, 2007

Theological gymnastics

I guess it should come as no surprise that conservative religious leaders are paving the way for the faitful to back the leading Republican candidate. Remember 2004, when faithful Catholics were told that a)Catholic candidate John Kerry should be denied Communion because of his support of abortion rights and b) any Catholic who voted for him was imperiling their immortal soul? But this time they face a connundrum: Rudy Guliani has a record of backing both gay rights and abortion rights. No worry, because now Catholic voters have been given the "wiggle room" needed to cast a guilt-free vote for the Republican, thanks to the U.S. Catholic Bishops. In a document released yesterday, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the bishops laid out the theological gymnastics needed to move abortion from "non-negotiable" voting criteria to "acceptable" when faced with other "morally grave reasons."
These flip-flops aren't limited to the Catholic Church; earlier this week, Pat Robertson threw his support behind Giuliani — telling conservative evangelicals that it was more important the Rudy had promised to appoint conservative judges in the mold of Roberts and Scalia than his history of support for abortion rights and gay rights.
Of course, the hard-core conservatives are in an uproar about the apparent pragmatism, some declaring that if Giulini becomes the Republican nominee, the party will certainly lose the '08 elections. Not to mention that by removing roadblocks for the Republican, they similarly remove them for Democrats who have a tough stance of other moral issues: like ending the war, stoping torture and the restoration of civil liberties. At least that is what I'm hoping. Clearly retaining power trumps everything for this bunch — and the price of one's soul isn't too steep.

November 14, 2007

Music Wednesday

As Wednesday coincides with my deadline day at work, I've decided to insitute "Music Wednesday," both because I'm pressed for time to blog, and because I really rely on music to get me through the tension.
So without further ado, have a listen to Sinéad O'Connor singing (live) If You Had a Vineyard from her album, Theology.
See how many direct quotes you can find from the Old Testament in this poignant song dedicated to the Israeli and Palestinian people.

November 13, 2007

Post # 14

This post ties me for my all-time monthly blogging record of 14 posts, and it's only day 13 of NaBloPoMo. It's tough at times but I'm determined to keep on truckin'.

I've got some odds and ends to toss out today:
• Thanks to Sitemeter, I've discovered that the number one reason people stumble upon this blog is from googling the terms "anima sola" or "anima sola tattoo." Here's a direct link to a picture of the tattoo I got last March, and a link to my post about it if you want more info. People-with-anima-sola-tattoos unite!
• I updated a few things around here: the descriptive subtitle to this blog, the "about me" section, and put up a new song too. Let me know what you think.
• I'm contemplating my Next Big Blogpost — a custom-tailored and fully revised version of Fifteen Saints for Girls — hopefully a little more feminist and progressive than those contained in the book left to me by my grandmother when I was nine.

November 12, 2007

I must be a genius...

Heard this on the radio the other day and it made me smile. Finally, score one for the curvy girls, whooo-hooo! So yeah, I'm having the cheesecake for dessert to celebrate. It's all for the kids....
I deleted the descriptive subtitle for this blog yesterday. Needed to clear it out to get the brainstorming going. Stay tuned.

November 11, 2007

Who is Anima Sola?

I've been feeling pigeonholed by the subtitle of this blog: the chronicles of a queer catholic as she attempts to dismantle patriarchy. Maybe it's just the predomination of labels, or maybe it's that there is so much more that is encompassed in these postings. I'm feeling a little hyper-critical today about my writing. Writing everyday has been a good exercise, but I still don't feel like I'm fully expressing all I want to get across in each post. My language gets too flowery and my point gets lost.
I am gay, I am Catholic, and I hope that I'm doing my part to put a little dent in patriarchy, if not dismantle it. But these are hardly the limits of my character or the topics of my writings. Perhaps I'll remove the description altogether? Or take suggestions for a new title? I'm coming up short today so for now I'll leave it, but it's gnawing at me.

November 10, 2007

Cry, baby.

A few weeks ago, I flippantly made a comment to my girlfriend while we were cooking dinner that I "didn't think I believed in 'the one.'" Trying to backtrack when she took offense, I posited that it was perhaps a Hollywood construct — purely the stuff of love stories and girlhood fantasies. I murkily tried to explain that as far as "soulmates" go, I wasn't sure that the concept incorporated the idea that there was only one soul for each of us — and that true happiness couldn't be ours until we had found them.
But the truth is, I lied. I have always believed in soulmates, always hoped that I would find "the one," always fantasized that "forever" was possible. It's a lie I'd been repeating to myself for a couple of years — since the end of my till-death-do-us-part marriage (non-soulmate #1) and the heartbreak of another romance with my best friend (non-soulmate #2). If soulmates did exsist, I'd either already blown it or didn't deserve to find it. So I began the trick of convincing myself that such things were silly constructs meant to drive us all insane. I was above it all.

•••


Yesterday I convinced my girlfriend to watch one of my favorite tear-jerker movies, The Notebook. There are many emotional scenes in the movie, but I surprised myself as I began to choke back tears in the first two minutes of the film — tears that didn't subside until the end of the film, at which point the climax had my girlfriend sobbing as well, and she's not a crier like me (at least not admittedly). I had been telling her for days that I wanted to watch the movie, to make myself cry. Not because I particularly like to cry, but because every once in awhile I need to make myself remember what it is that I really do believe. As if trying to convince myself that "soulmate" was not something within my grasp would somehow insulate me from heartbreak and longing I'd already experienced. So I put on this armor of disbelief as a shield against pain, all the time affirming that I didn't deserve that kind of lifelong soul-connection with someone.

•••


"Tears are the hallmark of the Holy Spirit." Quoting her wise aunt, Delle used to always push me to examine the tears that would sometimes overwhelm me. And she was right — those tears acted as salve to my wounded soul — always pointing me to the truth that I rebelled against, calling me to surrender deeper and deeper. I cried the first time I saw Delle up at the St. G's pulpit — my soul knowing it had found a spiritual home. And now I delight in my tears, because they force my body to give it's attention to the truth before me. I needed that movie to shatter the skin that I sometimes let grow too thick around me — and remember. I want forever, I want soulmate, I want "the one." I have a lot of healing to do, but I plan to do it arm in arm with my love.
Nevermore, my love.

