Tuesday, November 30, 2004

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Monday, November 29, 2004

God as Defined by Quantum Physics

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know but to be in the mystery." -- Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., physicist and source for the film What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Described as "part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations" this film presents the argument that "both science and religion describe the same phenomena." And -- if I'm reading this correctly -- it does so with the commentary of 5 physicists, 7 doctors and biologists, a theologian, and Ramtha -- a 35,000 year old mystic, philosopher, master teacher and hierophant who channels his contribution through an American woman JZ Knight.

I broke the carnal rule regarding a film such as this one. I went to see it by myself. Someone else has to go so I can debrief this sucker!

What Would Miss Manners Say?

I saw more flaccid penises Saturday than any girl needs to encounter in one day.

I know that some who read that will think that I’m not being very professional about my work at the AIDS hospice, that a professional would never divulge such tidbits and make the observations I’m about to make.

All I can say is . . . I’m a VOLUNTEER!!! This is not normal to me, this is not something I see every day. This is still – even after eight years – an oddity for me. My volunteer team is not there every week and additionally I spend the majority of the time in the kitchen or the laundry room and there are absolutely no penis sightings in those locations.

So pardon me if this is all still rather new for me.

My overexposure came by way of diaper changes. Though we’ve probably had an exhibitionist or two come our way, I’ve never had to deal much with that side of things. This was strictly the human body in need of care.

The nurse took the lead, so for the most part I just had to be at the ready . . . ready to roll the man on his side, ready to shift the diaper into place, ready to grab an extra pull sheet, just ready. But what I’m never ready for is what to do with my eyes during the down time. The seconds tick every so slowly when you are dealing with a complete stranger’s genitalia and you’re unaccustomed to the practice. So what is only taking minutes seems to go on for days.

First there’s the unveiling. . . Ok, now we know what we’re dealing with. Then there’s the battle to not evaluate . . . That settled there’s the shifting of positions to remove the diaper. Now comes THE moment. While the nurse cleans, what does one look at? The act of cleansing? The wall? The dying plant in the corner? Certainly not the face of the resident! That would be too personal, don’t you think?

Finally, the cleaning complete, we get back to the flurry of activity where you can imagine that you are on ER and shifting the new accident victim from gurney to bed as you place and secure the new diaper.

Inevitably, I’ll tape my gloved finger to the diaper at least once during this process but, hey, it’s all downhill from here so who cares? I shrug, tug and soon enough we’re all safe and secure.

Maybe some day it will seem completely natural. Maybe someday I won’t see anything at all.

But if I’m truthful, I kinda think I don’t want that day to come. These moments are the moments when I see the resident’s humanity, when I’m reminded that before they became a statistic, a hospice resident, a person with AIDS . . . they were human. Some of them were not too kind, some of them would have scared me if I met them on the street given that they are often criminals or junkies. But nevertheless, they were human.

And -- I pray -- at some point, shared an intimacy with someone that went beyond simple caregiving by an anonymous volunteer who can't seem to focus.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Official Closing

This phase is officially over.

Since this stage or phase or whatever you want to call this particular period on my journey has been a ragged ass job from its beginning, I’ve decided to turn my back on the reactive way of thinking I’ve employed in the past and elect to end this now . . . before anyone gets hurt . . . especially me.

Frankly, I’m bored with it.

And according to the movie I just saw that combines quantum physics with theology and psychology and cartoon peptides and Marlee Matlin playing a photographer, I can make the choices that change my future. So even though the movie is called “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and you may leave the theater thinking that’s a great question, I came away with confirmation that it’s definitely time to act.

I use the term “phase” loosely. But I’m not sure what else to call it. I’ve been silently amused by how many people who don’t see me day in and out have lowered their voice during a phone conversation and inquired, “So how are you . . . really?”

I usually have to think a moment about why they’re using the universal sign for “yes-this-is-not-a-truly-intimate-friendship-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-we-have-that-kind-of-vulnerability-between-us” and then, matching the gravity of their tone, I reply, “Fine, really.” Trying desperately not to sound too chipper, I remind myself that these people have no clue. They don’t know that I delved into denial the first three years of the marriage, anger took up years 4-8, bargaining was spread throughout but came to a peak in years 9-13, depression came in year 14 and acceptance prevailed in year 15-17 when I left.

By the time these well-meaning acquaintances hear the news, it’s past tense for me but new to them and I have to go back three spaces just to not seem like a heartless bitch.

But this post-divorce phase has been something different. This one got kicked off with the euphoria of freedom followed closely by a sense of overwhelming options and a need for wait-and-see.

Messy, very messy. Because this opportunity looks as good as that one. And why not try this? And what’s wrong with that?

But it’s all getting boring and I’m ready for some order. I’m ready to choose. I’m walking away from wait and see.

