Friday, April 30, 2010

Threatening the Afterlife

While releasing a few comments from a previous post due to a ton of spam I get, I came across a commenter who said something pretty significant. She opened my eyes up to a different way of viewing religious views and discussions.

”When I struggle so much with a philosophical question about faith, I personally back away. The debate and discussion will, most likely, not bring you closer to peace. Seek the peace directly instead. There is a point where religious beliefs diverge, based on specific tenets -- but there are enough commonalities to love and appreciate. In the meantime, for me, none of that takes the place of deep prayer -- not even my own religion. My *beliefs* and *religion* are not enough. It is in my deep, prayerful search for God that I find some peace. I offer this with great humbleness.” -Mary Agnes Antonopoulos

Basically, when people talk about religious views and start having debates, there will never be peace. To find peace is to find your “God” from within and not from outside sources. I do believe that there will never be peace in debating about religion since there is absolutely no other proof than your faith alone and written scrolls from centuries ago that “may” prove something, but science will always bat it back down into the ground. Science and spirituality are like oil and water.

So with that in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that people are “deathly” afraid when someone else of another religion threatens their afterlife destination. Doesn’t that make more sense? I mean, picture this scenario: I say to you, “Oh you must be a writer and get into filmmaking”, all the while your dreams and aspirations are to be a CPA or a stockbroker. Two different animals. You’d probably look at me and say, “Hell no I’m not interested in writing or filmmaking” - and I’d say the same to you if you told me to become a CPA or a stockbroker, “Are you kidding me? Hell no!” (I’d probably make much more money taking the CPA or stockbroking suggestion, but that’s neither here nor there.) Same with religion though: it’s our destination; it’s our afterlife. Don’t tamper with it! With that, I am learning to be strong in my own faith and in the process, being easier on those of lesser faith that of my own religion who believe in another faith or perhaps, believe in every religion. Even if it doesn’t make logical sense “to me” for someone to believe in every religion: it’s their thing. It’s their belief. It’s their destination. Leave it be.

I guess what I’ve been hearing all along is ringing true for me: take down the barriers of dogmatic views and see the human element instead of what’s been taught or driven into us most likely since childhood. For me, as a person with Christian faith, what is it to be “Jesus-like”? He accepted all who came to Him - even nonbelievers. So my point is, I will not defend my religion, my views, my beliefs and whatnot, but instead I will share them, as I’ve done. I will leave out the dismissal of other religions and will refuse to threaten someone else’s afterlife theory or belief. There are arguments about the Trinity itself: how can God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit be one? Each religion has its own complexities if the nonbeliever is hearing it from someone of its faith.

Perhaps if we stop questioning life, spirituality and all that’s entailed with living and “living for”, then we are in fact, dead in spirit. With the fact that there is no such thing as “scientific truth” to spirituality or religion, the questioning process is a never-ending one. What about theology? Who’s to say certain scriptures and scrolls weren’t written by man to control the masses? We’re human, we can be unruly and maybe by “threatening our afterlife” because of our past and current behaviors, religion had to be instilled in order to teach us “right” from “wrong”. What about yin and yang - the good and the bad - happiness and sadness? Without these polar opposites, there would be no pursuit to progress or to become “better people”. If someone has never experienced great sadness, quite possibly they’ll never get a chance to experience what it truly means to be genuinely “happy”. Gratitude from getting out of a negative or depressive situation leads to happiness and contentment if one chooses. You can also remain miserable and bitter and spiral downward from there. It's your choice.

In conclusion, I would like to share one of my favorite scriptures that goes hand-in-hand with today's post. I think you’ll find fascinating since it’s typically something a “religious” person would scowl at.

“Accept Christians (or people of other religions) who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter.” ~Romans 14:1-5

Monday, April 26, 2010

String Puppets

In the past I understood it more. I experienced the feeling of being in the grips of an ultimate control freak, or perhaps, the ‘emotionally kept’ woman who was scared to death to be herself, always wondering when the next explosive emotional time bomb was going to explode and fly off the handles for any given reason. Memories of hiding silly things, such as voice mails from my best friend that could have been interpreted as something else. “Well, why’d she say it like that?” It would always be my fault. I was always in the wrong. I’d end up hiding practically everything around her, including the “real me”. I ended up being someone else and crawled into a shell of fear.

Who am I?

I had lost myself for a while before I finally realized that the “real me” was dying to emerge from this Stepford Wife that I was created into. I’d find myself lying about the smallest of things, as opposed to the “real me” being very bluntly honest. “This is me, take it or leave it.” I missed that sonnvabitch that used to tell it like it is. I missed her so much that I brought her back full force, and with that, came eternal damnation from a vicious and scorned woman. Hell hath no fury - but I jolted that fury out with a good ol’ reality slap. What makes a person want to have complete control over another human being while being in a relationship? Insecurity? Fear of becoming powerless? Do they think that it’ll make a relationship better if one is the superior? The adrenaline of being in control must be the answer. The power to have someone be so submissive, so scared---maybe that’s it----people would rather be feared than loved. Or, maybe in a psychological view, it stems from a lack of love from childhood. I have no clue. I just wanted out.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This, I have with Madelene. I don't remember anyone in my romantic past being patient and kind. Most were all jealous or boastful and of course, some were quite rude. They all demanded their own way and were irritable. They’d all drudge up the past and fight over things that were already resolved. They were extremely happy when they had “won” the fight. They would give up, lose faith and left as soon as the winds changed or if I was going through bad times. There’s a quote that I love from Marylin Monroe that says: “If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve my best.” I think that speaks volumes whens someone only loves you when things are going smoothly, ie: conditional love. It is what it is.

