29 December 2011

Apologetics? I wish.

Here we go again. Another religious entry, dammit.

Maybe I am reading things wrong or too quickly, maybe I am missing some information, maybe just plain not doing enough research, maybe understanding things poorly, maybe misunderstanding the cross-generational cut, but in the cross-section of eloquent-to-non-eloquent responses I have seen in regards to just about any version of dogmatic interpretation (and believe me, I've seen quite a bit since my last post on this topic, not to mention over the whole course of my life), the information people have seems to be drastically short of substance somehow. A quark or two off from understanding the number one ethical basis of life: how the greatest law of life is love; and how genuine, earnest application of that basic, underlying, cemented root of ALL things is non-refundable, non-interchangeable, and absolute.

To me, neither side totally has it. But then again, I probably don't have it, either. I just had to say something. I just spent some more time scanning Catholic forums and was stunned at the sheer volume of inaccuracy. Such is the way of forums, and I am no studied theologian, but I was stunned. Stunned that there is no loving guide to put the retarder brakes on the snowball of misinformation going on, stunned at the gross number of people going round and round, already misrepresenting a whole slew of information, and dismayed that it will end up justifying some crazy-ass, wanked out position, or get in the hands of some already-jaded atheist.

Now, before I go turning you off with the implication that I am about to present the grand Pooba motherload of horsecrap, based on my perception, and call it "truth," just simmer down and take a breath. I'm not going to do that. Actually, I did do that, in the first paragraph, but if you haven't picked up on it before now, my entries concerning this subject are more defensive, as though I were attempting to speak to the heftiest of opposition.

It is, for lack of a better way to put it, a debate that I am having in my own head, having been sparked by this debate several years ago. Since that debate, I've been on a mission of sorts to better equip myself for answering the questions this debate called to light, since I have what I feel is a huge, deep-seeded desire to not only root for the underdog and for justice, but to hopefully provide a thorough presentation of something that is difficult enough to be summed up in a lifetime, much less a 2-hour debate. If I could stammer and fumble my way through a good conversation with Chris Hitchens, I'd consider myself pretty lucky.

I know it seems kind of silly, especially when it's just this one debate. But I've seen massive piles more of these kinds of things since this interview. I've read and reviewed articles on this subject, researched and double-checked actual dogmas, talked with priests and laypeople, discovered people who are trying to do what I'm doing but with limited understanding of the dogma (which then slips the slippery slope into rhetoric) and been a lifelong Catholic.

In addition to carefully swallowing every bit that an atheist, agnostic, or otherwise oppositional has had to say that I've come across, I've also been full of my own doubts. I cannot honestly sit here and say I've been a staunch Catholic from day one to year 32. One of the recurring themes seeming to surface as I go on a scavenger hunt for people with elevated intelligence on this subject is that wherever there is honest-to-goodness, hardball points to be made in opposition to the church, and to religion in general, this guy is there.

My dad, a rather devout Mexican Catholic, taught me that it was more important to search for the truth than to stay Catholic. He told my brothers and I that as long as we were on a quest for truth, that was more important than keeping a label. And from my mom, I learned the importance of being loyal to your beliefs.

That is what allows me to detach from the Catholic label and approach the topic as a person of freewill, compassion, and understanding for hard truths in the hearts of the most deeply-rooted opposition. Because maybe that's what Jesus would do. Jesus seemed to always speak for the underdog, the down trodden, the heavy-laden. I know for sure he didn't come to this world to free of us eternal death with the word "catholic" printed on his swaddling clothes.

But there is such a huge part of me that is deeply rooted in this discussion of faith and debate of ideals, this clashing of the masses, because humanity is capable of great love and love is the single most important, weighted, and valuable thing in this life. It is the element in which we do everything---e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g---it is the place from where all that is good transpires and doing good is rooted.

And so, that is the underlying principle, argument, and artillery I have to speak my ideas. Love. Unconditional love. Unwaivering love. The kind of love so strong and so pure that you would sacrifice personal comfort for. Epic love. The kind Dante had for his Beatrice. Or Romeo for his Juliet. Only those are just a snippet of what divine love is, and they still messed it up because they were humans. (Are you getting it now? Do you get how strong pure, thorough, and encapsulating divine love is? Okay, stay with me, don't worry about it for now.) God has that love for us, but on an unfathomable level. It is so ridiculously high above us and warm and comforting that to see that level of love, the brightness, the acceptance, the warmth, and the joy that is Him that we could not handle such a sight in its fullest form. You know, without dying and all, that is.

It is, also, coincidentally, the single most inspiring notions ever to beget the human race.

It is, also, totally and completely skewed by human vision with human trials and errors and feelings.

Our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions work to shade our eyes from that love in various degrees and intensities, much like sunglasses. It's not that the sun got dimmer, it's that we put something over our eyes.

Understanding this makes it easier to understand the pain of another human being. It also makes you want to judge less. It makes you want to do the things it will take to get you closer to that purer light. It also makes you realize that a creator of such divine love is a creator that could never forget his children, who could never be a god of wrath and of vengeance, or of capriciousness. The church needs to remember this and make it its focus; and the opposition, regardless of how high or low, needs to consider this.

Being able to come to some compromise in such a debate as this would be the application of that love in every sense. Loyalty, humility, passion. What are we doing when we spout out secular or religious truths in a way that is unpolished, incongruent, abridged, or deficient? Sparred out of pain or confusion?

We are simply just finding places for our pain to take root, that's what. Pain that comes from not having our questions answered truthfully and feeling left out at sea. And hard questions about the church, too: female priests, homosexuality, abortion. And that is hard to watch.

I mean, I've done it, too. We all do. We find moments of righteous frustration and we focus on them as being right. And as long as no one is offering to provide provable, solvable, tangible answers that change our mind, we keep on going. That is part of our human experience. We are not exempt from it.

But what if it wasn't so cut and dry as any one side puts it? What if it was?

