Drumroll please…

July 14, 2006

Elizabeth’s Little Blog has moved to www.elizabethslisttleblog.com! This is because Elizabeth’s wonderful friend Rebecca loved her blog so much that she surprised Elizabeth and bought her her very own domain. Isn’t that such a sweet wonderful thing to do? It still works at blogger, as well, for the time being although eventually I hope to be technical enough to do it without blogger.

(Picture is Elizabeth and Rebecca in North Carolina after driving in a rental car and getting lost on the backroads of North Carolina and Virginia that lack any sort of signs. It is funny in retrospect but didn’t seem so funny at the time.)

Thinking About Being Sick for About 10 Years

July 9, 2006

This post is absolutely not to get sympathy or pity but it is supposed to be a little spiritual post to share some of what I have learned about health and wellbeing….

The situation is that when I was about 14 or 15 I started getting sick with various ailments and got sicker and sicker throughout my teenage years and no one really figured out what was wrong. I went to a lot of doctors who just sort of didn’t know what was going on. We finally settled on chronic fatigue syndrome, but that was just sort of a best guess. When I was about 20 and started seeing holistic doctors and seeking alternative treatment, I got less sick and it has been less bad since. But not gone. And now, the week that my mom visited for her longest visit EVER I got very very sick with multiple infections. I am pretty much always more or less tired. Think how you feel after you run maybe a mile or two. I feel like that really most of the time. So I’ve been laying around all week feeling sorry for myself but as I sit in my cozy little apartment and listen to itunes while surfing uublogs, I felt it important to honor a body that is more sensitive to her environment and reflect on how difficult it is to be in our bodies as our bodies rather than as vessels that get us around, like a little car you can take to the mechanic if it isn’t working. So often, I get very grumpy and declare that I’m just going to go to a doctor and insist that he or she make me better, whatever it takes. But in the moments when I am more mindful, I remember that Elizabeth’s body is not like Elizabeth’s Scion (that’s my cute little car). Of course, there are things that require a doctor to treat you – broken leg, breast cancer, etc. I’m not saying that doctors can’t help in the healing process. But what my body constantly reminds me is that it is part of me and I must be in my body and take an active role in caring for myself as a whole being – body, mind, spirit. I would probably not have the nerve to say if I had it to do all over again that I would go through my years of serious and less-serious-but-still-really-not-nice health challenges again. But, since I have gone through this and continue to, I am amazed at how much I learn from it and how much we are taught by our society that health is about the absence of being “sick” and after a bout like I’ve had this week, I forget how wonderful it is to feel pretty good rather than really bad. Hallelujah for the small joys of life!

What if we were taught early on that if we hold onto hurt, to trauma… that this will be held not only in our minds but our bodies?

What if we were taught that sickness is not something that needs to be “fixed” but a message our body is sending us that our systems are in distress and need attention – either physical, mental, or spiritual – or all three?

What if care of the soul was understood to be essential to health and well-being?

What if doctors learned to listen to patients? What if our doctor was one part of our approach to healing, rather than the mechanic who will fix us?

What if our culture prioritized health rather than productivity?

What if we didn’t feel guilty when we needed to rest more? To take care of ourselves more?

p.s. Speaking of small joys of life, super-companion-animal woman of our church who has cats, dogs, and, if I understand her correctly, a tourtiuse, will probably be adoptiong Harriet and Max our little foster kittens. This woman is super smart and kind and just overall cool (and her husband is equally neat although not as in love with animals as she is and as W. and I are) and she is such a good mama to her companion animals – we’re so excited that Max and Harriet might get to move in with her we can barely stand it. Max and Harriet are psyched too :) We can visit them! Yay!

Things I Learned in My Megachurch Youth Group

July 8, 2006

When I was in high school I was in a big youth group. 300 students grades 7-12. It wasn’t quite a megachurch compared to the ones these days, but at the time it was really big. Megachurch-ish. I learned A LOT of stuff in the three years that I was involved (ages 14-17). In fact, it was one of the most shaping experiences of my life. It was not perfect of course. But I was thinking about this as I am painting my living room because I spent a lot of time in the youth group painting. Here are some of the things I learned that I have time to write while I take a break from painting.

1. Painting and other “mundane” tasks are a really good time to think and relax and talk to God. When I am stressed, I look for something to paint. My youth pastor once asked me while we were building a house in Appalachia what God was saying to me (insert divine or spirit of life here if it works better for you – you know what I mean). I said God didn’t talk to me and my youth pastor said maybe I wasn’t listening and so every since I’ve listened and heard.

2. Youth groups are not about “having fun.” In the time I was in the youth group, my discipleship group (like a covenant group) painted houses indoor and out in the sweltering heat all summer long at “work projects” that were sort of like “summer camp” only a unique version of it, I spent my afterschool time tutoring kids, went on trips to Mexico and Jamaica to do work for a school and an orphanage (and paid for the trips myself which was required), rehabed an entire Brownstone in New York City in six weeks, built houses in Appalachia and spent many Saturdays spraying insulation in disgusting and gross attics to insulate the homes of low-income families. We did “fun” things in between this, but what drew me to the group was that I was doing something for others while at the same time learning so much. It was never like we were doing a great favor to these communities, but rather we were doing what we were called to do as part of humanity and as people of faith, and we were privileged to be able to learn from the communities that we were invited to serve with. I felt honored in a way that my youth group leaders didn’t think all teenagers wanted to do was to be entertained but knew that we could work hard and make a difference in the world. And we did. And we still did “fun” things too, but as a side thing not as our “purpose.” Ah! There is the key term. We had a purpose. And it wasn’t pizza parties.

