December 25, 2008

Freedom!


Before I had children, I adopted the feminist outlook that I wouldn't allow any of my daughters to have Barbie dolls. A toy that would potentially encourage my daughter to see herself as a "mannequin, sex object or housekeeper," wasn't welcome in our lives. I had my own past history — and a few scars — from growing up with Barbie. My feminist mother never bought any, but they seeped their way into my life as well. My singular lasting memory of receiving the doll was Christmas Eve when I was 9 years old. My Aunt, a Dietician obsessed with weight and nutrition, gave me two presents that year: a calorie-counting guide book and a giant Barbie head. The overpowering message of the two gifts was clear — you are not good enough. I had decided that Barbie would not be a part of my daughters' lives. Of course, while I personally didn't purchase any, I couldn't foresee the complete onslaught of Barbies at every birthday and holiday that they would receive from uninformed friends and family. It was truly overwhelming, and I succumbed to peer pressure. And as I watched my girls play with the dolls, I realized that their imaginative play was mostly positive. One thing became clear to me: Barbie was in control and didn't take orders from anyone.
Adjusting my viewpoint to fit the circumstances, I focused my "ban" on other dolls — like the overly-sexualized "Bratz" dolls. With their exaggerated lips, tits and ass, they make Barbie look somewhat like Holly Hobbie. Once surrounded by dozens of Barbie dolls, I thought I should share a few words with the girls about the doll, her features, and the cultural messages. Over the years, this has turned into somewhat of a Christmas morning ritual. Barbie (and other dolls of her ilk) come encapsulated in the most extreme packaging of nearly any product out there. There is thick plastic that must be cut, wires that must be unwound, plastic tethers that must be cut from her head, wrists and feet, ripcord strings that must be pulled from the stitching of her clothes. Of course, no child can manage this on her own, so is sweet succession, I am handed these dolls to "free them." Instead of complaining about the lengthy process of cutting through all of the packaging, I enthusiastically cut and rip at the plastic, telling the doll, "You're almost free!" And this is how my Barbie pep-talk begins each year — as I free her from the bonds of her plastic slavery. Anticipating what has become our ritual, Little M did her best Aretha impersonation this morning and danced around the living room singing "You better think, think about what you're trying to do to me." Big M and I chimed in with the chorus, singing "Freedom! Freedom!" as we held up the newly emancipated Barbie dolls. Little M and I told each doll, "You are free now. You don't have to be what they created you to be anymore. People are gonna love you for who you are, not for being what they want you do be. So be yourself now! You're free!"

December 22, 2008

Frozen solid

It's been so cold the last couple of days that I've been pretty much holed up in the house. I did manage to go outside for a few minutes today to add antifreeze to my car — hoping that will cure it's total lack of heat, and to help The Nurse free her car from the perilous ice. Once we got her car out, I decided that there was nothing that pressing that was worth me losing my relatively easy-to-park-in spot. I could have dragged some lawn furniture into the street in true Chicago fashion to guard my spot, but it just seemed like too much effort. Much easier to surrender to the ice and just stay put.
The ice seems to have seeped into other corners of my life too. My job search is somewhat frozen, as I have found myself once again pinning my hopes on one great lead that is totally frozen with no job offer and no confirmation that I didn't get the job. Frozen.
The promise of Advent has not yet thawed the icy chill in our hearts as we grieve the loss of three parishoners, and I have learned that another is close to the end -- the mother of a girl I went to high school with who was in a devastating traffic accident that killed two other parishoners a month ago as their car collided on an icy road with a semi truck. It's no wonder that I've come to have a healthy respect and fear of this ice.
More snow is expected tonight and into the holiday and I will probably have to venture out into the world tomorrow and do my best to break free of all of this ice. I might get stuck, but I'm a hearty Chicago girl whose been through 36 long winters and I won't give up without a fight. Wish me luck.

December 09, 2008

International Human Rights Day

If I had a job, I'd be calling in "gay" tomorrow. Or perhaps I'd be joining others on the steps of the Chancery downtown tomorrow to protest this Christmas gift from the Vatican. Sadly, I'll be at the wake of a friend's husband tomorrow instead. What are you all doing?

December 06, 2008

10,000 points of light

I noticed the other day that this blog has now gotten over 10,000 hits, which is a milestone I guess. I hope that a good fraction of those hits resulted in actual readers.
It's been busy lately: I survived Thanksgiving with The Nurse's family — and their Black Friday 11 hour shopping tradition the next day. They teased and joked about Aunt Patty not being able to hack it when she went with them years back. The Nurse took it as a good sign that they were comparing me to another spouse. With a little Christmas money in hand, The Nurse and I headed out to the casino for a minute before going to see a movie on Thanksgiving night. She lost $50 bucks in about 10-15 minutes. Ouch.
I had a big job interview this week, and I'm waiting as patiently as I can to find out if I sealed the deal. Don't want to talk about too much because I'll probably jinx it.
We've got the Christmas tree up and decorated, and for the first time since our childhood's — we've got a tree with colored lights. The kiddos begged for them this year, and our white lights were mostly burnt out at this point, so we went ahead and got some. We decided that it's gonna take a little getting used to, because we both have some negative associations from our childhoods. Poor people use Christmas lights. That's one thing we grew up believing. Somehow white lights always were more elite and elegant. Blinking colored lights were entirely ghetto, particularly if strung in giant x's in the front windows.
Well, as luck would have it, we actually are poor, so we're enjoying our low-brow colored Christmas lights this year.

November 23, 2008

Booooo!

I totally blew it and forgot to post yesterday. Well, I knew I wasn't going to make it through the whole month anyway, seeing as how I won't be home for two days over the Thanksgiving holiday. Forgive me, NaBloPoMo-ers for my grievous error! Better luck next year!

November 21, 2008

wifey

I swear, I've become a total house-wife. I can't tell you how much this simple fact motivates to be vigilant and tenacious in my job search. I just wasn't cut out for this.
While The Nurse was washing the girls' dirty coats last night, the washer did that thing it does — and refused to drain any water. So today I had to lug the soapy wet coats to the laundrette. I've spent quite a bit of time there lately. I was sad to see that their 99 cent special was over and that I'd have to pay $4.30 per load, but relived that the place was relatively empty and I didn't have to fight for a washer and dryer.
And then I spent the rest of the afternoon sweeping and dusting and washing things. Yay me.

November 20, 2008

Click

I had one of those job interviews today where everything just seemed to click. It reminded me so much of the interview that led me to my last job — it was just clear that we shared a set of values (both personally and in terms of the organization) and that I would be a good fit. Sometimes this can be even more important than possessing the skills that a place is looking for. They want to know that you want to be there and will find the work rewarding. Midway through the interview, she stopped me short as I was showing her my portfolio and let me know that they were at the end of the the first phase of interviews and had asked a couple of people back for a 2nd interview. And then she asked me to come back and interview in front of the rest of the collective. So, I've got a 2nd interview with this place after Thanksgiving and a decision will be made that same week. I've got a really good feeling about this one. I plan to have them eating out of my hand....

November 19, 2008

Winter Wednesday

It was about 45 degrees all day today, just lovely. I told The Nurse that I wished every day of Winter would be exactly as warm as today. She said it was this warm because it's Fall, not Winter. So basically, I wish that Fall would replace Winter. But I know that Winter is coming.
To prepare a little today, we finally took the air conditioner out of the kitchen window and The Nurse, in her infinite generosity, bought me a new pair of Winter boots. They're as comfortable and furry as house slippers.
Today the kiddos brought home their report cards — and it was all good. The Nurse owes Big M some big bucks as a result of the deal they struck for bringing home A's and B's. It seems the motivation of cold hard cash has proved to be quite effective.
I'm pretty exhausted from running around all day. Big job interview tomorrow too. Gonna turn in early tonight and enjoy my flannel sheets. G'night.

