Children are a grossly under-served demographic when it comes to Pagan resources. When one narrows things down to specific traditions, however, “under-served” becomes synonymous with “criminally neglected”. With the Child’s Eye View series, Pagan-owned online publisher Spero Publishing is trying to alleviate this issue. Here, I take my first stab at a book review, with Blackbird O’Connell’s work on Irish Paganism. (more…)
Tinkering with the Android app. Nothing to see here.
December of 2009…
“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” -William Makepeace Thackeray
My mother, the woman who had, for all intents and purposes, been “God” to me as a child, was exactly that–an addict.
Once I was an adult, and saw what was truly going on, I, in typical Rusty fashion, did not shy away from telling her what I thought of her addiction and subsequent behavior. We fought like proverbial cats and dogs, and to this day, I don’t regret a single time of standing up and telling her that her addiction was destroying our relationship…
…that her addiction was killing her…
What I do regret, however, is that I wasn’t persistant enough. My mother, my mom…was in trouble.
On my way from Hamilton, Ohio to Crittenden, Kentucky, I got another call…my mom was gone. I could barely see through my tears well enough to drive.
Once I got to my mom’s house, I found my then-wife standing outside by her car, smoking a cigarette. We had both quit smoking years before, but this seemed like an adequate excuse to backslide for a day…and I lit up a smoke myself. My sister was, in typical Bobbi fashion, bouncing around with no real idea how to react, but no shortage of words spewed in nonsensical directions.
My stepdad, (not the previously-mentioned beater of women) was inside, talking to the coroner when I walked in. I hugged him, told him I loved him, and we sat together until the coroner came out and informed us that they were bringing “the body” out, and advised us to turn our backs, because we “shouldn’t have to see her” that way.
I lapsed back into my customary “rock” mode, trying to make sure everyone else was okay…trying to deny that I wasn’t okay. It was undeniable, and a half pack of cigarettes served as witnesses to my lack of “okayness” that day.
After a few forms were signed by my stepdad, the coroner was on his way back to his office. We were informed that an autopsy would be performed and that we would be able to hold the funeral the following week…
My mom died without life insurance or savings, but my family really pulled through for her, and for us. My cousin, Tony, gave me a burial plot for her. My stepdad happened to have grown up with a local funeral home owner, and so a discount was arranged. A collection was taken up amongst the family, and a good chunk of the funeral expenses were covered, with my Aunt Judy (my mom’s identical twin) and her husband, my Uncle Marvin, making up the difference. My Aunt’s church put together a meal for the funeral attendees for afterward. Flowers and the other niceties were given by various family and friends…and I was and I remain grateful to each and every person who helped out when I couldn’t.
I miss my mother, dearly, but I cannot truthfully say that I didn’t see it coming. I had watched her deteriorate because of her pain and her addiction for far too long to deny that the inevitable was going to happen. Even so, I pretended that we were in some sort of fucked-up stasis, that she could continue to maintain…I was wrong to do so.
A couple weeks after the funeral, the toxicology report came back–17 different medications in her system. That’s what got her.
A part of me wants to go on a rant about how much of a piece of shit the doctor who prescribed the drugs that got her hooked is, but that is a story for another time.
This is about my mother’s passing, and how I coped with it.
I could have emblazoned the memory of her lying in her coffin into my mind, but I refused. I choose to concentrate on remembering the sparkle in her eye, the smile on her face from the last visit I had with her. She wasn’t quite the same as she had been when I was a kid, but, for the first time in a long time, my mom was back, at least a little bit. That is how I choose to remember her. That is the vibrant woman who I carry with me in my heart wherever I go. That is how she would want me to remember her.
That way, she gets to stay forever young…
By the way, Mama, Zoe loved her new bike that Christmas.
Checking out some of the features that seem to be new to WordPress…tumblr-style formatting. Sweet.
