Bless your heart.

As many people do, I had a series of (at some points, calamitous) roommates throughout my twenties. When I was in my mid-twenties, I roomed with this lovely Catholic female graduate student who was to be married to a really fun – also Catholic – man, who I think might have also been a graduate student. I can’t clearly remember the details at this advanced age, but they were really genuine people and I enjoyed their company a great deal.

Fast forward a few months, I’d been invited to their traditional Catholic wedding and the obvious choice for a date to accompany me was my then boyfriend, a non-practicing Muslim of obvious Brown People country origin.

The wedding began and progressed normally, and it was very pretty. Then came communion!

If you’ve ever attended a Catholic church service, you’re likely familiar with a ritual that occurs, during which the congregation lines up in the aisles of the sanctuary and makes their way toward the front of the room to imbibe the representation of Jesus’ blood, and consume a small wafer reminiscent of His body.  I spent many years going to Catholic church during holidays (plus summers) while at my grandmother’s house, and am pretty accustomed to this routine. There is one caveat I was not familiar with, however.

Apparently, non-Catholics aren’t allowed to participate in this ritual?

Well, I’m not a practicing Catholic and I didn’t know all of the rules, so I encouraged my unindoctrinated boyfriend to go up for communion because he was fascinated by the proceedings of an unfamiliar religious ceremony and wanted to participate. And it was a wedding, so he wanted to be respectful of the couple.

My partner waited in the line slowly approaching the priest, and when it was his turn, the religious leader refused him communion, opting instead to “bless” him, which essentially amounts to a light, respectful touch on the forehead. However, it was not received respectfully because it took my boyfriend by surprise, and he was mortified at being turned away in front of an entire congregation’s worth of wedding guests, some of whom, I would assume were also not Catholic.

Now, I was twenty-four, and full of the fierceness of youth. I was also totally unaware that I am autistic – so I didn’t recognize that my complete inability to ignore interpersonal wrongdoing was fueling my then inability to overlook the glaring slight I had just witnessed. What came next was something entirely disrespectful to the faith of Catholicism, but it reclaimed the dignity of my boyfriend, so I have no deep regrets. Because, like many autistics, I can’t abide injustice.

I don’t adhere well to any infrastructure that places any one person at a higher level of worth or respect than anyone else – and a ritual that requires robbing someone of their dignity to uphold an arbitrary standard is not one that I can easily overlook, particularly when it has been used as a weapon against someone I love.

I remember the reception more favorably. I was in the company of a person I knew well, so my social anxiety was kept moderately in check. My roommate had purchased a lot of one particular wine of mixed varietal for the reception from the couple’s favorite vineyard, and I can still recall the sweet, pleasing taste. The weather was warm but not too hot or humid, which is unusual during an often sweltering, Southern summer. It was a beautiful evening to remember.

We all got pretty tipsy, and the dancing began.

A dance circle formed. You know, one of those formations where people take turns dancing in the middle and then retreat to the perimeter? Well, the officiating priest was young and hip, and he was all about that dance circle.

I was still silently raging, though.

I joined the dance circle. As the priest made his way to the middle to show off his moves, I danced casually into the center with him as everyone watched from the sides, visably uncomfortable. My desire to right a perceived wrong was stronger than my desire to people-please at that moment, so I kept moving. I promptly blessed the priest on the forehead, then danced my way back out. Obviously embarrassed, he immediately exited the dance floor and returned to his seat.

I said to my boyfriend, “Nobody puts my baby in a corner.” And then we left, because I had just committed the biggest party foul of all recorded time.

“The key to making money is speed, not safety.”

I wrote this for an Environmental Studies class when I was just a wee version of myself:

As far as liking Chris Carroll’s High-Tech Trash, well, I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoy reading about individuals in poverty-stricken areas of developing countries burning our trash to salvage practically worthless scrap metal for a return equivalent to the average American’s pocket change. I am grateful to the author for a vivid reminder that outputs of thoughtless consumerism are no less detrimental to the biosphere than intentional disregard for its consequences, and that claiming ignorance does not excuse one from the health and environmental repercussions of unmitigated waste production and disposal.

