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reflections

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

family…

sunsets…

sunrises…

moonrises…

beaches…

boats…

food…

friends…

love…

bike rides…

hard conversations…

huge decisions…

tough choices…

crushing disappointments…

ridiculous crushes…

exhilarating triumphs…

family… friends… love…

letting go…

pulling close…

growing…

building community…

stepping back…

picnics

potlucks

stepping up…

baby steps…

goal setting…

organizing…

collaboration…

teamwork…

love…

margaritas…

carne asada…

marching…

karaoke…

rain…

road trips…

caravans…

concerts…

dive bars…

family…

friends…

love, love love…

Tags:

Sunshine

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

We met on the light rail platform, Sunshine and I… laughing about my leak proof cup,
which was clearly not, as lemonade dripped from my bike basket. Sunshine is not homeless.
His home is a camp near the Rio Salado Habitat.  It’s quiet, and there are only a few
others nearby. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he told me once, but I know he yearns
for the high country of northern California, and that he has a sister there. I asked what
brought him to Phoenix… “A woman in a truck,” he grinned, and we both cracked up.

He is clean-cut and gym toned and she is bleached and teased and made up carefully.
The three of us are in the elevator and he asks about her recent vacation, and of course
she is happy to share the story about how her hotel wasn’t in the best part of town,
and she drops her voice and pauses the way people do when they’re about to say something
that’s not “politically correct” and her eyes widen as she confides, “There were bums
panhandling all over the place,” and I couldn’t help but laugh and call her a Princess

We run into each other once or twice a week, Sunshine and I… I will be on my way home
from a community meeting and he will be on his way to camp. We puzzle other bus riders,
me still in my “business casual” work attire and dangly earrings, he with all the trappings
of an urban camper. Sometimes he’s already on the bus when I board, but sometimes
we run into each other at the stop and it gives us a few extra minutes to chat with one
another before we part ways at the salt river. We talk about nothing in particular and
about everything of importance.

She actually demands to know why not wanting to see bums at her $175 a night hotel makes
her a princess. “Heaven forbid you should have to see the people our culture & society have
failed,”  I replied. “Not when my physical safety is in jeopardy,” she snaps… and I don’t remember what I said next but “are you fucking kidding” was all that I could think.

We have a parting ritual, Sunshine and I… I ask if he has water and tell him
to keep hydrated. He tells me how many bottles he has, then looks deep into my eyes,
and quietly says, “You be careful out there. Take care of yourself.” And I know we
are both thinking of the night when two men who clearly had homes to go to but were
in pursuit of other pleasures came over to make sure I was safe from Sunshine… and
how they were a little too eager with their eyes and their words to wait with me for
the bus they did not board, and help me with the bike rack they did not know how to
operate. I remember Sunshine falling silent, and his thumb hovering over the “9” on
the cell phone in his hand, a phone he hadn’t been holding a split second before.
“I will,” I promise him. And he nods as he ambles away, and I offer a silent prayer of
gratitude for the church downtown that offers him sanctuary in the brutal heat of the
day, and know we will both wonder if the other made it home safely, until the happy
time we meet again.

Sometimes I think about the two worlds I live in….
The suits and ties, manicures and hair dye.
The dirty hippies, the squatters, the urban campers.
I marvel that I look so much like the former…
with my love of lip gloss and other sparkly things
yet they are the ones that disgust me.

Sometimes I think about the two worlds I live in.

And

I

just

want

to

cry.

Infamous Quotes

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s a list of entertaining quotes/summary of  random conversations had during a recent trip to Mexico… all quotes & commentary are recorded as I remember them, almost certainly paint me in the better light, and were probably much funnier if you’d been there.

Jason to me as we inhale fresh oranges bought at a traffic light from a street vendor in Nogales (Mexico)… “Don’t drop the orange peels. I’d rather be caught with drugs than citrus when we go back over the border.”

Jason to me, “Why would anyone own a timeshare in Branson, Missouri?”
Me to Jason, “Branson is like Vegas. For old people.”

Me to Jason after he’d either almost driven off a cliff, into a cliff wall, or taken out his undercarriage on a speed bump (I lost track of how many times each nearly happened), “You know what’s amazing? The number of times you’ve almost killed me, yet I still have total faith in your ability to keep me safe.”

