March 22, 2013

There is nothing “Second” about it

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 12:41 pm by openendedcomment

I know not everyone who reads my blog agrees with me on this issue. OK. But for those that do and for those that aren’t totally sure about the entirety of the issues at hand, this is an amazing video to watch, listen…really actually listen to…and share.

This young man had heard that many opposing same-sex marriage often state the “sanctity” of a biological mother and father in the home is the ideal family. Now, I have my own very personal reasons for calling BS on this. Namely the fact that my ex-husband, my daughter’s biological father, tried to kill me (as in with his hands, not by being a run-of-the-mill jerk) and has had no interest in my daughter for eleven of her thirteen years of life.  Her dad, my husband, has been her dad since she was five and is absolutely better for her and with her than her biological father.  There is also the case of my step-sons, whose biological mother…well…I’d better not. Suffice to say she is not much better.

Anyway, I digress. Some of these “pro-family” types have been running around stating that adoption is a “second-rate” family. Biological is always best. This ticked off the amazing young man in this video. You see, he is adopted. By his dads, who love him unconditionally and are doing their best to raise a good man. You know…like parents do. He took it upon himself to pen a letter to Justice Roberts and his parents, impressed, posted this video to their blog. Which is also pretty awesome.

Watch it. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that regardless of your personal beliefs on the issue, there isn’t one damn thing about this young man that is “Second” rate.

March 19, 2013

A departure.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:19 am by openendedcomment

A new Pope was installed today.  As a woman who was raised as Catholic, this should be an important day for me.  It should be a day to embrace my faith and feel more connected to my church and to God.  I know this intellectually but emotionally and spiritually, I feel only confusion…detachment and sorrow.  I want to believe and I do believe in God and in the basics but in the church itself…in and for that I feel only loss.

This Pope embraces care of the poorest among us, he is a scientist and a Jesuit.  He believes in furthering education and humility.  These  are all wonderful things.  He spoke of and has acted on purging the church of the sins of its leaders.  That is a good thing too, and high time.  Today he spoke of love.  Love for those who most need it and love for those who least deserve it.  That is exactly what I have waited for the church to speak of and to act upon.  I ought to be eleated…but I am not.  I am not because though he spoke of love he remains firmly rooted in the archaic notions of women’s role being minimal at best and in women having no place in the church’s leadership.  He is traditional (in the sense of the church) in his stance on reproductive rights and even birth control.  Perhaps hardest for me is that he, together with the church’s leadership, remain resolute in their opinions and teachings on homosexuality.

I can’t agree.  I can understand that these are the church’s teachings, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why.  I’m not talking about other religions who may agree with the Catholic Church on some of these social justice lines, frankly, that isn’t what I’m concerned with.  I am selfishly concerned with my religion and the church I was raised in and more specifically with how on earth I can justify raising my own children as Catholics today.

I’ve asked.  I’ve spoken to priests and to very devout friends.  They’ve all given me the exact same BS lines and quoted the exact same scripture at me what seems like thousands of times.  No matter how often I hear it, I know it is not true.  I know it isn’t true.  The scripture they quote can easily be refuted with another verse in another chapter.  Besides, I do not and have not ever taken the Bible literally.  How can I?  How could anyone with an analytical and developed mind?  Knowing the Bible has been written and rewritten for political purposes over a millennium with entire sections removed and added for various reasons…knowing that the original disciples, the original priests and leaders of the church were allowed to marry and that women did have a larger role in the church for centuries until someone decided they didn’t…how could I?  And this is just the New Testament.  The Old Testament is clearly up for interpretation.  Please, please don’t comment on this part with any “Adam and Eve” stuff here.  I mean, really.  If Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, how did Cain and Abel procreate without committing incest?  If you truly belive that “traditional” marriage is between one man and one woman because “the Bible says so” then please explain why half of the Old Testament had numerous wives. If we’re going straight “traditional” as our guide, then Cody and the Sister Wives are our model and…well…please let’s not agree on that, OK?  And why and how on earth is it that the exact same scripture used to justify this hatred was used to justify laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages?  Look it up.  Exact. Same. Scripture.  Frankly, I’m offended.  I believe that God is offended.  The Bible and God’s teachings are those of love.  To use bits and pieces to promote hate is antithetical to Christianity and it makes me sick.  Further, if abortion and birth control are so wrong, why did the church assist with birth control (granted it was rather crude in form, but still happened) for women for centuries right up until the nineteenth when it became a social issue?  C’mon people…get some new material.

