Camp

When I was a kid camp was one of my favorite things. Once a year (or twice in 8th grade) I would stuff a variety of overalls and colorful tshirts in a bag and head out- bound for the long dirt road that, just over the train tracks, led to a week of gritty bliss.

The camp I happened to attend was called Camp Cherith. It was Christian, not sure what demonination. It was an all girls camp till I was about 13 when they started to admit limited numbers of boy. And it was full of all the stereotypes, troupes and activities that all summer camps in the 90s had. We had boating, fishing, rifeley and archery. We had crafts, made boondoggle, did wood burning, rode horses, swam, canoed. We had morning devotions and evening bonfires where we danced and screamed and sand lengthy ridiculous songs that finally settled into soft coping lullabies with partically acurate sign language. We had meals family style with plenty of banging and spills and the best hot chocolate I still have ever had.

I loved that place. Camp was a place where I could be popular- where I could be me and people celebrated that, even the wierd bits. I would proudly walk from activity to activity with friendship braclets half-made dangling from my overall pockets. I would run to the snack shop to carefully select a candy bar with the ten dollars my parents had put on reserve for me.

To this day I remember the feeling of being roused from bed by the bugle, walking into the chill morning air and sitting on a sticky plastic disk in the dewy grass to quietly read my bible before breakfast. All these years later- that feeling remains embedded in my mind as one of the most consistently calm times I have ever spent.

Of course- most of my feelings of confidence at camp were most definitely supported by the staff. Being a (mostly) all girls camp the staff were unsurprisingly all women. We would arrive at camp, bags in hand and shuttled off to different cabins and tents. There we would find our new bunks decorated with glittery stickers with our names painstakingly printed on them. Our counselor, bestowed with a bird name, would greet us with a smile and neon shirt- generally her hair wrapped and a bandana on. And immediately we would feel wanted and loved.

I was at camp 9 years. I remember every counselor i had. But i had some favorites.

Indigo- we made her cry one night because we wouldn’t go to sleep.

Star- she was so cool and so pretty and spunky. The year I was there 5 of the girls in the group of 8 got their first period.

Ruthie- really butch, really sporty, really tough, not afraid of anything.

Cuckcoo- from the Czech Republic.

Scarlet- Gentle and sweet and loved games. I was definitely in love with her.

I wanted to be like these women. These women who were fun and funny and spunky and who were there to sing songs and hang out with US! They were so important to me- from the girl who taught me to ride my first horse to the ladies that served me extra eggs in the morning, they were my heroes. I never once thought of them as anything but something to love and aspire to.

I always wanted to go back.

But a whole summer is a lot to find time for… and with that excuse, I never have.

But I think of it a lot.

And this week, well I am thinking of it constantly. Because, as it so happens, I am working at a different camp- Royal Family Kids Camp. It’s a one week camp for children who are abused or neglected. My mother has run it for years and finally, FINALLY, I am able to come too. It’s not easy. We work long hours- up at 7 and done at 11. We hear terrible stories- little girls who talk about the time their father shot their mother in front of them or little boys who want their face paint to look like they have a black eye like they did the one time their uncle hit them. Or just kids who don’t say they have a home. Kids who are forgotten about.

While they are here we spoil them. That’s it, that’s the point of the camp. To, for one week, spoil these kids and prove that we care. And that God cares. That we don’t know why these things were allowed to happen to them but that doesn’t mean they are not valuable… so we throw an everybody birthday party, we give them presents, we let them eat as much as they want, we feed them candy, we hug them, we sing to them and read to them and boat with them and craft and have tea parties and play dress up and do sports and have a carnival and put on plays and eat and do whatever they want. A week where they get to decide what life should be. There’s a camp grandma and grandpa, there are aunts and uncles and counselors and then, the mes- craft people and food people and drama people and more. And we just pour what we can out, send what we can home and just keep saying that god loves every one of them and we do too.

Many of you know, those words arnt always easy for me to say. Being a queer Christian I have had plenty of people imply that God might love me but that doesn’t mean he loves every part of me. And sometimes the words catch in my mouth. My mind wants to say “God loves you I think but some people make me question that sometimes and it’s ok to doubt but I want you to find a faith that is loving, even if it’s not this exact image of God we are forcing down your throat”. After all, what if I spend all this time telling these kids this and then one turns out gay and suddenly they equate this camp… and the other Christians telling them they don’t belong… and suddenly all our words are meaningless.

But you know what? It’s camp. And camp isn’t about doctrine. It’s about joy. And it’s about love.

