Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sitemeter Whore

There are those nights when you really, really want to post. 'Cause you really, really want to let your readers know (the now four of them out there...) that you haven't forgotten them and that you do want to be a good website diva. But, you think, "well, shit. I've got not all that much to say."

I have become a sitemeter whore. Yes. I read how many of you check my blog each day. Not so many. Which is fine. Because those who're worth 1823 regular readers. Here are some interesting things I've learned from those who do read. A whole lot of you come because I'm part of a web-ring of women preachers, that's your entry page. Welcome. Some of you read my blog because you know me, some of you lurk because you wonder about me. Welcome.

I do want to apologize, however, to whoever was searching on MSN for the words "porn," and "Christen." Somehow my website triggered what you typed, but probably not what you wanted...(I think it was that reference I made once about my gay male cats and their porn behaviors around 3 a.m. combined with my name that caused MSN search to pause on my site). I trust that you found what you were looking for in another place...good luck with that.

So, I screwed up today. At least, I think I screwed up. I was talking to J. the father on the phone shortly after a medical procedue that can only be called invasive in the extreme. In that phone call I was musing about what names R. and I would hypothetically call our future children...being all anal-retentive we know these things in advance, having probably decided them a few weeks into our engagement. Remember that I was all Xanaxed out, relaxed, wordy, uninhibited. I was telling my father words that I had initally planned on keeping a surprise (I am so, so not good at surprises), which was that I was hoping that if I ever had a boy to name him Grayson James (James being Jim the Father's birth name). But somehow, either in my Xanax induced stupor or in the inferior phone connection, my father heard, "I will name my child James." And thus, it was sort of a sad moment when in conversation this evening, when my father called to check up on me, Dad said, "I was so overwhelmed at your news that I forgot to ask what the baby's middle name might be if it were a boy." Um...shit. What a let-down. I feel like I'm a failure as a daughter now. But James is a great middle name, right? Woo-hoo...Grayson James. Perfect. Right?

My youngest girlie is herding my into the family room for family, I'll bid all four of my readers a fond goodnight. Thank you for listening to my random musings...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My Brother Phil

We have been busy this weekend.

After a few days of both Robert and I being felled by Gastroentestinal Virus Lite, we emerged from our cocoon for rehearsal for Plymouth U.C.C.'s annual Boar's Head Festival, in which a motley cast of at least a hundred or more descend on a downtown church and put together one of the, hands-down, most meaningful worship services I have ever attended. There is only one weekend of rehearsal, and one night of dress rehearsal before performing this medieval nativity story, but the cast know their parts so well and are so accomodating in teaching the newbies, that in some form of Christmas miracle, the story always unfolds without any major hitches.

When Robert and I were dating, we went to see the festival. And I reminisced about the years I spent in the show growing up...starting as a caroler, moving on to a king's serving girl...graduating through the parts as I grew into new costumes. At the age of eleven, I fixed my eyes on the costumes of the "Ladies," the women who played the medieval guests of the Lord of the Manor, and who wore the shiniest, and most respendent of the festival costumes. Sometimes I would stand near them backstage, and reach my hand out to touch the pearls which draped from their dresses. I always wanted to be a lady, and I remember whispering in Robert's ear that night three years ago of my deep childhood desire.

The next year when the letter went out to recruit staff, our names were on it with our roles, "Lord and Lady" written afterward. Robert teased me that day, "Told you I'd make you a lady one day..." And then he tried on the tights he gets to wear with his medieval tunic. An entirely new sensation for him. And perhaps not entirely unpleasant?

I have come to enjoy the first day of practice, reaquainting myself with the characters who play some of these longstanding parts. There's the fellow-lady, the one who wears blue, who tells all the kids to be quiet backstage in the most annoying of tones, and then laughs louder than anyone else as she plays euchre with the wassailers. There's the sweet lesbian couple who play the part of peasants carrying eggs and bread. There's Ricky, the archer, who sings each part quietly under his breath.

It doesn't take more than an hour or so of practice before we become cognizant of Phil's presence, Phil the inn-keeper/cook, a man who has been in the festival each of the past 31-years, and now travels back from his home in Chicago to participate. Phil, perhaps the nerdiest cast member, who has affixed himself to Robert and me like glue and tells us long and detailed stories about what has been on Oprah lately. Phil, who occasionally laments that he has a "lard ass," something I'm not sure I would broadcast to someone I know only marginally. Regardless, Phil is a fixture in the festival, and I admit that my eyes lit up when I saw that he was indeed back again this year (even if it did mean dodging him at the cast party, where last year he kept Robert and me busy regaling us with tales of his trip to France circa 1978).