I want to raise my children with religion.  I want them to have the peace and knowledge that I do, that there is a God and there was a Son.  That their conscience is more than a conscience and that the traditions of communion and confession are important and true.  That said, I will raise good people.  I will raise children that believe in forgiveness over judgement.  People that understand tolerance and justice on a far deeper level than they know bigotry and hate.  I want to provide the world with four individuals who know how to question and think for themselves while rooted in firm and unshakeable values…and knowing what I know and hearing what I have heard from this place I used to find such comfort, I no longer know how to provide that for them.

And I need to.

They miss the ceremony and the tradition.  Sometimes I do, too.  We walked out of a mass several months ago when a deacon took to the pulpit and eschewed hatred and judgement for many that I love and millions who should find comfort rather than persecution in the arms of God.  I took one look at my four babies and knew in that instant I could not allow them to hear such things.  That even though I had always explained our family’s feelings on the issues after a mass, that by having them exposed in any form to such outrageous statements while telling them to “believe” was inexcusable as a parent.  So we walked.  It’s been bothering me ever since and today, of all days, I miss my church.  In writing this I can understand that I miss the idea of my church…of what I thought it to be for so many years.  I miss the comfort I found as I kneeled and prayed, enveloped by a sense of tradition and the teachings of Christ that I had chosen to acknowledge…of redemption and of love and of charity and peace.  New beginnings and eternal life.  I know that I will never go back, not the way I once was.  I don’t know what I am anymore, clearly not Catholic.  Not really.  To continue to identify as one seems unfair to those that actually are and a departure from what I know in my heart to be right.  I know that for my children I will have to find something different.  A compromise of what I know to be true and what I believe they need in their lives.  I will likely always cross myself and carry my rosary.  I will never waver from fish on Fridays.  As a family, we will still pray before dinner and still say the Hail Mary at the graves of those we love and lost.  I will find something new, someday.  In the meantime, for the church of my childhood and my grandparents, I will pray.  I will go again to the Basilica of Saint Mary and I will kneel before Our Mother and light a candle the way I have hundreds if not thousands of times before.  I will quietly ask that she bless me on this journey, secure in the knowledge I gained at the feet of Father Milano, that no matter what I am taught or told in my life and regardless of by whom, if I take the Spirit as my guide and listen in reflection to the truth of my conscience, I will be on the right path.

And for today, at this moment of what may be great change but still not great enough, my path is away.

October 30, 2012

Your Vote.

Posted in Life Lessons tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:04 pm by openendedcomment

I am a Catholic Republican and that is why I will Vote No on the ballot initiative limiting the definition of marriage in Minnesota as one man and one woman.  Please allow me to explain.  To be clear, I am more of a  Republican-leaning Independent than straight line Republican and I do not agree with every single line of the Republican platform, case in point, but in general I’m more right than left and it is fair to categorize me as a conservative.  I believe in the rights of the individual.  I believe that the government needs to limit its role in the lives of our citizens.  I believe in the separation of Church and State.  I also believe that the money spent on this insane campaign (in my mind it is insane to argue amending the State Constitution based on fear-mongering to allow for legislated prejudice) would and should be better spent re-educating out of work Minnesotans, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I am a Catholic.  I do not believe in every line of Catholic doctrine, but I believe strongly that it is the leaders of the Church and not the Religion that is against same-sex marriage.  Further, even if I did agree with the Church’s stance on this issue, because of my belief in the separation of Church and State I would still be compelled to vote No.  Further still, as a Catholic I am compelled to vote my conscience. That is part of the Catholic doctrine and it is clear that regardless of the stance of the Church as a Catholic your conscience, the holy spirit within, is paramount to all else.  My conscience has no room for doubt on this issue.  Many Priests, Nuns and Catholic leaders agree with me.  Limiting love and legislating prejudice thereby limiting progress and unity, in my mind and in my heart,  is wrong on every level.  My conscience also tells me that the funds of the church could and should also be better spent re-educating out of work Catholics, funding school programs or feeding and clothing those in need.