November 09, 2007

Zzzzzzzz

I've had a ton on my mind today; so much I could blog about, really. But the time got away from me again, and I"m just worn out. I promise something readable tomorrow. This is lame, but at least I've fulfilled my NaBloPoMo requirements for the day. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

November 08, 2007

It's a conspiracy I tell ya!

It's my slow day at work, which has got me surfing the web. I've managed to suck up my entire morning checking out some conspiracies.
• First, I couldn't resist the link I stumbled upon about occult symbols in corporate America, which ended up being the perfect stimulus for my graphic design brain combined with my obsession (since high school) with Freemasonry. If you need to kill a bunch of time at work, I reccomend viewing all three videos.
• Next, it was to St. Louis, where two women are set to be ordained this Sunday. They're being threatened with excommunication and in a letter from Archbishop Burke they were warned that, "in order to protect the faithful from grave spiritual deception...additional disciplinary measures will also have to be imposed."
Rose Marie Dunn Hudson, 67, on of the women to be ordained, responded, "What is he going to do, burn us at the stake, or what?"
Of course this is a conspiracy to overthrow the hierarchy. Where do i sign up?
* Oh, and the Chinese are trying to poison us. Clearly a commie plot.

What other conspiracies will I occupy my afternoon with? Any suggestions?

November 07, 2007

An anniversary

Dear Delle,
I can't believe it's been a year. Then again, I can't believe all that has happened since you've been gone. First, I just have got to say, that I deeply regret not coming out to you when I last saw you. I was searching for the words, but my attention was elsewhere — and before I knew it, my time with you was over. I thought we had more time. I know you did too. If not, you sure hid it well. All propped up on your big fluffy bed, nice crisp pajamas, ready to receive visitors. But when I came back the next day to bring Communion, the facade was gone. I noticed your swollen legs, your chalky white tongue, the distant look in your eyes as you grimaced at the pain.
I really miss you. I wish so much I could talk to you about everything in my life. Well, I do talk to you, I just have to be a lot more attentive to notice how you respond now. I felt you really strongly right after your death, you know. As strongly as I felt my granmother when she died. You both visited me in that uncertain space between dream and wakeful vision.
I couldn't bring myself to go to the Good Friday service this year. Remember how I prayed those days before Easter? I know that you do. My prayers were desperate and filled with longing and demands that my lonliness and hopelessness be removed. I was purging then — friends who didn't respect me, emotionally abusive lovers — and chasing down love in all the wrong places, finding only it's illusion. Remember that list I made in my diary on Palm Sunday? Everything I deserved and demanded from the Universe, combined with frustrated tears? I know you had a hand in manifesting those things in my life. Instead of missing you in the church pews Good Friday evening, I met a dream girl. The answer to my prayer that night.
So I'm in love! And she is wonderful, Delle. I wish you could have met her. She's a bit younger than me, a nursing student. I know how you felt about nurses — unsung angels. She's got a beautiful little girl, the same age as M.A.! She moved in with me a few months ago. We're making a life together with our brood of girls, and I'm counting on you to help me out from up there, sista. Relationships are hard work! So many hidden things about ourselves get dragged into the light where we're forced to deal with them. Lord knows I've got issues. I guess it's time to deal with them, huh? If I really want all the things on my list — which are now right at my fingertips — I've got to heal that broken girl-turned-woman inside. I need your help with that. T and I are overflowing with love for each other. I'm counting on love to see us through all the challenges. We're both committed to the health of our relationship, but we sure could use a sizable dose of grace from time to time! Oh no, you don't get to rest now — we need you to call in a few favors for us down here! I know what a workaholic you are anyway! I wonder what work God has for you now? I bet it's everything you ever dreamed of.
It's been a blessing to know that you're in our corner, always. I know if you've got God's ear, you're filling all of our lives with a constant flow of grace.
I've got an ovarian cyst. I had the CA-125 test and the results were normal but I'm not convinced I'm out of the woods yet. My doc wants to "wait and see" until March, where we'll take another look and talk about surgery. If there's anything you can do to help me out there, I'd be grateful. It would be more than ironic to me if I had to face the same disease that took you from us. That squatter better not try to find a home in MY ovaries!
We're all taking care of each other. The FaithFolk list continues, but has been silent so far this morning. We're all thinking of you, still greiving in our own ways. When we need each other, we reach out. I plan to write your brother a note today. I can still hear R singing 'The Deer's Cry' at your funeral. She is going to be an amazing woman one day. My heart is with her today too. What an incredible girl — to allow her mother to spiritually mother so many others. Damn, I wish I could hug you right now. A wink up at heaven will have to do.
All my love,
V
P.S. Oh, geez, how could I have forgot to mention this blog? Do you like the name? I know you'd get where I'm coming from with the Anima Sola image and it's many layers of meaning. You were always after me to write more, so here it is: my shot at filling a fraction of your shoes. I'm sure I don't bring my readers to the same spiritual heights that you brought so many, but I hope I at least stir a few souls from time to time. And I'm really enjoying my writing too — it really helps keep me open and grounded when all the stresses of life make me want to shut down and run screaming down the block. I'm only half kidding when I say that. It's become a real anchor for me in a turbulent sea. A source of graditude. I never would have started this blog if not for you. How am I doing?

November 06, 2007

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me

I was chatting with a friend yesterday about relationships, and we kept arguing and talking past each other about what characterizes a healthy relationship and what signifies a problem. We agreed that respect was a key component — both receiving it and knowing that you deserve it. You'd think that would be a given, but unfortunately, I can say that I've been in a series of relationships where there was a lack of basic respect — from both parties. This is not a pattern I'm interested in perpetuating.
So, as I struggled to point out what I thought characterized respect in a relationship, my friend kept redirecting me, pointing out that the things I was mentioning were just ordinary things that any responsible adult would do, and were not particularly indicative of respect, per se. I suddenly was at a total loss. Did I even know what respect really was, and how that looked in a relationship? I mean, it's pretty obvious when something is wrong in a relationship, but how do you know when things are right?
A little quick research revealed some helpful guidelines.