And so I find myself not bothered by these catching words. Not bothered by the fact that my mother feared to let me be a counselor in case someone found out I was gay and brought up a case against my spending time with children. Instead, camp overwhelming the worry of not being accepted or respected and just fills me with peace.

And I can look at each of these campers and say “yes!!! The God we have here at camp is FULL of these things! Full of damp cabins and love notes and the hum of crickets in the early morning and swimming and creating and sharing and joy!” And most of all- he is full of love. He is full of laughter. He is full of grace. And I am convinced, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

I have been pondering this unexpected peace i have with camp and the sort-of stereotypical Sunday school teaching we have been doing and I have really come to the conclusion that all of this is wrapped up in my youth, my childhood at camp cherith.

I didn’t know it at the time but my camp had a no discrimination policy and there were a few counselors and even the director that were gay. But it didn’t matter and we didn’t talk about it- we just did our activities and talked about God and loved every second. No fire, no brimstone, no contingencies.

Actually, that camp is where I accepted Christ into my heart for the first time. I was 12- old for a kid who grew up in the church. It was one of those dewy mornings spent reading the Bible. When we finished our counselor drew us into a circle and asked us our thoughts. After a conversation she said she wanted to pray for us and said if anyone wanted to make room for Jesus to live in our hearts we could. And I did.

I am not sure I believe this step is necessary- but I do believe it’s symbolism is beautiful. And I remember feeling so at peace and so joyful. And so… accepted.

How fitting, then, that here I find that same peace. That above the racket of confusion and the people that someone still don’t believe that I am “Christian enough”. That I don’t pray enough, believe enough, agree with them enough. That here- where the air is muggy and the bugs are plenty and the songs are loud. That here we are able to strip this all down and say, in a clear and simple voice- you are loved and worthy of love. You are loved by God. You are loved by us. You are loved by me.

Camp gave me that love.

Now I have this simple chance to give that love here, here at camp.

 

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On Privilege, Power, a Few Rants and the Women’s March

On January 21st, only a few days ago, I was able to stand in solidarity with literally millions of friends across the world in one of the most powerful protests in history. It has sent shock waves through our country and our world and it has left a trail of conversation, resentment, love and frustration in its wake.

And it is a WHOLE LOT to process.

So I thought I would try to maybe do a little bit of that here on my little blog- a place seemingly reserved for such things.

Where to start….

Lets start with something beautiful. This whole thing was beautiful. The night before the march I found myself crammed into one little 2-star hotel room with 6 other women eagerly awaiting whatever was in store. Among them was my mother- Nancy (a Title IX coordinator and counselor), my girlfriend- Sarah (a masters Divinity student at Duke), my sister-in-law Hannah (an elementary Art Teacher from North Carolina) and three close friends- Hilary (friend since childhood), Emily (fellow Alfred person originally from Washington state) and Rachel (also a Duke Div student from Texas). Determined to make it work we pushed together the two twin beds to make a “megabed”, blew up an air mattress and mat and piled on in.

I hardly slept for excitement and nerves.

The next day we drove to the end of the subway line and hopped out of the car, signs in hand to be greeted by literally HUNDREDS of women already crammed waiting to get on the train. For a moment the mixture of fear and excitement nestled in my gut was flooded with only feelings of fear. But at that moment two strange things happened. One- a group of about four people in camo wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and signs that said “Anti-Trans” with a red circle and “x” through it (note- this was confusing, it was clear they were counter protesters but this is a double negative. Anti-anti…means for? I think they might just not be too bright….) entered a platform above us and started yelling and just like that the crowd erupted with noise. But not angry, spiteful noise but rather joyful, overwhelming noise. This happened a couple of times only. The protesters would yell and then the group would swallow their jeers with triumphant love and within ten minutes they had left- signs down, heads shaking. And with that, I felt utterly at peace. Women would jostle and push and immediately would turn and apologize and ask if we were ok. Everyone held hands with their groups so as not to be separated. Cell phone lines were clogged and ceased working. And yet all were smiles, all were kind, all were gracious. Every once in a while someone would call for signs up and pictures would be taken and questions asked and everyone would get excited about what signs said and we would laugh and talk things that needed done. It was so wonderful. And that was only at the train station.

The whole day was like that. Every where you went there would be a sea of faces blending together with pockets of coordinated groups. We saw women wearing Canadian flags and when Hilary said “thank you for coming!” they simply replied with “Absolutely! We are all in this together.” There was a group of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who played the drums like absolute bad asses, Indigenous people groups and hundreds of folks wearing Black Lives Matter shirts as well as plenty from the LGBTQ+ community and any number of religious groups. All excited, all ready to do this thing together.

