Hey, let’s change the subject. Cheerful stuff! No one reads this kind of post! I’ll write anyway.
Yesterday afternoon, since there was no internet in Cameron anyway, I went on a fact-finding mission to Aggieland Humane Society in Brazos County with my MTOL co-directors, Jean and Mark. Our brains are now very full.
We met a smart person
We found the whole facility to be warm and friendly. You feel welcome as soon as you approach the place, too.
We met with the executive director, Kathy Bice, who started out as an Animal Control Officer and has learned the animal shelter business from the ground up. She was incredibly generous with her knowledge of building animal shelters. More important, she gave us invaluable information for ways to raise the funding our Milam Touch of Love organization will need to create a quality facility for our county’s animals.
Sorry to leave y’all hanging yesterday after my big discourse on organized religion yesterday. I do have a good excuse: we had no internet or phone service most of the day, so while I wrote a lot about things I did, they got lost uploading.
I’ll get to all that eventually. No internet is just a minor woe! And I was actually too busy doing stuff to write about it.
It was darned good to get back to high school football again, though. Cathy and I sat in our usual seats with our usual neighbors and got through a typical up and down Cameron Yoe game. They let the other team run back and forth with impunity a few times, but settled in, and we got to see some beautiful passes and runs.
Also, the band was really good for their first time marching their show. The poor other band stood there and read from their music. The drum majors didn’t even conduct. I guess it’s a rebuilding year for them.
Today I spent all morning making signs so people can find our offices and events, because we’ve had some trouble. The Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog spells that out. I also helped a little with baby shower prep at the office.
But, I have some peachy new nails that match the ginger dog nicely, and I’m happy to report Vlassic’s lump is a lot smaller.
I’d like to sincerely thank those of you who’ve posted insightful and supportive comments here or on Facebook for the past few days. I feel less alone. I guess all the people I pissed off defriended me, so all I have left are supportive people who are willing to discuss things without name-calling. I’m happy with that!
FIRST: To all my long-time church friends. Don’t panic. You are still my friends and will always be. And to the current and former ministers at the church I’ve been a member of, it’s not you. You have my deepest respect and admiration.
That said, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about my membership in an organized religion for the past twenty-something years. It’s clear to me that I did it for reasons that had nothing to do with the institution itself: I just wanted to meet some people with values similar to mine and to have a chance to sing with others.
I had not made friends in my neighborhood (only ever made a few), and my work was online, so I couldn’t make work friends. A church seemed like a good idea, and a church that would accept me as I am and give my children a foundation from which to create their spiritual paths.
I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation, where I made some wonderful friends and enjoyed a close-knit community for many years. When the church changed focus from building community to growth, I still had my friends and the music we performed to serve my needs. I also enjoyed women’s conferences and other activities.
I enjoyed the traditions and rituals in the weekly services, too, and I learned a lot from the sermons. I also liked how sermons seemed educational and disagreement was welcomed. I didn’t feel like I was being told to toe some denominational line or being put down for having a different perspective. That was good.
Change is inevitable
People change and institutions change. There were a couple of upheavals in the church, but we got through them. I was really surprised at how much I grew personally from these challenges. I handled change! Scary change!
But some of the change I’ve seen in the church and its parent denomination have made me feel less and less comfortable. And for that reason, I don’t think I want to be a UU anymore.
Lack of forgiveness: Leaders in the church keep getting removed from positions for mistakes that seem totally human to me. Someone said something “politically incorrect,” or they made a mistake when they were younger and less wise, or in some way they just weren’t living up to expectations of “wokeness.”
Rather than working with people to make amends; allowing them to learn from mistakes, apologize, and move forward; or look into how an error occurred and not do it again…people just get forced to leave. And people get shunned for not being perfect.
It’s the “me-too” movement taken to other areas. If you screw up and someone points it out, you should go into your corner or cave and stay there.
Intolerance: More and more, I see denomination and church members conveying an intolerant attitude towards people who have a different point of view, a different perspective, or unique experiences that might lead to conclusions that are different from what’s being promoted by the leadership. That reminds me way too much of the kinds of spiritual communities I’ve avoided my whole life (prescriptive, more uniform traditions are fine if that is what makes you comfortable; it’s just not for me). I see lip service for supporting diversity of thought and expression, but in practice I see a LOT of pressure to conform to whatever’s currently en vogue.
[Unpopular aside alert: It sometimes even seems that, if you are white and straight, you start out with so much negative baggage and un-earned privileges that nothing you say or do will make your input worth including. Wow. Even if I think I believe in reincarnation, I don’t think I chose to be a white straight woman (European-American cis-gender I mean). I was just born this way. I might actually care about people who aren’t like me and want to help make the world a safer and more welcoming place for them.]
Ageism: And this one’s the straw that breaks this old camel’s back. I know it is very important to mainstream denominations in the US to attract youth and young families. They don’t want to die! (I understand that from the first-hand experience with the church we bought because there were no new people joining the congregation.)
I also enthusiastically embrace the inclusion of new perspectives, new voices, and new energy into all institutions. They bring welcome change and help us see where we’re bogged down from always looking at our communities and institutions in the same way. Like I said yesterday, I learn so much from people who are growing up today.