Here's the thing: I think it is cut and dry. But not by us. By the divine creator, by our Savior, and the Spirit who guides us all. We have a duty to hold our brothers and sisters responsible, yes, but not to judge them. If the One who loves us loves us so much, then we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Period. Sinner or not. It is cut and dry in a way that in the face of His love, we will know our mistakes automatically, but it will be a private moment because our relationship with God is as individual as each one of us. As long as we choose Him, no matter our mistakes and atoning for them, we will be comforted in His arms.

There are no easy solutions, and that is probably why I will never be able to win a debate of this kind. But I have read as much on the lives of the saints as I have wonky forums, and I still get rather passionate about the plethora of ideas that circulate out there.

28 December 2011

Moving On. An Older Topic.

(Originally written in September of this year. Edited to post today.)

As I get ready to embark on the next stage of my life and there being a 4,000-kilometer expedition in front of me before getting there, I am inspired to expound on other stages in my life where I have already begun to piece out a story. It's therapeutic. Fun. And insofar that I am far less emotionally invested than I used to be, retrospection can be spun more positively. Old-fashioned conventions of writing, of time lines, of perfectly positioned punctuation WILL be tossed out the window.

On a side note, I have also thought about selling a large majority of my life story as fiction. I'm already sick of the one-question-begets-another cluster of assbackwardsness that is my life. And I mean, what's the point of putting a title on that story, extracting and sucking more (and hypothetical) sympathy when I have already had the experience of it being ignored, minimized, and slammed with antipathy? At least I won't have to rely on my imagination in order to come up with a good book. But I relent. I'm sure I couldn't even find a publisher. Not that I want to seriously go looking for one anyway, but I still have this retarded, deep-seeded wish in the far back dust traps of my mind that someone would pick it up.

But then I would probably just have one excuse or another for not wanting to work so hard on actually putting something together in the first place. Guess that's why I stick to my blog. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever order I deem to be in the mood for.

So then, where were we? Oh yes, I hadn't even started. And I was supposed to continue my post from yesterday, which I'm not doing after all. But like a good blogger person, I'll probably make a link from the continuation of yesterday's post to yesterday's post when I get around to it.

For today, though...


And no, not the totally awesome musical with Adam Pascal and Idina Menzel (who played Elphaba, the witch, in "Wicked",) but the foreshadowing I referred to here (12th paragraph down, just before the asteriks and again 2nd to last paragraph.)

At the top of the switch-over, when I moved into the city after my living with friends flopped, I offered the aunt a small amount for rent. It wasn't much but at least it was something. I had done the same with my friends. By then my in-patient husband was getting his long-term disability paychecks and even though they didn't stretch far with an infant and a two-year old, at least we had something. My girls had what they needed and I was taking up space in their house, eating their food, and getting rides from them to the hospital. It seemed... fair.

But then...

End of January comes, beginning of February, something like that (yeah, not too long after the Christmas I was displaced--another entry coming soon to computer near you,) and the aunt pulls me aside and says, "well, hey, look, it's not quite enough. What you're giving me isn't covering enough." Vague like that. No details. In her squeaky, passive-aggressive smile, she doesn't explain. I don't ask. I just come to understand how maybe the near-four-hundred dollars for bigger-city living isn't a realistic number. And I trust her. I feel like she's family and I'm cheating her. And what do I know about the cost of living there? Nothing.

So I oblige. I don't think to check the newspaper to compare prices. I don't think to go on the Internet. And this is before the days of Kijiji. I don't think to do much of anything because my husband is sick with cancer in the hospital. I don't think about much else, at all, really, because it's already so much to be in this weird universe where I've lost control of my life, I'm trying to keep it together for my daughters, and security is a long-lost, foreign, far-away dream concept; and I am only 21 years old. My head is too full, I am perpetually in a state of alarm, and I just keep waiting for someone to have pity on me and be able to afford my leeching, or maybe even just know what to do.

But no. Next month, same thing. I don't even remember where the month went in terms of time, and here this woman is pulling me aside with a paper in her hand with figures on it. Somehow the rent goes up another chunk. Now I'm getting a little curious. We're talking over five hundred dollars now. In 2001.

I start to stew over it. My in-laws do nothing about it. What could they, do, right? They warned me not to move in with her in the first place. Husband comes out of the hospital for a short stint to get a change of scenery and in between chemo doses. He stays with us at the aunt's, and guess what? Yep, that's right, she ups the rent again.

By this point, it is costing me $680 to rent a small corner of her house. An enormous house that she and her husband got for cheap because they bought out someone's foreclosure. It doesn't cover my baby's foods, diapers, or formula. It doesn't cover any extras. This is just to live in a hole in the basement of her house.

One day, she comes home with arms loaded with loot from Michael's Craft Store. Another day, it's new HUGE television (before the days of HD.) Yet another day, it was a complete bedroom set for her youngest daughter.

I am now starting to see where all my husband's disability checks were going.

I am livid by the time I point it out to anyone who would listen.

Which is pretty much no one.

During my husband's stay with us and before going back into the hospital, he was with just enough presence of mind to agree with me about the maddening nature of all of it. I wanted to confront her about why she was charging me so much for rent. I wanted to know what she was figuring into the price of rent. And since she couldn't, for the love of God, give our young family a break, I wanted speak up and out loud.

But I was so filled with anger that I could hardly make sense of what was going on, much less what I wanted to do about it. It was a daily thing. No one seemed to clue into any part of the pain I was going through and to make matters worse, here was this aunt contributing to the injustices we were already suffering. I didn't even care about paying rent to earn my stay there nor paying a certain number as compared to the housing market around me, it's just that one or the other of the two choices would have at least yielded something more akin to freedom and the money that was being sucked from my pocket was sick money.

And freedom I did not get much of. I got lectured for one thing or another pretty much every other day. I never knew when I was going to be pulled aside for something, cornered about, or "suggested to." If it wasn't my bedtime--my bedtime for crying out loud! After bearing 2 children? Was she serious?--it was about cleaning the house, or about the way I cleaned it, it was about the way I disciplined (or did not discipline enough) my children or the way I did or did not talk about my emotions with her or "seemed" to be not understanding my situation. Oh, I understood it perfectly well, thank you.

Not to mention, again, no car, no job, no immigration status, no money of my own, no way to make a few bucks here or there. Trapped.

