Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey! Sometimes I Get Sentimental!

So in church… or in Christian-influenced, Westernized church… we do only a handful of things. We pray or meditate silently together. We sing. We listen to a preacher. We stand, we sit, we might dance. We read things with dozens or hundreds of other people. We enjoy the choir and the instruments. And somewhere, one of those things, on some of the days that you attend church, is suddenly transcendent.

Something the preacher says might move you, shake you to your core. One of the melodies might suddenly prick the corners of your eyes with tears. One of the bells during meditation brings to mind someone you've not thought of in a long time. One of the moments, on the days you're lucky or maybe when you're just psychically ready for a little churchin', your heart will open to a flash of compassion, a surge of oneness, an experience of pure love.

Well, you certainly don't have to go to church to experience these moments… though I find such moments are guaranteed to occur only when there is some music, or deep silence, a resonant reading or powerful words spoken… when there is some dancing, some hand holding, some communion in any form.

So this past weekend, while I was at a Michelle Shocked concert with N, I giggled on the inside a couple times and my eyes got a little teary a couple times and I paid strong attention to the power of our group breathing, laughing, chanting, singing and swaying together. It was absolutely a night of going to church, and so to the church of Ms. Shocked and her messages of social justice, independence, feminism, individualism AND community, love and faith… I say amen. Thanks for the churchin'.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Other People's Problems

You know how it's really easy to identify someone else's problem, right along with the solutions for it? But your own are terribly confusing and mazelike; impossible to solve in a single conversation or new year.

So I had a chat recently with someone who has made almost no changes in their life in the last few years, and they recommended gargantuan changes for a mutual friend. I don't want to "out" a private conversation, but the advice was something extreme... something like "he should quit his job without a new one on the horizon" or "she should start her own business without any start up money" or "they really need to break up and one can move to Hawaii to work in a surf shop, and the other can get partying out of their system". It was a thing like that.

And while the advice was bold, exciting, take-charge action... it was also terrifying and I couldn't help but consider the source. Those folks taking big, bold action? I tend to trust their recommendations to do the same. But those folks who haven't changed "so much as a pair of socks since I've known" them? You can guess my gut reaction.

But in the grand life effort to stretch, to grow, to get more in touch with my life's purpose and live authentically... I'm taking one small baby step away from such judgment. Instead of waving off their advice (or, maybe, along with waving off their advice, ha!) to our mutual friend... I am going to spend this week thinking, "What do my friends advise me to do? What action in life would they like to see me take? Why? And what if I did it? What might happen?"

Sure, not everyone has my best interests at heart, and some people might give advice to manipulate me to their advantage, but a whole lot of friends DO have my best interests at heart. My urban tribe, my family-by-choice is filled with big hearts. So I ponder - and I welcome in the comments - what should I be doing more of, less of, adding to my daily life? What should you be doing more of, less of, adding to your daily life?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A thought to think on.

One of my very good and often wise friends made a lovely point this week about the nature of romantic love... and it's necessary evolution as the two partners inevitably change... and although I do think it can be applicable to great platonic love as well... I will rephrase here her wisdom:

If you met your partner for the first time today, what would you think of him or her? If you went on your first date this very Saturday night, what might be the outcome of that date?

And so on my husband's 29th birthday, one on which we plan to have a nice all-day-date together, I will be squishy and romantic and say that I am pretty sure I would find him the intelligent, charming, interesting, informed and exciting Renaissance man that I did on our actual first date, nearly six years ago. Happy Birthday, mon couer!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Where the rubber meets the road.

This is one of my favorite phrases lately. Working for the government, I have daily insight after daily insight into the places that policy comes crashing into peoples' real lives. Where a theoretical piece of legislation runs up against common... or not-so-common... sense. For example, you need to know your parents' names to get a reissued copy of your birth certificate. Makes sense. No problem. Unless you don't know your parents' names since you were adopted informally many, many, many decades ago. (Informally means there is no registered paperwork, as it was done during the Depression, possibly through a church group or anonymous agreement.) Think this can't happen? Spend a day at my new desk! And track down paperwork that requires "common sense" knowledge, like your parents' full names.

Anyhow, I am not inviting complaints about President Obama when I say that yes, I realize he has not done everything that progressives desire. I do know this. (Tho a side note... who on earth does NOT want to be progressive? Who wants to be regressive? How could this be a point of pride?!) Complaints about the Prez aside, he did just mandate visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners in all hospitals that receive Medicare/Medicaid funding across the country, and I gotta say... THIS is the joy of knowing where the rubber meets the road. This is where a real neighbor that you know and love has not been able to hold the hand of their lifetime soulmate because of discrimination. And now it's going to stop, and a sick person can get comfort and love.

How's that for a happy Friday? Yes, we can!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What a world, what a world.

I was working on a fantastic case this week involving making a phone call to a Midwest state, and listening to the automated options on their Vital Records Information Line.

For English, press 1. For Spanish, press 2.

Hello, and please listen carefully to the options as this is an extensive menu. If you are using a rotary phone, please hang up and dial...


For birth and death records, press 3. For marriage and divorce records, press 4. For information on legitimation and voluntary addition of a father's name to a birth certificate already filed, press 5. For gender reassignment information, including reissued birth certificates, press 6.

Yes that's right ladies and gentlemen... we live in a world where a rotary phone, legitimation concerns and gender reassignment coexist on one phone message. God bless America.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cute Break.