November 18, 2008

101 Things About Anima Sola

1. I carried around a picture of Anima Sola for many years.
2. I finally decided to get it tattooed on my right arm.
3. Anima Sola means "Lonely Soul." It represents the soul in purgatory.
4. My real name is Valency.
5. It is pronounced VAL--en--cee.
5. I was named after a character from a made-for-TV movie that aired the year I was born, called The People.
6. The People starred William Shatner.
7. The movie was based on the sci-fi book series by Zenna Henderson.
8. A college professor of mine gave me a copy of the book. I lost interest about half-way through.
9. The character Valency was an alien.
10. I was born in San Francisco in 1972.
11. My parents were hippies. They were married 2 weeks after I was born.
12. They divorced when I was 6. I was raised by my father.
13. I have a younger brother, with a completely "normal" name. Also, a half-sister and half-brother from my Mom's remarriage.
14. My mom is a red-head. I have brown hair like my dad, but I got my mom's freckles.
15. I get a sun-burn after about 15 minutes in the sun.
16. I went to six schools between Kindergarten and 1st grade.
17. I skipped 2nd grade. But then I got put back toward the end of the year because we got a new principal who didn't believe in grade skipping. I transferred to a Catholic school.
18. I had 10 years of Catholic school, the last 4 at an all-girls Catholic high school.
19. I begged my dad to send me to the all-girls school, because I was sick of boys.
20. After high-school, I took a year off to follow the Grateful Dead. I hitch-hiked with two girlfriends to New Jersey. We went to a truck stop in Indiana and got a ride with a trucker. He ditched us in Ohio when he realized we weren't "those" kind of girls. We got another ride with a real gentleman.
21. I imagined I was a whirling dervish when I danced at Dead shows.
22. If I could relive any time from my past, it would be following The Dead that summer.
23. I got married when I was 23. It lasted for 10 years.
24. Part of the reason my marriage ended was that I realized that I was a lesbian.
25. My mom and her mom are also lesbians.
26. I wonder which one of my two daughters might be a lesbian.
27. I was also a practicing pagan for 15 years. I started attending a Catholic church again to get the parishioner discount in order to send my oldest daughter to Kindergarten at the parish school.
28. I was hooked when I heard Delle Chatman give the Gospel and Homily one Sunday morning. I knew that my parish had gone renegade!
29. When I heard Delle speak, I cried. I swore I saw a halo above her head. I knew I had found a spiritual home and that I had to get to know this woman.
30. She became a spiritual-mother to me.
31. I began this blog in her memory. She told me that she thought I was very talented and should write more. She passed away two years ago after a 4-year battle with Ovarian Cancer.
32. The tagline for this blog, "Your chains are broken darling, so why are you still standing here," I heard Delle say to me a few months after her death.
33. I don't often hear the voices of dead people, so I took this as an important message.
34. I am a graphic designer by trade, but I also have a few articles published.
35. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer when I was in high school.
36. I inherited my artistic ability from my mother. She can draw a straight line without a ruler, perfectly.
37. It took me nine years to get my BA in Graphic Design. I worked and went to school part time, and took time off whilst having children. I scheduled my second child to be born during summer break.
38. Both of my children's names start with the letter M. I didn't do that on purpose.
39. I currently live with my partner (aka, The Nurse) and her daughter, who is the same age as my youngest.
40. We call our house "The Estrogen House of Doom."
41. We generate an enormous amount of laundry, which is my absolute least favorite chore. I don't mind the washing part, but the folding and putting away part is horrid. Matching all-white socks will be my punishment in hell.
42. Along with the smell of tar. If I'm going to hell, there will be lots of burning tar.
43. I think I'm going to heaven, along with everyone else I love.
44. Otherwise heaven would not be "perfect."
45. A grade school teacher told me that Heaven IS perfect, and that if everyone I love wasn't there, then it meant I didn't really love them. I knew she was full of it when I was 9.
46. I've never stopped questioning authority. I have a finely-tuned bullshit detector.
47. Unless my 11-year-old is lying to me. She's good. But not good enough to get past The Nurse.
48. Although I attend a Catholic church, I consider myself "christo-pagan." I don't image a solely male Deity, and I am keenly tuned into the wheel of the year. But I also feel a deep connection to the Mass, the saints, and the rituals of the Church.
49. Most pagans and most Catholics don't see how I can reconcile the two belief systems. I found it to be quite easy and natural.
50. I haven't found any religion that has a monopoly on truth. But seeds of truth lie in all of them.
51. I fainted when I got my first Holy Communion when I was 9. Some of my friends joke that this makes me a "mystic saint." I'm no saint, but I definitely tend toward mysticism.
52. I don't think I would continue to worship in the Catholic church if not for the many like-minded people I have encountered in my parish, particularly gay families and advocates for women's roles in the church.
53. I am a hard-core lefty. As in, I am left-handed and politically far left.
54. I worked as a graphic designer for the Communist Party for 3 years. I didn't join the party though, because I'm not THAT far left. I found their philosophy to be naive.
55. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I voted for a Republican once for Governor. My vote was validated when the Governor halted executions in our state. I am firmly against the death penalty.
56. I have been unemployed for about a year. Which is why I have time to write this. I have applied for over 200 jobs and been on about a dozen interviews. I'm still hopeful that something will come along soon.
57. Writing this list is harder than I thought it would be.
58. I haven't been on a vacation in over 3 years. I can't wait to work again so that I can take some time off and travel!
59. When I was a baby, I went to Hawaii and lived in a tree house for about a month. I'm not kidding. Did I mention that my parents were hippies?
60. The only time I have left the U.S. has been to go to Canada. World travel is on my list-of-things-to-do-while-I'm still-young-enough-to enjoy-it.
61. I would like to visit India, Ireland and Paris, just off the top of my head.
62. I believe in Reincarnation. I have had Past-Life Regression, and it revealed two past lives.
63. I don't like to exercise. But I enjoy biking. My bicycle was stolen out of my backyard two summers ago and I still haven't replaced it.
64. I spent a great deal of my time this past summer collecting sea glass.
65. I also collect crosses and Mary's. I love Catholic kitsch.
66. In addition to the Anima Sola tattoo, I have two others. The first one is a blue crescent moon with a sunburst over it. The other one is a pink and blue closed lotus flower, which symbolizes transformation.
67. I don't wear earrings or have any piercings because I am allergic to nickel.
68. I have a fetish for finding out about people's allergies, particularly if they are lethal.
69. I also have an odd fascination of cults and Free-masonry.
70. I think I would get a Masters of Theology degree if I thought it wouldn't be a total waste of money.
71. I think I'm very lucky to have found my passion in life and the ability to follow it (thus far).
72. Money isn't very important to me. It would be great not to struggle financially, but I can think of dozens of things that I value more than money.
73. My favorite magazine is Adbusters. For years I fantasized about moving to Vancouver and becoming the Art Director for Adbusters. Now I think that Vancouver is too far and too cold.
74. I am a total type-geek. I can usually point out fonts by name when I see them, and wax poetic about typographical characteristics. I am wild about em dashes. I'm told that Emily Dickinson had a thing for them too.
75. I designed my own font and named it after my daughters. It is a lowercase only font called "m & m."
76. Now that I am sorta-step-mother, I wonder if my step-daughter will think I am evil.
77. I had an evil-step-mother. She was married to my dad for 3 years. She used to give me the finger when no one was looking when I was 7 years old.
78. I swear a lot. My parents didn't care if we swore, and I ended up with a mouth like a truck-driver. I tell my kids that I don't mind an occasional bad word so long as it's in the right context: you can swear if you drop a jar of mayonnaise on your foot, but you can't call someone a name.
79. The hardest part of being unemployed has been staying around the house all day. I crave constant human interaction. I'm totally extroverted and feel anxious when I'm alone for too long.
80. When I'm alone, I see it as an opportunity to sneak a hot bath. There are few pleasure in life as fine as a hot bath.
81. In winter, I take a hot bath almost every day. I can't stand being cold.
82. Although I hate the cold, I think Chicago is the best city that I've ever been too. The only other city I've seriously entertained living in is Boston — which is arguably colder.
83. Whenever I'm in Boston, I visit Salem, Mass. I have the odd sense that I've lived there before in another lifetime. The first time I was in Boston, I walked all around the city by myself (which is not at all on any kind of grid) and somehow knew I couldn't get lost there. In Salem I felt the same way.
84. Music is one of the most important things in my life. Nothing grounds me better or feeds my soul in the same way that music does.
85. I already have the music picked out that I want played/sung at my funeral.
86. I am increasingly fascinated with death, but not at all in a morbid way. I am interested in death as a process and spiritual transformation — something that we all must surrender to someday. I am more afraid of losing the people I love than I am of my own death.
87. I think that I must have been Middle Eastern in another life, because I could eat middle eastern food every day.
88. I also love sushi. And Ethiopian food.
89. I can't stand the taste of anything grape or cherry flavored. It reminds me of cough-syrup.
90. But I like real grapes and real cherries.
91. I'm allergic to red wine, but I drink it anyway. Some types don't affect me while others give me a 24-hour migraine that begins after just a few sips. I continue to experiment.
92. If I'm drinking hard liquor, it's likely Vodka. Anything other than Russian Vodka is swill.
93. I am very opinionated and I talk too much. But I strive not to be judgmental. I've learned over the years how to admit when I'm wrong, too.
94. I am very smart. Most of my friends are even smarter.
95. I pray every day. God answers, always. I've had strong faith since I was a small child, though neither of my parents were religious. My grandma used to take me to church with her occasionally when I was little. When I was 7, I asked my dad if I could become Catholic, and signed up for CCD classes.
96. I don't exercise every day. I wish I did. It's a personal failing of mine that I hope to remedy sometime before I keel over. I keep telling myself that if I just do it, I may grow to enjoy it. But I seldom do it.
97. If I had to guess, I would say that I'll probably die of Cancer. It runs in my family.
98. Family is pretty important to me. There are a lot of things that I hope to pass down to my kids. I'm pretty traditional in that regard.
99. I was born on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini. I thought I was a Gemini my whole life, with clearly more Gemini traits. But as I get older, I see quite a bit of Taurus too.
100. I can't really believe that I'm in my late 30s. I still feel like I did when I was about 17 most of the time.
101. I am fabulous.

