Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Carb Cutting

No, this is not a post about dieting or eating habits - it's about the environment. A lot of people are talking about Al Gore's new movie An Inconvenient Truth. I haven't seen it yet - it just opened last week here in Kansas City - but it seems like the topic is one that I've heard about since junior high school. Global warming is happening, it's real and it's causing a lot of problems for the world as we know it. Of course, peace would also change the world as we know it, but that's another post....

Many people want to know what they can do - is there really anything one little individual can do to help such a lrge problem? YES!! In fact, it's the only way things are going to happen. Companies won't change policies unless their clients ask them too or choose to work with other companies who have better ones. Everything thing that we buy, choices we make about where to shop and which companies to work with - it all represents choices we make, votes with our dollars. Unfortunately, in today's society (be it due to capitalism or materialism or both) money talks - and loudly. Even in churches, eventually it comes down to the bottom line, so it is with our money we may make the bigger statements - more than bumper stickers or cool tshirt slogans (although those are perhaps cooler ways to make statements). So what can one person do??

There is a ton of information out there about a variety of environmental issues and agencies working with them, but my personal favorite is Co-opAmerica. They host sites like Responsible Shopper (see my links on the right side of the blog page) which show company policies on a range of issues from the environment to human rights and sweatshop use. You can check out the stores you shop and see which chain is actually better - WalMart or Target (Target, but not by much) or Nike vs. Adidas (both have plenty of faults). They also offer this challenge to INDIVIDUALS out there - to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions (hence, carb cutting) by doing 7 specific things around your house and daily life. Most of us probably won't do all of them, but even if we each commit to doing just one, every little bit will add up to big changes city-wide, state-wide, and nationally. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we all impact each other - the driver in Kansas has emissions blown into Missouri on the wind. It's going to take every one of us making small but very real changes to build up to a large impact on the crisis already underway. For example, one of the changes to make is using fluorescent bulbs rather than regular incandescent bulbs in your house. Yes, they're more expensive and the light is different, but they last a lot longer too. Check out the challenge and see what you can do, then let me know what you think. Are these things too much to ask? Have you seen Al Gore's movie? What did you think of it? What else can people do? Am I completely idealistic and not getting real?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Shameless Plug

So I'm working in the library and was shelving (the boring task of putting books that people have looked at or returned back in their proper place on the shelves) when I noticed our library's copy of Gay Marriage, Real Life: Ten Stories of Love and Family. For those of you who don't know, this book has personal significance becuase I am in it. Our relationship is one of the ten stories profiled. Many of you probably already know about the book, having either gotten your own copy or borrowed one of mine (and I can't remember who has it, so if it's you please let me know). For those of you who didn't know, I would encourage you to at least look at it. The ten couples are quite varied - 4 from the east coast, 4 from the west coast and two from the midwest. Some are men, other women, black and white, younger and older, but all have an incredible story to share. It puts a very personal perspective on the whole conversation about what marriage is and means to people and how same sex couple are working within or without it.

It's the first time I've ever had anyone else tell my personal story - a very strange thing indeed - but I'm happy with the book and how our story was told. I think it gives a pretty good picture of things. I will warn you that ours is a bit of a tear jerker. If you have any questions or comments on the book in general or our piece in particular, please feel free to ask! Part of what I hoped for with the book was more conversation (also a reason for the blog) as well as sharing my experience for others to learn from. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it was/is a bad idea for a book? or for us to be in it?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


My morning ritual generally involves breakfast in front of the Today show, and this morning I was somewhat flabbergasted by a story on "himbos" - the male equivalent of a bimbo, or someone who is basically arm candy but not over taxing their brains. The ultimate example they gave is Kevin Federline. WHAT?!?!?!

One of the things that really got me about this story was when the woman editor from Seventeen magazine made a comment about this showing how far we have come - that women are getting more powerful and so are now looking for "weak" and pretty boys to have on their arms as they go about their powerful lives. Whoa. Is this really progress? Is the goal for women to degrade men in the same ways that they have been degraded for the past hundreds of years? I understand the concept (although I think the word himbo makes the whole things way cheesy and lacking in the derogatory meaning of the female bimbo), but this doesn't seem like anything we should be proud of or airing on a national news program. Okay, it's the Today show - not the nightly news, but still, how many people watch this show and take it seriously?? So what do you think - do you know any himbos? Do you think the concept is a sign of the progress women have made in society??

