Tuesday, September 29, 2009

notes: on bodies

I have an essay about bodies and incarnational faith in my head that has been percolating for months now, but it’s just going nowhere. I think this needs to be a conversation first before it can be an essay. So I’m going to throw out a list of things I’m thinking about, and if any of them resonates for you, leave me a comment won’t you? (I can’t tell you how much it makes my day when you all leave me comments!) Consider this a bunch of jumbled thoughts in search of a thesis and some organizing principle.


I have exactly no background in theology or philosophy, so I can’t and won’t try to talk with any authority about the so-called “mind-body dichotomy,” except to say that it seems to me to be alive and well, and I think that’s sort of a shame. Again, I have no idea what others have meant by “mind-body dichotomy,” but what I mean by it is this distinction we all seem to have between our “Selves” and our “bodies.” And how I hear this distinction play itself out in real life is that almost everyone is pretty critical of their bodies – no matter what kind of bodies they have (and see, there’s the distinction right there in the very language we use, this notion that we “have” a body, sort of like we “have” a light blue mini-van, or ratty brown dansko clogs, or a red clock in our kitchen; not that we “are” our bodies, but WE “have” them). Most of us think we’re a little too fat, or a lot too fat, or a little too skinny, or a lot too skinny; we don’t like the wrinkles here or the sags there, and our thighs are too lumpy or our hair is too frizzy or our boobs are too little or our butt is too big or or or … it’s pretty endless, isn’t it, the stream of judgment our Selves dish out to our bodies? And our bodies are just mute, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, the repository of so much shame and disappointment and judgment.

So sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the tables were turned, if the Selves just shut up for a minute, and let the bodies have a turn. I bet the bodies would have a thing or two to say to their Selves, don’t you think? I think most of the bodies that their Selves love to hate would be pretty damn pissed off at how ungrateful their Selves are. If you think about it, our bodies do a LOT of nice things for us … I just imagine them saying, “And all you can think about is how big your butt is? Really?” It just seems kind of petty, doesn’t it, in the face of everything else your body does for you?


Let’s make a list, shall we, of all the nice things our bodies do for our Selves. Be as specific as you can. I’ll start with a few thoughts. My body allows my Self to …

…hear Julie’s gorgeous descant floating above the congregation on Sunday mornings

…taste salt and vinegar potato chips and Three Philosophers beer

…walk on the beach, the waves roaring in my ears, the sun shining on the surf

…nurse a child, one I didn’t even give birth to

…run, sending endorphins to my brain and keeping my moody Self relatively happy

…lay hands on a dear friend and pray for healing in her life

How ‘bout you?


And, it turns out, even folks who have, by any objective standard, bodies that are simply exquisite, even they can’t get over themselves and just be grateful. I know this because my friend Jen, who is a dancer and a yogini and a Pilates instructor, tells me that her dance students and colleagues are often the most harsh critics she knows of their own bodies.

Jen and I do yoga together once a week in her beautiful apple green home studio, and I’ve never experienced yoga like I do with her. She approaches my body in yoga like an artist approaches a canvas – a serious artist, one who intends to create nothing short of a masterpiece; an artist who approaches her craft with both loving passion and exquisite technique, and so is both gentle and demanding, holistic and technical. That my body gets to be the medium of her art once a week feels like nothing short of a divine gift, and sometimes when I catch a glimpse of us in the mirror I gasp and say, “Oh my god, look at us! We’re so beautiful!” And Jen laughs in delight and tells me she’s going to take me to all her dance classes to give her dancers a pep talk, because they don’t so much see it.

And I have to just wonder, what’s up with that? I mean really. A couple of weeks ago, Trixie and I went to see Jen perform in the Fringe Festival, and I loved watching all the dancers, more than I ever have before, I think because I just forgot about wondering what it all “means” (which makes me feel stupid) and I just reveled in their bodies, which were so awesome, and moved in such gorgeous ways. There was one man in particular, whose body was different from many male dancers I’ve watched – he wasn’t built, his muscles weren’t round and pumped, in clothing you might even think he was just skinny, and not so strong. But when he danced, all his muscles showed themselves, long, strong lines stretching from joint to joint and moving him in the most beautiful lines imaginable. I was enthralled.

