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I dressed in black for work today. It matched my mood and I felt emotionally the way I did after 9/11. The flags should be lowered as after any national tragedy. The people around me were unnaturally subdued.

I did wear red and black socks, with flames. I put them on as part of my intentional choices in wardrobe: my prayer bracelets, so I’d have Julian of Norwich and Saint Francis’ prayers and my family with me; the flame socks symbolizing the burning rage I felt.

flamesock

I wore a blue pantsuit to work yesterday. When we passed a line of people at a polling place on the Muni, the stranger next to me and I chatted about looking forward to the results and how we’d both already voted. He was a Hispanic man.

After work, I gathered with good friends to watch the returns and celebrate with sparkling wine in Hillary glasses. We had hotel rooms so we could celebrate and not have to drive.

As results came in, I was saddened but not surprised to see Indiana go so heavily for bigotry and hatred. I was still optimistic until about 8:45 Pacific time. Worry won out and I lost my appetite for food and drink, and was very quickly completely sober.

The level of stress in the room was climbing, and Whisky felt it, and always more nervous around men, barked more, and I became more tense. My anger grew at the margins by which Hillary was trailing in key races – margins less than the number of votes given to 3rd party candidates in key states. I wanted to yell at the TV commentators, at something. Every time Whisky barked I was ready to snap and when I snapped at her, that just made me angrier at myself. A vicious cycle.

I was – and still am – horrified that so many people in the US could support a candidate who exemplifies the worst in us: misogyny, bigotry, racism and xenophobia. I grieve for the damage the President-elect has said he’ll do to the climate that the entire world relies on, and what that means to my nephews and their families. If that happens, it won’t be recoverable. I am heartbroken.

The damage done to the lives of those persecuted, scapegoated and demonized may be irreparable. The damage done to the Presidency and our collective reputation and the values espoused in our Constitution pale in comparison.

Finally, we could not continue to watch. I needed to be alone, so Whisky and I went home. Whisky was anxious and somewhat fearful of me, adding to my distress. I tried to sleep, and woke up multiple times, only to remember what was wrong.

I cried. When two women I know asked how to explain to their young girls that we could elect a person who thinks it’s OK to sexually assault women, and who vilifies people who aren’t white, there are no acceptable answers. A man raising twin four-year-olds with his husband, said he’d read the first thing is to tell your children you’ll keep them safe, and then reinforce the values we teach our children. I work with many people who are first and second-generation immigrants. I was emotionally fragile all day – near tears multiple times.

So, I dressed all in black for work today, except for those red flame socks. My rage has no outlet that I will allow myself to express, without sinking to the level of the President-elect, and that I will not do.

I have read what far more eloquent people have written to process the election results. I read and later watched, the leadership and caring exhibited by Hillary Clinton in her remarks today. Once again, she put service to the country above self. Once again, President Obama showed his grace and ability as a leader, exhorting us to support the President-elect.

I’m not there. Right now, I’m not sure I will ever be able to support the Executive branch while the new President-elect is in office. He’s despicable. I’m closer to The Audacity of Hopelessness from Roxane Gay, and No, Let’s Not Congratulate Him from Connie Schultz than to the speeches either Hillary or Barack made. Especially – and maybe always – what Connie wrote.

My rage still burns, but I’m working to be able to channel it productively. I won’t need to wear the flame socks to remember that. I will use the rage to forge an even more steely resolve to work on what must change.

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Grieving the horror of nine killed in Charleston by a terrorist.
Grieving for my sister-in-law, who just lost her father.
Needing to find, fight and eradicate racism.
Needing to fight for rational gun laws in the US.
Disgusted that GOP political candidates who are Catholic are disparaging the Pope’s message.
Still looking for a job, after too long.
Horrified by the staggering numbers of refugees around the world.
Heartened by the Pope’s message, which clearly ties social justice teaching to the need to change our ways that are destroying the planet.
Heartened that families of victims are living their faith by forgiving the terrorist.
Heartened to see support shared among a community formed via Twitter, when one is in need.

