Friday, December 31, 2010

One Little Word: Dream

I love this concept! Check out Ali Edward's blog and this wonderful project. I found my word filled with possibility for the year ahead. Mine is dream.

I began grad school with a dream. I wanted work with purpose ... I wanted to answer a calling. I made a good decision and I see all the pieces coming together to form this dream. I graduated with straight A's. I passed my licensure exam the first try with the highest score among my peers who took the same test at the same time. I have a job in my field.

But I'm dreaming of the next step. Cameron and I have a possibility of financial stability this year. For me, it would be the first time in my life I would not have to worry about paying the electric bill, buying cat food, or buying people food. My dream, however, goes deeper.

I want to leave my current employment to work at Safe Homes/Rape Crisis Coalition. My current position as a substance abuse counselor has taught me much, but doesn't pay what my peers are making. It also is limiting. We do Methadone Maintenance for opiate addiction -- a controversial program in South Carolina. I am tired of the local police department calling us drug pushers. I am also tired of doing therapy in 5 - 15 minute sound bites. It's not really therapy; it's case management. And above all else, I'm called to be a therapist, not a case manager.

So I am dreaming. I am dreaming, manifesting a dream. I want to complete my internship at Safe Homes. Beyond that, Cameron and I want to work in a practice where we can offer slidingscale fees and meet the needs of our pagan/lgbtq community.

On a personal level, I dream of life where I have time to sleep more than six hours a night. I dream of taking art classes. I dream of developing my polymer. I dream of dancing, playing, walking in nature.

Certainly my dream has begun. I'm delighted to share that I won a contest today!  What a delightful affirmation of my dream. Be sure to check out the Intuitive Goddess. I'm honored to have won. And I adored her thoughts on Grace, which is the first part of my name here. The name Grace, for me, was a lesson in humility when I was told by my priestess that I might not take the name of Dreamweaver until I achieved my third degree. She suggested the name Grace at the time because it was a life lesson I was working on. For me, Grace and Dreamweaver have become the core of who I am as Priestess, Gay Woman, Feminist, and Therapist.

Revamping an Image: Iraq's Emergence from UN Chapter 7 Sanctions and the GOI

For the last six months I have watched, with great fascination and growing horror, the emergence of Iraq from chaos to forming a government. This once prosperous nation, 55% female, once had women politicians, chemists, computer programmers and university students. With the damage inflicted by war came a world that offered these women only a veil and a life lived largely indoors. I've read of a woman who heard her company was reopening. She reports that women many no longer safely go to the market alone, let alone to work. So her brother and father accompanied her to her former place of employment where she found herself no longer welcome and unemployed. They could not assure her safety so longer employed women. Nor would they allow this computer programmer to work from home. Her story seems fairly characteristic of what I've been reading. But these are not the stories of the headlines.

As the new government of Iraq has formed, I've read headlines and articles with great interest. One of my most frequented sources may be found here:|en. Very few women are a part of their newly formed parliament. And headlines regarding the Women's Ministry being headed by a man were quickly shoved aside for other headlines.

Interestingly, they published an average of about five articles a day about bombings, like the police officer who survived five attacks before three suicide bombers finally got to him. His story has been buried, like his broken body beneath the rubble of the soccer stadium that was converted to a police bunker, and I cannot find anything else about the incident. I grieve for the widow and four children whose stories have been silenced. Or other acts of terrorism throughout the country. Now the headlines, only three days later, have changed. Yesterday the ambassador of the Czech suggested, in the articles I read on multiple sites, that the Iraqi needed to take action to protect their image as acts of terrorism had greatly decreased. WTF???? So today a new article appears in the Iraqi news, entitled "The Low Number of Deaths in Iraq Prove that the Security Forces are Best Place to Fight Terrorism." Hmmmm... Don't think I'm buying this oasis in the desert. Today's headlines boast of captures of a weapons cache south of Baquba and the failure of two members of the Dawa Party, Diwaniya for a failed assassination. Or this just posted:

arrest 5 suspects in al-Bakr

. Meanwhile, the Chez ambassador says is quoted as saying [sic]: The Shuba that embassy “organizes from time to time, art exhibitions and cultural activities in the garden of the embassy called by the diplomats, foreigners and members of the diplomatic staff in Baghdad,” she that “this may impose some constraints and limits the presence of a wider audience for such cultural activities, which requires at its discretion extend farther by expanding the exchange of visits by cultural delegations between both countries, friendly countries." How is it that she cannot see that restricting the arts to an elitist few who are in positions of power and have lots of guns for protection, actually means that there is a serious problem?! I predict that future headlines will be similar as Iraq revamps its image (it is rumored that the news sites are owned by members of the government).

