October 30, 2015

Pushing Through

Have you ever heard the term "Cradle Catholic"? Well, that would be me. Born, baptized and raised Catholic. Went to Catechism on a twice weekly basis, Communion at six years old, Confirmation at 14, Mass every Sunday, Rebellion at 18.

Skipped out on the Church and, as I called it then, skipped out on "that god-thing" meaning organized religions. Though, just to be safe, I did have all three of my kids baptized! We cradle-Catholics now one can never be too safe!

Sometime between 30 and 40 the strong desire to return to Church wandered into my soul. A dear friend of mine, now departed, in the middle of one of the incredible metaphysics discussion ever that there was something bigger than us out there. He instructed me to go sit on the dam at the ranch and be in nature until I got it. Weird. I am the ultimate authority-issues woman but I walked down the trail, across the dam, and sat on a large rock that had been warmed by the sun.

I looked over the valley, listened to the trees, heard the pond lapping against the shore, watched clouds, smelled the soil and meditated, maybe even chatted a little inviting 'something bigger' to come sit beside me and talk.

After several hours, incredible soul searching and some tears, I realized that I really did believe in the 'bigger', but I didn't know how to describe it. I hesitated to call it God. Somehow, the name 'God' symbolized 'just wars', judgmental people, closed minds and (sorry fundamentalists) some incredibly uptight and bigoted philosophies.  I could, however, relate to the term 'Source' or "All There Is", Father-Mother-God, I tried them all. I finally went back to the title 'God' maybe because it was less controversial, except with my metaphysical, Wiccan and Pagan friends but they are all much more open to accepting other people's beliefs than my Christian friends (more or less).

I returned to the Catholic Church but with some reservations. I don't get why Catholics and eventually 1400 years later, Reformists used the bible as a cafe menu. Choosing which things to call 'norms of the culture of the times' so could be tossed aside and other things called 'traditions' which were kept.

For instance. Women were not allowed in the temple for 40 days after giving birth or when menstruating as they were considered unclean. Boy babies, including Jesus, could not be named or be presented to the temple until after 40 days, girls babies had to wait much longer. The babies were unclean because they had been born through their mothers vaginas...funny though, the dads didn't seem to have a problem getting up in there to make babies.

Paul wasn't real fond of women. He wrote some pretty gnarly things about how unworthy we are.

Anyway, my difficulties can go on and on, but I kept going to Mass and receiving communion. One day, standing in line in confession, I had an epiphany. I was not being true to myself or honest with God (I tried out a lot of names but this one really does just roll off the tongue). Not that I think there is some guy in a toga or robe with a long grey beard up in the sky playing chess with our lives. I can't describe God, nor do I want to. That is a mystery that is bigger than me but I do want to live in integrity.

I have six granddaughters, the oldest just turned 18, the youngest about to turn 11. They are all incredibly gifted young women; intelligent, talented; perceptive; loving and kind.  I'm a little nervous that they will all soon be launched out into this world. A world where women are not honored, respected and are still considered beneath men. A big part of me believes that in the western world a huge factor in the continuation of the repression of women is the (scrunching shoulders in anticipation for the zap of lightening), is the bible! Yup, I said it.

I have discussed this with my husband. I have asked, "why can't a woman be a priest?" "Why do women have to be passive or submissive?' Why, why, why, the list goes on. He gets very irritated with me when I open this discussions and, quite frankly, they never end well.

I confessed to a friend that I haven't been going to Mass because I feel dishonest when I am there. I feel as if just being there is passive acceptance of women's repression. He suggested I talk with a very well-respected nun who belongs to the Sisters of Mercy. What a grand idea. Who better than a nun, a woman who has dedicated 50 plus years to God and her vocation.

The best thing that ever happened! I drove a couple of hours yesterday to discuss the God-parenting idea with her....and....then....I....(OMG, help me be strong)....I....I...I told her how I feel. I shared the rape statistics with her, other political statistics, and my feelings about the bibles influence.

She leaned forward and said, "Toni, you are bang on right!"

Really, she did. She told me of several movements in the church, there have been a few women who have been ordained (though they hold Mass in their homes (Guerilla Spirituality)  and other's  fighting for open women's ordinations. She told me how many of the women and nuns are boycotting ordination ceremonies because of the total lack of participation (by design) of half the world's population.  She gave me numbers, names, and organizations to get involved, if only for the sake of my own ease of conscience. She also confirmed that Pope Francis is speaking out for more women to be involved in the workings of the Church.

