Priorities, Man, Priorities…

Yes, I’m still around. I’ve just been neglectful of this poor blog because, well, I’ve been writing.

I had an epiphany about a month or so ago, and I wasn’t giving my writing the proper priority in my life. I was treating my writing as a hobby, but if I wanted to get somewhere with it, I needed to start treating it as my job. Something clicked for me about this shift in priority, and now I’m five chapters into a novel that is just, well….getting written!

Go figure, right?

It’s been awesome, and I’m loving it, but today I really had to re-think my projects and scheduling. In the end, and with help from the Wife, I decided to switch to a monthly service schedule for Between the Worlds Church. This will start in June, and more information will be posted on the church website.

But, as far as this site goes, I’ll be updating kind of randomly about my progress, travel, and other things. You can sign up via email here, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep updated.

All the Projects!

Writing:

  • Unity Space Corps: This is a military hard sci-fi novel set in a future where humans have colonized several other planets. The main character is a Religious Program Specialist and Senior Communications officer who has PTSD and works with the station’s Chaplain to figure out why the colonization survey they’re supporting isn’t going according to plan. (1st Draft, up to chapter 5.)
  • The Four Keys: A spiritual prose journey to the underworld and back. (Beta reading/ 3rd draft — looking to self-publish in June)
  • Between the Worlds Church Sermons 2018: Collected sermons from my live services in 2018 for Between the Worlds Church. (Collated, editing 2nd draft — looking to self-publish in August)

Travel:

  • Geneva: The Wife and I are going to Geneva in early June for a belated anniversary trip! I’m really excited to see the UN Building and taking some great pictures! (I think I’ll take both the Df and the Polaroid…)
  • Germany: Mid June we’re going to Bochum, Germany to see Dead Can Dance!!!!!!!!! Soooooo excited!!
  • UK: Possibly a somewhat long trip to the UK over the summer. (Nothing really definite or planned yet.)
  • Rome/Vatican: Thinking about a trip to the Vatican and Rome in late Fall

Fiber Arts:

Nothing really happening with fiber stuff because writing.

German:

We’re about halfway through our A1 coursebook at this point, and finally starting to learn Dativ and Past Perfect tense. Makes a huge difference. We’re also still watching Star Trek TOS with the German dub for listening practice, and I believe we will moving on to Enterprise next (or maybe re-watching Discovery).

Not really a cauldron, but close enough. 🙂 Thanks to Eel and Otter Press!

Stop Killing Your Partner’s Joy

My wife asked me to write this because in a group she’s in on Facebook she hears many stories about partners (usually long term husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc) getting all bent out of shape about their partner taking the time to work on and enjoy their hobbies. Usually, this manifests as one partner telling the other that they can’t do their hobby or go out without them because they should be spending all their free time with them. This societal trope is everywhere, including in movies and TV, and it’s lauded as “romantic” because apparently, according to what we’re taught about love in TV and movies, you’re supposed to give up those hobbies when you become an adult. And you’re especially supposed to give them up if you get married. The other side of this is that supposedly, when you are in a long term relationship, you’re supposed to only derive joy from your significant other and if you don’t, you’re somehow not in love enough.

I’ve never really understood this and frankly (if I may be blunt): Fuck. That. Noise.

When I was a kid, my parents not only encouraged me to do what interested me when I was growing up, they also encourage each other do to the things they really wanted to do with friends and work on their hobbies. My Mom would never had pitched a fit if my Dad wanted to go hunting or fishing with his buddies. She might have said “Well, money’s tight this week…” and then they would discuss it, but it was never a flat “No”. Same with my Dad. He actively encouraged my Mom to get her Bachelor’s, then her Master’s degree and has always encouraged her to do her art. It normally wasn’t a big deal if either of them decided to go and do something on their own without the other, either.

That attitude rubbed off on me. The way I see it, I’m not there to stand in my wife’s way. I’m there to encourage her to be her very best at everything that she wants to do. I’m not her parent, and she’s not mine. I don’t need to derive all of my joy from her, nor her from me. I am responsible for my own happiness, even though we are a couple. We enjoy our time together, but we also are content in our time apart from each other. We each have our own lives that just happen to be lived together.

