Yes, I spelled that the way I intended to. This isn’t a rant on fluoride. (And that is a controversial topic. Fluoride is a very toxic chemical, but at the same time putting it in water has drastically reduced infant mortality rates and… I digress.)

No, the topic for today is how I stick out like tits on a boar hog. Yep. That’s an expression that wouldn’t likely escape the mouth of your average Seattleite. It’s my Florida coming out.

And that’s ironic, because I was born in Connecticut. I lived there for the first 10 years of my life, and when we arrived in Florida I had pretty much convinced myself that I had been abandoned in a third world country. I looked down my nose at all things Floridian. Indeed, it was about two years before I learned anything new in school, and I never felt comfortable in the conservative, fundamentalist Baptist atmosphere there. I spent the rest of my life up to this point desperately trying to leave.

So in spite of the nearly 40 years I lived there, I always felt like an outsider. I wouldn’t, couldn’t blend in, and therefore I pretty much assumed I had escaped unscathed. But now that I’m in the Pacific Northwest, I realize for the first time that I have a Southern streak across my being that is colored a vivid Florida orange. I don’t really speak with a Florida accent, but I inadvertently lay it on pretty thick depending on who I talk to. And my speech is peppered with Florida expressions. “Y’all”, “fixin’ to”, “cattywampus”.

And when properly inspired I am quite good at laying on that Southern sugary politeness which is actually blatant hostility upon closer inspection. That takes practice. It’s not for sissies.

I can’t take Seattle insects seriously. I have to laugh when people freak out when a tiny little slow moving bug crosses their path. In Florida the bugs are on steroids, and have the size and aggression to prove it.

And I find myself craving cornbread. (But not grits. I never was that bad.) And the tomatoes here are horrible.

I seem to move slower than everyone around me, although it will be interesting to see if that’s still the case when the weather turns cold. Washingtonians also have a peculiar idea about what’s “relatively flat.” And I just can’t relate to doing yard work in the rain.

And while I’m much, MUCH happier in the liberal environs of Seattle, I doubt anyone will ever mistake me for a native. Somewhere along the way I became Floridated. Florida-ized? Floridified?

Whatever, y’all.


[Image credit: Pinterest]


Exploring Seattle — Part Two

This past Sunday I went to the local Unitarian Universalist Church in hopes of making new friends. I happen to be a UU myself, so it was a good fit, but I honestly believe that regardless of your creed or religion, if you want to meet people who are welcoming and open minded and non-judgmental, find your local UU church. In fact, whenever I travel on a Sunday I look for one, because you get a much more personal, less touristy experience that way.

One of the basic tenets of UU is that there are many paths to the divine, so they are very welcoming of a wide range of philosophies from Athiesm to Humanism to Paganism to Christianity to Buddhism to Hinduism to Judaism to Islam. The only thing UUs have a hard time with are fundamentalist charismatic types who try to force their beliefs upon others. It’s also why you don’t hear much about UUs. We don’t recruit. We don’t believe in influencing others. So you’ll never hear us saying that our way is the only right way. You’ll never hear anyone criticizing your race or your sexual orientation either.  In fact, we don’t have a single way. And that’s what I love most about this community.

When searching for a local congregation, I was thrilled to discover that there were many, many, many to choose from. In Jacksonville, as large as the population is in the area, there were only two. Jacksonville is a hyper-conservative stronghold. So when I saw the abundance in the Seattle area, I got really excited.

The minute I walked in the door I was made to feel very welcome. And the service was all about embracing change. That’s what my whole life seems to be about these days, so I had to smile.

After that, many UU Churches have something called “Joys and Sorrows” or “Cares and Concerns” in which you can stand up and share the good or bad in your life. I hate public speaking, but I stood. I told them that I had moved all the way out here from Florida, and that I don’t know a soul. I told them I was looking forward to exploring this amazing city and state but that I am also quite lonely. That was hard for me to say. Really hard.

After the service, everyone was on me like ducks on a junebug as we like to say in the South. They were giving me phone numbers and e-mail addresses and telling me I was very brave for having said all that. They also recommended veterinarians and dentists and doctors and mechanics in the area, and fun things to do and great places to walk my dogs. They invited me to the women’s group and the book club and the yoga classes.

So there you have it. I have found my first foothold. I hope that eventually my work schedule will settle down so that I can take advantage of it. Baby steps.


[Image credit: uui.org]

Upset that Everyone Now Has the Same Rights that You Do? Oh, Simmer Down.

Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Fundamentalist, Atheist, anywhere in the spectrum, all Americans have to abide by the US constitution. There’s nowhere that says you have to like it. So feel free to pitch a tantrum. I just wish you’d do it in the privacy of your own home, because you are messin’ with my celebration here!