After the performance, Jen met me and Trixie for a cheese steak at Pat’s, which happened to be just a half a block away from the dance studio, and I grilled her: “Are you serious? Those dancers don’t understand that their bodies are near-perfect gifts? They don’t just walk through the world reveling all the time in how beautiful they are and in what their bodies can do? Really? I just don’t get it.”


I don’t know how I got so lucky (I like to give all the credit to my parents, who were pretty wonderful, but it may just be the way I’m wired), but I really love my body. And if you don’t know me in person, you should know that my body is pretty much just fine as a whole, and it has a few quite nice features, but it also has more than enough features that fall far short of any objective standard of “beautiful,” so if I wanted, I could be quite harshly critical. But for some reason, I’m just not. In fact, I seem to have the reverse of the body-image issues that plague so many folks who see their bodies as much less attractive than they really are. I generally feel much fitter and prettier than I probably am, in fact. Sometimes when I’m trying on clothes in the harsh light of a dressing room, I am startled and wonder, “Oh! Is that how I look to other folks? ‘Cause that’s sure not how I feel!” But then I just shrug and think, “Oh well, too bad for them if it is!”

I do try to take good care of my body, and I love it even more when it is strong and fit. But when I am doing things to make it so, like running or yoga, it’s not because I hate my body and want it to be different, but because I love my body and want to enjoy it even more. Even when my body has not been working so well – like when I struggled with infertility, and gained a lot of weight – even then, I’m pretty sure I didn’t hate my body so much as feel really alienated from it. The split felt pretty extreme. I felt much of the time like pure intellect and raw emotion, but pretty disembodied, and it took running a marathon and nursing Micah to connect everything back up. But even then, in my worst moments, I think my body’s self-image (and that’s interesting language, isn’t it?) was unrealistically positive, relatively speaking.

I count that as a blessing, by the way.


Now I know that there are many folks who have bodies that make life hard for them in very real ways. Their bodies keep them in chronic pain, or they don’t allow them the range of experiences they would like, or they are simply failing way too soon, or they are fundamentally wrong in some way, like they don’t match up with their Selves’ gender. I am trying to figure out how to be careful, and where folks like this fit into what I’m thinking. But it also seems to me, somewhat ironically, that those Selves who have the most legitimate complaints about their bodies are often the most loving and forgiving of their bodies, and the most grateful to them. That seems like something interesting to explore.


I have a vague notion that some of the blame for this mind-body dichotomy lies with our friend Paul (and/or sketchy interpretations of Paul), right? Except it’s possible that I’m just in over my head here. My friend Pierce, who was a Pauline scholar as an undergraduate, and with whom I went to law school, tried to give me a lesson on corporality in 1 and 2 Corinthians on Facebook, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a whole evening, face-to-face (i.e. our bodies actually in the same room), probably with beer … and good food … and of course a Bible. And even then I’m not so sure I’m gonna get it (and let’s face it, Pierce is way smarter than I am, and the only reason I did better in law school than he did is because I, being the total nerd that I am, never missed a class and briefed all my cases, whereas Pierce, being totally NOT a nerd, did not; and in the end it turns out maybe he was right because look who’s earning a living practicing law, and look who is doing neither!). But if any of you theologians want to take a stab at explaining what Paul had to say about bodies in the comments, I would be ever-so-grateful (or if you just want to make a date with me and Pierce for an evening discussion over beer and good food, leave your availability! I mean, how fun would that be?)


Okay, and since we’re talking about theology (where, I reiterate, I am in way over my head) … aren’t bodies sort of at the heart of being Christian? Isn’t incarnation and resurrection pretty central to our faith, for those of us who are Christians? Isn’t it the central scandal of Christianity, as Kathleen Norris says, that God “came to us and share our common lot” (in the words of the UCC statement of faith) … in the form of a fully human body we know as Jesus? So what’s up with Christians hating their bodies?