I choose to see . . . now.*

*By the way, I have absolutely no clue what this means but I felt the need to state it. I’ve come to realize that now is all I know. I may hope for tomorrow or faith for my next act, but all I know is this moment, all I can control is this moment. And in this moment, I’m ready for the next adventure.

kc04 has left the chat room

My free trial period is over and I've officially closed out my account on the singles online connection. After 52 men ranging from computer geeks to a cop to a motorcycling rebel without a cause to (gasp!) a 27-year-old and even a woman checked out my profile . . . resulting in a few emails and fewer instant messages . . . I determined that this avenue for making contact with available conversationalists et al was just not my preferred form of interaction.

I felt like I needed a tour guide! I know I must have body language at least. Was the fact that someone looked at your profile the same as a quick glance across a crowded room when your eyes meet and you think "hmmmm this could be interesting" or was it that moment when you realize "omigod, he's looking and he's going to think I'm checking him out when in fact I was looking at the buffet table directly behind him and wondering if anyone would notice if I went back a third time."

And how exactly do you respond to an email message? With another message giving the same info as what's on your profile? or with a suggestion to meet? or an offer of a phone call? No, not a call, you can't give too much information too fast, right? It's just too filled with question marks!

So I'm back to real life, real time, real safe, real dull . . . oh maybe I'll give it another shot later!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving Menu

G's brunch? Outstanding . . . eggs, homemade cranberry bread, fruit salad with real whipped cream.

The parade? Well, let's just say that sometimes it pays to be short. I asked a hunka, hunka fireman if my friend and I could stand on the truck for a better view . . . of the parade of course. He said yes and well . . .

And later that day . . .
The pumpkin soup from Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" was an official success.

The turkey breast (since there were only three of us) was average but the rosemary was a nice touch.

The dressing -- even though I followed my grandmother's recipe to the letter -- was . . . well let's just say we really didn't need gravy since the dressing never did quite become dressing.

My friend's baked onions -- true Southern cooking since they included both a can of cream of mushroom soup and potato chips -- were delicious (of course! since they contained the most calories).

And G's apple cake with cream cheese icing? Well, it was cream cheese icing! for goodness sake, how could it not be slap ya momma good! (Not that I'm a slap your mother kind of woman . . .but omigosh.)

TV on Turkey Evening is less than eventful and since everyone was in a coma the adventures pretty much ended at the meal. Still a good day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Should Have Known Better

I thought it might be different now.

When I first heard of online dating services several years ago, I was creeped out. The little bit of exposure I had to it suggested this was the last desperate attempt of the truly disconnected.

So recently when several of my friends spoke positively about it, I was still very hesitant. Then this weekend happened.

I often say that my chances of meeting someone for nothing more than a simple date are rather limited. I mean I work with married pastors and spend my playtime with gay men and girlfriends. Not the combination for lots of connections, right?

Since I'm not giving up any of my people groups, I determined that I would just have to do the things I love and was sure that I'd encounter someone who shared some of my interests. I mean my interests are varied, very varied, so that should increase my chances right?

Tsk, tsk, tsk, I say to me!

This weekend I discovered that two of my non-gay-oriented outlets for connections had failed me miserably. After a fairly lengthy conversation, I'm fairly sure the trainer I was thinking might be a potential is gay. And one of my buddies saw the other guy -- a theater connection -- in a gay bar. ARGH!!!!

I want to think that's why I tried the online dating gig. I want to think it was a reaction to being dashed twice in one weekend. I want to think it was temporary insanity.

But I did it. I completed the profile and went online last night to see what my efforts had wrought.

The very first guy who instant messaged me? Wanted computer sex. Yep, that's right. Was ready to "please" me right there at the keyboard!

I have five days free on this service. What do you think the odds are that I become an active member?

It's a good thing I like my friends!!! Looks like they are going to continue to see a lot of me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Guiltless Thanks

Guilt is as much a Southern delicacy as turnip greens with hot sauce or biscuits with sausage-flecked white gravy. I even feel guilty when I acknowledge that my mother who I love dearly plated up guilt with the finesse of a gourmet . . . that's how good she was at instilling it.

But I can't blame her. She learned the lessons well having discovered at an early age that with a dying mother and a house full of half brothers and her own brothers and sisters it would be her fate to help in the fields and raise the now nutzoid younger sister who seems incapable of appreciating anything!

I digress.

She also sat through the Bible teachings of a fundamentalist approach to faith. Which meant when she was older with her own children and (gasp) a non-church-attending-Methodist for a husband, she knew that we would only become the Christians we were intended to be if we attended every service offered by our small First Baptist congregation.

Fundamentalism and family -- two of the best guilt inducers traditionally served up as the main course at most holiday gatherings.

As a result, I spent most of my faith walk with guilt as a constant companion. I learned the Roman Road but never walked anyone through the marked New Testament I prepared in Training Union. I read the missionary prayer list in the girls' mission magazine on Wednesday night but misplaced the magazine throughout the week. Which meant I didn't reference those souls in the infrequent times when I actually set aside a Quiet Time (for those clueless with the language of this paragraph, that would be the time I was supposed to spend thinking about how God loved me and how I should pay Him back in some way with at least a little attention).

