Saturday, December 11, 2010

it came free with the soul

There's a phrase that has been circling my mind for some time.

"It came free with the soul."

I saved it somewhere safe, thinking one day a poem would come out.  Hasn't happened yet.

It came free with the soul.

Inspiration comes from God, I guess... only it seems that there are those who would seek to put God in a box, saying that He only looks like one thing... that He doesn't move around and within and between and above and below and "every other side to which we are exposed..."  Thus the times when I feel Spirit raining from the trees, shining from the sky, squishing between my toes, glittering before my eyes, fluttering in my heart, smiling from the face in front of me, I hope it's safe to call that God.  And that eye I see all that with?

It came free with the soul.

I was thinking yesterday that I have become almost nearly exactly what I always wanted to be.  I sleep alone but swaddled in the warmest colors I know, accompanied by dreams of swirling shapes and safe voices, and awakened to hot water which magically rains as I happily dance myself clean.  This happens nearly every morning.  I am no one's mother, but I am auntie to some of the loveliest little ones I have ever known and have been blessed to lay hands on some young people whose names I still breathe in prayer whenever they come before my inner eye.  From the tips of my toes to the ring in my nose to the hairs growing out of my head, this body turns out to be just what I needed for my run through this world.  All this.  So much that I am sometimes so full that it seems that the only rational response would be to run out into the street and explode.  I am blessed and richly favored, and it appears that

It came free with the soul.

I read where Baha'u'llah wrote, "My calamity is my providence.  Outwardly it is fire and vengence, but inwardly it is light and mercy..." but somehow when the moment is upon me I always find it hard to remember to knit together the fire I feel with the light of which He wrote... and although I have felt burned by vengence, it is never clear until later that it was mistaken mercy.  It took time to sense the Hand in which I was so tenderly held, but I really must remember that

It came free with the soul.

So although I still feel the burn of that last fire... and oh, I still have to keep it covered because that shit hurt... deeeeeeeep b r e a t h . . . I heard Spirit moving in words I heard sung this morning... "I hear the angels whisper that troubles don't have to last always.  I hear the angels whisper even the day after tomorrow will one day be yesterday.  I hear the angels whisper this, too, shall pass..." and remember that although sometimes I don't see where He is going with all of this, there is a path.  It happens that

It came free with the soul.

So... me?  The one with all the impatience?  The one screaming in the face of injustice?  The one who can't wait to get up and run?  Let it wash over you.  There is no way you could afford this.  Fortunately, this, too, is part of the deal.  It came free with the soul.

Friday, December 10, 2010

email sent to Senator Jim DeMint

South Carolina residents, please write your own emails ASAP.


Dear Senator DeMint,

On Dec. 3 Senate Resolution 694 (S. Res.694) was introduced to the US Senate by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, condemning Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. This resolution condemns the abuses of Baha'is, Christians, Jews, and Sufis in Iran. This resolution is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, of which I understand that you are a member. I also understand that the Committee will be holding a hearing on the resolution this coming Tuesday, Dec. 14. I am writing to beg you to co-sponsor this resolution before it goes to committee.

I am deeply proud of being the citizen of a country that shows concern about the rights of people around the world to be free from oppression, violence, and terror. I have been proud to see my government pass resolution after resolution against the treatment of religious minorities in Iran.

I have never been to my mother's country, I do not know her language. I am deprived of everything having to do with my heritage on that side of my family because of the violent intolerance of my family's religious beliefs. My mother's family has literally been torn to shreds due to the fanatical perversion of the worship of God which happens there, and the situation over there continues to escalate. Members of the Baha'i Faith have been systematically persecuted since the beginning of this faith in 1844. I do not have to explain to you that South Carolinians care about their people. We care about our heritage. Sir, half of my heritage has been stolen from me.

I am certain that you have been acquainted with the situation in Iran, but allow me to add a detail or two of the millions out there. My great-grandmother's grave and the graves of many other Baha'is were bull-dozed and covered with a parking lot a few years ago. I have a close friend who had recently returned from Bolivia where he visited with his sister whom he had not seen in 38 years and finally heard the whole story of how her husband was taken in the night from her home and how how she and her 9-year-old son visited with him for 30 minutes every other week until he was, without warning, brutally killed. The guards once hit the boy in the head just for sport when he ran to his father on one of those visits. Another friend had to be given away at her wedding by her uncle since her father's visa was denied in the weeks before her wedding, depriving her of having her father walk her down the aisle. There are Baha'is in prison there for running a non-religious tutoring program teaching children in the ghetto to read. There are Baha'is in prison there for attempting to help Baha'i college students who have been kicked out of the university for being Baha'is to progress in their studies. This treatment is not unlike the treatment meted out in that country to any other religious minority, including Iranian Christians, Jews, and Sufis. I do not have to remind you that prison there does not look like prison here. These things are unacceptable by any standard of human rights known to man.

The Baha'i International Community recently wrote an open letter to the Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The final paragraph of that letter asks: "With our hearts filled with love for Iran and our earnest hopes for the exaltation and glory of that land, we urge you, in your capacity as the Head of the Judiciary, to release the former members of the Yaran from prison and, along with them, all the Bahá’ís who are incarcerated across the country. These include Miss Haleh Rouhi, Miss Raha Sabet, and Mr. Sasan Taqva, the three young Bahá’ís who have now entered the fourth year of imprisonment in Shiraz for the crime of helping impoverished children to learn how to read and write. We likewise request that the Bahá’ís in that country be granted their full rights of citizenship, in order that they may be able to fulfill their heartfelt aspiration to contribute, alongside their fellow citizens, to the advancement of their nation. This, indeed, is no more than what you rightfully ask for Muslim minorities who reside in other lands. Bahá’ís merely seek the same treatment from you."

I am the daughter of a chiropractor who wishes that he spent more time hunting and a counselor who works with substance addicts and AIDS victims in the Upstate. I graduated from West-Oak High School in Westminster, SC, the University of South Carolina, and am now attending graduate school also at USC studying to become a marriage and family counselor. I have worked with foster children. My granddaddy, a chiropractor from Easley, South Carolina, used to remind me to remember where I come from. I never every forget, and to say that I am sad that I know almost nothing about the Iranian side of the family is an understatement of massive proportions.

