Thursday, March 29, 2012

Because of Taxes, We are Taking a Time-Out to Think Happy Thoughts

Well, the Vagabond was working on her taxes today.  It was quite the event to get all the W-2s sent to my current address, considering the number of times we've moved in the last year and a half.

(Let's see... moved from West Hartford to Hartford to escape sewage leak because there's not enough bleach in the universe to convince me to ever shower in a tub that held raw sewage... and then from Hartford to Oregon, where our furniture was held hostage by an Evil Giant moving company for over a month meaning that we made friends mostly by being loaned kitchen items, then from temporary place to place with garage... I swear just the sight of cardboard boxes makes me cry right now.)

Anyway, I was doing my taxes and feeling poor and sorry for myself.  Being clergy, I never get big refunds.  (I always see those commercials of the people discovering they are getting thousands of dollars in tax refunds, and I never, ever do.)  And I've noticed a lot of us little guys from all occupations seem to be getting a tough break on our taxes this year, judging from what I see on Facebook.

Yet a good friend of mine who has been dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which she has a much better name for) has some great advice:  Keep your eyes on your own paper.

In other words, don't worry about how you stack up in light of other people and just worry about making sure that your own heart and mind is in the right place.

So I am going to force myself to think happy thoughts...

A) We live in a tiny townhouse, with an amazing view.  I had a large house once, and I hated it.  The house itself was awesome... but it was so huge and drafty and we only had enough furniture for half the downstairs.  That left a lot of creepy empty space.  Man, am I glad that I didn't know of True Blood in those days.

B) I inherited my dad's cheap genes, so it doesn't take a lot of cash to make me feel giddily rich.  Even just $20 in my wallet in cash does the trick.  I'll order my Borgia and take 90 minutes to drink it and feel ever so flush.  M lucked out because I'm such a cheap date that a homemade picnic always does the trick with me.  Except for the occasional sushi and martini cravings...

C) M is a very funny person to live with.  True story... sometimes I get really annoyed with M because I always considered carrots and celery a staple, for a quick mirepoix.  But it doesn't matter how many carrots or celery I buy.  I'll hear munch-munch-munch sounds from the kitchen, or wake up at 1AM to see a light from the stairs, and I'll head to the kitchen to find M, all guilty-like, with a salad of celery and a vinaigrette.  It's his naughty secret.  He's a closet celery eater.  It means I have to hide the freakin' celery if I want to be sure I'll have some for a dinner dish!

D) We are 10 bike minutes from the marshy regions and the country roads which make for delightful bike riding.  It means I can take awesome pictures of rainbows and mountains and wild animals and post them on Facebook and because most of you don't know this town that well, it looks like I'm somewhere totally adventurous and wild.

E) We already own a vacation home.  It's the size of a queen size air mattress, and requires staking.  We bought it when we started dating, and that little vacation home has given us some of most amazing views I've ever seen in my life.  In fact, we are taking the Vacation Home to Yellowstone for our 5th anniversary this year.  (Get it?  We're going to go see Old Faithful.  For our anniversary.  Ha ha ha ha.)
The Vacation Home set up on its first camping trip.  

Yep, that's getting my Vagabond brain back in order.  For me, I just have to force myself to remember sometimes that I'm actually exactly where I want to be in life, even if it doesn't look like a traditional life.   I wish you all have something to be joyful for in your lives.  Get out there and readjust those brains, even if you have to force it.  It's good for us!  
One of the views from the Vacation Home.  We have to remind our selves that stuff like this is out there, right? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Shoes!

So, when birthdays happen, presents are often exchanged.  Back when I was single, I would give myself a birthday present.  But I usually wouldn't buy it until after my birthday because I knew I'd lose patience and peek.  Actually, one year, I gave myself a KitchenAid stand mixer.  Which I bought on sale, with a coupon.  Two months late.

I'm the gift giver everyone warns their spouse about.

Thankfully, M is better than that.  Granted, he's still a typical guy, and so I give him a list of suggested items ranging from ridiculously expensive to make-your-frugal-grandma-happy cheap.  He knows I'll be happy with anything anywhere on the list, and I still get a surprise.  

So what would get a triathlete excited?

I'll give you a hint: heck yeah, it's a bike.  But I did not ask for a bike on the list.  I just love bikes, that's all.   

M gave me a gift card to the Eugene Running Company, which I'm becoming fond of as a store for all things running.  Shoes indeed are toys because you do fun things in them, and experiences because of all the neat places you go to run, and things to wear.

