Archive for December, 2012


The time for traveling is upon us once again. We were hoping to be out yesterday, although when we first started talking about travel plans, I felt that Thursday would be more likely given the other things that were going on in the week prior to traveling and packing. Of course the impending storm (amusingly named Draco) was causing anxiety and desire to be out sooner than was realistically feasible.

That said, packing is always a royal pain in the arse. Trying to figure out what we need where and when is annoying. When you factor in presents for our extended families, you get a right mess of things that all need to go in the car. We also have presents for K because we’re not making her wait until January to receive all of her holiday gifts. It’s made for some frustration, that’s for sure. Also, there were a few presents that either we hadn’t picked up yet, hadn’t figured out what to buy, or whatever, so there’s been a bit of last minute shuffling in terms of that type of thing.

As far as clothes go, we’ve been trying to keep it to about a week’s worth of items this time and just washing accordingly. Given that our washing machine is broken and we’ve not managed to figure out what’s wrong or have it looked at since it broke, there’s been some added chaos there. About half of our things are coming down dirty this trip which is pretty annoying, but it’s certainly cheaper and less time consuming than trying to wash EVERYTHING at the laundromat. That gets really expensive very quickly.

Outside of clothes and gifts, there are always the other odds and ends that travel with us. The requisite stuffed animals are easy to figure out how to pack and they go in the car last since they get used for various jobs on the drive. However, when you started adding up electronic devices and chargers for three people, as well as crafting supplies for the same three people, you get a bit of extra chaos.

I’d love to say that our house is super organized and that packing was easy and maybe one day it will be, but the reality is that just isn’t the case, so a bit of the chaos is simply trying to find space within which to organize things and also finding all the things that we’ve “hidden” or “put somewhere safe”.

Right now, I’m trying to summon the focus to be able to finish sorting all of my crafty/electronic/random crap items so that part is done and yet I’m not finding a ton of motivation to do so. Yes, I want to go, but right now, the whole getting ready process (that we’ve been working on in between the umpty-dozen other things we’ve had to do in the last two weeks) is wearing on me. I’d love to be able to just throw things into bags and go but we have to make sure that we don’t take too much down with us given that we’ll be coming back with holiday gifts and other things. We already have an idea about how big some of those gifts are but not all of them and we also want to try to bring K’s bike back up with us this trip, so packing lightly is a bit of a necessity.

We’ll end up on the road when we end up on the road and hopefully the majorly crazy snow storm will stay north of us like it is supposed to at this point. If it doesn’t, I’ll drive carefully and be annoyed with myself for not getting out sooner. Ultimately, we’ll get to the places we are going and we tried to build in a couple of buffer days before we Absolutely Had to Be There for just the sorts of things listed above. We don’t have an obligation to begin until noon on Saturday, so we still have some time, though I suspect that my sis-in-heart Megan is about ready to shoot us because she’s been looking forward to our trip for a bit. (To Meg, I apologize, but I promise we’re trying…it’s just taking a lot more time than either of us want.)

There is the basic “haha travel makes me insane” post of what I suspect will be several over the next couple of weeks. Anyway, I’m going to stop babbling and go try to get some more things done. I think my current holiday wish for most people is “may it be less chaotic than mine” but that might just be the packing talking. 😀

Saturday Evening

T’s aunt retired Friday from her teaching job at Ivy Tech, and there had been a planned family dinner to celebrate with her on Saturday. T’s mom decided to take it a step further and indeed up arranging a party of almost 25 friends and family members at Chao’s in South Bend. Everyone got there early (and we even made almost on time and before the guest of honor!) and waited for Debbie and Paul to arrive. Needless to say she was quite surprised. She kept trying not to cry; it was very sweet.

The way the evening was arranged was that our group was in the bar/lounge area and they set up a table of hors d’oeuvres so that everyone could nibble while they chatted. Since it was in the bar area and since I was in a ton of pain, I decided to be adventurous and try a new drink. Chocolate martinis are AWESOME! Also, Chao’s stuffed mushrooms are also amazing. Yum.

Once everyone was seated for the salad course, the conversation was light and cheerful and it was just an overall aura of good feelings. When the dinner course was announced, Mary Chris surprised everyone with the fact that they would be able to try a little bit of each of the entrees that had been chosen. The options were chicken Parmesan, lasagna, and prime rib. On the side were tasty veggies including zucchini which I love.  Adele, who is the main chef at the restaurant and who owns part of it and two others, was actually at our beef cutting station herself. The family at this point has had several larger engagements there and she knows us well. She is genuinely sweet and her food is amazing. She was having fun serving folks and being a part of Debbie’s surprise as well.