Please co-sponsor of this resolution.  Sir, I cannot watch my home state, the only place I have ever known to be home, not stand up and speak about the rights of my people across the ocean.  I cannot read about what is happening to my people in Iran, knowing what horrible pain every member of my mother's family here continues to suffer, and know that my own government has not done everything that it can to speak out about the suffering and injustice happening in Iran.

I have always been proud to be from South Carolina. I don't ask for much, but I am determined to do everything I can to serve the people of my home state. I may not always agree with every decision that is ever made here, but I can proudly say that I am a citizen of a state that stands up and speaks its mind.  I love that about us.  We are not afraid to speak our truth.

Please, sir. I'm begging you.  Those are my people in Iran being torn to shreds.  Let this be something about which we speak.


letter from the Baha'i International Community to Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq Larijani

7 December 2010

Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq Larijani
Head of the Judiciary
Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Honor,

You are undoubtedly aware of the outcome of the trial and the subsequent appeal of Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm the seven individuals who before their arrest were responsible, as the members of the group known as the Yaran, for administering the social and spiritual affairs of the Bahá’í community in Iran.

The lives of these seven Bahá’ís typify not only the lives of the Bahá’ís of Iran but also those of high-minded and noble-hearted Iranians of every creed and class. They are true citizens of that nation who have striven to dedicate hemselves to its service. Their birthplaces span the entire country from its capital city, to Sangsar, Yazd, Abadan, Ardestan, Mashhad, and Urumiyih. Their ages range from thirty-seven to seventy-seven. Some of them have aging parents; all of them have children, the youngest one of whom was only nine when his father was arrested. Their professional occupations are also varied and include developmental psychologist, founder of the first automated brick factory in Iran, manager of a textile factory, agricultural engineer, school principal, social worker, and optician. Alongside their professional pursuits and family duties, they have rendered, on a purely voluntary basis, distinguished service to the people of that land, as, for example, in the advancement of women, in the promotion of literacy among the country’s general population, and in the provision of the means of education for the thousands of Bahá’í youth who have been denied admission to Iranian universities since the inception of the Islamic Revolution.

Convinced that they had committed no wrong, and as there existed no proof whatsoever to support the accusations leveled against them, they had every hope that the judicial proceedings would exonerate them. Sadly, however, their hopes have thus far been frustrated, and the treatment they have received has unjustly violated every legal norm and every standard of fairness and equity. As history bears witness, whenever innocent citizens are brought before show trials, it is the judicial system itself and those who wield authority within it that are on trial before the public gaze. The case of these seven individuals, which from the outset has been watched with growing interest by Iranians and non-Iranians alike, has been marked by such egregious violations of the law at every turn as to call into question the adherence to the principle of justice by a system that claims to uphold Islamic values.

The blatant injustice of a sentence to ten years’ imprisonment handed down to such honest and law-abiding citizens impels us, as the representatives at the United Nations of one hundred and eighty-six national Bahá’í communities, to ask you to rectify this grave failure and accord the defendants the justice they have been denied. This request comes not only from their coreligionists throughout the world but from the United Nations, from governments and parliamentarians across the globe, from agencies of civil society, and from humanitarians and social thinkers, all of whom join their voices to ours in calling for the immediate release of these wronged individuals.

The officials of the Ministry of Intelligence, resorting to many reprehensible measures illegal detention, denial of proper access to legal representation, interrogation methods that contravene standards of civilized behavior and aim to extract false confessions all of which transgress even the current law of the land, exerted every effort to build a case against them. Despite this, the prosecutors were ultimately unable to present any credible evidence in support of their claims. Instead, what was exposed was the nefarious schemes of certain officials, as well as the inhumane conduct and sinister motives of the interrogators. Indeed, what is now starkly visible to all is the willingness of the authorities to trample the very standards of justice they are mandated to uphold on behalf of the people of Iran.

The trial itself was so devoid of the impartiality that must characterize judicial proceedings as to render the process a complete mockery. The defendants, certain of their own innocence and having nothing to hide, had asked for an open hearing. What then, one might ask, was the reason for the judge to have declared the proceedings to be “open and public” and yet refuse requests for attendance from observers, including representatives of diplomatic missions? Why was it made so difficult for the families of the defendants to attend the trial? Why were journalists excluded, while government cameramen were allowed an active presence? What was the reason for permitting the menacing presence of the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence throughout the trial? How was it that the verdict issued by the judges could refer to the religion of the defendants as a “misguided sect”? Is this not a clear sign that the court has violated the legal principle of neutrality? The obvious conclusion is that such actions have been motivated by blind prejudice and hatred against the Bahá'í community for its religious beliefs. How can a just society, or a just world, be built on a foundation of irrational oppression and the systematic denial of basic human rights to any minority? Everything your country overtly professes to seek on the world stage is contradicted by your treatment of your own people at home.

The 12 September 2010 ruling issued by the court of appeal overturned the verdict of the lower court in relation to the charges of espionage, collaboration with the State of Israel, and provision of classified documents to foreign nationals with the intention of undermining state security. The lower court itself had already found the defendants not guilty of the charge of “tarnishing the reputation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the international arena” and of “spreading corruption on earth”. What remained of the case, therefore, were those charges that pertained to the activities undertaken by these seven individuals in administering the social and spiritual affairs of the Iranian Bahá’í community. Meanwhile, the judges, well aware that there were no grounds whatsoever for the charge of acting against the interests of Iran and its citizens, were under pressure from officials bent upon a finding of guilt. Consequently, the judiciary chose in essence to distort and present as illegal the religious beliefs of the defendants and their service to the Bahá’í community a selfless service which their fellow Iranian Bahá’ís warmly acknowledged and appreciated. Thus, the seven were each sentenced to ten years in prison. This sentence has been strongly denounced not only by the defendants themselves, their families, and the Bahá’í International Community but by advocates of justice in Iran and the world over.

