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The Fearless Blogger is Regenerating

Regenerating

I recently discovered that what had been here before was here no more.

I’m not sure who/what/where/why – but all files related to fearlessblogger.com (as well as my c-panel user account) are now missing. (If you see them, please tell them to come home soon – tell them I’m not angry, it’s just that I’ve been so worried about them and I’m relieved they are ok.)

Fingers crossed, I should be able to restore my previous posts (eventually).

I’d be lying if I said trying to get everything sorted out hasn’t been frustrating (and since I don’t lie: it’s been fucking frustrating!). Still, my blog’s been neglected for quite some time (honestly, I only discovered it went missing last week, for all I know it’s been down for a couple of months by now) and the back-end stuff was a bit messy (I didn’t really get the whole CSS styles thing when I first started out, and my theme& plugins needed some updating).

Sometimes we need to break things apart in order to rebuild them.

The Fearless Blogger is regenerating.  

unconditional love

Former Westboro Baptist Church Member’s Advice to Reddit: “Create a dialogue of love.”

quick personal note: I’m publishing this post in a somewhat “incomplete state” -without adding my personal thoughts and before updating formatting & adding proper links and attributions, among other details -because I’m working on not letting my OCD get in the way of my blogging. Like me, this post is a work in progress! :-)

In advance of the Westboro Baptist Church’s upcoming AMA on reddit, former member Zach Phelps-Roper (grandson of the late Fred Phelps Sr.) has posted his own AMA on the site, offering his advice to the online community on the most effective way to respond. At its core, his advice is to “create a dialogue of love.”

The Westboro Baptist Church’s AMA is scheduled for August 10, 2014, at 3pm EST.  (For those that are not familiar, AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything” and is reddit’s version of an interview. You can read more about them here.)

From Zach’s AMA description (emphasis added):

Now, a lot of people are having a discussion about how to handle my family’s upcoming Ask Me Anything. A common suggestion is to completely ignore them, so not a single individual poses one question in their direction. This, however, will not happen. You may personally refuse to participate in the AMA, you may encourage others to do the same, but some people will respond, that’s inevitable. It’s just how the world rolls.

Sadly, most people want to say very hateful things to them. Recognize something: And this is the truth, and I know because I was there. While their message is very hurtful, there is no doubt about it, that doesn’t mean it is malicious. Misguided? Absolutely. When I was in the church, I was thought that what I was doing was not only the right thing to do, but the ONLY appropriate and good thing to be done. They’ve seen uncountable middle fingers, it only makes them feel validated in their beliefs as Jesus Christ was quoted as saying, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

Instead, create a dialogue of love. If you truly want the church to dissolve, that is what you need to do. You need to sincerely show them love. “Ignore them and they’ll go away” is a slogan I frequently have read on this site. Wrong. The WBC has been picketing in Topeka, Kansas every single day for over two decades. As you can imagine, their shit got old a long time ago, and besides the occasional shouting and honking, they’re pretty much ignored, yet they still do it every single day. They are absolutely convinced that they are doing God’s work and that publishing their message is the only thing that will give them a hope of not being burned at the most egregious temperatures for eternity. When I first left the church back in February, I believed that I was going to go to hell when I died. They’re all so afraid of hell and they’re more than willing to be despised to avoid it. Also, as anyone who has done research on my family knows: They’re bright people. They own a law firm and many work as nurses, computer programers, and have all sorts of high level of career, responsibility, and family. Consider the fact that a large percentage of people still there are young children. What do you think the kids are to infer from seeing their parents, and then seeing crowds of people screaming vitriol and wanting to bring physical harm to them?

Now, maybe what I’m suggesting isn’t practical right now, either. However, I want to share it, and I will do my best to advocate it to the point of reality. Love them. You may say that you “cannot” do it. Let’s be honest here. Yes, you can. You just really do not want to do it. Let go of the anger; it’s not good for your soul.

I love and care for you all.

-Zach Phelps-Roper, grandson of the late Fred Phelps Sr.

I think the world would be a better place for us all if we chose to follow this advice of unconditional love, tolerance and acceptance for all of our interactions.