As I drove home, I smiled all the way, thinking, "There is a God and changes are coming!"

Poor Frank. He was a little pale when I shared the news. But, he'll live and be the more happy for it...I hope!

October 27, 2015

God Parenting

Have you ever been asked to be a God-parent or are you a God-parent? Do you have a God-parent?

If you have a God-parent, when was the last time you saw or talked to them? My bet is that you probably haven't seen or heard from your God-mother or God-father since your baptism. Am I right?

A friend and I were discussing God-parenting over coffee this morning and found that we are both remiss in our "duties" as a God-parent (GP), though, to be honest, we never really knew what our responsibilities were.

I don't know who my God-father was/is, though I have a suspicion it was my Uncle Willy. He was my aunt's husband who walked out for a pack of cigarettes and a loaf of bread one day and never returned. I can hardly feel slighted for his lack of God-parenting when he had actually walked out on his four children and wife and stayed gone for decades! Though, I give him credit for setting an example of despicable behavior.

My aunt was my God-mother and, after asking around, I found her to probably be the most active of most God-parents. When I spent the weekend with my cousins, we (cousins) would walk to church to attend Mass. Upon our return home, my aunt would always inquire as to what the Homily was about,
but we never actually discussed the meaning of the day's sermon with her. I think she asked just to make sure we made it to church instead of skipping services to grab a donut and a soda.

I am a God-mother, twice over. As a God-parent, I have to admit, I suck!  My oldest God-child grew up on the other side of the Rockies from me ( not a good excuse ) and I only saw him three times; all three occasions put me on the east side of the continental divide to attend funerals. Our whole relationship can be restricted to an hour shopping trip to help him buy a shirt for our grandmother's funeral.  My youngest God-child is local and I have no excuse except 99% laziness and 1% not knowing what is expected of me.

In researching "God-parenting," I have discovered that most GP's don't really know what is expected of them or if there is anything expected of them. Some websites instruct that a GP is to take over the spiritual education of a child if the parent is 'absent'.  In the "olde" days, GP's were there to become the guardian of the child if the birth parents were to pass away.

Some of us look at it as an honor but what do we do to earn the honor, take our honorary, thought invisible, blue ribbon and walk away.

I like the idea of a spiritual mentor, depending on your Faith or spiritual practice, one could be a 'God'-parent, a Spiritual Mentor, a Fairy God-mother or whatever the parents choose. Knowing that there is someone they trust to help them guide their child through the maze of life's challenges would be incredibly reassuring.

Have you asked someone close to you or in the family to help you mentor your children? If you have, what are the expectations for that person? 

October 24, 2015

The Road Less Taken Or Is It?

Photo by Toni Tona

 Where are you on your life's journey?

Do you have a map or do you let each day lead you willy-nilly?

Are you doing what you always dreamed of doing or are you just making do with what life dropped in your lap?

Do you love what you are doing?

If not, why are you still doing it?

Are you enjoying the journey or waiting for the destination before you...

    ...are happy?
    ...use the good china?
    ...ask her to marry you?
    ...take time to smell the roses?

Are you someone that waited for the destination? How'd that work for you?

Elizabeth Gilbert ask us, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?"

Do you?  Do you just peek in now and then at your treasures but keep them locked away from the haters and the judges?

Photo by Toni Tona

 Do you stay the course or wander off the track?  Do you use the paved roads or do you make your own way? What might you miss when you don't take a detour now and then?

Photo by Toni Tona

Photo by Toni Tona

Photo by Toni Tona

 Have you posted your own "No Trespassing" signs so long ago and now wonder why you never meet others on your road?

When you come to obstacles what is your course? Nietzsche wrote, "No one can build your the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself."

Photo by Toni Tona

 Have you pawned or forgone a part of yourself or your treasures?

Will your twilight years be glorious or do you think there will be regrets for wrong roads taken?

Photo by Toni Tona

October 23, 2015

No Means No..What Do You Think?

 Rape, Abuse, Incest  National Network (RAINN) recently accepted me to their Speakers Bureau. They sent me a Speakers Bureau Manual. Sadly, life was a busy and chaotic mess when I received it, so only glanced at it, then put it away for later review.