Rin and I were sitting beside Debbie and between the conversation with her and Bonnie across the table, we had a lot of fun. As the evening wore on and the dessert round neared, Rin and I decided to have another chocolate martini and I was practically bouncing in my seat because dessert time meant tiramisu. I did not like tiramisu before I had it at Chao’s the last time we went and I fell in love. Hilariously so did several other folks at the table and we once again cleaned out their stock of the mini-tiramisu’s. You can order a large size as well and it is incredible but it doesn’t have quite the same balance that the mini ones do. I suspect that part of it is that the mini ones are served in chocolate “bowls” and the actual bowls of tiramisu do not have that extra layer of hardened chocolate on the bottom. (As a heads up they do back a bit of a kick with the liqueur in them but oh, they are delicious as a rare treat!)

As the evening wound down I realized that I had relaxed quite a bit more than I had expected to simply enjoying the company, the atmosphere, and the background music at the restaurant. The shooting had left me upset and drained in more ways than one and the ongoing trip packing as well as prepping for Girl Scouts had left me very tired. As we were leaving I realized that the evening was pretty much exactly what I needed to help return some of my holiday spirits and simply good feelings.

Post-Dinner

Earlier in the week we had been invited to a friend’s birthday party that was also Saturday evening. We told him that it would be unlikely that we would get there before nine if we could make it at all. We didn’t leave downtown South Bend until almost ten, but Kelly had assured us that the party was going to go until Saturday morning and that we should come out anyway. We realized we didn’t have his or Jess’s cell numbers to double check this but as they live in Osceola and we had to go to Meijer anyway, we decided to “pop in for a little bit.”

Anybody who knows us well will read that parenthetical and laugh hysterically. We got there between 10:30 and 11 and we left around 4:30. o_O I actually hadn’t realized how late it had gotten until everyone at the party was starting to fade. We had a lot of fun and I’m actually really glad that we went over to hang out. It’s…been a bit since we were able to hang out at someone’s house and just chill with a group of people. Kelly and his family are members of Brothers of the Wind, so there were fun talks of camp stories and things like that. They have a son who is a little older than K and the two of them were pretty much go-go-go until right before we left. I was kind of amazed actually.

It was nice to be able to just go relax and shoot the breeze and tell bad jokes and have fun. Alas we could not just go home and go to bed as we STILL had to go to Meijer to pick up a couple of last supplies for GS. K was a bit upset by that point as she’d realized what time it was and was worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep before GS (because I obviously have taken stupid flakes lately and would totally keep her awake that long before taking her to do jewelery work, right?!). We actually managed to keep the trip to the store brief.

When we got home, I got the girls to bed and set to finishing up getting things sorted out. I knew better than to try the “I’ll take a nap and then get up and finish things” because that tactic has failed ABYSMALLY this week. Instead I ended up not sleeping because I got anal retentive about sorting out beads for the girls and making sure that I had everything I needed.

Cue the *dun-dun-dun* music here.

I realized around 10:30 this morning that the cord we had bought the night before wouldn’t fit through the beads. Needless to say I cursed like a sailor and then tried to figure out what to do. Rin was still sleeping and finally I was like “eff it” and got dressed and headed out to find what I needed. By that point I’d put too much cumulative work into these projects to fail at that stage. Sadly Target did not have what I needed so I had to hit Michael’s over on Grape Rd. Of course traffic over there was insane and it was raining and gray outside so of course no one remembered how to drive and 3/4 of the drivers didn’t have their bloody head lights on. (Seriously?! Rain. Gray skies. Low visibility. TURN ON YOUR HEAD LIGHTS!) Ahem. Anyway.

I actually did manage to find what I needed at Michael’s fairly quickly and then got to wait in line for almost half an hour. Argh. I did enjoy chatting with the couple in front of me, though I suspect they thought I was a bit of a spaz, but to be honest, at that point, I really was a spaz. From Michael’s, I made a run through the Krispy Kreme drive through and grabbed a dozen doughnuts for breakfast (that I then forgot to eat which seems like a crime somehow). I ran home and made sure the girls were up, realized Rin hadn’t immediately found my note and thus that she had been a bit puzzled, finished putting things together and then ran to get Rin and I coffee because she was being pitiful at me.

