Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Yes, tv show again. I have a tv on all the time, when home, because it helps me ignore the strange noises in the house. It was a fun movie/pilot. The point, however, is this:

My new life plan is to move to Botswana and become a detective! The character Precious is so brilliant! She sort of stumbles into solving the cases, but whatever. She's friendly, she's funny (sometimes without meaning to be), and all the bright colors. *Everyone* dresses so colorfully, and 99% of the time, the women are wearing brightly colored scarves on their heads. I'd fit right in!
Yes, there are flaws to the plan. A) Show is fictional B) I don't speak Botswanan (not the actual name of the language) C) not a detective. Aside from all that, perfect! Forget being a farm wife! I've read Sherlock Holmes, and every Batman comic ever! I can do this.
But seriously, if I could get away with dressing like they do on the show, and not have people staring at me like a circus freak? I would.

Monday, March 30, 2009

'Not Yet' - It's Not the Answer I Want!

Everyone's heard it, when they pray for something that doesn't happen. Someone will invariably say, "sometimes God's answer is 'not yet'." Which is all fine and good when it's not you being told 'not yet'.

I want to get married, and have children. *Really* badly. I feel that this is part of what I'm meant to do with my life. And I've been praying, really hard, that God makes this happen. That I meet the right man, we say the right things, and connect. Find each other. And, you know, I've been getting a little (lot) impatient that this hasn't happened yet.

Because, the thing is, as much as I want to believe I'm ready? I'm not.

I'm selfish. I don't want to compromise about what I want to do, when I want to do it. That's part of why I stopped dating. Why should I have to schedule what I want to do around him? *blows raspberries at all the boys she's dated before* *sigh* So. Clearly, there is work to be done on me, before I'm really, honestly ready to worry about another person, to be able to both *give* and take, in a relationship.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Documentary - Friends of God : A Road Trip

So, I dvr'd an HBO documentary on evangelical christians. Once I got past the urge to reach through the screen and start slapping people when they were claiming that dinosaurs were fictional, and that science was evil...okay, then you stop using *everything* that science gave you, and go back to being naked in a cave. *restrains self*

It's half entertaining and half frutstrating. On the one hand, Ted Haggard is one of their shining examples (it's an old documentary), there's Biblical mini-golf, and The Holy Land Experience. I'm kind of squiggy on the whole 'guys running around pretending to be Jesus thing'...on the other, the family with family with ten kids was cute!

Aaannddd...now they have Jerry Falwell on. Excuse me, I have to go slap a man through a tv....

No Idea What to Title This Post

Just putting it out there....

But 'raised' versus 'risen'....

It's a very important distinction...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Should I Wear hijabi style scarf in public?

Am considering wearing hijab-style scarf out in public on Sunday.

Good idea? Y/N?

I know the manner of wrapping the scarf is not *strictly* Muslim, but it is viewed that way by many. Also, I have seen, in 25 years or living in the same town, exactly *one* hijabi, so...not something people are used to seeing around here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Diary of a Religious Butterfly...

"My feeling is that the reformation that many Protestants want is really an unknown desire to heal the schism that happened between East and West. The West splintered and have been splintering and splintering ever since."

I was skimming another blog and found this left as an anonymous comment.

I've mentioned before, briefly I think, that several comments made in RCIA have made me start to question which side was correct, in the Schism. The teachers sort of pass it off...'well, yes, the Orthodox are doing things in the original way, and we're trying to get back to that, but Rome is still the Church that Christ instituted...why? well, we have the Pope' Hmm, okay, but, and I've by no means got the Bible memorized, or even have a fantastic recall of where something is referenced. I'm new at this, remember. But, while St. Peter was given a sort of primacy, an authority, I can't recall him running around making unilateral decisions for the whole church. That's why they had councils...

So, 'we have the Pope' and 'they all wish they had a Pope'...not so much working for me, honestly. And I really think they're downplaying the Schism, which, and this is as far as they talk about it, was caused entirely by the insertion of the words 'and the Son' into the Nicene Creed without consulting the bishops in the east.

Which, you know, I find this sad. I'm not even Catholic yet and I'm questioning whether or not I stopped too soon!

