Non-partisan panty wandering??

Pull up a chair kiddies, Auntie is gonna tell you a story.

It was 1997.  I was 20 years old. A young lady.  State University and learning about how the world works.

I’d been on three dates with a guy named Ray.  He was handsome, had a nice car, a nice condo, and a worldly last name.  What’s not to like, right?  It didn’t take long though, to realize that something was off.  Insistent, assertive, and hyper-masculine…he seemed to know what he wanted, and would bull-doze anyone who impeded him.   I was uncomfortable with him, and we were never ‘in a relationship’ so I thought it easiest to simply become too busy to date…so that’s what I did.  Eventually he quit calling.

I lived in the dorms.  My roommate, forever losing her key, would shove her key card in her bra and take off, leaving our door unlocked.  It was never a problem.  There were two additional sets of locks between us and the world.  After a late night, processing film in the dark room, I returned to my room, showered and crawled in bed.  I don’t really know how long I’d been asleep…minutes…hours…I honestly don’t have a time reference for the next span of time.  He was on top of me.  He was trying to…well…you can imagine….and I fought.  I fought him as hard as is humanly possible.  He had his hands on me.  Groping…trying to find the edges of my clothes.  I can tell you I remember the screaming in my head, although I’m not sure that it came out of my mouth.  I fought…Out of my bed.  Standing…throwing things at him.  Hitting him…being hit back…pushing him out my door, down my hall….down the steps, fighting, being dragged. Pushing back.  I shoved him out…out of the building…out of my life again.  He turned and shoved the heavy security door closed on me, cursing me with every breath.  The door clicked shut.  The screaming stopped.  It was quiet.

I returned to my room to find blood, hair, and an unholy mess.  I had scrapes, bumps, and the beginnings of some glorious bruises, a dislocated shoulder and x-rays found stress fractures in my foot…but none of the blood in the room was mine.  Although shaken, I felt a little badass…and a lot lucky.

Around 6am, back from the emergency room, I reported the incident to my residence director and campus police.  She seemed offended, and immediately began to back-peddle about where the fault lay.  See, the security door, the one with the combination lock on it, was broken.  None of the residents knew.  We all punched the code, turned the knob, and walked through.  Turns out you didn’t need a code.  Ray had followed a resident through the card swipe door, walked through the combination door, and right into my (unlocked) room.  The university police and the RD promptly began interrogating me.  Turned the tables entirely.  Why hadn’t I called security?  Why hadn’t I reported the incident last night?  Why didn’t I sign in my guest?  MY GUEST??  The absurdity of these questions is plain to me all these years later.  Then, however, I was just floored.  The displacement of responsibility….that’s the real ass chapper.  I didn’t talk about it for years.  It’s as if it never happened, except that I slept with a knife under my pillow and my arm draped over my neck.  I didn’t sleep well for years.  The university accepted no responsibility, suffered no ill from the situation, and even though I gave them Ray’s full name, address, and phone number, NOTHING was done.  I was told that f I wanted to graduate I’d keep it quiet. I was young, easily intimidated, and scared of whatever repercussions the university might come up with.  All these years later I still rarely speak of it because of the shame that was given to me.  THIS is the problem. These incidents are real. They aren’t always violent, but they are REAL.

The recent public proclamations of abuse, aggression, assault, and inappropriate behavior by people in power has brought my anger and frustration back to the surface.  It is horrible to be a victim, and though there are certainly some shameless individuals who may attempt to capitalize from false slander, let me assure you that they are the minority.  It takes courage to come forward and tell your story.  It isn’t fun to relive those emotions, especially when the system has already let you down.  For decades there has been a quiet knowledge that women have been stifled from honestly addressing and pursuing their offender.  The shame and degradation dispatched to victims is appalling…but lately there has been a shift.  The energy and empowerment of the January women’s march lit a fire. Women began to speak their truths…quiet rumbling became incensed purging of decades of sublimation….we speak…yet there are those who still wish to subjugate.

What have we become?  What is SO wrong with this country??  How have we deteriorated in moral composition, in ethical barometer, in what we deem excusable behavior?  Sometimes it feels as if we have enabled a power structure of patriarchy from which, no matter how loudly we speak will never be heard?  Have we reached a level of voyeuristic depravity that we would rather ogle the accusations made against people in power than to consider the implications on the lives of the accusers?  We sit on our sofa watching the chaos unfold…and watching reactions that remind me of how I was treated by the university that was supposed to house me safely.

