Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Author: Laura G Owens Page 4 of 14

It’s time the anti-poverty Pope blesses birth control.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis and birth control

It’s not easy to criticize the coolest Pope, ever.

Pope Francis smiles for selfies, Tweets, says yes! to the Big Bang and evolution, waves from his popemobile and against tradition, washes (oh the horror!) the feet of women on Holy Thursday.

I’m not Catholic but when this Pope speaks, I listen. I don’t expect to agree with everything he says but by God, he makes me want to.

Still, Pope Francis’s command to end world poverty doesn’t square holy with me when the church still insists artificial contraception goes against the “natural laws of God” to go forth and multiply.

What’s natural about nuns feeding starving belly-bloated children in remote villages while helping malnourished mothers push out baby number 6,7 and 12?

Simple compassionate math says when you make more kids you make more mouths to feed. Never mind couples who don’t want a houseful. Plenty opt out altogether which Francis in his wisdom of raising a family, lovingly calls a “selfish choice.”

Scolding birth control is an archaic man-made patriarchal mandate that commands women to be involuntary breeders and over populate the planet…..

No contraception makes sexy time better?

Of course most modern Catholics don’t believe every sperm is sacred. “They’re well aware of the Vatican’s pronouncements,” wrote Frank Bruni in his piece, “Be Fruitful, Not Bananas,” They just prefer to plug their ears.”

Some wishful thinkers think the church offers wiggle room for married couples to use their “individual conscience” about family planning but the reality is, contraception is still a mortal sin and an act of “individual disobedience.”

So when the sympathetic priest counsels a couple he’s forced to speak out of two sides of his mouth, “Sure, go ahead and pop on that condom, take birth control, but just so you know (smiling sadly), I’m obligated to tell you you’re headed for eternal Hell.”

I’m a former Methodist, now a Unitarian Universalist (your basic heretic) so I don’t grapple much with doctrine. If a teaching doesn’t jive with common sense and Golden Rule 101, I balk.

In the article “Contraception, Conscience and Church Authority” George Sim Johntson reminds that the good Catholic doesn’t just grin and bear His will, she heroically conforms to it.

“The implicit message is: God’s will is something you deal with while gritting your teeth.”

“But since gritting your teeth is not fun, and God doesn’t want us to be upset about the choices we make, then follow your conscience. There are so many fallacies here; it would take a book to address them. A short response is that saints not only heroically conform their lives to the will of God, but also love that will. Are we not called to imitate them? If we do, even the sex might be better. As Benedict XVI points out in Deus Caritas Est, eros is most fully itself when governed by agape.”

Wow, that’s quite a stretch. Unprotected sex as an aphrodisiac.

I’ve never met a woman who says she gets turned on by the thought of an unwanted pregnancy at the end of her partner’s orgasm. Making a baby when you don’t want a baby isn’t titillating, it’s terrifying.

But religion is masterful at managing cognitive dissonance. You just think you don’t want a baby or you can’t afford a fourth, but yield to God’s will rather than your own selfish needs and the blessings will appear.

Full post at: Huffington Post

 

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Lady writes in to insist on “natural roles” for women and men.

all in the family

I had to do some serious deep breathing after I read this letter to the Orlando Sentinel.

Diane wrote against women in combat, against women going against their “natural roles” in society:

“However, feminists have shrilly begged for “equality” for so long, and now they have it; or do they? Not all women want it; nor do men. Equality is physically and emotionally impossible. Society flounders and becomes coarse and nonproductive when men and women do not accept and assume their natural roles.”

Diane, you might think insisting on equal opportunity and pay is “shrill” and unladylike (you poor dear… does your husband haughtily scold you when you forget to warm his coffee or buy his favorite poppy-seed muffin?)

Let me explain so I don’t sound like I’m against traditional roles for men and women. I’m not.

You might prefer a traditional role in your home, wonderful, have at it, but don’t insult men and women who want opportunities once not afforded or expected of them.

Don’t insult men and women who prefer non-traditional arrangements for their family.

In my family I do the bulk of the cooking. My husband however, makes his own breakfast (I make his if I’m making mine) and lunch and often, his own dinner, so does my teenage daughter.

