Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Z is for Zest

My zest for this challenge has waned. However, I’m going to finish, all the way to ze bitter end. And now it is over. Z End.

Y is for Yes

Y is for Yes. I said Yes to the A to Z Challenge for April because I wanted to develop a blogging habit. Kind of like a smoking or drinking habit, but with less negative impact. I wanted to ace it, to show that YES, I am a writer and I WRITE! Now, I’m proud of some of my entries. Others are terrible, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m getting the feeling that this entry may fall into the terrible column…

But Yes is a powerful word. I try to be judicious in saying yes, because I’m fairly compulsive about keeping my word. Oh, and I tend to overcommit my time, just oh, a wee little bit. I mean, let’s look at what’s going on this month that I said YES to.

  • Writing 1000 words a day, as part of the ongoing 365K challenge by 10Minute Novelists.
  • Writing 26 blog posts in the month of April.
  • Hosting a free webinar for my business.
  • Launching a new service for my business.
  • Painting my office.
  • Hanging new curtains in my office.
  • Becoming the organizer for my networking group.
  • Beginning my Reiki Mastership class.
  • Doing Reiki distance and in person treatments to volunteers on a donation basis.
  • Redoing my entire accounting system for my business.
  • Finalizing my 2014 tax return.
  • Meditating 5 times a week.
  • Planting close to 20 new garden plants.
  • Preschool bus service for my daughter 5 days a week, dance lessons on Saturdays, church on Sundays, home cooked meals 4-5 nights per week.

Hmmm, YES, I’d say I overcommit. But then again, we all do, right? Well, maybe not ALL of us. But a fair number of us.

I’ve enjoyed this challenge a lot, but I’m glad that there’s only one more day. I’m going to continue an increased blogging pace, but probably not 6 posts a week!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xenomorph

I first heard the word Xenomorph in the awesome movie Aliens. I’m a big fan of the entire Aliens quadrilogy, but not of the Alien v. Predator series. Anyway, in Aliens, the heroic Ripley uses the term xenomorph to describe the Alien, who is really just a physical manifestation of H.R. Giger’s nightmares.

Now, I can’t find the actual word xenomorph in my actual dictionary or in an online dictionary. However, the word xenomorphic appears to be an actual word, and if there’s a xenomorphic, there really ought to be a xenomorph. Come on, English, this one’s easy!

Xenomorphic, it should be noted, is also recognized by my spellcheck, and honestly, spellcheck doesn’t even recognize itself, so there’s that.

Xenomorphic is an adjective used to describe rocks that are not in their normal shape, whatever that shape happens to be. Taken to its Greek roots of xeno and morph, it just means strange shape, so it’s a pretty good term for the Alien. 
There you have it. An X entry in the AtoZ Challenge that I’m willing to bet you haven’t read ANYWHERE today!

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for White

I’ve doing a very cool program called Self-Magic Woman with the talented Monicka Clio Sakki. It’s all about experimenting with color and photography and self-magic. If that sounds hard to explain, it is. However, it is a LOT of fun.

This past week we worked with the color white. We were encouraged to do some journaling about white and what it means to us. When I think of white, I think of the typical Western connotations of purity, virginity, beginnings, etc. When I did my first “playshoot,” a video/selfie session, I discovered Greek goddesses. The way I dressed myself (as seen in an example shot below) reminded me of all the white Greek and Roman statuary out there. Of course, back in the day, those statues were mostly painted in real life colors, but now all we have is the pure white marble. 

To me, white is room for something else. Blank canvases are white: after all, that’s the whole point of the joke painting “polar bears in a snowstorm.” White canvases create space for something new to exist. White space or negative space creates space for the design to shine forth. A new Word document is a white window; a blank notebook has white or white-hued pages. Artists often begin with whiteness.

As a coach, I strive to be “white” in this way: to be a white space for my clients. They begin talking, and in the space of listening they hear themselves. My listening is their blank canvas.

What does white mean to you?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Vigilante Parenting Experts

I’ve read a lot of the stories, and you probably have too. They exist on both sides of the extreme: the parents who kill their children through blatant and forgetful neglect and the people who call the cops at the slightest sign of an absent parent. As the weather warms up, you can expect that during a slow news cycle you will see articles about kids who die of hyperthermia after being left in their car seats by their parents. There will be self-righteous social media posts about how no one deserving of a child could actually forget said child, along with tips about how to avoid forgetting one’s child. Right now, however, the media has decided to feed us stories about vigilante parenting “heroes” who call the cops any time they see a child unattended, in any setting.

Now, I know these vigilantes believe they are doing the right thing in reporting parents. But the problem, as it so often is in our society, is that they are not taking any time to investigate or discuss the issue with the parents. And in fact, by calling the cops and child protective services, they are actually harming children who are at real risk of harm.

How are they harming them? By taking resources away from cases when children are actually being neglected and harmed. Every hour a CPS worker spends on case management for a parent who chose to trust her child’s ability to play unsupervised on a playground is an hour that same worker cannot spend on a parent who beats her child unconscious every month.

So how can a person do the right thing? After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and minding our own business isn’t the answer. I believe it requires a willingness to invest in other people and a willingness to not be the center of attention.

If I see a mom struggling with multiple kids, I’ll offer to watch those kids so she can, say, run to the bathroom, or chase down the runaway toddler. If I see one kid hogging a swing on the playground, I’ll tell her to take turns. If I see a child playing alone, if I have to leave I may check on him to see if he’s OK. But if he says his parents know where he is and he can get home safely, I’ll walk away. On the other hand, if he falls and gets hurt, I’ll step in and help him get whatever care he needs. If I’m in a parking lot on a hot day and I see a child in a car seat, I’ll wait by the car, and if the child looks like she’s in danger, I’m going to use my survival hammer to break the window and call 911. If it’s not a hot day, I’ll probably just loiter near the car until the parent returns and drives off.

The point is that we need to involve ourselves to the point of asking questions and making offers. We can’t just stand there and film something we find objectionable and then call the cops – that’s toxic. Instead, we need to ask questions, offer help, speak up. We need to understand that other parents are different, other kids are different, and discipline is not abuse just because it’s different.

