Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Oh, for pity's sake...

The BBC has yet another bit of coverage that has caught my eye.

Someone wearing a t-shirt saying "We will not be silent" in both English and Arabic was asked to remove it in an airport. He was told it was offensive, and that several passengers had complained about it.

I have a beautiful t-shirt that a friend of mine gave me. It also bears a slogan in both English and Arabic - dark blue with writing in white and gold within a gold border - "Stand with your friends, even in fire." I've worn it in the greater DC area post 2001, and never once have I been asked to remove it.

In the end, he changed to a different t-shirt. But he shouldn't have had to.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Right now is the Jewish month of Elul, the month to really concentrate on teshuva, usually translated as repentence - turning around. Teshuva is an active process, one that begins by asking for forgiveness, and then laboring to undo as much of the harm done as possible. It is in seeking the forgiveness of our neighbor that we seek the forgiveness of God. The rabbis teach that if someone comes to us asking for forgiveness, that we should grant it, helping to set their feet on the path of teshuva.

I was reminded of this last month when someone I knew sat there with my husband and me at the coffee shop and asked for forgiveness. What I was surprised by then was to discover that I'd already given it, that somehow, I'd opened my heart before the request had been put into words, though it had been put into actions. But that request did open up paths for us both. I was led to see how I could open up further peace from that apology, talking to others he had offended by the behavior, who were mostly offended on my behalf.

And I'm reminded of all the false steps I've made in my life. In Hebrew, the word "avera", most often translated as a "sin" or a "wrong" could also be translated "misstep," a step away from the path that we need to follow, a step away from fellowship, Love, community, God's embrace. I've written before that sometimes I feel like I can't quite manage to stick to the main paths. While I have studied Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Paganism, and a few others, I can't seem to stay on the well-forged paths, instead haring off on little side-paths. Every now and again, I feel like I've gotten a bit battered on the side path - sliding in a patch of mud, stumbling on a stone, getting caught in the prickles. I frequently wonder if I'm being true to the Light which guides me or just being stubborn. Maybe it's a little of both.

In any case, I'm asking for help here. If through my words or actions in this forum or any other you might know me from over the last few months or even years, I have hurt someone or offended them, please help me back onto the right path by giving me the opportunity to apologize, to try to make right any wrongs which I may have done.

Mixed reaction

The BBC has an article on its website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5292860.stm?ls

and Blogger seems to have lost the rest of what I wrote here. Meh.

In any case, as follow-up comments to the post say, I didn't say what I wanted to say as clearly as I should have. My main point was that while I don't like brands, I'm concerned about the specific methodology proposed here - just burn everything branded. Why not give it away? And what next? Now that everything you had that was branded is gone, what do you propose to do to avoid it in future? The focus of this was on the bonfire, as it were, and not on the phoenix.

I noted at the end that even I, who am not terribly fond of the brandedness of modern life, am typing on a Dell computer with a SoftSpot wristrest, and several other branded items around me, including a mousepad from my employers. When I sew my clothes, it's on an old steel Singer (bought seriously used from a quilt supplies store that had no idea what to do with it since it's so obviously a product of the 60's - seafoam green and silver.) My knitting is done on needles from a variety of makers - old metal hand-me-down Boyles, beautiful wood ones from a manufacturer in the US, other wood ones from a woodworker I know who sells his stuff under the name "The Spanish Peacock", etc.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A book meme

I picked up a book meme from Reflections of a Secular Franciscan and thought it a good one. I promise I won't do too many memes, but I like this one.

A Book that changed my life. Well, quite literally, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich helped decide where I'd go to college. My senior year of high school, I was up for a full-ride scholarship that would not only have paid for university, but also for a trip abroad. During the interview, they asked my my favorite book at the time. I mentioned my admiration for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's writing and the powerful humanity of this book. The panel of interviewers seemed to frown all at once. To this day, I wonder why that book should have disqualified me, but that answer pretty much shut down the interview. I was disappointed at the time, but now I think it was definitely for the best. Not only would I have not met my husband had I gone there, but I think the conformity they would have expected of me would have been a terrible trial.

