I’m a fan of Michael Hyatt. For those of you who haven’t come across him, he’s a business guy who believes that even though you’re in business, you have to have some balance in life in order to live authentically. So, even though he’s way more conservative than I am, I can hear what he’s saying.  That is… up until he made a podcast on “4 Easy Steps to Affair-Proof Your Marriage” which you can watch here.

Not that all the ideas he had were wrong, but the very first one he mentioned got under my skin and the more I thought about it, the more it itched and burned, so here I am writing a blog about it.

He said that early on in his marriage he made a point of never having lunch or dinner, or taking a business trip, with someone of the opposite sex unless there was a third party also present.  Now that seems, well, almost chivalrous, right? How thoughtful he was to his spouse that he circumvented any possibility of temptation to stray.

But that line of thought reminded me of all the stories I’ve heard lately about girls in school who were sent home due to the way they were dressed. Instead of teaching boys how to manage their hormones, the schools were punishing the girls. Instead of instructing all the students on proper behavior and thoughts, the schools were making the girls their scapegoat. This is the reason that burkas were created, to keep the boys from being tempted by the girls - shifting the responsibility of one’s actions to an innocent party.  (Historically, a scapegoat was when all the sins of the society were laden on a goat and it was sent to the wilderness to be destroyed, thus absolving the society from those sins.) Needless to say, this is the wrong way to go about creating equality.  No, I take that back.  Apparently it’s not needless, it’s needful to say.  We need to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. We need to perhaps be tempted and overcome that temptation. We need to develop a moral muscle.

So let’s look a little further in this scenario. Everyone knows that a whole lot of business doesn’t take place in business surroundings – it takes place in a social setting. When you make a rule that you will not be alone with someone of the opposite sex in a social setting, you are limiting business, not only for yourself but for the unlike gender, and because you refuse to be alone with her, you are failing at anti- sex discrimination laws.  According to EEOC, “Sex discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person's sex.”

And then let’s look at some professions.  I’m a massage therapist. I have naked people on my table all the time. Sure, they are covered by a sheet except for the portion of the body where I am working, but if I had a spouse who felt like Michael Hyatt, I would be unable to have male clients due to that whole temptation potential.  And what about doctors and therapists?  They wouldn’t be able to see anyone of the opposite sex.  You can see where I’m going with this.

And what it distills down to is this: A rule like this says that men and women cannot be friends. The guy who was your best friend in collage?  If he’s come to town and your husband can’t come to dinner with you, should you say, “sorry, my husband won’t understand” and deny yourself and your friend a wholesome reconnection from the past? Should you refrain from one relationship because of another?  That’s like saying your can’t love your child because you also love your spouse.

Can you possibly have a platonic relationship? Can you pursue a friendship without all the hoopla of sexual tension?

That is what adults do. If you feel some sort of chemistry with someone, and it’s not in your agreement with your spouse to have sexual encounters with others, then of course, back off. That’s part of the agreement. But sexuality doesn’t overtake the whole world. What might you be missing just because someone has made this issue a scapegoat?

I want an egalitarian society. This cannot happen when we treat people differently just because of gender. Period.

Have you noticed in the last several years how there is such a split between the science folk and the religion folk?  You know, those who want creationism in the schools, and those who have no doubt about how evolution has occurred here on the planet?  When I was growing up (way back in the 60's and 70's) there was no question in our house about the validity of science.  My mom was a school teacher and my dad had taught school in a pinch.   Science simply WAS, no questions asked or even entertained.

And yet... my dad was also a Methodist minister, and there was all the church activity several times a week, and somehow there was no conflict between the two.  Science was science and religion was religion, and if we believed that the miracles in the bible were real, well that was something that just didn't happen anymore, and the miracles could probably have been explained away.  Feeding the crowd with just a little bit of bread and fish?  My mom said she thought the people in the crowd had brought some of their own, and in passing around the baskets, they added to it so that there was enough for all.  (And that really feeds my socialist soul today - I like that explanation.)  Raising of Lazarus?  He was probably not really dead, just appeared so.

However, what was never questioned was the whole resurrection idea, not that a soul passed on to another plane of existence, first spending a little time here, but that the whole body of Jesus was brought back to life after spending three days dead.  No longer identifying as Christian myself, that doesn't bother me because I just don't believe it.  Others do believe, and that’s okay with me, it doesn’t harm my beliefs at all.

