Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Post Thanksgiving & Assumptions

We had Thanksgiving this year at my eldest daughter's house and I'm grateful there was no drama, no passive-aggressive snipes taken at anyone. But I think everyone to too tired and worn out to create any drama.

Which is good. I associate family gatherings with drama ever since I was a small child. Adults would consume lots of adult fermented beverages and then old wounds would be picked apart. If the holiday didn't end with someone stomping away yelling it wasn't a holiday.

I try to keep my house a haven of calm and quiet because of tension, fighting and drinking in my family of origin.

But that's not always because I'm calm or reasonable. About a week before Thanksgiving I got a note from someone I knew at my old crazy church telling me she'd been praying for me and my falling away from the Lord. She wanted permission to have her mother give me words of prophesy direct from the Lord concerning my life so I could get back on the straight and narrow. I wasn't calm and reasonable after receiving that missive.

I was inwardly verklemping about her email for the better part of the week. How dare she assume I'm an atheist just because I no longer go to church at Dysfunction Junction Central?

Prophetic words? Oh please! I have had piles of those through the years and most of them are so far off script there is just no way they are words from God, Satan or any other deity, just a bunch of made up gobblety-gook. No way will I ever believe another random person that claims to have words of knowledge from God for me. If I need validation for who I am in God I'll read the New Testament or pray myself for guidance. No more filtering everything through a third party.

I was itching to reply back to this young lady and ask her who was going around saying I was an atheist, who was her source of information because it was flawed. If she was so damn curious about my religious beliefs then why didn't she contact me at any point in the last six years since I left and ASK me. She says she is concerned and loves me. Then why nothing for six years now? Some love of Jesus, some real concern huh?

Pretty sad considering we used to be friends. In fact, I'd spent just about every Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was in town with this young lady and her mother at different dinners and social functions. 

Instead I'm ignoring her email. There's nothing I can say that would change her mind about who I am and there's nothing she could say that I likely wouldn't react badly to. It's a true Mexican standoff.

I am sick to death of the so-called friendship and sisterhood of various people I knew in my old world that put me down as persona non-grata the second I switched churches. It was a shock to discover how fragile and weak the bonds of sisterhood actually were.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lies Believed About Emotions

I remember back when I was going to my old church and I was having troubles dealing with a lot of the rules and regulations being preached at me. While I did keep trying to have another baby I either ignored while feeling guilty or decided something was utter bullshit while feeling guilty that I wasn't a good believer. I tortured myself with guilt, guilt over things that seem so completely absurdist now.

Example: I worked outside of the home because that was the way my husband wanted it. Instead of telling myself that it was alright regardless of how hands on crunchy home schooling bread baking mom everyone else at the Creek was because I was honoring my husband's wishes. I'd torment myself and tell myself that I must be doing something wrong because if  I was submitting properly and honoring my husband then he'd step up and be the patriarchal spiritual leader that everyone elses husbands seemed to be. He'd know then that I was supposed to stay home, home school, bake bread and stay sweet instead of wearing a business suit and working in an office as a professional.

Pulled two ways at once and politely criticized over every decision first by the condemning Greek chorus in my head and later by the 'oh bless your heart!' squad of stay at home mommas at our church. I didn't fit in anywhere, I was twix and tween two different worlds, forced to do a high wire balancing act while still being responsible for all the cooking, cleaning and yard work while working forty hours outside of the home.

One weekend I found myself at the yearly womens retreat just a few hours from home in a big fancy hotel. I was struggling and dealing with who I really was because of my foot in each camp and the massive guilt plus feeling that I was failing on all fronts. I remember feeling utterly alone in a ballroom filled with ladies who seemed to have it all together. I knelt and cried, praying to God, asking Him to show me who I was because I didn't know any longer who I was. I cried a lot that weekend, this session was no different.

I didn't hear anything. I sat down again, dispirited and tired and started idly leafing through the steno book I still to this day carry everywhere with me. I'd learned years ago that carrying one was the easiest way to stay organized for me, for the job, for the home, for the church. Jot down tasks to do, shopping lists, sermon notes, reminders, scratch them off one by one. Small enough to toss in any purse or lap top bag, always handy for writing down things to remember.

