Showing posts from 2013

Embracing the Darkness

I don't know about you, but right now, my Facebook feed is filled with reminders that This Season Is Supposed To Be A HAPPY One, Dammit!

One friend writes of how she is trying hard to keep in mind all she has to be grateful for while in the midst of personal struggle. Another jokingly insists that her friends be joyful so as not to ruin the season for others. My dear friend and fellow blogger Jordinn has written a lovely post reminding herself to be still and quiet in this season of darkness.

Friends, the winter holidays are the season of joy and peace and love! But as Jordinn finally remembered, it's also the season of darkness and quiet. This is a season of rebirth, yes! But it is also a season of death. And while we often find joy in the new beginning, we must also honor our need to grieve.

So when weariness crashes through you, when you are overwhelmed by all there is to do, give yourself permission and space to experience those feelings for which we are so often shamed by…

Facing discomfort, finding the gifts

On escorting Saturdays, I always find myself driving to the clinic with a sense of dread. I'm going to be yelled at and scowled at. I'm going to feel awkward, never really knowing what to say to the women I'm escorting, but needing to talk to drown out the screamers.

But I have resolve - this is my commitment, and I'm going to do it, no matter how uncomfortable it is. As bad as it is for me, it's so much worse for those women who have to walk past the protestors, and without me, they're alone.

And so I go. And once I'm there, I am washed in the feeling of fighting the good fight. I remember why I do this work, and I feel good for living my values, for walking my talk. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be even a moment of peace and compassion in this tumultuous time in a woman's life - and often in the life of her partner as well. Every week that I escort, I come away with stories, stories of women and families, that touch my heart and som…

Letter to the Unitarians

Mandie's Letter to the Unitarians1

Friends, I want to discuss what you and this community have to offer to one another and the world. Before you found community, you were working in the world alone, but the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

I will come back to that, but before I go on, I want you to understand that there is goodness inside everyone, and those who say and do evil things are not evil but bruised, broken, and in pain; and those who say and do good things are not better than the others, but they have been held and healed with love and understanding. And these two people are sometimes one person and they are always every person.

Now, there are many different talents, but we use them for good because there is goodness within us, and there are many kinds of service, but we all serve each other, and there are many ways to help, but it is that same inner goodness that motivates everyone.

Each person has a different gift that can benefit the common good. …

Into the River

The last session of my Domestic Violence Advocacy training course was about preventing and overcoming compassion fatigue, by knowing our limits, and practicing self-care of a broad scope. In the course of conversation, many books, videos, and other resources were suggested. One book from which excerpts were read called out to me, and I bought it at my very next opportunity. It's a bit of a devotional, with short entries divided up by date. Today's started with this story:

It is said a great Zen teacher asked an initiate to sit by a stream until he heard all the water had to teach. After days bending his mind around the scene, a small monkey happened by, and, in one seeming bound of joy, splashed about in the stream. The initiate wept and returned to his teacher, who scolded him lovingly, "The monkey heard. You just listened." ~quoted from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo As I read this passage, my heart began to beat faster. Yes, this, it seemed to be saying. I cont…

My 48-hour training begins

Note 1: I extend deep gratitude to my lovely friend Amy, who sponsored my training. Though modest, the cost exceeded our budget, and this important work I'm doing would not be possible without her contribution. ♥

Note 2: While I will usually refer to the victims and survivors of domestic violence as female (most are), I recognize, as do the training materials, that many victims are GBT men, and some are heterosexual men. 

My state mandated Domestic Violence Advocacy training (in order to volunteer at the local shelter) began this morning, and already, I'm learning so much. The training is comprised of eight 6-hour sessions, each jam-packed with lectures, notes, role-play, videos, and more. I filled four pages with notes today, even on top of what I was given in handout form. I've made some of the more pithy statements into graphics. Feel free to share/pin/etc if you feel so moved. More below.

I thought ahead and packed a lunch, but after the morning's discussion and in …

Our children are "just" themselves

When my oldest child, Quentin, was younger, we knew he was a little different. He was precocious, talked like an adult, and while he loved people, he didn't seem to have any sense of social graces. Since he was only about two, we didn't think too much of it. 
Sometime between ages 2 and 7, my husband and I came across a description of Asperger Syndrome, and it was like a lightbulb went off. "Ohhhh," we thought. "That explains so much about our kid." In what may be typical confirmation bias style, we continued to notice more and more about him that seemed to fit the AS profile. But it was never a big deal, just a way for us to understand him, and we didn't seek a diagnosis because we didn't need one. 
During his seventh year of life, we started to notice that his speech patterns (particularly a "reverse stutter" and halting speech) were starting to interfere in his ability to effectively communicate his thoughts. He seemed anxious, and was…

The story of my "cause"

Yesterday morning, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across this post, "An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation," pleading with the (Christian) church to be more progressive on LGBTQ issues. I admit that I guffawed a little at the idea that *that* would ever happen, growing up as I did in an extremely conservative Lutheran Church.

When I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade, the pastor of my church taught my co-ed confirmation class, and I have a powerful memory of the class in which he taught that homosexual men and women defecate and urinate on one another to derive sexual pleasure. On Confirmation Sunday, when there were many guests come to see this right of passage, he chose to preach not the gospel, but hellfire and damnation for Gays.

