Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking for Truth Despite Stereotypes

Anyone who knows me knows that books are a passion of mine and that I often get more excited about a good book than-well-almost anything.

I'm reading one of those books right now. The title is Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left. I recommend this book for Christians AND non-Christians alike.

For those of us who are not Christian, too often it is too easy for us to brush off an idea as ridiculous or unjust simply be virtue of it being a "Christian" idea. It is too easy for us to lump all Christians into a very narrow category, which really may only represent Fundamentalist Christianity. (Which, although loud and influential in politics due to the media's fear of them, giving them even more power through that fear-my statement, not the books.) It is too easy for us to say something like: "Christians are homophobic" or "Christians are against a woman's right to choose" or "Christians are close-minded" or "Christians take the bible so literally that there is no room for interpretation" or "feminists can't be Christians" or "Christians believe that anyone who is not 'saved' is going to hell." I have heard all of these statements and more as justification for wrighting off all of Christianity as hypocritical snd unreasonable in today's world. This book reminds us that Christianity is far bigger than those narrow statements.

I recommend this book to Christians- liberal and fundamentalist- to remind them that Jesus preached and acted against dogmatic blindness and championed reason and morality both as paths to just action and mindful living.

For such a small book (119 pages), it carries a Big message and a lot of thoughtfulness. I think I'll probably read it at least once more. This time, my own copy so I can highlight it and make notes in the margins instead of just notes in my head.

As a Unitarian Universatlist who has embraced Paganism as well as the teachings of Jesus, often it is hard for me not to criticize Christians- lumping them all into a pot of melting judgemental ideals. Nevermind that my best friend is working toward ordination as a Christian miniter and that most of my family are Christians. As a UU, I am dedicated to the ideals of diversity, justice, equiality, social involvement and personal mindfulness. In that spirit, I must include not just Pagan, Buddhist, Humanist, Hindu, Muslim, and Schientific ideas and ideals into my world of tolerance, but also Christian teachings. I must, as a UU, be open to learning TRUTH wherever it is found.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rick Warren and my Horizontal Equivalent to Nosebleed Seats

When I first heard that Barak Obama invited Rick Warren to do the invocation at his inaguration, I reconsidered -for a minute-whether or not I wanted to go. I wasn't too sure that I was willing to subject myself to Warren's potential bigotry against me and others whose love does not conform to his narrow vision of acceptability. Intellectually, I understand Obama's reasons: to reach out to the religious right and bring them into the fold of American Pluralism. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Yesterday, I started reading a book by Jan G. Linn that a friend of mine sent me to help in the research for my sociology paper this past semester. I didn't have time to read Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left in time to use it for my paper. However, I needed something to read while at work this week, and there it was, waiting patiently for me to make time for it.

As I picked it up and started reading, I kicked myself for not doing so before I turned in my paper. I had a lightbulb flare up in my brain, right in the middle of Chapter 3. I now understand more fully why Obama invited Warren to the inaguration. In writing about "Bigger Christianity", meaning bigger than the narrow fundamentalist box, but bigger, like the sermon on the mount, big and inclusive and true. Linn says true Christian prophets "should bring light to any situation. Light dispels darkness, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, bitterness, and on and on. That alone is no small standard to live up to. But they must also model a desire to promote reconciliation between individuals and groups of people. Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable." I will repeat that because I'm hoping you will feel a loud bell and a glaring spotlight in your brain, as I did when reading that: "Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable."

I realize (though I don't identify as Christian, I still hold some Christian truths to be self evident-many of them are also Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Humanistic truths.) that my resistance to Warren's imminant proximity to me when I go to the Mall on January 20th is only serving the narrow fundamentalists' purposes by further solidifying the barriers between "us" and "them". In this context, "us" may be applied to mean: LGBT people and our allies, Liberals, Democrats, or those who believed Obama stood for change, tolerance and justice. "Them" can be applied to mean: all the narrow minded bigots who choose ignorance over enlightenment. (Crap-I just did it again- skewing my language that way creates a barrier. Let's just call that a tangible demonstration which illustrates my whole point.)

Obama, it seems (I hope), is a much bigger person than me in that he seeks to overcome his own personal, perhaps even selfish, desires to exclude Warren in order to break down barriers and replace them with bridges between people like me and people whose vision is not as big. Inclusion, not exclusion is the only way to build those bridges.

I find it interesting that Linn uses the therm "prophet" because, in my Religion in American Culture class, we also used that word in the contesxt of "prophetic" vs "priestly" versions of American Civil Religion. "Prophetic" leaders are those who are inclusive and forward thinking, like MLK, JFK and BHO. "Priestly" leaders are those who seek to narrow the scope of who is a "real American". "Priestly" leaders are short-sighted and elitist like Reagan, the Bushes and Jerry Fallwell.

Though I still abhor Warren's support for the anti-marriage proposition in California, I can at least try to see him as a fellow human being trying to live by his ideals as best he can. I also can take pity on him for the limitations of his vision, based not upon the teachings of his saviour, but upon the smallness of his own fearful heart.

It seems that everything I touch now highlights the intersections between spirituality and politics: books I read, classes I take, votes I cast and the trip I am about to take. Did I mention (yes, I believe I did) that I am, after all, going to the inaguration. My Christmas present from Pop and Linda is space in Pop's study on the floor in which to lay my sleeping bag! It is no manger for a crib, but more like camping-which is one of my favorite things to do!

I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Deb can't sleep on the floor, and all the above floor spaces are already claimed, so I will be making this trip on my own. Ive never been to Baltimore before. I have no sense of direction. I'd get lost in my own backyard if the dogs didn't show me how to find the house, and I'm driving over the river, through the woods and within the mountains to get to Baltimore. YippeeEEK!

I'm still trying to finagle the days off (I want to spend a couple of days with Pop and Linda) and make my list for packing (note to self-add "map" to the list). I'm also have to try to figure out how much money I need for gas, train/subway fare, food, a big cheesehead hat that says "Obama is #1" and other souvenirs to prove that I really was there and that it was not some dimented dream left over from the chemo-brain that still haunts me now and then. I've started walking at work again when I'm in a place that has a hallway instead of a room that is about 3 steps by 3 steps big, because I know I'll be walking and on my feet for a long time on the day of the inaguration, 24 days from now. (23 on the day I finished typing.)

I do not have a ticket. I will not bring a ball gown with a sparkly purse. I will not be meeting with Carl Levin for a glass of local Michigan grown wine. I will not be able to hear Obama (or Warren) without speakers or see him without a huge screen TV. (Deb is going to tape it for me at home so I don't miss it.) I look forward to enjoying the inaguration much like I enjoyed the concerts at Pine Knob as a kid when Julie, Rob and I would sit on the roof of the Kohnen house a few miles away. Except with more people and more liklihood of getting lost, but with less liklihood of falling off a second story roof and breaking my skull. YippeeEEK!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Beating the System

Excerpt from journal December 25, 2008 in the wee hours of the morning:

I checked on my fall term grades today. [Today for me, yesterday for non-nightshifters.] I got 4.0 in both classes. I'm not sure I deserved it in the Sociology of Religion class. I feel like I could have done better on the paper, if I had spent more time on my church visits and on the writing and revisions. [I wasn't as precise with my language as I am when I write a sermon, where every single word is carefully and deliberately chosen and where I usually do 6-10 revisions. For my paper, I did have 6-8 false starts, but only one and a half revisions, although I reworked it several times in my head and even did a kind of an outline, which I rarely do.] I'm pleased with the grade, but not sure if I deserve it.

My overall GPA is now 3.97, up another .01. I still think that I should have gotten a better grade way back when, in the volunteerism class. That is the one class, I think, that kept me from a perfect score. I can't remember, there may have been one other as well. [If so, I probably deserved a less than perfect score, or I would remember it.]

It's funny, I never really cared about GPA before. It is just a number after all, and you can't categorize someone's character [or intelligence] with a grade. I still don't really care so much about the grade, but instead it has become like a competition between me and the system. I win the game if I learn so much and work so hard that I can win a 4.0. I think, perhaps, I have begun to look at grades much the way others "play" e-bay.

The Past Speaks to the Present

I just finished reading Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. Ms Beals was one of the "Little Rock Nine," African-American high school students who were the first to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957-three years after Brown vs the Board of Education. I read the version abridged for young readers. It was very powerful. I imagine that the adult version is probably even more so.

As I read it, I couldn't help but wonder if those nine brave men and women will be at Barak Obama's inaguration. I hope so, front and center, because without them, we would not have won him as a president.

I'm bummed that my dad's house is already going to be full to the brim with guests there for the inaguration. There's no room at the Pop and Linda Inn. I was hoping to go and stay with them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!!
Happy Hannukah!!
Super Solstice!!

To me and Deb, it feels like the day after Christmas since we did our gift exchange yesterday. I have to work tonight, Thursday night and Friday night, so we decided to celebrate on Tuesday, my day off. We opened presents and Deb made a delicious prime rib and our friend Barb came over.