I’m not so good at praying, but the closest I sometimes feel I get is when I close my eyes and try to imagine Jesus as a real live person. I always imagine he is long and thin like that dancer I saw recently, the one whose muscles didn’t bulge but instead stretched in lines across his body that were as perfect as the lines his body in turn made in space as he danced. I imagine that Jesus had unruly hair, maybe even dreads, because who has time to groom on the road, right? And that his skin wasn’t as dark as Micah’s, but certainly darker than mine. And I wonder what he smelled like, because I’m sure it wasn’t deodorant or after-shave, and I wonder what it would feel like to hold his hands, and whether he snorted when he laughed. I would love to fix him a meal and watch him eat, because I bet he loved to eat, and I love to watch people who love to eat. And I wonder if his face got soft when he was listening to someone he loved, and I think he must have liked to touch people, and kiss them, and walk arm-in-arm.

I love communion, maybe because it’s as close as I feel like I get to the incarnate body of Christ as he lived in it; and I love all the messy, complicated relationships that make up church (and I like them in person better than email!), and I love worshipping and praying and working side-by-side, literally bodies touching, eating, singing, crying, laughing, sharing our stories, because that’s what makes me feel like part of the body of Christ, which is when resurrection feels most real to me.


See, I have no idea where this is going. So holla back!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Cost and Joy of Discipleship: Renewing My Lesbian Card

On my “ketchup” list in my last post was the fact that I have been thinking more about being a lesbian in the past ten weeks than I have in the past ten years. That might be a bit of an exaggeration (I’m a little prone to hyperbole), but not too much. Julie used to joke that they were going to take away our lesbian cards soon, if we didn’t get some pride … but then we didn’t, and then we were pretty sure the cards had, in fact, expired. Aside from in fact being lesbians, our lives aren’t very, well, lesbian. We don’t go to gay pride events, we’re not part of any gay and lesbian organizations, we don’t have a rainbow flag outside our house. We have plenty of gay friends, but they’re mostly not our friends because they’re gay, but because they go to our church, or they live on our block, or our kids are playmates.

So my newfound enthusiasm – giddiness even – for thinking and talking about being gay is especially startling to me, like someone renewed my card and forgot to tell me! And it’s not as though I haven’t given any thought to being a lesbian in the last decade, but honestly, it’s just occurring to me that for the most part, what brings gayness to the center of my attention has almost always been the ugly stuff: DOMA and the federal marriage amendment and the whole toxic political climate of the Bush years. But suddenly, we’re married! And we have a gay pastor! And hey, it feels sort of fun to be gay again!

I know that I owe you all an essay or two to conclude my marriage series, but it’s still percolating. I really thought getting married in Iowa was sort of a formality, something kind of cool we never thought we could do. I never imagined that it would be so profoundly generative, in such lovely and unexpected ways. I look forward to sharing all that with you soon (ish; no promises). But I’m finding that I sort of need to write and share my way around it for awhile. The meaning in it, which is gorgeous and unexpected and feels over and over like grace – it’s just too big right now to get my arms all the way around.

So in the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of scenes from a lesbian life, as they are happening to me, or coming back to me these days.


Last Sunday at the adult Sunday school series called Sharing our Faith Stories, our pastor Michael led us in an exercise intended to help us feel more comfortable sharing with one another. It was sort of like “speed dating,” except it was “speed faith sharing.” The chairs in the social hall were set in two concentric circles, facing each other, so folks sitting in each circle were paired with someone sitting in the other circle, knee to knee. Michael would ask us a question, and we each had a minute to share, and then one circle would move one space to the right, so you had a new partner for each question. One of the questions was to tell about an embarrassing moment, and this is the story I told, as it turns out, to my dear friend Suzanne:

When we left Indiana to move to Philadelphia, it was largely because we couldn’t be out there and still be teachers, and Julie, at least, was really sure that she was called to teach (and she was right). As I have written before, it was painful to be closeted in our small, rural classrooms, and the city felt so fresh, so wide-open, so safe, ironically enough. And we were definitely loving being out again, like the BDOC’s (big dykes on campus) that we had been in college. That was definitely way before our lesbian cards expired, back in the day when we loved nothing more than a march on Washington, and if it was a dyke march, all the better.

