Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mango Tomatillo Salsa - because Why Not?

So a friend and I were discussing meal plans via the Book of Faces.... and I happened to mention that I had set the crock pot up to slow cook a pork roast for Carnitas Tacos. And then I mentioned that I was making fresh Guacamole, Roasted Jalapeno Cilantro Crema, and Mango Tomatillo Salsa to go on the tacos.

Yes, making.  I prefer fresh and since I'm retired its not like I don't have plenty of time on my hands to do 95% of the cooking from scratch at home.  Besides - store bought salsas never have the right balance for my taste buds, nor can I ever find a combination that suits my tastes completely.  Don't get me wrong - there are some truly spectacular salsas out there to be had from the local grocery store.  And living in Oklahoma, where there's a lot of Latino influence in the food culture and always has been, there are any number of varieties to be found.

The real problem with most Mango based salsa, for me, is that for the past 2 or 3 years it has been very trendy to inevitably pair it with Habanero pepper.  I love a good hot salsa - but the older I get (and I ain't gettin any younger!) the less those salsas love me back.  My intestinal tract inevitably lodges a protest - so I decided a while back to start making a Mango Salsa for myself that strictly avoids anything more potent than Jalapeno or Poblano peppers, both of which are considerably milder than Habaneros and Serranos.  (And don't even get me started on the nightmare that is the Carolina Reaper,  the Scorpion Bruce T, the Naga Viper, or the Bhut Jolokia/Ghost!)

This particular salsa is also a tad on the "different" side because I use Tomatillos (those are the little green tomato looking things usually found near the fresh peppers in the produce section) instead of the standard diced Tomato base that most folks think of when they think Salsa.

So to the nitty gritty ... this is not a difficult recipe, but it can be time consuming simply due to how much chopping of fresh produce is required.

1 medium mango, peeled, chopped into aprx 1/2 inch chunks
1 small red onion, diced
5 to 8 medium Tomatillos, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, minced (this can be adjusted or some other pepper if you prefer something with more kick!)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper (adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon paprika 
1/2 teaspoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped (or 1/8 teaspoon dried) (adjust to taste or omit if you hate it)

Chop the mango, onion, and tomatillos to roughly the same size.  Mince the garlic and pepper very fine - almost into a paste.  Toss everything together with the salt, pepper, cumin, and cilantro in a bowl, and allow to sit in the fridge or at least 3 hours for the flavors to marry.

That's it.  That's all there is to it, really.  You can do variations on this by fire roasting the tomatillo and/or the pepper, and by using roasted garlic or black garlic instead.  Cilantro is optional - we like it, so I use it, but it doesn't suit everyone and can be left out completely.  Salt and Pepper are always adjusted to your own tastes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Observations from the Inside

I do a lot of contemplative thinking when I've got to much free time.  And let's face it, now that I'm no longer part of the work force, and likely never will be again, I have way to much free time.  Random bits of flotsam go skittering through my poor brainpan on an almost daily basis.  Some of them are large enough to cause a bit of a logjam, and get turned over a bit more thoroughly than the rest.

Today was one of those days when a logjam happened.

Have you ever noticed that habitual liars all seem to have a few basic things in common?  They don't consider it "wrong" to lie - but boy, do they dislike facing the consequences when they get caught.  Some of them hate those consequences so much that they'll go to almost any lengths to avoid getting caught.  They'll tell further lies, they'll attempt to distract you from what they are being confronted with, they'll attempt to misdirect towards someone else as the "actual" culprit, and inevitably they will try to paint you (the one who confronts them with Truth) as somehow being The Bad Guy.