November 17, 2008

Aced

Not 10 minutes after I got back home from taking my re-test at The Staffing Agency, I got a call with my test results: I aced it. Very high score. She said that they'll rate me as one of their top production artists and a highly qualified graphic designer for publishing. Can't wait for the phone to start ringing with some work! I have another interview lined up for Thursday of this week, so there definitely seems to be some things moving in the right direction. Phew!

November 16, 2008

Re-test for Dummies

So I bombed that test at the staffing agency; the good news is, I can take it an unlimited number of times, but they won't send me out on any jobs until I bring my score up. Today I went out and bought InDesign CS4 for Dummies so that I can brush up before I take the re-test tomorrow. I'm glad I have the book because it's crucial that I keep on top of new software in my line of work, or risk my skills becoming obsolete. Wish me luck!

November 15, 2008

H8



It's been the bittersweet and not-often-talked-about election result that still has me reeling: that over 50% of the voters in California don't think that I am entitled to the same civil rights as they are. Even more stunning to me, that the black community voted 70-30 against preserving civil rights for another minority. I didn't make it downtown today for the protests, but I was there is spirit.

Here's my personal take: I think it's all a matter of semantics for most people. Fine, good, let the religious folks keep "marriage.' But then EVERYONE else who wants the same civil rights entitled to them should be able to acquire a "civil union,' whether they're gay or straight. I just really wish that the LGBT community had thought out their strategy better before this got onto the ballot. This is a huge separation of Church and State issue and a Civil Rights issue, period.

November 14, 2008

Childhood scars

"You should wear with pride the scars on your skin — they're a map of the adventures and the places you've been."
Poi Dog Pondering


It's been another tough day among many tough days. I had a good conversation with a dear friend today who found a little work for me to do around her office while I'm struggling to make ends meet. It seems that the financial mess is catching up with a lot of people these days, while I have been immersed in it for quite some time. We talked about our struggles and our life experiences and being up and down over the years. It got me looking back over the course of my life and particularly my childhood. The Nurse didn't have an easy childhood and neither did I — albeit that our struggles were completely different. But I can remember being dirt poor, having to live with my Dad's sister after my parents split while my dad scrambled to figure out how to support two kids on his own. Always wearing hand-me-downs and looking like a ragamuffin. We were mostly shielded from his worry and poverty in those days, but there were plenty more that I can easily recall. My dad worked hard and provided the things that we needed but we had to go without a lot. Being the "poor kids" at the Catholic school was tough at times, but I'm extremely grateful for the education that I had.
I started wondering how my own children are perceiving our struggles. We've done our best to shield them from it too, still managing to scrape together another month of tuition for their private school, still managing to pay for extra-curricular activities most of the time. But I also do want them to be aware of the struggles, and hopefully, to be grateful for all that they do have. There are so many more who have so much less, with so few opportunities available to them.
Today as I left my friend's office, a toothless woman approached me and asked me if I knew where she could go for some help. She described her desperate circumstances: homeless, mother of two, needed a little cash to pay for one more night at the apartment hotel. Sadly, I didn't even have any change to give her but tried to direct her to a shelter just a few blocks away. I considered going to the bank and getting out a little money to give her, which would be charitable at best, irresponsible at worst. Her story being highly questionable for a few reasons, I didn't return but felt incredibly guilty nonetheless. Even if she was an alcoholic with a made-up story about kids, I knew that my circumstances, no matter how desperate, were infinitely better than hers, and I wanted to give her whatever I could. I have an education, a college degree, marketable skills, family and friends who love me, three job interviews next week and lots of things to be hopeful about. I have my health, plenty of food to eat, a roof over my head. I know that this too shall pass. That God will provide enough. That there is abundance in the universe. I even know that the fact that my kids are so disconnected from the reality of our situation is probably a good thing, nevermind that I'm sometimes speechless at their seeming ingratitude. But if these struggles are for something good, I pray that they make our children as resilient as The Nurse, and as grateful as I am for all that matters. A childhood with a few scars might just be exactly what God has in mind....

November 13, 2008

To the ballroom

Crazy day today, so this will have to be one of those super lame-o short posts. Big M is performing in a ballroom dance presentation at school tonight — doing the Jitterbug and Tango. I think what is making me most nervous is that I haven't yet seen the high heels she'll be dancing in, that her father's friend provided. Given that said friend has a predilection for pole-dancing, I'm worried.

November 12, 2008

A future not our own

I just found out that Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been threatened with excommunication if he does not recant his belief that women should be ordained. Fr. Roy, a Catholic priest and SOA Watch founder participated in the ordination of a woman down in Lexington, KY a few months ago, and gave a homily at the Mass. If excommunicated, the action would come just before the annual protest at Ft. Benning where Fr. Roy is scheduled to lead the mass and protest.
Roman Catholic Women Priests issued a statement of solidarity to accompany Fr. Roy's letter to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Both letters rightly point out that exactly ZERO priests who abused children — nor those who helped them cover it up — were even THREATENED with excommunication. It's really just a travesty, but I can't say that I'm surprised.

I'm again reminded of the homily attributed to Fr. Oscar Romero about how change comes about so very slowly:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.

November 11, 2008

This is a test

Happy VD, er, I mean Veterans Day. I went to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce B2B breakfast meeting today to network. I didn't even know such a thing exsited, so I was glad when my friend invited me. I also didn't know I'd be having to get up in front of the whole room and speak. It took about 20 minutes to return to normal and stop shaking after that. Or maybe it was just the coffee. It was good to meet people in the community and get a little practice shmoozing and selling myself. Tomorrow I've got an interview where I'll be tested on Adobe InDesign. I'm going to go check out some tutorials so that I'm a little more confident with it. Peace.

November 10, 2008

Gratitude

It was a tough day today, not particularly horrible but not very good either. Some bad news came for The Nurse, which really set the tone for the rest of our day. When I picked M&M up from the bus stop today, Little M announced that she had a "very bad day," and Big M looked like she'd been crying for an hour. " I just want to be left alone," was all she said. Everyone seemed so down by the time that dinner was served. It was Little M who, in a stroke of spiritual insight, suggested we all go around the table and talk about what we were grateful for. It was sweet to hear things like, "friends, family and mashed potatoes make the list. When it was my turn, I remembered the homeless man who approached me at the bus stop today as I waited for the kids. Speaking only broken English, he said that he'd be leaving Chicago in only one week, but he needed work to survive for the next 7 days. He'd been sleeping in the park and looked weak, cold and hungry. He was asking us if we knew of any work he could do around the neighborhood. I told him I gave him a couple of ideas, like raking people's leaves, but really didn't have a lot of good advice for him. As the bus pulled up, I reached into my wallet and gave him the last two dollars I had on me. I really needed that money, but he needed it more in that moment. I looked him in the eye, shook his hand and wished him good luck. I'm grateful I had the money to give, grateful that I don't have to sleep in the park.

November 09, 2008

Potluck hangover

It looks like I've come full circle and have to steer clear of red wine again. The last several attempts at drinking it has resulted in a 24 hour headache. Last night I headed over to the 2nd Grade Parents Potluck where the wine was a flowin'. The Nurse met me there and we made the rounds. It was good reminder to me of how accepting our community is.
My head is still throbbing and I'm really just looking forward to going to bed at this point. G'night.

