Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Grandma (Inadvertently) Bought Me A Facial Piercing

A couple of months ago, I got my face pierced. Not my whole face, just my eyebrow. My right eyebrow. But still, my eyebrow is on my face, and this apparently gives a lot of people a lot of anxiety. I have no idea why – it’s not like I’m forcing them to put a needle through their face or aything, but it does. I personally couldn’t care less how many piercings or tattoos you have. If you engage in good hygiene practices regularly you’re good in my book. As long as I can’t smell you coming, we’re fine (although I must admit avid Abercrombie or Hollister wearers do cause me a bit of initial grief while I wait to see if they’re going to try to humiliate me or otherwise mock my fashion sense or lack thereof. Flash would say that I need a few more ‘corrective emotional experiences’ to overcome this fear and I’m working on it – hey! I hang out with preppy gay men! It seems to be helping so far!).

Anyhow, back to my face. Initially my mother was a bit put off. But if you know anything about my grandma (yes, the Hot Topic grandma) you’ve probably correctly assumed that it didn’t phase her in the least. You’ll also be pleased to hear that she didn’t seem to mind at all that I took the Christmas money she’d given me to the tattoo parlor to pay for the piercing. Nope, didn’t bother her at all. My grandma is frickin’ awesome.

I wore the piercing to work. What was I supposed to do? If I took it out, my hole would close up and then my Grandma’s Christmas money would be greatly under-appreciated. So I wore it. And I wore it. And I wore it some more. Eight weeks later my boss noticed.

He said:“When did you get that?”
Me: “Two months ago.”
Boss: “Oh.”


Boss: “Why?”
Me: “I think they’re pretty.”
Boss: “Oh.”

That was the last I heard about it. Now mind you, my boss is the CEO of a non-profit with a $13 million budget. He is a man who has power to wield, if he so chooses. So I also came to the conclusion that my boss is pretty frickin’ cool, too, and should meet my grandma sometime.

I am usually fairly conscientious of where I don my eyebrow apparel, so when I visit our sites or meet with board members I take it out. Duh. I like my job and I’d like to keep in good standing with the boss, so I generally try not to scare board members (who are usually white, middle age, and upper-middle class) away. It’s common sense. However, a few weeks ago I went on a site visit to a youth summer camp and forgot to take out my piercing. It happens. *shrug* I hadn’t even noticed that I’d forgotten to take it out until I was attacked by a mob of teenage girls who wanted to tell me that my eyebrow ring was so cool, man, and ask me if it hurt. Suddenly, I was cool. I have never been cool to teenagers. I was not cool to teenagers when I was a teenager. I didn’t even know how to react. So I told them thank you and no, it didn’t hurt and that I hoped they had a good time at camp, and then I went about my merry way.

Why is she telling us this? you’re asking.

I’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I present myself to the world and how that ties into my consumeristic notions about life and everything else. See, it seems to me that in my demand to be myself and express who I am, I have been decidedly consumeristic. How many pairs of armwarmers or fishnets does a girl need, anyhow? Do I really need a purse full of buttons to tell you who I am?

I’m very irritated with myself about all of this. Who I am should be easily conveyed by the way I live my life – the things I do with my time, the way I love the people around me, the topics that ignite my heart and my passions. I should not need a button to do this. I should not need a pair of armwarmers to do this. I should not need fishnet thigh-highs to do this. I should not have to pierce my face to make a statement. So I decided to tone down my wardrobe a bit. I discussed this with my good friend Cuthbert (code names are now, by the way, in effect) who looked at me in horror and said:


and then proceeded to encourage me to look at why I wear the things I wear and what would change if I did, indeed tone it down.

So here’s what I came up with:

Reasons Why I Dress Like I Was Raised In A Dungeon In My Free Time

1. Firstly, I love the reactions I get from conservative adults. OMG, it just cracks me up to see people stare at something as silly as an eyebrow ring. This bothers you? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Let me introduce you to a few of my friends! But seriously, when people see me dressed in
a way that invokes a stereotype, but then they get to know me and find out that I don’t spend my time thinking of creative patterns to use when cutting myself, it does a little something to them. It breaks down a barrier, just a little bit. I love the idea that because someone knew me, they could be a little bit more open to getting to know that teenager that really does feel like an outcast. I love the idea that a whole group of people might seem just a little bit more approachable to someone very conservative because the way I love defies the stereotypes associated with the way I dress. I would call this breaking down barriers.

2. Secondly, I love the reactions I get from other people who are dressed just as ridiculously or from teenagers. Do you know why the mob of teenage girls came to me instead of one of my co-workers? Do you know why I meet random people at bars who aren’t hitting on me but want to talk about serious life stuff? Because allowing yourself to resemble them (or what they want to be) just a bit allows you to be approachable. Most teenagers don’t trust adults…. unless they happen to have piercings in their faces, apparently. I think a lot of people who reside on the outskirts don’t trust those in the mainstream, either. This makes me think of Paul saying that to the Jew he is a Jew and to the Greek, a Greek, and so on. To the people who I love passionately – the people who hurt in this world – the people who most need loved – I am approachable. I would call this building bridges.

So, breaking down barriers and building bridges, eh? Doesn’t sound so bad after all.

In an effort to try to tame this consumeristic beast living in my heart, I thought I should get rid of these clothes and accessories – then I found out these clothes and accessories actually play a fairly important role in my relationships with other people and what other people learn from me (and, of course, what I have the opportunity to learn). So where does that leave me? At the moment, I’m going to leave the things in my closet that were already there and I’m not going to buy any more. It’s a good start, at least, but it certainly doesn’t feel like enough to me in terms of conquering the part of me that just wants to own crap. This ‘taming-the-consumeristic-black-hole-that-my-heart-has-become’ journey is turning out not to be so simple after all. Perhaps I’ll be back with a more definitive answer at a later date….

By the way.... beautiful quote...

"Where there is beauty, there is God.
Where there is creation, there is God.
Where there is searching, there is God.
Where there is God there is passion,
fire, and an overwhelming sense that He
is good, but not safe."

~ God of the Dark Places

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why I Don't East Fast Food

I don’t eat fast food very often. Why?, you ask. Because you are a food snob? you assume. No, no, no, I am not a food snob. I just don’t like to eat much fast food. First off, nearly everything is fried which doesn’t fit in very well with my attempts to maintain my carefully crafted, painstakingly acquired, lifetime-member weight-watchers weight. Fast food makes me fat. There, I said it. Secondly, fast food costs money and I am kind of a shrew when it comes to spending money. Why would I pay two freakin dollars for French fries when I can get a five pound bag of potatoes for the same price? Do you know how many fries that is, people? I also, for the most part can’t justify paying three or more dollars for a chicken sandwich, which is always what I want. Why are chicken sandwiches more expensive than hamburgers, anyhow? This makes no sense to me. You want me to pay 79 cents for a humburger but 3 bucks for chicken? Is the chicken dipped in gold? Or is there something very, very wrong with the cow you’re trying to sell me? Either way, it doesn’t make sense to me.

So anyways, I don’t eat fast food very often because I hate being fat and broke. I know many, many people who eat fast food much more frequently than me who are not fat and are not broke so I’m not making any judgments. But I personally end up fat and broke if I haul my widening ass down to Arby’s more than once a quarter, so I just don’t go.

However, every now and then a maddening fast food craving seizes me. This week I needed fast food. I NEEDED it. I had this little record player going in my head on a loop – “MUST. HAVE. WENDY’S. SPICY. CHICKEN.” it said. “CRUNCHY. SPICY. CHICKEN.” it affirmed, over and over and over again. This does not happen often, but when it does I am a slave. I don’t know why it happens, either. I hardly even look up when my husband’s watching TV, so I’m sure I didn’t see a commercial for it, I don’t think I heard anything on the radio, and I’m fairly confident that I didn’t even drive by a Wendy’s. It doesn’t seem to correlate to my monthly cycles (or any of my female friends’ monthly cycles), my mood, stress, my husband’s mood, etc, etc, etc. I have no idea what happens, yet the record keeps playing. When this happens I fight it for approximately two days. Then I start to whine, “But I want a spicy chicken sooooo baaaad! Whaaa! It’s not faaaaair! Why do they have to be baaaad for meeeeeee? Whaaaa!” Then I start to whine at my husband, “But you can eat whatever you waaaaaant! It’s not faaaair! Why can’t I have the skinny gene tooooooo? Whaaa!” Then I rationalize. Then I make plans to eat the spicy chicken, all the while making halfhearted attempts to talk myself out of it, just so I can look back later and comfort myself by saying that I at least tried. Then I eat the fucking thing and get it over with.

