Category Archives: Uncategorized

Meet Emmanuel

The first time I take Emmanuel’s picture, he is too thrilled for words.

He is four.  His mother, an older brother, younger brother, and younger sister live next door to Paulina.  His mother is expecting another baby.

Emmanuel, however, has adopted Conan’s parents, Paulina and Arturo (Conan’s step-dad.)

Emmanel started just spending time there, when he was younger.  Hanging out with Arturo in the store that Paulina owns, below where they live.

He watches for a while.  Just hangs out.  At some point, he begins to climb into Arturo’s lap, and falls asleep.  When it’s time for bed, Arturo would carry him home.

I don’t have a good picture of Arturo downloaded yet, but here’s a picture of them together with Lucia.

Arturo has a good aura, and a gentle way with him.  Paulina is warm and nurturing.

After a while, Emmanuel begins to ask for food.

When Arturo goes away for the day to collect and sell coconuts, Emmanuel sometimes goes with him.  They get home late, but Emmanuel’s mother doesn’t mind.

When people talk about Emmanuel’s mother, there is a lot of tsking.  I won’t do that here.  I don’t know her, but I’d guess that, for whatever reason, she’s overwhelmed and not able to take care of her kids as well as they need, probably not as well as she’d like to.

Emmanuel is welcome with Arturo and Paulina.  Paulina feeds him and makes him take a bath and go to bed at a reasonable time, and when he falls and bangs his head really hard, she takes him to the hospital.

Arturo is a role model.  Emmanuel wants to grow up to be just like Arturo.  He plans to work with him when he’s old enough, and refers to him as his papa.

One day, Emmanuel picks up a knife and is trying to cut something, Paulina takes the knife from him, saying, “Do you want to end up like Arturo?” referring to the work accident that left Arturo missing a finger.

“Si!” says Emmanuel passionately, “Si!  I want to be just like Arturo,” as Paolina gently takes the knife from him and deftly cuts the bread he was hacking away at.

Paolina gets him an activity  book and he carefully writes the numbers and does the elementary math with great pleasure.  He doesn’t like school, he says, but he’s thrilled with the coloring book I bring him.

Little by little, he spends more and more time at Paolina’s house.

One day, he brings a little bag of clothes over.  He uses the kind of bag potato chips come in.

Then another.

It takes him 3 trips with his little bag, but he brings all his clothes to Paolina’s house and stows them under the bed he sleeps in.

That night, when Paolina tells him, “It’s time to take a bath, go home and get your clothes,”  he says, “No ~ look!!  I have them right here already.”

He begins sleeping in an extra room.  Paulina talks to his mother, who is ok with it.

Here he is with us at the shrine of  Juquila, holding the flower I bought to leave there.

With Julia and Conan at the shrine.

He calls Conan “mi hermano,” my brother.  He was a tad worried about Lucia at first, but is content now that he’s sure he won’t lose his place in the sun, and greets her happily in the morning – Lu-tia!”  which amuses everyone.

Here he is when we go to visit some people – a man who does some wonderful wookwork, which I’ll show you later.  Emmanuel finds a little tricycle and rides around happily.

Here, he decides to insert himself into the picture I’m taking at the shrine.

But by the end of the trip, I’ve taken so many pictures of him that when I pull my camera out again, he flops on the hammock and moans a bit, as if to say, “Really?  Again?”  Just like my kids used to do.

Resilient children.  Children who are born into difficult situations and manage to thrive anyhow.

Often, they have a feeling, early in life, that they don’t belong in their family.  And they have at least one other adult in their life who is a positive influence, who is there for them.

Emmanuel certainly has both of those.  As he told Paulina, having successfully transferred his belongings to her house, “Soy arriva!”

“I have arrived.”

The Kindness of Strangers

We go to visit the Reforma’s – friends of Paulina and Arturo, Conan’s mom and step-dad.

The Senor Reforma and his wife live near a place called Rio Grande, out in the country.  We visit a lagoon while we’re there, and spend time relaxing at the beach, and it is an adventure in many ways, but just one story for now.

{As I write this, I’m waiting for someone else to wake up so they can find the matches so I can light the stove and make coffee.  The matches are usually in a lovely little bowl by the stove – but not this morning.  And my best searching skills didn’t uncover them.  I know there are more somewhere, I just don’t know where.}

Anyhow, we visit the Reforma’s, where we eat the best fish ever, and have a wonderful time.  The first night, we stay in this hotel that’s very nice.  The people who own it are friends of Arturo and Senor Reforma, and the rooms are very nice, and there’s coffee in the morning, and it’s lovely.

But, it’s about a 15 minute drive from the Reforma’s house.  And there’s another hotel that is just up the road from them.  So the second night, we leave the Reforma’s place, full and happy and tired, and decide maybe we want to stay at the closer hotel.

