Sunday, December 27, 2009

Months to Live - Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death - Sedation - Series -

Very good article on some of the hard issues in end-of-life care.

Months to Live - Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death - Sedation - Series -

While there are universally accepted protocols for treating conditions like flu and diabetes, this is not as true for the management of people’s last weeks, days and hours. Indeed, a review of a decade of medical literature on terminal sedation and interviews with palliative care doctors suggest that there is less than unanimity on which drugs are appropriate to use or even on the precise definition of terminal sedation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blessed Winter Solstice!

I hope everyone had a good Winter Solstice, filled with the blessings of the Dark Time of the Year.

Last year brought a very snowy Solstice to Seattle: Winter Solstice itself was the second of three snowstorms in a week. Record snowfall brought the city to a grinding halt for days. Winter Solstice was on a Saturday last year; it started snowing again that afternoon, and finally stopped snowing that Sunday night. (When we flew out to visit relatives on Thursday, the buses still weren't running in our neighborhood, and we hiked, using backpacks for luggage, half a mile to the freeway to catch a bus downtown to transfer to the bus to the airport.)

On Winter Solstice last year, a small group of folks still made it to our apartment for a Roses, Too! potluck and a Winter Solstice Celebration based on A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual. This was the second or third time I'd done it with a small group, using the cd for the music. We had five adults -- just enough for readers and the narrator -- and a four-year-old, and had a warm, cozy time in the candlelight with the woodstove. Everyone made it home safely, eventually, though the two miles uphill to the U District was a haul for some.

It was a beautiful Solstice.

(c) 2008

So, now here we are in central NJ, and there's record snow here already now, too! (I think it's just following me around the country right now...)

Friday evening, dear F/friends who are part of the extended Roses, Too! community graciously hosted the Roses, Too! Tradition Winter Solstice/Yule potluck at their home in Philadelphia. They've hosted a number of potlucks in the past, and it was a treat, for me, for us to have a potluck there again.

We had delightful company and conversation, and we shared all sorts of yummy, festive, and comforting food and drink -- hot mulled cider, homemade fettuccine alfredo, cider donuts, chocolate (of course), apple cobbler with local Philly Vanilly ice cream, cranberry-jalapeno salsa (which I bought from a local farm store, but which is not as good as my friend Jennifer F's from CA), a cheese-pepper-onion torte with a sweet potato crust, all sorts of good things.

And then we shared a hilarious, intergenerational game of Apples to Apples. At one point, I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt and I couldn't quite catch my breath.

We knew a big winter storm was brewing, and sure enough, record snow came to much of the East Coast with a blizzard over this weekend.

Our community-wide Winter Solstice Celebration / performance of A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual (with SpiralSong, PAI/DVPN, and Pebble Hill Interfaith Church) was snowed out Saturday night, as was Sunday night's dress rehearsal for the second WSC.

Last night, however, lots of people made it to our Winter Solstice Celebration (with SpiralSong, PAI/DVPN, and the Inner Path), and it was just delightful.

I loved singing with SpiralSong again; our readers, narrator, and stage manager were wonderful; the "audience" (in quotes, because it's actually very participatory) were wonderfully present with us, and enthusiastic during the high-energy parts; our musicians were excellent (and I had lots of fun drumming with our drummer); and the management and collection of lit candles went more smoothly than I think I've ever seen it.

Our hosts, the Inner Path, are members of the Delaware County Peace Center, so our Celebration was at the Springfield Friends Meetinghouse. This is a great space for this Celebration -- conducive to the ritual, warm and intimate without feeling cramped, and quite nice acoustically (something that is definitely not true of all old East Coast Meetinghouses!).

Plus, there was this moment at the beginning, when the singers first saw the "audience" after we'd processed in, and were facing them, singing with them... I saw so many familiar faces, and so many I didn't know. Among the familiar ones were friends who were there for the first time; folks who were there for the first time in a long time; folks who have been to these Winter Solstice Celebrations every year since the first one in 1997; folks who drove long ways; women I've sung with in the past and haven't seen in too long; folks from different parts of my life who had no reason yet to know each other... It was a magical moment in the web of connection and community.

How has your Winter Solstice been? What gifts of the Spirit has it brought?

(c) 2006

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why two black D.C. pastors support gay marriage -

This is an amazing article by two African-American pastors in Washington, DC, who support same-gender marriage. h/t Qira.

Why two black D.C. pastors support gay marriage -

We are sometimes asked what accounts for the homophobia within the African American community. This question seems to assume that the community is disproportionately homophobic compared with other racial and ethnic groups. We are not aware of any credible study that has conclusively proved this assumption. However, our first-hand experience has convinced us that homophobia within the black church and the wider community is real. And the factors that have nurtured these beliefs over the years are complex.

...A final piece that shapes black attitudes toward same-sex marriage is the preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

...We will continue to stand at the altar in our community, telling all the couples who come before us: "Let it be known that you are joined together not only by your love for each other, and by our collective love for each of you, but by the love of God."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq | Christian Peacemaker Teams

Wow. Blessed be.

Much love to my Friends, friends, and CPT colleagues who have been affected by the kidnapping of the team and the death of one of their members.

IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq | Christian Peacemaker Teams:

19 November 2009
IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq

Harmeet Singh Sooden has joined the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) delegation traveling through Iraqi Kurdistan 7-23 November 2009. This delegation marks the first time he has returned to Iraq since he was freed from captivity four years ago.

While participating in a 2005 CPT delegation he, along with fellow delegate Norman Kember and CPTers Jim Loney and Tom Fox were kidnapped in Baghdad by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Tom Fox was murdered on 9 March 2006. British forces freed Sooden, Kember and Loney two weeks later on 23 March 2006.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day, Armistice Day

Thinking about my own attitudes towards and beliefs about war, the Peace Testimony, and how people have reacted to the support I've expressed today for Armed Forces service members... I thought I might re-post this piece about how I found an expression of the Peace Testimony through service to military families.

The Peace Testimony and Armed Forces Emergency Services

It’s 3:45 am when my pager wakes me. I speak to a man who is quite upset: his sister has just died – at the end of a long illness, but unexpectedly soon – and his sister’s son is on active duty in the military, stationed overseas. The caller needs to get a message to... (more)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not writing much for a bit

Hello, dear readers!

A family member is having routine but major surgery next week, and I am their primary support person. So right now, I'm spending lots of time getting ready, and I have no idea how much time (or brain) I'll have to write over the next eight weeks.

I would really appreciate folks holding both of us in your thoughts or hearts, in the Light, in the comforting Darkness, in the Goddess, in your prayers, lighting candles... whatever you do when you hold someone in your spiritual care.

Thank you!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An advantage to praying in a language you don't understand?

I posted this to my Facebook Wall, where it produced a really interesting comment thread. So, I thought I'd post it here, and see what folks think.

"The other advantage of praying in Hebrew without understanding it is that it spares you the temptation to argue with the prayer book." Harold Kushner, in To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Thinking and Being, pp. 201-202.

(I said, "Yeah, right!!")

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams

I get CPT's Prayers for Peacemakers every Wednesday. Because of some conversations I'm having, I felt like sharing this one.

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Pray for the Palestinian children who walk to school from Tuba to At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Earlier this week they were threatened by Israeli settlers when the Israeli government-mandated military escort failed to appear to accompany them.

How do we talk about, get support around, death?

Samhain is fast approaching, so of course I am thinking about death. About those dear ones who've died and whom I miss fiercely, and those whom I've been able to let go a little more. About those whom I don't miss at all. About those I love whose death was a release; those who died in old age after a long life; those who died young; those who died suddenly; those to whom I was able to say goodbye; those who died without any final contact.

About a dear F/friend who is actively dying.

Anastasia Ashman, a sister Mawrter, posted this recently, which I recommend to you. She asks questions like, How do we find support around grief? How do we talk about grief and death? Do we mourn silently and privately, or in community? What determines this?, as well as shares some of her own experience.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nearly-equal rights. Still second-class citizenship.