November 08, 2008

Dreary

As it sit here looking out my window at 10 till 4 in the afternoon, it looks more like 6pm outside. It's getting dark already, the wind is howling, and a gentle rain is falling. Snow is threatening later tonight, but just flurries. As dreary as it is outside, I managed to put a little pluck in my step today as I headed downtown for a job interview. It seemed to go well, but I have to concede that after 11 months of unemployment, I may not be a very good judge of these things. All I can say is that I did my best and that I'm confident that I am qualified for the position. As soon as I got home I slipped into a hot bath and then my fuzzy pj's -- planning to laze around under a blanket and watch TV. The Nurse called and reminded me that we RSVP'd to a "2nd Grade Parents' Potluck" tonight and though neither one of us feel like going at this point, I'd feel too guilty if I didn't at least put in a brief appearance. I had to spend about 20 minutes hunting for eight quarters (I had three in my wallet) to do the minimum laundry requirement to make going out even possible. I feel bad, because in my hunt, I "borrowed" big M's Oklahoma quarter that I found on her dresser, though I'm certain she was saving it for her 50-state collection. If anyone I know runs across a shiny new OK quarter, hook me up, k?

November 07, 2008

On this day...

Delle at Aunt Lossie's 1
Continuing the tradition for this anniversary:

Dear Delle,
It gets jumbled up in my mind sometimes exactly how long you've been gone. Two years. It's been only two years but your absence is felt so deeply it feels like it has been much longer. This year I asked that your cobalt blue glass be put on our Ofrenda honoring Dia de Los Muertos at St. G's. It was nice to see it up there, along with the picture of you and Ramona dancing. I think you'd like Fr. Grassi. He gave a great homily last week about how losing people we love is something that we all have to experience — and that they continue to beckon us to new life with them in heaven. It makes me think of my grandpa, and how many funerals he had to go to in his 94 years, burying all of his friends.
Last weekend I went to an ordination held here in Chicago by Roman Catholic Womenpriests! I actually sang in the choir, if you can believe that. I remember you telling me that I shouldn't be afraid to sing if I enjoyed it, and well, the opportunity presented itself and I just couldn't pass it by. I wore your green scarf and pinned it with my Mary Magdalene broach. A woman from St. G's, Barbara Zeman, was being ordained, along with 3 other women who became deacons. It was awe-inspiring. I know you were there with us.
This last year has been a real struggle. I've been unemployed for 11 months now, just barely scraping by. Each month looks more and more disastrous. I remember you telling me how you'd cry out in your despair about bills, "Lord, I just know you're gonna take care of these bills," and somehow at the end of the month, things ended up ok. So I'm trying not to think about all the bills I don't see a way to pay. I'm counting on God to deal with it. And I'm not giving up on my career goals. It sucks being a starving artist, but it's too sustaining in so many other ways to give up. I know that I've got the talent to make it. Things will turn around.
Delle, I know you'd be shedding more than a few tears about our election results. Isn't it wonderful? I remember when Obama came on the scene and you predicted that he could be president some day. Some day is here! How can we help but feel hopeful with this stunning and historical development. This is a real opportunity for America. I sure hope we continue to rise to the occasion.
Things are going pretty well with The Nurse and the kiddos, all things considered. We are super stressed out, but we're striving to find ways to support each other and cherish what we have and avoid the flare-ups and stress-triggers that we end up taking out on each other. We're living on our dreams right now, hoping the future can bear some of them into reality. Have you got anyone's ear up there? The tough times are going around and I know you'll do what you can on your end to get the grace flowing. I went to Mass this morning and thought of you. Wondered if you've gotten to have any good conversations with St. Terese yet. We miss you. Little M was remembering you and Ramona last night. I hope that she is doing well, and I'm certain that your gaze is upon her always. We miss her too at St. G's. Send her our love, will you?
Love,
V

November 06, 2008

Wonderfully grateful

I've been sending out 10-20 resumes a day and the phone isn't ringing. Now that we've elected the "change" candidate, how long do you think we'll have to wait until the change actually materializes? It can't come soon enough for my family. Today I'm grateful that no matter what happens, I've got friends and family who care about us and will do whatever they can to help us out. Makes me feel a little like George Bailey.

November 05, 2008

Obama


I've waited nearly all day to blog because:
1) I'm exhausted and really drained emotionally after the election night excitement
2) I've been busy and out of the house all day

But mostly, because I'm not sure what to say. Personally, the Obama victory is extremely edifying and as a native-Chicagoan, I'm especially full of pride. Finally some politics for our city to be proud of.
Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet. Or maybe it's because now we just have to wait till Obama is actually inaugurated. Or maybe it's because I'm just that impatient and want things, particularly in my own life, to change right now.

Quite possibly my hesitancy to write too much is due to the venom I've been subjected to — or heard about others being subjected to — in the last 24 hours. So the McCain supporters feel sour. Well guess what: I've felt pretty sour for about eight years now so get over it! So whether you're a buddy of mine from back in high school who some how became a gun-toting racist and irrationally corelates that with military experience and a tour of duty in the Middle East — or maybe you're Nurse McNazi, who grills your nursing students on their political affiliations and belligerently explains to them how proud you are that there are still people left (like your husband) who are willing to assassinate him — not because he's black, but because he's a Muslim — I just have one thing to say. Your kind is a dying breed in this county. America has spoken loud and clear and you shouldn't feel so comfortable publicly spewing your racist hate speech — because today I can say with a little more certainty than I could at any previous time, there are more of us than there are of you.

November 04, 2008

My prediction

I am superstitious, but the groundswell is SO huge, that I'm going to go ahead and predict an Obama victory. The polls haven't closed anywhere yet but turnout looks high. And when the people vote, Republicans lose. I'll be waiting intently for the returns from Pennsylvania because if McCain doesn't win it, I think it's all over at that point. And having been a former resident of Indiana, I'll pop the bottle of champagne that's been sitting in the back of my fridge since last Christmas if it flips Dem. Mimosas at midnight anyone?

First, a little mood music....

I'm glad my gamble paid off this morning. I ditched out of the early voting line (probably about 45 min.) last week remembering that there has never been a line in my precinct on Election Day. I was right. Only a handful of voters in front of me and I was in and out quickly. I've got a busy day today and I'm off and running, with a promise to blog later today and tonight as I ponder (and panic?) the election returns. Enjoy Barack's Top Ten Favorite Songs:

Barack Obamas Favorite Music Playlist

November 03, 2008

Our political sense of humor....



When it comes to politics, The Nurse and I discovered that few share our sense of humor. Reminiscent of the year that I dressed as Monica Lewinsky on Halloween at my new Insurance company job, The Nurse took a similarly tasteless approach to Halloween and dressed as Ashley Todd. You know, the mentally distressed McCain volunteer from Pittsburgh who falsely claimed that a large black man attacked her for being a McCain supporter and scratched a "B" into her face while commanding her, "you WILL support Obama!" Heh.
Problem is, The Nurse cruising the neighborhood all made up with black eye, backwards "B" and McCain/Palin pin, it became very clear very quickly that no one was getting the joke. It became a question of safety, and the uncomfortable looks and comments she was getting made her ditch the costume after only an hour or so. WE thought it was hilarious anyway....
So one day before election day, lets make sure the joke is on McCain this time. Be sure to get out and vote tomorrow if you haven't already. But if you're in Chicago, don't be afraid to "vote early and vote often," if you catch my drift. Kidding, kidding. Well, sorta. I plan to vote tomorrow no matter how long the line, but I'm counting on a short wait. We shall see.

November 02, 2008

Music, Muertos, and Matriarchs

Whew. The Nurse and I got about 12 hours of sleep last night. Thats exactly how wiped out we were. We used our extra hour very constructively as Daylight Savings Time ended. Oh how we love our bed....

At Mass this morning, our parish traditionally sets up an ofrenda to Celebrate the dual holidays of All Souls Day and Dia de los Muertos. The names of those that have died this year are read. The Nurse and I both placed mementos and pictures of our loved ones on the altar and dwelt in their presence on this day when the veil between life and death are thin.

Later we went to see the ever-lovely J (aka The Closet Choir-Girl) perform with The Apollo Chorus of Chicago at a local church. She's kept her talent hidden from us all for too long. Her secret is out now. The Closet Choir-Girl is an amazing singer! There were a few key moments when the music moved me to tears and I felt chills come over my whole body. Particularly beautiful and meaningful on this day, the final movement of Requiem, In Rememberance:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight-ripened grain,
I am the gentle morning rain.
And when you wake in the morning’s hush,
I am the sweet uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.


