a future not our own

Wife and cat-lover, progressive Catholic, daughter, sister, friend, Campus Minister and environmentalist, displaced New Englander, Red Sox fan, vegetarian, organic food eater, questioner of the system, seeker of social justice, concerned citizen of the world. Trying to give up old habits of consumerist indulgence and caring too much what people think. Hoping to make a difference.

15 February 2007

top ten reasons i don't celebrate valentine's day

10. It's yet another reason for Hallmark and friends to invent lame new love poems.

9. Cupid is an ugly creature.

8. And who ever thought shooting people with a bow and arrow was romantic?

7. I prefer to celebrate love EVERY day of the year, thank you very much.

6. What if I'm in a bad mood on February 14th?

5. Let's be honest; watching a bunch of lovebirds parade around town really DOES make people who don't have a significant other feel like crap. It just does.

4. It encourages superficiality. They're just buying flowers because society TELLS them they have to.

3. It's a scam! In case you haven't noticed, flowers don't cost that much the entire year. You're getting screwed!

2. Love is not about stuff. Or at least it shouldn't be.

And the number one reason I don't celebrate Valentine's Day:
1. I like gifts and gestures of love better on the other 364 days of the year! It's SO much better when I don't expect the love and get it anyway!

Huh, turns out I probably could have come up with MORE than ten reasons. Go figure :-)

Happy un-Valentine's Day.


Addendum: My loving husband broke our agreement and got me a card on Valentine's Day. Ok, three cards. Two from him and one from the cats (yes, we're totally lame). He also got me a cd, but he says it's because he wanted it. How sweet! So on Valentine's morning, all snowed in (or shall I say all wintry mix-ed in?) and unable to drive, I dug out an old card from a drawer that I had bought him for Valentine's day a few years ago and never gave to him (this was before my ban on the "holiday," and it was one of those last minute cards when all the good ones were picked over, but then I found a better one). I signed it, added an "un" after the "Happy" and before the "Valentine's Day," just to make my point, and went online and bought the stainless steel coffee carafe he's been wanting. I then printed a picture of the carafe, wrote a note from the carafe to Ken, including a message that it would arrive in as long as it takes Amazon to get their Free Super Saver Shipping orders to Pennsylvania, and inserted it in the card. So much for standing up for principles and refusing to support corporate America for V-Day. I'm such a lightweight!

28 January 2007

thoughts on wrestling and other such banned activities

Ken and I were having dinner with friends (two other couples) last night and one of the husbands was discussing his high school son's wrestling team with the other husband, whose son had also wrestled when he was in high school. (Yes, we were hanging out with people much older than us - we're cool like that.) Because we didn't have a whole lot to contribute to the topic at hand, we had our own little side conversation. It went a little like this (in quiet tones):

me: "Our child is NOT wrestling." [Ken laughs.] "In fact, we're just not having boys. They're too physical and it makes me nervous."

Ken: "Well, I don't want to have girls."

me: "Why not? Girls are so much less violent."

Ken: "I guess we can have girls if I can put ankle bracelets on them."

me: "Let's just come up with a list of sports our kids can play."

We then proceeded to brainstorm a list that included tennis, golf, baseball, volleyball, dance, and other such non-violent sports and activities. Cheerleading, however, is one of the non-violent no-nos. My favorite allowable activity is community service (no surprise). For some reason I'm much more ok with my (to date non-existent) children being in the inner-city or third world than I am with them playing football.

I'm still on the fence about ice hockey. I have fond memories of cheering for the Bruins with my dad as a child, but I really don't want my kid in dentures by the time s/he is 16.

I also have a problem with sports that aren't offered for both genders. Notable examples again include football and wrestling. The former is especially undesirable because it also condones the objectification of women (also known as cheerleading). Ugggh. What ever happened to equal opportunity?

Now that I think of it, toy guns/weapons and video games are also on the list of banned activities.

I know, I know, this is all very easy to say pre-kids. The challenge will come when that little girl in the ankle bracelet wants to put on makeup at age 6 or when our pacifistic son notices that all his friends own Nintendo 3000 or whatever the newest mind-numbing version happens to be.

At least they'll have a chance at growing up to appreciate independent thought, creative expression, and service to others. I hope.

15 January 2007

a little girl from santo domingo

I'm still processing my trip to the Dominican Republic. It's hard to sort out the reactions to a people burdened by such poverty yet filled with such generosity. It's overwhelming trying to write about all that I felt and experienced. And it's impossible to put into words the genuine, unquestioning love we were shown.

For now I'm reflecting on the relationships I formed, the connections I made, and the people who touched me so deeply. Although there are many people I wished I could take home with me, closest to my heart is Lisbet, a little girl with a serious face and a persistent hug that replaced the words we didn't speak because of our language barrier. I am left wondering so much about her life - past, present, and future. I didn't get to see her house, but if it's anything like those I did see, I am in awe at her good nature despite the hand she's been dealt.