It was maddening all on its own to have been reduced from being my own person with a family and the husband's promising career to some kind of know-nothing, grunt-level, entry-level, belittled kid thing whose loosely-tied "family" status somehow enabled the aunt (or maybe entitled her?) to treat me like crap AND try to fake like she wasn't. But then paying big city rent for a shithole bedroom in her basement and cleaning her house and watching her daughters live comfortably spread out while I crammed myself and my two babies in the shithole bedroom was less than exciting. After months of trying to take it all in--the cancer, the aunt, the inlaws, the young motherhood, and immigration limbo--and nothing coming out, and this short off the heels of a year-old marriage, college with a baby, single motherhood, and no family around anywhere, I didn't know what end was up. It was like jamming a gig of information in 750 megabyte computer and the RAM is fried.

So I practically jumped at the idea of my mom buying me a plane ticket to hang with her for a month in Nevada. Of course it meant leaving my husband to deal with his lung surgery by himself (with his mom) and my mom would have to work and carry on her life while I was visiting, but I would be OUT of that place.

And I had received my mother in law's blessing. Respite came slowly in those days, and emotionally unintelligent people were slow to respond, but my mother in law's understanding of the situation (in addition to her own severe contempt of her brother and sister-in-law) helped relieve the guilt I had about going. By that point, it was May, the prognosis for my husband was looking better, and all the procedures his oncologist had promised were actually starting to be followed through on. I had had all I could stand of the situation. Had I stayed one second more, I might have had a psychotic break.

With what little sanity I thought I had left, I packed up everything I could carry, including two little girls, and made my way through the scary maze of customs to see my mom waiting at the port.

27 December 2011

I have turned into one of THEM moms!!

My kids got phones this Christmas.

I have been in serious, inner moral dilemma about this. I am probably about the last parent on earth to advocate kids having cell phones. I don't like the idea of them having them. I detest the idea of them in schools. I've seen the crap and output of what our voyeurism age can produce. I didn't have a cell phone until I was in my mid-twenties. (And guess, what? I survived!) I don't do bandwagons. I reject the reasoning all other parents have used. And worst of all, my own little cheapie one doesn't work.

Of all the things their father and I are able to agree on, we are in utter solidarity over this one.

But since the unfolding of the past 3 and a half months has produced mass confusion, missed volleyball or basketball games, miscommunication about schedules, and just an overall amplified level of stress, it dawned at me that maybe, just maybe, it's way more about the comfort level of the parents than I had, *sigh, originally thought.

I mean, what the? Societal norms have only dictated the "tiniest" (!) part of my life. You know, the part that's convenient when it's convenient? I make the tough parental decisions along with the co-counsel, their father, and we stick to our guns. And even though he and I are divorced, we lay down the law. We don't budge. My very significant other is as equally supportive and backs me up in our home. And I said, kids don't need cell phones.

But. Relent we did. And it wasn't an overnight change of mind. It had been coming over time and I had been discussing the issue with my ex. It just boiled down to them growing up, their social circles expanding, me seeing less of them, and them being so much smarter and more emotionally intelligent than everyone else. I mean, they ARE the single most intuitive and perceptive preteens I've ever known. I was at a perpetual stop-loss for why not. That and I had to do something to remedy the sinking of a feeling I got every time they were out of school and knowing they were going ahead with plans that were their own, quite probably not fully cleared with me ahead of time.

And I don't really think it will be so bad. There are going to be rules set into play. There are going to be consequences set for breaking the rules. But even with all of this understanding to come into play, I still can't believe my kids have cell phones. Just re-reading this makes me cringe.

26 December 2011

"Nah, you're not! Have you seen you, lady?"

This was the main idea behind me, a little white kid with freckles and starkly dark brown eyes, going around staking claim in my Mexican heritage as a VERY non-Mexican-looking runt. For pretty much the whole of my life, I grew up being half-Mexican.

Not half Norwegian, not as mutt-worthy as I really am, just... half Mexican. Anywhere I went, any time I had the chance, I was looking for a way to butt in with my cool Mexican-ness. In the band room before school, meeting new friends, heck just meeting new people. Going to coffee, starting in a group, and then later as a so-called grown up, it'd be a conversation piece. Sometimes related to the topic being discussed, sometimes not. Most times not. Eventually it grew to be, "Hi. I'm Amy. I'm Mexican. And your name is?"

I don't look at it. AT ALL. I have fair skin that never tanned (until I was an adult) and about as much natural rhythm as any puritanical protestant fundamentalist. But there was no consideration of this. Not because of extreme Mexism in our house, no. After all, my dad was just a simple, proud man, deeply defined by the rich culture and history from where he came. But because he instilled that same pride into his whitey kids. We. Are. Mexican. And... I did have just enough rhythm at unexpected, effortless moments to trick myself into thinking I could be Latina. (Those moments didn't really stick, though. Just ask my 7th grade band teacher who didn't let me into the jazz band.)

No rhythm plus conductor equals no jazz for me!

 And isn't it really something that a man who grew up in Mexico, emigrated to the states with his single mother in the 60s, and mated with a Norwegian woman with starkly blue eyes teach his pale-faced, dark-brown-eyed kids to hold onto their culture?

So hold on we did, in varying degrees, to our Mexican heritage. Full-bore and headlong into an unsuspecting world where no one really dared to point out that we didn't really look the part.

Then one day, my dear college friend just kind of stopped me dead in my tracks by daring to ask with a puzzled frown, "But you're Norwegian, too. What about that part of ya?" Clearly she was appealing to my sense of culture and NOT my pale, shows-up-better-in-black-light visage. It made me think. For all of about two seconds. Then I'm pretty sure I changed the subject.

Then I had an Angst-For-Dad phase (you know, out of some crazy, ill-notioned thought that he should have reacted differently to me getting pregnant at 18) and did kind of focus on my Norwegian side. For about a day. Yeah, I looked up some stuff. Read that there is no real unified language as of yet, so instead of picking on dialect to try learning, I proverbially threw my hands up in the air and said, "Oh well, can't learn 'em all today. So why try." I know. Good, eh?