But still sad, disheartened.

Then, a surprise this morning from someone I only know via Twitter. She is giving us a gift, and it’s linked to a fictional character we both admire. I am reminded of the grit and hard-headed determination in that character, and how I sometimes use her to help me move forward when things are hard. Timely reminder. I have a little flame of optimism lit inside me again.

Thanks, Terry. And thanks, Diana, for creating Claire.

Our actions can have unknown impacts on others, so let’s be positive.
Even small gestures can have a big impact to the person you reach, even if you never know it.

October light

October light

It’s said that All Hallows’ / Samhain is a “thin time,” when the separation between the corporeal and spirit worlds is very thin. Celebrated and commemorated through All Saints and Dia de los Muertos rituals, the spirits of those we love but who are no longer living with us are central during this period.

It was very much a liminal few days for me, with thoughts and feelings of loved ones very much present. Halloween, always an excuse for a party in San Francisco, was topped with a parade for the San Francisco Giants World Series victory. It all meant that my city was in a celebratory mood. On November 1st, a neighbor asked me “how was your Halloween?” “Good.” I said, with a smile. His young son was eating candy for breakfast. Actually, I stood on a thin edge.

My emotions were so near the surface that it made being in public a challenge. I cried easily and often, for grief and happiness: grief for my loss and failures, and happiness for the good memories. I included my dad and my dog among those dead to be included in prayers at church. I went from thinking of loved ones to seeing the joy of a family with their 6-day-old child and twin toddlers, and cried for both. I hope people at church just figured I had a cold, based on how often my handkerchief was out.

I felt the blessing of sunshine and the fall breeze on my skin, and missed my dog Phoebe. Phoebe and I would have been together outdoors on a hike or in the garden on such a day. She would have set a quick pace up and down hills a few years ago, but went far more slowly the past few years. Out for a walk at a brisk pace, traveling past our old haunts, I miss her. She’s been gone just 4 months now. At least outdoors, it was sunny enough to wear my Oakley sunglasses, which hid my misty eyes from people on the street.

And then there’s the headache that tends to follow after all that emotion. To give myself a break, I immerse myself in a really good book. Here’s a quote from one by Diana Gabaldon, whose writing made me think of this as a “thin time.”

“This is the thin time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mystery.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone

On Eureka near 22nd.

On Eureka near 22nd.

Yesterday, I remembered the wishing tree. I was thinking about whether to walk home from my appointment near 18th and and Eureka and it clicked – the wishing tree would be on my way home. That clinched it – I was walking. I wanted to see the tree again. Then I started to remember what I had wished for last year, and my spirits lifted.

Welcome to the wishing tree! Please make a wish and place it in the jar with a slot on its top. In the next days your wish will be on the tree. Words of gratitude are also welcomed. P.S. something happens when we all wish in one place.

I have been frazzled, with multiple projects going at work, trying to wrap up my teaching assistant responsibilities, finishing a project for a Christmas gift, and wanting to enjoy the season – the parties and the quiet joy of a walk at dusk when one can see decorations on the exterior, but also sometimes see into homes with parties and lit trees. Anyway, with all the have-tos, I’ve feeling squeezed on the fun and joy parts over the past couple of weeks. Thinking about the wishing tree is one of those quiet joy moments.

At dusk on my walk home.

At dusk on my walk home.

Although I discovered the wishing tree last year, it has been going on much longer, according to comments I saw on social media last year. It’s at the opposite edge of my neighborhood from my home. Anyway, as I climbed the hill, I was hoping it would be there again, and thinking about what I would write this year. I was also reconnecting to a nugget of joy from earlier in my day – a conversation about employee benefits I can expect to take effect come January.

