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flickr creative commons shyviolet09

flickr creative commons shyviolet09

The early morning hours of my birthday, I woke up with the cat in one arm-crook and my husband in the other. I could hear them breathe.

The cat often enters the room when I stir, a nearly nightly ritual where I am wakeful and so is she. She leapt on the bed silently, with a tiny thump that is different than my husband’s leg when it moves as he dreams.

She often touches my nose, saying hello, and gets as close into me as possible, her fur sweet in my nose. Her low purr (she is a quiet cat) is sometimes a reward for stroking her neck the right way. She gathered up in the crook of my arm, head on my neck, like her life depended on it and I hold her, petting slowly so her rumbling voice will meet my pulse.

He, this man of my life, of 22 years, of past and present and future, lay beside me turned with his face towards mine, one hand on my belly, the other wrapped up in mine.

I rested, between the two, and matched my breathing to his, listening carefully for the cat’s little snore, my eyes open in the dusky light wondering about life and what my role in it meant.

The boys, children of ours just halfway grown, were still asleep and the day was ahead. They slept soundly still with the sleep of childhood where the deep deep lets you sink into it and you barely remember dreaming. It’s a sleep I envy them, only just a little. The trade off of adult freedom comes often out of sleep.

It was raining a slow steady rain. That felt like something good.

We had spent Friday hiking in a Texas park, not too far out of town, but far enough to feel like forever. The rain kept most travelers away, but it felt to me pristine and pure, water falling on a river, water falling on us, water falling on earth, washing away past and seeding the future.

Friday was Equinox, Friday was New Moon, Friday was Eclipse, Friday was power, and we all walked in the bright green grass, with the gray skies baptizing earth with eternal water, old water, ancient water, and we laughed and shivered and touched each other. We held hands and kissed the rain and laughed at our spontaneous ritual.

Later in that early birthday hour, with me placed perfectly between my bed partners while the rain issued down, thick and rich like honey? That hour was a prayer.

The purring and breathing and raining played in harmony as I drifted into hopes for the new year.

I felt like the luckiest woman on earth.

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An Interview With BedPosts

Jack Darling Photography

Jack Darling Photography

BedPost Confessions was honored to be interviewed by Becky Larson, for and their previews of events at SXSW. Check out the article here!

With the ever-increasing scale of SXSW Interactive has come ever-increasing scope. As technology evolves to touch all parts of our lives, so to has the conference grown to include a broad range of topics and fields in which technology has an impact.

This year, Interactive teams up with Bedpost Confessions to make it clear: Technology is impacting ALL parts of our lives…

Bedpost Confessions is an Austin-based, monthly storytelling performance in which participants share true stories dealing with gender, relationships, sex and sexuality. The stories range in tone from comical to thoughtful and everything in between. During the performances, audience members are asked to anonymously contribute their own meaningful or funny experiences to be shared on stage.

Keeping in the spirt of Interactive, during the panel the co-producers, Julie Gillis, Sadie Smythe and Mia Martina will be sharing, and asking the audience to anonymously share, their experiences with sex and technology; whether wacky or thought-provoking.

SXTX State reached out to the team to find out a little more about how the group got its start and what the producers hope their audience takes away from the performance.

Q: How did Bedpost Confessions get its start?

A: Julie Gillis: We all met through the internet and mutual friends, each of us writing about sexuality, gender and relationships. Since there wasn’t an erotic storytelling format in town, we all thought “Maybe we should pull a reading series together.” We developed a night at Spiderhouse, each of us reading our own work, and reading anonymous confessions from the audience. That combination took off and we’ve been performing to full houses ever since.

Q: How does a normal performance work? Are you always involving the audience (getting their stories)?

A: Sadie Smythe: A typical show features four storytellers and four sloSadiets of anonymous confessions. The confessions are the mainstay of the show – beforehand, we put “Confession” cards in the seats of the audience and ask them to write down their own anonymous sexual thoughts, fantasies and experiences. We then collect these confessions and read some of them on stage. This interaction is often the highlight of the show.

Q: When sharing audience “confessions,” you’re reading from both men’s and women’s points of view. Do you approach one any differently than the other?

A: Mia Martina: In terms of reading the confessions, and sexuality in general, our approach is a humanistic one. We want everyone, of all genders and orientations, to have a happy and healthy sexuality.