In a healthy relationship, you:

• Treat each other with respect
• Feel secure and comfortable
• Are not violent with each other
• Can resolve conflicts satisfactorily
• Enjoy the time you spend together
• Support one another
• Take interest in one another's lives: health, family, work, etc.
• Have privacy in the relationship
• Can trust each other
• Are each sexual by choice
• Communicate clearly and openly
• Have letters, phone calls, and e-mail that are your own
• Make healthy decisions about alcohol or other drugs
• Encourage other friendships
• Are honest about your past and present sexual activity if the relationship is intimate
• Know that most people in your life are happy about the relationship
• Have more good times in the relationship than bad

In an unhealthy relationship, one or both of you:

• Try to control or manipulate the other
• Make the other feel bad about her-/himself
• Ridicule or call names
• Dictate how the other dresses
• Do not make time for each other
• Criticize the other's friends
• Are afraid of the other's temper
• Discourage the other from being close with anyone else
• Ignore each other when one is speaking
• Are overly possessive or get jealous about ordinary behavior
• Criticize or support others in criticizing people with your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or other personal attribute
• Control the other's money or other resources (e.g., car)
• Harm or threaten to harm children, family, pets, or objects of personal value
• Push, grab, hit, punch, or throw objects
• Use physical force or threats to prevent the other from leaving

This is my new bottom line list for all of my relationships — family, friends and my lover. There have been times when I have not shown respect in relationships, so I'm not pointing any fingers. I am willing to do the work necessary to examine my own behavior and additudes. I can only worry about today, how I will choose to respect those I am in relationship with, and how I will not accept less than the same respect shown to me. It's actually shocking to me that I had to research this, because my relationships have been so dysfunctional, I couldn't even come up with some basic hallmarks of respect. Sigh.
Today I choose to both give and receive respect. Nothing less will do.
The good news is, with a little work from both of us, my partner and I have a great shot at having the healthy relationship that both of us deserve.

November 05, 2007

The real dream, and more about love

I had a weird dream last night: I was a cab-driver, and I pulled my cab over to the curb in front of my youngest daughter's school. I stepped out into the rain and walked over to where the kids were playing and found her -- preschool aged in my dream. I had my pillow under my arm and lay down in the street, snuggled against the curb and laying in a puddle. It then occured to me that T probably wouldn't like my putting our freshly washed pillows on the dirty ground in the rain, so I got up and walked over to where MA was playing. She was splashing in a puddle with a tamborine and she handed me a small inflated bat and I began to splash with her. Then I woke up. Interpretations welcome.
•••

This planting of seeds is more subtle than it first appears
its not just about a dollar to the homeless man
it's about perceiving what's happening in this very moment
and then deliberately choosing to extend love...

— The Gardener, Rebecca Riots


I'm still not sure what it was that I was meaning to write about love being a choice — accept to say that I do believe that it often is. I try to choose for love to be what motivates me, particularly when lesser emotions seem to be taking the helm. This conscious act has changed many things in my life. My activism that was once motivated by disgust and anger at our political system (and a certain chimpy in charge) is now motivated by my love of peace and the promise that positive action results in positive growth, both personally and collectively. I only made that connection when I stopped hanging out with anger-driven activists and started attending Pax Christi meetings.
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. I've always snickered when I've heard that line of scripture in church, because honestly, I've had enough trouble loving the people I'm supposed to love. I have to fight passive-agressive urges, resentment, irritation, and cognitive distortions. I have to stay open and communicative and humbly be able to admit when I've hurt someone and ask for forgiveness, as well as openly talk about what hurts me. It's hard work, but I believe that we are created to live in relationship with each other. If you can continue to do that with the people you are supposed to love — your friends and family — the trick is making the larger world (and even your enemies) a part of your family — if only by meditating on the fact that we're all human and all stuck in this together.

November 04, 2007

It was almost a dream

I was laying in bed, trying to hit the sack a little early tonight and see if I could take advantage of that extra hour of daylight savings sleep time, but I found myself blogging in my head, only to realize that I hadn't yet blogged today. My dutiful girlfriend gave me just the swift kick mixed with sweetness that I needed as she encouraged me to go type something quick. So, the blog I was writing in my head? I was remembering a homily I heard sometime last year from a young Jesuit. He was talking about love, and how it's more than just an emotion, it's a choice. More later...I'm going back to bed to mull it over.

November 03, 2007

Bad medicine

You can be sure you're on the right track when your challenging yourself to be a better person or quit bad habits, and God sends you more and more tests. I've gotten a couple this weekend and I'm doing my best to pass them, if only by the sheer force of my will. Sure, I raised my fist and said, "yeah right, God, you've got one helluva sense of humor. F**k you." But dammit, I'm gonna pass the test if it kills me. It's gonna taste like bad medicine, but I've had to choke that down before. Just crossing my fingers that there's really some good that can come out of this, and that I'm not just caving in to please other people. Adding resentment to my already-full plate wouldn't be a good idea right now.

November 02, 2007

Santa Muerta


I was talking to T yesteday about blogging, and she mentioned hearing a piece on NPR yesterday that she found fascinating about St. Death, or, Santa Muerta. I first found out about St. Death when I stopped into Augestine's Spirital Goods, a couple of doors down from where I work. Amidst the various icons, herbs, oils and candles, I found little statues of Death — looking very much like the Grim Reaper. As I've read up on her (she is most often depicted in female form), I've thought of her as a balancing aspect to Anima Sola (though I don't think I'll get a matching tattoo). It should be noted that Santa Muerta bears a striking resembelance to the Virgin Mary — and stays true to the Vesica Piscis shape which alludes to the Goddess. Outside the symbology she bears for the Mexican community, for me she symbolizes the veil of death that is patriarchy. She is the woman shrowded in fine cloth, dressed up with nowhere to go. I don't find it a conincidence that many pray to her for release from poverty. Just as this world is veiled in great wealth and riches, the poor are the hidden reality we all must face. It is as unescapable as death.
And speaking of death, I'm headed to the National Musuem of Mexican Art this afternoon to take in the Día de los Muertos exhibit and admire the many ofrendas and maybe even get a calavera or two for the kids.

