Saturday, December 27, 2014

Authenticity


My little blogging buddy, Carmen

A few months ago I reconnected with a blogging friend of mine. I'll call her J until I have confirmation that I can name her on my blog. (Email me, J!) We both used to blog quite frequently and both of us have since petered out. I made my blog private for a while because I felt I was done. But since reconnecting with J and exchanging a few emails, I've decided to give it another go.

No one reads blogs anymore, anyway, right? So no big deal.

Quite frankly, 2014 was the most challenging year of my life besides the year I was divorced and the year I was almost killed by a truck while riding my scooter. So if that says anything at all, you'll know how difficult it's been.

Maybe I'll blog about it. Maybe I won't. The most I will say right now is that I lost hope in something for which I had been reaching my entire life. My heart dried up and cracked, then crumbled into dust, pebbles, rocks and boulders, leaving me buried beneath the rubble. I just laid there for a while, letting the dust settle, feeling the grit in my teeth. If I breathed too deeply, the dust flooded my lungs and choked me. Just resting seemed like the best thing to do.

An efficient, businesslike Kate took over and ran things for a while. She does a good job, that Kate. She works and cleans and cooks. She runs Facebook and Instagram. She remembers to document the happy times so I can revisit them later. I like her quite a bit. She helps me figure things out.

After a while, the business Kate went searching for the real Kate. The authentic one. The one who can feel things, who can laugh and cry, who can share both the bad and the good. She went searching with a flashlight and prodded through the rubble until she found me. She held out her hand and I took hold.

Here I am again. The authentic Kate. Like two parts of me have been put back together.

I should apologize for not being authentic. It's a quality I cherish in people. Yet I can't apologize. I simply wasn't capable of being more than who I was last year. Instead, I'll thank you. A few of you knew what was going on. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for letting me cry and keeping it private. I feel ready again to share myself with the readers who happen to find this.

See you in 2015, friends of the blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bethlehem

I was so excited to visit Bethlehem!

As a Catholic child, many times I listened wide-eyed to stories and scriptures about the birth of Jesus Christ. I learned how Joseph and Mary, who was heavy with child, traveled long through the dark desert to Bethlehem - Mary on a donkey, no less - to participate in a census. I have pictured this many times in my mind. A tired couple, a pregnant woman in labor, no room in any of the inns, the fear they felt, and having to sleep in a stable. Giving birth in those dirty conditions, no doctors or hospitals, laying their baby in a manger, animals crowding close to keep the little family warm. Shepherds traveling from afar, following a bright star, to visit the new baby king. Gifts were presented. Angels sang. So lovely.

Whether you believe this story or not, it is sweet and somewhat magical, and I still read it every Christmas. It brings back warm memories of nativity pageants and Midnight Mass.

So here is the church that was built on the site where, according to tradition, the stable was in which Christ was born. It's called the Church of the Holy Nativity. It was totally pouring by the time we reached it, disembarked from our tour bus, and walked to the church. Our tour guide cut his lecture short and we rushed inside with a throng of other tourists. Please forgive the borrowed picture because I couldn't get one myself, but I did give credit to the source.

The Church of the Holy Nativity


I did catch a quick picture of the Cross of the Holy Land (also called the Jerusalem cross - but we weren't in Jerusalem). It symbolizes the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. I hear this cross is lit at night and is very pretty. We left before it got dark so we only saw it in the daylight.

 The Cross of the Holy Land


There are different sections of the church that now stands where the stable was. They are all owned by different religious groups. Apparently there is a lot of contention and strife between the different groups. Never mind that - I visited on a peaceful day. Pictured below is part of the original floor of the church which was built in 6 AD.

Original floor in the Church of the Holy Nativity


We wandered throughout the church and eventually made our way to a set of narrow wooden stairs that led to a grotto. There we saw the Altar of the Nativity - according to tradition, this is where Mary gave birth to Jesus, so this was built in its honor. The main attraction is the twelve-point star. People touch it and pray. I touched it and said a swift, silent prayer. I did not take this picture (it was very crowded and dim down there and mine didn't turn out), so I borrowed it. Credit given below.

 The Star of David


Opposite the Star is another altar, which is dedicated to the Wise Men who came bearing gifts to baby Jesus. Here I am touching it. Remember how it was pouring rain? That's why my hair looks so funky. And they asked us to cover our heads in the church, so I brought this scarf along for that purpose.

The alter dedicated to the Wise Men 


Here I am at the back of the room. The walls are covered with many beautiful paintings and tapestries of the life of Christ. It was very Catholic art, which I find very beautiful.

The group of people behind me seemed to be from Germany, judging from their conversations. At one point, someone started singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night). Soon the entire room was singing, so I quietly joined in (singing in English). It reverberated against the walls of the grotto and it gave me the chills. Once again, I thought of the many Midnight Masses I attended with my family when I was younger. Very nice memories of my parents singing in the choir and my brother sitting next to me in the front pew.

