Thursday, August 28, 2014

Talking With God In the Morning

I will be the first to admit that I am a strange and unusual person. I'm fine with that, and I wouldn't change it.

Less unusual that I thought, I like to have a good conversation with God on my way to work every morning. My drive time seems to be the best time for a most  deep and personal conversation about my coming day, the previous day, my dog, my foot, my worries,  and everything I'm greatful for.

I found out from a friend that that isn't as uncommon as I once thought. Apparently there are a number of us who not only sing and dance in the car while driving, but also talk to God. This looks less crazy than doing it on the street, but I'm sure it at least must look a little odd. Less so now that everyone drives around with blue tooth in their ears, or on their visor.

So that isn't the odd part. The odd,  very me part, is that depending on the day, my mood, and what I'm trying to express, I speak to my heavenly father in an accent other than my own, and sometimes in a language other than english.

If my prayer is going to have a deep, sincere,  thankful tone, then I often will pray sounding quite Irish. 

If I am up set and angry at some injustice in the world, only Scottish sounds will do my words justice.

If I'm feeling proper, and some what guarded I copy Jennifer Saunders accent. Whatever kind of an English accent that is considered, I'm not exactly sure. But it's my go to one for days when expression is a little more formal, and a little less personal and private.

If I'm feeling very informal, and a bit like a winge, but not angry, it may be more cockney, or possibly northern england sounding.

If my emotions are running deep, and expression of sadness or pain in a poetic way is important, I pray in French, not an accent, the language.

And on my days, like today, when only the deepest, most personal feelings need expressing, when the relationship with god needs to be expressed in the most personal, most respectful, deep yet simple of ways; when the feelings and thoughts are something that absolutely must be private, between me and my Heavenly Father, I pray in the most ancient and deep language I know,  I pray in Lithuanian.

Sometimes, I also pray in english, in my own acent. When things just need to be said, as plainly and clearly, and concisely as possible.

I know return missionaries often pray in their mission language, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with this level of complexity to my prayer language. Doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else, but it does make me me.

I only do my accents around people I really trust with my soul, so I must trust God A lot, probably even more than I usually realize.  But the biggest thing about this is, I know he understands my whole system even better than I did. I only realized this morning, after starting my day in Lithuanian how not random my selection of an accent for these conversations are.

I thought, until today that I woke up and an accent fell out randomly. But now I realize something, which I already knew.

Language, even down to our accent can expand or limit our ability to express ideas, emotions and moods very greatly.

In Saturdays episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor remarked that he now had a Scottish accent,  and that he could be angry. He got angry before, and he expressed it before, but yes, with a Scottish accent, the new regeneration of the Doctor will have a deeper, stronger ability to express his anger.

It's quite cool when you think about it. And it's a wonderful benefit of learning to express yourself in other languages and dialects. Not only can you express different things,  you can understand different things, you can see the world from quite a different view point from your own. The more languages and dialects I learn, the more I find this to be true, and the more I find a depth and breadth my own soul  I had no idea even existed.  

For some reason, I just wanted to share that with you all. Hope you got something out of it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A plethora of random thoughts and feelings

I've been meaning to write a blog for the past few weeks. So much happening and so much in my head and on my mind.

A. First, I walked at lunch today, and it didn't hurt at all. Second. I stood up, walked out to the front of the ferry. Stood for 10 minutes and it didn't hurt at all. Third. I walked off the ferry and up the incline of the ramp and nearly registered a twinge of pain in my achillies.   I cannot begin to tell you how happy this makes me, and how much the absence of pain causes me joy for the most simple and every day activities. I am not all healed yet. I won't be running, or skating or jumping for a little bit more. But, I may take my dog for a very short walk, and that makes this a very happy day for both of us.

B. Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken (insert married name here) walked today.  And if me standing to get of the ferry and it not hurting was a reason to celebrate, surely an Olympic swimmer who severed her spine walking with the aid of a walker some months later is cause for a massive fête.  Honestly, I didn't think she would walk again, no way this quickly. Yet, miracles happen, and I'm so happy for her and her family. That would be such a difficult and frustrating thing to deal with and come back from and she's had nothing but a good attitude. Five gold stars to her.