I feel the need to state these things because it appears as of late that many people assume that because I do vote Republican more often than not and because I do cross myself before prayer and at my son’s games that I am somehow automatically in the “Yes” column.  I’m not.  I can be a conservative who believes in equal rights.  I can be a religious person who feels bigotry is wrong.

And I am.   And I’m writing this to all of you who are Republican and/or Religious.  I’m writing in the hopes that you’ll examine your conscience.  That you will pause before you enter that voting booth be it in Minnesota or any other state with similar legislation pending.  I ask that you think about it, no matter what the lawn sign on your yard may say or what your friends may think you feel.  Consider seriously if this is something you agree with because your party or your preacher told you to or if in your heart and in your mind with utter clarity you feel it is right and good and legal to limit the rights of others simply because it isn’t your personal preference.  I ask you to answer not to your congregation or social circle, I know the pressure they can bring, but answer only yourself and your moral code.  You are the only person in that booth.  Your vote is your own as is your legacy.  Please, on November sixth, be sure it is one you will be right with in the decades to come.

One last thing and it’s something I’ve never done on here before nor do I anticipte ever doing again.  I’m going to ask you to share this.  Add to it, comment, whatever…but get the conversation out there.  There are only a few days left and the margin on this is razor thin.  If you aren’t inclined to share this exact post then please, find something else that hits closer to home for you and put that out there.  This is a big deal.  These are people’s lives we are voting on.  There are no higher stakes.

September 11, 2012

The Best Atheist Christian I Know.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 pm by openendedcomment

My best friend is an Atheist.  She also happens to be the most Christian woman I have ever known.  She may not believe in Christ, but she lives her life to the ideals of a Christian better than any Sunday services attending, Wednesday FEP teaching and “I’ll pray for you” type walking this earth.  That may be an exaggeration, better to say she does this better than any of the afore-mentioned type I’ve ever met.

She and I have had countless discussions regarding religion.  I am Catholic and I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I pray to the Virgin Mary.  I pray to St. Jude and to St. Christopher.  I light candles at the Basillica of Saint Mary when my life feels unmanageable or when I’m simply sad…or grateful…or both.  I was there for hours exactly eleven years ago today.  I carry a rosary with me and I make confession.  I also happen to be fiercely pro-choice and pro-marriage equality.  Being Catholic does not deter from that.  It actually encourages it…but that’s another post entirely.  I do not attend mass regularly because I feel that God and I have a relationship that transcends a building.  I have raised my children to believe in God but to make their own decisions regarding what they feel is right and wrong and to not identify with one religion merely because their father and I have chosen to do so.  I encourage them to explore other religions and they know…clearly…that just because a Hindu or Muslim or Jew or even an Atheist or Agnostic heck even Wiccan do not believe what they believe or even worship the same God(s) that they do, they are not worse or lesser or even wrong…merely different.  I have encouraged them to accept that as long as someone is a good person and leads a good life that they too are worthy and deserving of respect.  I believe that all afore-mentioned will be rewarded for a life well led when this life has passed.  I have encouraged my children to attend services for many other religions,  I think it’s good for them.  My Mom and Dad did the same for me.  My Mother, who sent me to Catholic school and then pulled me out when they began telling me she and my Dad were wrong for being divorced and that everyone who had an abortion was going to hell, is agnostic.  She encouraged me to do exactly what I am now doing for my children.  I am telling you all of this to explain why and how Glitter and I are best friends regardless of, despite and perhaps even because of my beliefs and hers and why beliefs that seem so very different are actually almost the same.