This particular book I'd grabbed had copious notes at the front of it for a comedy site I'd worked on with a few friends, some funny ideas, sketches of worship flags and paintings, funny observations on the people around me at church and work, strange little caricatures I'd drawn during long meetings. It held even lyrics and notes from worship songs I'd woken up from sleep singing.

The more I leafed through the notebook, the more I felt like God was telling me this was who I was, who I was created to be, a creative person, an artist, someone that always found the funny side of things. I started feeling much better, realizing that I was torturing myself over things.

As I started to smile our pastor's wife asked me why I'd gone from tears to smiles in a few minutes. I didn't elaborate about my interior struggle about my role in the universe of Fundy, I just said I'd been reminded who I was by the Lord and that your own emotions can sabotage you, they can lie to you.

I got the standard 'take every thought captive' lecture from her. She kept telling me that my own misery was manufactured in my own mind. All I had to do was change my thinking.

Stupid me, I believed it, stopping believing my emotions meant anything real. I questioned most of them, suppressed a lot of them. I suspect that is one of the reasons that when I left Possum Creek Church that I raged and went through such terrible pain, everything I'd not allowed myself to think about or feelings I'd turned off emerged once dear sisters and brothers in Christ made it their business to make sure I didn't leave and if I did that I knew I was now bound for hell.

It was ugly, messy, an emotional self-flagellation that I could have possibly avoided if I'd only allowed myself to think critically about things and I had felt and owned my own emotions. It was like something I'd laid away, food left in a tupperware container out in the sun for years, what remained was awful.

What I know now and I should have known then that emotions aren't culprits. They are just what we're feeling, they may not even be rooted in reality but they are ours. Trying to suppress your emotions can make you quite sick. You must deal with your emotions.

Example: Right around the time we left our old church my asthma went from annoyance level to severe. I'd be exposed to something as simple as someone mopping the floor with a chemical based cleanser or smelling someone nearby eating peanut butter, or heavy cologne. My airways would shut rapidly and my throat would swell. I'd medicate immediately, sometimes using my Epipen and as the adrenaline, epinephrine and/or aburerol and other meds pulsed through my body my blood pressure would drop and I'd have a full fledged panic attack brought on by the chemical reactions taking place in my body.

The first time it happened I was flipping out because my body and my emotions were telling me I was dying. If you've never had a panic attack all I can say is that it feels like the end of the world. Awful. Feels like I imagine dying might feel. I felt like hiding and would sometimes climb under my desk to hide.

But I learned to deal with that after I learned things that helped me deal with the surging emotions being caused by the chemical reactions. I learned to keep a wicker basket under my desk stocked with a pillow, small afghan, flashlight, bottle of water, bottle of Ativan and a pile of Mad magazines. When I had an asthma induced panic attack I would give in to my desire to hide, I'd climb under the desk, take an Ativan, drink some water and lay down to read a Mad magazine till the worst of it passed. I'd tell myself out loud, "Relax, it's just another symptom of your asthma, it's not going to kill you and you'll feel much better if you relax." I'd talk myself down off that cliff.

Possibly if I had still been a member of my old church I'd have been trying to paste a big old smile on my face and tell myself to ignore the panic attack by thinking happy thoughts. Yeah, like that's going to work. Now I acknowledge when things aren't so copacetic and go from there.

Your emotions and your thoughts are YOURS and don't let any pious holier-than-thou try to tell you to deny your mind and your heart because the reckoning will be terrible. Better to feel your feelings and thoughts and deal.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Less Cranky, More Thankful

I think my state of jumpy irritation on Sunday was more a function of the cold I was fighting than anything else. That and the fact that I don't do large functions with the eleven o'clockers very well ever.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I know the biggest thing I am grateful for is freedom, simple freedom from the inhibiting mountain of rules when I was at that fundigelical church. I realized this year I can do, say, dress, cook, be whatever I want. There are not as many hard and fast rules as I thought that there were.

