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Why growing up in a church home can really hurt – part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about Orlando and about how so many pastors condemned the dead and not the shooter. It brought back a lot of bad memories of growing up in church and hiding for all the years before I came out and had to leave the church or rather, they left me.

I was raised in the largest Presbyterian church in the US at the time. We always had a minimum of 5 pastors, an executive pastor, an asst, a pastor that did hospital visits, a youth pastor, a college pastor and we also had Christian ED heads, usually the only woman on the executive staff and a Minister of Music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Presbyterian_Church_of_Hollywood

There were a multitude of choirs and we were world famous for the one that ranked the highest. I started in Carol Choir and moved up to the all girl Lyric choir in Junior high, I was also in a special choir that sang at Junior Church, Wylie Chapel Choir during second service which was supposed to be an honour to be asked to be in but most of us were choir brats whose parents were in the main choir, The Cathedral choir. There was also a High School choir and a choir that was a mix of people not good enough to be in Cathedral Choir and college kids that I skipped called the Chancel Choir and got into Cathedral Choir after High School and I was in the Sunday night choir called the Happening, (hey it was the 70s.) and we got to sing more modern music. We also had a bell choir for each age group and I was in those along with my brother and eventually my sister.

We started Sunday School at 2 years of age and started learning the Bible and memorizing to for awards, a Bible in third grade, filling up shields with memorized passages, (they were shields because they represented the armour of God). This why the holy rollers and Bible beaters can’t get far with me because I usually know the Bible better than they do. I was in Church every Sunday and at Bible Study during the week when I was older. We took catechism in 7th grade to become members of the church and that was the first big time I was aware that maybe I didn’t fit in. I had feelings before this about it. I had difficulty memorizing and Saturday nights before I had to recite some new thing were absolute torture, if I couldn’t sing it I had real trouble remembering  it. I felt really bad about it. I was told I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The year I joined the church I had to make some decisions. At the time I was dad’s punching bag when he got mad and I decided to tell the Elder that interviewed us to join about it and I did and I was told to honour my father and mother in all things. So I made my first act of rebellion. I refused to get baptized when I joined the church. Presbyterians dedicate their babies to raise them in the church and you are supposed to be baptized when you join the church. I told my parents it was because I didn’t want to get up in front of the church which shouldn’t have made any sense since we had to be in the front of the church to join and I was in front all the time when I was in choir and when I did other things but they bought it, even though my best friend was doing it.

My Dad was Head Usher, he was an Elder, he had been a Deacon. He had status in church and I did not. My mom was in Cathedral Choir, and was at one point, President of the Women’s Auxillary, She was President of Elder’s Wives and when women were allowed to be Deacons and Elders she became a Deacon. Wives and husbands couldn’t be Elders or Deacons at the same time. They were in their adult Sunday School classes. Mom was also the Executive Secretary for the Minister of Music. She had status.

We were in church at least 3 days a week, usually more. The only respite I got was summer when I was with my grandparents who for some reason did not go in the summer. That was when we took trips to be in nature. That was when I became a sponge to what my grandmother was teaching about nature and faeries and family stories. That was when I was free.

About 7th grade I became aware that I liked girls way more than the girls around me who liked boys. So not only did what they were teaching in church make me in uncomfortable but the only kind of church I felt at home in was when we went to camp.

They sent us to some conference where the minister yelled about the evils of holding hands and kissing boys and I felt relieved because I had no desire to do it anyway.

I would sit in Sunday School and make up questions to ask my Sunday School teachers. Miss Pringle was our 7th grade Sunday School teacher. She was older than God and had no business teaching a bunch of 12 year olds in the late 1960s. We were smarter than her and we knew it. I remember asking why is was okay for Mary to be an unwed mother and not us? She freaked out at the question and scolded all of us. This was on my mind because my mother has started going on about being an unwed mother and that it would be the worst thing in the world if I did that. Since I didn’t like boys, I found it amusing.