So, if you are truly concerned about the problem of children dying in car seats, then I suggest you patrol local office parking lots. (And this is a very important and tragic problem, which warrants concern). But those children don’t die in the parking lot of grocery stores – they die in the parking lots of the parent’s place of work. And if you are truly concerned about kids playing alone, then go to a neighborhood where you see unsupervised kids and offer to supervise the playground after school. If you just want to catch a parent making a mistake so you can play hero, then by all means, film kids left in cars for less than 10 minutes and call the cops. But realize that you have just become a menace to all the kids who actually need the protection of the system.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

U is for Unicorns

As a child, I believed completely in unicorns. I knew they were real. I drew them all the time. My parents were spared the typical little girl request for a pony because I didn’t want one. I wanted a unicorn, and I knew that was not something a person could just go and get. Unicorns existed, but they existed in a magical realm and were wild, not the kind of animal you kept as a pet.

I remember one year Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town, claiming to have a real unicorn in the show. I was so excited. We went and I watched eagerly, desperate to see the pure white steed with golden hair and golden horn. What I saw instead was a goat with 1 horn. A little white goat, with a stubby fat horn. Talk about disillusionment!

After that I let my belief in unicorns to fade into the small space in my brain where I held magic and fairies and “real” dolls. I still like to think that perhaps there were wild unicorns roaming in medieval lands, seeking out ladies with pure hearts.

Now that I have my own daughter I am unabashedly encouraging her belief in unicorns. I’m thrilled to discover that the My Little Pony franchise has a number of adorable unicorns, pegasi, and flying unicorns. We don’t watch the TV show, but I thoroughly enjoy the toys. 

Last summer I had a blast created a my little pony Unicorn party. I made unicorn horns for all the kids and adults! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

T is for Technology

Technology is super fantastic. Except when it's not.

My first job was working for an IT Helpdesk. I learned all kinds of ways that computers could go horribly wrong, some through user error and some through just plain bad software. My years in that job contributed hugely to my current exclusive reliance on Apple products.

But now, as things have moved onto Web based platforms, I have awful things happen to me. Just because I was a computer geek in the 90's doesn't mean I know the first thing about technology today.

Today, in particular was a bad day. I honestly am not even sure if this blog post will work. Still, in the end, technology is a very cool thing.

Oh, you were expecting a longer post? Check back in TOMORROW!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

S is for Sin

Sin, the big bad elephant in the room of religion. At least in Christianity. Every religion deals with the idea that we are not wholly good. We do things that displease the divine, and we have to then make it right. Maybe that happens through prayer, or sacrifice, or good deeds, but however it happens, it must still happen.

In some churches, we are apologetic as we talk about sin. We shrug our shoulders and just admit our own sin and halfheartedly point out the sins of others. In other churches sin is the main course: the heart of the sermon, accompanied by judgment, condemnation, and an altar call.

The concept of sin is sneered at by some, seen as an archaic relict of ancient beliefs. Others believe that if we just talked about sin MORE, there would be less evil in the world. We all love to point out the sins of others, and compare their sins to our own.

I believe that sin talk is good news, news that points us to greater and greater love and gratitude. And so here's my own talk about sin.

First, as a Christian, I am not condemned. I stand pure and unblemished in God's eyes (Romans 8). If I died right in the middle of committing adultery, I would still be able to stand before God and enter into my reward, because Jesus has reconciled me with the Divine. No purgatory. No payment required. The only thing I can do when I sin is to admit it to God. And that's not required either. Because if I don't know a sin, and therefore don't confess it, I'm still absolved by Jesus.

So why look at my sins at all? Because as I acknowledge my sins, I grow in love and gratitude to God. The story in Luke 7 illustrates this. In this story, a sinful woman gate crashes a dinner party that Jesus is attending. She goes to his feet, washes them with her tears (that's a lot of weeping), wipes them with her hair, then anoints them with perfume. The host of the party is offended that Jesus let her touch him to start with, much less all the weeping and wiping and anointing. And naturally Jesus picks up on this discomfort and tells a parable.
40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii,[k] and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus[l] said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

God has forgiven all my sins. I don't know how great my debt was, but I know it was pretty formidable. And the more I can see the size of my debt, the more I love God. And that is why I review and confess my sins. Because every single confession increases my love for my Creator. We don't confess because we need to grovel. We don't confess because otherwise God wouldn't know what we did or thought. We don't confess to satisfy someone else. We confess because it is a spiritual discipline that brings us greater intimacy with God.

So, why would we talk about other people's sins? That's a great question. It doesn't bring us closer to God. It doesn't bring joy or peace into other people's lives. I don't see "calling out a fellow Christian" listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  We are tasked with monitoring our own sins, in order to grow in intimacy with God. We are not tasked with pointing out the sins of others.

That's my sin talk. I reckon not all my readers liked it. I don't intend to give offense. I do hope to offer food for thought.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Top 10 questions about Once Upon A Time

Just watched Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time and I have some questions,  requests, and gratitudes. In no particular order, here they are. BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD!

10. Can Emma and Hook kiss more often? Like, maybe once every episode?

9. Does Emma really think giving Regina a gun is going to protect her?

8. Who names a baby Cruella?

7. Thank you, for making Cruella just plain evil. And for her awesome line to Maleficent owning up to her treatment of Lily.

6. Do you really expect me to believe that killing Cruella, the show’s only true evil villain, is supposed to be what turns Emma dark?

5. Also special thanks to Regina for her utter lack of sympathy, and then her lack of remorse when the Charmings gave her shocked faces.

4. What was Cruella planning to do with that magic pen? Untold wealth?

3. Using Belle’s heart to manipulate her was pretty sketchy on Regina’s part, but since it gave her the chance to taunt Rumpel with Will Scarlet’s superior kissing skills, I’ll allow it.

2. How is it that Rumpel is so unattractive, yet has such magnetism? Great acting!

1. Seriously, let’s have more screentime for Hook. And more kissing.

R is for Ruminate

I really wanted to do another blog post about Once Upon a Time, my guilty pleasure TV show. I was going to do "R is for Regina." Sadly, this week's episode did not feature a lot of Regina: it was Cruella's backstory instead. Now, I'll try to avoid spoilers, but I will say this: if you name a child Cruella, you really shouldn't be surprised if that child isn't exactly an angel. 

