November has been a very stressful month, and it’s not over yet. Some of the stress has been in a good way, so I’m grateful. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to speak at the Minneapolis Women’s Club at the Women of Words event. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to speak to our local Ostomy Society. What a great bunch! I’m grateful to the people at both presentations who took the time to tell me exactly why what I have to say had such a strong impact on them.
I’m grateful, as always, for my time at Gilda’s Club. I’m putting in an extra shift this week, stepping in for another greeter. Since Thursday is my usually day I’ve got a “day off” so I suppose it’s not really extra. Besides, there’s a social event this morning so I would be there anyway!
I’m grateful that I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. The family I grew up in has two generations under it. I’m a Great Aunt. The crowd is getting too big for us all to be together in one space. It’s bittersweet to break it up. At the same time I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a little more intimate Thanksgiving rather than all the noise and chaos. I’m grateful, especially after this summer, to still have both of my parents. I’m grateful both of my children will be there.
I’m grateful for all the things I say I’m grateful for in my speeches. Telling my story means I am revisiting points in my life where I had reason to be very grateful, for people, for circumstances, for support. It’s challenging for me to open up that way, but it’s also a great reminder of how blessed I’ve been.
I’m looking at the Syrian refugees. I’m looking at the shooting (by the police) of a black man just a few miles from my home that’s threatening to turn Minneapolis into Ferguson. I’m looking at the bombing in Paris. I have so much to be grateful for, so much bounty, so much privilege, even my stress seems minor in comparison.
So I give thanks and stand in gratitude and pray for healing around the world.
You might recall last Monday when I thought I had too much to do and not enough time to do it? Today is the day. I have rearranged my schedule to be a little more comfortable. One of the things I didn’t move was a trip to the dentist.
I’m not one of those people who fears going to the dentist. I’ve got a pretty high pain tolerance and have been fortunate in the people who’ve worked on my mouth. In spite of all that I don’t want to go.
This is all about “I Don’t Wanna”. The appointment is for a cleaning. No drama, no pain, just a sparkling smile at the end of the day. I’m spending the morning pouting and dragging my feet.
I have no excuses. I can pretend it’s because it’s a rainy day. I can pretend it’s because Orion’s bus was late. I can stand in solidarity with France. That’s not what this is about. This is about having to adult.
We all have moments when we just don’t want to have to be the grown-up. Adulthood is not everything we dreamed it would be when we were kids. Yes we can eat when we want to, if we can afford it, cook it, and clean up after it. Yes we can stay up as long as we want, and drag ourselves to work the next day, and sometimes the day after because “catching up” isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Thing is, we have also learned that it takes more effort to whine and fuss than it does to just do the thing. Get it over with and move on. Put a carrot (or a donut, or a good cup of coffee, or a cocktail) at the end of getting it done. We KNOW this, but it doesn’t always show in our actions.
So I’ll go to the dentist and get on with the rest of my day. I’ll be grateful for a clean fresh mouth. I’ll try to stay focused on the things I like about getting up and on with my day. I’ll remember how nice it is to run my tongue over smooth clean teeth. I’ll think about what I might like for a treat.
I’ll get over my “I Don’t Wanna”, and I’ll be pretty quick about it. At least until the next one shows up. (Have you started addressing those Christmas cards?)
I don’t know what day it is. I’ve been running so fast trying to keep up, to catch up. With the holidays approaching I know it’s only going to go faster, so I am looking for balance.
I was sure that today was going to be one of those days when I didn’t have time for anything. I had too many appointments, too many commitments. I’d meant to make some calls and move things around, but never got around to it. Panic!
Then I looked at the calendar again this morning. There’s that button that says “today” and makes the cursor go to the current schedule. Seems like the crazy Monday is NEXT week. I still have time to make those phone calls. I have different things to do today, and no so many. I can do this.
This week my goal is to try and stop compartmentalizing my life. I get into trouble (too much to do) when those compartments start bumping into each other. Maybe if it was all one thing it would be easier to keep it all straight.
I’ve got a lot of projects in the works. I’m doing some more speaking. I’m planning an interfaith ritual as part of my post Parliament commitment. I’m finishing up a year’s book work for a non-profit and stepping up to head the board. I’ve still got students in my Wiccan tradition. I’ve still got Orion, his annual meeting is this month. I’ve still got Gilda’s club, and my women’s group and friends I need to check in with. I’ve got another book to write!