When our daughter was little he did diapers, bottles, and every other non-breast feeding child care task. He does his own laundry because he did his own laundry when we met, and, he’s a messy guy who piles clean and dirty clothes into one indiscernible mega heap so, I saw no need to take over this laundry fiasco when we married.

We both carpooled our daughter when she was younger. I worked for a while after she was born. I’ve stayed home ever since. I’m a writer. My husband also works from home. We both grill.  We both take muscle strength classes. We both clean the kitchen. We had one child by choice. We all share in kitchen duty.

My husband takes out the garbage. I do the weeding. He serves himself, sometimes I get him a plate. I’m on a Board, he’s not. I volunteer, he does too. He does most of the long driving because I hate it. I do almost all the grocery shopping and 99% of holiday decorating.

Traditional family? Meh. Traditional-ish? We divide labor by common sense, fairness and gut instinct, not gender.

“Natural roles”  simply don’t exist anymore except that women and men still come pre-packaged with baby-making parts.

Alllllllthough, not all women and men want babies, so are they unnatural? Let me clarify, if your friend Charlotte can’t make babies OR doesn’t want them, is she unnatural? Am I unnatural because I stopped at one child?

YES to your point Diane, our brains are different, no arguing that.

YES our bodies are different. By and large men have stronger upper body strength (although I’ve seen some kick ass strong women in muscle conditioning class who haul weights bigger than some of the men’s, sooo….).

But, who cares about our differences?  Women (and men) deserve access to every job available on the planet IF they can do the job.

If over time co-ed combat works out, great. If it doesn’t then I’ll be the first to say women, sorry, you need to stick to non-combative roles. Only time will tell.  (“Women in Combat: Pros and Cons”)

Diane wrote: “Society flounders and becomes coarse and nonproductive when men and women do not accept and assume their natural roles.”

Course? Unproductive?

Well now I do declare!

Yes, one finds it unbecoming and quite unproductive when a person of the female persuasion does not understand her natural role as wife and mother, and when she uses phrases not delicate or honoring to the feminine sensibility. Women are precious unspoiled flowers whose petals will wilt under such  masculine pursuits or unsavory language.

What a load of archaic crap.

I love being feminine and (most) that comes with my femininity. I loved having my baby (minus childbirth, I’d give that horror away in a heartbeat). I love men being men (the muscles and other parts that differentiate us, and all that), but this natural role nonsense is pitiful.

Diane writes of women in uniform: “I find it rather sad that a woman is content to be admired because she is masculine. To what purpose?”

Admired? She’s—–wearing—–her—-uniform.

Her job isn’t to turn on her fellow soldiers with her feminine-ness. Would pink fatigues suit your delicate sensibilities better? Maybe some pretty little lace to dot the collar so the male soldiers know right away that underneath those boyish boob-flattening fatigues sits a girly girl?

Diane used the old sitcom “All in the Family” (“girls were girls and boys were boys”) to illustrate her point.

What I want to comment (but the piece is closed to comments):

What Diane, you fail to understand about one of my favorite sitcoms of all times “All in the Family,” is Archie and Edith’s characters were used to HIGHLIGHT that which was CHANGING in an era when racism, sexism and traditional gender expectations were CHALLENGED.

Norman Lear, ma’am, knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he wrote “All in the Family.” But do you know what you’re saying when you refer to “natural roles?” Define your role as you will, but allow others to define their societal roles as they will.

THAT’s the natural role of human beings, in 2016. 

Image credit: By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Women in Combat: Pros and Cons” 

 

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This Pope is dope

Of the people, for the people

Of the people, for the people

dope  adj. cool, nice, awesome

 

Title too flip for the highest Catholic?

Just wait, some hip-hopper will pen a positive rap about Pope Francis.  He’s street. He’s of the people, all people. At least in tone, because when I stop swooning and take a look, his policies on church law haven’t changed.

The Pope hasn’t reversed a single issue, birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage, women in the priesthood or divorce (minus his recent change to the annulment process to make it more convenient and less costly) but his soft radically loving tone almost convinces me he has — or that the church will one day.

The Pope even has a receptive audience with some who think God is a hoax.  (“15 Surprising Things Atheists Are Saying about Pope Francis”). 