Q: Do you think the representation of sex and the direction the group takes are different than what the public is used to hearing/thinking about sex/sexuality? If so, do you think the fact that you’re a group of women has anything to do with the difference?

A: Julie Gillis: I do. I think sexuality in our culture is commodified to a very negative extent. Sex is sold in a fast food way in our culture; talked about like it’s something you have to have, yet something that’s dirty and wrong…We very rarely have first person genuine, vulnerable, and authentic accounts of the sweetness, confusion, hope, fears, and risk that goes into people trying to make sense of sex. We offer that authenticity and vulnerability in our show.

I’m not sure the difference is because we are women, but I think it’s also that we’ve each been explorers in our sexuality and have learned some things that we believe are vital to share. Our goal is to produce an entertaining show with humor and grace, which contains both ethics and education connected to gender, sexuality, orientation, and consensual relationships.

Q: Is it important that you ARE a group of women? Was that part of what you wanted for the group – to be women talking about sex?

A: Sadie Smythe: I don’t think that we needed or wanted for it to be a women-run show, that’s just how it turned out. We were all writers first and foremost, and it was because of this that we came together. We knew we wanted to create a space for ourselves to read our own work. After we had our first show and realized our concept was solid, we knew we would want to extend the invitation to others. I don’t know if us being women is important in terms of how we produce, but it might be important from the view of the audience member. And interestingly, most of our storytellers are women!

Q: Why are public performances like this important? What do you hope your audience takes away?

A: Mia Martina: We strive for the show to take the shame out of sexuality and sexual desires. We hope the audience will feel less isolated in sexual desires and struggles, inspired to try new things, and confident to start a conversation about sex with partners, friends, and most importantly themselves.

Q: What are some of the positive responses you’ve gotten?

A: Julie Gillis: We’ve been compared to a church where people go to share and connect. We’ve gotten personal emails from folks who have met a partner, or revitalized a relationship, explored a fantasy, or stopped dysfunctional behavior. We’ve seen performers bloom into new expressions of work, and audience members become politically active.

Q: Have there been any negative responses?

Sadie Smythe: We have occasionally received emails from folks who saw our show and were triggered in some way by what they heard. We always take this feedback very seriously and use it as an opportunity to educate ourselves. We strive to be as conscientious as possible and one of the ways we do this is through this feedback, positive or negative.

Q: Has any of the feedback you’ve gotten, positive or negative, changed the way you approach the show?

A: Mia Martina: Yes, absolutely. Everything from when the first guest arrives to when the last one leaves has been crafted based on 4 and half years of producing the show and taking into account feedback we get from the audience and from each other…We want every show to have a balance of entertainment and education about sexuality with a variety of voices speaking about sex.

Q: What made you want to want to speak at SXSW?

A: Julie Gillis: I think it’s a chance to show our work to a new audience and one from around the world. It’s an opportunity to humanize sex (while talking about how sex and technology have gone hand in hand) and to connect why sex is important to everyone.

Q: Does the scale of SX affect your planning or format for the performance?

A: Sadie Smythe: Our format is definitely affected, because for this show we only have an hour to represent what we typically do in two and a half. But we will feature three performers and at least two rounds of confessions.

Q: The audience at SXSW is invited to share stories of the intersection of sexuality and technology – can you give me an example of something that mixes the two?

A: Mia Martina: With just about every technological advancement, humans have found a way to make it naughty. It didn’t take long before video cameras were used for amatuer porn, before texting became sexting, and before the entire sex industry was turned on its head with the internet…The possibilities are endless and we are looking to hear confessions from the audience on all of it.

Q: What are your hopes for your group coming out of SXSW and what impact are you most hoping to make on the audience?

A: Julie Gillis: I’d love to get the opportunity to take our show on the road and reach other cities, especially cities in the south and midwest. And, if nothing else, I hope that by telling our own tales, we let people in the audience know that their own stories are worth sharing.

When & Where

Sunday, March 15
3:30PM – 4:30PM

Austin Convention Center
Next Stage
Austin Convention Center

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Women’s History Month

Artist Anabel Gomez

Artist Anabel Gomez

Today is March 1, 2015, the first day of Women’s History Month, and the theme is Weaving The Stories Of Women’s Lives.

The website asks the important question, “Why Women’s History?”

