Tuesday, January 11, 2011

meditating on 30

An interesting thought has been weaving through my life these days- I will, in two and a half years, be turning 30. It jumps up to conscious level when I look in the mirror and notice the fine lines around my mouth, and I realize that these will become deeper. When I contemplate exercise, and realize that the days of bouncing from weight to weight will not go so quickly, and that my skin will not shrink as smoothly as it used to. That when my dental work becomes the central focus of my week, I realize that the downward slope is pretty much here. That upkeep is more necessary than before.
Physical degeneration aside, I have been contemplating the import of 30. This seems to be the age of true adulthood in our culture. There is no contesting your grown-up status, when you are 30 or older. In our culture, there seems to be a sense that 30 is when you ought to be aiming towards getting settled in your life path. The early 20's is a time for finishing the task of education, putting the final shine on your career path. Late twenties is still flexible, but decidedly less so- you can shift careers, move, get married, etc. But you probably ought to know what you want for the rest of your life and go for it.
By 30 it is hoped that you are settled in some way. By 30, you ought to have your feet on some solid ground, so to speak. And so I find myself contemplating the number, the age, the stage in life.
The age has significance for me since my husband and I decided we wanted to be done with child-bearing by then. So I have two and a half years to have at least one more child, if not two more. I fully acknowledge the arrogance in such a decision- that's fine by me, I own that I can't say for sure how many more children I will have, or when they will come. God knows, God's got the whole thing covered, and that's good with me. If He decides that my husband and I should foster children, adopt, or whatever, cool. I love the idea, but my husband is a little iffy about it. Ok, God's got that covered, too.
But back to 30. The age of settling, age of adulthood, the age at which you really ought to have something certain about where you're traveling in Life's path. It's got me thinking about a dream for one's life. If one is not on the path to accomplishing a life dream by thirty...what then? What if you don't even know what you want yet?
So far I've been discussing a vague sense of things that I have from all the cultural input, my own upbringing. I don't really have a settled idea.

What if I have not yet accomplished my dream by the time I'm thirty? What about this number seems like a guidepost or worse, a deadline? And what exactly is it a deadline for?

I'll speak for myself, and myself alone- I know too many people living such wildly different lives that to speak otherwise is purely ridiculous. This is the sense I get from that particular age- That 30 is a guidepost for living well in your own (changing) skin, in a much deeper way than before. When you were fifteen, who you were changed daily, at times minute to minute. (I know I did) The goal was to ride those ferocious waves on a sturdy craft- to keep your hand on the rudder and always aim True North (Christ). At fifteen, living in your skin meant keeping your eyes and ears open and sifting things thoroughly- what was true to you, what came from the world- who you should be. And always comparing this to Christ. At fifteen, you don't know what is essentially you and what isn't- not yet.
At twenty you are slightly more hormonally stable, but the search for who you are in still in full swing. What comes from inside you is panned and sifted with great reverence- you are seeking yourself, your true earnest self. Hopefully by now you are more easily able to differentiate from the voice of you and the voices of the world. And as ever, aim True North. I was extraordinarily infatuated with me, at that point in time. I was experiencing a real honest to goodness sense of puppy love with all the things i was finding out about myself. It was all undertaken with great seriousness.
At twenty-five, I had obtained a patina of cynicism. I had seen myself, and for the most part, was tired of panning. I had ridden all the rides, and the whole theme park of self-discovery was dull. By that point, college was pretty much over, my friends had gone off with their lives, and I had had much of my tidy preconceptions shaken. At this point, I should have gotten deeply involved with ministry. Self-examination is good up to a point- after a long period of adoring attention paid to every thought and feeling and whim...you get rather ugly. Self-focus is not attractive, to yourself or others.
So between then and now, I went through a terrific shaking. I hit rock-bottom, got married, and shortly thereafter, had a child. A terrific shaking. I had my entire life shaken clean, and then had the focus moved firmly away from me. First, it was on my husband, then it shifted to include my child, and while I still keep an eye on anything dramatic going on inside myself, it is not nearly as reverent.
Who I am is pretty settled. How I react is pretty easy to predict. I can point to those role models in my life that influenced my daily functioning, I can tell you my hopes and dreams for my family, and for the most part, I am content to put my own personal goals aside for the next ten years. If I ever finish that Graduate degree, in whatever it may be, then hey, cool. If I never set myself apart by getting published for my fiction, then hey, ok. If I don't raise children who know who Christ is, who love others and serve others well, then I am NOT ok with that.
And so...30. I can see after writing all this that 30 is about being comfortable enough with yourself to be able to rise up and serve others. The focus by now, I believe, should be on those around you. You have come this far- you have survived all those awkward years, and have come out hopefully wiser and more tempered. You have faced yourself. And you are no longer infatuated. This is what I hope for- for myself, for my friends, and for my children.
To come out of your twenties sure of yourself, aware of your particular bent, and no longer desperately trying to be someone else. Whatever life accomplishments you've gotten under your belt is actually kind of moot, for me. If you have or have not gotten married, bought a house, had children, graduated college, climbed Mt. Everest, successfully launched the coup d'etat of a small African nation...whatever, you won't get any flak from me.
Let me acknowledge those who have come through hardships far beyond my experience- those of you who did not have the luxury of getting to know yourself through your twenties for whatever reason- God bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you. I know that God rocked my world shortly after having my first child- and I'm sure He will again, as I gather too much detritus on my ship for fast sailing in His wind. But I understand that this is a blessing. God doesn't give a hoot about 30. He's outside of time, and wherever you are, be open and willing and God will take you through the rocking, the shaking, and you will come out with a new understanding of who you are.