I’ve always been in love with Madelene. I finally realized I loved her even more on a deeper level when she was sick in the hospital about three years ago. I thought to myself while holding her hand tightly with both of mine, “I’m always going to take care of you. I’m never going to leave you unless it’s my time to leave this earth.” I remember saying that in my mind as she slept off the morphine that kept her somewhat painless. I never wanted to see Madelene in pain like that ever again. As we both repeated after the minister, “To love you in sickness and in health.” I stood by my word and never looked back. That’s what true unconditional love is: to be there for the good times as well as the bad. People seem to give up so easily when things are going rough. People want to control one another and make them complete string puppets for their amusement or maybe for a lack of better words, for their own self-esteem and ego.

With the base of friendship being the foundation for any relationship you can't go wrong. Anything can be resolved at that point. The slightest thought to control your partner is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. If you’re lacking self-esteem and need an ego boost, I’m sure you’ll gain pleasure from pulling the strings that your partner is tied to. If you love your partner with absolutely no conditions, you’ll learn to cut the strings and let them dance on their own.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Behind All Labels

As per warning label on my bio, my blog can be semi-controversial and sometimes insulting to many people who come across my website. I may come across as harsh, judgmental and a bit too opinionated for my own good, catapulting thoughts and questions out into cyberspace for a bit more understanding. There have been a few blog posts that I have written under various “topics” that may have seemed as though I slapped a huge fat label of “rejection” on its forehead. There is a reason for my madness, however, not to be confused with a lame excuse. I have noticed that in the past few years, I have had a different set of readers that are much more varied than my previous ones in the past, who seemed to have similar views, but what’s more exhausting than having the same opinions and thoughts with people alike? If it weren’t for my readers interacting with me or the emails that I have received, elaborating upon their side of the argument, then I wouldn’t have learned anything at all.

I’m going to give you a simple analogy: if you go into a restaurant and immediately say, “Oh the lobster bisque is horrible”, without tasting it, then right there you are making an ignorant assumption. With that in mind, everything I have an opinion or “judgment” on, is based due to my experiences alone. Of course I always try to give the lobster bisque a few tries, until it eventually spoils, but “I try” - and that’s my point. I believe in giving everyone and everything the benefit of the doubt, until something goes awry. Even while things are not going smoothly, I will give someone or something a few more shots to prove to me that my “assumption” or perhaps, “judgements” are way off base. It’s only fair and I would only want the same treatment for myself. I realize that nobody is perfect and if we’re all going to get along whether in a friendship, relationship or marriage, we must accept all flaws and idiosyncrasies. But my question is: how much can we accept? That’s when you have to take a full look at whether or not it’s worth being in this “relationship” or association of any nature.

Let me give another example of what I’m trying to say: if a said lesbian is discriminative against bisexual women, then how does she expect acceptance of her lifestyle, while not accepting another’s? Okay, with that being said, what if the said lesbian had over five bad experiences with dating bisexual women, because they all left her for a man? 1. You can say that not all bisexuals will leave her for a man. 2. You can say, well at least she tried and now she knows who not to date. 3. You can just chuck it up to discrimination. This is purely just an example. My choice would be #2, only because she has at least experienced the bad takes of a certain situation and has learned from it only through “her” experience alone. It’s her choice to either fully walk away from bisexual women altogether or perhaps give them another shot.

“Deb, why so vague?”

The point being is that I, myself have given plenty of chances to people of discriminative and prejudged notions, until I run across the same problem again and again. There are many exceptions, I’m sure because each person is so very different, but what if you come across the same thing every. single. time? You begin to think, ‘it’s just them’. Or, maybe it’s ‘just me’? See, I too had negative experiences with dating bisexual women in the past. They always either had a boyfriend on the side or dropped me for a man. Hey, let’s face it, I can’t compete with a man. In this instance, I have had various encounters (and please keep an opened mind with the two I am going to categorize because the two are NOT the same) --transgender women and drag queens. I’m putting them two together only because of “my” experience alone. As I’ve spoken about transgender women (a bit harshly) on a previous post, I had emphasized greatly how each one I have met has either taunted me with critical judgments or has insulted me greatly. I do have to say that every single transgender woman I have come across are significantly intelligent to the point of wayyy over my head type of intellect. With that being said, I have found that they love to undermine my own intelligence to where they cast aside my thoughts and feelings in a very intellectual (seemingly tactful) way. Some of my prior friends’ statements would be extremely condescending and sometimes downright belittling. I’d laugh it off most of the time, while they laughed at me. “Stupid lesbian, what does she know?” With drag queens, I have come across (who are mostly gay men) seem to have an underlining resentment for lesbians. They mock us until we “finally get it” ---they don’t like us! There is huge drag queen community in Provincetown, MA, to where if you go to one of their shows, you are guaranteed 80% of their jokes are at the cost of lesbians, or “vagitarians” as they call us. I can take a joke like the next ‘guy’, but when do you get to the point of enough is enough?