I’ve had a couple of relationships in the past where someone was basically willing to give up their whole lives for me, as if their identity and self-worth depended on my very existence. In fact, I ended up breaking up with one person because they were going to give up an opportunity to learn more about the art they loved doing just because they were in a relationship with me and the opportunity was in another state. I said to them, “Don’t you dare give up an opportunity like that just because you want to be with me!” I was so angry because not only were they giving up a really great opportunity for their own happiness and growth, but they were using me as an excuse not to do it. I didn’t want that guilt on my head.

But the reverse is also as bad.

Denying your partner the things that make them happy is not being romantic or funny, it’s controlling. To put it another way: it’s socially acceptable emotional abuse. If you can’t deal with the time your partner puts into their art or hobbies, or even their career in some cases, then you need to evaluate your own jealousy, not stomp on their souls. If you think your partner owes you all their time and attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week then you might want to rethink why you are with them, or married them, in the first place. Your significant other isn’t a pet. They are not your child (and don’t get me started on the Child Husband trope. Ugh).

If you insist that your partner can only do their hobbies at certain times of day, or that they can’t go out with their friends without you, what are you so afraid of? Are you jealous? Are you dealing with separation issues? Have you had a lover before who cheated on you? These are all on you, not your partner. You might want to ask yourself why you don’t trust your partner to be without you. That type of neediness isn’t healthy for any relationship, and you need to deal with your own issues. Crushing the soul of the person you love just because you have issues leads to resentment, and, if it goes too far, splitting up or divorce.

There’s an old saying: If you love someone, let them go. If they come back, it was meant to be. While this is a bit cliche, there’s a massive truth in it: if you love and trust your partner, then you can lift them up and let them go do the things that make them happy. For me, even if that means I have to let my wife be away from me for awhile, I will not stop her from doing what she needs to do. I will call the taxi, kiss her goodbye and say “Have a good time! See you when you get back!” Then I will go back into the house and figure out what to do with myself while she’s away.

Because watching her fly brings me joy, and I will never stand in the way of seeing that joy.

The Religous Nerd Tour 2019: Introduction

There are many things that make Zurich a wonderful place to live and experience, but you have to admit: if one is a clergy person, and particularly clergy of the Christian persuasion, Zurich, and Switzerland as a whole, is a theological history heaven.

Because I’m both a history nerd and a religion nerd, I intend to learn about all the history here and also see all the relevant sites! (Well, see as much as I can.) If you don’t know your Christian history, Zurich was one of the centers of the Reformation in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Zwingli was born (and died) here. (There is actually a Swiss German movie about Zwingli out right now.) John Calvin! Civil war! Battles! Cathedrals! Statues! In many ways, this is also the history of the soul of Switzerland and how Switzerland became what it is today. The Reformation not only influenced how people thought about religion, but it also affected the arts, politics, culture, and science of the time. There’s so much here that is utterly fascinating when it comes to religion and history!

Statue of Zwingli in Zurich
Statue of Zwingli in Zurich off Limatstrasse

Of course, being a writer, I intend to blog all this religious nerdery for your edification! There will be pictures as I travel around the city and country. I’m also thinking of maybe doing a companion video series as I finish all my research.

If you’d like to follow along, you should subscribe to the blog, since I hope to start the blog posts in a couple of weeks. I’ll be using quite a few reference books and such, so I will be starting a page with a booklist and relevant links.

I’m looking forward to bringing you all on this journey with me!

A Little Christmas Joy for You! The Zurich Singing Christmas Tree

The Wife and I went to see the Zurich Singing Christmas Tree tonight, and it was the cutest, most joyful Christmas thing we’ve ever seen! Click here to see an Instagram video of them singing. If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!

The Singing Christmas Tree in Zurich with a primary school choir who are very excited to be there! It was the cutest thing!

Zurich Reflections #3: Weihnachtsfreude (Christmas Joy)

Once the end of November comes around, Zürich starts to transform. Greenery and lights are put up on all the main streets. Large Christmas trees start appearing at plazas and train stations. All the stores get a makeover of Christmas colors: red, green, silver, white, and gold. Little stalls start popping up all over selling roasted chestnuts.

In short, Zürich becomes a Yuletide fairyland, and it is incredibly magical!

One of the first things that happens the last week of November is the lighting of the “Lucy Lights” on Bahnhofstrasse. These lights are strung up the entire length of Bahnhofstrasse, and they look like a field of stars when they are lit up! The night they do the official lighting, there’s a large street party with vendors selling wine, food, and holiday sweets. The wife and I went, and while it was really pretty, there were so many people that it was hard to get around!

