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Just Thinking…

Friday, October 6, 2017, 20:24 EST Leave a comment

…about saying yet another good-bye to the love of my life last December. I did a few things immediately—deleted him from my cell phone, BlackBerry Messenger, and LinkedIn connections; changed the computer passwords that referenced him; put away the plaque he gave me for my 18th birthday (an Albert Camus quote, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”)—and resolved to move on once and for all. He was satisfied with the crumbs of our former relationship and I wanted the whole relationship. As the saying goes, when someone shows you who he is, believe him.

I haven’t written about it here, partly because I didn’t want to rip off the scab and partly because nothing worth writing had crystalized in my mind. But a song just shuffled up on my phone that hit the nail on the head back then. It was written by Stephen Stills, though it could have been written by me if only I had the songwriting talent of Stephen Stills. It’s comforting to know during challenging times that I’m not the only person who has ever been disappointed, and I certainly won’t be the last.

And so begins the task
I have dreaded the coming of for so long
I wait for the sun
To remind my body it needs resting

And I must learn to live without you now
I must learn to give only part somehow

Camping on the edge of your city, I wait
Hoping someday you might see beyond yourself
Shadows on the ceiling, hard but not real
Like the bars that cage you within yourself

And I must learn to live without you now
I must learn to give only part somehow

And I must learn to without you now
As I cannot learn to give only part somehow

All of these cages must and shall be set aside
They will only keep us from the knowing
Actors and stages now fall before the truth
As the love shared between remains growing

And I must learn to without you now
As I cannot learn to give only part somehow

And that’s the end of that. Stay tuned for the next great adventure.

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Categories: love

Do You Remember the Christmas Story?

Sunday, December 25, 2016, 00:05 EST Leave a comment

This is a repeat of a post I’ve put up in many past years, though not the last two. It warrants bringing back. Merry Christmas to all.

StarIn those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole Roman world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All the people were instructed to go back to the towns of their birth to register. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to “the city of David” — Bethlehem, in Judea, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David; he went to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her delivery. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son; she put him in a simple cloth wrapped like a receiving blanket, and laid him in a feeding trough for cattle, because there was no room for them at the inn.

There were shepherds in the area living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. The angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them; they were very much afraid.

The angel said to them, “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in David’s city, a savior—the Messiah—has been born to you. Let this be a sign to you; you’ll find an infant wrapped in a simple cloth, lying in a manger.

Suddenly, there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in high heaven!
And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see this event that God has made known to us.” They hurried and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw this, they reported what they had been told concerning the child. All who heard about it were astonished at the report given by the shepherds.

Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart. The shepherds went away glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.

— Luke 2: 1-20

(Excerpted from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation, Priests for Equality)

Categories: faith/religion

I’m So Tired, I Haven’t Slept a Wink*

Thursday, September 15, 2016, 12:36 EST Leave a comment

Ah, life. As the saying goes, it’s a bitch. After a week on vacation during which I managed to get my body clock back on track, it took three days and one phone call with my old boyfriend (a.k.a. the Love of My Life, or LOML) to screw it up again. Even my mildly sedating anti-depressant couldn’t knock me out before 4:00 a.m.

In my younger years, I didn’t even understand what insomnia was. You’re tired, you sleep. Who the hell couldn’t manage that? The only two times I can remember not being able to get to sleep were when I had my tonsils out at age 7 and stayed awake during my entire admission except during the actual surgery (my younger brother had died five months earlier and to me, hospitals were where children died, so I must have decided that I’d better stay awake just in case) and again in my mid-20s when the aforementioned old boyfriend called to tell me he was getting married (it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re sobbing uncontrollably for about 12 hour straight). Besides those incidents, I never had trouble sleeping until maybe my late 30s.

For a while, I took a nightly tablet of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. That worked reaonably well and I was able to stop taking it after a few months.

Then came menopause. I couldn’t fall asleep, couldn’t stay asleep, and never awoke feeling rested. It was my psychiatrist who, in the context of a review of my meds (better living through chemistry!), suggested adding trazodone, a mood elevator that can also help insomnia related to depression. I’ve been sleeping pretty well ever since.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t things that can and sometimes do make it harder for me to drift off into dreamland. I have a tendency to use my laptop or cell phone right before going to bed, a habit that is considered a significant contributor to sleep disturbance. Apparently the electronic glow of the screen stimulates something in the brain that keeps us awake. It wasn’t such a problem years ago when the only lighted screen we watched at night was network television, but such screens are ubiquituos now. And come to think about it, I did sleep much better when I read a chapter or two of a good book before turning out the lights.