The best part? I am so full of contradictions I could make your head spin. It's fun living in my world! What with the cold Viking blood and the hot Aztec blood fighting itself in the same blood stream. It's a wonder I didn't end up bi-polar or ADHD. Guess I'll just have to settle for being Gemini.

19 December 2011

They tried to make go to rehab, but I said, "No, no, no"

I've gotten back into the bassoon scene just about a year now, maybe a little more. Did I ever say how much I missed it? I LOVE it! I have missed the challenge of playing, of establishing chops (more on that and bad practicing habits later!), playing in an ensemble, and the grand rarity of the bassoon.

Oh, what's that? A bassoon? Never mind, just watch this from the 2:10 mark. What you hear, that "poh-poh-poh-poh" sound, is the bassoon. 

Okay, hmm, I can see that really isn't helping you. Well. Okay. This then:


Yes, that's me on the right. The cool guy on the left is Frank Morelli. Or at least what Google photo captions said he was. I still have to do research on him, but I'm sure he's a pretty fabulous bassoon player. He had is own bassoon bio and everything. ON his OWN domain. Pretty spiffy. Oh never mind. (There is absolutely no connection point between Mr. Morelli and me, only that I happened to pick up the same instrument he did, and he has probably been playing since before I was filling my diapers.)

Thanks to my experience in Quebec and my ability to find a bassoon to play here, the ginormous gap in my bassoon-playing experience (talking university days and the last year and a half) is closing. One little fact I realized, after much self-deprecation and ridiculously low confidence levels, is that WHOA HOA I can really play. I'm not just saying I could. I have produced, ese. Veni, vidi, vici. Yo.

THAT comes from years of lowering my standards and musical expectations, another story for another day, but yet another realization that it was, indeed, truly happening as I suspected and not... as I was incredulously starting to feel---fundamentally bat shit crazy.

See, not only is that me playing after a 12-year hiatus, yadda yadda, but that is me scoring an invitation to play with the youth orchestra at a conservatoire of outstanding musicians. Stellar musicians. All because I was able to acquire a bassoon, start working up (albeit piss-poorly) my chops and an audition, plus score some play time with the local city band.

I mean, seriously! It's not like I'm even this outstanding musician or bassoonist! But because I have stuck with it, because it's important to me, and because I just got sick and tired of this roladex of random people in my brain (over and along the course of I don't how many years now) repeating their negative thoughts in my brain, it has worked out. This is as life-altering for me as it is a relief to be doing what I have always wanted to do. That is, be a musician because I damn well want to (and no other reason) and just getting absolutely full-to-the-gullet tired of putting everything in a negative light. I had just let so many opinions affect me and was just so used to being negative that even when I wasn't being negative, it still oozed in between the words and my reactions. Ugh! I really saw the manifestation of that last year when I noticed that "look" on my professor's face, like I've seen elsewhere in my life: the look of, 'lady, you really are being unrealistic with yourself and your ability.' The kind of look that hits home. With just a hint of exasperation teamed up with a good dose of empathy, it almost makes you want to feel sorry for yourself, seeing what she (or he) sees---a super insecure person.

Which made me wonder where did that beast come from?

At any rate, music has healed me. And now, I am recognized in one form or another as a bassoon player. The most important part? Getting to know the people who have guided me to this point, in music and in life. Getting to know other bassoon players. Getting to maximize the sharing of what is a talent. The teachers I have studied with (Sara, Paskale), the blogs I have found (the principle bassoonist in the Columbus Ohio Symphony writes a great one!), being asked by someone younger for my advice, applying all that I have learned makes me so excited to dive back into a world I was compelled to forget. Just makes me remember that I do have experience, that I am experienced, and that oh yeah, I got this.

Be sure to check out:

And this Dave Brubeck classic transcribed for bassoon:

11 November 2011

8 Reasons Why Mexicans Are 10 Times More Badass Than You Thought.

 By Amy Cazares

1.    They Don’t Speak English

      For real. Anyone who has studied the English language knows there are a billion ways to say “the cheese is old and moldy”, and only one certified prick English teacher to tell you how many ways you can say the same thing and still produce different meanings. You try changing that shit into Spanish and it just doesn’t translate. It just doesn’t. That’s because Spanish is a romance language and there is nothing romantic about old and moldy cheese. 

Not romantic.

      There’s no way to produce the same kind of faceless, vague, and cynical English humor in a language that is more direct with the flowing verbs and rhythmic nouns of Spanish. Doesn’t give a classless, crass person a whole lot of space for ambiguity or suggestive bully-ing because you have to take responsibility for what you’re saying when you say it in Spanish. French, too. In fact, probably all other languages that are not English.

2.    They Know How To Laugh At Their Own Expense. 

      In fact, they take pride in being able to laugh at their own follies because they know how to not take life so seriously. Mucho years before the economic crash, they were already passing around hand-me-down clothes, eating rice and beans, having family get-togethers and potlucks, and generally covering each other’s backs. 

Random strangers covering each other's backs in the mid-90s.
My cousin, Carmela, helping get my uncle's car out of the ditch.

      Friends, family, friends AND family. They are so damned happy that they take their life-celebrating selves to the cemeteries and share that love and support with their deceased loved ones on the Day of the Dead. They know it’s important to remember everyone, lest their loved ones suffer the “second death,” or be forgotten. Comfort and joy is much easier to come by because they are always together, working together, supporting each other. Life is centered around the kitchen, as a matter of fact. Working together produces a warmer environment. A warm environment produces the feeling of safety. Safety therefore produces a lighter, uplifted feeling of overall reduced life burden because they are sharing and relating; and that produces laughter, because they are predisposed to an accepting environment no matter how much they fuck up. And they’re not speaking English. Awkward, nuance-riddled English.

3.    They Are The Awesomest Kind of Family To Have

        They are warm, accepting, non-judgmental, forgiving people. Period. End of story. Case in point...

"One of these things is doing its own thing, one of these just isn't the same..." 
One of these things grew up in the States.

       Nobody said a thing about the inappropriateness of my screwing around.

