July 22, 2010

I'm so lucky

I got probably the best txt you could ever get yesterday morning when I woke up. My best friend sent me this txt. "You inspired me. I just came out to my home friends as trans." Wow. We haven't had the opportunity to talk about it yet and I really hope that it went well!!! Coming out is a terrifying thing. My best friend is the person who inspired me to write my post about coming out. And continues to inspire me every day.

You are so strong. In the moments when I wanted to blame my sexuality on biology, you made me see that I need to embrace who I am without excuses. You challenge me to think outside of any boxes I encounter. My dear no matter what happens you continue to make me into a better, more truthful, and stronger person. You are my inspiration through and through. And I thank you all the way to the stars.

July 18, 2010

We need to define a few things.

First you should watch this CNN clip. It's about the move to build a mosque near ground Zero. http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2010/07/14/am.intv.mosque.ground.zero.cnn.html

Okay I'm REALLY going to try to not sound like a teacher or too condescending. (But I'm afraid both happened) One of the biggest issues I have with Americans is their claim to understand religions, cultures, and languages that they know nothing about. So today we are getting an Arabic lesson; I'm hoping this might help shed some understanding on a few controversial terms.

Every word in Arabic has a three letter root. For example
aDRoS- I study
maDRaSa- School
muDaRaSa- Teacher

All have the root patters DRS. This root pattern conveys the meaning of learning, and any words connected to the process of learning has this root, DRS.

iSLaM- the religion
muSLiM- a follower of Islam
SaLaM- Peace

The root pattern of these words is SLM. SLM means peace. Therefore, Islam means, peacefully submitting oneself to God and Muslim means one who peacefully submits oneself to God.

And the roots are very important. It is actually really offensive to call a Muslim a Muzlim. Because the root ZLM means forcefully submitting oneself to God. One letter can change the complete meaning of a word.

Islam is built on a foundation of Peace. And anyone who wants to contradict me on this I want you to look at how many people world wide have been killed in the name of Christianity since its beginning. And I bet you thought while you read that, "Well sure that has happened. But that isn't REALLY Christianity. The people who did that were not REAL Christians!" And Muslims of the world would say the same things about the "Muslims" who kill innocent people in the name of Islam.

You have to self identify as a member of a religion. You, at some point, choose which religion you are going to stick with. You could choose to have no religion, continue on the path of the religion you were born into or convert to a new one. But because you happen to be a part of a religion does not mean that you have to agree completely with the acts that are done in the name of that religion.

Furthermore, the West's concept of Shari'a, "Islamic law", is far too simplified and contorted. The Shari'a in Saudi is not the same Shari'a in Egypt. There are in fact four schools of Shari'a law (madhab) that are commonly used today; the Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi, and Maliki schools. Each of these schools of law have their own interpretations of al-Qur'an. And there opinions often differ on the same issues. In most countries you can go to different legal scholars (qadi) and they will tell you what the different schools think about your legal problem and you can actually pick which school you would like to use. It is in countries like Saudi where the Hanbali school of law, which happens to be the most conservative, ends up giving the Shari'a a bad name. 

The Shari'a is composed of 4 elements; The Qur'an (I'm going to do a post all about the Qur'an at some point because I want to clear up some things there too), The Sunna (the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad), analogy and consensus. I'm sure that you understand what the Qur'an is, the word of God reveled to the Prophet, and the holy book of Islam. The Sunna is made up of hadith which are recordings of things that the Prophet said and did. It is believed that these sayings and actions can help every day people live their lives they way they should. Analogy means, if you were to approach a Shari'a council and ask a question about a modern issue, like is using Facebook okay with Islam. They would go to the Qur'an and Sunna and attempt to draw an analogy from past teachings to teachings today. Consensus, means gathering all of the learned scholars on the topic of a question and use all of your available methods to draw a conclusion that is founded in the Qur'an, the Sunna, and analogy. 

The Shari'a is complicated! And it is hard to study because it varies so much depending on where you are in the world. Much like how democracy varies from country to country. Compare the constitution of the United States to that of the constitution of Germany sometime. HUGE difference. 

Now we get to that scary word, the one that strikes fear into the hearts of many, jihad. What does this mean? We only hear about jihad in the sense that this woman is speaking about; a violent attack against Western Christians, or to put it more broadly, Islamic violence against everyone. Jihad has two components. There is an internal jihad. This can be related to the Christian notion of keeping yourself from sinning and working every day to be a more Godly person. And an outer jihad, and in this lies the problem. Some groups interpret outer jihad with fighting, and killing. But I believe that this violates the basic tenants of Islam. An outer jihad I would liken to the Christian notion of spreading the Word, and showing your love of God in all circumstances. It is an outer act as opposed to an inner contemplation. 

