Refuge

I’ll never forget the day I found my apartment.  I had been desperately searching for a place to live.  Since I wanted the divorce, it was up to me to move out.  We had been living in the old house together for months and were to the breaking point.  It was time to find the money and find a place.  The only three bedroom apartment I could afford on our side of town was dark and gloomy.  I put in an application and was accepted, which was a miracle in itself.  I asked the girls if they wanted a dark three bedroom apartment or a nicer two bedroom. They said they would share to live in a nicer place.

I was driving down State Street, feeling as desperate as I’ve ever felt in my life.  I saw a For Rent sign on a shitty building by Boulevard Park, right by the water.  I took a look.  It smelled like old hotel.  There was a view, but, oh god, a million years of cigarette smoke permeated the very bones of the place.  As I was pulling away, application in the passenger’s seat, I noticed another For Rent sign two buildings down.  It was a modest place, to be sure, but not slummy like the first.  Somehow, in 17 years of living in Bellingham, I had never once noticed it.

I called.

The owner led me down a long hallway (nice carpet, great paint, no smells) out into a spacious living/dining room that overlooked Bellingham Bay in the crystal sunlight.  I could practically hear choirs of angels singing.  I signed papers on the spot.  My deposit check bounced in my brand new single mom account, but I was in.

I didn’t have a bed, just our old couch that had become remarkably uncomfortable over the years.  The first night my daughter laid on the couch with her head in my lap and cried, missing her siblings, who had stayed in the old house.

I found a navy blue leather loveseat and armchair on Craigslist.  The picture was blurry but I had a feeling about it and went to see.  It was gorgeous and cheap.  The woman selling it was getting divorced.  Said it had sat in their master bedroom unused for years (just like me).  I said, “Well, I’m getting divorced, too and need furniture.”  We laughed.  Divorce musical chairs.  I also found a like-new mattress set on Craigslist.  The seller was nice enough to tie it to the top of my minivan and I drove it home on the Interstate in the rain, praying it would stay put.  Hauled it into the apartment by myself with minimal damage to it and me and finally had a bed.

On my way out of the old house, I had taken everything I couldn’t leave behind; the only things I had picked out over the years.  A few pictures, a wooden giraffe, a fish-print painting, a chandelier.  My desk and antique farm table.  It all fit perfectly into my new space.

The first Saturday in the apartment I slept in until 8:00.  I hadn’t had that much sleep in 20 years.  I was safe.

Over the next months, years now, I have spent as much time as I can carve out of any given day, sitting on my balcony.  Under starlight, blazing sun, misty mornings and surreal, fiery sunsets I have watched the sky and water.  I have watched the sunset move across the horizon with the seasons, watched snow fall on the water, geese skim the surface, loons dive, seagulls careen and stalk my deck for bits of barbecue.  Herons glide, seals bob and boats come and go.  I have watched the Coast Guard, helicopter training exercises, barges, sailboat races, fishing boats, kayaks, and canoes.  It’s never the same scene twice.

My kids, who have come and gone and come back again, have done the same.  Sometimes I come home to evidence of their hanging out.  Stray socks and glasses, hairbands.

It is impossible to describe the overwhelming sense of peace that comes from sitting by the water.  I once described it to someone as, if ever I have felt the hand of god in my life, it was the day I found this place.  As I described sitting on my deck, he said it was as if god told me, “I will meet you right here.”  And he has.  And I don’t even believe in god, but there it is.  This balcony by the water saved my soul, healed my heart and, sunset by sunset, pieced me back together.

I created a home, a place where I remembered who I am, surrounded by things, simple things, that I love.  This place is me.  That is why when my children live here or visit, it feels like home.  Not because they grew up in these walls or have childhood memories of it.  It is because it’s the place their mother became real.  They can come here and hide, bring their friends, talk to me all night, or be sick and sleep in my bed, eat all of my food, complain that there is no food.   And sit by the water and watch.