In a less literal sense, there are many books that have helped make me. For a while, I feared that I might be like Kipling's Tomlinson, whose soul is found only to contain the words of others, and little of his own.

A book that I've read more than once.There are several books that I've read more than once. I think that reading a book more than once helps me to actually digest it.

A book that I'd want on a desert island is either the complete works of Shakespeare or the Bible and a book on wilderness survival. If I only get the one, I'll take the book on wilderness survival and live to write my poems on the beach. If I get more than one, I want something that I've happily returned to time and again in my life.

A book that made me laugh. Last time my dad was sent overseas, I read Jingo by Terry Pratchett. While parts of that book show the terrible impact of war, I laughed out loud at the football (soccer to us Americans) game and the moment when both armies are placed under arrest. I am reminded of the solution in the Harry Potter books to boogeymen - laughter. When I find myself weighed down by the wars our poor world is overloaded with, I pick up that book again, if only to re-read the end. Oh, and just totally for giggles: the Hitchhiker's Guide series by Douglas Adams. Don't Panic, and always know where your towel is.

A book that made me cry. Many. I remember being assigned to read Night by Elie Wiesel for both a philosophy course and a history of the Holocaust class once when I was in university. My younger sister was visiting that day, or I don't know if I could have taken it. I read the book after she had gone to sleep, and I stayed awake afterwards, just listening to her breath as she slept.

A book that I wish had been written. Well, I wish my husband's grandmother would write down or allow to be recorded her life story.

A book that I wish had never been written. So often, we attempt to exorcise our fears by finding a scapegoat for those fears. Even in cultures without books, we do this. Perhaps by the time there is the book, it's necessary so the ideas can be countered in one place. I don't know. I wish we'd cut it out.

I'm currently reading ... I'm skipping around. Right now, a bit of brain candy - Georgette Heyer novels, so they're erudite brain candy, but still...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

For those interested

There is a poll by the planetary society on how many planets we should recognize. I encourage folks to go and read their summation of the current vote by the IAU.

Friday, August 25, 2006


So many people seem to be trying to get revenge - not redress, revenge - for their grievances. That [idiot/nation/terrorist group/maniac] got me, and I'm gonna get them back!

Some have suggested that this dynamic was playing out in the meeting that declared Pluto no longer a planet, with the gravitational theorists feeling that the planetary geologists had foisted a definition of planet on them that they didn't like, so they would vote on the last day of the conference with less than 4% of membership on a controversial measure.

Certainly, one can think of more deadly attempts at revenge recently.

And yet, I am thinking of one of the clearest memories I have of seeking revenge. I was perhaps 10 years old, playing in the front yard of our farmhouse with my brother and sister and our dog, a German Shepherd named Heidi. I was the oldest one there save for the dog, who was looking out for her "sheep". We were playing a kind of tag while being herded by the dog who clearly knew how to keep children and sheep in one place, when suddenly, I noticed that Heidi was no longer playing. She'd turned to face the gap in the fence and was growling. Then I saw it - the neighbor's prize hog, out of his pen and looking fierce. I grabbed my baby sister and told my brother to run with me. We crossed the gravel driveway at a dead sprint, and climbed onto the playset there, making it just in time, mostly due to Heidi. With us safe, Heidi was thankfully smart enough to get out of the way, and we began screaming.

Mom got the Jeep we had out of the garage and drove us back in, without us ever having to touch ground, then called the neighbors to inform them that they'd best get that beast off of our property and out of her cabbages.

Later that summer, when fair time came, I used my money to buy a pulled pork sandwich specifically so I could eat it in the animal barn where that hog could see. I leaned against the fence, explaining the basics of a pork based economy, as I finished the sandwich. I doubt he understood one word, but it made me feel better.

Today, this story makes me think a little. Surely, we're older than 10 now, yes? And the folks that revenge is wanted against are capable of understanding words...

Perhaps it's time to put down the sandwich and try talking again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Food ramblings

I have the experience, unusual for modern America, of knowing exactly where my food comes from in a very intimate way. While I complained about having to clean my room as a kid, the more everyday task was the one I truly dreaded: weeding the beans. It didn't help that after we had a bumper crop one year, and some of our other veggies didn't make it, I developed the loathing for beans that can come from eating the same thing day in and day out for months. *And* had to help put them up, so we'd have 'em all winter, too. Meh.