There are many things that science does not (yet) explain that I DO believe, however.  I believe that energy is around us that we can use and direct, though not everyone uses it in the same way.  I believe in both the placebo and the nocebo effect on the body, that what we believe in can be manifested in our cells.  And when we extend that forward, it can be manifested in the universe.  I believe that our ancestors looked at the world a bit differently, noticing patterns, and many of those belief systems have been passed down.  That is how we have systems that have worked for a thousand years or so with Chinese and Indian medicine.  And a lot of the “new age” woo-woo is the old age accepted practice.

We have separation of church and state here in this country, and it’s there to protect us, giving us both freedom for religion and freedom from religion.  And that is why creationism should not be taught in state run schools but left for the churches that do believe in it.

Now you might see that as a contradiction.  I see creationism as believing in a literal translation of one sect of a religion that was meant to be an allegory. (I know, that’s my take on it.)  I see “the woo-woo” as something that is just not yet proved by science, and woo-woo has no religious affiliation.   What do I mean by woo-woo?  Reiki, magic, spell work, positive affirmations, EFT, meditation – and I’m sure there is more.

What I don’t understand is why people want everyone to believe the same as they believe - why people believe there is only one truth.  I will never see the world the same way my neighbor sees the world, so our truths are different.  But it doesn’t mean we can’t be neighbors.  In fact, being neighbors with someone who has a different outlook adds to my experience of being human. I can honor someone’s different belief without believing it myself.

That’s genuine civilization – being civil with each other.

I'm getting older, and my tinnitus is getting louder, but oh...

I can still occasionally hear the call of the geese as they fly above in the autumn sky.

My cousin, Butch, posted this link for the Star Spangle Banner rendition by Madison Rising on Facebook the other day, and mentioned how it was "badass".  The music begins tenderly, a caress to the American public, the intimacy of a people who are joined together by national culture.  And then it takes off, and most of images are militaristic, with the occasional baseball thrown in.

I've never liked this song and continue to be displeased with it being the "National Anthem" due to its constant association with war.  Though we usually only sing the first verse, I looked up the song in its entirety and you can judge for yourself.   Note the phrase at the end "then conquer we must, when our cause it is just".

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

This song by Francis Scott Key is moving and the music is sweeping, but-

Who chooses when the cause is just?  And why do we think that "thus be it ever" that the "freemen shall stand between their loved home and war's desolation"?  War is not inevitable.  And it is our glorification of war that keeps that belief ever present in our psyche.

We've had thirteen years this go-round of constant militarization and it is everywhere: in our books, our movies, our songs, our tv shows, and of course, the news hour.  We see flag draped coffins often and lament with our neighbors and continue to glorify the idea that might equals right.  And now it shows up on our streets by our police against the people - those images out of Furguson, MO with the helmeted police-soldiers at the tops of tanks holding rifles against we-the-people.

It was not ever-thus.  There was a time without war, before history was recorded.  How do we know?  Archaeological digs.  More on that in a future post.  But know this, deep in your visceral being:  It is not our nature to be violent.

Back in the day when I was attending an organized religious institution (Unitarian Universalist), we partnered to help - in some small ways - with the local domestic abuse organization. Here in Asheville it's called Helpmate, but it's called many different things in many towns and cities. We can see what a problem this is in our patriarchy by how many organizations exist. Someone from the organization came to talk to us briefly about domestic abuse, and what I came away with was just how calculated the abuse was. She related one example of a man who designed and implemented a plan to make his wife doubt herself. When she came home, he sneaked out of the house and moved her car. He did this over and over again. After a while, she believed that she was going crazy, that her memories were not true, which all plays into the feeling that she had no value.

In the wake of the blowup of the NFL policies which highlights just how abuse of women has been trivialized in our country, we, of course, look at Janay Palmer. How could she have married him after being abused by him? I don't know Ms. Palmer Rice, so I have no idea. I do know how abusers operate.

They are charming. The attention they give women at the beginning of a relationship seems like the good part of a fairy tale. And the women don't realize that in all this charm, the abusers are isolating them from their family and friends. And at a time when women are in a vulnerable situation, the abusers introduce a threat and wait to see how women will react. It's a power trip for the abusers, and they have their wiles to both cajole and retain control over the situation. Some abusers wait until they are on their honeymoon to beat their new wives. They believe that when they do this, the rest of the marriage is a walk in the park - wives will never "get out of line"  with that threat hanging over them.

So why don't women leave?