Changes come and I know they are coming again.  The day will come when I say good-bye to my spot by the water.  It is the only home I will have ever been sad to leave.  As a matter of fact, I’m holding back ugly cries just thinking about it.  But change is now made by choice instead of desperate circumstance and that is a very different kind of sad.  What comes next is a new adventure and love and the next big thing.

I’m almost ready.

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Fat White Royal Wally

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t sleep much last night.  More dead black men killed by police officers.  Children traumatized for life.   Five dead police officers.  Our beloved America feels like a dark, somber, hopeless place.  Now that these killings are on social media, no one can deny the problem.  Systemic racism is not new.  Overuse of deadly force against black men is not new.  The killing of police officers is not new, either.  Now we watch it happen.

While I do not begrudge anyone their personal faith, believe it or not, praying for peace is not enough.  Thoughts and prayers are not enough; not while people bleed to death on sidewalks.  Praying for peace serves one purpose:  to make yourself feel better and there is nothing wrong with that.  We would probably all like to feel better right now.  Send thoughts and prayers; by all means, do that.  And then get off your fat, white, royal wally and do something about it, because we have no right to relax.  I am speaking to myself here as much as anyone.  I have not lifted a finger to involve myself in this struggle beyond sharing stuff I didn’t write on Facebook, aka lip service.  I mean, I hardly ever even see black people in my white corner of town.  I see cops; they park outside the coffee shop in the park where I run and I feel safe and protected in case a seagull tries to snatch my hat.  Let’s be clear:  racism is a WHITE problem and will not change until white people like myself give enough of a crap to put down our phones and get to work in our communities.  It means getting uncomfortable.  It means getting political.  It means doing something.

As Trevor Noah so succinctly put it, we can, indeed we MUST, be both pro-law enforcement AND pro-black people.    It is not the job of black people to stop racism.  It is the job of white people.  In the same way that rape culture will never disappear without the direct involvement of men, racism will never be squelched without the direct involvement of white people.  It is not the job of the black community to tell us how, either, yet someone has graciously done so.   So what’s a sheltered fat-assed white woman to do?

What You Can Do Right Now About Police Brutality

15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality

I am still working my way through these.  Let’s get to work because I read somewhere that faith without works is dead.

Bob has no food.

I Have A Demon Portal Where???

Before I launch my tirade, a caveat:  I do realize that most Christians do not believe it is possible to get demons in your vagina from dildos.  I know.  I know.  But there is a point in the works here, so please bear with me.

The following article appeared on Huffington Post, appropriately categorized under WEIRD NEWS. It is hysterically funny in it’s ridiculousness and infuriating because someone out there is being damaged by this asshole.

Christian Author Mack Major Says Female Masturbation Is ‘Direct Path To Satan’

It’s a quick read if you are in the mood for a snort-inducing belly laugh.  If not, please allow me to summarize:

Mr. Major has decided that female masturbation, with or without the use of sex toys, opens one to the influence of uncontrolled sexual desire, which is, in fact, a demon intent on destroying your life.  He states that female masturbation is an ancient pagan form of demon worship, indeed the act will summon demons who will attach themselves to you and it is NOT NORMAL.

Let’s discuss.

Firstly, if one believes that god invented humans (I do not) then he/she/it also invented the clitoris, which is the only organ in the entire body that serves no purpose other than pleasure.  Either he/she/it invented it as a torture device for the purposes of instilling self control or he/she/it intended for women to experience sexual pleasure.  If it is a torture device, god is one sick fucker.  Also, the clitoris likes to be rubbed and will respond no matter who or what is doing the rubbing; doesn’t matter if it’s got a ring on it or not.   Babies in the womb rub their genitals.  It is normal, unless you believe that we were born sinners with a built-in morality test button.  If you believe that, then perhaps you are one sick fucker or maybe have never held a baby.

