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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Been a while since I posted.  Many things have happened.  So first an update.

I’ve been working hard to reclaim my space, and find forgiveness.  Neither one has been easy and neither one is really complete.  Time and action are required for both.  I’ve been really kind of surprized at the mental and emotional blow that incident hit me with.  I became kind of paralyzed and numb, walking through my life and seeing friends without really connecting.

Luckily for me, I have had the most amazing womyn enter my life and take me out of myself.  I am blessed with the best of friends and the most wonderful lover ever.   Through their gentle emotional connects and real, physical help, I have come to a place where I am not stuck any longer.  Yay!  It’s still a day to day process and I have to really let go of the resentment that I was unable to do the things I needed to do to get ready for the Season of No Light.  But I’m making it.

Okay, on to other stuff.  I love story.  So much so that I am in charge of a grant at my school to sponsor storytellers to come in and teach my students how to go from the oral tradition to the written form and back again.  At the end of September, I went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee with my lover.  It was interesting on many levels.  First, let me just say that we totally loved it!  The weather was perfect, the town was lovely, with an amazing little chocolatier that you definitely wouldn’t expect to find in a town that has mostly just it’s main street to boast of.  Earth and Sky Confectioners made a perfect treat for the end of our days!

When you register, you are given a little square of fabric to pin to your clothing.  This is your admission ticket to all of the daytime shows.  My lover and I got to experience a number of really quality storytellers!  Some of our favorites were Sheila Kay Adams, who demonstrated an amazing ability to think on her feet and held an audience in rapture for over 15 minutes while a freight train rolled by, interrupting her story.  She’s a tiny powerful womon who can make you cry with laughter.  Gay Ducey, from San Francisco, stopped me in my tracks and made me call my doctor from Tennessee to schedule a mammogram.  ( By the way – it’s time for you to stop reading and go schedule yours – the latest recommendations be damned!  Go!  Now!  I’ll wait!)  Although she did crack a joke about bearded womyn.  My bearded girlfriend and I were quite surprized, seeing as she was from San Francisco.  Other stellar performers were:  Donald Davis, who told school stories about how teachers touch the lives of their students in ways they can’t really know, (how could I not love him?!), Nial de Burca, who flew in from Dublin to entertain us (what a sense of humor! and flair for drama!), and the Rev. Robert Jones, whose Sunday morning story was one I’d heard before, but was richer for hearing his telling of it! 

There were a couple of storytellers that we didn’t care for so much, but it was mainly that we didn’t connect with them or their style.  But one, one storyteller was really so offensive to me.  This woman’s resume led me to believe that she would be something to behold.  2007 Oklahoma Librarian of the Year, Storytelling Circle Award winner.  I was looking forward to hearing her craft a tale.  She strode onto the stage, this slim blonde powerhouse, like she owned it.  And she did.  She was speaking to her people.  The audience was obviously familiar with her.  Barbara McBride-Smith was preaching to her choir.   Ms. McBride-Smith is obviously an intelligent, well-educated Christian.  And as such, especially with her job in the educational field, I was expecting something that might not have been my spiritual cup of tea, but respectful.  And then she opened her mouth.  She referred to Jewish people as “those Manischewitz drinkers.”  She went on to reinforce several stereotypes in her stories in a way that made my jaw drop.  It’s been a couple of months, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so I won’t quote anything else, since I can’t remember the exact wording.  I was embarrassed for her that as an educator she had the opportunity to change opinions and open hearts and minds, but didn’t. 

 Jennifer Armstrong, a new voice to this venue, was probably one of the bravest womyn there.  In her story (and we saw her a couple of times) she rewrote Christian (the Lord’s Prayer) text to be more inclusive, and came out in this tiny little Southern town.  I saw people get up and leave her show, but I also saw many approach her after with congratulations. She’s from Maine, and holds her own Pie and Story Festival, which I plan to attend next year.  But for this year, I’m going up to Lewiston on December 11 to see her perform.  Anyone want to join me?

Which brings me to the other truly remarkable thing about that weekend.  I have lived in the Northeast for so long, I had forgotten what it is like to be an out dyke in a place that not only frowns on it, but has a culture of active discouragement.  So there we are, my lover and I, walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm down the only main road in this little town and I start to notice something.  People won’t look us in the eye.  We went into a little shop, and the teenager behind the counter nearly tripped over his own feet trying to point us out to the other employees.  Other lesbian couples (yep, there were a few) wouldn’t look at us, or each other – as if acknowledging we existed would get them pegged.  Now one thing you have to understand.  While my lover is probably one of the most beautiful womyn in the world, to the world-experience challenged (ie: never left their hometown) she can seem a bit exotic.  One of the things I most appreciate about her.  So when we walk down a street, we don’t exactly blend.  I had forgotten the discomfort of the hate glare, the challenge of smiling at ugly and actively laughing and enjoying myself when others around me would prefer I not exist.  I used to live like this.  I used to live in the South.  But it’s been years.  And so it has also been years since womyn who don’t know me have come up and thanked me for being out and visible.  And that happened to my Girl and I.  More than once.  There is still oppression happening in this country, and there is still a need for queers of all stripes to step out, be visible, and be friendly in the face of discomfort and hate.  I hadn’t realized that we would be a symbol of freedom in this place – I just thought we were going to hear good story, but we were, and we did it with joy and pride.  Next year (and we are going again!) we’ll be more out, more proud, and we’ll bring friends!