The NWHP answers that question with a quote and a fantastic tour of their site:

Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less. ~ Myra Pollack Sadker

History helps us learn who we are, but when we don’t know our own history, our power and dreams are immediately diminished.

Multicultural American women are overlooked in most mainstream approaches to U.S. history, so the National Women’s History Project champions their accomplishments and leads the drive to write women back into history.

Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.

With an emphasis on positive role models and the importance of women from all backgrounds, the NWHP has developed a nationwide constituency of teachers, students, parents, public employees, businesses, organizations, and individuals who understand the critical link between knowing about historical women and making a positive difference in today’s world.

The NWHP is the catalyst, the content provider, the behind-the-scenes director of a myriad of activities promoting women as leaders and influential forces in our society. For over 30 years, the NWHP, founded in Santa Rosa, California, has established a nationwide presence as the number one resource for information and material about the unfolding roles of women in American history. The NWHP leads both local and national efforts, consults, publishes, distributes, inspires, advises, and networks with a wide variety of institutions and activists in the field.

Every year in March, the NWHP coordinates observances of National Women’s History Month throughout the country. The NWHP originated this widely recognized celebration and sets the annual theme, produces educational materials, and chooses particular women to honor nationally for their work. Women’s History Month programs, community events, plays, essay contests, and related projects often have wide-ranging effects.
Every year the NWHP, in conjunction with academic institutions, holds workshops and conferences that highlight the role of women in particular areas, such as the Women of the West. These collaborative symposiums provide important opportunities for sharing research and stories about women’s roles, struggles, and successes today and throughout our history.

The NWHP also operates an award-winning web site, which makes information about women available and widely accessible. The site,, attracted over one million visitors last year making it the leading destination of its kind. Ongoing expansion and updating keep the site relevant and easy for students, journalists, and anyone else to use. Materials can also be ordered through the NWHP’s extensive online store.

In our own personal lives, the NWHP encourages discovering stories about our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers to help us better understand their lives, the challenges they faced, and ultimately, ourselves and our own times. Recognizing the dignity and accomplishments of women in our own families and those from other backgrounds leads to higher self-esteem among girls and greater respect among boys and men. The results can be remarkable, from greater achievement by girls in school to less violence against women, and more stable and cooperative communities.

The impact of women’s history might seem abstract to some, and less pressing than the immediate struggles of working women today. But to ignore the vital role that women’s dreams and accomplishments play in our own lives would be a great mistake. We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us – and those remarkable women working among us today. They are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.

A contribution to the NWHP will allow this well-known and nationally respected organization to expand its important work of writing women back into American history.

The Women’s Community Center of Central Texas will be celebrating this month by posting pieces of history on their Facebook and Twitter, and also by producing WE Con, an powerful gathering of women from all over our city, focused on empowerment and social justice.

This question, Why Women’s History, is important to answer. I’ve seen it posed too often, as if women are simply a subset of humanity, and not a culture of their own. All women; old and young, of all sizes and shapes, races and creeds, from the entire LGBT spectrum, trans and cis and the gender non-binary, have stories that must be told, histories that should be celebrated, gifts that should be put to the best use for making our world better.

This month I challenge you to celebrate and support all the women in your life. Listen to them, learn from them, show them your love. And know that Women’s History is half of humanity’s history. We would do well to know it all.

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On Compassion

creative commons flickr mike gifford

creative commons flickr mike gifford

I’ve been looking up quotes about compassion. It’s a word, a feeling, I connect to deeply. I wonder if people, hearing the word, think of it as some kind of unilateral forgiveness or cuddly pat-on-the-head kind of “It’s ok” response.

I don’t.

I think people are struggling, all over. I think, for the most part, the speed at which the internet and our modern media works, isn’t the speed at which deep personal understanding works. I think that deep and personal change often comes out of uncomfortable situations plus time plus a reasonable “safe” space to process about the feelings.

This is something I was taught in a training a while back. Too much intensity-no learning occurs, people shut down. Not enough intensity-people don’t learn, they don’t have to connect. There are conditions within which that inner change (the hard stuff which goes up against cognitive dissonance) can happen.

(of course, everyone may have a differing experience of intensity…another thing to ponder)

Andrea Grimes posted from Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice about a presenter who said the following about pro-lifers and conversation with them:

“Hayes: “a certain amount of compassion” necessary when talking w/anti-choice folks. “these are people.”