I've found myself missing Lisbet the past few days, especially after the long, tight hug she gave me before I left her behind in her barrio. She, like the rest of the children we met, yearned for the love and attention that her parents struggled to give because of their hard lives in a poor country. She, like the rest of them, had so much love to give, and gave it unconditionally.

The words I heard in her hug asked me not to go, but I had to. They asked me to return, and I hope I will. But for now, while I fight the guilt, she'll be in my heart.

05 January 2007

worst blogger ever

Yup. That's me. I had no idea it had been a month since I last updated this! Time sure does fly.

Anyway, I'll jump on that January bandwagon and resolve to get better with this blog thing, though that won't happen for real (if at all) until after the 13th. You see, I'm leaving tomorrow for the Dominican Republic and won't be back until next Saturday. And by tomorrow I mean 3.00 in the morning, from work. Work is an hour from home, so this means I don't go home from work tonight. I will attempt to sleep in one of two places - either the couch in our office area or a room in the convent on campus. Hmmm... big decision. Haven't made it yet. Won't get enough sleep for it to really matter anyway.

So wish me luck! I'm spending the next week in a foreign country with 12 other people from work - college students, nuns, other employees. Anything could happen! We'll be working in a school with young kids, helping to repair the roof on a home that leaks when it rains (occupied by a young brother and sister who recently lost their parents), playing lots of baseball (it is the Dominican, after all - home of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz - I brought my Red Sox shirt for good measure), going to the beach for a day, touring the area, hanging out with Spanish-speaking nuns... You know, the usual :-)

Here's hoping the anti-malarials I'm taking don't make me too sick and the Hep A vaccine I got two days ago kicks in before the predicted two week mark!


(I'll miss you, K.)

05 December 2006

a little perspective

I recently ran a soup kitchen service project for college students. The way this particular soup kitchen is set up, the volunteers bring the food they will cook and serve. Which means, of course, that Kristen goes grocery shopping for 300 people the day before. Prior to this thrilling trip, the woman in charge of the soup kitchen gives me an EXACT list of what to buy - quantities, size of packaging, store I must go to, and all. Because I'm buying in bulk, she makes me go to Sam's Club.

Stop there. Kristen does NOT shop at Wal Mart or any other establishment owned by that family. You know who they are. If you don't know or cannot figure out why, I'm afraid to say that you may not know me as well as you think (read as: I'm pretty predictable). Suffice it to say that I cannot support a business that does not treat its employees fairly, discriminates based on gender, has substandard environmental protection practices, supports sweatshop and child labor in order to offer products for the cheapest possible prices, and is, at the end of the day, horrible for the American economy, especially small, local businesses. If you want to know more, go to www.walmartwatch.com or watch PBS's "The High Cost of Low Prices" documentary. I don't CARE that they sell things more cheaply than anyone else. Someone pays for that and I care about them more than I care about a few extra dollars in my wallet! Don't mistake this for a disregard for Americans that HAVE to shop there because of the low prices and their genuine inability to earn a living wage and shop where they want in the richest country in the world. This inequity is all tied together and I could tangentially rant about that issue, but I'll save that for a later post.

Anyway, back to the soup kitchen shopping trip. As you can imagine, there was a fierce battle occuring within me as I put this Sam's shopping trip off as long as possible. Given that soup kitchen lady did not give me this ultra-specific grocery list very far in advance, I had no other choice but to cooperate with her request to go to said dreaded store. In fact, our college even has a membership there, so I couldn't even choose another one of the slightly less evil bulk-selling stores. (Don't even get me started on the fact that our Catholic "mission-based" school has a membership to this place.)

How do I reconcile going to this place for a soup kitchen, which HELPS people, when I know that ultimately I am HURTING other people in the process?

Well, I am quite ashamed to say that I just did that thing when one knows she is doing something wrong, feels extreme guilt, but does it anyway because of seeming lack of any other feasible option. The worst part was the burning feeling that there HAD to be another option and that I was just taking the easy way out because I had a busy day at work and didn't have time to be more thoughtful and considerate. I'm serious - this thing really tore me up. Maybe I'm crazy, but this story is not an exaggeration.

I won't go into too much detail about the trip, except to say that I tried not to make eye contact with anyone and, despite the fact that my shopping cart was about the size of the SUVs that filled the parking lot outside, it was still stacked higher than I could see over the top of (I know, doesn't take much) and heavier than I could steer by the time I got to the cash register. Not only was I supporting this store, but I was buying a LOT from them at once. The trip ended, appropriately, by me faking my identity and pretending to be someone I'm not (our secretary is the person from our department with the Sam's Club membership card; did you think I would have my name on it?!). (Random sidenote: what's up, by the way, with the fact that you need membership cards to these places? It's like some kind of cult.)

I got home later that evening and had to admit my sin to my husband. He boycotts the Walton family empire as well (I did marry the man). I struggled with how to tell him, but finally managed a barely audible whisper: "I committed a near crime today." Had to repeat it a few times before he actually heard me, then, of course, had to tell him what I did.