As it turned out, the man had combined the guidance of The List with a developing skill of reading hints.  I had written "tri toys!"  on The List.  But I'd also been complaining for a month or two about how I thought I needed new running shoes.  My old ones looked like this.

The black laces are Yankz, which every triathlete and runner should have.  If you want to be cool.
And to put your shoes on really, really fast.  

Let's just say when I showed them to the employee at the Eugene Running Company, her jaw dropped in disbelief and she started laughing.  She said when she saw me outside, she thought I was carrying running flats.

These are my new shoes.

They are so bright, I can run in the dark and I"m sure the ground will be lit up from the brightness of the yellow soles alone.  They are also more flexible and a little lighter than my old ones.

Injuries are Sneaky and They Suck

I can't wait to get out there and start trying them out!  I am on two weeks enforced rest while we try to figure out what is going on with my ongoing cranky, sore hip.  Something clearly didn't heal quite right after the latest crash- it has a bad tendency to get stabbing sore pains (like my healed broken hand does), so I'm suspecting it's some sort of scar tissue or adhesions or something very athletic and hardcore like that.  I suggested a month of 4 times a week hot buttered stone massages with hot towel wraps and a 6 foot tall, blond, muscled masseuse named Ivan.  The doctor prescribed, instead, two weeks of rest (no yoga, pilates, bike, or run!  At all!!), anti-inflammatories, and icing.

Icing.  Hmph.

Happy running, everyone!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Cool Birthday Coming UP

I'm turning 33 this week.  I've been excited about turning 33 for a while.  It's a pretty nice looking number, and it's solidly in the middle of my 30s, which is the age where we seem to get to start to achieve some of the dreams we've spent our 20s working towards.  (I.e., I can see a light at the end of the tunnel of debt payoffs and we now have space for a dog).

I also turn 33 on March 17.  Have I ever thanked my mom for teaming up with me for a cool birthday like March 17?  Well, then.  Thanks, mom!  Good work!  Excellent timing.  And thanks for not naming me Patricia.  It's a great name, but a Patricia on St. Patrick's Day?  Cheeeezy.

And... um, no pressure, family, but 33 has been the birthday I've been looking forward to for years.  You guys should call me on the phone on Saturday to wish me a happy one.  I'm actually excited about this birthday.  I can't remember when I was actually excited about my birthday.  This time, I want a freakin' party.

It's a little strange, though.  As a kid, I was promised this world where all I had to work was work hard enough and I could do anything, have anything, and be anything.  I would have the world at my fingertips and security and freedom like the world has never known.

Instead, I am living out my adulthood in a giant economic downturn (WHY is this not a depression, again?).  I have a good job that I love, but there's no way I'm planning to buy a house.  The rollercoaster economy and its neighboring ride, the Home Prices Slingshot, just scares me too much.  I grew up in a fairly large house with a yard, and always figured I'd buy before I was 30.  I'm a little surprised to find myself at 33 not only living in an apartment, but too afraid to even consider looking at home prices.  (Besides, for the last 15 years, we were building our houses too big.  2000 square feet was great for my family of five... but for two of us?  We'd be lost.  I'm waiting for either the small houses movement to gain more traction, or for Louisiana State University to give me a birthday present of Beau Soleil, the Solar Decathlon house I've been in love with since 2009.

No one has yet cured cancer.  In the last few months, several types of cancer have taken several friends and family members of friends.  In particular, I am really pissed off with lung cancer right now.  It's so fast, it seems people get diagnosed one day and are dead a month later.  I hate it.  I really hate what that disease does to people.

So it's an exciting, happy week, but it's coming in the middle of some of the greatest sadness that people can know.  I'm a little conflicted about the celebrations.

Monday, March 5, 2012

When "Sorry, didn't mean it" Doesn't Work Anymore

In the Christian bible, there's a story about a woman who had a "hemorrhage" for 12 years.  That means she had female problems and bled for 12 years, making her unclean.  Now I don't need a show of hands from you for how many women out there have an embarrassing period story.  And I can bet there's plenty of men who would pay money not to hear those stories told.  But the story of the woman with a hemorrhage who touched Jesus' cloak wasn't about healing.

It was about shame.  It was about being cast off, and then re-claimed as a full human being into community.

Plenty of people out there are talking about Rush Limbaugh's half-baked "apology" to Sandra Fluke, the young woman he called a slut and a prostitute on a national media platform.