There is a group of people, men and women, who would rather allow and protect blatantly inappropriate treatment of women and girls…and young men as we lately have discovered.  They would rather stand by a person with a known reputation of misbehavior than concede a loss to their ‘team’.  The excuses are mind blowing, blaming young girls for the behavior of a man (I believe it was something to the effect of “14 year old girls don’t always make good decisions.”), “It was ‘over the panties.”, shrugging off statements about ‘grabbing them by their *lady parts*’ as hyperbole….These things are not okay…EVER.  Male, female, transgender, gender neutral, it doesn’t matter.  No one gets to panty wander without consent.  I guarantee that if it were YOUR 14 year old, your wife, your sister, or your friend, it would be a problem.

We must act.  We must speak and not stop speaking.  We must stand up for our sisters and brothers.  Embrace them in their pain and shield them from humiliation.  We must educated, demonstrate, and show those who acquiesce to these behaviors.  We, as a country, are better than this.  We must not be afraid.  I am not afraid….I’ll never be afraid again.  No matter how long it has been, those moments will still echo in my head…but I’ll never be afraid of a man again…and I will NOT stand by while slander and carnal debasement is dispatched to people whose lives were forever effected by the actions of someone who took their power.   Speak your truth.  Stand with people speaking theirs.  There is NO excuse worthy of allowing it to continue. Lastly (Sorry to my teacher.)  Vote your ethics, not your party.  If your party is excusing, exempting, or otherwise allowing sexual misconduct by your leadership, perhaps it’s time for you to take back your party.

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Between your heart and head…your pride.

Deep in my heart I don’t believe there’s a soul on this earth I genuinely hate.  There are plenty of people who frustrate or infuriate me, but I genuinely can’t think of a person I hate.  My heart is too full to hate.  It’s full of all the things I am blessed with, the people I love, and more gratitude than I can start to express.  It might feel full, but it seems there’s always room for one more.  It’s like a clown car….just when you think it’s full, you’re wrong.

My head is quite different.  My head is full of the logic, sarcasm, and snark.  In my head I know I am capable.  In my head I know I can read the owners manual, use the tools, and learn what I need to do.  My head filters all the disgust, hostility, and anger in my little world.  In my head I think the things I don’t allow my heart to harbor, because things live in your heart forever, and fly in and out of your head…except some of the more troublesome things that bubble up from that place in between your head and heart….your pride.

Between your head and your heart lives the pride.  Sometimes it’s that outward pressure of full pride.  Sometimes it’s a void where some pride should be.  It’s the voice that tells you that you either are or are not good enough.  That you are or are not smart enough.  That you are or are not worthy enough.  It’s the voice that you either speak too loudly or hold in silence – when often you should do the opposite.  In either case it can get the better of you.  A healthy amount of pride means you care enough about yourself to have dignity and self respect.  Too much pride is the splinter that festers to a boil.  It becomes toxic to everything around it and usually bursts in a very unpleasant and humbling way.

As I write, I am experiencing some elements of each of these.  My heart is full of gratitude for the experiences that brought me to this point, and the opportunities that are ahead of me.  My head is reminding me how far I have to go, and how much I have to learn.  My head frequently overrides my heart.  Right in the middle….my pride knows I was good enough to be chosen, but waivers on whether or not I can keep up.  It is a sort of tight rope walk between emotion and logic, reality and feeling.  I must remind myself almost hourly of the checks and balances between where I feel like I am in my growth, where I really am in my growth, and where I am growing.  Change is tough.  New jobs are tough.  Balancing the head/heart tightrope can’t be done without constant testing of your pride.  Chin up and one foot in front of the other.

Men Behaving Badly (PG13)

When a former teacher suggested I turn my random Facebook snark into a blog, her only request was that I “not get political”.  I hope this does not come as a disappointment to her, but I feel this needs to be said.

Our current administration has spawned an outbreak of grown men behaving badly.

Through my employment, I get to observe people professionally.  In my experience, there is a clean cut date and time when my (and most likely other retailers) experience shifted from the occasional disgruntled middle age female “I’d like to see your manager – haircut” (No joke.  It’s a thing.  Look it up.) to the angry, acting out, grown man.  “Men Behaving Badly”.