What happened on 9/11 was horrible and it is a day that I will never forget. It was also on that day that I myself found myself thinking, "Oh my God please don't ever let one of those terrorists get near me. I will never go to the Middle East. The Arabs, and the Muslims are mean evil people." But that was my ignorance; which was perpetuated by the people I lived around and with. 

Ground Zero is a place of peaceful remembrance. It is a place of contemplation, grief, and at the same time empowerment. There is no reason why Muslims should be prevented from morning, grieving, and remembering with the rest of us. I can promise you this. The Muslims of the world will be living with the remembrance of 9/11 longer and more deeply then anyone else will. Just like the Germans will forever be working to overcome the horrors of World War II. The Muslims are beyond "sensitive to our pain". They weep for us every day. They pray for acceptance in a country that prides itself on "Freedom". The whole world was hurt that day. New stereotypes were made that day. But there is still time to break the stereotypes. There is still time to BUILD and GROW. We need to break the glass ceilings of our minds. We need to embrace difference and work WITH, not against, each other's cultures, religions, and beliefs. And only then can we plant the seeds of Change. 

July 14, 2010


Who am I?

My name is Sarah Hathaway Shipley. I am 21 years old. I am 5 feet 2(ish) inches tall. Blue eyed. Blonde hair. I have one brother and one sister. I have lived in 3 houses all in one city. My mother, father, brother, sister and myself were all born in the same hospital. I am a history major. I want to teach. I want to work with people who are pushed aside. I am dyslexic. I think I write horribly. I believe in God. I am a Christian. I am a hopeless romantic. I love spoiling the people I love. I like how when I play music I am able to make people feel the same thing I am feeling at the same moment I am feeling it. I find peace in sunsets and inspiration in sunrises. I have traveled to Europe, Asia, and Africa. But there is something that I tend to hide. Something I don't talk about much But we are going to talk about it now.

Growing up I always thought it was wrong. In middle school I would lay in bed at night and tell myself, "No you can't feel this way. It will pass. Don't worry. You can't be a freak." I would cry. I would scream into pillows. I wanted to be "normal".

What is "normal"?

When it comes down to it we are all here for a short period of time. The world has been here for millions of years. And one human is here for 80. In that short span of the Earth's life cycle is our moment to leave our mark. I want to help people. I want to travel. I want to Change The World; as cliche and nieve as that sounds. We are a drop in the bucket of time. And for the sake of the people who come after us we NOW need to be strong. We need to do what we are afraid of. We need to build a community. We need trust, strength, and determination. But the only way to build a community is to admit who you are completely and totally.

To some I might not be "normal". I might be the devil. I might be a godless, terrifying person.

But I know what it feels like to be terrified. I know what it feels like to not feel safe when you walk to your car at night in a parking lot. I know what it feels like to have people you have never met come onto you in public places. I know what it feels like to believe that you don't have any control over your life. I know what it feels like to think God has lost you. I know what it feels like to be scared. I know what it feels like to not be able to sleep because of the nightmares and paranoia. I know. We all know.

But I also know strength. I know courage. I know power. I know that now I have control. I know that I am loved. And I know that anything I am put up against I can take.

And I know what it feels like to know that God has found me; or I have found God. God to me is more like my Grandmother than anyone else. Granny and I talk often. My Granny God has helped me through anything. And I know that no matter what She will always love me. Growing up every night before bed the five of us; Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, and I, would hold hands and say nighttime prayers. At the end we would always say, in unison, "And God bless every body else in the Whole Wide World Amen!" Then we would go to bed.

And I think we are all blessed.... Because we are all here. We have a short span of time here. Lets make the most of it. And in that time we have to be true to ourselves and the people around us. And that is why to my list of things I am I am going to add; I am queer. I have fallen in love. I have felt heart break. I am still in love.

I read somewhere once, "We should never regret loving. We should regret holding back." So today I stop holding back. I'm coming out of my virtual closet. I have dated 3 women. I have known I liked women since I was 12 years old. I am happy with loving women.