By now I'm guessing that everyone has heard that Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut because she wants her insurance to cover her birth control prescription.  Apparently, Limbaugh believes that he is her doctor, and thus feels he is qualified to pass medical and moral judgement on her.  As the backlash continues, he now wants us to believe that he feels sorry for calling her a slut and a prostitute in public.

This isn't a story about a foolish old man using incomplete information to pass unfair judgement on a young woman he doesn't know.  The fact that we are discussing prescription birth control in a political field, to me, means that we are once again seeking ways to shame women for their reproductive system.  That is a tale as old as time itself.  It was a damnable story then, and it remains so today.

Let's take a minute- because some girl has to stand up for the other girls- and point out that many girls- virgins, even!- are prescribed birth control pills to help with female disorders.  The woman with a hemorrhage who bled for 12 years isn't a myth.  Dysmenorrhea (bleeding too much).  Irregular cycles.  Horrible cramps.  Acne.  PMS.  Birth control pills and their low levels of hormones have been helping young women to deal with these problems for years.  Even today, a woman can actually have a period that lasts for months at a time if she is not getting proper treatment.

Birth control prescriptions are one way that thousands of women with "female problems" reclaimed their lives.  The fact that they can wear white pants and walk down the street without being labeled "unclean" is a gift of science.  The fact that we allow them to wear white pants and walk down the street in open society is a gift that Christian people ought to have from their faith: Jesus simply reclaimed the unclean woman.  She was freed from her shame.

But my biggest problem?

Limbaugh's "apology" sounds suspiciously like  "I didn't really mean it".  Oh, give me a break.  He's been in the public eye for years and years.  He's a professional on the radio.  I'm a little small-city priest, and I know that words have power.

Words have power to shame or to reclaim.

As a priest, I'm aware that I'm a public figure, whether I like it or not, despite my stage fright.  And thus, I mean every damn word I say in public- sermons, newsletters, blog posts, emails, Facebook posts.  "I didn't realize this word could insult you" and "I didn't really mean it" is never a valid excuse for a public figure.  When your words are put out in the public domain, you have no excuse but to mean everything you say.

To say "My choice of words was not the best" and "I was trying to be funny" is public speaking malpractice.  We've all at times tried a joke that fell flat or massaged our words because the audience hears them in ways you hadn't fully intended... but Limbaugh is a professional, and words like "slut" and "prostitute" are cheap shots. "I was trying to be funny" also falls flat.  I tried that once, in 4th grade.  At the time, I had a terrible lisp and got into a shoving match with a little boy.  Angry, I screamed loudly, "You're a sucker!  You suck! You suck!  You're a big fat sucker!"  Sadly for me, my "S" sounds at the time came out more like "F" sounds.  It ended badly, with me in detention in tears.  "I was trying to be funny" didn't fly then, either.  (Of course, what mean teacher keeps a kid with a lisp for an hour after school?  Especially when the lisping child simply cannot explain why she cannot enunciate the "S" sound.  But I digress.)

"I was trying to be humorous" is a child's excuse, and it has no place in the public eye, coming from a person whose job is to be on the radio discoursing opinions.  Oh, no.  He meant what he said.  He meant to call Sandra Fluke denigrating names.  He meant to use that violent language to villify someone he'd never met, who was asking to have her insurance cover a medication she is taking for reasons best discussed between her doctor and herself... and certainly not reasons to which Limbaugh is privy.  No, he intended to use the language he chose.

He intended to insult and shame her.  He meant to attempt to hijack her right to her own medical decisions, and he meant to make her ashamed because she is a young woman.

This is what I see going on here.  Systemic violence towards women in action and language is old, old news.  Violence starts with language, and it's simply not appropriate.  It's not appropriate on the playground when we are nine.  It's not appropriate when we are grown-ups.  It's not appropriate coming off the radio.  In the Christian bible, we have a story about a man we claim as our Messiah who put a stop to shaming.  Quite frankly, if you claim Christianity, that is the sort of behavior I expect from you.

It's a high bar.  I'll give you a moment to crane your neck.

So I hope this backlash continues.  I hope Limbaugh continues to lose sponsors.  I hope people keep speaking up in support of Sandra Fluke.  I hope the President keeps calling women on their personal cell phones to tell them they have his support.  I hope that someone, someday, reassures me that I have support, as a woman, to exist. I hope we allow the calmer heads of science to continue to help women live better lives.  I hope we have the poetry of our faith to lend conviction to our use of science.

And I hope that people of faith lift their voices to reclaim all people into the beloved community.