Big Changes

Well, everyone is facing major changes these days…are we not? It is in how we handle them that we will one day be able to look back and determine our own humanity and if we rose to the occasion of acting and being our best or not. Determining what is important to our concept of a higher good and promoting what we consider to be virtues that we wish to live by will, undoubtedly, be a test for us all as we go through this uncharted territory.

But I digress.

Last week I flew to Texas to be with the kids. I took them to an island off the coast for Spring Break and we had a wonderful time. Our condo was right on the beach and to hear the waves rolling in was a treat and something you could depend on in these uncertain times. Of course, South Padre Island is party city during break, but not this year, as events began to be canceled due to the virus outbreak.

After arriving back in San Antonio Sunday night, I began to get concerned about if I would be able to fly home on Thursday. With all the corona virus news and the policies that the President was implementing it seemed like the right course of action would be to leave in the next day or two. Getting stuck at my Texas home with B, possibly indefinitely, sounded like it could be very uncomfortable. It was further complicated by the fact that his traitor sister, who promoted B’s affair, was driving in on Thursday with her daughter and I figured that three against one did not make for good odds. Frankly, I began to question just what they might do to me. I mean, they have no loyalty to the person who has helped them over the years (me) and I was concerned that they could concoct some sort of story and I might see the inside of a jail cell, so I changed my airline reservation and got a credit fo $200…a rather nice surprise!

Things began to change rapidly in regards to the corona virus across the state and the country. By the end of the day on Monday, the kids school was being closed and the diving program was possibly being terminated for a undetermined amount of time. When I went to pick Gracie up from practice I thought that perhaps it would be a good time to ask if she wanted to go with me and give her a taste of what living with me might be like. So I asked her if she wanted to come home with me and she couldn’t say yes fast enough. So I told her that she had to tell her dad and then I would book a ticket for her.

When we got home B flat out said, “No, she is not going. She has school and practice. No, she may not go!”

Gracie begged.

He was unrelenting.

I finally told him school was closed and I would get her to practice her and frankly, she had the right to make her own decision and that at her age a judge would let her do what she wanted. I told him I was going upstairs and would try to order a ticket for her. He was angry and not happy but I booked a ticket for her anyway. Later he accused me of plotting to take Gracie but in reality I had no plans of doing so. The reality of the situation is this: because of the corona virus, an opportunity arose, and as a result of it, Grace and I decided to take advantage of the time together that it presented.

Later that evening I told Paul and that because he had a neurology appointment on Thursday he could not come with me. However, if he wanted to come after that he was welcome to do so. He seemed hurt and angry that night but the whole entire time I was there he appeared to be angry at me. For instance, when I asked innocently what B was doing the weekend we were on Padre he gave me a big defensive “WHY?” and it began to seem that he was beginning to, for lack of a better word, make it a B (and him) vs me type of situation. Frankly, that saddens and worries me.

Later that evening I asked B why he seemed to dislike me so much and he replied, “I don’t hate you. I still love you and care for you”  to which I replied something like: “…you know, it was hearing (the butt dialed) conversation between you and your sister that made me leave. The distain and hatred you have for me was so evident and never once did you correct the lies and ugliness your sister said to you about me. That is not love. The things you said were not loving so please don’t tell me your care for me and love me because no one speaks about someone they love the way the two of you spoke about me Hearing the two of you broke my heart and it became evident when you talked about Nhi with such love and me with such anger that it was time for me to leave.”

Anyway, the next morning, before our departure, B played his instrument and hummed all morning long. Not a word was mentioned about our impending trip.  He dropped us off at the airport giving Gracie a brief hug and was gone.

The airports were eerily quiet. On our flight from San Antonio to Las Vegas the 145 passenger plane had 32 people on it while the second leg of our flight from Las Vegas to California sat 50 individuals out of a possible 175. I have never seen so few people on a plane in my life.

So Gracie and I are here. She will be doing long-distance on-line learning through her school. It is nice to have one of my kids with me….it feels good…it feels right and it is wonderful being a hands-on mom again even though my fibromyalgia is still kicking my butt. But having Gracie here makes the pain bearable because she is such a joy to be around.