Last night was the night of the spicy chicken. Last night was the end of rationalization. Last night I just went to the drive up and ordered the damn thing.

It should be noted that not only was I the only car in the drive thru, there were no customers inside the Wendy’s either. How do I know this? Oh, you’re about to find out. I order my spicy chicken sandwich, requesting that my sandwich be made plain as a part of a value meal with a diet coke . A gangster-esque voice asks me what size I want my value meal: small, medium, or large? “Um, medium?” I respond. “Six-nineteen, please pull around to the window,” says the girl who I am now sure is going to initiate me with some sort of gang ritual when I pull my car around.

So I pull around to the window with six dollars and twenty cents. Six dollars? Seriously? For a piece of chicken, a potato and maybe 20 cents worth of cola in a 7 cent glass? Fine, whatever. I. NEED. SPICY. CHICKEN. so I fork it over. The girl hands me a bag, tells me that my fries are inside, but my ‘spicy’ is still cooking so if I’d just pull my car up, she’ll bring it out to me. She says all of this in approximately 4 seconds, as though the entire sentence is one long word. I blink and take the bag. She disappears before I even realize I haven’t gotten my change. Yes, it’s just a penny, but dammit, I’m a shrew! I need that penny! I pull my car forward and open the bag. Inside I see very sad fries. The sad fries look neglected, like someone cooked them and forgot about them. They’ve had their glory days and now, in their old age, someone has cast them aside in this bag and shoved them out a window. Poor fries. They are mushy, the way fries get when they get old – hell, the way most of us people get as we age. The fries are brown around the corners. I poke them to see if they’ve still got even a bit of spunk left in them. They don’t budge. They are cold and dead. These fries need buried. I decide I am not going to wait for the girl to bring the ‘spicy’ out to me before I point out the obvious defeated characteristics of these fries, as I will just have to send her right back in and then wait for her some more. I park the car. I walk inside. I say, very politely, “These fries are kind of cold and mushy. I was wondering if I could get some fresh ones?” In my mind this is not too much to ask. I just paid six freakin dollars and I am not about to eat mushy fries. I can make myself mushy fries for fifty cents at home. Ghetto girl looks at me and says, “I can’t take those back over the counter.” She’s holding up her hands as she says this, as if to shield herself from the deadly fries I’m trying to give back to her. What, radiation fries? Maybe. I look at her. “My fries are cold and mushy” I repeat. “Well I can’t take those back over the counter,” she says in a snotty voice, “you can do whatever you want with them but I can’t take them.” She turns around and yells at someone to make me a new medium fry.

At this point I look around and realize I am the only customer in the building. I wait patiently for my new fries. In the meantime, my ‘spicy’ is delivered to me. I open the spicy. Suspiciously enough, I see lettuce and tomato and mayo smeared all over the spicy. This is not good. This is not making me happy. Lettuce and tomato can be removed easily enough but I am not going to great pains to wipe the lard-looking mayo off my bun, only to feel the resulting squishyness of the bun and catch residual tastes of mayonnaise in each ensuing bite. I tell the guy at the counter that my sandwich is wrong. He takes the sandwich back over the counter. I’m not sure if there’s a difference in the rules for taking things back over the counter for chickens as opposed to fries or if he’s nicer than ghetto-girl or if he’s just stupider. I don’t care. I just want to be rid of the damn sandwich. He yells at someone to make me a new spicy, plain this time, please! It takes him four yells for the girl in back to understand that plain means ‘no toppings’. Plain. No Toppings. From her exasperated, “But what does she want on it?” I can tell that this is not a language barrier problem. English is clearly her first language. She just doesn’t understand the concept of ‘plain’. I know this is complicated, but please, I just want my damn sandwich. In the meantime, my new fries come up. They are hot and lively – fries at their peak. This makes me happy. At this point I notice that the container my fries are in is a different color and a different size than the fries I originally received. I ask the guy at the counter about this. These are medium fries, he tells me. So the first time around I apparently not only received the oldest fries in the history of fast food service, I received too few of them – not that I really would have wanted more of those particular fries, but still, it’s the principle. I wait for my spicy chicken sandwich to be completed. I know it’s probably a difficult order to fill, what with me wanting NO TOPPINGS on it and all, but still, this fast food is turning out not to be very fast. Finally I receive a spicy chicken sandwich, plain to go with my fresh medium fry. At this point I have been at Wendy’s for over 20 minutes.

Do you need a recap? I do. I received the wrong size fry container filled with fries my dog wouldn’t eat, a sandwich with the wrong toppings, and I haven’t got my change back (I need my damn penny!). I am the only person being served. The only person. The only person coming through the drive-thru. The only person in the lobby. It took twenty minutes, a return of two products, four yells to the sandwich girl in back, serious confusion about what can go back over the counter, and a shitty, snotty, ghetto attitude for me to successfully receive what I ordered in the first place and I was the only person being served. Six people behind that counter could not serve me in less than 20 minutes.

Then I remembered, “This is why I don’t eat fast food.” It’s got nothing to do with being fat and broke. I simply don’t have this much patience.

Right after that epiphany, I realized that if a person were competent enough to make a sandwich as ordered, cook fries and put them in the correct box, and make change, they probably wouldn’t be making a living at the Wendy’s drive-thru anyhow. Sometimes I forget these points. Still, it doesn’t mean you have the right to be a snotty bitch after you screwed up my order and I politely asked you to correct it, so I made eye contact with ghetto girl as I very clearly plucked a comment card off the nearest table and walked out the door.

I’m still trying to decide if ‘bitchy’ is too harsh a word for a comment card.

Dating Tips for the Boys at Flashbacks

It should be noted.... It has been pointed out that I somehow left a very important dating tip out of this post... yes, I am aware that I left the famous butter incident out. The butter incident is a story in itself, and I promise I will tell you about it one day.

I went on a weekend journey to Flashbacks on Saturday! As Jason and his three young friends (Jana, Rachel, & Sarah) are all very youthful and energetic, and as I am an old married lady, I drank approximately one pot of coffee and set out from my house around midnight. Drinks were consumed! Fun was had! IHOP was visited! All around, a good evening, even if at 25 I was the old married one.

I am here today to write a few tips to the young men who frequent Flashbacks and other dance clubs like it and feel the need to try to hook up with hot chicks like Jason’s friends and myself (yes, I’d consider myself a hot old married chick!). There seem to be some serious misconceptions floating around out there about what behaviors indicate that girls actually want to dance with you. Apparently, all those carefully perfected escape moves, secret signals, and rescues by our girlfriends (and conveniently placed nice boys we know) are somehow being misconstrued as, “Oooh, I like you! Can we dance some more? Please, please put your hand back on my ass! Hey, maybe you can hook up with me AND my friend!”. I know, “Go away!” and “Ooh, baby yeah,” are so hard to distinguish. It happens. And so I am here to offer a few pointers.

First tip: If there is a group of four girls dancing, do not dance with one girl, and then when she rejects you move on down the line to the rest of her friends, one by one. Ok, seriously, what makes you think this is a good idea? First of all, if I know I’m third or fourth on your list of hot chicks to dance with, do you think I really want to dance with you? Do you think you’re at all raising my self esteem to the point where I’d think you were an excellent person to have in my life? Secondly, if one of them seems to think you’re kind of a loser, chances are the rest of them will too. And even if one might think you’re sort of cute, she’s not going to hook up with you right in front of her other three friends that just rejected you. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

Here’s another tip: If you start dancing with a girl and her friend immediately starts dancing with her, go away. This is not for your benefit. The girls are not trying to give you hot two-girl action. Rather, this is an escape move that is usually devised long before the girls reach the club and is to be implemented whenever one girl is attacked by a boy she doesn’t want to be attacked by, which, by two in the morning is usually every boy, as they are mostly all drunk and not all that enticing. Just walk away.