This is the story (so far) of our civil union in New Jersey, and why I am not, in fact, excited about it.

My wife and I recently moved to New Jersey for her work. After we arrived, I started researching NJ's domestic partnership and civil union laws.

For same-gender couples, NJ offers everything but marriage: the law is exactly the same as for opposite-gender couples, with one major exception: "civil union" rather than "marriage." There is one application, whether you're applying for a civil union license or a marriage license; it has spaces for "Applicant A" and "Applicant B." The federal government won't recognize a NJ civil union, and other states might or might not, but the state of NJ can't control that. NJ is fairly unusual in that, if you've had a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or anything similar in another jurisdiction, you can transfer it to NJ, as long as it offers the same benefits and responsibilities as a NJ civil union, instead of having to dissolve it and re-register; although, if it didn't offer the same state-level legal protection, you do have to dissolve it and re-register. But to transfer it, you still have to fill out the paperwork ("Re-Affirmation of Civil Union"), unlike a straight married couple who moves to NJ.

It seems like the NJ civil union is as close as you can come without it being marriage.

Interesting, I thought. I wonder if we want to do this?

When we were first married, five-plus years ago, we asked ourselves if we should take advantage of our city's relatively new domestic partnership law -- especially since I'd been peripherally involved with the campaign, and since the former head of City Council, who'd opposed it vehemently, was now the mayor, and would have to sign it. Heh. Reading the law and the application left a bad taste in our mouths: it had second-class citizenship written all over it. We recycled the paperwork.

When we embarked on this itinerant phase of our lives for Beloved Wife's job, we moved to another city that turned out to have a domestic partnership law. What's more, we were required to register as domestic partners if I was going to be on her insurance -- the same way opposite-gender couples were required to marry if an opposite-gender spouse was going to be on the employee's insurance. Reading the law and the application, we found, to our surprise, no bad taste in our mouths: the city ordinance spoke of the diversity in our community, and of the need to protect all families.

We did have to giggle, though. The 2-foot by 3-foot, hand-calligraphed and hand-illustrated certificate, with our wedding promises, our signatures, and the signatures of more than 200 witnesses, never got us a legal thing. The 8 1/2-by-11 computer-generated certificate (not even the signatures were "live") with the shiny gold seal on it got me legal access to my wife's health insurance. We put the city certificate in our file cabinet for future reference; our Quaker wedding certificate hangs on our living room wall.

The following year, the voters of that state passed an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as one man and one woman, and making domestic partner benefits illegal (including my insurance coverage). My wife's employer, along with the city we lived in and many other employers in the state, found ways to insure "other adults" while being in full compliance with the law. I retained my health insurance, so did many other adults, and most importantly, so did many children: the new amendment put second-parent adoptions in jeopardy, and a lot of kids were in danger of losing coverage if they were on a non-birth parent's insurance.

We moved again; last year, we lived in a state with a very, very good domestic partnership law. Still not marriage, but nearly everything-but-marriage. We did not feel any leading or need to register: my wife's employer did not require us to; that state doesn't have income tax; we were going to be there for a year; this was an area with a very good record of honoring powers of attorney and other legal paperwork for same-gender couples.

But now we've moved to a state with a good civil union law, in an area with a mixed record of honoring powers of attorney and other legal paperwork. We're going to be here longer; we both have medical issues; we're thinking about kids.

All good reasons, but I was still doubtful. In my head, anyway. Someplace else, deep down, I had a very strong feeling about registering a civil union.

We've talked about getting legally married in Massachusetts or Canada. We've talked about domestic partnership and civil union and everything-but-marriage laws in other states. And I have felt very clearly that I am not willing to settle for second-best, for nearly-but-not-quite equal.

So, one, it has to be marriage. Not domestic partnership, not civil union. It has to be the same thing regardless of the gender of my partner, the same thing as it is for opposite-gender couples. And two, it has to be recognized by the federal government. Even if we were married legally in MA or Canada, our marriage would not be honored fully in the United States. Some states would recognize it; some wouldn't; they'd pretty much get to choose. We'd still pay federal income tax on my health insurance as "taxable income." We'd still have to carry powers of attorney -- and add our everything-but-marriage license -- when we traveled.


I went back and looked at the law here in NJ again. It's still everything-but-marriage. It's still not federally recognized, like opposite-gender marriages are.

But, I had a strong feeling that we need to register our civil union.

I'm not sure if it's an actual leading or not. Would it feel this uncomfortable if it wasn't? Perhaps it's just a good idea, and perhaps not-quite-equality is not a good reason not to take advantage of the legal protections we do have.

I brought it up to Beloved Wife, and she agreed. Here's what she says:

"One of the things that is infuriating about marriage law in the U.S. is the blurring between religious and civil marriage. True separation of church and state would mean that the state recognized civil partnerships between same or opposite-gender couples, and if a couple wanted then they could also have a religious ceremony. Really, I think that if the New Jersey situation for same-sex couples were as good in real life as it is on paper, it should be the nationwide situation for all couples. It leaves a sour taste first because it's separate and almost-but-not-quite-equal (not all employers provide equal benefits, and some civil partners have had difficulties with health providers), within NJ vis-a-vis marriage, and because of all of the ways that our partnership won't be recognized outside of NJ or by the feds."

So, we printed out the application. I filled out the parts for Applicant A while she was cooking dinner. She filled out the parts for Applicant B while I cleaned up after dinner. We called the parents of some dear friends, who live nearby, and asked if they would be our witnesses. They would be honored, they said, and in fact, they sounded excited. We figured out a date when one of them could go with us to Boro Hall to apply for the license; I called the Boro Hall and made an appointment with the Registrar's/Health Department to fill out our application and pay our $28. ($3 stays with the Boro; $25 goes to the local domestic violence shelter.)

I had a question about something, though: on the application, you have to provide information about when the ceremony will take place. We already had a ceremony, it just wasn't legally binding. The clerk and I talked it through, and the conclusion she came to was: Yes, in order for this to be legally binding, you have to have another ceremony. She gave me the phone numbers of a judge and of the mayor for us to call.

For another ceremony.

Reading the applicable material carefully, it does look like the ceremony is necessary to make this legally binding. We can't just get someone official to sign our license, even with us present and in front of witnesses. There has to be a freaking ceremony. "Do you, Stasa..."

We had our appointment at the Registrar's/Health Department Office to fill out the application. (Both our friends came, and tossed a coin to decide who would sign the application as witness.) Then we trudged down to the Mayor's Office to find out if she could perform our civil union ceremony.

No, we didn't have a date picked out. What would be convenient for her? No, we don't have a time picked out. When would be convenient for her? Our flexibility both puzzled and inconvenienced the poor aide to the mayor. The four of us -- Beloved Wife and our two witnesses -- picked out a proposed date. The aide continued down the form to questions about the ceremony: Anyone giving either party away? Single ring, double ring, no ring? How many people present? How large a wedding party?

We've already had a religious ceremony, we explained. We just want something nice and simple.

Well, I'll fill this out and give it to the bailiff, and we'll call you and let you know if the mayor agrees to do your ceremony and if she's available on this date at this time.

We could do another day or time if it doesn't, I offered.

If this doesn't work, you can talk about it when we call, she said. I have to put down a date and time.

Ah, bureaucracy.

As we were leaving, our friends offered, If she can't do it, we know one of our ministers would. (They're members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in our town.)

Well, for that, we could probably get someone from the Meeting here, I said. But I don't think it would feel right to have anyone religious do it. We already had our religious wedding, in our former Meeting (the same year as their son and daughter-in-law; in fact, we were in each other's weddings). To have a religious officiant feels like invalidating our wedding, or acting like it never happened. It would feel like a violation of the Testimony of Integrity. I think we just want it to be civil. Beloved Wife nodded.

To their credit, that made sense to our friends, and we could tell they were a little troubled by it.