So there we were, marching with tens of thousands of lesbians right past the White House, and there was a whole contingent who had stripped to the waist. And if you know me, you know that in general I like to have as little clothing on as possible, so OF COURSE I took my shirt off. I mean, right? What else would I do? And we’re marching right past the White House, and we’re chanting something like “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go,” or singing “A you’re an Amazon, B coming Brave and strong, Clearly and Confidently you C! D you’re so dykey, oh how you Excite me, how Fortunate for the Female Faculty!” Or some such, you get the picture.

And then, quietly at first, and then a little louder, and more insistent, I hear a voice from behind: “Miss Rose? Miss Rose? Is that YOU?”

And sure enough, I turned around to see a somewhat flushed (and fully clothed, but quite clearly marching in the dyke march) former student. And by former, I mean like she was my student LAST YEAR!

Again, those of you who know me in person know that I’m no prude, and I would probably be quite comfortable being naked in front of most of you – certainly if we were marching together in a dyke march past the White House – but this was too much. Even for me. I smiled, and said, “Well hello! Just let me put my shirt on and then I can talk to you!” But I’m pretty sure I was blushing.


It’s lovely to feel so celebrated and safe these days as a lesbian woman, wife and mother. It’s so lovely that I almost forgot how recently it felt so very different. I think it’s important to remember. This is a link to something I shared with my congregation one Sunday in worship just three short years ago, when Pennsylvania was considering an amendment excluding gays and lesbians from marriage.


A couple of weeks ago in church, we sang a new response at some point in the liturgy, that went like this:

Open my eyes, that I may see

glimpses of truth, Thou hast for me.

Open my eyes ...

Well, actually, I can’t remember exactly how the song we sang in church went, but most of you who grew up in church probably recognized this, right? That never happens to me, because I didn’t grow up in church. All those hymns that you’re pissed off about because some earnest PC music committee changed the lyrics? Doesn’t bother me in the least, because I never knew the old lyrics to begin with. So I was pretty startled that I recognized this song, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until about the third verse, and then I remembered: Cris Williamson, Song of the Soul, from The Changer and the Changed (go listen!) – the song that opens with that same refrain:

Open my eyes, that I may see

glimpses of truth Thou hast for me

Open my eyes illumine me,

Spirit Divine ….

And if you were an earnest lesbian (or even just an earnest feminist) in the 1980’s, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember how we used to sit up in the Womyn’s Center on the fourth floor of Carpenter Hall, that gorgeous space where men were not allowed, and where the sun streamed through that big semi-circular window? There were great big couches and pillows on the floor and that lavender mural called “Weaving Webs of Women’s Lives,” remember? (And of course, if you didn’t go to Earlham College in the 1980’s, but you were an earnest feminist somewhere else in those years, you can probably at least imagine what I’m talking about). There was a record player in the corner and a slender stack of “women’s music” albums – or “wimmin’s music,” or “womyn’s music” – oh my, but we were earnest then! And I loved it all – Cris Williamson and Meg Christian [edited to get her name right] and their triumphant concert at Carnegie Hall, singing about loving women; and Holly Near, who was maybe even a lesbian for a minute or two, wasn’t she? But at the very least she was bringing all us gentle, angry people together in harmony. And Ferrin, remember her? Oh good Lord, she was not only earnest, but earnest and bleak. And Deirdre McCalla [edited to fix her name] and Theresa Trull and Toshi Reagan … they were all like the sound track of my life back then. And I loved it all.

So when we sang that song in church the other day, a song that I not only knew from before I became a regular church-goer, but knew from those sun-filled days in the lavender womb of the Womyn’s Center, it all came flooding back – how much I loved being a lesbian, how full of hope and pride and joy we were, such young women loving each other, and how much those women’s music singers – Cris and Meg and Holly and Deirdre and Theresa and Toshi and all the rest – how easy it is to remember them with sentimentality, or to poke fun (as I often do) at their earnestness, and to forget that they really were pioneers. That it was fucking brave back then to get up on a stage and sing about loving another woman. I’m glad I got to be reminded of that in the midst of my loving, open and affirming congregation, being led by an openly gay pastor – those women were among the many folks who paved the way for there to be such a church, and such a pastor, and such a giddy lesbian as me -- and I am ever grateful to all of them.