But I was feeling more and more alienated and out of place and the feeling only grew as I got older. No one ever told me there was such a thing as lesbians and this was pre-Stonewall. I only ever heard about gay men and how it was so sad about them being “HOMOSEXUALS” even though I could see Jim in my mom’s choir was anything but sad and I loved him because he was always encouraging me to try new things like design needlework patterns. He loved to needlepoint and at the time I did a lot of it too.

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My heart is broken

Yesterday at Faire, I was reading my stories to everyone and this was the next one I had picked to read and standing there I just couldn’t read it. Now I wonder if I should have. So here it is,  and it’s dedicated to my gay brothers and sisters who died because of someone’s hate celebrating their pride and love.

The Littlest Druid finds the good in the bad.

Aisling looked around at what was left of the tiny village, everywhere around her the building’s roofs smoked. Household goods were strewn over the landscape. People lay where they had been slain. The marks of the weapons clear to be seen. There was nothing here for a healer to do.

She looked at the other druids around her. Some were in tears, some were in shock, some were angry. Aisling wasn’t sure how she felt, numb?

In the middle of the night a young boy had come yelling into the Druid village about the sea raiders that had come to his village up the coast to the north. The Chief Druid had quickly roused all the people old enough to help and they had come as fast as their ponies would go but it wasn’t in time. It looked like the boy was the last one left from his village.

Aisling looked at a loom in pieces on the ground and the half finished wool blanket in slashed hunks around it. She could see it would have been beautiful when it was finished with all the colours of sea and sky in brilliant hues. It made her sad. What made people think that they could come and harm a small village? Aisling’s heart hurt.

She could see an abandoned butter churn milk and butter left to curdle on its own. Ravens and crows gathered in the trees above some of the cottages as if waiting for a meal and she was glad her Raven was back home and not here. She couldn’t stand the thought of her being part of this.

The blacksmith must have run to his forge and laid about with his big hammer but it had done no good but she could see he had taken some of the raiders with him to the Summerland.

The older men went to build a pyre to burn the dead. The ravens and crows would get no meal here today. She wondered if the raiders had taken anything of value or if the reason the devastation was so bad was because the village was so poor. It made no sense at all to her and the tears ran down her face.

What made some people do this? No one in this village had done any harm. They had lived quiet lives. They sometimes sold their extra crops to the Druid village. The Chief Druid put his arm around Aisling and gave her a hug.

“Why? Why do people do this?” she asked him. The Chief Druid looked around and shook his head.

“I don’t understand it myself.” He said. “But it makes me cling to the good I can see. Some people want what others have. Some people think they have the only way. Some people just enjoy doing evil.”

“But what’s the good in this?” Aisling asked. She couldn’t see anything good at all.

“Hamish is alive, he’ll have a broken heart but he is alive. People came to help even though there was nothing they could do about the raiders. People will rebuild this village together and new people will help Hamish rebuild the village and his life. This village will be able to show its best hospitality again as is our way.”

People were now starting the clean up around them. Stacking timbers, collecting the things that were spread around the village. Someone was herding the sheep that had been on the hill above the village. One of the women was getting ready to milk the village’s last living cow. The cow was not happy, She should have been milked hours ago. The cow had blood on her horns and none of it was hers. The cow had obviously fought in the battle. Aisling wondered if it was one of Brighid’s cows since it was red and white.

Aisling went to start help collecting the goods left around the village. Maybe they could collect enough to put one household back together for Hamish. Someone had said his grandparents and an aunt and uncle had been sent a messenger. Would they want to settle here?

She looked towards the fields that appeared to be untouched. The oats were just starting to grow and the fields were aglow with the green of new growth. Would Hamish’s family tend them? It was strange to see such a strong symbol of life when she knew if she turned around she would see the blacks and grays of destruction.