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming!
Rumination. Rumination is pondering. Medically speaking, it means to bring up food that has already been chewed and rechew it. Cows chewing cud are ruminating. I like to think about ruminating on the Bible.

I’ve done all kinds of Bible study and meditation. At this point, when I meditate on a scripture, it’s akin to rumination because I’m often retrieving passages I’ve already studied. Yet there’s always something to learn. Meditation is spiritual rumination.

Right now I’m following the Book of Common Prayer for my bible reading. This means every day that I pray (which is not every day), I read a passage from the Hebrew Testament, the New Testament, and one of the Gospels. The readings were assembled hundreds of years ago and put together very deliberately. Sometimes this is beautifully obvious, as when I read a prophetic passage and then read the fulfillment of it. Sometimes it’s much less obvious, and my mind searches for the connection in the texts. While this method of Bible reading is much less intense, it has great value for me. No, I’m not doing an inductive study, searching for patterns and asking questions of the text. Nor am I imagining myself in the story, or reading the passage repeatedly and letting meditation guide my prayer. I’m simply reading the passage in the setting of the liturgy. What I’ve found, however, is that often one or two verses will simply call out to me. They leap off the page and nestle into my mind and heart, and I’ll remember them throughout the day. It’s a different kind of rumination, much less intentional. But it is clearly led by the Holy Spirit. This is the rumination I need at this season in my life.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Q is for Querulous

This is one of those pretentious $20 words that I know and understand but don’t ever use. I wasn’t 100% sure of the pronunciation until I looked it up – but that’s very common for me. I’ve always read books that were above my school level, which means I spent a lot of time learning words only through context. And context never gives proper pronunciation. In addition, I totally slacked off when learning phonics, considering it a strange abstract exercise with no relevance to my life. So I don’t always say words correctly.

But back to the word of the day! Living with a toddler means I get to experience querulousness almost daily. Living with myself living with a toddler means I get to hear a querulous tone in my voice every day. Any guesses as to the meaning?

The online dictionary informs me that querulous rhymes with perilous, giving me very important information about how to say it. Maybe I should’ve read poetry instead of books – then I might be able to say all the words I can read! But it would have to be older rhyming poetry.

And now for my finale, a limerick!

There once was a child who was querulous,
Who also could be very garrulous.
When it came time to dine
In a restaurant so fine,
His parents thought it really quite perilous.

Friday, April 17, 2015

P is for Pleasure

I've heard it said that humans are motivated to either avoid pain or seek pleasure. I've also heard that avoiding pain is a much greater motivator than seeking pleasure. As a life coach, I see people avoiding pain ALL the time rather than seeking pleasure. We do the bare minimum to avoid pain (brushing teeth), but don't even put effort forth to seek pleasure. For some reason, we seem to think that pleasure has to cost money and be a big deal. And we are so busy that we lack any mindfulness to enjoy the thousands of small free pleasures all around us.

C.S. Lewis had a statement in one of his books, and I can't remember which one, about how God created so many good and pure pleasures for us to enjoy. Yet we mess around instead with the unhealthy pleasures, somehow convinced that getting drunk on a Friday night is more rewarding than getting up early to watch the sunrise and listen to birdsong on Saturday morning. And I say that as a confirmed night owl!

I am always practicing mindfulness - and I don't mean I'm actually successful - I mean that I try to be mindful at all times. For example, one morning this week a song came on the radio that my daughter and I both enjoy. When we got to preschool, I cut the car off and she protested, saying that the song hadn't finished yet. So I started the car and reached back to unbuckle her. To my great delight, she climbed into the front seat and sat in my lap while we listened to the final 45 seconds of the song. What a simple, beautiful pleasure, that cost us nothing!

What pleasures can you find in your life today?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

O is for Operator Error

I used to work for an IT helpdesk. That means I've seen far more than my share of operator error. Operator error is, for purposes of this post, whenever someone has broken his/her computer through his/her actions and not through a problem with the software or hardware. So, if someone's network cable comes unplugged, that's not operator error. But when someone puts an unconventionally shaped CD into a CD player and it gets stuck, that's operator error.

One of my favorite stories involves doing phone support. I was on the phone with these very sweet and not at all technically inclined women. They needed to reboot the server. Now, servers don't have nice big fat power buttons. And this model required you to hold the power button down for a few seconds. So I talk them through (and yes, I was talking to 3 women at the same time) unlocking and opening the front faceplate of the server. Then I tell them to find the small button (black on a black background) and hold it down. Nothing happened. Repeatedly. I'm asking and asking and asking for confirmation, and nothing is happening. Finally, one of the women says, "What about the tray?"
"What tray?" I ask. "There's a tray that keeps coming in and out."

And that was when I realized they had been pressing the CD eject button. For 10 minutes. While telling me that nothing was happening when they pressed the button.

And that, folks, is operator error!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

N is for New Girl

I started watching New Girl back when it first came on in 2011. I was hooked by the first two episodes. While some people find Zooey Deschanel and her whole “adorkable” thing annoying, I enjoy it. She’s not really the best part of the show, however. The best part of the show is how the whole cast works together. Watching the outtakes on YouTube is awesome, and suggests to me that all the actors enjoy working together, which probably brings a lot to the humor.
Here are the best aspects of New Girl.

Nick Miller’s face. Seriously, I think his face is about as mobile as Jim Carrey’s.

Schmidt and the douche jar. While they haven’t used the douche jar in many recent episodes, the whole over-the-top character that is Schmidt never gets old, at least not for me! 

Nick Miller’s complete incompetence 

Winston’s cat.

The way the whole loft comes together in times of crisis.

Are you a fan of New Girl? What's your favorite part?

M is for Mother

I am a mother. Just as everyone promised, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. And I learned ancient Hebrew!

When I got pregnant, my husband and I researched parenting methods and decided to implement positive discipline. Now that my daughter is almost 4, I realize that positive parenting probably works for 90% of children. My daughter is the 10%.

Now, I’m NOT criticizing my daughter. She is a strong willed warrior and I am truly glad of that. However, it takes a very special kind of parenting to discipline and train a strong willed warrior without destroying that will, and positive parenting just doesn’t get the job done for us.