Very few Americans seem to be noticing this country's emergence beyond noting our soldiers returning home. Yet now seems a vital time to be mindful of change as it will affect every trip to the gas station and possibly more in the years to come. Iraq promises to be the leading producer of oil, outrunning Saudi Arabia if they can manage to keep the Kurds and the Shiites on board. Internal bickering and civil war has always kept that region turned inward. Unity may at last be coming, however, against their Western neighbors, as promised by their acceptance in the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce. Americans will eventually notice, however, at the gas pumps. As Iraq nears reevaluating their currency, possibly as high or higher than prewar rates, the price of oil rises. Their budget written last summer was written with the expectation of $72 a barrel. Current prices are around $91; sufficient to meet the shortfall in the budget to be approved in January for 2011. It's predicted the $150 a gallon of the seventies will be commonplace within five years.

I'll leave you with the quote from the Iraqi news website:

Our agency is keen (INA) to put our visitors at the core event of the Iraqi daily, as it seeks a balanced coverage of events at all levels. Political, cultural, economic, sporting, social and round the clock, as well as everything that will put our people the true picture of the reality of Iraq .. We greet you and begin stayed for the day Thursday, 30/12/2010 With God's help.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pro Life is NOT Pro Woman

I've been reading THE W EFFECT: BUSH'S WAR ON WOMEN." While the book was published in 2004, nothing has changed. We are still withdrawing from Iraq. We are still at war in Afghanistan. Women still can't own their bodies, but are discouraged from seeking abortions they deem necessary. Federal funds still push abstinence over common sense and condoms (yeah, you can stop 16 year olds from having sex).  AIDs is still proliferating and killing because we refuse condoms to third world countries. And I was reminded a moment ago, as I checked my email, as to how dangerous it is becoming for women:

Soon-to-be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner recently told an extreme anti-choice group that he "wanted to be the most pro-life speaker ever." And next week, 92 new anti-choice politicians will be sworn into the 112th Congress. We must be prepared for the avalanche of anti-choice legislation that we will face in Washington, D.C.

Quote taken from: "New Leaders In The House Say Life Is Their Choice," Deacon John's Space, December 15, 2010

Quote from Virginia Woolf

In her 1938 treatise Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf argued that as a woman, she had no reason to be patriotic:
"If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or 'our'country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are procure benefits which I have not fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Faith: Washington Post's Question on Religion

“As voted by the Religion Newswriters Association’s members, among the year’s most consequential religion newsmakers were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Pope Benedict XVI, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the U.S. bishops. How would you have ranked them? Has their influence been harmful or constructive? What issue or person do you expect to have the biggest impact in the year to come?”

First the positive...I like the choice of Feisal Abdul Rauf. He condemned the attacks of 9/11 which inspired my own son's enlistment and current service in the Marines. He has worked hard to create peace and understanding between the Muslim world and the West. I doubt many Westerners, however, even know who he is. Moreover, I admire a man who speaks the truth. It's hard for an American to hear that we might be responsible for the some of the unrest in the world, "because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA." Tough to own responsibility. But look at our role in Iraq or Afghanistan which are obviously more politically motivated than humanitarian and I see his point.

Now my objections...

Are you kidding me??? We are naming conservative, hostile people as leaders in the faith community? What happened to the separation of church and state in this country anyway? Seems to me that GLBT issues and paganism are prime examples of other people's religious views legislating morality. Indeed, many of our founding fathers were actually what's now known as Unitarian Universalist. How many of these people have attended their Sunday morning services? Religion doesn't even necessarily appear to be a part of their service. Communication, discussion and respect is.

Pope Benedict XVI might do a lot of things right. But until we stop legislating morality and denying the world the choice and education to use birth control, people will continue to die of things like AIDS. Until the Pope and the Catholic Church promote birth control, I cannot see them as a positive influence. At the heart of the issue, for this feminist witch, is the need for women to have control over their own bodies. Otherwise, patriarchy controls them. And don't even get me started on the number of people in other countries we have harmed because we teach abstinence rather than common sense. Certainly handing out condoms may not suit many fundamentalists, but the cost to humanity needs to be evaluated.