Another interesting development…B’s sister did not come after all but her daughter (the Meth-head (clean for a little over 100 days) flew in instead of drive…my, how plans change!

If you remember, B stated after I left, that he would have to hire someone to help him even though my kids said they did not need anyone to come in nor did they need any help. I now suspect that he brought his niece to Texas to be the nanny. When I asked how long she would be staying the original answer was a couple of weeks. I then asked if she didn’t need to return to her job at which point B said, “Well, maybe three weeks or a month. I don’t know at this point.” What I do know is that on her Facebook page she wrote “TBD” when a friend asked how long she was staying. As friends who have met her said at this turn of events, “Well, how would that work? Gracie is more mature and together than she ever will be.” And so, a messed up 26 yo is at the house providing guidance to my sons and I don’t like it one bit. Luckily, the boys are both anti-drug so I hope that provides some level of protection.

One more thing. Since moving here and living alone I have found it difficult to sleep at night. I have heard every creak and groan of the house during the night. So yesterday, Grace and I went to pick out an alarm. Here it is…

 

X8LazJwoROqtTfjMvDgvMg

 

 

Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

download-3

images-2

 

P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.

 

 

 

 

Coconuts

images-2

One of the things I love about my volunteer position at a local hospice is that I get to spend time with “The Older Generation.” I love to hear their stories, the places they have been, and the tales of wisdom that they have learned about what makes for a good life. Most often I laugh hard on the days when I am spending time with these wonderful and whitty folk. Their joy at the simple things in life, as they are rounding the bend on theirs, makes me mindful of the beauty of letting things go back to basics in all areas of our lives.

Today, I was talking to one of my favorites. She is an older woman born on an island in the Pacific Ocean and loves to talk about her early life which was idyllic until the Japanese invaded during WWII. It was then that she learned about the difficulties in life. Starvation, slow torture, and bayonets. She watched as people were killed on the streets of her hometown; her friends and relatives not spared by the brutality that one human being can inflict on another. But what she really could not wrap her brain around is that the enemy were people just like her and those she loved. People that would no more hurt their own neighbor back home yet were inclined to resort to heinous acts during heinous times.

One of this lady’s most memorable war-time events occurred when she was just 13 years old. On that day, the Japanese arrived in town and began raping the women and killing men. The townspeople were unarmed and had no way to fight the invaders. They were totally at the mercy of their captors.

As the Japanese entered the town my “friend” and her two sisters were instructed by their father to flee towards the mountains. As they ran they heard voices behind them and realized that they were being pursued. Unfortunately, one of the sisters was separated from the other two girls who managed to climb up into the arms of a coconut tree. There they hid in the palm fronds for two days and watched as the enemy searched for them with instructions to kill if they were found. They also heard their sister’s painful cries as she was being victimized. It is, my friend assures me, a sound that one never forgets even all these years later. “I still has dreams,” she whispers and wakes up screaming and in a stinky sweat.

Here in the United States we do not know much about the sufferings of war. We are rarely put into a position where we genuinely fear for our lives and most of us if faced with that would probably shit ourselves due to panic and fright. We don’t know about eating tulip bulbs as the Dutch did during the war nor do most of us know how to forage for food in the woods. Most of us have never really had to worry about our neighbors turning as in as spies or leaving our homes with only the clothes on our backs.

That’s why when I hear the saber rattlers urge our countrymen to war I become concerned. Our country is not prepared for war. We are a country of wimps who watch from the sidelines but most often do not play in the actual game. Let everyone else send their kids just don’t send mine. This is especially true for the rich whose children get deferments while the politicians who help to obtain them line their pockets with Daddy’s money.

War is a dirty business and everyone, everywhere, is changed by it. And usually, this trnsformation is not for the better. So before we go talking about bombing North Korea we need to ask ourselves who is going to benefit from this situation? Is it going to be Joe Schmo or is it going to be companies like Halliburton? What resources do we lose when we attack another country and what do we gain? Who are the winners and losers and what is the cost going to be both economically and spiritually. Usually, if we do the math, we realize that as individuals and community we all lose wether it be our lives, our humanity, or both.