His response (after the obligatory "you did WHAT?"): "why didn't you just order the food from your food service on campus?" My worst nightmare - an alternative to my wrongdoing that I didn't choose. In fact, I didn't even think of it. Though truthfully I didn't actually have enough time to do this, but this didn't assuage the guilt at all.

Still feeling guilty, fastforward to the soup kitchen.

Soup kitchen lady, in a random conversation, offers the following enraging comment: "I won't shop at BJ's because they won't call them Christmas trees. They say holiday trees instead. So I'll only shop at Sam's Club."

AAAAAAAAHHHH! Do you think Jesus would really care what we call the trees?! Or that we find the strange need to kill them and put them in our living rooms every year in his "honor?" I happen to think that he would care more about the PEOPLE being harmed in order to offer us lower prices. What a novel idea.

Perspective so often evades us in this developed, consumerist world.

29 November 2006


The weekend before Thanksgiving, I took students on a trip to Fort Benning, Georgia, home of a combat training facility for Latin American soldiers called WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), formerly and more commonly known as the School of the Americas, or SOA. The SOA, according to the human rights-centered SOA Watch (www.soaw.org), “has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of [the Americas].” Oscar Romero was assassinated by SOA grads while he celebrated mass in the chapel of an oncology hospital.

Each year during the same weekend, tens of thousands of concerned people descend on Fort Benning for a peaceful protest aimed at closing the SOA. There are events held in a convention center nearby, mostly seminars and sessions for people interested in various peace and social justice groups. We attended a session with Sr. Helen Prejean, known nationally for her work toward a moratorium on the death penalty, where she “interviewed” the session’s attendees as a way to spark conversation about topics of justice and non-violence. The main events of the weekend occur right outside the gates of Fort Benning, and on the street leading up to it. The street is lined with vendors selling products with messages of peace and justice, representatives from organizations around the country with similar motives, and thousands of engaged and excited people from around the country and the world. There is a rally on Saturday, which includes speakers, musicians, and people who have been affected by SOA trained soldiers giving testimony and sharing their stories.

Sunday was the most powerful day for me and, I think, for most of the 22,000 people at the protest. First there were a few speakers and musicians, the last of which led the attentive crowd in song: “No mas, no more, we must stop the dirty wars, compañeros, compañeras we cry out, no mas, no more.” Following this was the funeral procession for all of the victims who died at the hands of SOA graduates in Latin America. Most of the 22,000 people carried white crosses with the name, age, and country of one of these victims printed on them in black. Someone on stage sang the names of many victims, and after each name, the crowd raised its crosses and sang “Presente,” (present) in response. During this, the crowd processed slowly down the street and ended at the gate to the SOA, where they left their crosses and flowers. Imagine 22,000 crosses stuck in this gate, left for all to see. It was a powerful image, and a powerful experience. For me it was certainly a time of solidarity with other like-minded people working for peace and justice around the country and the world.

People have asked me what the point of the protest is if it’s been done for a number of years now and the SOA is still open. I already mentioned its symbolic and powerful feeling of solidarity (there were also many other demonstrations around Latin America on the same weekend). It also allowed many people the opportunity to connect with other people and organizations working for change. It certainly got media coverage, which helps to get the word out about our cause. There was renewed hope this year for the SOA to be closed by the U.S. Congress, as many of the Republican Congresspeople who previously voted (in a close vote) to keep it open have recently been defeated and are soon to be replaced in Washington. And finally and perhaps most importantly, 22,000 people honored those who have died at the hands of SOA graduates. If nothing else was accomplished, this certainly was.

I hope that the SOA closes before next November and that I don’t have to go back, but if it remains open I will go back, and I will look forward to the feeling of "solidaridad" with the people of Latin America and with others united in a common cause.

07 November 2006

pet therapy

What is it about our pets that always seems to cheer us up no matter what our mood?

We have four cats. I've been called a cat lady on many occasions. I'm ok with that. Here's why:

That's Sebastian on top of a door. Yes, a door. And Lucy's admiring him from below.

Toby's latest pose.

Lucy's favorite rule to break - don't climb the clothes in my closet.

The princess. We have no incriminating photos of Chloe. Probably because we're too shocked when she decides to pee in the laundry basket or when she jumps on the kitchen counter and lands smack in the middle of the birthday cake Ken just made me.

Seriously, though, despite all of these reasons to question our decision to own four cats, they still manage to cheer me up on days when I'm feeling frustrated with the world's injustices. I mean, let's be honest - they're cats. They have their own agendas, each one of them. They're busy doing important things all day long. Or at least they seem to think so. But when I get home at the end of the day, I always know I have at least four little beings who rely on me to love and care for them. And isn't that what we all want - to feel adequate and appreciated because we're able to love and provide for others and fulfill their needs?

Call it selfish, but I have a sneaking suspicion this is why most of us have pets. It's easy to love them when they never get mad at us!