Starting about 16 years ago, I began a run of bad picks in men.  All of them, to greater or lesser degree, turned out to be habitual liars.  I'm not saying that all males are like that - they aren't.  There are some good, honest, trustworthy men in the world.  What I am saying is that my picker was broken during that time frame, and those whom I chose - inevitably - were of the Other sort - the dishonest, dishonorable, and untrustworthy.  It's been one of the main reasons for me having the long string of ex's that I've got.  They underestimated my ability to tell when they were lying, or thought I was either too stupid to notice or to desperate to call them to account for it.  I always know, on some level, when I'm being lied to - even if it's not a blatant and obvious lie.  Something about a statement simply won't sit well with me, and will nag at the back of my brain until I finally start digging enough to get to the truth.

Most of the males in that string of rejects had a trait in common that I'm still stymied to understand.  All of them, once they were caught and the evidence present to show them "I know you're lying, I know what the truth is" attempted to convince me that it was somehow My fault that they'd lied to me.  It was for my own good.  It was to spare my feelings.  I didn't Really understand what was going on, regardless of what proof I had. 

Buzzzzzzzzz!  Wrong Answer!  But, we thank you for playing You Bet Your Life! 

It wasn't to spare me, or to keep from hurting my feelings, nor was it somehow for My good.  No.  It was to spare Them having to face the consequences of their actions.  It was to keep Them from having to admit that they'd over estimated their charm and ability to lie, and under estimated my intuition, intelligence, complacency, and desperation levels.  It was to spare themselves having to face finding a new place to live (all of them lived with me, usually financially dependent on me to keep a roof over their head and keep them fed) or live out of their vehicle - assuming they even Had a vehicle.  It was for Their own good, so that they could (hopefully) maintain what they saw as a cushy life at someone else's expense and trouble.

Ultimately that's always why someone makes the choice to lie.  They are looking out for their own convenience or comfort in some way.  They're avoiding immediate conflict that would be uncomfortable to them, either in the short term or the long term.  They're avoid responsibility for their actions.  They want something that they're not supposed to have, or did something that they knew it was wrong to do.

Don't ever make the mistake of telling yourself that its for someone else's good though, when you choose to lie to them.  The only person you're protecting is yourself.

Lives Matter? Since When?

There are those who are no doubt going to scream "racist bigoty racist" at me for writing this post.  They're welcome to do so - I honestly don't Care what folks think - I write for me, not for them, and certainly not to be politically correct.

Over the course of the past 2 years, I have watched as my country becomes more and more polarized.  I have watched as an increasing number of folks rush head long towards out and out race war fare.  And its not going to be getting any better any time soon.

It started with riots in Ferguson, MO., over the death of a black male shot by the police, and has grown exponentially over the past 2 years, disproportionate to the actual numbers of deaths at police hands.  A movement grew out of protests - protests that were based on deliberate misinformation - which continues to this day, with an agenda that is troublesome at best and terrifying at worst.

The "Black Lives Matter" movement has done more to promote racial discord than anything I can think of since the days of the Jim Crow Laws.

The agenda of this movement - of its leadership - is not justice, or equality, or even a leveling of the playing field.  The leadership of the BLM movement has repeated called (via social media) for mass murder of Caucasians, mass murder of police, rioting, and intentional upheaval.  They don't care whether someone has stood with them or against them.  They don't care whether you've fought for civil rights.  All they care about is the color of your skin - while screaming about being the underdog because of the color of their skin.

I'm going to make an analogy here that I hope will put things into better perspective.  It should, at least, explain why I have ........... Issues........... with the BLM movement.

There's a wonderful little restaurant down the road, called "The Liberty Bell."  Its owned by a kindly old couple named Sam and Lady Liberty.  There's a sign on the door that reads, "Everyone Welcome. Come in and find a seat!"

Over the years, a whole slew of folks have entered those doors.  Cold, tired, disenfranchised from various places, many of them penniless, and all of them hungry.  Each of those folks sat down at a table or the counter, glanced at the menu, and saw in big letters that the Special of the Day was the Freedom Plate. 