Our current administration warmed America up with salacious behavior.  Scandalous claims of the treatment of women.  Hostility to those of immigrant heritage.  Making fun of the disabled.  General dislike for those considered lower then themselves. Denigration of intelligence as something elitist or pompous.    On the date of inauguration, a number of men (who likely held those desires and beliefs already) took on those reigns with a fervor.  The President’s mindset, his behavior, made it acceptable for those men to wear the asshat.

In addition to being spat on, cursed, threatened, and generally berated as a ‘stupid woman’, I have had men ask for a male manager and suggest that I must have earned my job through sexual favors.  “Are you a manager?  Who’d you blow to get that job?”  I wish I was joking.

Not only have my female staff been treated more harshly, my female customers have experienced mistreatment from older male customers.  A few months ago an older man cut line one evening.  The lady he stepped in front of (with her child) told him there was a line.  He turned and yelled “Then I guess you won’t mind waiting in it, bitch.”  He proceeded to yell, curse, berate, and generally behave badly.  She, the young lady, was a combat wounded veteran.  He was a man with no respect for a woman.

A man asked me about a product.  I indicated that, although I wish we could help, the product he wanted to use was not chemically appropriate for the situation he wanted to use it for.  He snarled, “You think you know something about something.”

Another manager in my store declined a man’s return.  He had no receipt.  It was high dollar.  She was abiding by the return policy we have in place.  He waited in his car until she went outside, then he jumped out and charged at her.  Thankfully he chose to use his body, not his car.  Thankfully two much younger men were near by.  They took him down forcefully and the police were called.

There are more examples, including inappropriate physical grabs and swats.  I could go on and on…but that doesn’t change any of it.

This type of stuff didn’t happen 2 years ago.  Yes, people would get frustrated.  Someone might raise their voice or use the occasional profanity.  Someone might actually call customer service to complain.  No one acted out physically.  No one picked a fight with another customer.  Times have certainly changed…Maybe it’s not his fault.  Maybe this behavior was always latent.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it seems incredibly coincidental.

Leadership is the example for the masses…and so it seems to be.

Drive-by Zucchini-ing

It’s the time of year when the labor of love (that made my neighbors think I was growing weed in the basement) comes to literal fruition.  Fresh green beans for dinner every night.  Cucumbers, still warm from picking, with a dash of salt.  Peppers and lettuces in any color you can imagine.  Tomatoes for days…canned with the same tools our grandmothers used…..and zucchini.

Zucchini…the gift that just keeps giving.  Drought, violent storms, flood, meteor showers…and more zucchini.  The ‘not husband’ likes his zukes sauteed, fried, with noodles, on pizza, even pickled in relish.  The only use I find for it is bread. (A mightily delicious recipe that I will include at the end with all the culinary perversions I have attempted with it.)

Every waxy green zuke I cut from it’s prickly stem brings me a giggle.  My family, you see, had one very zucchini year.  (Zucchini as an adjective – indeed.)  There were three of us kids.  I was around ten and the twins were around five.  Someone at church gave us some seeds, telling us they were cucumbers.  We were so excited that we talked momma into giving us one entire row of the garden.  We would have fresh cucumbers, and all the pickles we could eat.  Carefully we planted the mounds and waited patiently….leaves emerged, followed by flowers…and something that was NOT a cucumber.  Quite quickly we were inundated with zucchini that none of us ate, so we gave it away.  We took boxes to church.  We gave bags to neighbors.  We did drive by zucchini-ing, leaving bags on porches.  We had so many zucchini that we started leaving them in people’s cars at church…until people started locking their car doors.  It seems that even when it’s free, there’s only so much zucchini a person (or several dozen people) can tolerate.  Finally defeated, we chopped them and fed them to the cows.  By the end of the summer the cows would follow me for the entire fenced length of my parents’ yard.

Lesson learned.  Cucumber seeds are either purchased in bags that say ‘cucumber’ or they are saved from cucumbers you grow, but never trust a zucchini fairy in disguise.

As promised, here’s the bread recipe.  You may as well plan on doubling or even tripling it because really, who just has 1 cup of zucchini??

Lemon Glazed  Lemon-Zucchini Bread
2 cups flour (I use 1/2 plain white and half whatever else -including coconut or oatmeal flours)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (olive, canola, vegetable, avocado, etc)
1.5 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (pulp and all – fresh is best)
1/2 cup milk (coconut, soy, or almond milk works fine)
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated zucchini (cheese shredder gets it done, peels and all)

For fun – toss in some blueberries or strawberries.  Cooking is fun.  Bwahaha!!