“Hayes: “I don’t think we take into account this is something they’ve been immersed in since childhood” re anti-choice folks”


“Hayes: “If we can stay calm and kind, they’re more likely to hear what we have to say.”

For the most part I do believe that, though I also know that sometimes you have to speak and act very forcefully in order to make change. I may never really be an activist. I certainly can’t imagine being a politician. I am fundamentally suspicious of power.

I’m interested in change, but what burns inside me as a driving force, is the change that can come inside of people; seeing a connection between a pro-lifer and pro-choicer (I’ve had these) with a seed that is planted, or helping to act as a “detangler” or knot-undoer in hard situations of conflict, or holding space for people to come together to do work, and helping to make that space productive and yes, kind, even if it’s difficult.

Which it often is. Difficult. Hard. Powerful. Wrenching. And all of these things that I see people struggling with, that I struggle with, around all the isms, and social justice issues are often (not always) connected to shame, guilt, fear and they are powerful emotions. The work I’ve done personally has been very emotional but it’s felt healing.

I don’t fit into the equation any other way than I fit in. And compassion is a huge piece of that. Spirituality is too. Kindness? I hope so. I fail at that and I respect anger for the force that it is, for it is righteous.

I try to see change as a sphere with all of us entering into it on different nodes with different connections and different skills.

I am comfortable with my node. I think it’s valuable.

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Listening To The World

flickr creative commons tom woodward

flickr creative commons tom woodward

Sunday was a day of being reminded of things. Of getting messages from…whom? The Universe? Synchronicity? Coincidence? I don’t care, so long as the message was received, and it was. It was a (gentle, loving, metaphoric) ass-kicking from God, in the forms of poems, sermons, radio programs.

At the Unitarian Universalist Church that I attend, the call to prayer was Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day. It’s a well known poem, a profound prayer in and of itself, focused on the idea of just paying attention (and feeling) as meditation, connection to whatever-the-thing-is-we-call-spirit. It’s a favorite of mine, and I relate to the last two lines profoundly. After all, what I am going to do with this one wild and precious life? There are times it feels hopeful and gentle, and times it feels like a challenge. “Go do it!”, the poem says. “Get on it!”

Then, the sermon was on Coveting, you know from the whole Ten Commandment thing? Reverend Barnhouse spoke with eloquence and great humor about this feeling of wanting something that someone else has and how it tears at us, harms not just us, but everyone:

Coveting, wanting something that is someone else’s doesn’t only make you eat your heart out, It sets you up for wishing something bad to happen to your neighbor, or it makes you think about how you deserve that thing and they don’t, all encouraging an adversarial dynamic rather than a compassionate or cooperative one. It can create bad feeling between you, guilt and anger and sorrow. The community is damaged. In a coveting situation, you are damaged and/or the community is damaged.

It is a powerful feeling, that envy, that coveting. Often it creates a deep sense of anxiety and depression in me. I don’t know about you, but I compare myself all the time. I don’t get enough blog hits; or, I should be farther along in my career; or, my body should look like that body over there (only without the genetics or hard work of course). And down that road lies madness. My best friend tries to remind me of this, and she’s right of course, but often it takes a few interventions from a few arenas before this stubborn Aries gives in and gets it.

Reverend Barnhouse took the sermon into a direction that I needed. She quoted a teacher of hers who helped her reframe the feeling of coveting, into a feeling of connection:

One of my spiritual teachers, Martha Beck, would say “do you really want more comments? How would you feel if you got them? Warm, validated? What then? You would be empowered to keep going? Confident? What is it you’re really after?”

(Reverend Barnhouse says) …when you covet, when you are jealous, when you want something someone else has, write it down. Ask yourself why you want it. What do you imagine it bring to your life? What is the lack you are really feeling? What could you do to fill that lack? Coveting is an indicator of where you need to go. Use that energy for good. Use it to move yourself toward wholeness. Demons love a good fight. See if you can embrace them instead, turning their energy toward the good.

Now, look I get it. It’s probably a lot easier to let the amygdala go to town with all the powerful heavy emotions like envy. “BUT WHYYYYYYYYY????”, my brain wants to scream. While I foot stomp with frustration and fear, these so-called demons chase me, and I run into a house of mirrors. Inside each glass is distorted with images of me relaying the messages, “You just aren’t enough, you don’t work hard enough, it’s not your karma, you are too old, you didn’t start soon enough.”