When I was 23 years old, my father was diagnosed with renal cancer. Unbeknownst to me (or anyone I knew), the kidneys are deeply affected by the ravages of cigarette smoking, and, while not as common as lung cancer, renal cancer is one of the leading cancers contracted by smokers and former smokers. Not only is renal cancer relatively common among the nicotine-challenged crowd, it is also one of the most aggressive forms of cancer around. When caught early enough, however, it is also one of the most successfully treatable. (more…)
Over on The Wall Street Journal‘s website, Matt Ridley posted an article entitled “Inside the Cold, Calculating Libertarian Mind” which referred to assertions made regarding libertarian mindsets in a paper by Dr. Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer.Among these assertions was the inference that we “displayed less emotion, less empathy and less disgust than either conservatives or liberals” when it came to moral dilemmas. I disagree with this assertion. Now, unlike liberals and conservatives, we tend not to allow our emotional urges interfere with or dictate those responses, but to paint us as lacking empathy or emotion is just plain wrong. We have all the empathy of our conservative and liberal counterparts, but that empathy casts a much wider net. Not only do we have empathy for the poor and starving, but also those who aren’t necessary either poor or starving, but are struggling to make it by. We have empathy for those who wish to live their lives free of government coercion (or help, because, like it or not, the government MUST coerce from one person or group to be able to give help to any other person or group).
There are findings in the paper that I will agree with, and would even go so far as to expand upon. For instance, the cited paper concludes that “[libertarians] reached correct, rather than intuitive, answers to math and logic problems, and they enjoyed ‘effortful and thoughtful cognitive tasks’ more than others do.” This, I can agree with. Libertarianism is, in and of itself, an “effortful and thoughtful cognitive task”, as it requires thinking that is outside of the mainstream default of “the government should set up a program in order to ___________”. We not only want to see people free on all levels of their lives, but also wish to find ways to motivate people to find private solutions for heretofore governmentally- and legislatively-”solved” problems. We more government as an emotional solution to problems that are not emotional in nature–recognizing that the reaction to the problem, rather than the problem itself is what is emotional. Emotionally-based thought processes are what led to The PATRIOT Act, the “War on Terror”, the preemptive and unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the urge to “do something” rather than the right thing when it came to health care (people actually fell for Pelosi’s “we have to pass it so that you can see what’s in it” line of horse manure out of fervor, not an intellectual thought process).
You see, the difference between emotionally- and/or empathically-driven problem solving and intellectually correct problem solving is best represented by the religion vs. science debate. Religion represents an emotional answer to an intellectual problem. Emotions, irrational things that they are, are what allow people to be obstinate in their beliefs in the face of mountains of scientific data that disproves the emotional hypotheses that religion sets forth. In the same way, it is mathematically provable that a) government cannot afford to provide for and/or police the people in such manners that liberals or conservatives wish to make the laws of the land…and this is not changed by raising taxes “on the rich”…even to 100%. and that b) assertions to the contrary are 100% emotion based and lack real-world plausibility.
The paper goes on to state “ All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more. For social conservatives, liberty is often a means to the end of rolling back the welfare state, with its lax morals and redistributive taxation, so liberty can be infringed in the bedroom. For liberals, liberty is a way to extend rights to groups perceived to be oppressed, so liberty can be infringed in the boardroom. But for libertarians, liberty is an end in itself, trumping all other moral values.”. This is dead wrong. Libertarians simply do not think that personal liberties, insomuch as they do not interfere with the personal liberties of others, are under the jurisdiction of government. Liberals appear to be of the mindset that liberties are granted by the government, while conservatives seem to believe that liberties are there to be curtailed by the government (although, this distinction is more blurred in practice by either side these days). Libertarians believe that the only acceptable function of government is to protect the already present, inalienable rights of the individual. This is the basis for the non-aggression principle, which liberals and conservatives just do not seem to understand. Liberals believe that rights are granted by laws…which means that said rights were intrinsically there to begin with. Conservatives believe that we have the rights that we have, and that they are able to be taken away based on government or individual whim. Libertarians believe that we are endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…in whatever form those take, and that those rights are to be protected…even if a law hasn’t been thought of yet to offer that protection…and in the faces of proposed laws that seek to curtail those rights. That is not seeing liberty as an end, but as a given, and that, my friends is precisely what our founders envisioned at the birth of this nation.
How’s that for an original title, eh?