I will admit, I was nervous to do this. There was a large part of me that figured with the political climate as it is we would very likely be gunned down. I don’t say this lightly, my heart was in knots the weeks leading to it because I went into this with that being a hopefully small but very real possibility. But amazingly, as soon as I got there, I felt that melt away. This was not a place for fear- this was a place for love.

Now, let me say, this day also taught be something about my ever-increasing understanding of my own privilege. Yes- this was a fairly inclusive event- but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t carry with it the veil of white privilege. So very recently Sarah wanted to go to the Black Lives Matter protest in Charleston and I cried and asked her not to go for fear that real REAL violence might erupt. This had nothing to do with a difference of the kind of the of protest- they were the same. Meant to be peaceful and powerful, it was not given the same weight of respect. When middle aged white women march no one sees them as a violent threat. When young black men and women march they are seen as a threat. The Women’s March was not the problem. Black Lives Matter is not the problem. The way we have been taught to view these things different IS A PROBLEM. And even as relief washed over me so did shame of that night I begged Sarah not to go. What kind of Ally am I if I am willing to risk my life for my cause but not the cause of my fellow human beings. Our country, and a lot of folks in it, need to think about this. But I am no position to point fingers. I need to change this in myself. I have not been good enough. And I know I will not be good enough until I have risked all and given all to those who it.

Incidentally, this is because I am a Christian.

This is also why I marched.

This is also why I voted the way I did.

I believe there is no higher truth than to give of yourself and your things to people who need them. I am trying to every day grow better in this. To divide my time in ways it might be sacrificed and to give some of my wealth to causes I cannot physically help in. Its not enough. It might never be. But I know I have a heck of a lot I can still give and that means I have not even scratched the surface of what I believe.

But anyway, back to the march. Like I said, it was amazing. But it has received some criticisms which I take very seriously. Among them, are these:

  1. The inclusion of Women of Color. Mom and I talked a lot about this. Truthfully I was relieved to see the beautiful array of skin tones and styles and any number of differences. This was a place where people of all races, religions, creeds, orientations and genders was gathered and I was, oh, so glad of it. But I will 100% admit we have a long ways to go before it is truly reflective of our nation. I would say, from a brief glance, that percentages were off. A higher percentage of the white population was present than the black population and I would say least represented were our Latinex folks. And this makes sense to me. If I was a woman of color I would hesitate to go to a march. For fear of harm, for fear of exclusion, for fear of hatred. Of course. And that is the problem. Our nation has not offered the safety needed for people of color. And if we want them to feel included we need to work hard to make sure they know they will be protected and that they are respected and wanted. It sounds dramatic but until all those at the march are willing to take a bullet for any other person there…we gotta keep working on this stuff. And until everyone feel comfortable to attend….we gotta keep making safe spaces for each group and each person. How ironic that people of color, those who helped instill this country with the image of a peaceful protest, now face the most violence for just that.
  2. Sacred spaces for Indigenous Peoples. Apparently a large groups of Indigenous Peoples were trying to pray on the steps of the museum on the Mall and were shuffled aside by the crowds. I don’t think this was intended but it sucks. And I am not sure how it could have been stopped- the whole thing was intensely overwhelmed with people- but generally I just think we shit all over our indigenous peoples and this is no exception. Why do we continue to un-see this group? Like I said, this just hurts me to hear about. And to know that already Drumpf has signed an executive order to continue with the Dakota Access Pipeline is sickening. And again, I know my privilege. I can cling to my hope that things stay stagnant enough to survive the next four years. No such luck for those who were here first on our lands. Day three and what little we leave them is being scraped from their bleeding knuckles in the freezing cold heights of North Dakota. What happened at the march I do believe was an accident. But it happens every day in this country… at what point does higher incidences of rape, substance abuse, poverty, lower incomes and land grabbed out from under them move from daily accidents to we, as a whole, just don’t care. If we really cared wouldn’t we just see and recognize a prayer ceremony?
  3. Inclusion for all sisters not just cis-ters. Straight up- we suck at this. Our trans-sisters are most definitely left out of our conversations and our advertising. What I find most frustrating about this is how egregiously they are left out of the health care debate. This is a group of people who need access to medical services not only to make sure the hormones they might take or the surgeries they might undergo are carefully monitored but also because they face higher rates of suicide and sexual and physical harm. They need access to financial support, counseling and good medical services. Why are we, as a movement talking about this?? I will say that one thing about the trans-inclusion debate that I have found frustrating is the desire to do away with all the talk of female genitalia. I don’t think it is fair to ask the feminist movement as a whole to stop using all of the images and language of female organs to talk about women’s issues. This is the language of re appropriation and the seat of much of the shame a lot of women are meant to feel all the time. Things like blood, using the word “pussy” and even the images themselves are a source of power for many women. But just as motherhood is a powerful archetype for women but not all women are mothers so too does genitalia need to find a place. Rather than this being the focus of a movement it needs to be a part of a movement. OF COURSE there will always be women who wear giant stuffed cervix hats to protest the tax on tampons and pads. So too does it need to be understood that not all women have a cervix. Its a messy place to be in- to understand that you cannot strip the language of empowerment from one group for the sake of another while simultaneously ensuring everyone feels included and powerful- but I truly believe the answer is in that mess. Lets actively start talking about issues that trans-women face when we are marching for the rights of all women (and for that matter include all folks who need a voice? Even if they don’t maybe perfectly fit on the gender binary?). I truly believe people wouldn’t knit-pick things like imagery if we were doing a good job of being inclusive- so clearly we have issues here.
  4. The Pro-Life movement in the march. So while the far-left has been frustrated with the above the main criticism I have found from the right is the fact that the march excluded pro-life groups from marching in the parade. I found this fascinating. Mostly because, as a cause, I have not thought of such a group ever wanting to align itself with a march for women. So when I heard that the group was denied I was a little frustrated. I was like “NO WE MUST INCLUDE EVERYONE!” But then… then stuff hit the fan. Namely, at the march we ran into two pro life groups there. One was a giant truck who kept circling the perimeter of the parade driven by two men with a giant aborted fetus on the side and a sign that said “abortion is murder” and the another group who carried signs that said “abortion betrays women” and I was like “oh right, this is the problem with the pro-life movement.” And I know I will make some people mad here…. but here is the thing. I was actually marching, in my small group, with a couple women who consider themselves pro-life. They believe that abortion is wrong, that it should be an extreme last choice and that if at all possible a woman should resort to ANYTHING else. But they also feel uncomfortable with the pro-life movement because, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem to actually care about women or people at all. the pro-life movement seems to be about a line drawn in the sand,  a decree, a rule. It isn’t about caring for people and it certainly isn’t about love. It’s about an easy hard-and-fast solution. Because there is room (so much room) for the pro-life movement to live happily within the pro-choice movement. Show us we are wrong, damnit. Show us that there are actual options for people. Right now women feel trapped and feel they often only have two options- have a baby and suffer the wrath of society, their family, welfare, the grief of giving away a child to adoption, having a child when they feel desperate and overwhelmed or having an abortion. That leaves SO MUCH room for the pro-life movement. Offer safe houses for teen moms to go when their families kick them out! Offer programs where moms-to-be can meet prospective adoptive parents with no guilt attached. Offer after school programs that include counseling for at-risk kids. Have condoms everywhere so students know you’e not stupid enough to think that abstinence-only education is actually going to work (because lets face it if you really hate abortion more than anything you would be doing EVERYTHING in your power to stop it). One of the most powerful signs at the rally was one that read “Because of Planned Parenthood I never needed an abortion.” That’s because PP is doing the work the pro-life movement should be doing. They are offered placements in safe spaces, they are offering education, they are financially supporting, and are providing birth control. I am even fine with the pro-life movement continuing their abstinence talk in churches and even private school as long as they end every talk with- but for goodness sake if you are going to have sex wear a condom. Its the only way to end abortion. Holding signs that say “Abortion betrays women” or driving a truck with a bloody picture is only going to hurt women- demonize those who have felt that their only option was this thing. Maybe they are fine, maybe they feel more regret of that decision more than other- it doesn’t matter. By bringing these things as your symbols you have decided that your legalistic beliefs have more bearing than the realities of an entire half of our population. I have hugged more than one friend as they turned, tears in their eyes, to go to a clinic and end a pregnancy. I have also had friends who had kids at 14 and 16 and they live the lives of their parents now- transient and without much money. I have also had plenty of friends who have surprise kiddos- in and out of marriages who are fine, happy, well-off and just chugging along. And I have had a friend with a babe in arms tell me that this was the worst mistake she could have made, to have this child. Man alive, if there were more options for every one of these women I can only image the empowerment they would feel, the support, the contentment in knowing they are making truly the right choice for themselves. I so desperately want women to have more choices. So fill the gaps the pro-choice movement is leaving! But I am tired of the woes of the right sighing because they were not “allowed” to march. You were allowed to march! We just don’t want you to remind other women marching of what might have been the hardest choice they ever had to make. After all, this was a march for women- their rights and their opportunities. And I have never felt that the pro-life cares at all for women.  I want them involved. But I am not convinced they actually want to be involved. But bottom line is- anyone who is pro-women should have representation at a march like this one. And for that reason I am SO HAPPY that there were those marching who believe that abortion does need to be a last resort without wanting to compromise the right for a woman to choose not to have an abortion rather than be mandated not to have one. And I am SO HAPPY to see many of my friends on facebook who fall on the pro-life side of things struggling with this and wanting to be a part of this movement regardless. Because, even if you disagree with me on this issue, there are so many others that need your voice. It takes a big person to be a part of something that they find fault with… honestly those women, those people, are strong. And who knows- maybe this is just my bias showing. Maybe I am just wrong. I mean, I hate armpit hair and heaven knows there isn’t a damn thing wrong with it.