Zach answers a number of redditor questions regarding the WBC, including why it targets military funerals and how it obtains its funding. It’s worth checking out the full AMA yourself, but here are some of the questions/responses I found especially interesting:

Do they genuinely believe that what they are doing makes a difference or does some form of good? What is the motivation behind it? Do they like being so reviled? Do they attract new members with these displays? (RevCo32)

They actually see themselves as comparable to Noah’s family in the story of the ark; they believe that the entire world is soon going to be destroyed and they must preach to every creature and condemn them for their sin for if they do not do it, their blood is on their hands. That’s the entire goal: To preach.

Making the doctrine pleasing and converting people was never the goal. However, a few people have joined the church as a result of the picketing.

Why are they so preoccupied with homosexuality in particular? There are plenty of other sins to go after. (insertbadjoke)

Because culture agrees that theft and rape are wrong, but doesn’t do the same for homosexuality. Therefore, they feel compelled to further assert that it’s sinful according to the Bible.

What caused them to start picketing military funerals?

They view America, a nation with abortion, divorce and remarriage, idolatry, and same-sex marriage to be a nation that defies the commandments of God. Based off of a verse in Deuteronomy, they believe that the Lord is responsible for every single death that occurs.

When someone joins the military, he or she is supporting a country that has made God its number one enemy and therefore, God curses the army with dead soldiers. Now, when a soldier has died, the typical message is that the deceased individual is a blessing by God. They feel a commission to go in proximity to these funerals and call the person’s death a curse from God and to warn the family that if they do not repent, they will join hell like the military man or woman.

That’s their rationale behind military funeral pickets.

Why do members of the WBC choose to live in nations “cursed by God”? It seems to me that participating in these nations’ economy and by paying taxes, the members of WBC are supporting the nation just as much as anyone else (military personnel included).

Well, according to them, literally every single country is hated by God. See: www.godhatestheworld.com

They live in America because they need to preach to the nation and it’s the only country where they’d be allowed to it.

When it comes to paying taxes, there is a quote by Jesus Christ that says “Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s and render unto mine that which is mine.” They’re lawfully required to pay taxes and therefore, they pay their taxes without feeling like they’re rebelling against God.

I have heard that the Church will take a “donation” to NOT show up at a funeral or other protest. Sounds lucrative and evil. Any truth to this??

No, the church does not take financial donations and if anyone sends any donations, they are mailed back.

Some radio hosts have offered airtime in exchange for the church to not protest in a particular area, though. On more than one occasion, the church has accepted.

Are all WBC kids home schooled? Does anyone ever go to college?

No, we all went to public school. I cannot think of a single adult member that is not college educated.

How does WBC raise money to travel and picket?  (Follow up) I would imagine they aren’t the favorite people around their offices)

They work and have good jobs.

My family actually owns a lawn firm and while they’re obviously despised, people also recognize that they’re very good at what they do. One Westboro Baptist Church member has argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and won the case.

That’s how they still manage to get clients.

Zach also answered some more personal questions:

Do you still believe there is a God or higher power that exists?

Yes, I definitely believe in a higher power. I attend a Unitarian Universalist church.

Zach, what is your favorite color?

Seriously?

You know it’s impossible to choose between burnt sienna and terracotta.

When was your “ah-ha” moment, I need to separate myself from this group?

Are you still in contact with your family who is still with the church?

There where tons of subtle things that made me question, but what made me stay was fear of hell.

Sadly, anyone who leaves that church loses their family, too. I gave up a lot to leave, but since having left, I’ve gained so much. :)

zero and his soulmate together at night

Zero: How Can Something Be Nothing?

Zero from Zealous Creative on Vimeo.

Born into a world of numbers, an oppressed zero discovers that through determination, courage, and love, nothing can be truly something.

This short film is just too sweet. All I can say is: watch it.

Zero is a 12’32 stop motion animation by Australian husband and wife filmmaking duo, Christopher and Christine Kezelos. This dark fairytale takes place in a world where the inhabitants are born into a numerical class system. Faced with constant prejudice and persecution an oppressed zero walks a lonely path until a chance encounter changes his life forever: he meets a female zero. Together they prove that through determination, courage, and love, nothing can be truly something.