A few days later, the mayor's aide called, sounding perky and excited. Genuinely so. "Hi, it's So-and-So from the Mayor's Office, calling about your wedding. Mayor So-and-So has agreed to perform your civil union ceremony on thus-and-such date and time. Now, I'll mail you a copy of the ceremony she uses, and you can edit it and mail it back to me."

(Here's a cool thing: the mayor does not accept honoraria for weddings or civil unions. She asks for a donation to the domestic violence shelter instead, and provides their information and an envelope addressed to them.)

We called our friends: Does this date and time work for you? Yes, we'll be there. And we'd like to take you out to lunch afterwards, if we may.

Sigh. Is everyone involved more excited about this than I am?

It's a small town; the envelope arrived the next day. The ceremony was a variation on the standard Do you, lawfully-joined, in sickness and in health, hard times and easy, til death do you part.

We thought about it. We talked about it. We sat down together and worked it out. We went through every part of it, asking, Can we say this? We tried them out on each other. Does this work?

Does this feel honest and true?

And in the end, we couldn't repeat any part of our Quaker wedding promises. In part, because someone will be pronouncing us, and that is just not compatible with Quaker marriage. It would be lying to repeat that in front of the mayor and have her pronounce us. Part of it is also because we've already said those promises, and while we may (and do!) repeat them to each other, it can't ever be on command. Part of it is that it feels like lying to repeat them as part of another ceremony after which we somehow have a different status.

And some of it is about separation of church and state. We've had our religious wedding. This is purely and completely about civil law.

We found we couldn't repeat any part of the mayor's proposed ceremony that duplicated the wedding we'd already had.

I, in particular, found I didn't want any part of the ceremony to have any significance that wasn't purely legal. So what we said had to be in the service of the civil union contract, with the mayor pronouncing the contract as now in effect, as now legally-binding and legally-recognized.

We felt good about the edits we came up with. They felt right.

We weren't sure what the Mayor's Office would think.

I dropped the edits by the Mayor's Office, and it turns out in-person was a good thing. The clerk was definitely taken aback. I don't know if she'll be willing to do something so short; I mean, this will take five minutes...

Yes, I said. We want something very simple. She blinked. We've already had a religious ceremony, I added. She blinked again.

I understand, she said, I just don't know if the mayor will be personally comfortable... she trailed off.

I decided to try to explain, a little. I explained that we're Quakers, that we had a Quaker wedding, that to repeat those vows could be a violation of the Testimony of Integrity, that...

I could tell she didn't get the "Quaker" or "Testimony of Integrity" part; but she got the "religious reasons" and "violation" part. Her expression changed, became a little less strained, a little less puzzled. She pulled out a Post-It, put it on the sheet, and started a note to the mayor.

I'll tell her it's for religious reasons. I think she'll be fine with it, but I'll call you tomorrow and let you know.

I thanked her and left.

I felt torn.

I called her later and said, We can bring information about our Quaker wedding with us if that will help the mayor feel more comfortable. No, no, you don't need to do that, she said, I'll talk to her and I'll call you back tomorrow.

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade. Our friends, and these strangers in the Boro Hall, from the registrar and the registrar's clerk to the mayor's aide to the mayor, are clearly and genuinely happy for a same-gender couple to be getting the closest thing currently possible to equal rights. They don't get many same-gender couples -- when I went back and said I was there to proof my civil union license, I didn't even have to give my name; we're the only same-gender couple in process right now. But not one person has stuttered, looked flustered at the two-women-thing or the civil union thing, not one person has even asked me about my future husband. So on some level, they get it; I can tell.

I don't want to come across as disrespectful of the mayor, of our friends, of anyone involved. And I'm glad that I'm about to get a level of legal protection I've never had.

But this thing by which we're getting nearly-equal rights?

It's discriminatory.

And that makes this whole situation infuriating.

It's discriminatory because it doesn't grant us equal rights. We won't be legally married. Even in this state, there are employers and hospitals which grant certain benefits and privileges to married couples but which don't recognize civil unions, because they're not marriages. There are no federal benefits or responsibilities: my taxes will still be whacked, and if Beloved Wife dies next week, I still won't be able to collect her social security.

It's discriminatory because we are required to have another ceremony. And if we move to another place where this civil union isn't recognized, we will have to dissolve this civil union and, if we have to have a ceremony to make whatever they offer (if anything) legally-binding, we will have to have another ceremony. And the same thing again if we move again, which we might well have to for my wife's work. How many times will we have to do this? I have F/friends who keep a spreadsheet of their legal unions.

As my mathematician friend Deb says, 1st wedding + N, where N>0, is discriminatory. Opposite-gender couples do not have to go through this.

And so, I am furious.

I have to have a second ceremony because of the gender of my partner. I have to have a second ceremony because the state we lived in when we got married didn't recognize our marriage. We will have to have a third ceremony if the law in whatever state we move to next requires it. We have to do everything someone in an opposite-gender couple has to do, plus more, in order to get fewer legal rights, responsibilities, and protections.

I am frustrated and hurt because our wonderful wedding, with our beloved families, friends, and community, is not visible in this process, might as well not have happened for all it matters to anyone involved with our civil union.

And there are all these well-meaning straight people who are excited for me.

The mayor agreed to our pared-down ceremony.

Who knows how I will actually feel when we go back to Boro Hall again for our civil union ceremony and when our friends take us out to lunch. Maybe my anger will be tempered by pleasure and even some joy.

I'll try to let you know, gentle readers.

In the meantime, we'd certainly appreciate your holding us, our witnesses, the mayor, and her staff in the Light.

And everyone facing discrimination.

And everyone working to end discrimination.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Respecting LGBTQ families

Wow. Thank you, Joanna Grover. (H/t Vonn.)

If you don't believe this shit doesn't happen, or that it's just not that bad when it does, read this amazing and heart-touching article.

Imagine having only five minutes to say goodbye to your dying husband or wife of nearly two decades. Imagine being a 10-year-old girl and being physically blocked from saying a last, ``I love you,'' to your mother, who is just down the hall at the hospital. This may sound unconscionable, but it happened, just as described, to the Langbehn-Pond family at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Reflections on Marriage

This is an excellent article. My thanks to a friend for pointing it out. - sm

Reflections on Marriage:

Today, many same-sex couples in the United States live in a fraught, contingent space of loving attachment, unprotected by state recognition. My fierce commitment to marriage equality derives, in part, from my personal biography as an interracial child, descended from American slaves, and raised in Virginia, beginning less than a decade after the Loving decision. Even though I am heterosexual, marriage equality is personal. I learn from the history of racial and interracial marriage exclusion that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is wrong.

We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let's use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More on marriage equality

I found myself writing recently, a little unexpectedly, about some of my experiences with marriage inequality, and why marriage equality matters when it comes to real-life, practical details.

Well, I'm finding myself even deeper, more face-to-face, with marriage inequality right now, and it's very, very frustrating.

I'm a reluctant marriage equality advocate, let me admit that.
For most of my adult life, I have had two big issues with marriage. One is that marriage is not necessarily good for women. In terms of mental health, quality of life, economics, and other areas, the research is pretty clear on this, and has been for many years. Yes, for many women, marriage is beneficial; but when you aggregate very large amounts of data, marriage is not necessarily or by definition good for women overall.

My other issue has been about the separation of church and state, about the little-understood difference between religious and civil (or legal) marriage, and about how minority religions are treated differentially under the law (even though we're not supposed to be).

Most people simply don't understand the difference between religious marriage and civil, or legal, marriage; to borrow a phrase from Bishop Gene Robinson, the difference between religious rites and civil rights: where each happens; who performs each.

But in the 21 years that I have been out of the closet as a lesbian, all the practical ways in which my life is more difficult and so many of the ways in which I am legally not afforded equal protection under the law keep coming together in this sharp point of marriage inequality.

And then, on top of it, the Goddess called me not just to be in a committed partnership, but to be in a marriage.

So, between those two things, here I am, a marriage equality advocate.