Sorry for getting a little rant-y….especially on that last one… The thing is… I sound like I have it figured out but obviously these are things I am now pondering, tasting and turning in my mouth slowly. These words, these actions, these self-challenges are all built out of insecurities in the ever-present truth that I am flawed and wanting and just doing my best… and that is never enough.

But I have to try to do things. I have to try to make this world better. What am I if my anger stops at this keyboard, in this moment. There are days where all I have to give is a dollar in my pocket, there are days when I can give all my energy and brain power and enthusiasm. There are also days when I have stayed in bed and stared at the ceiling- tear ducts dry and mind on fire, paralyzed with fear and it takes a friend or two to come and drag me out of bed and force-feed me pancakes. Incidentally that particular day occurred November 9th. Thanks Tyler and Sean.

And as a note- I feel so incredibly lucky that I got to share the march with my mother- someone who has worked her whole life with women- trying to pull them out of poverty, out of pain, out of abuse. I come from a long line of strong women- both my grandmothers, my aunts and my mother have always had voices that rang clear in their homes. I might not always agree with them but I have always respected them- they demand and deserve that. Without them I would be little of what I am today.

So at any rate the march was not perfect but it was powerful. I think the best thing we can do, as participants or bystanders to chew on the critiques that have been given us and ingest them into ourselves- ensuring that we become more inclusive and stronger than before. I am not sure are ever going to be perfect to be honest… but the trying is whats important (oh jeez save me that sentiment!).

In the meantime I know that what I experienced this weekend will sustain me for a long time. All the love that poured into those there, are the excitement at making this world better, all the resolve to be more than the person our country has elected.

After all, I have seen a lot of folks on facebook and in general sneeringly ask what the point of all this was or what we thought would happen. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I will say this. My desire to be a part of this movement boiled down to the simple idea that I want it to be known we stood against this. Too often in my history classes we asked why evil was allowed to persist, why no one stood in opposition. I wanted to be part of something that made it clear that we do oppose, we do stand against this evil. I want it to be known that I do not condone what has happened in this country. And I want to hold myself accountable for what needs to be done.

And Martin Luther said,  “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

 

 

 

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By Any Other Name

I am not sure why I waited a week and a half to write this. Maybe because I did not feel it was my place to claim a seat among those in the innermost circle of grief, maybe I just didn’t know quite what to say.

At any rate, regardless, I would be re-missed not to write something- because a beautiful, complicated person left this world last Sunday. And that person has left a hole that feels so deep and empty and so hard to describe.

A bit of background. Growing up in Houghton my parents were close to a small handful of adults in our town. These people were always interesting, always complex, always caring. Perhaps the most magical part of my childhood is resting my head against the cool metal of our banister railings late at night, after we were supposed to have been in bed, to listen to the whispered voices trickling up from the living room. What was it about those muffled sounds that mesmerized me? The conversations that I knew flew so far above me and yet I pressed myself towards even through the bars that held me suspended from them. I could always smell the cinnamon tea they drank mingling with smokey candles and I could always feel the creak of a rocking chair and the scrape on ceramic plate.

There are a few families that these memories are so desperately, intricately tied to that they are more akin to family to me that friendship. The Lastorias, the MacBeths, the Huths, and perhaps most profoundly- the Woolseys.

The Woolseys, Kathy and Dan, were essentially my parents closest friends. They mirrored my parents loves of art and literature and kayak adventures. They liked quiet dinners with good music and plenty of chatter. They enjoyed day outings to museums and parks and never had a shortage of things to discuss. We even shared some favorite vacation spots including our dear Lakeside, OH. Much like my family they had three children- Caity, Jesse and Jamie. Just off-set to our ages Caity was the eldest followed by Jesse, a year my elder, then Ben and Jamie in perfect sync and Allyson leading the end (generally the case). Many of my earliest memories are of this family so divinely throw together with our own. Jesse was one of my best friends from the time were children and we would have slumber parties with Scotty Macbeth in the upstairs of the Woolsey’s old wooden home. At the same time I always desperately wanted to emulate Caity in all ways. On occasion she and Hilary Young would talk X-files and Star Trek and I would casually sit near trying to understand the details of fandom. I remember a poster on her wall of the Lady of Chalotte and how above me it all seemed. And meanwhile Jamie took up practically permanent residence in my brother’s world, becoming the cousin down the street we never had. There was never a week that passed without him sliding into my mother’s kitchen on his knees, playing air guitar, cannon balling into our pool or helping us make a rather impressive Harry Potter film (this was pre movies you see).