In our Helpmate talk we were told that women will leave an abusive situation several times before leaving it for good. The reasons are many, but mostly it's about survival. Can she get away without him coming after her? Will he finally kill her like he's been promising? One of the first homicides I transcribed when I worked at the police department was just such a case. When the husband confessed, he was asked if she was still alive when he left her. He said she was "still gurgling". The friend she was with, whom he left for dead, did survive. The fact is that 70% of domestic abuse homicide is after the victim has left the situation.

And then there are the children, the animals, the paycheck that kept them from living on the streets. When a woman is made to feel less than, leaving a situation is herculean. A good resource to read is by Hilary Bok who writes for Vox. She worked for a time in a domestic abuse shelter, and still, with all her knowledge of how abuse works, she found herself in an abusive situation.

The sad fact is, we all know women who have been abused, whether we know their situation or not. I discovered just a few years ago that one of my second cousins had been in an abusive marriage for several decades and never told a soul until some years after her husband died. Like rape, there is a stigma of shame associated with abuse. Why? Because we live amid the patriarchy.

So what can we do to change our society and to eliminate abuse?

1) Stop blaming the victim in any way or fashion. If she goes back to the abuser after having left him, trust that she has good reason to do this.

2) Be known as an advocate for women in abusive situations. Be supportive. Research resources for women and their children. And listen to them.

3) Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and tell them that eliminating domestic abuse is a priority. This needs to be shown through both the penalties for engaging in this, and the programs available to women.

4) Encourage more media attention to get the word out that abuse is wrong, is abnormal to any relationship, and then shame the abuse.

5) Educate our children in school about abuse. Children who come from abusive homes are prepped to live abusive lives.

Ever wonder where the term "rule of thumb" came from? It was the width of a stick legally prescribed in which a husband could beat his wife.  We've come a-ways from this, but we still have much further to go.

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My granny sometimes commented on our behavior when she wanted to reinforce what was not acceptable around her.  She'd say, "Now that's uuuugly," packing in a whole lot of shame as she stretched that word into four syllables.   The leather strap that hung on the wall was a silent reinforcement of the threat stating we kids should be mindful of our p's and q's.

Fast forward to 2014.  Why did it take so long for the NFL to take serious action against Ray Rice when he knocked out his fiance last February?  Why did it take seeing a second video to know that what he did was inexcusable?  The first video showed Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator while she was unconscious; wasn't that enough?

And how indicative is the attitude of the NFL in line with the American public?  Do most Americans believe that a slap on the wrist is justice?  My guess is most Americans don't believe that the NFL was appropriate in how they handled this situation, and the backlash is what caused them to change their policies  in general and to change the ruling for Rice specifically.

But let's go back to that strap that hung on the wall in my Granny's house.  Violence begets violence.  What we are taught when we are children shows up one way or another.  Does everyone who is whipped or spanked as a child end up beating women?  Of course not.  But I'm guessing that most who had this discipline done to them repeat it themselves when they are parenting.  There is something about pain that fuels violence to go farther afield.  And while some are able to control that anger, others are not so successful. Being raised with this type of discipline, we might minimize the damage that domestic violence causes.  According to CNN, the football team owner, Bisciotti, had the scenario in his head of what occurred that night,  "the way he pictured it in his mind Janay Rice was "wailing" on her then-fiance when he slapped her and she was close to the wall and hit her head, knocking her out."  Bisciotti says, "So why did I conclude all of that? Because I wanted to, because I loved him, because he had a stellar record."

That strap symbolizes "Might Equals Right", and our culture today glorifies violence: in sports, war, business, politics, television and movies - even in our language.  Try going for a day without using adjectives that have violent overtones by listening to what others say and to your own words.  I dare you.  (See, even that challenge has an illicit feeling.)

The next blog explores why those who endure domestic abuse continue in those situations. Palmer married Rice during this debacle.

I had a blast last July. I went to Orlando for a seminar on blogging, and my husband came along with me. We took two days to get there and two days to get back, and hit a couple of beaches along the way. The only incident that cast a pall on the trip was the ticket I received from the state trooper in Savannah on the way back.

It didn't matter that I was going with the flow of traffic. Yes, I was speeding on the interstate. I was clocked at 82 mph, and unfortunately it was a 55 limit on that stretch of highway.

When I returned home, I told a friend what happened, and she told me that our state of North Carolina treats other states' tickets as if it occurred here, and 15 miles over the limit meant losing the license for a period of time. I jumped on the internet and saw that I could lose my privilege to drive for a month. I contacted an attorney in Savannah to see if I could get the ticket reduced and long story short, I probably could. But the ticket and the attorney fees would be $1000. So I cut bait and just paid the ticket and let the rest ride.