So we stop and check it out.  In many ways it’s beautiful.  And it has air conditioning.  But it’s so close to the lagoon that there are lots of mosquitoes and other flying creatures, and we decide, no, better to go back to the first hotel.

So we make that drive – this is part of the road:

I’m taking these from the car window as we drive along – slowly.  Not that night, because it was dark then.  Um, obviously.

Anyhow, Arturo, and people who live there, know when the water’s too high to cross by certain rocks at either end ~ if they’re covered, you can’t pass.

So it’s perfectly safe, and it’s just a small part of the road, and really beautiful.  This isn’t at night either, it’s just real shady in the middle part.

Back at the hotel, they’re all just about ready for bed themselves, I think, but they get up and make sure our rooms are ready, and we all have a beer to celebrate, and go to bed.

I take a shower, which feels wonderful even though it’s cold water.  It’s very hot in Rio Grande.  When we left Juquila it was maybe 65 or 70 degrees, but an hour later, it’s at least 90.  Quite suddenly, like passing through a doorway and WHOOSH, it’s hot.

So I’ve been living in 90 degrees for two days now, and am getting used to it, but a cold shower is a wonderful thing.  I go to bed feeling safe and cozy and content.

The next morning, I get up and dressed, and am trying to do something with my hair {don’t ask me why, it’s really hopeless.  Fortunately, the water is soft, so it’s not as bad as it could be.}

Anyhow, I brought a curling brush, and am pretending there’s some point to using it, when I hear this odd noise.  It’s a kind of ~ thumping?

I look over, and it’s ~ it’s some kind of CREATURE crawling across the floor.  Ir’s so big, I can hear it walking.


I don’t know what it is!  It might be ~ is it a huge crab?  Maybe, I guess it could be.  I don’t know!

As I watch, it makes its way across the room and begins to climb the wall.

Do crabs climb like that?  What if it’s not a crab?  Omigod, what if it’s a spider?  Dee said that Alix had asked him if I’d had any trouble with spiders ~ what if this is it?  My first one!! Omigod.

I scoot over to the door, keeping my eye on the creature, and look out in the hallway, but no one’s up yet.

Omigod, omigod.  What am I going to do now?  It’s all the way up in the corner of the ceiling, by the curtains.  It’ll probably disappear into some crevice or something, and no one will even believe it happened.

No, wait, I’ll take a picture of it!  Then they’ll believe me!

So I grab my camera and shoot this:

Do you see it?  It’s up in the corner.  I didn’t crop it down because I wanted you to have the perspective of the curtains and the wall.  But it’s huge.

So I think, no it’s too big for a spider.  But  I’ve seen some huge spiders out in the country in my Mom’s basement, what if it’s some kind of killer Mexican spider?  What if it starts a web by swinging down from there, and OMIGOD, what will I do then???

And I go back out in the hall, and this time, there’s a woman out there, she’s knocking gently at someone’s door, apparently trying to wake them up.  I think at first she’s one of the owners, but she really wasn’t, she was just a neighbor.

At that point, I’m not even worried about it, I approach her and start trying to tell her about the killer creature in my room.

She thinks maybe I want a tortilla?

I’m like “No, No, non tortilla, es ~ es ~ AH!”  And I make the universal sign for “Wait,” and rush back to my room for my phone camera.  Triumphantly, I show her the picture of the killer creature on my ceiling, which at that point is crawling behind the curtains.

“Donde?”  She says, which ~ aha ~ I know means “where is it?”  And I gesture and she follows me and of course it’s disappeared behind the curtain.

Fearlessly, she moves the curtains, and finds it clinging to the back of the curtain.  Smiling, she peels him off and shows him to me.

I know, it’s weird lighting, but there it is.  It is, indeed, a crab, not a killer creature at all.  And I was so scared!

Well, not totally scared.  Just a little anxious.  Right?

And thanks to the nice lady, I’m totally reassured.  By that time, the owners are up, and I give up on my hair and go downstairs to find coffee.

People are awake here too now ~ that means matches… and coffee!  Yay!

The Road to Juquila

Early morning in Oaxaca City, I’m drinking a really pretty cappucino in a clear glass cup and watching the city wake up. People walk briskly, dressed mostly in jeans and a wide variety of tops. Sweaters, hoodies and boots are not unusual.

I wander around the square a little, careful to stay within sight of my hotel. Drink another cappuccino in another cafe. Finally, connect with Conan and Luis (in the middle of a third cappuccino) collect my luggage, and load Luis’s SUV.

Then we go shopping. A big store first, like a Meiers. There is a Walmart,  but Conan says things are more expensive there. Julia has sent a list, Luis has a list, we shop and shop.