Given that for the past twenty years the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been fully aware of the work of these individuals in managing the affairs of the Bahá’í community, to accuse them now of illegal activities is as baseless and unjust as it is inexplicable. Our open letter dated 4 March 2009 to the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic of Iran established in detail the spurious character of the charges leveled against the Yaran and we commend it to your attention. An unbiased reading of that letter will confirm that there are no grounds whatsoever on which the Islamic Republic could assert that the Bahá’ís of Iran, including these seven individuals, represent the least threat to public order or to the common weal in that land.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the accusation that these Bahá’ís were seeking to compromise national security, participating in subversive activities, or engaging in propaganda against the regime, charges which the defendants themselves have categorically denied. Such accusations are entirely inconsistent with the outstanding record of the Bahá’ís in Iran and around the world, who regard service to one’s homeland and to humankind as an inescapable moral obligation. Nor do they accord in any way with the Bahá’í teachings, which assert that “in every country where any of this people reside, they must behave towards the government of that country with loyalty, honesty, and truthfulness.” The approach adopted by the judiciary and the accusations leveled against these individuals constitute again a patent violation of the freedom of conscience and belief of Iranian citizens, and are a brazen contravention of Article 14 of the Iranian Constitution, which stipulates: “In accordance with the sacred verse, ‘God doth not forbid you to deal with kindness and fairness towards those who have not made war upon you on account of your religion, or driven you forth from your homes’ [60:8], the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims kindly and in accordance with the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights.”

Now in their third year of what is shamelessly still termed a “temporary” detention, these seven prisoners have been subjected to every manner of indignity and violation of their fundamental rights. Their high resolve and their gracious character amidst the hardships they have been made to endure stand in sharp contrast to the brutality of their oppressors and attest their forbearance and purity of motive. This is a truth to which the noble people of Iran can now bear witness. The accounts we have received indicate that fellow inmates admire their conduct and demeanor, see them as beacons of hope and sources of consolation and comfort, seek strength from their wisdom, and regard them as the symbols of the free spirit and sincere heart that are characteristics of the people of Iran.

Your honor, we ask you, what purpose is served by seeking to extinguish such moral attributes and spiritual qualities? Are such acts of oppression faithful to the high principles extolled by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him)? In Gohardasht Prison, there are surely other innocent inmates. How can you allow any soul to be subjected to that prison’s appalling state of filth, pestilence, disease, and the privation of facilities for basic personal hygiene? Such an odious and degrading environment is unworthy of even the most dangerous criminals. Does the government of Iran believe the principles of Islamic compassion and justice to be consistent with the imposition of such conditions on citizens? Why are the prisoners’ pressing needs for medical care and treatment ignored? Who will be called to account if the health of any of these seven further deteriorates? Why are these innocent individuals not given adequate food, and why are they confined to prison cells of such insufficient space as to make it difficult for them to lie down or even to perform their daily prayers? Why has the judiciary callously deprived them of their right to compassionate leave? Are not all of these privations intended to break their spirits and those of the other Bahá’ís of Iran? Consider how the members of the Bahá’í community are continually forced to withstand the slander of their beliefs and the distortion of their history in government-supported mass media; to endure provocations in the streets, from the pulpits, and with the support of certain officials, that incite hatred against them; to suffer illegal imprisonment; to see themselves denied access to higher education and to the means of earning a livelihood; to have their children suffer abuse and vilification in schools; and to witness their properties destroyed and their cemeteries desecrated with the support and approval of government authorities. Yet, what results have such efforts yielded? The response of the Bahá’ís of Iran to the persecution they have suffered in recent decades has made them, in the eyes of the Iranian population, embodiments of unyielding attachment to spiritual principle and of constructive resistance to oppression. What is more, it has brought about a heightened desire among that population to become acquainted with the verities of their Faith.

In January 2010, the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith, noted in a message addressed to the Bahá’ís in Iran that, when those in authority conspire against innocent citizens, their actions ultimately vitiate their own credibility. In a similar vein, in our 4 March 2009 letter to the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic, we pointed out that the decisions of the Iranian judiciary with respect to the Bahá’ís will have implications well beyond the Bahá’í community in that land and will extend to the very freedom of conscience of all its citizens. Our hope was that, for the sake of the honor and reputation of Iran, the judiciary would seek to be fair in their judgment.

The Bahá’ís are not “others” in your country: they are an inseparable part of the Iranian nation. The injustices meted out to them are a reflection of the terrible oppression that has engulfed the nation. Your respect now for the rights of the Iranian Bahá’ís would signal a willingness to respect the rights of all the citizens of your country. Redressing the wrongs suffered by the Bahá’ís would bring hope to the hearts of all Iranians that you are ready to ensure justice for everyone. Our call, then, is in reality a call for respect of the rights of all the Iranian people.

With our hearts filled with love for Iran and our earnest hopes for the exaltation and glory of that land, we urge you, in your capacity as the Head of the Judiciary, to release the former members of the Yaran from prison and, along with them, all the Bahá’ís who are incarcerated across the country. These include Miss Haleh Rouhi, Miss Raha Sabet, and Mr. Sasan Taqva, the three young Bahá’ís who have now entered the fourth year of imprisonment in Shiraz for the crime of helping impoverished children to learn how to read and write. We likewise request that the Bahá’ís in that country be granted their full rights of citizenship, in order that they may be able to fulfill their heartfelt aspiration to contribute, alongside their fellow citizens, to the advancement of their nation. This, indeed, is no more than what you rightfully ask for Muslim minorities who reside in other lands. Bahá’ís merely seek the same treatment from you.

Bahá’í International Community

cc: Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

Monday, December 6, 2010

joining you

dear darlin'
your mom, my friend,
left a message on my machine she was frantic
saying you were talking crazy
that you wanted to do away with yourself
I guess she thought I'd be a perfect resort
because we've had this inexplicable connection since our youth
and yes they're in shock
they are panicked
you and your chronic
them and their drama
you this embarrassment
us in the middle of this delusion
if we were our bodies
if we were our futures
if we were our defenses, I'd be joining you
if we were our culture
if we were our leaders
if we were our denials, I'd be joining you
I remember vividly a day years ago
we were camping you knew more than you thought you should know
you said "I don't want ever to be brainwashed"
and you were mindboggling
you were intense
you were uncomfortable in your own skin
you were thirsty, but mostly you were beautiful
if we were our nametags
if we were our rejections
if we were our outcomes, I'd be joining you
if we were our indignities
if we were our successes
if we were our emotions, I'd be joining you
you and i, we're like four year olds
we want to know why and how come about everything
we want to reveal ourselves at will and speak out minds
and never talk small and be intuitive
and question mightily and find God
my tortured beacon, we need to find like-minded companions
if we were their condemnations
if we were their projections
if we were our paranoias, I'd be joining you
if we were our incomes
if we were our obsessions
if we were our afflictions, I'd be joining you
we need reflection
we need a really good memory
feel free to call me a little more often