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Okay, what I’m about to write seems like it’s not going to be so popular, given what my friends are all posting on FB.  Or maybe I just haven’t reached a high enough level of non-judgement yet.  Michael Jackson is dead.  And the death of a person is a sad thing.  Yes, he was very talented and his music was the soundtrack of my generation.

But, the man was a pedophile.  He was cruel to animals and the things he has done to his children – they may never recover from.  I vowed a long time ago that no money of mine would be spent supporting this man.  I did not want to financially support someone who seemed to live above the law.  Many of my friends, when downloading his music, would give excuses – “But it’s just such a good song!”   “He did this one BEFORE he molested that kid.”  “It’s only a dime to download.” 

I’ve never understood the lack of moral outrage at what this man got away with.  The excuses for his behavior – from an abusive father – to childhood stardom made him lose touch with reality, are just that – excuses.  Pedophiles are mentally ill.  Michael Jackson was the poster boy for mental illness, but he should have also been held accountable.

As an abuse survivor whose molester was a high up muckety-muck in his company, I know the helpless outrage of others working to protect his reputation instead of saving me.  How must Jackson’s victims feel? 

The man died.  It’s a sad thing.  But I won’t use his passing to celebrate his life.  For me, his music is the soundtrack of abuse and I can never celebrate the man who harmed so many.

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I just couldn’t sit back and not claim my proud space as one of the anonymous pathetic bloggers who have garnered the dislike and active hatred of Sarah Palin. 

Yep, the election is over.  Nope, she doesn’t really matter any more.  And yet…  I think she has a political savvy.  Or at least takes instruction well.  She’s (or her keepers are) trying to keep herself in the spotlight for the future and at the same time, trying to cast herself as a victim, a pawn who was used for her political inexperience.  A woman who is trying to convince us that now she has experience and should have spoken out sooner with her homespun, this is how a household budget works, wisdom.

What I don’t want to forget is why I disliked her so much when she was running for vice-president.  She is disingenuous.  She makes rash decisions. (Like flying home to a small hospital after her water broke during a high risk pregnancy.)  She puts her own political future ahead of her family.  (Like forcing/allowing her 16 year old to marry when she became pregnant.)  She turns on a dime according to the political winds.  (Like the Alaskan oil fields.)  Oh, and she talks funny.

I know this is a stupid rant and not timely at all.  It certainly is not born of any of the qualities that I aspire to always live.  I want to be a womon of strength who maintains her inner peace and non-judgemental aura at all times.  Sadly, I feel this woman threatens that. And I allow it.   Well, actually, the idea of her ever having real power threatens that.  Which means I have a piece of fear that I need to examine.  Is it this woman?  No, not really.  I think it has to do with the dawning of real hope that I am having for my country.

At last, after a period of time that is as long as my students can remember, our country is on the cusp of being truly powerful.  Powerful in the sense of truth, integrity, and compassion.  People like Sarah Palin threaten that.  Small-minded, power-hungry, self-aggrandizing and cheap. 

I can see that I need to pray.  For Sarah, for those who live in fear, and for myself, to let go, allow the Goddess to do her work, and to simply trust.  It always works for me.

So, there’s the end of my rant.  The next post will be back to regular programming, I promise!

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Recently, I had an experience that got me to thinking about dating in the computer age.  Funnily enough, a friend of mine is having a similar but different kind of experience.  We’ve been talking about it, and while we haven’t really taken a poll, we have the sense that what we are experiencing is a generational thing.

So, my friend gets an email from a girl she’s been kind of interested in, and it’s a “will you go out with me?’ email.  Kinda’ cool!  The automatic signature at the bottom of the email contains a link to said woman’s web page and blog.  So my friend checks it out.  (And wouldn’t we all?)  Now she feels she knows way, way too much about this womon and wonders what they will talk about on their first dates.  Should she mention that she has read the blog?  Aren’t some of these stories things that one might want to tell in person, and maybe with a different slant?  And how much does my friend need to share to be on “equal footing?”  To top it off, while my friend isn’t on Facebook, I am, and through my friends, I know that this womon has written about my friend on her Facebook page.  She doesn’t mention her by name, but our world is rapidly becoming a fishbowl.  Where is one’s privacy?  How much about ourselves should we put out there, and how will it be interpreted?