Today, Little Bit's ashes came via UPS. They also sent a three dimensional paw print that they took for us, with her name embossed on the edge. We cried over it, and set her and her print in the window until we can bury/scatter her under the mulberry tree where she loved to dig trenches looking for rodents.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rest in Peace Yidder Didders

Little Bit O' Honey 1996-2008

Little Bit died Monday morning after a long weekend of difficulty breathing and pain. On Saturday, the vet found a tumor in her mouth that we were hoping to be able to remove in surgery on Monday. Sunday night, she began to have seizures and yelped in pain a few times. She was gasping and panting for breath. By Monday morning, the tumor had grown and she had lost 6 pounds since Saturday.

The vet agreed with us that at her age, with sudden weight loss, seizures and quick tumor growth, that we could love her best by letting her go to sleep and die peacefully.

Little Bit was an alpha dog until the end. She expressed a fierceness that bordered on snotty toward other dogs, and loved her people with a fierceness that scared away fears and pain. She always protected us when we were sick or upset.

She is much loved and much missed.

We love that dog.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

St. Nicholas, Jack Frost and Serena the thievin dog

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!!

Today is the day that St. Nick and his buddy Pete sneak into houses round the world and fill shoes or stockings with yummy treats and fun trinkets. Sometimes, if they can't get inside, they leave stuff outside. (Kind of like our dog visitor did with my bra.)

Today, the snow is beautiful and Jack Frost has been busy painting windows and freezing boogers. It really is beginnning to feel a lot like Christmas.

I need to buy some Equal Exchange Cocoa from church, so I can make some hot chocolate for these cold times. Not only is that the BEST cocoa I've ever had, they pay fair wages to those who harvest the beans. (Many companies use slave labor or criminally low wages, we just don't hear about that.) The Equal Exhange Fair Trade Cocoa has a unique flavor that some may not recognize at first, but I'm telling you, I am now reluctant to use other cocoas, not even for the ethics, but for the incredible taste! Yum!

Tomorrow is the big day, Deb and I have been getting excited choosing recipes, buying fattening ingredients, getting new cookie sheets, and working out the logistics of having 3 young friends all here to help with making and decorating dozens of cookies. I know, we'll be a little later than usual this year with baking, but I'm almost as excited as I was about Obama's election. Not quite as intense, but it is an awesome anticipation that I feel. I can't wait to see Maddie, Ana and Cassidy get creative with junk food!!

We're a bit worried about Little Bit though, she hurt her paw (actually 2, but one seems okay now, and her back seems sore) when she jumped off of the couch--ouch. I love that dog.

Serena seems to feel quite at home at our house. She and Pippen have started wrestling in the snow. I went out by the greenhouse yesterday and found my bra that Serena stole. It was frozen solid. So solid that when I tossed it down to the basement to be washed, it made a loud crashing sound, as if I threw a piece of wood down, or, a frozen steak. Serena's new favorite place to lay is on the loveseat, in Deb's spot. Or, if she is kicked out of that spot, next to Deb, pressed as close as she can possibly snuggle. She curls her feet under like a deer when she sleeps, but howls like a hound. I wonder if she's a genetically modified being? I have a feeling all 3 of us will be in trouble when she goes home because she has been totally spoiled with us. She seems unaffected when I ask her to do something or yell at her, but Deb gets upset with me when I do. It's hard not to yell when she tries to lick my food.

I wrote this at work in the wee hours of the morning, dreaming (while trying to stay awake) of home, warmth, love and saint Nicholas. Thank you for being a part of my dream by joining me at my blog.

Note: Serena was picked up a few minutes ago. She didn't want to get in the van, but was very happy to see her girls again. Ellen said that she already liked to sleep on the couch and lick people's food, and was happy with how calm she was instead of the hyper hyper dog she was when they picked her up from the kennel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nothing exciting to say today

Sorry about the (once again) long pause between posts. I have been working on a paper for my sociology of religion class, and reading and studying for psychology. For just two classes, I'm learning and studying a lot. It feels good to be using my brain that much, but does leave me preoccupied.

I don't have a whole lot to say today, I just wanted to touch base. My brain is kind of fried. Finals start next week, oddly enough, that is less stressful than working up to this week. I have one final next week and one the following week. That is no sweat.

We have cleared a spot in the living room to put up a holiday tree, we just have to decide when to put it up. Deb and I are both excited that on Sunday, we will get the girls all day to work on holiday cookies!!! Until then, we have their dog, Serena. She has totally bevome one of the pack, except that she doesn't sleep with us. She prefers the couch. The little booger, however, has decided that everyone else's food tastes better than hers, even though I thing she eats the same brand. So, today, I switched her bowl with Indigos and put some extra in the one she ate out of, since she is a lot bigger. She is a very sweet dog.

I applied for graduation a few weeks ago. If I continute to take 2 classes a semester, I should be done in August. Since I should be graduating with honors, if I want to be recognized, I have to wait until December next year to walk. If I don't care so much, I can walk in June. I don't want to walk at all, but Deb really wants me to. I've been invited to join 2 different honor societies, but I haven't sighned up yet. This recognition all feels weird to me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patriotism and Miracles

(WRITTEN ON NOVEMBER 6, 2008, not posted until Nov. 17)

I know that the election is old news, so I should be done writing about it by now, BUT...

I have not been teary-eyed about politcs since watching Jimmy Carter give his farewell address from the Oval Office. I remember, as a young girl, looking at him and realizing that in his 4 years in office, he had gotten old, and I had grown to love and respect him. I didn't much feel that way, even about movie stars, but somehow my young heart felt a loss at his change of residence.

Little did I know that he would continue to transform the world in large and small ways and that he was probably an even greater force for good once he left the White House and focused on building other houses and building bridges between leaders where no one thought bridges could exist.

Jimmy Carter made me proud to be an American.

Barak Obama renews my pride with even greater strength.

My pride does not simply come from the fact that our nation finally elected an African-American president. It is so much more that it's hard to articulate in words. Of course, being the mouth that I am, I will yap and try.

I mentioned the other day that in the past 15-20 years, liberals have yeilded public moral dialogue and therefore public moral authority to the extremists who claim to practice the Christian faith. Here, in Barak Obama, is a person who is not shy about expressing his faith in public and does not hesitate to talk about morality in liberal terms, that even I as a Unitarian Universalist/Pagan who believes in the teachings of a human named Jesus, can get behind. Obama speaks about looking out for one another, respectng those who don't have the same vision as we do personally, making peace more often than war if possible, honoring the fact that other people make different choices than we personally would, but that doesn't make them inhuman, immoral or unpatriotic.

Now, about that word: Patriotic. Like I said the other day, I have never termed myself patriotic, yet I have always felt honored and blessed and lucky to be an American. I have always questioned my government's decisions, and to me that is an act of love for my country (like when my friends love me enough to call me out for being a butthead). I have voted faithfully since I was 18. (I've missed a couple of small elections-like, I think I skipped the 2008 democratic primary due to Michigan's votes not counting at that time anyway.) I have written to congresspeople and senators. I even considered millitary service for a minute when I was young. I have never chosen to describe myself a s patriot, not even as a kid. I think, like Christianity, I have left that to others to be defined in very limiting, narrow terms. Perhaps it's because my favorite TV show as a kid was M*A*S*H, and the only people in that show who defined themselves as patriots were extremists who lived their lives judging others by their own unreasonable extremes. (Sounds an awful lot like the way I left Christianity and the public discussion of morality to the extremists. Hmm, as I write this, I'm begining to see a pattern to my own cowardice.) So, perhaps my understanding of what being a "Patriot" is, is distorted and limited to only extremist expressions of patriotism.

I no longer leave discussions of morality to the extremists. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that. I espouse my own liberal brand of morality through this blog, through the pulpit on occasion and quite often through my big mouth. I also often express it through my bank account when I buy fair trade coffee and chocolate or donate to NPR or to the UU Church which espouses a morality that I can live with.

Perhaps, I need also to reclaim (or, actually claim, since I've never done it before) the notion of me being a patriot. To me, it is a patriotic act, as an American, to question my government and to challenge it to be the best it can possibly be. (Been there, always doing that.) To me, it is a patriotic act as an American, to treat everyone as my equal regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, etc. (Check mark in that column too-I hope.) To me, it is a patriotic act to honor that people follow a diversity of faiths and that it is not my place to judge another's heart. (Ditto.) To me, it is a patriotic act to express yourself, even if others don't agree with you, and it is patriotic to allow others their ideas. (Okay, I have a bit of a problem with this one, but I am trying.)

Some people think that Obama is too liberal and are afraid that he will run this country with a left tilt, not allowing those with ideas different from his to advise him. I disagree. I think he has an even concept of balance of power and balance of judgement and a balance of vision that has the capacity to include a far wider range of Americans than anyone leaning too far left or too far right could do.

I know I probably wouldn't be able to walk that same tightrope of diplomacy that appears to come naturally to Obama. At least so far. And, for the first time since Carter, I feel a balance between secularism and spirituality, between science and faith, between the haves and have nots, between white people and people who are not so white, between North and South, East and West, between the United States and the rest of the world, between reason and, well, reason.