I know there are people who think civil marriage is the be-all and end-all of equal rights for LGBTQ people. Um, no. Civil marriage for same-gender couples will not keep my trans friends from being fired or being evicted for being trans, or address any of the other kinds of inequality lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, transgender women and men, and queer women and men face.

But yes, marriage equality matters. It matters for both symbolic and practical reasons. It matters because oppressions are connected: I earn less as a woman; my family earns less because the two adults in it are both women; we lose money every year because we pay extra taxes on my health insurance and because we have to pay extra money for legal paperwork -- powers of attorney, wills -- to achieve some of the legal protections as opposite-gender couples. Does this matter next to homelessness? I've been homeless, and I've done case management with homeless folks, and shit, yes, it matters. For people living paycheck-to-paycheck, that tax burden at the end of the year can mean missing a rent or mortgage payment, paying taxes instead of groceries or utilities, or other such impossible choices. These are exactly the kinds of things that lead people to lose housing -- to become homeless.

(For more information: The New York Times had a very good article recently on the literal additional costs with being in a same-gender couple: The Higher Lifetime Costs of Being a Gay Couple. They also had an article pointing out the complete ridiculousness of our patchwork of same-gender marriage laws, as evidenced by a Texas couple who would have to move back to Massachusetts for a year in order to get divorced.)

So, no: marriage equality is not a white, middle-class luxury. It's a basic right. It's not the ultimate proof of equality under the law, but it's absolutely an important, essential milestone on the way for full equality for LGBTQ citizens.

And I, for one, am thoroughly sick and tired of this unequal bullshit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not the National Coming Out Day conversation I expected

If you're on Facebook, you may have noticed a number of folks over the last few weeks with standardized status updates that read:

[Name] is (a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender). There are X days until National Coming Out Day and I pledge to have heartfelt conversations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Donate your status and join me by clicking here:

I didn't donate my status -- for one, I rarely do apps, since I like my privacy -- but I did post one or two status updates to this effect.

I'm always surprised when people who know me at all well are surprised to find out I'm a lesbian. It's less startling, but still frustrating, when people are surprised I'm bi, because there's still an assumption of monosexuality in this culture: either you're homosexual or you're heterosexual. Folks who are startled to learn I'm bi either know I've had successful romantic relationships with men and assume those are invalid now (because I must be monosexual), or assume that because I have been involved only with women since they've known me and am not that interested in men, I must be monosexual.

But those are still the conversations I more or less expect to have. The kind where I refer to my partner or spouse in conversation at an event, the other person asks what my husband does, and I say, "My wife is a mathematician," and they blink. The kind where someone I've known for a long time says in shock, "You had a husband!?," and I say, "Yes, my first partner was male, and yes, I was out before we got together. He took me to my first Pride event."

But these conversations have progressed and changed over time. For example, more and more over the last few years, the conversations I've been having around the fact that I'm a lesbian center around civil rights, and especially marriage equality.

And while there's one little thread on my Facebook Wall about National Coming Out Day and how people identify and what labels mean (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), there's another, completely different, conversation I've ended up having about the reality of my life as a lesbian in today's society.

And it really does feel like a coming-out conversation: Here is my reality. Here is the truth of my experience.

And as with many other such conversations over the years, I'm finding someone I'm talking with disbelieves the uncomfortable truth.

This person isn't a bigot. They seem to be a well-meaning straight person, but someone who just doesn't want to believe the discrimination I live with every day is as bad as I say -- that their legally-sanctioned heterosexual privilege is, in fact, just that.

(All names changed but mine; all quotes paraphrased except where indicated.)

The conversation has gone something like this:

  • Friend A posts to their Facebook status that they're grateful to the marriage equality movement for helping them understand how many rights and privileges go with legal marriage [which this person has].

Conversation ensues in the comment thread, and then it gets interesting:

  • Person B: I thought it was just the death tax that can't be addressed in a contract; what other rights can't they have?; of course anyone should marry whomever they want!; isn't Toys R Us great, they give domestic partners full health insurance.
  • Person C: Oh, no, there's the whole hospital visitation thing; do you want to wrangle with a resistant family member in order to say goodbye to a dying partner?
  • Person B: Wrong! If you have a living will and a signed and notorized agreement, the family can't keep you away!
  • Person C: Uh-huh. So, my husband's in the hospital, and I have to dig out my legal paperwork before I go to the hospital?; in my case, take the bus home from work, find the paperwork, and drive back into town, when on top of it I'm probably not safe to drive?; assuming we've gone to the expense and trouble of getting such paperwork?; oh, and by the way, because we're an opposite-gender couple, they're not going to ask us for a copy of our marriage license, and we're in less need of powers of attorney and living wills, because we're legally married.
  • Person B: Gosh, it's really awful when family members are jerks, and I'm really sorry for anyone who has to deal with that; but you do kind of know what you're getting into; spending $100 on a contract is nothing at all for the peace of mind it gives you, and of course if I had to do that, I'd know exactly where my paperwork is; so what else are the issues?, I know there aren't a lot of people who have to worry about taxes on huge estates.
  • Me (direct quote):
If you're not legally married, which NO same-gender couples are on a federal level, you have to pay income taxes on your health insurance, b/c it's a taxable benefit.

I can't collect my wife's social security if she dies first.

Health care powers of attorney aren't enforceable everywhere. There was a Seattle woman who died ALONE in FL when the hospital refused to honor the couple's legal paperwork - and her kids couldn't say goodbye, b/c the hospital also refused to honor the adoption.

It doesn't matter how much money we spend on legal paperwork: it's not the same protection.

Imagine that every time you move, you have to get divorced and then re-married in your new town, county, or state. And that benefits that depend on the date you get married got re-set every single time.

Imagine that in addition to that, every time you move, you have to re-do your will, living will, and financial and health care powers of attorney, b/c getting remarried doesn't cover everything.

Imagine that if you get married and move, and then want to get divorced, you have to move back to the original state for a year first.

The NY Times had several good articles recently:

  • Person B (with lots of exclamation points): But everyone pays taxes on health insurance, regardless of who their partner is!
  • Person C: Stasa, I figured you'd be up on this kind of stuff; and what about the Seattle woman whose partner died when their house flooded, and even with a sympathetic family and good state laws, she had to get permission from the family?; why should anyone who's willing to make this commitment have to jump through these hoops?; why should it matter who your partner is?; I have heterosexual privilege, and that's not fair; my adult child does not; this is wrong.
  • Person D: It's ridiculous what people have to go through; it makes me ill; this is unfair and wrong; it's time to change the law.
  • Me (direct quote):
Person B, there definitely is a difference. My health insurance through my partner is taxed very differently than my health insurance was through my former employer.

Employer contributions to health insurance premiums are NOT counted as taxable income for workers whose coverage includes themselves, legal spouses, or dependents. As soon as you add a non-dependent adult -- such as a domestic partner -- that person's health insurance benefit becomes taxable income.

My family most certainly *does* have a higher tax burden for my health insurance than if my partner and I could be married legally, or if I had insurance through an employer -- because my health insurance counts as taxable income. (We even get a separate little income statement for it.)

Person B, you said, "...what you were dealing with 100 dollars at most for your well being is nothing..." First off, $100 is out of reach for a lot of people. Secondly, $100 buys you NOTHING in terms of legal paperwork and protection. This kind of paperwork, if it's going to stand up in court, starts at thousands of dollars if there's ANY property or any children involved. And court comes AFTER the shit hits the fan, and your partner or kid is in the hospital and you're not being allowed to see them or make medical decisions for them. For way too many of us, court comes after our partner or kid is *dead*. And *that* is discrimination at work.

Person C, I'm particularly up to my eyeballs in this crap right now (which you probably know), since we just moved and are in the process of registering our civil union with the state.