As an atheist (not speaking for all of them), I’m a huge fan of this pope. I think people need to find their own reason to be good to others. For some, it is god (whichever flavor he/she/it may be). Others find that they want to be good for other reasons. I’m just glad that the big C found a leader willing to try his best to not just preach to his crowd, but try to show them how. ~ Anonymous

Religion skeptics read this Pope as an empathetic listener rather than a sanctimonious hand-slapper.  He says come one come all, embrace each other especially the least among us and in a Christian Nation, atheists are by the denomination pie, one of the least among us.

His language is careful and loving. He doesn’t ask how dare you dis the Vatican?  His focus is instead on workable solutions for the poor, the uneducated, the disenfranchised, the ostracized, the misunderstood.

If he scolds it’s to ask, why we ignore so many poor?

Pope Francis

In other words, he sounds like Jesus.

Every Pope has a big following but this one has a gift of gently coaxing people into self-reflection, into relying on one’s conscience to guide our actions.

This is as impressive as walking on water.

The world likes Pope Francis.  And when we like someone to show respect, we consider their point of view, even as we vote against it.

Pope Francis is making unlikely friendships. 

I don’t agree with many of the Catholic laws (I was Methodist now I’m Unitarian Universalist) but I admire Pope Francis for cutting through the pomp and hierarchy and for avoiding divisive language.

He reminds us he’s human, and so he’s not closer to God than you or me or the atheist (should he/she ever want God proximity).

On gay priests Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” Seems a few religion cynics might be saying the same thing about him.

If we get down to it, Pope Francis hasn’t changed his stand on church laws. “The pope has often delivered popular comments on unpopular church policies that sound like realized reforms. But so far no alterations of doctrine have taken place; widespread impressions that the rules have changed haven’t matched reality.” New York Times, Op-Ed. “The Pope, Catholics and Birth Control.”

He is, though, changing how people talk about views in opposition to church doctrine so I listen, and then I hold out hope for future reform.

The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians–when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths – Sheldon Vanauken 

Pope Francis

 

 
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Kim Davis: At least we have this in common

I sickened myself as I cheered, celebrating this Christian being thrown to the lions. I watched the one minute coverage below and rooted the mob who piled on in front of Kim Davis’s desk, a woman who three-times divorced with two kids out-of-wedlock (not judging pointing out hypocrisy) refuses to grant marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

 

This was bound to happen. Kim Davis just happens to be the first face of rebellion.

After SCOTUS ruled, people warned priests would be hauled off to jail if they refused to marry same-sex couples, but religious institutions have legal protection, a public servant or private citizen doesn’t.

I want to dig out some grace with this lady, do unto others; I want to step into Ms. Davis shoes as she’s hauled off for contempt of court. She had to be terrified.

I want to dig up some grace for this lady, who I genuinely believe feels it’s spiritually impossible to break her contract with God.

I want to try to feel her pain, to know the crowd catcalls are unnerving and that the media attention is undoubtedly upsetting her family. I want to know that all the pressure is nothing compared to her very real, very felt fear she’ll go to Hell if she goes against God.

I want to try to momentarily move into her place of such deeply wholly, holy, heartfelt God obedience that she risks jail and losing her job.

Ms Davis says this isn’t about hating gays and lesbians, the default “I promise I’m not a meanie” disclaimer for disguised discrimination, but the fact is refusing to grant a law-abiding adult a marriage license is hateful.

I wan’t to find some pity but I can’t.

Because the day I concur that what Ms Davis stands for in the name of religion is right by God is the day my soul dies, is the day I live with the Hell of my own earthly making.

In that Ms. Davis and I have much in common. I too would go to jail and risk my job over my beliefs.

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Heritage or hate?

Confederate flag’s half-century at S.C. Capitol ends – CNN.com

Yes it’s true, taking the Confederate flag down won’t end racism as banning the swastika in Germany didn’t stop Neo-Nazis from bleeding white supremacy. But why would anyone willing to face the Confederate flag’s history want to add insult to injury?

“The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population?” Southern historian Gordon Rhea, 2011.

“It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations,” writes Rhea, “from the Klu Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: ‘that the negro is not equal to the white man‘. “ Wikipedia

So let’s think about honoring heritage for a moment.