She doesn’t “do” religion.  She is adamant in her stance that all of the world’s wars and evils, including the one we remember today, are rooted in religion.  She has a serious point on this one.  She and I are in agreement that religious groups wield far too much power in politics.  She has said that when someone she loves dies that God is not with her, God does not decide or guide, people do.  She knows, in her heart, that when she is crushed emotionally and her soul is aching that God does not hold her, her husband does.  She and I do not agree on that.  Not that he doesn’t hold her, I know him and he’s pretty great.  I am sure he does hold her…but I think God is there, too.  And that’s OK.  We respect our respective beliefs and non-beliefs.  We are able to have long, long discussions without ever offending each other.  And that is a gift.  A gift of friendship and love and trust.  It is not the only gift she has given.

She does not judge.  Ever.  Don’t get me wrong, she does express her opinion.  Loudly and occasionally laced with obscenities, but she does not judge.  She listens, she gives sound advice and she is a person literally hundreds of people would and do turn to in order to unload their souls.  They know she is a safe person to do this with as she will never and has never thought less of them for it.

She forgives.  My God that woman forgives.  She forgives everything; things that most people could never fathom ever moving on from, she has forgiven in others.  That is not to say she is a pushover.  She will keep it in the back of her mind, learn from it and approach the person and situation differently the next time as a result but she has no, not once in her life when an apology has been given with sincerity (and at times when none was even uttered) failed to offer forgiveness and welcome friendship back with open arms.  She feels that to allow anger or resentment to remain in her life is to poison herself and she values herself too much to allow for that kind of crap.

She does better.  She is a flawed and faulted human being who admits to her faults, scrutinizes her behavior and endeavors to be a better person as a result.  She occasionally flies off the handle and has a tendency to react with emotion.  In this way we are exactly alike.  But she feels terrible immediately after.  She makes amends fast and with humility.  Real humility, not the fake-this-makes-me-look-good kind.  She means it.  She isn’t trying to impress anyone, she just wants to know in her heart that she’s doing the right thing.

She is selfless.  She gives and gives and gives…and then she agrees to throw another party or do another fundraiser and proceeds to give some more.  She doesn’t tell people about half of it, it’s more than something she does, it is something that she is.

She believes in marriage, motherhood and sisterhood.  Family is not the center of her life, it is her life.  There is no way to expound on this one, it just is. Her commitment to them knows no bounds and  in it there are no voids.

She treats everyone with respect.  Everyone.  She does not attempt to convert others to her way of thinking, she simply accepts them as they are and loves them no matter what.

She is not proud and she does not brag.  She does not understand people who do or what it does for them.  There have been times she’s had much and times she has done without and no one but her very closest friends and family have ever known the difference.  Her life isn’t about things, it’s about people and experiences and finding the joy.  She can’t be bought.  It’s been tried and has failed each time.

If you were to list out every attribute of the ideal Christian Mother, Wife and Friend, she would be it.  Aside from the believing in God part.  And when it is all said and done, why should that matter?  How could an argument ever be made that someone who attends church every Sunday only to pass judgement on those who do not is more Christian than she?  The woman who tithes her church and announces to her prayer group how much money her new diamond cross cost yet ignores the children without a coat only a few miles away or dismisses the neighbor who lost their job or denounces the nineteen year old single mother who just found out her birth control failed…is she more deserving of salvation?  The one who tells you she will pray for your soul and then stabs you in the back the moment you turn away…is she on higher moral ground?  I don’t think so.  Even though it may be hard to wrap your brain around, I don’t think you think so, either.  Not really.  Not where it counts.