That’s why I find it hard to understand those in discriminative lifestyles are so worried about others mocking them, and crave acceptance from all angles, yet they do the very thing they fear: mock others of different lifestyles. Or maybe, can I just chuck it up to their negative experiences, like myself? Maybe we’re not so different after all. If we can only cut through those insecure yet resilient barriers and see ourselves for who we are and accept ‘what is’ -- maybe we’ll all have a better understanding of all our lifestyles and the unique people behind all labels.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Paper Please!

How do you see yourself? How do you think others see you? Do you care how others see you or think about you? Regardless, sometimes people are much different than what they come across online. For instance, I like some people better “on paper” than I do in real life. I’m absolutely positive the same can be said about me. Seeing words that flow together or seeing an article you can totally relate to is not the same as connecting in person. It’s a total different ball game. I remember a very long time ago, I was apart of this message board for gay and lesbian writers. I started exchanging emails with this one lady who happened to be so eloquently written and our conversations back and forth were so ‘in tune’ with one another that I truly thought we would click right away if we were to become friends in person. We were even discussing writing together and putting something out there from all of our brainstorms that seemed to have flowed so well. There were no photos exchanged, nor were there any telephone conversations.

After five months of communicating, we finally met up at a cafe nearby to have coffee and talk about all the projects we were planning on doing. I understand that some people get a little shaken up meeting someone for the very first time, but this lady was literally shaking like a leaf. She knocked over the silverware because she didn’t know where to place her hands and there was little to no eye contact whatsoever. This made it hard to have a comfortable conversation with her. I asked her questions about herself and when she replied, she would look over at the far end of the room as if she was expecting somebody else. It was the most awkward first meeting I have ever had. If this was a date---I’d be jetting out of there like a bat out of hell. To my surprise, she had emailed me the very next day to tell me what a fabulous time she had and how inspiring our conversation was. I. was. completely. shocked.

We met a couple more times and eventually, we did become friends, however I admit, I sort of fizzled out of the friendship because it was very unnerving to watch her squirm and wiggle in her seat as she spoke to me. I don’t know if she was just a nervous Nelly or if I made her feel uncomfortable, but why would she meet me again if she felt so awkward? With that being noted, our friendship eventually came to an end due to lack of contact, and then I got the dreaded email. “Why?” I decided to be completely honest and I said, “You’re a bright, intelligent and a wonderful person, however, I like you better on paper than I do in person.” I know that sounds like a very harsh reply, but I had to let her know how I felt about our meetings. I felt so uneasy about meeting her that I found myself acting the way she did at times! I gave her more than enough time to adapt to me in person by giving her more than ten chances to calm down, but it never did. She was the complete opposite than what was on paper.

Don’t get me wrong - I have anxiety and get nervous on occasion, but this was a bit too much to where I had to ask her periodically, “Are you okay?” This probably made her aware of her skittish reactions and freaked out even more. I guess by writing it all out, it’s less threatening than talking face-to-face with someone. They say ‘write it all out’ when you’re upset over something or ‘write them a letter’ so you can say how you truly feel without the nerves kicking in and preventing you from telling all. I guess I’ll just chuck it up to one thing: I like her better on paper.

And, I still read her daily.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thanks, Mom!

When I was six years old, my mom got very sick and had to stay in the hospital for a while. The doctors scared us with the possibility of her not making it out the front door. We had to wait it out, and luckily she pulled through and was able to come home and convalesce instead. During that time, she began having spiritual experiences. I won’t go into detail about the experiences themselves, but she did however write down her own proverbs that she “heard” from God. I never knew she had these writings, until she had given them to me a few months ago to comfort me. The papers that were written on were a yellowish hue from age and slightly stiff from being tucked away for many years. I have them stuffed into my bible’s cover into a pocket. I’m not going to jot down all of the proverbs, but while reading them this morning, I came across a few that struck a chord with me. I felt I needed to share it since more and more Christians are turning over to other religions or just becoming agnostic or “spiritual” - leaving the core of what they believed at first.

“Christianity is like a rose with thorns to the unbeliever. They look at the thorns and not the rose.” --Mom

When I write about Christianity and my faith that Jesus is the only way to get into heaven, I spark up responses from unbelievers that are sometimes offensive or perhaps, “defensive”. Christianity is scary, no doubt. Though I believe people make it that way. Scriptures in the bible are sadly twisted at times, making the person who is trying to understand Christianity run back into their safe place of “accepting religions” or just plain ol’ “spirituality”. They don’t have to define anything other than “there’s definitely something out there”. Especially for my gay and lesbian friends, they hide under a rock of atheism or, a slew of different religions so they can pick and choose which fits their needs. I do believe that there are Christians out there who have so much hatred in their hearts and demand to correct everyone who is less than perfect, not realizing their own flaws. People will always disappoint you---but God will never. People are the ones that put a bad name in Christianity, or try to.

“It is better to be led by the bible, than to be led by the devil.” --Mom

The bible is probably one of the most scariest books if you don’t interpret it the right way. To most, the bible is hard to understand and the messages are sometimes encrypted with hidden meanings that could leave you wondering. For myself, I personally pray and meditate before I attempt to open up ‘the scary book’. If I don’t pray and meditate beforehand---it’s all Greek to me, and at times, the messages I had once read are a total different meaning. When you read the bible with little faith, the words are going to be either scary or incomprehensible. There are many times where I just hold the book while I pray, ask a question that has been haunting me for some time, and then when I open the book---the answer is right in front of me. It’s truly amazing, which is why I have complete faith in the bible and another reason why I think this book is magical.