I'm not sure that I've accomplished what I said I was setting out to try, which was to explain why this election has re-affirmed, or, perhaps even restored my pride in being an American (I'm not sure which). For quite a while, I have felt that Americans tend to feel an unreasonable inflated sense of entitlement. The evidence of that entitlement has been demonstrated by the distain with which people of other contries speak of us, the Bush and Bush wars, Reganomics, even the exhorbitant salaries of CEOs and professional athletes. Our government's insatiable hunger for power and control over the past 8 years has only fed my convictions. Really, even longer-since Jimmy Carter left office.

I get the impression that the only sense of entitlement that Obama feels is the entitlement of bieng treated as an equal, a human bieng with faith and foibles, just like everyone else. He seems to feel pride in and gratitude for being an American. He does not appear to feel entitled as a American to getting anything he wants, without preconditions, without reprecussions or costs. He knows that there are costs to everything, but that doesn't mean that people have to pay with their pride, dignity or uniqueness.

When I was waiting in line to vote, one of the people I chatted with said that she thinks that people are expecting a miracle and that things will suddenly change overnight. She mentioned South Africa and the fall of Apartheid and how that mess is still being cleaned up. She was afraid of the backlash when there isn't an instant change. (She didn't mention Obama, but we both understood the buzzword without saying we understood.)

I pointed out to her that my definition of miracle is broader than that of most people. To me, miracle does not equal impossible. To me, miracle means extraordinary. I pointed out that there may not be a miracle in material change as an immediate result of the elections. To me, the miracle can be found in the palpable excitement of the people lining up to make their voices count by voting. The miracle lies not in any materialistic alteration, but in a collective mental alteration from one of trepedation to one of possibility, from one of fear of uncertainty to one of hope of transformation. In that hope itself can be found confidence in the future, confidence in our nation, confidence that the economy will get better and, perhaps, confidence that their voice does indeed matter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Reason to Believe in Human Goodness

In the wee hours of the morning today, two families made heart wrenching decisions in order to save a little girl's life, whom they don't even know. I don't want to go into details because it is a private matter, but I just want to say that such generosity is surely noticed and blessed by the Divine. For those of you who pray, please send out prayers for three families who are dealing with confusion, fear, generosity and hopefully a miracle among them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The United States Wins the Election!!

Not just the democrats, but all of the United States won this election.
All of the world seems aware that humanity will reap the benefits.
I must confess that I fell asleep last night while the returns were coming in and Deb couldn't wake me up for the speeches. I was totally exhausted from anticipation.
This morning, I have been crying in joy on and off, thinking about all of the people who made this moment happen: My parents, everyone who voted yesterday, every parent who taught our generation that prejudice is the result of ignorance, every fredom rider, civil rights activist, person with a voice of reason in this time of turmoil, every person of faith who stood by the fundamental goodness of their spirit.
I also have been thinking about all of the people who died in order that this moment could happen:
Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, 4 innocent girls in Selma, countless numbers of former slaves and civil rights workers, and countless others that I don't know about or have forgotten to include.
Thank you to all who have come before in order to allow Americans to once again dream that the American dream may be limitless, rather than limited by prejudice and fear.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Joy of Voting

The polls in Michigan opened at 7:00 am this morning. I pulled into the parking lot where I vote at exactly 7:00am. I got the last parking space. My heart started racing and I got tears in my eyes because I don't think I've ever seen that lot full before. I walked into the building at 7:01. I looked at the clock on my way out and it was 8:05am. 65 minutes in and out. My ballot was number 127. I was #130 to feed my ballot into the machine.

Some elections, I was that high of a number at 5pm. Not at the opening of the polls. It was very exciting, everyone was excited, polite, talkative even. No one mentioned who they were voting for, but we all agreed that the excitement about this election is palpable. Even though none of us talked about who we were voting for, the word "change" kept echoing throughout the hall and the gym where we were lined up.

None of us complained about having to wait in line so long. Several of us even mentioned that we felt excited to be waiting in line to vote rather than being able to just walk right in and be the only one at a booth like happens so often. I joked with a few people that I was having fun waiting in line. It felt like being at Cedar Point, only this time waiting in line means something!!

One of the conversations I had was with a couple who were retired. I think they were in their late fifties or early sixties. As we were talking, we were reflecting on the fact that so many young people are getting involved in this election and people are talking about the enormity of this moment. As I was talking with them, I revealed that my dad had helped with one of the campaigns, I did not reveal which one. The husband asked me if my dad tried to influence the votes of me and the other kids. I told him that my dad told us all to vote our concsience, but this is why he is voting for his chosen candidate. I told them how much fun I had at Pop's party in June when me and Tim and a bunch of the kids and a couple other of my generation were sitting around politics and how proud I was that my nieces and nephews were so very thoughtful and insightful in forming their own opinions. I revealed how in that room we ranged from conservative to liberal and we enjoyed the discussion and respected one another's opinions and had fun in the arguments. The husband got kind of a look of wonderment on his face and said that that is incredible that one family can have such a range of positions and have an open and lively debate and that we respect one another's differences.

Once again, I have been reminded how incredible my family is. For those of you in my family reading this, thank you so much for being a part of me and allowing me to be a part of you. I feel so blessed to have come from such an awesome and diverse group of people, no matter what diasagreements or crap we have had to deal with from one another. I love you all and I am so honored to be one of you.

If today is still Tuesday November 4 when you read this and you haven't voted yet, GO VOTE AS IF YOUR LIBERTY DEPENDS UPON IT!! It is an honor and a privelege and a responsibility as an American citizen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Total Separation Between a Church and Politics

I visited a local United Church of Christ yesterday, wanting to be at a UCC Church the Sunday before Obama, a UCC member, is elected president.

From reading resources on UCC's website, I expected to hear something about a moral, civic or Christian calling to vote our conciences this week. I expected a bit of excitement or anticipation in the air about the enormity of things on or related to this week's ballot: embryonic stem cell research, the first possible woman vice-president, the first possible black president, the selling off of a public park for development, the possible long lines at the polls, the largest expected voter turnout in well..forever, the uncertainty of the reliability of the polls due to secret racism, the uncertainty of the reliability of the polls due to the lack of cell phone polling, the total disregard for journalistic integrity or journalistic neutrality or, the UCC committment to keeping church and state seperate. I even would have been a teensy-tiny-little bit satisfied if, in the mention of upcoming events, the minister had said, "and on Tuesday, don't forget to vote." Nothing. Nada. Silence.

The only mention of the election was when I told someone afterwards that I was reaserching UCC, Obama and Civil Religion for a sociology paper. This 60 something white woman sneered and said she isn't voting for Obama because he turned his back on Reverend Wright. In our three or so minute discussion, she revealed that all she knew about the "Chickens Roosting" sermon was that it was "a typical black sermon." She had never listened or watched it. She also said, when I pointed out the possibility, that it had never occured to her that Reverend Wright and Obama felt strongly that the message that Obama has been spreading (a lot of it sounds a lot like UCC theological ideas) is so vital to not just our country, but to the world, that perhaps Rev. Wright and Obama may both have understood that because of unreasonable and racism and selective out of context skewing of a small portion of Wright's words, that perhaps a separation between the two of them may have been necessary in their eyes for the greater good during in order to allow Obama to win the election.

She turned away before I could point out that just less than 2 months ago, according to the UCC newspaper, Jeremiah Wright was still expressing admiration for "a scrawny little kid-pointed nose, big ears, momma from Kansas, daddy from Kenya."

She turned away before I could ask her why on Earth, or in Heaven, she would choose to support McCain and Palin (and, by not voting for Barak Obama, she would be by default, if nothing else), who claim to be Christians but stand against everything Jesus stood for! Yet, on the grounds of a possible slight against someone whose sermons she hadn't even listened to, she would vote against someone whose political platform and personal ideology sounds awfully close to the UCC vision of hope for peace, equity, personal involvement, ecological responsibility, service to the poor and sick. Since she is a UCC member, I would assume that she also shares at least some of that vision. Oh yeah, that was what Jesus' message was all about too!

She left before I could say that her not voting for Obama is like saying she believes in the teachings of Jesus, but her judgemental egotistic sense of righteous indignation won't let her stand up for her principles in the voting booth. (I probably wouldn't have said that anyway, but I definitely was thinking it while I was amazed at her shortsightedness.)

I'm pretty sure I can guess who Jerimiah Wright is going to vote for. I may possibly be wrong, since I have not had a personal conversation with him.

I am upset to know that people are turning their backs on right actions, and using Reverend Wright as an excuse to give votes away to the religious right who believe they have a right to re-write the constitution and the bible in their own self-righteous image as oracles of God and Democracy around the world. (Or, at least to Russia and Canada-while negotiating fishing disputes from Palin's back porch.)

What the heck is she thinking? Are there others like her, using a black minister as an excuse not to vote for a man who is bringing hope to a country beleagured with unemployment, war and helthcare travesties? OOPS- nevermind. I forgot. The Republicans are doing that, it says so right in their new ad.