The Cost and Joy of Discipleship: Some Thoughts on Gay Marriage from 2006

I started writing my next post (above) thinking that I haven't been thinking much about being a lesbian for a decade or more ... and then I remembered this. I guess I haven't had so much FUN thinking about being a lesbian in a decade as I'm having now, but certainly the raging homophobia of the Bush years had me thinking a lot about my lesbianism just a couple of years ago. It's refreshing to feel the climate change so much and so quickly; I certainly never thought, when I shared this piece during worship at Old First in the spring of 2006, that I would be married (though not recognized in Pennsylvania) in three short years. This was written in a much less hopeful time, when the Pennsylvania legislature was considering an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution to exclude same sex marriage, an amendment I am pleased to report was never passed. Still, it's good to remember what that time felt like.


I was in the car recently listening to Radio Times and heard Kenji Yoshino, a gay professor at Yale Law School, discussing his new book about gay civil rights. Yoshino was telling the story of an encounter with his father who lovingly embraced his son with the words “You are my son,” during a difficult time in Yoshino’s life when he was beginning to question his sexuality. Knowing that his father loved him in that sort of unconditional way allowed him to come to terms with the fact that he was a gay man. Commenting on that encounter, Yoshino said that “love is a sort of narrative permission that allows certain stories to be told within its bounds which could not otherwise be told.” I was so struck by this thought that I kept repeating it over and over until I got home and wrote it down. “Love is a sort of narrative permission that allows certain stories to be told within its bounds which could not otherwise be told.” I think that the community we have created here at Old First is one in which the love at the heart of our Christian faith allows us to tell all sorts of stories we might not otherwise be able to tell.

I think that, like love, the law also is also a sort of narrative permission that allows certain stories to be told. Often those stories are very affirming, but unfortunately, they aren’t always. One of the stories for which the law creates a narrative framework is the story of marriage and family: the law tells us that certain sorts of marriages and families are “real” and “legitimate” and worthy of celebration, and others are ominously dangerous imposters. Of course, we at Old First know better, because God’s love is what guides our story-telling, but none of us at Old First is immune from the effects of this other story that is constantly being told by and through the law. I would like to share with you how that other story has affected me and my family.

As you all know by now, the Pennsylvania legislature is considering an amendment to the Pennsylvania that would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman, and that would prohibit the Commonwealth from conferring any legal status on unmarried couples. This proposed amendment has to be understood in a much wider context of similar legislation and amendments, beginning with DOMA, the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act, followed by mini-DOMA’s in many states, and then a proposed “Federal Marriage Amendment” to the federal constitution, and most recently a rash of state constitutional amendments like the one currently under consideration in Pennsylvania. To date, voters in 19 states have enacted such constitutional amendments, while 13 other states in addition to Pennsylvania are currently somewhere in the process of enacting one. Many of these amendments also contain vague language denying marriage-like benefits to unmarried couples, which may be interpreted as including domestic partnership health benefits. The state of Virginia recently enacted legislation which prohibits any contract, public or private, which would confer any of the benefits of marriage on a same-sex couple.

And as if these assaults on same-sex couples aren’t enough, now our opponents are going after our families. Currently one state, Florida, does not allow openly gay and lesbian people to adopt children, neither individually nor as a couple. Now 16 other states are considering legislation which would prohibit adoption by lesbians and gay men.

Obviously, there are concrete ways that all of this legal activity affects me and my family. If the Pennsylvania constitution is amended as proposed, Julie and I essentially lose all hope of ever legally marrying in Pennsylvania and enjoying the legal benefits of marriage. We also quite possibly could lose the domestic partnership benefits we receive through the publicly funded Philadelphia School District – the benefits that allow me to be home with our children and to do the unpaid work I have come to love.

That alone is certainly reason enough to go downstairs after worship and write a letter opposing the HB2381. But I want to try to share with you on an even deeper level what all of this means to us. I want you to imagine that every day when you open the paper, or log onto MSNBC, or turn on the radio, a drama is being played out in which you are the enemy, the villain. You, your most intimate relationships, the family you cherish, you all are dangerous. Unfit to raise children. The flashpoint rallying people of faith across the country in a way no other cause has managed to for decades. You, and your family, are a threat to the institution of marriage and to the very fabric of society. You hear this day after day after day, as the drama gets played out in an ever escalating series of legal enactments, each one more severe and punative than the last, until you have to ask yourself, when is it going to stop?