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Man of God Speaks

Robinson did not gloss over the differences between different groupswithin the Episcopal Church and some of its 'partners in mission'saying that it was not surprising to him that (for example) ArchbishopPeter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria did not know any faithful, gay,Christian folk because it is illegal to be homosexual in Nigeria andthere is legislation pending which will make it illegal for aheterosexual person in Nigeria to advocate on behalf of homosexuals.In the Episcopal Church, Robinson said, there is a differentperspective because 'we know these people'. He said he believed that'Peter Akinola is following his journey back to God as prayerfully andas faithfully as he can' and added, 'I am too.'

This is an excerpt from an article (titled "Jesus is the Gay Agenda") I got in an email newsletter. I was just so struck by the words Bishop Robinson had for the Nigerian Archbishop - would you be able to be that graceful and humble? I want to be, but I don't know...

For full article and more coverage see also: http://www.integrityusa.org/gc2006/#OurPress

Friday, June 16, 2006

Lightening Up

My last post was really long, and probably too much information. My apologies to those of you snoring at your keyboards. Here's something a little more fun - and interesting since my name is already Italian. My new name is nothing like my "old" one.

Your Italian Name Is...
Brunella Russo

I wonder why Italian was the ethnicity of name they wanted to go with? I personally would rather know what my Indian name would be, or Arabic, or Native American. But then, I grew up in an Italian family. What ethnicity are you? What ethnic background would you choose if you could?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

To be or not to be... ordained

I'm going about my summer fairly relaxed, working in the seminary library and catching up on some fun reading (i.e. fiction and nothing involving church history or biblical interpretation or theological debate - at least for now). The other day when I went down to the break room to heat up my dinner, I checked my student mailbox and had some papers getting returned to me from the spring semester. I began reading through them and got to thinking, yet again, about what I'm doing here in seminary.

Here's the basic rundown. I was raised Catholic, active in my youth group, but never really gave it any more thought that that (not that there were many options for me in the Catholic church). When I went to college, I studied vocal music and contemplated becoming an opera singer (which my mom was pretty excited about, I have to say) but things were much harder than I expected in a variety of ways. The college was associated with the United Methodist Church, which I knew nothing about at the time, but I took notice of the fact that all of the people I really enjoyed and became friends with were the religion majors. Hmmm...

We always had great conversations and eventually I was talked into going on my first ever mission trip. We went to a little dusty town in Mexico and built two houses for some poor families, played with their kids and ate the best homemade Mexican food I've ever had. It was the best experience of my life. One night on that trip, I had an aha moment, or an epiphany, or I don't really know what to call it. I changed my major to religion and have been much happier with my life ever since then. I don't know that I have a real "call" experience like so many other people talk about, but now I'm seminary and I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing. What am I going to be when I grow up?

I'm in a committed relationship with a woman, and that means problems if I want to be ordained. "No self-avowed practicing homosexual" can be ordained in the UMC. Granted, I wouldn't label myself that way (the Book of Discipline doesn't mention bisexuals anywhere), but I'm sure that when people look at me and my "lifestyle" that's what they see. Whatever. I've worked at jobs before where I chose to not say anything about my personal life. It wasn't lying, but it was also really hard to never talk about a big part of your life. I can't and won't do that again. It didn't really work anyway - coworkers naturally ask questions and you can't keep evading them forever. So if I'm not willing to lie about the woman I love and live with, what are my options? At this point, I've chosen to become a Deaconess - a lay person who is commssioned as a missionary would be - and am very happy with that decision, but the people I'm in school with don't understand why I made that choice. Honestly, sometimes I'm not sure I understand either.

