Monday, May 31, 2004

Thoughts on school I

I love school! If I had my choice with money as no stumbling block, I'd be a perpetual student.

I didn't go to Kindergarten; there weren't any in the area, maybe not even in the whole city. Two years later there was a neighbourhood Kindergarten; my sister attended and I was jealous of the fun they had. I did go to a small preschool for 1 year and I have a few memories of it. I remember playing in the courtyard, painting, singing, punishments, snack, and the day the government sent nurses to give us our BCG vaccinations. Preschool was held in a house (not used for living) across the highway from our neighbourhood on the outskirts of the next quardangle of the city. Either my mother or our housegirl walked me to school. At first they walked me to the door and watched me inside, exchanging "Jambo" with the teachers. Later my adult would cross the highway with me and then watch as I crossed the field and knocked on the door. I was the only white child in attendance and it was both a joy and a trial for the women who ran the preschool. Special care was taken to keep my clothes clean (if only they had known my terrible reputation for tearing and messing my clothes). Punishment, for the other children, was the application of wooden clothespins to fingers, lips, or ears. It may have been that I was a quiet and biddable child or that my skin colour protected me but I was never punished and was not allowed access to the clothespins. I thought the clothespins looked marvelous and spent my afternoons at home using them as earrings and creating fringe around the bottom of my skirt. Our snack was digestive biscuits and warm milk. Ugh! Warm milk! The pasteurized but not homogenized milk was brought to a boil in a large pan and then ladled into plastic mugs. The mugs were covered with waxed paper (to deter bugs) and set on a warming tray until snack time. By the time we were washed and seated a thick skin had set on top of each cup and the temperature of the milk was less than hot but several degrees warmer than room temperature. I was accustomed to having homogenized milk straight from the refridgerator and couldn't manage to drink the warm stuff without gagging. After several scenes and a note home, my mother visited and ensured that I was allowed to drink my milk pre-heated; I had to promise that I would drink it no matter how much nasty cream floated in it. There was quite a muttering about young mothers who just did not understand that cold milk was a danger to the health of m'totos (small children). The BSG is a vaccine for tuberculosis; it is given in the left arm breaking the skin just below the elbow. The needle used is, I assure you, humongous. We were all lined up in the courtyard and then funneled into the doorway to the livingroom of the school where nurses catalogued us and then administered the vaccine. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I did not get the promised lollipop for not crying. Life is not fair. The fallout from that vaccine is a growing allergic reaction to tine test for tuberculosis that has left me unable to be tested in simple ways for the disease (did you know that teachers and other public workers must be tested yearly and that health insurance is not happy to pay for x-rays when a cheap tine test is available?). When I lived in rural areas of America I could not convince doctors that I had been vaccinated against TB and was given several tests. The last time the site of the test swelled to the size of an apple, threw red streaks up and down my arm, and my breathing grew inhibited. The ER doctor in the large city nearby told me that next time I might die and I should vehemently refuse all attempts to administer a skin test.

To be continued....

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Jangled Thoughts on Marriage

The Bishop was in the newspaper yesterday. Our Bishop, the one who visited us last week. Next month he will be at the church closest to our home doing his yearly visitation. (It is not our church but it is a fine one; we still go to our old church in the city...a last holding on to our urban selves. Well, that and it is where I was baptized, married, and had my children baptized. It is home.) During that visit he will bless the union of the resident Priest and his partner. I think this is a wonderful thing for the Bishop to do...and brave because it will certainly bring anger upon him. The church itself must be thrilled their community will be strengthened by this validation and commitment of their priest.

Before church this morning, as I set up the coffee maker and got out the scissors for the Sunday School, I chatted briefly with a friend from church about this event. I was surprised by his outlook on gay marriage. He is in a committed relationship and thinks that a civil recognition of union and a religious blessing of commitment should be enough. I disagree but there really wasn't enough time to articulate just what it was that I disagreed on. I did say that I thought all marriages should be celebrated and that what made marriage strong and beautiful was not heterosexuality but the choice to enter into that commitment and that choice transcends sexual identity. A family that chooses to be a family is stronger than a family forced into the situation. A couple that chooses to enter a committed relationship is better off than a couple forced to put on the mask of the name.

Marriage is a complicated issue. Legally the state grants license to marry and priests/pastors are some of those the State licenses to oversee the signing and entering into contract. At the same time marriage is performed in churches by clergy as an entering into contract with the community. At our church (and at my wedding) the priest asks as part of the ceremony..."Will you who witness these vows support these two people in their lives...." and the people of the church thunder back "WE WILL". Our marriage is not just between the two of us but part of our whole community life. The priest married us as an agent of the State but he also joined us together in his role as agent for God and Church and I see marriage as a sacrament as well as a legal state.

One may get married legally in the US without involving church at all. That is fine with me, really, and suits many people including some members of my family. It would be oppressive to insist on invoking God's involvement in a marriage for people who do not believe or want God involved.

In some churches one may have a committed union blessed in church. This ceremony may be almost identical to a religious marriage ceremony barring only the use of the word marriage and the invoking of the power of the state.