It's time to put together my presentations so I went back to the manual to check sexual abuse statistics to incorporate in the presentation. I'm familiar with many of the stats but was absolutely not prepared for the one sentence that knocked the wind out of me.

Only half of the rapes that occur in the United States go unreported. Statistics show that every two minutes a rape occurs, which means that out of an average of 1440 rapes only about 700 are reported. Sadly, that is not the statistic that I was unprepared for.

When a rape goes unreported, the perpetrator will never spend a day in jail. The chance that any rapist (reported and unreported) will ever spend even one day in jail is only 16%. So if we include unreported rapes, only 6 percent of these monsters will ever spend a day in prison. Down and dirty, that means that 15 out of 16 rapists walk free!

Take a minute to think about that. 15 out of 16 rapists walk free.

Now, that is the sentence (and the meaning behind it) that knocks my legs out from under me.

Don't you think we should change that?

The following statistics are directly from the manual:


  • Every two minutes someone in America is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men, are victims of sexual assault in the US.
  • 44% of rape victims are under age 18, and 80% are under age 30.
  • College-aged women are four times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault.
  • More than HALF of sexual assaults go unreported.
  • For more statistics, visit: http://www.rainn.org/statistics
 Victims of sexual assault are:

  • Three times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • Twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • Four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Perpetrators Relationship to Victim:

Contrary to the belief that rapists are hiding in the bushes or in the shadows of a parking garage, almost two-thirds of all rapes were committed by someone who is known to the victim.
  • 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger
    • 38% of perpetrators were a friend or acquaintance of the victim
    • 28% were an intimate partner
    • 7% were another relative"

 Our culture has a way of typically blaming the victim. The victim feels shame, guilt, unworthiness and a host of other potentially paralyzing emotions. There are many myths about rape that we need to be aware of.

No means no! It's not a woman's way of 'playing hard to get"! No means no!

Look at the way she was dressed; she was asking for it.  Clothing has nothing to do with consent. Clothes are clothes and no matter what a woman is wearing, no still means no.

If a woman goes into someone's house, she should have expected it. Accepting an invitation to "come in" is not consent to have sex.

When a person is raped, there is something they could have done to prevent it. The FBI reports that rape is the second most violent crime next to murder. The perpetrator in both chose to commit the crime, the victim is not responsible. When someone is murdered, do we put the corpse on trial?

But she consented to sex with that person before. When you purchase gas at the corner station does that give you license to go in and fill up any time you want to? When you bought a soda at a fast food store can you take your cup into the store two weeks later and get a refill?

There are a host of other myths and stupidities but I have gone on too long already.

It's time for us to value women and children in our world. We have so much empathy for a soldier who comes back scarred from a war zone and yet discount the trauma of a rape victim who was attacked in her own supposedly safe environment.

If you are a victim of rape, incest or sexual abuse, there is help and someone who cares at RAINN. Their hotline number is 1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673. Or you can go to rainn.org.

Most important to remember: IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT!

What do you think we can do to help victims? How do we prevent rape, abuse and incest?

October 22, 2015

Beware: Yet Another Rant

Have you listened to the radio, television or taken a look at any "Trending" news sites today or yesterday?

A 4-year old was shot and killed in a road rage event in New Mexico; Joe Biden and Jim Webb opt out of the presidential race; the clock-kid and his family are leaving the good old U. S. A. and moving to Qatar;  another police officer is shot in Kentucky; a U. S. fighter jet crashes in England; Missouri discovers a disturbing "cluster" of rare cancers just outside of St. Louis....but what is playing over and over and over, ad nauseam, is how poor old Lamar Odom's cocaine overdose in a brothel has saved his marriage!

To quote Bill Murray's character, John Winger,- in Stripes, "There is something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us...."

Do you have any ideas on how to put us back on track?

Out And About

While "out and about" this morning, I discovered a photo blog with some beautiful and haunting photos. (Confession: I was 'about' but hardly out. I was in my favorite jammies, sipping apple, carrot, ginger tea and surfing the web, but I was 'up' and that can be interpreted as 'out' in my book),

I use the term above because the site I stumbled upon is entitled, "Out and About - A Photographic Journey".

It included some very interesting photos, but one post really stands out. It is entitled "On The Track Of Snow."

The first four photos are incredibly peaceful yet haunting. I can feel the quiet surrounding me as I imagined myself sitting on a bench just behind the camera.