Anyhow, the quote I found just, I guess it did sort of strike a chord. So I picked up one of the books Alana had recommened from before. I'd gotten it and not quite gotten around to reading it yet, but I moved it up in the pile. :)

I particularly like this quote, and it's just from the Introduction: "The Orthodox Church is thus a family of self-governing Churches. It is held together, not by a centralized organization, not by a single prelate wielding power over the whole body, but by the double bond of unity in the faith and communion in the sacraments. Each Patriarchate....while independent, is in full agreement with the rest on all matters of doctrine, and between them all there is in principle full sacramental communion." - The Orthodox Church, Kallistos Ware, pg. 7

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Battles B.C. and other things

Okay, this is going to be a post of a few topics:

Item 1: Battles, B.C. on the History Channel

I'm really enjoying this show. It's a mix of historians talking about the particular subject, and visuals, done in the style of 300. They've done Hannibal, David, and Joshua, and next weeks episode is on Caesar. It's both fun and educational. For instance, Hannibal's attack on Rome actually failed - he never made it that far. He decimated the troops, yes, changed warfare forever, and actually instigated the expansionist view of the Roman Empire, but he never made it to Rome, which was his goal. David, for all of being the greatest king of the Jewish empire, was typical for the day and age, but really just a brilliant tactician. One of the historians likened him to a Mafia Don, in that he had his consigliere, in Joab, who would remove problems for him. All the deaths that made it possible for him to wipe out, effectively, Saul's bloodline and claim the throne, he was never blamed for any of them. Sort of a, 'who will rid me of this troublesome priest', thing. Sometimes, it seems as though Joab would act, against David's orders, when he thought it was for the best. See his killing of Absalom, when David had told everyone not to kill him. Funnily enough, Solomon had Joab killed when he ascended to the throne. It's all about the consolidation of power.

The part that I found most interesting about the episode on Joshua though, was Jericho. I'm going from memory, so I'm not quoting any numbers, but when the Israelite army went to Jericho, they outnumbered the populace, and *far* outnumbered the defenders of Jericho. What they historians put forth was that, the red cord that Rahab tied out her window was a signal, but not just that the household was not to be killed. After all, the killing would be done once the army was *inside* the walls, so what good would a sign that couldn't be seen from inside do? Rather, the cord was a signal for the place where the Israelite army could sneak some of their men in. So, each day for the six days that the army was marching around Jericho, when they blew their horns, say, ten, fifteen men climbed up and hid in Rahab's house or on her roof. On the seventh day, you've got at least 60, possibly more well trained men *inside* Jericho. They could easily take down enough of the defenders on a section of the wall, to allow the army to overwhelm that section, and, from that point, take the city. So, the walls fell, metaphorically, not literally.

Item 2: Exercise and Weight

I screwed around the last little while with the weight loss. I was bad, and I gained a little of it back. However, the past week I really went back to the grind stone. Rather than sit and play with the dogs, I'm taking them around and around our yard until they tire out. It's better for them, better for me. I'm doing a solid half-hour on the tread mill, and then a half-hour of other exercise every day, at least. I'm watching what I eat, very closely. Alana posted, a while back, two good posts with quotes from the church fathers and the Bible on gluttony, and how one should conduct oneself at table. I printed them out and taped them to my bathroom mirror, as a reminder.

I lost five pounds in a week.

Now, I don't expect the loss to continue at that rate, it's somewhat insane, really. But I think it's an excellent sign.

I'm up to 3 mph on the treadmill, for the whole half hour, which is a *huge* improvement from where I started, and, you know what? I have a bruise on one wrist. It's from *letting go of the treadmill arms and swinging my arms*! I couldn't have done that at this speed a few weeks ago!

I'm going to do more though. I've given up alcohol, I poured everything in the house down the drain. I'm quitting soda entirely, so I'm going to be cranky as it works its way out of my system, I'm a total caffine addict. Pasta and bread are also going to go.

Item 3: Parents

They've left their church. Not for theological reasons, but because they didn't like the way the worship team and some other things were being run. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I asked them what they were going to be now, since the church they were going to was Mennonite, and my mother said 'Christian', dad said, 'Jehovah's Witnesses!' (he was joking).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scarves...in better light


Amber straight from work-

And no, that's not a bra strap, that's the collar of the shirt I have on under the green one.