-- Alanis Morissette, Joining You


This was a really hard weekend, but then I got back to my email and one of my aunties had written to me about how a young person she knew had attempted to commit suicide.  Phew... life can be really very dark, and it is important to remember that we are, first and foremost, souls.  We are indeed not our bodies, futures, defenses, culture, leaders, denials, nametags, rejections, outcomes, indignities, successes, emotions, condemnations, projections, paranoias, incomes, obsessions, afflictions, or anything else by which the word defines us... or we define ourselves either.

Talk of souls is interesting to me.  While I believe strongly that we each have a right to express our spirituality in whatever way feels most authentic to us, I also feel that there are times when things are labeled as soul which are perhaps only constructs of our minds or something else.  I believe that the soul is a mysterious thing... that it is not really possible to fully access it with our finite human minds, minds which have only experienced this world and can only really think in terms of our physical existance.

I have always found myself trying to pick my way through a blackberry thicket of judgements about spirituality.  I am the child of two people who experience their spirituality in two very different ways, and I always struggled with finding peace with my own expression.  I have never been terribly saintly.  I laugh at questionable humor, I curse when I feel like it, and I like men a lot.  Growing up, worshipping God always looked a little more like fighting for equality in all of my classes and papers, singing where no one could hear me, and taking care of everyone around me.  As I moved away from home, I still faught the pressure to make myself smaller, pray quietly, be calmer, learn to meditate... conform to some kind of standard of demurity which I could and can never reach.  Later someone told me that all of the indecision I experienced in picking a career path was about finding a way to God and me and nobody else is allowed.  That rings true.  I felt and still sometimes feel drowned out by the voices of others, and it took me a long time to become comfortable with the warmth I feel in my chest when I know that things are right on the inside, despite the fact that certain parties will always find a way to disapprove.

I have been studying the 8th book in the Ruhi Institute series of study circle materials.  It's called The Covenant.  In its most basic definition, a "covenant" is a promise.  As a person who finds herself most at home in my belief in Baha'u'llah, this word has a little more meaning.  The covenant I make as a Baha'i means that my beleif in Baha'u'llah dictates that I heed the guidance of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi with unswerving loyalty.  It means that I am obedient to the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Baha'is of the world, and to the rest of the administrative structure of the Faith as it exists.  It means that I consult this guidance before I do anything else and that I do not go out and start my own Baha'i Faith when I don't like what I am hearing here.

I want to be clear.  This makes me feel safer, not less safe.  This makes me feel guided and protected, not stifled.  I can ask all of the questions I want, and I have the free will to walk out if I ever find that this does not feed my soul.  I cannot deny, however, that this Faith frees me to be more of myself than I ever thought possible... that learning more makes me feel that this is more right, not less...

So now we come back to Book 8.  There are a couple of things which have been driven home to me in the course of this process:
1.  Service looks like many things, and there is room for everyone.  The examples of some early Baha'is who were chosen by Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi to serve the Faith in special capacities known as Hands of the Cause are good illustrations of the diversity of acceptable paths available.  Among these individuals who were hand-picked because of their faithfulness and purity of heart, there were artists, scholars, business people, public speakers, lawyers, the more mystical-minded, more practical thinkers, and everything in between.  With such diversity held up as an example, clearly there is room for me, too.  Spirituality has many modes of expression.
2.  On-going guidance is important.  It's pretty cool that this body of believers is given instructions periodically, places to take our questions, and the direction towards consultation as a tool for figuring out the rest of this.
3.  God forgive me, but I cannot sit quietly with the idea that spirituality is meant to find its only expression in oneself.  I believe that the power latent in all of this soul thing is supposed to overhaul the world.  I believe that I am not the only one entitled to freedom and safety and the joy of being able to choose what I want my life to look like.  I believe that it is my responsibility to strive to share this and to make our world and our communities better places.  The time for monks and nuns is over.  The world needs work.  It's not enough to sit alone by yourself and think.  You have to come out and help the rest of us find our insides, too.  This is another thing I love about this Faith.  At this point in history, there are all of these really amazing community building tools we are learning to use, and much good is resulting, both within the Baha'i community and in the communities served.

... because I keep coming back over and over again to the idea that alone really isn't healthy.  I agree with Alanis on this one... "we need reflection/ we need a really good memory/ feel free to call a little more often."  At the very least, we need people to call.  I went through hell this weekend, and I don't know that I could have kept it together without the knowledge that I had back-up, both spiritual and, had push come to shove, physically.  I am blessed with people who have gotten into cars before to help when things were real.  In a world where things happen... dark things happen... can we really find peace in the idea that inward is all that matters?  Can we really confine spirituality to that place?  My insides are definately a touch-stone, but I cannot presume to assert that the rest of those things are not soul... that the love between people is not soul... that the speech shared between people is not souls... that the time we spend taking care of each other is not soul.  I have seen people grow back from horrible things through the simple knowledge that if they call, someone will answer.  Tell me that's not soul...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

response to a thank you letter

You know, I wasn't that good at my job... you know, that one where I worked with those boys in that foster home. Things were not always done on time, not always done right, not always done as efficiently and effectively as possible. I did not always speak when I should have, and sometimes I spoke when I oughtn't. I didn't know everything about everything. Sometimes I was impatient. Sometimes I slipped, and sometimes I feel flat on my face. I was not infallible. I did, however, win trust. It was trust that I had to go to war and fight for, but it was, more often than not, won. It means something to be the first person to hear about something that would normally not be spoken aloud.