“The best fish shall be caught with a line baited with understanding.” --Mom



God will always bait His line with understanding if you are hungry for it. If you don’t want to understand because it seems “too scary”, then you’ll simply miss the incredible bait. With prayer and meditation (listening to God) comes understanding. Some people just pray and forget that there is a process of listening or “meditating” that goes hand-in-hand with your relationship with God. One of my favorite scriptures about prayer is listed in Matthew 6:5-7. It basically tells you how you don’t have to repeat each prayer or say “Our Father” a billion and one times. Be “you” - that’s what God wants.

“And now about prayer. When yo pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

How much clearer can that message be? Although my line of work and my personality doesn’t fit the “perfect Christian”, is more reason why people would listen to me about Christianity, as opposed to someone who preaches ‘the good word’ every single day of their lives. I’m unconventional, I sin every single day, like everyone else, I do things that are not perfect and I accept that I’m not perfect. I can only do my best. I’m weak in many areas of my life. (“God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.” -1 Corinthians 25) Why would I doubt God if it says in black and white that He is my strength?

“Ask and I shall speak for you. Ask and I shall write for you.” --Mom

I thank God everyday for the ability to speak about my faith as well as write it for anyone who comes across my website. I used to write about Christianity pretty much on a daily basis, but the exhausting debates from Christian fundamentalists had me shy away from it all. I had to take a rest from it because it was becoming more about defending myself rather than sharing myself.

With all of these proverbs that my mother had obtained while in the midst of her own personal spiritual experiences with God, I am happy she was able to release them so I could share them with you. There are many more proverbs that were written down that I will trickle into my blog at a later date with my mom's permission.

Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Left Untouched

Back in 2003, Madelene had lost her father due to a massive stroke at the age 55. It was a traumatic time for all of us, because it was all so unexpected since he appeared to be in great shape and the best of health. Madelene then took a leave of absence from work to recover and regroup herself. In her line of work, they provided her with a company car, to which she used everyday for business and personal use. She had to give that up and her mom told her to just use her dad’s car for now. In itself, it felt awkward and sad to drive around her dad’s car, but at the same time, it comforted her as well. In the process of everything going on, she was also moving back in with me because we had separated for a few years and we were working on our relationship. She had a ton of her belongings in that car from clothes, old vinyl records from when she was a DJ back in the 80’s, a laptop that I got her for Christmas and a very old tiny bible that her grandmother had given her that she carried around with her everywhere.

For some reason or other, one evening while coming back to the house, she decided to leave her belongings in her car for just another night and remove some more clothes instead. She left all the valuable things still inside the car. We didn’t live in a high traffic area so I wasn’t too concerned. As long as the car was locked up and safe, what could go wrong? The next morning we were having coffee, watching TV while it was raining outside. The fog was so thick that you couldn’t even see the property any longer. I then noticed that it seemed as though we were in a cloud-like fog. I nudged Mad and said, “Look at that - the fog is so thick!” Then we heard my mother screaming outside, “Deb! Mad! Deb!!! Mad!!! Come out here now!!!” We rushed downstairs with our pajamas on and found Mad’s car (her dad’s car) was on fire. Mad picked up a garden hose to only find that a trickle would slowly turn into a drop. She then backed up and just stared at it. My father came out, hopped on his backhoe and began to puncture the top of the car so that it would release the air and fire trapped inside so that it wouldn’t make a huge explosion. We called the fire company and they all came rushing down the driveway to only have my dad in the way with this huge monstrosity of a machine gutting out the rest of her car and finally pulling it away from the house. The flames got bigger and the car was nothing but a charred frame on melted wheels.

While watching this huge blaze, I noticed tears streaming down Mad’s face. I knew immediately what it meant and just stood next to her, hugging her, knowing that this was another sentimental thing in life being taken away from her. The car itself didn’t mean anything, but the fact that her dad was driving it weeks ago made the pangs of grief even more intense. After the car had cooled off and it was out of the way, she went inside and found all of her belongings either charred or just melted. All the expensive items were fried. The laptop I got her was a puddle of titanium. All of her classic records that were now at a much higher value were all gelled up, seeping out from the covers. The one thing she was able to salvage was the little old bible that her grandmother had given her with her favorite prayer that was inserted inside that was older than the hills.This is the prayer:

Releasing Your Angels

"It’s time you begin to undo some of the things you’ve done with your words. It’s time to get your words in line with God’s word and release your angels. This prayer will begin that process:

Father, in the name of Jesus, I repent of my ignorance of the Word of God. I ask You to forgive me of the foolish things I’ve prayed.

In Jesus’ name, I bind every word that has released the devil or drawn his weapons toward me. I bind every binding force that I’ve ever given strength to by the words of my mouth. I break the power of those spiritual forces, in Jesus’ name.

Father, in the name of Jesus, I ask You to guide me in wisdom and understanding through the scriptural methods to set in motion all that’s good, pure, perfect, lovely and of good report.

I covenant with You to pray accurately. I will keep my mouth. I will speak only that which glorifies God. I will let no corrupt communication proceed out of my mouth, but that which is good to edify and minister grace to the hearer. I will not grieve the Holy Spirit of God whereby I’m sealed to the day of redemption, but I will give glory and honor and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ for all that shall be done.