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (throw in some zest too)
1 tablespoon milk (I just use more lemon juice)
Okay let’s get crazy…add cream cheese to this and make this bad boy some icing!!)

Mix unceremoniously (the recipe actually states an order but psh!!) and pour into a bread or cake pan.  Bake 35 min (cake pan) to 45 min (bread pan) at 350 or until a knife comes out clean

When memory fails…

An elderly lady walked into the store this morning.   She asked if we have a phone book. I inquired who she needed to call, certain that I could look it up on my phone faster than I could locate that pesky phone book. She looked at me as if she was about to cry, and in a clear delicate voice, said “I don’t know. I have memory problems and don’t remember where I was going.” She turned around and walked out with a pained shuffle.  Taken completely off guard by the situation, I let the other manager on duty know that I was going to go out to her car, make sure she was safe, and get her any help I could.

As I approached the window it was evident that she was crying.  “Excuse me ma’am.  What can I do to help you?  Can I call your family?” Again, she didn’t know. She said she remembered that she was supposed to be going to an appointment but had no idea where.  Wiping her tears, she said she had been calling the last number on her phone, but kept getting their answering machine.  She handed me the phone and it was the automated pick a number menu at the start of most office calls. When in doubt select 0.

What do you say when you don’t know either party in an awkward three part conversation??  What do you say when you don’t want to further disgrace the elderly lady who is clearly already humiliated by her lapse of lucidity??  It went like this:
“Hi. My name is ____ and I’m calling from _____.  I’m in the parking lot with Mrs._____ who is likely supposed to be at your office, or may already be late.”  The receptionist recognized her name.  “Mrs._____ is a bit confused on your location and what service you provide.”
The receptionist immediately understood.

I repeated the office location, and as soon as I said Food City Mrs. says “I know Food City.  My doctor’s office is near there.”  With the receptionist’s help, we got her back on track.  The office called me back to let me know she had arrived.  Had I not heard from the office, the next call would have been the police with a BOL for her vehicle between my location and the doctor (2 miles away).  Throughout the day I considered the balance between the dignity of self sufficiency and acceptance of deficiency as it effects personal safety.  As much as it hurts my heart, I hope that this is a wake up call for her and for whomever might care for her.  Sweet Mrs. probably should not be unescorted in a moderately sized city, albeit one that is safer than many.   This is how Grand-pa ends up in Minnesota with no recollection of how he got there.  This is how people are taken advantage of, and the reason there is now a national Silver Alert for missing and endangered elders.

How hard is that day going to be?  Will I feel my heart and will break?  Or will I know when the day has arrived that I’m a danger to myself and others?  I’d never seen it up close.  Watching her frustration as her mind failed her, and yet was still present enough that she knew it was failing….that might be my new greatest fear.

Ephemeral strings…a tribute

I’m not sure I have the words….

Though I am shocked and incredibly saddened, this is not my poignant heartbreak to mourn.

Last night we received news of the entirely unexpected passing of a friend.  I call him friend, though I knew him less than two weeks.  As a childhood friend of the person I consider to be my best friend, he was welcomed to our home.  We shared food, laughter, and stories by the fire during his (albeit brief) visit to our area.  He was a huge personality.  He had heart-felt resonant laugh that could be felt as it boomed from his wide genuine smile.

On first meeting, it was clear that he was a kind soul who had LIVED his brief life.  A passion for experience and knowledge was palpable, as was an underlying sense that his life hadn’t always been easy.   Though I have NO idea what his up-bringing was, there was little doubt that perseverance and positivity had brought him to his successes and relationships and (his words as I recall them) “the family you choose”….and today he is no longer walking among us.  With no why or how, he simply evaporated from our sphere.

As I consider what, when weighed against my 39 years, was such a brief encounter, I’m in awe at the ephemeral strings we attach to each other through our lives.   I can’t begin to count the number of people I’ve shared conversation, education, meals, laughs, or tears with.  How am I to know what weight I’ve left in someone else’s life.  Have I left light or laughter?  Have I left hurt or harsh thoughts?  When my time comes, will someone ponder that time that we shared a fire, good stories, and lots of laughter??  We are all deeply connected in ways we may never anticipate.  Time is fleeting and it is far to easy to forget each other in our busy day to day.  I challenge you…because I am challenging myself…reach out to someone every day.  Remind someone that you are thinking of them.  Remind someone that you appreciate them.  Remind someone that you care and are present in their life TODAY –  because tomorrows are no guarantee.