3. Spiritual life is hard. It is about how we live together in community and in our world, and in relationship to the divine. Maybe I thrive on high expectations, but I guess 300 other kids did too. I liked that it wasn’t all about making ourselves feel good or our own personal pursuit of happiness or finding ourselves, but it was about learning how to connect to something beyond ourselves and live out that promise that we made by becoming Christians. Even though this isn’t how I think of my spirituality anymore, I think that the Unitarian Universalist concept of covenant is equal to this – we are living out a covenant to each other and to the divine. It is a promise. It is a commitment. And it is hard. I am glad that I was prepared for the hard yet rewarding work of spiritual life and covenantal living early on.

4. Don’t be to serious. We do our thing – spiritual, community, worship, service – but we never think that the way we are doing it is perfect or the only way to do it. Maybe it won’t work for everyone and maybe we’ll make stupid mistakes. God has a sense of humor and we are journeying along with the divine in a loving and learning relationship. Learn to laugh at ourselves, our mistakes, even laugh at the cool things about ourselves.

5. Think outside the box. You don’t have to do “church” like everyone else does church or just because it has always been done that way. In fact, you should rethink how it has always been done.

6. Numbers are not the most important thing, but if no one comes to your youth group, that is a problem. Don’t get hung up on growing, but realize that you can’t reach anyone if no one is willing to make time for it. And they can make time if they want. Oh, and that reminds me an overall thing that I learned – we make time for what is important for us. That should include God or a spiritual life. You can do it if you want. Be creative. For instance, see number 1 – talking to god while painting. Or cooking dinner. Or whatever.

7. If you save money for something yourself, you learn lessons and appreciate what you saved the money for. I had to save money for my trips with the youth group by not buying clothes and doing extra chores. I learned I didn’t need so many extra clothes (really, the start of a more simple approach to living life) and really made the trip worth it because it cost my own money.

Oooo, sometimes things get longer than I mean them too. Sorry. But there you go. If you have made it this far….

I hope this doesn’t sound preachy. I really know little about how UU youth groups run and obviously this is not meant to contradict how things in UU youth groups run, I just know that I learned a lot from youth group when I was in high school and wanted to share for those that might be able to learn from my experience.

Back to painting. Elizabeth :)

Anti-Abortion Proselytizing on the Streets of Cambridge

July 4, 2006

Well. Today I was helping my friend move out of her Harvard Square apartment and as I’m parking the moving truck on the street in front of the Catholic Church a woman asks me, as I am getting into the truck after loading a few things, if she could ask me a favor. Of course, I think she needs directions, or help or something, well, normal that you ask people for on the street. Instead she asks me if I would pray for an end to abortion in Boston. Obviously this is not a favor, but a proselytization tactic I know from my days of (peripheral) involvement with Campus Crusade (for Christ). Anyway, I told her, “Actually, I am pro-choice” and her response is “Oh, well I hope you’ll change your way of thinking because God loves life and God loves you.” I do not deal well with face to face conflict or disagreement with strangers, so I was happy that I was able to say “Actually, I’m pro-choice” instead of “Sure, no problem” which would have been my pacifist gut instinct. Of course, since reproductive justice is something near and dear to my heart, as are conservative Christians that I believe very often are very well meaning, I thought about this for a while after it happened.

My gut reaction would be to be nasty to her and tell her that if she was so concerned with life, she might want to quit spending her time talking to random people on the streets and instead start adopting all the children all over the world and country that need loving homes or providing comprehensive sex education to all the kids who are getting wrong information in their churches. Or maybe she could talk to her church and ask them to make more of a fuss over poverty or the AIDS epidemic, rather than spending all their time and energy fussing over gay marriage and deferring blame related to the widespread child abuse by priests. In my gut, I really have such a hard time understanding how people can be so into “life” while in the womb and not really give much of a damn what happens afterward or, at least if they do give a damn, that sure isn’t where they put their energies. Instead they spend time asking random people on the streets of Cambridge to pray.

However, since I think nastiness and lack of empathy is typically neither helpful nor kind, I would have never said this. Even though I wouldn’t have had time to engage her in depth on the street, this brings me to a very important question. What do you say to people like this women in order to gently nudge their energies in more productive directions? I really feel a calling to reach out to conservative people of faith in this country and I’m always interested in ways to speak to them in a loving, understanding way, while at the same time challenging them to consider the complexity and multivalent possibilities for conceiving of and interacting with the divine. One part of me wants to think that rational explanation might help. More birth control = fewer unwanted pregnancies. Condoms in Africa = Less AIDS = Less death. However, as many of you know, this does not quite work in the Catholic world (to a large extent) or in many Christian fundamentalist contexts.