To some of you, this might seem puzzling. It represents a milestone to me. I spent much of 2009-2012 looking for work. Even though I’ve been working full time (and more) for most of 2013, I was on contract. No benefits, and always knowing I needed to keep looking for work, even when there was no time to do so. Even with this job, which is formalizing the work I’ve been doing full time for the past 3 months or so, there are no guarantees. But roots are important to me, and being officially part of the team will feel good. It still hasn’t happened yet, officially, and I still hesitate to say it out loud, for fear of jinxing it. Four years of almost continuous job searching, whether for full time or consulting roles, takes a toll. For each one, I have to get excited about the possibility of the role in order to write a convincing cover letter, or do well in the interview. Then, if I am not selected, having convinced myself they’d be crazy not to hire me, the letdown is rough. I’d learned to try to gear up for the pitch, then detach from the role and assume it wouldn’t happen. That was necessary to keep looking for other things, too. This role is different. I’ve been doing the job for a while, so I can’t detach from it. My work requires me to assume I will be there next year, to deliver on the commitments I am making now. I am not built to promise what I can’t deliver.

So, back to the wishing tree. When I visited the tree, I was approaching the end of graduate school, with no income for a few months, and knowing that I really needed some solid work. So, my wish last year was for a full time job that sustains me – both spiritually and financially. As I walked over the hill yesterday, I was thinking that last years wish was almost true. The serendipity of talking about benefits that morning, when I would revisit the wishing tree that evening, put a smile on my face.

Written by all ages, wishes range from peace on earth to the latest toy.

As I approached the tree, others were leaving. I don’t know whether they had written their own wishes, or just paused to look. I read some of the wishes hanging from the tree: for peace, for a pony and some special toy, for something about middle school. Then, I looked at the jar – were there tags left? Yes. I picked a green marker and a tag, and wrote my wish. I put it in the slot in the jar, so that it will be laminated and hung from the tree with the others.

What did I write? I said thanks for the help making last years wish come true. As for the rest, I’ll check in next year.

May your heartfelt wishes come true for you.

P.S. The tree is located on Eureka near 22nd Street in San Francisco.

After many months, I picked up my spider’s web lace shawl again. I finished the last 2 rounds yesterday. (I know now that they’re called rounds – not rows – when knitting in the round.) The final round had 1092 stitches.

Since I started it in 2010, I had managed to keep working on the project sporadically, and knit a couple of small projects in between. Nearing the end of the pattern, I knew I’d need help with the binding off, so I set it aside until I knew my knitting-expert friend could help me. He removed the belly-button start and showed me how to do the crochet bind-off called for in the pattern. It’s designed to make the ruffly, open edge. Turns out, it calls for 14 crochet stitches for every 2 stitches that get bound off.

Yep. To bind off the final 1092 stitches, I’m going to have to crochet 7,644 stitches.

I did find that knitting the pattern could be a meditation. In fact, when finishing the last pattern round, I found that a mantra of “all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be well if I put some effort into it” worked for the repeating series of knit 3, yarn-over, 3-stitch decrease, yarn-over pattern. (If you’ve never knit, just take my word for it.) Partial credit to Julian of Norwich.

See photos for the lacy, curvy edge, and a sense of what the whole thing looks like – remember, it’s a full circle. In the photos, I had bound off 39 stitches.

A bit more stretched out to show the shawl pattern.

A bit more stretched out to show the shawl pattern.

Detailed shot of the edge. For scale, the bright green tip is about 3/8" at the widest point.

Detailed shot of the edge. For scale, the bright green tip is about 3/8″ at the widest point.

Because the piece is still mostly on the round needles, it can't be spread out much, but this shows the edging effect nicely.

Because the piece is still mostly on the round needles, it can’t be spread out much, but this shows the edging effect nicely.

I am not finding that this bind-off lends itself to a mantra, so far. It takes too much concentration to keep the slippery silk fiber on the slippery crochet hook.

So.