Hijab Amber, take 2 & 3:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pretty new scarf

Playing around. Got a new scarf the other day. So...

Typical Amber:

Hijab Amber:

Three things:

a) Lighting is crap, and I look like death. Ignore this, please. Pretty scarf is still pretty, despite being on my head.
b) It actually looks something like hijab. First time I have managed this.
c) Hijab looks silly on me.

On a separate note, my paranoia has died down, and niqab thing looks utterly silly, so forget all that.


I'm a person that needs rigid structure in my life.

I have a pattern, a schedule, and I do *not* appreciate changes to it. It is sacrosanct, and should there be alteration, there had damn well better be good reason for it. I sometimes joke that I have OCD, everything *must* be done a certain way, in a certain order, at a certain time, and everything has its place, and, believe me, I will *know* if you have touched things.

I've come to realize that this extends to my choice of religion. I cannot stomach denominations that are touchy feely, move as the spirit moves you. I want order! I want a clear and concise set of rules, both for worship, and life. That's all. It's not too much to ask, is it? I don't want to be left with 'wiggle room'. Because I will wiggle right through it. I can't help it. If there's a loophole, I will find it, and I will take advantage of it. And it's not my fault, because ya'll shouldn't have left the loophole there.

Someone told me that I live in a prison. I don't do anything spontaneously, I have no joy, no soul to my life. *pft* Here's the thing, if this is prison? I've certainly locked *myself* in, and I have the key.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book: An Exorcist Tells His Story

By Gabriele Amorth

Now, I admit that I have a fascination with all things demon or ghostly, so that's primarily why I picked up this book. Demons...ooohh...

It was a good book, primarily, I think, focused on encouraging the Church to pay more attention to the position of exorcist, a ministry that has, apparently, been allowed to lapse for the most part. The author is sort of calling to task the Bishops, whose job this is to either perform exorcisms when needed or to delegate the responsibility to a priest.

It was a basic explanation of the biblical basis for exorcisms, the fact that *any* Christian should have the power to drive out the devil (which is why Protestant churchs can have deliverances, or whatever they choose to call them, and have them work), but that for full blown possessions, an actual exorcist is needed. The difference between possession, obsession, oppression was explained.

Now, I disagree with him that all ghosts are really demons. I just don't see evidence for that, and I have experienced ghosts personally.

Then again, I have a different perspective on the devil altogether.

Briefly, because I know it's bizarre: I don't believe that the devil is a fallen angel. I have simply never been able to make that premise make sense. Angels have no free will. So how can they rebel? So...yes, Lucifer is an angel, but it's his *job* to tempt us. Him and his lietuenant angels. A guy doing a job. It's a nasty one, but it has to be done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Morning's Radio

So, Catholic Answers Radio this morning was apparently an open forum. I was channel surfing and caught a part of it.

The first question I missed, but got part of the answer. I'm guessing that the questions was something like: 'why don't we follow the Mosaic Law?' only, of course, more complicated. The apologist/guest (and I missed part of the answer), said that because Jesus fulfilled the law, none of it was binding on Christians. We were, instead, to obey natural law - laws that human reason could come up with on its own. For example, worshiping the Creator is natural law. The *day* and *manner* of worship is not. Okay, well, clearly, not *everyone* can come up with that one. See atheists, or deists who believe in a Creator, but don't believe that there is a need to worship. Or that homosexuality is against natural behavior. However, if we look at nature, homosexual behavior exists in animals. So...not so much there either. He (Jim Blackburn) did an article on the topic for This Rock - Why We Are Not Bound By Everything in the Old Law. Which is just an expansion of the point. Natural law, plus what Jesus taught (as conveyed through Tradition and Scripture).