On towards the point…

Backtracking from “female sexual pleasure is satanic,” we land in the less-nuts-but-still-uncomfortable realm of some pleasure is acceptable and some is not.  Many believe that sex prior to or outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin, thereby attaching guilt, shame and restrictions to sexual exploration.  Plenty of people have waited for marriage and been glad they did.  It is certainly a valid choice and none of my beeswax.  And that is just it.  It is a choice, not a moral issue.  Plenty of LGBTQ people have been rejected by their families and committed suicide. A disproportionate number of homeless teens are LGBTQ.  Can you imagine choosing religious belief over your own beloved child?  We attach shame and guilt to what is arguably life’s greatest pleasure and the source of our deepest connections.  We attach misery and fear to the process of discovering our sexual selves in adolescence, instead of focusing on how pleasure fits into our psyche and how to have respectful, consensual relationships.  It isn’t that difficult to learn how to not get pregnant or not catch an STD, however when the toxic cocktail of religion and politics gets involved, information and birth control seem to disappear and so does acceptance and understanding.

While the focus of the article is obviously loony tunes, it is merely a few steps down the road from general shamed-based sexual restriction, run-of-the-mill slut shaming and victim blaming.  Instead of creating rules around sex, what if we were to focus on teaching boundaries and self-knowledge?  What if we taught communication skills?   What if we deleted shame, guilt and fear from the conversation?

Also, I can’t get this song out of my head now:

Highway to Hell

 

 

15 Screwed Up Catholic Ideas That May Affect Your Sex Life Even If You’re Not Religious

Dr. Valerie Tarico is at the forefront of the religious recovery movement.  Her eloquent writings rock my world.  She has done it again and generously given me permission to share.

 I know from personal experience that sexual damage can be a nasty side effect of fundamentalism.  Since starting this blog, I have heard from a lot of people who have had similar experiences.   When we peel back the layers of guilt, shame and pressure that color our view of sexuality, we open up a world of pleasure, intimacy and connection.  It helps to have an overview of where some of that crap comes from.

 

15 Screwed Up Catholic Ideas That May Affect Your Sex Life Even If You’re Not Religious

 

 

On the Children

Many thoughts these days about family and kids leaving the nest.  I am down to one, the last of four, living at home.  It’s freeing in many ways, but with unexpected emotions zinging around.  I could not be prouder of them.  They survived their upbringing.  They have taken life on and made it their own.  There is always the tinge of knowing I didn’t do enough, made too many mistakes, that it is too late to fix anything.    I happened upon this poem.  It helps.

On the Children 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

Ode to Broken Commitments

I came across this blog post on good ol’ Facebook and it stopped me in my tracks.  So many of my own experiences and those I grew up around are piercingly described here, as is the truth their effect on young lives.  Please take a few minutes to follow the link below and read.

http://stuffapostolicslike.blogspot.com/2015/08/285-nayc2015-ode-to-broken-commitments.html

Yes To Hope

Yesterday while driving around town I spotted a sign outside a business that said, “There is no hope in logic.”

This sentence jumped into my brain and ran around in circles. What the heck does that even mean?  I wondered.  In the interest of full disclosure, this business’ sign often has clearly christian perspective.  But this I pondered.

The belief that there is no hope in logic is a perspective I find remarkably sad and, let me just say it, wrong.  Logic gives us a path to follow, clear actions to take. Logic gives us power and direction.  When we can see connections between our own actions and their effects or, on a larger scale, between public policies and statistics, then we can make positive changes.  Changes can be made immediately and with intent, no waiting.  The ability to make changes gives us every reason to hope for a better future whether we are talking about our own life or the future of our country or our planet. Reliance on hope, also known as wishing, gives us an excuse to sit back and let things happen.

Life can be overwhelming at times, with stresses and worries that are difficult to shoulder.  Sometimes there is no fix.  It is necessary to take the time to listen to the still, small voice, to let go of the things that are out of our control.  It is also necessary to get up again, put one foot in front of the other, do the work before us according to the logic of our abilities and priorities.  It is possible that is where true hope lies, in our own efforts to make things better and in knowing we have worked hard and done all we can do.  Then sit back, have a beer and hope for the best.

There is no hope without logic.