Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tully 1999 - 2011

Our cat Tully, who was diagnosed officially with cancer 2 weeks ago passed away today. He has probably had the cancer for a long time, undiagnosed. This was not a kind of cancer that responded well to treatment - basically we were told to take him home, love him and spoil him rotten. Which we did...he's been getting food and treats any time he wanted and his very own plate of bacon and eggs. We actually manage to put about a pound and a half back on him! 
He has been cheerful, loving and even playful. He has stuck close, curling up in laps or on shoulders, purring and snuggling. Today however, he refused food, and curled up with us and lapsed into semi-consciousness, though he would acknowledge that he knew we were there when we petted him. We discussed taking him to the vet to be put down, but he wasn't having seizures or anything like that, so we decided to wait and see...dragging him into the vet, for several hours in a sterile waiting room that made no sense to him when he was comfortable and curled up next to us or in our arms and still purring just did not strike us as the best thing to do for him. Of course, if he had begun to show signs of pain or seizures, we would have had to rethink that. 
 However he passed quickly, and we buried him under the pussy willow tree this evening. I am going to miss him so much...but I am so grateful he was in our lives. And we have the wonderful loving kittens to comfort us with their antics. I am writing this right now with a kitten curled up asleep on my shoulder - little black Séamus with a little tiny kitten purr. No one of them could take Tully's place, but then, like he did, they will grow up into their own unique wonderful selves. 
Goodbye till we meet again, Tully! Thank you for being your wonderful self and my friend and little fur brother all these years. 
What is remembered, lives.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

For them all...

...the victims and survivors of the senseless violence in Norway. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trip to the Mosque: a moment of Joy

Muslim youths lighting candles at Aathgaon Kabrasthan
in Guwahati, Assam, on the occasion of the Muslim religious festival
Ten years ago, only a few weeks before the attack of 9/11, I had picked up a book by one of my favorite authors, Karen Armstrong. This book, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, wound up saving my sanity in the wake of the plane crashes and attacks that shook the nation. An exploration in the rise and phenomenon of fundamentalism in these three great world religions, this book gave me the understanding and the knowledge to NOT blame Muslims as a whole, but to understand that the actions of a fringe group, in no wise should be used to judge the whole. Understand, I already had that view as it was; I mean, what if the rest of the world only understood Christianity through the lens of Westboro Baptist Church’s extreme hate and judged me by their actions?

Yet still, I knew very little about the Muslim faith before reading Armstrong’s book. As the decade has passed, hysteria, hate, demonizing and rage have risen higher and higher through the sensationalism of the media. The willingness of our brand of politicians and Christian Fundamentalists to rush to throw gasoline on the fire of rhetoric that has painted all Muslims with the narrow image of hate has only made things far worse.

This has a personal face for me in my relationship with my father. My Father is, to employ the term, a good conservative Republican Christian conspiracy theory chasing wingnut. He is 84 years old, and has spent his life determinedly, willfully locked into that view of the world, which has gotten worse, admittedly as he has grown older. Apart from religion and politics, he is the warmest sweetest individual you could ever meet. He treats women as equals and with true respect, while calling Feminism satanic. He has dear friends who are Buhdist, but rants against any other religion than his own, on the religious political level, not the personal. And in the ten years, his hate for Muslims has grown to the point of a fearful dark bitter thing that rides him. He considers Obama to be a Kenyan born Muslim and loathes him.

My father and I have gone round and round on this, gently as we can. He will not believe anything I say about anything that does not fit his political, religious views. (I have a promise to my mother not to get into an all out political/religious argument with him, since I can hang up the phone, and she has to live with the aftermath. It has become an increasingly difficult promise to keep over time.) I have reached a point of personal sorrow and despair over this aspect of my relationship with my father; only my stepping back from this “argument” has kept our relationship whole, I believe.

So I have listened year after year to the anger and hate from my father’s lips on this subject. Saturday, I went to the Mosque in town with my class from school as part of a religion class. I went with hope in my heart that I would hear the other side. That my firm belief in the sanctity of all faiths, in personal dialogue to dispel the demons of hate and prejudice would be proven out. And it was. We were met by a lovely man named Ibrahim who was so kind and gentle and knowledgeable, who was exceedingly informative about his faith and how it was lived out in his life and his famlys' life.  By the time we were out of there, I wanted to hug Ibrahim! I learned so much – both knowledge that will increase my effectiveness as a therapist, should I encounter a Muslim couple in my office, and also that healed much of the pain and anguish in my heart with my father.

My father was born 8 decades ago, in a world that barely exists anymore, so much has changed. I believe at the heart of his political, religious polemics, is simple fear of change and with that fear an utter inflexibility to change. Part of it is his personal past in his family system, his generation, and part of it has to do with simply who and what he is. Nature or nurture, somehow he was molded into this rigid unbending two dimensional view of the world. I wish he could meet Ibrahim. For always, on the personal level, he is so different. Where he will not listen in a high level debate on abstract points, he would be gently, lovingly, respectful of Ibrahim whether or not he agreed with him – and might come away with some small shift in perception. It would be harder at any rate for him to demonize all Muslims if he knew one, personally.