This thought is mostly inspired by Peterson Toscano's recent thoughts on attending the Delaware County Fair. Now, most of his pictures depict rather smaller animal pens than I know my county fair to have, but his complaint that fairs are vegan-unfriendly made me think about fairs, good and bad. While obtaining raw vegan food other than salads might prove difficult there, my home fair had plenty of cooked vegan options - corn on the cob straight from the Grange booth being my personal favorite, preferably followed by fruit stew over at one of the church booths. (Used to be a dollar, with dumplings for 50 cents extra - dumplings probably being dairy.)

And I wonder how many Americans have even picked their own food, if only from a "Pick Your Own" place. And what growing practices are used at that place? (And what are the environmental consequences of tomatoes in Maryland coming from California or even Chile?) Another food memory of mine was going out to the fields with Grandpa on one of his old tractors. I'd balance on the hitch and hang on to the back of his seat and we'd go bouncing down the road and over to the cornfields where we would harvest the sweet corn less than an hour before dinner. Once we'd gotten back, I'd go sit on the porch out front while Alfred, the dog, tried to figure out what I was doing, and shuck corn. And no, kids, do not try this at home. I'm sure it's illegal now, and if I had slipped, I would have been no more than a greasy spot.

I've been treed by a hog, attacked by a chicken, nuzzled by cows, inspected by goats, and ignored by sheep. I have spent long, hot summers canning, freezing, drying, and generally putting up, hoeing beans, picking produce, avoiding cow pats, and escaping into the woods and streams. I've kneaded bread, churned ice cream, made butter, gotten yelled at for playing in the barn where the crops are stored. And yet I'm grateful not to have to eat beans all winter.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

And the other thing that happened last night

As you can read, I frequently have something in my hands to keep them busy - weaving, knitting, crochet, braiding, sewing, and now naalbinding, along with origami, cardmaking, pop-ups, and whatever else I happen to learn. When I was regularly doing reenactments, the arts minister of my group would use this by having me learn something so that I would teach everybody else. (I never became arts minister because I really hate paperwork a lot.) A couple weekends ago, I cleaned up my crafting supplies, and pleasantly surprised myself by finding a couple skeins of my favorite wool. And then last weekend, I went to a small town in West Virginia, and bought a few skeins of locally raised and handspun wool.

So last night, when the alarm goes off, what was it I had in my hands? Was it my lovely handspun wools? Or maybe the insanely gorgeous silk that someone brought back for me from a trip? Come on - the heavy linen I got at a discount when the German postal service bought less than the factory anticipated? Nope, not one of those. Instead, I had read something by Thee, Hannah! where she said that working with Red Heart acrylic yarn was like knitting with plastic bags, and then as I was looking at toothbrush rug-making (a form of naalbinding), I came across a reference to cutting plastic bags into strips and using them as yarn. So I'd been working with a few bags obtained from the farmer's market in WV - I'd gotten jam and the lady wanted to pad the jars to make sure that they got back to Maryland intact - making the bottom of a rather sturdy tote. One of my neighbors did inquire as to what I was doing, so I got to spread the word on recycling, even if at the cost of some of my pride, though I have to admit, it's turning out prettier than I expected.

Oh, ouch

Last night, there was a fire in my building. I live on the top floor, which is great for the view - I look out over the bit of undeveloped property behind the building, and is great for sound - nobody tromping overhead, but is lousy for having to go up and down the stairs whenever there's a fire alarm or the elevator is mysteriously not working.

The alarm went off shortly after midnight, so after making sure I had the true basics - a tunic, sandals, and my purse, my husband and I headed off down the stairs. Round about 3 floors down, my sandal encountered a slippery, greasy substance, and my bottom encountered the stairs - at speed. And then, I found myself falling down the stairs on my bottom. By the time I hit the landing for the next floor, I was seriously sore and a little disoriented. After a minute of figuring out which side was up, I was able to get up and keep going down.