I clung to guilt even as an adult. Any straying off the path (a harsh word to a stranger, any act that might cause another to "stumble", a missed opportunity to "witness" on a plane or in a cab or wherever the last evangelist had suggested was a great place to win the lost) tightened the grip on me.

Then it happened. I intentionally broke the rules. I'm not talking about a slip, a curious blunder that resulted in less-than-spiritual-behavior on my part, an oops moment. No, I'm talking about knowing that what I was about to do went against every teaching I'd ever held as truth and thinking, "Then so be it" as I committed the act.

The push of that domino became the most liberating act of my life. And the chain reaction has been quite a ride. I'm not through with it all yet, but in the midst of it. And what I know at this point, is that the Creator God that I embrace isn't about chains like bitterness, anger, intimidation or guilt.

I think that's why I reacted so strongly recently when I read a letter from a missionary living in Angola. Nearing Thanksgiving, gratitude was on my mind and my first thought was "Thank you God that I don't live in that place." And my second thought was "And thank you that I don't feel guilty for thinking that." Eventually, I got around to gratitude for the way that missionary writes so vividly of life there and that for whatever reason, he and his family continue to try and serve the people there and even thanked God for the fact that while Angola is one of the most horrendous spots to live on earth, it's actually gotten better than when I first started reading these letters.

While I've moved beyond the ingrained reaction of my youth and guilt no longer has its hold on me, I do feel an internal push to respond. Needs like this letter conveys are everywhere and I can't continue to live as if inaction is an option. But this time my reaction is not a guilt-induced one. Instead, I simply want to do something. I don't know if it will be in the area of AIDS or cancer or another particularly devastating disease that has claimed the active part of a couple of my friends' lives. But I know that that domino string is still in process, freedom is now my faithful companion, and I freely accept that I can make a difference and will.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Crossing Cultures in Suburbia

I spent the weekend in a land I rarely visit -- where the language requires my utmost focus and the native attire is so unique I find my reactions ranging from amused to appalled.

Suburbia . . . where the "woods" are planted uniform distances apart and the "lands" are manicured within inches of their roots . . . where bright lights scream the names of chain stores and eateries . . . where entire families from Third World countries could be housed in the SUVs taking up two parking spaces in overcrowded parking lots.

Oh . . . I know there's nothing wrong with suburban living and that every family has an extensive list of arguments as to why its best for them. But I also know that there's nothing right about it for me.

I was working a trade show for a friend of mine whose target customers are the same women driving those SUVs, shopping in those chain stores and feeding their own families from familiar and overly advertised restaurants.

In fact, I was washing the hands of those women as I touted the benefits of natural oils (six, count 'em) and sugar for the purpose of exfoliation. Well . . . I washed and touted when they let me. Frankly, sales weren't overwhelming and I spent a great deal of the time with my partner evaluating the fashion statements parading by.

I came to loathe what could be done with a feather! Sticking it in one's cap is no longer enough it seems. Now it hangs from purses, portrudes from shoes, dangles from belts, and adds heighth -- lots and lots of heighth -- to tablescapes involving ironworks, pumpkins, gourds and mass quantities of hot glue.

I detemined that while some women can pull off a fashion risk others should pull it off . . . NOW, in the nearest possible restroom before they cause irreparable harm to those watching.

I don't know where the obsession with fringe-tickling ponchos, scarves made from puffy balls and the aforementioned feathers has come from but surely there's a medication that can take care of it.

I told a friend that I was making the 45 minute drive each day to explore new worlds and that I coveted his prayers as I traversed uncharted terrains and he suggested that I might find I had more in common with the natives than I imagined.

I cursed him.

Then I thought about it. We did share a few things in common. For example, we are women and we . . . uh . . . let's we . . . uh . . . .

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Signs of Aging

I got to see Barry Manilow live in his "final" tour because I clean toilets at an AIDS hospice. Someone donated free tickets to the volunteers.

And being a glutton for punishment I couldn't let the night stand on its own as a reminder of how much time has passed since my teens, "Mandy" and discovering that Mr. Manilow "writes the songs that make the whole world sing." No, I had to enhance the experience by inviting my 23-year-old colleague to join me.

So I didn't just walk down memory lane with the songster, smiling mistily at thoughts of when I heard this song first, who I was kissing when that one came on the radio, wondering why I never learned to dance the way they did on American Bandstand. Instead I began to hear and see through the eyes of my "have-very-little-clue-who-this-guy-is" friend. I watched the elderly crowd gingerly make their way down to the floor in attire ranging from disco-dented-sequined T-shirts, killer heels with boas, an "I-don't-care-if-I-have-a-bulging-midsection-prom dress," and several "does-this-make-my-hips-look-big?" pullovers.

