The Art of Non-Conformity

30 Dec

I’m really blown away by Chris Guillebeau’s book and website called “The Art of Non-Comformity.” This guy is all about living on your own terms and not being sucked into the way society feels you should be living your life. This makes me want to shut down my computer for a few hours and take a walk in nature or make five dozen cookies, wrap them up and drive downtown and give them away. We need to enjoy life, people. Just take matters into your own hands. You can do it.

Dear, Anne Rice

13 Aug

Dear Anne,

Thank you for being a voice of reason. I’m with you. As far as being Catholic, I’m out too. To be clear, my decision was a long time coming. I’ve been in and out of the church so often and for so many years, I was never quite certain what my place was or where my faith was hiding. I was looking for it like a lottery ticket or a valuable heirloom earring. But the reality is that I can not be a part of it any more. I was mystified, confused and downright pissed off about so many things the Catholic Church was involved in and “up to.” I would listen to Catholic radio and be inspired and enchanted by the mesmerizing reciting of the rosary. I would nod my head in agreement when a priest talked about the evils of war. I would feel in my right mind when I listened to the saving grace that prayer provided to someone who was ready to end it all. I would think fondly, even romantically about the gorgeous cathedrals in Venice and how I openly wept in that church of St. Francis in Assisi when I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit push through me like life-giving air. I recall a moment of grace in a cathedral in San Miguel surrounded by old women on their knees with the sweetest smiles on their sunworn faces. I recall the intimate conversations with the Virgin Mary after my mother passed away. I would find a church in every city I visited just to light a candle for her. I recall the overwhelming moment of joy when my son, only four months old, was raised high above the head of an Irish priest after the moment of his baptism. I recall the smell of burning votives and incense and the taste of the Eucharist. I remember lying flat before a hanging crucifix and Jesus in an empty church pleading with him to help me understand myself and what my purpose here on earth really is. I was twelve. I did again when I was 18. Again when I was 26. I would watch “A Nun’s Story” and “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” over and over fantasizing of a life devoted to God and prayer, but knowing in my heart that writing was my truer calling.

My home is full of crosses, sacred hearts and pictures of Mary and little statues of my mother’s favorite saints. When John Paul II died, I cried for days recalling a moment during midnight mass on Dec. 31, 1998 when our eyes met briefly as he slowly walked to the magnificent altar in St. Peter’s Cathedral. I felt changed and came to the church after a long departure. And in the last three years, I have learned more about the presence of angels and the divine guidance and intervention of the heavens than I ever dreamed possible. There are so many things to love about the mystery, magic, artistry and ancient wisdoms of the Catholic Church. And knowing that I could be in Dublin, Rome, Mexico City or Boston and have access to my dearest spiritual tools by just rounding a street corner was extremely comforting to me for many years.But it’s not enough. Not even close.

I think Christ is real. But what the Catholic Church is doing now is destructive. I have not self-identified as a Christian for some time, and I was never quite sure why. But it has become clear that they are not delivering news from God. They are firmly implanted in the world of man under the guise of spirit. And to me, that is wrong. Perhaps that’s why I have felt so disconnected. I went to church to hear God. But all I kept hearing was man’s feeble interpretation with an ever-increasing emphasis on politics. The bottom line is that I can not be a part of a religion that treats women, gays and lesbians with such unapologetic disdain and cruelty. I do not believe anyone, in good conscience, can participate in a religion that systematically denounces condoms in Africa. It’s ridiculous . I can not condone a religion that puts saving face over the safety and gentle care of children. I can not be a member of a church who indoctrinates its most devoted messengers — priests and nuns who have holy callings— and tells the spiritually dedicated that sex, marriage and children are obstacles to living a spiritually awakened existence.

I wish I could tell you how difficult my spiritual journey has been. But in all honesty, I must admit that being Catholic at least gave me an awareness and a language for understanding the universe and cosmic laws in a way that was rich and beautiful and memorable. I believe in God with my whole heart. I believe in powerful human messengers that have delivered some of these universal truths designed, essentially, to save us from ourselves. I believe in divinely-inspired music that can lift my soul out of my chest and helps me to meet the angels halfway. I believe in sincere contemplation, stillness, meditation and prayer. I believe that humans sometimes need artifacts and rituals and a common history to absorb and understand spiritual truths. But I believe, above all, that love is the answer to everything. So, Anne, I feel your pain. I understand your confusion and how pissed off you’ve been. I get it. I just want you to know that you can take the girl out of the cathedral, but you can’t take God out of the girl.

Take care and God Bless.

Love,

Jennifer

How Big is the Universe? Wow, It’s REALLY Big.