I've just got to say a little more about the Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordination ceremony that I attended yesterday afternoon. As a woman and as a Catholic (with pagan leanings mind you), it was edifying and soul-enriching to see so many ordained women at the altar and in the congregation! Not only those that con-celebrated the Mass, but those that traveled from all over the country and world to be a part of this historic event. The most powerful moments were when the ordinands prostrated themselves as the Litany of the Saints was sung and when the selected members of the community were asked to come forward for a Laying on of Hands. Because I was in the choir, I was just feet away watching all of this unfold, and there was one moment when Barbara Zeman was overcome with tears as one ordained woman came forward and lightly touched her head. It's as if I could actually see the Spirit transferring from one woman to another. Very powerful. It all seemed so perfect and natural (right down to the praying to "Our Father and Mother for the Lord's Prayer) that it's hard to wrap my mind around what a truly historic event this was. But more than historic, this was an act of disobedience that I was happy to play a role in. Our church remains in a state of hypocrisy as long as it refuses to acknowledge the call of women to the priesthood and Holy Orders. We must continue to disobey and challenge the patriarchy until we right this wrong. Being there made it clear to me that there is a paradigm shift on the wind. And it's blowing toward Rome, whether they like it or not.

November 01, 2008

Singing down the patriarchy

Happy All Saint's Day! This one was remarkable for me. I was honored to be a part of the RCWP ordinations that took place in Chicago today. A woman from my parish was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest! And I sung with the choir — something I haven't done since high school! It felt great to sing, but I forgot how hard it really is. Thank goddess my friend J joined me (HipMamas rock!) and was an amazing and powerful alto that I could follow.
I promise to write more about the experience tomorrow. (The Nurse made me promise not to write that last sentence in my blog. Shruggs.) It was amazing and I was warmed to see several familiar faces in the congregation. I literally had a front row seat — just a few feet from the ordinands and the Bishop during several key parts. I had to choke back tears more than once. I sung my little heart out, wearing Delle's scarf around my neck, fastened with my Mary Magdelene pin. I know she was with us there.
But after two days of choir practice and a 2.5 hour Mass, I'm BEAT.

October 30, 2008

A Quickie....

Just a few quick notes with a promise for a BIG blog on November 1 to kick off NaBloPoMo this year. There's something really big that I can't wait to share with you after November 1, but for now, it's shhhhhhh.

I have now gone from my regular chaotic state of being into super-hyper-overdrive. I must find a job. This week. Or next. Period.

It was good to see Ms. Babble last weekend -- she seemed different. Enlightened. That was definitely the highlight of my week.

I'll oddly be missing out on shlepping the kiddos around for trick-or-treating, because of the super-top-secret event that I'm participating in on Saturday. I promise to blog it up afterward. I love Halloween. The Nurse has got all of the shlepping responsibilities covered this year, so how will I celebrate? Maybe I'll just pilfer the good candy from the bowls when I get home...

After dealing with a host of assholes this week, I feel the need to post the advice my dad gave me when I was 12 as a personal motto: Illigitimati non carborundum est.

October 23, 2008

Push and pull

"I don't know how to be my best self in this type of a relationship. We're just so enmeshed...."
That word again. Enmeshed. Of course it sent me back reeling because I have certainly heard it before. M used that word when she was being nice. When she wasn't being nice, she'd call me an 'energy whore.' We tried to find that balance by maintaining a long-distance arrangement that involved other lovers — which I learned to tolerate quite well. I taught myself to stay detached emotionally but hung on to what I still consider the ideal situation: a close one-on-one relationship, a true partnership. I'll deny it if you ask me if I believe in soulmates, but if you've read this blog from the beginning, you know that would be untrue.

So is it any surprise that the combination of my high expectations and emotional intensity has overwhelmed The Nurse? Not a surprise to me. I have not yet found the balance between suffocating my lover and completely walking away. I have learned to be more understanding and to resist the urge to see things in such black and white terms. I have learned that there is a middle ground between rejection and being overwhelmed, even if I haven't found it. I can acknowledge that a healthy person needs their own space, their own interests, their own friends. Maybe I should have pushed more for both of us to keep these things as I willfully cast them aside, one by one. I used to dance, I used to meet my friends regularly, take better physical care of myself, go to Pilates class. The Nurse has let as many or more things fall by the wayside as well. Enmeshed.

I was warned by my last two lovers that all of my relationships were doomed to fail because of this dynamic. When loving me becomes a sacrifice of your very self, you have no choice but to push back. And when you push, I run fast and far. This is the self-defeating pattern that has emerged in all of my relationships — guaranteeing abandonment from every love.

The question for The Nurse and I — is it too late? Can we each find the balance and reclaim self without pushing each other away? Can I resist the urge to push as she pulls away?

October 17, 2008

Desiderata

After smudging myself and my house today (thanks bro, for the limitless supply of sage), I'm trying to take in the wisdom of this poem that my mom directed me to today. We're a family that struggles with depression and, um, shall we say, "issues." Anyway, if I try to digest each line of this poem every day, then I'll have my work cut out for me. Peace.


Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s

shame

I remember hearing at a retreat once a talk about shame. "Shame," we were told, "is the most utterly useless emotion. And the most destructive."
I walk the line each day knowing that it is only our loving God who can truly forgive and love us unconditionally. And I try to believe that I am loved, I am forgiven. But few things in my life really exemplify that. I guess that is the ultimate point of the plea: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
If I'm going to purgatory, I'm fairly certain that what I'll be punished for (or cleansed of?) is the long list of the things that I refuse to forgive about myself. The things that I am ashamed of. But we don't really wait for purgatory, do we. We punish each other and we punish ourselves everyday. We build walls, carry resentments, lash out...the list is long of our human failings.
How can we accept love in the weight of such overwhelming odds? How can we extend forgiveness, particularly to ourselves, when our culture does not embrace forgiveness? I can hear them chanting in my head now, "crucify him, crucify him."
Sorry if this is kind of rambling. Just my state of mind today.

October 12, 2008

Not neighborly...

Early this morning I was sitting on my lovely balcony, enjoying the start of an unusually summerlike autumn Sunday when I noticed one of my neighbors walking by. I got ready to send down a neighborly "good morning," when I noticed he was muttering to himself. Not the type to interrupt someone fully engaged in talking to himself, I stepped back just as I heard the words "fucking faggots" float to my ears. Before I could react, he looked up at me and muttered, "bitch." I looked up and saw that he had just passed my car — and might have been commenting on my HRC equality sticker. Before my brain could put this all together and before I started to entertain the idea that maybe I was just being paranoid and that his angry ramblings had absolutely nothing to do with me, he had passed out of my view.
I'm a little floored by the whole experience; this guy has been nice to our faces and pretty conversational on a few occasions. He seemed like a laid back bearded hippy type. Now I'm wondering just how many people are nice to our faces, then secretly scowl when our backs are turned?

October 09, 2008

Mama mia

Hat-tip to Mombian for her eloquent article about being a lesbian-mom, just in time for National Coming Out Day. And hey, is it just me, or did she work in my comment to her about Rachel Maddow being slapped with too much eyeshadow for people to accurately read her as a lesbian? I'm flattered. Really though, read her article because it very accurately describes our common experience as lesbian moms.

On the 'visibility front,' The Nurse and I attended an athletics fundraiser at a tony downtown bar recently. All three of our girls are involved in sports, so it was important to us to make this the first school function that we've attended as a couple. Most people took it coolly, but there were some visual gasps and one woman actually raised her hand to cover her mouth she was so shocked. But I guess if Rachel Maddow has trouble being read as a lesbian, then I shouldn't be surprised that I'm not setting off the gaydar of most heteros. But then again, their gaydar isn't the most sensitive anyway. Even appearing with The Nurse, doesn't "seal the deal" for many heteros. People have even asked if she is my SISTER! (Um, yeah, we got a good laugh from that one.)

October 04, 2008

We'll have to revist this later

I guess we won't get to find out how Joe Biden handles the whole "gay marriage" thing at tonights HRC fundy after all. His MIL is in hospice, and he's canceled all of his weekend appearances. Of course, my prayers are with the Biden family, but I sincerely hope that this issue gets revisited.

October 03, 2008

We are more, sister

"We are MORE, Sister." That's what her email said to me a few weeks ago, refusing to bow at the altar of Obama because he does not fully embrace gay rights. I posted a bitchy blog in response to her "rant," but after watching the VP debate last night, I have to admit that I was angry and disappointed at the candidates. I didn't want to admit the truth — that on the issue of gay marriage, there is no difference between the candidates — they are all emphatically against it.
Instead, from the "progressive" Obama/Biden ticket, we get platitudes about protecting the rights of partners to visit each other in the hospital. Are they serious? We are so past that.
Now, I can respect (and even agree with) the notion that "marriage" is and should be primarily a religious matter and left to the faiths — but Joe Biden left it at that. Instead, he should have pointed out that all couples deserve the same protections under the law, and therefore, anyone (gay or straight) taking part in a civil "marriage" should be required to have a "civil union." Leave "marriage" to the churches. But he didn't say that, and instead pointed out that everyone running is in total agreement about this issue. I wonder how this will play out, as Biden is scheduled to make the featured remarks at the annual HRC dinner tomorrow night.