Technology aside, another major impediment to sound sleep is mental activity. Most people experience occasional times when their minds run like a freight train and prevent them from relaxing. It could be because of stress at work, worry about a sick family member or friend, or even just having attended a high-activity event after which it takes a while to unwind. If such a mental marathon meets the physiological effects of looking at an electronic screen, watch out.

Which is apparently what happened to me Tuesday night. After talking to the LOML for over 45 minutes, I proceeded to turn it over and over and over in my mind,, analyzing and trying to make sense of every word. Then I journaled about it, which might have helped me untangle it and usher in a restful night if I hadn’t done it in an online journal. Yep, the lit screen again.

It had been so long since I took that long to fall asleep (did I mention it wasn’t until about 4:00 a.m.?) that I had forgotten how miserable it was. It was enough to make me get serious about laying off the electronics before bed. And if I must, I will follow it with a half hour of reading a book or magazine (paper, not virtual) or listening to relaxing music with the lights dimmed.

Those things I can control, unlike the situation with the old boyfriend.

(* Pat yourself on the back if you got the Beatles reference in the title.)

Categories: life, love

15

Sunday, September 11, 2016, 20:44 EST Leave a comment

Today is a day of numbers. Some are familiar:

  • 11, 175, 77, 93 — The flight numbers of the hijacked planes.
  • 3 — The number of airports from which the four hijacked planes originated.
  • 8:46 — The time of first impact.
  • 2,977 — The number of people killed in the attacks.
  • 19 — The number of hijackers.

Others, less so:

  • 61 — The number of nations, besides the United States, whose citizens were among the victims.
  • 4,300 — The number of civilian aircraft grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration following the attacks.
  • 120 — The number of U.S.-bound overseas flights that were diverted to Canada.
  • 1 — The number of people who made the decision to completely shut down U.S. airspace.
  • 5 — The number of military fighter jets scrambled (alas, too late) from Otis Air Force Base and Langley Air National Guard Base to intercept the hijacked planes targeting the Twin Towers.

There are many others. The one nobody will forget is 9/11/2001, 15 years ago today, when not just our country but also our world changed, permanently.

Categories: history, remember

Art Imitates Life (Plus Some Religion)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 15:12 EST Leave a comment

Being cheap—and, at the moment, broke—I don’t have television service. That’s no cable, no satellite. The only things I really miss watching are the local sports teams, but I can get those on the radio. Still, it’s nice to watch a movie or program occasionally, and for that reason I compromised and sprung for an $8/month subscription to Hulu.

The nice thing about Hulu is that it isn’t just a site where you can stream, at your convenience, programs other people watch on television. It has its own original programming as well, some of which is quite good. I’m currently watching a Hulu original series called Casual, about a woman in the process of getting a divorce who temporarily moves, with her teenaged daughter, into her brother’s house. The story follows the three of them as they navigate the various relationships (I use the term loosely) arising from each character’s pursuit of casual sex. What’s interesting is that for three people who are getting the no-strings-attached sex they actively seek, they are remarkably miserable

All of which has me thinking about Catholic teaching on sexuality, something about which I’m preparing to lead discussion as part of an adult faith formation program I coordinate at my church. Even people with absolutely no connection to the Catholic church know that its teachings prohibit pre-marital, extra-marital, or same-sex sex. (Yeah, I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to say that last one in a less redundant way but came up empty. Sorry.)

The teaching goes basically like this: the purpose of sexuality is that it be shared between two people who are joined in marriage, for the purposes of uniting them to one another and producing children. As someone who has had sex and given birth without being married, I often questioned why the marriage part was a requirement.

More recently, I have come to some understanding of that teaching, from two perspectives: practical and emotional. My pregnancy was the result of a relationship that wasn’t in any way serious or committed. I ended up raising my child alone, a difficult task materially speaking. On the other hand, when I had sex for love (with someone different), it was indeed unifying. But that relationship ended, and in three decades I still haven’t gotten over it. I wonder if it would have been easier to move on if we had never shared those sexual experiences that seemed to cement the emotional connection between us. For the record, I also had a wild phase when I sought sex for fun, but it wasn’t remotely fulfilling and didn’t make me feel very good about myself. I don’t do that any more.