How many more people in history will have to hide in basements while bombs drop around them and how many more will have to cower in a coconut tree just to survive? Isn’t it time, that we as a species grow up and learn that war leads to nothing worth having and little worth saving? Isn’t it time that we work with each other instead of against?

I don’t know about you but I long for peace. Peace for this world, for my children, and peace of mind for me. Yes, I want rainbows and unicorns. I want bunnies and bubbles. I want children to feel secure and for everyone just to get along. And while I don’t know much, the one thing I am sure of is that war will not provide peace. It will not feed the starving and it will not make our children feel safe. It’s time we give peace a chance…again…and this time we need to mean it.

 

 

Precious Presents

images-4

I have a small group of friends that know me pretty much inside and out…and bless their hearts… they are still my friends. We were brought together by virtue of some shared characteristics of our children. The bond that we have gone on to form transcends our original purpose of providing support to one another. Our relationships are now based not so much on our children’s issues but on our real concern and love for each other. We now enjoy a Friendship that begin with a capital F even if it is mostly virtual.

Many of these friends I have met in “real” life. A few I have yet to meet except out in cyberspace. We have shared our joys and concerns. We have lived each others ups and downs. We have been there for the little victories and some major defeats. We have watched each others children grow and been there when a diagnosis threatened to overwhelm. As a result of sharing such intimacies over the years we read each other fairly well.

Recently, I found myself at a crossroads… a low point so to speak. My friends gave me the encouragement that usually brings me to my feet again. Most important they took the time to give me ideas and options that they thought might make my life just a little brighter. Yet, I remained on my knees and they knew it. Then yesterday I went to our group and found that a member had posted the start of the most beautiful and meaningful gift I have ever been given. She started a list entitled 25 Random Things We Love About You. The list was sincere, uplifting and once again reminded me of who I am and who I want to become. Some things were funny, some serious and some were eye opening but all the things on the list were written with love. When I read the list I laughed and cried. I was truly touched and beside myself with delight. Because of that list I am standing on my feet once again.

A present that affirms you for who you are…warts and all… only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. It is a gift are as rare as the most precious gem. It’s a gift that teachs, stirs, and allows you to remember yourself as you were at your best. It restores confidence, grants healing and puts you back on the path to yourself. It is a gift that everyone should give to at least one other person in their lifetime. Everyone should be so lucky.

I have yet to comment to my friends how I feel about such receiving such a treasure. I mean it is truly like winning the lottery. I find it hard to contemplate about what was said without feeling such a overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have such a group of wonderful women watching my back…I almost dissolve in tears. So lacking any real gift that could compare in return I just wanted to say thank you my dear friends. I want to thank you for giving me your time when I had none to give back and thank you for giving me your strength when I was too weak to support myself much less you. Thank you for giving me your love and your truth. You have given me your best over the years even when I fell short. I am truly blessed to have known each and every one of you. All of you have taught me so many things but most of all you have taught me the true meaning of friendship and for that I will always be grateful and in your debt.Someday I hope I can give back to you what you have given me over the years. For now….all you get is this IOU.

*I wrote this several years ago and just looked at it again. I feel just as blessed remembering this as when it happened. Thank you friends!*

imgres-4

An Eye For An Eye

imgres-4

Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

Sadie

images

Sometimes the poverty that exists in this country just blows me away but what blows me away even more is the politicians that have no regard for those less fortunate than they. I have come to believe that before any politician can actually take office they should be forced to live in the middle of any city with their families, they should have to survive on food stamps, and should life without health insurance. They would have to live in buildings that long ago should have been condemned, have to take their clothes to a public laundry mat, and have to rely on public transportation wherever they go. I suspect that most would be so far out of their element that they would die of fear. Hearing guns going off constantly and living in economic chaos will do that to you.

