March 31, 2010

Just Checking In

Guys, it's crazy around here. I'm working ten-hour days all of a sudden, to prepare to leave for ten days to go home. Of course, it's Holy Week. Holy cow.

My parents are not doing well. My stepdad had a stroke, Mom is mentally fading, and my sister is crumbling under the burden of caring for them. I will be going down to ask the hard questions about future care, living wills, and their ability to handle the fading years ahead. My stepfather is getting therapy with a reasonably good prognosis; we're going to have to wrestle the car keys from Mom's tight grasp; and we've got to find new avenues for care and transportation, since my sister obviously cannot do this alone.

Abe and Sheba will be heading out to the west coast for a few days. That means Ben will be alone. During spring break. Temptation, anyone? We are going to have to trust him to set his own boundaries. He's eighteen. Deep breath.

So my posting will be light as I garner all the facts and inform all the siblings (eight, in this blended family). At least there will be sunlight and heat.

March 28, 2010

Today On Bilerico: Starting Over

You never know when it will hit: the muse for writing. I was in the car listening to NPR when a passing remark—I can't even tell you what it was—prompted me down a trail of thought about starting over. Memories stirred about a number of times I've begun anew. You can read about it here.

March 24, 2010

Nature By Numbers

This is a beautiful illustration of the patterns found in nature, explained mathematically.

Hat tip to Towleroad

March 23, 2010

Picture Album

This is just a miscellany post to report a few little things I've done lately.

My brother brought two of his five children to visit over their spring break. Kids #3 and #4 are seven and eight years old, the perfect age for our children's museum. The Indianapolis Children's Museum is the largest one in the world and frankly one of the few things well worth the visit. We've got a nice city but not a lot of WOW.

One item that is definitely WOW is the Chihuly installation in the core of the spiraling ramp of the museum. Dale Chihuly is at the top of the food chain in glass art, and this is his largest work in the world. These pictures do not do it justice.

The column of blown glass rises through four floors and contains 3200 pieces, each of which is a work of art. "Fireworks of Glass" is mounted on an armature of steel spikes, and each blown piece simply rests on a spike.

At the bottom of the tower of glass, four panels of clear acrylic are covered in 1600 more glass works of art, making a kaleidoscope viewed from underneath.

My pitiful photography can't show you the stunning blend of color and light. Can you tell that art glass is my favorite medium?

Last week Sheba and I and her friend went to see Great Big Sea at a local club. They are a Newfoundland folk band and a whole lot more fun than that sounds. Their sound has Celtic roots and the whole evening was one big party. (You can hear "When I'm Up" and "Ordinary Day" on my playlist in the side column.) What's more, there was no smoking, I didn't need ear plugs, and drinks were $4. I would have felt like I was back in college except for the fact that Sheba was probably the youngest one there. A woman next to me had also come with her daughter. I commented that I was probably the oldest person in attendance.

She waved in dismissal. "Oh, no. You and I have to be about the same age."

"I'm 56."


Sophie found a new toy in Ben's room. See the fun ball in her mouth?

This is what it really is. Every time she drops it the house resonates. I made Ben take it away.

March 20, 2010

The Future Of Publishing

From Penguin Publishing

Based on an idea originated in an Argentinian political advertisement. You need to stay through to at least the halfway point to see the real creativity.

March 19, 2010

Forgive And Forget?

On yesterday's Bilerico, Father Tony wrote an insightful editorial about the recent pedophilia scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church in South America, Ireland, and now Germany—which involves the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI. The entire subject is disturbing and Tony's view as a former Vatican insider is worth reading. I responded with the following lengthy comment:

Forgiveness is very complex. Having managed finally to forgive most of the people who have hurt me, I can attest to its power to release me from a stranglehold of resentment, anger or hurt. To forgive takes away the power of the act. It does not make me immune to future hurt, and because of that I cannot forget, I must not forget. I alone can protect my heart.

Having said that, I look at these men in power, and I see no repentance. I see corruption of power, which is what child abuse is all about. I know that we can forgive whether or not a person is repentant, and I have done so; but it is also where I fail.

I have not been able to forgive the man who molested me when I was a child. My experience was relatively benign compared to many I’ve heard. I cannot find it in my heart to forgive the man who made the sight of duct tape a trigger for someone [a friend] who will never recover from the horrific childhood that man inflicted. I cannot forgive the father of another friend who berated, beat and sexually abused a beautiful little boy who still exists terrified inside a man who finds no worth in himself. There are more stories with which I am intimate. These monsters are the only people on whom I wish revenge.

Obviously this has struck a nerve.

Forgiveness or its lack does not negate consequences. The priests who used their position of trust to gain power over children—whether those children were willing or not—must be held accountable in civil courts. The men who allowed them to continue to abuse must be held accountable in civil courts. The organization that protects itself must be held accountable.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church believes that it is the church. They are wrong: the people they serve are the church. (And neither one is God; another post.) When the leaders understand and exemplify the concept of servant leadership, the church will have returned to its Christian roots. Physician, heal thyself.

March 15, 2010

I'm Out

And I'm proud.

I just returned from a visit with my senior pastor in which I told him of my work on Bilerico. He was receptive and encouraging. Honestly, I expected nothing less. But I have kept a low profile for fear of interfering with the progress at my church. My stance on the subject of faith and sexuality is well-known now. Whenever I have spoken, I have made it clear that I speak as a member and not as a representative of the church, for fear of setting back our forward movement. But my pastor assures me that, in spite of a few who will never change their minds, he feels our congregation is welcoming and on its way to making it official. Maybe that timeline I originally figured—three to four years—isn't so far off after all. (I sat down with five pastors and presented my timeline in December of 2008.)