We placed bets on how many husbands were there strictly on condition that they would benefit in the bedroom if they complied. We marveled at modern science and its ability to stretch a woman's face beyond its capacity creating an almost post-human permanent expression of marvel. And we enjoyed the view of the many, many attractive men with incredible fashion sense who came with companions equally attractive and equally male. Ahh, the injustice of it all!

I tried to convey the complexity of all that is Manilow to my own companion . . . his journey from commercial jingle writer to Bette's accompanist to disco delights to balladeer, but she wasn't buying it. I think she may have grasped the grandness that is he, when they showed a clip from a "Midnight Special" appearance when "Mandy" first came out and then he rose like the phoenix from the stage playing the same song plus 30 years. But otherwise, she tended to cringe alot . . . especially when Barry danced. I took to covering her eyes in order to avoid the retching sounds. And, frankly, it gave me something to do in order to avoid the sight myself. Let's just say it wasn't pretty.

I'm all for celebrations of long-term careers. I'd go again if any of the other radio giants of my teens come this way and someone offers me free seats. But I have to admit, my added years added less than romantic interpretations to his so-familiar lyrics. I couldn't decide if this was a better soundtrack for a menopause medication or a Viagra commercial . . .

When will our eyes meet
When can I touch you
When will this strong yearning end
And when Will I hold you again
I feel the change comin' --
I feel the wind blow
I feel brave and daring!
I feel my blood flow

Still "somewhere in the night" I found the courage to rise, "make it through the rain", toss away my "Brooklyn blues" and like those "stompin' at the Savoy," take a "daybreak" and swing to "Copa." "Even now" I can't smile without thinking about it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Treadmill Musings

Equilibrium is death.
How do you disturb toward the edge
Of the chaos where answers lie?
Sunday morning sidewalks
Suggests Johnny Cash.
Or maybe it was another sip of beer?
Why would a straight man
Pretend there are multiple reasons
For him to stop by a gay bar?
Wonder if I can wear those pants in the back
Of the closet, in the next-size-down section
Of my lame attempt at organization.
Will the sweat pouring off my face
Cause a malfunction in the wiring of this treadmill?
And how would forensics explain that one?
CSI is a good show
But gross.
Now I’m back to death,
And my time here is done.

Beauty and the Beast

She pats and smears and smudges
Lips, eyes – the face held captive in
the compact’s mirror
Beauty to behold
Yet the Beast is only an arm’s length away
Ready to devour and consume

I hold high my regard to disregard
such attempts
Yet on occasion I also fall victim to
fiends of self-doubt and questioning
And check and recheck reflection space
to insure I am presentable

So, accepting a shared reality,
I’ll give the girl her due.

She is beautiful.

One Woman's Perspective

A continuum
Girl to woman
Winsome to wise
But movement is not always forward
And forward does not always equal progress

Moments, maddening moments
When mother meets child
And sees impending doom
But can only smile

Youth rarely listens
Deafening is the noise of their ever-flowing ideas
Yet age also cannot hear through the
sounds of arguments won and lost.

So they play the game
3 steps forward, 1 back, 2 to the side
She waits to soothe her
She longs to push her past her inhibitions
And they both continue wanting.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Things I Learned Last Week

  • When you see two guys in skull caps looking like a couple of teenaged skaters, one cowboy, a trucker type complete with mesh, billed cap, and a guy in dreds, you shouldn't automatically assume these are just a bunch of young 'uns who are "playing at" being a band. You could be watching the South Austin Jug Band prep for a few hours of pure poetry on instruments ranging from violins to mandolins to the best lead guitar I've heard in a loooong while. If so, you should count yourself very fortunate.
  • And on that note, I learned that "rhythm guitar" is what they do with it more than what it is . . . . For all you musicians out there, this is your notice that I'm not one, I just appreciate good music and want to know more!
  • Movies that delve into existential questions about the meaning of life, utilize hot air balloons as metaphors, and allow the good looking lead to only shed his shirt in order to brush his teeth and take a dive in a pool (another metaphor for something I'm sure) are NOT exactly Friday night fare.
  • Dana Owens, aka Queen Latifah, has a way with a torch song.
  • White people should really think twice (or maybe three or four times) about trying to dance like black people . . . especially if they are at a festival and maybe have had a few too many drinks and the music is zydeco and/or the blues and the aforementioned white people feel the need to use the entire dance floor for just two steps!
  • Corn and cheese enchiladas at Jalepenos are a great reason to get up in the morning and do your weight training before Sunday brunch.
  • Tomball is a long drive but worth it when good friends are at the end of the journey.
  • Third Ward has a personality all its own and, though we're only passing acquaintances I'm glad we've met.
  • I hope someday someone will write something like this about me: "Simplicity after complexity is widely informed and never insulting." (Andrew Jones said it about Leonard Sweet's new book.)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

In One Day, vol 2

I was a short order cook at an AIDS hospice juggling the flipping of pancakes, sausage, as well as eggs over easy and totally screwing up grits while warming bacon and hashbrowns so that all would time out fairly equally and allow me time to feed the guy who was shouting every few minutes or so . . . not at me, just in general. That was before I got to the grocery store and got all the stuff for the pot of chili I left for later. Patty melt, anyone?