Thankfully Starbucks was blissfully quick this afternoon as we were edging close on time. I was hoping that they would be ready when I got back to the house but I did have to go find out what was going on once before we actually made it on the road toward scouts.

At the Meeting

The girls were working on their jewelry badge. Each badge has 5 parts to it and some of them are more challenging than others. In a couple of them, Rin and I worked together to combine them so that they were completing both activities but in a more efficient manner. I’m not actually sure who put the Jewelry badge together, but a) they could have been more creative, b) they could have put in more ideas for things the girls would actually use, and c) they could have used a few more details in a couple of the steps. That said, Rin and I came up with several interesting projects although the girls only really got to two of them today.

Rin was teaching them how to wire wrap stones. At our last meeting, she let them each pick a stone from the ones that she had gotten at the local farmer’s market. Each girl got two: one hematite (because grounding and centering for those girls, yes please!) and then they got to choose the second from items such as sea glass and blue sunstone. They had a lot of fun with the selection process and they actually had a lot of fun with learning how to wire wrap though I suspect that some of them found it more challenging than they were expecting.

The second project that we got to was for them to make a simple pair of earrings because one of the steps of the badge was to make a gift for someone else. I used the basic hook finding with o rings and some lovely shell beads I have. They are in interesting shapes similar to a rectangle but wider at the top than the bottom. There were a variety of colors and the girls fell in love with them. I had enough earring findings for each of them to make two pair so some of them made a pair for someone else and a pair for themselves.

One of our co-troop leaders is also a Daisy troop leader because she has two daughters. The Daisy comes to the Juniors’ meetings and sometimes she gets bored. The poor girl was very tired tonight and kept trying to find things to do, so once I got the girls started on their earrings, I started helping the wee Daisy with hers. She’s only 5 (maybe 6) and after watching me, she actually almost closed one of her own jump rings with the pliers. If I had remembered that Rin had the smaller pliers I bet that the wee one could have finished it herself. She was quite pleased with herself and I was pretty impressed given that some of the bigger girls who had more hand and finger strength were having some trouble with them.

Unfortunately we ran out of time so the other two projects that I spent four hours color sorting mixed packs of beads for didn’t come to fruition. I’ll just tell the OCD part of me that they are already color separated if I want to make something. *headdesk*

Adorably, because Rin is bad at keeping holiday presents a secret from me, last night she handed me a wrapped package as I was sitting down to work on sorting beads and making sure we had everything we needed. She had bought me a new tool set in a zip up case months ago apparently and decided that it might be a present worth having early given the activities of the following day.

All in all it was a pretty good meeting. The girls actually focused and worked as opposed to what has been happening recently so that was certainly a relief. Several of them really took to the projects so you never know what they might come up with later.

There was a bit of tension through the evening but it was resolved and it was spent recovering from hectic GS things and trying to figure out how on earth we’re going to get all the things done since we really need to be on the road by Wednesday of this week. O_O Rin and I watched a couple of episodes of Covert Affairs after K went to bed and I (obviously, if you read my last post) spent awhile writing. She started dozing off in the recliner so I kept trying to send her to bed and she kept falling asleep again. *facepalm* I finally got her off to bed and I was supposed to be following shortly afterwards but even after writing a “post of doom” as Rin called it, I apparently still had a lot of words in my head. Go figure. So now it’s 5:51am and I’m still awake. You’d think I’d have fallen on my face by now, particularly since I really haven’t had any caffeine or anything like that since the half coffee I managed to drink early this afternoon. It’s actually slightly irritating because I’m hella tired and yet…awake.

Hopefully now that I’ve finished putting more positive things into the air I’ll be able to settle out and head to bed. I hope you all have a lovely day. I’m sure mine will be insane…as will most of the next couple of weeks. I bet I’ll make this face a lot: o_O. 🙂

There are many public figures that I frequently try to avoid hearing words from because they make me want to scream obscenities and slam my head into a wall. Mike Huckabee is one of those. His psuedo-Christian preachings tend to make me want to contemplate returning to my Pentecostal roots just so that I can scream in tongues. This week, his words just make me sad. (In fact, the bulk of this post was written on Facebook and was spurred by someone I used to attend church with…someone whose children I taught in Children’s Church…someone who I was surprised to find agreeing with the hateful words that Mr. Huckabee was spewing in the aftermath of the shooting in Connecticut.) I wrote a little about the “God is not allowed in schools” issue the day of the shooting, and I’ve since had several discussions about it that have helped refine some of my thoughts.