I proclaim that all that is good, all that is blessed of God, all that is in the perfect will of God, all that God has designed for me shall come to me, in Jesus’ name.

All of the evil and the bad report, all that the enemy has designed to deceive me, will lead me astray, to destroy me, my home, or my finances shall be stopped with the name of Jesus and the words of my mouth.

I’m blessed in the city and blessed in the field. I’m blessed in the baskets and blessed in the store. I’m blessed coming in; I’m blessed going out. I’m the head and not the tail. I’m above and not beneath. I’m blessed of Almighty God, strengthened with the might according to Your glorious power.

The Greater one is in me; He puts me over in life. The Spirit of Truth is in me; He gives me divine wisdom, divine direction, divine understanding of every situation and every circumstance of life. I have the wisdom of God.

I thank You, Father, that I’m led by the Spirit of God. I have the mind of Christ and the wisdom of God is within me.

In Jesus’ name.
Amen!" ~From the book, "Let Your Angels Work for You"

I still see Madelene every morning with this bible and reading her little prayer insert marked up with notes and other little scriptures that were jotted down from years ago. But imagine: every single thing in that car was charred up and melted down to nothing. The only thing standing out was the bible and her favorite prayer. That’s why I believe that the bible is powerful in many ways. There are stories such as bibles stopping bullets from penetrating people while having it let inside their jacket pockets. What explains every single item in that car demolished, except for this one special book?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lack of Progress

When I tell someone I live in New York, they immediately think I live in the heart of Manhattan. Living in the suburbs on the outskirts of New York City, you’d think it would be more diversified, more of a melting pot of sorts. Sadly, I have come to realize that isn’t so. Almost every establishment, restaurant and bar are filled up to the brim with caucasians. If you see a black couple walk into a restaurant or bar, your mind automatically goes to: “Are they lost?” It’s just the way it is here. There of course, are other towns to which particular cultural groups congregate towards, but there is never an equal mix.

One night, Madelene and I decided to head over to the bar across the street to grab a drink together. We know most of the people who go there and it’s usually a ‘happy hour come after work’ type of place. On this one particular evening, I saw a Hasidic man standing in the corner by himself. He didn’t have a drink in his hand and just looked around and checked his BlackBerry periodically. His uneasiness was evident. I motioned him to come over. He looked at me, then looked around to see if I was trying to grab someone else’s attention, until I said, “Yeah, you. Come have a drink with us!” I told the bartender we wanted to buy him a drink and he ordered a Coke. We introduced ourselves and moments later, Ian was yapping away and sharing his life with us which was fascinating in itself. There were no cultural barriers any longer, no uneasiness of wondering: what do they think of me? To have left him standing there alone while people stared and whispered over his presence at a “public house”- which is what “pub” stands for, would have been inhumane in my opinion.

This past Saturday, after having my mother’s 72nd birthday at our favorite restaurant, we then headed over to another local bar where ‘everybody knows your name’. It was nice to see everyone again because we don’t venture off to the bars all that much as we used to. I guess that comes with age. An hour later, a young attractive black man walked in, took a seat at the end of the bar and ordered a cognac. Since this bar encourages everyone to engage in conversation, especially the bartender, I felt bad because nobody was talking to this man, in fact, they were trying not to look at him. The people that were standing over at a table behind the man were big white brawny logger looking men along with their wives who apparently were stuck in an eighties warp with their feathered back bleached blonde hair and their leather coats with hanging tassels. I saw them sneer at the black man and it appeared as though they were talking about him and laughing. I was cringing at this point. I told the bartender that I was buying the man at the end of the bar a drink. He put an empty shot glass near his cognac and said, “My girls over there wanna buy you a drink buddy.” His face lit up like a Christmas tree, and we motioned for him to join us. We brought him in so these assholes behind us wouldn’t make him feel unwelcome any longer.

We came to find out that he recently just moved up here because he had lost his mom not too long ago. We got to know him on a personal level and made a new friend. He was a gentleman the whole time and respected Madelene and I as a couple. Some men, no matter what race they are would have been less respectful over two women together. We had such a great time with Jamal that it was just us three in a little bubble having our own little party. We introduced him to our friends and he was immediately taken in, and now has other people to meet whenever he wants to go to the bar for a drink after work. Getting back to the people behind us at the table sneering at him---I seriously felt as though I was in a time machine back in the South. I felt the tension that I once thought was nonexistent, perhaps as a country, overcame all prejudices. I was quite surprised to see the very opposite. This is why I enjoy going into Manhattan for dinner and drinks because we’re all one. There are no bars that are limited to a particular race, and if you go into a Cuban restaurant, an Italian restaurant or an Irish pub, rest assured you’ll see every face from every country smiling back at you.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we all looked the same, came from the same place and only had one type of demographic? I was sad to see the lack of progress in my very own town, right next to NYC.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Motivation

(The photo above was taken with my phone cam at the park where I walk.)
It’s been a fun couple of weeks, between more job offerings/projects, better weather and best of all, finding an exercise routine that I’m absolutely excited about. I first started out by walking three miles one day. I decided to make that my an absolute must on a daily basis. Then one day, it stepped up to five miles. Mind you, I’m not running or even jogging, just walking. I prefer to walk outside, since the weather is beautiful. Madelene comes with me when she’s off or sometimes, I’ll go by myself or just use my treadmill, which isn’t the same as walking on the pavement with hills. I was doing it more for my heart health, when I realized my pants were starting to fall off and I needed a belt. YAY! I then risked the ultimate let down by trying on a dress jacket that I haven’t worn in about three years. In fact, the jacket used to be so tight, that I couldn’t even put the buttons together, no less get them remotely close. I just kept insisting I had a “big chest”. I tried it on. All of the buttons closed with ease! My doctor told me to go by my pant and dress sizes, not by the scale.