18 Aug

Call me crazy, but whenever the size of the universe comes up in conversation, I always hear a variation of the same statement: it just makes me feel so, you know, small. And I say “really”? Yes, I understand that the earth is a fraction of an atom in the great design of the universe. I get it. But my predominant reaction is “well, that’s makes me part of an astronomically (obviously) large thing. I am part of THAT!” So in a kooky way, it makes me feel really good. As Carl Sagan said, human brains literally can not comprehend/compute/fathom the size and scope of the universe and what’s in it. That’s not our job. I suppose when we try to measure that, it’s a bit like trying to make flowing water into a box we can hold and grab and toss. What’s the point? Perhaps the real question is “how are we a part of it all?” Here are two cool videos referencing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D.

And here is George Smoot at the TED conference discussing the actual design of the universe. I am so fascinated with how matter-0f-factly Smoot basically describes so effortlessly and definitively what we know about the universe. Certainly, we only have what he calls a “droplet” of information to go on, but oh the places we will go (that’s Dr. Suess, not me.)

Alice in Wonderland, I’m Coming Down That Rabbit Hole

31 Jul

Tim Burton films run hot and cold for me. Hot? That would be Edward Scissorhands. Cold? Willy Wonka. I appreciate his sense of style, fantasy, imagination, fun and darkness. He has a voice… a perspective. And that’s something. So as a huge fan of classic children’s and middle/young adult fiction, it’s with great anticipation that I saw the trailer to Alice in Wonderland. Looks good enough to eat.

Everyday Choose Love. Choose Light.

13 Jul

Today was a great day. We were with our lovely neighbors at the lake early this morning enjoying the cool water, the nibbling fish and the joy of a young child discovering a remote cove for the first time. We snacked on cherries and crackers and basked in the beauty of the rolling Texas Hill Country. By 1 p.m., we were back in our comfortable, safe and air conditioned home with a happy, sleepy little boy nestled into a dark little room for a summer afternoon nap cuddled up with a Very Hungry Caterpillar doll. He woke up all smiles and light, and I know that there is no amount of money on earth that could come close to how rich I felt today with my family and friends.

So I thought about this song by The Submarines. And though it always reminds me of those pesky iPhone commercials, independently of that it’s such a great song about living life with a full heart and how that keeps us present and alive.

“Here we are in the center of the first world. It’s laid out for us. Who are we to break down? Everyday we wake up. We choose love. We choose light. And we try, it’s too easy just to fall apart.”

The Gift of Clarity… from Big Sister

2 Jul

Christine Mason Miller

My birthday was last month and my big sister Marisa couldn’t get up here to celebrate. She was busy getting ready for a business trip and preparing for a big trip to Puerto Rico with her family. I miss her sometimes, but I’m glad that I have an amazing group of  “sisters” that I meet with once a week to talk about matters of the heart and soul.

This week we talked about the power of meditation and prayer, as well as the definition of happiness. Is happiness the same thing as joy, gratitude, authenticity? We wrote about it a bit and there was a magical consensus of sorts. Happiness is about a return to your true self, and the power of that self exists in each moment. Wherever you are.

So yesterday my father delivered a present from my sister. It’s an art collage with writing created by Christine Mason Miller. It reads:

“The deepest joy exists in those rare instances of CLARITY when there is no wanting, no yearning, no clinging to some idealized life we believe exists somewhere other than exactly where we are.”

I love it when themes emerge. Don’t you?

Soul Lab Radio: Interview with Varla Ventura, author of “The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts and Strange Stories”

2 Jul

bizarreJust had a fun conversation with author Varla Ventura on Soul Lab Radio about The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts and Strange Stories which has thirteen chapters including Something Wicked: Mysterious Objects & Haunted Homes and Morbid Writers and Tortured Artists: From Edgar Allan Poe to Vincent Van Gogh.  Other topics in the book range from Strange Rock and Roll Stories, Medical Maladies, Conspiracy Theories, Superstitions, Hexes and even UFOs.

So what’s in the book? Did you know duck dander is hallucinogenic? Or that Katherine Hepburn had a phobia of dirty hair? Have you ever wondered about the Magickal Skull of Doom or contemplated the mysterious Transylvanian Tablets? Varla has gathered a veritable treasure trove of startling and stranger-than-fiction trivia that spans history, continents, even worlds.

We also got into some of the weird stories and I was particularly interested in a chapter called “Coincidences or Synchronicity?” Then we launched into a discussion about psychic awareness and children. Varla was introduced to the strange and unusual at a young age. Her first game was a Ouija board, and family picnics in cemeteries were common outings. She spent most of her formative years exploring graveyards, underground tunnels, and abandoned mansions in, around, and under Nevada City, California. She is the author of Sheroes and Wild Women Talk About Love. Varla currently lives in the attic of an 1890’s Victorian in the hills of San Francisco, with her cat Midnight. Of course, Halloween is her favorite holiday.

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