Next I was a diva (though asleep in the chair) as E shortened and touched up the follicles.

I was an exercise guru and got in 4.5 miles at a fairly good elevation (no, I haven't moved, I was on a treadmill).

I was a cultural explorer and arts patron as I joined Project Row Houses for their annual celebration.

I was music junkie . . . enjoying both zydeco and the blues at the Eldorado Ballroom, a historic Third Ward former club now restored gathering place.

A day of diverstiy . . . you gotta love it!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Generalizations Are Just Too General

I read a document this week from a denominational agency that bothered me. Once again it was putting women in a category I find unacceptable. And once again I ranted and raved against it using the term "church" when what I really meant was "institution." And what I should have meant was that particular institution.

Last night God had to be smiling. Because as a reminder that "all" is pretty comprehensive and therefore generally the wrong noun to use when speaking of individuals, organizations, gender, races, animals, minerals and generally anything bigger than a breadbox, I got a phone call.

The call was from one of the head honchos of a major evangelical organization. He and I once served on a board together. I say "once" because I resigned just before I divorced. This board was made up of very missions-oriented, very conservative, mostly (would be "all" except for one) white men over 50 and yours truly. I had that freckle-on-an-albino feeling for pretty much every meeting I attended. While the executive director of the organization, this gentleman, and a couple of others assured me I was welcomed to continue divorced or not, I found it more than I could handle at that time.

The call concerned my serving in an advisory capacity at a meeting the group will have in three weeks. The meeting is to envision the next shape of the organization when the current exec retires. Since I admire the current exec as much as any leader I've known and since I usually enjoy dreaming about the future with a group, I said yes to the invitation.

It was a sidenote that had to bring about God's chuckle. The man said, "Yeah, we were talking about the next exec and who 'he' might be and what 'he' might need to focus on when someone said, 'You keep saying 'he.' Any chance you'd be open to a woman in that role?' And I said, 'Well frankly I'd be open to it but I can't think of a too many women who could do it (pause) except the one I'm talking to right now.'"

To say I was taken aback is the definition of understatement. I don't want the job. I'm really not right for the job. But that's not the point. This was a giant leap for this man's thinking. And while I could rant and rave on why he can't think of other women or why it's taken this long for this kind of acceptance or any number of other reasons, I'm not going to. Because Someone is in control here. Someone knows Creation much better than me and knows that for every pull there's a push, for every swing back, there's a thrust forward. It's not me -- thank God -- but after the devastating blow of the aforementioned document, the balance in my universe is restored . . . for this week.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Now That I Got That Off My Chest . . .

My mother found some of my poems the other day. Not the ones I'm writing now, mind you. No, these were from my how-small-towns-feel-like-a-prison-and-when-will-people-see-me-for-who-really-am era . . . in other words, I wrote them as a teenager.

She's sending them to me which makes me almost cringe because I kept what I thought were the best from those years and if these didn't even make that cut, well . . . it may prove painful to read. No more painful however than having your 74-year-old mother read a couple to you over the phone in her best Tennessee twang and then describe them as "cute."

One she selected had the term "Mother Love" in it. And I'm fairly certain that whatever she was reading into it was not what I had in mind at 15! However, now having heard it again after all these years, I can honestly say I have no idea what I meant. And I'm glad their cuteness made her happy.

Mom and I have a great relationship. We've been able to talk openly for most of my life. First of all because I used to have little to hide and secondly because by the time I did have some "issues" that I might not have wanted to be too open about, we'd come to the point where sharing them just seemed natural. While there was some level of discomfort at the idea that my mother has recently spent a day rummaging through my teenaged angst, the truth is she knows that the girl who ranted about limits eventually learned that they only existed in my mind.

Mom also reminded me that if not for Von Harrison I might not have ever pursued a path where words became the tools of my trade. Von was the pastor's wife during my teen years. She was also my Bible and missions teacher. But most of all, she was a friend.

Though she was only in her mid 30s, this was an era before age was relative so, of course, I saw her as ooooooold -- I mean she had three kids for goodness sake! -- but still very nice. And I especially liked that she seemed to especially like my writing. What I didn't know until they came out in print was that she'd liked my poetry so much that she'd sent it to a national publication.

I'll never forget the first time I saw that byline. And one of the first people I shared the moment with was Von.

I'm glad I did because later when I began to see lots more bylines, Von wasn't around to share those moments. Cancer killed her before she ever reached 40 -- an age I saw three years ago.