Next tip: If a girl tells you she is married, don’t say, “So?” Oh, that is so not cool. First of all, you have just proved to me what a huge jackass you are that you don’t care whether I’m married or not, you just want to hook up. Nope, not cool. Just because you’re a total douchebag when it comes to fidelity doesn’t mean I am. Secondly, use a bit of common sense. If a girl says she is married, she doesn’t want to hook up with you. Period. If she was married and just didn’t care she wouldn’t bring it up. She’d just leave with you.

Also, don’t argue with me about whether I am actually married or not. Yes, I am married! What, you don’t believe me? You don’t think I’m cute enough anyone would want to marry me? Then why the hell are you trying to hook up with me? Secondly, if I wasn’t really married, but I’d gone to the trouble of wearing a fake ring and telling you I was, that would indicate that I wasn’t really interested anyway. See previous tip. Go away.

Mmmm, what else? If four girls are dancing with one boy and the moment you walk up to them, they all feel the need to be very close to that one boy, take a hint. Or be prepared to have your ass beat by said boy.

Also, don’t randomly touch my ass. Again, not cool. I don’t want my ass touched by you. If you’re the sort that randomly grabs asses, I don’t even know where your hand has been. I’ll have to sterilize my ass. Do you know how much of an inconvenience that is?

If you have managed to actually meet a nice girl somewhere and talked her into going on a date with you, there are additional tips you will need. From personal experience, I give you these gems of wisdom:

DO NOT insist that you can see your date’s aura and continue to describe to her what color it is, what it says about her personality, and what it means in terms of who she might have been in a previous life.

insist that you have met your date in a previous life and that you were married in that life. Do not insist that this previous marriage in a supposed former life is an indicator of where your relationship should go from here.

DO NOT tell your date that you’ve been reincarnated and sent here from the past to revolutionize the world using the mass media. Do you know how Hitler/Big Brother/creepy that sounds?

DO NOT tell your date that your spirit can travel to her house and be with her when she sleeps. Can anyone say creepy? Even your disembodied spirit is a stalker. Not good.

DO NOT get to know a girl over a period of time as a friend, insist that you’re just friends, hang out on what you have emphasized as a ‘non-date’ and then attack her and attempt to maul her with frighteningly enthusiastic kisses. When she escapes and tells you she doesn’t like you that way, do not call her later that week and tell her that you probably shouldn’t see each other anymore as it’s just not working out for you. Seriously, I somehow got broken up with by a boy I wasn’t dating who I told I wasn’t interested in after being mauled on a non-date. How does that even happen?

DO NOT take a girl to a cemetery, bring her to a specific tombstone, tell her that one time when you were at the cemetery (seriously, who spends all their free time at the cemetery anyways?) this tombstone floated in the air and the dead came up from under it and chased you around, and then use this story as the explanation for why the tombstone has some chips in it – you know, from when it fell back to the ground. I’m not even sure what the worst part of that story is – that the dead supposedly chased you around, or that this is considered a plausible explanation for damage to the tombstone. I don’t even know where to begin.

DO NOT tell the girl that God told you to marry her. Just don’t do it. What, did God leave you a message on your voicemail? Did He text this to you? And why didn’t he text her, too?

DO NOT start off a relationship by telling the girl that you’ll probably never be able to support a family.

DO NOT ask a girl you are trying to hook up with if she thinks you should file for bankruptcy. See previous tip.

DO NOT tell the girl that you have a million dollars buried under the floor. Why is the million dollars under the floor? Where did it come from? Is there a body down there with it? And why, pray tell, haven’t you dug it up and taken me to a nice dinner already, dammit!?!

DO NOT bring up pre-nuptial agreements on your second date. Also, while you’re busy not bringing up the pre-nup on this date, don’t forget to censor yourself from saying, “I’ve got me a nice piece of land, a job all lined up, and a good home. All I need is a wife and some kids underfoot to work the farm.” I am not birthing your production line. Sorry.

If you are pulled over while transporting a girl on a date, DO NOT wait until the police officer lets you go and then say, “Phew! I’m glad he didn’t want proof of my car insurance!”

DO NOT begin ANY sentences with the phrase, “Well, when I was living in my car…”.

So, guys… I hope that helps. Tune in next time for more helpful dating hints!

Dialogue's Not Over ~ Nicaea Revisited

Maybe that's not the final word. Maybe God's not done
speaking to humanity.

It's still a developing communication between God and man.
It didn't end at the council of Nicaea.
~ Curt

I like this idea that Curt talks about – this idea that God wasn't done speaking at the council of Nicaea. I like the idea that there is still a developing communication – that the conversation isn't over between man and God.

Firstly, it makes sense. Why would God have 2 testaments written and then leave us hanging for the next few thousand years? It doesn't seem consistent with His character. From the beginning of time, God is with man – speaking and guiding and walking with man. All through the Old Testament, He continues in this walk and this dialogue with us. He walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He speaks to Abraham, he speaks to Moses. David knows Him intimately and He gives the prophets words to pass along. Then Jesus comes. And you know what? He does the same thing – continues on the dialogue. He speaks to us and heals us and lives in relationship with us. This man who is called the Son of God shows up as human and does the same thing God's been doing with us through the ages all along. And when He dies, the conversation doesn't stop. He comes back and not only appears to us, but speaks with us and dines with us. After He ascends, God continues to speak to the disciples and even sends visions.

Why do we think this stops after Revelations? All through the Bible we keep seeing God get hurt and jealous and pissed off when people won't be a part of this conversation with Him, yet for some reason we think He's done talking. Why would he all-of-the-sudden stop? It doesn't make sense.

There are people who say that God never changes – that He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever. These same people say that the Bible is the final answer. Well, pick one, because you can't have them both. Either God has changed – He's gotten tired of this conversation or He's given up on us or He just doesn't care anymore – or the Bible isn't the end. Because if the Bible is the end – if God doesn't have anything else He wants to say – then He has changed. He has gone from vocal to mute, from a teacher to an observer.

I think the conversation is still going on. Why wouldn't it be? If we can take Jesus, the One whom God called His Son, and we can string Him up on a cross to die and we can put His lifeless body in a tomb, and that still doesn't have the power to end the dialogue between God and man, how does a group of guys with status voting on Bible book inductees at the council of Nicaea get the final word? I just don't think it's over. I don't think God's said His final words to humanity.

Secondly, this idea that God's not done speaking to humanity awakens my soul. It suggests that God is still there – still working, still walking with us, still telling us His secrets and daring us to live them out. This is a God I can dig. This is a God I can be in love with. I cannot be in love with a God who was something big and beautiful, once upon a time, but who no longer has the time or the patience or the ability to show us His majesty. I cannot be in love with a God who isn't interested in furthering the conversation – who wants to drop it and hand me an ancient puzzle to put together and walk away. What a boring, f@!*ing god! What a cold, disinterested god! I want to love a God who is not content to walk away – who wants to do the puzzle with me and whisper into my ear with His wisdom when I can't quite fit the next piece in. I want a God who is not content to sit back and watch me sort through what He's told everybody else – who realizes that those old love letters are beautiful, but that I am a new love and it's time to give me the stanza He's written for my soul – the stanza that He wrote before time began but has waited patiently for the right moment to read. It is not a stanza that rules the rest of the verse null and void. Rather, it adds to the beauty of the song and the glory of His being.

This is the God I want to love. Does this mean this is God? No. It just means this is what my soul longs for. But I suspect that the deepest desires of our hearts – to know and be known personally, intimately, and uniquely, not from afar – were put there to complement what God is. I think these deepest desires are notched out in us like puzzle pieces, specifically made to fit with the piece that He is. And so it is hard for me to imagine that God has given humanity this one great desire – to know and be known, here in the present – yet is unprepared to fulfill it with all of Himself.

I don't know what this does to my belief in the Bible. Do I believe it? Yes, absolutely. Do I believe it's the end? Not at all. What, exactly, does that mean

Quote of the Day

Ok, so it seems that I don't actually have a filter for things that go between my brain and my mouth. They just kinda spew out. And sometimes they sound really strange.

So I'm talking to Renee at work today and she's telling me that she doesn't like Fall time because she hates raking leaves. And I'm telling her I don't have any leaves to rake because I have all pine trees. And she's telling me how wonderful pine trees are. And then I say,

"I hate pine trees. I hate pine trees because you can't run barefoot in the yard. They have all those needles and they stab you in the foot and I take it personally."