Today I cooked for tomorrow's feast at my eldest daughter Margaret's house. I always bring Ham, Cajun Coca Cola salad, Cranberry Amaretto Pound Cake and Fruit Cake for Turkey Day. Her in laws bring pies, drinks and Sweet Potato Casserole. Laura my little daughter is bringing something made out of green beans, her boyfriend is bringing homemade rolls and my son Andy is making something, I just don't know what. But I do know between all of us there will be a big meal laid on and we'll have a good day together. For that I am thankful as well.

See my Fruit Cake? One day soon I'll post Gluten Free versions of the recipes I used today.

I always feel a bit funny posting recipes and the photos because I don't have a million dollar kitchen like most food bloggers. I have my tiny kitchen and old appliances but it works for me. Ah, the house smelled like brandy most of the day while I soaked the fruits for the fruitcake in brandy.

But during my day of cooking I did run into sort of a snafu. I got a letter from the local courts telling me I have jury duty again. In the twenty plus years I've lived here I have had county jury duty 5 times, federal jury duty once and state jury duty twice. Jim has been called exactly once in all those years.

I filled out the paperwork and sent it back in. This should be interesting because I had to tell them I'll be gone two weeks at Christmas and will need to be off every other Monday for my Xolair injections. I hope they do not call me. But then again I do in some ways.

Happens that my jury duty time falls right in the same time frame that Daniel Harmon-Wright will be tried in our town for the murder of my fellow worship team member Pat Cook. I know I'll have to divulge that I knew Patricia quite well if I am called up for the trial to sit on the jury but I have to say this is one of those times when I sort of wish I was comfortable with lying. I would love to see justice serviced for what happened to Pat.

What happened to Pat? She was sitting in her Jeep at the parking lot of the local Catholic school. The school called the police to run her off because she'd been walking around and refused to leave when asked. I could see Pat doing that. She loved children and she suffered from some sort of mental issues or depression so I can see the school being freaked out by her behavior.

The officer arrived, walked to her Jeep, there were words exchanged, loud words, Pat refused to hand him her ID and drove away.

One of the big claims by Harmon-Wright is that Pat rolled up her window and trapped his arm, dragging him down the road. Witnesses have refuted that story plus her Jeep had a manual roll up window, it was very unlikely she trapped his arm. What witnesses did see was Harmon-Wright's hand on the door knob and his other hand holding the pistol. He shot her twice in the head at close range as she tried to drive away. She drove down the road and Harmon-Wright walked into the road, shooting at her fleeing vehicle, hitting her five more times. She died and the Jeep rolled to a stop against the light pole.

Was Pat a threat? Not likely, Harmon-Wright is a big old guy and Pat weight probably a hundred pounds soaking wet. Those of us that knew Pat well knew she had struggles but also knew that for all her eccentricities (and she was highly eccentric) could not imagine any scenario in which anyone could ever think that Pat was a threat to their lives.

What do I think happened? Pat was acting oddly and a corrupt trigger-happy cop murdered her. End of story.

It took a long time and a very thorough investigation by the State Police before Harmon-Wright was charged and he'll go on trial this November.

I'm thankful also for accountability and justice. Justice needs to be done for Patricia Cook. Her husband recently died and her mother is quite elderly and ill.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feeling Cranky!

Have you ever seen that Snickers commercial where the person is so bent out of shape they are some celebrity that has a reputation for bad behavior? That was me today. Particularly this Diva version -

It's been a cranky week. I've had a cold that won't go. My old church changed it's name because they said someone had been trashing their name online. They even told a couple of my friends it was me doing it, which is such a lie. I never mention their real name because I don't want to fight with them. Googling the name brings up nothing negative at all so they're just lying again. Jim worked from home a day throwing off my schedule. I'm stuck on my nanowrimo novel but hey, at least I didn't cheat by loading 20 thousand words a day into my nano dashboard like someone I know. I'm working on a project that's taking a lot of planning and there's a quilt project I'm doing for someone that isn't going as well as I'd like. Hostess going out of business and depriving me of the odd Snoball didn't sit well with me, particularly after reading about the mess that Hostess execs made of the company while cutting wages for the poor working stiffs. Made the bakers take cuts while paying the company execs making the bad decisions millions.