By the way, for those of you who still have not heard the entire "America's Chickens are Coming Home to Roost" sermon, please watch it. The link is: . Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent, Green, Purple or Orange Party member, please watch it. If you are a Christian, a Pagan, A Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, a Scientist, a Sociologist, a Socialist, or a tried and true Capitalist, PLEASE WATCH THAT SERMON IN ITS ENTIRETY. Reverend Wright's words have gotten blown so out of proportion that what Fox News and the Republicans are leading people to believe is so far from the truth that it's frightening. The chicken sermon (i haven't listened yet to the sermon that is being used for the new McCain ad) is all about accounting for ourselves as individuals and as a country before we make a knee-jerk decision that could affect everyone. He's not even saying we shouldn't go to war, he is saying to look at whether or not we should engage in a war and whether or not that would be a just war. It is prophetic and powerful and beautiful and much, much more than simply "a typical black sermon." I would love to have dinner with him, I would just have to be careful if I were ever to run for political office later-NOT!

I know that almost everyone says that the only issue that matters in this race is the economy (or, abortion, depending upon who you listen to in the media). The issues are even bigger than just dollars.

Religious Freedom, in a way is at stake. I say that because those of us who are humanist, Unitarian Universalists, Reformed Jews or liberal religious Christians have for too long allowed the religious right-the "moral" minority, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Fallwells to define what morality is, and by extention, what being a good patriotic American is. In allowing fundamentalists to dominate the American Moral and Political discourse, we have turned over, in essense, our right to have a say in what laws our country passes and follows. We have allowed our civil liberties to be eroded in aquiescence to the fear of being accused of being un-patriotic, un-American and, by extention, immoral for bowing to the powers of terror. I am far more terrified of losing my health insurance, losing my right to speak and blog freely, losing my confidence in the idea that you and I can make the world a better place than I am of the potential for terrorists to ruin our freedom.

These are the things that I ponder in this time of excitement and trepidation. I am glad that people are talking and debating the issues, making up their own minds and sometimes changing them. I am proud that I live in a country where I am allowed not just to vote, but to voice my opinions and, even better, to really listen when others voice theirs. I am proud to live in a country where patriotism, like faith, is at its best and strongest when difficult questions are asked and answered and where each of us can hold our own opinions and, hopefully still be able to break bread together in peace and together seek a justice we can all live with.

I am sad that some few people disrespect one another, our democratic process and by extention, our freedom of speech and the essense of this country itself. This destructive attitude which so upsets me has been manifesting in the stealing of McCain/Palin signs from people's lawns, the burning of Obama signs and shouting matches in school hallways. (by the way, as serious and sad as this issue is, I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes after writing this, while I was listening to an NPR story this morning about this very phenomenon. I can't find an online link to that story, sorry.) I am saddened that the color of someone's skin-white or brown or black is all that people can see in the candidates, and by extention, themselves and their neighbors. (I never will understand that. There is so much more to me than being white, or even being a woman! There is so much more to see and know.) I am saddened that patriotism is being defined not by our love of country, but instead by our religiuous views, geography, political party or skin color. I have never claimed to be a patriot, but I have always felt so honored and priveleged to be an American, that I don't take anything for granted. I am aware that our Constitution is a dynamic, living document that was crafted to incite debate and remain flexible, yet firm in the principles of democracy. One of those principles is change, rooted deeply in a nation that grew out of a revolution of ingenuity in thought and continually learning the value of honoring our differences and finding common ground with one another.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Baby Farm, Trash or Miracle Cure?

I read just about the stupidist op-ed piece I have ever seen. It was in "The Michigan Times," the U of M Flint newspaper (available online at if you want to read the piece for yourself). Keep in mind that U of M is where supposedly smart people go.

This young conservative writer urges folks to vote against embryo stem cell research because "these are living people", in reference to unimplanted embryos that are left over from fertility procedures. He knows that unused embryos are often legally destroyed without benefit to anyone, so he proposes a solution.

He proposes that the embryos not be used to save lives, nor that they be destroyed. He instead proposes that baby factories (my phrase) be set up using women as surrogate mothers so that these previously unwanted children can be adopted. He proposes that the adoption system be fixed "so these unborn children [can] be nurtured and given the same opportunity to live their lives as we had to live ours."

Am I alone here in seeing how completely ridiculous his alternate world is? I'm getting visions of Margret Atwood's novel, A Handmaid's Tale (not the movie, it made no sense without the context of the book).

Fixing the "adoption system" (really, the entire child welfare system needs revamping) is a fabulous idea, but first, fix it for the living breathing kids who have been thrown away because of the color of their skin or the imperfection of their health or their parents' crack habit or their being too old for most adoptive parents to feel they can love them due to the fact that they already have minds and hearts of their own, or because their biological moms couldn't care for them since they themselves are barely teenagers.

In order to fix the system, we need to think broader than just adoption options.

We must also fix the sex education programs in the schools. Every child needs access to COMPREHENSIVE sex education, including, but not limited to: self-esteem improvement, Sexually Transmitted Infection facts (not myths, vague warnings or incomplete truths), each teen should have a real-fake baby to care for for at least 72 hours, boys and girls need to be taught how to properly use condoms and why, they need to learn other, safe ways to get off without risking themselves or their futures, they need to practice ways to say no with confidence, they need to be encouraged to have and to follow their dreams, kids need to feel loved by the adults in their lives so they don't feel the need to make a baby to be able to experience unconditional love, teens need sex to be de-mystified so that they are less likely to experiment and explore the mystery themselves, they need to understand that drinking and drugging too often lead to unprotected sex, or even to sexual assault. They need to have a safe place to report sexual assault and to get counseling to restore their sense of personal dignity, security and self-esteem. Have I mentioned that self-esteem is important to nurture in order to keep kids from being sexually active before they are ready? How about now? How about now? How about ALWAYS, every kid should know they are valued as human beings and that their life is too important to the world to waste it on drugs and wasting-killing diseases so some idiot could have a 10 second orgasm, which they could have had safely all by themselves.

That is just a miniscule portion of the needs in order to fix the "adoption system".

Oh yeah, I'd imaginge that in this young white guy's mind, all of these unborn embryos to be incubated in his imaginary baby factory will be white. So, I suppose, those imaginary babies (I have a hard time considering the idea that he could have envisioned babies of color for his dream baby factory farm) actually would have more of a chance of being adopted than most of the parentless kids that I see in the system. They would almost have their own elite white baby-to- families with money system. It could work for them.

What about the biological parents, don't they have any say in this imaginary world in what to do with their own DNA mergings? Or, under this imaginary mandatory baby factory farm, would all of the embryos become the property of the right-angled state?

What about the surrogate moms? Would they get compensated in any way for having the children they bond with taken from them and given to strangers? Or, would an army of women be indentured to be baby cookers totally against their will? (I know this sounds far-fetched, but read A Handmaid's Tale. Don't watch the movie, it's irrelevant to this to this paranoia of mine since it explains nothing about the whys and details of the story.)

The final argument in this editorial opinion, which is as ridiculous as my last paragraph, is "for the state to put citizens in an ethical bind by forcing them to pay for something they morally oppose is the lowest form of disgrace." Obviously, the author, Mike Stechschulte, has no clue about the way things work. For instance: I am morally opposed to most wars, yet my money is constantly used to pay for them. I am morally opposed to corporate welfare, yet my money was just used to borrow 700 Billion dollars from China to subsidize an entire irresponsible corporate system. I am morally opposed to genetically engineered crops, untested for saftey or for long-term sustainability, yet my tax dollars often subsidize companies to grow these potentially dangerous crops. (Not to mention, I sometimes unwittingly purchase and ingest these crops in the form of canola oil, soy milk or other unlabled GM products because our government doesn't require proper and honest labling of these fake foods.) I am morally opposed to the slow but sure demise of the small family farm as my tax dollars pay large agricorporations to destroy local economies and family farms and to pollute ground water, destroy biological diversity and pour foreign oil all over the land in the form of unneeded or overused fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. I am morally oposed to my tax dollars helping large corporations to ship American jobs overseas. I am morally opposed to my tax dollars being used to economically dominate individuals and countries all over the world. I am morally opposed to watching public schools fall apartand to elders having to choose between essential medications and electricity. I am morally opposed to funding "abstinence only" sex education programs because not only do they not work, I believe that they make matters worse by selective indoctrination. I am morally opposed to forcing anyone to bring to term a child conceived of rape or incest (unless the mother freely chooses to do so). I am morally opposed to murdering a woman by default,when terminating her pregnancy could save her life.

Someone recently told me that she loves to celebrate birthdays because the day we are born, "is the day that God said YES! to us." She explained that on that day, we were not stillborn, aborted, miscarried, reabsorbed or killed in childbirth, war or accident before we breathed oxygen. On THAT day, God said YES!!

I believe that if a soul is destined by God to come into this world as a living breathing human being, God will make it so. Whether a fetus is aborted or an embryo is used to save a living human being, God had a hand in all that is and in all that is not.