When asked what was on the Freedom Plate, 'ol Sam usually smiles and describes it for them.  "We start with a heaping helping of Constitutional Rights, slowly sauteed over the flames of independence, seasoned with Duty, Honor, and Respect.  To that, we add a touch of rugged individualism and allow it to stew while we build the sauce.  The sauce is kind of special, its crafted from the blood, sweat, and tears of those who've worked to help perfect the recipe and protect it from those who would steal it. We top all that off with a dollop of Justice, and serve it with a nice side of Truth.  We add a touch of spice to each plate as we serve it - the spice blend is a work in progress, and comes from the special touches of culture brought by those who've tasted the plate in the past and decided to stick around and make this their home.  Its kind of expensive, but its well worth the price!"

And those who came and heard the description from Sam thought it sounded Amazing, and asked for the Freedom Special, declaring that it was worth it no matter what price was asked of them.  They signed blank checks for an amount up to and including their own lives for its protection, should need arise. And Sam sat their plates in front of them, and patted them on the shoulder, and told them that their check didn't just cover Their meal - it covered everyone in their family, and all their friends, and their neighbors, and even folks who hadn't been born yet.

Sometimes, someone would come in and sit down and ask for the Freedom Plate, and old Sam would scowl at them and tell them, "We don't want your kind around here."  Inevitably though, other customers who had already paid for their plate would say, "Now Sam, you said that Everyone was welcome, and that my blank check covered all of them.  So you serve them as well."

It would take a while.  Sometimes quite a long while.  Sam would hem and haw, and try to serve them only a partial plate.  But eventually, he was always brought around to serve them up the whole plate, with all the ingredients that the others had been given.  He didn't always like it, but he always eventually came around.  Sometimes, there were customers who agreed with Sam, and didn't want to see others get served.  But they were always shouted down in the end, and folks got their plate.

Then eventually some of the grand kids and great-grand kids of those folks who'd had to be stubborn in order to get a plate .. they came in off the street, and sat down at the counter, and ordered as well.  And the plate was set in front of them, fresh off the grill, just like it was set in front of the descendants of those who had grumbled about "their kind" being served.

Now while their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents had been happy finally getting the plate, and not being denied a place at the counter - their children and grand-children weren't so happy with that.  Yes, they wanted the plate - who wouldn't?  But they were angry that the descendants of those early nay-sayers still got the full plate as well.

"This isn't good enough!  I want you to take away some of the ingredients on their plates - to make it up to me that my great granddad wasn't given his full plate originally! Simply giving me my place isn't fair, because you never denied them a place or a plate!"

"But  these aren't the folks who didn't want your granddad to miss out on some of the plate."

:"Doesn't matter - I'm not going to be happy until the tables are turned, and the descendants of those who were oppressive are made to pay for the mistakes of those who came before them.  And if you Don't do so - I'm going to sulk and lie and say my plate isn't full - and then I'm going to throw a temper tantrum, throw the dishes, set fire to the tabletop, and scream that its your fault that I acted that way!"

That, folks, is what we've got going on currently.  A bunch of spoiled great-grandkids, who never had to actually fight to get a place and a plate, throwing a temper tantrum over stuff that happened before their parents and grandparents were even conceived, much less asked for the Freedom Plate.

It doesn't mean that their great-grands weren't oppressed.  It doesn't mean that their grands didn't have to fight to get their whole dinner.  It means that they're causing a ruckus and throwing a temper tantrum because they don't think its Fair that others aren't now treated as harshly as they feel their priors were.

These people aren't Protestors, regardless of what they call themselves.  They aren't exercising the rights that good men and women fought hard to gain.  They aren't assembling peacefully to ask for redress of grievances.  They are Thugs and Spoiled Brats throwing temper tantrums - rioting, looting, burning businesses and homes, attacking others in the streets. 

I won't back them.  They've made it impossible to respect them.  They've destroyed what sympathy I might otherwise have once held for them.  They need to grow up, stop expecting life to be handed to them on a platter to somehow make up for what their ancestors went through, and start acting like responsible, thinking adults.  Not toddlers who've been denied a piece of candy, going to kick over the block tower built by the other kid in the room.