Today didn't help my mood much. The cold is still here and my brain isn't functioning well as a result. Today I got up and updated NLQ with something Sierra had written about the paradox of Christian love, which got me to thinking about love and the church on a week when my brain hurt too much to feel anything.

At noon today was our annual Thanksgiving dinner at the mainstream denomination I've been a member of for the last five years. Our church is huge, the largest in town, with four different services, the Saturday night service that I attend occasionally and help out with the worship sometimes, two traditional services in the old style and our contemporary service that I'm involved with the worship, planning and other things.

Previous years Thanksgiving dinner was a good solid mix from all the services. Today it was not, no one but myself and my family showed up for the dinner. Very few members from any service except the eleven o'clockers I call them. Lots of staid upper middle class folks that seemed pretty classless to me today.

I'd stayed behind after our service to attend a planning meeting for our contemporary service. The meeting was far shorter than I'd anticipated so we were done quickly. I wandered downstairs to wait for Jim and Andy so we could dine together. Was joking around with the people serving the meal because it was a good mix of friends and people from the contemporary service. They were joking about how the hardest part was going to be restraining the eleven o'clockers from diving into the food before the prayer dedication.

The last service ended, the eleven o'clockers filled the room and the announcement was made that we were to wait for our pastor to bless the food and then people could go fill their plates.

The eleven o'clockers ignored the announcement, started galloping over to the place we usually line up at. I saw and experienced Good Christians elbow and practically step on each other to get in line. No one payed any attention to the request we not get food till the prayer. They were filling plates, stomping through the line and gobbling long before the pastor got there. I saw so much bad behavior in five minutes I was pretty disgusted. Heard a lot of ridiculous hypocrisy spilling out of the mouths of some in the line too. Lots of very insincere sounding "I'm so thankful for youuuuu!" and silly air kisses.

Back when I attended my last church I got to freaking hate pot luck dinners because the penny pinching Quiverfulls and Fundamentalists would always bring something like white flour macaroni with a few veggies chopped up in it and call it a side dish. I always worked those pot lucks and there was almost never any meat or meat based dish at them, just a sea of beans or white flour products. I used to get frustrated with it until we insisted the church provide the main dish, like grilled burgers or hotdogs.

Everyone was supposed to bring a side dish for today and the church would provide turkey, gravy and dressing. I brought mine, but I couldn't help noticing that the ratio of families to food was seriously skewed. Everything but turkey, dressing and gravy was quickly gone.

I waited to get my plate because I was still waiting for Andy and Jim. By the time they showed up there wasn't any place to sit so I found a table in the very next room with no one sitting at it, put my sweater on a chair for Andy and my purse on a chair for Jim. Left my plate in place and went to get coffee, came back to find a family had moved all my stuff so they could sit there.

As I finished up one of our associate pastors I'm friends with asked me why I looked so stern and I told her why, that the eleven o'clockers were rude and greedy with very bad manners. She laughed and told me I wasn't saying anything she didn't know, that I ought to try dealing with them on a daily basis like she did.

I fear for the picture these people show the world about what Jesus and God represent. I'm not saying I am perfect, far from it, but I at least have manners. How do you leave the sermon and immediately start acting like a jackhole?

I don't get it

Visited Wal Mart after church. I must be insane as it's a microcosm of frustrations. It's days like today that make me wish I lived on a dessert, er... desert island.

I do have to say I am grateful for my local trash collectors. They know my back is not good and if I miss putting my can at the curb they come up to the house and take it from it's nook next to the garage. Good guys!

Plus when I went out to do my weekly recycling at the community recycle center on Thursday near noon I found out it was National Recycling Day. The workers had fixed hot dogs and all sorts of lunch goodies. They fed me lunch and gave me a t-shirt and a tote bag! They didn't have to do that, I was surprised and touched.