Zero employs innocently cute characterisation that directly contrasts the dark themes of racism and intolerance that underlies the story. It shows how love and the ability to see beauty in the darkest of places allows us to transcend our loneliness and despair and find an authentic connection to our world.
- See more at: http://www.zeroshortfilm.com/about/

For more animations by Zealous Creative, visit their YouTube channel.

hat tip: cute things

Arbitrary Day 2014!

redditgifts new exchangesI’ve just signed up to participate in redditgift’s 2014 Arbitrary Day Gift Exchange!

Last year, by the time I found out about redditgifts and the 2013 Christmas exchange, it was too late to sign up. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to a chance to participate in one.  Appropriately enough, I arbitrarily ended up on reddit a couple of nights ago and saw a banner for the Arbitrary Gift Exchange.

“What is this gift exchange?” you may ask.  Well, you can find more info here, but below are some highlights (the figures are from last year, but you get the idea):

redditgifts is a giant online gift exchange that started connecting internet stranger-friends around the world with one another in 2009. Last year we had 44,805 people participate in Secret Santa 2012.reddit arbitrary day 2014

Think about that for a second: 44,805 internet strangers from 130 different countries put their faith in one another and sent gifts around the world. Pretty awesome, right?

Participating is easy. It only takes a few minutes to sign up and create a profile. Once you do, you wait until matching day, when we run a big program that matches each person to someone else in a giant daisy chain. You’ll be given a person’s username, and you can stalk that person (in a friendly way) to find the perfect gift for them and mail it off. Someone else will be doing the same for you, and when you get it, you can post photos of your awesome gift online so we can all celebrate together.

There are a few different exchanges you can participate in, though reddit limits the number can sign up for at a time, to help prevent people from signing up for exchanges and not sending anything. When you sign up, you get to fill out a form with your likes & dislikes, favorite movies, tv shows, bucket list items, etc. that can be used by your “secret santa” to choose a gift for you.

reddit suggests a $20 minimum to spend on gifts, but ultimately it’s up to each “santa” to send their match something special. Since some people are flakes, and may not ever send a gift, some redditors sign up to be “rematches”, which means they will send a gift to someone whose santa didn’t come through (this is done for the fun of giving, since rematchers do not receive gifts in return).

Wayne Dyer talks about breaking down the word “universe” into “uni” (one) and “verse” (song). I love the idea of all of us in the universe singing and being part of One Song.

Oods Singing

Universe = One Song (A bit like this, only a different universe and fewer tentacles. If you’ve never heard the Ood sing, the image links to a song.)

My personal reason for participating in the exchange, is that I continue to be amazed at the never-ending ways the internet has been able to connect humans with other humans as we engage in this One Song. I love the idea that someone I’ve never met is (hopefully) excited to choose and send a gift to me, a complete stranger. And I’m excited for the opportunity to put love, energy and creativity towards making another total stranger happy.

There’s one more reason that I’m excited to do this.  For most of my life, between untreated ADHD, work, stress, and not knowing myself, this is the type of thing I’d either sign up for and flake and feel guilty for letting someone down or, once I gained some self-awareness, avoid because I knew myself well enough that it’s not something I would follow through on. I feel that I am finally at a place that I’m learning to be selective about what I commit to, and that I can trust myself to follow through on it once I do. This is an opportunity for me to feel good about myself for honoring a commitment and making someone happy.

If I needed another reason: redditgifts describes their mission as “to bring more happiness to the world”.  You can learn more about their mission and how they got their start in this video of redditgifts founder Dan McComas (kickme444) at a TEDx event. (if the video doesn’t load or play, you can find it here)

last day to sign up for redditgifts arbitrary day

Have you participated in something similar (or to one of redditgift‘s other exchanges)? What was your experience like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Made Bananas Foster (aka, Why I Only Cook for Myself)

beautiful bananas foster that someone else made

SPOILER ALERT! Mine didn’t look like this.
(image credit: marthastewart.com)

I’ve never been that into cooking.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. I eat too fast, so the ratio of preparation time to eating time feels a bit unsatisfactory.
  2. I’m not great at cleaning up after myself, so prefer to make meals that can be consumed from the same container they were prepared in.

