Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Picchas

I said I post a few picchas and here they are, lovies:
Here are the Burney's: Abeje, Bianca, Ken, Claudia Mair Francis, Lumumba, Kamau, Aziza, and Nia Grace. Nia and Z.Z. had their coats on and look like little space girls.

Just so you can see their Easter dresses:

Here's me and my big boy, Lumumba. Gosh, I was so happy to be with him. He's all growed up and on his on now.
And finally, just Mair Francis...

Yeah. I know this picture is totally sideways, but I have no idea how to fix it. So, turn your heads, just so.

There ya go.

Careful! Don't hurt yourself, now.

So, I had a good day, a great wonderful day, even if I couldn't get sacramentally married. But hey, you can help me pick out my sacramental marriage blessing dress. Maybe I can make it myself. Ha!

Help, Erin!!!

Don't let me loose with fabric and sharps, lovies. LOL. I've still got half-finished mantillas everywhere!

Love you ALL!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Disaster 2008

Okay, while I'm happy to report nobody had stomach flu like we did two years ago on Easter, and there were no terribly unfortunate roll-over big honkin' man truck accidents to nearly kill and traumatize us like last Easter, there was something...


Ken and I couldn't get our marriage blessed. It was a paperwork thing. A sucky paperwork thing, but I was cleared enough on all other fronts to join him in communion.

It was such a joyous time. Not like I dreamed. This time I didn't weep my way through it. This time me and the kids stood together rather than me going before everybody and standing alone. This time I smiled a lot--Father Gary has the kind of smile that makes you smile as wide as the sky when he grins at you anyway. I wore the suit. The linebacker suit I said I couldn't stand. I wanted the pearls when I woke up this morning. Apparently I can do massive shoulders if I have delicate pearl accents, but I can tell you this, I will never, ever wear that suit again.

Hate it!

On the bright side, I can still wear a kick-butt dress when we get our marriage blessed! You gotta love that silver lining.

On the brightest side ever. Christ is risen. I'm at home in the Holy Catholic Church. I believe I am exactly where God wants me to be, and there are greens and lamb and barb-b-que cooking.

Happy Easter. I'll post some picchas later.

the new, Catholic, mair francis!

Ha! You didn't think I'd do this without a new name, now did ya???

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and a Little Poor Man

Okay, so you're all wondering what I decided.

I decided on none of those I showed you.


It got really bad over here. Mantilla partials in all kinds of colors--white, tea-dyed, RIT dyed (turned out silver)--were thrown recklessly about my bedroom. I fretted over hoochie dresses, though admittedly I dig the hooker heels. I felt frustrated, fat, and most unpretty.

I loved the dress, but I didn't really want to wear it to church. I'd worry that I wasn't dressed appropriately. Lovies, I talk a lot of smack, but in my heart I really want to be a good girl. I don't mind a funky (in a good way) outfit, but I couldn't abide a dress that I felt honored more me than God. After all, Easter is really His day. I am a joyful and grateful witness to the truth of resurrection.

We've already been through my desire to cover my head, and it just makes sense that I'd cover my shoulders. A suit I gave a way a year ago came back to me, and I decided to wear it. My bff said something beautiful to me. She said, "If you wear the suit, you won't be thinking about how you look." And I'd rather be right in the moment. With Jesus and Ken.

So I put on the suit. Only... I hate suits. Not on other people. On me. I'm just not a suit person. Every time I thought about wearing that lovely suit, I felt so sad. I felt I'd be doing this wonderful thing in something I'd never wear otherwise. I'd wear the hoochie dress before a suit! I'd wear it in church before that suit! But I didn't want to wear the hoochie dress in church, not even for something so magical as having my marriage blessed. That's why I got the suit back! Not to mention that bulky jacket made me look like I was going out for quarterback for the Detroit Lions. A quarterback with delicate pearl embellishments. Not a look I was trying to cultivate.

I got in a real funk. Finally I got back to the basics of mantilla wear. I decided I'd go with white, but not the first one I made. I just didn't like how it fell. Too bulky. I wanted something soft and winsome as the black one, but not the black one. Then I got an idea. "Why don't I get another lil' piece of that Chantilly lace, but in white. I can keep both. Black for ordinary time, and white for extraordinary, if you will." So, a ride to Jo-Anne and a nominal fee later, I had a white mantilla--or reasonable facsimile.

