Thursday, October 25, 2007

Doxy and the Tooth Fairy

Jasper lost two teeth yesterday.

My daughter phoned me early this morning to ask whether the Doggy Tooth Fairy had been to visit him. Of course, I said "Yes!"---which means that I will need to make a trip to the pet store to procure a suitable treat before she comes back on Saturday.

The Tooth Fairy has a checkered history in our house--a tarnished reputation acquired only recently. For years, she showed up faithfully for the Emperor*, and we expected she would do the same for the Empress.

So we all waited with growing anticipation as the Empress' first tooth began to wiggle. It actually fell out at church a few weeks ago.

As you might imagine, the Empress was wild with excitement about this.

Her enthusiasm had been stoked by the fact that her brother had recently lost a molar--the first tooth he's lost in probably two years. He was at his dad's when it happened, and the Tooth Fairy over there left the ridiculous sum of $5.

She also, apparently, left his tooth. (This is important.)

In the wee hours of the morning, the Tooth Fairy went rummaging in her purse. She knew that she would have to produce $5, since that was the amount that had been left at the Other House---instead of the $1 she would normally find appropriate.

But...she had no $5 bills. And it was 5:00 a.m.

So the Tooth Fairy had to give $10. She left a letter for the Empress, explaining that this was a one-time event because it was her first tooth. Subsequent teeth wouldn't be worth as much.

The Empress was thrilled to find a $10 bill and a letter from the Tooth Fairy under her pillow.

Until, that is, she realized the the tooth was gone.

Much weeping and wailing and gnashing of remaining teeth ensued. This was her first tooth! How could the Tooth Fairy have taken it?! Especially when she left the Emperor's tooth at Dad's?!

The Empress was inconsolable. She was not the least bit interested in the money---she wanted her tooth back.

So the following evening, she put the money back under her pillow, and the Tooth Fairy returned her tooth. It took the Empress a couple of days to ask if, the next time she loses a tooth, might the Tooth Fairy leave both the money and the tooth too?

I'm going to have to watch that one, aren't I?

*Doxy's note: For many years, I posted in an online community called Mothers Who Think. I didn't feel comfortable using my son's name online, so I designated him the "Little Emperor." He's not so little anymore, I'm afraid--so I've dropped the diminutive. And then the Empress came along to round out the Royal Household. I'm still not comfortable using their names online, so I'll be using the old designations.

Despite their monikers, you may rest assured that I do NOT treat them like royalty. They will be happy to give you a list of all the cruel things I do on a regular basis that have earned me the title "Meanest Mother in the World." ;-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grace made me write this...

I know better than to write about abortion.

Really, I do. It's not as if I'm going to change anyone's mind on the issue, one way or another.

But I can't help myself today. Maybe it's the phase of the moon, or I need some chocolate or something---but Grace is annoying me over at MadPriest's with her insistence that science has given us a new impetus to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I love Grace. She's relentlessly cheerful and she's about the only evangelical I know who is inclusive of GLBT people. For that, I can forgive her much. (One day, I pray that she will get past her slavish devotion to that obnoxious theory of penal substitutionary atonement, but I'll argue about that with her another day...)

It was the following comment that set me off. I started to answer it over there---but my answer got way too long to post in the comments section of MP's blog, so I decided to answer over here.

So here's my open letter to Grace:

When Roe vs. Wade first became law, our knowledge was not as advanced as it is today. We didn't have 3D ultrasound, the ability to perform surgery on babies still in the womb, the technology to save the lives of infants born at earlier and earlier stages of gestation.

None of those things has changed my opinion about abortion, Grace.

Neither did having two babies and one miscarriage---and I saw all three of those beings on ultrasound. I'm thrilled that two of them made it safely to their birthdays, and I still grieve the loss of the one who didn't.

And I still believe that abortion is not the business of anyone involved except the woman.

The bottom line for me is that the government has no business making my reproductive decisions for me. Full stop.

This is because I believe that, when you give the government the right to prohibit abortion, you implicitly give it the right to mandate abortion---because, once you write reproductive control into law, you have effectively ceded control of women's bodies to that government.

Why doesn't that worry you, Grace? (Or any of the rest of you who want laws against abortion...)

"Can't happen here!" you say?