Meet Sadie. She was a product of the foster care system until she became an emancipated minor at 16 years of age. At that time she was pregnant with her first child.She had nothing when she was pushed out into the world and she still has nothing except a broken-down rental, no furniture except a worn-down worn-out mattress, and no stove. She was never cared for properly and because of this she doesn’t believe she is entitled to anything more than she has ever known. She doesn’t think she should be doing better because she has never known what “better” is. What she sees on her neighbors tv (she can’t afford one) is just a fairy tale and not attainable to “someone like her.”

images-3

Sadie had another child by the time she was 18 years gold and things were going well until her husband died unexpectedly. Depression hit her hard and she couldn’t get the mental health support she needed. Currently there are 14.1 state mental health hospital beds per 100,000 people which is essentially at the same level as in 1850.  Because of this breakdown her children went to live with their grandmother and her guilt is immense. She wants them back but knows that they are better off where they are so she puts them first before her own desires. I think our elected officials could use a little of Sadie’s “doing the right thing” towards others mentality.

Sadie met another man and once more she found herself pregnant. She couldn’t afford birth control and there was no Planned Parenthood available. Her baby died at birth in the hospital. She doesn’t know how or why and regrets that in her sorrow she did not demand answers but she wouldn’t have known what to ask anyway she tells me. When you are poor you have no power and you expect nothing.

She’s pregnant again and her boyfriend is in jail. Hopefully, he will be out to be at their child’s birth but Sadie isn’t sure. She didn’t have the money to post bail and so she waits hoping that the judge will see what she sees in her boyfriend…a caring human being with flaws.

Maybe if a politician or two were to live with Sadie for a month they might come to understand that when you aren’t born with a silver spoon, when you haven’t been to the best schools, when you haven’t had parents there to meet your needs, when you were forced into a foster system that often exploits rather than nurtures, when you aren’t tall and beautiful, and when you don’t have an IQ of 120 that life is just tougher. Period.  Unfortunately, our rich representatives do not understand that they did nothing to deserve their good looks, their good parenting, the plentiful food they had on their table, and the comforts that their parents were able to provide for them. It was just dumb luck that they ended up living a life of privilege instead of a life of poverty.  Most didn’t earn what they got… they were just lucky to be born into various combinations of advantages through nothing they did no their own. The lives they were given taught them to think in ways that many in poverty have never been exposed to nor could they conceive for themselves.

So before you let the politicians convince you that the poor are to blame for their circumstances I hope you will really contemplate where you would be in your life if you were Sadie. Then I hope you will go up to her, give her a hug, and help in anyway that you can…including holding our elected officials responsible for taking care of those less fortunate then them.

images-1

 

Religion’s Impact On Marriage

Religion

My husband and I come from very different religious backgrounds. He was raised Catholic with a mother who fought for the anti-abortion movement. His father, in his later years, returned to the church where he attended on a daily basis with truth and conviction on his side.

I was raised Methodist. My father is an agnostic who doesn’t have much time for “religious nuts.” His term not mine. He met his current wife at church while still married to my mother. A divorce ensued. For this reason and others that have occurred within my marriage religion to me often feels problematic, unsafe, and hypocritical.

Anyway, B is much more of a straight line liberal Christian believer and I am what I would call a seeker of religious tradition from several faiths. I attend a liberal church with B and our family but I also like attending the local Buddhist Temple and the Unitarian service. This has at times caused issues in our marriage. B believes we should go to church almost every week and feels if I do not attend with him it sets a bad example for our children. He believes church should be a family affair not two people going to separate services at differing religious institutions. And while I agree that might be ideal I don’t want to be bound to convention or ideas of what one must do to prove that they are indeed religious a/k/a a “good” person. I want to be free to explore/learn those things that meet my spiritual needs whatever they may be that week.

religion

Along these lines it has recently occurred to me that if we are indeed a unique creation of God then that must carry through to all parts of our lives. I am unique. I like books, horseback riding and meditating every day. B is also unique. He loves to play his bagpipes, he rarely reads a book, and he wakes up in the morning (every morning) to read the Bible. It seems to me that while religion gives a nod to the uniqueness of us all that it should follow this would also be true concerning religious preferences and beliefs. Why is it we expect that because we are all unique we will have different preferences and yet somehow, for the most part, couples are suppose to have almost identical beliefs when it comes to God? In almost all areas of life this is not expected but in regards to religion the expectation is there held fast and tight by society and often by couples themselves. I mean up until recently people of differing faiths were often ostracized by their own families if they married outside of their religious traditions.