And a suit.

I asked myself, "what would Jesus, do?" And lovies, somethings He will leave in your hands, quietly waiting for you to decide. He would have loved me in the hoochie dress, but He also loves me without it. Then I asked myself what my beloved St. Francis would do. Honeys, you know he'd wear his rough cloak, but he'd put some flowers in his hair. And God's troubadour would have a song in his heart. He'd understand I couldn't afford anything now. And he'd sing a song about his lady poverty to me. About how he loves her. How beautiful she is seen through the eyes of Christ, and love, and how she could teach so much if we listened to holy poverty. St. Francis would understand why I didn't want to wear the shoulder-less gown, too. Even if I could, and nobody like Padre Pio would throw me out of church. St. Francis was all about chastity. He'd made a vow to her. And he would find it honorable that even though I don't have to, I want to cover my head. He would see these are small things, but given to God with great love. And that would make me more beautiful and radiant in his eyes. He loved obedience, too. Vowed himself to that virtue, as well.

So, for Francesco, I went to my closet and asked myself, "what do I already own that I feel amazing in?"

I love the black slinky dress with matching jacket, but I didn't love it for this. Even with the thought of flowers. I didn't have many other options. I wear black almost exclusively. It's a weird private commitment thing. But no black on this special day, not even a black mantilla. Not even hooker heels. I needed to look soft, but like me. That was pretty important to me. What I had left was a cream colored shell and cardigan, and the quarterback suit skirt. But together, they looked like simplicity itself. Soft, but not drawing any extra attention--I'd just as soon let Jesus and the catechumens have their day.

So this is me in my covered sacramental marriage bridal gear, with a little help from the poor man of Assisi.

And here's a closer view of the pretty, pretty lace. And a cross, and isn't that just perfect. :) One more thing, I think I'll keep the edges unfinished. After all, my own edges are unfinished. Wouldn't that be wildly, wonderfully symbolic.

This is more of the same, but honestly, I'm pretty cool with this hook-up. I'm less conscious about my weight, I got one of my favorite saints to help me pick my outfit--now I just have to get some flowers, maybe just a little babies breath, and a red rose or two. I didn't have to buy anything new, and most of all, I feel like me. So don't feel badly because I sent that gorgeous dress back. The most important elements are present. I'm going to show up. Ken is going to show up. Despite years of prophecies ( a few of them from me!) that our marriage wouldn't last a year, then a few years, then five years (It's been 12), we're still here. And together on Easter we will partake of the mystical body of Christ. And don'tcha just love that? So, Jesus is going to be there, too. Before us, behind us, surrounding us--with us. And that makes me so happy.

Let the blogsphere church say, "Amen!"

Pray for us.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Marriage and Mantilla Madness

I'm getting married!!!!

Yeah. I know. You're thinking, "Um. Isn't Mair already married? She didn't even tell us she divorced Ken."

Of course I didn't tell you, sillies. I never divorced him. And no, I'm not about to become a bigamist. I'm marrying Ken, or rather, we're having our marriage blessed and it'll upgrade to becoming a sacrament. There's marriage, and there's the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We missed out on the latter, but by God's grace, we're putting all things right. On Easter.

It's going to be a happy, happy day for me. I'm so excited I can explode! For the first time in our marriage, one of us won't have to stand by while the other partakes of the blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. We're going for a sacramental life together. It's different from what we've had before. It feels like a new life is stretched out before us, full of spiritual adventures, and most of all the Real Presence of Christ.

So, I'm making a big honkin' deal about it, even though we're so broke we can't pay attention. We got new rings, sterling silver posey rings that are inscribed on the inside with the words, "With this ring I thee wed." Love them! I got a dress for ten bucks from Target online. It's very pretty, and I feel so fortunate to have found it for that price. But I had a little situation.

Of course I did. This is me.

See, I cover my head in church. I know I don't have to, but I love to. A few years ago I went to the Ancient Christianity and African Americans conference and was so moved by the beauty and piety of the women--my sisters and sistahs--present. Many of them, especially from the Ethiopian and Russian traditions cover their heads. I don't know. It filled me with an unexpected longing to do the same. I started researching--you know I did! And finally prayed about it. My sistah friend Dr. Carla told me she feels naked if she doesn't cover her head in church, and she said she does it because the Mother of God always did it. I thought that was lovely. When I thought of it, I never saw an image of the Theotokos without her head veiled. She was the Tabernacle, carrying God Himself. The Tabernacle is always veiled. There are many historical reasons behind veiling, but I just follow my heart, and the Holy Spirit.