She and I don’t see eye to eye on the matters of God and Religion and Prayer.  And that, to me, is a good thing.  She doesn’t know this yet, but she has taught me more about God and the role of the Holy Spirit filling and guiding my life than any Priest or Deacon.  You see, I believe in what I teach.  When I teach my children that all of us are God’s children and even when we don’t recognize it and perhaps especially when we deny or dismiss it yet still live our lives according to His teachings, that we are at those times most blessed.  The Holy Spirit is within us all.  Some call it conscience, some an inner voice and others simply recognize it as what we know to be our morality.  Whatever you choose to label it, my label is the Spirit and hers is the strongest I know.  Charity and love without bounds; acceptance in the face of judgement.  Conviction which never waivers and courage which has yet to fold.

I will never tell her she is wrong.  She isn’t.  Someone so right simply could not be.  She has reasons, good ones, for everything she feels and thinks and for everything she is for and against.  I respect the Hell out of it all.  But as her friend, someday many decades from now, if I can manage to follow her lead…she and I will have a different conversation.  One outside of life on earth.  I can’t wait to tell her “I told you so”…

She isn’t going to like this post.  It’s too “nice” and too…too.  So Glitter, before you call me, know this: I mean it.  I want people to understand that saying you’re Christian doesn’t make you Christian and that if more people recognized that moral guidance can come from someone who doesn’t carry a bible or wear a cross the world might just be a better place.  Judge not lest ye be judged and all that other rot….love you.

April 6, 2012

Love and Marriage.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 11:08 pm by openendedcomment

For some reason whenever I think of a wedding, despite the many, many I have attended in all of their varied loveliness, the first thing that comes to mind is the scene in “The Princess Bride” when the priest is speaking of “Wove…trew wove”

I can’t help it.  Maybe that speaks to some deep-rooted issue with my psyche preventing me from taking the whole ceremony seriously.  I don’t know.  If there are any psychologists reading this; feel free to chime in.  Or not.  I’m actually kind of afraid of the answer.

Now marriage; marriage I take seriously.  Weddings not so much.  Weddings aren’t a marriage and weddings don’t really mean (to me) all that people expect/hype/pay for them to mean.  Marriage, on the other hand,  means everything.  Marriage means faith.  Not in God (though that’s good, too) but in each other.  The kind of faith that only comes through intense, intimate trust born from that love…true love…that as insanely school-girlish as this may sound, to me, is magic. Real magic regardless of the science heavy beliefs I hold…I know it is magic.  How else do you explain couples being together, in love, for sixty years?  How do you explain the ability to feel each other’s thoughts and to, after a time, feel the joy and the pain that your spouse is feeling?  Not to simply empathize or to sympathize…but feel it?  There is no scientific explanation for this…it is spiritual.  It is freeing.  It is the most powerful thing in the world.

And some assholes think it can be stopped…and here’s where I get up on my big ‘ol soap-box

These same assholes think that their love is somehow different or more deserving than the love that others share.  Now, how can that be?  I ask you…in all seriousness…how can that be?  How is it that love between a man of one color and a woman of another is lesser than the love of a couple that share the same heritage?  How is that right or even sane?  Why should a couple that looks perhaps a bit different from your wedding picture or my wedding picture be told that because they don’t look the same…they shouldn’t be allowed to experience the deepest and truest commitment known to human-kind?

At this point I’m sure you think I have lost my marbles and have forgotten that it is 2012, not 1912.  I haven’t.  Mostly.  In some countries this is still illegal.  In some countries women aren’t allowed to choose who they may or not marry.  Sound ridiculous?  Disgusting?  Immoral?  Of course it is.  Outraged?  Of course you are. That doesn’t happen in America.  Anymore.

BUT…here, in the good ol’ USA, where we are evolved enough in our social consciousness to decry this racial and sexist degradation as something we won’t tolerate…here…where those of you reading this are disgusted at the thought of it being illegal for an inter-racial couple to marry…here…we are doing the same damn thing.