Personally, I like to think that by exploring different religious perspectives, I have the kind of faith needed to fill in the cracks that most people find exist between the discrepancies  in what they personally believe and what they are taught they must believe if they are following their religious traditions “correctly.”

Sometimes I wish that B could just accept that for me attending church with him is a gift for us both. It shouldn’t matter why I am there just as long as I am and I want to be. My reasons should be mine alone and not some sort of test regarding whether those reasons are “good enough” or if this makes it so we are not “compatible.” And while, for the most part, B is not that uptight when we don’t see eye to eye on how we both practice our spirituality; I know that he wishes that we had this common bond in which our ideas meshed together in a way that would strengthen our relationship instead of  emphasize our differences.

Perhaps someday my spiritual believes will align more with B’s… or maybe not. But one thing I do know is that I don’t want religion to further divide our marriage. It is foolish to expect that we will be thinking and feeling the same way at the same time. So I just hope that God’s love will shine bright enough to light the way along both of our spiritual paths, whatever they may be, as we journey through live/marriage together.

images-2

Traveling Fool

imgres-1

I am traveling today back east to the Big Birthday Bash. As I sit here sipping my cup of coffee watching all the folks pass by, I cannot help but be amazed and transfixed by all the ethnicities and skin colors I see walking around me. It is a blessing.

Most often when I travel internationally it is not like this. The airport in Amsterdam has mostly caucasian folks, the airport in Seoul is almost all Asian, and in New Zealand, it is again, mostly white folks cruising along. I have found that usually airports act as mini countries giving you a superficial glimpse of the sort of people who live there and what the country values. Way to often, it appears that many countries value segregation to some extent, the United States included.

Here in the United States we like to try to hide our discomfort with “others” that are unlike ourselves. Yet, we do not have the luxury of continuing to pretend that racism does not exist here if we want to survive as a nation. Racism is disguised in so many subtle ways … housing, education and jobs. And in your face hate is alive and well especially when I recall the time we were in New York City and someone yelled to our family, “Take those _______ kids back to their own country.”

As I take savor this cup, I see evidence all around me, that we as a species can change. For I see a rainbow of kids who are talking and laughing with one another. I glimpse a transracial family like mine. I see a so-in-love black man and white woman holding hands and looking at each other with complete adoration in their eyes. I witness such a variety of people interacting with one another knowing that I never would have seen this 30 years ago.  I see people who are willing to give each other a chance rather than remain distant from one another. And as I sit here I am renewed in my faith in people and in my country.

I  have hope that one day soon I will visit an airport in another country that appears as diverse as the ones here do. It just needs to happen for the sake of our children. For the longevity of the world. And frankly, it is just more colorful and beautiful to see people out there in the world who don’t look just like me!

 

 

Tinder Box

This weekend we traveled up to the cabin in the woods. The valley was searing hot and the 10 degrees cooler that you find in the mountains seems like more when you are melting on the valley floor. So up we went into the foothills, into the big hills, and finally into the bosom of the mountains with all her craggy passageways and lush miles-long scenic views.

Our family loves it up here where the snow caps the peaks in winter and the abundance of Redwood trees captures our imaginations. But this year the landscape looks moon-like in some places. Cabins that were once hidden by trees stand naked and exposed. Instead of cypress and pine trees the only thing left are the oaks. After years of drought mother nature is suffering. The once majestic trees have been weakened and have become susceptible to disease and the insects that wish to take them down. And so they do…the leaf miner and the bark beetle cutting their way through huge swarths of forrest reducing the trees to nothing but huge stands of kindling. It really is a natural disaster of epic proportions that few are aware of.

IMG_8528

IMG_7927

And so, as we traveled up the windy mountain passes, we watched as the air became noticeably streaked with brown from the huge forest fire that is down the road a spell. Its a fire that in  a few short minutes killed two people. Its a fire that has taken out hundreds of homes leaving people with nothing but memories. It’s a fire that has crews risking their lives in the hot blazing sun trying to put out a fire that has grown to over 50,000 charred acres. And from a distance I see the smoke that sends an ominous signal warning of worse to come.