The other major holiday tradition here are the Weihnachtsmarkts, or Christmas Markets, the biggest one being the market near the Zurich Opera House. There are vendors selling many different things from cheese to jewelry, but the best part is the street food! Massive sausages! Raclette! Doughnuts! Cookies! And, the big deal for many, Glühwein.

Oh, Glühwein. I’ll have to say that it wasn’t bad when it was hot, but once it cooled off, well, it wasn’t as good. It reminds me of mulled apple cider, but with wine instead (although, the spices are a little different than mulled cider). The alcohol does hit you like a ton of bricks later, so I was very glad at the time that I could take the tram! (If you’ve ever had hot sake, you have an idea about how Glühwein can hit you.) 

Oh Gluehwein!

The cutest thing I’ve seen here is the Märlitram. It’s a special tram for kids 4-10 that is painted to look like a Christmas cottage and driven by Santa Claus. The kids get on and the Christmas Angel tells them Christmas stories while they have hot chocolate and travel around the city. It is pure joy to watch the kids getting on and coming off the Märlitram! It’s also kind of fun playing “spot the Märlitram” on Instagram! (If you’re wondering, Märli means fairy tale, with the “li” ending denoting that it’s for kids.)

The Maerlitram!

The most interesting thing about Christmas here is that it’s not really kitsch like it can be in the US. It’s very, well, Swiss. There’s a certain sacredness to the traditions here, even the ones that are silly and fun. But when my Landlady explained Swiss Christmas traditions to me when I visited her the other day, it made a lot of sense. She told me that traditionally, the Father of the family would take the kids out for a walk on Christmas Eve, and the Mother would put up the tree and put out the presents. When they all came back, the Mother would say “Oh! You just missed the Christmas Angel! She was just here!” Then there would be presents and dinner with the immediate family. At midnight, people would go to Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was for doing the big family dinner. Samichlaus (Santa Claus) came on Twelfth Night, January 6, and the legend has it that if you were a good kid, you get sweets, but if you were a bad kid, Samichlaus would put you in his red sack and spirit you away! My Landlady did say that these days, some American tradition has been adopted and some people do presents on Christmas Day, but mostly, Christmas traditions are kept really well be here Christmas is serious business. 

I’ve been loving learning about all the traditions here, but most of all, this is the most Holiday Spirit I’ve felt in a long time. We even put up our own little Christmas tree! I feel a bit like when I was little where Christmas was a wondrous and joyful time full of beauty and mystery! It’s a bit bittersweet, too, because the last few years in the US I hadn’t really felt like celebrating. There was too much going on and hard things overwhelming everything else. I really wasn’t feeling the spirit then. 

But right now I’m grateful to this city for helping me find Christmas wonder and joy again.

Our own little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!

Zurich Reflections #2: Humility

One of the things about living in another country is remembering to be flexible and learning humility. Zürich won’t, and shouldn’t, conform to me – I have to conform to it. I need to learn the language, figure out how to pay the bills, follow the rules and laws, and accept that nothing here will be exactly like where I came from.

While there are a lot of foods and things I miss from the US, there are quite good analogs for many things that we want and we can get here. For the things I can’t get here, I generally do without it. I’m finding that a lot of those things that I can’t get in Switzerland are more wants than needs anyway (clothing being the major exception, but we’ve now found a supplier for nice plus size clothes). There will be things from the US that I’ll miss, and that I do miss now, but I came here, in part, to experience new things and people. I think the trick to surviving in another country is to accept the differences, but try to make life as normal as you can.

It hit me a bit yesterday when the Wife and I set up our altars in our dining area. Setting up our spiritual space always makes a place feel like home to me. Especially since a lot of our magickal things have been with us since we first got together. The pictures of our Ancestors, statues of our deities, magickal tools, all make our apartment really feel like “home” when we have them out. Not that it didn’t feel home-like before, but now it feels that way even more.

What really gets me are a lot of immigrants, and typically many US ones, on some forums that constantly complain about what they can’t get in Switzerland and go to great expense to either get stuff shipped to them, or carry it back in their luggage when they visit their home country (again, mostly US folks). I just don’t get it, really. I don’t expect Switzerland to be like the US (thank the gods!), and I certainly am not here to only have US food or products. I want to learn about food, and culture, and history. I want to experience all these things. I know all about US stuff already. Swiss stuff is all new and different and exciting!