Sometimes when there’s a lot on the plate, something has to go. This time I’m still finding myself in the habit of conserving. I’m not really pushing my edges physically at all. I think maybe, what I need to finally let go of, is my fear of not being able.
I’ve spent so many years being physically cautious. I’ve had to have the energy when I needed it and so have always tucked away a little extra when I could. I’ve paced myself physically, insisting on lengthy breaks between tasks. It really was necessary. When I couldn’t do that I’d end up in bed for a day, or days. I’d do too much and then really hurt myself.
Now I can do so much more, and I’m excited and grateful that I can do so much more. But I still find myself being cautious, taking breaks I don’t really need. I avoid taking on large projects because I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish them. What has to give is this fear. It’s time to fly.
When I hit those edges I’ll know. When I need to take care of myself, I’ll know. When I need to just stop and come back another day, I’ll know. I may not be able to do it all, but I can do it. It will be fun.
This was not only my first time at the Parliament of World Religions, it was also my first visit to Salt Lake City. I had to sneak away and check out the area.
I was fortunate to have a chatty, tourist friendly driver from the airport. I learned that Salt Lake sits between two mountain ranges on the Western edge of the Rockies. That feels like being in a big comfy bowl surrounded by mountains. Salt Lake is a planned city. Streets are on a grid and an address will tell you how many blocks north/south and how many blocks east/west of the center point you are.
Apparently there is an old law that says all streets have to be wide enough for two full oxen carts to comfortably pass. That makes for wide streets, and “alleys” that look to be the size of residential streets anywhere else. (They run the light rail down one of those.) So when something is two blocks away, it seems a bit further than you’d expect.
In spite of that Salt Lake is a very walking friendly city. Streets are clean, sidewalks are smooth and you can hop on public transportation pretty easily. At the convention center there were always bicycle rickshaws available. At the end of the day, the small fee for a ride back to the hotel was well worth it! Salt Lake also has a broad “rent a bike” program, so if you wanted to peddle yourself it was an option.
I couldn’t stand the idea of being in Salt Lake City and not seeing the lake. I didn’t have time to take a tour bus out. The Lake is a good 10 miles out of the city (beyond the airport). I did manage to find my way along with a nice cab driver who was happy to get out with me and snap a few photos. There is quite the drought, and the lake bed I’m standing in should be filled with water. I did see the lake in the distance and was impressed and appalled. We’ve been hearing about drought conditions in the SouthWest and in California for years. This visual really brought that home to me in a new way.
I didn’t have to ditch the conference for all my tourism. The Parliament arranged an evening of sacred music and dance. It was hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and held in the Mormon Tabernacle. This was a real treat. The Mormon Temple is not open to anyone outside of the religion, and then only for special services like weddings and rites of passage. Most things take place in the Tabernacle.
It’s smaller than I expected. The woodwork, the pews, are all handcrafted and painted to look like oak. The organ that dominates the altar is magnificent. The place only seats about 5000 (more if you seat people in the choir, and they did!) I got there early and still chose a seat in the balcony rather than sitting way in back on the main floor.
We were presented with everything from a Muslim call to worship to the Dervishes whirling. We saw dances from Cambodia and drummers from Africa. One of the highlights was a children’s choir made up of children from many different religious traditions. A delightful surprise was the Baha’i choir which gave us a piece based on their liturgy but in a gospel style.
Temple Square is the center of the Mormon presence in Salt Lake City. It includes several visitors centers with museum dioramas of the history of the building of the temple. There are also plenty of dioramas of the history of the religion.
There are other things to do in Salt Lake as well. One evening we were encouraged to go on an Art Crawl (apparently a regular monthly affair in the city). The Jazz Society rehearsals are open as are rehearsals for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There are several Art Museums in the area around the convention center.
I had a great time. Really enjoyed the Parliament and all it had to offer. Truly appreciated the host city and it’s amenities. I’m hoping I’ll be able to go to the next Parliament of World Religions in 2017.
As amazing and awesome and hopeful as my experience at the Parliament of World Religions was, the event wasn’t without its controversy. Most of the complaints can be attributed to communication issues. However, some of those communication issues seem to stem from a failure of the decision makers to examine their own systemic cultural bias. To tell this story I’ll go back and forth between the Macro and Micro viewpoints.
On the Micro side, I contributed to the Parliament by participating in one of the offerings presented by Macha Nightmare of Covenant of the Goddess. As a COG member myself, as well as knowing Macha, it was easy enough for me to shoot her a message offering help. She said yes, so I got to be a “grace” (tech crew) for her ritual theater piece: Goddesses Alive.