Honoring heritage is about memorializing the sacrifices of soldiers, cause aside.  Heritage symbolism however, shouldn’t make anyone’s stomach lurch.  And yet, the Confederate flag makes plenty of black and white people shudder because it’s seeped in hate. That’s just documented history, not anti-white paranoia.

“The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.” Southern political scientists James Michael Martinez, William Donald Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su. Wikipedia

Unfortunately it took the recent tragedy in Charleston to pull the flag from the SC state house. Like many issues shamefully overdue for change, Charleston was the Confederate flag’s tipping point.

Private property citizens can wave the Confederate flag all they want. They can line their flatbeds with it, dot their lawns or paint their mailboxes, but what’s the message they hope to send?

The South will rise again?

Rise over who?

The South should have won?

Won what? To hold onto slavery, segregation and white supremacy?

Ask yourself if you can show deep pride in your heritage without waving a flag that causes some people to reflexively cringe in fear. And the answer is, of course you can.

Staring down the dark origins of the Confederate flag doesn’t dishonor our soldiers, nor does it take away from the glorious good of our southern citizens who are some of the warmest most polite people I know across a culture of community strength, beautiful lands and heart-filled comfort food.

We aren’t separatists and yet the Confederate flag separates.

While we can honor our state and the unique pieces and parts that define a region, above all we’re the UNITED States of America represented by one flag to remind us: our sordid history doesn’t have to define us, but our current decisions most assuredly will.  

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The other

rainbow hands

It’s a rare and glorious moment to witness a Supreme Court ruling that makes rights for some, the law of the land for everyone.

I wasn’t around when slavery and segregation ended or when women were given the vote. My rights as a citizen were fought for me and have been readily available, although gender equality still isn’t done.

I can hear my future grandchildren say as I once did about women and the vote,  “You mean gay people couldn’t get married at one time? That’s just stupid.”

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was fast-tracked social justice (in contrast to other social change) and a sign I think, of our evolving consciousness as humans.

Believe it or not we’re getting closer to getting ourselves right, faster. This, despite the daily dousing of negative media images that distort our self-perception to one where humans are an innately decent well-intentioned species rather than merely a survival-based selfish creature DNA-designed to repeat the horrors of our past.

On the whole (not to dismiss the ugly realities of racism or extremists) I think we’re less threatened by the “other” seated next to us in schools, churches, government and business. We spend time with “other” in our day-to-day and it turns out, they’re not so unlike us.

They bleed. They breathe. They want safety, food, love, validation, prosperity and to smile.

As well, we’re increasingly becoming an ambiguous blend of “contradictions” which in turn breaks stereotypes and opens dialogue. The gay conservative Republican. The self-proclaimed feminist male from the South. The conservative in favor of immigration reform. The Democrat not convinced by man-made climate change. The pro Obamacare Republican in favor of upping the minimum wage and gun control. The Democrat against all three.

Brown skin, black or Asian. Atheists chatting with Hindus at my UU church. Muslims and Christians sharing coffee with surprising opinions that wander from expectation. Modern Family is our family or at the very least, our neighborhood or our town. We remain distinct individuals, one of a splendid kind, and we still align with our culture or gender or religion or race or sexual orientation because humans are tribal creatures who crave connection inside our homogeneous circles.

While extremists grow more paranoid with the “other,” and so more emboldened, the majority seems to accept we’re a mixed bag with increasingly a la carte views.

The rational among us know factionism keeps humans from our original design, to cooperate through kinship, rather than conquer through tribal warfare.

But for people afraid of losing their distinctive identity, not to worry.

Whites won’t disappear. Christians won’t fade. Families won’t disintegrate. Marriage won’t wither in favor of singledom. God won’t ever go out of fashion.  Conservatives will remain. Liberals will stay.

I wasn’t old enough to consider the impact of birth control and reproductive rights that changed the lives of women whose trajectory was decided by one unplanned pregnancy after another. Even so, I never had to consider what it would mean not to control my own baby-making because my biology made the choice for me.

At 19 I learned I had a benign pituitary disorder that meant if I ever wanted to get pregnant I’d need fertility intervention. I’ve only had to consider reproductive rights for the future of my daughter and other women.

I’ve never had to fight for the vote, child labor laws, worker’s rights or marriage equality because my birthright and the work of others before me, did all the work.

