Sunday, May 22, 2011

Schadenfreude and Evil

Is it possible that there is not enough evil in my life? How can that be? I read the news. I work in a criminal defense attorney's office and a bail bondsman's office. I am a minister. And I worked in food service for years. If anyone - I know the evil people can do to each other, themselves, and their entrees.

But this whole rapture scare makes me think I do not have a full appreciation of evil.

I feel for those who missed their chance at the destruction of this evil world as they know it. That has to be a major bummer for a true believer. I sincerely hope there are support groups for these people because if it were me and my judgment day passed right on by (spectacularly beautiful here in Virginia), I would be despondent.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I am fully comfortable with the fact that my readers come to me so that they can do something, anything other than work. You think I don't notice that you all comment at 2PM EST on weekdays? Should I be insulted? No way. You had a choice to take a stolen nap in the office bathroom, eat another Reese's peanut butter cup, or read my blog.

I don't even mind that you had already done the other two before you read this. I reward your devotion with some replies to great comments received this week.

Nothing like coming out as an anti-mashed-potato-tarian to provoke comments. The apostasy snippet of two posts ago also got some murmuring going. So here are replies to the questions of my 18 readers since I love you and good people should not have to slave away from 2:00 - 2:10.

1) Why mashed potatoes?

Why anything? They gross me out. Some seem to bother me way more than others. But since my dad is one of the 18 kind and brilliant souls who read my rantings/drivel/meandering life commentary (and he's retired so I'm not sure why)- I have to share his theory on my bigotry against all heated, smushed taters.

In Daddy's nostalgic world view, all was right in the tuber cosmos until I was three. Before then he had a beautiful, all American baby girl who was happy, wholesome, and ate mashed potatoes. Then one day she had an ear infection and went to her doctor and hero known as Dr. Riva because his last name was too long for a three-year-old to remember.

As beautiful baby girl and devoted mashed potato eater was laid onto the examining table, beloved Dr. Riva said, "We have to get the mashed potatoes out of your ears."

He then proceeded to extract ear wax out of an infected ear which probably caused the beautiful one to transform into a demon beast straight from the bowels of hell screaming in pain and lashing out with all limbs and teeth at anything within reach.

Daddy's memory is that after that moment I would not touch mashed potatoes again.

I don't remember any of this, only the subsequent decades of gagging at the smell of them in restaurants, homes, and the school cafeteria. I have tried them dozens of times in dozens of ways and do not like them. Not the texture, the smell, the look, or the taste. And my aversion is so strong that I am pretty snooty about all manner of potato.

Now that I am a parent, I give my father's theory way more credit. The proof is in the Riva. I adored Dr. Riva. Always. The guy yanked icky thick bloosk out of my aching under-auricle and I never stopped loving him. But someone had to pay for that misery. My guess is: it was the potatoes.

2) Apostasy

I abhor any spoken or written piece beginning with a definition. However, I keep getting blank stares when I approach the subject of apostasy. In case you do not know the definition I have supplied it as a footnote.

I know a gabillion apostates. In Unitarian Universalism we don't even use the word, preferring to call them new members.

What do you get when a lapsed Catholic, atheist Jew, order loving Pagan, and angry Presbyterian come together? A Unitarian Universalist choir.

So anyway... the subject gets mighty touchy when you get to Unitarian Universalist apostasy. I have heard so much bunk about the low census of UUism all my life. A few examples incude...

We're small because it is a difficult religion and people are lazy. We're small because of the corrosive effects of pop culture. We're small because there's too much fussing in our small churches. We're small because we shouldn't call them churches. We're small because the fellowship movement failed. We're small because American religion is dying. We're small because we don't have enough minorities. We're small because we have too many minorities. We're small because of bad architectural choices. We're small because our men are geeks and our women don't wear makeup. We're not that small. Look - we're dying slower than other religions! We are small because of that jackass ______. (Insert anyone including me in the blank. Last name I saw there was Thomas Jefferson.)

I've heard it all. And I feel it is all mashed potatoes.