I suppose then, 30 is an arbitrary number. What it means to me is a sense of settled understanding. A friendly acceptance of who I am, what I am and most importantly, what I am not. What I will not have in my life. A friendly acceptance of that fact. I like that. A graceful settling of my heart into the life God has given me. oooh, I like that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An open letter to Bob Dutko and other right wing Christian spokespeople:

Dear hearts, thank you for all you do for us, but please, stop decrying the Happy Holidays phrase.

Barnes and Noble, for instance, has products lining its shelves plastered with "Merry Christmas" but because the store itself doesn't use the word "christmas" we are told it is not doing right by our society and culture.

We are no longer homogenous. We are not all Christian, and Barnes and Noble is not responsible for the influx of myriads of pilgrims to the American Shore.

Please stop acting like Jews don't get a holiday too. Please recognize that while Hanukkah may not be a biblical holiday, it is indeed celebrated by those without whom we would not exist.

I understand that marketing is a massive force in shaping culture, boy howdy I do. But when a store opts for Happy Holidays instead of Marry Christmas AND Happy Hanukah, I'm sorry, it's more efficient.

I do agree with shopping with those businesses that do say Christmas, but really, let;s not all up inn a huff about those that don't. I'm not going to get mad that an unsaved person is acting unsaved, after all.

Only in Consumerica is this an issue. Why should the stores we buy from be reflecting our values? Because we have made it so- we are defined by where and what we buy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It's the holiday season, and we're all thinking about home- whatever that means. I've been perusing my monthly torturous copy of Better Homes and Gardens, which, for December, has a four page spread on setting your table. White dishes, darling, only the most fashionable around.

I've also been looking at houses, like maybe we'll buy one. Don't get excited, the maybe is so big on this it's kind of obscuring the house part. The house hunting led me to a very interesting property out in the boonies- one that reminded me of my grandparents' house in the boonies. A dilapidated two-hundred year old farmhouse with some land and a barn, that woke up this vague and beautiful yearning. I had butterflies in my stomach as we drove out there, like I used to get going out to my grandparents' house. I loved and hated that house as a child. Miles of wooded mountains, farms, and the house full of nooks and crannies brimming with tiny treasures; I was a child surrounded by alien wonder.

Well, long story short, the house was not reminiscent of my grandparents'. I was truly disappointed, really sunken in after all that inflated hope. Because you see, I realized I've been looking for home.

Home, or a house? If I could somehow find that old magic farmhouse nearby...But that house is a product of something like thirty years of living in it and a hundred years of living before that. Someone built that house with four bedrooms and a dirt cellar, wood stoves to cook in and acres of land to live on. There have been human hands stroking the worn banister daily for longer than taxes.