Though I knew you only a flicker of your life, I wish you peace in your journey Richie.  May your LIFE continue to inspire, that those you left behind may find our own peace in your absence.

Making America ‘great’ again…

Full disclosure:  I originally wrote this in early November, before the election, and it’s been hovering near the trash can in my draft folder since then.  Tonight however, on re-reading, it seems way less bitter than when I originally typed it.  Tonight it seems far more anxious and frustrated at the recent days’ events…many of which -according to some- have been done in the name of our American faith.

Be forewarned, some of you aren’t going to like this.  That’s okay.  (As referenced by previous works, offence is something that I understand to be your privilege.)  All I ask is that you consider, as you read, your role in the topic.  Don’t immediately jump to  why either of us are right or wrong, just consider….

Halloween night I was invited to participate in trick or treat with some friends.  They live in a nice suburban neighborhood, middle to upper class, primarily white, ‘average’ Americans.  After the trick-or-treating dwindled, we retreated to the back porch for some beverages and conversation.  I didn’t know anyone other than the friends who had invited me, but have never found any of their acquaintances to be less than entertaining, so I stayed around.  As the night grew later, kids went to bed and folks started going home, till there were just the five of us: my hosts, myself, and another couple – their neighbors….and then the conversation changed.  It turned to religion. More specifically, it turned to his particular Christian viewpoints – including but not limited to the ‘fact’ that Christianity is the oldest of religions according to his scholarly studies.

Let me preface the next segment by saying that I’m not a regular participant in any organized religion, and I’m particularly put off by aggressive proselytizing.  I understand and appreciate, and do not belittle religion’s function and importance in the lives of so many, but it has not been a major part of my life for around 10-15 years now.  I don’t want to belong to a congregation that spews hate speech, politics, and antiquated gender beliefs.  I don’t want to participate in a community that has shown itself to be so two faced when it comes to helping other and being Christ-like……- so here goes…..

After a brief, yet all too lengthy one sided discussion he says  “You should come to my church.  It’s different.”  I chuckle and tell him that I really don’t think they’d be as welcoming of me as he might think.  See, I’ve already been told I’m going to hell by at least a hand full of people, including one Baptist minister.  I don’t believe that my role as a woman is solely to have children.  I was baptized ‘incorrectly’ as a child – which is apparently worthy of the flames.  I think ALL people deserve to be treated with respect and basic human rights regardless of their gender, nationality, color, or sexual orientation.  Oh, and I’ve been living in sin with the same man for almost 12 years….with no real plan on entering that sanctified thing you call marriage.  According to most popular local denominations, I’m already doomed.

I wasn’t trying to win a fight.  I simply don’t enjoy feeling bullied over my viewpoint on the subject, my life choices, the lives and lifestyles of people I care deeply about, or the fact that no matter IF I had been given a chance to explain my particular version of faith, I would have been wrong.  As I drove to work today, I reflected on the incident.  NPR was deliberating election news and I wondered if that man considered his beliefs would be the ones to “Make America great again.”  It’s fairly certain that he does, after all, why would a person be so fervent about something they didn’t consider to be of global benefit?  This leads me to my hypothesis.

In many ways Christianity is the America of religions.

1) In the grand scheme of things, America hasn’t really been around that long.  Regardless of our youth, we consider ourselves to be the deciding factor in the success or failure of people around the world.  In the name of God, we’ve removed native people, waged wars, invaded countries….If we deem it wrong, it must be so….because we are right – much like the judgmental elements of the church, and people who make decisions about each other that should be left to their God to decide. {The remainder of this section was added after the original text}
When individual actions are boiled down, be it abortion, petty theft, lack of empathy for those in need, or voting to tax America’s poorest and sickest into eternal debt and death, each person’s decisions are ultimately between them and whatever creator they choose to believe in.  It is ultimately their karma, their conscience, and their soul.  It does not fall to me to decide what you do with your soul.