In addition, my own personality works against me: I’m completely non confrontational, which means that my instincts work against me every time my dear one challenges me. It’s emotionally exhausting for me because I must find ways to deal with the confrontations: ways which will nurture my little one’s strong will but also give her the strong limits and boundaries that she desperately needs. 

This is why we now see a family therapist. Because, frankly, I’m not too proud to admit when I’m in over my head and don’t know what to do. I knew it was time for professional advice, and so I went and got it. Let’s throw out the stigma against getting help of any kind, please. I’m a better parent now that I’m working with a therapist, and my relationship with my daughter is better, and I know that our relationship will be better in 10 years because I’m putting in the hard work now.

There are times when I wonder if things will ever get easier. People always tell me that this age is easy, or that stage is delightful. And while my daughter brings me laughter all the time, it’s never easy. She’s brilliant, beautiful, and strong willed. I am doing everything in my power to nurture that, while also being the boss. She demands my own strength of will, as well as every last ounce of patience and intelligence. She is upping my game. And ultimately, I’m glad. When I’m in the trenches of a tantrum, I’m not thrilled, but on the whole, I know that this is exactly the perfect child for me and my husband. God gave her to us in order for all three of us to grow in love. It’s just that growing in love is intense and often painful.

My decision to become a mom was very intentional. My husband and I committed to six months of prayer and seeking counsel before we committed to parenthood. So we were clear on our reasons before we ever got pregnant. That has been greatly helpful. We didn’t have a child to satisfy our desires, or to contribute something specific to the world, or to have one more person to love us. We had a child to expand our love for each other – to increase the amount of love in the world. So when we are both exhausted and chaos reigns in the house, we can hold on to one reality: we love this little firestarter like no one else in the world. It doesn’t matter what she does: we love her for existing. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Lack

Lack comes in many forms. Financial, emotional, physical. I’m currently working with a money coach, so I’ve been thinking about financial lack a lot. She talks about Psalm 23:1, which in the translation she prefers says “The Lord is my shepherd, I do not lack.”
It’s easy to focus on lack regardless of our actual situation. For example, I’m a married mother of one in the US. I’m a homeowner with no car loans and enough money each month to spend money on things that aren’t necessities. Being part of the middle class in the US means I’m way ahead of most of the world. Yet I still focus on lack. I stress out about money. I worry about how to afford maintenance on my car and home. Primarily for me, I focus on financial lack in my business, which is almost 3 years old.
I’m working to shift this focus. Instead of lack, I focus on abundance. I focus on all that I do have. I also am working on my inner attitudes about money and my career. What are my beliefs? What are my worries? What do I secretly think when it comes to money and my ability to earn it, especially my ability to earn it as an entrepreneur?
Studies suggest that, even beyond ideas like the Secret or the Law of Attraction, how we think affects how we act. If we live with a mindset that focuses on lack, we will always lack, because we will make decisions that create lack. Whereas when we have an mindset of abundance and provision, we create more of it through our actions.
This is my journey thus far. I look forward to discovering where my business will be next year!

Monday, April 13, 2015

10 Thoughts about Once Upon a Time

Sunday night’s latest episode of Once Upon a Time, Heart of Gold, wasn’t the strongest one I’ve seen, but it had one heckuva twist! If you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now


OK, so, here’s the twist: Marian is actually Zelena. In the immortal words of Neo, “Whoa.”

Because it’s Top 10 Tuesday, I’ve got 10 thoughts about this twist in particular and about Season 4 in general.

10. I love this twist! I loved Zelena, and I knew she wasn’t dead. I mean, anyone who watches the show knows that. Zelena is probably the best evil character we’ve had since Regina turned to the Light Side, and while I love Regina’s complex character, there’s something very satisfying about a purely evil villain like Zelena.

9. This twist explains beautifully why little Roland couldn’t save Marian’s life when she was freezing to death. His true love’s kiss would’ve failed just as surely as Robin’s did, although for a different reason. You can argue that Roland doesn’t know it’s not his mom, but I would argue back that true love can tell these things. I mean, Olivia totally understood that in the show Fringe!

8. I’ve never liked Marian, and now I know why. She’s always seemed very cold and hostile, and while sure, she had reason (or so we thought), she sure doesn’t display any lovable characteristics.

7. Some people say Zelena never would’ve given into the ice curse or let Regina take out her heart, but that was just part of being undercover. She is clearly more devoted to deep cover than Regina is.

6. Apparently some people are really upset because Regina and Robin committed adultery this season. I’m not upset by that. Here’s the thing: Regina and Robin almost certainly had already had sex before Marian came back. And yes, having sex again after her return is adultery, but this is a TV show, not a morality tale. Not to mention, Prince Charming sustained an affair with Mary Margaret and was altogether despicable about it, and no one seemed to mind then, except possibly me.

5. I loved the cliffhanger at the end. Who will Regina choose? Emma or Robin? Will she choose Emma and hope that the Heroes will find a way to get her a happy ending? Or will she choose Robin, which would put Emma on the path to darkness? And if Emma goes dark, will her light pass into Maleficent’s daughter?

Thanks to for this awesome image

4. We are all but sure that Maleficent’s daughter is Emma’s young friend Lily. Where is Lily now? Wouldn’t it be awesome if Lily turned out to be Cruella? Like, she dabbled in dark magic and went back in time and became Cruella? This show is just crazy enough for this to happen. Besides, Maleficent’s family tree is way too easy at this point.

3. Henry is apparently destined to be a pawn next episode. I can’t wait to see Emma and Regina get angry and work together again.

2. I was a little sad that they have totally discounted the Oz storyline. Will Scarlet got to Oz by betraying Robin Hood’s trust, so Robin should have recognized him easily.

1. So the Author is ready to get back to writing. What caused him to create such black and white tales? Morality, or mischief? If he truly believes villains shouldn’t get happy endings, then how long will his belief stand up against Gold and company? 

Fellow Once fans, how do you feel? 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

K is for Karma

Karma is one of those ideas that seems very popular, especially considering its origin. In a Western Judeo Christian world, that one facet of Hinduism should be so recognizable and understood is interesting. Why is this so? What does Karma offer that we find lacking in our own cultural background?