C. That leads me to my next thought #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  A year ago someone gave me a tee shirt, for an ALS walk. I didn't know what ALS was, and I was too lazy to look it up, so I gave the shirt to goodwill. Wish I would have kept it now.   I'm glad this whole ice bucket thing happened.  I have learned a lot about ALS. And watching Pete fretes go from amazing athlete to wheelchair bound and unable to talk, we'll that's even more scary to me than amy van dykens situation. Either one would be incredibly devastating and discouraging if it happened to me personally, I mean, I got depressed with planter faciaitis and achillies tendonitis,. But seriously, how crazy is ALS? 

I'm so happy I participated in the bucket challenge, even the videos that didn't mention als have helped spread awareness by creating a meme and a curiosity about what the crud is this thing people are doing? I ignored the first three videos in my fb feed for a week. Then I couldn't resist. I had to figure out why this was a thing, then I had to find out what ALS was, then I had to dump ice water and film it, then I had to donate because I cared, and it meant something, and long after this is over, we'll watch those videos, and we'll care again. Even the haters just generated more talk and perpetuated it.  I have to say when I dumped that ice water on my head, it was a shock to the system, and it was cold. But when it was over, I felt a part of something bigger than myself. I felt I had joined something good, and I felt we could actually make a difference. That Feeling Of Unity And Hope Made Me Want To Donate All The more generously,  And to conrinue doing so in the future.  

D. Speaking of haters, on the ice bucket challenge. I think the timing of Taylor Swift releasing get music video for shake it off, was perfect. "Haters gonna hate, hate hate. And a players gonna play, play, play, but I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off, shake it off. "

E. Robin Williams died. That made me profoundly sad, and I had felt a deep sense of loss. The ice bucket challenge helped me laugh and feel hope. Robin Williams has been a part of my life, with his many inspiring rolls since I was at least 3 years old. We miss him, don't we. I think he would have liked the ice bucket challenge.  But I don't know, I didn't actually know him. But I think heaven timed those two things together for a reason.

F. Robin Williams died on the tenth anniversary of the day I entered the missionary training center. I had planned to write a blog post flash back to the MTC that day, then I heard he died, and I couldn't.  I was just too sad. I entered the MTC weighing 115lbs. A healthy weight for my height. I left it weighing 105, due to sever stomach flu during part of my stay, and I spent the entire time of my mission trying and failing to gain any weight back. A decade and 35 lbs later, I'm now having the opposite struggle. I'd just like to say, both gaining and losing weight when you need to for health reasons, are equally annoying and frustrating.  But weight doesn't matter so much as health does.  That's what I've always said, it's what I'll always say. As long as your healthy, who cares what you weigh or what size you are. Now that my foot is getting better quickly, I hope to get in better shape again. I did the best I could to stay healthy, but when all your favorite physical activities become limited or banned temporarily, that's so hard to do. I cannot wait till the day I can run and jump again. I don't think they are far distant. Today, I'm very happy to be able to walk and not hurt. 

One last final random thought. Maleria.
I don't know how to spell it, and neither does my spell check apparently.  I recently watched a piper perabo film about melaria. Called Martha and mary, I think.  Great film. If you can spare $5 to donate for a misquitos net sometime, find a worthy organization and donate. So many children dying from something so simple to help solve. And that's sad.

Also, never kill an animal so you can get a selfie of yourself with it. That's just horrible. I read about a group of people killing a baby shark today, because they had to all get an Individual pic to post with it, they killed it by keeping it out of the water, and they didn't even care. That's ridiculous. Sorry, off my soap box now, but that made me a little disappointed in humanity after the buckets raised my hopes for us.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Mormon Girl At A Jewish/Gay Wedding.

   As we passed the Seattle (actually in Bellevue)  LDS Temple, I pointed it out to my boss.  She had passed this point many times, but she had no idea that was our Temple. It was interesting, we both remarked, how close it was to the Jewish Temple we were heading for. 