At this time, in most places, neither ceremony is an open gate. Some people are barred from obtaining marriage licenses from the state and a religious blessing of a union is not offered to people who may obtain a license for marriage. Because I may obtain a marriage license from the State it is expected by my church that I will have a marriage ceremony. Blessing of unions is for second class citizens who may not get State approval (my interpretation). Well I don't want special privileges! I don't want to be held apart from other people and I don't want to receive benefits based on the gender of my partner. I don't want to be part of a system that denies the love and commitment of couples because it's tradition and we love our traditions.

If the choice to have a church sacrament of marriage without a legal license had been available to us 14 years ago, it would have been an appealing alternative. I don't think the State needs to have a concern or care with whom I marry as long as no laws are broken in the process; I don't think they need to gather information on my age or race or that of my spouse; I don't think they need to know when and where I plan to have the ceremony or what my religion is. If I choose to have my church bless my relationship and they agree to do it then the government should leave us alone. I would not consider us any less married or a family if we were lacking the license nor do I consider those who legally marry but have no religious ceremony less married than I. I also don't think the church should decline to bless the unions of heterosexual couples; this I take up within the community.

These days in this place, there is no stigma in not marrying and still having a family. The schools and government work well to administer to families of all sorts of configurations: married, divorced, remarried, several fathers per family, foster parents, grandparents with children. Does a marriage license make or unmake a family? Unmake a parent? No, and this has been settled firmly over the last few decades. By denying the same services and attentions to same sex couples, we do deny their familyhood just as denying them marriage licenses denies their full participation in the entity of "Marriage" implying thereby that their relationships are not meaningful or real or vital.

It annoys me no end that in order to get the church's blessing and sacrament I must first have the State's blessing.

It annoys me even more that those who are SEEKING the right to marry legally - which means that they VALUE the right - are being denied.

I see in gay couples who wish to marry some of the same reasons for wanting to marry that I had.

I wish to see us separate church and state in the matter of marriage. Make the legal contract open to everyone and the sacrament available at those churches which wish to offer it.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Dinner on Wednesday Night:

Soba noodles (Every time I eat these I wonder why I even buy other pasta) cooked + 1 bottle of peanut sauce

Sauce: Spinach, sauteed with onion, bell peppers and garlic in olive oil, with spices: cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne. Then I pureed the spinach concoction with some fresh mint and cilantro.

Meat: 1.5" hamburger patties made with spices (similar to sauce spices) and chopped fresh cilantro and grilled.

Presentation: Bed of noodles on each plate, drizzled with peanut sauce, a couple scoops of spinach sauce, 3-4 meat patties on top of the sauce, drizzle all with a little more peanut sauce.

I started the noodle water and preheated the grill. Then just after the noodles went in, I put the meat on the grill and started the spinach. It took about 40 minutes all together.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Navigating by Compass: Orienteering comes in handy

9:42, 72 degrees, and I'm driving Northeast. That's good because I'm sure that where I live is North and East of where I am now. Even better is that a few minutes ago it was 9:35 and I was heading Northwest.

I'm lost but not hopelessly so because I have my compass.

9:54, 74 degrees, heading North. Really, even North is good. Sooner or later I'll run into the Beltway and I can get home from there.

10:04, 76 degrees, heading North. Woohoo! A landmark! The jubilation is quickly followed by the realization that this particular landmark can be seen for miles in every direction, looks the same from all sides, and being able to see it does not mean that the road I'm on will go anywhere near the landmark...or my destination.

10:06, 76 degrees, heading East. This is a temporary sidetrack to reach a bridge into the city.

10:09, 75 degrees, heading Northwest across a bridge into the city.

10:15, 74 degrees (why does the temperature keep changing?), heading South across a different bridge because I was cut off by a tourist laden taxi.

10:20, 74 degrees, heading North. I'm not too discouraged. Embarrassed but not discouraged. I suppose it is possible that someone noticed my quick circuit in and out of town (Homeland Security?) but anyone travelling beside me is probably as lost and distracted as I and, thankfully, my plates are from out of town. Blame it on a tourist.

10:27, 72 degrees (trees), heading South again!

10:33, 74 degrees, heading North into the city via a third bridge. Third time is the charm! No tricky turns this time, just rotten drivers who don't know what YIELD and MERGE mean.

10:45, 76 degrees, heading Northeast. I am at ease in the industrial jungle; neon glows on the North and South of the buildings. There are no complications between me and home.

10:59, 73 degrees, heading North. I have left the lights of the city and highway behind me. Crickets and my own tires are the only sounds; people are home early in this suburb and the glow of a television in a dark home is rare this close to Eleven p.m.

11:04, 71 degrees, heading West. I've made it into my driveway from the wilds of Northern Virginia with only my wits (oh lackaday!) and my compass. An urban orienteer.

Why, yes, I have been writing. I just haven't posted it here. I guess it is time to upload a few pieces and then remember to write directly here at the blog...which was the whole point.