Maybe that’s the wisdom of Catholic teaching. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, sex is profoundly different from other human interactions. For people who don’t take it seriously, like the characters in Casual, it can be unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst.

I Hope You’re Not Dead

Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 16:38 EST Leave a comment

Long-time regular readers of this blog might be aware that I have an ex-boyfriend whom I’ve never quite been able to put behind me. I learned several years back that he wasn’t able to put me behind him, either. Without going into details, he isn’t available. Nonetheless, we have maintained a very occasional communication, more or less limited to major holidays and each other’s birthdays, usually a text message, very rarely a phone call.

I told him a while back that such an arrangement wasn’t acceptable to me. I also told him that he had to be the one to end it because I did so 30 years ago and have regretted it ever since. I’ve tried to be patient while he comes to terms with what he has to do.

Yesterday was my 52nd birthday. For the first time since we reconnected in 2009, I didn’t hear from him. I can think of a few possible reasons:

  1. He is dead or otherwise incapacitated,
  2. Some other grave matter has kept him from communicating,
  3. He is somewhere without cell service, or
  4. He just decided not to call.

I pray it isn’t 1 or 2. I would understand 3. But my fear is that it’s 4. Our situation is such that I have decided not to initiate direct contact right now.

Once, he read this blog regularly. I don’t think he has for quite some time. But just in case he’s reading now, here’s a message:

LOML, don’t be this cruel. Please contact me, if only to let me know you’re OK.

Categories: life, love

Happy September. The World Is Coming Apart.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 13:25 EST Leave a comment

Geez, I leave you people alone for not even five months, and all hell breaks loose. Clearly my presence is needed. Not to mention my commentary about it all.

Ukraine

For those who don’t know anything about Vladimir Putin, let me clue you in: He’s an old Soviet KGB guy who masturbates to a picture of Stalin. OK, I don’t actually know about that last part, though I wouldn’t be surprised. I do know that he is philosophically much closer to most leaders of the former Soviet Union—save Gorbachev—than any Russian leader since the collapse of the old communist empire.

Thus, no one should be surprised that he has invaded what in his dreams is still called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Sure, he insists that it isn’t really an invasion, just the action of unaffiliated rebels, because he is counting on the rest of the world not noticing that those rebels are all wearing Russian military uniforms and driving Russian military vehicles and packing Russian military-issue heat. Indeed, the only thing that should surprise anyone is that it took him this long. Make no mistake, Vlad has designs on Ukraine—and several other nations.

ISIS/ISIL

Take your pick on which name to use. You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. In fact, you can call it Al Qaeda or Hezbollah or Black September for all I care. It’s yet another Islamic terrorist group with an odd affinity for killing people who don’t toe their religious/political line. Remember after the September 11 attacks, when George W. Bush and assorted celebrities tied themselves in knots to assure Muslims that we weren’t at war against Islam? It turns out that Islam, or at least a segment of it that enjoys a disturbing amount of support from Muslims around the world, was at war against us, and still is. ISIS has vowed to destroy the United States and fly their flag over the White House. All I can say to that is, over my dead body, and I mean that literally.

One aspect of the news coverage that bothers me is all the attention given to the beheadings of two American journalists. Not that those weren’t awful, but ISIS has been doing this for months, and many of their victims have been Christians, particularly children. I’ve seen a fair amount of coverage in the alternative media and a few conservative news sites, but the mainstream media has been more lax—until their own were the targets.

Ferguson, Missouri

If media outlets give disproportionate coverage to journalists killed by terrorists, they also give disproportionate coverage to black men killed by police. Again, it isn’t that such cases shouldn’t be investigated; I’ve seen and heard enough about over-zealous cops on power trips to appreciate the possibility that the shooting of an unarmed civilian is indeed unwarranted. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the people who jumped on the bandwagon denouncing the shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri. But as is the case so often, it turns out that initial reports—and my initial reaction—might not have been entirely accurate.

I consider heavy-handedness by law enforcement to be a significant threat to liberty. At the same time, it isn’t heavy-handed for an officer who believes he or she is in danger to exercise self-defense, which is the right of civilians as well. Let’s just say that I am no longer convinced that the Ferguson officer didn’t have a legitimate reason to feel threatened. Besides, if the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer is by definition a big news story, then the killing of an unarmed white man by a black police officer (yes, it happens more than you would think) should be as well. That there is disparate treatment says more about the racist attitudes of the media and many observers than about alleged racism by police.