November 01, 2007

A tidbit to cheer about

Yeah, I'm still in a piss-poor mood, but this made me crack a grin this morning. The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church has been ordered to pay $11 million to the family of a dead marine at whose funeral they protested. Yeah, you know these douche bags — the ones who show up at funerals with signs like "Thank God for dead soldiers" because they believe that God hates the gays, and this is his way of letting us know. Hopefully this will throw a bit of a monkey wrench into their travelling circus of hate.

Grey room

I hate to start off NaBloPoMo in such a grumpy mood, but I can assume that if you know me or regularly read my blog, you already know how moody I am. As I lay in bed last night I mapped out what I wanted to write about today, and for the life of me, I can't remember what it was that had me so inspired. All I know is that right now, I'm on the verge of making several enteries here that will assure everyone that I've totally lost it. Civility seems higly overrated today.
I find myself in familiar territory — expected to be the strong one with solutions to problems — but all I really want today is to fall back into strong arms and be held while I cry. I realized that I have to be that person for myself — be very gentle and loving with myself, stay firm in my boundaries when I'm feeling unsafe, and allow myself to be open to whatever comfort the Universe can provide for me. Sometimes all you've got is your pillow and a small window for grace to swoop in and save the day. I'll be listening to sad songs and choking back the tears while I'm at work today until she appears. I hope she doesn't let me down.

October 31, 2007

Sing to the light, and welcome the darkness


Well here it is, the end of October, and I'm brimming with Irish pride.
Last night MR, my oldest daughter, performed at Orchestra Hall with The Cross-Border Orchestra of Ireland. She and her classmates were selected to be part of a 400 student choir that accompanied the Orchestra — made up of Irish students across both sides of the religious and political divide. It was a superb evening, and I beamed with pride, knowing that this was a chance of a lifetime for these students — one that could shape them for years to come. I know that MR carefully studied the flutes, herself in her third year of band. Even the gossiping of The Queen Bees about my arrival with my girlfriend to a school function couldn't put a damper on the night. The sweet sounds of the Uilleann pipes, the fife, and a massive drum unlike anything I've ever seen, put me in the mood to dance a little jig, if only in spirit.

The night served as the perfect lead-in to Halloween — the ultimate in Christo-pagan celebrations. All Hallow's, Sukkot, All Saints, All Souls, Diá de los Muertos, Samháin — whatever you want to call it — across cultures, we humans choose to mark the turning of the year — from light to darkness — with celebrations that honor the harvest and our ancestors who have passed before us. This is the time to collect together all that is fruitful and dispose of what is rotting. As the autumn leaves swirl and death arrives, we notice the chill in the air along with our growing desire to hunker down spiritually and cast off what doesn't serve us. Many of us will turn inward, reflect and meditate more. Examine the darkness within, knowing that doing so prepares you for the promised growth of Spring. And, this should go without saying, but dress up, go trick-or-treating with your favorite ghouls, witches, and tigers, and get a good-sugar high to keep you buzzed through the rest of the week!

October 30, 2007

Black Sheep

I was reflecting on the comments a friend made to my last post, suggesting that if I were seeking approval, well, there's nothing down that road. It's funny, because as I began to think about it and reflect on my life, I think I've consciously risked disapproval more often than sought anyone's stamp of approval. I mean, this blog was originally intended as a place to talk about my struggle within the Catholic church — as the "inside woman" battling patriarchy, even if big results are never seen in my lifetime. So I serve as an openly gay Eucharistic minister, and I find ways to inspire and empower women in my church — whether it be in a faith-sharing group or by participating in the Mary of Magdala feast day celebration.
As an activist who never shys away from speaking out (or blogging) on the issues of the day, I've received my fair share of disapproval from family and friends. When I took my small kids across the country to participate in an anti-war march in frigid NYC temereratures, I was looked at ascance by many.
And as a teenager, I'm sure my father could tell you what a rebel I was. I certainly wasn't seeking his approval! In fact, I think that I've always been more of a leader than a follower, although I'm not really sure if that's how I've been considered. But I guess that's the entire point: I've rarely thought about approval vs. disapproval when I've acted, particularly when my deeply-held values were being expressed.
So what was all the whining then in my last post? Well, while I don't consider myself an approval whore, I do expect a certain level of understanding and faith from the people I care about. I expect to be given the benefit of the doubt. I expect not to be judged too harshly. Still, even given that those things are sometimes unavoidable, (we're all human, afterall) I've learned that changing one's behavior for other people might win you temporary approval, but at the cost of your integrity.
Ask any of my close friends and they'll tell you that there have been times when they've felt the wrath of my judgement. And they'll also tell you how I've changed in the past few years, and realized that my inclination to judge others was really more about me than it was them. Instead now, I reach for compassion and offer what well-meaning advice is asked of me when someone is making bad choices. Nobody's perfect, but I try to be conscious of any judgemental feelings that crop up and ask myself, what is about this situation that is bringing up resistance within me?
And what about my actions bring up resistance and judgement in those close to me?

October 29, 2007

Compass

Sometimes it just kills me. No matter how many times I choose integrity, honesty and faith over fear — I just can't win. All I can do is pray that the things I am doing are good for me because they certainly don't make anyone else in my life happy.
But how can I even trust that I am making the right choices and doing the right things? I mean, I feel good about the choices I have made, but again and again, I am met with anger and distrust instead of understanding and support. I mean, have I been such an asshole in my life that I'm just not the sort that anyone trusts or has any faith in? Am I really just that much of a disappointment? I know I have made mistakes and I've always tried to make ammends. I can admit when I'm wrong and that I've stumbled in the past. Shouldn't that count for something?
I'm always expecting a warm hug and some encouraging words — and getting scolded and shamed instead. I'm left feeling completely blindsided. Will the past always be thrown in my face despite turning over a new leaf? How long do others get to define me? When can I be in charge of being who I am? Tonight I feel adrift at sea without a compass. Anyone got one I can borrow?