There were certain things that were easier to do in the US. The biggest one for us was being able to use Amazon to get whatever we needed delivered.* Amazon doesn’t really work in Switzerland (and many of the Amazon suppliers even for amazon.co.uk and amazon.de won’t deliver to Switzerland), so we have to do a lot more in-person shopping or use alternative online sources like eBay and galaxus.ch. But, the upside of that is that it gets us out of the house and utilizing our German language skills!

It’s a real eye opener for me being the immigrant here, not knowing the language, and having to navigate official things and people at large. I did have empathy and sympathy for immigrants in the US, but now I really understand how it feels to be and immigrant. I’m lucky that Switzerland is, generally, open to immigrants and has many mechanisms to make people feel welcome to the country. For example: the Zurich City Hall has a new immigrant Welcome Night every other month where they welcome you to the city, answer any questions, and give you a tour.

The US immigration process seems barbaric by comparison, and then you have to navigate a general public who are openly hostile to you and a loud chunk of the population who have a superiority complex.**

The US has a long way to go. Switzerland’s not perfect, but in general, the government does try to treat people like they are actual human beings.

 

 

*Please don’t lecture me about using Amazon. Both the Wife and I have mobility issues and hated going out to shop because of that. Plus, in Zurich, walking isn’t a hardship like it is in the US (excellent and extensive public transit is awesome).

**You know, that whole white supremacy thing and the Religious Right thing. (White nationalism and the Religious Right are a thing even in Switzerland, but here they have no problem punching Nazis and keeping them to a minimum in government.)

Zurich Reflections #1: I Think I’m in Love

I didn’t think I could fall in love with a city, but I’m falling in love with Zürich.

Right now, I’m sitting at a local coffee shop, and I can hear the church bells ringing close by. I got here by bus (we have two bus stops within easy walking distance from our house) and a short walk. The coffee, of course, is excellent.

While I sit here, I can look across the street at an older apartment building that has old European style architecture. I look left and there’s a very modern looking building, and when I look right there’s a small intersection of narrow streets and more tall buildings. Some of the buildings are residential, some are commercial, and like the building across the street, it’s mixed, with stores on the ground floor and apartments above.

Space isn’t wasted here.

Our apartment is actually large by Zürich standards. We have a large balcony off our living room facing a courtyard area overlooking several other apartment buildings, and we have a smaller balcony off our kitchen where you can look down at the front door. From our back porch, you can also look up into the hills around Zürich. Most mornings, in this season, we have fog in the morning until it burns off around noon time.

Most places here have lots of large windows so that you can maximize the light. Some of the windows here also do what I call the “magic trick” of opening two ways! You turn the handle one way, and you open the window (or door) fully, you turn the handle the other way and the window opens from the top to let in enough air for ventilation. The windows are big enough that there are times when I’m in my office where I open my street-side window, pull up my chair, and just watch the world go by. It’s generally very quiet in our neighborhood (although, we do have construction going on down the street until the end of the month), even with the bus and the train going by at all hours.

It’s pretty spectacular when storms come through. I tell the wife that we have excellent storm watching windows!

It’s not just my neighborhood that’s winning me over, either. (Side note: Our neighborhood has a Berkeley kind of vibe, so we’ve occasionally called our part of Zürich “Zerkeley”.)

When I walk through the city, doing errands or whatever, I notice a lot of little things. Like I said earlier, there’s a mix of the old and modern. One minute you’re walking on regular pavement, the next you’re climbing up a cobblestone street. There’s also little details of the city that you notice if you’re open to finding them.

There are water fountains everywhere, and nearly all of them are potable. You can always see people taking a drink or filling up their water bottles. Some are just small little spigots in a corner, and some are large fountains with old statuary.

Speaking of water, there are canals, rivers, and the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich). I am really looking forward to swimming in the lake come Spring! The city even hosts several open water swimming events over the summer, including one that is similar in length to the Tiburon Mile. There are also lots of pools, both indoor and outdoor, maintained by the city, so I’m excited to start swimming again soon!

The architecture here is amazing! Both the modern and the old. What’s really fascinating is that if you walk some of the side streets, you’ll find strange little murals from the 1800s, or odd old statues, or suddenly come upon a green space. I even found an old well from the Middle Ages that was preserved by the local historical society!