I’d like to blame serotonin for my troubles. Or my parenting. Or our modern world with it’s emphasis on social media, metrics, and measuring impact. Or all of it. Maybe not the demon part, though that’s certainly dramatic and I like the imagery.

But I figure it’s a little bit like this for many of us. I sat thinking about her sermon all day.

Then, that night? I was on my way home from a show, and On Being was on the radio.

It was an interview with Mary Oliver.

So there I was, again, hearing the same poem, hearing Mary Oliver discuss attention, connection, the rich joy spirituality brings us, how she writes and learned to write-by walking through the woods and taking notes as she walked. Not at a desk, she just did it her way. She listened to the world, and allowed the creative to meet her. She set an appointment and joined with something…I don’t know what it is, but I do believe it’s real. And it was meaningful to me to hear her discuss these things, but also echo Reverend Barnhouse’s comments regarding comparing the self and judging one’s own wild and precious life against another.

Here is her poem, which I hope you enjoy.

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is, either. I do know that they are everywhere, or can be, and that they are different for everyone; That’s the trick that I may finally be learning.

It isn’t about sitting in a pew with head down and hands placed just so, with “Dear Jesus/God/Ishtar, please help me….” and it never has been for me. I always felt too linear, stiff, and inauthentic. Like I was just talking to myself with nothing reaching out or in, just words.

But a poem? A moment on stage? That moment when you look into someones eyes and feel the deepest, briefest hit of empathy from your mirror neurons firing off, sex? A pea-pod bursting up through the dirt into the sun?

Holding an 8 week old puppy? God, yes, there is God right there in the musky, wiggly, licking joy of life bursting out in fur and sheer pleasure.

All those things connect. Coveting what I think is experienced by others, disconnects. Messages from the Internet or the Universe come when you need them, but you (I) have to be willing to hear them.

So, Dear God/Spiritual Force/Great Ocean, help me not to covet and envy. Help me to listen to the world around me, the breath and the rain; the rock and roll and the thunder. Help me hold up the successes and skills of my friends and peers with joy, instead of wrestling with the want of what they have. Help me know what’s behind my desires so that I can love and connect so much more to the people in my life,

Except, the puppy. That desire is pretty simple. I just want a puppy.

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Action! Demand Justice and Care for Pregnant Women in Jail

Reblogging this from the Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman site! Go read up on all their good powerful work!

Join Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, Mamas of Color Rising, and the Texas Jail Project next Thursday Feb. 5th at the public hearing to support the rights of pregnant inmates across Texas.

What: Texas Commission on Jail Standards Public Meeting

Where: William P. Clements Bldg.
300 W. 15th Street, 1st Floor, Rm 103

Time: 9-10am. Come early- 8:45am if possible. (small room)

Find: A Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman rep. with a clipboard and stickers

Thanks to all of you who signed our Nov 6th Call to Action to demand that:
1) the current minimum standards of care be implemented and enforced,
2) more specific written policies and procedures be established, and that
3) all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes begin to be documented in jails across Texas.
At the last public hearing in Nov. 2014 our members testified and shared the story of Shela Williams, who after receiving inadequate care in Travis County Jail had a stillbirth this past summer. We offered a strong rebuttal to the Commission’s claim that it can not provide pregnant women with adequate medical care in all county jails due to lack of doctors in some rural counties, by proposing that midwives serve as alternative providers. We also presented a set of specific recommendations to serve as a starting point for written policies and procedures for maternal health care. Your support strengthened the voices of the formerly incarcerated women and other Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman members who testified at the hearing! 177 individuals and 23 organizations officially signed on to the letter we presented to the Commission.

Thank you for your support and participation.
We hope to see you at the next Thursday’s hearing as we escalate our demands for humane care for pregnant women in Texas jails.
Stand with us, wear a sticker, be counted!
In the meantime, please consider making a donation
to support this volunteer effort.

At Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, we are working towards a just and loving world;
where all mothers receive, attentive, quality, loving care,
and where all communities have equitable resources to care for their children.

Please come out and support this action, and help demand care and justice for pregnant women in Texas jails.

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A Prayer For My Eldest


I love you times infinity and forever, past that, forever.

I worry about you plus ten-finity, beautiful child with cornflower blue eyes and hair of gold, bursting thickly from your head like a halo, like spikes of light, a halo of unearned privilege that you don’t yet understand but god/dess bless you, you are closer to that understanding than a lot of adults I know.