Seriously, I take pine needle stabs personally? I have a personal vendetta against pine trees because they go out of their way to endanger my well being? Where do I get this stuff?

Currently listening : Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell By Social Distortion Release date: By 11 February, 1992

To All Women Considering Marriage

Last night we grilled out again. Grilling is a common theme in Daniel & Heather's summer enjoyment, so I wouldn't be surprised if you hear many stories about it this coming season. This time it wasn't steaks. This time it was a pork tenderloin and a hamburger, which we agreed that we would share because neither of us particularly wanted either one of them. However, when you're digging through the freezer and all you can find is ¼ lb of ground beef and a pork tenderloin and you look at the calendar and realize it's the day before grocery day, sometimes you just have to go with it. You can't be all that picky. Besides, we had enough meat to feed two people, which is probably better than about ¾ of the world population, so I wasn't feeling too oppressed by our options.

Based on the title of this blog and the content of the last blog, you are probably wondering to yourself, "What did he do now?" I will tell you. Oh, I will tell you.

Firstly, let me point out that I get home earlier than Daniel. Therefore, I start dinner before he arrives. If it's a particularly good day, it might even be finishing up as he gets home. This day was no different. I got home, got the meat out, made an effort at defrosting it, and decided to work on some potatoes to go with it (yes, the famous potatoes, once again). As I am working on this task, I open the cupboard door. What do I find?

Amongst the pasta, chips, coffee, canned fruit, cake mixes, crackers, pudding and jello mixes, and boxed potatoes (not nearly as good as the real thing, by the way) I find a bottle of Dayquil. Now I am no genius, but I grew up on Sesame Street and I just so happened to learn a little song that goes, "One of these things is not like the other ones; One of these things doesn't belong…." Right away this song starts tinging in my head. Seriously, why are the medical supplies in with the potatoes? Then I think back to when I had some sort of throat/chest plague a week and a half ago and I remember the difficulty I had in trying to locate the Dayquil. As I recall, I used it one day and never found it again. Oh, silly me! I didn't look next to the boxed potatoes. What was I thinking?

Daniel comes home from work as I am pondering the fate of my medical supplies and the importance of being able to locate Dayquil during a plague. I say to him, sweetly, "Honey, why is the Dayquil in the cupboard?"

He says, "It was in the kitchen one day". As though that completely explains how it ended up filed under 'P' for potato.

Now the wheels are turning. I am starting to figure it out. My guess is I took the Dayquil into the kitchen to locate some sort of measuring device to ensure that I did not overdose on this semi-potent substance and aggravate the plague even more. I probably then left the Dayquil sitting on the counter in anticipation of using it the next day. However, the next day it was living with the potatoes and I never saw it again. At this point I am starting to get frustrated. Because the Dayquil had gone AWOL, another bottle had to be purchased half way through the plague. But get this: Daniel went out and bought the new bottle because I was curled up in a ball on the sofa coughing my lungs out. Apparently it didn't occur to him as he was shopping for the new one that he had stashed the previous one in the kitchen cabinet.

I turn to him and say (maybe not as sweetly as before), "Honey, we have a medicine cabinet"
Daniel: "I know. This was in the kitchen."
Me: "But you know medicine goes in the medicine cabinet, right?"
Daniel: "But this was in the kitchen."
Me: "But we don't normally store it in the kitchen."
Daniel: "But it was in the kitchen."

Now I am getting really frustrated. Apparently Daniel has entered broken-record mode, and I cannot make any sense of the sentence he keeps repeating. Ok, so the Dayquil was in the kitchen. So what? Is it now a side dish? Would he like me to drizzle it over his pancakes like syrup?

I ask him, "Why didn't you put it in the medicine cabinet?"
Daniel: "Because I didn't get it out. You did. You didn't put it away."
Me: "There wouldn't have been anything to put away if I'd been able to find it. I was using it."
Daniel: "It was in the kitchen."

Oh, so we're back to that again. Apparently anything I am in the process of using now belongs in the kitchen cupboard. Which, in my opinion is overly unfair in this circumstance as I had the plague and was struggling just to eat my popsicles, let alone put away the Dayquil in between doses.

Me: (sweetness is fading fast) "Honey, I really needed this and I couldn't find it. You can't just put things wherever you happen to be standing when you don't want to look at them anymore."
Daniel: "I don't do that."

I resist the urge to fight this point with him, using the purse I found shoved between two board games in the closet last week as a prime example. I don't want to know why he happened to be holding my purse and standing in front of a stack of board games. I don't even want to speculate, so I continue to prepare food. I get the potatoes (the real ones, not the boxed ones) chopped up, I put them in foil, I add the necessary ingredients to make them truly irresistible. I pound the tenderloin flat with the meat-mallet-thingy. I shape the ground beef into a hamburger. Daniel starts the grill and takes the potatoes out. After ten minutes or so it is time to take the meat out, but Daniel hasn't got pants on. Again, I don't want to know why. He just doesn't. I say, "Put some pants on and put the meat on the grill". Does he comply? What do you think? So, as I have pants on, I put the meat on the grill. Ten minutes later he goes outside (with pants) and flips the meat over. Five minutes after that, he collects the meat and potatoes from the grill and brings them inside.

We eat. The meat is serviceable, the potatoes are marvelous.

Now keep in mind, this is what I did: I defrosted the meat, made the hamburger patty, smashed the tenderloin, chopped up the potatoes (probably the most time consuming of my tasks), flavored & seasoned them, and wrapped them up. I put all the food on a plate for Daniel to cook, and put the meat on the grill.

Daniel did this: lit the grill and put the potatoes on. Flipped over the meat once. Brought the meat inside.

As we finish dinner and bring our plates to the sink, Daniel says to me, "I know why you like to grill out so much."
Me: "Why's that?"
Daniel: "Because I do all the cooking."

Do I need to say more?

I love this man. I really do love this man. I am sitting here trying to think happy thoughts and remember all the good things he does…. fixing the bathtub, making me chocolate fondue and watching chick flicks with me on my birthday, mowing the yard, getting Starbucks with me every Sunday….. Some days are just harder than others, I guess.

Tonight I think we should eat dinner out.

Currently reading :
David Copperfield (Penguin Classics) By Charles Dickens Release date: By 28 December, 2004

New EP?! Seriously???

Oh, homeless J, of what is this you speak? You say you will release a new EP? You say true? You say this will happen in June? Forgive my doubts, oh symbol Fort Wayne's greatness, for I have been misled before. For, once upon a time, you spoke of releasing an album. I waited for your album and I felt much anticipation. And then I waited for your album and told myself to be patient. And then I waited for your album some more with a growing sense of worry. And then I gave up hope, letting despair consume me until I could accept that no such album would ever come to be and I moved on with my life.

And then, a few months later, I bought your album. You spoke true. And yet, I doubt again. So here I stand, like Thomas, waiting for you to show me the wound in your side, er, I mean the cover of your EP. Shall I continue to doubt? Shall I let despair overcome my heart? Nay! I say, bring it on, June 15th! Bring it on! I shall meet you headfirst, and my doubt shall be overcome, and I shall have a fancy new EP in my hand. And then I shall dance and exclaim my happiness and all shall be well.

Ever had one of those days when all you've actually taken into your body is an apple, a granola bar and water, yet you feel like you're on some sort of stimulant – like maybe a caffeine high, or, I don't know, crack? It's been one of those days.

Currently listening :
Three Seconds to Gaze By Homeless J Release date: By 02 May, 2006

The Grill Is On Fire!

So, we cooked steak tonight on the grill. And potatoes, too. Potatoes all chopped up and sealed in aluminum foil with butter and spices. Happiness is mine! But there was a bit of a mishap. I said the words no husband wants to hear tonight.

I said, "Honey, the grill is on fire."
To which Daniel replied, "well, yeah, it's a grill."
Me: "No, honey, the grill is on fire."
Daniel: "Yeah, well how do you think it cooks?"
Me: "No, the grill is ON FIRE!"

At this point Daniel finally decides a look out the window might be warranted. Indeed, flames are shooting up where flames should not be. What does he say?