On Macha’s end she sent ahead lots of information about what she needed. She included a diagram of the set up and seating arrangements. She requested rehearsal time and space. She asked for a changing/staging area for the women wearing the masks of the Goddesses. All of this was confirmed in advance and the entire cast and crew (singers, readers, Goddesses, and tech) received copies of the schedule she was given.
When the Parliament opened, I told you about the wonderful welcome from the Native elders to the land. I may have mentioned that even before the Parliament started – for the first time ever – there was a Women’s Assembly. This pre-Parliment event was programing specifically targeted to women’s issues. After the elders concluded and the anthem (written by two women specifically for the Parliament) was presented, the rest of the opening program consisted of men in suits yelling at us about what we need to do and patting themselves on the back about how inclusive THIS Parliament was for women.
“Separate but equal” is never really equal. I heard several women that evening talking about how disingenuous the whole presentation felt. The word “tokenism” was bandied about. Many of these women had been present for the Assembly earlier in the day. They were hoping to take that energy forward into the Parliament itself. In fact, many of them felt they were shut down. The rumors were this lack of women presenting in the opening ceremonies was intentional. There was a reception afterward (which wasn’t on the schedule) where women were invited to present. There is no excuse for this. Thankfully the next morning was the Plenary: Focus on Women, which was fabulous and even though it didn’t address the problem did help shift the anger.
Macha’s group includes several “Grandmothers of Paganism”, and I would count Macha among them. There were women in wheelchairs, one with a broken leg, one with a serious chronic illness and Macha herself in recovery from a stroke she had this summer. When we gathered for our rehearsal we were told pointedly, “You can not be in this room.” Eventually a rehearsal space was found for us, in a much smaller room on the other end of the convention center. We lost almost an hour of our precious rehearsal time to mismanagement.
The other Glaring scheduling issue was in regards to Black Lives Matter. Initially several workshops specifically addressing this issue were scheduled opposite each other. The workshop presenters noted this and brought it up to the committee in advance. Changes were made and you would think that would alert them to be sensitive. Unfortunately the Plenary addressing that issue was scheduled directly opposite the evening’s entertainment at the Mormon Tabernacle. (Apparently “those people” aren’t interested in cultural enrichment?) To be fair scheduling this kind of event is a nightmare and some things will get short shrift. Still, just because you have black people on the board doesn’t excuse this kind of dismissal of a huge social justice issue in the country hosting the event.
The day came for us to perform the piece. We found a room (again not the one originally scheduled but at least just across the hall) and started setting up and getting our Goddesses dressed. Less than an hour before we were to open the doors we were confronted by an irate staff member. I’m not sure if this was convention center staff or Parliament staff (or both!). I do know we weren’t the only workshop to get this treatment. Apparently no chairs were to be moved over the entire course of the weekend.
I’m not sure if this is a union issue (only union members are allowed to move the chairs) or a fire-marshal issue (the fire-marshal approved the set-up and any changes will have to be re-approved) or something else entirely. There was a cost component, as Macha was told she would be responsible for a large fee (several hundred dollars) to “fix” it. What it felt like (and in all the cases I was aware of it was Pagans wanting circles rather than rows) was an insensitivity and disrespect of the practice of our religion.
There was another point, actually during the presentation, where a message came back to the tech crew that if we were to “Turn on the lights or I will shut you down.” We made it through (forgiveness is always easier than permission) and the presentation was very well received even if it wasn’t the vision Macha intended. Again, there was nothing done that hadn’t, in theory, been approved in advance.
I choose not to carry the anger of the larger organizational issue, but rather to focus my experience on the more intimate encounters I had over the course of the weekend. I do know several people struggled with the dichotomy of so much bad and so much good. I don’t want to believe any of this was willful disrespect. I think it just goes to show how deep systemic prejudice can be and how much work, even the best intentioned of us, still have to do to fix it.
On Monday I gave you an overview of the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. I told you 10,000 participants and a vast array of topics and presentations to choose from. But that isn’t all there was to the Parliament.
There were several on-going or open activities as well. At the entrance, just in front of the registration tables, the Tibetan Monks set up a space to create a mandala for the event. In this tradition sand paintings are done to honor important events, and then in acknowledgment of the impermanence of all things, are blown away.
Even before the entrance, outside of the building, the Native peoples of the Americas established a ritual fire. They tended it throughout. People were always present to answer questions, help with offerings, and do sacred smudge. Each morning there was a prayer to the spirits of each of the directions to bless the work being done at the Parliament.