And then we waited outside, listening to the sounds of the firemen removing the fire from the apartment several floors down and around a corner from ours. Finally, the all clear was given, and we went back up, after letting management know about the slippery stuff on the stairs. And this morning, I called in because I'm still sore and bruised. I know I'm lucky not to have hit my head, but it really hurts. Now I get to figure out what I did with the arnica salve.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Even when they're not glorifying violence, modern broadcast media still manage to get right up my nose. My alarm in the morning is set to one of the "morning shows" hereabouts that's pretty much inoffensive normally, but this morning, one of the people on there began saying something about how her husband tries to support her in the little ways, and then began making fun of how he did so, even calling him "inept" because he, like many people I know, doesn't know the jargon for ordering overpriced coffee.

My husband supports me in the little ways. He brings me water when I sit down after making dinner. He is supportive and encouraging about my crafting, and has even taken the time to learn about the papers I use in my cards, so that if he spots something I could use, he'd know it. This weekend, as we wandered through an antique/rummage shop, he called me over to look at some shuttles for weaving, to see whether they'd be useful. Unfortunately, they were damaged and would need replacement parts that are difficult to obtain. For the price, they were no bargain, but I would never have considered making fun of him for not knowing that, and certainly not in so public a fashion as on the airwaves!

And even when he rolls his eyes over my enthusiasm for handspun wool, I know that when I have the yarn in my lap, trying to decide between the different skeins, I can count on him to say things like, "Oh, that blue is nice. Would that work for..." I can count on him sending me interesting tidbits he comes across when doing news searches. When I can no longer stand to read the paper, I can count on him to send me the good bits from it. If I'm sick, he'll even bring me popsicles - something he loathes, because he knows I like them when I'm tired of pushing fluids.

And I happen to know, in the end, roll his eyes though he might, he recognizes the handmade gloves I'm making him from that wool for the sign of love they are.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Basic Education

What kind of education are we giving ourselves and our children? There have, of course, been many complaints about the way that education funds have been allocated, essentially ensuring that poorer districts will have poorer educational opportunities, *even in grade school*. But what about the basic content?

The scientific education we are giving our children is pathetic and that problem goes far deeper than whether we teach evolution or not.

Story 1

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

They're on to me!


I just found this comic, focusing on the life of two gifted kids, er... kits. (And their parents, who are similarly geeky - Ozy's dad is a dragon who is into alternative energy sources, and gets into trouble with the HOA for putting up a windmill. Millie's mom has wonderful comebacks.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

What color is a peach?

Once, a couple of people I knew were arguing about peaches - specifically the color of peaches. One was maintaining that peaches are "peach" and the other was arguing that no, they're more yellow. To solve this dispute, they decided to bring in more people, and I was one of the people polled. Not knowing the underlying dispute, when someone asked me what is the color of a peach, I asked what kind, how ripe, which side. It seems obvious to me that peaches come in many colors, and an individual peach is full of different colors. It's like asking what color a rainbow is.

How often do we take a moment to appreciate everyday, ordinary things? Just look at a peach - not eating it, or even thinking about what it tastes like (oh, yum) but take a moment to receive the extraordinary gift of all the colors on a peach. Yellow, peach, red, green, orange, brown, cream... and in many shades, as well. And of course, the glistening silver of the fuzz.

I think this tendency to want to find one word to sum up a broad experience is dangerous. How often do we find a word-box for someone and drop them in without wondering what other words might apply? Certainly, when someone pushes quickly past me on the train, I might think, "jerk" without wondering if maybe they're in a hurry for a good reason. Similarly, I have a tendency to want to drop a lot of people into the "warmonger" box, dismiss them, and move on with my life. This is wrong, and I know it. Now I've got to work on appreciating other people as much as appreciating a peach.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

More simple pleasures

Canine Diamond, over at The Crate, has made a little list of 10 small things that make this life a little better. Yes, cocoa is on there.

So I've decided to copy-cat, and list some of my favorite simple pleasures.