A few ugly truths about Life with a Chronic Illness....

Many people these days seem to be on an Inspirational / Positive Thinking Quote/Meme kick on social media.  I don't know if its because they simply like the memes, and therefore repost them again and again.  Perhaps its that a few of them actually think that it will somehow "help" someone on their friends list, or further down the line.

Here's a little hint.  They don't.  They don't make one damned bit of difference.  Any "inspiration" they happen to offer lasts about the same length of time that the meme is actually visible on the screen.  They aren't life changing or life saving.

Whether religious in nature or simply "positive" philosophy in nature makes not one whit of difference, either.  Most folks aren't nearly as religiously inclined as their friends think they are, except while they're specifically in church.  Then they turn around, go home, and go right back to the same things they've done Monday through Saturday (or Sunday through Friday, for those who hold sabbat on Saturday instead) for the following week, with very little thought given to whatever spiritual teachings they happen to profess during that "holy" day.

My life is governed by 3 specific things: Pain Management, Fatigue Management, and Stress Management.  That's it.  That's all.  Everything revolves around, and is dependent upon, those 3 items being properly and carefully managed.

All the inspirational claptrap in the world isn't going to change that fact.  No amount of Positive Thinking is going to change it, either.

Pain from Lupus and Fibromyalgia doesn't go away simply because we think "happy" thoughts.  Doing as little as possible to exasperate the currently pain filled area, taking lots of interesting drugs with sometimes unpredictable side effects, and simply gritting our teeth and ignoring it when we have relatively "good" days.... that's how we cope.  Because the pain never completely goes away unless we're so doped up on pain meds that we turn into the equivalent of dieting zombies.  (Dieting because we're not actively eating brains.)

Fatigue from dealing with pain, and from hyper-sensitive nerves, and from over doing it attempting to actually get something done other than sitting around feeling utterly Useless doesn't simply Disappear because we read some nice quote telling us to BELIEVE.  It doesn't go away from laying down and taking a nap either.  It never completely goes away.

Stress is a fact of life.  Even on the "good" days there are stressors.  What to wear, traffic, what needs to get done just to accommodate the simple act of surviving in the 21st century, grocery shopping and cooking meals and feeding the pets.  And dealing with trying to get dressed while you hurt so bad you want to scream.  Trying to brush your hair so you look at least semi-presentable when your arms are lead weights attached to your shoulders, and lifting them sufficiently to use the brush causes agony.  Asking yourself, 'do I have time to take a much needed nap, since I'm falling asleep in my chair, or will that totally derail attempting to finish anything today?"

Keep your positive and Inspirational memes.  If they make you feel better... good for you, more power to ya.  But don't expect me to suddenly jump up and proclaim that my life has changed, or gotten better.  And DON'T tell me that I just need to start thinking positive about my situation or looking for some non-existent silver fucking lining.

Don't ask me what I "plan to do differently to make things better for myself."  This is simply how life is.  These diseases aren't going away.  Nothing and no one is going to make them suddenly ..... Easier. 

I already do everything I'm Capable of doing to make things "better" for myself - by not doing much of anything, by sleeping a lot even when I should be getting Necessary things done, by "neglecting" daily tasks that are nearly soul destroying to let them constantly slide because I don't have the energy or the pain free days to actually Accomplish much..

by putting up with getting told I'm simply being lazy, or that I "can't" hurt as much as I say I do, by being told that I'm just looking for sympathy and attention and making a big deal out of nothing, by being ignored and virtually abandoned by those who are supposedly my Friends because I can't go out and do things simply because I Want to.....

Keep your positive thinking.  Keep your inspirational memes.  Just don't expect me to be inspired.  Or to be positive of anything other than that I'm ready for this to all be over and done with - but that I won't get That luxury until I'm dead.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thoughts about the demands for Racial Apologetics...