October 23, 2007

A new day

Yesterday I had an epiphany. Maybe it took a little inspiration from friends who are battling their own demons, or maybe I just needed get a little grace to focus and name what it is that has haunted me, so that I can finally let it go. I have to admit, I feel a sense of shame at having come to this point so late. I could have saved myself a lot of grief by arriving sooner at this point where I am ready to release yet more old baggage.
We've all got baggage, and I have volumes of compassion for what other people have been through in their lives — how it has shaped them and what they have struggled to overcome. But I have never been so gentle with myself. Is it ok for me to finally admit that I too have wounds? That I've been betrayed by people I trusted and it has left me with deep scars? I need to really just give myself permission to say that, without feeling guilty that I have let other people have varying amounts of control over me at times in my life, or that I've wallowed in pain for too long, so that I can finally move on. I don't want to drag around the baggage that has been thrust upon me anymore. Nothing fruitful is there. I want a clean slate, so that I can focus on all that is truly soul-sustaining in my life: all the love and friendship and sisterhood around me. True love. Raising happy and vibrant girls. Filling up my cup so that I can pour it out on those deserving. I have wasted too much time and energy trusting those that didn't deserve it, and witholding trust from those who do.
So, I realized in the past two days that I have a choice before me: I can be the walking-wounded, or I can save myself. And fundamentally, I love myself too much to allow myself to be ruined. I've seen too many ruined people in my lifetime.
I want to love openly and freely and unencumbered by past experiences. I want to trust so completely that all fear vanishes. I want to live every day with integrity and honesty. I want hope and passion and unconditional love to surround me every day, and I want to surround those I love with that too.
Today I choose me. I choose life. I choose love.

October 22, 2007

At the intersection...

Two things made me smile broadly this weekend. First, my oldest daughter (M.R.) rushed into the kitchen while T and I were cooking dinner and exclaimed, "Mom, M.A. and J and I were making a Venn diagram and we found some great similarities!" I only remember that one of the categories was "chimpanzee" and the other something very disparate, but it just made my day that we've got the type of kids who get excited about such things.

Second, I learned this morning (and a little later than the rest of the free world) that Aldus Dumbledore is gay. But what really made me happy was the reaction of M.R. — who was positvely elated. She's been getting more and more comfortable with reavealing my sexuality to her friends, and this came as a huge boon to her. Dumbledore, after all, is on of the most beloved characters in more than a generation. I applaud JK Rowling for the reveal, even though it's not really touched on directly in her books. But now kids everywhere have a "gay friend." Not to mention that it will drive the crazy christians absolutely insane.

October 18, 2007

Out There

It seems that Cardinal George's feathers have been ruffled by DePaul University's courageous hosting of the 2nd annual Out There connference. The conference, which seeks to "address a wide range of issues of relevance to LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students at Catholic institutions, from nuts-and-bolts organizing in student services to the place of LGBTQ Studies at Catholic universities and the challenges of Catholic identity for LGBTQ individuals," will be held Oct. 19th and 20th.

Cardinal George's concern? That some of the speakers might "move from reflection to advocacy," in suggesting that LGBTQ Catholics press for changes in the moral law or form groups that ignore the magisterium. In my opinion, we don't need to form groups that ignore the hierarchy — most Catholics have been doing that already for ages, particulary on matters of sex. Furthermore, to reduce the entire conference to a focus on whether or not LGTBQ Catholics are encouraged to "live chastely" is yet another example of the church's failure to see the myriad of issues that affect LGBTQ Catholics and focus on sex as a "grave sin."

George's recent Archdiocesan article reads like an admonishment of anyone who would give pastoral support to LGBTQ Catholics without making it clear to them that they are expected to live celibately. Not only does he posit this as the Catholic moral code, but he goes so far as to state that "even non-religious" accept "the sexual complementarity of men and women is built into the morphology of our bodies and into the very purpose of sexual acts." So anything other than the perfect yin-yang of man-woman is therefore a mortal sin? Wouldn't celibacy therefore also be a sin, since it negates the "perfect union" that God has calls us to? And if not, is repression what God demands of anyone with the "inclinations" that Cardinal George fears "put our salvation at risk?" Has George learned nothing from the scandals that have rocked the Church these past years?

October 16, 2007

Supposed soul-gazers

She wrote:
leaning closely
upon my soul
—with her soul
dazed my eyes
that double flame


I believe, but cannot prove…
…that when I look into her eyes, I am indeed leaning with my soul — past cornea and sparkling blue iris, past lens and retina — locked in a gaze that touches a mystery that she cannot comprehend, accept to conjure words that she herself doubts the existence of.

But in the ecstasy and doubt of that sacred moment is the truth of faith. Soul. Soul. There is no other word for what we have leaned upon in each other. Unfocused, we linger and dance there, dazed by the double-flame brilliance of unexpected soul. Who would believe it? There is no proof. Down to the unique essence of all that she is.

October 15, 2007

Empirical evidence

I got into a conversation with my girlfriend this weekend as we sat in
my parked car just about to go into the 10am mass together. She has a
hard time understanding why anyone would base their lives around a set
of beliefs that can not be empirically proven. For my part, I love some
hard evidence just as much as the next gal, but I'm comfortable filling
in the gaps where there is no proof with my faith. I couldn't really
get out what I wanted to say (I'm blaming the current mercury
retrograde), and only managed to defend my philosophy by spouting some
post-modernist retort about finding truth within many faith traditions
and taking what was valuable and disposing of the rest. That seemed to
heat her up even more, as she sees this kind of "cherry-picking" as the
source of all that is wrong with religion, because just as I am
interested in choosing what is valuable to me, others (and entire
faiths) seem to focus on values that are antithetical to anything I'd
relate to, and in many cases, are used for great evil in our world. Not to mention that my own beliefs are quite different than what anyone would regard as typically Catholic, yet that is where I show up every Sunday. I ended up murmuring something about not being a "sheep."