And *then* - the next question was from a women. She had been raised by a Jewish family, and later converted to Catholicism when she married her husband. In the church bulletin, her parish was advertising a Passover Seder that they were holding. And she wanted to know, seeing as how this is a sacred event for the Jews, should the Church really be doing this? Or would Jewish people be insulted? The apologist said that the parish was likely doing it as an educational thing, what was the Last Supper like, that sort of thing. And that Jewish people whould be...now, I can't remember if he said 'flattered', but if that wasn't the exact word, it was something similar. And the woman was...'Really?' And he said, 'Well, they *should* be.' *headdesk* Fail.

Okay, the way this woman was drawing the comparison, the Passover Seder is like a sacrament to observant Jews. But...they should be flattered that people who don't believe in what it represents, are imitating it. So, by that thought process, Catholics should be flattered when non-Catholics go to Confession, or receive Communion. Yeah. Fail.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book: Infidel

I actually finished this last week, but I've been trying to figure out what to say about it. It was an interesting read, as, I think, everyone's life story is. On the other hand, I find myself not really liking this woman.

I found the anger and bitterness in this book that I expected in Caged Virgin, and honestly, she's got plenty to be angry about. Start with her abusive mother and completely absent father, move on to her grandmother who had her and her sister and brother circumcised against their parents wishes, and then the civil war, the dictatorship, the murder of a friend of hers, her sisters (probably) avoidable death, etc. She's got plenty to be pissed off about.

I think my main problem is this - she was privileged, in her world. She had a lot that other people didn't, and as craptastic as her life was, there were people a lot worse off. You want to know why she became a refugee in Holland? Her father arranged a marriage, and she didn't want to marry him. All well and good, and fine, run away, you're an adult. But then she *lied* in her application to become a refugee. She stole other peoples stories and made them her own. She says she kept telling people, after she'd been granted citizenship, and that everyone lies about it, to get it. That may all be true, and I still agree with her earlier points about change being necessary in many aspects of Islam, but this doesn't sit well with me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Holy Kinder, Batman!

I have just volunteered to help teach beginning religious ed next year, as an assistant.

I have no idea what, if anything, will come of this. I just said, if they needed someone, I'd be willing.

Oh dear...

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Do I Feel This Good Sober?

I am the product of two alcoholic fathers.

My biological father was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and so was my adoptive father. And so was his father, who lived with us through much of my childhood.

I don't drink, except when I do.
Ever since I turned 21, when I go out to dinner, I have a few drinks. I've been flat out, shit faced drunk once. Just to see what it was like. I didn't even get a hang over, I just got *real* affectionate.

I'm a happy drunk, I'm friendly, I'm playful, I'm a nicer person. I've had people tell me I should be drunk all the time, or at least a little buzzed.

I've been thinking, for a while, about *why* I choose to drink. I've been considering stopping it all together, just to be safe.

Tonight, we went out to dinner. I had three drinks, and I've been sick as a dog since. Not hung over sick, but just 'my body refuses to process this' sick.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things That Go Bump in the Night

In honor of the return of Supernatural from break (Yay!), and tomorrow being the second Friday the 13th this year, I've decided to do a post on two things that frightened me as a child.

1. Raggedy Ann and Andy

My grandmother made these dolls for me, and we still have them. They sit at a little kids table that my grandfather made, in our living room.

When I was little, they were my size. I could, and did, wear their clothes.

Now, I watched a lot of things that I probably shouldn't have as a kid. I liked watching things that weren't allowed, because it made me feel sneaky and clever and grown up. *achem*

I can't tell you what show it was, but it was something along the lines of Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. Something black and white and creepy. The *only* episode I remember is this one. There was a little kid, I can't even remember if it was a girl or a boy, though I think it was a girl, and she got a Raggedy Ann doll. And the doll was possessed, or alive somehow, and kept trying to kill the kid. You would watch it come to life, when no one was looking, and move around, chase after the kid, but then the kid would turn around and it would be flopped on the ground, unmoving, like it was just a doll. I don't remember what happened in the story, but I do remember the end of the show, with a Raggedy Ann doll in a 'museum' like setting, under glass, surrounded by other possessed items.