I don’t think at this point, it is possible for me to “change” my father. I am not even sure I should – look what is destroyed and what you have to replace old views with before you charge in to change someone. But I do know that my journey to the Mosque has given me the ability to see my father through a better lens. To understand even more where he is coming from. To be even more patient and compassionate with him. To forgive his outbursts and his fears.

Last night I noticed a post on line from a friend of mine in the international community who is Sunni Muslim. He posted that it was was the night of Shab-e-Barat. I wrote my friend and asked him if he could tell me more about this, since I was a none Muslim.  He responded and told me that this is the night of forgiveness in the Islamic calendar, proceeding the month of Ramadan, when Allah forgives all who come to Him. During this night, Allah proclaims:

"Is there anyone seeking forgiveness, that I may pardon him?

Is there anyone requesting sustenance that I may provide for him?

Is there anyone afflicted with difficulty (so that he may ask for assistance) that I may help him?

Is there anyone with any other need?”

Perhaps, at such a holy time and in relationship with my father, the need is forgiveness and understanding, and meeting him where he is.

إن شاء الله

Insha’Allah – as God wills.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our Cat, Tully - Bittersweet Moments.

We have received hard news...our cat Tully, who is one of our sweetest cats, has cancer. It's inoperable, and he has a very limited time left. He is not in pain...he is also eating and drinking, snuggly and active! We've been told to feed him anything, any time, and we have meds for him for a secondary infection which he is responding to. On the one hand, our hearts are breaking, and on the other hand we are enjoying this precious time with him so much! We are, per the vets instructions, spoiling him rotten - er, rottener! He's gonna get his very own little plate of bacon and eggs this weekend too!

I have hesitated to take pictures of him - he is so thin! On the other hand, today I walked out into the living room and found him and one of the kittens, Dante curled up together in the chair and HAD to get a picture of them beaming cute beams at me! The first picture was a little dark, before I got the lamp turned on...

Tully and Dante
 For the second pair of pictures I got the light turned on...
Tully and Dante - "Hi!"

"Did you hear something?"
"Yeah, I heard it too..."
So...these are precious, special days with our dear cat. We love him with all our hearts, and we will see to it that when the end comes that he is not alone, nor will he suffer. This is a sacred space in time. Let us honor it, and our wonderful cat, Tully!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Passed!

I passed my Research Literacy class with an A! Whew! My 4.0 stands...classes start back up tomorrow, but this was the SCARY bug bear of the program, its over and done. Still a lot of work to do, but for me, its easy work.
Life is good!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Betty Ford April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011

Betty Ford has passed away at the age of 93. Everybody, of course, remembers her for her transparent honesty in dealing with breast cancer and addiction in the public forum, and for founding the Betty Ford Center for addiction treatment - pivotal in the way addiction counseling and aid is managed to day. But...she also during her active years counseled the right wing to moderation regarding social concerns and programs, supported whole heartedly the Equal Rights Amendment, was pro-abortion, pro-women serving in the military in combat, and pro-gays serving in the military. Her voice is silenced now, and people will pick and choose what they wish to remember her for...but she was a great and powerful example for us all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Update on a Hero...

Quite awhile back, I wrote a blog post about my friend Gabe called Transgender one of my heroes... . Its past time for an update. Gabe's daughter, Claudia is now a year old and precocious and cute beyond words! He has also met a wonderful man and is in a relationship that is blossoming and beautiful! And he has started testosterone at last! He is becoming the beautiful young man is truly is and was meant to be - and it has taken some courage still to do this - finances have been tight, insurance companies difficult (his doctor has found a nice work around though, and as of this date, he finally has coverage for the moment.), shots have been painful, and the patch has been not as successful as hoped for. He is wrestling with the complex battle of changing gender markers on documents such as birth certificate, etc. and has hit some brick walls there on that in the state he lives it.  Yet still he perseveres and lives and loves. He plans to return to school, and has goals for the future.
Gabe also, with all this, remains my brother, and my friend, ever willing to listen and support me when I struggle or have questions, which, with everything else going on in his life is truly amazing! Recently, he shared some pictures of himself chronicling his transition from before to present day, and with his permission I'd like to share a couple of them, as they profoundly and unbelievably show the incredible journey he has undertaken to become truly himself...

At age 15, quite some time ago. He was in a battle at the time with his mom who did not want him to cut his hair short, so was unhappily struggling with it being longer...

Gabe as he is today, a strong, confident young man.

And it is a journey he has chosen to share with us, in all its ups and downs and the glories of living. Which I for one am entirely grateful for! Gabe, you remain as always, a brother, a friend and one of my heroes! 

Gabriel and Claudia