A miniature Real World combining two guys, a girl, and a sweet house in a "Desperate Housewives" style neighborhood. We'll laugh, we'll cry, and goodness knows, we'll accept your support via cash, credit, or travelers' cheques.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My New and Improved Blog

No, I didn't die. I created a new blog, one that I prefer, and will continue to update regularly. You'll like it better, or your money back.

www.shopgirlwonders.blogspot.com

Come see the new place!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day...

In the past few days at work, I have been involved in conversations regarding sexuality with different individuals on different occassions. I'm not sure why our afternoon chats have circled this subject, but upon discovering that today was "National Coming Out Day," I decided to read up on this matter. As you can imagine, the central focus points of our talks have been "Chance or Choice?" and "Faith and Homosexuality." A link on Yahoo.com led me to find this entry that I think every open minded Christian person should read.

God and Gays and Bears, Oh My!
By Randy

"All of my life, I was taught that homosexuality was a choice. I grew up in a conservative Christian atmosphere. I was never forced into it. It was my faith, and the idea that being gay was a choice was a part of that faith, not just a dictate from an authority figure.

However, one message from my church that I never understood was the constant warnings to behave once my hormones kicked in. I didn't feel any desire to date females! Dates were boring. Teen-age pregnancies baffled me. In fact, because I didn't understand them, I came down hard on people who expected a baby before they were married. How could they not control themselves? Ridiculous, I thought.

I attended a fundamentalist college. Even in that conservative atmosphere, though, I started to have questions, especially when I realized that I found the company of burly bearded types enjoyable. I started wondering what it would be like if, in a different universe, of course, I could go home and live with one of those teddy bearish men. Wouldn't that be cool? But the thought of men living together as partners was something I also thought was ridiculous.

I graduated college very confused, and began working at a treatment facility for juvenile offenders. One day, a kid who acknowledged he was gay came for help. But the help was with his criminal issues, not help in changing from gay to straight. The staff was split right down the middle. Half of them wanted to cure him of his gayness. The other half said he was only there to work on his issues, and that being gay wasn't one of those. I didn't know what to think. Somewhere inside, though, I knew the methods we used at the unit were not ones that would treat a gay person. This wasn't an addiction. This wasn't something he had chosen or had been tricked into. This was just the way he (and I) had always been. But for me, being gay and Christian just wasn't in the plan.

I soon switched to working nights at another program so I could be alone with my thoughts and work through my inner anxieties. I was a Christian and that wasn't going to change. But I needed to know, what was this other part of me? Did God condemn it? If he did, how did I end up with it? I couldn't imagine having love and happiness in my life if I thought God had created something he hated.

But, how could I be gay? I surfed some gay websites, but nothing about those men seemed to be like me. Young-looking, well-coiffed men didn't appeal to me, I didn't want to go clubbing every night and I didn't secretly want to be Cher. How could I really be gay?

Then one night, I discovered "bears" -- gay men who embraced their masculinity. Guys who just happened to find other guys -- even the chunky, teddy bearish ones -- attractive. I had finally discovered that being gay wasn't all about embracing a stereotype. There are as many different types of gay people as straight people.

I didn't exactly fly out of the closet. For one, I was teaching in a place that would not have been pleased had I come out. I also didn't feel comfortable acting on my orientation because I had yet to reconcile it with my faith. But it was important to me to be honest with myself and with the people I trusted as my friends.

So I took the plunge and told four people in one weekend. I wanted to make sure if one of them rejected me, that I'd have several others who backed me up. But I was scared. They were all from the same background as me. I remembered how judgmental I had been of teen-age pregnancies. They had no reason to understand my point of view. What would stop them from having the same knee-jerk reaction I had as a teen?

I shouldn't have worried! The reactions ranged from tolerance to acceptance. One of them even came out to me. At the time, I told them I planned to be celibate for life. I needed time to explore where my faith, sexuality and identity all came together. Slowly, I came out to more and more people, because I was beginning to like who I was becoming.

Now I'm out to just about everyone who matters in my life. I have begun to date and hope to someday find a partner. Coming out is a process which can take years, but it's important to come out in your own way and in your own time. The feeling of understanding yourself, of knowing there are other people like you out there, of being able to enjoy all natural sides of you, of looking forward to a possible future partnership -- these are the gifts that coming out gives to you. You don't have to trash your faith or your friends in the process. But you do need to respect yourself and trust those around you enough to take the plunge."