And yet, the rights of “others” have always felt for me, like human rights. Without defending theirs how could I deserve mine? 

Op-Ed: Our Weddings, Our Worth

 

 

 

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One drop Italian and so, Italian

 

DadandmeNewOrleansI’m Italian-American, only one-quarter Italian, one drop. But that’s all we need to decide who we are, one drop.

“… Barack Obama has become the most high-profile personification of the one-drop rule extant. That “rule” holds that any degree of African ancestry makes one completely black. The pressure on Americans of partial African ancestry to deny their European lineage and identify solely as black is enormous,” writes  Charles Byrd.

Perhaps our first bi-racial President should remind his nation we’re all ancestral mutts of one blend or another and so one human race. But we identify with a race or ethnicity for a variety of emotional reasons that transcend reason, sometimes as a statement of genuine protest or pride, by what’s fashionable in a movement or from seeds planted by our parents.

As for my ethnic origin if it comes up I cling to my one-quarter Italian because I’m drawn to Italy’s ethos. I crave the food and landscape and rich artistic history because I was raised to appreciate Mediterranean culture.

When I was born my father gifted me with the name “Laura Giovanna Politi” (Giovanna translates to Joanne) which out of my three brothers and one sister was the only “ethnic” middle name given in our family. My father left half his lineage for me to cherish and so, was a little hurt when years before his death I stupidly told him I used to hide my middle name from my friends at school. 

Back then I needed my name to blend as I needed to blend with all the waspy Beth’s and Carol’s and Anne’s.

Later however, as a young adult determined to declare myself with anti group-think bumper stickers like my “Why be Normal?” where “normal” was printed upside down, my middle name fit with the independent-minded person I wanted to advertise.

And so I made Giovanna proof of my Italian kin by convenience, clinging to roots planted by my father and perhaps imprinted from genetic memory carried through distant ancestors.

Before I got married I struggled over whether to drop my maiden name Politi in favor of Giovanna, but Giovanna won me over because it felt like the pseudo name of a novelist.

When I talk to Italian waiters here or over seas however, I pull out both names as one might with ethnic garb or a heritage pin. Invariably every waiter smiles and repeats “Giovanna Politi” in full accent, a polite gift for a paying customer who pretends her name spoken in native tongue somehow transcends our ethnic divide.

Growing up my father embraced the European/Mediterranean food lifestyle. For hours he prepared dinner with fresh local ingredients, meals where healthy substitutions that might dilute the recipe’s signature were strictly forbidden (no margarine, skim or pretend oils).

Italian food

Image: Pava

Silently my father entered the kitchen and ritually sharpened his favorite black-boned knives across a flint into slivered angles. He expertly diced shallots inside the small space between his steady fingers, de-glazed a brown sauce in his copper saute pan and finished all day spaghetti sauce with butcher-stuffed spicy Italian sausage.

Despite grumblings and noise from five hungry kids, my father moved into a meditative trance with whatever Craig Claiborne Times’ recipe he picked that morning. Cooking Mediterranean food was his only form of sacred worship and so, dinner always came with a serious glare and verbal warning, don’t waste your appetite on the bread, slow down.

Before I visited Tuscany a few years ago I romanticized Italy as many novice visitors often do. Even now I idealize a country where although I have no desire to live, I have a visceral attraction to its sensory pulse.

My father was third generation Italian-Russian and my mother is third generation German. Yet my own blood runs German-English and Irish-Italian, a European blend inherited from biological parents I’ve been trying to find for more than three years.  At times I proudly pull out my middle and maiden names, Giovanna Politi, clinging to my two drops Italian as I cling to the invisible lineage between my two fathers, men who unaware of one another, created a daughter long drawn to Italy’s familial heartbeat.

Fiesole Italy

 

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One reason I love life (but the point where my grace ends)

Image credit

One of the many reasons I love life is the unexpected synchronicity that happens all the time….

Driving traffic-clogged I-4 at 6:50 this morning to get to the YMCA prayer breakfast, I responded (okay, yelled) at the radio because a well-spoken but clearly wrong (by the discrimination yardstick) Baptist Minister explained to the radio host why his speech should be protected and isn’t discriminatory (e.g. denying a wedding cake or photography service to a same-sex couple about to get married is protected speech he argues, based on his Biblical beliefs. But, denying the same couple a hamburger, or accounting services etc he says is discriminatory).