I was suddenly terrified that my Raggedy dolls were going to come to life and attack me! But I couldn't leave them out of my room, because they belonged in my room, and I couldn't explain that I was afraid, because I would have had to tell them why, and that would have gotten me into trouble. So, during the day, when I was at school, they sat in their place on my toy bench. But when I got home, I stuffed them into the toy bench and piled stuff on top so they couldn't get out. And they still creep me out, to this day. I've long since explained my aversion to them to my mother, and she thinks its funny, now. But, even knowing that they're not going to attack me, I have trouble walking by them in the dark.

2. Movie Monster Books

In elementary school, the library had a series of books that were the classic movie monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Blob, etc. They were the stories of the movies, with black and white pictures, I think. The books were thin, with bright orange covers, and a large black and white picutre of the monster of the book on the cover.

I loved these books, during the day.

At night, my imagination started running, and I was afraid that the monster was real, and was going to use the picture on the cover of the book as some sort of door, come to life, jump out of the picture, and get me.

So, my ingenious plan was: I took the books and propped them up in my window, with the picutre facing outside. That way, *if* the monster came to life, it would jump out of the window! And then I'd be safe because the monster would be outside of the house. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

But Your Hair's Beautiful....

So, one of the women at work *really* wanted to see my hair.

The last time she saw it it was short and a rainbow of colors. Today, I walked by a conference room and she was in there alone, so I shot in there and closed the door and whipped off my scarf.

'Your hair's so long! And it's so shiny! You should leave the scarf off!' 'But your hair is so beautiful! You should wear it out and let everyone be jealous!'

*sigh* But I don't *want* to cause jealousy! I'll admit, I love my hair. I think it's lovely, and honestly one of my best features. I'm not bragging, it's simply a statement of fact. I have pretty hair. And that's a part of why I cover it. It's glorious, it's my glory, and I'm covering it. So other women don't feel even a tiny pang of jealousy. So men don't even have a second of thought for it.

Yes, I cover because I believe God commanded it, but modesty has become a big part of it too.

I like to imagine, one day, my wedding night, and being able to take my hair down for my husband, and only him, for the first time.

Edit: to say...I've gotten so good at tying on the scarf, I don't even need a mirror to do it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Even the safe path has dangers on each side

This post could also, alternatively, be titled: Stupid Things That Amber Has Done.

I live, as I believe I have mentioned, in the middle of nowhere, or BFN, as we sometimes call it.

People out here have at least three acres, many times much more. We're not that far from both a state park and a wolf sanctuary. Aside, hearing the wolves howl at night? Lovely. We had a...I think he was ten foot or so gator show up in our swale one morning. I watched a, I'm guessing, I didn't measure him, six or seven foot gator mosey down the side of the road last week, moving from one water source to the next. Anyway. In our back yard, we have a "pond". I say "pond" because, while it is meant to be filled with water, we don't fill it. Rather, we let it be a natural pond, ground water and rain. Only, since this is year three of drought conditions, not so much with the water. I refer to it as the sandtrap, or litter box, since the barn cats in the neighborhood find it very convenient.

Last night, around nine, I was walking our Pomeranian. She needs more exercise, because she has bad knees, so I have been walking her around the back of the property, which means walking around the pond, and then back to the house. The property line between us and our neighbors is heavily brush and wood. I know that there's a hole in the fencing, because their yorkie gets in our yard sometimes, but the brush is so thick we can't find it to fix it. To get around the pond, you have to walk on a relatively narrow strip where you've got the woods on one side and the pond on the other. The pond is about 14 feet deep, and has steep sides.

So, walking along, little Pomeranian suddenly goes nuts, trying to head for the woods. I'm not letting her, because I don't like frightening the rabbits, and I'm certainly not going to let her or any of the dogs catch one. But the 'rabbit' never startles out, and so I pick her up, and sort of walk a little forward, peering into the dark, because full moon or no, there's shadows in the woods, and I didn't bring my flashlight.

And.....then I think I see a snout. And realize that, should that actually be a gator, I am between him and water.

Doesn't he just look comfy?

So. I very calmly turn around, and walk quickly back to the house, staying as far from the woodline as I can, but also not too close to the edge of the pond. And I keep looking back, just in case. The whole time, thinking, 'stupid!' at myself. For those who do not know, gators can *book* on land. They may look slow, but they're not. I think they hit twenty some miles per hour at a dead run? And they average about 400 pounds, fully grown. They're not agressive, like crocodiles, but they will kill you. So, it's best to respect them and not be in their territory. During dry spells, they'll roam if their water source dries up, so you seem them more than usual.