And even more so, are the memories I had tucked into each corner, undusted, unmoved since I last visited. Each time I go back, the mystery and delight of each strange junk filled room rings out like a tolled bell. I reconnect with each moment I left there, making each visit a resonant chorus of memory and feeling. There is no other house that could be such a delight- any house I would purchase would be an empty concert hall, my footsteps on bare floors equal to the hollow thud on a stage and no audience.

I am looking for a symphony in shells, and hearing one lone drumbeat.

How did it come to be, my love for a house I only visited a few weeks out of the year, but not every year? How is it that when talking about home, when looking for home, I am aligning my compass to the Taylor home of my childhood? Why there, and only there, are all my secret little bells hidden?

Of all the twenty-seven years I've been on Earth, I've lived all of them in temporary homes, places I knew I wouldn't stay. There have been 9 apartments(or dorms) that I have moved into and moved out of, each time sacrificing earthly possessions to lesser storage space. In comparison, my grandparents haven't changed their furniture or it's placement since I was ten. When my friend's parents moved from her childhood home, I felt sympathy, but not empathy- I actually could not feel what she was feeling- since I had had three separate childhood homes before puberty. Now, of course, I realize I only needed to imagine my grandparents selling their farmhouse.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Who is my neighbor?

I'm fired up, and have nowhere yet to go. I have plans, outline, drafts and revisions stacked up on the corner of the desk in my head, and my work surface is cluttered with gems, bits, pieces of information that need to get out into the world-

I'm chomping at the bit. I just need to know where to go, I just need that gate to open and the gun to fire, and watch me run.

Buy Local, buy fresh. Farmer's markets, the state of agriculture in America today, the decline of diversification, the modern consumer based lifestyle, the failure of the concept of art in the domestic arts...

You name it, I can tie any aspect of our failing culture to the failure to buy local. It's like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, except it's not an actor, it's a cultural movement.

How do I get this idea out to people? How do i feed them this magnificent feast of possibilities? I'm fired up and ready- please, won't you please put me on stage?

And this isn't just about the local economy- this is about the body of Christ. Who is my neighbor? The small business owner down the block. How do I love my neighbor? By putting food on his table and money in his pocket to spend at his favorite local store, buy enabling him to employ some locals who need the work. They, in turn, buy with the money that has originated from your pocket.

Where do you work? Is your paycheck from a corporate office from far afar away? Why send it back there, when your neighbors need it here in Buffalo? Why not keep the money in house? Every dollar you plunk down at a local business is a seed planted and watered, blessing our town. Why pay companies with poor ethical practices, funding human rights abuses?

We are the hands and feet of Christ, and by doing the most culturally acceptable thing to us - spending money - we can build up entire communities, revitalize local agriculture, make new friends across the counter, and give witness to the fact that we shall be known by our love for one another.

I dream of a church brimming over, teeming with functional applicable ways to love our neighbor, a church where people come because they are impressed with our unyielding commitment to loving in and around and beyond our community. Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Judea - culturally close, physically close. Buy Local. Samaria. Refugees from Burma and Sudan live on the West Side, by Canisius college, etc. Grow a garden and bring the fruits of your labor, as an offering to God, to food pantries for refugees. Volunteer for one of the many institutions in Buffalo for aiding refugees.

The ends of the earth. Evangel funds missionaries faithfully, one of the biggest mission giving churches in the area, praise God. We've sent people out, we've prayed, we've paid. The ends of the earth are covered. Now go next door.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

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Elmwood glory.

I stalked him for like five blocks in my car. It was so worth it.
He said he wasn't feeling very photogenic.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eating Animals

When I was younger, my mother once asked me about going vegetarian, and I thought about it, and replied, "I can't give up my hamburger." Honest, concise, and pretty funny considering.

I slowly grew quite snobby about the quality of my hamburger- today I will only eat a Bison burger, because the texture and flavor of the meat is the closest thing to good ground meat I can find. But my snobbery about meat led me closer to veggie fare. And the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to cook veg- after all, I was very familiar with the three section plate- meat, starch, green. I thought a vegetarian menu would be quite interesting. But, at that point in time, I also thought one-pot meals were the best ever.