“The key to making money is speed, not safety.” I think this statement sums up almost entirely what keeps us in bondage to blind repetition of past transgressions against the earth, and ourselves. When profit and success of a free-market economy solely underlie legislation enacted to determine the outcome of peoples and the environment, separate from which we cannot thrive, corporate bottom line is hastily crowned monarch and what remains eventually becomes royal subjects of its majesty, the mighty Dollar. Developed countries requiring that manufacturers adhere to standards for allowable levels of harmful substances used in production of electronics is a progressive step in the right direction but fails to address mass exportation of consumer waste to developing countries. As important as individual responsibility at the consumer level is to cultivating cautious consumption, more so should the burden fall on those manufacturers with the financial means to influence large-scale change. “But under current policies, pound for pound it is still more profitable to ship waste abroad than to process it safely at home.” Yes, of course it is. I don’t necessarily agree with entrusting disposal of wastes entirely to the manufacturing sources, as private industry is notorious for engineering methods that maximize profit to the detriment of all else, but government regulation is equally useless without voter accountability.

I find it especially humorous when American politicians swear by an invisible regulating hand of the free-market—which to my knowledge has not been possible to test until recently*, as all major sectors have now been drastically deregulated. The result has almost immediately shown to reward corporate giants at the expense of the working class, literally. The funniest part, which really isn’t that funny at all, is that in doing so we’ve nullified generations worth of labor standards fought for by our predecessors, some of whom sacrificed their own lives to provide for us the necessary protections we’ve foolishly traded away on the half-hearted promises of self-interested billionaires. Impressively, Americans exhibit even less conviction over rescinded labor rights than when disposing of our out-dated electronics. The United States has until recently been mostly shielded from experiencing the widespread sub-par living conditions characteristic of developing countries by enough regulatory padding to afford its diminishing middle class with the first-world luxury of apathy.

If the income distribution in the U.S. continues to polarize, we may find ourselves separated from the harsher realities of this world by significantly fewer short-sighted decisions than we are currently aware. The world’s toxic trash will be in our own backyards soon, and there it will have found its rightful place.

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*This is more intended as an implication for our lifetime. We can look to the American Industrial Revolution to examine the realities of an unregulated market. Though, I think it goes without saying that current politicians very rarely reference history in proper context because in doing so it becomes impossible to ignore the blatantly contrary results to their unrealistic ambitions.

All the Lonely People

On the infrequent nights when my school workload is less demanding, I stay up late listening to podcasts while I put my hands to work on projects that feel more significant to me than business school. Currently, I’m striving to repurpose some of the wooden learning toys my daughter has outgrown. Here is an old peg puzzle base combined with threading beads that I’ve put together to make a stacking toy. I’ll paint the tops and bottoms to coordinate with the corresponding heads, and then she can mix and match the pieces as she likes:

Beads

Beads 2

Poopin’ Pikachu

In my own life, I have found no image that more accurately depicts the way motherhood feels than this photo of my daughter’s Pikachu stuffy on a toy potty next to her training potty. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of the often grueling monotony of motherhood to the moments of sheer joy and hilarity that serve to illuminate a path of clarity on the more tenebrous days.

Raging on.

This is the first piece of original art I ever purchased. Embarrassingly, I no longer remember the actual name of the work but it’s been affectionately referred to as Angry Toast since 2008.

Angry Toast

My three year old recently questioned me about the meaning. I stumbled a bit trying to determine how best to explain the concept of raging against The Machine to a person who is not really all that familiar with systematic oppression:

It’s a piece of bread that doesn’t want to be turned into toast. Or, it’s a piece of toast that is angry because it has been forced into the toaster.

But I think she gets it.

I don’t want to be toast either!