I have to vehemently disagree with you on this one [in response to her comment with the video that it was worth listening to]. I don’t think that anything that he has to say is worth listening to because he has proven himself time and again to be more filled with hate than compassion. I’ve heard things come out of his mouth that were directly antithetical to things I learned growing up in church.

Instead of trying to turn this into a religious issue, he should simply be trying to pray for the people who are affected by what was a horrible tragedy. Where was God? God was there in the hearts and minds of those children. God was there in the hearts and minds of teachers. There have been reports of one teacher who told her students who believed in prayer to pray for their safety and for those who didn’t believe in prayer to think good thoughts. God was there in her words. God was there with the teacher who sacrificed herself to save her students. She hid them all in cupboards and closets around her classroom and when the shooter entered, she told him they were in the gym. Hers was the only life lost in that classroom and she gave it up for her students.

God guided the six year old boy who took his friends half a mile from the school to get them to safety. He wanted his friends to be safe and after someone picked them up and took them to the fire station, one of his friends reported that “he just wouldn’t stop!”

God was there wearing many names, as he often does. God is allowed in schools and there is no magical barrier that keeps him out of them. What is NOT allowed in schools is religion and it shouldn’t be. First, not every student in this country is Christian and they should not be forced to learn Christian religious education at a public school. Second, whose version of Christianity would be taught? I heard a story once about someone who asked the question, “Why do students not say the Lord’s Prayer in school every day?” and someone else asked, “would you still be all right with prayer in school if students then followed up the Lord’s Prayer with a “Hail Mary” and an “All Father” as many Catholics do? After all, Catholics are Christian, too.

How many Protestant religions are there in the world? Even within a particular flavor of Christianity, not every church agrees on doctrine. (After all, Westboro Baptist Church calls themselves Christian…and they are proclaiming that God sent the shooter to Connecticut and that those people died because God wanted them to. I would surely hope no one would want THAT version of Christianity taught in schools.) There’s not even one version of the Bible, but instead, many translations and versions with differing takes on the text. (And it certainly shouldn’t be the King James version given that King James actually spent a lot of time tweaking parts of it to better suit his needs. It’s why it’s named after him.)

I grew up Christian. I taught Children’s Church. I was a member of Bible Club at my school. I talked about church at my school. And even as a teenager, I didn’t want religion in schools because I didn’t think it belonged there. There’s a difference between faith in God and religion and dogma. People should be able to believe without having one type of belief forced on them over another. I LOVED the moment of silence during the day because it let me take a moment to pause, reflect, and speak to God on my own terms. Before the moment of silence, when a daily prayer was read, I wouldn’t have been near so able to find my moments of peace in the Lord because I would have been listening to someone else’s words and prayers. (Seriously, there were many days in high school where the moment of silence let me find my center and balance for the day.)

Further than all of that, to say that God was not in that school shows a shocking lack of faith. In Matthew 18:20, the Scripture (roughly) reads “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” and there is not a doubt in my mind that there were people in that school praying their hearts out while that shooter was inside those walls. There are other places in scripture that speak of God’s omnipotence and how he is everywhere and in all things. If as a believer in God and in Christ you believe that to be true, then to say that “God is not allowed in schools” is to say that somehow man’s laws that require a separation of church and state (for some very sound reasons, a few of which I mentioned above) are stronger than God’s will and God’s word.

God was there and no one is keeping him out of schools. (After all, in every school where there is a test, there is likely a student whispering a prayer.) I just do not understand the sentiment behind this type of “preaching” that Mr. Huckabee is speaking here. It seems to argue against itself and it certainly seems to argue against scripture and I don’t entirely understand why that can be considered a good thing.

That was the entirety of what I wrote and I could perhaps easily stop there; however, I am feeling introspective and yes, a bit melancholy, and it tends to lead to a bit of navel gazing. Religion is such a touchy subject and it is both personal and subjective. My interpretation is not necessarily your interpretation or your pastor’s or your priest’s or your shaman’s. Religion is inherently something that should teach us to question our beliefs. Why do you believe what you do? Exploring faith (or the lack thereof) should be a part of one’s journey in life. After all, how can you wholeheartedly follow a deity if you don’t know why you are doing so? Even if after exploration and questioning and studying you find that your beliefs are the same, you at least now know why.