I want to write more about this soon. It's bringing up all sorts of questions
and ideas that I've wrestled with before — everything from the
existence of absolute truth vs. relativism to our human need to
discover what is sacred and mysterious outside of the world of facts
and evidence. I want to explore what role doubt has for the faithful —
and how a lack of doubt is what I believe is missing
within some faith traditions.

Stay tuned. I think I'm on to something, but I need a little time to work it all out in my head first.

October 13, 2007

Looking for the arbiter of justice?

Something a friend said to me yesterday is really sticking with me today. She and I were discussing my need to defend myself when feeling attacked and manipulated, when someone is bombarding you with re-written versions of a shared history that (of course) exonerate themselves from any responsibility. She put it to me plainly: I am not god and I am not Wonder Woman. I am not the arbiter of justice. I never have been and never will be. Let the burden of that fall on someone else's shoulders. My atheist friend then suggested that I pray.
It's funny how my friend and I are able to bring into focus for each other the things that are so blurry to us in our own relationships. It's no coincidence that we've both struggled with abandonment issues and feel a tremendous sense of guilt when we have to make healthy choices that cut us off from people we care about. She says it's because when we were children, we didn't have the choice to ever leave — being dependent on the dysfunctional adults that had to care for us. But what gets to me even more is the fact that if I can (healthily) choose to walk away from a relationship, couldn't that have been the same choice that others made when they in turn walked away from me? I have come to accept that my mother's leaving when I was a child was a desperate act of self-preservation on her part. But the little girl inside still takes that personally.
I don't have the answers and I'm not always sure how to proceed. For now, I am taking my friend's advice and praying. I've done a good amount of healing in the past few years and I have a lot of faith that everything that happens in my life is exactly what I need. And I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the many blessings in my life, I can't help but want to focus my energy on the things that bring me light rather than add to the darkness. And I have found that it is the light that brings the most healing, not combating the darkness. Better to light a candle than curse the darkness, right? I've spent years wading through the darkness and you know what, it doesn't do any good. And for once, I'm happy to realize that the burden isn't mine. I am god and I am not Wonder Woman.

October 11, 2007

Forever

The dreams and sensations of Delle have been so strong in the last week, I found myself today reviewing emails that she sent out a year ago. A year ago today, she told her friends that it was time to go into Hospice care — that her almost four-year battle with Ovarian cancer would soon be over. "The squatter," as she called it, was winning the battle within her body, leaving her weak and resigned.
She visited me again last night. I was sitting with her in her room, just chatting away about life. I was always so dependent and so grateful for her wisdom and guidance! But these days, when the anniversary of her death is looming just around the corner, I find that the sense of her does not leave me when I wake. She is with me again, just as she was in the days after her death when I could feel her all around me. Why has she come back? Is there something I need to know or realize or understand? Or is her presence now only the residue of a heart's memory? Or the longing of a soul that has felt lost at sea without her navigator?
"Either we believe in eternal life or we don't," she chided us one year ago today. She wouldn't tolerate tears or a fuss being made. She didn't want to have to live our grief with us, it was just too overwhelming for her. Actress that she was, she kept herself together in those last days, careful not to reveal her suffering — propped on her fluffy bed of white linens and wearing a long starched nightgown. I was so grateful to spend an afternoon with her, and even more so to come back again the next day with the Eucharist — where she revealed her secrets and shared her suffering with me: her swollen legs, her white tounge, the ever-constant pain and the long draws for breath.
I don't spend much time thinking about heaven or hell — but on days like today, I pray that heaven is real, that we will all be together again someday, that God is merciful. The tears have begun and I expect there will be more in the coming days. Believing in eternity lessens the blow, takes a bit of death's sting away. I need the comfort of that belief today. I haven't had a good track record of faith in the concept of forever. But I want to believe that it's possible more than anything right now.

October 09, 2007

What would Jesus do — if his kid were gay?

Just stumbled across Salon's review of "For the Bible Tells Me So," a indie-documentary that tells the stories of several Christian families who are dealing with their adult children's homosexuality. Most notable is the story of Chrissy Gephardt, lesbian daughter of Dick Gephardt, former senator and presidential candidate from Missouri.
Aside from the griping personal stories, the film confronts the book of Leviticus — where homosexuality is descirbed as "an abomination" — and reminds us that Leviticus also condemns the eating of shellfish and the wearing of wool-blends. One can only conclude that a 4,000 year old ritual tradition of a people fighting for survival in the desert, doesn't really resonate with our modern lives. That is unless your a fundamentalist. But then you wouldn't be dragged kicking and screaming to such a film. Too bad, because those are just the folks who might benefit from this inspiring and sympathetic film.
"For the Bible Tells Me So" opened Oct. 5 at the Quad Cinema in New York, Oct. 12 in Boston, Lake Worth, Fla., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Palm Springs, Calif., Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Springfield, Mo.; Oct. 19 in Athens, Ga., Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Rochester, N.Y., Salt Lake City, Santa Fe, N.M. and Austin, Texas, with more cities to follow.

October 03, 2007

Glossing over it, Part II

So I went to my Gay and Lesbian Faith-sharing Group last night — and can I just first say how cool it is that such a group even exists on Catholic property in the city of Chicago? And what an awesome and faithful group it was. I felt very welcomed, despite my nervousness and realization that the room we were meeting in was the room I used to lead the R.C.I.A. faith-sharing group in, as well as the room where I attended my first (and only) AlaNon meeting. It was ironic of course, because this was a little of both: faith-sharing and support.
So for now at least, I've found my fellow travelers on this Catholic path. It is deeply edifying to share spiritually with other queer Catholics and feel supported in my coming out process. We prayed together, listened to each other's stories and struggles, read the gospel and picked it apart — getting down to how it speaks to us personally. I feel blessed to part of such a welcoming community, and grateful that our new priest has continued the tradition that Fr. B established of welcoming everyone and encouraging openness. None of us ever have to hide within this community of faith.
They're also planning some fun social gatherings in the near future, so I'm really looking forward to building more community.