There was a table of salt, brought in from the Great Salt Lake. As participants passed by they could dip their hands in the salt. Many made patterns and pictures. It was an ongoing, ever-changing record of how people were feeling about the event. At the end the salt went back to the lake.
Of course there was the big room of vendors. Many of those booths were purely there to provide information about the religions they represented. There was a lot of free literature, books, pins, and occasionally candy given away. There were also places throughout the conference so that each religious system could host hospitality conversations.
There was a labyrinth laid out in tape on the floor, a copy of the one at Chartres. The ballroom hall was lined with beautiful tapestries of Goddesses from around the world. There were prayer flags lining the balconies and escalators.
There were art installations with religious themes. Everything was represented from traditional depictions of the crucifixion to an interactive exhibition where participants were encouraged to place keys on an arbor to support giving women access to theological and ministerial ranks in traditions where those roles are strictly limited to men.
The most profound contribution to the atmosphere at the Parliament (to my mind, and echoed by many others) was from the Sikh community. They had a presence in the vendor hall, offering the opportunity to have a turban wrapped on your head in the Sikh fashion and gifted to you to wear it throughout the Parliament. That was fascinating. Even more profound was their offering of Langar.
The Sikh’s made a vegetarian lunch every day and offered it free to any participant in the Parliament. We were welcomed to the space and asked to take off our shoes. The line took us past a series of boards talking about the Sikh religion, their principals, and their service. We were offered head coverings and hand washing. Then we were sat in rows on the floor as volunteers went up and down filling trays with each of the courses.
It was an incredible production and an invaluable gift to the Parliament. It set a place of community building. Many of my best conversations with strangers happened while I attended Langar. The food was simple, Indian, and wonderful. The warmth, friendliness, and generosity of spirit shown in this rite will stay with me for a long time.
It’s been the kind of week that I can’t cram into a single blog post. In fact, even though I’m having this blog automatically posted, the week isn’t even over. I’ve been on the road at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City.
It’s a HUGE conference with representatives of all kinds of religions from all over the world. There are almost 10,000 people in attendance. Programming starts with religious observances at 7am. Each workshop session has 20+ presentations to choose from. Additionally there is a track of films. There are also performances. Scattered through are Plenary’s – topics with very big name speakers which many attendees are likely to want to see.
The opening ceremonies, for instance, are a Pleanry. They were impressive, moving, powerful and controversial. The wonderful piece of the opening ceremonies was from the Native community. There was a processional, lead by representatives of the Native tribes of the areas, with multiple tribes acknowledged. The parade continued with representatives of the other religious systems present at the Parliament. It was surprisingly powerful and moving.
Then the Native elders and Grandmothers took the stage and welcomed us all onto their land. They offered blessing on the work of the Parliament and on its participants. They spoke of the trauma in their history and still embraced us with open arms. It was a profound expression of the theme: Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity”.
Being here has been a remarkable experience. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing faith-based activism. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing interfaith work. I would recommend it as an opportunity to learn more about world religions.
More later this week!
I’m posting late today because I went to get a haircut. You must understand that I am entirely incapable of maintaining my hair style in a traditional (cut every 6 weeks) kind of way. My last hair cut was in February.
I’m lucky to have hair that is flexible, adaptable and generally enviable. My regular readers have seen photos of me in the last 8 months and none of you have commented “Looking good, but you could use a haircut”. I’ll take the leap and say that mostly I haven’t looked like I needed one.
Thankfully, Jesse (my stylist at Hair Police) is pretty accepting of my cavalier attitude towards my hair. He believes me when my response to “what would you like?” is “That I don’t need to fuss with it.” We probably spend as much time chatting as he does actually cutting. That’s “normal” in the stylists chair, but it’s not typical for me.
In February I was getting the “new look” in preparation for flying to California and presenting at Pantheacon. (Go ahead and search that term out on my blog page. You’ll find lots of entries.) I didn’t get to go to San Jose, but the “new look” was helpful in the “keep your spirits up” department while I dealt with the cancer surgery.
Now I am again getting ready to travel. I’d like to make a good impression on the people I’ll meet. I’d like to do some networking with folks who speak on Spirituality for a living. I’d like to look good, approachable, and “put together”. I hope I’m not setting my bar too high!
Packing is still a challenge. I can get twice as many clothes into the suitcase as I used to! The problem is that I don’t have twice as many clothes that fit. I don’t even have the dreaded swimsuit in a size that won’t fall off if it gets damp. Usually before a trip I’m shopping for things like sample sized deodorant and toothpaste. This time it’s about what do I have to wear.