My path was a bit different. I started to question some of the things I’d learned in church during history classes at university. Renaissance and Reformation history is a fascinating subject and you learn a great deal about the path that Christianity has taken over the years. If you take classes in the periods before the Renaissance, you’ll learn of the origin of Christianity and how it began as a mystery cult with people meeting in secluded houses in secret for fear of persecution. Honestly, studying history is always fascinating but studying religious history is definitely something that will make you think.

Another university level class that made me consider my faith was actually Spanish. Learning a new language and the origins of that language saw me beginning to question the Bible and its translations over the years. If you do some research on the Bible, you’ll find multiple translations and multiple editions and there are differences in every single one. (If you research nothing else, I strongly urge you to look up the history of the King James Bible. It’s pretty fascinating and certainly isn’t as close to the original texts as possible.)

In my study of history, mixed with my curiosity about languages, I learned about the Council of Nicaea. If you’re not familiar, the First Council of Nicaea was a meeting of Christian Bishops in 325 C.E. One of the main goals of this first ecumenical council was to determine the relationship between Christ and the Father (which still seems pretty pretentious to me). The argument had arisen within Christendom about whether or not the Father and the Son were of one purpose or were of the same divine being. Each side used Scripture to back up their arguments and the argument essentially came down to language and word choice. (Hmm…I wonder if this might have had anything to do with translation?) Ultimately, they decided that the Son was the true God. This led to the Nicene Creed which has been a point of contention at several times over the course of history. Along with determining the nature of God and the Son, the Council of Nicaea also decided to change how the date of Easter was determined, dealt with the issue of a small schism, and came up with a list of new canon laws that would become part of the Christian religion.

Okay. Let me get this straight. The Emperor, a group of Bishops, and some other dudes got together and decided what the Divinity of God was and wrote some new laws to add to the Bible. I…I…I…of all the hubris of man, this one ranks pretty high on my list of “what the heck” moments. I understand that they were trying to bring agreement to the many sects within Christendom and I understand that they thought they were doing what was best, but I can’t help but wonder how this particular group of men was so led to act.

Yet it is within councils like this one that much of the dogma and the doctrine of modern Christianity was born. Even today, heads of churches sit and make these types of decisions. Factions within religions happen when one group doesn’t agree with another. And somewhere in the middle of all of this the messages of love and hope seem to get lost.

I’ve been through church splits: twice. It’s painful and it’s upsetting and it can shake your faith to the core…right up to the moment that you realize that the building is your church and the people are your friends but your God is wherever you are. Both times it took time to heal, though the second was worse than the first for me personally and it changed the dynamic of church going for me. That was the point that I stopped going because the people in the church at that point were doing nothing for my relationship with God.

Over time, through a lot of study, soul-seeking, prayer, and perhaps a bit of navel gazing, I’ve come to my own conclusions about Deity, the Divine, and the Universe. I’ve come to realize that the strongest message from my young life was that God is love and if you go to him, there will always be love. What I’ve learned from watching battles amongst religions and battles amongst public personas who feel they have a claim to speak on God’s behalf is that the message is “we will love you if you do exactly what we say and we will support you if you do exactly what we say, but if you deviate from that, we have no space for you.” It makes me angry and it makes me sad. Jesus taught a message of love. His greatest commandment is to love one another. How could that be confusing? Love one another.

We are all people and we all have our own beliefs. Trying to make your neighbor become Roman Catholic or Buddhist or Episcopalian isn’t what the message was. The message was to love one another or to respect one another or to treat other people as you wish to be treated. In this country, we seem to have an increasingly vocal minority subset of the Christian faith that want to legislate their religion into everyone’s daily lives. These are the same types of people who argue that we must always stick to the Constitution which makes them hypocrites because the First Amendment gives freedom of religion to everyone and it was designed to keep the government from creating a state church. The Founding Fathers left England because of a state church and because of religious persecution; they didn’t want the same fate to happen to their new country so they instituted laws to make it so that wouldn’t happen.

And yet over the years politicians have been slowly working at breaking down the separation of church and state despite the fact that it goes against the Constitution they are supposed to uphold. Many people like to toss out the Pledge of Allegiance and yet the words “under God” didn’t appear until the 1950s; that clause was not originally part of the Pledge.