If you ask me, which a few of you foolishly did, we are small because (like many other religions) we swing from orthodoxy to innovation and (unlike some other religions) this undermines our credibility as an open community with a unique theology. Due to this, in every generation too many of our devoted members become apostates. I believe every other credible reason fits into that explanation.

As I listen to disenfranchised UU's I hear people who long for a sacred place that stretches their minds. I hear people who feel written out of the boundaries of their community after years of welcoming everyone else in. I hear people who feel insulted by the path of the religion or of their congregation.

These people are not unreasonable, fanatical, or even outside of UU belief systems. They just don't appreciate being called racist, sexist, elitist, penny pinching, earth destroying, heterosexist, ableist, angry, and closed-minded during a time of the week when they want worship (whatever their definition of that may be). They are sick of the shaming attitude of what they see as money grubbing Sundays. They are tired of yet another round of hymns that do not speak to them as a cohesive community.

They do not want a political party - they want a vibrant and intellectually stimulating religion. They mourn the loss of respectful dialogue in favor of overly careful and watered down multi-culturalism. They are tired of the re-writing of history every fifteen years: Can we still sing that hymn? The Unitarians were racists. No, the Universalists were racists. Don't forget to put the multi-generational, multi-cultural faces on your website.

They are tired of the "new" approach to social justice. They don't care what 1/40th of the denomination decides during a few days in June that they should talk about in their congregation for a year. If there is one thing they do well, it is coming up with stuff to talk about, think about, try to change.

I listen to these people who seek me out on Facebook, this site, and in public. And I feel their pain. To not be a part of the religion you love is painful. To feel like you can't have your children be part of your religion is not a decision anyone makes lightly. To wonder what you should tell your family about your wishes for services after you die is heartbreaking.

But, contrary to popular speculation about this former minister, I am not an apostate, but I would not mind belonging to a whole congregation of them.

Let me explain - I don't want to run a church. I don't want to be THE minister, head honchette, finger-in-all-pies type for whom churches keep asking and seminaries keep trying to produce. It doesn't work and never has.

But a group full of people who care enough about their religion to wrestle with it on a daily basis? I'd like to hang out with them.

I'd like to attempt to translate their distinctive concerns into a shared vision for possibility. I'd like to help the wounded heal each other. I'd like to encourage connections between those who think they are in complete opposition. I'd like to be among a group of people who realize that no hymnal is ever going to make them happy. I'd like to be one small part of a flawed community instead of the leader of a high-handed one looking down on the so-called less enlightened.

And for those of you who think I am talking about your congregation - you are diagnosing it, not me. The religious communities whose failures have been most visibly abundant to me recently are Presbyterian, Evangelical, Jewish, and Baptist. In looking at the trials of these other religions I saw our image more clearly.

I am not yet an apostate because I am one of the faith filled in a religion that is not wholly comfortable with the word faith.

I still believe that people trusting one another to share their most deeply held beliefs when they disagree with each other is the key to a peaceful world. I still believe that what you give financially to the church is no one's business but your own. I still believe that we should draw from a wide variety of sources even when the individuals do not live up to our current expectations because we are far from blameless in our lives. I still believe that a group can work to be better without name calling and finger pointing. I still believe that the -isms are best conquered by our friendships and our lunch companions. I still believe in a divine presence whom I address in the feminine and I still believe she is a key to honest and deep connection with other people.

This is what I believe on faith. This is what I have seen to be true in my life. This is what I share with the apostates and soon-to-be apostates. They disagree with me. We talk about that. We love each other anyway. And I think, hope, faithfully believe that there is a place for all of us in my beloved and lifelong religion.

***Apostasy is accented like monstrosity and is pronounced /Uhpoztasee/. It means formal disaffiliation from or renunciation of one's religion. The ne'er-do-well who does such a nefarious deed is often called an apostate (rhymed and accented like /da prostate/). I prefer to call these folks, whether I agree with them or not, "courageous as hell" and "my brothers and sisters."