So this weekend while in the smokey air we worked to clear the grass and debris 100 ft away from the building. We worked in the heat to try to ward off the threat of a fire destroying this 100 year old cooks cabin that the lumberjacks once relied on for their meals after a hard days work deep in the old growth Sequoia Forest. Yet, while motivated to save the natural beauty beside us, we are also realists, and we know that should fire hit this part of the world, that in just a few minutes, everything would most likely go up in flames no matter what measures we might put into place.

images-13

So tonight, as you head off to dreamland, I ask a favor. I ask that you pray or send positive thoughts for those who have lost everything in this fire as well as the firefighters who do their best to save the property, wildlife, and the people of our neck of the woods. And please remember the families of the firefighters who worry about them out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but minimal equipment and their wits about them.  For firefighting is a dangerous and dirty job.It’s a job in which 19 firefights lost their lives on one black day back in 2013. It is a job in which flames dance above heads and threaten the firefighters life with just one turn of the fickle wind.May our firefighters stay safe this fire season so that they may return home to tuck their children into bed at night knowing that once again they can be proud of a job that demands so much and pays so little.

images-14

images-16

Where Do I Go From Here?

imgres

My plane lifts off for Shanghai in thirty-seven hours. Between now and then I want to play with the grandkids (ages 2 and 7 months). They bring such joy and happiness around a house filled with the angst of teens and tweens. I want to enjoy and appreciate my kids and have my love surround them when I am gone. Each and every one of them.But in real life time, I also have to work at a diving meet tomorrow and then stay to watch Gracie compete. I have to shower. Do my hair. I have to pack. Decide what to bring and what not and whether or not to take up precious room in my suitcase by bringing along eye candy for my husband. Red or green? See-through or make-you-guess? Right now it is a 50-50 chance one of them will make the cut. Later I have to drive from my house to the airport which is four hours away IF there is no traffic and that is a BIG if. Thirty-seven hours  to go and I am nowhere near ready and I am unsure what I want to do with the 24 hours we have in Shanghai. Still. But I think I might have an idea.

I have been investigating Shanghai for the past four hours. Considering whether to take a tour. Or maybe a private car (never have done one of those). Even a taxi. But within the last two hours I think I have decided to be brave and take the road less traveled by many foreigners. I think we will take the subway from the airport (line 2), go eleven stops, transfer to line 16, go 6 stops, exit the subway station, cross the street and take bus 628 go past the Government Building and get off at the next stop. Then walk towards the direction the bus is going, make a left and then I should see the Ancient Water Town of Xinchang. At least this is what Doug on Trip Advisor says. Every Doug I have ever known has been a nice guy so I am going to assume that this Doug is too and that he is not leading me into some sort of den of iniquity which might be interesting in of itself if B was not along for the ride.

It is always intriguing to me how we choose the places that we visit. I used to think that is was a science but I have now come to believe it is haphazard and you end up going where you are suppose to be. So many times I have set out in one direction and ended up somewhere else. Usually some place better than I had ever imagined and I have met people that I never would have had I followed my Itinerary.

That is what I am hoping for when I go to Xinchang. I hope to meet an old man who takes me into his ancient house in the ancient river and tells me stories. Stories of what life was like when he was young. Stories of the war. Stories of his family, his work and his loves. Stories that help explain things I can only imagine. Stories that bring tears to my eyes and a laugh to my heart. For really, its only the ancients that can tell a great story in a way that makes you realize you have to live much longer, take more bounteous risks, and love much deeper/fearlessly in order to create a story that hugs a heart like that. A stick-with-you kind of scenario. An I-want-to-do-better-myself type of thing.

So I am crossing my fingers about today and the days to come. They are crossed for Gracie and her first diving competition of the year. About my suitcase weighing less than 50 pounds. They are crossed and white knuckled about airplane trips. About de-icing planes. About making sure my kids are okay. They are crossed tightly about having a clear day to look up at Mt. Everest. About B and I discovering more to love about one another during this trip. About meeting little old men with great stories so I can earn the basics of a few good stories of my  very own. And my fingers are crossed because maybe, just maybe, this journey of a lifetime will actually renew a love that was suppose to last a lifetime; as we look towards a mountain that has withstood it’s own test of time to become a beacon for those with love in their heart, determination in their minds and passion in their souls. One can only hope.