I once held my lover's hand so tight knowing that that would probably be the end. I remember the look in my lover's eyes as I left. I still have the final txts we exchanged. But no matter how hard it got. We had friendship. And if anything being in relationships that society deems taboo has taught me that friendship is always more important that sex. You can conquer any obstacle that you face if you have people to back you up. Sex brings two people together. It doesn't build a coalition. Being queer means more than who I have sex with. It's a community. And a community supports each other. No matter what.

If you are reading this you are loved. You have a community. You have a place.

In the words of Kate Bornstein, live how you want. love who you want. just don't be mean to people. that is the only rule.


July 11, 2010

My inspiration

Every time I come home I am reminded of the amazing women who came before me. I know I have talked about my maternal grandmother before, Granny, and she seems to be poping up a lot lately. Every time my extended family gets together she always comes up. Not only was she the Matriarch of our family but I strongly believe that she has influenced each and every one of us more than we would like to let on. I have been thinking about her a lot lately as I sit and watch TV and knit. I know she would have preferred me to crochet...but sorry Gran knitting just took better than crocheting! When my cousins, Mother, Father and brother and I went out for drinks the other week Granny came up once again but this time we also talked about my Grandfather. My grandfather rarely comes up in casual conversation unless it is related to his drinking problem which eventually killed him in June of 1972. And although we were once again talking about his drinking problems I learned more about him and my Grandmother than I had known before. Granny apparently always said that he was a different man after he came back from the war; he was in the Pacific during World War II. But nonetheless, they had 4 more children. I also learned that in the end he was pretty much forced into early retirement because his drinking was starting to interfere with his work. He was in the medical profession soooooo being drunk on the job really didn't go over well. The day before he died my grandmother found this poem on the bed. (Granny wrote on the side "Found on bed morning of June 7, 1972")

To my dearest:
      Remember me when I am gone away, gone far
                away into the silent land;
      When you can no more hold me by the hand,
                nor I, half turn to go, yet turning stay.
      Remember me when no more, day by day, you
                 tell me of our future that you planned:
      Only remember me; you understand it will be
                  too late for counsel then or prayer
      Yet if you should forget me for a while and
                  afterwards remember, do not grieve:
       For if the darkness and corruption leave a vestige
                  of the thoughts that once I had,
       Better by far you should forget and smile than
                  that you should remember and be sad.
                                         All my love, always, Forbes

For a while we thought that my grandfather had written this poem. But it turns out it was written by a woman, Christina Rossetti at the end of the 19th century. But what I love about this is that we have the original poem he left and you can see the handwriting change. He knew he was dying. And the last line "All my love, always, Forbes" is so sloppy compared to the rest of the poem. You can almost feel how hard it was to write that. He was saying goodbye forever. And thats something I couldn't even imagine doing.

But throughout everything Gran always said that she couldn't wait to see Forbes, my grandfather, again. If anything that just tells you how much she was able to forgive, and move on. Granny lived through a lot. She lived through the depression, and as a result would save EVERYTHING! FYI tin foil should not only be used once everyone. It can be used over and over and over again...even when it starts to turn colors. She had an alcoholic husband, and raised 5 children and supported many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, neighbors and friends.  She found her father dead after he killed himself- Something we never talk about and I have always wondered why. I have also wondered how this effected my grandmother. She was alive for women getting the vote, she went to college when it wasn't fashionable for women to do so, and she held a job for most of her life. Overall I would say she was a pretty amazing person. She saw everything but always had a smile on her face, and a tray full of candy for you when you came to visit.

My paternal grandmother, Grammy, we didn't get to know as well as Granny. She died of dementia when I was only 4 years old I believe. The only real memory I have of her is her holding me but not knowing to let go and I was terrified. Mom like to tell the story that after Grammy's funeral I came up to her and said that we needed to go buy a balloon for Grammy. When Mom asked why I said, "So she can play with it in heaven." What I wanted to do was get a balloon and let go of it for her. I mean we all know the balloons have GPS and can get to their intended recipients! Grammy was an amazing woman herself. Her husband died when my father was 11 and my aunt was 9. This was in 1959 and it wasn't normal to have a working single mother. But she did it anyway. She worked at a shoe store and my Dad was thrown in to the position as the "man of the house". This is probably why he is so stubborn today. I wish I could have gotten to know Grammy more because we are apparently very similar. She used to make my aunt a new dress every week. And I am currently working on a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding next week. She was also a pack rat and so am I! I keep anything with the littlest sentimentality attached. But for the most part she remains a mystery to me. I know my father and aunt have always called her "Mother" never "Mom". Just little things like that. I hope I can find out more! Time to start asking questions.