In the Grotto


After the Grotto, we moved on to the part of the church owned by the Roman Catholics. It was so bright, clean, and pretty. A mass was in process, but we didn't participate. (As a non-practicing Catholic, I couldn't have taken communion anyway.)

The Catholic part of the church


After leaving the church, we drove through Bethlehem and visited a few gift stores. Here's a picture of modern-day Bethlehem. Not exactly what I had pictured.

 Modern-day Bethlehem


Here are the hills that, according to tradition, the Wise Men traversed to reach the stable and manger.

Shepherds hills


I will be honest here: other than the Church of the Holy Nativity, I did not like Bethlehem very much. It was very dirty and covered with graffiti. Beggars were everywhere and they were very aggressive in asking us for money. One even followed us onto our tour bus and pestered one very American-looking member of our tour (she sported a blond pony tail, college sweatshirt, white jeans, and flip flops). I was very uncomfortable while in the city.

And then there was THE WALL.

The wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.


Ah, ignorant American that I am, I didn't realize that Bethlehem is not in Israel; it is in Palestine. I was also ignorant of the wall separating the two countries. I did know about all of the strife in that area, but I guess I was picturing the border between the US and Mexico, where you simply drive across and wave at the people in the little booth at the side of the road. No no no, Palestine and Israel have no such friendly arrangement - in fact, our Jewish tour guide left us on the Israel side of the fence and had us meet another tour guide on the Palestine side. He told us very frankly that Jews who go into Palestine are killed. We had to go through multiple fences and walk through gun scanners and show our purses. Oh, and there were tanks and army guys with machine guns on the Israel side who kept their eyes on us while we crossed.

Scary.

Me in front of THE WALL

In spite of this, I'm glad I went to Bethlehem to see the place I heard of many times throughout my life. I bought a sweet, little nativity set made of olive wood for Abby to have when she is an adult. And I have my pictures to show this magical place. I will always remember this.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Israel



Words cannot express how delightful I found Israel to be.

I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't the warm, friendly, and delightful place I visited for two weeks in April. For some reason this caught me completely by surprise. Perhaps I was expecting miles of desert, bearded shepherds with white head covers trekking through the sand, and camels plodding mournfully toward a mirage of water. Instead I found Tel Aviv wonderfully modern, bright, and clean. The parts of Jerusalem that I visited sparkled brightly in the sun and beckoned visitors. The people I met were, without exception, exceptionally charming and hospitable. I left feeling I had made life-long friends.

I stayed in a nice apartment and drove a cute little rental car to work. Driving through the Tel Aviv metro area was a bit daunting to me. Traffic moves very quickly and there are many more motorcycles and scooters than in the US. The motorcyclists don't follow the same traffic laws as the cars and they drive on the shoulders of the road (including on the freeway) and down the middle of the dotted lines that separate lanes of traffic. They speed much faster than the cars and weave through the traffic. I was constantly afraid of changing lanes and hitting a cyclist. Fortunately I made it through my trip with no accidents! The road signs were all in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English; for the most part I didn't have much trouble finding my way around other than my GPS couldn't find the street that my office was on. Luckily I had a backup - my cell phone and Google maps. I did get a little scared a few times but I survived!

Upon my arrival, I worked for two days. I was there to do IT business and there was a lot to be done. Then had a weekend for sight-seeing. I booked a tour and visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem the first day. The second day the tour took me to Masada and the Dead Sea, where I swam with my newly made friends (also tourists on the tour bus) and rubbed Dead Sea mud all over my body.

Another week of work (lots of work) and another weekend of sightseeing followed. I visited Jerusalem once again to see Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration. It was an incredible place to experience. Afterwards I drove back to Tel Aviv and wandered through the local street market and an art fair. The following day I visited another street market, ate delightful Arab food, and watched Israeli TV back in my apartment while sipping dry Israeli wine.

One more day of work and I headed home.

I certainly missed Ryan. It was strange to be so far away and 9 hours ahead of him. We talked daily and I shared every detail of my trip with him. And yet it was nice to be on my own and experience something unique only with myself. Sometimes I caught myself in a little hug because I was so delighted with everything that I was seeing and doing!

I took a lot of photos. I'll share some pictures and stories with you in following posts. There is too much to bombard you with in one blog entry. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Adventures in Work


The best thing that has happened to me in the last year was losing my previous job. So many doors have opened for me! I have always loved the IT field, but in my new position at this company, I love it even more. I am learning and doing so much more than I ever would have had the opportunity to do in my previous position. I'm thankful that I went to work there in 2005 but I'm even more thankful that I was forced to move on in 2012. I have a lot more responsibility and the pace is a lot quicker. It has been an adjustment, but a good one. I'm a lot happier.