2) The engraving on the Statue of Liberty suggests America accepts the tired, hungry struggling masses yearning to breathe free, yet here we are.  We are a country turning away those seeking to flee their ancestral homes due to war, poverty, persecution, and exploitation.  Though we have a mandated separation of church and state, one faith is consistently brought back into everything from the election to what should be included in school textbooks.  Christianity is faith based on the idea of embodying Christ; helping others, feeding the poor, clothing the needy, and making humanity better – but don’t put the methadone clinic in MY community.   Quick.  Lock the car doors or that homeless man might try to jump in the car.  Turn away that boat of Jews trying to flee Germany during WWII, and this week the Syrian refugees that have already been vetted.  There isn’t an actual desire to help – only to produce.  Increase numbers.  Increase tithe.  Build a bigger building.  Bottom line – money.  Money and pride.

{Added secondary} I am fortunate to know MANY amazing people.  Generous loving people who truly embody what it is to be Christ-like.  Some of them are even Christians.  Until we, as a nation, fully embody what that means – what it means to give without expecting reciprocation, to love unconditionally, to feed and clothe the less fortunate, to listen (truly listen) and help, to try to find the good and the God in others, to stop spewing hate, and to BE BETTER HUMAN BEINGS…we as a nation, and especially our leaders, cannot call ourselves Christian.  We must call ourselves flawed human. We must call ourselves lambs led by wolves.  We must call ourselves the self catering and the hard hearted.   In these days, regardless of your faith or lack thereof, I only ask you one thing.  Please, look at your fellow flawed human with respect and treat them with humanity.  Perhaps our humanity will grow and spread.  Perhaps it will move like unvaccinated contagion, infecting us all, until we finally achieve what we like to claim we are.

 

So yeah, I suck at Chrismas. :/

Every year.  Every year I think to myself how I just can’t wait till it’s over.  It’s not ‘humbug’.  It’s not for dislike that people are so giddy over the entire next month of the year, the decorating, shopping, songs, food, and festivities.  I just struggle to enjoy it, and have for a lot of years.  To be honest, it can be a little overwhelming and sort of sad.

As a child the holidays were all about the traditions.  We knew what to expect each year; where we would go, when we would go there, and that we would be appreciative for the time and gifts – because the holiday wasn’t about the gifts.   We didn’t always have a lot but we had each other and the love and laughter of the season.

My adult holidays are not quite as full of love and laughter.  I go to work at least five days a week and watch what the holidays have become.  The rush.  The greed.  The physical push and shove of the selfish and self absorbed.  I watch the public’s frothed aggression at taking a deal out of the hands of another, and the retail machine feeding this with Thanksgiving day shopping starting earlier and earlier – pulling low paid (often seasonal) employees away from their families.  I listen to the berating and ill tempered shopper, the parents screaming (often with numerous loud profanities) at their kids, the angry person who didn’t arrive in time to get the limited time/price/quantity item.  I’m cursed at and threatened by people who are more pleased by what their dollar can buy them than the people they share their life with.  Oh, and let’s not forget the canned generic Christmas music on repeat and the people who are offended by “Happy Holidays.”  It makes me sad.  What has happened to us??

Every year.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, I think about pulling out the tree and all the decor because it just might brighten my day.  I just might come home from one of those challenging days and the lights and heirloom decorations will remind me of how fortunate I am…it could happen.  So I fire up Pandora on the bluetooth speaker and pull out the tree.  I’m fluffing branches and singing along until one song comes on…one song is all it took and I’m a blubbering idiot sitting in the dining room floor with the top of a Christmas tree in my lap and tears and snot all over my face.  Flogging Molly singing If I Ever Leave This World Alive (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVPTu4l6OnE) is all it took for me to be flooded with memories of all the people I don’t share the holiday with anymore.  All the memories made, love and laughter had, and the times in my life when I loved Christmas.

I suck at this.  It’s essentially going through the motions.  When did I stop loving parades and caroling?  When did I stop seeing the world with the joy of a child?  Why does it feel like a burden to me as an adult????  and how do I know I’m not alone in this feeling??  Because if we all enjoyed it we’d be nicer to each other.  We’d take the time to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it wouldn’t be about the rush and frustration of spending money on things that most of us don’t need.  If we actually took time to enjoy the people in our lives – the people we share the holiday with NOW – maybe we wouldn’t have to sit in the floor and cry because those past holidays don’t exist for us anymore.  Stop and LOVE the people you have in your life.  Stop being jerks to each other over a buck.  Stop being hateful to your kids because you are frustrated with your own situation.  Stop and try to enjoy the holiday….that’s what I’m going to try to do.  Sometimes try is all you’ve got.