I guess what I am trying to say is- these memories are my childhood. Of course they are not all that I loved from this time- the Wardwells, the Cronks to name a few- but the Woolseys were so connected to us that I literally cannot image my childhood without them by our side.

Every summer is filled with evenings in treehouses and catching fireflys off their back patio, every fall with walks in our woods and bonfires while our parents sat surrounded by citronella candles, every winter with Christmas parties full of baked apples Kathy made, every Spring full of creatures we unearthed out of the thawing ground.

And Jamie was a part of every piece of that.

Of course, since these days our lives have become more complicated. We have all grown and graduated and moved on to the next thing. Caity is married and just had her first child and is a hair away from her PHD at Yale, Jesse married his high school sweetheart Haleigh and they live in Charlotte NC, Ben is also married and pursuing his PHD, I am in a long-term long-distance relationship and biding my time close to home and my parents, Allyson is spending another summer out west and Jamie, well Molly, has had a rough time.

I am not sure why things happen the way they do. I am not sure why Dan was diagnosed with early on-set dementia. I know that this has been one of the heaviest grief-filled events of our small community’s life. I know every time I spend an evening with him now my heart aches to see how far removed this man is from the person I knew as one of the kindest, smartest and complex humans I have ever known. I know I only feel a fraction of what that means to the Woolsey family- to their extended loved ones and most significantly to Kathy, Caity, Jesse and Molly.

I am not sure why things happen the way they do. I am not sure why, out of all of we kids Jamie was afflicted with addiction. There were ups and downs. Jamie officially came out as transgender and we all began to learn her new pronouns and eventually grasped her new name. And Kathy and the family opened their arms to she and she did feel so much love. But with every step forward she fell back. She had a lovely girlfriend I never got to meet- Monica- who was brilliant so far as I can tell. But addiction, addiction tears things up.

We loved her and she did know it. Even through all the frustration we had about her addiction and the pain she felt being in this world- she did know love, and she gave it. And one day, even amidst the love and complexity she still succumbed to her addiction. How is that even possible?

My brother and I have talked a lot these past few weeks about this loss. About how confusing it is to hash through a person’s life, let alone a person who has changed their pronouns. Ben has mentioned the frustration he feels because he wants so desperately to talk about Jamie, the friends who never left his side till they graduated high school. How he at the same time knows he needs to pay his respects to Molly. And how wrapped in that is this beautiful, strange, barely obtainable knowing that this is all one being- one beautiful, complicated, broken, fluid person who made an impact in our tiny little world.

This person climbed trees with us, shared sleeping bags at drive-in movies, marveled at nature and discovered computer games. This person imaged worlds, despaired character demise and loved fiercely around us. It was not easy and I believe in so many it was so much harder for her than the rest of us. But she was there. This person was there.

I am finding it hard to think about this Christmas. Trite, I know, again, this is not my grief to really bear. But you see, especially these last years that is the only time I really got to see Molly. She would text me occasionally and comment often on my facebook or instagram photos. Most recently, about a week before her death, she noted how much she missed the song game my family played around the living room on family get-together nights. My response was simple- me too. Me. Too. But these days she has been fighting her battles on the West Coast and so Christmas Eve is really the only time we really got to talk. She, covered in awkward ink drawings that littered her body like a cliche roadmap and I trying too hard to seem casual in whatever outfit I would regret come next year, would get in that one good conversation. But even though our families are more scattered and I have not seen Jesse in years these evenings still mean the world to me. And she has always been there- every Christmas Eve.

There are few things in life that have made me truly angry- what has been inflicted on this beautiful, important family is something that has. With Dan, now with Molly. I will never understand why this things happen. I will never understand why these things happen.

But I do know I mourn them both. And I know particularly tonight, these past few weeks and many, many to come, I will mourn Molly.

This is a person who meant something, a person woven into the memories and pieces of people in ways they are only now still understanding. How I wish, even for a moment I could go back to those days of all of we children falling asleep in tepid late-summer nights on shared beds listening to the hum of crickets. How I wish, even for a moment I could re-live Jamie sitting next to me, our faces pressed against the metal bars, listening to our parents whispers, my feeling completely at peace with this person who was, without a doubt, family.