Finally I arrived at the mega Orlando First United Baptist church for the YMCA prayer breakfast. I ran into the packed room, saw our Oviedo YMCA Exec Director at my table and I said loudly to him across the noise,

“I just drove like a bat out of HELL to get here!”

Just as I said this I turned around and seated right next to me at my table is a lovely young pastor with my town’s local New Covenant church. (But you know God has a stellar sense of humor, so goes the saying “Because God made (insert what/whoever you think is worthy of God’s sense of humor).”

I asked the Pastor about his church, told him I’ve heard good things about his pre-school. He shares a little about his church (Anglican). He asks me where I go (Unitarian Universalist). We both make polite conversation. Pastor asks me if my husband and daughter attend UUU (mostly no and I tell him why and why I left my Methodist church. Fond memories and deep gratitude for my daughter’s programs and our religious roots I explain, but I had increasing discomfort, and my new church resonates better with my views).

I tell Pastor a tiny bit more about my church all the while trying to be diplomatic and respectful, yet honest.

Oh yeah, hi there, Mr. President

Then our speaker gets up. Lucas Boyce (Dir of Business Development and Legislative Affairs for the NBA’s Magic). Lucas wrote “Living Proof: From Foster Care, to the White House and the NBA” and is clearly living proof for character and faith and belief in himself (and bold courage).

Lucas inspires us with several stories, each underpinned by his faith and that moving from a crack addict prostitute mother to foster care to life with a loving adopted mother who encouraged him informed his life’s trajectory. Lucas built the life he dreamed as a child (with thanks to God first he said) the moment he saw the White House (and after he saw the coolest airplane ever in the movie Air Force One).

Somehow on his pathway to become a lawyer he became a White House intern/page during President GW Bush’s term. One day President Bush did a quick photo-op on the south lawn with the pages. Twenty-two year old Lucas, not yet groomed on the basics of Presidential how do you do said something like “Hey yeah, how are you? but closed with, “I’m praying for you Mr. President. It’s a just cause (post 9/11 reference).”

The next day President Bush told a staff member he was impressed with “that young man” and to hire Lucas right away. From that moment Lucas’s life moved exactly where he wanted it to go.  

The crowd, all 1,000 of us, gave Lucas a deserved standing ovation.

Passionate. Inspired. Full of faith and conviction.

Believe. Pray. Worship. Inspire others. These are the fuels that feed our compassion and hope and propulsion forward.

BUT while you pray and inspire others, please know this:

The majority public opinion believes that religious beliefs should NOT allow legal rulings to protect speech that denies well-behaved (ruly), shirt-covered citizens service.

So clergy if you must deny officiating a same-sex marriage because it goes against your Biblical beliefs, you have the right as a religious institution.

(However,  I will never believe it feels truly righteous and holy and God-infused, authentic to one’s spiritual core to deny marriage to a loving couple).

Our nation’s individual views on God (and God’s will and use of our free will) is all over the place yet all of us in small moments of respect and grace at round tables can listen to the one another. I truly want to hear someone’s concerns over same-sex marriage however, when the legislative hammer comes down and denies service to our citizens due to sexual orientation, I immediately stop listening. 

Red Barber did his job, so can business owners against same-sex marriage

The radio interviewer then asked the Baptist Minister….. “I know this is a different issue but baseball announcer Red Barber nearly quit announcing for the Dodgers after desegregation and Jackie Robinson started playing. But Barber changed his mind. He knew he had a job to do. Can’t business owners against same-sex marriage simply serve someone and do their job?

The Baptist minister said for him no because it violates his speech.  At that moment the minister said no and denied service to a SS couple, is the moment I don’t believe he worships the same God — I do.

Okay, disagree with same-sex marriage if you must, but your job as an American heterosexual citizen afforded rights is not to deny to others, the same services/benefits YOU enjoy.

We are not, any of us, born chosen or special because we are heterosexual any more than we are born chosen or special because our eyes are blue or brown or hazel.