I hope that, at the least, this confession from a fellow Christian brother has helped to broaden your perspective.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Viva Vivo!

I will apologize if this blog strikes some of you as a bit shallow. As much as I would like to believe that I could keep up this series of "deep thoughts" blogs, one must rest the ol' noggin from time to time. So, for those of you seeking a read that will eventually stir those stagnant waters of your cerebellum: my piece does not qualify. Certainly stay tuned for next week when I answer some of history's most mind-boggling conundrums.

This weekend I ate at a great little find in southern Austin. It's just off I-35, on that shady east side that grandma warned you about. Grandma's warnings, however, were unwarranted as the area, closely bordering the UT stadium's parking lot, is hardly threatening. The restaurant is called Vivo, and is a lovely tribute to well-executed Tex Mex and local art and flair. Famous for its outdoor patio, boasting flora and fauna of various varieties, the indoor seating is equally appealing.

The booths and tables within Vivo nestle below well-lit paintings of seductive and curvaceous women, no strangers to the tasty refried fare. Visiting on a Saturday night, a DJ prepared for evening excitement as he closely monitored the sounds and lights projected onto the ceiling. The service was good, and the pre-meal chips and salsa were exceptional. The salsa had the kind of spicy zing that only locals could stand to double-dip. Upon the suggestion of my companion, I doubtfully ordered the $8.95 margarita. Arriving with a flower, the margarita was delicious, though I still question such alcohol-based expenditures. Now if someone were to buy one for me, my guilt would be swallowed with the last pinch of salt.

After eating a tasty plate of nachos (before which I tossed my diet promptly onto the outdoor patio), my bill arrived with a lovely rose. Every lady gets one, and that reason, amongst others, is why Vivo's gets Christy's "Best Date Spot" award. Upon retreating to the bathroom, I discovered another pleasant surprise. The bathroom sinks were filled with ice cubes and ruby red rose petals. But beware: leaning too close to the counter definitely threatens dryness. Generally, this kind of activity requires no warning, but I'm kind of a clumsy bumpkin.

Anyway, I had a great time and would definitely try the place again with a large group. I can hardly imagine that anyone would be hesitant to deliver top marks for the fine food and unique surroundings. And maybe next time, somebody else will flip the drink bill :)

Finally, a great restaurant that the whole world doesn't know about!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bailamos

As I write this morning at 8:45 am, it's important to note that I went to bed not so long ago. I was up late last night in celebration of cultural unity through dance. No, I did not visit a museum or attend a festival in honor of movement. I attended the Move Tour: Austin, which was hosted by Mr. Damian Marley, descendant of Bob (that lover of drums, weed, and white women). The event was highly advertised exclusively on MySpace.com and invited one and all to come enjoy the "The Show, The Contest, and The Party" at the 6th Street club "Bourbon Rocks."

As many of you know, I love to dance, and while I arrived perfectly aware that failure was in my future, I came ready to bring whatever "heat" a suburban Christian white girl could muster. The ads said to arrive at 8pm if you intended to compete, and the early crowd was composed largely of breakers (break dancers). The tricks and talent that were present left me in awe. People spinning on their heads for a full 8 seconds, no hands, or hopping one-armed across the length of the dance floor prevailed. Amazing. (By the way, I did not arrive alone, and had my girl and cheerleader, Heather Lemmons, guarding my back). I did not ever feel unsafe, however, as every person we met was sweet and genuine, and just came to show their moves.

I met one girl named Tawny, a young red-head who hoped her 14 years of professional jazz and ballet training might give her an edge over the breakers and poppers. I also met Leah, a very young woman and dance teacher/choreographer, who it was later revealed by the announcer was one of the Mama's in the competition. The actual competition was generally friendly and completely amazing. Dance moves that generally appear out-of-this-world on the average club dancefloor were barely noticed as the 'bar of extremity' was constantly raised higher and higher. My dance number was weak, and as I knew, I was not destined to compete in the second round. However, my status as a competitor provided me a great view of the remaining competition.

I have to say, Mr. Marley has the right idea. I can hardly imagine any other context in which people from age 16 to 28 would all unite to encourage the artistic efforts of those around them. Everyone was passing around cards, inviting others to attend their classes and improve their skills in a professional atmosphere. Also, midway through the contest, the announcer had everyone turn to the person to his/her left AND right and say "What's up?" and shake hands. I don't wanna say that it felt like a strangley familiar club meeting, but I certainly haven't had as much conversation with complete strangers in a very long time.