I have 1053 stitches left to be bound off, and it seems to take me about 2 1/2 minutes to complete one 14-stitch set when I’m focused and working pretty smoothly. That’s 1,316 minutes or 21.9 hours of pretty focused work.

I would like to think I could do this during the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament games, but I know I won’t be able to if I want to actually watch the action. (Doing needlework like this while watching TV is good, because it forces me to look up and focus at a distance regularly, and reduces eyestrain.)

Unless I increase watching TV that I’m fine with mostly listening to, it may take me another 2.5 years to get this done. Stay tuned – but don’t hold your breath.

A friend wrote an eloquent blog post the other day about his faith. (He’s a writer and generally eloquent. I won’t attempt to compete.) Here’s a link to his post: http://www.punkmonksf.com/blog/?p=367.
As someone who also does “the whole God thing,” this made me think, and inspired me to reflect and write about what I believe and why. I agree with what Karekin says, by the way. One of the things I believe very strongly is that no faith tradition is any more “right” than any other, assuming it is helping you to live a good life in a way that makes one a whole human and sustains self and community. I also agree that that doesn’t require a faith tradition.
My faith community helps me, and sometimes the trappings of the Christian calendar and Episcopal church help me, too. It is also helpful for me to talk to God and feel as though God is listening and helping me find answers I need.
This may or may not turn into future posts here, but I encourage you to read Karekin’s post and consider his position, and your own.
If you want another resource on this general topic, I recommend Fenton Johnson’s book, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/9780618492374-id-9780618492374.aspx.

Peace

Over the past couple of years, I’ve separated myself from my Holy Innocents Episcopal church community. This year, I started to come back, knowing that I need community support on my life journey.

A few years ago, I was very much into the whole Lent-Holy Week-Easter “do”, taking on a Lenten discipline, being a member of the altar party in most Holy Weeks services, and swinging 360’s with the thurible at Easter services. I hung out with friends who were very much into church, and I immersed myself in the experience with them.

Then I ran into some challenges as my friends split up for reasons both good and bad. I was disillusioned and angry, and my connection to the liturgy was largely lost. I paid attention again to what was being said in the liturgy and sermons, and how I felt about it. I’d never believed in the fact of resurrection and of Jesus as a sacrifice for sins. Central to my faith about Easter was the experience of Jesus’ life and teachings continuing on in the experiences of his disciples – both female and male – and I increasingly felt the sting of the male-dominated church history. Our altar at church and liturgical language became less inclusive, and that gave me another reason to separate myself.

Jesus’ teachings about social justice and his radical opposition to the religious authorities of his time got him killed. He spoke truth to power and was unwilling to be silent, ultimately paying the price with his life. That was the sacrifice – non-violent protest, refusing to fight fire with fire (except in theological debates with religious authorities.) The fact that his message was powerful enough to be felt after his death is the resurrection experience that is true for me.

The Easter Vigil service has a special place in my heart, from the storytelling of faith perspectives to the drama of the light arriving and the first “Alleluias.” At one of my favorite Vigil services, our response to each reading was “And God isn’t finished with us yet.” I had missed the Vigil service for at least two years, but I went this year. I received an important message and insight from the service: a way to become an Easter person again, even though I don’t believe in “awaiting Christ’s coming in glory”. Our preacher at the Vigil, The Rev. J. Cameron Ayers, gave me the key that night that unlocked the door in my spirit the next morning.

The Easter story is one of redemption and the triumph of love. There are many examples of redemption and the triumph of love in today’s world if we look for them. They just tend to be drowned out by injustice, violence and greed. Jesus the man is dead, but his example lives on. As Christians, we are required to be Christ in the world today – seeking out injustice and trying to right the wrongs, returning violence with powerful but non-violent responses, and calling out the powerful to take action.

It’s our job to eradicate injustice, violence and greed, so that love really does triumph, throughout the world. I can be that kind of Easter person – or at least try to be.