As for me, I go through a pretty constantly cycling series of emotions. Much of the time I get caught up in the minutia of my life, which is pretty wonderful, and I feel safe in the little bubble of progressive folks I have chosen to surround myself with. But there are other times when I lie awake at night and wonder when they will start trying to take our kids away from us, and whether Canada or Sweden or Holland will take us in. Now, I am the first to admit that in the light of day, these fears seem pretty extreme, and probably unfounded, and usually I just shake them off and tell myself I’m letting my overactive imagination get the best of me. But there are other moments when I remember that many of the Jews of Europe continued to tell themselves that it wasn’t really that bad, even as they were being sent away to their deaths in the camps. So, how do you know when that line gets crossed? How do you know when the fears you have for yourself and your family are no longer just overblown stories you are spinning for yourself in the dead of night, but something to be taken seriously? I don’t know, and not knowing makes me anxious.

I especially hate that I can’t protect my children from that anxiety. Recently, Trixie overheard a conversation I had after church about the many states considering banning gay men and lesbians from adopting, and in the car on the way home she asked me about it. We talked, as we have many times before, about how some people think it’s wrong for two women or two men to love each other and to be married and to raise a family. I explained that, for reasons I really don’t understand, some of these people feel so strongly that they want to prevent gay and lesbian people from adopting children. Trixie and I agreed that this view is absurd, and that especially silly is the notion that God agrees with this view, since after all, God is love, and that’s what our family is all about too. This is a conversation we have had many times before about marriage, but never about adoption. I waited while Trixie mulled it all over, and then came the obvious, inevitable question from a bright and thoughtful girl: “Mom, if they do that in Pennsylvania, do you think they will also undo adoptions that have already happened?”

“You mean like my adoption of you, or our adoptoin of Micah?” I asked.

“Yeah. They can’t say we’re not your kids, can they?”

And there you have it. That’s the story the law is currently telling my children: their family may not be secure because they have two moms who love each other. Of course, I assured Trixie that we will always keep our family safe, and that she needn’t worry. But the competing drama being played out in the law right now tells her and us a very different story.

Despite all the gloom and doom I’ve been sharing with you for the past several minutes, I’d like to end on a note of hope. Because I actually do feel startlingly hopeful these days. There is, of course, a much larger story than any of those I’ve been talking about, and that is the story of God’s love for us. Just recently, when I was feeling quite some despair about all of this, it came to me: I believe in God, and I believe that our God is a God of love. Those of you whose faith is deep and firm will find this a simple enough truth, one that I’m sure has sustained you through many difficult times. But those of you who know me well know that my own faith has mostly been plagued by doubt, so you may understand what a startling and powerful revelation that was when it gripped me recently. Yes, I believe in God, and our God is a God of love. God’s love is with me, God’s love is in my marriage, God’s love is in my family. And as Jeff reminded us last week, God’s love is with our opponents too. And God’s love will prevail. It will. And that is profoundly hopeful.

I’m not a pollyanna, though. I know that while my faith and God’s love are powerful and full of hope, they are unfortunately no talisman against bad things happening. This is a mystery I am still struggling to understand, but which I nevertheless know to be true. So, I hope you will take a stand against this gathering madness and lend your voice to the story love is telling. You can begin during the coffee hour today by writing a letter to your representative, asking him or her to oppose HB2381. If enough of us take a stand, and let our voices be heard, perhaps the law might begin to tell a different sort of story as well, the love story we here at Old First already know.

I thank you all for doing your part to make that happen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Diary of a Mad Housewife: "Ketchup"

When I saw Julie and Julia this summer (which I LOVED), I felt vindicated that Julia Child had a dear friend with whom she corresponded for years before they ever met in person. My Julie has always been a little bit dubious of on-line friendships, especially mine, but I say whatEVer, because I don’t know what I would do without them. When Trixie was a baby, and I was miserable in the judge’s chambers and then the big law firm in the sky (literally in the sky; I was on the 50th floor – I may have been miserable, but I had a great view!), I was part of two on-line communities that felt like lifelines to me. One was the Gay and Lesbian Parenting Board at Parents’ Place, one of the predecessors of iVillage; this summer 12 year old Trixie went to sleep-away camp with Hannah, the daughter of Sara, one of the moms I know from that board. I’ve met Sara in person just a handful of times, but she’s been my friend for over a decade, and now our friendship has become second generation: onlinefriends 2.0?! It’s very sweet.