Okay, folks, if all the other paperwork does the trick, and legal, civil marriage doesn't matter, then I'm sure every heterosexual legally married couple in the country would be just fine with not being legally married but getting to do all the other paperwork instead.
  • Person B: But your child is your child; no one can change that; even if you adopt, that is the same for everyone; health care is always taxable income, it's about how your employer sets it up not about your "legal status"; "I am sorry but you are very wrong!"
  • Person A: This is a great discussion!; what else do folks think?
  • Me (direct quote):
Bullshit. I wish I was wrong. Tell me I'm wrong when you've lived my life, paid my taxes, and dealt with what I deal with every day. Believe me, I'm much more aware of my legal rights on a daily basis than you could possibly be.

Tell us we're wrong to all those parents in MI whose legal right to their children is now in jeopardy b/c second parent adoptions may now be invalid and illegal. Tell it to the kids in FL who were kept out of their mother's room while she was dying b/c they had two moms, legally, and the hospital refused to recognize them as her kids. Tell it to the IRS if I don't pay income tax on the insurance premium my partner's employer pays.

Person B, if you are legally married to an opposite-gender partner, and you get health insurance through your husband's employer, you do NOT pay income tax on the portion of the premium that his employer pays. That's a fact. It's the law. It has NOTHING to do with how an employer sets it up and everything to do with legal rights you have that I don't.

And if you still don't believe me, do some of your own research instead of just telling me I'm wrong. Google "taxable health insurance."

Person A, thanks for starting this conversation!
  • Person B: In NJ and MN, we absolutely pay taxes on health insurance!; "I don't know what planet you live on" but we pay taxes on insurance for our kids.
  • Person C: I've never gotten a separate income statement for my spouse's insurance, b/c it's included in the regular W2; has anyone else?; so how can we say Stasa's wrong when she's the one with the experience with this?; you're only your child's legal parent if your state recognizes the adoption, and if your state doesn't recognize gay adoption or second parent adoption, you are up the creek; these are inequalities that shouldn't exist, and no one should have to pay more than someone else for equal protection under the law anyway; why would anyone be okay with this?; this is discrimination.
  • Person B: I agree, but you still have to pay taxes; unless the family of origin is totally horrible, why would a kid be prevented from visiting?
  • Person C: "Person B, have you read any of the articles Stasa posted?"; I don't know why anyone would keep a child away, but it *does* happen; it happened this year; it doesn't have to be a family, it can be a nurse who decides they don't like gay people; it can happen, it does happen, it's wrong; and sure, you can go to court afterwards, when it's too late; same problem with living wills; family or hospital decides not to honor it, they don't honor it; also, remember there's a difference between state and federal income tax, and make sure you're comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

A couple of things really got me about this conversation:

One is Person B's complete unwillingness to believe the truth of my experience when it doesn't match their experience, or what they think. Of course it doesn't match their experience: they have heterosexual privilege. This person isn't living their life as a lesbian, trying to protect themselves and their family. I am also reminded of the bumper sticker, "Don't believe everything you think." For years, my reaction was, How random. But, really: just because you think it, doesn't make it true. Just because you think $100 gets someone else equal protection under the law, just because you think I don't pay more taxes than you do, does not make those things true. (But gosh, what if it was! My life would certainly be easier.)

Two is that I am grateful to straight allies, and queer folks in legal opposite-gender marriages, who stand up for the truth.

Three is, how amazing are folks who don't want to see their privilege. I've mostly dealt with this in the context of sexism ("Of course women in my company are paid the same as men") and racism ("Of course I'm comfortable when Black people come into my store"). I've dealt with it some in heterosexism ("I don't care what you do in the bedroom, but do you have to flaunt it by holding hands?"), religious discrimination ("Of course she can wear a cross, but people will be uncomfortable if you wear a pentagram"), and other kinds of discrimination. I know I have my own blind spots.

But it's been a while since I went toe-to-toe (keyboard-to-keyboard?) with someone who just plain doesn't believe me about the everyday reality of my life in quite this way.

So my tiny little mind is blown again.

And that's the conversation about equality that I had for National Coming Out Day.

Jana update

I just learned my F/friend Jana is going home tomorrow. She's still got a cast on one leg, and will still have lots of medical and rehab and therapy appointments, but she's going home.

When I think about how uncertain I was about Jana's survival the first weekend after the accident, and then think about her going up and down her house's stairs on her behind, I want to weep with relief and joy.

And gratitude for love and community.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Queries for Full Moon Worship-Sharing

First, I encourage folks to familiarize themselves with FGC's information on worship-sharing, available here (

These are some queries I've developed for the Full Moon. You, or your meeting for worship, may devise your own, or already have some of your own.

Queries for Full Moon worship
  • What am I thankful for in my life in the month since the last Full Moon (or in my life since we met last)? What do I wish to bring to fruition in the next month, by the next Full Moon?
  • The phases of the moon -- waxing, full, waning, and dark/new -- can be seen as the phases of a woman's life: Maiden, Mother, Crone, and the space between death and birth. How have I experienced the Goddess as Mother? (Or, how have I experienced another face of the Divine as Mother?)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing

For the last year, I've been hosting Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing each month. Usually I've done this at my home; last month, I knew I would not be that organized, less than a week after moving cross-country, but Emrys and Nimue in the Philly are organized a Meeting at a local Meetinghouse.

Something that was different, that time, was that since there was on-line discussion about our get-together, we knew there were people joining us from afar -- either at the same actual time we were meeting, or at the same hour in their local time, or just at another time that same day or evening.

This gave me a marvelous sense of connection, similar to the one many Witches have to everyone else who celebrates the Full Moon or the Sabbats, similar to the one many traveling Friends have to their home Meetings...

So this month, I am proposing both virtual and in-person Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing.

We are meeting Monday night, 10/5/09:

  • 6:45-7:00, gather; local groups decide on worship or worship-sharing
  • 7:00-8:00, worship/worship-sharing
  • 8:00-8:45, potluck tea (I was thinking this would be local groups, but I can imagine having tea in virtual community!)
  • 8:45-9:00, clean up together (local groups)

For full details, please click here.

Local, in-person groups

You can host a get-together by inviting Friends and friends. If you let me know, either through comment or an email, then there's an increased sense of community. Also, with your permission, if I know of someone looking for a local gathering in your area, I can put you in touch with each other.

I am willing to host in central NJ, or someone else can host here or in the Philly area.

Please click here for important details for in-person groups.

What do I mean by "virtual"?

I was originally thinking of individuals and groups who would be meeting at either the same time, or the same hour local time, or some time the same day or evening. But in on-line conversation, I'm realizing there could also be on-line Meeting for Worship, perhaps through, or using Skype's IM function (which I've used for large classes, small conversations, and small-group worship before).

I look forward to more discussion about this, seeing what other questions and ideas people come up with, and seeing what happens Monday night.

Blessed be!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jana update

I am so excited to hear my F/friend Jana has moved from the hospital to intensive inpatient rehab. What's more, she called the friend who sends updates and told her this herself! And she's been eating meals!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Coming out in junior high

This is a really amazing article: "Coming Out in Middle School."

It's a good, and much-needed, reminder that while things are not where they need to be yet -- we do not have equal rights yet -- things are much, much better than they were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years ago.

Thank you to all of us who have come before. Thank you to all of us living with such courage now.

Blessed be.

What’s Wrong With the National Parks? - Room for Debate Blog -

This is a really good article for those of us concerned about preservation, right usage, recreation, and the environment.

What’s Wrong With the National Parks? - Room for Debate Blog -

The national parks have been well loved since their beginnings in the 1870s; sometimes nearly loved to death. Since their creation, there has been tension between two goals: wilderness preservation and making these sublime landscapes open to more people.

What’s the best way to protect the national parks, and what’s the best use of resources for that purpose?

The Age of Eco-Angst - Happy Days Blog -

The Age of Eco-Angst - Happy Days Blog -

Eco-angst, it turns out, is but one version of a widely studied psychological phenomenon, one well-known in the world of retailing. Take a bargain bin cabernet, tell people it’s an expensive, estate-bottled varietal, and they’ll tell you they like it. They’ll even linger longer over their dinner, enjoying not just the wine but the rest of their food more. Now describe the same wine as a low-end variety from North Dakota, and they’ll tell you it’s not so good — and finish their meal faster, enjoying it less.