We will miss you my friend. I hope you have found your mermaid world.

 

 

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On Being Sick

Yesterday in church my pastor shared some news: she isn’t going to die as soon as we thought.

She explained her Parkinson’s has turned out to be a very rare form of the disease, one that is still painful but manageable. She won’t loose her mobility or mental capacity like so many victims. Following this she referenced two of her friends who were diagnosed almost in the same week as she was, both who have respectively lost her life and his mind. As she spoke, I felt a flood memories rush over, bathing me in feverish waves and sending chills up and down my spine. I sat being cold and clammy only catching moments of what she said. I cried, every so slightly. And even now I am not sure why. Relief, yes. But also grief. Grief to be reminded of seven years gone by and lost. How is it possible that it has been seven years since that awful week in early January?

I have been pretty sick this month. A battery of symptoms sent me to the hospital for a series of tests. I won’t bore you with details, my life is not immediately threatened, I have some crazy strength vitamins I have to take. But potentially because of this my immune system has been less than desirable and I have found myself bed ridden on and off for the last three weeks. And, in the meantime, my neck found its way out of alignment so in addition to the stomach bugs and sniffles I was in pretty constant pain. It’s been rough.

But today I woke up and I had no pain whatsoever. I slowly moved my head to the side and then the other and felt nothing, the absence of pain almost felt intangible it was so amazing. I felt hungry and even better, when I bit into the warm bread prepared I could taste it. The sun was shining and I opened my windows to let in some air and instead of the chilled nip of March a sweet warmth drifted in and hit my pale cheeks.

This feeling, it felt like floating. Like I had been so aware of what held me fast in my human form was released. The confines and edges of my body were completely beyond my reach, I felt no boundary. And I wanted to cry again.

That seems cheesy, I know. Its not a big deal, I have just had the flu, some colds, a tweek in the neck. But there was somehow this overwelming understanding that I was within the realm of relief. My sick is not the end sick. I have time, I have time to be healthy. It seems scary because I don’t know what to do with it but I have it! And I have so much to fit into that time before I get sick again, whenever that will be…

For Lent this year I gave up some personal struggle things but decided something more interpersonal that I needed to work on was being positive. I am often praised at work for being a “peacekeeper” or someone people feel comfortable around because I am happy a lot. The irony is I think over the last couple of years I have become very bitter about some things. Some ways in which I feel abandoned, harmed, neglected or ill-treated. And quite frankly I forget that turning the other cheek is something that should come more naturally than it has more recently. It used to be easier, honestly I think time and age more than anything start to wear you down. You grow weary of the same conversations with different people pushing you further from the things you thought you believed.

The irony, then, of this series of illnesses hitting me during Lent is not lost on me. And I think the relief of waking to the absence of pain re-sets a bar somehow. I have somehow grown a tolerance for comfort, forgetting how lucky I am. I suppose it the same kind of tolerance all of we reasonably wealthy, white, educated, Christians have built up. Taking “In God we Trust” off our currency seems the end the world when in reality a girl my age had her brother and his wife executed not 5 miles from my own brother and sister-in-law simply because they were Muslim. A grand “checking of my privilege” and in this case, my wellness privilege.

I continue to live in a lot of fear for a lot of reasons. Some complex fears- the fear that someone might hurt my girlfriend simply because we love eachother, the fear that my sister will be safe while camping in Montana- some the ever-present fears of someone who loves anyone- that my parents will stay healthy, everyone I love continue to wake each morning. But I think this is wrapped into the need to be positive again.

After all, I woke this morning. I woke without pain, without much more than red eyes and a sniffle. I work to a world where I am loved and love so deeply, where there is a sky so blue and an earth so brown, where the embrace of a creator settles heavy on my heart.

I am well, I am well.

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On churching

I have not written in a while. Many of my posts belong in that category but so goes this one. Maybe 2016 will offer more time and depth for thoughts, quite possibly not. But as usual, I share as it comes.

And as usual my mind is full to the brim with whatever the latest documentary I have watched is about. And right now that is religion.

I have spent a good deal of my life in a battle with religion, having grown up in a liberal Christian family in a conservative evangelical church. Like many queer children I there felt awkward and to not the fault of my church but rather certain members of my church, I felt hated. One can use the addage love the sinner hate the sin but regardless, one gets weary of any part of themselves being hated. And so I found myself bring drawn to the comfort of Christ while constantly being buried at his feet by his followers. No wonder so many of us leave the church.