I’m never wild about getting political on this blog, but when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act the other day we witnessed history, and I couldn’t be more proud. At a time when politicians on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers, and bureaucrats in general are behaving in a shameless, corrupt and despicable manner, it does my heart good to know that sometimes they still manage to get things right. And this administration has done more for LGBT rights than any other in the history of the world. Yay!

Opponents of this decision will use California as an example, and say that the federal government should have no right to overturn the decision of the majority of the people. California voted against proposition 8, thus depriving a segment of the population their right to marry, and saying only marriages between a man and a woman are legal, and that should be that, right?

To that I say poppycock. If you had asked the Germans to vote in 1935 to deprive the Jews of every single right imaginable, they would have. That wouldn’t make that action any less of an utter slap in the face of civil rights. So I’m THRILLED that the federal government doesn’t care what you want, California! There are times when what you want isn’t the right thing. Sorry.

Everyone should have the same rights. No group should be singled out. And every year, on the anniversary of this fateful day, and as more and more states make gay marriage legal, more and more people will pull their heads out of their behinds, look around, and realize that allowing people to marry whom they love has not in fact brought about the destruction of life as we know it. It hasn’t oozed into the very foundation of individual marriages, causing some sort of irreparable damage. It hasn’t caused children’s heads to explode. And it certainly isn’t going to loose the four horses of the apocalypse.

So enough with the free floating anxiety. Relax in the knowledge that civil rights seem to actually matter in this country, at least every once in a while.


It’s World Hijab Day. Should I Care?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a Muslim. I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But I have worn a hijab on two occasions. Since I am not a Hijabi (which is a woman who wears a hijab), and have not experienced what it is like to wear a head scarf day in and day out, I cannot speak to that part of the issue. I’ve never experienced the heightened respect nor the prejudice that this simple piece of fabric can evoke. But I am a woman, so I will speak in that capacity.

Women wear the hijab for many reasons. The purest of which, in my opinion, is the voluntary wearing of the hijab due to one’s religious belief. I have complete and utter respect for this choice. If a Catholic woman can hold a rosary, then a Muslim woman has the very same right to wear a hijab.

Other women simply wear it as a fashion statement. And I have to agree that there is something quite beautiful and even ethereal about a woman in a hijab. I imagine that it makes people look at you differently. Those without prejudice have to see you for you, and not be distracted by your exterior. That appeals to me greatly. I get so tired of constantly being compared to other women. In that scenario, someone is bound to be found wanting, and just as often as not, it is me. This can be quite draining. Unfortunately, prejudiced people will not see you for you at all. They ONLY see the scarf and make assumptions, quite often political ones, from there. This is not a reflection on the Hijabi. This is evidence of the ugliness in the prejudiced person’s soul. I firmly believe that a woman should have a right to wear whatever she chooses.

The two occasions when I wore a hijab were both during visits to mosques in Istanbul, Turkey. I did so happily, and out of respect. I was well aware that I was a visitor in a place of worship, and as such I had absolutely no problem complying with their rules of proper etiquette. I must say I was surprised at the instant difference I felt within myself. I was calmer, and I felt more reflective. I also felt more formally beautiful, which was a nice feeling indeed.

Barb in proper mosque attire Me at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Regrettably, there are also negative reasons for wearing a hijab. I was listening to a radio show called BBC’s World Have Your Say today, and the topic was World Hijab Day. Many women called in to discuss the positive reasons for wearing the head scarf, but a lady called in from Egypt who said that many women there wear the hijab in public simply to avoid sexual harassment. Some people do believe that men cannot control themselves and therefore the women must cover up. I find this to be tragic. I think it underestimates men and causes women to live in fear. In countries where the hijab is not common, you don’t regularly see women being attacked in the streets, so men can be civilized, especially in an atmosphere where respect is expected of them. In places where laws are not enforced, sadly, mob rule often takes over. That is the nature of humanity, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate.

On the most extreme end of the spectrum you have women in fundamentalist areas, such as Iran, who are forced to wear the hijab. You can actually be jailed in Iran for not doing so. I think the Iranian government is making a very drastic mistake by doing this. Forcing something upon any person, man or woman, will simply encourage rebellion in their hearts. It will not make someone want to be a devout Muslim. It will simply engender depression, resentment, suicide and every other thing besides spirituality. In my opinion, in situations like these the beautiful and religious and modest hijab has been warped into a tool of control and imprisonment. It is the very opposite of faith and therefore the worst type of violation.

So, if I see you on the street and you are wearing a hijab, I must apologize in advance for staring at you. I’m not doing it for negative reasons. I’m not looking at you as a freak. In fact, I most likely think you’re beautiful. Chances are I’m just wondering about you and your motivations, and hoping, for your sake, that they are pure and positive and liberating, not dark and negative and repressing. I want only good things for you, and wish you well.

So should I care that it’s World Hijab Day? Yes, indeed, and for more reasons than one might imagine on the surface. This is a deep and complex issue that needs more exposure, if you’ll excuse the pun.