Rape culture

It isn’t a new idea, but the neo-feminist insistence of societal misogyny so pervasive as to indicate the widespread cultural acceptance of rape is getting a lot more attention lately. It’s bullshit. Seriously, if encouraging women to take simple steps to keep themselves safe is sexist—and the reasoning (I use the term loosely) goes that men shouldn’t rape, so women shouldn’t have to protect themselves from it, and suggesting they do is akin to blaming the victim—then it isn’t just rape that our society supposedly accepts.

I have a home security system because my house was broken into a couple of years ago and I don’t want it to happen again. But really, it wasn’t my fault that I was robbed; I should be able to feel secure in my own home. So what if I refused, as a protest against “theft culture,” even to lock my doors and windows? Or what if I failed to safeguard my personal information—social security number, online passwords, credit card numbers, and the like—as a protest against identity thieves and a statement of empowerment? I would be out of my mind, that’s what. Because in the real world in which I live, there are those who break into houses, steal people’s identities, and yes, even rape women. I can stomp my feet and bitch about it, or I can be a grown-up and protect myself against it.

And having thus vented, I feel better now. I’ll be back soon with more of the insightful opinions you have come to expect from me and have, no doubt, missed terribly.

One Year

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:23 EST Leave a comment

The 2013 Boston Marathon took place a year ago today. Of course, that annual big event would be overshadowed by the explosion of two bombs at the finish line at 2:50pm, just a few hours after the winners had crossed.

Three people were killed at that moment, dozens more seriously injured. The medical personnel who volunteered at the finish line to handle cases of dehydration, heat stroke, and muscle strains became, in an instant, medics in a war zone. It was later reported that the medical tent personnel triaged 58 people—several of whom had limbs blown off—in less than a half hour.

One of the registered nurses in the medical tent that day, a friend of mine who is also an officer in a U.S. Army Reserve medical brigade, recently spent three weeks in annual training exercises simulating mass casualty situations, which for their purposes were defined as five or more casualties. She said that after Boston, five casualties was a piece of cake.

People have moved on with their altered lives. The families and friends of the three dead, along with the loved ones of the M.I.T. police officer killed three days later by the alleged terrorists (or, as I call them, dirtbags), have made it through the first year. Survivors have recovered, some continuing to learn how to use the prosthetic legs that replaced the real ones they lost. Marathon organizers have planned this year’s event taking into account the need for increased security. Boston and state police, with federal law enforcement, have developed new public safety strategies based on lessons learned. Some of the runners who were prevented from finishing last year’s race have taken advantage of the Boston Athletic Association’s offer to run this year without having to re-qualify. Likewise, some of the volunteers who dealt directly with the carnage have decided to go back to the medical tent.

Today at the finish line, which has already been painted on Boylston Street in preparation for next Monday, wreathes have been placed in memory of the victims. A commemorative service will begin in a few minutes at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium. As I watch some of the coverage on television, I am more than a little weepy, which surprises me because 1) I was 40 miles away at my office when the bombing happened, 2) I didn’t know any of the victims (although several of my friends were very nearby); and 3) I never cried back when it happened, going instead from shock at the attack to indignation by the time the suspects were identified and hunted down. Probably thousands of other people feel the same way I do and, like me, don’t really understand why.

Maybe it’s because, as I’ve said before, this may not be personal to me as an individual, but it’s personal to me as a New Englander. This corner of the country is very stoic, its inhabitants proud of our history as the cradle of the American Revolution. Boston seems like a big city, but in many ways it feels like a small town. And the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world, is our special party in which we are kind enough to let others join. Crashing it for the sole purpose of killing and maiming people is bad form, and we take it personally. In the immortal words of David Ortiz, “This is OUR fucking city!” The implication being, How dare you come into our home and attack us and our guests! How dare you take our wonderful event and ruin it with blood and body parts! A year ago, it made me angry. I’m still angry, but I’m also sad, and it has taken a year for that to happen.

Some things can’t be understood or explained, so I won’t try. I’ll just let it happen. And maybe, on Monday, I’ll head into Boston and watch a marathon.