Further down the page is a photo of naked trees, picnic tables and benches here and there. I want to put my warm socks on and a good, thick jacket; won't forget my stocking cap and a good book. Maybe I'll haul a thermos of hot ginger, green tea and sit a spell to hold watch over the dormant trees while they sleep.

Beautiful photos to wrap one's imagination around.

I want to write a story about the little dock in the fog.

October 20, 2015

Last Bit Of Color

Frank and I took a ride through Lassen National Park last week. Just in the nick-of-time, too. The color had come, had it's celebration and was packing up for winter by the time we had time for the ride.

High winds had knocked most of the leaves off the aspens but with bit of hiking we found some of the smaller groves protected by the cliffs or larger trees.

The day was exquisite. Sun shining and 81 degrees at 6600' elevation. Even the wind cooperated and didn't jiggle the leaves...too much.

When hiking through the woods to get to the little stands of colors you careful with each step. The ground is like ash and riddled with squirrel tunnels. The ashen soil makes it easy to dig through but I would imagine that the life expectancy of a Lassen ground squirrel is cut short from serious cases of lung disease (or photographer suddenly crashing through the ground above!).

Devastation Area over looks a wonderful ridge. If you are there at just the right time, the striations in the soil are brilliant. Luck was with us and we were there at the perfect moment. As I hiked to the  good spot, I sang as loud as I could, "Mountain Lion don't eat me, here I come" to the tune of Oh Susannah. None of the cougars snacked on me. There are times being tone deaf has it's benefits.

Can you imagine being present when the ground shifted in the photo on the right? The landslide must have rumbled and shook all the way to Old Station. The new growth though is beautiful (and hopefully holds the slope in place).

I hiked to this spot on my own while Frank climbed a small hill to photograph a couple of bright gold groves in a little valley. He was across the road from me.

I glanced up between shots and could see a man walking down the road; a rare sight on the Lassen roads. Most people park and hike the trails. I thought the man might be Frank, so I called out to him.

"Yes!" came back to me from 10 feet on the other side of the little grove. I absolutely didn't hear him approach in that soft earth.
We went to the road and no one was there; no walking man; no parked car; no sounds of engines.

 A little bit scary.

Next visit to Lassen will probably be with kids, grand-kids and sleds. Can't forget the hot chocolate, marshmallows, a million mugs because hot cocoa in disposable cups is just wrong.

We will bring a load of tangerines, oranges, sandwiches and, with any luck, a couple of large hot Kickers from Dutch Bros.

The kids will break off six foot icicles from the side of the building and perform scenes from Princess Bride.

See you in a couple of months, Mountain. I hope you get a great coat of white snow this year. Sledding on rocks last year really sucked!

What is your favorite aspect of Autumn? 

October 17, 2015

Flash Writing

Gotta a friend who suggested a little Flash Writing exercise. Start with the alphabet and come up with a short (though not necessarily sweet) statement of philosophy beginning with each letter. He suggests starting with Z so anxiety over those difficult letters, Z, X and Q don't impede the flow.

Being one of the 'authority issue' people, I will begin with A. Nothing personal, just a long standing practice of swimming upstream, even, when in truth, it is floating with the current.

A: Advise not, less though be blamed for the results.

B: Bring the sheers in from the pergola prior to the first rain.

C: Caution is necessary when taking down the sheers for there be spiders in the folds.

D: Don't deny thyself cheesecake.

E: Everyone has a story. Listen, for it might be a good one.

F: Forever is really not that long if you are only twelve.

G:  Giggling is good for the soul and the heart.

H: Hate sucks.

I:  Imagination is most precious and should be exercised daily.

J:  Juicing is great and drinking greenish-brownish-orange stuff makes other people wrinkle their noses.

K: Knights in shining armor will eventually rust. Be your own hero.

L. Listen.

M. Moon observation opens doors, windows and portals to the hidden rooms of your mind.

N: "None shall pass"...sorry, just can't get too far away from Monte Python or Princess Bride.

O: Open your mind but trust to your intuition.....dang, can I go back and change my 'I' statement?

P: Pursue your dreams to their fullest expression. Perfection doesn't exist so don't sweat the little stuff.

Q: Quests are not just for ancient Greeks and shamans and don't require Argonauts, sailing ships or hallucinogenics.