Which brings me to my recent experience.  A woman that I have been interested in and who is interested in me saw some things that I had posted on Facebook and in a couple of places and put two and two together and came up with five hundred ninety-nine.  Luckily we’re both good, direct communicators, and there was no harm no foul, but it served to give me an even further awareness of what knowing someone in the computer age can mean.

Friending someone on Facebook is like stepping in to a continuous party, where you may or may not know anyone there except your friend.  How they are related to the people they talk to, what their status statements mean, the quips that go back and forth – what’s real, what’s an inside joke, and what’s just plain old BS?

Now combine that with blogs, Web sites, and other “Web sightings”, you get a big, messy puzzle that can be put together in a bajillion ways.  And, if you care about that person that you’re getting all of this information about, sometimes there is a tendency to think that they are posting with you in mind.   “Are they, aren’t they?  Are they trying to tell me something?  Or is it not about me? ”

People my age are relatively new to social networking.  We tend to feel stalkerish if we read even what has obviously been put out there for public purview.  (Yeah, I don’t know why either.)  We hesitate to admit that we have information unless it is told directly to us.  (Like we need to keep it secret that we are interested in what our friends have to say or are thinking.  That would be bad, why?)  We are learning though, and I think it is making us better communicators.  I think it is making us more assertive, less fear driven (if we step up and ask for the clarifications), and generally happier.  I know I have become much more transparent and really, really thoughtfully honest since I started blogging and Facebooking.  Everyone can see what I’ve said to everyone else.  It’s a good way to keep drama free.   But this is not an easy or comfortable change.  Good growth never is.  And transparency is not for the faint of heart.

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On Friday, I went out to dinner with some Asian friends of mine.  We went to a really high end authentic Chinese restaurant, the Sichuan Garden Restaurant.  As an aside, great food, you should try it!  Anyways, I got there a few minutes late and when the waiter asked if he could help me, I said I was meeting some friends and was running late.  He said,  “Ahhh, follow me!”  He then proceeded to take me up three flights of stairs into a room in the far corner that had a table of seven Caucasians sitting at it.  He was quite embarrassed when I informed him that my friends were Chinese and then took me back down the three flights, to the front room where my friends were seated.  There are two menus at this restaurant – the one in English and the one in Chinese.  They are not the same.  We ordered from the Chinese and my friends were quite surprized I like spicey!  Their other American friends apparently did not.  But wait, there’s more!

My friends and I were served our food and without asking me, M ordered me a fork!  What she didn’t realize is that even at home, chopsticks are my go-to utensil.  Bless her, she was only trying to make sure I was comfortable.  So, I had authentic Chinese and used the correct utensils.  I made sure to have my friends point out what we had ordered so that I could order it again if I came without them!  But wait, there’s more!

After dinner, we were talking about food and what we like and their daughter, who had been a student of mine, said that she knew I liked to eat ‘cultural’ foods but that I didn’t like to cook them.  And I replied, “Oh, Little M, that’s not true!  Just yesterday I made PadThai!”  She got a puzzled look on her face and said,  “What’s that?”  Here in my head I’m thinking, “She’s Asian, she’ll know all Asian foods.”  Whoops!

Being a teacher has given me the opportunity to really examine my cultural biases and to try to pay attention to my thinking patterns.  I can’t tell you what a delightful surprise it was to see that others have places they need to examine, too.  It’s okay that I’m not perfect and it’s okay that my friends aren’t either.  We laugh and we learn.

And now for something totally unrelated:

Yesterday I cooked.  All day I cooked.  I made homemade veggie stock and filled my freezer with it.  I made some of that stock into homemade minestrone soup.  mmmmmm.  I love using fresh ingredients and try to buy locally grown at that.  I prefer organic, but will choose local over organic in many cases.  Here in New England, hothouse farming for herbs and some summer veggies has really taken off, but yeah – the tomatoes never really cut it unless it’s summer time.  Sometimes canned is better.  I chopped veggies for a good part of my day yesterday, making salad for the next three days, prepping for the stir fries and salsas I plan to make this week.  I hate coming home tired and knowing I have food prep to do, and for some reason the fifteen minutes of chopping turns into a major production in my head, so I prep ahead of time.  Because I do love home cooked food.  It makes me feel loved.  And lately, I’ve been ‘loving’ myself in a fast food kind of way.  Which isn’t really love at all.  So, nesting with leeks and carrots and mushrooms and tomatoes and all the fresh herbs was nice.  The house smelled great!

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