September 30, 2007

Glossing over it....

It's been said that God works in mysterious ways. Personally, I believe God has one heluva sense of humor. As I found myself in the 5th pew (Mary side) of St. G's at today's 10am mass, I was happy to see what I have been scoping out for nearly a year posted in the church bulletin: a GLOS meeting. That this comes on the heels of my questioning what exactly I'm doing in this church is no suprise to me. Mysterious ways are something I've come to count on.
Since I started slowly coming out to my fellow parishoners not quite a year ago, I figured it would make sense to come out to the several gay parishoners that I know first. But I somehow got it in my head that coming to a meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Support group that my church hosts would be the easiest way to do this. So I scoped out the bulletin, knowing that they held regular meetings, but never saw any announced. And as more and more time passed with me holding out for this meeting — and interacting with several of said gay parishoners — I kept finding myself glossing over it or avoiding it completely. They'll just figure it out on their own, I rationalized. Or word will just spread and they'll know. Everyone must know by now, I hoped.
And then after a lot of time passed, I just thought it was weird that I had never come out to any of the gay members of my parish and wondered what exactly I was so afraid of. Maybe I was just afraid that I had waited too long, remembering my friend D coming out to me years ago and me remarking, "yeah we all already knew that."
So not only did I finally see an anouncement for a GLOS meeting, but the parish was having a ministry fair and GLOS had a table set up. I made my way over to the table to put my name on the list for wanting to participate. What happened next was so comedic and awkward that it resembled a scene from a movie. As I picked up the pen to sign my name, W, (the parish business manager, who together with his partner B have three adopted children, one of which is in the same class as my eldest) went to grab the pen out of my hand and said, "Uh, take a look at what you're signing there." I didn't look up and said, "yeah, I see what I'm signing." An awkward conversation followed where I confessed that it had been hard for me to come out to the parish community, and he offered his support, saying we'd talk later.
So Tuesday night is the meeting, and I'm going to do what I can to get there and complete this process that I've been avoiding for too long. No glossing over it at the GLOS meeting.

September 25, 2007

Faith in action


Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks in Myanmar are continuing peaceful protests today.

Tuesday's protests came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries.

The junta sent 10 truckloads of troops to Sule Pagoda, a focal point of the protests, including the one on Tuesday. Troops had been discreetly stationed in Yangon for the past few days, said diplomats.

"They are in full battle gear and they have shields and truncheons. Since two or three days, you could see they are rehearsing anti-riot formations. I've seen them myself. You can hear them. They shout," said a Southeast Asian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.


If the army opens fire on these monks, the country will quickly descend into a bloodbath of rioting and retaliation. Lets pray that the repressive government backs down.

September 24, 2007

Confronting patriarchy?



I won't rent you my time, I won't sell you my brain, I won't pray to a male god, cuz that would be insane ... and I will not rest a wink, until the women have regrouped — I am many things, made of everything, but I will not be your bank roll, I won't idle in your drive-thru, I won't watch your electric slideshow, I've got way better places to go.
— Ani DiFranco


I have to admit, I was struck dumb when I heard these lyrics at the Ani DiFranco show this weekend. I felt something in between the deep resonance of those lines, (shame?) and I recognized my complacency. I am bankrolling the Catholic Church, sending my daughters to a Catholic school, dropping my check into the basket each week. And I've done so consciously, because I've believed that I was called to be a voice on the inside — confronting the patriarchy around me. But I have to be honest — am I effecting any change at all?

For a time, I felt like my church was on my side in this battle. I found a sympathetic priest (now retired) and a prophetess against patriarchy (now deceased) to share in the struggle. I became a eucharistic minister, and remain so — now divorced (sin #1) and openly gay (sin #2). Of course I know that neither of these are sins, not in they eyes of the God/dess that I believe in — but there are days, days when I'd rather not show up at the table where so many people do hold these views.

I'm struggling. While my faith runs deep as it always has, I'm struggling once again with my place in a church that has felt less like home lately than it should. I can hear the chorus of why don't you just leave and I have a list of reasons why -- but I'm starting to see some holes there. I know that I've had a very difficult time coming out to church members, even though there are many in my community there. But how many were recently in a heterosexual marriage? And still, I believe that a big part of resisting patriarchy is simply showing up and continuing to be Catholic, resisting the assertions by the Vatican that my kind don't really belong. Church is local, I remind myself, just like politics. I just wish it were easier to envision my God/dess between those gilded walls — but the repetitive "Lord" and "He" squashes my imagination and squeezes the female Creatrix into a part of my brain that I can't access. I sit in my pew and try to conjor Her, to join "He" at the altar, but it is as if she is kryptonite and the church walls are lead — she just can't break through, save for small glimpses.

She comes through to me in the music, in the play of light through the stained glass as it bounces off the statue of St. Therese, in the voices of our lectors and cantors, in the Mother of God, and sometimes, from deep within myself. But she comes to me less when I'm in those walls then she comes to me without. She is in nature everywhere, in mothers everywhere, women everywhere, children everywhere. She is Wisdom and unconditional love, and peacefullness. She is in the smooth glass I collect at the beach, the kiss on my lover's lips, the sensousness and beauty of a burlesque dancer, the comfort for a child not my own, the sounds of our voices raised in song together and the warmth of our hands clasped tightly.

•••


It is Fall now, officially. The shift begins within, even before we notice hues change and new a new chill in the night air. We are ready, we say, ready to shed what is dead. Ready to fight harder for what sustains us. I am ready to accept change and even the little deaths that come, knowing that new life awaits me. Confident in new growth, always. But first, the long winter....

September 20, 2007

Louisiana...my heart watches

My gaze is fixed on Louisianna today, and the reasons are two-fold.