...What’s more, brain imaging now reveals that tasting what we think is a high-end wine produces heightened activity in a key strip of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex, which lights up during moments of keen interest — a pattern some neuroeconomists see as the brain signature for brand preference. The “low-end” wine, on the other hand elicits not a budge in orbitofrontal chatter, a pattern indicating disinterest or disgust. (Study data can b found here.)

...Eco-angst dawns with the discovery that some children’s sunblock contains a chemical that becomes a carcinogen when exposed to the sun, or that the company that makes a popular organic yogurt operates in ways that result in significantly more greenhouse gases than their competitors. The moral here, or course, is not to stop using sunblock nor to give up yogurt, but to choose the brands without these downsides.

...Rather than taking the ascetic route of “No Impact Man,” we can together become high impact shoppers, tipping market share to products with gentler ecological imprints. But to do so we need to face the often unattractive truths behind the making of our favorite stuff, and so risk a stiff dose of disgust.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The School Issue - College - When Your Dorm Goes Green and Local -

h/t Suebear.

The School Issue - College - When Your Dorm Goes Green and Local -

Thoreau said education often made straight-cut ditches out of meandering brooks. But not at the EcoDorm, which houses 36 undergraduates and is the spiritual heart of Warren Wilson College, a liberal-arts school of fewer than 1,000 students in Swannanoa, N.C.

A call to moral accounting --

Great article with an unusual perspective. h/t Lisa G!

A call to moral accounting --

But though the rituals are ancient, they're never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama's recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations' recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Footprint Network Blog

h/t Marshall.

Footprint Network Blog:
“It’s a simple case of income versus expenditures,” said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel. “For years, our demand on nature has exceeded, by an increasingly greater margin, the budget of what nature can produce. The urgent threats we are seeing now – most notably climate change, but also biodiversity loss, shrinking forests, declining fisheries, soil erosion and freshwater stress – are all clear signs: Nature is running out of credit to extend.”

Barbara McGraw on Religion in America - A Pagan's Blog

h/t to Aline/Macha!

Barbara McGraw on Religion in America - A Pagan's Blog:

In a lively talk McGraw explained that neither the religious right nor the secular left really understands the Founders' thinking on church and state. Secularists argue religion should be purely private, the right that we are a Christian country. This is why both sides throw quotations around so freely, quotations that seem to contradict one another. They ignore the context of the quotations they sling about. As she put it, both sides 'are half right and half wrong.'

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2009 NPYM Annual Sessions: Thursday (con't)

Here are more of my notes from NPYM's Annual Sessions in July. Items in italics are generally my thoughts, rather than notes per se.


In the warmth of your presence, I am safe at home
I will stand, I will stand...

[I had written out the words to Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow's "I Will Stand," which was written for a graduating class (my Ffriend Rebecca's) at the Woolman Semester.]

Interest Group: The Radical Inclusiveness of NPYM

  • Quakerism is larger than Christianity; to limit Quakerism to Christianity is to limit the power of Quakerism.
  • Quakerism is more powerful than Christianity alone.
  • if theology is not the ultimate "test," and if the peace testimony is not the ultimate "test," then what is?
  • -- is it our commitment to Quaker process?
  • to use the blind men with the elephant as a metaphor
  • -- is Quakerism about the whole elephant, or about one part?
  • -- (is Christianity, and does Christianity see itself as, the whole elephant, or part?)

John's workshop

  • if John's a tube, and for him the energy comes from above, whereas for me it comes from below... does that make me a straw?? :)
  • "what's going to put me in my reverence?" "what's going to help me in my tenderness and care?"
  • "settle your body first, and then place your hands" --> when did i start doing that in the opposite order?
  • keeps coming back to the heart
  • Meeting for Worship for Healing
  • -- gathering ppl's reverence and tenderness
  • -- like doing energy work in a large group
  • "you know, healing was one of the first things Quakers got thrown in jail for" (Fox's Book of Miracles) (like Richard [Lee] said)
  • haven't had someone around me "who understands the gift to help with discernment" and support, as john says
  • this is beginning work, not what he does with a client or a victim of torture

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Article in the Inquirer about spiritual direction

This is a lovely article about spiritual direction from the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Thank you to Laurie K for pointing it out.)

Spiritual direction has been part of my ministry for a long time, but it wasn't until about a year and a half ago that I was willing to call it that. I didn't like the phrase, for one; having grown up in hierarchical religions, the notion of having someone "direct" my spiritual life was a distinct turn-off.

Winter before last, during a period of intense discernment, my friend Michelle told me, in so many words, that spiritual direction is exactly what I do. I nearly tossed off a flippant email in reply, but thought first and looked some things up. My searches brought me to Spiritual Directors International's page on "What is spiritual direction?" I felt like I'd been dropped in a bell that was ringing. Ohhhh. What Michelle said made so much sense.

I still haven't found a term I like better, or, most importantly, that conveys the essence of this practice to other people more accurately. Spiritual navigation? Spiritual mentoring? (A term used in some Pagan circles.) Spiritual companionship? The best terminology for me will come.

I'm glad to see this article, which talks about some of what's behind spiritual direction, but more importantly, the experience of people who seek out, and find it helpful, to talk to someone about their spiritual lives.

Certified spirit guides | Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/23/2009:

Certified spirit guides
Quietly, compassionately, spirit directors take the soul by the hand, helping a seeker tap deeper dimensions.

By Anndee Hochman

For The Inquirer

Fifteen years ago, Susan Cole was a pastor with a troubling dilemma: She felt unable to pray. It was a stressful time in her parish at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, and Cole felt her anxiety climbing. She tried closing her eyes and focusing on a meaningful passage of Scripture. She tried waking before dawn to pray. All that did was make her tired.

'I was a mess,' she recalls. 'I would feel myself working really hard, I'd get more anxious and not feel any connection to God.'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gathering together, building community

How to explain this deep-seated urge I have...?

I am a match-maker. I love to put people together with resources; I love to bring people together with other people I think they'll have good conversations with; I love to make connections, to knit things together with each other in unexpected ways that work in new ways. I adore connecting people with one another. ("A, meet B. B, meet A. Here's what made me think I should introduce you, but I'm sure there are other things I don't know about. Talk amongst yourselves...")

Fostering space for people to get together, building community, this has been an important (to me) part of my ministry since sometime in the late 80s or the early 90s.

When I went back to college in the early 90s and became part of the Pagan community there, I started organizing dinner get-togethers in the dining halls, or small private rooms just outside them, for Sabbats. I felt that it was important that people who are part of a minority religion, without any kind of campus ministry, who were from different traditions, who didn't know each other well enough to be in circle together necessarily, should have the chance to celebrate together in a meaningful way and to be in community with each other in a way that didn't require the intimacy being in circle together does.

After my life was no longer centered on campus, this translated -- predictably perhaps -- into wanting to hold Sabbat potlucks.

This wish came true as part of the work Nif and I did in the early years of Roses, Too! Coven. (Well, the idea to start something that might grow into a Coven came about at a potluck in the first place, now that I think of it.) Once we had our feet under ourselves enough to start hosting things, we started throwing Sabbat potlucks. These eventually became one of the signature features of Roses, Too! Coven, drew all sorts of people, and became quite a community. I admit some pride in the fact that the extended potluck community included plenty of non-Pagans and plenty of folks who claimed no spiritual path at all, people who did ritual with us and people who never once did ritual with us -- but for whom coming together in this way, sharing food and drink, music, and our stories, was somehow important.

(Now that I'm back in the Delaware Valley, I'm looking forward to starting Roses, Too! reunions, and hosting regular Sabbat potlucks here again, too.)