People like Mr. Huckabee try to stand up and argue that we are a Christian nation and it isn’t true. Yes, there are a lot of Christians in this country; however, what we are is a country that is supposed to cherish religious freedom and freedom from persecution. Teaching one type of religion in schools is the exact opposite of what the framework of our country was built on.

In the conversation on Facebook, someone replied and essentially said that everyone has their own opinion but I believe religion should be in schools. The person in question did not address ANY of the arguments that I made against it nor did they consider the points at the end. They simply decreed “religion should be in schools.” After inhaling for a moment, I set about typing a reply and this is what I came up with:

Why? Why would you rather leave a child’s religious teaching to someone whose beliefs you know nothing about as opposed to taking them to your church and having them be taught in the house of worship you CHOOSE to attend.

On the other side of that argument, if you believe that religion should be in schools, and you understand that the same Constitutional amendment that allows you to freely practice your beliefs also was designed to ensure that -no- national religion was placed into law, then would you be comfortable with students learning about -all- religions? If you want Christianity to be taught in schools, then you would have to allow equal time to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, pagan and earth based religions, and -every- other religion that makes up a part of our country today. There is not room for picking and choosing here because the Constitution is pretty clear about not allowing a national religion because the Founding Fathers were firmly against the idea.

I grew up Pentecostal. I also spent time in a Southern Baptist church with my Granny. I also visited several other churches either with friends, with family, or for revivals. There were differences in every church I went to and though the basic idea was the same, the methods of getting to that basic idea were occasionally vastly different. After all, there is a rather large difference between a Pentecostal service and a Catholic Mass. Every time people start talking about wanting to put religion into schools I always want to know how they feel they are going to manage to come into agreement about -what- to teach. No one has come up with an answer yet. I tend to get a lot of “I don’t agree with you and I think religion should be in school” type comments like yours without even a thought to how it could be implemented.

As a mother, I would far prefer to be the person in charge of my daughter’s religious upbringing than I would some of the adults who have been at her schools. For that matter, I am very glad that I am in charge of my daughter’s religious upbringing as opposed to certain members of my family. Religion should be a decision made as individuals and as parents. It is a matter of choice and it should remain that way. And wanting religion in school or not doesn’t change the fact that God -was- there that day. I’ll leave you with a quote from a minister that I came across the day of the shooting and then I’ll stop writing paragraph’s on [name redacted]’s wall. The minister’s name is Jennifer Crumpton and what she said struck me as very poignant and was written in response to people like Mr. Huckabee and his “God is not allowed in schools” message:

“In my role as a Christian minister, I have to speak up about the lie politicians and others are putting forth, that the CT shooting happened because “God has been removed from our schools.” This is a dangerous, irresponsible, and and theologically immature statement. God is not found in the rules or activities sanctioned by a school, or the doctrines that make that an issue. God is in the hearts of human beings, children included. And praying to God will not in fact avert the tragedies of our world…we’ve all seen/experienced that tragedy happens inexplicably. God does not “allow” things to happen because we do not adhere to human-concocted doctrine and superstition. Where is God? God is grieving with us. But God is not smiting children because of the separation of church and state.”

Where is God?

All around as the divine always has been.

I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again, but if the type of $deity that you worship is the type that would send a gunman into a school of elementary school kids and let them be murdered or if your $deity is the type that would send a hurricane to demolish part of creation just to “teach a lesson” then I want nothing to do with said $deity. If that’s the type of $deity you believe in, then your $deity is a big bully and I have no time for that in my life.

While I am not always successful, I do strive to be the type of person I believe I should be: kind, compassionate, caring – in other words, not a dick. Do I fail? Certainly. I can be a raging *censored* but that doesn’t mean that all of my efforts are equated with failure. Part of being a human is trying and failing. So instead of dwelling on the failures I try to make amends and I try not to kick the crap out of myself for being an asshole and then I try to be the person I strive to be. I look for the divine all around me because I believe that is where Creator exists. I see the divine in cats because Bast has certainly laid her claim on my life. I see the divine in things great and small because the divine is a part of all of us. Things like this shooting in Connecticut and the other rash of shootings that have been publicized hardcore on the news make it so easy to slide into a mindset of “the world is a terrible place and everything is horrible and blah blah blah” and yet if you do not seek out the good and you do not find the light in the darkness then your spirit will wither and fade.