I can see the attraction for myself in my own personality: while I’m fierce about justice and fairness, I hate confrontation. The idea that the Universe is mysteriously acting on my behalf to right wrongs is perfect. But is that what karma really is?

As is true for all religious ideas, karma is much more complicated than the idea that the universe is mystically balances scales in a way we can understand. First, there’s the fact that karma exists in several religious traditions, so there are naturally variations and differences. Then there’s the fact that karma represents something beyond human understanding: It’s just not as simple as “Peter kills John, so Peter must be killed.”

I believe that karma offers us a couple of things. First, karma offers us the idea that there is true justice operating without interference. Given the complexities and flaws in the US justice system, that’s pretty attractive. But I think it also provides us with justification for something darker.

The Christian tradition teaches us that we can receive grace, which is a massively unfair concept. Grace allows anyone, anyone at all, to be at peace with God, at any given moment. There is no justice. Murderers, adulterers, drug dealers, and pedophiles will be sitting with us common liars, thieves, fools, and rageaholics in heaven. We don’t use the principle of grace in the US justice system, but we teach it in our churches, and in our culture. Love your enemies, forgive everyone.

Karma gets us off the hook for all that enemy loving and neighbor forgiving. It’s sly, the way it works. That neighbor who never picks up his dog’s poop, even when it’s in other people’s yards? We wouldn’t bat an eye if he fell down and got covered in mud, or dog poop. Our spouse doesn’t follow our advice and then gets into a mess? Suddenly it’s his problem, not our problem.

We want justice, just not applied to us. Karma would seem to offer that. In the world of grace, no one is treated justly, and so no one is better than someone else. In the world of karma, at least as it is simplified and reduced by US culture, people get what they deserve, and some people are better than others. It’s appealing.

I want to conclude by saying that I in no way intend for this post to be an accurate description of karma. And I’m not saying that karma is better or worse than the idea of grace. I just observe that in a culture heavily influenced by Christianity, which teaches grace, karma does not naturally become popular unless it fills a need. What do you think about karma?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Jesus

Jesus was a man who lived, well, you know, about 2000 years ago! Many people, myself among them, believe that he was also God, and that after his execution he came back to life. I worship this man/God Jesus as God. And it really bothers me when people use the name Jesus as a curse.
Now, just to get one elephant out of the room: I know Jesus probably wasn’t called Jesus. In Hebrew, there is no letter for “j”. There isn’t one in Latin or Greek either, and I’d be willing to bet there wasn’t a J in Aramaic, so we can rule out Jesus as the actual name. His name was a variant on the Hebrew word for save, which means it was closer to Joshua than Jesus. And given the lack of J, it would’ve been pronounced with a “y” sound, so we’re talking about something a lot more like Yeshua. So, yeah, I know that Jesus didn’t answer to that particular phonic combination. However, when people use “jesus” as a swear word, they definitely are referring to Jesus Christ, the man I worship as God.
I also really hate it when people use God as a swear, as in “on my god” and “god dammit.” To me, this is a direct violation of the 10 Commandments, and I find it highly ironic that so many Christians use the second commandment to prohibit saying “shit” or “damn” but go ahead and say “oh my god” all the time. The second commandment doesn’t say one damn thing about curse words – it only refers to the name of God.
And another rabbit trail: I fully believe that Christians are free from the law, all of it, including the 10 Commandments. So I’m not saying that Christians who say “oh my god” are bad or evil or offensive to God. I’m just saying it’s offensive to ME, and frankly, I don’t have the right to never be offended. But on my blog, I get to say my piece and so I’m saying it right now.
The thing about using Jesus or God as expletives is that “Jesus” really, really bothers me. The phrase “oh my god” is practically ubiquitous, and god can refer to more than one deity. So I can always pretend that the use of “god” is in reference to Zeus or some other deity. But when the name Jesus is used, I physically wince. There is no escaping that. It feels to me as though someone is taking something beautiful and precious and stomping it into the dirt. So there you have it. A pet peeve of mine.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Iverything

I don’t want to write a blog post tonight or tomorrow. Haha, I’m getting burned out.
I is for Iguana. I don’t know much about iguanas.
I is for ignorance. Ignorance is bliss.
I is for Indigo Girls. I first heard the Indigo Girls when I was in high school and a new friend made me a mix tape. It had Indigo Girls and Kate Bush and other indie artists and I loved the Indigo Girls the best. Then my brother went to college and got an Indigo Girls album that I liked listening to. I bought all the albums of theirs I could get after college. I heard them in Charlotte a few years ago, in a small coffee shop bar. I was in the front row and it was amazing. I never saw them at the height of their popularity. Small bars are great for concerts though – so intimate.

I is for Igloo. I learned about igloos when I wrote a paper about native peoples architecture. I had never thought about the fact that a real igloo is only about 40 degrees inside. They weren’t full time dwelling structures, generally speaking. They were more commonly temporary structures for hunting and fishing expeditions. And they didn’t have an opening right in the side.  Instead, there was a tunnel out through the snow. It would angle down away from the igloo and then angle back up and out. The angle kept cold wind and snow from rushing into the igloo. I guess 40 degrees is pretty nice when it’s below freezing outside. Sometimes they made a door covering using skin glazed with fat to make it translucent. Sometimes they did stay in the igloo for a long time, and when spring came, the roof would melt in and a temporary fur skin roof would be put up in its place. It’s amazing to me that not only do people survive in environments like that, but they stay there. Did it never occur to them to travel south for nicer weather? What makes a nomadic people group stay within certain boundaries?

I is for inside. I don’t like being inside. I prefer to go outside.

I is for I. The first person singular pronoun, gender neutral.

I is for ice. Tori is now singing Let it go. She loves the song. I love the song too. It makes me cry.

I is for Internal. Internal affairs, internal memos, internal messages. Internal, inside.

I have doubled up photos within my iphoto.

I is for all things Apple. The iPad, the iPhone, iPhoto, iTunes, iMac. But what does the “i” stand for? Internet?