So I've been seeing a lot of stuff online over the past year that basically demands that I feel guilty and be apologetic .... for things I didn't (and don't) do, and for genetics that I had absolutely no control over.

I'm referring to all the neo-liberal demands that Caucasians  (you know - whites, primarily of European genetic extraction) feel bad for the institution of Slavery in the US.  An institution, btw, that was ended in the US via violent civil war long before any of us were even conceived, and in most cases before our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents were even conceived.  Its an institution which continues (ignored in most cases by the media) in locations in Africa and the Middle East.

The media (in some cases) and neo-Liberals via social media (in many cases) would have you believe that if you are of European genetic extraction, and live in the US, that you are guilty by association and birth of being somehow complicit in racism, segregation, and attempts (whether successful or otherwise) to maintain a huge chunk of the US population in degradation and suppression.  Your only hope, as a person born with pale skin, is to apologize profusely for your very existence and the genetic background you had no say in, and take up a nearly militant stance on everyone else is a racist bigoted racist if they don't make the same sort of apology.

Let me make this perfectly clear:

I will not apologize for the actions of others - I accept responsibility for MY actions, and therefore I am careful not to act in a manner that Needs to be apologized for.  Things that happened before I was born - or even my grandparents and great-grandparents were born - are not mine to claim responsibility or guilt concerning.

I will not apologize for the genetic factors of my birth, or the skin tone attendant with those genetic factors. As an American Mutt (mixed heritage that includes European and Aboriginal/Tribal factors) who happened to have been born with Caucasian skin tones - that's simply who I am - an American Mutt.  If I were to expect some other American Mutt to apologize..... because they had African or Latino mixed with European, and they happened to be born with skin tones that reflected that heritage from 5 generations ago - I would be screamed at, called racist, accused of being insensitive, accused of attempting to suppress them, and told I was a horrible person.

The most recent bit of.. well... to put it bluntly... apologist claptrap.... that I've had the misfortune to run across went beyond that, to tell me that simply being White and Nice is an attempt to suppress those of other genetic backgrounds.

What a steaming pile of complete and utter shit this is, that some SJW millennial activist has come up with to feed their own guilt ridden emo-istic angst on the one hand - and sense of self righteous superiority on the other.  These idiots are so conflicted there are even recent reports of some of them doing things like Cutting (self harm) in an attempt to "apologize" for being White.

And yall call ME a racist because I won't treat some folks Better than everyone else?  Call me up to discuss it when you pull your head out of your own Race Filled Rhetoric.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

An Open Letter To Mrs Turner about her son, Brock

Here's a little FYI for you "Mom" (or "Dad" - which ever one of you posted the travesty on Facebook declaring him some sort of "kind" and "compassionate" person just like the rest of us.) :

No, your son is NOT  a person Just Like Me
Your son isn't a victim of someone else's "indiscretion" and self entitlement. 
Your son CREATED a Victim Just Like Me.

Don't talk to me - to the World - about how Kind and Compassionate your "little angel" is.  Talk to me about how You failed to teach him to be responsible for his own actions.  Talk to me about why you're trying to excuse his actions - his incredibly reprehensible actions.  Talk to me about why you expect His Victim to be held responsible for HIS ACTIONS.

Your son doesn't deserve my Consideration or Compassion or Kindness or Understanding.  He forfeited the right to ANY of those things when he created another victim of sexual assault.

The person who deserves THOSE things - compassion, consideration, kindness, understanding, support, respect, gratitude for a willingness not to let this get swept under the rug to protect the reputation of a Somebody Sports Star..... those are reserved for his Victim. 

Those things - my compassion and understanding and support - are reserved for the innocent woman he Damaged with HIS ACTIONS.  Not hers.  HIS.

The person I Identify with - is not and will Never Be - some rich brat with a sense of entitlement attempting to dodge responsibility for what he did, and boo-hooing that he's now got to face the consequences of HIS ACTIONS after getting Caught and Tried By A Jury Of His Peers.. 