Then a department store, we look at cribs and other things, Luis picks out some clothes for his infant daughter. More stuff to load in the SUV.

Lunch at a little cafe type place ~ not sure what it was, but it was tasty.

Finally, we go pick up the flowers Luis’ mother had asked him to get. When we are through loading, the SUV looks like this:

And like this:

And at last, we are on the road to Juquila.

It’s off there in the mountains somewhere…

Juquila is a town of about 5,000 people. It’s a tourist town, not for foreigner so much as for Mexican people. The Virgin appeared to some children here, and continues to perform miracles. So people who have a request for a miracle make a pilgramage to Juquila, where there’s a special church and shrine, all of which I’ll talk more about later.

According to google maps it’s about 100 miles and takes about 2 and a half hours to get from Oaxaca City to Juquila.  This is a joke.

Even on a map, here’s what the last part of the road looks like.

All those little jagged edges are curves, many of them hairpin turns.

There are special obstacles too – REDUCTOR is a warning for the speed bump.  And they’re frequent.

Luis, experienced on this road, knows exactly where each one is ~ even the ones that aren’t marked.  This is a very good thing.

I wasn’t able to catch a picture of the two dogs, trotting merrily down the middle of the road, but that’ll slow you up a bit. And the ones who sleep in the road wait until the last moment to get out of the way. As soon as we pass, they go back and lie down in the same spot, as if to say, “This really is my road, you know.”

So it is a five, five and a half hour drive, for sure. On a good run, we hit 30 or 40 kilometers an hour, about 20 or 25 miles an hour. Google maps, hmpf.

We pass “wild” horses and cows and an occasional pig.

We pass small town after small town.

We stop often.

We stop for food or drinks.

Or to use the bathrooms. Conan keeps a close eye on me, which is good. Culture shock abounds.

The bathrooms cost three pesos.

In fairness, I remember when public toilets were pay toilets in Italy, although I don’t know if they still are. And I have a vague recollection of some bathrooms in department stores here that cost a dime to enter the stall. So I don’t feel too superior or anything, this will change here in time, I’m sure.

But. I don’t have any small change, so I have to ask Conan for the three pesos. I enter, with only a little fumbling, head to the stall ~ oh, wait, no toilet paper. I move to the next one ~ no, no toilet paper in any of them. Not even a roll where it would be.

I go back to see if there’s a roll of paper towels by the sink, and I see it. Toilet paper – for a peso.

Laughing, I call to Conan, on the other side of the barrier, “Can I get another peso from you, please?”

Luis hears me, and says, with a grin, “What for ~ does it cost two pesos to get back out? Welcome to Oaxaca!”


In reality, I have to say that I haven’t felt like I was getting victimized by tourist stuff ~ or not any more than you would anywhere else.  Probably less…


Welcome to Oaxaca

After the rainy landing at the airport, I stand in line with every one else to turn in my papers and have my passport stamped, which doesn’t really take vary long.

I collect my luggage and manage to move it to the conveyor belt, where they scan it. I pull it all back off the conveyor belt (yes, all hundred and fifty pounds) and an official comes over and helps me with the last one. Then ~ I have to push a button.

If it’s green, I’ll get to go on right away.

If it’s red, they’ll have to go through my luggage.

Drum roll ~~~~  what will it be, what will it be?

It’s GREEN! Yay!

In the meantime ~~ when I made the reservations for my hotel, I also made arrangements for a shuttle to the hotel. We didn’t know what the plan to get me to Juquila would be exactly. We knew that Conan and his friend Luis would pick me up, but it was all kind of vague in terms of timing. So I reserved the shuttle.

The day before my flight, Julia let me know that Conan and Luis would meet me at the airport. But it was too late to get my money back for the shuttle, so I didn’t cancel it. I figured that way, if something happened and Conan and Luis couldn’t make it, the shuttle would be my back up plan.

So when I get off the plane, and make my way through customs, Conan and Luis are waiting for me ~ and I’m glad to see them.

The man from the shuttle is waiting too. He’s not so happy. I’m his only reservation tonight, and Conan has already told him that I’m going with them. I’m not sure why he cares, since I’ve already paid, but I figure maybe HE only gets paid if he delivers.

Conan suggests that we send the luggage with the shuttle.  I’m fine with that, the driver seems ok with it, and it saves us from having to load the bags. So we set off, me in Luis’ SUV, my luggage in the van with the not-so-happy driver.

It’s not real far to the hotel, maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and the driver arrives just about the same time. He unloads the luggage. As he’s doing it, I have a quick consult with Conan about tipping.

Fifty pesos is the smallest bill I have, so even though we agree that might be excessive, I give it to him.

He takes it, looks at it, and his whole face lights up. With great warmth and enthusiasm, he says, “Welcome to Oaxaca!!”