Helping people to make connections that might not otherwise be made can make a difference. Maybe it doesn’t occur to some anti-abortion activists that there are children who are already born that need care and love and people to protect their life. But, I suspect, for many this sort of logic does not work. What about the people that read the Catholic document Humanae Vitae and think that this is just a totally reasonable and true document. What about those who really think that by encouraging condom use in Africa this somehow interferes with the sanctity of marriage and conjugal relations, even though it results in the deaths of millions of women whose husbands are unfaithful and infect them with AIDS. How do we have productive conversations with true-believers whose belief is not based in reason or logic (of course, reason and logic as I see it)? Even though I think that result of anti-choice activisim devalues women as agents/subjects of the world, limits their freedom, and results in oppressive and hurtful, and sometimes deadly policies and cultural attitudes, I don’t think that this is how people like the woman on the street conceive of it. I think she really does think she is saving babies. And that a woman’s role is fundamentally different than a man’s role in the world. How do we productively engage people at this level? Campus Crusade for Christ has amazingly effective evangelization programs – a systematic approach to trying to meet people where they are at and invite them into a relationship with Jesus, often which is very fulfilling, meaningful, and well-intentioned. Liberals, lovers of freedom and equality too need to find a way to engage conservatives in loving, empathetic way, inviting them into conversation about theological and social issues. Dismissing them as crazy or weird or as part of some conspiracy to take over the world for evil purposes might feel cathartic sometimes, but will get us no where in better securing the rights and freedoms and love and justice that so many of us desire for marginalized people, or moving toward a culture of reproductive justice. Now I just have to figure out how to do this in a meaningful way – on the streets when people come up to me, in churches that are conservative, with people I meet, with the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robinsons of the world. And with our neighbors – our brothers and sisters – who have great intentions to love, to do good in the eyes of God, even if it is hard for many of us to imagine that the conservative right Christians of our country are simply people doing the best they can to make sense of the world and be right with God. Perhaps I am being overly generous, but I look forward to ways to meet intolerance with love, unkindness with empathy, judgmentalness with understanding, hurt with healing. May it be so. Oh, please may we find a way to do this. Please please please please. For the sake of all humanity – all of us who ache, all of us who are trying to struggle and stumble along to make a sense of this complex world and make it a better place for everyone. May God open our ears and our hearts, give us the inner strength to reach out beyond our comfort zones, to see ourselves in others, to listen, to struggle together in covenent.

Mira would like a home

July 4, 2006

I’m sorry for those of you who are not animal lovers or cat lovers, but this is another cat post. Mira is one of our foster kittens and we’re looking for a home for her (as well as for Max and Harriet – see post a few days ago). Please do feel free to pass these posts onto anyone in the Boston area that you think would be a good cat parent and might have interest. We have a long tradition of placing our foster kittens in homes of people we know and love to hear about them years later seeing how they grow up to be great companion animals. I should do a “Where are they now?” series for all 27 cats we’ve adopted out over the last 4 years. Anyway, Mira is sitting here and will dictate her ad to me – just a note for those of you that might ever need to find a home for a companion animals – ones written in the first person bring in far more responses. Okay, here’s Mira….

Hi there. My name is Mira and I’m a 20 week old kitten that is looking for a nice home. I am an all black girl with a few little white hairs on my chin. I have had sort of a hard life. I was found on the streets and then I had TWO foster homes prior to the one I am in now, which is my third. The first home didn’t really have much time to get to giving me attention and loving me, so I wasn’t learning how to trust people so I moved to another home. In my second foster home, there were 13 other foster cats and I was just too scared and nervous with all those cats running around. I like cat friends, but 13 was just too many! I needed individual, gentle, loving attention which I have finally gotten in my current home. I am looking for a permanent home where I can stay for the rest of my life! It is hard on a little kitten to move around so much. My interests involve cuddling, playing, eating, and taking naps. I would like to go to a home with another friendly cat because I think I would get lonely if I lived without any playmates. It takes me a little while to get used to people and cats, but once I relax, I like to purr and purr and cuddle and cuddle. I might be able to go to a home where I was the only cat if there is someone who is at home almost all of the time. If you think that you would like to adopt me, please email my foster mom and tell her about yourself and she will help set up a time for you to come and visit me. Thank you very much for reading my adoption ad. Sincerely, Mira the cat

New Look

July 3, 2006

For my regular readers, all 4 of you, you’ll notice a change in the layout. Feedback is welcome. It isn’t because I love the layout but only because I wanted to make the place where the text is wider and I only could figure out how to do that in this particular template. I really like how the Happy Feminist‘s blog is wide, like a sheet of paper, and was going for that sort of look. Not ideal, but it will do and at least it doesn’t squish everything up into a narrow column.

Prepare Jesus is Coming

July 3, 2006

We saw this driving the other day. What is interesting is that this person had to go out and get these letters and write this out themselves. This was not premade. Imagine that to do list. 1) Pick kids up from school. 2) Clean kitchen 3) Get stick-on letters to put on car to warn world of the coming end times. I always wonder if people like this really think that this will help convert people or if this is just a way to announce who they are.