4.    They Are Not Pretensious 

        It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you’re going, or where you’ve been. There is absolutely no status. Not because it’s a way of deflecting American attitudes about their country off of them, but because they just do. not. care. They don’t give the least fuck about preconceived ideas because they have no preconceived ideas. 

"What was that? Sorry I was too busy being badass and sexy to 
give the least fuck about what you think of me."

        They are too busy taking care of their families, making kickass food, having parties, enjoying mariachi music, celebrating their culture, and speaking romantic languages to care. They are too busy being accepting and loving or at least being concerned with their own responsibilities to worry about things they cannot control.

Unless you are messing with family.

       Mexicans are very warm, welcoming people, whether from Guadalajara, Oaxaca, toward the northern states or southern peninsula; so it’s not that they don’t have room to be pricks or can’t be pricks, it’s just that it’s a far harder concept for them to grasp than, to say, your average fifteen-year-old-emo-minded, this-side-of-the-border 32-year old. Status cannot exist where it does not exist.

5.    They Make Kick-Ass Food and They Do Food RIGHT

        I’m NOT just talking about huevos rancheros and bean burritos. Chalupas, pozole, chile con carne, tamales, steaming hot corn cobs wrapped in hot sauce and lime at the vender stands (or elotes), and friggin' guacamole! Also most interesting are their candy. Tamarindo, cajeta. My brothers and I loved the novelties of tamarindo (think spicy Fruit Roll-Up being squeezed out of a Mop Top Hairshop Playdough head) and cajeta (cararmel/honey/peanut-buttery-type concoction) which came lined in wax paper inside a long, wooden oval-shaped coffin-looking containers.   

Abso-fucking-lutely delish
(Clockwise from top left: tamarindo, elote, bean burrito, cajeta, guacamole, cajeta agian, tamales, pozole, and chile con carne.)

        Traditional breakfasts kick some major cuisine butt with their stack of beans and a pile of rice alongside some eggs, shredded pork in mole sauce, and some steaming-hot, rolled up corn tortillas. Imagine if every kid in the States and Canada ate that before their big MAT6 test—we’d be ace-ing the crap out of standardized testing!

        Point is, the importance of breakfast is not lost on Mexicans. They do it right. The big-ass meal of the day is breakfast followed by mid-sized lunches and dinners, and finally a small bedtime snack. For example: sweet bread with warm milk. That sure is ass-backwards!  Dwindling calorie intake just before hibernating, rather than huge nightly feats? Preposterous!

6.    Never At A Loss For Words. 

        A giant nebula of sayings, parental wisdom, life-is-hard anecdotes, superstitions, and really, super good advice—which does for the soul what warm milk and sweet-bread at bedtime does for the tummy—have come from using absurd or comical imagery to make a point, in lieu of the more direct Nouns and Verbs. 

       “Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos” (“Breed crows and they will take out your eyes”) is a far more interesting way to say that actions will have consequences.  

        Not only is this a more colorful and easily-relatable way of expressing a classic truth, opinion, or mindset, but it really hits the memory record button in your brain. That shit is used by psychologists, counselors, and therapists to broaden the overall, perceived problems of a patient when basic, fundamental explanations don’t do enough to empower them. It makes a self-evident truth reachable.

 Simple math

7.    They Have Aztec Ancestry

        Before the Spanish came and conquered them by siding with the enemy, bringing over unwitting weapons of biological destruction (small pox), and shackin’ up with Aztec women, the Aztec empire was one to quite arguably rival that of the Byzantines. 

        Not only was their influence and power far reaching through most of what is current-day Mexico but they built aqueduct, civil, and agricultural systems that ensured a productive cycle of commerce and trade, opting for negotiation-style rule over military-enforced control. Their pyramids at their capital Tenochtitlan were ginormous and beautiful. 

        And, as the blend of European Spanish and Aztec cultures combined to give way to the race of people Mexicans are so proud to be, they took the pejorative “mestizo” (coined by the Spanish to indicate who was not of noble rank ---  part native and part European) and instead harnessed it as a proud, national identity. 

"In YO’ face! Trying to demoralize us, Spain--eat shit and die!"
Showin' some Mestizo pride.

        An identity so sweet and so evident in pride of their Aztec ancestry that it can be seen splattered across the canvas of Mexican culture even today—“El Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is derived from Aztec superstitions and the eagle on the cactus eating a snake in the middle of the Mexican flag comes straight from Aztec mythology.

8.    They Owned A Goooooood Chunk of the U.S. Back In the Day.

        Before American politicians manifest-destiny-ed their way across to the Pacific Ocean, Mexican territory lay considerably further north than the Rio Grande. By ‘good chunk’ I mean Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, up past Colorado, and into a southern strip of Wyoming. That is approximately over 1 million square miles of land*. 

To put it in comparison, the current-day United States stands at 3.79 million square miles in total. That means Mexicans owned one-THIRD of what is now the United States of America, on top of what is now Mexico. So maybe we need to rethink our definitions of legal and illegal aliens. Maybe if they wouldn’t have been so fresh off fighting for their independence from Spain and fighting off the French, they could have withstood the massacre coming from the States. Maybe the section of states which used to belong to Mexico would have stayed Mexico. Maybe a lot of things. Maybe they are just trying to go home!

28 September 2011

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

Okay, let's back up a bit. Let's back way up. There's no way I'm going to get into the mystery of the Holy Trinity or any other mystery, or even get into the deeper strains of faith in the church or even in general until I get something off my chest.

Bigotry is the new catch-phrase for the insecure and self-conscious.

Think about it. There is an tumultuous, agitated, pouring outcry in society to be accepted, from kids in the schoolyard all the way to more controversial LGBT community, this not being a defined range, but all controversial within the context of what we see, experience, deal with, tolerate, opine about, etc. that even the honest Christians get the "B" word stapled to their heads when trying to stand up for what they believe. We--society, all of us--in our rants to be accepted, are slapping as many labels on ourselves as we are other people so that we feel recognized and acknowledged, to the degree that we are pointing fingers and looking everywhere but ourselves to put blame and not take responsibility for our hurts, our confusion, our anger. Or grouping good, honest Catholic Christians with the effed up, crazy, fundamentalist whacks. Or, at the very least, the Catholic Church getting the brunt of this societal divorce and becoming a whipping post for anyone who would disagree with her positions. But we don't need to be labeled! We just need to live our lives as we see fit and do the best we can in the light of the Great Creator. As long as we're trying, Our Lord will see this and he is going to have a good, enlightening discussion with each of us at the end of the road. He is the only judge we need to worry about. He knew the insides of our soul before we even thought of labels.