Another friend said she received a ticket recently when she was traveling.  Similar situation except that it happened in North Carolina. She got the name of an attorney and called and was told to just put the ticket in the mail to them with a $450 check and they'd take care of it. They'd have the ticket changed to improper equipment and she wouldn't receive any points on her insurance. She was in a position to do this, so it's been handled.

These are the bare bones of the story. What is missing is the way I felt. The best word for it is "shame". My face felt hot. When I contacted the attorney, my voice shook. And when I thought about it, I knew it was ridiculous. I was speeding, not committing a heinous crime. So why did this emotion come up? I was feeling vulnerable.

Some of that vulnerability comes from a financial standpoint. Would I have the funds to pay for this? And some of it comes from how this will affect how I live my life. How will I get to work if I lose my license? (And I'm lucky with that - my husband's schedule allows for him to be able to drop me off, and I do live on a bus line.)

I'm not here to whine about paying my dues. I AM here to point out how money makes a difference in how we get treated. I'm lucky - I was able to pay my ticket and I will be able to cope when I'm informed of losing my license. But what about people who are unable to do that? If I felt vulnerable in my situation, what must someone who lives closer to edge feel?

I know we don't have a classless society yet. There are still the have's and have not's. We're always hearing about how the middle class is doing, especially around election time. We know the upper class has the money and the power. And then there is the 1%, the uber-rich, which constructs the blueprints of our society. But we don't often hear about the lower class, those at poverty level.

Perhaps you've heard about the new debtors prison in the news lately. Towns and cities are putting their lack of funds on the backs of those who are the least able to pay. Those who go to court for traffic violations end up on probation with exorbitant court fees and fines, and when they fall behind in paying them off, they are carted off to jail. And while they are there, their bill keeps mounting for their stay in prison! Some states have called debtors prison unconstitutional, but not all states have caught up. The gap between those who are unable to deal with life's governmental fines and those who can is increasing. This needs to change. It's not the vision of America I was taught in school.

Meanwhile, I've got a ticket to ride... I haven't received notice of forfeiture yet, but I know it's coming. I'm not between a rock and a hard place. I am fortunate enough to be able to deal.

Jan and I have been friends since 1979 when we worked together in Atlanta, a bond forged through joy and travail, supporting each other as life threw it's softballs our way. Even though I moved to North Carolina in 1988, our friendship has survived, taking up where we left off each time we get together.

A few of months ago Jan signed me up for a 5K Atlanta Track Club Women's Event, an event she's been attending for a number of years.  Back when she and Scott (her husband of 24 years) got together, Jan started attending running events like the Peachtree Road Race, so this was all old hat to her.  Me?  Not so much. I'm your basic couch potato with visions of fitness that tend to remain visions instead of reality. But I said yes to the 5K event and started to walk at one of the local river parks to get into shape.

So I walked, wondering how far I was walking along this track, making at first two times around and then three.  There was a time in January when I strained my ankle and stopped for a couple of weeks, and then in February when I caught a cold.  But I went back to walking and knew that like the Nike commercial said, I needed to "just do it." As I walked, I remembered the story that Jan told me about one race she had been to that, after leaving, she saw a fundraiser auction nearby.  She stopped and bid on a guitar, which she brought home with her. Scott still comments, "She left for a race, and came home with a guitar," shaking his head as he says this.

I'd made it to walking four times around the track without total exhaustion when it became time to  attend the event late in March. My goal?  Simply to finish the route.

Even thought the 5K didn't start until 8:00, we left the house at 5:45 in the morning so we'd be able to get into the free parking lot, otherwise it was a $20 fee - yikes! It was a brisk morning, in the 30's, and I was dressed in a sweater, hat, cowl, scarf and gloves. (I AM from North Carolina - I know how to do 30 degree weather!) This event being a woman's event, we were given pink tutus to wear, and we wore them proudly! When it came our time to start (we went in waves as there were almost 2000 people there), Jan took off running while I walked, mp3 player giving me the beat in my ears. I was impressed with how compassionate the volunteers and police were around the route. They offered encouragement as we huffed up the hills and smiles as they indicated where to turn. After Jan finished her run, she came back to me and walked with me as I finished the route. And I did. Finish, that is.  I found out later there were even five people behind me. Based on the time it took me, I figure that the laps I'd done in preparation equaled about a half mile each, so I was already up to a two mile stretch. At the end of the race I was given a medal (Jan already had hers) and we got a "recovery box" with crackers, cheese, and a water bottle.  They even gave us a necklace with a pendant made from recycled glass.  I was happy, a little tired, and on top of the world.  And it was only 9:15!