So, I wore an assortment of wraps to church, and when I started going to Ken's mom's church I wore a lace mantilla. Very old school Catholic. Mind you, nobody else did it, but that isn't the point, now is it?

My obsession this week has been this blessing of our marriage coming up. I wanted to get another mantilla, but I couldn't afford it, so I got thee hence to Walmart, with the idea that this not-so-crafty chica would make her own.

Um hm. Let that sink in.

I tried, y'all.

Before we get to the picchas, I'll say this: for a person so into the pious act of using a chapel veil, my dress is totally hoochie. I mean, it has no shoulders! Padre Pio would have tossed me right out of the church and told me to go home and put some clothes on, and come back into God's house correct! But it's so satiny and soft and pretty (sexy) and, come on. A sistah looks good a little bit hoochie every now and then. I'm not getting any younger. This is probably going to be my last hoochie adventure. Yeah, I'll look like a whore in church, but only once. And I'm going to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation right after, so trust me, I'll do business with God about the whole thing.

Now, I don't want to go in the house of God, hoochie or not, all naked like. I will cover my shoulders. I decided to cover them with the mantilla. This meant I'd have to make a big honkin' mantilla. So, without further ado.

Exhibit A:

Now that's a big mantilla, lovies. It's white, but once I got the dress I saw that it's (the dress, that is) actually a cream color. I don't love the way this stiff lace drapes, so even though I put a lot of effort into adding the trim--lace with little pearls--I'm not crazy about the look. I also think it makes me look too much like a new bride, but um, not really. You know what I mean?

Exhibit B:

This one is smaller, but I'm feeling kinda nekkid. Despite the fact that I purchased this stank dress I want my shoulders more covered. And it doesn't look like a bolero jacket is going to happen. That's way too much lace for a sistah anyway. So, whatever is on my head is going to have to serve dual purposes.

Do you think this one is okay? I made it after the dress arrived and after I saw how big the first mantilla was. I dyed this one with tea bags to give it an "antiqued" color and it's a really pretty shade. I can add trim, a larger lace than on the first one, so it'll give me a little more coverage. But...

Exhibit C:
I know. It's black. But honestly, my shoes are black. I'm wearing those hooker heels I told you about that I wore to the Christy Awards last year. I mean, they're my best pair of dress shoes, and I don't think I've worn them since the Christys. And they look fabulous. I mean, really, really good. Plus I wanted to wear something else black with those shoes. Ken's wearing some cool black designer jeans and a crisp white shirt, his silver cuff links and a black, white, and cream colored tie. Then, of course, I got all weirded out about whether or not I could wear a black mantilla on Easter. I wasn't weirded out by a hoochie dress or hooker heels, and that just goes to show you how deeply I need prayer.

This is a very delicate Chantilly lace with scalloped edges. I don't think I have to do a thing to it. And I like the contrast. But it's very sheer.

Now, tell me. What do you think?

Completely obsessed, but happy, happy, happy,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Africa Reflections 2

I had these moments of startling revelation. Numinous connections wove together in the most intricate of patterns in my mind. I could see myself in these African people. In their bright, brown eyes and sable skin. In their struggles and in their suffering, even though my life was so much easier. But we shared a history, of this place of beauty and terror. Oh, lovies. I was very much at home in Africa. So much was familiar that it hurt to experience deep in my bones my seemingly endless separation.

There was this little girl. In a red dress. Honey chile, let me tell you, sistahs love a red dress the whole world over. She didn't have many clothes. Maybe this was her only dress, but she took good care of it. This little dumplin' treasured it.
When I saw her I laughed. "Black girls and red," I thought, grinning to myself. "It's a universal longing." I And then this girl child conjured a poem I hadn't thought of in years. Who Look At Me, by the amazing, late June Jordan. This line came to me:

I cannot remember nor imagine pretty
people treat me
like a doublejointed stick



the tempering sweetness
of a little girl who wears
her first pair of earrings
and a red dress

Jumbo said women have it worst of all in Swaziland. The country is built on their backs, and it's the go-gos, the grandmothers keeping these children together on a whispered prayer and not much else. Women and girls are treated like chattel in Swaziland, and they endure unimaginable violations of body, soul and spirit, daily. Can you imagine the brutal paradox of such comeliness? A princess in a red dress, and a doublejointed stick, this darling little girl both these things. lovies. And all I can think, with my heart breaking, is "Isn't she lovely?"