The other on-line community I became a part of at the same time was the Attachment Parenting Board at Parent Soup, the other predecessor of iVillage. I was such a misfit on that Board, but thank goodness I didn’t get shouted out of the community (as I might have in many on-line AP communities at that time, being the non-birth, non-breastfeeding, non-co-sleeping, fully-vaccinating, no-sling-in-sight, full-time working mother with a baby in day care as I was!) Those moms meant the whole world to me, and when twenty or so of them went off to form a Yahoo Groups to talk about “voluntary simplicity,” I was thrilled that I got an invitation to join them. We called ourselves the “volsimmers” though in truth, we emailed, furiously, about everything and anything: pregnancy, birth, adoption, diapers, breastfeeding, school, home school, unschool, sex, marriage, divorce, politics, race, religion, you name it. Tempers flared, there was drama and there were tears, but there was also such incredible support, such caring through so much … welcoming new children, mourning miscarriages, divorces and remarriages and so much more. For many years, we shared multiple emails a day, and almost everyone checked in more than once a week, but as our children grew, the volume of our correspondence dwindled until a quick check-in once or twice a year was pretty much the extent of it.

Recently, though, many of us have found each other on Facebook, and the renewal of our friendships, now over a decade old, has been such a blessing. Now we’re all well-seasoned moms of tweens and teens, a little wiser for the wear, a little less doctrinaire – but the Yahoo Groups volume has ticked up a bit, as we still seem to find plenty of not-fit-for-Facebook topics to share about these days!

Back in the day, when my in-box was crammed-full every day of [Volsim] emails, it was sometimes hard to keep track of all the threads, and when we were trying to “catch up” on all the various conversations, we would post “ketchup” in the subject line.

Which is all to say, it’s been a busy summer and early fall, and my brain is so full of things I want to write, but I’m out of practice…. so this is going to be a “ketchup” sort of blog post … mostly in an effort to get writing again. Bear with me; it’s possible that some day I may write something thoughtful and well-developed again, but this isn’t going to be it!


So, church …. have I mentioned that we have a new pastor at Old First? We do, and he is just as cute as a bug, which totally makes you want to pinch his cheeks. (He’s gay too, which I offer as an aside; I’m feeling a little giddy about that fact, but also pretty darn proud that in my mostly-hetero congregation, it really is an aside; more on the giddiness later.)

Okay, so I’m thinking that if I were a man, and we had a new female pastor, and I said she was so cute I just wanted to pinch her cheeks, that would be pretty damn condescending and just out-right offensive, wouldn’t it? So I offer this as well: Michael is not only cute as a bug, but also wicked smart, super thoughtful, energetic, a gifted homilist … and, well, cute as a bug. (Sorry, but I just don’t think it’s nearly as offensive when the tables are turned … think of it as affirmative action offensiveness ;-)

There’s a new wind blowing at Old First these days, and it feels so cool and refreshing. I have taken on the role of Director of Christian Education, a role I had (basically) for five years until I had to quit a year ago to stave off a nervous breakdown (really, that’s not hyperbole). Apparently just to test my resolve (I’m choosing not to read it as any other sign), upon taking my new post last spring, every church school teacher but one promptly quit. Also apparently, bribery will get you everywhere, and folks at Old First are easier than most, because I was able fairly quickly to auction off lunch with Michael in his newly-decorated-by-me (and-quite-lovely-if-I-do-say-so-myself) parsonage apartment in return for a commitment to teach Sunday School, and we’re off to the races with every class fully staffed. Not bad, huh? (Did I mention how cute he is? Charming too.)