Luis is {perhaps inordinately} amused by this. Later that evening, as we’re having a little bite to eat at the restaurant next door, he repeats the story with delight, acting out the shift from glum-faced driver to happy-happy greeter. I have to laugh too, although I don’t regret the five dollars.

Quick ups and downs of the evening ~ on the upside ~ the hotel was simple outside, beautiful inside, as you can see.

The room was large, clean and the bed comfortable enough.

Downside ~ when Conan and Luis start to go up with me, the desk clerk says, “No. They cannot go up.”

I’m taken aback, not sure what to think. My only thought~ don’t laugh ~ was that he thought I’d picked them up, or they’d picked me up, for some immoral activiity, and he wasn’t having any wild cougar stuff going on in his hotel. Really, that’s what I thought, and I was a bit offended, and maybe embarrassed, but too tired to do anything about it.

Their staff person manages to get all my luggage up to the room, (and wouldn’t take a tip) and I didn’t think too much about it. But Conan and Luis advise me later that it was because they weren’t tourists. I’m still a little confused about it all ~ there were other Mexican people staying there ~ but apparently they think it was a class thing, I’ll take their word for it.

If I’d known that at the time, maybe I’d have reacted differently, but they didn’t tell me that til much later.

In any case, we eat, I fall into bed and sleep like a log.

Next morning, I get up craving coffee, of course. But it’s too early, the restaurant next door doesn’t open til 7. So I take a shower.

A cold shower.

I can’t believe it’s cold.  I’m sure the water just needs to warm up a minute. Or I’m turning the wrong knob.

But no.

There’s no hot water.

By the time I realize, really, there is not going to be any, I am already soaped up, and it’s a little late to go complain. Brrrrrr. NOT my favorite way to start the day.

When I tell them later, they are appropriately appalled and go immediately to fix it. Yeah, whatever. I figure that’s what they do with all the one-nighters. Saves on hot water.

When I tell Conan and Luis about it, Luis just grins. “Welcome to Oaxaca,” he says.

A Day of Mindfulness

I ran across this quote today:

“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”
~~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

And I got this mental image of what that would be like.  It’s been several years since i’ve  taken a few days to go away for a bit, alone, to just be.

So I was thinking I’d do that after I retire in July, only I thought instead of going away, maybe I’d just set aside a day here.

I imagine what that would look like.

I get up in the morning and don’t turn on the computer.  The house is in good order, and I make some special tea to start the day.  Or coffee, fresh ground, with frothy milk, of course.

I fix a special meal, with pretty colors.  Tomatoes.  Tomatoes with olive oil and a little basil.  Corn on the cob.  Or squash.  Zucchini and squash.  Maybe a salad.  A little bit of some whole wheat bread.

I invite a friend, and we eat slowly, turning our attention from the food to each other and back again.

When we finish, I wash the dishes, slowly by hand.   I attend to each moment of the experience ~ my hands in the soapy water, the weight of each dish.  I let my friend dry them, with gentle care.

Maybe we go for a walk.  Not a brisk, exercise kind of walk, but a gentle stroll.  We  walk as if our feet are kissing the ground.  Aware of the sky, the air, the grass and trees, the sidewalk.  Aware of it all.

I spend some time writing.  Not at the computer ~ where  facebook and email pop up.


I write poetry.  By hand.  In my really cool notebook with sparkly unicorns.  It may be bad poetry, but I like it.

The day stretches before me, full of promise and invitation.  I think there is music.  And dance.

I wear something flowing and fun.  Something that moves with me, something that swirls and swishes.

I smile often.

When I slide into bed, I feel clean sheets against my skin, fresh and cool.  I stretch, and feel my body relax completely.  I fall asleep easily, and wake refreshed.

It’s a nice vision.  All I need to do now is pick a day…

Contrasting Articles on Women

On facebook today,  i saw two articles, both posted by people at UniteWomen.orgKY, but so different in perspective that i had to look twice to make sure they really posted both of them.

The first one ~ How Not to Get Raped ~ is based on interviews with rapists about what they look for in a victim.   It ostensibly gives us ideas on how to avoid being raped.  It says things like:

1) The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed . They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
2) The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around specifically to cut clothing.
3) They also look for women on their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

The second article ~A Message to Girls ABout Religious Men Who Fear You ~ is a recognition of the ways many cultures, and particularly patriarchal religious systems, seek to control women.  It says things like:

 they single-mindedly focus their attention on you, your body, your clothes, your hair, your abilities, your physical freedom. When their “manners” and “morals” are not universally applicable, but different for boys and girls, you can be sure that this is why. They seek to teach you, subtly, through small slights and gendered expectations, that you are “different,” weak, unworthy, incapable. The sadness is that, in their perception, if you are none of these things, then they are not strong, worthy and capable. This is not an excuse, but an explanation. It’s why they find infinite “benevolent” ways to undermine and disparage you, all in the name of “God’s word.” When that fails, they resort to violence. All over the world, their anxiety is manifest in a spectrum of actions ranging from mild paternalism, respectful of “proper boundaries,” to deadly enforcement of their rules.