Not, "OMG, the grill's right next to the garage."
Not, "OMG, the grill's right next to the neighbor's very wooden and therefore very flammable fence."
Not, "OMG, there's a propane tank attached to that."

No, none of the things that are concerning me come out of his mouth. What does he say? You really want to know? He says,


But really, what is a propane explosion induced garage fire in which both of your vehicles burn to crisps and the neighbor's fence goes up like a candle in comparison to burnt potatoes? Nothing, really. You see where his priorities lie.

This is almost as good as the Great Lifesaver Debate of 2005 (yes, it has earned proper noun status)

Picture us, if you will, in our living room, me with a bag of lifesavers in my lap. Here is what ensues:

Me: (takes lifesaver out of wrapper, pops it in mouth) suck, suck, chomp, chomp, suck, chomp

Daniel: (gives me a sideways glance)

Me: (takes another lifesaver out of wrapper, pops it in mouth) suck, slurp, sticks tongue through hole in lifesaver, suck, chomp, choooommmmp.

Daniel: (another sideways glance. this one is on the verge of being a dirty look)

Me: (takes yet another lifesaver out of wrapper, pops it in mouth) suck, suck, slurp, stick out my tongue and stare at it, suck, suck, slurp, chomp

Now it gets good:

Daniel: (another sideways glance, definately now in the territory of dirty looks)
You eat those like they were candy.

Me: Um, they are candy
Daniel: No, they're not.

This is what I live with, folks. Day in, day out. Lifesavers are not candy. Potatoes should not be burnt. Propane tanks that are attached to fires are not dangerous. Marriage is a whole different ballgame than I'd ever imagined.

Takeaway Story #2 ~ *Poverty Is Not A Family Value*

For more about Takeaway Stories, click here:

So, here goes another Takeaway Story...

Once upon a time, I used to work as a social worker, providing rental subsidies for families living in poverty. My job was to work with people on the waiting list - people waiting for news that they could get help with their rent and establish a stable place of residence with my (and the government's) assistance. So, basically I was working with a lot of people who were homeless or living on the kindness of friends and relatives and needed somewhere to live. After awhile, this kind of work wears on you. You stop caring that people are homeless. It's not that you've forgotten how terrible homelessness can be or that you're a mean, nasty person. It's just that you can't give your heart out to every person that calls you - if you did, you'd end up rocking in the corner repeating ridiculuous phrases or banging your head against a wall. You'd go crazy. Hearts simply can't go out as many places as we'd like them to. If they did, the pieces would be too small to do anything. So you become hard. It sucks, but it happens. You get to keep your heart, and your sanity, but you pay an awful cost. That heart that was so tender gets tougher and tougher just to keep it together until one day you realize that your whole reason for being there - that you were a person who cared and wanted to love people and make a difference - no longer exists. You're not that person anymore. You're just trying to get through the day without anyone screaming at you for too long, and when that is your main goal in life its hard to make much of a difference anywhere.

Anyhow, in my second year at this particular job, on this one particular day I held an intake briefing. Briefings were meetings that 25-35 people would come to and fill out paperwork for their file so I could determine their eligibility for assistance. I would review each needed form with a powerpoint slide while my clients filled in their information on the matching form in front of them. Usually at the end of the briefing a few people would stick around to ask questions and make sure their paperwork was filled out properly. At about every other briefing, someone would have a ridiculuous amount of questions and I would spend another hour working with them. I once gave a briefing in which there was a deaf couple who did not have an interpreter and did not alert me that they couldn't hear a word I was saying until after the meeting. Another time I had a woman come who could not speak English and didn't let me know until afterwards. So when a person sat there, looking like they wanted to ask questions with their forms almost completely blank at the end of a briefing, I usually felt like I wanted to scream, because I know something terrible was coming.

On this particular day, an elderly lady at the back of the room waited until everyone else left to ask me her questions. I went over to her and her forms were completely blank. I felt like screaming. I held my scream in and sat down with her. It didn't take me long to figure out that she couldn't read. She had to ask me what each question was, and then when she filled in her answers, she asked me spell about every third word she wrote. She could write letters - she just couldn't grasp words.

I sat with this woman for a long time - probably over an hour. Time came to leave for lunch and there I sat, spelling street names and reading questions and smiling and hoping I wasn't looking or acting irritated. When we finished with all of her forms, she handed them to me and started gathering up her things. She stopped and looked at me, and then she thanked me. She told me I was a sweet, kind girl, and so patient. She said she was sorry she took up my lunch, but that most people didn't take the time with her that I did, and she appreciated it. She told me that a girl like me would go far in life. And then she gathered up the rest of her things and left.

This is a takeaway story for two reasons. This is the first reason:

When I went back to my desk with all her paperwork, I sat in my chair and I cried like a baby. She said I was sweet. I was not sweet. She said I was kind. I was not kind. She said I was patient. But I was not. This woman told me I was going places in the world because of the kindness I had shown her, and all I could think about was how horrible my heart was - how cold and tired and impatient and worn out and just plain callous my heart was - how all the time she thought I was sweet, I was holding back a scream of frustration. And yet, somehow, I showed her a kindness that stood out to her. I thought of her gathering welfare and talking to caseworkers for food stamps, and I wondered how they had treated her. Not with kindness - no, I'm certain of that - otherwise my little, tired, tarnished bit of humanity would not have been such a treasure to her. I wondered how many times she had been overlooked or put down or treated like a no one - how many caseworkers had thought her stupid and let it show on their faces - how many job applications she couldn't fill out, and how everyday she lived with this. I thought of her age and wondered how easy it must've been to slip through the cracks and never learn to read when she was young. I wondered what had happened - if she had quit school to work and help her family or if there was simply no one who took the time to make sure she knew what she needed to know to get by. I thought of all this and sat at my desk and cried.

This is when I realized how ugly the whole situation it - not humanity, I don't think, but in each of us. I thought we were good. I thought we tried to love and succeeded, and that made us something beautiful. But it turns out, we're not good, even when we try to be. Even at our best, even when we're growing, there is still so much ugliness inside us. And when we love one another and make the world good, it is nothing short of a miracle. This is one of the experiences that taught me that I must look at that ugliness and embrace it and expose it to make it any better. I did not know I was unkind until the old woman told me I was kind - I did not know I was impatient until she thanked me for my patience. But when I saw it and I owned it and I let it tear me apart that this is what I was, something better was born. I still have ugliness in those places, and I have ugliness in other places too. I think of that song by the Exies - how it says we are dirt, we are alone, we are fake, we are afraid, we are liars, and we are ugly - and I feel okay. I feel okay because at least I know it now. At least I know what I am battling with and I have a chance to try to be better.

The second thing that makes this a takeaway for me is this:

This happened when I was a part of Overflo. I think it happened on a Tuesday or a Wednesday and Overflo met on Thursdays, so it was still pretty fresh for me when we met that week. That Thursday night I went to Overflo and poured out my heart. That is how my heart seems to come out... it doesn't trickle and it doesn't flow, it just pours in a torrent that I can't stop. But while I was lamenting and my heart was open and raw, Joe told me that we can't help everyone. This confused me. But as he spoke, it made more sense. He said that sometimes our hearts are moved, not so that we can help someone, but so that our hearts can change.

I think this moment changed things for me. Because I felt like there was finally a point. It was the first time I ever understood why Jesus said that there would always be poor among us. Its not always about the poor. Sometimes its about my heart. Not to say that we shouldn't help the poor. We should do what we can, but as a former social worker, I've come to see that we can only do so much. We do what we do, and even when our hearts are pure and our reach is big, we can't help everyone. We simply can't.

I believe that we grow into more or retreat into less in every choice we make and every action we take. When my heart was open and raw and it was all pouring out and I was crying at my desk like a child, I was growing into more. I was learning to love. Sometimes its hard to love when you can't do something that gets results. I think its actually the hardest love - sitting back and caring until it breaks you when you can't do a damn thing about the way things are. But it is the most selfless love - the love that grows our hearts the most. And sometimes, that's what its about.

P.S. Again, my Currently Reading ROCKS!
"There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal 'Once upon a

time'. Endings are heartless. Ending is just another word for goodbye."

Currently reading : The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, Book 7) By Stephen King Release date: By 29 August, 2006

Hey Nostradamus!