On our way back we stopped at an estate sale - it was Saturday, after all!  On the porch were two rocking chairs.  Jan had been wanting a rocking chair for her front porch.  She asked, "Do you think this rocker will fit into my trunk?"  I looked at the chair, thought about her Toyota Corolla, shook my head, and said, "I don't know, Jan..."  She repeated, "Renee. Do you think this rocker will fit into my trunk?" "Yes," I said,  "yes I think it will!" (I'll get the answer right eventually!) We got a few more items, checked on the chair - it was half off by that point, so she got it for $20 - and carried our loot back to the car.  We put her back seats down, and started to load the chair.  We tried it from the right hand side, the left hand side, right side up, upside down, from the back. No way to get it in the car unless we had it hanging out of the trunk with the lid tied down.  So that's what we decided to do. But we had no rope or bungee cords.  So we used a set of ear buds.  Jan settled the chair in the trunk, anchoring it with other items there so it would not easily fall out, and we made our way back south on I-75 through the bumper-to-bumper Saturday morning traffic with no accident.

We were meeting the husbands at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, and after we sat down, Jan turned to Scott and said, "Well, Scott - it isn't a guitar..." and smiled.

Having time in the mornings to make the transition from the wispiness of dreamtime to the start of another day feels so necessary to me.  

Some days it takes more "umph" than others. 

And sometimes Nature sends me an extra blessing. 

This time it was a red cardinal, just outside the window, who brightened my day. 

Thank you.
Hallow: to make or regard as holy

Hollow:  1-having a cavity inside, not solid; 2-shaped like a bowl, concave; 3-sunken; 4-empty or worthless; 5-hungry; 6-deep toned and muffled

Relationships and patterns fascinate me.  My eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be and I mistook “hollow” for “hallow” one day.  I’d never stopped to think before that these two words are spelled the same except for the vowel, and yet they represent opposites.  Hallow is recognizing that which is sacred and hollow being empty of that sacredness. 

So I started wondering, what is hollow in my life?  When I think of hollow, I think of the middle part of a reed. What do I have that is represented by that?  Because I started to see that hallow and hollow are not opposites, but rather complements of sacredness.  It’s necessary when seeking and appreciating the sacred in our lives that we spend some time getting out of ourselves, making room by emptying, so that we can be filled with all the paradox of the spiritual – the fresh and old, awe and mundane, exquisite and ordinary – these are the gifts we are given when hallow and hollow are embodied.

But what about the 4th definition above for hollow, “worthless”?   In seeing hollow as a way of making space, it points out the “worthless” that is in our lives.  And it makes me realize that time is the most precious commodity that we have.  How many times have I had time to myself (and not necessarily alone, but being taken out of the routine that usually makes up my life) when I see a way of relating to the world that I want to make sure I don’t forget, so I write it down.  Then, two weeks later I might look back at my journal and wonder what in the world was I talking about?   The routine took over, and I was not consciously making space in my life so I could continue to enjoy whatever epiphany had enveloped me earlier.  It is the taking of time with what we are doing that clarifies meaning in our lives.

Time and space: these two dimensions can have such a powerful effect on us.  A few years ago I was working with a colleague on a worship service during a retreat.  We’d created a cairn in the middle of the room and the ritual was to walk around it three times, carrying stones to be placed on the cairn, while singing “We all come from the Goddess”.  We failed to realize just how much time that would take with 50 women walking around the room three times.  I was concerned that it was just taking too long when, listening to the chant of the song, suddenly there was a melody lifted up above the song, a completely different tune that complemented the body of what we were singing while creating an ethereal quality to the entire service.  It lifted us up into the mystery.  After the service, the woman who had sung this said that it just came to her, this tune out of nowhere, that she was called to sing out.  This was a woman who had just been told she had breast cancer and this seemed to me to be a grace given to all of us through her.  It happened because there was an intersection of time and space.  In that state of being it was hollowed out for us, creating the hallow.



    Renee has been around the block a few times and has some opinions on how we interact with each other. She's bringing over the blog posts from My Peace of the Earth, and will be adding more.


    December 2015
    May 2015