The idea that Creator in all its forms would be so cruel and callous as to take some of the most precious parts of its creation and snuff out their lives in a fit of pique enrages me. The fact that people genuinely believe that and worse that they believe those actions are just actions just blows my mind. Do not try to tell me that “God is love” to only turn around and tell me that your God is a child murderer because someone sinned. Um, excuse me? Wasn’t that why he sent Jesus to die on a cross again? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Is this ringing any bells yet? If you believe that Christ’s sacrifice was to save the world from having to make sacrifices how can you turn around and believe that a tragedy is a punishment from God? And if you are a person of great faith who faithfully follows all of the rules and who repents when you stumble, what does it say about your God if tragedy befalls you?

It seems much more likely to me that as the minister I mentioned above said, God is grieving with us. The power of free will is a very dangerous one and it isn’t always used with the utmost care. That doesn’t mean that God abandons us in our hour of need.

God was in that school Friday whether religious dogma was or was not.

God was there. It is now up to you to examine your faith to figure out why you could believe that he wasn’t.

——

I suspect at this point that this has gone far beyond the long ramble I expected and has turned into an epic tome. I’ve been writing it off and on for a few hours now and I really didn’t get any sleep last night because I was trying to get things together for Girl Scouts today and things together for our impending trip, so at this point, I am impressed that I’m making full sentences. I suppose if you want the tl;dr version it would be this: The Divine (in whichever form you believe in) is everywhere and that means that the Divine was at that school on Friday (and given that it’s been released that the killer had a lot of ammunition with him, I’d say there are some pretty obvious examples of divine intervention) and dragging religion as a debate for public policy won’t change that. Also, kids pray in school even if no one leads them in a prayer. And they are probably pretty good at figuring out a prayer on their own. I was always clever enough to do so.

Until the next time I decide to ruminate about the Divine…

Hope

I believe in hope.

At the darkest times in my life, when it felt like everything was ruined and nothing would ever be the same again, there has always been a part of myself that has believed in hope. It is part of what it takes to be a survivor in this world: when all the chips are down, you have to hold out that something will happen to make things better.

The tricky thing about hope is that it isn’t always instantaneous and it isn’t always easily accessible. Sometimes you have to wait for things to get better and sometimes you have to suffer for a bit before you find something that reminds you that hope is real. It can make it really hard to believe in much of anything.

Belief in hope makes me stronger. One of my favorite quotes is from a poem by Emily Dickinson. The part I keep in mind is that “hope is the thing with feathers”; it is a part of my personal belief system and one of the mantras I have to remind myself of sometimes. The entire poem, however, is a part of that simple quote.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers-
that perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest in the Gale is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird –
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity, –
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is how I manage to maintain a semblance of sanity in the face of tragedies like what happened today in Newtown, CT. There is a part of me that wants to rage at the uselessness of killing twenty children and the devastation that one man wrought on a small town – and perhaps on all of us at the same time. I want to rage at a universe that would let something so senseless and so devastating happen. Not so complacent to place blame on one deity, I want to rail at them all and demand an accounting of them for what took place in that school today. Yet I don’t.

I don’t because to place the blame on a higher power is as effective as placing the blame on Mickey Mouse or any individual politician or any particular video game/tv show/movie/comic book character/other form of media. The blame falls on the shoulders of the man who walked into that school with three guns and started shooting. The blame falls on the shoulders of the person who felt that it was his only recourse.

I also don’t blame the universe because in reading stories that have trickled out from the situation, I have seen the hand of the divine in the midst of the pain. I see it in the hands of the child who waited for his friends and helped them get out of the building. I see it in the inspiration of the teacher who locked her class in the bathroom and managed to put a storage unit in front of the door. I see it in the injury of the teacher that stood in front of the door to keep the shooter from opening it. I see it in the children who managed to stay as calm as possible and who tried to support each other as the tragedy raged around them. I see it in the hands of the emergency rescue personnel as they worked tirelessly to get the children and teachers out of the building and who took them to safe places to reunite them with families. The higher powers that we believe in were there, working in the ways that they could and doing what they could.

I am old enough to understand that $deity is not Superman or Batman and Creator will not come sweeping into the room to save the day every time something bad happens. Life doesn’t work that way. Instead of blaming $deity for that fact, I look instead for the ways in which the divine does work in times like this.