The first article is an excellent example of what the second article is talking about.

I had to laugh at some of the things in the first article.  For example, if rapists go for women who are wearing clothes that are easy to remove {and what does that look like?} then why would they carry scissors for that purpose?

Oh, wait -I get it.  Light clothing would be easier to cut through.  Heavy clothing that covers your whole body might be more difficult.  And layers of clothes would be really good.  I bet if I wore enough layers, and covered myself thoroughly enough, they couldn’t even cut through it all.

Ok, not laughing any more.

Further on in the article, they give a lot of suggestions about being on guard and ready to attack if necessary at all times. I picture myself carrying an umbrella (an actual suggestion) and any time a man walks towards me in a public parking lot, I wield the umbrella like a sword and scream, “Get back, you crazy rapist!!!”

I imagine that most of us recognize the problems inherent in women trying to prevent our own rapes.  Rape happens because we cross paths with a rapist at a time that we’re vulnerable in some way.  That vulnerablity might be age ~ children are particularly vulnerable ~ or place, or lack of sobriety, or all kinds of things.  But the rape happens because we cross paths with a rapist.

You’ve probably seen the lists of advice for men on how to avoid rape.  There are many of them, but I think this blog post ~ 5 Rape Prevention Tips (for guys) ~ is my favorite at the moment.

Also, there are organizations like Mens Work  that help men recognize ways to end violence against women.  This isn’t a men vs women issue.  It’s women and men who support us vs men and women supporting patriarchal cultures that try to control women through intimidation and shame.

Anyhow. I saw the two articles this morning on the same website, and had to say something.  Now I feel better.

{In case my short links don’t work, here’s the sources for the other blogs and the stumbleupon that I reference.}

How Not to Get Raped:

Message to Girls about Religious Men Who Fear You

5 Rape Prevention Tips (for guys)

Mens Work

Time to Say No?

At church today, Father Tony Gittins, from Chicago, was a guest homilist.  I thought I had heard the name before, and when I google it, I see that he’s renowned for his teachings on discipleship and social justice.  Cool.

His homily is excellent, of course.  The reading today is about the man with two sons who he asks to go work in his vineyard.  One son says “no,” but goes out and works anyway.  The other son says “yes,” but doesn’t go work.  Jesus asks, “Which son does his father’s will?” 

Father Gittins preaches on it admirably, and actually in a way that might change my life.  But let me give this some context first.

I go to a Catholic church.  

Yes, I’m Catholic.  

I suppose.  

Staying Catholic is increasingly a struggle for me.  

I was raised Catholic, but not in the tradition of American Catholic grade schools, nuns with rulers, and families with 10 children.   My Mama’s Catholicism was more Italian style and, at least in her world, the pope gave his opinion and people agreed – or didn’t.  No hard feelings either way.

I remember her explaining to me that while it was important to listen to the Pope, he was only infallible when he spoke “ex cathedra.” I remember her saying that a pope had only done that three times in the history of the church.  

I understood that if you didn’t agree with him when he spoke ex cathedra, you couldn’t call yourself Catholic.  But the rest of the time, you didn’t necessarily have to agree.

As I write that now, in today’s climate, I find myself wondering – was that really what she said?  And then I remember John Kennedy, our only Catholic president.  I remember how proud we were when someone asked him what he’d do if the pope tried to tell how to decide something based on religion.

I remember him saying that he would have to do what was right for the country, that we wouldn’t “be ruled from Rome,” which was a big fear at the time.  I remember feeling proud, and other Catholics did too.

I had this sense of being Catholic back then as something that I intrinsically was, in almost the same way that Jewish people are Jewish.  I suspect that was very Italian of me.

Ok, so fast forward a bunch of years, and a bunch of experiences.  I know now that being accepted by the Catholic church in America in our time is very conditional. And I guess that’s ok.

So, I go to this Catholic Church that is pretty liberal.  We always have been.  We’re a church I can love, with our inclusive language, ecumenical leanings, commitment to peace and the pursuit of social justice.  Sounds good, right?

Of course, some of our stuff is getting a little shaky these days.  New pope, new Archbishop, and we’re working on keeping a low profile.  Inclusive language is not acceptable and let’s not talk about women being called to serve as pries~~~ shhhh – don’t say it.  Hush.

Yes, really.

But we’ve hung in there so far, and keep looking for ways to adapt and survive.  