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Ain't Eating That

I will not be running off with Anthony Bourdain just in case we really are what we eat. That dude chows down on anything. He reminds me of my dog Chunk. This week Chunk has eaten a roll of paper towels, two crafts projects, sugar dots, a bike helmet, three types of garbage and something that caused me to have to bathe her within an hour of ingestion.

That's fine for a puppy but a dude is supposed to be kissable. Blech.

I was a picky eater as a child. One of those mac & cheese, hot dogs, french fry, pizza types. I did love fruit of every variety and freshly steamed blue crabs, but otherwise I was hopeless. I can remember when I started eating pork chops (14), when I tried beef stroganoff (16 - a boyfriend was involved), and my first baked potato was at age 22.

The greatest cure for picky eating? Poverty. I was a poor college student who became a poor Army wife who became a poor grad student and early in that process I began to try all kinds of food. There was an almost immediate snowball effect. Suddenly it was raw oysters, thai food, extra spicy enchiladas, tofu... if I could eat it for free I would give it a try.

Kharma is a bitch, however. A very reliable bitch. I'm getting it in the teeth right now with a beautiful, bright, loving daughter who thinks that pizza is a bit too exotic. As if that weren't fun enough, she has the family history of severe hypoglycemia. In case you don't have a medical degree - it is hard to control severe hypogycemia on a diet of grilled cheese and cheerios.

I read a great Parenting magazine article about manners recently. In the top 10 examples of how to behave as a child was: "No one cares what you dislike. Keep it to yourself." Amen, sweet Jesus.


As a former picky eater and a person who tries not to throw stones lest they ricochet off a wall and break my nose, I have been thinking through my own still powerful lists of things I do not want to eat and why. I have been sharing this with my lovely child in an effort to give her a sense that she is not pathologically picky.

The Stuff That Mama Won't Eat:

* Brains, innards, sweet meats, guts, general internal nastiness, and body parts that dangle.

* Oysters out of season. I read a book that said that immune compromised folks like myself can eat raw oysters if they are fresh and in season. In the summer months the bacteria are more lively and dangerous and the oysters are sometimes full of... well, let's just say if it were on a bull it would be in a dangling sack. That's an over-generalization of the oyster mating process but I still ain't eating it.

* Blood. Come on now. My people did not leave the tobacco farms so I could eat blood. In fact, I do believe their wish for me would be cornbread, corn on the cob, corn salad, fresh melons, green beans, biscuits, country ham, baked ham, pork rinds, pork chops, bacon, and bacon grease. God bless their sweet departed souls.

* Any general crap that has been soaking in booze. Worms are for catching fish and shrivelling up on a hot sidewalk. Moonshine soaked strawberries look like things that dangle. Oh wait -there's an exception to this. I will munch on all kinds of greenery that swims around in a spicy bloody mary and citrus sloshing in some sangria. Otherwise it looks like something from Dr. Frankenstein's lab and I am not touching it.

* Stuff you gotta get the poison or bugs out of before you eat it. I read a recipe in my Buddhist magazine that was for nettle soup. The sheer amount of equipment the cook has to wear to throw those weeds in a pot was daunting. In spite of the need for body armor I was still with her until these instructions, "Sort your nettles, gently freeing any insects whom you may have just displaced." Not just no, sister, but hell no.

* Mashed potatoes. Everybody has some perfectly normal thing that they just do not like. For me it is mashed potatoes. And no, I do not want to hear about how Aunt Loozie makes 'em with garlic. And no, I do not want your special gravy. And no, I do not believe that I would like them if... I do not like them, Sam I Am, and you can rhyme your squirrelly little ass off. I am still not eating them.

So there you have it. My kid will be eating all kinds of stuff if this recession does not clear up.

I'm right queer when it comes to mashed potatoes.

And Bourdain doesn't get to suck face with me.

His loss because if we are what we eat I am like all great Southern food: a little bit o' sweet, a little bit o' salty, a stick a' butter, and a dollop a' bacon grease.