My latest adventure in my new job is travel. On Tuesday they are sending me to Israel! The company I work for acquired a company in the Tel Aviv area. They have not yet been integrated into our network so I am going over there to do some preparation for that. I'm excited to meet the people face to face with whom I talk on a weekly basis. I know it will be a lot of work, but it's going to be fun.

Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of visiting Israel and seeing the historical and religious sites there. I'll be there for 2 weekends, so I plan on joining some tour groups to see the sites. (I'm not planning on doing much solo exploring unless it's a restaurant down the street from my apartment.) I hear the food is really good and that there are neat art and jewelry shopping areas. I can't wait to pick up some gifts for Ryan, Nathan, Abby, Mom, Jon, and Nancy.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some thoughts



I had a very dear friend in college whom I suspected was gay.

After I graduated and settled in the Salt Lake area, this friend came back to Utah to visit me. Over lunch at the Rio Grande Cafe, I finally asked this friend point blank if they** were gay. I had felt for years that there was something unspoken between us and I wanted very much to bring down the barrier. I also felt that they had wanted to tell me in the past, but didn't feel safe.

So I took a deep breath and asked, "_____, are you gay?"

They just looked at me. And then they looked away. "I suppose you think I'm a sinner and I'm going to hell," they answered bitterly.

I remember answering shakily, "Can we leave sinning and hell out of it?"

I was afraid they would walk out of the restaurant, that I had gone too far and asked a terribly nosy and offensive question. But they didn't walk out. Instead, they told me about how they had known since kindergarten. How they always had crushes on their friends who were the same gender. How they had tried so hard, and hoped, and prayed, that they would be healed and changed and made straight. But it never happened. Instead, they fell in love with someone and decided to pursue it. And it wasn't easy, and there was guilt at first, but that it was wonderful.

Up until then, I had very conflicted feelings about the "right" and the "wrong" of being gay. I knew what my church taught about it (at the time I was a practicing Mormon). But I was also starting to realize that I had gay friends, people I had known for years or even my whole life, who didn't seem like gay friends but who were, instead, just  friends.

It was a pivotal moment for me. Hearing this friend's story really changed my life.

But even with the realization that I believe that being gay is a totally natural, OK thing to be, I still never thought much about gay rights until more recently.

It started when a gay friend said, "It makes me sad sometimes when I see a couple holding hands at the mall. I can never do that with my partner without getting stares and whispers." That had never occurred to me. I have never thought about who's watching when I grab Ryan's hand at the mall. And when I do grab his hand, it's nothing. Nobody would ever say anything.

Another time Ryan and I were spending some time some gay friends at a basketball game. We ran into some people we know, so I introduced our friends to them. I said, "___ and ___, these are our friends ___ and ___." Later on, Ryan asked me, "I hope it was OK with them (our gay friends) that you introduced them as a couple. That's kind of outing them. Do you think they're OK with that?"

I felt a kind of sick rush in my stomach. I hadn't realized that it could be taken that I was introducing them as a gay couple. That hadn't even crossed my mind. I was introducing them as my friends! who happen to be a couple! a gay couple! but who cares?!

Obviously some people do care. And that bugs.

So I have spent a lot more time thinking about gay rights and equality in marriage and what impact I can have in the world when it comes to this issue.

I am not a political person. Anyone who knows me understands that I dislike disagreements or debating or rocking the boat. So in writing this, I am sharing what I feel very deeply in my heart. I do not intend to offend those who do not agree with me; however, I do not want to stay silent on this matter anymore. I owe it to myself, my kids, my acquaintances, and my circle of influence to be open about supporting my gay friends.

  • Being gay is not a choice. It is the way you are born and the way you love. The only choice you have in the matter is whether you will accept who you are, or whether you will try to live a straight life due to society's or your family's or your church's expectations for you to be straight. 
  • Being gay is not "wrong."
  • My gay friends have a right to be public about who they love. It should not be a shameful secret. If you choose to be private about it, that's one thing. I respect that. But being forced to hide it due to the hatred of others is another.
  • My gay friends have a right to marry just like my straight friends do.
  • My gay friends have a right to equal housing, equal pay, and equal health/life benefits for their partners.
  • My gay friends have a right to be happy.

These beliefs did not come to me overnight. They came over years of thought and prayer and interaction with many different acquaintances, friends, and family members. It has taken me a long time to formulate these thoughts well enough to share them. It is not easy for me to write this because my words are tumbling all over and I'm not very eloquent. But tonight is the night.


I'm sure I have more thoughts and feelings on this matter, but this is what is weighing on my mind tonight.

You are welcome to share your thoughts on this. But be aware that this is my blog with my thoughts and beliefs, and hateful comments (either here or on Facebook, which is where most of the comments end up these days) will be deleted.

Equality in love and marriage for all.




**Because I am telling this story from my point of view and how it affected my life - not telling my friend's story - I am using "they" and other gender-neutral pronouns to protect this person's identity.