Wednesday, December 14, 2011

sometimes I cry during pedicures

because I read things like this when I have just bought a beautiful red lace bra for myself from my mom and been texting my best friend about red toenails.

"'That's the best conversational opening I've ever heard. But I'm afraid it will only act between men. Can you picture a lady who has been introduced to another lady by a third lady opening civilities with "How do you do? Come and have a bath"? And yet you will tell me that the sexes are equal.'

'I tell you that they shall be,' said Mr. Emerson, who had been slowly descending the stairs. 'Good afternoon, Mr. Beebe. I tell you, they shall be comrades.'

'We are to raise ladies to our level?' the clergyman inquired.

'The Garden of Eden,' pursued Mr. Emerson, still descending, 'which you place in the past, is really yet to come. We shall enter it when we no longer despise our bodies.'" (E.M. Forster - Room With a View)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sometimes we were twins

Monday was our 2 year anniversary from our first date. We are going to celebrate this Friday at McNamara's with drinks and Irish Music.

I know there are probably many photos of Evangelical missionary teens out there, but I still got a kick when we found this matching one at Nate's house. I didn't realize till I went to post them here that even our bandanas were the same color.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

joy in the morning

Last night I was curled up in the corner chair in my bedroom, feasting on the sight of the roses Nate got me, dreaming of adding a rose essential oil to my collection of scents, wanting more roses in my life. I felt so much happiness looking at a picture I just put in that corner of me at 10 curled up in a chair reading The Secret Garden.

Today I walked to the coffee shop with a princess and a dragon. On the way they requested blueberry muffins, and the last two were waiting for us when we walked in.

I paused to savor this quote as we moved along to the park.

We meandered very slowly back up the hill. Ella's princess crown was hurting her head so I stuck it on my own. I was able to not rush and let them stop to exclaim over ivy leaves shaped like hearts, rainbow oil stains on the road shaped like moose, diamonds in a spiderweb. We turned an alley corner and discovered a profusion of white roses climbing like it was April. I moved to pick one for each girl - surely the owner wouldn't mind - but then felt graspy and guilty, like it would be stealing.

We slowed wayyyy down at the sound of a fountain. Normally you can't peek through the fence of this particular house because it's so contained by blooming life - a secret garden. I could see a bit of the fountain today, though. My lucky day! Sometime I'm going to have to get up the guts to ask the owner if we can go through the gate.

The girls and I stopped to smell one more pink rose near the front of the house. A man turned the corner. "That's the last rose of the season. Enjoy it."

"Is this your garden?"

"Yes. Come here."

He opened the gate and I told the girls this was a very special day. We exclaimed over the floating silver balls in the fountain, and moved along the trail imagining what it would look like in summer.

He picked the girls each a small pink rose from high up overhead. They thanked him shyly.

We continued towards home. Ella chattered, "This was the magic day! I wish Dad could see these!" I thought about the stories I tell them at night sometimes where they are princesses wearing silks and jewels, and everyone they love is there, including King Dad, and there are tasty foods like blueberry muffins we all eat together.


It was King Dad's laugh. We turned around and he was crossing the street on a walk. The girls got hugs and he smelled the roses. Miracles about us always.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

week from satan

I know everybody loves a good "At least my life isn't that bad!" post. (My friend Maretta was having a bad day right when the NYT article came out and I said "Well, I just announced that I had to file bankruptcy in the biggest newspaper in the world" and she said "I know, and it makes me feel better.") So I will indulge y'all again.

Last week Nate's childhood dog Casey died so we cried together most of the night Wednesday. I was carless because mine is in the shop being fixed for some hail damage that occurred in June; I have been saving up to meet my $750 deductible and it's taken me this long to finally get it fixed. 4 minutes straight of 4 inch hail (the size of my palm) created $9011 worth of needed repairs.

Friday morning I am backing Nate's car down his driveway. CRUNCH. Bumper peels off. $1600 worth of damage. Yes, we both have insurance, but now we both have no car and turns out they are going to put this on his record because he is the car's owner. (NOT FAIR - and worst case scenario. I can still pay for it but it will make his premium go up and nothing makes you feel guiltier or like a worse driver than affecting someone else's financial life with your ineptness.)

Yesterday morning, I return the rental car I got over the weekend. "Come out here, m'am." There is a scratch on the lower right front (potentially caused by me but I don't remember hearing it happen and I was watching for it) and another one above the right wheel that looks old and weathered. They are foisting that one on me because I did not notice it when we did the walk-around before I drove off with the car.

Another $500. I started crying. 5 Enterprise rental employees got to see my snot.

The good news is, while walking all over downtown Nashville yesterday I crossed 4 bridges and at no point thought about jumping off of any of them. I love my life. And at the end of the day I came home to a handsome caring man holding these and he let me cry in his arms again.

Love is what life is about and for. Cars and money are just the purgatorial parts. (But you still might want to do what Nate and I have done, which is to add rental car & towing insurance to your policy, and drop your deductibles to $250 for collision. That means $15 less a month we each get to spend on margaritas to help us deal with this shit, but in the long run it will be worth it.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

signs of love

I know. My brain is just wired to make associations more than the average person's. Or maybe going through a shit time primes your brain to more easily notice and make associations. Whatever it is - I don't mind it and I do feel love in it.

I keep seeing crowns. Usually a pattern of imagery has dropped off my radar by now (I started noticing them over a month ago) but it continues. After visiting my friend Carlen and feeling elated from having given her love and energy, I noticed I was staring at a side road called Crown Point. That's about one in 100 I have seen in the last 3-4 weeks, always at times when I'm thinking about something good.

In the middle of class at Belmont last week, the Professor quoted Frederick Buechner's mentor talking about "Christ always being crowned inside us." I thought, hmmmmmm...

The other things I keep seeing are license plates o' love. Nate and I were driving a couple weeks ago behind a van with the license plate of "B3TH3NY." I laughed as we passed them; they had a Hawaiian rainbow lei draped over their rear view mirror just like me. Then two weeks ago, "BUNCHEZ" while I was heading out to visit Nate; that's one of his primary nicknames for me. (Long form, Bunches of Love.) Then yesterday, while calling my friend Jenny for no reason, "SWEET B." She's the only person in my life who refers to me as B. It is so good to be named. Particularly by random license plates.

(Also in class last week, before this third license plate showed up, I mentioned loving a story of Buechner's in which he described being pulled over on the side of the road in intense anguish about his daughter's anorexia and being passed by a car with the license plate TRUST. The owner of the car eventually read Buechner's writing about the experience and found his house to give him the license plate; years later it is still his favorite icon of love in his study.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

crying about Steve

"Remembering that 'I'll be dead soon' is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is the single best invention of life.

It's life change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old, and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it's quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.

If this were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review

I'm in a class right now in which I get to grapple with all my problems with Christianity and it is a great time. The first book we had to read this semester touched on many things I have those problems with (written by an Episcopalian minister who ironically is divorced from one of Madeleine L'Engle's daughters). There were a number of good quotes in it and since I am always putting quotes on here and sharing my opinions - I will post the review and y'all can take what you like from it.

* * *
In Soul Making Alan Jones explores the ideas that came to him after going on a trip around the world to expose himself to many variations of Christianity.

His favorite, he concludes, is the “desert spirituality” of the monks from a monastery in Egypt. Unlike so many others, their faith is devoid of “moralism, behaviorism, and emotionalism.” Instead, it is full of unconditional love, generosity, and a deep honesty about suffering. The head monk allows him to doubt some of the mythology surrounding the more fantastical aspects of their tradition, and gives him the gift of healing oils – loving him with action and fullness instead of words and stipulations. This makes a deep impression on Jones.

Jones claims, “The task of love is to help us rid ourselves of our exoskeleton, to lay us bare, to set us free. We have to come out from behind the protective carapace provided by analysis and system, and expose ourselves to the elements.” Much of the book is spent exploring the how of this. He describes concise “stages” of growth, even while he presents growth as non-linear and never-ending. (“Conversion is not a once and for all event, but a way of psychological and spiritual formation that takes a lifetime.”) The three parts of the book are basically “before being emptied, while being emptied, love filling the emptiness up.”