Food is excellent here. In fact, all the meals I’ve had here that have all been excellent. The quality of the food here is just amazing, even the groceries! While it is true that it’s expensive to eat out here, groceries are pretty comparable to SF Bay Area prices. The biggest thing I’m getting used to here, though, is that you don’t rush your food here, especially when you eat out. You’re expected to take your time and savor your meal.

And once you’ve had proper Swiss fondue, you’re spoiled for fondue anywhere else.

I could expound on a lot of things about here that I love, but the best thing is that it’s comfortable here, both in our lives and the city itself. The energy here is old, with the energetic sense of old warding to protect the city and country. (Given Switzerland’s history, that makes complete sense.)

To put it another way: I feel more welcome and comfortable in Zürich than I have in any other city in the US.

Und das ist sehr gut!

On Death, Vocation, and John McCain

Yesterday, not even 24 hours after Senator John McCain passed, I posted the following on Facebook:

So, here’s my dilemma:

The queer politics nerd in me agrees with all the folks posting about John McCain’s horrid politics of recent years (including inflicting Sarah Palin on national politics and healthcare).

However, the priest in me, who has worked with the dying and with grieving families is like: “Fucking hell people, the guy hasn’t even been dead 24 hours!”

I have always been a heretic….

There were some comments to this post that made me think that some people might be misunderstanding me, or possibly not understanding what I meant by this post. I do forget that not everyone understands my vocation around death, dying, and grieving, and that it can seem antithetical to my politics sometimes.

My vocation is to minister to the dying and for the dead, regardless of who they are or were. It is my firm belief, even conviction, that every human being deserves to have someone there during their last hours, and that in the first day of death, they are still treated in a compassionate way.

But don’t get me wrong: being compassionate is definitely not the same as being nice.

Let me put this another way:

My former coven leader, Michael, was an asshole to me. He was abusive, manipulating, and misogynistic. I wouldn’t consciously want to be near him, or hang out with him unless it was part of a massive apology, confession, and acknowledgement of what he had done to me.

However…

If somehow I got the call and was told he was dying, and that one of his final wishes was to see and talk to me, then I would go. I would go, and listen, and hear him out. I might even stay and hold vigil, letting the Gods come through and tell him about himself. I would probably even minister to his family until, and after, he passed. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have the hard conversations with him while he was still lucid, or tell him about himself and how he hurt me. It doesn’t mean that it would have to be nice for him, or that it wouldn’t be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

I would do it because I’m a priest and it’s my vocation to midwife the dying. I couldn’t not do it.

And yes, I would do the same for Donald Trump. (Although, I have no doubts that if this somehow happened, that the Gods would come through hard while I was in the room and really tell him about himself.)

There is always a measure of compassion that I believe must be held regardless of who the dying or dead person is. And that is the reason for the dilemma: I completely detested McCain’s politics while he was alive, and I totally agree that his legacy, both good and bad, needs to be examined. But it felt, to me, like a lack of compassion for the dead to start ripping into his record not even 24 hours, after he’d passed. Those of us left behind have lifetimes to do that, and it is only right that we do so. 

Please note, however, that I said “compassion” not “respect”. Compassion, at least the way I define it, is acknowledging the human-ness of a person, regardless of who they are. No one needs to be a saint in order to deserve my compassion, especially in the process of dying. Showing compassion in those times also respects the Spirits helping the person cross over, since they are the ones that the person who is dying needs to answer to (regardless of who that Spirit is for the dying person).

Unfortunately, compassion and forgiveness are often conflated, when in reality, they are not the same thing, nor should they be. In the example above, I can show compassion to my former coven leader, but I in no way have to forgive him, if I don’t want to, or can’t. Also, showing compassion to someone doesn’t magically erase the bad they’ve done, and in my mind, can be an act of defiance to the evil that the person has done. 

I don’t know if this clarifies the post I made. Most likely, I probably made it more complicated. That’s not a bad thing, in my mind, because the process of death, and the process of grieving, is not black and white. It is grey and complicated. It is messy with emotion and experience. All the emotions around a person’s death are real and valid and I get that. I am in no way asking people to forgive McCain, or to ignore what he’s done in life, but to acknowledge that a life has passed. To stop and reflect and give the moment of death at least some amount of gravitas, no matter what you thought of him. Because, remember, compassion can be a last act of defiance. 

 

 

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