In many ways, she lives on. I'm sure her children obviously reflect that bit of her instilled in those early years, but they moved from our small town long, long ago. What I know is that she's always been and will always be a part of me.

And for all my ranting, that is the church at its best -- a community living and loving and caring enough to push to the hard places and then celebrating what happens when you go there.

A friend recently said, "I don't want to be an unloving critic of the church, but neither am I an uncritical lover." I liked that. Plus it was a good reminder of why I still do what I do 20 years into it. I'm one of those folks who finds it hard to stop loving the loves of my past. In fact, I don't want to.

But, just as with relationships, I do need to find a new way of relating and that's where I find myself now.

While I strongly believe that my walking away from my professional role is critical at this curve in my journey, I'm not ready to completely give up on what my mom and Von and so many other great women of the faith served so faithfully.

I once worked for an organization who included the line in its history, "We stand on the shoulders of those who've gone before us." I always liked that line. And I hold fast to the community it suggests. From that vantage point, I do see a new day coming. It looks nothing like First Baptist Church Greenfield, Tennessee circa 1975, or 1995 or 2005 but there's a vague outline there. And I see it only because of those who have taught me, loved me, forgiven me, challenged me and . . . released me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

"Can You Even See Your Feet?"

“Can you even see your feet?” my then-teenaged brother asked my equally teenaged self.

If at this point you’re surmising that I have rather large breasts, you’d be right.

If you are also thinking that this is a less-than-helpful remark from one’s sibling, you’d also be right. But at the time, being helpful wasn’t on my twin’s agenda.

If he encountered me – and while it was a small town and we were in the same classes, we were also in different “classes” regarding our social standings -- I got on his nerves. I represented all the things he wasn’t. I made As. I got in before curfew (while I was endowed with physical assets I’ve convinced myself that my mental ones tended to keep boys at a “friend-for-life distance”). I didn’t smoke or drink. I didn’t fall asleep in church because of partying on Saturday night. I didn’t yell at teachers . . . unless of course they were wrong and just couldn’t see my point of view. (Admit it . . . even you who didn’t know me then think I was obnoxious at this point in the story, right?).

His bad boy phase was short-lived however. At 16 he saw the light, mended his ways, even carried a Bible to school for a few days as I recall. And then he walked the aisle and told the preacher he was rededicating his life and felt “called to fulltime Christian service.”

Note he did not say “called to preach.” If you noted that, you would be one up on the church that received that information. Because at that time, that walk to the front of the church had very few interpretations and his walk bought him several years of ministry that he really didn’t count on.

The “happily-ever-after” end of his story though is that eventually he discovered his true calling and is now doing exactly what he wants/feels he should be/living out his call. . . in the mountains . . . in Tennessee, no less. . . . Did I mention he was happy?

I, still with rather large breasts, also did the whole “fulltime ministry” walk but I, still a woman, didn’t get the same reception. The church equivalent of a pat on the head sent me on my way to a Baptist school where I was fortunate enough to find a mentor who showed me communications didn’t have to be limited to a pulpit.

And for 20 years I’ve been “answering my call”. But things are different now. I wouldn’t pass the interview phase for a job as a cook at the schools that educated me. They have dress codes for women now! They require students to set through chapels led by speakers that I find small-minded and power-based. Professors must sign creedal-type statements.

As each year passed I’ve found the list of places where I would want to work getting shorter and shorter. My gender is an issue for some roles. My beliefs are an issue for almost every venue. And my silent submission is no longer an option.

So here I stand. And you know what? I CAN see my feet and soon and very soon they are walking.

In One Day, vol 1

The dentist hit a nerve in my mouth . . .
My former denomination did the same in my soul . . .
I pulled a muscle in my thigh . . .
And stretched an emotional one at open mic night.

May not have been a day filled with highs,
But no one can call it dull.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Just In Case They're Listening

"Shhhhhhhh . . . They'll hear us!" she chastised.

"But I thought we wanted them to. I thought we wanted to play with them," her younger cohort replied.

"We want them to want us to, but not if we have to make them," she not-so-patiently pointed out.

"But if they don't know we're here, how will they know to ask us to join?" the newbie inquired.

"Oh they know we're here . . ." she was using her wise-sage-voice now. "They've always known. Sometimes they pretend not to see is all."

"That doesn't make any sense," she innocently injected, yet with impatience growing. "They always seem to like it when we're around. I mean he's always patting me on the head. And he tells me all the time how smart and pretty I am. Why don't you like them?"

"I do like them. Well, what I know of them. I don't think we think alike. And I know that we have very different opinions about the way things ought to be done. But we don't talk about it. We're just nice to one another and frankly that's less and less fun. So sometimes, I'd just rather be invisible to them."

"But I can see you right?" she asked.

"Those who want to -- who try to -- will always see me."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Conversational Chemistry

I miss the mystery
That moment when nothing matters
And everything is important.

Heart Warming House Warming

Saint Brigid said
"All are welcome."
And with raised glass
I salud-ed her vision:
Heaven as a lake of beer
And every drop a prayer.