(To help illustrate the real life wrong in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let’s use our heart rather than our head. Picture your adult child, deeply in love with her long time same-sex partner. One day both giddily head to the only bakery in their tiny town to order their dreamed-about wedding cake, budget tight but they’ve got just the cake picked out in their head. Lo, the baker-owner Frank who has known these ladies since they were little and used to give them free sugar cookies every Sunday says sorry ladies, I love you both but I can’t bake your wedding cake, my beliefs don’t allow it).

That’s love? 

Postscript:

“The man who broadcast Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers recalled that, as a boy in **SANFORD, Florida,  (Red Barber): “I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan and forced to walk the streets. I had grown up in a completely segregated world.” Red Barber confessed that when he learned the Dodgers would field a black player, his first reaction was to quit his job.” (Society for American Baseball Research).

When we don’t know any better we don’t do better. Once we know better, we must do better.

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Why this nation is so happy

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Live Happy magazine reports that Costa Rica ranks as one of the happiest places on earth across a number of happiness index scales (Ranked number 1 out of 151 countries by the Happy Planet Index, HPI).

When I went a few years ago, among the many places I’ve traveled, Costa Rica in particular, left a vivid sensory imprint I revisit in my mind, often.

There’s something quickly transformative about Costa Rica, perhaps it’s immersion in the lush biodiversity combined with meeting Costa Ricans (“Ticos”) who do more than merely recite their nation’s slogan, “Pura Vida,” the good life, they feel it.

And so, I’m not surprised the Happy Planet Index (HPI) ranked Costa Rica number one.  The HPI combines 3 factors:

  1. Sense of well-being. (The HPI survey asked respondents to imagine the worst possible life and the best possible life and then rate where they fall on the Ladder of Life). (Costa Rica = 7.3/10, excellent).
  2. Life expectancy. (Costa Rica = 79.3, excellent).
  3. Ecological Footprint.  (This measures sustainability. Can a country sustain its citizens without outside help. If for example, a country cut itself off from the rest of the world, could it be self-sufficient based on use of land for sustainability? Costa Rica = 2.5, average).
Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal region, Costa Rica

Lost Iguana Resort, sloped walk towards our room.

Simply put, Costa Ricans rate their quality of life high, live relatively long and while their sustainability/self-sufficiency isn’t superior, it’s right up there. Much of the land is protected under an aggressive conservation plan and so citizens live among unspoiled natural beauty, which as we know, closer to nature, closer to calm.

Let me add, Costa Rica has no military. 

“We are a happy country because we don’t know what it is to lose millions of people in a war,” says resident Carlos Arias . “We have no army. Our happiness is easier to achieve because we are easily amazed, and maybe that has to do with the fact that we haven’t suffered any big wars, like the rest of the countries in our continent.” Source: Live Happy magazine, April 2015.

Costa Ricans, Carlos explained, also have an easier time moving up a social class and making friends across classes. I wonder then, if some of their sense of well-being is feeling inter-connected which fosters mutual respect and that caring community we all crave.

What is superficially surprising, however, is that Costa Rica, a relatively poor country, whose per capita income is no higher than the international average, is consistently right up there (on happiness) with its wealthier counterparts. ~ “A Country Without a Military? You Bet!,”  by David P. Barash Ph.D, Dec. 13th, 2013

 

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica, Lost Iguana Resort

Arenal volcano. La Fortuna region, Costa Rica.

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited the Arenal volcano region (outside La Fortuna) to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I was at once relaxed like every vacationer who finally exhales, but Costa Rica brought me there faster.

Iguana Resort was surrounded by exotic flowers, plants and birds. The private lodging was nestled into the side of a mountain with access through small paved roads that sloped upward to our secluded room.

Lost Iguana Resort, Golden Gecko spa

Sitting outside Lost Iguana Golden Gecko spa. Costa Rica.

Our open air porch housed two (notably creaky but oddly soothing) wooden rocking chairs that faced the jungle and the misted Arenal (active) volcano on the horizon. You have no choice but to feel blissed when you’re connected to a country who cocoons visitors in natural beauty at every step.

Residents are extraordinarily polite (almost formal I’d read despite the informality of the country) and so on the advice of traveler reviews I reigned in my forward American gusto to keep my personality footprint respectful.

