Thursday, April 24, 2008
Day 4 - Enduring love
Not the creepy Ian McEwan novel.

But honestly, my mind isn't on today's meditation. It's not on love or how long it lasts, or doesn't last, how to make it last. My mind is focused elsewhere.

Getting around to a meditative practice is HARD WORK!

I work all day, I want to go to Stitch n' Bitch tonight. I have about 30 errands to run and I am desperately trying to figure out how to have free clean dirt (about 18 cubic yards worth) delivered to my backyard. Not to mention 480 square feet of sod for cheap. Then I am looking forward to baking 2 gigantic cakes for this weekend and a panel I'm on next Thursday at Cal State, Northridge.

I'm definitely not concentrating on love and the endurance it takes to maintain it. But I guess that's the whole point, isn't it?

Then again, isn't part of this about loving myself?

I have a pretty hard time with that whole concept. It seems so crunchy. Yet, everyone in my recovery seems to focus on learning to love myself. Learning how to treat myself with kindness, and not just when I've done something that I can be proud of, but -- and maybe especially -- when I've made a mess of things, or haven't quite stuck to my good intentions.

So today, I'm focusing on loving myself, despite my mistakes. Which is a good thing, since I'm having quite a day.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Compassion - Omer Day 3
Today's meditation is about compassion in love.

Baruch Spinoza said, "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand."

I live my life by this ethic and yet every day, I am challenged.

  • I am challenged by the driver in front of me in the morning going 25 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone.
  • I am challenged by the system in which I work that sends endless criticism for which I have very little recourse.
  • I am challenged by people I know and love who want to be more but choose not to be.
  • I am challenged by my own inability to fight off demons that have haunted me for nearly a lifetime.

I try, every day, to be compassionate. To remember that the driver in front of me may have very precious cargo. To remember that the system is doing its best for people who are in vulnerable positions. To remember that the people I love are trying their best, and even when they aren't, there is a reason. To remember that I wake up every day and try to do my best, even when I don't quite make it.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Day 2 of the Omer

Today's meditation is about justice and discipline in loving.

Loving Michael has not taken any discipline but I often get questions about how our relationship works in reality. One of the greatest things I have learned from my relationship in the last 8 years (or 15 - really who's counting?) is about respecting each other's personal space.

At the beginning, I'm not sure that this was so obvious -- and I'm not sure how good a job I did at respecting his personal space...further, I'm not so sure how good he was at respecting mine. I will say though, that 16 years later (has it really been that long?!), we're really good at it. We spend plenty of time together, but we also spend plenty of time apart, engaged in what makes us happy. Here's a little sampling of our 16 years.

So far.
So good.

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Monday, April 21, 2008
The Omer is the 7 weeks (49 days) between Pesach and Shavuot. Among other things, the Omer is a time of inner reflection and growth. Each day is a meditation on being a better human being. Today is the first day of the Omer.

My goal this year, though I did write about it a bit last year, is to write every day of the Omer. It's like NaBloPoMo, but it's 49 days instead!!!

In Judaism, there are 7 seven emotional attributes in the human psyche:

  1. Chesed - Loving kindness
  2. Gevurah - Justice and discipline
  3. Tiferet - Balance and compassion
  4. Netzach - Endurance and efficiency
  5. Hod - Humility
  6. Yesod - Bonding and intimacy
  7. Malchut - Leadership

Each week of the omer one should focus on this aspect of the psyche and then each day of each week one should focus on that part. So, for instance on Week 2 day 4 of the omer, one would meditate on Justice in Endurance (netzach she b'gvurah). Lev reads this meditation as the Eternity of Strength.

Today, as the first day is the meditation on loving kindness in loving kindness (chesed she'b'chesed). Meaningful Life (a Jewish meditation site) guides today's meditation asking:

What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I afraid of my vulnerability?
Yep. You know what - I'm terrified. One of the most interesting things I learned as my friend's sons are growing up is that I wanted so badly to treat them appropriately. I didn't want to baby them and yet, I couldn't quite connect, because I wasn't letting them lead the way. So, I would try this and that - hoping that I wouldn't insult them...even when they were 2 and 4 years old!!! I was so self-conscious that I wasn't just loving with them.

Seeing my niece with her mommy is incredible. Both of them are so open to loving. Both of them seem to know what the other needs.

I am awed and inspired.

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Friday, April 18, 2008
Happy Pesach

Good morning and welcome to another edition where an Atheist Queer Jewess named Faith explains it all!

Our topic this morning is cleaning for Pesach, which starts Saturday night, (not the cleaning, the holiday). Why am I concerned with cleaning for Pesach? Well, in Jewish communities, it's a big deal. The reason for the cleaning is called bedikat chametz which literally translates to search for chametz. What is chametz? That all depends on who you ask.

Wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats are the 5 prohibited grains during Passover. Once these come in contact with water = chametz. That's the technical side. It gets a lot more complicated from there. I’m not even going to go into it…it would be like the longest blog post in history. Back to cleaning. You thought your grandmother did spring cleaning?

Cleaning for Passover involves making sure there is no chametz in your home. Any crumb of old food in any corner of your home that might have touched chametz and still be edible is considered chametz. In my home, we would throw out all of the bread and crackers, cookies and cereal. Anything that had a carby ring to it was gone. Clean out the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, appliances and check every crack and crevice for edible chametz. And that’s just the beginning.

According to an article in the New York Times, some families start a month ahead of time with a wash of every Lego that may have a crust of chametzy saliva.

Don’t forget to copy all the recipes from your cookbooks that you may need during the 8 days because if a cookbook full of cookie crumbs gets loose, all is lost. Lest you think you are done – go out to the garage and get your specially made Formica countertops to sit atop your regular everyday countertops for fear that you have chametz permeating the pores in your Corian.

Put all of your starched shirts in storage, for fear you may get water on them, lick your shirt and get a little chametz that way. Finally after getting out your candle and feather, searching for the last crumbs, burning them and nullifying all the chametz that may have inadvertently been left behind, then you can get out the Passover dishes.

“WTF?” You may be thinking.

Well, as nothing in Judaism is just as it is, chametz is more than just the little crumbs of carboliciousness that are prohibited during these 8 days. Chametz is said to symbolize the egocentricity that threatens to eclipse our essential selves. It is also seen as a symbol of the yetzer hara (our inclination toward evil). We spend this time searching for the parts of ourselves that are not ourselves. Those things that we hang onto because our mother wanted us to marry well, because our peers thought would make us more popular, more fun or just more interesting, but we couldn’t have cared less about.

This weekend, I am going to do a little inventory of my internal chametz. Then, I might just do a little burning.

What are the things that you are holding on to that you might need to clean out of the nooks and crannies of your home?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008
Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg says that whomever wins the election this November, "at least we'll have an adult in office who can lead and can accomplish something."

I'm not a fan of McCain, I'm hella pissed at the way the Dems are behaving but I've got to say, Thank you, Mayor B. I mean really.

I know he's a shrub but did he HAVE to tell his Popeness "Awesome speech."? He might as well have fucking brought his bong on the dais with him.

I think Jon Stewart summed it up best this week noting that:

"Not only do I want an elite president, I want someone who's embarrassingly superior to me."

Me too Jon. Me too.


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Guess what?
Food poisoning SUCKS!!!!

However, there is so much more fun to talk about .

For instance, you absolutely must check out the vintage condom wrappers at Ethan Persoff. My favorite is the Pousse L'Amour condom. I mean, seriously people, you think they didn't get the joke in the 30's?

They did.
H/T Swissmiss

Also, a new outstandingly fabulous website I have happened upon comes to us from the Planet Fabulon. Where everything is absolutely delicious.

Seriously. Scrumptious.

I want you to find a day where you have nothing better to do. No children to look after, no work to do, no errands to run, no dinner to fix and start the day with a steaming mug of cocoa topped with whipped cream flavored with your liqueur of choice and chocolate shavings, put on your lucite heeled mink slippers and your cashmere robe. Light a single ylang ylang scented candle and go to:

I'm going to get back to work now.


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Friday, April 11, 2008
Speaking of rape
Rape has been on my mind.

I was raped almost 20 years ago to this day. For the next 15 years, I said nothing. There was no evidence. There was nothing to do, I thought, than get over it. Move on. But every so often, it came screaming back to me, usually in the form of other women suffering.

This week, rape, in many of its forms has been all over the news.

This morning, the New York Times reports on girls being initiated into Central American gangs for protection from abusive households by rape. One girl reports that she was told that all she had to do was talk to the leader and he would induct her into the gang. "Before she knew what was happening, though, her new family members were disrobing and lining up to have sex with her."

The rapist and murderer of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was finally found and arrested in Mexico last night.

After Lauterbach accused Cpl. Cesar Laurean of rape, it took the Corps 7 months to investigate. According to Rep. Michael Turner (R-NC), "The actions taken by the Marine Corps to protect Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach were totally inadequate."

Turner said he is reviewing the Marine Corps' response and sharing it with fellow lawmakers similarly concerned about the way the Marines handle allegations of rape.

Attorney Merle Wilberding, who represents the Lauterbach family, said Marine procedures seem to ignore the emotional trauma suffered by the victim. (my emphasis)

The charred remains of Lauterbach and her fetus were found buried in Laurean's backyard in North Carolina in January.