No.  Just NO.
I identify with his Victim.  A woman, just like me, who will go through the rest of her life saying to herself, "if I had just stayed home..." the same way that I've said that to myself for more than 30 years, after agreeing to Tutor someone for an upcoming test.  Not go to a party, or get drunk, or even go on a Date - just to go tutor someone who was having trouble with a class that I was doing well in, because back then I was nice like that..
I identify with his Victim.  A woman just like me, who will go through the rest of her life second guessing every decision she makes, and examining it for the potential to be abused by someone else - someone who, like your son, doesn't want to accept responsibility for their own deplorable actions.  Just like I have second guessed myself for more than 30 years, when I've had the courage to admit to the rape that happened to me.  Usually I just keep my mouth shut because I don't generally have the courage to pick at the scabs this much.

I identify with his Victim.  A woman just like me, who had a promising career, and dreams about the future - who will now forever carry emotional scar tissue, have trust issues, and have to deal with people like YOU making sick excuses for their "little angel." - just like I still carry the hidden scars from shattered dreams and being told the one time I was brave enough to bluntly say something about it in right after it happened that I must have done Something to cause him to act that way - because he was Such a Great Guy and showed So Much Promise as an Athlete - assuming I wasn't simply making it up out of jealousy or because I wasn't one of the popular kids that he hung out with.

I identify with his Victim. A woman just like me, who now has to put the shattered pieces of her life back together, and spend the next 50 or 60 years looking at the pieces of a figurative broken mirror, wondering why it doesn't show the same reflection that it used to show.

As a Parent, I understand that he is your offspring and therefore you will always love him. We love our children unconditionally, even when they're such pieces of dung we have to wonder if they are changelings left by evil trolls from fairy tales.

As a Woman - I sincerely hope you never have to go through the sort of devastation that young woman has gone through at your son's hands. The sort of devastation that *I went through almost 40 years ago, that I Still deal with some of the after effects even now. The devastation and emotional scaring that SHE will be dealing with when she's 50.

As a SURVIVOR - Your "little angel" will Never have paid Enough. He will NEVER have Suffered Enough. 
May Fate And Karma Deliver To Him Exactly What He Deserves and Not One Thing He Desires.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Giving voice to an old pain...

I wrote this yesterday, but didn't have the emotional wherewithall to actually get it posted Here until Today. 

People will tell you that Time eases grief - makes it easier to bear, takes the raw edges away.  Perhaps for some it does indeed accomplish that task. 

For myself - not so much.  I find that there are times when it bothers me not in the slightest.  And there are others - important days, days with meaning to me personally, with history behind them - that it wells up as unquenched as when the fires were first sparked.


I've been sitting here trying to figure out why most of today has seemed a bit blah and lackluster to me. 
Then it struck me - today is February 13th. It would have been mom's 69th birthday today, if she were still alive. And in 2 1/2 weeks, it will be the anniversary of her death, 14 years ago.

She had just turned 55 when she went into the hospital for the final time, before she finally died from complications from the Systemic Lupus and Fibromyalgia that she'd suffered from her entire adult life.
She was my best friend. She was my confidant. She was my rock, my stability, the glue that held the disparate portions of my family together. She was the voice of reason. She was my encourager. She was smart and funny and talented. She kept her granddaughters entertained, and her daughter (mostly) sane. She taught me how to laugh at my own foibles, how to cope with a disease that never goes away, how to not give up on living when that's what I want to do most, and how to love even someone who doesn't necessarily really want to be loved.

And I miss her more now than I did the first year after her death - and will no doubt miss her more a year from now than I do as I sit here and write this.

Happy birthday, momma, wherever you happen to be waiting, taking a break from the pain that plauged you.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spirituality vs Religion - the Great Debate circa 2005.