In the wake of the mall shooting in Portland earlier this week, I stumbled across someone using a quote from Mr. Rodgers that I had not seen before. The base of the quote is “look for the helpers.” Today, I saw the quote in its entirety and it moved me even more than the simple “look for the helpers” that I saw.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Look for the helpers. It seems so simple and yet it can be so easy to lose sight of that in the wake of terrible things. It can be easy to see nothing but hate and violence and fear. Look for the helpers. Believe in hope for better days.

I’ve seen some of the typical things cropping up today, from “everyone should have guns to stop this kind of thing” which is, in my opinion, a specious argument at best and downright ridiculous at worst to a picture on FB that has a letter to God from a concerned student that basically asks why God didn’t stop the tragedy and a reply from God that says, “I’m not allowed in schools.” These types of things are crazy-making.

First, we as a country do need to be having more conversations about guns and gun violence. This isn’t me saying we should get rid of all guns or that we should attack the Second Amendment or anything like that. It is me saying, “Maybe it is time we examine some of these laws more closely and maybe it is time we start working on ways to stop these types of things from happening. Maybe we need to look at licensing legislation again and we need to consider things like how weapons are stored and maybe, just maybe, we even need to start educating our children about guns and gun safety so that they stop being ‘mysterious’ and instead are more commonplace items.” But having conversations about these things is important and it is something that we should be doing instead of cowing to the lobby behind the “we should be able to have whatever kind of gun we want because the constitution says so”.  At the same time, we should also be having a discussion about mental health treatment in this country and how we can make access to it easier and more affordable for those most at risk for the need for it. We should be finding ways to let people get help that won’t cost them hundreds of dollars for a single visit. We should be figuring out how to help those who need help. This, too, should be part of the conversation about gun violence in this country because mental instability has been a key factor in many of these tragedies.

Second, God is not banned from schools. There is not some metaphysical anti-God shield that kicks up outside the school doors. Teachers pray. Students pray. Schools have multiple types of Christian student groups. What the law has done is to keep religion out of schools and that is an entirely different animal than keeping God out of school. The Christian faiths of the world cannot even agree on one set of rules (which is why there are so many different types of faiths both Catholic and Protestant) so how on earth are we supposed to figure out what to teach at school? And why should there be one type of prayer in school instead of a moment of silence where each person can pray (or not) as they wish? God was in that school today and if you believe that he wasn’t because there is no mandatory school prayer and because there’s not mandatory religious education, then I don’t want to believe in the same God you do.

The shooting today was a tragedy. Twenty-eight people are dead because one person shot them. Twenty of those people are children between the ages of five and ten years old. They had entire lives ahead of them and now, with the firing of a bullet, they don’t. There is no real logic in this and seeing as how the killer shot himself, we may never have any idea why. His brother (who was mistakenly named as the shooter early in the day) has said that he has a history of mental illness. But mental illness alone does not make you shoot up a school. Seeing as how it is a tragedy, blaming it on the “gun control lobbyists” or the “no gun control lobbyists” or “the lack of God in school” or whatever other political or religious banner is not helpful.

Grieve for the lives lost and the families left behind.

Empathize with the children who survived but who now have lived through something truly horrifying.

Say your prayers or light your candles or do whatever it is you do to seek peace and healing from the universe.

Cling to hope for healing and recovery in the coming days.

Stop looking for a way to turn this into a “we should do this thing or that thing” argument and instead, consider your fellow humans and look for the helpers.

Tonight, I’ll just keep giving my baby girl hugs and I’ll keep reminding myself that though my heart is breaking for the families of the people who died today, my daughter and my nieces and nephews are safe in their homes. I’ll keep looking for the helpers and I’ll keep looking for the little glimpses of light in the midst of the horrible, horrible thing that happened today. I’ll cling to the fact that the divine lives in us all and that perhaps Creator, too, is grieving for what happened today. I think I also will light a candle and whisper a prayer for those we’ve lost and those who’ve been left behind.

With a heavy heart I seek peace. With grieving tears, I seek comfort. May the light remain stronger than the darkness. May the families of those lost find hope, comfort, and love. May the families of the survivors find peace in the face of terror. May the children of Sandy Hook Elementary sleep peacefully; may their dreams not be filled with the horrors they have seen. May we all come together as people and sow love instead of hate, harmony instead of discord, and solace instead of fear. May my prayers join those of my fellows to sing a song to the hearts of those who need hope the most tonight. Amen.