My last great woman family member that I know about was my great-grandmother, my mother's father's mother. She was also a single parent but at the beginning of the 20th century. Her husband left, I'm not sure if they divorced or just separated. But I know that it was never discussed and my Grandmother didn't know that her husband's father wasn't dead until someone came and told them that he had just died. I believe that's how the story goes at least....correct me on any of this if you are reading and I got it wrong by the way. She raised her boys without a husband and it just amazes me that she was able to do that at the beginning of the 20th century! Did she work? How did she get money? Did they live with family somewhere? Did the boys work to bring home money for the family? This has always been something I have wondered about.

And lastly but surely not least my Mother has been the best support system I ever could have asked for. We have thrown her so many curve balls over the years but she always sticks by us kids. Mom was at every band competition, every band fund raiser, sports fundraiser, concert, game etc. She also at one point was holding 4 jobs, K-Mart, the Bank, Keys Stadium, and Treasurer for the Band Boosters (trust me she wasn't getting payed for it but it took up a TON of time and commitment). My whole life Mom has taught me how to be supportive, how to twirl my hair, how to be a multi-tasker, how to give good massages, how to make perfectly alined  poster boards, how to spell, how to respect everyone, how to drive, how to be a good person, and how to be an amazing mother. Thank you for putting up with my nonsense. And I can't wait to become better friends with you as I get older.

One day I hope that I can make my list of top women in my family. I hope that I will break boundaries, break glass ceilings, break expectations, and set new limits. I'm almost ready to get started. And I know that I have huge shoes to fill considering the women who have come before me. But I am excited.

July 9, 2010

The Problems with Ignorance

I am loving my summer down at St. Mary's. I am learning so much and gaining tons of experience with artifact conservation, and identification; as well as archaeological practices. I work with an amazing group of people and surprisingly enough the numbers of men and women are almost equal, 8 men 7 women. In a field that historically has been dominated by men it's good to see that women are starting to show up out in the field.

The real reason why I'm writing this though is because I'm irritated and want to talk about an issue that is often pushed aside in the US. Since 2000 we have been engaged in 2 wars. And as a result the only thing that we typically hear about Israel and Palestine are when missiles are fired. When the flotilla incident happened I was happy to see that the world started taking notice of the injustices that are constantly inflicted on the Palestinian people.

As human beings we all are entitled to clean water, food, shelter, medical care, the right to live, and the right to feel safe. I think that we can all agree on this. However, these are the things that are being denied to Palestinians. In Gaza after the Gaza war in 2008 many of the water treatment facilities were destroyed. Israel does not let in cement, for fear that cement will be used to make bombs. And therefore, the treatment plants cannot be rebuilt. Furthermore, Israel has control over the pipelines which move water into Gaza and they have the ability to greatly limit the amount of water enters Gaza. I was trying to find this fact sheet I saw once but I couldn't find it....it gave the break down of what the UN says every human being is entitled to (ie 30 liters of clean water a day) and then next to that it gave the amount of that good which each individual in Gaza receives every day. It was shocking the contrast between the two numbers.

Now Israel is saying that they are letting goods into Gaza. However, in a conversation I had with a friend of mine the other day who lives in Gaza I asked what goods they were actually receiving. (I've learned to not trust news services and if I really want to know what's going on I need to go directly to someone on the ground.) She told me that the goods they are receiving are things that you don't need to live day to day.  For example, ketchup, sewing needles, and makeup. She also said that electricity is getting more spotty every day and if anything since the Flotilla incident things have gotten worse not better as Israel is claiming.

I just hope that one day people will be able to put aside all of the atrocities that each side have inflicted on the other. I do not think that blowing yourself up or planting bombs is the best way for peace. I also do not think that building walls, which have been deemed illegal by the UN, or denying people basic needs is a way for peace.

What will solve this problem is each side recognizing that in the end we are all humans and this humanity is what binds us together. We in the US also need to realize that every news source will not tell the Palestine's side of the story because each year the US gives millions of dollars to Israel so the TV stations would be reprimanded for speaking out against Israel (Israel receives the most assistance over any other country from the US....which doesn't make much sense because they are very well off...what about those third world countries where people don't have running water?) This means that we have the hard job. Seek out atypical news sources. Talk to people who have been to the Middle East. GO to Israel AND Palestine. Ignorance is Fear. If we abolish Ignorance then Fear will also disappear.