In retrospect, I don't really think there was a gator there, but the scare reminded me that I've gotten complacent about some stuff. I know better than to go out there without a light, and to be extra careful in floods or droughts.

Once I'd finished berating myself for being a moron, it occurred to me, because my brain is in a philosophical place lately, that it's something like life.

There's a path, safe, clear, and easy to follow. But, on either side of that path, is danger. And we sometimes forget that that danger is there, and fail to be cautious, because we've been down this road before, and we think we know what we're doing. Just because the way looks clear doesn't mean that you can let your guard down.
I know, not very deep. But I have shallow thoughts, what can I say?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?


The universe has seen fit to give me a Watchmen movie that did. not. suck.
Now, if you will just give me a Good Omens movie and/or HBO limited series that does not suck, I shall declare you a benevolent universe.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Book: The Caged Virgin

Okay, yes, so far all the books have been about Muslims or Islam. But I'm reading alphabetically. It just so happens that the first three authors, alphabetically, happen to write about Muslim things. After I read Ms. Ali's biography the next book is about exorcisms, so there's a change of pace for you. :)

After everything that I'd heard about this woman, I honestly expected the book to read angry. It didn't. She's honest about the fact that she's an atheist, that she holds no faith in the 'fairy tales of religion'. But she doesn't seem to be one of those atheists who insists that religion must be destroyed, for it is inherently evil. Rather, she says that there is good and beauty in religion, but that all religions must be able to look critically at themselves, at their texts and history, and *adapt* to the modern world. Not throw away their faith or practices, but also not be stuck 2000 or 1400 or even 600 years ago.

The Qur'an, for it's time, was in many ways progressive. But, she says, the *spirit* of progression has been lost in Islam. Instead the prevailing schools of thought are those of men who insist on imposing Medieval concepts of law and justice on the believers, while riding around in their air conditioned Hummers. They condemn the West and those who 'imitate the nonbelievers' in even the smallest thing, while riding around in vehicles, taking advantage of technologies that were invented in the West. She views them as hypocrites, and worse.

But, of course, as I'm sure you can get from the title of the book, her focus is on the position of women in the Muslim world. As I mentioned, the Qur'an was progressive for it's time. It did elevate women from their previous status, which was something along the lines of a beast of burden at the time, for most women. But to apply some of those standards now doesn't really make sense. It is, when used in the strictest interpretation, oppressive to women. And she doesn't seem to believe that that was how it was intended.

Her main points were 1) child/forced marriages, 2) female genital mutilation, and 3) domestic abuse.

1. She contends that all arranged marriages are forced, and therefore begin in an act of rape the first time that the couple have sex. Because the woman has no choice, ever. Now, this scenario is probably true, in a percentage of cases, and the percentage may be higher in immigrant communities and 3rd world countries. But I *know* that it is not always the case, as I have come across a few women on the internet who are in arranged marriages, and were there of their own choice. The actual Islamic laws were followed in their cases, and they had the option to reject their prospective husband, should they so choose. You can argue that their families 'pressure' to marry took away their choice. I can't say one way or the other, but that these women seem to be intelligent and strong, and I believe them when they say that this is what they freely chose.

Now, child marriage. I have *never* come across any Muslim (on the net, since that's the only way I know any), that thought child marriage was acceptable. And these are devout Muslims, people. I think of Umm Adam, who is happily niqabi, who made hijrah to KSA, and is what I would consider an 'orthodox' Muslim. She had a man propose marriage, to her husband, for her infant daughter. Infant as in 'just born'. Of course, the marriage wouldn't happen until later. She was horrified, and told her husband in no uncertain terms that she never wanted that man near her or her daughters again. I know that there are Muslims (and other people, not picking on the Muslims here) out there who do believe in child marriage. And they'll point to the marriage of Mohammed and Aisha. Supposedly, Mohammed was engaged to Aisha when she was six, and married her when she was nine. Horrible and shocking, and the reason that lots of people accuse Mohammed of being a pedophile.