I believe God endowed humans with free will in order that we can learn to make moral choices on our own. Sometimes moral choices are not as clear cut as our limited human brains can comprehend. Sometimes the moral choice is life. Sometimes the moral choice is not. God understands this because God understands the complexities and frailties not just of human life, but the complexities and frailties of all of life.

On March 26, 1968, God said YES! to me. On Tuesday, I'm saying yes to proposal 2 because I believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes we don't like the reasons and sometimes we can't understand the moral complexity of a situation, and may not until we have our first face to face, in person conversation with God. By then, we won't be able to vote anymore.


Thursday, October 30, 2008


I have been trying all night to decide what to write about today that doesn't involve politics or classes. Then, at about 5:52 or 5:53am, I was walking to my car to move to another building at work. I thought I heard a wild whisper coming from above me, "Whoo-Whoo-Whoooo-Whoooo-Whoooo."

I looked up, determined not to get an owl pellet (owl puke embedded with tiny bones of mostly digested smaller animals) or an owl turd to land on my head. I couldn't see an owl at all, and I hadn't heard one on our campus before, despite the fact that there are all kinds of yummy things for owls to eat like baby racoons, groundhogs, squirrels and (my favorite), skunks- yum yum.

After craning my neck for a minute or two, I decided that I must be hearing things. Even though it was chilly out, it is nowhere near the cold of winter, when owls can often be heard trying to entice mates to come and get a little nookie.

Just as I convinced myself that I must have just heard a vehicle, or maybe an early morning dove (even though the voice and intervals weren't quite right), I heard a louder, more insistant, "look at me" sound of:

"Whoo-Whoo-Whoooo-Whoooo-Whoooo!" It was an exact, but louder and (I possibly imagine) a more insistant replica of two short whoos and three slightly longer, whoooos.

I looked again, still, no visual. It made me wish I had a flashlight in my pocket (along with the 6 assorted colors of highlighters, one red pen, two black pens, one sharpie, a little bottle of hand sanitizer, a letter from UM Flint, and car key-wait, no, that was in my hand by then). I still somehow doubt that I could have gotten a visual on my vocal friend.

So often, owls seem to pride themselves on secrecy, unless, of course, they are flying openly flaunting themselves at dusk as happened one time on a friend's farm. It actually swooped the car, twice, then landed by the side of the lane we were driving on. Wow. My heart almost stopped with the beauty and the audacity of THAT magnificent, huge raptor.

The one this morning may have been big and bold like that one, or it may be a little sawhet owl with a big voice. I guess I should look it up. Does anyone know whoo whoo whoooo whoooo whooooo my new friend might be?

Moments like my owl encounters bring me joy and curiosity, excitement and gratitude all at once. I am always surprised when I feel multiple feelings at once. I found out recently that although researchers say that when we think we are multi-tasking, we really aren't thinking about multiple things at once, we are really paying attention to one thing at a time and quickly changing our focus and re-accessing memory about thing after thing, so we think it's simultaneous. I've been really paying attention to my thoughts and thought processes lately, since finding that out. I think the researchers may be right.

Even though I may not be smart enough to think of more than one thing at a time in my multi-tasking fantasy life, I seem to be able to "multi-feel" without noticing any pause or split between my curiosity, gratitude and joy. I have even, once, experienced deep-gut-wrenching grief and ecstatic laughter, joy and appreciation all together. (Crying and laughing at the same time, makes it almost impossible to breathe, but was an amazing cathartic moment in my life.)

Why do I have the ability to feel more than one thing at a time, but not to think of more than one thing at a time? Has anyone done any multi-feeling studies?

Friday, October 17, 2008


I may be reading too much into this but....

Last night, I started reading Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. From the first page, I've been praying over and over, "Please let him live. Please let him live. Please let him live", just like I did on the night of his nomination acceptance speech. I'm beginning to understand more fully why he has been intentionally reaching out to the younger generation. He is calling for a new conceptualization of what I am learning about in class, known as "civil religion". He is calling for us not to tear one another apart as adversaries (liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans, environmentalists vs. big oil, etc.) He is inviting us to look, not just INTO one anothers eyes, but to look THROUGH one anothers' eyes, so that we may all see the common ground that we share as humans and as Americans. He wants us to treat one another with the compassion and dignity that each of us deserves. He is calling for us all, polititians and other individuals, to find the best in one another.

I've only just finished the prelude and the first chapter, so I can't wait to see more deeply into his vision.

It seems, sometimes, that it takes the next generation to capture the idealistic dreams and face the surrealistic nightmares that haunt our society in order to face reality with hope and optimism. With each new generation, there are a few elders to lead them toward the hope of justice and Right Living. Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers led a whole generation of black and white young people to transform our world forever, for the better. (Their lives were way too short, and I selfishly wish they had lived long enough for me to be a part of the generation that they mentored. I was born 9 days before MLK was murdered, so my memory only comes through other people's words and through witnessing their legacies as I sit in integrated classrooms.)

And now, young people are registering to vote, running local election campaign offices, calling people and working toward carrying the dream outlined by Obama of sharing power in respect and strength in order for our country, and perhaps the world, to erase some of the barbed-wire lines of divisiveness, intolerance and stubbornness. And instead of shooting insults and barbs at one another through the fence, exchanging shoes and eyes and shaking hands upon the common ground of humanity. Recognizing one another's worth and dignity as we walk toward the future with a sense of optimism for the first time in a long time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Birk Economic Recovery Plan

Someone e-mailed this to me and I thought it sounded great. I never really thought about the math, but this makes great sense. We wouldn't need the 700 million dollar baillout if we just took the AIG bailout money and distributed it like this:

This idea sounds just crazy enough to possibly work, so naturally it won't be given serious consideration. How great is our bureaucracy!!
Hi Pals,I'm against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+.Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It Dividend.Of course, it would NOT be tax free.So let's assume a tax rate of 30%.Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes.That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in thei r pocket.A husband and wife has $595,000.00.What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?Pay off your mortgage - housing crisis solved.Repay college loans - what a great boost to new gradsPut away money for college - it'll be thereSave in a bank - create money to loan to entrepreneurs.Buy a new car - create jobsInvest in the market - capital drives growthPay for your parent's medical insurance - health care improvesEnable Deadbeat Dads to come clean - or elseRemember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.If we're going to re-distribute wealth let's really do it...instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( "vote buy" ) economic incentive that is being proposedby one of our candidates for President.If we're going to do an $85 billion bailout, let's bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!As for AIG - liquidate it.Sell off its parts.Let American General go back to being American General.Sell off the real estate.Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.Here's my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn't.Sure it's a crazy idea that can "never work."But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!How do you spell Economic Boom?I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 BillionWe Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC And remember, The Birk plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.Ahhh...I feel so much better getting that off my chest.Kindest personal regards,BirkT. J . Birkenmeier, A Creative Guy & Citizen of the RepublicPS: Feel free to pass this along to your pals as it's either good for a laugh or a tear or a very sobering thought on how to best use $85 Billion!!

Picture Post

I couldn't figure out how to edit the post I did about our up north trip in order to add photos, so I'm just going to put a bunch here.

The first thing the girls went to at my brother's place was the chicken coop. just the right size to house chickens and seven year olds.

Meet Mason, the egg-lovin' egg-stealin' great dane who thinks he's a lapdog.

Allison kept a pocketful of corn so that the girls could feed the angora goats (and sheep, not in this picture). They seemed to be having a lot of fun. They kept going back for more.

Deb bonded with a stunned goldfinch while we were at June's house. He became so attached, he didn't want to let go when Deb tried to put him down.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout Buffoonery

(Note: This was written last night, just posted tonight.)

For the first time in my flaming liberal life, I agree with Newt Gingrich on this economic bailout thing. He has been saying that we need to stop a minute and really think through who the bailout will benefit (he states it should be the people-not the wall street big bad wolves.) and who are Paulson and Bernanke going to report to when they are told, "show me the money". He said that we shouldn't draft knee-jerk two day solution that will cause a twenty year mess to clean up. I hate having to admit that I agree with him.

In order to portray McCain as a hero-reformer instead of a chicken shit who is trying to bow out of a debate that he knows he can't win, his Republican pals are trying to backpedal and say, "whoa-we don't like this bailout idea." Let's face it, McCain didn't march into Washington to battle the evil democrats and the traito administration. He retreated to Washington with his tail between his legs trying to avoid a battle that he knows he can't win.

As Obama said, our nest president needs to know how to multi task.

In a round about way, McCain admitted that he can't keep an eye on the economic situation and at the same time jump on a jet for a 90 minute debate, to quickly return to where he feels he needs to be twiddling his thumbs. So how can we count on him to supervise two wars (and possibly more if we don't keep our nose out of other people's business), balance the budget, help the hurricaine survivors in Texas, make sure that his selfish, nutjob vice-president doesn't fire the entire White House staff in order to hire her high school buds while he still manages to get enough sleep and decent nutrition so that his melanoma doewsn't come back and kill him, which would leave us with a loony unqualified beauty queen who feels sanctified by God to take over the world!

Todays question is: are we willing to give up 700 BILLION dollars that could be spent (if we had it) on helping people in practical ways to enjoy the liberty of, say, decent healthcare or safe and effective schools, in exchange for the security of banks and Wall Stret executives who have been preying upon people's fears of not having homes if they don't sign on for outrageous usery charges?