It’s OK for a same-sex couple to have a joining ceremony.  They can have the wedding…but oh, no, they may not have a marriage.  It’s allowed to have a legal partnership with contracts and powers of attorney and even joint property…but marriage?  No, that is reserved for a special group.  A group that decides for the rest of the population who they may and may not marry. Re-read that last sentence.  We are deciding who other people may and may not spend their lives with.  How in the Hell is that OK?  How in the Hell is that even legal?  Newsflash:  it isn’t.

Church and state, in the US, are separate.  If a religion does not want to recognize or approve of same-sex marriage that is their prerogative and the government can’t make them do it.  FINE.  That is fine and that is legal.  I am divorced.  The Catholic church said that I couldn’t marry my husband (the man I adore and will love till the day I die) in the Catholic church because of this.  Now, if I had been willing to annul my marriage to my ex-husband (henceforth to be refered to as douchebag…another story…trust me, that moniker is me being nice…but I digress)  IF I had been willing to do that, then I could have married my husband in a Catholic church.  But I didn’t and I wasn’t.  Never mind that my Priest is the one who told me to get out of the offending marriage…but whatever.  We can discuss the hypocrisy of my religion another day.  Point is that my perfectly gorgeous wedding on a river performed by a judge in front of our family and friends was and is legal in every state in the US and in every country in the world.  Except maybe the Vatican.  Not sure what the rules are with that.

So…follow me here.  MY marriage, which my own religion chooses not to acknowledge as it offends their doctrine, is legal.  I am legally married because my husband and I are two consenting adults who decided to enter into a legal contract.  I am not married in the eyes of the Catholic church because they don’t agree with my decisions.  The state of Minnesota and the Country of the United States of America don’t care or even know that a religious group doesn’t approve…because church and state are separate.

So…with laws being laws and religion being religion…what in the fu*k is all the fuss about with same-sex marriage?

Why on earth is this an issue for any other loving couple in this or any other state?  Why is it that when many, many states had laws on the books preventing inter-racial marriage the rest of the country stood up and said that we would not tolerate bigotry but the federal government is doing nothing about this egregious offense to not only the moral conscience of many but to the damned constitution?

Another Newsflash (I’m big on those):  You can’t stop love.  You can illegalize it, decry it and even demoralize…but you can’t stop love.  Let me repeat that.  You. Can’t. Stop. Love. You can’t “decide” not to love someone.  You can’t tell me or anyone else on this planet that they can’t love someone.  You may ask them not to…but you can’t actually stop it.

Love is magical.  Like rainbows.  And sunsets.  And Faith.  And God.  At least the God I know.  You can’t see Him…but you know he’s there.  You can’t feel it…but it doesn’t make it any less real…love and faith…you just feel it.  You just know.  It just is.  And no different from every failed attempt in human history to legislate faith…each and every attempt to legislate love will also fail.  Preferably sooner rather than later.

On a purely practical note, while I’m not a huge fan of wedding ceremonies but rather of the marriages that follow (most of them anyway)…I AM a huge fan of bettering the economy. Practically speaking, what better for the economy than a few hundred thousand same-sex couples getting hitched?  I mean, have you ever been to a party thrown by a gay couple?  Much less a gay wedding?  Let me just tell you, they know how to throw a party…we’re talking serious economic stimulus in the wedding business.  Liza (and every good Liza impersonator) would be booked for life.  Epic run on orchids and fine bourban…and mad-men-esque tuxedos.  Swoon.

But back on track and seriously, people…

At no time in the history of our country have we been better for holding back progress…or faith…or especially love.  At no time has history shown those that have held this back as the victors…they have been the despots…the evil-doers…the ones we look back on in shame.  There is no shame in love…there is no shame in allowing love…there is no shame in your beliefs, the beliefs of a Mormon, a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew or in mine…the shame lies only in imposing them on others.

PS…CW , ML & TB…this one’s for you…love.