I cry to think of what her life is like. And I had to leave her there.

Oh, my Jesus, pardon and mercy, by the merits of Your holy wounds.

piccha by Ty Samson, my godbaby!

Africa Reflections 1

It's hard to pull all the things in my heart and head together to write about them. There is the nagging issue of having to write a full length book, my first memoir, and the first book-length non-fiction I've done since Always Sisters. I'm not sure what I should say and what I should leave for the book. On the one hand I'm compelled to write, and on the other, I'm constrained. And then there is the pain. The fatigued that settles on you that you wear like ashes marking you for some spiritual death you didn't realize you signed on for.

Now, weeks removed from Africa I cannot believe I dared ask God to break my heart. It was a prayer He speedily answered, lovies. And he did a great job.

I have so many stories, and I want to tell them all, and yet, I want to gather them in some inner trunk and lock them away in my soul. I'm afraid. I kep thinking if I begin to tell these tales I will break into a million pieces and never be able to put myself together again.

Maybe I'll tell you in bits. A little here. A little there. Maybe. Or maybe I will stop at the end of this post knowing that is all I can do until I'm ready to face the whole of it in order to write the book. I can't say as I type this. I don't know.

They took us to the children first. A paradoxical care point with a Moon Bounce, and shoe-less (many didn't own shoes) little Christ's in His distressing disguises.

There were dozens and dozens of children, some with ready laughter spilling out of their mouths, and others with haunted mournful eyes--eyes too old and woe-filled to be practically babies.

I remember a feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do with myself. Do I reach out, or respectfully let the children come to me? Do I blow bubbles, or coo and hug and love? Do I write on the spot, desperately trying to capture every detail before it fades from memory? Or do I talk with the staff to get the real stories? Or all of the above? A feeling of helplessness overwhelmed me. But the children make it so easy on you. They rush you with infectious joy, a kind of joy that seems misplaced amid abject poverty and so, so many human violations.

I start by blowing bubbles with this multiplicity of the Christ Child. They are all Jesus to me, embodiments of Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you fed me..." words of Jesus which haunted me the entire trip. The children--the littlest Christs--loved the bubbles. And they liked my glasses.

It is hot. And dry. And there are enormous thorn briers which I dubbed "stigmata bushes" as they were determined to give me the wounds of Christ in my feet. You would not believe how many of these children had no shoes. How many kids who must have gotten these wounds as well, and had no Neosporin and antiseptic wipes like I had, tucked in my purse to take away the sting and threat of infection. Lord, have mercy. So much was a threat to them.

After a good deal of time playing, dancing, and engaging the children in whatever games we could think of in the moment, they washed their hands in a bucket of soapy water so they could prepare to eat.

This would be the only meal most of them would have all day.

And they were so polite, patient, and orderly as the waited for it. They were grateful. And it went so fast. Just a single bowl of mealie meal. That's it.

Anf yet, there is so much joy that it grabs a hold of you until your face becomes an icon of laughter.
Lovies, it was here that I began to learn a secret that would serve me well on this trip. Sometimes you simply won't be able to do a big thing for God. I realized I would not be the hope of Africa. I would not liberate my people. The call for the day, for the hour, for the moment was simply this: do something small, with great love. Do something. With love. Great love.

Take a piccha with great love. Play a game with great love. Live in the moment, since everything in you says, "For these children it is all now. There is no tomorrow." Say a prayer that falters in your mouth, but pray it anyway with great love. Receive a child in Jesus' name. With great, great love.

And I was to record these things to show you the half-filled bowls of mealie meal, the only meal of these kids would eat that day. I was to say to you, please help. Give something of yourself, anything, with great love. These children are the Savior you say you love.

He is hungry. He is starving, and not just for food.

Will you feed Him?

more later.