Just a quick warning... if you're feeling unkind today, or like you need to put somebody in their place or justify or explain something, just stop reading now. 'Cause what I'm about to write isn't wrong or mean, but it is hard to swallow... for me, anyways. And while I need to get it out, it's so freaking sensitive in me right now that I think if you poked at it, you'd probably really hurt me. And I would delete your mean comment and call you names. Just FYI...

I finished reading Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland a few weeks ago. Not to ruin the story for those of you who haven't read it, but it is about a high school massacre and the fallout on the lives of those it touched, right then and also several years later. It's an excellent piece of literature, and Coupland has this wonderful gift for making me think about my humanity and spirituality without seeming religious or weird. My assumption is that he is probably pretty freakin' cool.

The book hit me fairly hard, I think maybe because I was a senior in high school when the Columbine School Massacre occurred in April of 1999. I have all these little snapshots of it in my head - mostly they consist of sitting in Mr. Mertes' classroom and watching CNN. I can't remember if it was Government or Econ and probably by that point of my senior year, I no longer cared. But I do remember the images on the television a little too clearly for comfort. I remember hearing the stories of the teenagers who were killed - seeing some of their burials, hearing about how somber graduation was for the rest of them. And I remember hearing about Eric and Dylan - the things they'd written, videotaped, etc, etc... At some point I heard a rumor that the popular kids and jocks were their prime targets. I don't know if this is true or not, but I know that it held my attention when I heard it.

And... God, I don't know if I can write this, even eight years later...it makes me a monster... I never really blamed them - the gunmen, I mean - those boys shooting their peers and putting trench coats on the list of forbidden clothing for the next few years. I saw and I heard and I felt and I feared... and somehow I identified with them. Because I knew what it was like to be on the outside of everything - what they did with their guns I'd already done with my heart. I hurt and I hated. And when I heard the jocks were gunned down (true or not), my only thought for them was that maybe they shouldn't have been such assholes - maybe they got what they had coming all along. Was it too much to ask to be kind?

Probably I'm going to hell for this. If there is a hell. I don't know why I even wrote it, except that sometimes you have to get things out of you before the space they were in can heal It's like purging an infection, I guess. Some of you will read this and think I was a horrible person. But I wasn't. I was just hurt and tired and trapped and tormented. They say we all are in high school, but I think that's only half true. I think there really are some of us who make it through relatively unscathed and some of us who barely survive. And what those boys did was really no different than what their peers did to them - they exerted their power to hurt them in the way they could. And maybe you're thinking, 'but those Jocks never killed anyone,' but I'd say you're wrong. How many suicides have nothing to do with feeling hopeless and hated and unloved? How many eating disorders come from nowhere? How many of us shut down from rejection after rejection when kindness really isn't that hard? Acceptance really isn't that hard, is it? If you knew your life was on the line, would that change who you're kind to? If you knew your soul was on the line? If you knew that who you're kind and unkind to now would change the person you will become?

Look, it's been eight years (or, actually, seven years, 355 days). I'm still learning to trust and be kind to those who so easily slip into the mainstream without a bit of resistance or thought about it either way. Trust is hard, because scars fade so slowly. Kindness is easier in coming, most of the time. I think this is because kindness is a verb I choose to put into motion while trust is more of a noun for me - something I might stumble over or that might be bestowed on me. Either way, I think I am doing better. I don't feel much about Columbine right now except revulsion that I still can't identify with the victims - that while I don't think Eric & Dylan should have shot anyone - Dear God, I've NEVER thought that - I still identify more with the way a wounded animal bites than I do with the massacre's dead. And I wonder if I will always be this way.

Currently listening : Not Too Late By Norah Jones Release date: By 30 January, 2007

Takeaway Story #1 ~ *Makeshift Bowl Helmets and the Popcorn Ceiling Constellations*

For more on Takeaway Stories, click here:

Takeaway story #1

Once upon a time, my friend Curt used to live at his grandparent's house. He lived there and paid the utilities and kept up the house while they were away in South Bend, IN, which was most of the time. Curt's grandparents have a high living room ceiling with sparkly, 'popcorn' texture, much like my own parents' living room.

One night when Daniel and I went to Curt's, Daniel fell asleep (surprise, surprise) while Curt and I stayed up talking. Somehow, for reasons that elude me, we decided to gather up two flashlights and two large bowls. We laid on the living room floor with the bowls on our heads like helmets and all the lights off. We shone our flashlights at the ceiling and pretended we were astronauts, inventing constellations with the sparkly points of light.

I love that moment because we didn't have to be anything in particular, and I think not having to be anything makes us more of what we actually are. It was just Curt and I in our makeshift bowl helmets, staring up at the popcorn ceiling constellations - just being and letting each other be.

For a moment we were like children with an innocent childhood friendship. We forgot about the pain and rejection that drew us together - the doubts and the questions that troubled our souls. We were just us, having fun like any other children in the world. It was nice.
This is one of the things I would tell you as my soul left my body, trying to recount the moments that mattered. This is what it's like to be alive.

P.S. Again... my 'Currently Reading' selection rocks. Favorite quote?
" '...sad to see a man's faith fail,' the vampire Kurt Barlow had said,
and then he'd plucked Don Callahan's dark and useless cross from
his hand. Why had he been able to do that? Because - behold the
paradox, consider the riddle - Father Callahan had failed to throw
the cross away himself. Because he had failed to accept that the
cross was nothing but one symbol of a far greater power..."

Currently reading : Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) By Stephen King Release date: By 23 May, 2006

What's Your Takeaway?

"… I want you to tell me something first: after you're dead and buried and floating around whatever place we go to, what's going to be your best memory of earth?"
"What do you mean? I don't get it."
"What one moment for you defines what it's like to be alive on this planet? What's your takeaway?"

~ Douglas Coupland, Generation X
We've been telling takeaway stories at Curt's house on Tuesday nights lately. 'Who is we?' you ask. Well, Curt and I, for starters. Then pretty much just whoever happens to show up. Often Jeana is there. Oh, and before Jason left he was there frequently too. And then there are Michelle and Matt and Becky. It just kind of depends. It seems that more people have started showing up on Tuesday nights, so it stands to reason that we will hear more people's takeaway stories soon...

Anyhow, if I'm going to go on any further about these takeaway stories, I should probably do something in the way of explaining exactly what I mean, should I not? Based on the above passage from Generation X, Curt and I thought it would be cool to figure out what our takeaway stories are. But we also thought that maybe everybody doesn't have just one takeaway story. We thought that most people probably have lots of little moments that have touched or shaped them in some way and are significant to them. So we modified the concept a bit and went with it.

Basically, for us, a takeaway story is any story that has marked you. It can be the most seemingly insignificant moment of all of history, but if it marked you, it is yours to own. Takeaway stories are about the moments we know we are alive - the moments when we see a part of ourselves for the first time or have a great triumph - the moments when things change just a little bit forever - the moments when we are just being and we feel alive and infinate - the moments when we love and when we know we are loved, and the moments when we realize what sorrow is. Pretty broad, huh? But like I said, they're basically stories about moments that marked you.

Why bother to tell our stories? We started telling them sort of on a lark - mostly because we love the art of storytelling and it seemed like an interesting way to pass the time. But then something happened. We started discovering moments that have been there all along that we never realized were so significant to us. And while this was very cool, we started seeing something else too. We started seeing that telling our stories allowed us to know and be known. It allowed us to come to know one another and value what we have become and are becoming. There is something about this storytelling that is very connective to me. I suppose that being a storyteller inherently involves being vulnerable. You are allowing yourself to be known - not only by the content of your story but by the way it is told. What is said, how it is said, what is not said - these all give insight into who a storyteller is, even if he or she is telling a story that is not their own. Every storyteller brings what he or she is into every story. I don't know why or how this is true, but I know that it is. I suspect that it can't be helped - that it is a sort of natural order of things - that as light shines through stained glass and colors everything it hits, our souls somehow shine through us and color the tales we spin. It has been amazing hearing my friends' takeaway stories because it has allowed me to see their hearts in ways I never could have seen them before, and because of this I am coming to know them and to love them in unimaginable ways. It has been good for my heart, and I think it has been quite good for my community.

Anyhow, I thought it might be fun and insightful to post my takeaway stories from time to time. I figured that explaining what they are ahead of time might help with understanding them. So you might soon start seeing blogs titled "Takeaway Story # X" and then some random story title. This is your heads up for that.