Your mind, your heart is so big. So, so large that you can’t even focus on adding or subtracting. So filled with the problems of the world is that beautiful brain of yours, that thoughts bounce around like ping pong balls of tremendous import, you cannot breathe even to focus on how we humans might already have lost our way. You see this loss, and it’s raw for you. What use is a geography worksheet compared to the knowledge that we are doomed?

How like me at my age you are. How like your father.

I love you times infinity and forever and I take you out to buy art supplies to let you bleed your spirit all over pages that should be filled with school notes. I make you hamburgers in the morning even though both of us know the meat industry is filled with the pain of souls, human and animal, because you are so thin and tall and growing so fast, your young man’s body shooting up like a beanstalk never full. Protein helps. I feel guilty, but I love you and blood is nothing but sacrifice.

My soul for yours.

I tell you stories, I tell you about the times in high school I ruined any chance at popularity, because I, too hated football and pep rallies and felt alienated from kids dancing to music I’d find interesting years later after I got out of my own way. I listened to Joni Mitchell in the 80’s and that didn’t help matters much. I like Tricky, now. Beastie Boys.

I finally get it, joining. I’m late, but there is still time, son. Still time.

I pray for you, in the only way that a former agnostic can pray, please please please God and Goddess, Spirit, Universe, Hera, Artemis, Brigid, Jesus, Moon, Sun, mother of all, father of all, Shiva, Krishna, please help him just dance in dance class instead of sitting out because he’s freaked out by what seems like twerking but is simply a chest and hip isolation. Please Twyla, please Martha, please Bob Fosse, support this young one in his efforts.

I love you times infinity and forever this child that nearly got stuck in my birth canal, this child who entered the world face up and eyes open, always aware in the way that causes so much frustration to parents but god…to him…I know that frustration.

You are so frustrated, 14 year old you.

I was so frustrated, 14 year old me.

Just know this, and sit down and look at me and listen for once!

You are so loved, and LIKED, young grasshopper, young Jedi, young spirit that draws the pentagram on his hands and the goddess on scrap paper which I think was algebra homework.

Adults love you (and teens will remember you as cool and untouchable and strange but they too, they see in you things that terrify them, things they aren’t willing to say and think about out loud and you are and what a burden that is). Adults? They want you to join their ranks of the unpopular, the ones who got through it towards better things, the creators, the artists, the ones with bad attitudes that finally figured it out, and god how I love you because you WILL make it.

Times infinity.




Please do your homework. Please try.

Know things will get better.

I love you. Beyond the Universe.

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Blessing Of The Animals

creative commons flickr kristina

creative commons flickr kristina

Today at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, many animals, from turtles to puppies, cats to rats; pictures of pets past and passed, those friendly and not-so secure with other animals, joined into a cacophonous chorus, paraded through the chapel and were blessed.

It occurs to me I should back up a bit and explain why I was at First UU in the first place. I’ve been hesitant to write about it, hell I’ve been hesitant to write period. I’ve had a kind of block over the past 6 months, which I don’t entirely understand. Part of me has been blaming it on social media-I read and scroll and see all manner of things I could speak to but either someone is writing about it already, or the sea of links and articles moves past like a flood and I get a little overwhelmed. I’ve also been blaming it on the need to burrow in, but I think that’s just avoidance.

Maybe it’s just a kind of resistance to exposure and being seen, or using my energy in a very outward kind of way from performing to public speaking, leaving me less inclined to do the more internal work of thinking and writing.

In any case, writing has eluded me, or more accurately, me it. I’ve felt the pull of it in the middle of the night, and I just roll over and say to the words tapping at my brain, “I don’t wanna! I wanna sleep!” One sure way to piss off the muse is to give her the finger like that. She’ll either drown you in ideas laughing the whole way or run off and leave you longing for inspiration.

I’ve joined the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Anyone who has read my blog for long knows I’ve wrestled with my relationship to spirit. Like writing, I seem to wrestle a lot with the things I hear calling me the most, the things pulling me into action. There is a level of vulnerability to the acknowledgement, to admitting that yes, I am a believer in something outside of secularity, that keeps me quiet. It feels strange and terrifying at times, even when I think the words “Yes” to myself.

