A different communion

I was at St. Meinrad Archabbey monastery on Sunday, September 11th, 2016.

I knew that I was not officially allowed to take communion there, because I’m not Catholic.  Jesus made no such rules or limitations, but that does not seem to bother them. Perhaps the monks understand the hurtful nature of this made-up rule.  Or perhaps they think that those of us who are not Catholic are in the dark, and not deserving of this sacrament.

I’d already checked out of my room and was wandering around the grounds by this point.  I wasn’t sure when Mass would end, but I wanted to be in there afterwards to smell the incense.  I walked up to the side door and saw that it was still going on.

There is no way to sneak into that place.  The doors are very creaky and loud.  I couldn’t slip in and stand at the back and just listen.  They were at the main point, where the priest was facing the altar and saying the words that (they think) blesses the bread and wine.

God blesses it, and blesses us.  People don’t do that.  They can’t.

I sat outside, near the Mercy door.  There are windows there.  Perhaps one of the many priests there saw me, outside, sitting, listening to their ritual.

These rules of who is in and who is out are man-made.  They are not from God.

So I left, and found my own communion.  I went to the kitchen and made tea and toast.  The tea was herbal – and to my surprise, red.


The toast was from bread the monks had made there, with their own hands.  I added peanut butter, and honey, and raisins, and cinnamon.


I chose to say the blessings in Hebrew, and enjoy my quiet moment with God.


Counting doesn’t count

I saw a lady whose son was hanging onto the gates near the door at the library. It wasn’t time for the family to leave yet, and she was trying to get him to come back to the children’s section. He was having none of it. He was about 6.

She looked at him and said “1.” Pause. She gave him a stern look. “2”. Pause. Another stern look. “2” she said again, looking at him like he better get the clue. And yet again, she said “2”.

I said “No, you have to say 3, otherwise 2 has no meaning.” She said three, he didn’t come, and she went to him, took him by the arm and marched him back to where he was supposed to be.

He cried, of course, and that is what she was trying to avoid. But if she isn’t firm and consistent with expectations and consequences, then she might as well not say anything at all.

Rules have to have consequences if they are broken. Otherwise they have no meaning.

Sayings “shhh” doesn’t mean anything either. The child learns that they yell, and Mom says “shhh”. It is just an exchange of sounds. The parent has to say “Please be quiet” or explain that “shhh” means that. Otherwise “shhh” is just a sound.

Then there was the mom whose child would not stay with her. He kept running to the door, or just away from her. She told him what to do and he kept not doing it.

There were no consequences. He had no reason to obey her.

It was yet another example of “Stop doing that or I’ll say stop doing that again.”

However you want your child to act as an adult, you need to mold them as a child. You are supposed to be a parent, not a friend.

Sure, they won’t like it. That isn’t the point. It isn’t child abuse to set rules and enforce consequences. It is child abuse to not do this. Otherwise they grow up wild.

3:30 crash

Young children can only handle so much. Around about 3:30 in the afternoon they start to lose it. They start to become not quite human. Parents don’t seem to notice this because they don’t have perspective on the situation. I have worked in customer service for most of my life. I have had the advantage (?) of seeing this happen over and over again every day for many years. Around about 3:30 children start to have what is sometimes termed “a meltdown”. They start to cry and get whiny and fall apart.

One mother even said “I’m just going to smack him right in the mouth.” about her whining child. I’ve seen other mothers very impatient with their children and think that they are just being difficult. I’ve seen other mothers just stare at their children as they flop on the floor, crying and wailing loudly. They have no idea what is going on, and no idea what to do to stop it.

Children aren’t being difficult at that time of day. There’s only so much they can handle.

Do you expect to get a gallon’s worth of milk out of a quart bottle? It isn’t possible. Children are the same way. They just don’t have the capacity that adults have.

Children are not small adults. Children wear out a lot faster. Children need rest and food and water a lot more often than adults do. And by food and water I don’t mean candy and sugar and caffeine. That only makes it worse.

It isn’t fair to expect a small child to be able to go the whole day on limited resources without falling apart. You have to understand their limits and work with them. It isn’t the child’s fault that they have been out all day. Children don’t have control over their environment or what happens to them. They feel very frustrated and they don’t have the words to express their frustration. They express them in the ways that they have. With their limited resources they express that they are unhappy by crying or wailing or holding back from going anywhere. Sometimes they resist a change in their environment because it is a way to exercise control.

The whole issue is control. They don’t have it. And that is the problem. Around mid-afternoon they start to lose their self-control so they try to exert control over whatever they can. Sadly, at that point, nothing will soothe them because they just don’t know what is wrong. Sadly, many parents don’t either, and they don’t notice that their child’s inconsolable wails have little to do with anything obvious. It looks like they are crying about their dolly, or their shoe, or their brother, but really, they are crying because they are at the end of their rope because they are worn out.

When I was working at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo I often saw families that were all worn out come mid-afternoon. They had small children with them and they had been adventuring all day long. The children were not about to sit down and be still and calm while mom was looking through the craft store. I learned to dread that time of day because the parents always got frustrated with their children.