The thing that I did well was to create a safe space. I prayed, and then I listened really hard. I spoke truth when I felt it moving in my soul, sometimes straight into angry, pained faces... sometimes into tears... sometimes into masks fooling all the world but me. I laid a hand on a shoulder, and when that shoulder startled, I laid another hand. I expected honesty. I gave opportunities to be honest. My purse was left in plain sight, unlocked and ready to be picked up at any moment. I walked unafraid into spaces where fists were flying and tempers were hot. I was not afraid. I celebrated successes and spoke openly about failures. I demanded to see all of the cards. I looked into faces with love and never with fear.

I really feel that we are programming our youth, especially our young men, to destroy themselves and others. When we treat them with suspicion, expecting for them to be suspicious or to harm us in some way, more often than not we find our expectations met. I watched the stares of others who couldn't see past their big clothes, hard faces, and tryna-be-a-big-man struts. I watched people fumble and bumble what could have been productive encounters in which those kids could have learned more self-respect by feeling respect coming from others. I watched teachers assume that they couldn't read, couldn't pay attention, couldn't learn. I have seen reaction after reaction where the situation called for response. I have seen deep, seething hurt mistaken for anger and met with anger. If you expect them to steal, they will likely take your stuff.

If you expect greatness, it shows up more often than not. It can take a long time, and there are inevitable disappointments, but I have seen success that still takes my breath away. I have seen young men learn to speak truth in situations in which it was extra topping on the cake. I have seen God touch people in ways I didn't even know were possible.

People who have been mistreated and disregarded have not yet learned how to not make others feel that way. it is important to remember that fear looks a lot like aggression. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team, and sometimes you have to let the storm die down before you address the need for growth, but people are not born knowing how to feel safe and let down the guard. It is a skill we are taught when our mothers and fathers hold us close, smell the tops of our heads, and kiss our fingers. When not everyone gets enough of that, not everyone knows in their bones what it is to be human... to share air and space... to feel trust and give that trust in return... to feel safe and make others feel that way... to befriend and not compete... to build up and not tear down. These are skills. It is my belief that they can be taught through loud, strong, tough, persistent love. They can be taught by saying,"Yeah, you screwed that one up. I'm still here though. I can see your insides, and they are good. I expect greatness from you. I'm not kidding, I'm not scared, and I'm not stupid. Greatness."

Honestly, it isn't the active stuff we do that makes people feel supported. It's the passive stuff. It's listening while they speak. It's looking them in the eye. It's letting them simply sit in your presence without having to try so hard. You know how to non-verbally communicate welcome, ease, and approval. Why not try that next time one of them walks in? Don't react to their stares. Respond. They only look that way because they have had to defend themselves for as long as they could make sounds. Shake it up. Smile. Joke. Relax. You might be surprised, and you never know how deep that stuff goes or how long that impact lasts.

I had no idea what kind of love for God they would ignite in my heart. I had no idea what trusting them would teach me. I walked in the presence of some power. They just hadn't quite figured out their nature yet, but you could see it if you looked with His eyes...

So, kiddo, don't thank me. I don't want your praise. I want to dance at your wedding. I want to hold your children. I want to see you conquer yourself and fight for others. You are miraculous, I want the world to witness your greatness.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dear Iran

I'm having a hard time not hating you.

Seriously, it's getting really difficult. It would be easier if I could focus on your contributions to the arts and civilization, your food, your humor, etc. It's not easy, though. It's hard.

It's hard because the human rights violations in which you seem to be committed to so fragrantly committing with such self-righteousness make me nauseous. Time and time and time and time again, you go after the Baha'is. You do this for no reason discernible to the whole rest of the world. They're persecuted not because they are rapists, thieves, drug lords, or murderers. Some are in jail because they went into the Iranian hood and set up groups for educating and empowering children. They set up tutoring centers and fed hungry people. They did this in collaboration with devoted members of your own faith, Islam, and with the full blessing and understanding of the local government and without any mention whatsoever of their own religion. You are stoning your women to keep them in "their place." You are robbing your most dedicated, educated, and motivated servants of their freedom by actually keeping them in boxes. Literally, in boxes. Enlightenment, it seems, you have infinite time and resources to fight.

What gives you the right? What the hell are you fighting so hard to preserve? You have removed all access to progress and education from the multitude. You have raised entire generations of men who see it as their right use and abuse their wives and children, continuing a cycle by which Iranian families will likely take decades to recover. You have obliterated any remaining shard of respect any of us may have harbored for our culture of origin.

I listened the other day to the story of a man who had not seen his sister in 38 years. In the space of this 38 years, his sister's husband had been thrown into jail, tortured, and killed. There were two important pieces of this story for which I will never forgive you. This woman's son was hit in the head as he ran to speak with his father during one of their 30-minute weekly visits. I do not tolerate this kind of behavior towards children. Additionally, the man was executed on your orders, and you refused to speak with his wife respectfully when she came to thank you for allowing her husband release from the pain of this world. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior, and there is no excuse for keeping siblings apart for 38 years.

I also will never forgive you for my friend who had to be married in a foreign land surrounded by the family she was forced to create because you made it impossible for her to live at home. When the wedding came, you kept her father from attending. This is also inexcusable and unacceptable.

I will also never forgive you for splintering half of my family and scattering it around the globe. I will never forgive you for the pain which this continues to cause my mother, not even meeting the vast majority of her family and having no access to the land of her forefathers. I will never forgive you for bulldozing my great-grandmother's grave, as you have so casually destroyed other Baha'i cemeteries.

I am conscious that I must avoid insulting any soul, yet it also bears mention that your president may need more information before he goes to speak with other people.

I am filled with an anger which causes my soul to scream in rage. I am called by my religion to love, tolerance, and an understanding that the trials and tribulations of this world are what cause our souls to grow. Baha'u'llah says, "My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it." I will spend the rest of my life trying to be obedient to this injunction... to understand that pain is weakness leaving the soul... to wrap my mind and heart around the idea that we are all dwelling in the palm of God's hand and that, regardless of present circumstances, He forgets no one, leaves no prayer unanswered...