At seventeen, I discovered the Original Soundtrack of the musical RENT, and the culture shock I experienced cannot be overstated. I think I listened twice before I realized that Angel (my favorite chara…

Five Minute Friday: Broken

"Cars break down and people break down and other things break down, too, so let's go down together." ~The Refreshments
This week's five minute friday prompt - Broken - doesn't bring to mind cars or material items or even promises. It brings to mind people. 
The world is broken. It is shattered into a million (billion) pieces, and all I want with my heart and soul right now is to put it back together again. Like the ever present egg, though, I'm afraid that if all the king's horses and all the king's men can't do it - well, how could I? 
But I need to begin. I need to wash out some wounds with water and peroxide. I need to put on a soothing salve and bandage. Even if it's just a paper cut on the finger of this world, it's something.
Because there is one thing I know about this word - Broken. It didn't make me think of myself, and there was a time, not so long ago, when it would have. I am not broken, not any more. 
I took a psychologica…

Five Minute Friday: Remember

Remember. Remember things you never knew. Remember what's deep inside the Universal Consciousness, those primal things that we know before we can know. Reflexes. Crawling to our mother's breast to eat. Crying, breathing, sucking. Is there something spiritual in there to be remembered? Should we remember those things? Do we have a choice?

Remember. Remember these moments. You always hear people talk about how happy they were when they were young, and they didn't know it. I know it. And I need to remember. This is why I take pictures, why I blog, why I Facebook the funny things my kids say and the sweet things they do. I heard  someone complain recently about how fake their friends' Facebook pages are - how they only ever post the good, happy, cheerful moments, and never the real, raw ones. Well, who the hell wants to remember those?! 
Granted, sometimes I think it would be nice if grandmothers and mothers and mothers-in-law would remember more about how hard it is to b…

Greek Civilization and UU Governance

When we officially return to homeschooling next fall, Quentin (my 8 year old) will begin reading age-appropriate translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Despite a few attempts, I have never read these myself, but was hoping to learn along with or a little ahead of my son. So when the opportunity presented itself to take a free online course through HarvardX this semester, entitled "The Ancient Greek Hero" and largely composed of the study of those two Homeric epics (come join me if you like, the class only started today, and is semi self-paced), I jumped at the chance.

The introduction to the course involves some discussion of the Ancient Greek world, political structures, and civilization in general. As I read, my brain was quick to make associations between the writing and the topics marinating deeper in my brain (about religion and Unitarian Universalism, in particular).

In The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours Professor Gregory Nagy begins to explain the Greek "city…

Homeschoolers at Heart

Lately, I've taken to tagging many of my Instagram pictures with #homeschoolersatheart. After all, we didn't stop being life-learners just because Quentin started attending public school. Both boys continue to ask fascinating questions, and we keep helping them learn to find answers.

This morning, around 7:45, after Luke had left for work but before it was time for Quentin to walk to school, Jude and I started talking about sex and gender. He has taken to calling boys "XY" and girls "XX" lately, after having watched a Bill Nye the Science Guy episode about genetics (or was it probability?). Jude, who sometimes decides he's a girl, thought that maybe his chromosomes change periodically. Quentin wondered what would happen if someone had two Y chromosomes, either together with an X or without any X. Then he wondered about having three Xs or just one.

Ask me how much I know about genetics. The answer is only the most basic jr. high level information. So how…

Five Minute Friday: Afraid

Like Baby in Dirty Dancing, I so often feel like I'm afraid of everything. Not afraid of losing the love of my life, but afraid of losing myself, or never finding the me that has been sitting inside waiting for me to discover her my whole life, or maybe the me I could be if I looked hard enough.

I'm afraid of being worthless. I'm afraid that being "just" a mom is not enough. I usually feel like a pretty good mom - except when I don't - but I'm a terrible housewife. I'm lazy. I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF that is supposed to be done, and who has the energy to even begin when the task is so very unconquerable?

I'm afraid to take time for myself. Because usually what that means in another bath, or another hour or two on the computer, doing absolutely nothing - or working - neither of which really feed my soul. That's something I realized today - that "me time" doesn't just mean time to do whatever you please. I'…

my Self.

When I started this blog, I thought it would be a typical photographer's blog, with samples of my work and my commentary on that work. But then I thought, "why not make this blog that is named after me BE about me?"

This is my art.

This is my religion.

This is my family.

This is my SELF.

I hope you've been enjoying it, even though I tend to go on tangents, even though I tend to post again and again about a subject for awhile, even though I have three photo sessions I haven't yet blogged and another to shoot tomorrow that will be added to the queue.

I have something for you today that is a combination of my photography, some design work (what?!) - FB banners and photos, and my faith, my spirituality, my religion. All but the last two are made with my own photos. Enjoy.
edited to add: All of these designs are free to use for noncommerical purposes. They can shared on Facebook from the UU Media Collaborative Works FB page (lots of other great work there, too!). Credi…

In observance of Roe v Wade

If you've been reading this blog, you know I volunteer as an escort at a local women's health clinic that twice a week provides abortions. My job is to shepherd women into the clinic -- walking them from their cars to the door and making small talk to help drown out the shouts of the protestors.

On this 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which led to the right of women to a safe and legal abortion, I've written a guest post for a fantastic new Unitarian Universalist blog, Raising Faith.

The story begins like this:

One cold Saturday morning, I arrived at the clinic before the doors were unlocked. The protesters were already setting up with their thermoses full of coffee and rosaries at the ready. Idling in the pull-up driveway was an old, boxy sedan full of people.

In the front seat were a man and woman looking to be in their 40s, heads bent toward each other, talking softly. Crammed in across the bench seat in the back were four exuberant child…