Au contraire! Think about all those women of color, and women who were deemed insufficiently middle-class by the powers-that-be, who have been involuntarily sterilized by the state. You can read about the shameful history of my adopted state in that area here. Virgina was still doing forced sterilizations as late as 1979.

And look what the Chinese government has done with its power over women's bodies. Forced abortions at 9 months! Is that what you want?

If those examples don't give you pause, Grace, you are either far too trusting or far too sure of your own righteousness. Either way, it means I REALLY don't want you (or the people you would vote for) to have charge over my daughter's reproductive system.

Fortunately, my own system is a moot point--but the tubal ligation I joyfully had would be illegal if the Catholic Church had its way. And whose "morality" on abortion should hold sway, anyway? The Catholic Church considers almost all forms of artificial birth control to be abortifacients (no matter how wrong they are on that subject) and would outlaw them if it could.

When is an abortion not an abortion, Grace? Who decides---you or Pope Benedict?

In the end, I believe that abortion is a moral question between a woman and God (or her conscience if she isn't a believer). No matter who or what you think you are protecting, I contend you have no business getting in the middle of that decision.

Because once you decide that your moral sense is the one to be obeyed, why stop at her uterus? Since you know so much better than the woman in question, you should surely determine what she eats, how much she exercises, who she is allowed to have sex with, etc.

After all, it has become your responsibility to "save" her from making immoral choices--so you must take this responsibility seriously, right? Because God is going to hold YOU responsible for her choices, right?

This last point is what I believe drives so much conservative angst about abortion. They seem to believe that God will hold them personally accountable for women's choice to abort.

In one sense, I do believe that God holds us accountable for taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. I believe we have a responsibility as Christians to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. I believe that we have a responsibility to fight against prejudice and discrimination against those who are deemed to be "different."

But I do not believe we have a responsibility to insert ourselves in people's most private decisions. If you believe that we do, where does it stop? And what happens to the concept of "free will" when we do?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Closing Doors

Kate is dying today.

I didn't have a chance to know her nearly as well as I wanted to. I didn't meet Kate until near the end of her fight with lung cancer, but I knew right away we would be friends.

She is funny and a bit acerbic. I like that in a friend.

She loves animals. In fact, I have been told that she was largely responsible for the final decision to hire a dear friend of mine as her new rector. She signed on because he enthusiastically supported what, to her, was one of the most important services in the parish--the Blessing of the Animals. She was too sick to attend when he presided over that service this year, but we all felt her presence.

Most of all, I love the way that she and her husband, Peter, love each other. Theirs is the kind of romantic story that gets me every time. They knew each other for 30 years before they finally married. Their lives had touched at various points, but circumstances had never allowed them to be together. They had been married only briefly when Kate was diagnosed, and Peter has taken care of her in a way that shows how much he cherishes her.

The door is closing on Kate's life on this earth today. I grieve for Peter, who has demonstrated what it means to live into "for better or sickness and in health."

And I grieve for the friendship that never had a chance to blossom. I'm not sure why Kate touched me so deeply, so quickly. But she did, and I am grateful for our very brief acquaintance.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our sister, Kate, into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let her heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servant, Peter, for whom we pray. Remember him, Lord, in mercy; nourish him with patience; comfort him with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon him; and give him peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wedding Dresses

I cleaned out my closet a few months ago. In it was the dress I wore when I married the father of my children.

The children's father and I eloped. We were married in the Methodist church, with only one friend and the minister in attendance. My dress was lovely--I'd had it for years, even before I married him. Tea-length, they called it. All ecru-colored, watered silk and tiers of lace.

I happily donated it to Goodwill.

But last week, I arrived at the ex's house to pick up the children, and sitting in the driveway---with the pile of suitcases, backpacks, and lunch boxes---was a box. In the box was my wedding dress from my first marriage. The ex has been cleaning out the attic, and he wanted me to take it away.

I have held on to that dress for 20 years. It was gorgeous. The dress every girl dreams about when she imagines her wedding. White and sparkly and very princess-like.

But I have nowhere to store it now. And I wouldn't feel right giving it to my daughter or anyone else. I guess I'm superstitious, but I wouldn't want to wear a dress from a "failed" marriage, would you? It would seem like jinxing yourself from the start...