May be no lake here
But a washtub will do
As friends-now-family
Gathered to warm
And bless
My house-now-home.

Bread twist table legs
Didn't buckle beneath
The load.
But grandmother would be proud of
The breadth of the spread
(And appalled at the price
of the caterer's delights.)

Early arrivals were
Right on time
And exclaimed in
All the right places.

Patio perfected plants,
Warm walls as
Backdrops to
Art deemed very me
Shelves of memories
From trips real and imagined
Pauses to look
And ask the questions
Day to day doesn't always allow
The time for.

More corners to explore
More color to experience
More guests arriving.

The Southern-charmed chaplain
A tri-color hairdresser turning student
who often teaches me of life uncharted
A chain-smoking 70 year old former PE instructor
who knows no strangers
"Family" who greeted and grabbed . . . the trash when needed.

One pastor brought wine
Another deemed the gay actor among the evening's most intriguing conversations
The fundamentalist girlfriend stayed longer than expected and laughed
Tri-lingual traveler amused and amazed.
A stranger somehow connected and reported outcomes of cancer treatment that day

One pause for a Brigid reminder
One to end with prayer
Complete . . . and then not quite
As best friend/brother asked to add his comments to Creator

I held the hand of the stranger
Appropriate I think
Since he, wide-eyed and appreciative,
declared the night so very "positive."

Hugs and kisses
Sent most on their way
A remnant retired to the pool.
We quietly absorbed
The laughter of children
And offered up play-by-play of the day.

Seven hours in
(3 past official final call)
I closed the door
And smiled.

Brigid be glad.
All are welcome here.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Extreme Makeover

I spent the past 20 minutes in sob-out-loud-let-the-snot-flow crying. Extreme Makeover on ABC just remodeled the house of a couple who are deaf, who have a young blind, austistic son, and a teenaged boy who is often his parents' ears and his brother's eyes.

Can you blame me for the tears?

I'm don't watch reality TV for the most part. The closest I get is the Food Network and HGTV. I figure I have a better chance of creating a meal in 30 minutes or adding a little BAM to my menu than I do of ever running into an Apprentice, finding a Survivor, or catching up with a Bachelor. The truth is that I know enough about film-making to know that reality has little or nothing to do with these things. And I have plenty of my own "real life" drama and therefore no need to set through the tensions, conflicts, etc. of complete strangers.

But I came home early tonight, completed all my exercise plan earlier in the day and well . . . just got sucked into that cute carpenter guy with his bullhorn and abundance of enthusiasm. Of course, I soon discovered that this program was more than the usual good vibe show.

Seeing that child who spends most of his time in his own world taking EXTREME pleasure in his new swingset, complete with tinkling wind chimes nearby. My God, what a site! And seeing the father signing into the palm of his blind son -- think Helen Keller movie -- well, again, EXTREME overload.

I love that there is actually a show about helping people. Sure, there's a lot of money involved and money can't buy happiness. But from what I could tell this family had happiness. What they needed was a few electronic devices and some peace of mind.

I for one, sniff, sniff, sniff . . . am glad they got it!

Friday, November 05, 2004

What Were We Thinking?

After I posting the word feminist I got to thinking about it. For one, it's always difficult to determine whether I want to be associated with that term or not. If you consider it to mean that I'm for the rights of women to be equal to those of men, then sure, I'll go there. But if you take it to mean that I'm angry or ready to rise up and become the oppressor, well, then no, that's not me.

What stopped me, though, was the idea that while I will consent to being called a feminist because I support equal opportunities for women, there's no way I want to be a racist. Why do we do what we do with words?

Frankly, if I had my way, I really prefer to be a justicist.

Messiness Matters

Read the following in a review on www.hollywoodjesus.com yesterday:

"Crises of faith will make us either bitter or better: they either break us and cause us to abandon God or break us down and draw us nearer to Him. They are messy and there are no pat steps on how to get through them. All you can do is hold on to the tether of your faith until things hurt less.”

I think I’m now in the hurting less phase of things. That feels pretty darn good, I’ll tell you. What amuses me is what it’s taken to get there.

Atheists and agnostics have accompanied me on the journey. Gays and straights. Preachers and near pagans. And then there was . . .

Alcohol. Abstinence (not always by choice mind you).
Bitterness. Bastards.
Celtic thought. Caring.
Dirty jokes. Daring.
Exercise. Enthusiasm . . . mine and others.
Fevers, fainting.
Goofs, gratitude.
Hurt . . . mine and others.
Inklings that there was light at the end of the tunnel and there really was a tunnel.
Joy, indescribable, irrational, irrefutable, joy.
Kiss, one particular one that I'll never forget if I'm lucky. Kindness . . . mine and others.
Laughter, God thank you, thank you for the laughter.
Mom, who continues to amaze me, opening up to all that's
New . . . adventures, challenges, people.
Opinions . . . mine and others.
Pragmatic optimism . . . even in the midst of the darkness there was that "light at the end . . ." thing happening. Powerwalking.
Queers, queens(?) . . . don't usually use these words but they do.
Release of rules, regulations and religiosity.
Silence, sensations I didn't know were possible.
Truth . . . mine and others.
Unique-ness . . . mine and others.
Verdad. Vistas. Views I never thought I'd see.
Weariness. And words, glorious words.
And I'm not going to go with the last two because they would just sound silly. But I do feel exonerated and while it' s not an "X" word, thinking of x made me go there.