I think that the tip of the iceburg was breached a little when negotiations stated that there would be a cap on CEO salaries of the bailed out institutions. The thing is, those CEOS weren't the only ones involved in the scam. Shouldn't the bailout include a provision like that the governmenbt won't pay more than , say, 50-75 cents on the dollar for the bad debts so that they have some leeway to negotiate payoff terms with the individuals owing mortgages that their diminishing real income can no longer support? That way there will be some hope of dignity for those individuals to be able to survive without the humiliation of becoming homeless and there would be the practical probability that "we" (the taxpayers/government/people) would be able to recover some of the debt that we incurred in the bailout itself. If the troubled banks choose not to take this lowball offer, then they can forfeit any and all possibility of being bailed out of the same mess later.

I make absolutely no claim to knowledge in this area. My basic MacroEconomics class that I slept through twenty years ago, grants me no insight or third-eye intuition about this mess. I do know it won't be solved in a day or with one person dictating what will be. Perhaps I've got it all wrong. Perhaps we need to have a congressional seance and ask Roosevelt what he would do. We can't go to war to jump-start the economy like happened with World War II. Fighting two wars is probably part of what got us in this fiscal fiasco to begin with.

Perhaps, instead of using the 700 billion dollars as a banking bail-out, the government could use it to create real jobs to stimulate the economy so people can make good on the debts that they signed on to.

Okay, maybe I'm too optimisic or maybe I'm too pessimistic. I'm not sure. One of my friends first calls me one, then calls me the other, what's a girl to believe?

Hey, another thing that my friend said...Does anyone remember that this whole mess began in the first place when Saint Ronald (not MacDonald) decided that American banks should be trusted to regulate themselves, after all if they don't, they will lose profits and we can't have that, can we? Reganomics brought us the idea of giving the rich more money than God and trust that they will spend it in a way that will create menial jobs to keep the masses busy with minimally paying jobs so they don't have the time or education to realize that minimum wage is not a living wage, no matter how much you neglect your kids to juggle multiple paychecks. Have they inducted him into the economic hall of fame yet? If wo, I think that honor should be revoked and those who still worship at the porcelain altar of Saint Reagan need to look up and see where those policies flushed us (we, the people).

OOPS. I forgot, my new hero, Newt Gingrich is one of the ones who needs to fece up to his marriage with Reganomics. Thier de-regulation has ended up to be a mess that is bieng cleaned up over twenty years later, just what Newt wants to avoid this time around.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Egg Dane and a Dizzy Goldfinch

Deb and I and Annie and Ellen and June and Maddie and Ana went up north a couple of weekends ago. We had a house rented a little south of Petosky. I called my brother, Paul, ahead of time to see if we could bring the girls over to see the angora goats, sheep and chickens. When we got there, the first thing that the girls did was check out the chicken coop. They immediately spotted some eggs and Ana talked Deb into going into the coop with her to get them while Maddie directed them on where to go. The eggs were HUGE!! When the girls (Maddie, Ana and Deb) came up to the barn with five big, poopy eggs, Allison told them that they can keep them, and to be careful because Mason, their great dane, loves eggs. So, the girls very carefully selected the ideal place to put them so that they could check out the four leggeds while their eggs were safe. They found a wheelbarrow piled high with hay and very carefully nestled the eggs in the protective hay. After several minutes of all of us feeding and petting the sheep and goats, Deb yells "Mason" and we all hear a loud crunch. The booger of a big dog had just bitten down on his fourth egg. There was only one left. He was so quick and so sneaky that it took that many dog-scrambled eggs before he was caught. Allison was generous and gave the girls a whole dozen eggs that she had collected earlier, so that they could take home some eggs of their own that weren't in Mason's belly.

On the way home, Deb and I spent the night at June's house. In the morning, a goldfinch bashed its little head against June's beautiful wall of windows. When we looked, he was lying on his back not moving a muscle except that he was breathing very fast and very hard. Deb held the little guy, just beginning to get his winter colors, until he opened his tiny eyes. Then he closed them again and appeared to fall asleep nestled near her neck. He opened and closed his eyes as if driffting in and out of sleep for several minutes. He gripped her shirt in his little claws and wouldn't let her go when it was time for him to go on his own. Finally, she got him onto a storage bench and we had to leave June's. Later, June told Deb that he eventually did recover and fly away.

I don't have time right now, but I'll add some pictures to this blog entry later. I got some good ones of both of these parts of our trip.

I feel so blessed to have such awesome people in my life, friends and family who are such real people that I can just enjoy myself with them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Something I keep forgetting to rant about is the missing honeybees!! Is anyone else as freaked out as I am that the bees seem to be taking residence with the aliens? Well, maybe not, but they may as well be, they are disappearing without a trace. All over the world!! Especially in North America. Does anyone know if anyone has studied the physical proximity of the affected hives to genetically modified crops? (I know, I know, one of my pet paranoias is this whole G.M. food thing.)

If honey bees keep disappearing, food prices will be out of reach for many people, not just the poorest, but the middle class as well. If the honey bees go, we will have no almonds or honey and there will be a lot of other foods that will become scarcer, as the bees disappear.

On a good bee note, the giant thistle that has taken over the flower bed in front of my house has grown so tall that I can see its deadly spikes and purple prickly flowers through the bay window. Almost every day, I see bees feeding on the thistle nectar, as happy as can bee. I can’t bear to get rid of the thing because it brings such bee joy. There is even a goldfinch that zooms in on the purple puffy flowers now and then.

I truly believe the adage that a plant is only a weed if it grows somewhere that we (humans) don’t want it to grow.

That is why I haven’t been able to bring myself to yank the volunteer tomato plants that have grown smack in the middle of the walkways that we worked so hard to weed-proof last year. Many of those tomato-weeds have born delicious, prolific fruit. Some of them are mere saplings in the shadow of their giant siblings.

Remember the peach tomatoes I raved about last year? Volunteers. The romas that I spent the other afternoon making into tomato puree? Volunteers. (Seven quarts full so far, when added to the ones I got from Dolores and Walt.) Yellow Pear tomatoes-Deb’s favorites? Volunteers. Big cherry-like ones I can’t name? Volunteers. Heart-shaped ones? Volunteers. Brandywines-red and yellow? I planted those. They are big and beautiful and still green! Yum. I can’t wait! Not volunteers.

Did I mention that the slugs wiped out an entire 12 foot by 4 foot bed of peppers? Twice?

Why is it that slugs can take over the world but honeybees have decided to go live with the aliens?

By the way, is it legal to keep honeybee hives in the city of Flint? How about chickens? Do chickens eat honeybees? (Yes, these are real questions. Don’t laugh. Let me know if you know the answers.)

(Note: I wrote this last week, I juist didn't post it until today.)

Update since writing this: I went out this morning to pick more tomatoes. I found lots of red ones. The problem is that the slugs, with the cooler weather, have somehow totally taken over that corner of the world!! Only a fraction of the red tomatoes were salvagable, the rest had been ravaged by little invisible slug teeth.

Needling Deb's Migraine

(Note: This was written September 10, I've just been slow posting this entry.)
Over the course of 9 days, Deb was dealing with a terrible migraine. I couldn’t cook much because smells made her nauseated. She wore sunglasses and kept the curtains closed because light made her hurt more. I couldn’t even run energy on her because it hurt too much. At one point, she came out of the bathroom rubbing her hands and telling me that something is wrong with the soap. The sensation in her hands was all messed up to where the soap didn’t feel right. During that nine days, she couldn’t drive because the sun and the things moving by fast hurt her eyes and made her nauseated. (She was able to drive half way to Ann Arbor for my Doctor’s appointment, but then I had to take over.) So, since she couldn’t drive in order to try to figure out what was wrong and to try to fix it, or at least make it tolerable, I drove her to the doctor three times and to the emergency room once. Nothing helped. Imatrex helped slightly for a couple of hours. Topamax and Fenegren helped for about 10 minutes and Morphine helped for about 30 minutes. Finally, on Monday, Deb decided to go to the acupuncturist. The only appointment she could get was Tuesday late afternoon. She couldn’t drive herself, so I played hookey from school to take her.

Now, that same day (Tuesday), at 11am was her third doctors appointment to try to do SOMETHING about the migraine. Deb had already taken her handful of morning meds, including the long term antibiotic for the Chlamydia Pneumonia that she has. Well, the Doctor, on day 9 of her blinding migraine, decided that the doxycyclene is what gave her the migraine. Go figure. And, she had already taken her morning dose. Dern it.

Ahh, but then, several hours later came 20 needles placed strategically in her hands, arms, feet, legs and right earlobe. She had almost instant relief for the first time since this migraine began. Ask her about the trip she took, it sounds really awesome. We were both kicking ourselves for not thinking of that earlier. Next time, that will probably be her first line of defense.

From the outside, seeing how the migraine made her light, smell and touch sensitive, but also affected her speech, coordination, balance and thought patterns. I’m beginning to think that maybe her doctor was right, way back when and her mystery episodes may actually have been headache-free migraines all along!!

