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!