A conclusive statement Jones makes about the end goal is that “true spiritual maturity is the serious honoring of the validity of our deepest longings” – a fascinating nugget that seems to be an affront to at least 50% of traditional Christianity (with its obsessions about sin, perfection, self-negation), a nugget that could springboard off into one of the most important areas modern Christians need help with – but Jones didn’t do much with it! Alas.

He had a number of clear descriptions of soul making:

Longing and desire play a great part in it.

It has something to do with paying attention to the Things Invisible.

It is becoming more and more who we are, especially as we struggle with love, death, power, and time.

It is aborted when pity, joy, grief, and passion are denied.

It has to do with the removing of masks and with setting us free.

It is fraught with difficulty but the basic thrust of life is on our side.

It requires surrender.

It is a matter of choosing the reality of love.

Jones claims that the unmaking of a soul depends on how far it refuses to follow its own homing instinct – ironic when much of religion, including many Christian denominations, seems bent on interfering with that very instinct.

I appreciated Jones’ acknowledgement of the dark side of Christianity. “Jesus is sold as a narcotic that will take away all your pain and make you intensely happy all the time.” The best line? “Religion is in part what we do with our craziness.” I feel like one could almost link specific denominations with the personality disorders in the DSM-IV – Histrionic? – Pentecostal! OCD? – Catholic! Borderline? – Baptist! That’s a little extreme and reductionist, but I still appreciated his acknowledgement of the crazy. (At the same time – his believing in our profound individual value was deeply helpful for me: “There is something irreducibly mysterious about a human being. There is something of a god in us.” Even the very broken ones. One on one, I sense that God in each person; it is when groups form that the crazy gets overwhelming.)

My other favorite quote having to do with his truly seeing religiosity for what it can be: “Much of religion seems to be a tired pattern of cosmetic surgery performed on the ravaged face of human experience.” This is a great analogy for the inadequacy religion often offers to people in the midst of suffering – perhaps because suffering and doubt can go hand in hand, and religion gets very scared of doubt as anything beyond a concept we are supposed to allow people in order to ultimately get them closer to God. Too much doubt and the soul is (supposedly) lost forever!

I found Jones’ explorations of suffering both helpful and not. “Everything that happens to Christ also happens to us.” A subtly different but more helpful way of putting that might be “Everything that happens to us also happens to Christ.” This is what makes Christianity so fascinating and different from other religions (as the novel Life of Pi by Yanni Patel notes – Christ as an empathetic god makes the other gods seem inhuman). Yet the claim – made by Jones and, probably not coincidentally, my pastor during the children’s sermon this past Sunday – that we are always being held by God, even in the midst of suffering, is the hardest claim for me to swallow right now. Sometimes we’re held - and sometimes it sure seems like we’re dropped. What does “God is always holding us” actually, pragmatically, mean? There are times in life that feel like a complete free fall ending with the splatter of your soul.

If it’s true that in those times we are being held but we can’t feel it – how do we know it’s true? If we can’t trust our experience or feelings during a time of intense suffering, we are supposed to know it is true because other people say so? (Not helpful, people say all sorts of things.) Because we feel the love of concrete human beings who carry us? (Helpful, but if your brain is suffering from neuron synapses being broken by abuse and a severe deficiency in the neurotransmitters that create bonding, you will both push people away and be unable to receive what they manage to get through your defenses.)

If “we are always being held” is a truth, it is a truth that can feel condescending to someone in the middle of the suffering, and it can be salt in the wound to say something to them about it. I reached a point three years ago where the only words I found helpful in the whole Bible were “Why have you forsaken me?” If God could yell that to God in the midst of intense pain, then it’s okay for me to feel that, too.

Jones claimed, “The hardest part of moving into mature believing is allowing oneself to be the object of God’s delight.” I agree, but not because I think I’m a wormy sinful human – it’s because sometimes when you are suffering, self-love is very hard to conjure up, and you feel no delight coming at you from anywhere – people around you, God, life.

* * *
Jones’ emphasis on community was also both helpful and not. He asked the very good question, “How can we be truly formed into a community without our swallowing or dominating one another?” I do not know. I’ve never experienced it outside of my family of origin; I’ve mostly just been burned by groups (and I’ve run the gamut). We are animals, even as there is the god in us, and we love power. Organic and healthy community is rare and special.

Community between two individuals – “the free and loving inclination towards one another” - is more frequent, more frequently helpful, and more life-giving. Perhaps this quote was the best answer: “Self-revelation takes place slowly and quietly between two people who are attentive to one another, understand one another, know one another, love one another. In this way I become the mirror in which the other sees himself; the other becomes the mirror in which I see myself. Yet this takes time. For much dust must be removed from that mirror.” (William Johnston)

My very favorite quote – I think from the whole book! - was “To be truly me I have to turn to you, and you open me up to what I am not yet. I cannot be me without you.”

Jones made a claim for God/Christianity that I disagreed with. “Unless I know the One who loves me, I have no way of responding, no way of loving in return. If not Jesus, than who or what?” I know people who I would describe as full of light who do not “know God” in the Christian sense. We do not require the labels to experience the mystery. Perhaps we require a paradigm, as Jones talks about, but I feel like that paradigm is almost 100% simply making connections to other loving people. As he said, “I need a model of love” – but that model can be found outside of Christianity just as much as within. People who love teach others to love, and the way to love is inside all of us, all the time. Sometimes specific spiritual homes help to cultivate it, sometimes they squelch it. But I don’t think they are a requirement.

Ultimately, I liked his words “failing, struggling, loving” to capture the stages of soul making because they are something that every human is undergoing all the time, no matter what they profess to believe, and they can happen over the course of a day, two months, twenty years… There are thousands of cycles of salvation in every life. It’s not one progression, though the love seems to get deeper the more times the cycles happen and/or the older people get. I’m glad those cycles help all of us to “tell the truth so that what we are and what we present are both genuinely hopeful and uncompromisingly realistic.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Walker Percy

"Christ should leave us. He is too much with us and I don't like his friends. We have no hope of recovering Christ until Christ leaves us. There is after all something worse than being God-forsaken. It is when God overstays his welcome and takes up with the wrong people."

(I don't actually know if that is worse than being God-forsaken. Having that feeling of "Why have you forsaken me?" in response to sexual abuse or the death of a partner - that's pretty much the worst feeling imaginable.)

Christians are always saying in response to things like this "The church is a hospital for sinners so why are you surprised to experience so much dysfunction there?" but I think I said this awhile ago: many many forms of Christianity seem to make a lot of people worse. There is so much that is pure power trip. It's like the poppie field in the wizard of Oz which lulls people into thinking they are getting better and making God happy when in actuality they're getting thrown off course and are nowhere near the Emerald City of their true soul.

At the same time - along the line of the tribes - there are seasons in life when someone finds a home and a family in a religious group and that is very much what they need at that point. It's grey like everything.


This is a huge thing I've been noticing and it affects everything I want to say about just about anything, especially related to the soul:

We are fundamentally wired to categorize and group ourselves and others.

This results in racism, and it also results in churches, and knitting clubs, and families. It is what it is: sometimes it's bad (racism), sometimes it's neutral (...churches?), sometimes it's good, especially when it helps reflect to you Who You Are and What Your Identity Is. We need to see ourselves in a group around us. We need to know we belong and we fit. (We need this so profoundly that a lot of us end up in cult-like situations - you're in one if they refuse to acknowledge that you are part of other groups at the same time, like your family or friends. Ahem, Orthodoxy as I experienced it and ahem, "communal" groups around Nashville... But I digress.)

This is also what limits us, often cripples us, from connecting with others on the deepest level and giving them the freedom to be who and where they are, and to grow.