Would any preacher you know embrace the idea that it was by letting go of all the law that I became truly free to believe? I could name three who would go there, but otherwise . . . well, I kinda doubt it.

Locked Out!

For one of those computer-oriented-and-therefore-I-don't-really-want-to-know reasons, I've been locked out of posting for a while. I could read mine and other sites I've come to know, appreciate, laugh with, and wonder about, but I couldn't add to or respond in any way.

Is that just too obvious a metaphor for a feminist to go to? Especially when she was in a mostly-male-populated meeting yesterday that dealt with numbers, one of her all-time favorite subjects (she said sarcastically)?

Ok . . . I'll decline from hitting you with the obvious and just say, I'm back.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Line Up Went Well But No Manilow

Last night I treated a couple of friends to A Chorus Line for their birthdays. One had been in a local production so it seemed only fitting to help her see a touring company version. Both buddies seemed to enjoy our time together.

Tonight was all about Barry. As a volunteer at a local hospice, I had access to free tickets to see the songwriter at the Toyota Center. Alas! It's not to be. Barry is under the weather and the event is rescheduled.

Does it strike anyone as unusual that a 70s pop star and a play from the same era hit Houston on the same week? When I invited a friend/coworker to attend the concert with me, she asked me to recount Manilow's career hits. At 21 years old, she had a faint knowledge of Copacabana only. One of last night's birthday girls was all of 13. Yet, these young 'uns were more than willing to "expand their horizons" with a trip down 70s lane.

There's a pop song out right now "celebrating" some 80s tunes but questioning how then heavy metal with all its supposed rebelliousness is currently classified as "classic rock". This is getting strange. I'm not that old am I? With the stuff of my youth now warranting historicial, revue and classic status, it sure seems that way!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Feeling a Little Blue Today

Actually, a little blue and fringe-y. I mean did you see those electoral maps? With that big red blob consuming the central part of the nation? And little "bruises" on the edge begging for validity but ultimately getting "burned" by the heat?

Not that I vote a party ticket. I don't. In fact, a friend and I agreed we weren't really red or blue. We're purple people for the most part.

But if those maps are really indicators of the public at large, I find myself today part of the minority. Now that's not a rare place for me, mind you. I've been here before. In fact, I have residences in both the fringe and the minority states of mind. I am familiar with the terrain.

It's just that every once in a while, once in a "blue" moon if you will, I'd like to know what the majority feels like.

But I'm not willing to change my mind in order to find out.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Just Plane Thrilling

(written after a recent anxiety-producing plane trip home)

Too tight tomorrow
Grips one stomach muscle
And twists.

Plane travel ups & downs
Takes its turn at
Tummy turmoil.

She's supposed to help
But isn't.
He wants to help
But isn't.

Cancellations keep coming
From the Lord of the Loudspeaker.
Lines grow longer and
I'm left to gamble.

Take the known to the city unknown
and the possibilitease of more helpful agents . . .
Or stake out a stand-by spot and
cross all appendages in hopes that seat 50 stays empty?

I go with the gamble.

But while my head accepts the risk
My gut rebels.

Stay tuned.

Things I Learned This Weekend

  • I don't exactly jog a 5K, nor do I settle on simply walking. I'm more of a wogger. But, hey, I finished!
  • Elegant menus are a nice change of pace but they do require time, lots and lots of time.
  • If I "wog" a 5K on Saturday morning, top it off with a breakfast at a new-to-us place and a visit to the Farmers Market, prep for feeding 14 folks, trek to the plant store for patio refurbishing plants and then replant them, drop by the grocery for rolls and flowers, take said flowers to a Cambodian women's meeting where I'm celebrating and speaking, return to complete the meal for 14, host the 14, and then clean up after the 14 leave . . . then I'm not a whole lot of good until around 4 p.m. on Sunday.
  • The easy-to-complete recipes on the Food Network are not as easy as they look but they do come out well if you remember that it's all in the presentation.
  • "Retro" Halloween costumes are a state of mind. I wore a 60s outfit that any other day is a pair of my current capri pants and an oversized shirt.
  • I love the weekend . . . and the week!

A Prayer from Saint Theresa

Just read a fitting prayer to start the day and thought I'd share with you . . .

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of God....
Let this presence settle into our bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.

Enjoy the dance today!