Furthermore, there is a difference between compassion/understanding/love/patience and 'tolerance', also the new throw-around catch word of the day. Dictionary.com defines tolerance as
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.
For the ones crying out loudest for justice, this definition only applies to them, but not of theirs toward the Church. That is also injustice. Or just plain not fair, is it now. Society wants freedom to practice whatever religion, mantra, zen-like thing they want---we want freedom to say whatever the hell we want, and we have that freedom, but we don't give others that freedom, and we certainly don't want to hear it if it disagrees with the feelings and opinions we've taken a lifetime to build. And sometimes we're just mean! Even people in the LGBT community! Not only does this hypocritical thing negate whatever peace-bringing thing we practice (or don't practice) or preach, but there is no respect for another's beliefs. So gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor, tolerance, as lukewarm and apathetic as it is, isn't even being applied by the ones who preach it. Then the word "bigot" gets thrown in there and well, if you're not one, it just gets old.

In some cases, some are just as intolerant of the Church's right to free speech as they accuse of the Church of being. And/or throw the entire intended meanings out the window, losing the context completely. (Like here and here.) When negative cycles like this get repeated, we are revisiting times that do, indeed, seem like the Dark Ages, because we're forgetting the whole return aspect of what you dole out. Like grade 6 logic appealing to the rest of the grade school-ers. The only difference being that instead of fighting a "no, I didn't, HE did" war, the kids have rejected the teacher altogether and so many of the ranks below them are in dispute. But there is still junior high and high school to go. It has become trendy and enlightened to buy every rearranged truth that is said under the umbrella of tolerance. It has become far less than unpopular to say that a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. But tolerance is the easy flip-word, negation to conviction. And it is just as humiliating to read and hear some of the things Christians say, from awkward wording all the way to right out bullshit. Let me be the first to say, even defending my church, that there are some pretty effed up people out there that claim to be Christian.

I can endure listening to thoughts, feelings, and opinions that differ---even greatly---from my own, and love so many walks of life as though they were my own (just ask my Mexican father, my Quebecois boyfriend, my Norwegian mother, my colleagues, my friends), but your freedom ends where mine begins and one of the choices I have in exercising my boundaries (besides abandoning literature and self-education--um, that's a no-go) is to stand up TO the craziness, stand up for what I believe, in a way that is whole-hearted and passionate, not to the point of bashing it down your throat, but not backing down because this aspect IS dying and church is struggling to make people understand her role in the grand role of Love Itself. I am damn near positive I'm not the only one who feels as I do. It is difficult for us to express these things in words and semantics that people will understand and accept, but then again we are only human. I hope there is leeway in that.

If we consider that true faith is a relationship with God, and if we consider that any relationship which you act on love and with regard to perfecting the way you love, it moves the relationship to greater and greater depths. Any good couples counselor will tell you that behavior not concerned with the health of the relationship will only eat at the relationship, and that we must become responsible for our hurts and attitudes which contribute to the health or the demise of the relationship. And that's what we have: a relationship with God. Whether we choose to engage or not, whether we grow up in one kind of home or another, whether we agree with it or not. Both sides must work on it, for the better of the whole relationship, whether the other side deserves it or not. And that is where Divine Law is already working. Agape love. The divine love that precludes any hurt or darkness. That is what God has for us, no matter what we do. (It's just that if we keep doing things that refuse Him, we are closing our hearts to his love, a cycle in which, if not stopped, can lead to eternal death.)

The Catholic Church is obliged to uphold these laws in the way that a spouse or lover is obliged to do things for his or her partner--out of love, devotion, loyalty, commitment, and deeply spirited desire. It's not about being God's little grunts and do so out of miserable duty. It's about choosing to love Him back! And doing the things we would do for our spouse/partner out of love. The historical, problematic part of the church is that she is made up of humans and her spouse is the Savior and humans always want God to bend to their will. It doesn't work like that. Whether or not you live by karma, The Golden Rule, cause-and-effect, or any such reciprocal principle, it is about loving accountability to a loving God, who is compassionate, merciful, and forgiving, but not subject to us, our creations, our rules. Right. Now. We are his creation, subject to Him. We are the ones who change, flex, move, bend, not Him. It is us that need to grow into his love, not his into ours. We are the ones who have to split our guts working on the deepest parts of our love because where we work, we grow; where we grow, we have pain; where we have pain, we can more easily identify with someone else; and when we can do that, we are on our way to loving the way God intended us to love one another.This also means trying to help all of our indignant, angry brothers and sisters understand that 1) we love them SO much, we want them to take part in our community of brothers and sisters, no matter their orientation; and 2) rules suck, but because of the Galileo incident, we know the church CAN grow and can fix old thoughts. Who is to say, on this earth, the church can't change and that there is no hope? Your own hope to live your life the way you want to is the very hope we have that if it's meant to be, it WILL happen.

But let it be known that it is not right on either side to get extreme of go full-throttle against the other without understanding and compassion.

Also, remember this addage? "When you point, three fingers are pointing back at you." We are all sinners. Duh. There are more than a few of us living in sin in a plethora of counts across the board. What about the man living with a divorced woman? The woman having an affair with a co-worker? The gazillion couples having sex before marriage? The point? Don't judge. No matter what your creed, your side, your argument. Stand up for what you believe but don't be an ass. What all of us sinners forget as we cry out against perceived injustice is that we all do crap that offends God. All. The. Time. But he still looks at us with love in his heart because he IS love there is a whole order of business of Him waiting for us to love Him back. He wants us to grow. The very definition of love includes growth. But he is not a lazy or trendy god. He is the god of all the ages, the sole creator (via evolution, yes) and not prone to OUR rules. The ones most outraged by the church's doctrines and papal declarations are neglecting to own--because it is very painful to not always live as we would choose--that life in God IS painful because growth IS painful/awkward/uncomfortable; and... that human interpretation of divine-anything is going to be prone to flaw by the very nature of being human. I am NOT saying you can grow out of homosexuality--that is just wrong. What I'm saying is that we can and should try to live in harmony of our choices and God's desires for us side-by-side until we've exhausted our every effort to live a full and holy life. There needs to be the same understanding for each side to any argument or issue, which is never easy and quite often impossible as there are many angles of a heated topic as there are individuals--and we ALL have our own, unique levels of love and of angst.