I’m grateful to the thrift stores. We went to one for Orion’s birthday and I picked up a few things for me as well. I’m grateful for my friends who clean out their closets and hand stuff my direction. I’m grateful for the women in my life (Karina and Carla) who are fond of “styling” and pick things out for me if they run across something that looks promising and size appropriate. (They have a better eye for my size than I do!) And of course I’m grateful to Jesse, not only for the haircut but also for taking the photo I promised:
Sadly I’m still going to have to shop for that swimming suit.
The last couple of weekends have been busy ones. Orion turned 27 last weekend! We went to a Comics for a Cause event. My friend Brenda Elsagher put it on and had her new book release there as well. Her book is about the humor in aging, the event supported the Ostomy Society. It was her sister’s birthday so she arranged a cake for both of them. What a sweetheart!
Orion wasn’t sure about it. He’s used to going out for German food on his birthday, but there were brats so even that was covered. He let Brenda know that although he doesn’t have a colostomy he’s had j-tubes for feeding on and off over the years. He had a great time and the comedy show was fun. Karina joined us (best sister ever!).
Karina and I spent some time together on Saturday. We brought Orion home brats from a beer fest we worked at. It was another fundraiser, this time for a center for homeless teens. Because Karina is in the industry she got a call from a friend, a distributor, looking for help. I poured beer from a craft brewery in the UP.
I know I’ve been “running”, pushing the edges of what I can do. It’s been good and I’ve been pleased with how “able” I am. I even got some yard work done this weekend! I know I’ve got more coming up and I need to find a way to pace myself a little better.
I have to be alright taking some time out, doing something just for me. Curling up in a chair and reading a book, being okay saying no, I do those things. It’s just that they get “fit in”. I suspect a little time out needs to be part of the plan.
I spent most of the weekend outside. Winter is coming. There aren’t that many lovely weekends left in the year. Last weekend was definitely one of them. It was warm, dry, there was a good breeze. The evenings cooled off, but didn’t get cold. Perfect weather for being outdoors.
Saturday was the community equinox ritual we often attend. I’ve blogged about it in the past. (Autumn, Darkness, Harvest, Balance – Wow I’ve been doing this for a long time!) I had Orion along so there is the additional piece about pushing him on uneven ground. I used to have to be sure I had someone else there who I could count on to help. Not so much this year. I made all the trips from the car (Orion, Pot luck cooler, Pot luck crock pot, Lawn chair and blankets) all by myself.
It was good to catch up with some old friends. It was also nice to have a community willing to share a dessert – so I could have a bite rather than throwing out most of a piece. The buffet table is still a challenge for me, but I have found that if I fill one plate (with an eye for both Orion and I) and then split it into two at the table I do better.
We were there most of the afternoon and late into the evening. Sat around the fire talking, watched the dancers and listened to the drummers in the background. The moon was high, the night was clear and the wooded grove a pleasant cathedral.
Sunday Karina took me off to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. We didn’t get there for the first cannon, that’s about the time she picked me up. We didn’t stay to the last cannon (hoping that leaving 5 min. early would help get out of the parking lot.) But we spent much of the day wandering around the festival.
The last time I was at the Ren Faire I was with a friend who was looking at knee replacement surgery. Neither one of us was moving very far or very fast. We took all day to circle the grounds one time through. We traveled from one bench to the next. This time was a very different story. We did sit down a few times to eat, grab a drink, or see a show. Mostly we were on our feet, back and forth across the entire park.
We had another beautiful day, warm with a breeze. We saw friends working at the festival as well as running into a few just visiting. Karina ate, and I nibbled off of what she got, so I didn’t struggle much with the food. The highlight of the day was visiting with the Morris Dancers. These guys are all friends of my daughters from when she was a waitress. They are a warm and welcoming bunch. They brought us up on the stage for one dance, and Karina even joined them in another.
We watched the full moon rising on our way home. It was huge on the horizon (as the harvest moon often is). When my Ex dropped off Orion he made me go outside again. The eclipse was happening so even though I was exhausted I got to see that as well.
I was tired enough to go to bed when Orion did. I ached. My ankles were a little swollen. BUT I got to do BOTH things this weekend. My ankles still look like ankles. I didn’t feel like if I sat down I was never going to get up again. I didn’t worry about walking or getting anything done all week. Life is so different this side of the bariatric journey. I am exceptionally grateful for good tired.