A really interesting thing happened when the New York Times article came out: I had atheists, agnostics, Christians, and spiritual people all writing me thinking I was exactly like them and was part of their group. Which DELIGHTED me, because a) it's true, I want to be connected to all of them and b) that means my honesty captured enough of the disparity of life that it resonated with people beyond what tribe they are currently in. (When half of the Christians wrote, I did fear that there was condescension, judgment, and "pity" coming my way, because they/my former self tend/ed to be most worried when people are on the outside of the boundaries of what they've been taught gets you close to God.)

We all think the groups are fixed. We think if we are "Christian" we will be that, in that exact same way, for life (and some people are, but that is not often how wholeness is found). We think if we are "atheist," it will be the same. The way we define our soul or lack thereof group seems to be one of the deepest tribes we identify with.

But this is limiting. Hold your label lightly. It's only half of you, whatever it is. You need it, and at the same time it is still probably getting in the way of You being here. And you never know when you're going to shed that skin.

DON'T TRY TO GET PEOPLE TO JOIN YOUR TRIBE. Okay, you can debate for the fun of it (I'm certainly doing that here) and it's good to be where you're at and say what you think. But don't worry that the other person is doing worse off than you if they aren't in your tribe. If you've been told that, it's a lie. They are where they are for a reason and they probably need to be there (unless they are about to drink some Kool-Aid).

I'm trying to stick in the "outsiders" tribe right now, with one foot in all the others. Yes, all of them. I want everything that is good from everywhere to make itself comfy inside me. "Not possible!" everyone yells, because we all want to think our group is the best or that truth is mutually exclusive (I admit I'm partial to the Outsiders right now, but that's only because it's the best place for me, currently). A lot of this blog has been me claiming the "Christians Drive Me Crazy" tribe. And ironically, half the Christians I know would consider themselves a part of that club along with me. See how the labels are self-limiting even as I'm trying to use them all to convey something? :-)

The labels aren't the deeper truth, and the way to get to that truth is for us to love and listen to whoever is in front of us (focus on their name, because Names transcend groups and convey the individual as a world unto themself). We always can be stretched with our categorizing. A practical way of doing this is to play with symbols. Yesterday I wore a sweatshirt with the name of an Evangelical Wisconsin family camp I went to this summer on it. I would not place myself with the belief system espoused by that camp - it's not one of my core tribes - but it felt good for me to claim the name anyway and stretch myself by putting it on my chest. It is a place where I had a good time with my children and extended family. I love those people.

I've also taken to wearing my True Love Waits ring again. It was a gift from my family, it was a symbol of clarity and purity, and I am reclaiming it for myself because I am as valuable and whole now as I ever was. I'm wearing it because my 30-year-old self knows my value and purity have very little to do with my sexuality. And I am wearing it to break the negative powers of that movement, which has so much fear and shame in its shadow.

Play. Play with your groups, your labels, your tribes, your symbols. (I just put a clear Buddha on my dresser table - a symbol of the purity that can be found there - with a fancy gold cross in its arms that has shining mermaid-green stones embedded in it; a merging of the best of the East, the alchemy of suffering and perhaps the love of God, and the glory of femininity and myth, the three parts of my soul right now.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

10 years

Today is Gideon's birthday, and we have come full circle. I brought him a big cupcake at school and ate lunch with him. I baked oreo marshmallow brownies for all of them after school in celebration. We had a good night doing homey things all night. I went through old photos all day - photos I haven't looked at in over 5 years, that have sat in the basement, that made it through the Great Nashville Flood untouched. I put it off because I was too worried about the rush of feelings it would inspire - but after crying a little this morning for reasons I couldn't really explain to myself (sadness? just, overwhelmed by the bigness of this transition? integrating what becoming a mom before I knew who I was really entailed?), I dove in, and it was surprisingly healing and positive. We had some good years starting off. I wasn't depressed after Gid and Ril. I was young and fresh and pretty, heading into the great unknown and feeling like it was a terrific adventure. And it was, complete with the part of the adventure that S U C K S and H U R T S. But not all of it was like that, and it's good to look back and re-member, put some arms and legs back on moments of light that were there all along.

I like being a mom, and I can do this pretty well. Gideon Allen Torode was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I am lucky to belong with him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ebbs and flows

Well, that rush of energy has abated somewhat. I always have the most oomph at the beginning of things. I haven't been massaging them EVERY night, and it's a little messier around here now that we don't have guests for a bit, and I forgot to empty Eden's folders. But it's still mostly good, and all of these things will continue to get done, and I will massage again on some nights. You can't stay on the mountaintop forever, and it's grace to be able to get there in the first place (concrete grace like all those gifts I mentioned). I'm happy to move forward down into the next green valley and then up another mountain. I would just like to avoid the dark swamps for awhile.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Oh my garshness. Oh my garsh. I just need to celebrate on here.

--My house is continually beautiful and mostly clean.

--I continue to paint and freshen like crazy.

--I am sitting down and doing homework with Gideon every night.

--I am clearing out the crapload of papers from each kids' take-home folder every night.

--I am staying on top of laundry.

--I am massaging each of them for 5 minutes before bed.

--I am reading a bedtime story to the girls every night.

--I am putting on music for them to fall asleep to.

--I am kissing all of them and pulling Gideon onto my lap even though he pretends to not like it (he does).

--I am packing them cold lunches.

--I am picking them up from school every day so that they don't have to ride the bus for an extra 45 minutes.

--I am even going to go to Sam's house on Thursdays after school to help Gid with his homework.

I AM THE MOM I ALWAYS DREAMED I COULD BE! At least until the next major stressor slams into my life, but outside of a life-threatening illness or loss of loved one, I'm pretty sure I've got control over most of the other possibilities. (Not planning a wedding anytime soon. Not conceiving a baby anytime soon. Not changing jobs. Not moving. Not even adding more than 6 credits of school per semester.)

I attribute this to my hard work, my parents giving me a flexible job, my boyfriend being a foundation of love and strength, Eden being potty trained and in preschool 5 days a week, making extra money with which to spruce up the house through, keeping in close contact with my dearest friend Jenny whose stories of mothering help me to feel like "I can do that too!", and these beautiful beings who grace my home with their honesty and humor and, yes, still occasional pure animal behavior. (Oh yes, and having been on prescription vitamin D for a year, and having been divorced for awhile, and all those other things you've already read about on here.)

My dining room. We actually ate pizza here the other night. (We're still eating cereal otherwise, but I have hope for better nutriotional strides in the months to come.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Regal Beachness

I drank caffeine so I'm up late. I'm in Oak Island NC with Nate and some of our friends. I saw a lot of random mentions of "blue sky" last week leading up to this (freedom! peace!) and also a lot of random crowns everywhere. I'm feeling peaceful and solidified. And confident. Funny that I wrote that last post because I feel free and open and just -- myself. I feel like I am 30 and I like it. Though I'm the only parent on the trip, I don't feel odd like I used to for so long. These friends see and know Bethany in all my facets and just accept them. I'm a mom. I'm not only a mom, and I'm a good mom.

I also noticed today that I can casually mention my divorce in a conversation without feeling anything. I must have purged most of it. Maybe the NYT got the last of that shit out. Maybe its just time passing. Whatever it is, I love it.

Six or seven years ago I bought myself a necklace and chose two little charms - a crown and the word "relax." Initially I was going to buy the word "believe" but that seemed too guilt-inducing and heavy. I felt like God was reassuring me, "Relax, I'm making you into a queen."

I've been able to do that this trip in new ways. I worked extremely hard last week, up until the minute Nate came to pick me up. And it pushed me to a new breaking point of just being done with overextending my caregivingness, nurturing, mothering. I got here and just felt an inner sense of "I can stay in my boundaries and be okay." That's made room for other people to give to me. Queens work hard, and they also kick back in beauty and receptiveness. The beach has showered me with treasure, like the moment yesterday when I was laying marveling at a drop of water inches from my vision like a diamond blessing my skin, and noticing how pretty my hair was next to it. I've been dreaming a lot about jewelry lately, twice about lost or dropped treasures and once about choosing between three different rings that symbolized my feminine work and achievement.

Just wrote a quote in my journal today from a book, "Mindfulness," that resonated: "At last, after so long, happiness - fragmentary, perhaps, and charged with gravity, but true and unmistakable none the less - had returned to her." I just now realized that it was talking about Queen Victoria.