She’s got another appointment at the acupuncturist, Brittney Schram, next week. We are going to try to fit into our budget, regular visits for Deb to see her, because if these episodes have really been migraines all along, maybe Brittney can help them stop, or be less requent or less severe. Something. Finally, some hope of an answer and of relief.

I had my three month check up at U of M on Monday. The pelvic exam looked good. I now get to go every four months since it’s been a year since finishing chemo and radiation. Yeah!! I don’t know the pap results yet. My CA125 bloodwork (tumor marker) came back elevated again. Even more than the last time it jumped. I’m not going to stress about it at this point. I stressed last time and it dropped right back down in a month. I’m not going to let it get to me this time. I’m sure it will drop back down once again. I may very well be one of the people for whom that test is meaningless. If my pap comes back irregular, then I’ll start getting nervous, but for now, no worries.

For those of you in my family who are reading this- I am so sorry for missing Bud’s funeral. I’m not good about checking my e-mail, so I missed it. (Actually, since composing this, I have checked my e-mail and didn’t find the announcement. As a matter of fact, I have no idea how, but Mig’s e-mail address has totally disappeared from my address book.) I hope you all were able to comfort one another and laugh together, as he would wish.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Toad Thoughts and Jazz Dreams

I haven't written anything on my blog lately because, to be honest, I haven't felt very clever or wise lately.

I haven't felt clever because I haven't been able to come up with things that sound funny. Not even to myself. My brain has been stuffed to the brim with anger from people accusing me of stupid, untrue stuff. I have been tenaciously obsessing over things that bring me no joy or satisfaction.

I kind of remind myself of Little Bit, the time she caught a toad and held it in her mouth, one wiggly leg hanging out the left side. I told her to drop it. She didn't. I said it again, lowering my voice and giving her the hairy eyeball-putting on my best Alpha Dog outfit. That little turd-butt of a tenacious terrier looked me right in the eye and bobbed her head slightly as she swallowed hard. Down went the toad, wiggly foot and all. Even though, in my best dog-mom-alpha tone, I had told her to drop it, she still swallowed the live, bitter-nasty tasting toad whole. In seconds, she was drooling, a few seconds later, she broke eye contact to give her head a little shake, then a bigger shake, sending drool flying. Then she began rubbing her mouth on the ground to try to get the taste off of her tongue.

Well, that's how I feel when I'm obsessing over something. Even when I know it looks ridiculous to my heart and tastes terribly bitter to my soul, my pea-sized terrier-type brain won't let it go, even when I tell myself in my best psychological alpha-dog mama self-talk, "drop it!" I don't drop it. I swallow it whole and try to digest whatever piece of toad-poisoned crap someone feeds me.

Little Bit learned her lesson very well. Now, when I say "drop-it," she does. Immediately, even if it is her favorite toy or a dead rodent. She doesn't want to disobey mama and become a drooling idiot if she disobeys.

I don't learn nearly so completely. I do, however, try to learn something, even if that something is to just pick up something else in my brain in order to keep from becoming a drooling, depressed useless human toad depository.

So, I have been choosing to substitute something that brings me joy. Jazz. How convenient that this summer, I have been taking a jazz history class. I have been hearing and learning about a century of jazz folks. Some of whom I have always loved, like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bennie Goodman and Sarah Vaughn. I have grown to know and love so many more, and even to respect the position of those whose music drives me madder than a hatter who has a tree-toad in his tea!!

So, Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," or Coletrane's version of "Every Time You Say Goodbye" or Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing," with Gene Kruppa's bass drum sounding in my brain, replace my obsessing over how to change someone else's stupid obsessing over something that never happened the way they say it did in the first place!!... "Mama may have, Papa may have, but God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own..." Breathe.

So, now instead of replaying imaginary conversations in my head in which I am eloquent and articulate in defending my honor, I have "I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield..." Wait! That's not jazz, that's a spiritual, an anti-war, peace-monger song. Hmm, well, isn't that exactly what I need in place of an earwax flavored toad in my brain?

Now, if I enjoy my imaginary jazz gospel chorus too much, I have just as much trouble sleeping than if I have toad flavored arguments in my brain. But I'm happier. My feet are tapping. My dogs (especially Little Bit) seem to love it when I sing to them..."Pretty, you're so pretty and witty and-waggy" or "stinkerty dinkerty dink er dink, stinkerty dinkerty do, I love you!" (That one is especially for Indigo-written the day after she...I'll tell that later. Maybe. At least the house finally smells normal again. Mostly.)

After that bizarre side-trip into my self indulgent meditation on my recent cleverness deficit, I'll return to the other excuse I have as to why I've been neglectiong to write.

Not only have I not felt clever, I've not felt wise. I've been having trouble practicing what I preach about recognizing the divine beauty within everyone. As I've already demonstrated, I'm having difficulty with letting go, and that means forgiveness is a slow process for me these days. And, since forgiveness and compassion are at the root of peace and love, they are also the basis from which all true wisdom springs. So, I've sprung a leak instead of taking a springing leap forward in my personal growth.

So, forgiving myself for backsliding seems to be the first step from where I was. I think I've done that. Now, I am finally seeing the divine within those whom I felt resentment against. The lump in the pit of my stomach has gone. I think the wriggling toad has hopped back into its happy place and left me in peace for now to find mine.

I had an awesome dream the other day. I think I have a new happy place. I was swimming like a tadpole in a drop of pure, clean water and I felt clean and alive and excited at being around the others also swimming, exploring that drop of water. There were people and dolphins and amoebas and fish and dogs and frogs (or perhaps toads?) and seahorses and beachballs, all in this little drop of water that felt larger than the ocean and freer than my mind.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I agree with your message Aimee about what a tragedy it is what happened in Knoxville, TN. You ask why would someone do something like this, and say that you can't imagine living inside of a brain or heart that could do such a thing. You say this person is a sad and wasteful life. Working in the job you do I can imagine that you see people who have been hurt by other people all the time. People hurt people, physically and emotionally, and for some people that hurt just builds up. People are raped, abused, molested, held down, ridiculed, trapped in very narrow thinking. Who of us knows what is going on inside of someone else's head. Who has hurt them? Who has misunderstood them? Who has made them into the person that they have come to be? How often do we hear - we would have never expected that behavior from that person; they were so kind; active in the community; a good family person ... things do build up and sometimes I believe that the aloneness and darkeness becomes just too much and people snap.To me, a sad life yes, but a wasteful life no. We have seen this happen over and over in recent years. The Amish Girls School shooting (which broke my heart), the college shootings, school shootings, disgruntled employee shootings.If a person can look so normal, or on the other side, can give such blantant warnings that are just ignored, and then finally just snap, I look at that as very sad. I feel terrible for the victims and families, but also for the peretrator. What have they been living with? What has been bothering them? Why has this rage built up? Who misunderstood them?Not to me a wasted life, but a life that needed to be healed. A very hurt life that has lost hope.
August 3, 2008 6:15 AM

What more can I say? This was beautifully said. Thank You so much!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Prayers for Knoxville

My heart and my prayers go out to the families of the Knoxville, TN congregation that was attacked yesterday. I heard the story on NPR last night on my way to work. The UUA website, has a statement from President Sinkford, as well as links to the church and to a CNN story about it, being updated often.

I just don't understand why things like that happen, or why someone could be so damaged inside as to do something like that. All I can say is that I am sending healing love and light to everyone touched by this tragedy, including the perpetrator. I can't imagine living inside of a brain and heart that could do such a thing. What a sad, wasteful life.

Please send out prayers, love and compassion to the congregation, the staff, the kids and the loved ones of all in that faith community, and to the city of Knoxville as they all try to heal from this brutality.

Blessed Be

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fantasy Footwork

Friday morning, I saw a blue dragon, a yellow dragon, an east coast baseball player, parachutes sewn by eight handed seamstresses, the Easter Bunny, a cocky guy with six girlfriends who seemed devoted to him despite his infidelity, and I got a lesson in evolution from a bush.

As I was walking through Sorenson Park in Holly, hoping to catch the Lupines in bloom, I saw lots of things that were not the spectacular lupine display that I had hoped for. I saw a Darner Blue dragonfly, and another dragonfly that was bright yellow with black stripes, it looked like a dragonfly had mated with a bumblebee. I had never seen one like that. I saw a Baltimore Oriole with it's bright orange/yellow belly. I saw spider webs shaped like double layered upside-down parachutes. I saw a rabbit as it jumped out of the tall grass, ran across the trail about 15 feet in front of me and disappeared into the shelter of the trees. I saw another, slightly smaller rabbit about 45 minutes later. On my way back toward my car, ahead of me on the trail I saw about 6 brown, plain looking birds. They looked kind of like ducks, but not quite the right shape. They got a little agitated when they sensed my presence, so they started fluttering their wings and hop-skip-flying off the path. Then, out of the brush near them, a magnificent pheasant rooster made a ruinning jump, spread his wings and flew up toward the trees nearby. He showed me all the beautiful splendor of his 6 or so foot wing span. I've never seen a pheasant in full flight like that. I've seen them scurry off, but never in full out flight. It was breathtaking.