It feels deeply irrational when I try to think about it with my logic brain, my college educated thinky-thoughtful-of the world kind of brain. I wanted to be an atheist I really did. I just couldn’t get there. Maybe I just have that God-Gene that keeps me believing in something that couldn’t possibly true.

But it’s there, this something, and I have this sense of faith and realness about it (whatever it is) even as I have a deep awareness that “religion” is a big problem. Which is why I’ve wrestled for so long and tried (several times) to come back to Christianity. I can’t really. I like Christ, but I can’t live my faith in a purely Christian church, especially those that focus on literal translations of the most mystical of poetry, cast out gays and lesbians, and have such a dangerous relationship to women’s rights.

So I’ve joined the Unitarian Universalists who focus on finding one’s own path, who focus on a God that loves all, so deeply that hell couldn’t be possible for anyone; who focus on humans here now, and making the world as just as possible. They welcome everyone from Christians to Pagans and somehow it all works. Their focus on social justice, anti-racism, equality for genders and orientations, and on love-in-action speaks to my own blooming understanding of God. And my work with sexuality? Totally valued, not a deal-breaker.

Irrational, perhaps. I’m happy though, and feel that all the work I’ve done in my life–from theater and storytelling with it’s ritual forms which help us share and connect, to my work with human relations supporting healthy organizations for both the betterment of the employees and the missions they serve; from my experience with fundraising as a spiritual function, my activism which continues to grow and deepen, my parenting and loving and partnering, and my path into being a producer-a holder of space for work–all this work has lead to a place where I find myself understanding that it is all one path and it has all derived from a deeply spiritual place.

So here I am, going to church, thinking about seminary in a few years, finding myself in a place where I realize that ministry, as a definition, encapsulates all of the work I’ve wanted to do (secular or otherwise), and it feels irrational and scary to admit. But there is power in boldness, and in claiming words and roles, and so today as our congregation celebrated St. Brigid and brought our pets to be blessed, that beautiful irrational magical boldness made the most sense of anything I’ve experienced in a long time. And I sat with a dear friend and felt the truth of where I am-that I’m on this path and rational or not, there it is.

(Also, I think having dogs and cats at churches and work places would increase my happiness and productivity a thousand-fold.)

The animals were blessed by all of us, people laying hands on pets and holding up photos, and saying a little prayer to our furry friends. I watched a woman, perhaps in her 70’s, hold her dog’s face in her hands, a beautiful standard poodle with grey in his muzzle, and whisper so sweetly into his ear. He leaned into her, perhaps not understanding her words, but I know he knew the tone of those words, love. Her love was palpable.

And maybe that’s what happens to us, with God or Spirit, or the pulse of the Universe. We are held, even for the briefest of moments, in the hands of something bigger and irrational, whispering loving words to us and hoping we understand.

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Kurt Vonnegut Was Right

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

I agree, wholeheartedly, which was why I was thrilled when my (very kind) husband sent me this video on how we are built to be kind. Excerpted below is the information from the video and the links to Berkeley research on goodness. Goodness is difficult at times sure, kindness too. I can certainly verify that I have found it hard to be kind (both to myself and others). But I do like the idea that the mythos of Might Makes Right is being debunked. For all our difficulties, we join together and seek community. We help each other, even when it’s not necessarily in what seems to be our best interest.

Check out the video and let me know what you think!

“Greed is good. War is inevitable. Whether in political theory or popular culture, human nature is often portrayed as selfish and power hungry. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner challenges this notion of human nature and seeks to better understand why we evolved pro-social emotions like empathy, compassion and gratitude.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, born from the Darwinian theory of natural selection. Keltner adds nuance to this concept by delving deeper into Darwin’s idea that sympathy is one of the strongest human instincts — sometimes stronger than self-interest.”

FEATURING: Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

Berkeley Social Interaction Lab:

Greater Good Science Center:

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Burning Water

flickr creative commons tschoppi

flickr creative commons tschoppi

Today, at the First Unitarian Universalist church gathering, we burned the past. Lined up around the hall, people held paper folded and wrapped with the things they wanted to let go of from 2014. Tossed into a bowl, set a light, resentments and fears and who knows what else, were released.

One of the ministers read this poem.

Burning the Old Year

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

It’s the full moon tonight as well, in Cancer. These passages of fire and water, with the heat and tears that come in release to burn away the past and baptize the present are important to mark.

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