I flirted with vegetarianism. When my husband and I got married, we were pretty tight on money, and meat was expensive. So I didn't buy meat, except the occasional broiler chicken for less than a dollar a pound. Not only was my meat consumption dictated by taste now, but also affordability.
Which is quite funny, since protein is the only price that hasn't gone up in any significant way in the past thirty-ish years. Try that one on for size. We want to pay less for waaaaay more. Does anyone NOT know that we're eating more meat than ever? And that China is starting to catch up to us?

I'm reading Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran-Foer. Let's just say this- you don't need to read it, you already know that you don't want to know what goes on in factory farms, in slaughterhouses approved by the USDA- you don't want to know that working in slaughterhouses cause people to become truly sadistic and torture an animal that is only supposed to have two minutes to live, but may end up living through much of the "processing". Because the guy who was supposed to knock it out chose not to. And that this is widespread, common place, and the USDA knows all about this. We're talking national past time knows about it.

There is nothing good about the system we have now. The cheap meat? You already know it's got antibiotics that you should only take when you're sick. You already know that the growth hormones are causing messed up stuff in our children. You already know that eating meat causes certain kinds of cancer, and you already know that H1N1 came from a pig "farm" in North Carolina- don't you? Did you know that health officials traced the start of MRSA to a pig farm, similar to the one that bred H1N1? That when an official was going to go public, he suddenly became very sick, and died of complications of MRSA?

Yeah, yeah, conspiracy stuff. Read the book, it's all verified, Safran-Foer did the heavy lifting. What I'm concerned with is why people don't want to stop eating meat.


Remember the line "A chicken in every pot." or, "Beef, it's what's for dinner." ? We as Americans believe that a meal isn't complete without meat, that we deserve it, that it is a basic right.

We really really do, because if we didn't, we never would have created a system as messed up as this one. We believe meat is as inalienable as happiness, and isn't that what committed meat-lovers say? Hell, look at the phrase meat-lover. Lover is one who loves, but it is also used as a term to describe one whom you have a very intimate relationship with- and haven't we all met that person? The one who orders their steak rare, who likes it bloody, and who touts the glories of red meat as they dig in?

But the only reason that person can exist in the current system of meat farming and consumerism is that they don't know and they don't want to.

The way we farm animals is now more relatable to concentration camps in Nazi Germany than the American Farm ideal. The farms are out in the country, (destroying the health of nearby townships, I might add) far from centers of population. Almost no one sees the animals alive, and no one sees them die- except the workers of the slaughterhouse. What most of us see is a nice shiny package of meat, wrapped, packed, and chilled, ready for the table.

We cannot see the horrors that went into our meat, the bacteria that is increasingly resistant to the antibiotics we feed them, and in turn feed ourselves, we cannot see the lagoons of liquid feces that are 30 feet deep, up to 120,000 feet wide- feces that contain cyanide, and other terrible things that pollute the waters, that cause nuerological damage to the populations that live nearby...

Where is their Erin Brokovich? Who will fight against the corporations? The USDA, who supplies us with nutritional information, is also responsible for promoting the industry itself. They are complicit. They fight to let the factory farms continue committing crimes against animals and against humanity- the work available in these farms and slaughterhouses are documented human rights violations- or would be, if anyone could get in to investigate.

It is not the farmer, it is not the faceless demonic corporation who is responsible. It is me. I purchased 3 dozen eggs at 99 cents a dozen, never realizing that what that translates to is chickens in a cage no larger than your printer paper, who cannot live past a year old, who lays 300 eggs a year in a room without windows, who will never see the sun. I know that to buy eggs ethically, I have to spend 3 dollars a dozen. But those eggs will be free of antibiotics, those eggs will hopefully come from a chicken who lives the full extent of her ten year life. Ten years. Imagine putting a child to work as soon as they can stand, working them past exhaustion, and then killing them at ten.

99 cents a dozen.

I am complicit. I have been complicit. I knew what was going on was wrong. I knew, and did not want to know. I no longer wish to be that person. When the citizens of German towns were asked if they knew about the concentration camps, they said they didn't know what went on there.

What will you say?