The children were just being children. There was nothing wrong with them. They were doing what comes natural to them when they are worn out. The problem is the parents who weren’t parenting. The parents were not taking into account the natural limitations of being a child.

The parents were not being kind to the children. It wasn’t fair to the children or anybody else around them. In order to travel or be around small children, you need to plan ahead to avoid problems. It is good if the whole family can have a nap some time shortly after lunch. If that isn’t possible, then at least have everybody sit and be quiet in a cool, darkish place for at least 30 minutes. People recharge better if they are away from the harsh stimuli of heat and light.

Most of all, make sure that they have had enough food and enough water. This does not mean candy bars and sodas. You have to give them the right fuel in order to keep going. But it’s also not fair to push them beyond their limits. Don’t get frustrated with them – they can’t help it. Learn from it, and plan ahead.

Real art versus copy

I really like Nick Bantock’s art in the “Griffin and Sabine” series. Something I like about it is it seems so dreamy and ethereal. He uses bits of photographs and stamps and other ephemera in order to create his art. There is acrylic paint, certainly, and tissue paper as well. But the most important part to me is that he uses objects.
I read his book “Urgent 2nd Class” about how he makes his art. He says to make color photocopies of everything you use and not use the originals. I felt cheated when I read that. I thought that everything he was using in his artwork was real. It gave it all a magical, totemic quality, a sense of risk. Now, not so much. Sure, it is beautiful, but it isn’t the same to me.
I’ve been making collage art, inspired by him and others. I’m torn as to whether to use copies or originals. I can see the points for both sides.
It might be easier to not use the real thing because then there’s not as much pressure. If I make a mistake with the real thing, I’m in trouble. There is no going back like with beads or with digital manipulation. Paint is permanent, and so are scissors. One wrong blob or cut and I’ll have to figure out a way around it or scrap the whole thing.
I could certainly play around with a copy first while I figure it out. Then I could make the final version with the real stuff. But I don’t really have time to make multiple versions of the same things, and I know from all my other forays into creating art that whatever I think it is going to be, it never is. So even if I get it “perfect” with the copies, it will look different when I use the real stuff. Plus, half of the reason I create is the discovery. It is nice to get what I see in my head, but it is also nice to be surprised when something works out better than I planned.
Well, I’ll be honest. It wasn’t nice at first to have things not come out the way I’d imagined. But I’ve learned to like it. At first I was pretty upset that what I was aiming for just wouldn’t materialize. I had all the pieces – how come they won’t go together like I think they should? But sometimes what results is far more interesting. Sometimes it isn’t, but then I just don’t tell people what I was aiming for. I act like I meant it to look like that. Even if it does look like what I was planning for, they wouldn’t know anyway.
Using the real thing could certainly be intimidating. It might make me not even start on the piece.
Sometimes when creating art you have to think about what will make the art happen. Sometimes having limits helps, and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes having limits on what tools or techniques you can use will actually make you more creative. Sometimes it might stop you before you even begin.
For now, I’m using originals, but I’m doing it carefully. I’ll try out something with a real piece (like a stamp, or a foreign bank note, or a fortune from a cookie) but maybe it isn’t “the” piece. I’m learning how that kind of paper works with the glue and the paint I’m using. Then I can use that knowledge for when I make a “real” piece, with more meaningful ephemera.
I can see another advantage to using copies – the paper is always the same. So there is no adjustment to be made for different textures or absorption rates. If the materials are all the same, it frees you up to work on composition and style.
But I still feel like that is cheating the audience. I like the idea that what they are looking at can’t be replicated. If there are copies of the ephemera being used, then another copy of the artwork can be made. Sure, it won’t look the same – that is part of the nature of art in general and painting in specific, but it will be close. Part of what I like about creating artwork is that each piece is unique.
A painting that has real things in it has an energy to it, like a shaman’s necklace. Each item has a story, a background, a history. Each piece adds to the song. They aren’t just images, but the actual thing. A picture of a shell isn’t the same as a shell itself. And just any old shell isn’t the same as a special one – say the one you found on your anniversary trip. It is that kind of energy that I’m talking about. You just can’t get that from a copy.

These are some examples of what I’m making.


side view –

Limits – on exclusion in religious groups.

I cannot be part of any organization that does not allow full membership to people. Especially if it is because of something they have no control over.

I cannot become a Catholic for this reason. Women cannot ever be priests.

I cannot join the order of the Eastern Star for this reason. While it is a sister organization to the Masons, it is not equal. It is an auxiliary group.

I’m very wary of the new trend in spiritual circles that are “embracing the Divine Feminine” and are centered around women members.

I get it. Women’s voices and stories have been excluded from the conversation for years. They are trying to rectify things by putting the focus on female power.

But to do this is simply to play the same game that has been played for centuries. To celebrate the “Divine Feminine” at the exclusion of men is to ask women to be the oppressors and the excluders. It isn’t opening up the conversation. It is simply changing who the storyteller is.

To have female only spiritual or religious groups isn’t empowering to women at all. It is in fact the very opposite. It isn’t feminine at all to exclude people. It certainly isn’t divine.