I is for the Internet. I still remember when the internet first was invented. Who knew what it would turn into? I don’t think DARPA knew. And the Internet was in parts – email lists, news forums and threads, the World Wide Web, etc. People used all different parts – now it’s all WWW and people don’t even think about things like the old listservs and message boards. Because those things are incorporated into the WWW. Anyone could learn html. Anyone could throw up a website. And we all did. I used to just wander around looking at terrible websites. There was one I loved: Cruel Site of the Day. They specialized in finding bizarre, awful, and just plain bad websites to feature. Free publicity, of a kind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

H is for Thursday

Ooof, I feel the stench of desperation as I struggle with this post! I've run out of steam and inspiration, but tomorrow looms ahead and I must write about H.
And just like lightning, I realize that in most abbreviations, the day Thursday is abbreviated as H! Joyous Day, I've got my post!
Why is Thursday abbreviated as H? Well, as I google it I see that, in fact, no one abbreviates it as H. They use R. I could SWEAR that when I was in college, it was H. Classes were either MWF (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or TH (Tuesday, Thursday). Now I need to poll the Internet. Am I crazy? Am I making up the H abbreviation of Thursday because of a blog post?

A synesthete alphabet, but not mine

And now for a twisty little rabbit trail: it's possible that I confused the letters because I have synesthesia, and when letters have the same color, I tend to confuse them. However, it's unlikely that I confused H for R, because H and R are completely different colors. I confuse R with A and K because they are all red. H is brown. If you're a synesthete, you know what I'm talking about...

G is for Grooming

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses aspects of child sexual abuse.

In 2002 I began volunteering with the sexual assault hotline for the city of Alexandria. My training was excellent, and included extensive education about sexual assault and abuse. We had a special section for how to work with adult survivors of abuse. Sexual abuse of children is disruptive to the person’s entire life, so much so that adult survivors call hotlines to deal with the problems inflicted upon them by their molesters. In 2005-2009 I got a Master’s degree in pastoral counseling, which included education about sexual molestation and abuse. So I guess it’s fair to say that I’m more educated about sexual abuse than the average jane.

But it’s time for people to learn more about this troubling topic. A friend of mine has recently decided to leave a church she was considering joining because they do absolutely no screening of the volunteers in their kids ministry. And I know this church is, sadly, not the exception. There seems to be this assumption that if the members of the community know a person, or if the person has children, s/he is fit to work with other kids. And that’s not necessarily true.

Which brings me to the letter of the day: G. G is for grooming. Grooming is what child molesters do, both to their victims and to the adults around those victims. A quote from the linked article states: The child molesters will “then proceed to impress (or ‘groom’) the adults around them by becoming the most reliable on-call volunteer, the most generous friend, the most giving neighbor or the favorite relative.” Do you see the problem? Not only are children most likely to be molested by people they know, they are likely to be molested by people who are friends of their parents.

This is why churches would be wise to carefully screen all potential volunteers for their children’s ministries. Background checks will not uncover all potential predators, but it at least provides some oversight, and it keeps sex offenders out*. It also demonstrates the will to take child abuse seriously, which can deter potential predators who will move to easier targets.

I would always be willing to be investigated – in fact, I would rather a church investigate me and reject me than assume that I’m a fit volunteer simply because I was blessed with a child.

If you participate in a church, how do they screen the children’s volunteers? If there is no screening, consider speaking up. You could save a child from unthinkable treatment. 

*I know not all sex offenders were convicted of crimes with children. Obviously each ministry can tailor their program and their requirements to suit their particular congregation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Why Religious Discrimination is Bad Business

With Indiana's recent legislation there's been a lot of discussion about these "religious protection" acts, both state and federal. Regardless of where you stand on Indiana's particular law, you may want to think twice before you rush to defend your religious beliefs in the business world. Why? Because it's bad business, and here's 10 reasons why, just in time for Top 10 Tuesday.

10. The threat of lawsuits
OK, this is probably the most obvious issue. When you discriminate, you are at risk for a lawsuit. The thing about the US legal system is that you can be sued by anyone for anything. And sure, maybe you were right, but do you really want to spend your time and money in court? Because even if the case gets dismissed, you’ll have to spend a lot more time than you anticipate in a courtroom.

9. The threat of bad publicity
We all, by now, know the sad story of the pizza business in Indiana that suffered so much bad publicity, from a hypothetical situation, no less, that they are going out of business. As businesses, we can’t live in fear, but we can take reasonable action to minimize the risk of bad PR.

8. Are you sure your beliefs teach what you think they do?
A few years ago there was a big stink about pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control. They argued that their religion prevented the use of birth control. Yet the Catholic church does not condemn the use of hormonal contraception for treatment of medical issues such as endometriosis. And of course, unless the pharmacist in question has access to the patient’s medical records, s/he does not know if the hormonal prescription is intended for contraception or medical treatment. Talk to your clergy about your concerns and make sure you are fully informed.

7. Are you sure of your customer's intention?
The pharmacy example illustrates this point as well. Pharmacists who were opposed to women having access to contraception demonstrated an ignorance of the other purposes of hormonal birth control. In fact, I used hormonal birth control for at least 10 years while I was a virgin. As in, not sexually active, not needing to prevent contraception, a virgin. If a pharmacist had refused to dispense birth control to me s/he would have absolutely been misinterpreting my intention. If you can’t be sure of the intention, then your discrimination is not only a mistake, it’s unwarranted.

6. Misunderstanding how religion, ethics, and business interact
Religion is meant to bring people together. Business is about delivering a product or service. We bring ethics to business in order to deliver the product or service in a way that is best for everyone involved. When we try to bring religion into business, things get messy, in no small part because of money. In Christianity, the primary goal is to love others. In business, the primary goal is to return money to the stockholders. Money and love can often be mutually exclusive. Yes, you want to act ethically. But that does not require you to bring your faith into the office.

5. Misunderstanding your target market
This is really simple. If you don’t want to work with the people who are coming into your business, then you are targeting the wrong people with your marketing. For example, if only men went into Victoria’s Secret, then Victoria’s Secret has failed their marketing.

4. Discrimination is not discernment
Yes, you can be selective in your clientele. But that selection needs to be based on how your product can improve their lives. No one's life is improved by judgment. If I believe a potential client is not a good fit, then of course I’m free not to work with her. But that belief should be based on whether the product I’m delivering is a solution to her needs, not whether I approve of how she lives. No man needs a bra from Victoria’s Secret, because men don’t have boobs, generally speaking. But if a transgender woman needs a bra for boobs, then Victoria’s Secret is a good fit and there’s no reason not to sell her the bra.