Lazing on the couch, reading a book.
Blackberries, warm from the sun.
Playing hopscotch.
Hot baths, and bath salts.
Fried green tomatoes, sliced ripe tomatoes, stuffed tomatoes, tomato soup - tomatoes.
Garlic bread with my tomato stuff.
Or else a grilled cheese sandwich - with good mustard.
Going swimming.
Autumn breezes that smell like leaves and woodfires.
Roasting hot dogs - either the good kosher ones, or else veggie dogs.
Dolls - making them, dressing them, all that.
Sacred harp singing.
I don't do it now, because I live in a city, but my mom used to wait until the 3rd hour of a snowstorm, after the air had been "washed out" by the earlier snowfall, and put a cold bowl out on the deck to be filled with snow for snow "ice cream" - condensed milk and a little vanilla, mixed with the snow. Oh, yum. To be washed down with hot cocoa.
Real maple anything.
Talking with a friend.
Listening to the forest.
Squirrel watching.
Ginger lime soda.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A plan for peace

When we were very young, my brother and I came on a plan that could have improved the world a lot if we'd found anybody willing to implement it. You see, he and I, like many siblings, quarrelled pretty constantly over some really stupid things - whose turn it was to keep our baby sister entertained, for instance, or whether that cloud looked more like a rabbit or a tractor.

And one day, in the late afternoon, we came to an Understanding. We were working together, out in the yard, gathering up the mowed grass for composting - a substantial chore when the yard covered more than an acre, but we worked efficiently, tossing the grass into the wagon attached to the tractor (we had a really cute little tractor, sort of like a riding lawn mower but with attachments for tilling, etc.) and looking forward to the mini-hayride we'd have when it was over. And there, as we worked, we realized that we were getting along very well, and decided together that the rest of the world should get to share this, since it was such a wonderful feeling. So we decided that the path to peace was to get world leaders who were fighting with each other to come and do our chores, while we went off blackberrying. It would be a sacrifice, to be sure, but we were willing to share...

Both of us still remember that afternoon and evening, watching the sun go down from the back of the wagon. And we'd still like to share that peace with the rest of the world. But I've come to realize that while important, turning the hearts of rulers is not enough. Rulers shape waves, but they also ride them, and it's important to look at the underlying waters to understand where those waves are going. And most of the people of the world don't need more chores. They need hope.

How many of the people involved in this latest plot had any hope for themselves and their families? How many felt that they were constantly struggling in a world that held the quality of their lives cheap? I don't gamble, but I'd be willing to lay odds on that one. And they are not the only ones without hope. The number one killer of young African-American men is violence. It doesn't even make the top ten for whites. How many airliners would have to go down to equal the gun violence in our cities? What about the millions of Americans who lack access to healthcare? What about the millions worldwide who lack access to clean water? How many die in despair and neglect for want of the basics?

The path to peace is even harder than keeping beans clear of weeds (the chore I was most eager to offload onto some world leader) and it involves true commitment to meeting the needs of everyone, because the breeding ground of hatred and war is watered with ignorance, want, hunger, and deprivation. For starters, lets try actually talking to the people involved in this plot - and leave the thumbscrews at home, boys and girls - and listening to what they say. Many interrogators have come forward to say that the most effective thing they could do was shut up, treat the person with respect, and listen. Amazing.


In the midst of the hubbub over whether or not one can bring bottled water with one when one flies, I'd like to salute some pretty amazing pilots. On Wednesday night, my husband and I met some friends for dinner, and ended up spending part of the evening on the grass in a nearby park, watching the bats.

If you've never watched bats on a summer evening, you've missed a show. These guys are little sonar-guided bundles of total maneuverability - they fly up, then suddenly swerve, mid air, their delicate wings slicing though the air like a hot knife through butter. One minute, they're beating their wings to gain altitude, and the next, they seem to dive straight for the earth, with one roll thrown in to catch a tasty mosquito, and then up! Their wings caress the air as they climb, and they are at home in that element, graceful and lovely in the evening.