R: Reasonable is often something some suggest you to be when they want you to abandon your values and do things their way.

S: Share your cheesecake with me. It's a good thing.

T: Truth and Time are relative.

U: Untied shoestrings look untidy and can trip you up. Be cautious of Used Car salesmen with double knots in their shoestrings.

V:  Vastness of the journeys and destinations your imagination and dreams can take you are without boundaries.

W: Whatever!

X: Xanthic whites of the eye can be a cause of alarm, call your doctor and put down the vodka.

Y: You are the only you you get, take care of you.

Z: Zest for life does not make it necessary nor wise to take every zip line offered to you.

Okay, it is time to go back to bed and listen to the rain and smell the joyful quenching of the soil's thirst. Thank's, Michael, for the fun exercise.

October 08, 2015


Photo by Toni Tona

Matt Kahn says, "Most people do not see their beliefs. Instead, their beliefs tell them what to see. This is the simple difference between clarity and confusion."

The picture on the left is a small section of the lovely grounds at Sawgrass Marriotts in Jacksonville.

A glassy body of water, freshly mowed, green lawns, meandering walk ways and an inviting gazebo. My beliefs tell me that this is a peaceful place.

Yet, book in hand, strolling towards the gazebo to read, I see the sign posted on the little blue post in the middle of the photo.


Ever heard the sense of peacefulness crack?

I don't know much about alligators but I do know that I don't want to be eaten by one, especially not in the middle of a good novel. Ruins the moment and the thought of not knowing, for sure, if they ever catch the real killer in the mystery I am reading would make forever-dead seem like a really long time.

Sitting in the gazebo, looking up from the tome to the water as I turn pages, I notice little circles flowing out now and then. Bugs? A fish? A hungry, hungry gator? Did I just say the distinctive knobs of alligator eyes?

I believe alligators are dangerous. I believe they are sneaky. I believe they are kind-of fast on land but I don't remember how fast those National Geographic shows say how fast they are.

Photo by Toni Tona

Now, I know that I am probably not in any danger but my 'belief' that I am not in any danger is questionable. As I look around, there are no other guests in sight, though I can hear a leaf blower way off in the distance. Did the gators eat the landscape guy and the blower is just sitting next to the water on auto?

No guests. No landscape guy.  The alligators are probably full. Just the same, the humidity is climbing, I went to my room, and the air conditioning, to finish the book, knowing, that despite what I can and cannot remember from Nat Geo network, I'm pretty sure gators can't work an elevator!

October 07, 2015

The Manton Apple Festival

There is a sweet, but dusty, little town east of Redding. Way east of Redding. There is a winding, twisty road running north/south between Highway 36 and Highway 44.

Don't eat a chili dog with onions prior to taking this road. We saw a couple of cars pulled off the the side leaving the Apple Festival confirming that consuming too much apple pie isn't a good idea prior to taking the drive. Funny, though, it was always the passenger that was bent over the side of the road.

The fair was filled with every-thing-apple that one can imagine. Apple pie, apple cookies, apple crumble, apple bread, apple earrings (yes, earrings) and even apples. Plain old apples, red and green.

Mountain music filled the air; banjos, fiddles, basses and guitars. The Mountain Messengers played excellent blue grass tunes, folk tunes and some of that good old religion songs. Their rendition of Fly, Fly Away, Oh Glory was inspiring. I would of joined in with the singing but my mouth was filled with homemade apple pie and ice cream.

Surprisingly, up in those mountains, at that little festival, I met people I haven't seen in years, at least one person from every decade since I've lived up here. People I've lost touch with, people I saw last week and made a new friend. (I couldn't not talk to her with her dreads and overalls!).

Two giant black horses pulled a wagon to the pure joy of the kids. The 8 year old boys didn't even mind standing in line for a ride, though I would say they stood in line. It was more like hopping and jumping in line but it was in line, never-the-less!

On the way home, taking the north bound twisty road to Highway 44 there is the most wonderful Thelma and Louise hump in the road. The car launches over the hump into who-knows-what. It is totally blind and at the right speed, one can catch a little air, if you know what I mean! But it takes several tries to get that perfect sail!

McCloud is hosting another Apple Festival this coming weekend and I'm jonesing for some hot apple pie and vanilla ice cream.  The drive isn't as much fun but playing Thelma and Louise more than once a month is probably irresponsible....or is it!