All in all, I left the competition very impressed with everyone that I met. People put time into their art, and had obviously been looking for a forum to show what all their efforts had contributed to. Of course I didn't win, but I did represent Abilene and all of us confused Caucasian girls who have been practicing our hip-hop moves in the bathroom mirror ever since we can remember. I wasn't laughed off stage either.

If you want to see more, there will be a documentary coming out once the Move Tour has completed its run across the US. The nationals will be held in Hawaii. Also, for some great video of some of the judges (FYI, none of this video pertains to judges in attendance at the Austin round) please follow this link:

http://www.theefourhundred.com/flyers/MTjudges.htm

I hope you've all enjoyed this installment of my blog and hope that you don't find it contradictory to my previous, more religioos based blogs. If you think dance is sinful, that's your business, but not EVERYONE can draw or play an instrument as a means of self-expression. Some of us have to rely on our truth-telling hips.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Is It Just Me...Or...?

Is it just me, or are the little sisters of my generation (girls between ages 9 and 14) becoming more sex-crazed by the minute? It seems that in the past few weeks I have noted, on various occasions, that parents in America are raising their daughters to be tarts. No, not the sweet, dimpled, sugar-coated tarts of one Little Debbie. The pre-teens of today, most specifically the female populace, are sipping from a school fountain of tainted water, constantly being filled with poor messages, and learning to spit them back out in turn.

While passing through the parking lot of my local HEB, I could hear the high-pitched croon of a little girl singing along to Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," never missing a beat or lyric. Also, at the apartment pool down the street, I eavesdropped as two bikini clad 12-year-olds quoted the most inappropriate of lines from "Bring It On." And getting dressed in the room of my friend's teenage daughter, I noted a mini-poster, hand-drawn with Crayola magic markers, stating "How come every time you come around, my London Bridge make you wanna go down?" (a lyric from Fergie's new hit single). The most offensive part of this oh-so-innocent looking doodle was the underlining of 'wanna go down,' a reference of which I'm certain she was unaware.

Call me ignorant but I must say, I have been taken aback by these examples of poor parental control. I know, I know, we cannot lock our daughters in their bedrooms until they turn 18, but I also don't think that we should allow the standards of society to designate the purity of our children. Being so constantly bombarded by songs and shows preaching "The Gospel of Sexy," it is no wonder that children are engaging in the sexual acts of their hardly adult role models. I mean, excuse me, but when did it become necessary for a 13-year-old to have a flat belly to flatter the fit of her "ultra low-rise" jeans? I was wearing elastic waistbands at that age!

So, while the entire northern hemisphere realizes that I do not want to have children, on the off chance that it DOES happen, I fully plan to stick to this "plan for pre-teen purity."

1. My daughter will not own a radio. All of her music will be store bought by myself.

2. My daughter will not own a computer. She may text message me into the poor house, but she will not play on the internet. She'll learn at the school library anyway.

3. The phrases "tiny fit," "low rise," and "deep V" will never appear on the tags of her clothes. Style does not equal sex. Clothes should not act as an advertisement.

4. There will be no channel surfing. I will specifically TiVo the shows my daughter is permitted to watch and she may only watch those shows in our house. When staying at a friends house...forget it. She's staying home.

That's it for now. If you think I'm being extreme, do yourself a favor and rent "Thirteen." And then call me if you ever let YOUR daughter out of the house again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Loss of Ceremony

Admittedly, the book "Looking for Mary" is not a long one, but as I have become a less than devoted reader (shame on me), I am continuing to plow through and am finding more things to consider the further I read. One recurring theme throughout the book is that of the importance of the rosary to Catholocism. The rosary is two things. First, it is a lengthy and regimented list of prayers, which varies depending on the day of the week. These prayers reflect upon the miracles and mysteries of Christ, intermixed between some, and I repeat, some of the following prayers...

"Glory be to the Father"
Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.

"Hail Mary"
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Secondly, the rosary defines the set of beads which Catholics use to guide them in remembering these prayers and the order in which they are to be said. The author of "Looking for Mary," even in times of spiritual struggle, always turned to her rosary beads as a means of giving complete focus to God. Also, by having these prayers memorized and ingrained in her mind, the words became a kind of mantra through which she was able to become open to God's words for her.