More than a show, the flight of bats is an invitation to learn that trust in the Element that sustains us, that total confidence and love. When we feel ourselves falling, tumbling, remembering the pull of gravity, it is time to remember that the word spirit comes from the same root as respiration - breath. If we can extend our delicate wings of trust to the currents of Spirit, open ourselves to the push of that breath, we too will share in the beauty of that flight. We, too, will be intimately joined with that Element. Oh, what joy, oh, what joy.

I am feeling the gravity, constantly pulling at me. I feel the despair that is settling over the world pulling at my heart, and I, too, fear for my delicate wings. What if the winds tear them to shreds and I crash on the hard ground? What if... And yet, what are those wings for, if not to lift me up into the embrace of the Breath?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I do not walk alone

This morning, I woke up sleepy and grumpy. This is not unusual - I am so not a morning person that when I waited tables, my boss considered taking me off lunches, even. Somehow, I made it with my husband to the Metro station and even remembered to get a bus transfer (I really wish they'd allow me to get those at my destination station, when I'm at least a little bit awake. If I'm awake enough to remember to get one when I head out, I'm more likely to want to walk that last bit.) I got one of the free papers they hand out in the stations and settled into the seat across from my husband. We talked a little, until I changed trains, and then I scanned the paper, though I could hardly tell you what I read - lots of stuff that registered as more of the same stupid stuff.

As I got off the train, I thought about that bus transfer, and even walked to the bus stop, but then I thought about coffee - If I walk, I could pick up a coffee from the deli... So, of course, I walked down the side of a very busy 8-lane road in the direction of my office (there's a slightly safer way, but it's not in the direction of the bus stop.) As I walked, my current crochet project, a bright shawl in rainbow thread mixed with red thread, came out. I walked and croched, keeping an eye about me, but somehow more in tune with the flashing steel hook, the pull of the thread through my fingers, the rainbow dangling from my hands, and I was briefly transported in time.

Suddenly, as I walked and croched, part of me was a girl, sitting carefully in the sitting room of the Shell Lady. It was a term of endearment, one she loved, that referrered to the decor of that sitting room, filled with shells, coral, wooden carvings of fish, and the centerpiece: a giant conch shell that we could listen to the ocean in. She was still in the hills, but her son and his wife lived in Florida, and sent her shells and other beachcombings from their weekends. Sometimes she travelled out to see them, but didn't want to be too long away from the hills and her home. Every seat had crocheted cushions, doilies, and other embellishments. Her hands were soft, wrinkled, beautiful, and competent. I would watch the steel or aluminum hook moving skillfully through whatever she was creating, with never a pattern in evidence, and wish to myself that my hands would have that skill and beauty when I became a woman.

Oh, the Shell Lady wasn't the only woman with beautiful hands I knew. One could grow anything with her hands. She'd take my dad and me through her garden, pointing to the various plants growing there, letting us know what wanted rain and what wanted dry - which needed sun and which needed shade, sometimes stopping to tell a ladybug how happy she was to have the ladybug in her garden, sometimes picking up a bit a soil to feel. Another would crochet with colorful acrylic yarns, making bookmarks, doll clothes - some for me and some for her own dolls, flowers, and then, she'd change to needlepoint in plastic canvas. Her room was a riot of color in every shade of Red Heart yarn sold at the 5 and Dime. Another was my mother, who between going off to the clinic to work with Dad, helping other people, would teach me to put up what we grew in our own garden. And so many more...

As I walked peacefully by the side of the rush of traffic, I realized they were all with me, these women who shaped their worlds with their hands. They had shown me a way to shape the bit of the world that I could hold, even if only a bit of plastic canvas and acrylic yarn or a bit of heavy clay earth.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More on allowing everyone to grow

Once again, my little brother teaches me generosity and far-sightedness. I want for him to have at least the possibility of what I have. He wants for everyone to have more.

This weekend, I got a rare opportunity to see a friend who is usually busy with the next generation (she's a high-school teacher in a small town), and at the same time to see my little brother, whose job may bring him more frequently to town. Huzzah! The conversation, as always, was wide-ranging, from the sexism and racism in Henri Rousseau's works to the bothersome things sometimes posted in blogs.