My other somewhat neglected part-time job these days continues to be trying to whip the Wissahickon Charter School Board into some semblance of self-discipline when it comes to record-keeping. I say this with all humility, given that I am now entering my sixth year on that board, and I chaired it for two years, so the entirely abysmal state of our documentation of every policy we have ever passed, not to mention our outlandish failure to be in anything resembling compliance with our by-laws, is probably entirely my fault (so sue me; we were doing some pretty important stuff). My mother-in-law has a hand-written note on an index card on her fridge that says, “It’s better to keep up than to catch up,” and I’m sure she’s right about that (and most things, as it turns out), but it’s easier said than done. Especially for a volunteer board with no dedicated paid staff. So there you have it: we’re getting there.

At the end of this summer, after a two-month hiatus (we don’t meet in July and I was on vacation in August), I was pretty sure I was just barely going to make it through this year before I collapsed in a heap and bid my colleagues adieu. Then of course, I went to the September board meeting and remembered: hey, I LOVE these folks! I LOVE this school! So we’ll see. At the very least, if I do leave the board after this year, it will be with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed.


It’s been a somewhat rough transition back to school with Micah. Unlike a year ago, I feel mostly up to the task of shepherding him through this, but, well, sigh…. It’s never easy, is it? He’s in a tough in-between place where he regrets that he has to grow up (and how sad is that, that our six-year-old first graders are already nostalgic for their halcyon days of youth?) at the same time that he hate (just HATES) being the littlest all the time.

I feel for him, I really do … except when he has to have a fit every damn morning about getting dressed. Micah, like me, is a very sensate boy (well, I’m not a boy, of course, at least not in this life, but I am pretty damn sensate), and seasonal clothing transitions are always hard: in the spring, shorts and sandals feel weird; in the fall, it’s t-shirts and jeans. But this year it’s like he’s three again, and it seems that his clothes are a metaphor for this in-between place in which he finds himself. He’s no longer small enough to fit into the 4 to 7x boys’ jeans (the ones with the snaps that he favors, and the adjustable waist bands that my slender boy needs), but he’s really still too small for the size 8’s that usher in the era of buttons and no adjustable waist bands. Also, all those hand-me-down WCS uniform tees? Arm-pitty! (You know the bunchy, under-arm feeling of too many layers of clothing? Micah feels that way with just one, after a summer of muscle tees). And why, Micah wonders (loudly, with much sturm und drang, every freakin’ morning) do we have to have a stinkin’ uniform anyway? ‘Cause he hates his stinkin’ school and all its stinkin’ rules! Now mind you, the WCS uniform is about the least onerous uniform in all of school-dom: jeans or khakis (shorts are fine), tennis shoes, and a plain t-shirt in navy, maroon or hunter green that may, but does not have to have, the WCS logo.

Tonight, Micah heartbreakingly confessed to me that he does not “look well,” and wishes he had a different face, by which me meant a different color skin. “In our family it’s all White, White, White, and I’m the only one who’s Black!” He also confessed that when he was little, like Josiah (who is the Black adopted younger brother of Micah’s best (White) friend Ada) it didn’t matter, because little kids always get their way.

This is a little boy with some really big stuff going on. Pray for me that I’m up for it. I want to get this right with every fiber of my being … but damn, it’s hard.


Okay, so it’s midnight, and I should get to bed, but there’s still more on my ketchup list. So here’s a short-list, with high hopes that I’ll get to this and more soon:


I’m running again, and practicing yoga. And thinking about incarnation. Also sex, though I probably won’t write much about that on my blog (yeah, I’m a tease, so what?)


A satisfactory prayer life continues to elude me, though I feel like I was at least able to put my finger on my dilemma recently. Incarnation again. [edited to add: resurrection, actually] It’s all about the body.


I haven’t thought as much about being a lesbian in the past ten years as I have in the past ten weeks. Getting married in Iowa and coming home to a (cute-as-a-bug) gay pastor will do that.


Depression sucks; getting better from depression is possibly one of the best things ever.


Food! I’m not going to write much about sex, but I will write about food (and they’re pretty much two sides of the same coin, as far as I’m concerned, so draw your own conclusions).


A baby boy named Levi was born the other day just a few doors down from my house, to a family I adore – while I was on the phone and trying to get dinner ready. Life is awesome like that, huh?

And I’m sure there’s lots more …. but I really need to get to bed!