Before meeting the pheasant rooster and his harem, while I was walking around the prairie where the lupines were done blooming, I saw an Autumn Olive growing right up next to the trail. I looked at it an said, "what are you doing here?" I went on to explain that several years earlier, volunteers had worked hours, days and more days and more days to cut out all of the Autumn Olive in the area because it is an invasive species and has no business being there. The bush replied, "of course I'm supposed to be here, a bird planted me fair and square in its poop. After all, what's ecosystem evolution but bird poop, squirrel amnesia and answers blowin' in the wind?" How could I argue with that, except to say, but I love the lupines and Autumn Olive creates too much shade for them. So, the question becomes do my personal preferences for a natural prairie to continue as it has for millenia, or an invasive bush seeded in bird poop, imported from another continent and promoted by the DNR as a good way to attract birds to your property. It's beautiful green and silver leaves make a beautiful display even when the tart and tasty fruit aren't present. The birds eat the berries which have a large hard seed inside which they can't digest, so when they poop, the seed comes out whole, already fertalized with a dollop of white gold from a feathered backside. Whenever I see Autumn Olive, I get the urge to pull out the chainsaw, however, I can't help but admire its tenacity.

I also admire the tenacity of tomatos. Even though they are not supposed to be perrenials, or be able to self seed in our climate, I have volunteers every year. This year, I even have one growing through a knot in the wood surrounding one of the beds. I don't have a picture of it yet, but I'll get one added to this entry at some point. I laughed when I saw it. I finally planted something in the garden!! I have one whole bed that I have labled "mystery 'matos" which is a combination of some of those unknown upstarts and an assortment of unlabled tomatoes that a friend traded me for some of my seedlings.

If you want any plants, let me know, I don't want to waste extras like I did last year. The tomatoes are a little leggy and confused, and the peppers are short, but I think once they are in the dirt, they will be happy and jump up.

I have to replant the beets and carrots, I shouldn't have kept the mulch on the bed after planting them, they didn't make it. I've been eating lettuce from my deck and the sage that I planted last year is going crazy and growing huge. They were so little last fall, that I was surprised to see how they are flourishing.

I'm hoping to get some more stuff in the ground this week. I'm torn between finally getting the garden in, or helping Deb to tear out our bathroom so we can finally finish that project. The house is a mess with tiles, towel bars, faucets, showerheads, and boxes of stuff that we pulled out of the bathroom cupboards to sort through. Deb has already started getting tiles off the walls.

I haven't done a darned thing except work and sleep, with the exception of my walk on Friday and my hour in the garden today. There is so much more to do. As much as I have to say this, being off work last summer did wonders for my garden, even I couldn't work in it for very long each time, I had time to work in it more often. Although I don't plan on repeating that experience if I can help it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Road To Healing is Paved with Scares and Scars

On Monday, I stopped at a rest area just north of Ann Arbor. I saw two things that stayed with me. I'll relate the second one first.

As I was walking back to my car, I saw a young blond boy, about 8 years old, sitting in a dog crate in the back of a pick-up truck. I laughed, he looked so comfortable in there while his chocolate lab puppy was on leash with his mom, sniffing around the grass and trees. The boy looked like he belonged in the crate, with a big grin on his face, waiting for a dog treat while the dog was thinking about the front seat.

Shortly before seeing the kennelled boy, I observed another type of role reversal. It occurred to me that, as our population ages, there is an odd type of reverse discrimination for heterosexual couples. That sounds odd coming from a lesbian, but listen and I will explain...

As I walked into the rest area building, I saw an older man (probably in his late 70s) standing nervously outside of the women's restroom. A few steps further on, I entered the bathroom, and I noticed under the door of the handicapped stall, there was a walker and a woman's feet. This concerned husband could not go in there to make sure his beloved was okay.

When Deb was using a walker after her surgery, I could just go into the stall with her, to help her, to make sure that she was okay. I had an advantage that this white married heterosexual man can't ever excercise in a public restroom (except at the very few and far between that have a seperate, single-seater unisex handicapped bathroom).

I was sad for him in his anxiety and in his powerlessness to take care of his wife in public.

The reason I was in that part of the world was that I had my 3 month pap/pelvic exam in Ann Arbor. It went well. The doctor said that she likes what she didn't see or feel. The pap results aren't back yet. However, the bloodwork for my CA125 (tumor marker) came back the next day. It has gone up to 15.7. Before I had the chemo/radiation and surgery, it was only 12.8. I have to get re-checked in a month. Meanwhile, I wait.

This CA125 test is not always an accurate determination of whether or not someone has cancer. Some people's numbers always go up when they have cancer growing, and some don't. I have no idea which category I fall into. 15.7 is still very low in general, but because it was higher than it's ever been in my blood, they want to keep an eye on it.

So, of course, I'm nervous and worried. Throughout this process, I'm trying to remind myself that everything happens for a reason.

Tomorrow, Saturday June 14, there is going to be a conflict resolution mediator at the church to try to help us work out some of the crap that has been flying around there. My heart is breaking over what's been happening and being said. I'm not even involved in the controversies, yet still my heart breaks.

My heart breaks for those who hold so tightly to anger and resentment that forgiveness seems to them like an abdication of control. In reality, it is a reclaimation of true personal power which is innately rooted in compassion and love. (I am working on a sermon about this, it's not ready, nor am I ready to share it.)

My heart breaks for those who no longer feel welcome in a church that claims that it welcomes all people. As a welcoming congregation, people of all sexual orientations, races, abilities, etc. are welcome. Lesbians, as well as straight white men should feel safe. Straight white men, as well as lesbians, deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity. We all deserve to have the divine spark recognized within us, regardless if we are having a bad day.

My heart breaks that some people don't feel safe within the walls that I hold dear. Safety is a basic human need, and feeling safe assures us of a certain amount of human dignity to which we all are entitled. It is sad to me that some of us don't feel safe among others of us. The U.U. Church should be a safe refuge for everyone. It saddens me that so many intelligent, talented, compassionate folks now look for the "enemies" among us, the "potential abusers", the "perpetually rude", and those who are lining up on whichever "side" they feel is the most rightous among us. We should instead be looking to one another to help us recognize the enemies within ourselves and help one another begin to heal those internal enemies so that they are no longer enemies, but instead sources for positive change and internal strength. We should be lifting one another up, not seeking to drag one another down.

My heart breaks that there seems to be a collective amnesia regarding the importance of living, breathing and worshipping within the framework of the Seven Principles of our faith which are that we affirm and promote:
*The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
*Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
*Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
*A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
*The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
*The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
*Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

So, I hope that those who feel wronged or angry or hurt or threatened, or who just plain believe that healing needs to occur among our congregation all come tomorrow to allow and perhaps even facilitate some healing among us.

I have learned, since having my hysterectamy, that a very interesting thing happens when there has been a painful assult upon the body. Where healing is allowed to occur, the scar tissue is stronger and tougher than before the ripping open. The once abused tissue will never look or feel the same, but there will always be an air of strength for having gone through the process of being wounded, then having the wound cleansed, closed and through patience and care, healed. Without facilitating closure and healing, the wound would fester and contaminate the entire body, eventually rendering it powerless or dead.

Let the healing begin among this body of people that I so dearly love. Let the personal insults, rumors, anger and attitudes of victimization be put aside and allow the healing to begin. Our congregational wounds can be transformed into scars, which are healed areas of strength. Within the areas of current pain, if the healing is nurtured, the gaping wounds can transform into areas of unique beauty, if we choose to see them so.

The way to begin to see the unique beauty and strength is to learn from our pain. Learn collectively how to better communicate with one another (don't forget that the most important part of communication is listening). Learn as individuals to recognize ourselves in one another and to forgive ourselves and one another for being failable human beings.

We need, throughout this process, to remember that everything happens for a reason.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hllary Wins! Oops, Barak Wins!

Tuesday night, after a meeting at church, I got in my car, started the engine and Michigan Radio came on over the speakers like it usually does. I heard Hillary Clinton giving a speech and it sounded like she was giving a victory speech. I smiled and thought, "yeah, Hillary got the nomination." Then I remembered that I have been rooting for Barak Obama.

I realized that I was happy just to have one of those two fabulous candidates finally chosen.

When I got home, much to my surprise, I found out that Obama, not Clinton got the nomination. I still felt excited. I said, "Obama got it?!" (Of course, this came out of my mouth mere minutes after I had announced to Deb that Hillary won, having misinterpreted her speech only moments earlier. Keep in mind here that I missed the beginning of her speech, as well as whatever announcement was made in advance of her words.)

This primary season has definately been an exciting one. I just hope that the momentum continues so that the Democrats can reclaim the White House and try to counsel the rest of the country into some semblence of sanity.

Perhaps compassion, dignity and reason can soon become the primary motivation of our chief of state rather than domination, greed and a false sense of American entitlement.

I know, I know, I am too optimistic about the possibilities of ...everything.