Would I go for ordination if the church didn't have this rul in place? I tell myself I wouldn't, but there are days when I think I would. I know I don't want to be a pastor, but there are so many other options in the church. There are just a lot of jobs that require ordination (such as being a chaplain). Lay people are important to the church's ministry, but let's be honest - ordination gets you certain pull that laity don't. The Deaconess program gives me some of the authority and connection to the church without playing by all of the institutional rules and getting bogged down in conference politics (unless I choose to). Am I doing the right thing? If you were in my position would you fight the system from within, push it away all together or something else?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Five Following Friends' Footsteps

Noting the intentional alliteration in the title, I'm giving credit to hipchick and Kim for the Friday Five. Here are my answers:

1. Favorite way to spend a rainy day:
Sleeping in, then either reading fiction, watching a movie or playing a board game before experimenting with a new recipe for dinner.

2. Favorite song about rain:
Singin' in the Rain (I've always loved musicals and desperately wished I could tap dance)

3. Favorite movie featuring rain:
I love scary movies (when the mood strikes) and no scary movie worth its salt doesn't have a good thunder storm.

4. Favorite piece of raingear, past or present:
I don't think I've ever really had raingear other than umbrellas, but I do enjoy my current travel umbrella - it has the names of cities from all over the world on it.

5. Favorite word for rain:
shower - it doesn't sound violent, but refreshing

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Love is in the air...

Well, this weekend I'm heading to Oklahoma City for a wedding - a popular activity this time of year. As it turns out, this wedding is between two friends of mine from seminary. The groom and I spent almost 2 weeks travelling around Brazil together 2 summers ago and the bride and I knew each other back in college. What a small world. I'm excited about the fact that there are going to be a lot of people there that I haven't seen since college graduation, but it's going to be a crazy weekend. Angela has drill and her unit picnic so there will be a lot of running around on Saturday and then Sunday will inevitably be me trying to see all of the friends that weren't at the wedding. This is the problem with living 6 hours away from people you want to keep in touch with. It's really hard.

My family all lives spread out across the country - well mostly up and down the east coast, but still farther apart than 6 hours. I talk to my mom and brother maybe once a week, but hardly ever talk to the rest of the relatives (and there are a lot of them, being a good Catholic family). Why is that?? Is "out of sight, out of mind" really true? I don't want it to be, and in this age of email it seems like it should be so much easier to keep up with people. Why doesn't it seem like it works?? I guess part of it is generational differences - my grandmother (who turns 90 in August) doesn't have a computer, let alone have a clue about email or blogs. I call her on special days, but haven't seen her since about 6 months after my dad died. What kind of grandchild am I??

Well, I hope to rectify that situation later this summer (it looks like there will be a90th birthday party) and then it will be time for more wedding madness as I'll be in a wedding for another couple of seminary friends. I love weddings, and engagements (Congratulations again, Mom and Rob), but this time of year it does all seem to be a bit much. Every weekend walking through the rose garden at Loose Park is another ceremony going on, churches are booked every weekend, and even at Gay Pride last weekend people were continually asking about the possibility of having a wedding. I'm not going to get on my rant about same sex weddings at this point, but love is definitely in the air!! If only we could find a way to hold onto it and stretch it out through the winter months...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I prefer to be called "Neo-hippie"

My mom sends me all kinds of random emails - word of the day, quote of the day, religious forwards, and links to various stories she thinks I would find interesting in one way or another. The other day she sent me a link to a story on the MSN page, from Newsweek, about a new group of people called Lohasians. It turns out that this is a term they learned about from Beliefnet, who describes them as the new New Agers, living Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). It's actually a marketing term for the group of late twenty-somethings and early-mid thirty-somethings that are concerned with recycling, eating organic foods, and trying new types of spirituality (or mixing parts from a variety of old spiritualities to be more accurate). They even give information on the 2006 LOHAS conference.

Why did my mom send this to me? Was it just something cool she found? Does she consider me to be one of these "Lohasians"? Is this a good thing? I will readily admit that I try to eat more organic foods, look for ways to recycle and buy recycled products, and am very interested in a wide variety of spiritual practices, but I am very leery of labels, especially when they are developed by marketers and sound like some kind of fusion ethnic term. I can't help but think back to when all the talk was going on in the media about "Generation X" and how we were all bitter, lazy, and lacked a sense of identity. Now we're being made out to be some kind of earthy, spiritual gumbo group worthy of marketing strategies - ugh!