Bode Miller, Christin Cooper, and NBC’s Olympic Coverage Suckitude

Monday, February 17, 2014, 18:22 EST 1 comment

While the last part of this title could launch a whole series of articles, my target today is last night’s Christin Cooper interview of American skier Bode Miller after the Super-G event which was his final chance to get a medal. Miller’s rather interesting story includes significant competitive achievements. It also includes a recent personal loss, the death of his younger brother.

Throughout their coverage so far, NBC has presented personal information about Olympic athletes as a way to elicit greater interest among viewers (and, by extension, enhance the television ratings). After all competitors had finished yesterday’s race, Miller was left tied for third place, thus becoming the oldest alpine skier ever to win an Olympic medal.

Cooper approached Miller and initiated the following on-camera exchange:

NBC [Christin Cooper]: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

NBC: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: [pause] Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. And … it’s just a tough year.

NBC: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but…

NBC: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: [breaks down crying]

Awful, right? But it gets worse. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and western Russia, the NBC production team had 20 hours to either edit the interview before televising it or decide not to use it at all. They did neither.

The viewing audience was horrified, as indicated by comments on Twitter.

Then, to add stupidity to both insult and injury, the networked doubled down. According to the New York Times, an NBC spokesperson issued a statement in defense of the interview itself and the decision to air it later.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” a spokesman for the network said. “We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

How nice that Miller, who apparently has been friends with Cooper for years, is willing to forgive. That doesn’t mean that it was the right thing for NBC to do.

How and why did this sordid episode suck? Let me count the ways.

  1. Even if Miller’s grief over his brother’s death was “a necessary part of the story,” it was addressed very clearly by Miller in his response to Cooper’s first question. Hammering him about it afterward was redundant, unnecessary, and ultimately mean.
  2. NBC is supposed to be presenting Olympic coverage, not a gossip rag. Giving some background on the athletes adds a human interest aspect to the coverage, but it shouldn’t be the focus over the results of the competition. NBC chose to make it the focus.
  3. Cooper had obviously decided in advance that she would go for the most gut-wrenching display she could evoke. That she didn’t stop until he was sobbing is proof of her intent.
  4. Once she got the tears she wanted and in full view of the camera, Cooper attempted to comfort Miller by laying her hand on his shoulder. If she were really concerned for his comfort, she wouldn’t have badgered him.
  5. The decision, hours after the fact, to air the entire exchange shows how far American media have descended into the “reality TV” pit. Someone, or more likely several people, deliberately decided that the ratings were worth exposing someone in a vulnerable moment to a voyeuristic public that, thankfully, was horrified by it.
  6. “How much does this mean to you?” (like its close cousin, “How special is this to you?”) isn’t an interview question. It’s a crutch used by reporters who are too incompetent to ask relevant questions about the event at issue and/or too lazy to come up with a real question. Just once, I want the interviewee to reply, “It’s not special to me at all, dumbass,” and then walk away. Extra points if it’s done on live television.

Over at today’s Wall Street Journal, Kwame Dawes has an “Ode to Bode Miller’s Tearful Interview with Christin Cooper” which I won’t excerpt only because you really should read the whole thing. All I’ll add is that it made me think of rocker Don Henley’s 1982 single “Dirty Laundry,” which is as accurate an indictment of major media today as it was then.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash
With a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet
Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around

Categories: family, media, olympics, sports

The Christmas Story

Wednesday, December 25, 2013, 00:28 EST Leave a comment

The following is a post I have published here and elsewhere many times in the past. It is timeless. Merry Christmas to all.

StarIn those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole Roman world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All the people were instructed to go back to the towns of their birth to register. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to “the city of David” — Bethlehem, in Judea, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David; he went to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her delivery. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son; she put him in a simple cloth wrapped like a receiving blanket, and laid him in a feeding trough for cattle, because there was no room for them at the inn.

There were shepherds in the area living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. The angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them; they were very much afraid.

The angel said to them, “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in David’s city, a savior—the Messiah—has been born to you. Let this be a sign to you; you’ll find an infant wrapped in a simple cloth, lying in a manger.

Suddenly, there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in high heaven!
And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see this event that God has made known to us.” They hurried and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw this, they reported what they had been told concerning the child. All who heard about it were astonished at the report given by the shepherds.

Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart. The shepherds went away glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.

— Luke 2: 1-20
(Excerpted from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation, Priests for Equality)

Categories: christmas, faith/religion