I won’t name the church, it doesn’t really matter and I want to give them plausible deniability, cause by the time I finish writing this, they may need to not claim me.

So here we are, this little radical Christian Catholic Church, full of peace and love and inclusion.  This is what it looked like to me today:

We start off with the sign of the cross.  We used to say an inclusive version ~ “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Holy Sanctifier.”  There are other versions too that have been considered acceptable, but~~

~~ but it’s inclusive, it doesn’t make it clear that God’s our Father, not our Mother.  Can’t have that.

So now we don’t say it.  We don’t say anything.  We make the sign of the cross silently, and say what we want to say to ourselves.

How sad is that?

But we have permission to do that.  Thanks.

So we go on, and I notice again that it’s been ages, really ages since we used one of my favorite songs before the readings.  Maybe a year.  Maybe more.  It’s one I love, and we used to do it often, but it seems to be gone.  I wonder if it’s on the not-acceptable-music list.

I let that go, and I’m fine til it’s time for the gospel.  Then our esteemed visitor rises to read the Gospel, and I think ~

“He’s a priest, so he’s allowed to read the Gospel.  The other people we have, our local prophets and preachers, aren’t allowed to do that, and they aren’t allowed to preach.   They’re allowed to stand there while a priest reads the gospel and does some little homily just to remind us all that he has the power and the authority.  Then they can expound on what he says.  But some priest can walk in off the street, and read the gospel himself.”

And i feel a little sick.  

No offense to the visiting priest intended.  It’s the message we send our lay people that bothers me.

So Father Gittins reads the story about the two sons and the conversation Jesus has about the discrepancy between their words and their behavior.  Father says that he read the non-inclusive language version on purpose because it’s important that the story is about sons, not daughters.  He says he’ll expound on that later, but I must have missed that part.

Anyhow, it doesn’t really matter, because I’m taken with the rest of his homily.  Here’s what sticks with me.  

The story is about integrity.  Doing what you say.  Actions that match your words.  And the importance of saying “yes” when you mean “yes,” and “no,” when you mean “no.”  

The story, he says, is about the importance of rethinking things so we are transformed to God’s way of thinking.  

And I begin to ask myself – Can I call myself Catholic with any sense of integrity?

I run down the list of things that Catholics publicly proclaim these days – not just for Catholics, things that they – we? – try to force on everyone.

1.  Marriage is one man + one woman.  

We believe that so strongly that we’re not willing to provide adoption services if we might have to place a child in desperate need of a home with a gay or lesbian couple.  In fact, we’d rather withdraw our funding and not participate at all.

But I have gay and lesbian friends who’ve adopted and I believe they’re wonderful parents, and I believe they should be able to get married in all states.

2.  Getting divorced and remarrying is wrong. 

We Catholics believe this so strongly that in many churches you can’t go to Communion if you’re remarried, or serve on the parish council, or participate fully in the spiritual community. 

By those standards, I am already “beyond the pale.”  Of course, I’m not remarried anymore, but I’m pretty sure that getting divorced a second time doesn’t let me off the hook.

3.  Artificial contraception is wrong.

We Catholics believe this so strongly that we won’t support any sex education that includes any kind of real birth control, not even condoms.  Not even in countries where young women are getting married and pregnant so young that they end up with fistulas.  Not even in countries where children are starving because there are too many mouths to feed.  Not even in countries where HIV is rampant.

Ludicrous, I think this stance is ludicrous.  And possibly evil.  

4.  Abortion is wrong under any circumstances.

We Catholics believe this so strongly that we excommunicated the mother of the nine year old in South America who was raped by her step-father and pregnant with twins, and we excommunicated the doctor who aborted them because she couldn’t have carried them to term and survived.  

We are ok with some women and the occasional child dying, that’s just the way it goes.

Since we don’t believe in artificial contraception, our chances of dying in childbirth go up, but that’s ok.  And it’s ok if we get raped and get pregnant – unfortunate, maybe, but just the way it is. Because once we’re born, women don’t really matter.  So of course –

5.  Women can’t be priests.

Never, never, never.  So much never that if we even say we think it’s wrong, we’re just-about-kind-of excommunicated.  So much never that even thinking some women are called to the priesthood is some kind of sin.

If you think I’m kidding – they’re on the verge of excommunicating Father Roy Bourgeois.  Maybe they already have and I missed it.  As I recall, he preached the homily at a mass for some renegade group of folk who were ordaining a woman.  They don’t want to kick him out – he’s a priest, after all, and they didn’t excommunicate any of the sexually predatory priests.  

But thinking that women should be priests is at least as bad as priests abusing children.

So let me say it publicly, proclaim it from the rafters – I think some women are called to be priests.  I think the Catholic Church is wrong not to recognize this and use the talent of these gifted and compassionate women.