Friday, August 12, 2011


The comma is broken on my keyboard and let me tell you that's a pain in the arse. (See where it should have been? Just NOT THERE.)

While falling asleep last night I thought about confidence - the lack of it and the getting back of it. I don't know if I'll be struggling with it forever
, because that does seem to be a human condition (that comma is what happens when I press control+v because I am smart and I can circumvent computer errors). There's a lot of literature about "it has to come from inside you" blah blah blah, but I think there are just ebbs and flows, and it *is* largely dependent on life circumstances. You aren't going to have it while you're in a toxic relationship. Doesn't matter how strong you are or how hard you try to find yourself and center with God.

You are going to have it when your projects are working
, your kids seem happy and open, your house doesn't feel like a total sty. Getting there is a bugger of a process, though. And during that process you probably won't feel strong or confident, and that's when you stay close to sheltering moments of beauty, silence; stay close to sheltering friends. You may be so sensitive and vulnerable that you have to just stay close to your home and not even see friends. That's the hardest part for other people to understand, but it happens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"On our own, looking out of the hall window onto the garden and the gathering darkness, we can slowly resume contact with a more authentic self, who was there waiting in the wings for us to end our performance at work. Our submerged playful sides will derive encouragement from the painted flowers on either side of the door. The value of gentleness will be confirmed by the delicate folds of the curtains. Our interest in a modest, tender-hearted kind of happiness will be fostered by the unpretentious raw wooden floorboards. The materials around us will speak to us of the highest hopes we have for ourselves. In this setting, we can come close to a state of mind marked by integrity and vitality. We can feel inwardly liberated. We can, in a profound sense, return home."

When you're going through major life changes, identity crises usually accompany them. (Married to single, country to city, 20s to 30s, woman to mother-woman.) I thought I liked Swedish style decor the best when I was in my mid-20s. I'm a romantic, but Shabby Chic was too frilly for me; I like more color, on the one hand, and more simple lines on the other. Up until recently I was too down, and down on myself, to care, but putting together my guest room has revitalized my sense of "Yeah, that's me, and that's okay." (That's my guest room up there, and I'm proud of it. I got those lights for Christmas 8 years ago, found the chenille bedspread 6 years ago, got the pillow shams two years ago on sale, got the mattress for free from a friend, splurged on the curtain rod from West Elm, and got the chair for $10. PROUD.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Architecture of Happiness

"Life may have to show itself to us in some of its authentically tragic colours before we can begin to grow properly visually responsive to its subtler offerings, whether in the form of a tapestry or a Corinthian column, a slate tile or a lamp... It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value." (Alain de Botton)

I'm in Wisconsin again but my heart and mind are very much connected to all the work I'm doing on my home. Nate was saying to me last week, "It just took awhile for you to be ready to make the changes around you," and that was some of it; when you're in a period of grieving, you don't want to paint things white. But some of it is just not having the money - or at least feeling like you don't have it.

This book nailed it: "It is to prevent the possibility of permanent anguish that we can be led to shut our eyes to most of what is around us, for we are never far from damp stains and cracked ceilings, shattered cities and rusting dockyards. We can't remain sensitive indefinitely to environments which we don't have the means to alter for the good - and end up as conscious as we can afford to be. Echoing the attitude of Stoic philosophers and saints, we may find ourselves arguing that, ultimately, it doesn't much matter what buildings look like, what is on the ceiling or how the wall is treated - professions of detachment that stem not so much from an insensitivity to beauty as from a desire to deflect the sadness we would face if we left ourselves open to all of beauty's many absences."

But now that I've got a little money, I'm realizing that it doesn't take as much as I thought it did when I was complaining about all the things I couldn't do. My porch light is a sturdy old frame with busted plastic pieces uglifying it, revealing the yellowed light bulbs inside. For less than $5, I realized I can go out, buy some kind of flame-retardant pretty-print plastic at the scrapbooking store, and replace the cracked plastic and paint the black frame, and it will be new. Good enough. Lots of good enough things can be done that will re-energize.

I remember reading advice to make a list of the parts of your house that drain the most energy, that you feel negativity when your eye falls on. Holes, cracks, dark places. The tip was to just put one pretty thing there to turn the energy momentum of the area. I've gotten some bright fake flowers on sale at Michael's and stuck them in those places, or taped up colored prints of Jessie Wilcox Smith mothering images on those walls. And you know, it works. It's jedi house magic. It puts hope in those places, and the hope gives you energy to get out the paint, and the freshly painted surface gives you the willpower to forgo eating out and channel that money to whatever new thing needs to be purchased for that area.

Homes are important. I've spent the year going back to college, getting caught up on traveling, and now I'm ready to put down beauty roots, to create my own - in the words of this book - "island of perfection, in which we can find an echo of an ideal which we once hoped to lay a permanent claim to."

Monday, August 1, 2011

blooming rainbows

I was cleaning the house and gathering up the 3 birthday cards I got almost 2 months ago now, and stopped to appreciate their theme. Two years ago, seriously, every card I got was lavender/purple (the color of a queen). This year, it's about a profusion of multicolored abundance. And it has been.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

good vibrations

The house fancification continues. I've been doing a lot in the guest room, and hosting a lot of guests. They keep talking about the calm, good energy in the room. This little fella hung out on the outside screen of one of the room's windows all day. Maybe it's true.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

words we need to say

It's fascinating to me that our soul can hold things in - specific phrases - that can be triggered by benign events and then spoken retroactively to release old emotions.

I've been having a lovely Saturday, and was driving on the highway around downtown Nashville heading to Nate's. To make his exit, I needed to get over the to the far right lane. I drove for 700 feet with my right blinker on as car after car passed, and barely made the exit. I was surprised to feel tears going down my face as I curved around it, and couldn't stop thinking "Why don't you see me?"

Friday, July 29, 2011

rabbit hole

"Not going to group tonight?"

"Too much God talk for me."

"Some people find that comforting."

"Yeah, well, it pisses me off."

This is a good movie. Making me think about grief. Mainly, that there's no right way to do it, nor is there One way to do it. It's the story of a couple who lost their 4 year old son in a car accident 8 months prior, and each character in the movie is dealing with it in their own ways.

It's making me think about how grief and suffering are very challenging to do in a socially appropriate way. I just watched two consecutive scenes where the dad accidentally starts to open up about losing his son to the people looking to buy their house, and the woman of the couple makes a face as they're leaving the room as if to say "Whoa, that was too much information." Then Nicole Kidman ends up slapping a woman in the middle of a grocery store who says "You're not a mom, are you? I didn't think so." When her sister tries to explain to the woman that Nicole just lost her son in a car accident, the woman says "I don't care."

I don't care. Ooh how that hurts. When you're going through an intense emotional time, it's really hard to maintain social appropriateness. Really, really hard. Your heart is bleeding, and blood is messy. And people who are out of touch with themselves impound the wounds of the people struggling (and obviously occasionally failing) to stay within the social boundaries. Do you know how much it hurts someone in pain to hear things like "Wow, he needs to talk to a therapist"? It's embarassing.

Social appropriateness wouldn't be a problem if everyone could manage to not be so bunged up - if we could learn how to be safe places for ourselves and then everyone around us. Everyone needs to learn how to listen, not just therapist personalities. Everyone needs to fight as hard as they can to become a loving, giving person.

I received a lot of this kind of rejection during the divorce. I continue to receive a lot of this by being an open person. That's why everybody calls it brave to open yourself up - because there are so many people out there in the world who have shut themselves down and attack openness when they see it.

Too bad. We don't get better, and the world doesn't get better, if we don't feel things, and if we don't have patience and lack of judgment for those who are suffering - including ourselves.

safe places

When I was a child, I saw a picture of the white-plastered homes in Greece overlooking the Mediterranean in a National Geographic. I was completely enraptured. I was so inspired I painted a watercolor of it.