Different kinds of wanting-to-bring-people-together have been on my mind a lot lately:

1) The week we moved was the Full Moon in September. I knew there was no way we'd have our act together enough to host worship. I happened to ask folks on the QuakerPagans YahooGroup if anyone in the Philly area was interested. Really, before I even blinked, someone had Full Moon Meeting for Worship all arranged for a location in Delaware County, and other folks had made plans to join us in worship from far away.

We definitely felt their presence during our worship here. That reminded me a lot of the sense I used to have, of kinship with Witches everywhere celebrating the Full Moon and the Sabbats, and of the sense I have talked with my Meeting about, of being with them even from afar through Meeting for Worship.

Folks on the email list talked a little about their worship that night, and there was something powerful going on there.

This really struck me. I hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing the entire year I lived in Seattle; why did it never occur to me to invite distant folks to join in from wherever they were? Why didn't it ever occur to me to post Full Moon and Dark Moon queries here on my blog and see where folks' worship took them? Interesting!

2) A friend from several different contexts has another friend who's Pagan and seems to be called to worship with Friends, but is concerned about finding a Meeting where she will feel welcome as a non-Christian. So of course I keep thinking of people in that area to put her in touch with.

3) All sorts of Friends from different geographic areas, some of whom identify as Pagan and some of whom don't, have been talking about the power of the idea of getting together for Full Moon Meeting for Worship. Sure, Pagan Quakers get together at FGC Gathering every year; but more and more of the folks I'm in touch with aren't able, for any number of good reasons, to go to Gathering. This was the need that led to Great Waters Pagan Friends Gathering, but there hasn't been the energy or leadership to continue it.

We need to get together; we need to gather.

4) A Pagan Quaker blogger I sometimes read has been writing lately about feeling isolated and unknown in her Meeting. (I don't know her well enough to know if she'd welcome a link here.)

5) Another Pagan Quaker blogger I often read wrote recently about two things that struck me: being known, about each other as an avenue of communion with the Divine ("You Who Are My Bible"); and about the lovely woods near her new home, with a clearing with a fire ring ("Meeting for Worship for Woods") (yay, woods)...

Reading her description, I wanted to ask, Can we have a bunch of people come over for Full Moon Meeting for Worship at your house? This is actually less about Full Moon per se, and more about the lure of those woods and that clearing, and the lure of bringing Friends together for Quaker worship that is rooted and seated in nature...

It's about community. It's about the isolation that so many Pagan Quakers and Quaker Pagans feel. It's about the magic that happens when we come together, where we can feel deeply many of the ways we're alike and can be different in all the ways we're different from each other. It's about the magic that happens when non-Pagan Friends join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic that happens when non-Quaker Pagans join us in worship and in spiritual community, and we help each other be faithful. It's about the magic, the power, of silent worship in expectant waiting.

Expectant waiting on the woods. On the moon and the stars. On the wind and the sun. On each other.

And what about getting together?

More and more, yet again, I'm hearing this need -- just as in other minority communities I've been part of -- to gather.

For years, I was part of a group of Quaker lesbians who got together once a month for Meeting for Worship, followed by a potluck dinner. We met at different women's houses. This was a magical experience for me.

Since 2001, I've been part of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, a community of LGBTQ Friends and allies, and have grown very much as a result.

Friends of African Descent, allies, and loved ones get together for Meeting for Worship and for gatherings, and these gatherings feed Friends' souls in the same way as other minority-focused time and space do.

This year at FGC Gathering, I finally went to Shabbat with Jewish Friends.

Both in spiritual/religious space, and in non-spiritual space, I have seen, and I have experienced for myself, the power that comes when folks who are a minority in the larger group or larger society come together.

In Quaker contexts, all of my experiences with minority groups within Friends have deepened my identity as a Friend, as part of the larger community of Quakers.

I feel again the hunger for connection among Pagan Friends.

How shall we gather? How shall we connect? How shall we come together?

What ways of getting together would help us connect, build community, would feed us and our allies?

Love and respect

This is a message that came to me in worship yesterday. It didn't quite meet the must-speak-or-will-get-a-migraine test, so I didn't stand, but it has still stayed with me...

Last fall, Lois McMaster Bujold came to Seattle, promoting her new book. I went to see her at the University Bookstore with my F/friend Marni, and we had a lovely evening.

After reading the new book, I of course had to go back and re-read the other three in the series. Among many other things, it's a series about this opposite-gender couple who meets and falls in love, both far from home.

In the first book, Dag, who has plenty of respect but not much love in his family, does not understand why Fawn, this woman he wants to marry and whose family clearly loves her very much, does not find all the love her family gives her to be sufficient. Until he visits them with her. And then he sees how they love her but do not respect her, and so try to make her smaller -- in a way, similarly to how his own mother and siblings try to make him smaller for respecting his work, but not loving the person he is.

And so Dag comes to understand that just as respect without love is not enough, so love without respect is not enough.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My F/friend Jana, update 3

Jana continues to improve!

Highlights include: she is able to eat some on her own; her cognitive skills are improving; she has been able to hold somewhat longer conversations and use words and phrases from other languages in context.

So, she still has a long road, but she's well on her way, and I'm grateful.

Blessed be.

Friday, September 11, 2009

British government apology to Alan Turing

I read today of the British government's apology to Alan Turing.

I visited the Turing memorial in Manchester, England, last year, as well as the Turing Building at the University of Manchester; pictures, and a little of Turing's story, here. Note the apple in the sculpture's hand...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My F/friend Jana, update 2

Jana is breathing on her own, blessed be!

Two other F/friends have blogged out Jana's accident and their experience around it: Ashley W at A Passionate and Determined Quest for Adequacy, and RantWoman at RantWoman and the RSoF.

I know Jana still has a long, hard road ahead of her, but I am so grateful and so joyful right now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My F/friend Jana, update

I just learned that Jana is awake and responsive, though still in the ICU. Blessed be!

My F/friend Jana

I just found out that my friend Jana, from my home Meeting in Seattle, is in the ICU after being hit by a car Thursday night.

Jana and her husband Warren are both dear friends of mine and of Beloved Wife. Also, our friend Katherine, who was my elder for my ministry at FGC Summer Gathering and my traveling companion going to and from North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions, is coordinating care from the Meeting. I talked to her this evening, and got a fair amount of information. Warren, Jana, and their young adult children are getting good support -- practical, emotional, and spiritual. Everything practical that can be done, is happening.

I also talked to Warren, and what he said he and they need are prayers, in whatever form works.

So I invite you to hold Jana, Warren, Katherine, and University Friends Meeting in your spiritual care with us: by holding them in the Light, by praying for them, by sending good thoughts their way, by thinking of them with love or tenderness, by lighting candles for them... whatever it is that you, personally, do when you hold someone in your spiritual care.

I know I could be a lot more articulate, but I'm still kind of numb. I know that because of past experience, it's even more upsetting for me when someone I know gets hit by a car. I know Jana's in good medical hands. I know she and her family are in good spiritual hands. And I know it will be a while until we know what's going to happen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 NPYM Annual Sessions: John Calvi

Notes from John Calvi's plenary talk

Our theme for Annual Sessions was, "Experiencing Light in Hard Times: How Do We Stay Faithful in Times of Trouble?"