First, The Anglicans are meeting in NOLA, trying to hash out how they deal with 'the gay thing.' This is important, because it could be a preview to how my own church someday tackles (or doesn't)the issue. I wish I could say I was optimistic, but it looks like they could be headed toward schism.

Second, I am thrilled to see that a story broken months ago, has now made front page news across the nation — as bus-loads of protesters arrive in the-town-that-the-civil-rights-movement-passed-over, Jena Louisianna. My heart is joins with the protesters today, as well as with the families and defendents in this case of an overreaching and racist criminal justice system.

September 14, 2007

funeral postmortem



I arrived about 15 minutes before the private family viewing time was over -- enough time, I thought, to view grandpa privately. I saw my cousins when I came in, eyes full of tears. There were hugs and hellos and then it was time. I made my way in and walked toward the casket. He looked terrible. Not every funeral home can work the magic I had come to expect on 'Six Feet Under.' He was pale and his lips were sucked in, as if he were trying to swallow them. The pic of him and my grandma was perched over his shoulder, a constant visual reminder of what he 'should' have looked like. I touched his hard hands but no thoughts or words came to me. Only the blank realization that this was not my grandpa -- not anymore.

•••


At the wake, I managed to tell a few of my 'big city' cousins that I was gay. They were happy for me -- totally cool with it, asking about my gf. Later that night, our family had reserved a hospitality suite at the Holiday Inn. I figured after a few beers and/or glasses of wine, I'd find the courgage to tell some of the more conservative members of the family. There were suprises all around. When I clumsily told a few of my male cousins by edging into thier 'what women really want' conversation, they were literally speechless. I had actually managed to shock them and as they grimaced, I turned to my brother who swooped in to save me from the humiliation. I owe ya one, bro. I felt so marginalized after that incident, that I went outside to get some air, and called T. Feeling like the new family pariah, I slunk back into the room to collect my kiddos and shuffle back to my hotel room. I was done with the family togetherness for the night. Then I was suprised by a couple of my aunts. My rather conservative aunt from a decidedly red state saw me come in and read my sullen expression. I told her that I was struggling -- and she comforted me, reminding me that our family really was pretty conventional in it's thinking, and that it would take time. As I said goodnight to another of my aunts, she vented to me about how someone had lashed out at her. She too was feeling marginalized. She pointed out that a lot of us feel that way in our family -- convinced that we are the outcast. Though I had never heard our family dynamics described in this way, I knew she had hit on some indidious underlying thing that we do to each other. So much judgement. It's really inescapable in our family. Some are good at faking it to slide by, no flaws detected. I was never so lucky.

•••


We made it the church in the morning with not a minute to spare. We quickly joined the others, cutting into the front of the line. I looked up at my cousins who served as pall bearers -- boys who were now men, attending the dead. The tears filled my eyes, but I choked them back. All the usual pomp of a Catholic funeral mass -- sprinkling the casket with holy water, lighting the Easter candle, the white burial cloth, the insense. Two of my aunts euologized their father and their stories of his life really set the tone. A man of science whose questioning of 'how things worked,' somehow led him down of path of faith and devotion. Stories of the Joliet prison riots, being active in civil rights, marching with Dr. King, and a lifetime of questioning. "Faith requires doubt," he told his children, "otherwise it'd be fact."

•••


Why is our family so judgemental? Why do we criticize each other so harshly? Marginalized is exactly what I had always felt. There is always a gauntlet of criticism I must face when I'm in presence of my family. I'm too fat. I smoke. I work for the communists. My tattoos are sick and depraved. I'm not enlightened because I attend a Catholic church. I profess a faith I don't believe in. (You can't pick and choose, you know.) I'm not gonna make it to heaven. And oh, now I'm gay too. Well, at least they thought my children were delightful and my haircut was just perfect. My aunt said that she thought it was in our genes -- this thing we do to each other. And I think it's also in our genes to think that we're the only one that this is happening to. But I see it now -- we were all doing it to each other. Even the cousins -- the generation that I had thought was free from the type of behavior we'd all witnessed from our aunts throughout our lives. Was this to be our family legacy?

•••


I'll miss you Grandpa Joe. After the funeral, we all insisted on going to the burial site; I guess they don't let people really do that anymore. The grave diggers were at work and I took a picture of them. You'd have been proud of us, learning something about the work, the process, of interning a body. But we all really needed to see you next to Grandma. Twenty-two years is a long time apart. I knew I couldn't leave the cemetary without seeing you lying next to her. We all needed that. I took pictures of the grave and surrounding markers, so that I could find my way back. We took a detour on our way home to the old house on 81st place. We told the Nigerian man that you sold the house to that you had died, and he remembered you fondly. The house never looked so great. I was flooded with memories standing there. Thanks, Grandpa, for always loving me, always teaching me, always guiding me. I trust that you will continue to do just that, from your new vantage point.

September 09, 2007

Make a hole in the sky for him....

My dad called last night just after I got off the phone with a friend. As soon as he said, "I have some bad news," I knew what was coming next. Half an hour earlier, my grandpa had fallen in the kitchen, hit his head on the stove, and bled to death. And although my grandpa was 94 years old, it didn't stop the tears from coming in great heaving sobs, which woke my oldest daughter. We cried together, then I went to my CD player and put on this song for the patriarch of our family:

King of May

Farewell today
Travel on now
Be on your way
Go safely there
And never worry never care
Beyond this day
Farewell tonight
To all joy and to all the life
Go on go peacefully
We can't keep your majesty
Be on your way
Make way for the last king of May
And make a cardboard crown for him
And make your voices one
Praise the crazy mother's son who loved his life
Farewell today
Travel on now
Be on your way
Can't bear the very thought that we
That we could keep your majesty
Be on your way
Make way for the last king of May
And make a hole in the cloud for him
Raise your voices up
Drink your loving cup
To his long life
To his long life
Make way for the last king of May
Make a hole in the sky for him
And raise your voices up
Lift your loving cup
To his long life
His long life
And raise your voices up
Lift you loving cup
To his long life
To his long life
His long life
His long life
— Natalie Merchant