And so, when truly bigoted people say bigot-ey things in the name of Christianity, it makes me want to puke. But so does taking messages and addresses out of context. It is our job to hold our brothers responsible, but it is important to do so in a way that is in the way that Jesus would. And how was that? Certainly not being a push-over, uber-tolerant, long-haired, tunic-wearing dude that was like "heyyy, I said this was the Golden Rule and these things were the most important commandents, but.... uh.... I'm gonna change 'em." No. He brought the spirit of the law back into the consciences of the crowds and put it in our eyes like a mirror, broaching controversy with a loving message, and not laying down waiting for people to roll over him. Eventually the message he was spreading--the good news--ticked off people so much it got him killed. Do we dare say that he brought it on himself or 'that's what he got for being a revoluationary'. No. They could not accept the new message. And even in all the ignorance to be born of all the ages since, none of the ages before his days on earth can claim to have the kind of growing intelligence and illumination that we have now. His way of thinking revolutionized philosophy.

As more people grow to be more up-in-arms about how the Church fits in or does not fit in to their lives, there will only be more persecution slung out of our mouths. I know, I was critical of church and religion in general in my twenties. I still can't understand some of the same things my straight and homosexual friends can't understand. But I am young, and we are young, and we are all subject to ultimate God-law (the law of love, Divine Law) whether we want to or not, which is not a law of tolerance but of love, forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. And the church is NOT what it was in the archaic past. (And before you go popping off about molestation, just shut your mouth and remember that all of us regular, normal Catholics were disgusted and mortified and wanted to hang and remove those priests ourselves, and that they do NOT represent the real heart of our blessed church.) Part of that law of love is our individual free will on this earth, but ultimately we have to answer to a loving god for why our hearts are so hardened. Both sides of the equation. Forgiveness is the hardest thing to do or to come by but by far the most precious commodity.

(If you could read this, maybe you can try this one: The Gospel of Tolerance.)

23 August 2011

The Holy Trinity

Speaking from a strictly personal experience, I know this mystery is what sets us apart from other faiths, even other Christian faiths. Also, there are beautiful elements and qualities in other the world religions that set them apart from the world, too, but this, along with transubstantiation, is what really marks us catholics apart from all others.

It's the mystery of three persons in one. 

Before anyone starts going crazy on me, I'm not really one to be talking about this in length as I am just a mere layperson in the context of worldly scholars, studied theologians, and various experts. And, if anyone has read any number of my posts, they would know that I am not a saint. I am not even backed up on my scriptures, and I struggle with my own things just like everyone else.

Also, I suck at explaining.

But in trying this out, in stepping into territory that I am wondering/starting to believe was part of my call here on earth due to the abilities I have been given (yes, acquired--but then, from whom do they come?), I branch out here. I try to explore the beliefs I have come to know here, the way one explores the traits of a most trusted friend, to offer my meager contribution to the plethora of opinions, beliefs, and even precepts that are out there (and perhaps explain why ours are there---the universal Church of Christ aka the Catholic Church.)

I don't do this to convince, either, because I have already wasted too much time trying to awkwardly share my thoughts before and ended up leaning too heavily to the convince-the-proverbial (theoretical) audience side. And for my part, it causing pandemic confusion at times and simply funny looks at others. Past efforts have been wasted, depending on the reason from where I wrote something or on another's ability to understand, and I, for one, am done with it.

I don't do this to convince, either, because I have never been one to push my thoughts and feelings down someone's throat. What's more, is that I have been surrounded in the past or immersed into situations where I am the one getting ideas shoved down her throat. I don't want to do that to others. I want to stand up for what I believe, I want to demonstrate the strength and the force with which I believe because I came to be lukewarm in my testimony, but without infringing on the freewill others.

In addition, if I believe in what I am sharing, and the proverbial audience is to be changed (or at least contemplative), then it will not be because I am so good at my job. It will not be because I am brilliantly persuasive or because I have all the answers, because I'm not and I don't. If something is to be changed and I am talking from the heart, the words will speak for themselves, no matter my style of delivery or vocabulary or use of language. It will be because something else is reaching through my words in their honesty, and I will be responsible for the integrity of my words, but not their effect. The effect, which is what I tried so hard to control in the all the ways I used to write, is not something I can control, I have finally learned. It is the result of the soul recognizing a truth in another soul, which gives an interior brightness and clarity or simple understanding. And so it is, that if effect does come upon my words or after, it is He to whom I should give glory, whose spirit inspired even the smallest bit of understanding from any single member of a so-called reader crowd, and not myself, because anything good that comes only comes because it was made possible by a greater and more loving creator. In ever having told my story, my faith has been and will always be an integral part of it. The difference, I stress, is intention.

So, before I dive into the mystery of the Holy Trinity, I stop here, if only to collect my thoughts more and to make a humanly-flawed attempt at an introduction, after which, "discussion" of the mystery will resume. It is time. It is time to give glory to the One who has given us all.

17 August 2011

Old thoughts, a letter never sent, good reading

Why would I want to go see what you bashed me with? On a site that I'm not interested in seeing? You tend to keep thinking I NEED help, when in reality, I've carved out a pretty hard ass road ALONE and acquired some pretty damned solid morals within my faith in spite of myself, keeping an open mind to all forms of wisdom: great works of art, of music, quotes worth immortalizing, literature.