Still, I’m trying to work on “mindfulness” and eating “cleaner” (as in simple, healthy food; not how my kitchen looks after preparation) and recently signed up for Abundant Harvest Organics, a weekly service that delivers farm fresh, locally grown, organic produce to my door.

Farm Box home delivery

She looks nice. I wonder how much it would take to bribe her to stay and help me cook the food too.
(image credit: http://sqpl.org)

In the more recent past, this is something I would generally shy away from, having learned my lesson from the before-recent past that I’m probably going to end up with a weekly week-old supply of moldy fruits and a produce drawer filled with liquified veggies. However, the AHO site includes suggestions for produce storage and preparation, as well as recipes based on the contents of each week’s box, which seems somewhat encouraging.

As I looked through the recipes for next week’s box, I visualized my Abundant Harvest Organic receiving self:

Gywneth Paltrow Cooking

EXACTLY like this. (Except less messy since there would be no toys or guitar)

I’m coming home from yoga, setting my bag down, taking off my shoes, giving my cat Marley some love, then slipping on an apron and preparing a healthy, nutritious meal that looks like an artist’s palette of fresh vegetables and quinoa.

After mindfully enjoying each morsel of my “good energy” meal prepared with gratitude and love, I’d take some time to upload the pictures I’d taken of it here, to my blog, to illustrate the recipes I’d share with you, dear readers. Your comments, with pictures of your own version of each dish, would inspire me to push past my culinary comfort levels, eager for others to benefit from my new found love of healthy eating.

Then Bananas Foster happened: It’s rum-fueled flames melting my matching retro cherry patterned wings and apron like a domestic Icarus, my culinary aspirations spiraling as they plunged to their death.

I’ve been really into bananas lately and had a few that were perfectly ripe.  Craving something warm, I decided to attempt a vegan version of Banana’s Foster.  (I’m not vegan, I just ran out of butter.)

After making a successful “practice batch” for which I winged the recipe (and did not flambe it), I decided to find an actual recipe that I was willing to risk four bananas for.

It got off to a rocky start – something seemed off, but I told myself that once I flambe it, it should turn out just fine. It took me several matches and a bunch of extra rum to get things flambe-ing (I have enough self-awareness to know there was no way I was going to be able to pull off the “tip the pan to the flame” move), but I finally got a bit of a flame going.

flaming bananas

The flame! The flame! <–what Tattoo would have said

For a brief moment, I entertained the thought of texting a couple of my neighbors to see if they would like some freshly made Bananas Foster. I don’t have many opportunities to feel domestic and neighborly, and for a few seconds I indulged the idea that it’s finally my time to cross the threshold from “single neighbor people bring home-cooked treats to” to “single neighbor who brings people yummy treats”.

“Where did you get the recipe?” they’d ask. “Oh, it’s so easy. Remind me to email it to you. The trick is to flambe it at just the right point,” I’d reply.

Then I noticed the flame was out. It still didn’t look quite right, but the bananas were starting to liquify, so I turned off the stove and spooned some into a bowl.

And I remembered a third reason why I rarely cook:  More often than not, my meal ends up looking like something a four year old “cooked” for you while playing in the back yard – a Frisbee for a plate, with a blend of grass and weeds, served over a puree of sand and mud, and garnished with some twigs and a pine cone.

Nailed it!

Bananas Disappointster

Bananas Disappointster. At least the bar for it tasting as good as it looks was set extremely low.

Epilogue

Enough hours have now passed to permit me to look back on my harrowing experience, framed in the perspective that only the passage of time allows.

At the time, I attributed the sooty color to using a cast iron pan, hypothesizing that perhaps it had something to do with the alcohol in the rum simmering in a poorly seasoned piece of cookware.

Gazing at the concoction, now cool to the touch, I still believe this theory to be true, and have but one regret:

WTF was I thinking when I decided to actually eat some of it?