So, one of the few friends I have online who is not afraid to stand up to me and call me on my bullshit (spiritually speaking) recently called into question my devotion to my Gods due to the fact that my view of Them has become symbolic, rather than literal.
I had begun seeing Them as representative of ideals, as goals for my spiritual development, rather than dynamic, living beings who are able to affect my daily life. They weren’t worthy of devotion in and of Themselves, but had devolved, in my mind, into mere focal points for use in my personal plans.
What I discovered, as part of this evolution/devolution, was that life seemed a bit empty without a deeper meaning behind what I casually referred to as “my Gods”. They suddenly became two-dimensional, seemingly drawings, rather than the three dimensional transcendent sparks of creativity, imagination, and morality that I wanted and needed Them to be.
As a result of this “evolved” view, my very personality began to suffer. The fire which once defined who I was somehow died to smoldering embers. Even my speech patterns began to change. My will was broken by my own intellect. What I thought was an epiphany turned out to be an extinguishing of a vital part of my humanity.
I realize now that I have a need to believe in my Gods as living entities rather than usable quaint relics of the past. No, I still don’t believe that They shape my destiny…but They are the pillars that support the road I am travelling…allowing my journey to continue.
Here’s to the rekindling of fires, kicks in the ass by friends, and finding what was once lost.
Hey, Blackbird…thanks for being such a bitch.
“Is that a tattoo? Lemme see it!”
*turns over arm so the gawker can gawk*
“Ohhh, did it hurt?”
“You could say that.”
“Why would you do that to yourself?”
I can’t tell you how many times I have had this conversation, or a variation thereof when people notice I have tattoos. No, I’m not rockstar covered (yet). I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on ink. When I can work out a deal, or when I get a windfall of money, I may or may not get work done.
In the 19 years since I got my first tattoo, I have had work done by some amazing artists. Unfortunately, I have also had work done by people who were mediocre at best (the truly terrible “work”, I have had covered, thankfully, by much more skilled artists).
What all of my tattoos have in common, however, is that there is meaning behind each one. My tattoos each represent a person or stage of development I was involved with at the time. Some of these situations are fond memories, others, not so much, but those memories are there.
As I get each tattoo, I see the needle buzzing along my arm, feel its path across my back, or hear the electric crackle, and begin to go into a bit of a trance. No, I’m not talking about a mystical state like some TV medium or the like. Think of it more like a state of hyperconcentration.
I meditate, ponder, and commit to memory all of the happenings of my life at the time of the tattoo. The circle of friends I have, the condition of my romantic life, the stage of development of my children, the mental and emotional state I am in at the time…all of it and more are branded into my memory by the burn of the needle.
What’s more is that in addition to the implantation of the memories in the physical sense, I also feel the needle taking things away. The anger, misery, and distress of the time since my last tattoo are allowed to escape. I suppose it’s not completely dissimilar to those who cut to deal with difficult emotions, but I find it to be more of an expression of those emotions in a physical sense. Each line, every shadow, every color or shade, all of it represents who I am at the time, and the catharsis by which my emotional pain is baptized by the pain of the flesh. It’s not something that I dread. People say it all the time, and I am no different…tattoos are addictive…and I am not in denial.
I was going to write an entire article on websites and services offering free or low cost online education courses, and then I came across this post on a self-help blog. I can’t, in any way, improve upon the post. Behold the power that is Marc and Angel Hack Life. I’ll hang up and listen.
I have decided to get back on track with my personal improvement goals.
If you have been following my blogs for more than a year, you may remember my old fitness blog. On it, I regularly tracked my weight losses/gains, eating habits, exercise habits, and prayer habits.
I did pretty well with it, but fell off the wagon when I went to Minnesota for a work-related conference. While there, I ate a restaurants for every meal, failed to keep track of protein and caloric intake, and generally behaved like a hedonist.
As a result, I have gained quite a bit of weight since then. As of this morning, I weigh 320.6 pounds.
For those of you who are new to my blog, or didn’t know about it before, in 2007, I weighed over 400 pounds. I had trouble breathing during simplest and most inconsequential movements, like turning over in bed, walking up a half flight of steps, or simply standing.