Now, we all understand that the Pope has made insensitive and critical comments about Paganism and indigenous faiths...but Glenn Beck believes Pagans don't deserve the same protection under the Constitution as Christians. I have to wonder what he would say about someone like myself who walks a duel path of paganism/Christianity. I get half my rights? Beck incites the world rather than bringing it insight. Having looked over his books and listened to him on cable, his negativistic views are over the top.

Sarah Palin scares the bejesus out of me. She has a knack for surrounding herself with folks who know how to make her look good. Now she is going to have a TV reality show. What a lovely way to get oneself elected to office. Now everyone will feel as if they "know" her and trust her because they saw it on TV. Most of those viewers won't be troubled to look beneath the story to the core; to question, to investigate. Instead, entertainment will become fact. And yes, this means of marketing would scare the bejesus out of me regardless of who was being portrayed in a "reality" show and wants to run for office.

Now my joy...

U.S. Bishops: well, if that includes Gene Robinson, the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination, I'm all about it. He has made it possible for Cameron and I to hold our heads up and attend church. He has made it possible for our priests to support us. While it may well cause a split in the Episcopalian Church, his courage has inspired me. And I'm saddened he has decided to retire in 2013 because of the strain on him and his family due to the worldwide backlash he has faced. Episcopalians again showed their support for same-sex relationships last year by authorizing bishops to bless same-sex unions and by consecrating a lesbian, Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, since the SC dioces does not support homosexual unions, my own relationship with Cameron cannot be blessed in our own dioces.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Enlightened One!

Today is my youngest son's birthday. My relationship with my sons is a troubling thing. I love them both deeply, but I was never the mother I wanted to be for them. Too many marriages, too many divorces, too many layoffs, to much mental illness is the men I choose to share my life with. The damage shows in my relationship with my eldest son, who hasn't spoken to me since his brother got married two years ago. I've never held my grandson and my granddaughter doesn't know who I am. He says it is because I'm gay. But he's known Cameron many, many years and loves her dearly. I know he's internalized those years of damage. So Christmas, birthdays, etc are extremely problematic.

Nevertheless, the youngest son, whom I call The Enlightened One, is joy in my life. He has married  a woman who loves him as he deserves to be loved. Below is the email I sent him this evening:

24 years ago I was eager to have another baby. While my first son was absolutely beautiful, I looked forward to getting pregnant again. They say morning sickness is worst with the first child, so I figured I would be happily married, pregnant and joyful...

Well, I knew within two weeks of conception that I was pregnant. Within a month, I was morning sick. No, I was day and night sick. I averaged being sick 12 times a eldest child, age almost three, learned to empty my bucket...

I'm a type A personality, always going, always doing, worrying, restless. Drives Hannah crazy. But for nine months of my life I learned to lay on a couch and not experience emotion. Any emotion. If I was happy, I threw up, If I was sad, I threw up. If I smiled at Sesame Street, I threw up. The result? Zen A***...

The day of your birth, your dad and I went to see Brenda to get our hair done. Your dad still had enough hair for a curly perm! LOL The chemicals got me. I had actually not thrown up for two weeks. So I spent the afternoon laying on Brenda's bed behind the shop praying to survive the smell.

I called the Dr when we got home. He said I was trying to go into labor and told me to lay down. Kenny Roger's The Gambler was coming on TV that night and i wanted to see it. When the contractions started, I called the Dr. I informed him I would meet him at the emergency room after the movie. I sent your dad to take a shower (he thought I had lost my mind) because he wouldn't have another chance for awhile. He shaved while I got one.

Sure enough, movie ended and we headed to the hospital. I watched a little more TV, things got a little painful, we turned off the TV, I said a few choice comments to your dad, and you were born a few hours later.

You have never stopped being the blessing to my life that you were the moment they laid you on my stomach. Your dad had been waffling on your name (I chose Marcus' so I figured it was his turn), and he said A*** N***.

I love you son.