Still, everyone easily smiled hello and good-bye while they said the nation’s mantra, “Pura Vida,” the good life.  I quickly looked forward to responding with the same as a reminder that like the citizens, I was experiencing the well-felt Costa Rican life. 

stray but well fed dogs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well-fed stray dogs outside a restaurant in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Stray dogs also thrive in this relatively poor but largely economically sound nation.  Most residents in La Fortuna can’t afford to keep pets but they clearly care for the animals. I saw water bowls on almost every business stoop and people threw scraps for the dogs while they ate in outdoor air restaurants.   The loving communal care is obvious because despite the throngs of stray dogs, none of them looked starved for food or attention. 

Costa Rica’s verdant land and symphonic rain forest ripe with hundreds of varieties of birds was subconsciously meditative. Years back I gave up the pressure of trying to meditate except to intuitively fixate on nature’s theatre and gentle tree sways.

LI pool

The pool at Lost Iguana Resort, Costa Rica.

One afternoon at the resort I quieted my busy brain by walking circles in the shallow end of the resort pool as I scanned the property with binoculars looking for hidden birds I could hear but not see.

One-third of the year Costa Rica is covered with blue skies and cool breezes. Every day after 1pm it rains which for someone who craves long hours of bright sunlight is unappealing and moody. Usually however, the rains only lasted long enough to re-lubricate the land and to hydrated my skin in a wonderful permanent mist.

When I asked our canal eco tour guide if he ever considered living anywhere else he told me no, never.

If you grow up in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll stay even if you’re not rich.  If you live outside Costa Rica, chances are someone will insist you visit a country that seems to live abundantly happy, despite it’s modest abundance.

Postscript: Nadine Hays Pisani author of Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica & Living the Zero Hour Work Week. “I’ve had a very, very good experience. I don’t know if I could go back to how I lived before. I made a mistake by thinking I always had to have something new to make myself happy. I never considered that nature can make you happy, being outside can make you happy. I worked a 10-12 hour day. I was never outside.”

Why care about happiness ratings for another country?

“Most measures of national progress are actually just measures of economic activity; how much we are producing or consuming. By only using indicators like GDP to measure success we are not accounting for what really matters, producing happy lives people now and in the future.

The HPI puts current and future well-being at the heart of measurement. It frames the development of each country in the context of real environmental limits. In doing so it tells us what we instinctively know to be true – that progress is not just about wealth.

It shows that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to produce happy, healthy lives now and in the future. The HPI demonstrates that the dominant Western model of development is not
sustainable and we need to find other development paths towards sustainable well-being.” Source: Happy Planet Index

Get your bare feet on the ground: The many benefits of connecting your feet to the earth (called grounding or earthing) 

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3 ways to amp up happiness

happiness

Credit: pixabay.com

The happiness movement is in full gear with piles of positive psychology research and even a happy magazine (“Like” Live Happy magazine on Facebook for daily tips to amp up your smile).

Most of us already sense how we can get happy but now research backs what our gut’s been telling us.

Live Happy tips:

  • Vitamin D. Before the skin cancer worry we used to let the sunshine in to reap the benefits, including a natural mood boost. Everyone is happier with sunshine streaming into a nearby window but to get a full dose of D, you need a direct hit. So, if your skin type and schedule can take it, grab some sun for 15-20 minutes a day. Otherwise, supplement (I take 5.000mg a day of D3 (cholecalciferol), not D2 (ergocalciferol).
  • Exercise. Exercise boosts the protein BDNF (brain-developed neurotropic factor) which helps neurotransmitters function more effectively. Exercise is so helpful to battle depression it’s often included in treatment programs. The last thing you want to do however, is beat yourself up because you’re not exercising enough. Find an activity you enjoy that moves your body as often as possible. Walk, hike, take the stairs, park farther away, dance, bike, do yoga. Work up to 3-5x a week, 30 minutes or more.
  • Gratitude. Happiness researchers mention the benefits of feeling grateful all the time. So, how can we make gratitude convert into higher happiness? Notice the good in our everyday, even our yesterday, moments.Create a positivity (rather than negativity) bias. Say you had a really bad day yesterday, think back to what went right (more than you imagine) and what’s going right, right NOW. Practice active gratitude and in time you’ll re-wire your brain to notice more of the positive than the negative. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
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