In Texas, 419 children were removed from a compound from which boys are expelled to make room for girls who become the wives of older men. It seems a number of the female children are pregnant. Meanwhile, the Associated Press is called out by Melissa McEwan (again) for calling it sex.

A second KBR employee (formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton) has come forward with allegations of being gang-raped in Iraq by soldiers and other contractors.

Unfortunately, despite having come forward, the perpetrators may never be prosecuted in criminal court because of Order 17, which states that U.S. defense contractors in Iraq cannot be prosecuted in the Iraqi criminal justice system. While they can technically be tried in U.S. Federal Court, the Justice Department has shown no interest in prosecuting the first case, which occurred in 2005.

According to the article in The Nation (April 3)

"Prosecutorial jurisdiction for crimes like the alleged rape of Jones is easily established under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Patriot Act's special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions. But somebody has to want to prosecute the cases."
And apparently, nobody does.

Stephen Lewis, a man I believe is one of the greatest heroes of this generation, gave a speech in September about the "litany of horror" occurring specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where U.N. Emergency Coordinator and Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, characterized sexual violence against women as “almost unimaginable” adding that the intensity and frequency is worse than anywhere else in the world.

When I wrote the post on the t-shirt, I wasn't really thinking about responses, but rather about what I needed to say. I hadn't read any responses to any of the other posts around the 'sphere either. Later, I looked around at what people were saying. On one feminist website, I was a little surprised at some of the comments posted.

Yeah, I don't know if people would want to wear this t-shirt. Don't you want to forget that it happened?
Yes. But that ain't gonna happen.

I mean, let's say I saw you wearing that shirt, what am i supposed to do about it? Am I suppose to be like OMG You were RAPED? Please tell me all about it. Or am I supposed to be all OH NO You were raped? I am so sorry.
What are you supposed to do about it...?
Cuz that shirt is just flat out awkward. If I saw someone wearing that I would probably start sweating and wondering if I should look up or down or say something or give them a hug or a high five or start a converation or give them a 'knowing' nod....just too awkward lol.
Really - did you need to end with "lol"? I don't even have a response to this, but another person did.
You know what? I really couldn't care less if MY rape makes YOU feel awkward and uncomfortable. Know what's awkward and uncomfortable? BEING RAPED. So if I want to shout it from the rooftops, plaster it on billboards, or wear a t-shirt, I CAN and I WILL.
After reading all of those, I started to get worried. Do people think that I'm a "Debbie Downer"? Is my writing so depressing, so grim and out of touch that I should stop, but then I got such a lovely and honest response from Will Pillage for Yarn.
"I can't say that word because it is so loaded and charged and painful. I can't say it out loud. Or wear it out loud. I'm too ashamed." and that is a looong way from where I started the thought process and is probably a more honest place for me to be in.

I couldn't wear the shirt, but I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to have that conversation with myself and to read your thoughts and the thoughts of the women who posted comments here.

Thank you.

I know we don't want to talk about it. I know it's not fun. It doesn't amuse. It's depressing.

I don't care.

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Friday, April 04, 2008
I was raped.
Jennifer Baumgartener wants to force rape into everyday conversation. She is selling t-shirts with this logo on it on Scarleteen. One of the biggest problems Baumgartener sees is that talking about rape is considered "too much information".

The founder of Scarleteen, Heather Corrina, a rape survivor, asks her, "What do you think young people, particularly, can do to help disable rape culture?" I love her answer. She says:

I think women can practice saying "No!" a dozen times a day--yelling it or not, but looking someone right in the eye and saying "No." Because it's hard for women to--I don't know, disappoint? Be seen as mean? Be unfriendly?--a very clear no is an important muscle to have to interrupt rape culture, which relies on women being polite and not trusting their instincts or believing they can have boundaries. I think we can talk to men about our rape experiences. One woman in the film tells her son about being raped; another tells her father. Being honest and inviting men to understand and sympathize will undermine rape culture, too, which is based on silence and no one thinking they know people who've been raped.

Why wear a shirt that says “I Was Raped”?

  • Because wearing it lets others know that they aren’t alone.
  • Because wearing it invites conversation about a silenced experience that so many women and men share.
  • Because rape is a crime that someone did to you, against your will.
  • Because, as Maya Angelou says, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”
  • Because you shouldn’t be ashamed that you were raped; the perpetrator should be ashamed.
  • Because being public shatters the very silence that enables rape to be so common.
  • Because naming what has happened is the first step toward changing the reality of rape.
  • Because legal redress is rarely served, so it’s crucial to find our own justice and acknowledgment.
  • ~ Jennifer Baumgardner, “I Was Raped” project, 2008


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