italics = my thoughts as I was taking notes

  • "maybe faith is an aspect of our response to trouble" (when experiencing injustice, danger)
  • "[trust Allah] but tie your camel" --> practical work, practical support
  • how maintain cxn to Divine?
  • "when trouble comes, can we still be working in the love?"
  • "can we be creative when trouble comes?"
  • my responses to crisis/trouble:
  • when trouble comes from w/out my community, can stand w/community support
  • from w/in my community: that isolation replicates the isolation of early trauma
  • --> trauma separates and isolates us from community
  • MFW as soaking in the silence and stillness ("like a bathtub"), "asking to be washed in Light," "ground opening beneath us"
  • "Quakerism, as one of the mystic religions, is a somatic experience, is something we feel in our bodies"
  • "is is a burden to dislike someone"
  • sometimes we enjoy it, and "that's pathology"
  • "sometimes we can hug someone and say, 'when i am angry at you, i miss you' "
  • "now there are some people who have been very wounded by christianity... b/c there are some aspects of christianity which are very mean"
  • "we cannot blame christianity on jesus"
  • encourages folks who have been wounded by christianity to become familiar with the teachings of jesus
  • and folks who experience jesus need to share that in ways that "don't bump up against those wounds"
  • "now these look like opposites, but these are Friends dancing together"
  • difference between knowing and believing
  • is "your respect for other people spiralling upward or spiralling downward?"
  • if you know how things are constructed and someone shares other experience, increased disrespect for them
  • if you believe: open to continuing revelation; can listen w/respect
  • i know my experience, but not others' --> different kind of knowing
  • what is your response to pain? how is that different from that of people around you?
  • "i find that if i cry about 2 hours a week, i can keep even"
  • "what are the circumstances under which you allow yourself to cry?"
  • how has that changed, is changing, changes with different kinds of pain?
  • it's okay to cry for the pain of others which you experience (remember this)
  • "what brings you back" to your deepest wisdom, experiencing guidance, etc?
  • --> ask for that
  • trouble and pain have a function, "and that function is learning"
  • understanding it moves it to wisdom
  • --> lessens the intensity
  • --> break the pieces down so there can be some learning
  • no learning, it remains pain, trouble, conflict
  • as Friends, we have a duty to come to that pinnacle where we are in awe of creation
  • where we can look at the most wonderful and horrible
  • "we can't always see where our love goes and what it accomplishes"
  • --> "no love is ever wasted"
  • "feeling that anger is very important"
  • "anger needs to be given its place and respected"
  • "i have to balance the anger so it doesn't obstruct my love or the Light that's been given me"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pagan Values � Chrysalis

Check out Pax's page of posts for International Pagan Values Blogging Month. - sm

Pagan Values � Chrysalis: "I posted it here, and kind of just let it go for a little while… but then folks started taking interest! People started linking and posting and it grew into a big ol’ blog carnival with 100 posts, and counting as I find more. I am linking this page to as many of those posts as I can find in the hopes of providing an online snap shot of, and resource for the study of, contemporary Pagan values."

Quakers & Non-Theism

Quakers & Non-Theism:

from the July/August 2009 issue of Western Friend

by Brian Vura-Weis

From the beginning of Quakerism there was a tension between the Word given by the Bible and the Word as experienced by the individual. This dynamic has played out over the years between the Mystical, Universal and Christocentric Friends. It has led to difficulties within meetings and caused yearly meetings and families to split based on their conceptions of Truth. In virtually all of these divisions there was almost never disagreement about the existence of God. The first page of Pacific Yearly Meeting’s current Faith and Practice speaks to this:...

2009 FGC Gathering Notes



the phrase "not just god in a skirt" keeps coming to me --> part of why The Goddess and not just Goddess?
--> "Goddess" w/o "the" doesn't make enough difference in my head and in my thinking

women's community; women coming together
women's community that includes feminist men
--> the E of that community feels explicitly like the Goddess to me

Meeting for Worship

from songs my workshop participants who arrived early yesterday were singing while waiting:

i sat under an old oak tree
and asked the Goddess to carry me
She wrapped me up in ancient green
ancient green

all my fears
all my fears
all my fears
river gonna wash away

...which i learned from becky birtha during the first-ever singing the Goddess workshop i did, at qlc '98.

the river is flowing
flowing and growing
the river (she is) flowing
down to the sea

Mother, carry me
your child i will always be
Mother, carry me
down to the sea*

...which i know is in julie's book, b/c i learned it when a bunch of us got together and sang... a bunch of songs from sfe for julie...

* (c) Diana Hildebrand-Hull, "The River Is Flowing."


Meeting for Worship

step by step, the longest march
can be won, can be won
many stones to form an arch
singly none, singly none
and by union what we will
shall be accomplished still
drops of water turn a mill
singly none, singly none

"God is not moderate"

you shall indeed go out with joy
and be led forth in peace
you shall indeed go out with joy
and be led forth in peace
before you, mountains and hills
shall break into cries of joy
and all the trees of the wild shall clap
clap their hands*

*(c) music, Nancy Schimmel; words, Isaiah 55:12


Meeting for Worship

thought train: teach magic. time spent this week talking about the Goddess and magic.

the question about magic really is, what spiritual practices in your life are transformative? (rather than, what spiritual practices in your life are magical?)

[when talking about magic:] what spiritual practices in your life are transformative? when in your life have you experienced transformation and change?



social and sacred ritual as an E-saving device
--> don't have to decide together each time how to shake hands, etc.

[thoughts/notes from what folks are sharing, for our work tomorrow:]
new beginnings
direct experience
teaching magic

[Bonnie Tinker died Thursday afternoon, and my emotional, mental, and spiritual state was such that I did not take any more notes Thursday or Friday. I am grateful that I was with Friends, in a community with no laity, while we ministered to and supported each other. I also had amazing and wonderful support from the members of my workshop, the other Healing Center co-Coordinators, and the Compassionate Listening team.]

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009 FGC Gathering: Ben Pink Dandelion

Notes from Ben Pink Dandelion's 2009 FGC Gathering plenary talk: "Quaking with Confidence"

italics = my thoughts as i was taking notes

  • "an accompanied life"
  • "how did i lose so much confidence with god alongside me?"
  • confidence --> con + fid --> with faith
  • loss of confidence from keeping god out of the whole of my life, esp. the shadow part
  • role of george fox quote, "there is one, even..." in quaker hx and schisms
  • "can't summon god up," but can be open
  • "nothing outwardly"
  • "nothing upon the earth"
  • inner vs. inward
  • "replace the old self"
  • "how much have we changed or allowed ourselves to be changed by the Spirit?"
  • replacing the old self --> denying the inherent divinity of the original self
  • "all things must change or die, and in so dying, change"
  • early differences between who was a F and who was a member
  • --> membership 1730s re: which Mtg owed whom poor relief
  • --> part of "why we're still so confused about the meaning of membership"
  • testimonies fairly new
  • against outward war
  • in favor of simplicity
  • for early Fs, 2nd coming taking place inwardly
  • break bread til christ comes again; therefore no further need of outward communion
  • --> same with most church observances
  • --> dismissed xmas, easter, xtian calendar, etc. incl set times
  • look up "discipline" in the oed
  • "we have a behavioral creed"
  • "what is our good news" as we are post-xtian?
  • uncertain in our belief; distrustful of those who claim The Answer
  • "an absolute perhaps" of belief
  • "certain of partial uncertainty"
  • "this absolute perhaps is perhaps part of our good news"
  • 86% of Britain YM came in as adults
  • 50% of that 86% no prior spiritual/religious affiliation
  • faith associated with the unseen
  • i've seen the sun come up
  • i have faith the sun will come up tomorrow though i haven't seen tomorrow's sun/the sun tomorrow
  • "Qism is the vehicle of our spiritual life, not the object of our worship"
  • "incarnational spirituality"
  • not just mental engagement with early Qism, early Q roots, writings, etc, but incarnational
  • benjamin lloyd - "confident (?) in ongoing revelation" (faith? belief?)
  • evangelical liberal Qism?? :)
  • i am tired of apologizing within Qism for my Pism, my theism, my non-theism...

Writing from travels

Wow, yes, late June and all of July were really busy.

I traveled for most of that time: apartment-hunting, then FGC Gathering; home briefly, and hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship and presented at ARE; then to North Pacific Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions; home briefly; then to the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network Conference; then home and hosted Full Moon Meeting for Worship. Whew!

I have lots of notes from those experiences, and lots of thoughts, and, of course, a bunch of follow-up I need to do. So, I'm going to try to get some notes posted here.

I'm also preparing for a big move, and dealing with a couple of family near-crises, so I'm likely to be interrupted at any moment, and definitely appreciate being held in the Light.