However, if you step back a second, and control your disgust, you'll learn that *everyone* got married *much* younger than we currently find acceptable. Twelve and thirteen was the norm. People did not live as long back then. Giving birth was dangerous, and quite frankly, women were viewed as a burden in a lot of ways. Their only purpose was to produce children, and a lot of them. Preferrably boys.

I like to point out that Mary, the Mother of God, was most likely thirteen or so when she gave birth to Christ. She was *engaged* already, to Joseph. This was common practice. It made sense. Of course, nine is still young. It's very young. And, honestly, I don't think that Aisha was that young when she married Mohammed. A very good post is over here, at Aafke's journal: How Old Was Aicha - an excellent read.

And, on a personal aside, look at us. Do we marry off our kids? No, not any more. But we turn them into sex objects, and then wonder when pedophiles do go after them, or when they start have children of their own at ten or eleven. Those 'Li'l Miss' beauty pagents, the clothes, the 'child stars', all of it. It just feeds into the sexualization of the children. And I find it all disgusting.

2) Genital mutilation. It's done to preserve the virginity of the women, to preserve the honor of the family. It's, again, a horrific practice. And it's, as the author herself points out, un-Islamic. It was a cultural practice that was sort of absorbed, and is half accepted in many places, because of the 'cult of the virgin' that exists in Islam. A woman who looses her 'honor', her virginity, not only shames herself, but her whole family. The men, in many cases, feel it's acceptable to kill the woman in such instances to restore their honor. In order to prevent it, they scar the inside of the woman's vagina (sometimes with glass shards), remove the clitoris, and *sew* the vagina shut. It's torture. It's something that needs to be stopped, and she believes that the *de*emphasis of virginity, of the tie of the families honor to the girls "purity" (not all virgins are pure, there's a *lot* that can be done without breaking the hymen) and education will help rid the world of such barbaric practices.

3) Domestic abuse. Again, we all know that it happens everywhere, across all borders of culture or religion. Ms. Ali contends that the Medieval view of women that is held in large patches of the Islamic community exacerbates the problem. The men view the women as property, and the women, often times, believe that the Qur'an gives the men these rights, and so never even think of questioning it. They have all grown up with it, and believe it to be right. And then you get women who *know* better, are better educated, and will leave. Will assert their rights. Again, I think it all falls down to education, of both the women and the men.

Of course, I'm going to have to disagree with Ms. Ali on some things. She denies God's existence. She believes that everyone should be free to have sex outside of marriage, and that that would take the pressure off of the men and women in Islam. Well, while I don't think that the strict gender segregation of Islam is right (it does seem to lead to some men and women who don't understand how to interact without it turning sexual), I also don't think that running around having sex with anything that catches your eye is the answer. You can know and understand about sex without actually having it.

Ms. Ali calls for an Enlightenment of the Muslim world. And I can't but think it would be a good thing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cryptid - Megalodon

Okay, dirty secret time...

I believe in Big Foot. And Nessie. And Champ. And Mothman. And the Jersey Devil. Etc. On and on. Or at least, I believe that we haven't *disproven* their existence, and so I reserve the right to believe that they are there.

I love shows like Monster Quest and Destination Truth. (I also love Ghost Hunters, and to a much lesser extent, Ghost Hunters International. And Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, Paranormal State...are you sensing a theme?) Anyway.

My person favorite, the one nearest and dearest to my heart is the Meg. I'm a predator fan. I'm a shark fan. Jaws not only scared the crap out of me, it awakened a life long love of sharks. I adore them. I would *love* for us to discover a population of Megs out there. It is my secret geek wish.

This is for comparison. Meg is red, Great White is green, and we're in blue. Meg wins. At *everything*.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So, one of the things we accomplished on the retreat on Saturday was our First Holy Confession.

I was, sadly, disapointed with the whole thing. The priest, Fr. A, is very nice, and I did what I was instructed to do. I went in, and talked about 'what was bothering me, what weighed on my mind'. I recited the Act of Contrition, I was given absolution, and Penance, and that was that.