AND – I escort at the abortion clinic, accompanying the patients and their companions down the gauntlet of pray-ers, preachers, and chasers, many of whom are Catholic.  I used to cringe a little when the Catholics marched down from the Cathedral once a month to fill the sidewalk across the street, certain that one day I’d look up and see someone I know.  But I no longer care.

There are lots of other places that I have issues with the Catholic church.  The ways we’ve treated our African-American brothers and sisters is one, but that’s a more subtle discussion.  So is the “God is male” position I think they – we? – take.  

But the five things I’ve listed – Marriage, Divorce, Contraception, Abortion, and Priesthood – are substantive and crystal clear.  I do not believe what the Catholic church teaches.

How can I say I’m Catholic???

Why would I want to??

(to be continued)

Out to Sea

Tybee Island –

Traded a good internet connection for the ocean. 

Today, I walked on the beach twice, found a perfect conch shell, watched pelicans diving for their breakfast…

went to the pier and took my own picture with my cell phone

and it’s not even noon yet.

I’ll be back on Sunday…

Savanah III

It’s already becoming a blur for me.  Beautiful squares:

Beautiful houses:

And then I reach a point of overload.  Yes, it’s all beautiful, and I just can’t do anymore.  No more pictures.  No more beautiful rooms with amazing furniture.  No more souvenir shops. 

I hit that point about 4:30 yesterday, and after that I was just driving Julia around, like Driving Miss Daisy.  I’d go straight, turn left, turn right, just following directions, til she’d say – there!  park!

And I would.  She’d jump out and disappear into another square, camera in hand. I’d close my eyes and snooze.  Waiting for the next directions – go straight…

But I’ve skipped to the end of the story, well, one of the ends, and there’s still so much to tell.  Ok, backing up now.

There was Chris and the bus tour, and the 10,000 stories he told, and then the ghost tour that night, which he also led.  That was lots of fun.  He totally sold me on the idea that on a battlefield where 1100 men were killed in 55 minutes, there must be ghosts.  While I haven’t been able to find conformation of his exact version of the story, which involved betrayal and great drama, it is apparently true that about that many men died in what is called “the bloodiest hour of the Revolutionary War.”

Also interesting were the four prohibitions that Savannah started with:

–  No lawyers
–  No hard alcohol
–  No Catholics  and
–  No slavery

Eventually, of course, all of those prohibitions were lifted.  Slaves in Savannah, however, had a slightly different experience than elsewhere in the country.  I had read this somewhere before, but forgotten it. 

Slaves in Savannah were allowed to travel into town and work at a variety of trades, such as blacksmithing or weaving.  They were allowed to keep the wages they made from these endeavours.  If they purchased their freedom, they were treated pretty much like other citizens (with the exception of the vote, I think.)   So that created a somewhat different atmosphere in Savannah.

Having read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” before I came to Savannah, I already knew that Savannah locals pride themselves on being a little eccentric, with Southern charm to spare.  For sure, that’s true.

Tuesday night, we had dinner at The Pirate’s House as part of the ghost tour.  It was fun to see the cellar where the underground tunnel was open for rum-runners coming in – and kidnapped men and boys being “shanghai-ed” to sea.  Of course, Chris gave us graphic details of the cruelty imposed on the kidnapped men – and the men who were injured and left behind to die.

We were encouraged to take pictures in the area, and assured of the likelihood of capturing some ghosts on film.  

Unfortunately, all my pictures look like this.  No, I can’t see the ghosts either.  Julia, however, has some on her camera that are pretty impressive, and I’ll post them when she sends them to me.

But it was even more fun to listen to our server, Elijah, rave about the ghost pictures he’s captured on film.  He was passionate about it, and divided his time pretty evenly between providing impeccable service to our table for dinner and accompanying us to even better areas to catch glimpses of ghosts.

I did cringe a little when he referred to us as “young ladies,” but he couldn’t have known that we wouldn’t have been delighted.  Well, and I wasn’t thrilled when he called us “love,” as if he were British – “Here you go, luv,” as he set a plate down.  But those were minor negatives, and he was friendly and fun.

Here’s a picture of the Pirate’s House restaurant – that’s Chris, our tour guide, back in the corner.  

Ok, so that kind of brings us up to date – well, not really, but it gets us through Tuesday night, pretty much, kind of, and that’s something. 

Today, we move to Tybee Island.  It’s supposed to go up to 60 degrees and the sun’s shining – woohoo!  and I’m excited.  Julia’s taken the car and gone to explore more of the city.  When she comes back, we’ll go see the couple of more things I want to see, and head out.