Yesterday, I went to go see my personal trainer that has helped me in the past. We talked about another ten sessions, but I thought to myself: I know every single routine she has taught me, why can’t I just apply them instead of shelling out $500 bucks to be shuffled into some gym room with onlookers watching every single move I make? The hardest part of not having a trainer in the process of getting healthier is, some days you don’t want to exercise. For me, I need constant music and my iPod from a few years ago has died out. I’ve been using my little Macbook, placing it on top of my treadmill and using the internet for my tunes. Walking the five miles out in the park isn’t a big deal because my mind is occupied, there are people to watch and if someone is there with me, at least I can have a conversation. For me, exercising on a treadmill or in the gym is. absolutely. boring.

There is no way I am going on a “diet”. That’s just an evil word altogether. I have tweaked my intake a bit, but not much. For instance, during the weekdays, instead of cooking a steak or overloading in carbs for dinner, I’m trying to incorporate more greens and fish into my diet. Instead of drinking beer, I opt for the wine or a vodka and club. Vodka and club is only 30 calories and the red wine is about 125, however the heart health benefits are worth it. (Moderation always.) I’ve been taking B12 tabs and after a hard workout, instead of Gatorade, I replenish myself with water and a chocolate milk. Believe it or not, chocolate milk is suggested after a hard workout because it has more vitamins, nutrients and the sugars you need for replenishing tired muscles. I never knew this before. ---read more here.

The first week I was extremely achey, but for the first time in a very long time, I feel ALIVE. I’ve been sleeping like a baby and my energy levels are through the roof. I’m excited about this and I hope that I continue to be excited. Sometimes my motivation fizzles out on me due to boredom. But seeing that I am going down in sizes, I keep that in mind and also keep in mind that I want to live longer so I can annoy Madelene when I’m old and gray.

If you have any tips or have had a successful weight loss story, please feel free to share it with me. I would love for someone to inspire me with a great story or a few tips that they can share so I can keep focused and motivated.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To Be or Not to Be: That is the Question!

Over a hot cup of coffee this morning, Madelene and I got into a discussion about my blogger friends and their responses to question #4 on my previous post. That seemed to ring a tune for most readers. I even received a few emails over this topic and some ‘not so nice’ emails, but that’s a given when you get into religious beliefs and the lack thereof. It all started with my questioning of someone’s statement to me which was absolutely baffling and had no logic in it whatsoever: “I’m Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic and Agnostic.” It’s impossible, (yes, I said impossible) to be Christian and be all these other religions, especially Atheist. The reason why I say this, is because to be Christian is to believe that Christ died for our sins and the only way to get into heaven is through believing that Christ did this for us and that He is the Son of God. How can a person be Atheist, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim? The Jews believe that Jesus was just a prophet, not the Son of God. The Muslims believe that Allah is the only way to get into heaven, with the perk of 72 virgins in the afterlife to boot. For me, when people say that they are “all” faith-believing in every religion, it’s basically the concept of ‘they want their cake and eat it too’. I don’t feel that I’m being harsh with my opinion and belief on this, I just don’t understand it. There is no logic behind it. Even though there isn’t “scientific proof” or “logic” behind religion or spirituality, it’s the logic behind the thinking, the mindset of having a belief system. What do you believe in? What don’t you believe in? You can’t have all, unless you are Agnostic and believe that there is ‘something out there greater’, yet not sure. I’ll take that. But to say you believe in every religion is just mind boggling to me.

A blogger and friend named, Mark had written in my comment section: “You be Christian and I’ll be Christian with you, be Buddhist...hell, me too, Hindu...sure why not?” I can put it in another light that’ll make that statement seem a bit silly: “You be Irish and I’ll be Irish with you, be African-American...hell, me too, Chinese...sure why not?” When the fact being, I am not from Ireland, neither are my ancestors as well as all the other backgrounds I have listed. It. does. not. make. sense. See, the problem I have with someone saying that is to me, I feel that they may be “appeasers” in life. My friend had said something similar to what Mark had stated. This friend is desperately seeking acceptance from society on many levels, and to do that, religion is one of the biggest focal points - or as she calls it - “spirituality”, which I can respect. But when it comes down to brass tacks, it just doesn’t mesh. I tend to get that glazed look and wonder if they even believe in themselves. For me, it’s the same concept as what my dad always always said: “If you’re gonna steal --steal big!” (I know, not a great role model, so just bear with me.) If you’re going to believe in something, especially the afterlife, why not believe BIG? By dipping into every religion - a little bit here, a little bit there - you’re telling me that it’s not the religion that you’re trying to fit into your life, it’s you trying to fit in with society. Or maybe some people view religion like Greek mythology: simply fascinating stories. I don’t know.

I’m asking some questions for a variety of people:

1. If you are solely Christian or Catholic (trinity-based), does it seem logical to believe that Jesus is the only way to get into heaven, but you can still worship other gods and/or not believe at the same time?