People came out of the room crying, clearly deeply moved by whatever happened in there. All leading up to it, the people already in the Church would talk about how a weight is lifted. Eh. Perfectly honest? I don't feel it. I don't feel any different, I didn't then, I don't now. Perhaps it's because it wasn't the confession I was expecting? I wanted to go in there, and confess to the priest, acting as Christ, all the wrongs that I could remember. To list them, to acknowledge that I did wrong, I know I did wrong, and I am asking for forgiveness for those wrongs.

Like so many other things, this, I feel, is really something done for our benefit. God knows what you've done, better even than you. It's the process of reflection, of acknowledgement and repentance that is important for us. But the way we were told to do confession? I didn't need to tell the priest that I lied, or stole, that I've blasphemed, or that I worshiped other gods. Nothing. Just...what's bothering you. And none of those things are bothering me. I've done them, I know they're wrong, God knows, I've acknowledged them privately, and I pray for guidance away from repeating those mistakes.

I think confession can be great, as evidenced by all those people who clearly got something hugely meaningful out of it. I wish it had meant more to me. I *wanted* it to mean more. But it didn't. It was like having a conversation with someone I like, who is then sworn to secrecy. I didn't...I didn't get that feeling of *sacredness* that I was expecting. That *lift* when it was over, and I was told that my sins were forgiven.

As I jokingly told someone else, "Given all the other reactions, I'm afraid I may just be spiritually deficient."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book: In the Land of Invisible Women

Over all, I enjoyed this book. There were parts that I sort of skimmed, mainly dealing with her crush on a male doctor she worked with, and their 'relationship' over the phone and email, IM, collaborating on papers. I just didn't care, and the excessive description of his skin or his wrist....eh. I have bad romance novels in a closet somewhere if I want to read that. Not that anything ever happened between them, as far as you can tell. It was a completely UST relationship, if the book is to be believed.

I like the slices of life that she reflected with some of her coworkers. The description of a visit to a coworkers home, a man whose son had just been killed, run over in the street, was touching. Of course, the death of a child is always going to rip at my heart.

My favorite part, though, was her description of Hajj.

She's not a particularly observant Muslim, I guess you would say. Or at least the books gives that impression - she doesn't seem to pray the five obligatory prayers before she takes the job in KSA. She appears to be surprised, over and over by different aspects of the faith, or at least aspects of it as practiced in Saudi.

But her Hajj. You could feel her awe and wonder at being in the House of God. The excitement, the joy that she took away from it. She didn't intend to go on Hajj, it just sort of happened, but I think it changed something for her. She didn't suddenly go out and pull on (willingly, she had to wear it while in Saudi) an abaya and veil. Once she was out of the Kingdom, she discarded her abaya post haste. But I do think it awakened her to another aspect of her faith. Unfortunately, topics like that weren't really covered in the later half of the book, so I don't know in what way, it's just an impression that I took from her descriptions of it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Prostration while Praying

There's a couple things I want to do posts about, but I decided to start with this one.

Alana mentioned to me that when the prayer of St. Ephraim is prayer, the Orthodox make a full prostration after each line, and then again after the entire prayer is finished. I'm not Orthodox, but since I "stole" one of their prayers, I thought I'd try it. Of course, I have no idea whether or not I'm doing it the same way that the Orthodox do (in fact I'm pretty certain I'm not), I just did what felt right.

So, I start standing up, deep breathing, clearing my mind, focusing on the prayer, on coming before God and asking for forgiveness and aid. My eyes are usually closed for this.

Then, a deep bow from the waist, so that I'm at a right angle. Straighten up, and say one line of the prayer, the deep bow again, and then kneel down to the floor. From there I wind up kneeling, face down, arms stretched out in front. Slowly rise, and repeat.

I'll admit, the first time I did it, I felt incredibly silly.

The second time, my concentration was better, I think. The movements flowed for me, and it just felt right to be doing it that way. It's comforting, in some way I can't quite put my finger on, to be face down, praying to God.

On the retreat, everytime we started to pray, I wanted to be kneeling on the floor, so I could curl forward and stretch out as I did at home to pray. It feels better that way, sort of natural.

Weird, yes?
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