Fast forward 20 years. In therapy I'm asked to visualize a safe place. I immediately think of a white village, by water, on a hill, full of brightly colored flowers in pots, full of grandmas and grandpas, beautiful strong mothers, kids, all calling to and laughing with each other. I'm at the top overlooking all of it. At one point, Nate came up behind me and put his arms around me. I'm wearing a beautiful dress, and it's sunset or sunrise - not sure. It's the most soothing, beautiful place in the world.

When my friend Sarah and I decided to go to Europe for our 30ths, she wanted Spain, and I said okay. She suggested a whitewashed village by the Mediterranean, and I said, Oh yes.

So I found myself in the actual manifestation of my safe place in May. I didn't know it would be in Spain and not Greece. There were the flowers in the pots, and even at night there were kids running everywhere safely - well-tended, not-street-tough kids, kids that looked like Spanish versions of my kids. I had been in the village 15 minutes, wandering and a little lost, when I stopped an elderly couple walking leisurely down the tiny streets. The man walked me four blocks to help me find what I was looking for, then welcomed me by kissing me on both cheeks.

(Sarah and I also found a mermaid cove, where there were a bunch of topless women swimming and jumping off cliffs. But I digress.)

I didn't know what to paint my house for a long time. I just couldn't land on a color that felt right to me. I've been going crazy this week refreshing everything, though, whitewashing the walls one chunk at a time with a trim brush to get that authentic human touch. Sewing curtains and printing out & framing photos of the trip and my loved ones, turning my home into my safe place.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

in defense of fairy tales

I've said it before, but, I love them. They are our modern mythology. Disney princesses are to us what Hera, Aphrodite, and Artemis were to the Greeks - though it's true the former could use a lesson in bad-assness and sensuality from the latter.* (Artemis was always my favorite as a child - the elusive huntress moving by moonlight through woods. Artemas was the last name of a Greek Orthodox priest who welcomed me after another Orthodox priest excommunicated me when I was 22, and I loved him for that name in addition to everything else.)

I'm creating a TV/sleeping area upstairs for the girls, and fairy tales seem to be the emerging theme. Not exlusively Disney, but definitely Brothers Grimm. Ella, Eden, and I watched Snow White there for their first time a few days ago. I laughed out loud when, while watching the animals cleaning scene, Ella burst out in delight, "This is my FAVORITE MOVIE!" Ah, my orderly girl. She is her grandmothers' granddaughter and not her mother's daughter.

What's so fascinating about fairy tales to me - and what ultimately makes them helpful - is that they actually don't cover up all of life's nastiness the way you subconsciously assume after walking past a Target aisle full of pink, purple, and the holy trinity of Disney women. They are dark. Deceipt, betrayal, things not being what they seem. You've got wicked jealous stepmothers trying to kill you. You've got a mob coming for your father who they've accused of being insane. You've got a toxin-breathing dragon that spurts green blood and has the human form of Female Satan (yes, Sleeping Beauty freaked the hell out of me when I was little, despite it being my favorite).

Nate sent me this last year, after one of my grown up freak-outs. I think he wanted to reassure me with a visual (which is how I am best reassured) that he is willing to fight through the brambles of life and my past and my protectors. Fairy tales are real life.

*and it's true that they are not inerrant and can have clunker ideas of their day thrown in, like any creation grounded in a particular moment of history does. Like this gem from Snow White: "...and away to his castle we'll go, to be married forever I know." We get our own castles now. Chikachickaaaaaa.

so many blue butterflies!

Selective attention is kicking in, in full force. They are whirling around me everywhere. Yesterday I was welcomed to my friend's house by her sweet, beautiful daughter wearing a tank top with a magnificent blue butterfly across the front spotted with crystal beads. Her mom said she had just changed outfits for the arrival of me and my daughters.

About a week ago, I was in my friend Beth's foyer. I picked up a flyer she had from France about Paris, and opened it to an ad with a rich blond woman holding shopping bags in the midst of a ton of blue butterflies. I actually reacted because it triggered my Midwestern anti-wealth, anti-shopping, and anti-being-too-fancy instincts. The prostitution of my blue butterfly by Madison Avenue! Noooo!!!

Then I ended up making a bunch of unexpected money in the days between then and now. So much that every day, I've been able to go Walgreens or Michaels and grab all those backlogged wish-list household items (bathroom air freshener! lavender hand soap!) that I normally hold off on because of penny pinching. And if it keeps up, I might go to the mall and get myself a pretty mermaidy shrug I've had my eye on for months, to make my inner rich blond lady happy.

I took the kids to Target this morning because they have been a part of helping make the money, and got them toys. I felt abundant satisfaction at the sight of tension rods and allergen pillow protectors in my cart. (I can finally sew and hang curtains in my living room!) I turned around opposite the toy aisle, saw this, and smiled. So reassuring to have universe kindness bestowed on shopping, when it is something I have so many fears and restrictions around.

Monday, July 25, 2011

kids say

Yes. Oh yes. Who doesn't love great kids quotes? I have to document some here for friends and family.

Today, Ella and Eden. Ella: "Nonee is going to be your mom, even when you are both in heaven!" Eden: "and even when you are in FLORIDA!"

Gid and Ril. I was explaining puberty to them, how in about 4 years they're going to start thinking about naked girls all the time, and not to be too worried about it when it starts. Ril said, "Right now, at night, I think about cars and KFC. When I am thirteen, I'm going to be thinking about girls driving cars and eating KFC."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

these make me happy

No agenda. I just think pictures that capture honest emotion in microexpressions and body language like these are something else. Something that could rock your whole perspective if you just looked without anger or fear or reaction for a full few minutes. (Do this in spite of those mind spirals: "If the Bible is the proof that Jesus is true, and the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, then accepting homosexuality means denying the truth of Christ." I neither think nor feel that it has to be this way, and if there's one thing my story has given me, it is confidence in asserting that what I think can not override what I'm feeling. And I am feeling so much love and empathy for these heroines. I guess that gives me an agenda.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

just happy

The kids are home. It was a happy, peaceful day. I had "I love being a mom" feelings most of the afternoon and evening. We are really healing ever more rapidly these days, I feel like...

And here's a quote I read tonight, that feels very good after the emotional storms I've been feeling the last two weeks (especially last night after watching Warrior's Way). "Forgiveness arises from our Essential nature and comes from a deeper understanding of the truth of our situation. It entails recognizing what is happening in ourselves and others at a deeper level than we have previously seen. It requires that we fully experience the depth of our resentment, hatred, and vindictiveness and our desire for revenge - without acting out these impulses."

I'm good at the 'seeing the good in the other' part. I'm not a hater by nature. I'm so empathic I forget what I'm feeling because I enter into the other person's reality so much, or at least imagine that I am. So getting angry is the hardest part for me. I don't like hurting people, even people who have hurt me. I know that they feel pain themselves, on at least some subconscious level, when they are hurting me. "Love covers over a multitude of evils" and that really is what feels most satisfying in the end.

But you have to feel the evil part, too, to heal, and before/as you are covering things with love. You have to have violent dreams and stumble across helpful, violent movies. It's just how the psyche processes and moves forward.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I just watched this movie, and to anyone recovering from abuse, I highly recommend it. It will be triggering, but you will feel justice. It's violent as all hell, and that's partly why it's great. I WILL FUCKING WRITE ABOUT THESE THINGS. I was in love with the main male character, an assassin who uses his power to protect the wounded. He is my animus, and I will slice the heads off of so many people's--especially women's--inner demons. I promise.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Ugh. I've been playing around with "writing the book." Holy resistance attack!! Writing a blog is fun because you don't have to pull everything together. It's like chatting with a girlfriend, "Here's what's happening, here's what I'm thinking about, ooh check out this good quote."

A book is, A B O O K. It has to be organized and synthesized. You have to have your voice right. Elizabeth Gilbert chucked her whole first draft of her second book, and I totally get how she could write a complete work in a voice she doesn't like. Getting to the real, core self is a challenge! Again, not on here, for some reason, but when I'm staring at a blank Word document, yes.