October 01, 2008

The Last Good Day of the Year

I woke up this morning with a chill — the second day in a row where I felt like I didn't want to leave the warmth of my lover or the blankets. I know this feeling will persist until next Spring. The beginning of Fall not only brings the familiar temperature shift but also a feeling of resistance that has become recognizable to me over the years too. Death (both big and little) lurks behind every corner, and I wonder, how the heck am I supposed to make any progress and create positive change for myself when nature is telling us hunker down. Or is my life to be at odds with nature in this regard? While the leaves fall around me, the days shorten, and life whithers, am I going to be reborn amidst it all? I certainly can't wait for the alignment that Spring would provide. I must become like a greenhouse, and burst with continuous new life and possibility, defying nature and every natural tendency to shrink into myself and stagnate.

September 27, 2008

McHangover ramblings

I woke up with quite a hangover after playing the Debate 2008 drinking game last night with The Nurse — we took a drink every time McCain implied he was "a maverick." So I guess I can thank McGrumpy for my McHeadache.
My apologies that I haven't been keeping you all updated on my oh-so-interesting life lately; I've been having trouble getting any thoughts down, because my brain has been somewhat overwhelmed. I know it's healthier for me (and possibly more entertaining for you) if I try to get those things out via my writings and ramblings, so I'll try to do better in the coming weeks.
I've been examining my role in the church again — trying to refocus my purpose there and get some more concrete things planned in terms of supporting women's roles in the church. I'm always fighting not to let myself get too comfortable in my pew and to keep finding opportunities to challenge myself and my church. Some exciting things are coming up on that front that I will blog extensively about when the time is right — about a month or so — so stay tuned. For now, loose lips sink ships.
I'm also mulling over a total career change. I'm trying to give it as much thought as possible but the time is coming soon to move toward action rather than just thinking about it. It's just so easy for me to live in that mess of a head of mine. Depending on how things go, I may soon find myself doing things that I never thought I would ever even consider possible. A deeply spiritual path lies before me that will call on me to muster all the strength and compassion that lies inside and look death squarely in the eye. Sounds provocative, doesn't it? I'm not going to let you all in on it just yet, because I really need to get to that point of action first. More soon, I hope. A psychic told me nearly twenty years ago that one day I might find myself on this path, and that I should follow it. We shall see....

September 11, 2008

7 years


As I sat here at my computer and looked up at the clock and saw the time, 8:11am (CT), I froze. I instantly remembered exactly where I was and what I was doing seven years ago today. I turned to the TV and flipped it on. MSNBC is re-playing the original broadcast from the Today show that I sat and watched 7 years ago today, my new 3-month old baby cradled in my arms. I dreaded whether I should get in my car and pick up my four-year-old from pre-school as I desperately tried to reach my husband who was in class, using his work beeper. And the tears have started to stream again — because I know what comes next in this broadcast. I know that if I continue to watch, I will see the towers fall. I gasp and cover my face this morning as I remember that soon I will see trapped people jumping to their death, rather than be taken by the smoke and flames. Do I dare to continue reliving 9/11 this morning, flooding my brain with the painful images of that day — images burned into my brain for all time yet softened by the slipping years?
•••

My brain speeds forward, through all the events of that day, and all that has happened as a result in the past seven years. I remember our lip-biting president sitting in a Florida classroom as he is told, looking terrified and not at all in control. And the years of war to come — the lies, the lives lost, the politics of it all. The eerily silent skies that would linger for days. My baby is seven years old now, and her future is still uncertain — still because of all that happened seven years ago today. I don't want to get into all the politics today, I just want to remember and feel and grieve again. My prayers are the living and the dead today. Any more words fail me today.

September 10, 2008

Busted: Religious while Lesbian

This morning, I'm reacting to a rant posted on MySpace, which mocked religious people (specifically, Christians) and was written as a clarion call to the gay community. The rant painted our current political choice as "the lesser of two evils" and claimed that Obama was "just like the rest," in his lack of support for Gay marriage. He was cast as a "bible-believing, heterosexual male," and therefore not a friend of the gay community. But let's be clear, it is McCain/Palin who are actively campaigning against gay marriage and equality — and have a clear record on those issues.

But as I read it, I was keenly aware that it represents a certain widespread view in our community — that being religious while gay is an act of self-hatred. I am no stranger to that accusation, as a practicing Catholic. Certainly, the Catholic Church is defined by patriarchy and has come out strongly against gay marriage — but anyone who is a practicing Catholic knows that there is no limit to nonsensical dogma that gets disposed of by the people in the pews. The list is long there, and generally speaking, The Faithful have reconciled that Rome doesn't know what it is talking about when it comes to sex or womankind. But that has nothing to do with my relationship to God, my love of the Mass, and the values of Catholic Social Teaching that I hold dear; and so I work from the inside to create change, and I am not alone.

It weakens my resolve to know that I have to divest some of that energy and redirect it back toward my own community — who really needs to understand that we really are everywhere — even in the church pews.

September 03, 2008

Inspired

I was so flattered this morning when I got an email from my best friend that included this poem that my Beachcombing post inspired. Can I just say that I have the most amazingly talented friends?

Transformation to Treasure

Her faith leads her to the water's edge
Where she carefully scans the sands
And collects the scattered beach glass
To cup within her hands.

She fingers the once-sharp edges
Softened now by sea and shore,
Having endured tumultuous tumbling,
Battered down to their core.

She gathers them to her faithfully,
For she sees within her soul
This transformation from broken bits
Into treasure, again made whole.

Lisalit

August 29, 2008

Back-to-school

It's been a hectic last few weeks — getting everyone ready for the start of school. Supplies were bought. Backpacks were stuffed. Uniforms were ordered and altered. Financial aid forms signed. But this years ritual has seemed to go smoother than in the past, thanks to The Nurse's organizational prowess, not to mention her deep pockets and actual joy when it comes to buying school stuff. And she's back to school too. It's gonna be a rough year, but I know at the end of it we will truly have something to celebrate.
With all the back-to-school picnics and such, I found myself reconnecting with school parents and this year — finally came out to the few people I'd really been meaning to come out to but somehow hadn't yet. It was a huge relief, and again, I have The Nurse to thank for really pushing me here. Having her by my side has certainly made it all much easier — because I can simply introduce her as my partner and watch as the understanding spreads across their faces. But the few tough cases who still didn't "get it," well, they had to have it very clearly spelled out for them. But so far, it's been really good and all reactions have been totally positive and even loving.
With everyone now firmly entrenched in the new routines of the school year, I am trying to figure out what to do with myself. Every day is as day off and I jealously crave the routines that I am missing out on. Several potential jobs have slipped through my fingers this summer, which is something I'm sadly getting used to. And there are still more possibilities on the horizon, but there is an ever-encroaching fear just beyond that horizon. The terrible "what ifs" are just barely being held at bay by the last reserves of my optimism and the last weeks of unemployment benefits. But I can't talk about that, because if I panic (or even show the slightest concern), I will shatter the facade that holds the rest of the family together. I am strong for them, and for myself too. What other choice is there?

August 08, 2008

I finally saw Gothika....

I've been meaning to blog about this for a couple of weeks, but remembered today when I got a new comment on my most popular post. The comment was about my Anima Sola tattoo, and how it relates to the tattoo sported by the villain in the movie Gothika:
I was just going through my old movie collection and stumbled upon gothika and well, got interested to put a search...when this page came out. the tattoo in the movie seems to be different than yours. This shows a serene and heavenly beauty in chain and the other one will really make you feel that the girl is in excruciating pain..see the movie..it rocks. — Gordon

Well, Gordon (and fellow anima sola fans), I did see Gothika a few weeks ago. I had been meaning to ever since I learned that an anima sola tattoo is featured in the plot. After seeing the movie (which I thought was pretty good, btw), I can assure you that:
1) I am not a raping, murdering psychopath or maker of snuff films
2) I do not associate the anima sola image with the torture of women (and anyone who sees my tattoo and thinks I do is positively misinformed and/or crazy
3) The anima sola symbolism in the movie was twisted to fit the ideals of the villain — as is often the case with religious imagery/ideals.
Anima Sola does convey suffering, that is undeniable. The woman is in flames, after all. But she is penitent, gazing heavenward, and the flames do not consume her. Her chains are broken. It is suffering, and the release from it. Anima Sola reminds me that we punish ourselves for what we choose to punish ourselves for. Her voice rings in my head with the words "your chains are broken, darling, so why are you still standing here?"
So, I'm taking Anima Sola back from Gothika. She's mine. And she's pro-woman, beautiful, strong, and powerful. She's a survivor. She's got boundless faith, though not always in herself. Like Joan of Arc and St. Bernadette and even myself on my better days.