2. If you are Muslim, can people of your faith believe in other gods?

3. If you are Atheist, do you believe that Jesus, Allah or Buddha is the only way to get into heaven?

4. If you believe in all religions as well as being Atheist, then please define “Atheist”.

Mind you, I am not trying to get people to agree with me, I am just trying to absorb all of this. I encourage opposing views on this, which I know I will get, and perhaps I can learn from those opposing views because right now, I’m totally lost.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

"Make Each Day Count!"

You plan your life together, you make arrangements for all the wonderful things to come: love, family, happiness and growing old together. You’ve worked hard to ensure a future together with your partner, until one day it suddenly all goes away. This is what happened to a couple named, Michael Muchioki and Nia Haqq. After coming home from their own engagement party, they were gunned down tragically in Jersey City. Police are still investigating what happened, but so far they have just come up with a botched up robbery and a botched carjacking. ---read more here. When I first heard of the story on the news, I immediately thought--jealous rage? Maybe a secret lover? Maybe one of them had a stalker? Nobody knows at this point. How can this be so random?

What makes this story even more heartbreaking are how many people loved this couple so much. They seemed to be liked and treasured by everyone they came across, whether it be friends, family, acquaintances and those who have only just heard about them. They fell madly in love in high school and were planning on continuing that love...till the end. Little did they know, the end would be so soon. Oddly enough, my friend Mark and fellow blogger had written about time wasted called, “Discounted Fourth Dimension”. It’s a short piece about how time is easily spent and easily gone just like that. It was appropriate for today’s sad news. What makes people live aimlessly in time, while others ‘make it count’?

While eating breakfast with Madelene this morning watching this story unfold on the news, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “You have to make each day count!” I also still heard the pangs of heartbreak over her father’s passing seven years ago in her voice when she said that. Her devastation over the loss of her father has given her a renewed sense of appreciation for time. Last Sunday evening, we spent the evening having dinner with her mother and her fiance. Her mom’s fiance was telling us about the work that Mad’s dad had done for the house before he passed on, and mentioned how everything was cemented down, so that other people couldn’t work on it or replace anything. He said, “Tommy really bolted everything down as if he was gonna get robbed!” In my head, I thought, “He meant to stay there forever”----while Madelene blurted out my thoughts: “He meant forever”, with tears clouding her vision. If you knew Mad’s father, you would know that he was strong, healthy and active and could fix absolutely anything in the world. This guy would live to be 100 years old! Then one day unexpectedly, he died of a stroke at the age of 55.

At any time, at any given moment or place, your life can be taken away from you just. like. that. Nobody is guaranteed a life full of health and happiness. You can eat the right things, exercise till your heart shines with happiness, find the love of your life and still ---that’s not enough. You have to figure out a way to dodge all of these dangers lurking in the night. How does someone dodge fate? Or, if you don’t believe in fate, how does one determining when their time is up? ...You don’t. If you have faith, it becomes less of a burden on your mind and heart. Faith is what makes us stronger, more courageous with everlasting hope. Also, faith isn’t easily obtained if you never had any to begin with.

One of my favorite scriptures is of Matthew 17:20:

"You didn’t have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."

My faith in God pulls me out of the fear of losing the people I love in my life. That’s the biggest fear in my life, but if I didn’t have the faith, it would completely consume me. My own parents talk about ‘when they die’ all. the. time. I know part of them wants my sisters and I to know that they are concerned about us after they pass, but whenever they bring it up, I cringe with fear. My parents are in their seventies now and God bless them---live a happy life together, even though their health isn’t in tiptop shape. I’m blessed to have them still, I know this. But for people in our lives who are of similar age, eat well, exercise, what determines “when and where” God will take them? Some people say it’s not God taking them - it was an unfortunate accident. For me, when it’s your time, it’s your time. There is no “nice plan” for death. There are more peaceful deaths, but nonetheless, they are being taken away, regardless.

Another comforting scripture is found in the 2nd Corinthians 5:1-10

“We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies---we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are at home with the Lord. So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.”

God bless the families of Michael Muchioki and Nia Haqq. May their souls rest in peace.

As my beautiful Madelene would say: "Make each day count!"

Visit their memorial page on Facebook here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hidden. . .

My blog has been put on the shelf for a bit because I was biting my tongue, hoping to muster up something different other than what I really wanted to speak about, but ‘me being me’---that’s not an option sometimes. When I cover up a true post from the heart, I seem to ramble on about this that and the other thing. Just a bunch of nothingness on a blank page, perhaps a facade of what’s truly brewing. I believe blogs are personal and whether or not you want to keep it semi-vague or right to the point, is totally up to you.

I’m always puzzled by certain friends who make everything so damn complicated. Every single word out of their mouths are either a hidden agenda, a motive or an insult disguised so well, that it could be taken in another light, so to speak. One of my friends had dropped by for dinner and drinks. We toss a few jokes around here and there, but we have already discussed how we would never venture over to the borderline of personal insults or attacks---just light playing around type of banters. She had always told me how sensitive she was when someone would poke fun at her accent, or misunderstood what she had said to them. I took this info and stored it up in my very tiny noggin. I always told her how sensitive I was about my weight and how hard I try each time to lose it, but keep going up and down like a yo-yo. She was heavier a long time ago and lost all the weight so she could definitely relate to my struggle.