What is my thesis? What is my main point? What angle? A memoir? I could go part theological/spirituality. There's probably no way around that, what with all the fundamentalist poison I want to help everyone detox from. My heart is in that. Yeah. I guess that's my center - something to help other post-fundamentalists, so they know they aren't alone in what they're thinking and feeling. That's what everybody responded to most in my NYT article and comments on here.

It's toooo haaarrrddd. Wahhhh. Whiiiinnneee. I need an editor. I need reflection, coaching, "More of this! Yes! Here's some structure for you! Use that, that's good." etc.

I don't want to be the opposite & yet same of what I was before. I don't want to be the new poster-child for "Don't do what I did." People will do what they want to do, and I can't control that. I don't like apologetics all that much. If speaking the truth will piss someone off, okay, but I don't like combat for the sake of combat. I'm not trying to start a new tribe, I don't want to be claimed. I want to help with emotions, clarity, story-weaving, hope, light. That's it.
"Beyond its social dimension, shame also has a devastating personal complexity. When a person is sexually abused, they often feel great shame at what happened to them. The strategy of such violence is to make the victim feel guilty and even responsible for what has happened. Sometimes this personal shame makes the victim silent and passive; consequently, the crime never becomes public. In some instances the threat of social shame further strengthens the decision to stay silent.

Part of the essential work in healing such wounds is to help the person to see their own innocence and goodness and thus unmask the absolutely unwarranted violence of such intrusion and attack. When a person starts to see this, they often begin to awaken the force of anger within them in relation to what has happened to them. The fire of anger can be magnificent in burning off the false garments of shame." John O'Donohue

There is so much I want to say, including cursing all those who silence the anger of people who need to get angry...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ahh what a day.

The kids are in Pennsylvania having a lovely time, and instead of using this free week to travel somewhere (which is always my first instinct), I stayed home. What a good decision. I have not been bored one minute. I have slept a lot. I have gotten what I needed to get done, done, and not pushed myself beyond that. And I'm finding these other little things are getting done because I've made so much space - like the mechanical pencils the boys use for homework have lead in them once again, and I brought the bottle I found in my grandma's backyard as a kid in from under the porch settee where it has been hiding for weeks. I've known it was there, it was just one of those thousand "I'll do it later" actions to take.

I really like being with myself. That is the treasure in the field I sold everything for - sold my safety, my hiding, my running from unpleasant feelings and truths. Sold my fear, my loneliness, my uncomfortability for. This afternoon I leisurely read more about my Enneagram type while jotting journal notes. It was affirming. I've done a lot of the work of growth they suggest. Now I can just rest and enjoy the fruits.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Motherhood, Cinderella, & HP7

I know sometimes I just get on here and bitch, and it's not phenomenal writing, and it's nothing I would publish, it's just catharsis. But that's what you get for reading the rough-draftness and, yes, self-centered nature of a blog. I feel things strongly, all feelings, which sometimes makes for good interesting stories, and sometimes makes for me ranting all over the screen.

I HATE DOING ERRANDS. I hate running all over Nashville with a million mini-deadlines. I hate the traffic and the old people driving so slow (im so meaaaan) and the out-the-parking-lot, doubled ChickFilA drive-thru line (H E L L O people - park the car, walk inside! You will get your food 15 minutes faster! NOBODY THINKS OUTSIDE THE LINES. We are such herd animals!) I hate the tedious mundanity of so much of adult life and household management. It's like purgatory on earth. It sucks the magic and meaning right out of you.

I was late to my daughters' ballet performance, and I walked in to them dancing to the Disney Cinderella soundtrack right where Cinderella is bitching, too.

"Oh, that clock!
Old killjoy.
I hear you.
'Come on, get up,' you say,
'Time to start another day.'
Even he orders me around.
Well, there's one thing.
They can't order me to stop dreaming."

Yesterday was more tedious mundanity and insanity down to the minute Nate arrived to whisk me away for midnight Harry Potter. I knew our friends would be dressed in some awesome costumes --(and they were:
)--and I did not want to go feeling so sweaty and gross, in the same dress I'd been wearing for two days. So with ten minutes to spare, I showered without washing my hair, threw on some lipstick, and put on a dark red tank top and gold fingerless gloves I knitted last year to at least show some Gryffindor team spirit.

I will fight to retain my imagination. I WILL. They can't order me to stop dreaming.

Harry Potter made me weep. I think I cried and had chills during half the movie. It was the opposite of the tedious mundanity - it was REAL, it was struggle and triumph and pain and love. It was the reflection of everything that is best about mothering, from Lily's love of Harry to Mrs. Weasley's Moment, and that felt good after all the intensity.

It was helpful to watch at the end of my NYT week, too. We all end up Harry at different points in our lives, and this was one of mine. It's heavy to be at the center. Power and attention and battles ensue. I was mostly crying watching the love between all the characters, though - how none of them could do it without any of the others, how so many of them were trustworthy and on the side of goodness. The visual of everyone's powers going up over Hogwarts to create a strong shield of love did my heart deep good. I know what that feels like.

beyond the borders

During one of the darkest days of my darkest year, I watched the newest BBC version of Jane Eyre, and it was nearly a religious experience. Chronicling the story from coldness to warmth, full of romance, full of natural beauty. I felt alive like I hardly ever felt during those months.

More than a year ago, I watched it again, and was struck by a moment when Jane looks at her reflection in the glass top of a frame/case enclosing a blue butterfly. Her face and the butterfly coalesce; it's a beautiful moment, perfect visual storytelling without words.

A few days later I was wandering around a bookstore with Nate, feeling listless and frustrated for no reason. All the old scripts were playing (I've had to fight them throughout our dating so far, not surprising when they were going for 8 years): you have to get married. you have to give up again. you have to give give give and not follow dreams outside of your relationship. he's going to suck the life out of you, he's going to shut you down and off. This, of course, is pure baloney-poop, and has NOTHING to do with what Nate is actually like or expects from me. But my lies can project themselves outwards onto anyone around me so easily.

I looked down and saw a $5.99 journal for sale with a big blue butterfly on the cover, so big its wings went beyond the borders. My heart leapt in the middle of the listlessness. I remembered Jane's face from two days earlier.

I turned a corner, riding that wave of energy, and somehow zeroed in on a book, "Find Your Strongest Life." Also felt the energy, interest, pulling me towards it. That's the Marcus Buckingham book I ended up quoting a lot on here.

But I digress. That was the night I felt like blue butterflies began to mean Yes, you matter! for me, and my brain noted to self "start selective attentioning on these."

Fast forward to arriving in Spain 2 months ago with my friend Sarah, walking into a home on a mountainside overlooking one of the most beautiful views on earth, where we were being hosted by kind strangers, for free. I'm taking photos of the view: the Mediterranean, a castle, a whitewashed village, flowers everywhere, the Sierra Nevadas (seriously, all in one picture. Get thee to Salobrena!). I was feeling exhilerated and drunk on the beauty and rightness of everything, being in Europe and free and turning 30 alongside one of my best old friends also turning 30.

I turned around from that view and just started to laugh when I saw the patio door to our room.

I had forgotten about the symbol, for a year, until that moment. And I don't know why it's blue, because that's never been one of my favorite colors.

The artist we were staying with in Salobrena had some watercolors for sale, and Sarah bought, yep, a blue butterfly for me for my birthday. I've seen more since then. One was tattooed on the wrist of one of my fellow classmates at the Second City improv workshop I just took. They showed up on picture frames my kids made at the family camp we were at. I went ahead and created one for myself at the craft shop there, out of those plastic colored circles that melt onto a shape (above).

I was just reading through my blog posts from around this time last year, about a magic spot Nate took me to next to a mountain stream in Asheville. He picked me flowers and then we walked into a whirling dervish of 5 blue-black butterflies. I missed the special meaning at the time. I just texted him about it, and he sent back a picture I had forgotten he took.

(He pointed out that it's drinking from a blooming thistle, the national flower of Scotland. Nate's full name is Nathan Robertson Crandell, from the Robertson clan. Every so often, the universe nudges me and goes, "You can trust him. He is good. He's not going to hurt you." That's obvious to anyone who knows him, but my breart is still catching up, needs repetitive positivity in the deep places.)