Stay tuned…  tomorrow I’ll tell you about the one rude person we met…  Oh – here’s what I saw from my balcony today: 

Ok, unfortunately, you can’t really tell what it is.  However – see the bridge off to the left – then look at the big thing that looks like another building in the background – that’s actually a ship.  The little white piece with the red top sticking up?  Part of the ship. 

So my pictures may not be professional quality.  I actually forgot I had a real camera here and the iphone may be a little limited…. 

Savannah – I

You’ve probably already heard the story about my sister’s birthday celebration, but I’ll tell it again just in case you missed it.  It started with the book Annie Freeman’s Traveling Funeral, which is a wonderful story about a woman (Annie Freeman) who dies.  She’s cremated, and she’d left instructions for a group of women friends to take this journey to scatter her ashes.

In the book, she has the trip all set up, with planned adventures and encounters along the way, and then of course, there’s always the unexpected.  If you’ve never read the book, I recommend it, it’s very fun.

So Julia reads it, and thinks it’s great, but – “why wait til I’m dead?  I wanna have the adventures while I’m still alive.”  She turned 50 this year, and once you turn 50, you realize that you really can do anything you want to.  At least, that’s my theory.

So that’s what she does.  All year long, Julia goes on little trips with different people she loves.  Now, here we are, December, the birthday year’s almost over, and our adventure is almost past due.

I wanted to go somewhere warm.  She’s always wanted to go to Savannah.  I wanted to see the ocean – don’t have to lay out in the sun, just need to see it, smell it, be near it.  She’s always wanted to go to Savannah.  It was the perfect plan.

We knew it might not be real warm.  We knew it was a long drive.  When we heard it was supposed to snow the day we were leaving, we even knew it would be smart to leave the evening before we’d originally planned.

We didn’t know that we’d pull into Savannah looking like this:

We left about 6:00 Sunday night, and driven through the snow, past Lexington, past Corbin (home of the original KFC, and close to where our grandmother had lived.)  It was snowy, and kind of slick, but we persevered.

We stop at the rest area on the Tennessee border.  Laugh at the sign that says, “Use caution, roads may be slick.” 

“Well, no duh,” we say.  “The roads are a little slick.  Ya don’t have to tell us to use caution!  But it’s only 58 miles to Knoxville – let’s at least get that far.” 

And we blithely head on.

5 miles, and 20 minutes later, Julia says, “Well, it’s not so bad as long as there’s a truck or something ahead of us.  Their lights give me some depth perception.  But without that, oh, geez, I can’t see – well, I can’t see much of anything.” 

Fortunately, an SUV passes us – we follow him for another 8 or so miles.  Then he picks up some speed – “No!  Don’t leave us!”  we say, half laughing, and watch his lights fade away far ahead of us. 

We creep on.

So when we see a billboard that says “Comfort Inn – Exit 141 – 5 miles” we don’t even have to discuss it.  It’s got our names all over it.

And it’s a beautiful sight – as we finally slide onto the exit ramp, we can see it, sitting at the top of a little hill.  Lining the driveway up to it are rows of Christmas lights, arranged to lead us safely in. 

“Yes!” we breathe a sigh of relief.

The woman at the desk is warm and welcoming, even if she might think we’re a little strange for being out in this.  The room is cozy and nice.  We’re happy.

Julia examines the trip tic – yes, we still have a Triple A trip tic, she loves them.  “I think we want to avoid the mountains as much as we can.”

“Ya think?” I say, then add, “Really – do we have a choice?.”

“Look,” and she holds out the map, pointing, “If we go this way, through Atlanta, see here – I think we avoid most of the real mountains, and it’s only about half an hour longer.”

I don’t even have to put on my glasses, I trust her judgment on this completely.  But I put my glass on anyway, just so it looks like I’m a full partner in the decision making.  “Mmmhmmm,” I say, and it does look like there’s a lot less elevation, “Sounds good to me.  Let’s do it.”

Of course, there is some talk about leaving early, then we realize that’s foolish.  “If we wait til after rush hour, the roads will be clearer, traffic won’t be at a standstill, we won’t have to deal with all those other drivers.”

Sounds like a plan to me. 

So we start out the next morning, after a good night’s sleep.  It’s a little slow going at first, but no real problems the rest of the way. 

I stop and get the car washed right before we get to Savannah because the snow is finally all gone, and I don’t want my car to be embarrassed in front of all the pretty, clean cars.  For some reason, the GPS on my iphone, which had been guiding us unecessarily, quits talking right when we need her.  I’m driving again, so I can’t fix it without drifting off the road, but we manage to find the hotel anyhow.

And at last here we are!  Our hotel is right in the historic district, only about a block from the river.  The desk clerk is delightful, answers most of Julia’s questions, and assures her that the concierge will be able to tell her much more in the morning.

At last, checked in, settled in, and freshened up a little, we’re ready to head out for dinner…

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