 Tonight would be a first, not just for me, or my boss, but all of my attending current and former co-workers. None of us had been to a Jewish wedding. None of us had been to a Gay wedding. None of us had much of a clue of what to expect.

 I will be quite honest, when it comes to weddings, I don't have much diversity of experience.  At least 90% of all weddings and receptions I have attended in my entire life have been Mormons. Most of those were temple weddings with the standard reception (and in recent years, ring ceremony) that follows. I've also only been to Mormon Temples, so what to expect at any other religions Temple, I was excited but had no idea what I would see, or what "temple" means to other religions. I'm not sure I really understand what it means, but I thought I would share my experience from last night. 

 As we pulled up to the Temple B'nai Torah (I believe this means temple of the sons(and daughters), of the Torah- if google can be trusted.) a few minutes down the road from my own temple, one of the first things my boss noticed was the homeless encampment to the side of it. That woman has a heart of gold, and was instantly sad she didn't know there was a homeless encampment, because she could have brought them toilet paper and other necessities. Always thinking of others, I could take a leaf out of her book.

I still don't know what the difference would be between a temple and a synagogue. I've googled a lot in the past 24 hrs, so I will leave that to someone else to answer. But I would say it is kind of like an LDS meeting house, in  function, and this one had a little store in it where you could by stuff for worship, kind of like when the meetinghouse by the LDS temple in Bellevue used to have a distribution center in it. 

 We walked in the door to the temple, and were instantly greeted and handed a program, and instructed to go to the room where the ceremony would take place. But no one was in there, and it was early yet, so we headed back out to the parking lot and sunlight and were instantly greeted by my recently (and not so recently) retired co-workers, and their family.  I was trying to walk and read the program, because the program had explanations of all these words I'd never or rarely heard, and what they meant and I wanted to study up a bit before hand so I wouldn't be missing stuff during the ceremony.

  Here is what I learned from the program:
"Huppah: The wedding takes place under a tent-like structure representing the home that the spouses will build together."

When we were finally seated in the room the ceremony took place in, I noticed in the center focal point of the room, the Huppah. It was a beautiful white  with simple  ornamental fringes. there were no walls to the "tent"  it was open. Behind it, I could see what I would call a golden tree of life. This wasn't part of the ceremony, and no one explained it. I just noticed it was there and enjoyed it, and wondered what it was exactly, and why it was there. But I never found out.

When the ceremony began, there was an entrance procession. The two grooms, Groom A and Groom B as they were referred,  entered from opposite sides of the room, at the same time. Groom A escorted by his Father, and Groom B by his sister.  Both the grooms are older 50/60's range, both of Groom B's parents have passed, and Groom A's mom had passed.  There was no one else involved in the Entrance procession.

 The Grooms were both escorted to the Huppah, the escorters were seated in the audience,  Groom A stood facing the audience, and groom B circled him, I though 3 times, but I don't know.  Then Groom B stood still and Groom A circled.

"Circling: Both parties circle each other. A modern view of this custom is that the love of a person's spouse should envelope and surround him, but there are many other interpretations"

We were then welcomed by the Rabbi, who was a woman.  And then the Rabbi and the Cantor (who was male) did this thing called "Kiddush"

"Kiddush (Blessing of Betrothal): A cup of wine accompanies the betrothal blessings, recited by the clergy. After these are said, the couple drinks from the cup. Wine, a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition, is associated with Kiddush, the sanctification prayer recited on Shabbat (the Sabbath? my guess) and festivals. Marriage, called Kiddushin is the sanctification of a couple to each other."

And that is what happened. Although, it wasn't the only time in the ceremony they drank from the cup. I'm not sure what the other times were.

Next there was a reading from Song of Songs 3:1-4a, a song by the Cantor "set Me for Seal Upon Your Heart"  He sang beautifully.  And then there was another reading from Deuteronomy 30:11-16a. A lot of times they would say things in Hebrew, and then they would say them in English afterwards. It was fascinating, and sometimes I knew words, and most the time I didn't, and after a while I wasn't sure what language I was hearing, and kind of got lost as to what was happening.