Iran, Baha'u'llah promised that you have a very high destiny. Right now, though... I don't even know what to say. Only that hatred and ignorance and willful disobedience to the eternal commandments of the All-Merciful are not without their consequences, and hate and conscious ignorance of this sort are a cancer. You have to fight cancer, or one day you fall down and disintegrate. I will try to fight the desire to see you fall hard, but I won't lie. It's there.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

something I wrote a long time ago

Lord, i will give You this year of my life.

i will get up at 5:00am 5 days a week and drag my tired body and rebellious heart, kicking and screaming and whining, up Your mountain, through the dirt and the cats and the cold and the rain and the heat and the hamseen

the hamseen... i will breathe this dusty, polluted, foul-smelling air for a year, when i'm used to the fresh smell of the South Carolina morning by the pond with a tint of cow manure... i will drink more and more of this nasty water...

You will give me the glorious rose perfume of the Shrines... and those beautiful little white flowers that sit on the Threshold and beg me to prostrate my nose into them and breathe so deeply... until i cannot... hold... any ... more... until the perfume drives away the thoughts of any other thing that has ever filled my lungs... and my heart... and my soul... You will allow me to get lost in the warm light of the Shrine lamps, the soft, palpable flow that comes from hard, cold stone illuminated by Your light...

Lord, for You i will bite my tongue over... and over... and over again, until it hurts to be misunderstood and undervalued, because i know that the only value worth having is that which comes from forgetting myself and what i might "deserve" and moving and serving and working and striving until i ache... and it feels good...

You will give me people to hold me up, people to defend me against myself and encourage me... people to cry with me and feel this ache of wanting to give up, and the ache of knowing that the bruises will heal and we will be stronger to serve You better... people to test me and my reliance on You and forgetfulness of self, or lack thereof... people to enrich my mind with ideas i'd never conceived and places i've never been and experiences i've never dreamed of... people to love me when i don't love myself... through my mistakes, my inadequacies, my frustration, my joy...

i will give this year of should-haves, would-haves... i will do everything that i think i can... and many things that i think i can't... i will carry this ridiculous thing up those stairs... i will mop this floor that we could already eat on... i will pick up that ball of fluff, straighten that fringe, and walk back up those stairs to put the mats and the keys back where they belong...

You will put me to work on the best crew, with a schedule with no time to spare, with the strongest and most determined people so that i can become strong and determined to do... You know what... someday... i will do those pointless things for you... i'll put my cell phone on vibrate... i'll mop the spotless Council Chambre... i'll sweep the car parks... i'll hang from a rope on scaffolding, praying that You'll make it hold, while i swing into a column to get that last invisible line off the side...

You will let me see January 16th and the last week of May and the service areas on Your Arc and the Council Chambers and the offices and the terraces and the gardens and even the hairs of Your Blessed Head... i will look at the little things... that flower... that smile... that ray of light that falls just so through those windows so that my floor... Your floor... shines like the mirror on my wall... You will teach me that i can... You will give me the strength...

You will teach me that i am not responsible for how others treat me, but i am responsible for my behavior, my feelings, my actions... i will beg you to give me patience, give me love, give me strength, make me beautiful, make me smart, make me a better servant, make my hair behave, make my mind behave, purify my motives... You will give me everything i need... and even some of the stupid things...

i will thank You for a family that taught me about Your love, reliance on You, laundry, cooking stir fry, being teach-able, following instructions, communication, serving Your servants... You will further test these skills... over... and over... and over...

i will clean for 1 year of my life and pray that You will accept it... even through the grumbling... hear my soul, not my words...

You'll know what my limits are.. and You'll stretch them...and the stretching will make me give You the rest of my years...

(farewell message to the Bahá'í World Centre, June 2001 )

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

bits of bucket list

--- kayak the Nantahala River again
--- dance at my sisters' weddings
--- ride a gondola through Venice
--- be part of a neighborhood that pulls together to improve in some way
--- have the star in my tattoo filled in with something like the flowers in The Lotus Merchant
--- visit Toyeme and family in New Caledonia/Vanuatu
--- visit Nur in Argentina
--- sing in all Baha'i Houses of Worship
--- summer in Alaska
--- dance to steel drums at sunset on the beach in the Caribbean
--- live in the mountains
--- learn to make Hollandaise sauce
--- adopt
--- grow and birth a baby naturally
--- paint my own shutters
--- plant a garden that feeds people
--- grow marigolds in my own yard
--- sleep in a redwood forest
--- "make you banana pancakes/ pretend like it's the weekend"
--- knit a scarf for each of my grandmothers
--- see a show on Broadway
--- see an opera at the Sydney Opera House
--- make a mug and drink tea from that mug on my porch in the morning mist
--- eat really good food in Italy
--- sew a dress and wear it
--- give this to someone
--- take a road trip in a fun car with a good camera and someone I love
--- journal every day for the first year of my childrens' lives
--- create and maintain a family scrapbook
--- paint something I would be proud to see hanging on my parents' wall
--- be home base

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Someone reminded me of this the other day, and I had to go find it...

I was reading The Diary of Juliet Thompson just now, and I came across this little bit that reminded me of our conversation. She was a Baha'i who lived during the time of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and she spent a good deal of time with Him, talking with him, learning from his example of selfless service and love for humanity... Juliet was in love with a Christian preacher called Percy Graves who wasn't the best of men. Abdu'l-Baha told her that she should endeavour to give her heart to God, and she said that she would, and then this happened later... and "'Abdu'l-Baha" is the title He chose for Himself. It means literally "Servant of Baha" ("Baha" meaning "glory", refering to Baha'u'llah), but Baha'u'llah called him "The Master", so He is refered to in both ways.
That night the Master had a supper for all who had been with Him at the Mission. It was held in His suite at the Ansonia and He took me and two of the Persians, Valiyu'llah Khan and Ahmad, in His own taxi to the hotel.
As we drove up Broadway, glittering with its electric signs, He spoke of them smiling, apparently much amused. Then He told us that Bahá'u'lláh had loved light. "He could never get enough light. He taught us," the Master said, "to economize in everything else but to use light freely."
"It is marvellous," I said, "to be driving through all this light by the side of the Light of lights."
"This is nothing," the Master answered. "This is only the beginning. We will be together in all the worlds of God. You cannot realize here what that means. You cannot imagine it. You can form no conception here in this elemental world of what it is to be with Me in the Eternal Worlds."
"Oh," I cried, "with such a future before me how could my heart cling to any earthly object?"
The Master turned suddenly to me. "Will you do this thing?" He asked. "Will you take your heart from this other and give it wholly to God?"
"Oh, I will try!"
He laughed heartily at this. "First you say you will and then that you will try!"
"That is because I have learned my own weakness. What can I do with my heart?"
And now the Master spoke gravely. "I am very much pleased with that answer, Juliet."
-- from The Diary of Juliet Thompson

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Dear Small-On-The-Inside-BIG-On-The-Outside,

I saw a picture today.