August 03, 2008

Beachcombing


I am a earth sign, on the cusp with an air sign. But I've always been drawn to the water's edge, particularly in times of inner turmoil and anxiety. When I think back over some of the most traumatic experiences of my life — heartbreaks, abuse, betrayals, loss and deep sorrow — I can remember grasping for a thread of sanity or just peace and heading for one of Lake Michigan's nearby piers. And just as easily as some people "give it go God," I gave my pain and my tears to the powerful waters — sometimes quite literally casting away whatever physical remnants of loss or grief I wanted to finally be free of. But that is between me and the lake. She keeps my secrets faithfully.

•••

I started collecting beach glass as a teenager and this summer I've probably collected more than I have in my whole life! The combination of being unemployed during the summer, and The Nurse loving the quiet Zen-like treasure-hunting as much as I, has meant many beach days for us. But she's a Pisces and nowhere more in her element than near the water. The beach is the absolute most perfect place for a water-sign Pisces, and The Nurse is blond, to boot, and is a total sun-worshiper. I can see how recharged she gets after a few hours at the beach. I'm not a sun person at all; my skin is fair and freckled and I start to burn in about 15 minutes. Still, I've been consistently drawn to the lake throughout my life, and I love to collect beach glass. Beach glass is made from discarded bottles: coca-cola, beer, and even milk of magnesia that gets broken and tumbled by the sand and water over the course of years. And after all that battering, something quite ordinary is transformed into treasure. It gives me hope. Hope that I can be transformed too — as life breaks and tumbles me in its waves and deposits me on some rocky shore. Each piece of glass that I collect is a prayer-wish, a treasure and a promise. There is beauty to be found inside, if we just persevere.

August 01, 2008

My Buddha nature, rekindled?

This morning as I was getting the kids ready for their last day of summer camp, I stepped out onto the porch and was met by an ethical dilemma. A spider had crafted a huge web overnight, right over my lawn chair, and caught in the web was a moth, still alive, flapping furiously, but to no avail. I sat in the chair next to the web and pondered the scene. The spider was nowhere in sight, and the moth was still wildly trying to fly out of the sticky mess. Should I free the moth, or, should I decline to deprive the spider from it's well-earned meal? I mean, I don't particularly feel an affinity for bugs and don't go out of my way to spare them. I step on ants. I swat flies. I smack mosquitoes. Earlier this morning I forced a giant centipede down the bathroom drain when my daughter shrieked as she met it in the shower. So why did I even think twice about it. Perhaps it was the helplessness I saw. Or the terror of the moth's certain death. Or just it's fighting spirit — still trying to escape against insurmountable odds. I wondered, is it even possible to free a moth from a spider's web? I reached out with the end of my cigarette (yes, I said cigarette) and burnt the two threads of web that anchored it to the balcony, sending the moth and web cascading gently onto the lawn chair. I bent down and picked up a stick and gently tried to loosen the moth from the web. I managed to get the moth out of the larger web, but it was still trapped in goo, and unable to fly. And it seemed more scared than ever, flapping unceasingly. I laid the whole sticky thing down on the porch post, and began the careful surgical procedure of freeing each of the moth's tiny appendages from the adhesive threads that wound around it's tiny legs and body. I used my finger and a stick to gently try to free it. I couldn't give up on this little guy now. It was still going to die if I didn't get the web off it's body. I pulled gently at the twines of web and suddenly, the moth was free, and flying! It flew right at me and clung to my sweatpants for a moment and then flew away. When I went in and told Little M what had happened, she said, "it was giving you a hug, Mommy, for saving it." I'd like to think so.

July 22, 2008

Malkovich and Mary Magdalene


Today I had a big job interview for a high-level design position with the City of Chicago. But here's the bizarre part. I was told to go to "Room 3M8," so I pushed "3" when I got on the elevator but then quickly noticed that there was a "3M" button too. When the doors opened at 3M, they opened to something straight out of Being John Malkovich. Ok, maybe not that drastic, but the ceiling was short. Really short, and there were strange steel beams cutting diagonally through some of the corners of the long meandering hallway. When the people interviewing me joked that I might want to "take off my high heels," the Malkovich jokes ensued. It was truly bizarre.
Today is the Feast of Mary Magdalene, and I'm off to church for our annual women-grab-the-patriarchy-and-have-our-way-with-it celebration. Ironically, I've been asked to read the first reading from the Song of Solomon, which aside from being a lovely metaphor for the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, is the story of a woman searching for her male lover. Let's hope I can keep a "straight" face for that performance. Heh.

July 20, 2008

Purge

It's now been over 24 hours since I've had a cigarette. Instead of lighting up when I feel the several occasions of light anxiety that occur during the course of my typical day, I'm spraying Dr. Bach's Rescue Remedy on my tongue. The true test will be when one of life's major anxieties shows up — and how I will chose to cope then. We shall see.
I've realized that quitting smoking is as much about letting go of negativity as it is actually putting down the smokes. This realization has got me wanting to dispose of so much mental baggage, which I try to do periodically. I can see around what issues I've let negativity creep back in and where some mental house-cleaning is in order.
Probably the most important thing I can do right now is to not just sit around and think about how to purge the negativity — surrounded by my journal, and copies of You Can Heal Your Life and Living the Life You Were Born to Live — but to actually do something physical. Like exercise. The thing I resist more than any other thing. Just Try. Run. Sweat. Struggle. Feel-Out-Of-Breath. Feel Awkward. Feel Weak. Feel Stronger. Believe That I Can.

July 04, 2008

Denver, Part III

The mean old lady across the hall was talking to her birds again — she must have had a dozen or so in there. I imagine that there was bird-shit all over her apartment, which would seem to fit her personality. Every time we turned on any music she'd start banging at precisely 10pm. We'd already gotten several calls from the landlady about complaining neighbors. What the hell were these college students doing in a building full of old folks?

When I wasn't in class or working, I spent most of my time in Boulder with Marie. When I was forced to be home, I isolated myself in my bedroom, doing what I could to shield myself from Leah's attacks. Kami was finally getting all she ever wanted, now that she was Leah's sole ally. Our walls were thin, and I could hear them plotting and talking about me.

It was around this time that I got a hold of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was the perfect escape from my hellish living situation. The characters of that story would leave such an impression on my heart and soul, I'd name my children from it's pages. They were powerful women, sometimes caught in circumstances over which they had no control, manipulated by people who were supposed to protect them, but always counting on the ultimate justice of the universe (karma) to come around when it was time. I knew the same would happen in my situation.

I came home from class one day to find that Kami and Leah had moved out. And when I say moved out, I mean taken all of their shit, ransacked all of mine, and left me a catty little note in my diary, just to let me know how terribly amused they were with my life. And oh, they'd be bailing on the lease, and all of the bills that were in my name. Luckily, I knew that Kami and Leah's parents' had co-signed on our lease, but I hadn't allowed my dad to do that. I had really been hoping to make it on my own. But now, that seemed unlikely. It would take years of lawsuits to straighten out the financial mess they'd left for me.

After they were gone, Marie started spending more time at my apartment. We were unexpected allies, and our friendship was blooming. I knew how lonely I was so far away from home and without any friends, but I wouldn't know for years how desperately Marie needed a friend in those days. She'd just gotten her heart broken by her first love with a woman — but she wasn't coming out of the closet yet. We had fun, traipsing around Denver and Boulder, hiking in the mountains and wreaking havoc at the Cherry Creek Mall. We'd skip along, singing songs we'd learned in Catholic school or play practical jokes on couples walking hand in hand through the holiday-decorated gazebo across from the mall. Marie was totally unpredictable and helped me to let my hair down a little. But her immaturity would sometimes stun me and even scare me. Like when she befriended some street-kids in Denver and had them over to my apartment to get high. They were ten and twelve years old! When I cautioned her and pleaded that she not bring them over to my apartment, she said I was paranoid and "no fun."
Marie just did whatever she wanted, with little boundaries.

By the time Christmas rolled around, we were both headed back to Chicago. I'd barely passed my classes, and I'd flunked the only one that really mattered to me: 3-D Design. My brother and my friend Rhiannon came out to get us and after spending some time hiking in the mountains, we headed back across the flat Midwest. I never spoke to Kami or Leah again. And I haven't visited Denver or Boulder since.