But, both the larger UU Association and the church I have been associated with have been (both subtly and occasionally overtly) pushing aside or putting down input from older church members. And I’m not just talking about recent events. I once said a program didn’t really meet the needs of me and my friends, and I was told that well, the church isn’t looking to please the long-time members.
Individuals have also given me an uncomfortable feeling about being my age in the church. My generations experiences with racism, sexism, homophobia and other issues are put aside as no longer relevant. That’s really hurtful, especially when I consider how much I learned from feminists and equal-rights activists of the generation before me!
A fond (I mean it) farewell
I’d been thinking of starting a satellite church in Cameron, but I really don’t think the lack of acceptance of people who think differently would go over well there.
So, I think I’ll go back to being a solo practitioner of my own brand of crazy pacifist/neo-pagan/Buddhist/gnostic mish-mash and leave institutional religion to people for whom it works. At this stage in my life, I want to focus on areas where my input is appreciated, my propensity to make mistakes tolerated, and my imperfect ways of supporting and allying with others are welcomed.
I’m just going through a phase where I’m tired of having to prove I’m good enough to be in the same room with UUs. I still support people who get their needs met by UUism or other such things. I’m just outa here.
PS: I’m not wanting to be convinced my perceptions are wrong or to be told not to feel how I feel. I get to have my feelings. That said, you get to have YOURS, too, and you are welcome to share them. I also get to perceive events the way I perceive them; yours may differ. I won’t judge you.
Yesterday I went on just a bit about how certain types of “educational” efforts directed at the older generation may not work as well as they could (unless the aim really IS to shame people and make yourself look “woke” or whatever the current term for that is).
Today, I want to remind myself, and you, steadfast readers, that there are oh-so-many ways that people under 40 have been teaching me new things, and I’m loving it.
One person, E., has been especially helpful, and I even took the time to write a nice thank-you note today. Reading her Facebook posts over the past months and years has given me great insight into the choices we make, living authentically, and learning all along. Her candid thoughts about her mental health and parenting struggles also warmed my heart and made me feel much less alone. She’s one of the many people I know who identify as bisexual or gender fluid, even if they look on the surface to be in a more traditional relationship. It gives me great hope for the future.
My son’s gf (that’s what she calls it) is another one I learn a lot from. She’s got lots and lots to say, and sometimes it’s rather raw, but she always makes it clear that she’s sharing her thoughts and not pushing them on anyone else. That lets me read and learn and not feel attacked, no matter how much she hates capitalists. I’ve learned so much about the life of people who don’t “fit in” to stereotypes, have barriers to overcome (like not driving in Austin, Texas, not being able to afford your very important medications, dealing with autism symptoms, etc.). Seeing how she’s creating a good life with my son, having fun on Instagram, and being the creative soul she is gives me even more hope for the future.
FIRST: I freely admit to being over 60 and that I became a feminist in the 70s. There are many reasons for people to be unhappy about those facts, but there they are. I did not grow up in a culture where it was considered a good idea to make sure that everyone in your social circle was very aware of any faux pas, poor word choice, or “moral” screw-up any other member of the group was unfortunate enough to commit. We called that gossiping, spite, just plain not being a good friend.
SECOND: Navigating society in a way that respects other people’s beliefs, cultures, preferences, and sore spots has never been easy. When I was a kid, it was polite to call darker-skinned Americans “negroes.” When “black” became preferred, some took longer than others to transition, but we did it, out of respect. Those of us who are not black, do our best to say “African-American” when relevant (knowing full well that not all dark-skinned neighbors identify that way).
When I was a kid I knew exactly TWO gay people, which I’d guess to be two more than most 60s kids. I’ve watched with awe and pleasure as stigmas have fallen away and people can express their gender and sexuality however makes them happy. What would my life have been like if I’d known “gender fluid” was an option? The point to this is that if you are still learning all these wonderful possibilities, you might mess up. Older people are human.
Today I had two potential things to write about. I’m chickening out (oh how humorous) and writing about the hens rather than ranting about self-righteous millennials.
We’ve been stable with chicken numbers for a couple of months now. Mandi thinks it’s because her dogs have managed to catch a couple of owls. I’m of two minds. I love owls, and they’re protected. But you can’t stop dogs from protecting “their” kittens.
Since it’s been so hot and the seven ladies I still have are trying their best to keep laying, I felt like they deserved a treat, so while I was at Tractor Supply, I got them a huge 25-pound cube full of grain and scratch that they can peck at and have fun. I think they liked it.
I also thought I should show you how well that little scamp Buffy is doing. Her tail feathers are growing back after Jess the blue heeler puppy tried to carry her home in her mouth. But they are coming in much darker than they were before!
The black chicken is acting broody or something. She won’t get out of the nest box. I hope she’s okay!
I did listen to Billie Holliday singing the song “Strange Fruit” multiple times last week, since it was one of the topics that came up for the commemoration of slaves being brought to this continent in 1619. That song always makes me shiver. Then I’m sad. Then I’m angry. I hope humans learn from our mistakes and treat each other better. Someday.
In more mundane stuff…
Today I was looking around wondering what I’d eat during this time of year and right before my eyes appeared two more benign strange fruit: a passion fruit and a prickly pear.
Those would be sweet and delicious any time, but especially now, when it’s so parched.