We have to work together. This is why we were made differently, so we can share our strengths.

Jesus in a box.

They’ve locked up Jesus.

This isn’t just symbolic. It’s for real, on so many levels.

Look at this.


For those people who weren’t raised in a Christian tradition that does this, I’ll explain. This is a box for the reserved sacrament. This is the extra Communion wafers and/or wine. They have extra so that people who take Communion to homebound church members have something that has been blessed by the minister.

They put it in a special box after it has been blessed because they honestly feel that the bread and the wine actually become the body and the blood of Jesus. Literally. Yeah, I know. Kind of creepy, but there you go.

Now, the box has a lock on it, so not just anybody can get to it.


These are the same people who put limits on who can take communion. You need to be a member of that denomination or at least baptized as a Christian. They don’t quite get that Jesus didn’t make any such rules.

Jesus is available to all, for free, everywhere and at all times. He isn’t limited or locked up.

The reason they control access is because they want to control Jesus. They think they have some sort of exclusive arrangement with Jesus, that they are “in.” They don’t get that when they start putting limits on who is worthy of receiving Jesus, they aren’t “in” at all. They are as far out as possible. They haven’t gotten the message that Jesus makes everybody equal. With Jesus, everybody is in.

Maybe they are afraid of that. Maybe they fear that if they let “those people” in, whoever they are defined as that week, then that will take away from their own worth. Like the only thing that makes them special is that they make others not special by excluding them.

But this isn’t Jesus. It isn’t who he is. You can’t put limits or locks on Jesus, because he’s so much bigger than that. Death couldn’t stop him. Neither can silly rules.

Imagine their surprise when they realize that Jesus isn’t in the box at all. He never was. He’s out, in the world, in disguise as a shoe repairman, or as a car mechanic, or as a teacher, or as a lawyer. Jesus is hiding in plain sight in every single person who has made a space for Him in their hearts. Jesus is here, right now, with us.

How’s that for thinking outside of the box? There is no box. Jesus is the ultimate escape artist.

Supper surprise – limits create art.

Sometimes random things create the best results. We are in a “rustic” cabin. There is no food here save what we brought. Even basics like milk, butter, and seasonings are absent. It means we have to make do with very little and get really creative if we want something palatable.
What was supposed to be the main part of the meal wasn’t. It paled in comparison to what was the side dish. We brought potatoes to cook. We had a bag of new potatoes at home, so I pulled out five large ones. It was definitely time to eat them. They were starting to grow eyes. We mixed in a can of beans from our kit, but it just wasn’t that interesting.
We brought our kit we take to Grandfather Mountain, but slightly modified. We didn’t know what was going to be provided here, so we had to pack a lot. It is really a mind bending experience trying to figure out what two people will need to survive for a couple of days. We can’t take the whole kitchen. What is enough, and what is too much? What is essential, and what can be used for several things?
Our kit has a can opener, a bottle opener, a pair of scissors, clips, reseal-able bags of various sizes, reusable plastic bowls and cutlery, ceramic mugs (good for hot foods as well as drinks). There is also jar of honey, a jar of cooking oil (does not need refrigeration and substitutes for butter in many cases). A can of beans, a can of corn. Triscuits. Tea bags. Instant coffee. A sauté pan, and a pan for boiling or steaming. A wooden spoon, a spatula, a teapot. A pencil sharpener and pencils.
It sounds like a lot. But it all is needed and all will be used. Miss one thing and life could get complicated. No matter what, we are guaranteed to be short something.
We discovered that the lighter I brought had just enough in it to light once. So much for the fireplace. Tomorrow we will have to buy another lighter. My husband has bought survival firestarters but of course they are all at home. We don’t need to have a fire to cook – the cabin has a nicer stove than we have at home. But having a fireplace was part of the selling point of this cabin.
But then again, having a restaurant was part of the selling point of this site. Too bad the restaurant is closed for the season. So now we have to feed ourselves the whole time. We could go out, but then again, we could do that at home. The point is to stay in as much as possible, and to make ourselves make do with what we have.
We went to the grocery store. It was a Food Land, just up the road. Turns out we paid dearly for the convenience. We’ll remember this for the future. Shop at home for the stuff that can travel, and shop local for the perishables. We didn’t have a menu either. We got what looked good.
The result of the experiment the first night was toasted whole-wheat hoagie rolls with melted Colby-Jack cheese, with avocado spread and crumbly salmon. It was fabulous. We never would have come up with this at home, where we had lots of choices.
Now, it turns out that food and art have a lot to do with each other. Limits are good.
I can only bring a very limited amount of beads when I travel. Because of the canvas bag I have, the most I could bring is six of the 18 bins I have. But even six is too much for a trip, so I take one and some essentials. This forces me to edit and limit, and see things in new ways. It forces me to not be so picky and to just create. It is kind of like the challenges on “Project Runway”. You have to make something amazing but you have only three of the six things you need. ”Make it work”, and sometimes they do.
Sometimes having too much choice means you don’t create or innovate. Sometimes it is best to strip away everything and start again from scratch, just so you learn what is really important.