I'm not upset about the conversation itself - anything to make the sustainable lifestyle more popular and easily accessible is great - but do we always have to come at it from a marketing standpoint? Why is this conversation happening becuase of business rather than because of religious values and teachings?? I don't live this way because it's cool, or affordable - I do it because I believe it's what God would like us all to do and it's what we need to for each other. And yet, even on a site called Beliefnet, they are not talking about it as a movement begun in religious teachings, but as a market. So for me personally, I'm not including myself in this group. I don't want to be called a Lohasian (but if you want to see if you fit in this group, there's a quiz you can take). If I have to choose a label (and we all do at some point, in some way) I'm going to reach back and align myself with movements that did this before me, people who helped make the way I live possible from their actions years ago.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Traffic Court - the aftermath


I was naive and the most humiliated I've ever been. I basically had to go to trial over a traffic ticket, representing myself and looking stupid. Riverside traffic court was not at all what I had expected or what other people told me traffic court would be like.

I got this ticket more than a month ago, and there was no information on the ticket about how much the fine would be or anything - just that there would not be any information mailed to the house and I needed to show up for court. Turns out you really do have to show up - even if you're just pleading guilty and want to pay the fine. I was on the 6 pm docket, as all the traffic cases were, and was one of about three people pleading not guilty. One by one everyone was called up before the judge to confirm the guilty plea before they were told how much the fine was and were taken to the clerk to pay. The city attorney/prosecutor came around to talk to all of us "not guilty" folk and asked me if I had a lawyer. When I said no, he kind of chuckled and I said, "Do I need one?" to which he relied, "Yeah, " as if I were a slow child or something.

I had no idea that I was basically going to trial. Nobody ever asked for my statement until I was sworn in by the judge - there was no attempt at lowering the charges or anything. The same jerk cop who gave me the ticket took the stand and talked about his radar and seeing my vehicle doing what he guessed was around 50 mph (NO FREAKIN' WAY!) and pulled me over. I won't name the cop, but if you're ever in Riverside, MO and see a very short white male with a shaved head, "respect my authori-tie" sunglasses and a WHOLE lot of attitude, that's him. After the cop gave his testimony led by the questions of the city attorney, I had the chance to ask him questions. I admit it - I watch way too many lawyer shows on tv and several questions were going through my mind, but not wanting to appear any more of an idiot than I already felt, I kept quiet, gave my statement when asked (which was basically that I was making a left hand turn from the stop light and was stopped so quickly after the intersection I didn't think there was any way I could have been going 45), and was then delcared guilty without the bat of an eye from the judge.

Being told I'm guilty was NOT the highlight of my life. I walked out the door which the bailiff held open to go to the clerk and pay my $225 fine (thank God for credit cards) and started crying. I never had a chance - nobody cared what my side of the story was. I've gone over the scenario so many times, trying to figure out what else I could have done/should have done but I don't know that it would have made any difference. Do you have any ideas? Would it have been worth it to hire a lawyer for a $225 fine? Granted, I'm also concerned about my driving record and insurance, but my record is pretty clean anyway, so it's not like this sends me to driving school or gets me suspended.

I've been trying to figure out why this was so bad for me - I cried the entire drive home after court and went from being pissed off to feeling like a scared little kid. I don't know if it was being declared guilty, seeing the jerk cop be a jerk again (and Bekah can back me up on his character), dealing with the jerk city attorney, or having to watch everyone else go before I got my chance so that I just kept getting more and more nervous. Ok, it was probably all of it combined. Angela was there with me, but she didn't know what to do any more than I did. I had to not only sit through the 6 pm docket cases but then there was the 7 pm docket with the assault, drug charges, etc. before they got to the "trials." Angela sat in the court room while I was paying my fine, and apparently the guy after me made more of an idiot of himself than I did, but that doesn't really make me feel any better.

Lesson learned - don't listen to what people tell you about traffic court because it all depends on where you go. If you go in Riverside, just save yourself the time and humiliation and plead guilty so you can pay the fine and get the heck out. I'll be damned if I drive through that town again.