Last night on "Philosophy Talk" the guys were discussing the role of a wife, the evolution of wives in Western culture, and one guest, a modern blogger/writer shared her and her husband's private wedding vows...

"No cheating. No dying." And she added, "So far, so good."

Thursday, April 8, 2010


So the movie lingers. It haunts. And it swells my heart... too far... as they preached in church a while back, "you have to break your heart to open it." And mine is broken by Mihai, by Ana, by Marian, the subjects of Children Underground.

And I must add that a film so raw, so voyeuristic, made me think, "Good lord. I know a number of folks who need to watch this. They need to let it break their heart right open!" And I also thought of Dreen, and how she needs to not watch it. Her heart is the epitome of "on her sleeve" and she knows the great pain of the world, she sees you and feels your sorrow, and she's better off without the underground children of 2001 in her life.

But whether you watch it or not, whether you really can stand to break your heart open right now or not (and I understand either way!), let me share with you something so poignant from the film it defies logic and defines spirit. While these children live in packs, scrounge for food, beg for money, huff drugs and sleep on sidewalks and cardboard boxes every day, there are some social services in the city. A few shelters (the only one in the capital city has ten beds, for about 20,000 children on the streets). A little food. There is a drop-in day school. There is a daytime clinic offering a warm bath, medicine, a haircut, a hot lunch, someone to listen to you for a bit.

The social worker shows up one day in the train station, for those whose turn it is to go visit the clinic. They cheer her arrival, but what do they do when she stands still? They kiss her. They hug her. They move to be in contact with her. They run dirty hands over her face, they lay lice-filled heads on her shoulder, and they move in a wolf pack just to be touched by someone who isn't there to hurt them. And she stays open to them, she holds their bruised and bloodied hands, she runs her fingers through their hair, and when they ask, "Will the lice be all gone?" she takes the razor and says, "They'll be less."

I have a very old-Yankee-type attitude toward touch, and come from a cultural and familial background that is rather sparing with physical affection. But since I can't? won't? shouldn't? go give a hug to the beggar sorting through recycling outside my door, or to the muttering homeless woman at the MAX stop, I must remember how much we all need touch. We all need a warm hand on our shoulder, a body to snuggle close to on the couch. We can do this for each other, non-sexually, and just out of simple caring. These children illustrated for me the human equivalent of Harry Harlow's heartbreaking food-or-love experiment. We must have food, of course... though some of the underground children choose drugs over food, as the high makes them fully forget their hunger... but we must, must, must have love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Compare and Contrast.

First, a blog convo that I rather enjoy as part of an ongoing series at the New York Times, between socially liberally Gail Collins and their token conservative David Brooks. (Brooks is not a nut, believe it or not. I like him, on the main. And Collins is a delightfully reasonable auntie type I defy you to dislike.) They discuss the TREACHEROUS subject of parental time with kids and the resulting consequences of success, privilege, spoiled behavior, hard work, and all of it as a mess.

Second, the Academy Award winning film Children Underground from 2001 about street kids in post-Ceausescu Romania.
(Note... if you want to give your world perspective a little shock, do like me and watch 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days... and then Children Underground. But then take a nap before you resume thinking.)

So, the blog conversation keeps things rather theoretical, about how middle- and upper-class parents have more time to spend with their kids, so might that contribute to the childrens' success, and not just nepotism or money? And it skims the surface, it keeps it light, it allows us to take the discussion to our dinner parties, our classrooms, our water coolers.

The film, on the other hand, features paint-huffing-addicted children living in a subway station in Romania. How did they arrive there? I plan to write a couple other posts about those kids and some of the fascinating, heart-rending pieces of humanity captured in the film, but tonight I leave you with a slice of righteous anger, a white hot flame of indignation as a woman on this earth. (Anger forthcoming... I warn you.)

The children in the film, who are literally kicked in the face by adults, who are abused verbally and physically by their parents on film, who are ridiculed by their peers and plead till they are hoarse for affection, friendship, love, who are passed by all day in the station, who are ignored by their government and their neighbors... these children are the direct result of a Ceausescu regime that outlawed contraception and abortion and aggressively promoted childbearing on all "of age" men and women.

While I am shying further and further away from fundamental thought of any type in my life, seeing the direct result of a government's fundamental obsession with unborn life in the form of wholly forgotten children is still stunning... I ask those who voted for Michelle Bachmann, those who support the Dominican Republic's total ban on abortion NO MATTER WHAT, those who would insist that pregnancy and birth should be forced on women and parental love, affection, ability can be mandated by the government if you just go and have that child... would you like to take in these children? Would you open your home, your money, your future to a 16-year-old gang member and drug addict? No? Go fuck yourself then.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who did I talk to about this?

Someone... was it you? How annoyed I get when people (often older men) demand that I "smile"? I've talked about it more than once... but someone disagreed with me heartily. Here's Abby's (Dear Abby) take and I'm glad I'm not alone in HATING this!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A coup.

Since Jezebel pretty much reads my mind with posts like this one, I must share with you all that while in Florida, I found a swimsuit! It was cheap, it is flattering, it is a print of pink polka dots and I look fab in it! Especially for my female peers, I think you know what a coup this is in the shopping realm. The right jeans, the right bra, and the right swimsuit: they are holy grails of the adult woman's shopping list. But the question is... should I post a pic? I think this week I shall...