Madelene came home to join us, and again, the ‘light bantering’ back and forth between my friend and I was being flung around, but for some reason this particular time, I felt the anger over on my friend’s side. I was confused, was it anger or was I taking it the wrong way? Madelene had explained how she didn’t get one break all day at work, so she had to skip lunch. My friend interrupts her and blurts out, “Hey Deb, have you ever skipped a meal before?” Now, granted I had joked around once when I was sick and said, “This is the first time in my life where I actually skipped a meal.” It was funny, but the difference was--I said it. So I replied, “No, never, but I’m glad Madelene likes my curves - and that’s all that matters to me.” Mad chimed in how she loved the way I look, but then my friend interrupted her again and said, “Oh, is that what you call it?” It didn’t stop there. Regardless if it was the five full goblets of wine she was drinking or some hidden anger going on---it was disrespectful. The first comment would have sufficed, but the second and third threw me in for a loop.

I then said without hesitation: “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you said because your English kinda sucks.” Then there were tears. Madelene kept asking the both of us if we wanted seltzer. “Anyone want seltzer? I can pour you both some seltzer... Seltzer?” I didn’t quite understand that offer, but okay. I shuffled over to my friend who was leaning on the couch with her head in her hands, put my arm around her (assured her I wouldn’t kiss her to get a chuckle out of her), and then said, “Listen, I’m sorry. Let’s just eat dinner and have a good time, okay?” But, she refused and wouldn’t talk to me. After ten minutes of awkward silence, I grabbed my glass of wine and informed the both of them that the salmon was done, to please serve and eat whatever you’d like and I’ll be in the bedroom to watch a movie. “Goodnight.”

My friend walked into my bedroom after fifteen minutes or so and says, “But I don’t know what I did to upset you...” See, I have a problem with this statement. I told her, “That’s just it.” When people don’t hold themselves accountable for their actions and words and try to blow off their insults by saying they don’t know what they did ---that makes me even angrier. I was the one who went up to her and apologized, just to keep the peace, when it should have been her that should have apologized for making me feel really bad about myself when I have been dieting and exercising and really putting in the effort. She didn’t have any consideration for my feelings, which is why now, I understand why some people in her life get upset with her and eventually leave her life. I used to stand up for her and say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure she was in the wrong...her loss!” But now, looking back, she is a very angry woman with hidden agendas that I just cannot understand.

Do people realize what they say or do they simply blow “sensitive topics” off, as if it was no big deal? Maybe some think other people are just stronger and more capable of handling personal insults? It’s not like we’re two huge lumberjacks tossing around fat jokes over here. We’re women. We’re sensitive. We need support if we feel insecure about a particular thing in our lives. It’s not like I don’t know about my weight, but there is a fine line between poking fun and downright insulting someone. To tell you the truth, I’m quite surprised that all of this transpired. I’m not sure if it was something brewing deep inside or if she had drank a bit too much, but like they say, sometimes alcohol is the purest kind of truth serum. And it’s not that I don’t forgive her, because I tried to sort things out while she was here, but it’s more about my frustrations of having difficult and complicated friends with hidden agendas, or perhaps I should say, hidden anger. Maybe I should have hidden the wine.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

"You Think Too Much"

Have you ever had “moments” where you just take a few steps back from emotionally healing through whatever, and it hits you like a ton of bricks as if you’re at day one? You can go weeks, months without thinking about anything, but just one incident or something that reminds you of your past just springs right back up to haunt you. A good friend of mine goes through the same thing, in fact, we’re so alike in this regard that we usually go through it at the same time. I’ll receive a text asking, “You ok?” She knows. I’m not sure if it’s because of my melancholy state or just an intuition, but it seems as though whenever she goes through it, I do too and vise/versa. What makes our minds take three steps back when they were five steps forward? Is it simply because we feel too much? Do we think too much? Or does everyone maintain this 'keep moving forward don’t look back' type of thinking? Whether it’s due to a breakup, end of a friendship or a death of a loved one, does your heart and your mind truly heal after time, or is it a matter of training your mind to think “this way”, like exercising a muscle? What if you don’t “exercise that muscle”, does it go back to step one---heartbreak?

My buddy is on lent and has given up her wine. She’s a runner, so her outlet is fantastic. While she went on a run, I dowsed myself with a martini straight up. We usually drink together. I haven’t been feeling myself lately and I just want to come home, relax, unwind with my favorite treat (in moderation), and “not think”--if possible. Through my smiles and laughter, I have had this incredible lump in my throat for the past couple of days. Madelene calls it, “a taco in your throat” -when you just feel like you’re just gonna lose it and start bawling. I’m not even PMSing. I think I’m just wired differently than other people, making me much more vulnerable to having the past kick me right in the ass sometimes. I still hurt. I still feel the pain after years of recovering. It’s like I’m faulty or something and in need of an emotional tune up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a few friends over for Mad’s birthday. One of my friends said to me, “Well, you live inside your head a lot”, after I had explained that I don’t necessarily ‘talk’ exactly the way I write----meaning that sometimes I’ll use different words in text, rather than verbally. I don’t know why I do ---it just sounds better on ‘paper’ than it does through my mouth. But, getting back to, “living inside my head a lot”---I began to wonder if that was a bad thing. Maybe I think too much. Or maybe in my mind, I live in the past, but I don’t necessarily want the past to live in the present.

It’s confusing.
Maybe I’m still hurt, maybe the lack of closure leaves everything so wide open.
Maybe I’ll think about it a little more...