Me to Jason as I’m getting in or out of the driver’s seat, “Is that a femur in the door pocket?”
Jason to me, “Yes. But don’t worry… it’s not human.”

Jason to me, somewhere between San Carlos & Magdalena de Kino… “Watch out for that cow. It wants to get hit. It’s really heavy. That would totally ruin our month.”

Jason to me as I navigate the narrow roads of Magdalena de Kino, “You’re doing a really good job… blah blah blah blah blah…”
Me to Jason, “I grew up driving in a town with streets just like this.”
Jason to me, “Yeah, but most people are really intimidated about driving in Mexico… blah blah blah blah blah…”
Me to myself  (in my head) cuz I have a suspicious nature and can see where this might be headed, “Cyndi… no matter what… DO NOT let him talk you into driving in Nogales.”

Jason’s response to my wounded expression after he’s told me whatever I haven’t eaten of the huge bag of peanuts just purchased from a street bump vendor will have to be thrown away before we get to the border checkpoint, “Was I in any way unclear regarding my feelings about agricultural inspections?” (see previousconvo about orange peels).

Jason to me, “I’m sorry for almost killing you.”
Me to Jason, “It’s OK. I only hit the windshield the one time.”

Waiting in line at border patrol, Jason to himself after he’s reminded me (again) how often he gets flagged for a secondary inspection (almost always) & what needs to be moved into the cargo area (the liquor) and what needs to be tossed (everything edible that once grew from the earth)… “Damn. The femur could be a problem.”

After about 45 minutes, maybe an hour in line at the border… me running around the car to take the wheel while Jason runs off to buy me tacos from a street vendor on the wrong side of the tracks… literally, the guy tried to send him to a titty bar… then Jason running back to give me the tacos… then running back across the tracks because the guy is running around trying to find change in dollars rather than pesos… then running back and getting in the car… then after I almost hit a street vendor in a wheelchair, jumping back out and running around the front of the car to the driver’s side so I can eat while I run around the back, shoveling tacos down as I go…

We’re still about 10th in line at border patrol and I’ve just finished inhaling the tacos. I turn to Jason and hold out a plastic bag, “We need to throw away these limes… there’s a trash can right over there. Give me the femur.”

Border Patrol Agent #2, as he’s looking into the back window, “They have pot.”
Border Patrol Agent #1: barely glances up from our passports.
Border Patrol Agent #2, returning to the driver’s side window: “Is that a cooking pot?”
Jason to Border Patrol Agent #2, “Yes, it’s a cooking pot.”
Border Patrol Agent #2 to Border Patrol Agent #1, “I told you they had pot.”
Border Patrol Agent #1 to Border Patrol Agent #2, “I believed you.” (still no expression whatsoever)

Border Patrol Agent #2, who is CLEARLY a smartass, “So how long was the wait? 10 minutes?”
Me to Border Patrol Agent #2, “15, maybe 20.”

Jason to me after we’re admitted back into the US without having to undergo a secondary inspection, “Damn. I totally could have kept the femur.”

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For it matters not…

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man. If my esteemed neighbor, the State’s ambassador, who will devote his days to the settlement of the question of human rights in the Council Chamber, instead of being threatened with the prisons of Carolina, were to sit down the prisoner of Massachusetts, that State which is so anxious to foist the sin of slavery upon her sister–though at present she can discover only an act of inhospitality to be the ground of a quarrel with her–the Legislature would not wholly waive the subject of the following winter.

It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race should find them; on that separate but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her–the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.

A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, "But what shall I do?" my answer is, "If you really wish to do anything, resign your office." When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned from office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now.

Thoreau, Henry David (1993). Civil Disobedience
(Kindle Locations 156-176).
Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

drinking sand

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

So the GA 2012 grid map has been released. I’ve waited a few days to write about it, wanting to let it marinate a bit, to get past my initial reaction, to really reflect on it. I’ll preface my comments by saying I know a lot of people put a lot of time, effort, thought, and heart into planning and negotiating and mapping out this grid.

I had a conversation with a member of my board shortly after the Charlotte GA, in which we discussed some of the work we as a faith still need to do, and I said, “There’s really a whole ‘nother GA that we need to have BEFORE we even think about having a Justice GA.”