I do think there is something to symbols. Not as a tool for divining right choices, but as a way of reflecting heart happenings. Carl Jung was big on them, and if a more thoughtful, rational, intelligent man existed, I dare you to name him.

You will have your own. Keep your eyes and the eyes of your heart out for them. They will reflect how worthy of love you are. In the meantime, feel free to look for blue butterflies, too. (Come to think of it, there's one on the cover of Martha Beck's book Steering by Starlight - start there!)

One meaning: "Metamorphosis, transmutation. The blue butterfly is a wish-granter."

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Yesterday I offhandedly wrote >>Jesus only makes sense to me if he's a slice of divinity saying "Now I get it" on the cross.>> I remember thinking "slice of divinity? unusual word choice."

Check out this Carl Jung quote I just stumbled upon: "Like every other being, I am a splinter of the infinite deity." (from Memories, Dreams, and Reflections)

I've been pondering this notion of Christ and each of us as One, in the last month or so. This is a cool quote to add to the internal stewing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

why am I scared?

So silly. There has been 100x times love versus attacks from this experience. All of your words are so meaningful to me. I remember feeling so unseen all those years, like "I am doing a big thing here! I wish somebody could see what is going on, because I am working so hard!"* Now, so much kindness is pouring in. I feel like I'm staring at a mirrorball with a hundred little reflections of love and goodness and strength. Time to dance!

I got a massage from an incredible friend on Monday (Nashville people, go here). During it she said, "I feel like you need to hear the words, 'You don't deserve this,'" and I started crying. I always think I could do better, could have done better, it's my fault for having gotten involved in such wacky religiousness in the first place, I should have known not to marry that person... It's not fun to be in the New York Times for having been a fundie; it's like being on the other side of the glass while people are pointing and staring at a freak show.

After the massage Linda said "You have an open wound, treat yourself as such for the next day or two. Be gentle with yourself. Don't give anything to anyone beyond your kids. Let yourself be needy." That image was very helpful. Funny how heart wounds can affect our energy levels as much as physical ones. I've done a lot of healing in the last two years, but life continues to draw things out, and it's never over - which at least means we get to never stop treating ourselves to good things like showers, and conversations with peaceful friends like Dan, and fresh summer dresses. (Or drinking & Indiana Jones, which is what Nate knew I needed Monday night.) I can face life's shit if it means I get to constantly clean it off with the plethora of good things available.

*I just want you all to know: I know you have silent struggles and battles, too. Like I've said before, everybody is a Christ in their story, getting persecuted in various ways by all sorts of nuanced suffering. And that's why Jesus only makes sense to me if he's a slice of divinity saying "Now I get it" on the cross. None of this "You're shitty sinners, and I'm awesome, and you'd better be & say sorry, look what I'm doing for you."

Monday, July 11, 2011

I promised...

my boyfriend and my mom that I would take a media fast, and I made the blog private because I am sensitive to haters when it comes to the topic of my kids (although I think people with blogger accounts can still access it??), but here is what I would like to leave you with for awhile. Back to the regularly scheduled programming:

N O R M A L P E R S O N . Cleaning my bathroom. It's 100 friggin degrees here in Nashville. I dare you to judge this.

Thanks for the warm well-wishes, hairpin ladies. I got that female brain tidbit from the book "The Female Brain" by a Harvard doctor who is most definitely some form of feminist, and the "promiscuity" tidbit from psychological attachment literature (and I put "promiscuity" in quotes because I think it's a judgmental word and was trying to get my Christian readers to learn more empathy). And I'm extremely nice because I'm from Wisconsin. It is the death of us. That article made me want to give you a warm rush of love right back, don't be embarrassed, I receive your awesomeness!!

Gabriel the ex-Orthodox - oh gosh, which narcissist priest are you referring to?? I had bad dealings with at least three... ;-) Don't worry, I know. I need to post more of John O'Donohue's great quotes about cults.....

okay folks

I am a real person. Here's what I'm learning about the internet: it feels extremely private and safe to each one of us, because we're just sitting here alone in our house with our computer. We can't be faulted for feeling that way - you or me.

I can read what you are saying as much as you can read what I'm saying. That's you, metafilterers.

I'm sorry I was too emotional on here. This is a very confusing experience. I don't know what the right thing to do is. Nobody else seems to know, either.

Know what I mostly felt when I saw the NYT article? Like I'm ugly, and have bad posture, and need to lose weight, and wouldn't feel any of those things if I wouldn't still be processing all of this stuff.

I am not promoting a book, my former husband was. That article was not a fun experience. This is a sad story and I wish it hadn't happened. I should have said no to the interview, but I thought it might help someone. And it's exciting when the New York Times calls you, no matter who you are. You'd feel the same way.

deleted, deleted, deleted.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Was browsing old blog posts and came across this from two years ago:

>>Two years from now, things will look a lot different. I might be remarried. No matter what, I will be far more alive and engaging than I am now, because I doubt I will still be taking anti-depressants, and I will have spent 3 years laughing to compensate for the 8 years of largely not. I won't be dealing with any more diapers. I will have 4 self-sufficient, delightful human beings on my hands, ages 4, 5, 8, 9. They will be cleaner. They will be eating better food. They will each have a tight relationship with me. They will be doing homework regularly, they will be independent and strong and self-disciplined. I have all faith in the resurrectional return of all good things, *in time*.<<

1. I am not remarried, and we have no plans of this happening anytime soon. It feels so gloriously wonderful to be free of those pressures. I need the freedom of not being married for a long stinking time. This is a key element of my healing.

2. I *am* more alive and engaging; I traveled to Spain and took a comedy workshop at Second City in Chicago, and I don't feel major social anxiety anymore.

3. I have spent a lot of time laughing, especially because of my 1-2/3 years with Nate.

4. I am no longer taking anti-depressants, but I do take prescription vitamin D, and plan to for the rest of my life (once a week pill, I have incredibly wonderful dreams for the two nights after I take it, because my body converts it straight into seratonin).


6. My four delightful human beings are maybe a little cleaner, eating better food a little bit at a time, and our one on one relationships are definitely improving, although I need even more time, energy, and resources for that still.

* * *

I totally believe in that whole "as you think, so shall it be" stuff - mostly because it gives your soul/brain a vision of what to start working towards. This isn't hocus pocus, I did all of this myself (and with friends, and probably, yeah, God).

Two years from now: I will have a 6, 7, 10, and 11 year old. It will be more of the same awesomeness we are entering into, golden years of childhood hilarity and communication. I bet I will have written and published a book, and I might go around speaking about it. I will continue to travel. I hope to be doing better financially than I am now, both in terms of income that I generate and how I am able to use it. I will be just finishing up my bachelor's degree, probably. I hope to have acted in a Nashville play by that point, maybe even some Shakespeare. Maybe I'll be engaged. Or maybe I'll never be married again. (Still kinda a great freeing thought, which I know Oprah would understand if I ever got to have a conversation with her.) I will feel like the rich, full years of 30 through 32 will have more than made up for the struggles between 20 & 30.

Ooh, I'm excited!!!! Onward, my dears!!!

Betty Ford, my new hero

I was just crying to Nate about how alone and weird I sometimes feel. (Even though I realize I was not alone while crying, which helped. He is a loving, gentle presence.) I have been processing the New York Times thing all weekend, feeling raw and exposed and yet not regretting it.

Then I came across this: "Betty Ford said things that first ladies just don't say, even today. And 1970s America loved her for it."

>>According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana — and if she were their age, she'd try it, too. She told "60 Minutes" she wouldn't be surprised to learn that her youngest, 18-year-old Susan, was in a sexual relationship (an embarrassed Susan issued a denial).

She mused that living together before marriage might be wise, thought women should be drafted into the military if men were, and spoke up unapologetically for abortion rights, taking a position contrary to the president's. "Having babies is a blessing, not a duty," Mrs. Ford said.

...At one point, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, she suffered an emotional breakdown that led to weekly visits with a psychiatrist. "He said I had to start thinking I was valuable, not just as a wife and mother, but as myself."