And, of course, Little Brother and I continued our discussion of gay marriage, security in person and property, and treating people like people. Now, I would like to see gay marriage not only legal but yawn-worthy. When I got married 7 years ago, the media completely ignored the event. Friends and family showed up, the ceiligh band played well, and a good time was had by most. Had we married 40 years earlier, we would have been much more unusual. Probably, we would have had to do as my grandparents, a religiously mixed couple, had to do - marry secretly and move away for a time. Possibly, we would have been mourned by our families as dead. Instead, a large crowd, mixed culturally, racially, religiously, politically, and just about every other way you can think of showed up in the teeth of a spring snow/rain/freezing rain/sleet/hail storm to celebrate with us. We danced together, ate together, drank wine and grape juice together, and in general had a good time. I want that for my brother, for my friends, for the world.

My brother, being himself, of course has to one-up me. He wants more. Rather than concentrating on a right to marriage, he argued, we should concentrate on the basics. Why, in a country so wealthy, do we not have universal access to healthcare? How can a couple aspire to marriage if they can't even be certain that their basic needs as people will be met?

Friday, August 04, 2006


Yesterday, my husband had a rotten day at work. He forgot to do something he was supposed to do, and his boss gave him a talking to. So last night, I listened. I made him a real treat for dinner, and sent him off to work this morning with a message in his lunch. This week, the weather has been bad for my headaches, so he's done his best to help out - treating me to dinner on Tuesday, and bringing me water cut with a little bit of lemon juice to help me cool off every evening.

My marriage is mixed - that is, my husband and I come from very different backgrounds, religiously, socially, many ways. My whole town growing up was smaller than his grade school - and we lived a few miles out of that town. He had never had grits or fried green tomatoes or listened to bluegrass before meeting me. I had never gone to the opera or had a pierogie before meeting him. Now experts will tell you that communication is especially important in such marriages. I'm here to tell you that it's important no matter who you're married to. Every marriage involves two people who grew up in different homes, different families - okay, except for some royal marriages where they all seem to have the same great-grandparents.

Being married to my husband has given me a chance to grow - to learn not only about "city ways", but about being patient and really listening, about trusting someone to listen to me, to learn about my ways, to become part of my family. And beyond the whole finding out about each other, we've gotten to discover stuff together. Lampworking, reading various books together, advanced Latin grammar, that little vegetarian Indian place around the corner, the walking path that leads to a grade school playground...

The last time I saw my brother, we were talking about how society gives a preferential status to my relationship with my husband over my brother's relationships with his boyfriends. Even before we were married, my now-husband was able to come into the active part of an emergency room to see me after I'd had a dangerous drug reaction. When I was in university, a nurse even gave information about my health status to a male friend who had just driven me to the clinic. To make things worse, they didn't give me the same information.

For my brother, the issue isn't same-sex marriage, it's basic security - security in person, in property. Being able to walk down a street, holding hands without being called names, without being attacked. And I have to agree - I want that, too, but I think the way we achieve that end is to acknowlege the element of caring, of love that can be present in all relationships and to give the same opportunities to express that love and caring to all couples. I think we need to get government out of the business of marriage - that's between a couple, their religious community, and god or gods. I, for one, am more than willing to have my only legal status in that regard be a "civil union" and let the issue of whether I am properly married or not rest with my husband, myself, and God.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The power of words

"We use our words." My mom must have repeated that sentence a million times as I and my sibs grew up, including times it was patently untrue. We weren't using our words, but once again we were reminded that rather than hitting each other, we were supposed to vocalize the real problems.

Oh, if only we all were using our words. And not just any words - Mr. Gibson would have done much better to have used his words before picking up the bottle of tequila and going driving rather than afterwards. Oops. And to have kept in mind another of Mom's sayings: "People are not for hurting."

Instead, more and more people hurt as Israel and forces in Southern Lebannon hurl rockets of destruction at each other. And each side takes comfort in demonized images of the other - we target only military, but they aim for civilians; we are good people, but they are bad. Enough.

Enough. Peace will not result from more people killing and being killed. "The bombing will continue until peace improves" does not work. We have known this all the way back to the Roman historian, Tacitus's description of the Roman treatment of Carthage: "They made a desert, and called it peace."