Aisling collected a set of wooden bowls, some linens from where they had been dumped. She found someone’s prized bronze pin of a wild boar. It had a broken clasp but she thought it could be mended again and worn with pride. As the day went on the village started to look more like it would have life again.

Men were up on the thatched roofs pulling down the old straw and the burnt parts so they could be re-thatched. They had found the village thatcher’s store of straw and reed in an outside shed.

Some women from the next village were washing out the cottages and mixing white wash. Soon the cottages wouldn’t show any burn marks.

Aisling was near the back of one of the cottages when she heard a soft cry. She looked around to see where the noise was coming from. There was a pile of old abandoned clothes she guessed wasn’t good enough to steal and gently went over to sort through when she heard it again. This time she could hear that it was a mew. And she dug through the pile. Nestled under someone’s old tunic was a tiny black kitten. Its eyes were barely open. Aisling looked around quickly to see if there were any more but this one was alone.

Aisling cradled the kitten to her chest, it crawled up to her shoulder and nestled into one of her long red braids. So there was still life in the village, she thought. The kitten purred into her ear as she gently stroked its back and she wondered how long it had been since it ate. She headed over to where the woman was taking care of the cow, she had tied it to the outside of the pig sty.

Aisling had grabbed a napkin and fashioned into the shape of a nipple. Maire took one look at the kitten and grabbed the napkin. “I see someone needs to be fed here at least,” and dipped the napkin in the bucket of milk and handed it back to Aisling. “Are you ready to be a mathair?”

Aisling nodded and looked at the kitten as it greedily sucked on the napkin, at least one good thing had happened this day. She looked at the kitten. The Chief Druid was right, it had felt good to help even when she wished it hadn’t been necessary, but there is always some good with the horrid. It just can be hard to find.

“I’m naming ‘Nuadh Bheath’. ‘New life’ seems a good name, Beo for short? Do you like that?” Aisling looked down at the purring sleepy kitten and smiled for the first time that day.

Why #I stand with Ahmed

If you wonder why I’m so mad about the way Ahmed has been treated, there are two reasons.

The first is that I was a geek kid that people got weird around. They would complement me on my smarts and then act like they were a little frightened of me, particularly some of my parent’s friends. I didn’t act like a kid. I was fairly solemn and quiet and that weirds adults out. It never occurred to them that because I couldn’t see very well even with glasses that I might be trying to figure out exactly what was going on or that I knew they were weirded out and pulling their chain. Bad combination in a child.

One of the first things I ever got a whopping of a spanking for was taking apart an alarm clock. It glowed in the dark and was probably laced with radium because it was really bright and it was loud. I wanted to know quite literally, what made it tick, so I completely disassembled it and of course being about 4 years old, couldn’t quite get it back together. I managed one of dad’s screw drivers to take it apart but not enough to screw it back together. It’s always easier to take something part you shouldn’t than get it back together. Because I was both a night owl and a dawn riser at the time I had way too much time on my hands and it got me in trouble often, (We won’t talk about the incident with lipstick, nail scissors and my mother’s purse).

Anyway, I think both mom and dad got their licks in on that one. I think one of the reasons was they had already taken my brother to the ER once thinking he had swallowed the phonograph needle. I had removed it, again, to see how it worked. I could have told them that if they had bothered to ask me. Only got a swat for that but I think they were afraid he’d eat clock parts so that one was a bigger spanking. I think my dad’s spanking was for taking his tools without asking, but he had been showing me how to use them so…

Around that time things like Lincoln Logs and erector sets and finally when I was 6, I got the microscope and multitudes of science books were keeping me out of the household electrical devices.

So I understand the need for a kid to build or take things apart. If you’re curious and intelligent you want to exercise it and grownups can be incredibly stupid if they don’t know what you are doing and incredibly fun to mess with when they are being stupid but sometimes you just want to show what you can do and you scare them. Stupid, uncreative people are still the bane of my existence. There’s certain kind of stare they get when looking at you and it gets old really fast.