 

Faith in Humanity

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, there was a knock on the door. Dean took care of it, but as I came out I saw the young guy walking toward the road. “What was that about?” Dean said he was asking for food and he figured it was sketchy. We rarely get door knocks, and they’re usually for money, never for food. As I was leaving, I bagged up the stack of pancakes from too much breakfast, and a few vegan granola bars fresh and warm from the oven. He was less than half a mile up the road.

The young man, probably in his mid twenties, wore dark jeans, decent sneakers, a black jacket zipped up to his neck, and a tattered toboggan cap.  Though a high end brand name, his jacket was patched with seam tape, and hand sewn squares of fabric.  His dirty hands held a bowl, specifically  a blue glazed ceramic rice bowl.  He looked as though he’d been on the road a while.  

He called himself a traveling monk.  A young Buddhist, he had decided to go on a pilgrimage of sorts.  He never fully stated where he came from, merely that he decided to give away all his belongings and experience humility and simplicity.  Getting up at dawn, he began his day’s walk and prayer.  Between 11am and 1pm, he would approach homes, politely seeking generosity of food, not money, not supplies, just food.  He would eat what he was given by the first generous home, and seek no more.  He said, “You always get what you NEED.”  The remainder of his day was fasting, prayer, and walking.  He said he prays for the community and it’s residents as he passes through, and asks blessings on passersby – (although I’d imagine not all are polite.)

I didn’t ask where he sleeps, when his last hot shower was, or how how/if his family keeps track of him. As I listened to his explanation, albeit brief and simple, I felt guilty for our initial reaction, and for my lack of faith in humanity.  I had no reason to question anything he said.  My gut, my heart, my intuition….ALL said that he was genuine.  He had given up whatever comfort and routine he had in his former life to “experience ultimate humility”.  If my community didn’t feel gracious he wouldn’t eat today, yet he would still pray for each of us.  Where have we gone wrong as a society??

As I put my vehicle in reverse, he extended his hand for a shake.  We made eye contact and he said “The universe gives you what you need.  I’ve been thinking about pancakes for days. Thanks.  Be well.”

This was not a guy standing at the stop sign with a sign asking for cash.  This wasn’t the person who approaches you in the dimly lit parking lot for a hand out.  This was his journey in faith.  Tonight I will pray for his safe travels, and for humanity – that we can embrace some uncomfortable amount of humility and unease in order to grow and know ourselves and what brings us peace and joy in our lives…because we are fortunate.

My mother’s hands

The dermatologist walked in, gave me the quick once over, face, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and finally my hands.  With both of my hands in hers, her head tilted slightly to one side as she says, “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.  They’re nothing to worry about, but they’re definitely hereditary.”  At this point I expected her to suggest some lightening cream or cosmetic procedure, some sort of fix to amend the genetic damage. Before she could make any suggestions I interrupted.  I thanked her.

Before I go on, I must share that I have very few crystalline memories from my childhood.  The majority of those years are little more than a blur that time and repeated head injuries have smudged into memory mud.

One of my most lucid memories, however insignificant it might seem, is of a random Sunday morning.  The uncomfortable seafoam green church pew.  The smell of Ivory soap and Jungle Gardenia perfume.  The rice paper thin texture of the hymnal pages as the book was being held for us to sing…being held by my mother’s hands.  I remember studying her hands in detail.  Her long fingers with long natural nails, sometimes stained from summertime berry picking.  Thumbs that flex backward like those red, yellow, and blue flexi straws at Dairy Queen.  Working hands with rough spots, sometimes a bandaid, one nail shorter than the rest, veins visible over the bone and sinew, with a sprinkling of slightly darker spots across the backs from knuckles to wrists.  I’d look down with tightened lips, judging my pale pudgy childish digits, yearning to have her hands.

Now, in my late 30’s, I’ve had my mother’s hands for years.  The long fingers, abnormally tough fingernails, bone, sinew, and veins all visible.  Yesterday, by mere choice of words, the dermatologist gave me the gift of my grandmother’s hands too.  “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.”  I got them from MY mother.  My mother got them from HER mother, and no cosmetic procedure will EVER take these spots from me.  They are perfect, and I will wear them with humble honor and respect for the women with spotted hands who came before me, whose bodies literally made me, held me, raised me, gave me their skills, provided direction, and gave me gifts of life and knowledge…for those hands I am blessed.