So I donated it to a local high school theater group yesterday. I figure using it to "play" wedding won't hurt anyone.

But why does it bother me in a way that donating the other to Goodwill did not? Why have I felt pangs of loss over that dress that I still don't feel about the other?

I suppose part of it is that my first husband was the love of my life. I loved him passionately, in a way that---I regret to say---I never felt for the father of my kids. I entered that marriage with so much hope! The sparkles on my dress were only pale reflections of the stars in my eyes.

Giving that dress up means giving up the dream, I suppose. The dream of uncomplicated love. The dream that marriage---for me, at least---is a possibility. I've tried it twice now, and I don't seem to be very good at it.

But maybe there is something hopeful in being able to let go. Maybe, by cleaning out my closets, I am opening the way for new experiences. Experiences that are rooted in reality, not starlight.

And maybe, without my shattered dreams hogging so much room, love and hope will find some space and decide to take up residence.

Doxy on her first wedding day: July 18, 1987.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My letter to the Bishop...

For the record, I am sick unto death of the Current Unpleasantness in the Anglican Communion. If it weren't for the knowledge that people like Davis Mac-Iyalla need us to continue to fight for the rights of GLBTs in the rest of the world, I'd say "Screw 'em!" and be done with the whole mess.

But I love Davis--and Louie Crew and Susan Russell and Elizabeth Kaeton and Josh Indiana and all those folks who continue to give their lives to preach the Good News to everyone, so I can't quit church and decide that I just don't give a damn anymore.

So I wrote my bishop, Michael Curry, who is usually on the side of the angels on the issue of full inclusion. We do not have an "authorized" rite for SSBs, but I know for a fact that they have been conducted in this diocese. It thus pained me greatly to see that he had not only signed the statement, but had issued what I considered to be a Pollyanna-ish assessment of it on the diocesan website.

I wrote most of this note a week ago, and decided to sit on it. I've learned that my first reaction---although usually guaranteed to elicit some fabulous purple prose---is not always what I really need to say.

But even after sitting on it for that long, I found that I felt just as strongly--if not more so--than I did last week. (I did have to add the line about the dogs and cats...)

Dear Bishop Curry:

I read your comment on the statement by the House of Bishops at the diocesan website, and this stuck out for me:

In finding common ground, we were able to discover the high ground.

I wish I knew where, or what, that “high ground” is. Your upbeat assessment of the work of the House of Bishops in New Orleans bears little to no resemblance to the reaction I see “on the ground” here.

The pain that the HOB statement has inflicted on gays, lesbians, and those of us who love and value their contributions to the church, is devastating. If you don’t believe me, just ask someone---or check out the progressive Episcopalian voice in the blogosphere.

It was bad enough that the statement privileges institutional “unity” over the lives and souls of the people who serve God in our churches. The worst of it, however, is that it seems to contain a glaring untruth---the HOB statement declares that GLBTs are full members of the Episcopal Church.

But we all know that isn’t true now. How can you be a full member of the church when you are denied its blessings on your faithful, committed relationship? How can you be a full member of the church when your call to the priesthood (or the episcopate) is negated purely because of whom you happen to love?

And how, if you are a GLBT in the Episcopal Church, do you deal with the fact that your bishops call on the secular society to grant you the rights they refuse you in your community of faith?!

While I appreciate that the HOB could not act unilaterally to overturn a decision of General Convention, why not just say that? And why go even further than GC did and declare that B033 applies only to noncelibate gays and lesbians? Why single them out? As you must surely have known even before their predictable condemnations of the HOB statement, NOTHING you did in New Orleans was going to be enough to satisfy Archbishop Akinola and his Calvinist friends. I wish I could understand why you thought it was worth it to sacrifice people like Louie Crew and Susan Russell---people who have dedicated their whole lives to living the love of Christ in the world---to them.

A number of my gay and lesbian friends say they have grown tired of the struggle, and have decided to give up on the Episcopal church. They are weary of taking the fall for the fault lines in the church. Weary of giving and giving---and then being told that they are expendable when a choice has to be made. Weary of being asked to stand “in a crucified place,” (and what a vicious and horrible metaphor that is!!!) until people get over their homophobia. Weary of being forced to carry a cross not of their own choosing—a cross laid upon them by the likes of you and me, who offer no sacrifice in return.