So now my immediate boss, some peers and the senior pastor know all about my writing for Bilerico. All are very supportive. It is such a relief to be able to talk about it!

Next: Facebook.

March 14, 2010

Sunday Shuffle

Haven't posted my tunes in a while.

1. Mona Ray / Leo Kottke
2. Smelly Cat / Phoebe Buffay
3. You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Rolling Stones
4. Sousa: Washington Post / US Marine Band
5. Riding Horses / Gustavo Santaolalla
6. Drift Away / Dobie Gray
7. What Hurts The Most / Rascal Flatts

March 11, 2010

Husbands And Husbands

Update: The video has been locked by its owner. It's gone viral, and I guess they were getting publicity they did not want. At a family gathering, a young boy asked for help washing his hands. His uncles (I think) were trying out a new camera and caught a moment of truth as the boy tried to figure out their relationship. "I know about wives and husbands! You're husbands and husbands?! So that means you love each other!" From the mouths of babes we hear the truth. This is the what the Religious Right fears?

Andrew Sullivan and a reader commented as well.

March 9, 2010

Rest In Peace, Mary

My stepmother Mary has died from natural causes after a very long life. I will be representing my siblings at her service tomorrow in Illinois. Her nephew says that Mary was ready to "go home" to the ones she loved and missed. It will be a somber moment in the midst of joy as we celebrate what was and what will be. Rest in peace, Mary.

March 4, 2010

Life Is Good

Last week started off with a bang (as noted in the previous post). It finished pretty well, too.

Abe was out of town on business and invited me to join him overnight. I was able to drive to Ft. Wayne and meet him for dinner and dessert. We ate at his favorite restaurant and then he took me to DeBrand Chocolatier's prime location. This is the source of those incredible turtles he brings home whenever he goes to Ft. Wayne. (They can't call them "turtles," as apparently the name is taken, so they call them "caramel pecan patties." These clusters have four legs, a head and a shell, but whatever.) We also sampled dark chocolate raspberry creams and a gorgeous egg-shaped truffle.

Every bite was a sensuous delight.

We had a lovely time together in the midst of his busy season. I headed back home, only to leave the next day to Terre Haute to see Sheba and bring the new mattress for her. (Saved $100 shipping and had time with daughter: priceless.) She showed me her new rental house and we had dinner at the local mall. Not much to choose from in Terre Haute, but we had a good time.

Sheba reminded me about Great Big Sea coming to town, so yesterday I bought a couple of tickets. Who's my lucky date for the night? We'll see.

March 1, 2010

Signs Of Life

It’s been quite the week upon my return from Florida. (Sorry to be silent for so long, but all is well.)

Last Monday the pastoral and program staff of my church met for the annual planning meeting, outlining the themes and events of 2010-11. In addition to the calendar, we talked about ourselves to get to know each other. In small groups of five, we were to name three things that are on our “bucket list.” I named the usual monetary goals, house and car and something else equally forgettable, but my third item depended on more than just me: I said I wanted to see our church’s welcome to the gay community in writing on our publications. Apparently our senior pastor overheard my remark.

Later, in the large group (of about 35), we were asked to finish this sentence: “I want our church to…” Two people spoke up pretty quickly. During a pause the senior pastor turned to me.

“Birdie, you have one.”

I looked at him. Did he mean what I thought he meant?

“I heard you say it earlier.”

So he did know what he was asking.

“I want our church to put in writing its welcome to the gay community.”

He wrote it on the list that would be made into meeting notes. I believe he wants it as much as I do and uses moments like this to remind the rest of the staff.

But wait! There’s more.

That evening was the monthly meeting of support for parents of LGBT children, which is being publicized now, several months after its inception. What’s more, the group dynamics have changed, and it is now for friends and family as well. That means I can be a member now instead of a guest. We have two more members as a result of the calendar listing, and more will come with the name change. The two new members are eager to join with me in an advocacy role and we may be forming a new group as a result. That can’t happen until fall, but meanwhile we might be able to enlarge our small group. I have been given staff permission to lead such a group (which, since I’m a member of staff, was in question). I’m very excited at the prospects.

But wait! There’s more.

A few days ago, a member of our church came to my office and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. She said the senior pastor told her to come see me.

Her nephew, age 19, just came out to his family, who is very conservative and upset. She is concerned for the boy and for his family and asked me what I recommended. We talked for a while as I determined where on the scale of understanding she lay. She was eager to learn more, and she is a beginner in her search. So I gave her three books:

• For the stories so important to changing the heart:

Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold

• For the beginner concerning sexuality:

Is It a Choice? Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gay and Lesbian People, by Eric Marcus

• And for questions about the Bible:

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, by Jack Rogers (a Presbyterian theologian)

I am excited by this because 1.) A wonderful and loving person wants to help her family come to grips with this, and her nephew will benefit; 2.) I’m seen as a resource by senior staff, something that I have hoped for; and 3.) I’m seeing progress! It has seemed soooooo sloooooow that I was beginning to wonder if we’d come to a standstill. (I know it will take years to do this right.)

My energy has been focused outward as a result of the glacial pace at my church, because I can’t stop just because some aren’t ready. I am so heartened by the events of this week, I can’t express it properly. I am energized once again.