Oh, and we do have a few rules we use for takeaway stories, just in case anyone was curious. They are:

1. Takeaway stories start with "This one time" or "Once upon a time" 'Why?' you ask. It sounded good at the time...
2. No rude interruptions.
3. No making fun of anybody's story - as a whole or in any part.
4. No discounting / devaluing your own story (for example, before you start your story you say, 'well, this is kind of a dumb story, but...' This is against the rules. Any moment that marked you and helped make you what you are is a worthwhile story. Period.)

That's all for now!

P.S. Check my 'Currently Reading'. Wizard and Glass may very well be my all time favorite book. I love it! My current favorite quote from it is:

"Tell him he's wrong. Tell him that even if he's right about waiting, he's right for the wrong reasons, and that makes him all the way wrong."

Pulp fiction, my @ss!

Currently reading :
Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, Book 4) By Stephen King Release date: By 07 October, 2003

my heart is heavy

my heart is heavy (part I, focus on the family)

so... i got a response back from focus on the family...

if you don't know the back story, i recently sent them a letter and expressed some concerns about the content of some of the mailings i had recived and asked to be removed from their mailing lists. the concerns i listed were:

1. in one letter from dr. dobson requesting a donation, he referred to the judges in our country as 'imperialistic, unaccountable, and liberal' and stated that they were responsible for the threatening state of our society today. i felt like that was slightly slanderous and i kind of don't think Jesus would resort to name calling for the sake of fundraising

2. in the same letter he thanked those who voted for doing their 'duty as God fearing citizens' and noted that if we didn't vote we should reconsider our position and vote in the next election. my concern was that it seemed somewhat arrogant to assume that we would all know exactly how to vote and vote in a manner that dr. dobson would agree with. i pointed out that there are a good deal of issues that our generation is concerned with that can make it difficult to know who to vote for.

3. i expressed that it is difficult for me to bring my homosexual friends into the arms of God because they have been put off by organizations like focus on the family that claim the love of God but make public statements that are beyond hurtful and reaching into just plain mean.

i will post my focus on the family letter in my next blog, if you care to read it in it's entirity. i felt i was diplomatic. i tried very hard to be diplomatic, anyway, which can be difficult when one feels strongly about the issues at hand.

anyhow... i got a response... and basically, they skirted around the issues at hand, sent me a few brochures to 'enlighten' me as to how christians should respond to 'pro-gay theology' (whatever that means... and while we're at it, should i assume that the use of this ridiculous term means that their theology is 'anti-gay' ? 'cause that's kind of how i feel at this point.), and reccomended that i visit a few web sites that could further explain their views on political matters.

i suppose i am not really surprised at all. i didn't really expect a response at all, to be honest, and i thought that if they did respond, it might be kind of like this. but i guess somewhere deep down i harbored a hope that someone might engage in a meaningful dialogue with me and either help me really understand what in the world is going on over there and where their hearts are really at and what makes them say the things they say and if i might be seriously misunderstanding something... or seriously do some organizational self examination in relationship to who Jesus says He is before just sending me a rote answer and a list of resources. it is disappointing, to say the least.

ah, but this is getting long.... i will tell you more about my heart in a moment...

my heart is heavy (part II - my heart)

so, anyway... i've been reading through the gospels lately to get a feel for Jesus' character. maybe that sounds weird. i don't know. but i really feel like i need to get to know Him as a person, not just as this huge religious figure whose every word should be dissected. it just wasn't working out for me that way. this has been going on since october-ish.

the things i am finding in Jesus' character make me actually like Him. not because i 'should' like Him, but because He's actually pretty cool. He's a total smart ass to the pharisees and He goes around breaking rules to prove His point that the love of God is really the point and you gotta do what you gotta do to spread that love around. and He cares about people. i mean really cares about peopl - he hurts for people. and sometimes, when the disciples and everybody else around Him just don't get it, yet again, i can almost hear the tired sigh in His voice. and i wonder how that must have hurt... to have everyone around Him and yet no one really understanding Him... and i see Jesus being a storyteller, too. and i see Him loving people and making people think about the answers to the questions they have and empowering people and living in community and when i see all this i just wonder... maybe Jesus is a tuesday night Jesus. maybe He would sit there with us on tuesday nights and drink a beer and listen to our stories and tell us His stories and really care about our hurts and our joys. maybe He would call us out on our ugly stuff and rejoice over the beauty in us and really do everything in His power to make us see that God loves us and is good.

and i really, really like that Jesus. i think i am falling in love with that Jesus.

but then i look at the things i've received from focus on the family, and some of the things i've experienced in the church, and i don't see that Jesus. when i look at these things, i see a Jesus who will say mean, spiteful things to prove a point rather than speak the truth in love. i see a Jesus who wants to fundraise and who wants everyone to look and act and think like a conservative republican and doesn't care that we all have unique ways in which we love Him. i see a Jesus who is more concerned about the law than He is about the poor and the broken and the addicted and the desperate. i see a Jesus who hates ambiguity and ignores it whenever possible and when its not possible, uses cliches like they were going out of style to explain away our doubts. i see a Jesus who doesn't want to see the truth of despair in us and doesn't want to hear us lament our pain and confusion. i see a Jesus who demands that we meet His every standard all at once rather than one who wants to walk our journeys with us and let us follow Him to God at the pace we can handle - even if we're crawling or backpedaling. i see a Jesus who cares more about being right than He does about being Love.

and i do not like this Jesus. i do not like Him at all.

so you might say that i should just love the Jesus i see and leave it at that. but here's the thing...

focus on the family... and the bad experiences i've had in the church... i think they happen because of the filter someone's looked at Jesus through... like someone wants to see Jesus a certain way because its safe or because it validates something they want, or because they just plain want to be right, and so they mold their Jesus to look like what they want Him to be. they look through their filter and decide that Jesus is whatever would make a good God to suit their purpose. but i know...

*and this is what makes it so terrible and makes my heart so heavy*...

that i have filters, too. really, anyone can see Jesus however they like. and they can even believe that their Jesus is the real one without any qualms... because we all have filters that we see the world - and Jesus - through.

so how do i know that i even know Jesus? how do i know that it's not just me, making Him what i want Him to be - interpreting the gospels so they tell the story i want them to tell? i know that i want to know Him for what He really is... if only because i know in my heart that i want to know my friends like Curt and Sarah for what they really are and not just what would make me feel good... if i want to know them like that, maybe my desire to know Jesus like that can be pure too. but even if my desire is pure... what if i am wrong and focus on the family is right?

and what if i am wrong all my life and i fall all the way into love with a Jesus that isn't real? and then what will happen to my heart when i die and stand before God and i find out its all been a sham? maybe he will cast me into hell - if there is a hell as we understand it, which i have my doubts about - and maybe that would be right, for making Jesus just some conglomerate of my own desires. but the prospect of hell pales in comparison to the prospect of how my heart will break if the Jesus i have come to love is not, in fact, Jesus at all. i don't care - cast me into hell - but don't let me be so blind that i have made a man who isn't - that i have made myself into my own god and given it Jesus' name. because i really don't believe that any hell could compare to the state of my heart if i found out that i have done this and Jesus is not all those things i am coming to be in love with.. or if i found out that God is not good after all or that God is good and all along what i've believed to be beautiful in Him is an ugly lie... it wouldn't matter then anyway. i wouldn't be able to see hell. because when your heart is shattered the way mine would be you can't see anything else.

my heart is heavy (part III - the letter)

so here it is... my letter to focus on the family, for anyone who wants to read. this is a somewhat, er, filtered and diplomatic version of what sits heavily on my heart... to those of you who know me, i have not gone soft or lost that blaze of passion that some of you love but drives some of you crazy, but as Roland might say, the time for the fist had passed and the time for the open hand had come. here goes...

Dear Focus on the Family,
My name is XXXXXXX XXXXX. I am a 25 year old young woman living in Midwest America. I am writing to you today because I have finally come to a point where I feel that I have to speak, even if my voice may not be heard. I don't know if anyone will read this or not. But if you have read this far, I implore you to read a bit further, because I feel that I represent a good portion of my generation in what I have to say, and I feel that it is important for a young generation's voice to be heard, as it is the voice of the future.