July 01, 2008

Denver, Part II

I registered for a full semester of classes at the Community College of Denver -- which actually wasn't so bad, because it was on a combined campus along with the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. I signed up for a Lit. Class, Sociology, a refresher math class, and a 3-D Design class. On the days that we had to be at class around the same time, Kami, Leah and I took the Cherry Creek bike trail down to the campus and sometimes met up for lunch later in the day. Kami's jealousness and possessiveness seemed to be growing, and I wondered if girls every outgrew their eighth-grade cattiness. It was becoming clear to me: I had spoiled Kami's fantasy of sharing an apartment with Leah and having her all to herself. She was doing a miserable job of hiding her crush.

I was starting to sink into the mundanity of what I had hoped would be an adventure: a load of classes and a fast-food job, and no friends other than the roomate love-triange I had found myself in the middle of. The few people I was meeting in Denver were way too conservative for my tastes. I hadn't realized that I would be in cowboy country. I hadn't realized how Republican everyone would be! I looked up the bus schedule and found out that there were several daily trips to and from Boulder and I skipped class one day and spent the day there, hiking the foothills of the Rockies and gathering sagebrush. Hippies were everywhere in Boulder and I longed to move there. I half-forged a plan to transfer to UofC Boulder in a year. Aside from the rich kids who jaunted off to Vail when they skipped classes on Daddy's dime, Boulder seemed like a much better fit for me.

Leah got a call one day from her friend Marie who was caravaning out for a visit with a bunch of friends from her college town, Lawrence, Kansas. Marie and I had gone to high school together, but hadn't spoken much in years. There was some bad blood between her and I, mostly involving that abusive ex serial-cheater of mine, need I say more. Where ever that girl was, drama seemed to follow. Still, Denver was positively dull, and a little excitement and even drama sounded great.

Marie arrived with a whole entourage that would crash with us for about a week. Most of that week is pretty hazy to me still. I'm pretty sure I was high the entire time: LSD, booze and pills. Her friend Darren had a car, and we drove into the mountains and hiked up a beautiful peak where we could see Pike's Peak in the distance. There is nothing like climbing a mountain and standing on the edge of the world. I sometimes miss them still and see them in my dreams. Legend has it that the Indian tribe that was driven out of the foothills put a curse on the Flatiron range that whomever should gaze upon it would always feel a longing to return there for the rest of their days — then they would know the heartache of the tribe. Those foothills will always hold a sacred place in my heart.

Marie's friends headed back to Lawrence, but she decided to stay, along with Darren and Tim, two wanderers who planned to stay in Denver and look for work. Marie was on the run and dropping out of her classes in Lawrence. Whatever happened there was too painful for her to talk about — and she got busy trying to forget whatever it was, spending her days getting bombed. She started staying with an old childhood friend from Cincinnati who was going to school in Boulder and had her own apartment.

The heat from Kami was suddenly off of me, because Leah had turned her attentions toward Darren. And one drunken night when I didn't make it back to my bed and chose the living room floor as my resting place, Darren and Leah took advantage of the privacy of my bedroom and um, well, I'm sure you can imagine. When I managed to stumble back to my bed in the morning, I was horrified to find it in "use." Leah denied anything had happened, mostly to placate Kami who seemed positively irate with jealousy. I was simply disgusted that they had screwed in my bed. Yuck. Leah had some cooked up story about how they had only gone to lay down there in the morning and hadn't spent the night in my bed at all — a story that might have flown if Marie hadn't blown her cover. "Bullshit, I was up with you guys all night and I know exactly how it went down." Leah was genuinely incredulous that Marie wasn't providing cover for her story. And honestly, it was something I could have gotten over. The sheets would get washed and I'd forget all about it. There are worse things in life. But Leah decided to declare war any anyone who had the audacity to question her honesty. She just wouldn't cave on her story at all! She refused to be caught in a lie! Somehow, a deep rage had been provoked in Leah and she became singularly focused on one thing: revenge.

June 30, 2008

Denver, Part I

I was twenty years old when I moved to Denver on a whim. I knew a couple of friends who were planning on moving out there and convinced them that we'd all be great roommates — but the truth was, I didn't like them much and I half knew I was getting into what would turn out to be an ugly triangle situation.
But I had found myself stuck in a genuine rut and needed a quick escape. It would serve two purposes: an escape and an adventure. And of course, I'd enroll in school so that I could get my father's endorsement.
I was in the midst of re-establishing my self-esteem after ending an abusive relationship with a serial-cheater, and letting go of a hot summer fling in which the lack of substance and clear boundaries seemed to be a remedy for my woundedness, but in actuality left me yearning for more. Anyway, it was over now, and an adventure beckoned. I made a short list of the things I'd miss about Chicago: the lake, the blues fest, and my friends.
My dad loaded up his station wagon with my few belongings and we drove out to Denver to get me settled in. Kami had picked out our apartment a month earlier — which was a huge letdown. An ugly-modern walk-up full of old folks on a way-too-quiet side of town. The mean lady across the hall warned us as we moved in that she'd be keeping her eye on us and that we had better keep it down. Kami and Leah would be sharing a room, and I'd have the other bedroom for myself. Right away, Kami seemed extremely possessive of Leah and I thought she had a crush on her.
I realized quickly while living in Denver that not knowing how to drive was going to be a handicap. Because of the lack of any substantial mass transit system, I'd be biking everywhere I needed to go. Cherry Creek had a nice little path alongside it that got me downtown to the Community College of Denver in about 20 minutes. I registered for classes and got a job at a fast-food joint at the Cherry Creek Mall. It was there that I learned that if you were taking your meal to go, you'd need a "sack," not a "bag," as we said in the Midwest. And it was also there that I developed a lust for fresh-cut french fries dipped in malt vinegar.
We decorated our apartment in Indian tapestries and the living room stereo became the centerpiece of the place — almost always playing some live Dead. Nag Champa filled the air. I was surprised when the clothes we shared with each other actually fit me — perhaps the first inkling that I had a distorted view of my own body. When I look back of pictures from those day, I marvel at how fit and healthy I look — because I certainly never felt good about myself in those days.
Gazing out at the foothills of the mountains seemed to bring me peace each day, a peace that I would need to hold in reserve for the betrayals that were to come.

June 26, 2008

A challenge.... please leave your comments!

Swiped from a blog I happily stumbled on today:

"Everyone has things they blog about. Everyone has things they don't blog about.

Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't blog about, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll write a post about it.

Ask for anything: latest movie watched, last book read, political leanings, favorite type of underwear, graphic techniques, etc.

Repost in your own journal (blog) so that we can all learn more about each other."

June 20, 2008

A random list

It's been way to long, I know. But I've been both overwhelmed with things on my mind and suffering some sort of summer-induced laziness. I promise to make a serious effort to blog more in the coming days. Perhaps on one of the things from the many lists running through my head these days.
Thing on my mind, in no particular order:
The Summer Solstice
Willie Nelson
Severe Thunderstorms
IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer)
unemployment
positive affirmations
tomatoes
school uniforms
bad dreams
divorce
money
tween angst
anger management
freckles
grey hairs
PRIDE
wanderlust
Michigan
insecurity
loving myself more honestly
trust
faith
softball
new neighbors that I don't like
moving
increasing abundance
openness
gas prices
exes
summer camp
raising happy girls
love
support
loyalty

May 09, 2008

All of these lines across my face

The Story — Brandi Carlile
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you


So far, my May is turning out to be a big drag. I didn't ever imagine that I'd still be unemployed. I guess I shouldn't beat myself up too hard about it, country slipping to recession and all. But geez, 5 months?
All of the stress of my financial downslide has caused me to completely ignore the fact that I'm turning 36 in a week-and-a-half. I certainly don't have enough cash to actually celebrate my birthday this year, that's for sure. Maybe someone will buy me a beer? Or two? That'd be great.
I've sunk pretty low in the past couple of days, but at the same time, I'm hanging on to the things that I know are really important. I'm trying to be gentle with myself, allow myself time to grieve when I'm alone. Pick myself up and pull myself together when I'm not.
Still, turning 36 has got me pondering so much about my life today, and how I've gotten to this exact point in time. Despite things not being exactly how I'd like them, I get the sense that they are exactly as they're supposed to be, because each dark feeling is accompanied by a new insight that sheds new light, helping me to shift my perspective.
Today, I'm most grateful that I have someone to share my stories with — who shares hers in return.

May 01, 2008

Sapphic lawsuit

Happy May Day everybody! And Happy Beltane! You can read all about my fondness for this conglomeration of holidays and celebrations here.
I heard this on my clock radio this morning and just had to share. Apparently, the inhabitants of the Isle of Lesbos are peeved and embarrassed about the common use of the word "lesbian" to describe gay women — thus preventing them from calling themselves "Lesbians."
This lawsuit is like the inhabitants of the City of Chicago suing the filmmakers of "The Untouchables" for use of the phrase "the Chicago way."