3. Stunted emotional and intellectual growth
Isolation leads to insularity, which can be deadly in this globally based world. Many people who condemn certain things, like homosexuality, smoking, daycare, divorce, or Islam, don’t actually know anyone who currently engages in those activities. Or they only know people who used to participate. I would challenge any business owner to build a friendship with a person you judge before making discrimination against that group company policy. Not only will you learn, you may even find ways to serve that group.

2. Distraction from your primary mission
As I mentioned before, businesses exist to serve products and services to others. Anything that prevents the serving of products and services, or anything that takes time away from serving products and services, is a distraction and a waste of resources.

1. Corrosive to yourself: As we judge others, we judge ourselves. As much as we fail to give grace to others, we fail ourselves, and ultimately, we will die from lack of grace.

F is for Friendship

I am both the best friend in the world and the worst friend in the world. Can anyone else relate to that?

In lots of ways, I know I’m a fantastic friend. I keep secrets like the grave, as long as I know it’s a secret! I can be really funny: if you need a laugh, I can generally provoke one. I don’t give advice (usually), unless you ask for it. And once I give my advice, if you choose not to take it, I’m not offended at all. Once you are a friend in my inner circle, I will do anything for you and I don’t need a reason. You want me to pick up a kid, bring you food, visit you in prison, whatever, if I can do it I will. I don’t require you to call me consistently, or talk to me every day (although I have a couple of friends I’m in daily contact with, as in: my inner circle).  I’m generally pretty tolerant of your views even if they differ from mine: I can laugh and nod at your stories even if I find them personally odd or weird. Because hey, I’m not you. On the other hand, if you ask, I’ll tell you honestly what I think.

But then again, I’m also a terrible friend. Ask anyone who used to be my friend and now lives in a different city from me. (No, don’t. Too embarrassing.) I’m absolutely lousy at staying in touch. The only long-distance friends I can maintain are the ones who can let months or years go by with little to no contact and then pick up the phone and chat with me as though things are the same. I’m terrible with birthdays: If I try really hard I can remember your birthday month, and that’s even WITH Facebook’s help. I don’t do gifts: no Christmas gifts, no birthday gifts, no little surprises. I’m also really busy, which means I’m not nearly as available to my friends as I’d like to be. I can’t do spontaneous: all my friend dates are scheduled in advance. I avoid conflict, which means that sometimes my friends who would benefit from some constructive criticism don't get it. And I'm not good at remembering friends' family members (including kids) unless I'm around them all the time. 

Now that I’m a working mom with an almost 4 year old, I’m very selective about my friendships. Maintaining my pre-baby friendships are challenging enough, although the people who were there for me the most are the ones I spend time with now. Making new friends is a challenge I’m not sure I’m even up for. After 40 years, I have a pretty full roster of friends at all levels.

And yet, friendship is probably one of the most important parts of my life. My friends are the ones who keep me going on down days. They are the ones who let me vent about my life, my extraordinary, amazingly fabulous life, without giving me guilt for complaining about blessings. They are the ones who bring food when I need it, or pick up my kid from school if necessary. They are the ones who pick me up from the airport and watch my cats and fulfill my need for intimacy with other women. I am richly blessed with friendships that I don't deserve. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

E is for Episcopalian

On Good Friday, I attended my new church's Stations of the Cross service. We stood outside, in a small garden, and recited the Lord's Prayer together as we began. Joining my voice with all the others reminded me forcibly of just one reason why I love the liturgy. In the Episcopalian church, we pray out loud in unison a lot. And here we were, doing it again. Hearing the mass of voices raise into the air, I felt at home. I knew that no matter what, I was in a community of people who shared this prayer. Our voices created unity despite our differences.

There are many things I love about liturgical churches in general, and the Episcopalian liturgy, found in the Book of Common Prayer, specifically. I love that I am given words for the holiest of mysteries. There is no awkwardness, no worries about a clergy member putting a foot in his mouth, because we all know the words. I love that within the language, we are allowed the luxury of thinking freely about the meaning. In the post-communion prayer there's a phrase I love: "you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ." The rich imagery of the language always thrills me. Best of all, no one dictates to me exactly what that means - to be a living member of Jesus Christ. In the Episcopalian tradition, the words are meant to leave wiggle room: to allow people to freely practice their faith according to their conscience: the Book of Common Prayer was deliberately written in the time of turmoil when the protestant movement was wrenching the Roman Catholic church apart. The Anglican church sought the "middle way." It was intentionally created to allow former Catholics and new Protestants to practice their faith together in unity.

I love that I don't have to manufacture feelings or search for words. We have a time of communal confession before we take the Eucharist, and then the rector absolves us all. I don't have to search my soul for any sin within me - I don't have to find an emotional response. Instead, I pay attention while I pray the confession prayer, bringing my intention to it. And then I am absolved, simply, without drama. The rector passes God's grace to me, no questions asked. In most of the non-liturgical churches I've attended, communion goes one of two ways: the presiding clergy gives a warning and there's a time of silence in which we prepare, or the presiding clergy gives an invitation and people are left to to wander up as they will. For someone with chronic anxiety (ME), that time before going up is fraught: did I confess everything? Am I holding a sin against my neighbor? Am I worthy to receive communion? But as an Episcopalian, I know with assurance that I am ready, that I am absolved, that I am worthy.

Another thing I love is the uniformity of the Book of Common Prayer. Every one has the same pagination. So the BCP I bought for myself almost 15 years ago has the exact same page numbers as the larger BCPs in the pews at my church. And the BCP my husband bought when we first came to St. Michael's also has the same page numbers. Very convenient!

While we only recently began attending an Episcopalian church, I've known for years that I would like to be here. I attended Episcopalian services while in college and loved them. I already mentioned that I bought my Book of Common Prayer when I was in my 20s because I loved the language and wanted to practice liturgical prayer on my own. (I didn't actually do it, because I wasn't sure where to begin, but the desire was there!) A few years ago, my husband and I attended a workshop with the enormously gifted Robert Benson, and received modified prayer books, which we both used. I'm thrilled every time I discover a phrase or prayer in the BCP that was in the Benson prayer book we used. When we realized it was time to find a new church, I knew I wanted to try Episcopalian churches specifically because they are socially liberal and concerned with social justice. And my husband was ready for the structure, simplicity, and beauty of the liturgy. It is home for our family.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

D is for Death

Yesterday I wrote about my cat, his life and his death. Death is something that many of us fear: both death itself and the journey to death, as that journey generally involves loss, pain, and sickness.