Former President George H.W. Bush said in a statement on Friday: "No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced."

Candor worked for Betty Ford, again and again. She would build an enduring legacy by opening up the toughest times of her life as public example."<<

She was born on my daughter Eden's birthday. Her full maiden name was Elizabeth Bloomer. She loved to dance and was "a free spirit." She was married once before she met & married Gerald Ford (who she started dating before her divorce was final). And she had four kids! She died the day my own story was going to press. I hope to have a good conversation with her someday.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I do think there is unhealthy repression in a lot of Christian (and secular) homes/culture, although in my family my parents, and mom in particular, did a really good job fighting that (we got to run around naked, her and my dad definitely portrayed sex as healthy and good, I was never shamed for anything). But it mostly leads to (and stems from) shame and confusion, not to rape.

Premarital sex - I think the True Love Waits rhetoric is partly misguided and partly a good idea for protecting teenage girls from experiencing sex that will border on abusive, even if the teenage boy isn't intending it to be. I just don't think young men have the physiology to be empathetic lovers until they're a little older, and this can end up scarring young women. Sexuality gets more equal as people age. Virginity is a good thing and not something to feel embarassed about, no matter how old you are - but not being one is also not something to feel embarassed about. There is media pressure for women to be hyper-sexual and that doesn't take female brain chemistry into account; we are wired for monogamy and sexual safety, unless we've been abused, which is usually what causes the "promiscuity" that women get shamed & judged for. (Every neuroses is a manifestation of internal suffering.)

Getting married so you can have sex, which the Christian rhetoric sometimes leads to, is extremely foolish and dangerous, legally and financially and emotionally. Bottom line, it's nobody's business what is going on between two full grown adults (and there shouldn't be loads of shame and guilt attached), what "lines" they are nearing or have crossed, *unless* there is abuse happening, in which case there should be close friends who sexuality is safe to speak of with. Unfortunately, this will rarely be found in connection with conservative faith. I also believe it's possible and admirable for two people to marry as virgins. Is this grey enough? Ha!

Virginity is not Being Perfect. It does not make you better than anyone else. It does not mean your marriage is going to run more smoothly than someone else's, or that your bond is going to be stronger because you saved your psyche to imprint on your One And Only. I don't like the rhetoric Christians adopt around the upheld ideals. It's constructed from anxiety and a need to prove God and the Bible as absolutely true. (I can conceive of God and the Bible as true in a deeper, archetypal way that isn't dependent on the traditional stances being backed by scientific or psychological evidence. But that's something else.)

I'd much rather have my kids date and sexually experiment as adults before/while finding their eventual spouse than go through what I did. Young marriage is not the smartest trend in our day and age (although many can make it). I'm going to encourage my kids not to marry until they're 24/25 or older, which has good statistical backing. If they choose my cultural tastes (which they are free not to, and won't scare the hell out of me if they don't), that will probably mean they'll do something sexually before then (which will be none of my business and I won't ask about), because they will most likely fall in love before then, and will have healthy biological systems that will make them want to act on the love. This is not the end of the world, although hopefully they can manage to do it without getting pregnant or getting a disease.

That's the main health that I *do* see in traditional sexual ethics - protection against abuse, pregnancy before a relationship is ready for it, and sexual disease. Monogamous sexuality is going to protect you the best from extra suffering, and all the world religions had this in mind when developing their guidelines. But a surprise baby or an STD does not make you Satan! And a surprise baby can be incorporated into your life without rushing into marriage, which is another not so great idea Christians tend to deal with things with.

It's all about guidelines instead of rules. And when the guidelines aren't met - when, say, a few different couples at my church accidentally got pregnant before being married, which happened this last year - there needs to be a safe place where there is no shame about it. I'm proud that it wasn't a big deal at my church (these couples did marry quickly as a result, which made me nervous because of my experience, but they were all in their 30s and have lived a lot of life already). I'm happy those couples didn't feel like they had to go get abortions because everybody might find out, which can happen at rule-based, hard-ass churches.

Love happens. Sexuality is connected, and that's a good thing. Don't hate yourself for anything, all will be well in the end, it's hard being human. At the same time, be smart and don't screw around with nature, because you are just as likely to get a disease or "fall pregnant" as the next person. And if you want to save yourself for marriage, that's admirable and attainable! But God is not going to reward you for it. Do it for the peace of mind, emptiness of womb, and health of your privates.

That's my take. The end. :-)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

no evangelizing allowed

I'm gonna deletecha from the comments, folks. Every time. I consider evangelizing spam of the soul. It's about you and your rhetoric, it's not about love. It's about what you are telling yourself inside your own head to keep things together, and that's usually not what hurting people need. I understand it because I *was* it, thoroughly.

Why do people freak out so much about anger? Especially about anger towards God? If God is God, couldn't he probably handle it? Wouldn't he probably understand where it's coming from, and want you to get it out, the way I want my kids to feel free to be angry with me or in my presence if they need to be? Peace without emotions is not peace, it's brainwashing. Truly. Again, I know this because I lived it.

nowhere to go

I don't know why, but I'm realize how very much my associations are strung together and deeply lodged in my breart (I just accidentally wrote that, it's my brain-heart).

I feel backed into a corner about God. When it comes down to it, I blame the rhetoric attached to him/it for staying way too long in something that was killing me. Bottom line, that's what it is. I picked up from Christianity that I need to be committed, pure, holy, intentional; that marriage is an Ultimate; that suffering purifies you. This is all a bunch of hooey, perhaps even shit. If God doesn't love us and want us to be happy, why the hell should we have anything to do with him? And I can't trust the people who preach that he does, indeed, love us and want us to be happy, because those were the ones that strapped me with all the freaking rules and expectations in the first place. Even in subtle ways, ways they would not acknowledge if I confronted them with it.

I gave 500% when I should have stopped at 200%. Your kids are worth you giving 200% to try to salvage/restore/heal something that they need in order to thrive ideally, but past that point, you're so dead that they end up being hurt more. The Christians were the ones that told me to keep going, though. The ones that questioned me, doubted me, judged me. Even the ones I loved. I know I can't expect superhuman unbrokenness from anyone, but stop talking about love and God if you can't actually live up to your words. You are doing incredible damage.

(Why do I just want to write "fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck" about 100 times here??)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I eat because/

/when I need:

to feel angry
a break from my kids
time with girlfriends
to talk and be deeply listened to
color (knitting, lipstick, shopping)
to be outside
to shower/groom
to cry with someone actually listening

I eat because I need to be listened to, deeply, fully given quiet presence, and to be invited to talk - to be asked, questioned, explored, dived into. And to be mirrored, to be given wisdom and encouragement. But I don't really let people most of the time. I compulsively kick into "How are you? Tell me about yourself?" and can go through hours of conversation without revealing anything of myself. I eat in place of being vulnerable. It's how I take care of myself so others don't have to, so they don't have to hug me, listen to me, calm me down, hurt for me, talk to me, go after me.

It's really uncomfortable for me when people do.

I eat because I need to open up little by little, to be able to trust. That's the hardest thing still walled up inside. I let down a little a few nights ago, cried on the shoulder of my friend's mom who was a single mom for 10 years. She understood. I was feeling raw because we were at a family camp and there was a carnival full of families, and the activities had to each be done as a family. I looked around at all the dad/mom/kid sets and felt the old sadness. Even if I was remarried, it wouldn't be the same; they're still primarily my kids that I'm shouldering. I lost something I can't get back, the possibility of a strong partnership with deep, genetic links between everyone. Step-familying is hard, messy, a slow process, confusing. My siblings and parents and a lot of my friends get to have something precious and unbroken. I just needed to cry about that. And Deb let me.

"Any of us, when faced with more internal stress than we can handle, will find external ways to cope if we feel we cannot talk to someone who can handle our stress and our pain." (Heather Forbes)


I was thinking about us & Christ being one, and went to pick Ella and Eden up from their playroom at camp. They had made colored paper crosses with their names on one side and this on the other.