This grid is really exactly what I had in mind for THAT General Assembly. So it’s not that I think this is a bad grid. Under different circumstances, I’d have been thrilled. My heart probably would have burst with pride. Because I know that I still need work myself, not to mention the number of people who are in the early stages or who haven’t even begun to dismantle their racial, ethnic, social, and class privilege.

But under these circumstances, I am disappointed on multiple levels.

I’m disappointed by all the vague references I’ve seen about our “Arizona Partners” over the last 15 months and even more disappointed to see the Arizona Worker Rights Center and No More Deaths listed with Puente and NDLON in today’s UU World article, Picture of GA 2012 coming into focus. I wonder what we consider a partnership. The Arizona Worker Rights Center organizers are only vaguely familiar with our General Assembly. The organizers weren’t even aware they are listed as a partner on the UUA website until I mentioned it in a conversation unrelated to GA two or three weeks ago. And while the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tucson is the fiscal agent for No More Deaths, No More Deaths is a completely autonomous organization. There has been no consensus of it’s members to endorse this General Assembly. Yet we have these organizations and many others listed as partners and continually reference the partners that have invited us, describing how much they want us to come to Arizona… these same organizations that seem to be telling us now what we should have already known… that creating a justice tourism experience for us would be an overwhelming burden and a drain on what precious few resources they have.

And while no one who was involved in the drafting of the ransom note is thrilled, and some are downright pissed… while I’ll admit I choked back tears while reading it, part of me is relieved by it. Because for months I have felt like we were crawling through the desert towards a mirage called Justice GA, doubting we would find any water, afraid half of us would drink the sand and not know the difference, and the other half would drink the sand, saying… at least it’s something (virtual prize to anyone who gets that pop culture reference).

It seems like we’re finally going to be honest with ourselves.

I truly believe that we need to have this proposed GA. But I think we should have used GA2011 and/or our district assemblies for this work.  I don’t think Arizona during a boycott is the place for it. To have a Justice GA that is primarily a vehicle for us to educate ourselves will be viewed by many as nothing more than breaking the boycott.

I still have more questions than answers; what answers there are, are still vague. Some kind of citizenship fair, school supplies drive, no real feedback about decentralizing the structure of service projects. I’m completely befuddled by the times we’re scheduled to witness. There’s not time immediately prior to either event to travel to another venue, and downtown Phoenix isn’t exactly a hotbed of nightlife or mecca of culture. What there is, is all sprawled out and not much happens in the area immediately surrounding the convention center during those hours, so I’m not sure who we’ll be witnessing to. I can only hope that the schedule is more tentative and subject to change than not.

So to answer a question I’ve been asked by several (funny how it works when you are really vocal about what you think BEFORE something gets planned, people tend to want to know what you think of the result)…

I don’t know. There is part of me that wants to hold the other end of Kat’s banner (which would tickle the Quaker to no end) and a part of me that wants to meet people where they are nudge them along with Carolina and Rob. Part of me is tired of waiting for folks to catch up and part of me can’t help but hope this could be the catalyst for us to become what we should have been all along.

Sunday Meditation: When the Past Arrives

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Gather what you can for we must leave now.
Gather what you must,
for hatred is marching
and we are no longer safe.

What shall we take? Time is running out.
The way from here will be rough
and we’ll make justice as we go.

Take only what you can carry.

“Carry me,” history cries.
From her wrinkled mouth she begs,
“Carry me lightly in your hearts.”

Gather what you can into your hearts
the present moment has arrived
we must leave much behind.

Shick, Stephen (2009). Be the Change:
Poems, Prayers and Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers
(Kindle Locations 1144-1154). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition.

Tags:

a living faith

September 18, 2011 4 comments

I have felt a gulf widening between myself and the Unitarian Universalist faith over the last year. I had expected activism to change me in profound ways; I just didn’t expect part of what drew me to this faith to eventually push me away. More and more often I ask myself, “What am I doing here? What am I representing? What represents me?”