We often say that death is part of the Fall, that big bad decision that Eve made by eating the apple, but I don’t believe that. Without death, the ecosystem that is our world just doesn’t work. Without death, there is no life.  God wouldn’t have designed a world that required death, then withheld death until Eve screwed up, and then punished Eve and all humanity for screwing up. I know people will disagree with me. I’ve been disagreed with over worse than this, so, you know, just be nice when you call me a heretic in the comments.

We have this romantic notion of what it means for the lion to lay down with the lamb – this idea that there is a world, an ecosystem, that can exist without death. We try to enact this in our diets, by eating vegan, or raw. Yet this ignores the fact that the plants we are eating must die. The book Food and Faith makes this point far more eloquently than I could hope to in a simple blog post (and I highly recommend it as a good, thought-provoking read). The simple fact is that in our ecosystem, living beings must eat, and when something is consumed, it dies. Without death, there is no life.

Why does this matter? Because we refuse to embrace death. Death is an essential part of life. We deny it, turn our backs, bemoan it, and wail over it. And it is normal and good to grieve. After I initially drafted this post, I learned of the death of a friend. And I wept. Death is loss. Yet it is also inevitable.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate victory over death. The Resurrection promises a world where death will not be loss, where death will not be the painful separation of loved ones. But although we hope for a new world, a new ecosystem, if you like, we still live in a world where death is required for life.

While we frantically ignore and delay death, we give ourselves permission to live small lives, lives that pretend to be safe. We fear what others think. We refuse to take risks. We grasp at everything, pretending that we can control the world. We put off tasks “until.” Until we lose the weight, until we organize the closet, until we have the right job, until we have enough money. Let’s embrace the inevitability of death and live lives filled with passion and risk and love. After all, one beautiful lesson of Easter is that death is not the final ending: there is something more.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Best Cat Ever

When I was 22, I got a pair of cats. I walked into a shelter, and saw Shadow, laying on a chest. He was a beautiful thin adolescent cat grown into his ears. I picked him up and he relaxed against me. I loved him: his silky black fur, his white fur tuxedo markings: the tiny black spot on his tongue. I knew he would not be adopted – he wasn’t an adorable kitten any more. But he was mine.
In addition to Shadow I adopted Pipsqueak, the smallest gray kitten I had ever seen. I could feel every bone in his tiny starved body. When I fed the two of them, Pipsqueak would inhale his food and then stick his tiny nose into Shadow’s bowl. Shadow would look at him with confusion, then stroll off.
Shadow is black, Pip is gray!

The two of them were best friends. They both grew into large cats: Shadow was 13 pounds at his largest, while Pipsqueak embraced irony as he blossomed to 24 pounds. Shadow was my lap cat. Always in my lap, always meowing for attention. He was also my skittish cat. He didn’t like anyone much. If he stayed in the same room with you, that was a high mark of approval. He was a reliable barometer of friends and dates for me. Even if he allowed you to pet him, he stayed as far away as he could. My husband and I always joked that Shadow really just wanted a disembodied arm – a nice hand and arm to stroke his fur without any scary human attached to it.

Shadow was my explorer cat. In my first apartment, he used the continuous rail between my balcony and my neighbor’s balcony to explore both! He learned how to open folding doors, which meant all my closets had bookends and rocks in front of them. One time he got in my trash to pull out the rotten potatoes and play soccer with them. In the mornings, he would jump to the top of my bureau and go to the saucer where I kept jewelry. He would pick up the pieces of jewelry individually and drop them to the floor, very deliberately.

Shadow was also my problem cat. Two years old, and he developed urinary crystals and infections. I spent my entire life savings account (yes, all of it, but 24 year olds don’t always have the best judgment) on surgery to save his life. It paid off though. Shadow continued to thrive through three moves, marriage, and a new kitten. He got constant UTIs, but he loved the antibiotic and took medicine easily. He was even polite in letting me know of the infection: he would find a magazine or book and urinate on it so I could see the blood. He never urinated on my floors – always on something laying on the floor.

When Shadow was 17 years old, he became incontinent. He had been having problems for a while, and with a toddler, we had to adapt quickly to cleaning up constant accidents. But then, in the summer, he lost all control. It was untenable. I took him to the vet, only to discover that he had fluid on his heart, shrunken kidneys and an enlarged liver. His quality of life was over.
It was not a good time. We were in the middle of a deck renovation that turned out to be much more work than we expected or planned for. We were also planning my daughter’s third birthday party. To add insult to injury, we were in the process of leaving our church home. But I knew it was time to let Shadow go home.

The appointment was on a Friday. My husband volunteered to stay home to dig the grave. He couldn’t bear to go with me to the vet – a friend was coming instead. My heart broke all week. I petted Shadow every chance I got. I set up a giant litter box surrounded by a picnic blanket to provide some sort of hygiene to the situation. On Thursday, he stopped eating the canned tuna I had been feeding him. I wrapped him in a towel and held him in my arms as he slowly released everything from his body. I didn’t know if he would last until Friday morning, but he did.

My friend met me at the vet. We walked into the office and I took him out of the carrier. The vet explained everything to me – she agreed with my decision and was so kind. I held him when they gave him the first shot, which would remove the pain. His tiny body went into mini seizures and then was still.

I put him on the towel, his tiny body limp. I squatted on the floor so I was at eye level. I locked my eyes onto his: green pools of age. He and I stared at each other. His pupils dilated larger and larger until they were pools of black. He was gone.

Is Shadow in Heaven? I don’t know, or really care. He was a good cat. He stayed with me through many lonely nights, through many heartbreaks. He brought me joy through his exploits. And at the end, I was able to end his pain and be the last thing he saw. God is a good God, a God who loves. Wherever Shadow is, it is a good place. Probably a place where he is surrounded by disembodied arms, just the way he would've wanted it.
Shadow, the week before he died.