Strange... it was accompanied by your height and weight. It was labeled with your name and something called DOB... the date listed was your birth day. Funny, right? Despite the fact that the picture looked exactly like you, the hair color and eye color were both listed as "brown". I knew then that it couldn't be you. Your hair is dark ash. It sticks up all over your head, especially in the back where it is nearly impossible to cut in a way which doesn't cause it to stick out funny, and they didn't mention that. The description would have said that because that's important. Your eyes are something like "brown", but they're a lot more like transparent. What's in there clearly doesn't have a color... or if it does, it's hurtandfightandfearandfuckyouandhugme... but it's not called "brown". Anyone who looked into them would know that. I knew it the first time I looked you full in the face.

That's a lie. I felt it the first time I watched you from behind, struttin down the road, back straight, shoulders squared, head tilted a little higher than necessary on what could only be a newly very tall frame so that nearly everyone would have to ask to permission to see those eyes.

Anyway, he had to be someone else's kid. If he'd been you they would have mentioned that smile that just don't quit with the under-bite and the way you look down a little when you're half-embarassed/half-proud when I'm laughing at how funny you are and how bad I'm beating you at Scrabble.

He wasn't smiling, but he reminded me of you a little.

There are a couple of bruises on that kid's face and neck. I'm curious as to where they came from... it's my nature. You know I always wanna know where things come from... always have 2.5 million questions. Remember that time you were fighting this kid, and he threw that mug at you? Poor white kid, you got that big purple bruise on your arm with that big knot under the surface. You said it didn't hurt, but you flinched a little when I felt the knot. I bet if I touched that kid's face, something sore would be on the surface. I wonder if he would flinch... I wonder if he would let me...

Remember that time you got too angry to be still? Remember how that man called you "son" and something snapped and it was all you could do to leave the room to avoid fighting him? Remember how I put you in the car and we didn't speak and we went to breakfast because I was out of ideas... and we ate pancakes and you spoke about the people whose son you are... and you experimented with syrups and I thought about how close you were to... well, to the mess that kid in the picture's in? How close you were to falling off an edge that would be the fulfillment of everything these people whose son you are had taught you?

I know that you don't remember how badly I wanted to get into that car and drive so far away...
drive until we were in a place with no cell phone reception
where none of your home boys could find you
where DSS stood for "Damn Silly Story" (or something equally descriptive)
a magical place where we could go back in time
and you could magically be 5 years old again
and I could pick you up
sit you on my lap
and hold you
while you told me all about the flowers you destroyed and where the stains on your shirt came from and how you wanted to be Superman and how slippery the tadpoles in the pond are...
where I could make sure that your hair didn't stick up in the back,
and your dreams weren't nightmares faced alone,
and you could play basketball in the yard with friends who didn't know what weed was unless we were talking about dandelions,
and I could make you peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
and you would get at least some more time before you knew what it felt like to be punched and hurt and dismally disappointed,
and I could take a bat to anyone who even looked like they might make you feel like that.
A place where someone would be able to show you what a real man looks like and how he goes about protecting and defending and representing and providing and loving.
A place where you could grow from that chubby little boy you told me you were into the very tall, strong, generous, smart, affectionate, defender of younger kids I always knew you to be.
A place where there would be pictures of that chubby little boy doing things chubby little boys do so that you didn't forget him when you grew tall like the trees.
Where your smoking of cigarettes and love of curse words really would be my biggest worries.
Where the facial hair that still hasn't grown in would be the biggest of yours.

(That kid doesn't have hair on his face either. See? It takes some people a while.)

I don't know where you are right now. I haven't really heard from you since they put you out for being so mad that you couldn't stop punching someone and too mad to talk and too big for that to be safe... except that time we went to take the SAT in hopes of leaving the college option open for some time in the future when you felt like you could take on a project other than staying alive and then had lunch and you threw bread at pigeons and laughed like someone half your size.

I think about you every day... I think about you like there's some big, dumb hole in my brain/heart the shape of your big, dumb head. I still expect to see you at the library or walking around the neighborhood or asleep on the chairs in my office. You come to mind unbidden at night when I talk to God before attempting sleep. I think about you every day in the breath just before I think about how I'd be out of a job if we could all get the love we need and everyone thought a little more about justice and hugs and education and prayer and training and respect and affection and pancakes and Superman and people who hold you hand when you're scared and a little less about blame and punishment and lessons and entitlement... forget back-flips on the tightrope, wouldn't THAT be MAGICAL. Bring me a circus filled with THAT.

I'm wondering if the people wherever you are know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are code for "I love you, and it's safe to stop acting like a time bomb." I wonder if that kid is as disarmed by peanut butter and jelly as you were. I wonder if anyone even tried that.

He really did look a lot like you.

His eyes called my name and "help" and "maybe it's too late" all at the same time, and I had to sit down outside where there was air in a hurry.

Call me. Let's start driving...

Love Always,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome Back, Campers! :)

So long between posts... are they even called "posts" if they come so far in between? I feel like they're snap-shots taken along the way... like maybe a series of shots taken from the car as the photographer drives way too fast so some of them are a little blurry.

I have a bit of something to say, something which I am less comfortable putting out on the internet, but I think that maybe it would be good for me to go ahead and say it in the interest of alerting others who might struggle with similar issues and need maybe to go get help like I finally ended up doing. I also realize that a lot of the judgement would probably come from people who are ignorant of disorders in the depression spectrum and don't understand me anyway. Those people are welcome not to read the following.