Reflections and Snow

Cypress was our first Christmas tree, purchased
six years ago. She was about 18 inches tall.
 She now towers at about twenty feet.
Just before Christmas, the clutch went out on my car. Now I knew the damn thing was going out and had been sending up daily prayers for months that it would hold until my income tax refund came in. So the very morning the speed trap got me at 4:30 in the morning on a deserted highway, I was stopped, and then I couldn't get the car over 45 the rest of the way to work. And once I made it home, AAA had to tow it to the shop. That speeding ticket and fine certainly have added insult to injury! My first ticket ever!

So I sent an email to the son who is still talking to me and told him that his present would be late. Not that he or his wife mind in the least. And Cameron and I agreed that one more Christmas would be without presents. Since she moved in six years ago, we've not really exchanged presents. I really object to Christmas occurring at the end of December. Why didn't they schedule it after taxes come back? Or the beginning of the semester when we have student loans?

Christmas Eve is always reserved for Cameron's parents. They've both made it to their eighth decade and are a delight. Every year they give us both the same kinds of gifts and the same number of gifts. This year we received really, really warm winter coats (have I mentioned that the heat is out in Cameron's car and we have had record cold temperatures?). 

Then we went to the Christmas Eve service at out church. Check out Cameron's blog for a much more eloquent account than I can give. I hugged Mother Linda's neck and thanked her for not giving up on us. I think the last service we attended was Christmas Eve last year. Yet I found gift cards for a grocery store in the area waiting in our mailbox last week from the church. Exactly what we needed!

I've been incredibly depressed this fall. Done with school, utter exhaustion has sapped me of drive, energy, creativity... Of course, my millionaire boss refusing pay raises and threatening to sell the clinic to a group that will deny us a raise for another year doesn't help. I owe about $250,000 in student loans to collect pee and not be able to afford my electric bill. No, I'm not bitter...

So sitting in sacred space, listening to the music, seeing the candles was a balm to my soul. And we reconnected with other goddess worshipers that we met at Goddess Fest two-three years ago! Who would have thought?  And South Carolina saw its first snow on Christmas since the 1960's. Don't laugh if you open my freezer. Cameron stuck a snow ball in there! 

So now I trudge toward another New Year, hoping the fruits of my labor will be more abundant in this coming year. Our grove has accepted our first student.  My transgender, lesbian identified wife adores me...and change is coming. I believe this year will be transformative!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Burn Out: Crispy Critter

I thought that once classes ended, I would return to a normal schedule and rejoin the world of the living. I had looked forward to writing in my blog more, as well as many more important activities. I had underestimated the effect of four years of graduate school, the practicum, and working from 5am - 1pm five days a week, with occasional Saturday mornings thrown in. I've actually been getting up at 3:45 for more than two years for this job. A few years prior to this job, I worked as a fast food restaurant manager also getting up at the same hours to drive 45 minutes to work. The years have taken their toll.

Of course, rather than taking a vacation this year, we started Designs by Dreamweaver. I used every vacation day driving to festivals, setting up and selling. I used every minute possible in between festivals creating more jewelry. I estimate I sold over 500 pendants this summer, in addition to about 100 other items. Given that the pendants are made of polymer clay and labor intensive, that's a lot of work for $8 each.

So here I am, graduated from our Marriage and Family Therapy program, a licensed intern, and awaiting change. Cameron and I are expecting huge changes in our lives soon. My plan? I've secured a volunteer position at Rape Crisis/Safe Homes in our town where I'll do 5 hours of therapy a week in exchange for supervision. If  I increase that to 15, it would be sufficient to meet licensure requirements. So if our investment pays off adequately, I dream of working there as a volunteer for a couple of years...with more dreams to be discussed later once Cameron graduates.

In the meantime, I am a crispy critter. I did not realize how burned out I was until I realized that the exhaustion should have lifted with the end of festivals -- and hasn't. Of course, work is also extremely stressful. Holidays intensify addictions. I've also been chronically sick, with every cold my clients bring me and the return of my dysthemia. And our boss sold the clinic -- if the sale goes through. Without the payoff of this investment, it'll be a long time until I get time for a vacation. I'm due to gain two weeks Feb 2. That's when the new owners are supposed to take over -- I'll earn 4.8 hours paid time off per pay period with the sale. So much for the vacation!

So with all that I am, I am sending a call to the universe that our dream might be realized, that Cameron and I might have the financial means to fulfill our callings. I vow to sleep, rest, and serve until I am wholly healed, mind, body and spirit.

Blessed be.