I originally wrote this in 2005, in response to someone who had asked me to explain in further detail my beliefs concerning the difference between Spirituality and Religion.  This is the whole text, except where I called the person by name, and requested he not be sarcastic in asking for further information.

Formating has been edited from that in the original email to facilitate ease of reading.


Besides, I said "a" path towards enlightenment.. not "the" path. 

I no more believe that there is a single path to enlightenment than I believe that there is any singular manner of "correctly" practicing BDSM as kink, or any single way of perceiving a dominant/submissive dynamic between any given individuals.  (Do I believe that there is "one right way" for ME? certainly - unfortunately, that right way for me seems to be directly at odds with the "right way" for practically everyone else who is part of the human species, especially those who are most caught up in the conventionality of definitions and roles!)  
I am not, specifically, an atheist - a better term would perhaps be agnostic (the jury still isn't in, for lack of sufficient evidence in either direction) or more likely eclectic Gnostic.  I do acknowledge that there is potentially a "higher" entity.  Not "god" in the sense that religion would have us to believe - some anthropomorphized, better than human human.  But something so outside the realm of current human comprehension that it could very well be "god like" in it's capacity for creation, foresight, and knowledge.
Ascribing human emotions, human motivations, or human concerns - even a concern for humanity - to such an entity has always seemed to me to be a two fold problem of species ego combined with some bizarre need to limit things to the easily comprehensible.  Here, we go back to that age old instinctive Fear response when faced with the unknown or incomprehensible.  Relegate it to terms, and conditions, which even the simplest mind can understand and you remove much of the fear.
Am I necessarily "fit" to determine who is and who isn't on a path towards enlightenment?  Obviously not, since I'm simply another human being.  
Do I have a better than average grasp on the difference between Spirituality and Religion?  I like to think I do, simply from the amount of time I've spent on the subject as part of my philosophical/esoteric/paranormal studies.  I am, however, by no means Through with those studies nor do I ever expect to BE through with them.  There's simply to much material out there to be easily covered in a single lifetime.  I'm definitely NOT a Religious person, and haven't been since I reached an age of self determination and ability to study for myself.  I rejected Christianity - along with Judaism, Islam, and all other forms of organized, clearly defined, and restrictive religious view - once I'd done sufficient study on my own to know that they were all simply too limiting in the greater scope of existence. 
I reached That point by the time I was 12, btw.... I was fortunate in having parents who encouraged my study of a wide variety of religious viewpoints, and who insisted that I question, and then search until I found satisfactory answers to those questions.  I've read the bible cover to cover, as well as doing some of my own translation work from the original Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. (Did that as a joint project with my father at the age of 17, during summer break from school between my sophomore and junior years.) 
 I've read the Koran through from cover to cover, though I have yet to get around to doing any of my own translation work on that from the original Aramaic.  (Someday, eventually, when I have time and don't have 20billion other irons in the fire lol)  I've studied several of the Krishnic and Hindu texts, though not as extensively as I'd like to. (Again - someday, hopefully lol)  
 I've put in time studying various texts that have been specifically Excluded from the Judaeo-Christian bible, most of which were deleted during the conclaves held in the reign of Constantine.  (A man who murdered his wife and son; made lunar sects, prophecy and private meditation illegal; and then adopted Christianity as his "official" religion just before death out of fear that one of the sects he had wiped out <"the pure" is what they called themselves, devotes of a spider deity, actually> were actually correct about certain things, after encouraging the erection of temples to himself and an association between himself and the sun.  His political dictates played a significant role in what was - and what wasn't - included in the officially sanctioned texts that were included in the current bible.)  
And I've spent a lot of time studying the works of early philosophers and some of the less than conventional 'lunar' religions that are often lumped under the heading of "new age" or 'pagan' religions.