A year and some change ago (oh, stop it with the puns, Blue, seriously. ;) ), I began seeing a counselor. I was in yet another job I hated with a similar set of issues I had faced in my past much-hated jobs, so I finally reached the conclusion that either I didn't know how to pick a job that didn't put me into a victim position, I didn't know how to quit when I realized I was being victimized, I was imagining the entire thing and had no idea why I would do such a thing, or God hated me and wanted me to be profoundly miserable for the rest of my life. Realizing that I also tend towards the more dramatic end of the spectrum, I had been putting off dealing with this for some time, convinced that if I could just make up my mind, move, decide to "follow my dreams", think more positive thoughts, etc., I could just "snap out of it". Snapping was seeming increasingly impossible. Additionally, I had thought for years about becoming a counselor, thought I was getting close to starting the process, and couldn't stomach the idea of offering these services to another soul without trying it out myself first. After realizing that my life was poo, at an absolute stand-still, and, dramatic or not, my mind was going into increasingly depressing places, I finally, with the help of a friend/angel, made an appointment and went in.

It was a cold and rainy day (Actually I can't remember, but I've always wanted to use that line!). I found myself in a room with a white man in his 50's with profound eyebrows. Pictures of hunting dogs and grandchildren scattered the room. He sat on a wooden rocking chair and asked me why I was there. I explained that I had recognized that I had a problem. I told him that I realized that I was not struggling with something debilitating (this was a lie), that I was not in any real danger (also a lie), and that I felt like I was over-reacting a little (yet one more lie, although I still feel the need to defend this more often than not). I told him that I wanted to address the problem directly. I told him that I needed concrete assistance and that if he even suggested anything that bore a slight resemblance to bullshit, I would get up off the couch and leave immediately... something I once brought up in a session, saying that I was not sure that I would have had the courage. "You?" he responded. "Nope. You would have been gone."

Four nearly interrogation-like sessions later, the man clicked the light on. Turns out there's a word for this. Ladies and gentlemen, meet dysthymia...

The main symptom of dysthymia is low, dark, or sad mood nearly every day for at least 2 years. The symptoms are less severe than in patients with major depression, but people with this condition can still struggle with:
Feelings of hopelessness
Insomnia or hypersomnia
Low energy or fatigue
Low self-esteem
Poor appetite or overeating
Poor concentration

Dude, I can't tell you what happened that day. I was suddenly not crazy. I was not imagining things, not lazy, not wallowing, and not a useless chunk of human being. I had a name for the never-ending inertia... a word to refer to the constant feeling that everything was going to suck forever, that I was never going to be good enough... there's a reason I feel that I, a perfectly decent human being with a number of sterling qualities, have, beyond reason, felt like utter crap about myself every day for as long as I can remember... a reason that I felt like part of me was standing outside looking at the mopey, indecisive, underachieving me and shaking her head... simply having a name for all of this was more freeing than I can explain. Despite the fact that nearly everyone I knew would probably never have guessed it, I had been sad, stressed, and immobile for years. Perhaps that's the real tragedy--they had simply gotten used to my constant slight sadness.

Oddly enough, I had also been anti-diagnosis for years. I felt that a diagnosis made it ok to give up and stop trying to overcome something... a diagnosis was something which defined a person and made the person weak and able to make excuses for that weakness... something people did and received as an excuse for their inability to get up like the rest of us (HAHA) and accomplish what we do (HAHAAAA!). Geeeez, the air got thin up on that pedestal.

The problem with NOT having a diagnosis is that then there is nothing to deal with. I don't know how other people feel, but I felt (and still feel) that the diagnosis gave me focus. My tendency towards inertia and half-empty thinking is something which has a name. It's no longer an all-encompassing personality flaw of which I must be ashamed.

Here comes some science...
The high level of stress and transition in my life as I grew up never allowed my brain to develop steady levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain which allows all of us to feel calm, safe, and like everything is generally ok. Without the regulating, one goes up and down, never feeling really safe, really calm, or really ok. Stress and mild sadness are constant. I read dysthymia described once as "an invisible Nerf bat pounding on the inside of my brain." It's not debilitating, but it makes doing anything nearly impossible. It's always in the way. Whether I had a genetic predisposition to this or not, the theory is that my brain doesn't know how to keep serotonin levels stable. Although it is possible for dysthymia to become clinical depression and require medication, the most effective route to go here is counseling. Get this-- because the brain can grow and change and all of that, I can literally re-train my brain to regulate the serotonin. It's kind of amazing to me... the brain can change behavior, and behavior can change the brain. The feelings and thoughts we have are not just ethereal things floating in the atmosphere... they are also chemical pathways at work in our brains. If I work to make my thought processes change, my brain will adapt. It's super-cool. It's actually the preferred method for dysthymia. Meds tend not to be as effective as they can be with clinical depression, but I will take the pills if someday it becomes necessary. Life is too damn short to be so sad. If it means counseling forever, then so be it. I will not lay down and be conquered by this. This is the only life on this earth I get. I'm going to do what I have to do to be able to enjoy it and make use of it.

There has been a lot of get-up-and-go in the course of my own counseling journey. I have been pushed to apply to school, pushed to make some changes in my job and personal life, pushed to analyze my family and friends and the forces at work there, pushed to address my spirituality and how it and the ways in which I choose to express and experience, pushed to look clearly at how I see my body and choose to live in it... it's so far from easy, but I'm a believer in counseling. It turns out I'm not weak. It's not a character flaw, and I'm not Debbie Downer. I'm not doomed to a dead-end and disappointing life, and God loves the hell out of me. I just need help seeing that through the now occasional brain fog. My counselor doesn't have all of the answers, but, mumbo-jumbo as it may sound, he sees me. He sees me as I've never been able to see myself, and it makes me feel like I could climb mountains. We all need that from time to time, sometimes more intensively than others... but we all have those moments in which it's just too dark, and we can't see. It's really helpful not to be alone.

My parents have each faced major health issues this year, graduate school (suprise, surprise) has it's own set of issues, work is no picnic, I'm still pretty poor, and my hormonal cycle continues to be challenging, but I feel MUCH better. My life is in motion now. I can honestly say that I have more good days than blah, and I actually like my life the vast majority of the time. I may get tired and fall into old traps of complaining, but I currently work one of my dream jobs, I am going to school to get certified to do something I know I'm my soul I was made for, and in many ways I have healthier relationships than ever before.

It's not all cotton candy... but cotton candy is unrealistic anyway. I'm just happy the Nerf bat seems to be at least taking a breather more often than not. I can't tell you how relieved I am. It's mighty peaceful in here...