We are a faith that is very proud of our commitment to social justice. We collect donations for charitable organizations and donate the proceeds of our collection plate once a month. We participate in legislative campaigns. We buy free trade goods in our sanctuaries or from artisans we invite into our space. We attend social action luncheons and serve in soup kitchens. We show up to march in parades in decent numbers, slightly less for vigils and protests, unless there is an opportunity for us to sing or some form of “alter call” from congregational leadership. But I rarely see UU’s  when our partner groups request volunteers or hold fundraisers. We’ll invite people into our space, meet them in neutral spaces, but rarely will we meet them in theirs.

I recognize that there are exceptions… but the fact that these two communities have such a small percentage of overlap is one of my biggest frustrations. I wonder if listing an organization as a partner on our website and showing up at the occasional demonstration or community event in our matching t-shirts is all we’re capable of. Displays of solidarity, participating in visible resistance efforts is a big, and important, part of justice work. But investing enough of ourselves to build the personal relationships necessary for an allied partnership seems to be beyond us more often than not. There is a reluctance to put ourselves in spaces where we would be the minority in the room, and resistant to sacrificing any of our time or investing our emotional energy. We’re all so proud of the justice work being done, but so few of us want to do it.

I’ve spoken with other allied activists & organizers and many have experienced the same frustrations. I was talking with friend and UU seminarian and commented that I was committed to my congregation thru the end of this RE year. After that, I don’t know. Unless there is a substantial shift in culture, I just don’t know. Which was followed by a discussion of whether I thought this culture was unique to my congregation or the entire faith, and how change is slow but we’re making progress. She’s not the first person to give me some version of the “arc of the moral universe” talk. As much as I love the quote, as much comfort as I find in it when applied to the folks across the aisle, hearing it applied to my faith both frustrates and outrages me.

Rage and fury and impotence aren’t really the emotions I was searching and yearning for when I went looking for a religious home. And as much as I love many, many members of my church family, as inspiring as I find my minister in and out of the pulpit, there are just far too many times that I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. “We’re making progress.” “Change is slow.” “They’re trying… they mean well.” It sounds just like that girl, we all know her (hell, I was her), “He really loves me. He didn’t mean it. He’ll change.”

And maybe if my family looked different, if my closest friends and the vast majority of my support system looked different… if my neighborhood looked different, I might be a little more inclined to be patient. But my daughter told me last night that a classmate said to her, “You’re a black girl. Why don’t you just smack so and so?”… and it’s not the first time that kind of comment has been made. Women I love have reached out after having being hurt by someone’s unintended slur or stereotype, their colorblind ignorance… hands and voices trembling with hurt and anger. They speak of fear that speaking out will be interpreted as or strengthen certain stereotypes… or that they are most angry with themselves for having let down the wall they usually maintain with white people and being hurt because they hadn’t been on guard, hadn’t seen it coming. I have friends who have been harassed by police because of their skin color and/or accents, who get the full force of the law for minor traffic violations while we get passes for more serious infractions.

If this wasn’t my world, maybe I’d be less cynical and more magnanimous. I don’t want to be the only radical in my congregation (and that I’m considered a radical by fellow UU’s still perplexes me). But maybe I’d be willing to stick it out and be part of the catalyst for change my friends talk about. Maybe the stagnant pace of progress wouldn’t feel corrosive to my soul.

But this is my world, so forgive me, but I don’t care about your (our) good intentions anymore. I care about the impact of our individual and collective inability to live our faith and principles in meaningful and intentional allied relationships and how that effects people struggling for human dignity. I care about the people we hurt, directly or indirectly, with our good intentions.

This wasn’t easy to write. and I know that it may hurt or offend fellow UU’s, particularly those I have a personal relationship with.  But someone I love and respect asked me specifically to blog about this, and maybe she was right in that this is something that needs to be said, and heard.

Where are you on the Oppression Action Continuum? It’s not enough to educate yourself about an issue. If you are aware of an oppression and haven’t gotten involved, you are enabling that oppression. We can’t all do everything… but if we all did whatever we could instead of nothing at all, how amazing could we be? There is no small part of a justice movement; we all have our unique gifts, skills, and talents to offer even when our time or financial resources are limited.

I have found more personal fulfillment, been more deeply inspired, experienced more joy, felt more love, and seen more of God in the year I’ve been working with the activist community than I have in any church I’ve attended in all my thirty seven years.

If you haven’t invested of your self, what are you waiting for?

Oppression Action Continuum from Heeding the Call Justice Makers Curriculum

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