In reading about the rosary, I must say I became a bit jealous of this tradition. In the Protestant church, and especially within the Church of Christ, we have very little ceremony. We are not given to visual aids in the process of worship, which is evident by our church buildings, which draw less attention to God and more pointedly speak to the youth group's need to have a top-of-the-line basketball court and rec center. The Church of Christ seems to fear things like icons and stained-glass depictions of the crucifixion as they have become forever connected with the Catholic church. Mind you, the next time I attend church, I will be shocked if the revenues from our collection go towards a mural of The Passion (no children, not the Mel Gibson movie...the real deal).

However, I do think that there is something to be said for Christ-bearing insignia that can guide one through worship. It can be very easy to become distracted, and for one's mind to swirl during prayer in endless cycles, only some of which even border on something genuinely religious. Also, in having so many prayers memorized, a believer forever has a place to fall back on, a safe monologue to the Lord that can hold strong through tragedy and victory both.

Taking the lead from Beverly, I've designed a system so simplistic and child-like, it's downright embarrassing to share...but if it helps ANYONE...then it's worth it. Anyway, I use my ten fingers as guidance: two prayers of thanksgiving, two prayers of confession, two prayers for me, two prayers for friends/family, and two for the well-being of the world. I'm not saying my way is best, but since I'm kind of spiritually slow....you get the idea. And perhaps it wouldn't be bad to memorize some of the rosary prayers to have on hand, when my mind is too bewildered to create coherent thoughts.

Oh, and, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I HIGHLY suggest this book...don't be put off by the portrait of Mary on the cover. Embrace symbolism.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Strange Coincidence

So, I've been reading this book called "Looking for Mary: (Or the Blessed Mother and Me)." No, I have not decided to convert to Catholicism, though it probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either. The book is an autobiographical account of one woman's return to her faith and her adoration of Mary and her miraculous works. The author also wrote "Riding in Cars with Boys," more popularly recognized its cinematic star, Drew Barrymore. That book describes her experience as a 17-year-old unwed mother. Beverly (the author) looks to Mary as an example of the ultimate mother, who universally draws the needy and desperate to her side for relief and commune with her holy Son.

Beverly's career as a journalist, combined with her faith, leads her to travel the country and the world, interviewing the followers of Mary and those who unite at locations where she is regularly seen...yes, seen. The appearances of Mary still continue today, in big cities and rural locations, by believers and non-believers alike. One thread that seems to bind all of Mary's followers together, Beverly soon realizes, is the fact that Mary comes when people are at their worst, and her power provides undeniable proof of her presence. The accounts are interesting and unexplainable when using subjective reasoning.

In church yesterday (by the way, I've started attending The Church at Canyon Creek, and I really enjoy it) the Bible class teacher had everyone describe their "Come to Jesus" moment. One girl prefaced her story by saying, this is really silly, but...

Cathy (we will call her) had reached rock bottom. She had a very low-paying job, could not afford a car, nor a phone, and spent some afternoons picking up dropped change in parking lots and gas stations. One day she realized she had lost her keys. It was a Sunday night, and she didn't have a key to her apartment, whose office was closed. She had no phone to call anyone on, and no money for a locksmith. She slept in front of her apartment door on the floor. The next morning, while walking to work, she said to God, "If you can find me my keys, I will believe in You forever and make some changes so I can learn more about You." And at a busy intersection, in the middle of the street, she saw her keys glinting in the sunlight. She didn't know why or how, but there they were, waiting for her.

And that did it for Cathy. She started actively looking for a church and trying to read and know more about her Miracle Worker. She moved to Austin, where her life situation improved and where she currently works with a staff composed largely of fellow believers.

I think the important thing we can take away from this is that a lot of us make promises to God, promises for personal change or greater hunger for Him, and few of us follow through. Must we be brought to the depths of darkness and despair to realize His presence in our lives, His closeness, that can drop a pair of keys from the sky and leave them shining before our very feet? Its a hard thing to grasp, not because it requires great faith, which many of us have, but because it says without a doubt that God is not only there for the good, but for the bad. His ear is pressed against our lips when we mutter unclean words or laugh at the misfortune of others. His hand is in ours when we walk to places we shouldn't or drink things that have no place in His holy body. His palm is pressed against our back when we stroll past hungry people, our pockets full of lunch money.

So, it's easier to deny this reality. It's easier to look up, up, up, so high in the clouds, and smile, and think "Oh God, you're so beautiful up in heaven." But to believe that He's all around is to change your every move to make sure you never stray from His shadow.