Then Groom A and Groom B exchanged rings.  They said words to each other, and then the Rabbi said her piece. Both of them talked about Groom A's wife, who had passed away many years back, due to ultimately a stroke and related complications I believe. We also heard about groom A's daughters, who he had raised by himself for many years.  It was very respectful from both parties, to the wife that had passed away, and her memory was very much honored as part of the Ceremony.  There was also thank you's to family members who had made the wedding possible by campaigning and raising money for the campaign to legalize same sex marriage in Washington.  There were elements of humor. Groom B called himself a Goy. which I had to google, apparently it means "Gentile" and he asked rhetorically what it would be like to be married to a Gay Jew. He then made this cute little rhyme. "oy vey oy vey, he's very very gay"  which made us all chuckle a bit.

After all the words were said there was the reading of the Ketubah.

"Ketubah: the Ketubah is the traditional Jewish wedding contract, originally meant to protect the rights of the bride. In contemporary weddings the Ketubah is a pledge of mutual support and faithfulness between spouses."

There was a lot of Hebrew words I didn't understand at this point, and I had no idea what was going on, but  there you have it.

According to the program there was then Seven Wedding Blessings.  People passed around a mic and said stuff, but I couldn't really hear well on most of it.

There was then a Closing Blessing by the Rabbi and Cantor, and then before the marriage could be official, the Rabbi proclaimed two things must happen. 1- they had to break the glasses.  Each groom had a glass to step on and smash and break- I'm sure you've seen this one in movies. I have. It made a loud popping sound when they stepped on the glasses in unison.  and 2- they had to kiss. then the marriage would be complete.

"Breaking the Glass: one explanation of this custom is that love, like glass, is very fragile and must be protected because, once broken, it is hard to put back together again. Another interpretation is that the sound travels through time and space (I'm resisting a Doctor who reference now) to share the joy of the wedding couple with all who have loved them."

and then The couple left for a bit.

"Seclusion: Immediately following the Ceremony, the couple will leave the Huppah and spend their first  few minutes as spouses alone together in a private place."

 we then all headed to the adjacent hall for the reception. We did have one question though, because of course both grooms were wearing Yarmulkes or Kippahs  (those Jewish hat things). We wanted to know how they stayed on. So later that evening I asked groom B, who informed us it was a hair pin, but that he didn't have much hair, so it was kind of hard for him.

 The awesome part here is that one of my former co-workers is in AA, So she wasn't drinking any more, and neither were half my table, because they were designated drivers. Usually when we get to the part where there's beer and wine and hors d'oeuvres I'm the one awkwardly wondering around looking for water, and something non alcoholic to drink. This time, I had a team. We found some coke a cola and one wise co-worker spotted sparkling cider, and snagged a whole bottle for just our table.  It was fun to have other people sharing sparkling cider with me.

Next we had salad. Or rather everyone else had salad. It had mint in it, so I had to skip that course.  It being a Gay wedding, there had to be nods to that fact, so Hilariously the Grooms shared this clip while people ate.  Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings. Hilarious.  Which reminds me, they gave all their guests teddy bears. Groom B went a bit over board with them, and Groom A told him that there had better be no more left by the end of the night. So I got to take about as many home as I could carry. If anyone knows anyone that needs a teddy bear for cheering up, please let me know.

We then had an amazing dinner. Salmon, Fingerling potatoes, Egg plant something or other  that looked and tasted like lasagna, and green beans in mint- so I couldn't eat them again. thanks mint allergy, for always ruining my life.  (I'm kidding, its fine, I survived).

We then heard toasts from anyone that wanted to.  they told us to have our glasses ready and full of something, anything, even just water. But I don't recall anyone actually ever doing and raising of glasses and drinking. They just talked, and then got cheered, and sat down.

It was this portion that made me cry. I'm not one to cry at weddings, but it was very personal. I also laughed a lot during the toasts. I thought Groom B, my co-worker, had the most unique sense of humor in the world. Then his brother got up, and we discovered had the exact same sense of humor, and could do a perfect impression of Groom B.   It was hear I learned that Grooms A and B had been dating since 2005, I had no idea they had been together so long!
I also learned Groom A had converted to Judaism from Christianity after his brother did the same. Groom A's brother had a whole lot easier time telling his dad he had converted, even though he did it first,  because it was around that time that Groom A had told his dad he was gay, so dad didn't even hardly notice the conversion announcement.