My parents have received Focus on the Family magazine for as long as I can remember. Naturally, when I became an adult and established my own residence, I started to receive it. At one point I made a donation to go toward putting ultrasound machines in hope centers (or something akin to hope centers- I don't know the exact terminology that you use for your crisis pregnancy centers. In my town they are called hope centers). Since that time I have received a large volume of mail requesting donations. I completely understand this. In fact, my job is to raise money for a non-for-profit group and I understand the wisdom in asking for money from people who have given before. I do not mind the solicitation in and of itself. However, in the past few years, the letters that accompany these requests have become more and more disturbing to me as I consider the state of the world in relationship to who the Bible tells me God is.
Specifically, several of these letters have seemed downright slanderous to certain political leaders and political parties. As an example, I offer a quote from the most recent letter I received, signed by James Dobson:

"Indeed, the unelected, unaccountable and imperialistic liberal judges in this country are responsible for the threatening situation that is assaulting the institution of marriage."

Are the judges unelected? Yes. Are they unaccountable, imperialistic liberals who are responsible for the 'threatening' state of the world today? Perhaps. But it seems to me that a statement like this is designed to provoke negative feelings in the hopes of securing funds for positive changes. I do not feel good about this at all. It feels like slinging accusations. I really don't think that the Jesus I know would sling accusations for the sake of fundraising. I don't think He would even sling accusations in the hopes of good coming of it. It just doesn't seem like His character. I think the Jesus I know would be far more interested in meeting these judges and learning about their stories and building relationships with them and then bringing positive changes out of that. I admit that I could be way off base and I understand that politics is not as simple as making a friend of someone and then going from there. I do believe that we have a responsibility to take action on issues that are important to God's mission. I'm just not convinced that this is the way to go about it.

Secondly, I know I am not alone when I say that I feel like Focus on the Family is on a political crusade with a republican agenda. I'm sorry – I know that statement sounds a bit harsh. I am not sure how to phrase it so that I say what I mean otherwise. Please forgive my literary clumsiness and know that I mean well. I offer another example from Dr. Dobson's recent mailing:

"If you voted in this election, thank you for doing your duty as a God-fearing citizen. If you did not, then I ask you to search your conscience and determine to participate next time."

I had difficultly knowing what exactly to make of this statement. It seems to be implied that as a God-fearing citizen it should be obvious whom I should vote for and that I should be eager to cast this vote without a second thought. This is part of what I want to say that I feel is so critical to understanding many individuals of my generation. Frankly, many of us are confused about who we should vote for. Most of my peers find themselves unable to focus on one issue and vote according to it. We find multiple worthy causes represented by multiple political leaders across a number of political parties. Certainly it is important to represent the issues important to God. But which issues should we choose? Family and faith issues are important to us. However, social issues weigh heavily on us, as do environmental issues. We don't know whether to vote for the politician who promises to stand against abortion or the politician who promises to house the homeless and increase the odds of self-sufficiency through more and better jobs. We don't know whether to worry about the war in Iraq or how long the planet will continue to withstand our abuse. To assume that it should be obvious where we should cast our votes is to discount the myriad of issues concerning my generation. I would love to have the 10 commandments in my courtrooms. I would also love to know that because of where I cast my vote, someone had a place to sleep tonight. Of course, if Christians took it upon themselves to provide for the poor as we have been instructed to do, we might not have a need for government social programs. But that is another issue for another day.

I know that I speak for many when I say that statements like the one quoted above feel like an insult to our ability to consider multiple issues, and sound like advertisements for the Republican Party. And if there is one thing my generation is coming to realize, it is that God does not endorse political parties. The Jesus that I know stayed out of political matters and focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to everyone. He was not a republican because He was not a politician. God endorses holiness. If you look closely, you will find holiness in a variety of parties. I would encourage Focus on the Family to carefully consider all of the political issues that God cares about – from poverty to marriage – when distributing press or marketing materials regarding elections. I believe that a view including all of the issues we care about would be more readily received from my generation. That is not to say that I do not wish for you to make a decision on your political stance. It is to say that I would like to see that decision processed while including more of what is near and dear to God's heart than just what you seem to have fixed your eye on at this time.

Lastly, I feel strongly that I need to address the issue of homosexuality. In an effort to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage, many of the publications I receive from Focus on the Family seem to attack homosexuals. In referring to their relationships as "so called 'same-sex unions'" (again, from the most recent letter I received), it seems to be implied that homosexuals and the feelings and relationships they have are somehow less important than heterosexuals. Again, this is not the language of the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know would not issue statements that scoff at these people or their relationships. The Jesus I know would get to know them and their stories and bring the Kingdom of Heaven to them.

I think I can understand Focus on the Family's increasingly negative statements regarding homosexuality. After all, your focus is on the family and the issue of gay marriage stands to change the definition of family as we understand it. However, what seems like a portrayal of homosexuals and lawmakers as tirades intent on attacking the institution of marriage is not going over well with many in my generation. Of my peers, nearly every one of us is either a) homosexual, b) a relative of a homosexual, or c) a close friend of a homosexual. It has become increasingly difficult to read Focus on the Family publications that address the issue of homosexuality without cringing at the realization that what is being portrayed bears little to no resemblance to the homosexuals whom we live and work with every day. I do not know any homosexuals who are intent on destroying the family. I just know homosexuals who want to be loved and accepted like everybody else. I do not believe that lawmakers who act on their behalf are intent on destroying the family either. I think these lawmakers see the pain of homosexuals and wish to relieve it in whatever way possible. I don't know if this is true, but I think it is certainly a possibility. I am not saying that this is right or wrong. I am only saying that perhaps their intentions should be more carefully considered before they are slandered. I know many people who would be far more receptive to the statement, "We believe that lawmakers who wish to relieve the injustice felt by homosexuals have been led astray," than to the first statement I quoted in this letter. Even if I didn't agree with it, I might at least be able to read on without a sick feeling in my stomach.

In expressing my frustrations to a close friend of mine, I recently said (in reference to Focus on the Family), "If they put half the effort into loving homosexuals as they did into their political agendas against them, maybe I wouldn't get so angry". I would love to see this love expressed by Focus on the Family. I am so disappointed that I do not. I think sometimes we get so concerned with the issue and who is right or wrong that we lose sight of the love God commanded us to show to the world. I would really love to see this love supercede the notions of rightness or wrongness in your organization. Jesus did not tell us, "Make sure your neighbor knows that you are right". He told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. After all, even if you are correct in deeming homosexuals wrong, what good does that do us? It doesn't make these individuals any less gay and it certainly doesn't make God any more appealing to them. It just makes you right. I am tired of being right at the cost of not being able to bring my homosexual friends into the arms of God because they have been so put off by the things they have heard from Christian organizations like yours. I know that we have been commanded to speak the truth and that you are doing this as you see fit. However, we have been commanded to speak the truth in love. It's the in love part that I have had trouble seeing in your recent media.
Please understand that I am not attacking your notion of homosexuality as wrong in God's eyes. I don't know whether it is wrong in God's eyes or not. This is an issue that I am learning about and exploring in every way possible – including through prayer and careful consideration of Biblical teachings – and I have not come to a place where I am comfortable making a declaration of belief. I respect that you have considered this issue and have come to a conclusion. It is the way this belief has been represented in so many letters and publications I have received that makes me question whether you are speaking the truth in love. I would encourage Focus on the Family to carefully consider whether the way your message is portrayed estranges people whom we should be drawing into the arms of God.

If you have read this far, I thank you. I apologize if I have offended anybody or hurt any feelings. I do feel though, just as you clearly do, that when I see something that strikes me as being ungodly, that I have a responsibility to bring the issue to the table. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do so.

I am more than open to the possibility of exploring these issues further. I understand that I do not have the whole handle on truth and that many issues in my life might take on a different hue when viewed from an organizational perspective. If anyone from your organization would like to contact me for the purpose of examining these issues and the role that Focus on the Family plays in the public eye, I can be contacted through the following mediums:

Home address:
### XXXXXX Ave.
Fort Wayne, IN
Home phone:
(###) ###-####


Otherwise, I would prefer not to receive further correspondence from your organization. I respectfully request to be removed from all Focus on the Family mailing lists at this time.
Thank you for your time and patience.