I don't claim to have more wisdom than anyone or any 90-day program, but I find a very solid sense of the same things you are learning with this program in the skill set I already have and it just grates me that you keep telling me you think you know what I need. I think you just need to stick to knowing what you need because you're not very good at knowing what I need. Most of these programs are carved out of the same principles found in every good-moral book: the Torah, the Koran, the Bible, even great philosophers and literature giants. I'm not trying to impress anyone, You. I'm done dancing to the tune of everyone else's fiddle, and...

...just what am I supposed to do about everybody's hate? I will eventually have to go back sooner or later, and when that transpires, everyone's just gonna have to get over it sooner or later because the people MOST immediately affected by my oh-so-demonic move are already moving on. Also, I'm just not worth the hassle. They are not the ones I screwed over! I'm not divorcing them, I'm not tearing up their relationships, I'm not ruining their lives. The people who still hate me have a responsibility, like it or not, to tell me directly, to approach me, to confront me about, or shut the hell up. I don't want to be mean, but I am physically exhausted and emotionally drained from all the ways other people have felt so entitled to be that angry that even in their ANGER they try to control what they cannot because they lack compassion and understanding in spades. Even in seeing just how and what I brought on myself, here, even now, all these thousands of miles away, this truth cannot be veiled.

I understand that their anger stems from being hurt, confused, misunderstanding, hell even cultural differences and I can't blame them. I can't begin to tell you the torment I've felt over this, the hot tears I've cried, the soul-wracking sobs that come from being 1 person who suffers the opinions of many, but what does you telling me about everyone hating me do for anyone? Does it make you feel better? Do you think you are telling me something I am not wholly and completely 100% aware of? Is it supposed to make me feel worse? Teach me a lesson? Bestow something else, anything else, any other morsel of fruitful bearing, wherein it would just be better to move on? What good does it produce? How does it help you or me or anyone move on, feel better about the things that have transpired or heal deep wounds?

Hurt? Hell yeah, I understand that one. Pissed, yeah, for sure. But telling me not to come back? I still have reasons to come back and if you don't want to be one of them, I can and will respect that, but taking suggestions that don't really come out for my well-being is exactly the suffocating thing that I defied by leaving. All the friends that were close to me/us were friends first and foremost because they had important traits/qualities we found in each other worth saving, worth investing, worth smiling and laughing about, telling jokes, celebrating with. I'll take anything they have to say. But no one is going to tell me how to be me.

As for the lingering gossipy few, there are plenty of lakes around for them to take a long walk off a short pier. Everyone in that area of the world has something to say and I, for one, am not going to walk around like Hester Prinn with the scarlet letter branded to my forehead on account that I'm some abhorrent troll. In fact, I'm not even going to walk around as the least or the most of anything. I will not give a shit. Any. More. The very same noses that have been needlessly, bit-grabbingly poking up into my business up 'till now are all the very same noses that were okay to love me as long as I was doing exactly.... what.... they wanted. And you know what? None of them were around when I needed to talk and none of them stood by me along the way. I didn't make the move I did to protect and gainfully keep any semblage of popularity. The question is: why do YOU care if people hate me?

And as a last-ditch effort, I defend myself. If what I did, by leaving, was so horrible, then what about the good things I left there? Why isn't anyone thinking, well, you know, she was a good woman in X, Y, Z regard or remember the good things, or---for crying out loud---my children! Even though there was probably some silent, collective cheer when my girls went back to live with their father, I can tell you he didn't raise those girls all by himself and they didn't get to be sweet, spunky people that all my friends and all the nose-pickers claim to have say over without their mother! In fact, far from it. And. I was a good waitress. I used to teach there. I made friends from every gammut and circle I crossed. I was reliable. I threw my all into anything musical. I was a fairly productive member of society there. Everyone USED to like me. I knew I would have a lot of explaining to do, that my motion was severe, that it would sever many ties, but only did I expect to answer to those closest to me. I already committed far more than my share of energy in treating everyone with acute equality and niceness (even if they didn't deserve it) in attempting to get along with anyone at all costs. I'm done with it.

If not the past, if the good things I did in the past are somehow now negated, then so be it. I won't point out that I sent my girls to live thousands of miles away with their father pending a whole year. I won't mention that it was me respecting their choice. I won't point out that I could have made any number of battles for keeping them with me, could have made one vague excuse after another and won. I won't point out that I have come to rearrange my whole life around his job so that the girls will have parents that aren't split by plane tickets and geography. I won't point what a superiorly royal bitch I could have really been and wasn't.

The fact is and still remains that no one knew what was going on behind closed doors and worse, no one cared when I tried to even approach the subject. Just toss, toss, toss it under the rug. Don't talk about it, it's not that bad, it's not what you think it is, you're not thinking about it right. Ad nauseum.

People didn't see and people didn't care, so people didn't have a right to judge. The timing of it was messed, the action severe, but I point out: you didn't really give all that much a whoop anyway. But as I sat here once, with all the steaming hot indignation I felt, I couldn't help but see the ironic injustice of it all. All those who yelled at me from their social thrones on high, from their bacteria-cultured cells, through Facebook, behind my back (thanks for telling me)---the ones so hellbent to pin me to the wall---weren't there for the least or the most of the previous 12 years. None of them, not one, dropped by to help out when I was a single mom, alone and scared. Didn't come in to say hello when I had a dearly beloved husband sick and dying in the hospital. No one uttered a word of sympathy or pity in the whole existence of an altered life with an incapacitated husband, nor appreciation. Barely a word or gesture or measure of greeting, understanding, compassion at any single moment or angle of grief in my worst moments and muted support at the best. I wish I were exaggerating.

So then who.... tell me..... was there? Who could have possibly taken my hand and been able to give me the kind of real help and support and/or shove in the right direction I needed? Who was going to be willing to to be loving to me before my adjusted way of living went so far off track that I really felt like there was no one? How could anyone not of dedicated stamina help me figure it all out without exacerbating the world I made for myself? Who was there to think of anymore when I had no one? And who was going to help me so long as I was not willing to help myself?

No matter how many "shouldas" and "wouldas" and "couldas" that are infinitesimally born of the one and same problem, the fact is that I couldn't believe how changed things had become and I just finally had enough. I was fed up with being the kind of woman I swore I'd never become.