 But the most touching part of the evening was when Groom A's daughters got up. They talked about their dad, and all he had done for them, all the struggles they had gone through together when their mom had a stroke, and years later when she died, and then him raising them alone. Then they talked about when Groom B came into the picture, and had tried to win them over by dancing (apparently rather poorly, but hilariously) to Beyonce in their living room.   They could see how much their dad and this man loved each other. The two families had been joined together, and now, the daughters said, now that Groom B was officially part of their family, they felt that their family  was finally whole again.

Groom B's family, and religious community were also mentioned. He had at one time been a Brother in a Catholic Order, I cant remember which one. I"ve been told many times though, so I should know. He talked about joining, hiding he was gay, fear of getting kicked out, and finding out many others in his order were doing the same. He left the Catholic Church for the IRS, it was joked, and we all laughed pretty hard at that one.
 It was a pretty diverse crowd in that temple that night. Gay, Straight,  Catholic, Christian, Jew, Mormon. So it wasn't surprising ....

When we danced the Hava Nagila, we had a blast, but it was a complete mess. Only a handful of people knew what they were supposed to be doing.

When that fun was done, there was more dancing. The couple had their first dance just before the Hava Nagila, and everyone was asked to join in and make them feel less awkward on the dance floor. I got up and was just going to solo dance. I'm good at that. but one of my former co-workers got up, and wanted to dance too. Her husband is in a motorized chair, so he couldn't join in the dancing. So she and I just danced together.   We stood and looked at each other for a moment and then
both said "how is this supposed to work?"  and then we just started dancing and it was fine. She twirled me around a few times. we decided it was not a good idea for me to twirl her, because she is a lot taller than me.

She looked around the room, and we had a little laugh, because we weren't even standing out.  At least half the dance floor was same sex dance partners. We had a little giggle about that, and then we continued dancing and having fun.

 Finally, dancing ended so that the cake could be cut.  The grooms approached the cake and weren't sure how to go about cutting it, some helpful pointers from the crowd and the cake was soon cut, and nicely fed to each partner. We were all a little disappointed in the lack of cake smashing, especially since there was no dress to worry about ruining.  We had a dessert bar- including the wedding cake. I was genuinely stuffed to the gills at this point, and knew i was in trouble. After a week of being sick and eating only soup and crackers, I had pushed it a bit far with real food, and my stomach was starting to hurt.

 No misshapes though, i made it home, some what in pain, but fine.  Groom B was asked, before we left if there would be a garter or bouquet toss. At which point he had a melt down because there was supposed to be a bouquet toss, but they forgot about it, and now it wasn't happening.

 Before I left, as we were saying our goodbyes to the happy couple, I noticed one of the other guests had a Namejs ring, which, I also happened to be wearing one.  A Namejs ring is a special ring from Latvia. I got it on my mission. I tapped the man, showed him my ring, we fist bumped and he asked me if I was Latvian. I told him no, but that I had lived in Latvia and Lithuania for a year and a half with my church. His father was Latvian and from a small town on the boarder of Lithuania and Latvia.  We had a short but sweet conversation, and then said goodbye.

It is a small world after all. That was perhaps one of the most culturally diverse evenings of my life. And I try to incorporate a lot of cultural diversity into my life. A variety of people, from a variety of communities, from a variety of religions, orientations, and political stances came together for one night, and learned something new from each other at some point, all because two people fell in love.

 It was a lot of fun, and a lot of learning. I still have more I could learn about Jewish customs, but I was really grateful to have an opportunity to give support and love to my co-worker and a man that has made his life far more happy and meaningful. I was grateful for an opportunity to experience and see a different religions take on a very sacred marriage experience.  And quite honestly, I enjoyed laughing, crying, and dancing a lot. Seriously though, Anyone need a teddy bear? I have four. My dog will eat them.