The second reason is that I was accused of making a terrorist threat several years ago when I worked at a company. A new member of my dept found out I was a witch at Hallows and harassed several people to go after me. They prayed over me at my desk. They went through my Disney cartoon a day calendar and removed all the witches from it. They would spout incorrect Bible verses and would get infuriated when I corrected them on the meaning, translation or if it was even in the Bible and not Shakespeare and they harassed anyone that tried to associate with me.

I did what any witch would do and put a protection spell on my workspace. It was tied to a tiny pentacle the size of dime on a post it under my monitor and not in plain sight. M, my chief harasser somehow found it mysteriously and reported it to our new manager who was a friend of hers from church. I was put on probation for that tiny pentacle in my desk because It allegedly terrified M. M outweighed me by about 100+ lbs and who was meaner than a snake was allegedly terrified of my tiny pentacle and there was not a damn thing at the time I could do about it. So about 6 months into my probation the company was bought by a company who had a very strong antidiscrimination policy and I figured I had nothing to lose in my misery so I went to the new HR and got an immediate response. They took me off probation, removed all mention from my file, moved M to another dept and made my manager go to sensitivity training and when she kept behaving badly, they took all of her employees away and gave her an tiny office in a closet and she left shortly after. So I know very well about being accused of being a terrorist because of your religion and it’s wrong and it hurts but you can fight and occasionally you can win.

I hope Ahmed wins big time and all those police officers and teacher have to eat their socks. You go Ahmed!

Note: if they were really so scared of his creation, how come no one called the bomb squad and they never evacuated his school if he was such a threat? No they just withheld his parents and harassed him because they could.

A thought on September 11

On September 11, 2001 in this country, Buddhists got up to go to work, Hindus got up to go to work, Jews got up to go to work, Muslims got up to got to work, Pagans got up to go to work and Christians got up to go to work and by the end of that day, one religion would be demonized and one religion would be out for blood. I will leave you to decided which was which. All I know is that the world changed forever that day and not for the better.

We have lost freedom in so many ways because a few men decided to hurt people they had never met and never broken bread with and never looked in the eye to see their humanity. This was an evil deed.

But the revenge of another set of religious fanatics caused just as much harm and set into position that most of us could not even imagine before that day of the Tower card of the tarot deck.

The Tower card is about catastrophic change that you are supposed to learn from? I’m afraid the US just learned how to hurt people more and for a few people it created enormous wealth, and all of them believing their Book is the real one and that their Book was the truth and all of them wrong.

There are many truths and no one person has the right to tell another there is only one truth and only one book or only one god and I can’t remember anywhere in that book where it says there is only one god, it doesn’t. It says it’s god is the right one among many.

Thou shalt have no other god before me for I am a jealous god – it flat out says there are other gods and that you must choose the Abrahamic god not that he is the only one.

In my father’s house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for  you – there are many gods and Jesus went to clear a place for his followers, it doesn’t say that heaven is only for his followers.

I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the father but by me. Again it doesn’t say there is only one god just that you should choose his father over others.

Now, fourteen years after that fateful world changing day. We live in a polarized world where one selfish bunch of twits say they are being persecuted while they persecute everyone they don’t agree with and call it freedom.

Another bunch of selfish twits across the ocean force their followers to kill everyone they don’t agree is practicing their religion in the RIGHT way. This leads to little three year olds dying on a beach instead of gleefully playing in those waves.

I hurt for the world I see now. I hurt for the children to come who may never know a peaceful world. I hurt for the world where people think it’s more important to kill their neighbor than love them. I hurt for the world that lives in fear of another fateful day instead of living this one for all it’s worth. We are never promised more than today and the people who died on September 11 and all those since then who have died learned that.

We have only today and really only the minute and hour we are living in. Nothing more and nothing less. Make this minute count. Can we live it in love? Can we live it in peace? Can we live it free from want or pain? Can we ease another’s want or pain? Can we live?