 

And though I cannot seem to not believe in the Christian god I might have forsaken his teachings entirely if it were not, ironically, for my beautiful Sarah. While she studies at Duke Divinity I am heaped the excess of her ponderingfs and dig myself deeper into what it means to be Christian and perhaps more so, what it means to be mennonite.

And so my documentaries have of late driven me to the world of religion. Exploring passages, ideas, writings. Trying to work through issues of fe-maleness with dear friends and trying to sway others from bitterness.

And then in church on Sunday I watched two children playing with cars on the seating front ofme and it struck me how beautiful to be raised amongst joy. Amongst community, amongst Christ. For all the pain that this faith has caused people like me I think I also owe my life to not only its grac but its people,the good and the bad, who taught me to love (or showed me the consequence of human hatred and fear).

It has caused me to reevaluate my place in it. Perhaps there is not only a place for me in Christ’s arms but also in one of these houses of worship.

I cannot imagine a more wonderful place to find myself at the start of this new year in fact. To be able to breath in fresh air, to laugh with friends over ridiculous movies, to hold my grandfathers hand, to kiss the woman I love and to feel safe in a house of worship.

What a remarkle thing, to be able to think these things again without such bitter baggage.

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Stripping the Mask: Adventures with the Scooby Gang in Halloween Horror: part 1: Dragonfly

Much to my dismay I published and AMAZING post about this and then it was lost forever. So now not only will it be lost forever but these posts will be out of order…sigh. But here goes but a shadow of that previous post.

The Scooby gang (currently consisting of Eric, Kendra, nic, Hilary, myself and Westy (although he is a drag and usually falls asleep like immediately)) have decided that in order to celebrate Halloween correctly we will want a horror flick a week every week leading up to the day itself. We each will pick one and thus hit a range of spoom and gore befitting the day.

Our first movie ended up being “Dragonfly” staring Kevin Costner and hitting the big screen in 2002. I did not have high hopes for this movie mostly because it was literally the only thing we had on hand but also because I had never heard of it. Generally that’s not cause for alarm but horror being my genre…its nhard to find one I have not heard of…

As it turns out this movie is really more of a thriller than straight horror. But it was surprisingly enjoyable. It had a few really well timed scares and the plot was generally very interesting. True to many early 2000s thrillers it plays heavily on the family angle, working bloodlines to stand in for emotional attachment by the viewer. But as such films go this one is successful. The audience is pulled along by an overly dramatic Costner as he desperately searches for the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his wife’s body in a foreign land. With some spooky elements and a satisfying ending I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the whole thing.

So while it might have been the only movie within grabbing distance to peak our attention as the last flames of the last summer fire died, it also turned out to be the perfect way to herald in fall. If you love quiet horror, dying children drawing mysterious symbols and Kathy Bates with the most obviously lesbian haircut imaginable then you will love “Dragonfly.” Besides, if you are like me then this might be the thriller that is still missing from your horror library.

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Stripping the Mask: Adventures with the Scooby Gang in Halloween Horror part 2: The Secret Window

Alright! We are CATCHING UP YO.

Week 2 found the Scooby Gang cozy at the Mikol homestead with candy corn M & Ms that I cannot only describe as heavenly. The pick of the night was chosen by Kendra who wanted to re-live the glory day of Johnny Depp with the 2004 classic “Secret Window.” Interestingly enough Nic (or Eric?) informed us that this particular film was a box office smash following the aftermath of Depp’s performance in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I, for one, know I saw it in my innocent high school days for just that reason, so I think it must be true.

I have seen this movie a handful of times and have to say I still like it. This movie certainly comes closer to the kind of horror I enjoy- lots of corpses covered in sheets and words carved into ceilings. I think Depp manages to play the quirky eccentric writer in such a way that he both successfully creates a character that seems painfully real with all his frustrating and endearing qualities while someone meeting what would be the cutting edge of hipster fashion a mere 10 years later.

Of course what probably pushes the movie from enjoyable to intriguing is really thanks to John Turturro who plays Shooter, the strange Mississippi- born stranger to haunts Depp at his isolated cabin by the lake. Turturro plays the character with the same strong accent as he had in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” but with an intense dry rasp that the viewer can’t help but feel horrified. The character is straight from a story and gives the film the perfect literary bent to tie its protagonist’s profession together with the medium itself.

Its hard to review this particular movie without being a huge spoiler. But lets just say its a lot of fun. The plot weaves in and out of itself and reveals fabulous twists and curves, the repetition of spoken literary verse give perfect marked timing to the dramatic elements and the ending is super fabulous.

I am glad I got another chance to see the movie, it has been a while and its one that does not disappoint even if you know the end. So on to the next one! Monsters is on for tonight I do believe.

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