I can’t blame them. There are days I wonder why *I* bother with this church, which wants it both ways---wants the reputation of being inclusive (not to mention the talents and treasure that GLBTs bring to the table), but is not willing to sacrifice anything for “the least of these,” our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What do we have to offer them, Bishop Curry? Except platitudes and more of the same? Where is the Good News for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the statement that you and your fellow bishops are so proud of? Is there any sacrifice that this church is willing to make for them? And why should they stay with us, when we consistently ignore Jesus’ injunction to love them as we love ourselves?

Now the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council has issued a report saying that they understand your statement to mean that you will not allow any kind of blessing on same-sex unions. Is that what you intended? And what will you say to my GLBT friends this weekend, when they want to know why you can bless their dogs and cats, but not their lifelong, committed relationships?

As always, I will continue to pray for you and for the church. But I cannot agree that “This is a significant accomplishment, a positive step, and a hopeful sign.” There is weeping in Jerusalem for those who have the ears, and the heart, to hear it.



To borrow a line from my friend Father Jake, "Pray for Bishop Curry. Pray for the church."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Let not your heart be troubled...

It's been two weeks since I posted anything, and I am trying not to feel guilty about breaking my promise to myself to post at least once a week.

I feel guilty a lot. I don't know how closely that is tied to being female. Most men I know don't seem to struggle with guilt the way women do. At the risk of overgeneralizing, men seem much better able to forgive themselves for their failures than women do.

Actually, men seem to be much less likely to brand their mistakes, misjudgments, and mishaps as "failures" to begin with. There might be a lesson in that...

But for every woman I know, guilt is a daily fact of life. Parenting seems to ratchet up the feelings of guilt exponentially. I learned early on that the one, sure thing that all mothers have in common is that we feel guilty.

Doesn't matter if we work outside the home for money, stay at home full-time, or something in between. Doesn't matter if we are married, single, or in-between. We never feel that we have done enough or given enough. Many of us feel responsible for the health and happiness of all those we love, and we simply cannot fulfill that responsibility.

It is arrogance, of a sort, of course. It is arrogance to think that we have the power to make other people happy...especially to make them happy all the time. Certainly, as parents, or as partners, we have responsibilities to our children and our spouses/loves. We owe them care and commitment, fidelity to the relationship, and our best efforts at love. But we do not owe them a pain-free life. That is not within our power to give, anyway.

I was reminded recently of my inability to do the impossible. I had taken on way too much, at a time when my emotional and physical reserves were low. Shortly after I wrote the last post, I nearly put myself in the hospital because of stress. If you've ever had a panic/anxiety attack, you will understand where I was. If not, be sure to thank the good Lord that you've never experienced it.

I was working on the biggest project of my career. There were some serious communication breaks---and it didn't help that my client is in Africa, in a time zone 7 hours ahead of mine. On the day that was the worst, I received a message that I took to mean "You're fired!" On top of all the legal wrangling over my divorce, that was just about the last straw. I could barely breathe, my chest felt so tight. And I hadn't gotten more than 4 hours of sleep for days running, so I was totally exhausted.

But in the midst of all the mental and physical turmoil, I suddenly felt this calm descend on me. And I heard this voice inside my head saying "Let not your heart be troubled." It wasn't a big, dramatic thing--like the time I heard God telling me not to kill myself. It was more a whisper than a shout.

But all of a sudden, it felt as if the panic and the stress just...vanished.

Later that day, I got a call from my attorney saying that my ex had agreed to settle and to pay me back for the cost of filing the lawsuit.

And the following day, I got the message that I hadn't been fired after all. That it had all been a mistake.

The stress came back in a big way after that, of course, because of the tight deadline and the massive size of the project, but the paycheck will come in handy. We finally put it to bed on Friday, and I'm still struggling to dig out from under all the other stuff that didn't get done while I was focused on it---like cleaning the house, and doing laundry, and spending time with my kids.

As I move into this new week, I am trying to hold on that gentle admonition to have a peaceful heart. To remember that I simply cannot do it all, and that it is folly to try. That I should strive to do my best in all things, and then give the burden of my unmet expectations for myself to God---who is really the only one big enough to handle it, given my over-sized ego.

Wish me luck.