At it's core - religion is a tool towards teaching the outer mysteries to the masses while maintaining control over those masses.  The "outer" mysteries being those things available easily to all, especially those who do not desire to spend time delving into the Inner mysteries - those things which go beyond simple acceptance and faith, to plumb the depths of that which is not as easily perceived.  
Religion, because of it's placement of the inner mysteries outside the Comprehension of all but a chosen few Elite (as in a priesthood) to lead the rest, strives not to teach - but to contain and control.  In effect, it protects the status quo and strives to continue protecting and maintaining it, even (or perhaps Especially) at the expense of those it claims to shelter from "dangerous" knowledge.  
And by setting a large portion of knowledge outside the bounds of humanity, it maintains that control, enforcing it with warnings of dire consequences (such as "hell" in the mythos of Judaeo-Christianity and other religious offshoots of early Judaism.)  
When it cannot maintain control through psychological manipulation of the mass (those "warnings") it takes matters a step further, proclaiming things to be "heretical".... "forbidden".... dangerous..... and directly punishing offenders to the status quo - traditionally by means of death either through military campaign (crusades) or torture (inquisitions).  This routine of crusade/inquisition has not been limited strictly to the Judaic offspring, though it has decidedly been more Common with all religions in the ages since Constantine.  
Knowledge has always been dangerous to the auspices of the "Church" (whatever church that might be) because it removes the Necessity for intermediaries to stand between Common Man and The Universe.  If you and I are just as capable of learning Greater Truths as some elite priesthood, what need do we have in the long view to maintain that priesthood as a thing apart - special, elevated, and somehow "better" than average?  
No need - so the priesthood is dissolved, and control is lost over the masses.  Throughout history, those attacked most fiercely by Religion have been those who rejected the control of religion, and those who endorsed doing their own thinking and philosophical searching.
Inherently, spirituality touches on those Truths that have been traditionally guarded by an elite priesthood.  
Truths of  what mankind's place is in the greater scheme of things, truths of purpose, truths of understanding our interdependent relationships both with each other and with the rest of the universe around us.  
At it's core, spirituality searches for greater purpose, and strives to Individually define our roles within life.  It helps us, as human beings, to determine where everything "fits" so to speak.  It answers the "Whys" of existence, in greater or lesser detail, as each individual determines their own need to know the "why."  
It acknowledges, in various ways, that mankind is NOT the ultimate on the evolutionary scales, nor the master of all knowledge and creation.  It acknowledges, through it's questioning and the answers derived from those questions, that there are things that we have not yet learned - either individually or as a species - about how our universe works.  And it strives in it's way to progress from that point of lack of knowledge to a greater understanding and harmony with what Is, and what Works.
Spirituality requires the facility.. and the time.. for philosophical searching on an individual level.  Religion denies the need for such self searching, and discourages philosophical endeavors for any outside that chosen elite.  
 Spirituality dictates questioning life, self, authority, convention.  Religion discourages questioning of authority, and loathes the desire of the philosophical to step outside the bounds of convention.  (It is, after all, disruptive to the status quo and the power base of the elite to do such questioning or to refute convention.)
Can religion LEAD to spirituality?  Yes, at least to a limited extent.  The problem which crops up is that a reliance on religion teaches people to Continue relying upon religion for their answers.  It kills the drive to explore potentials and possibilities, and encourages a lack of thought, a lack of questioning - a total acceptance (on faith and insufficient knowledge) of what one is told to believe.  
Some people, obviously, are satisfied with that, and lack the drive to look beyond what they're told to believe.  They will, in my personal opinion, always be rather limited in what they are capable of comprehending, simply because they have given up the tendency towards further exploration.  Only time itself will determine whether I'm correct or incorrect in my hypothesis about their spiritual limitations... and I'm neither bold enough, nor vain enough, to rule out the possibility that I could be completely off the mark in such thinking.  
Can spirituality lead to Religion?  Not typically, in my opinion, simply because once a person starts on a path of spiritual enlightenment which isn't held in check by a specific religious dictate - they rapidly outgrow the limiting nature of such dictates.  While it's remotely possible, it's highly unlikely.