The final scene of the Boar's Head involves all of the cast members approaching the stable. Lords and Ladies mingle with peasants and serving girls. The choir quietly sings the song "Let All Mortal Flesh" and we each journey to the front of the sanctuary to get a glimpse of this child who has come to redeem us, who has come to set us all free. We walk forward individually...a huddled mass, but each on our own journey. We don't touch. We just walk slowly, reverently.

In the darkness, as we reach the manger, we bow, and in the crunch I reach for a hand to hold, for the final scene calls us to hold hands with those around us as we leave the stable, each renewed by our encounter with the Christ child. We leave brothers and sisters. Often it is Robert, just at my elbow, kneeling as well, whose hand I find in that gaggle of people, but as I reached out in the dark last year, I felt an unfamiliar hand which grasped mine tightly. When the lights came up, I turned to see Phil, holding my hand on one side as with his other hand he supported a man who plays a withered woodsman. Phil stood proudly, but I saw the wetness of his eyes as he faced the congregation. "Yes, here we are. A huddled mass of humanity who have limped toward the Christ child and come away changed," I thought. And then Phil and I walked down the aisle, the strains of "O Come All Ye Faithful" echoing in our ears and I remembered that I, like my brother Phil, am one of the motley fools who gather here. I, like my brother Phil, bring my lard-assed self into this place. And I, like my brother Phil, come away a new being. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Big Thoughts, Big Dreams

Just came from an appointment with Dr. B. the fertility guru.

We're moving into a new phase of the fertility dance. And I'm still getting used to some new phase ideas. You see, I'm an old-school girl at heart. I think I've been spending some time mourning the fact that fertility hasn't been easy for us, and that I've had to let go of a few of my dreams (which were probably a bit unrealistic to begin with). And my mind has a hard time wrapping itself around different ideas.

Robert is better about this. More flexible. Less rigid. He continues to be a mensch. He's relaxed and easy-going and so at home in himself and his identity, and willing to let me wonder, and ramble and occasionally rage.

Yep, it's a new world I'm embarking on, this world of being more open to new ideas--being called out of a wilderness of sorts. And while it's's also so very new. And I'm weird that way...weird with that change.

But I'm getting there. And, God willing, and I hope She does... someday they'll be a little person (who if she or he is even half as enchanting as T. and B. will be a wonderkind) wandering into our family's life with my Swedish blue eyes and Robert's wry sense of humor. We'll see what unfolds...

On Losing the Creche

There was exciting news from my mother a few weeks ago. She left a message on our answering machine whilst we were out ferrying the girls to Nutcracker rehearsals. In practically breathless delight she said, "Christen! Guess what!?! We found your creche!"

Now, before you think it, let me say it. I know. Only in the home of a minister does this kind of news warrant more than a raised eyebrow. For we live in a world, I believe, full of lost creches. I could get all sentimental about putting "the Christ back in Christmas" and "remembering the reason for the season," but frankly, those lines are getting a bit trite and tired and overused and we've all seen them on too many church billboards on the backroads for the past month. In my life, the symbol of the missing creche works a bit better, for at the heart of this season there is, for me, still a hollowness.

There is something sacred for me about remembering the quiet stable, and what happened in the dark, rather than expending all our energy trying to aim the bright light of the season on that quiet space in Bethlehem. But, now I'm losing you, aren't I? For I'm starting to sound all preachery. When actually I'm preaching to myself...the woman who is awake at 2:51 a.m. sifting through the quiet spaces of her own memory to search for the God who meets her in the dark.

The creche somehow had gotten lost on one of my many moves from college to seminary to my first pastorate to my home now. I think it got stored in my parents home for "safe keeping," where it lay buried until they moved into a new home last year.

It is not a remarkable creche. It's plastic. I'd not call it exactly "politically correct" as creches go. One of the three kings is clearly modeled after one of those wretched racist lawn jockeys from the 1950s. A few of the lambs don't stand up right and sort of have to lay sideways at the baby Jesus's feet. I sort of imagine them as slain in the spirit. Because I don't like imagining the SPCA folks breathing down my neck, I made an executive decision this year and refrained from displaying the one menacing shepherd who is holding a stick up as if to beat the hell out of any of his poor flock. I never liked him anyway, and his plastic is a little warped so he falls over all the time like Paul when the scales fell from his eyes.

But this creche has mileage. It is one of my earliest memories of Advent. And as such, it has found a home in our library this year. When I was a little girl my parents made sure the creche was accessible to me. It was always on a low table in the living room where I was invited to wrap my sticky fingers around the pieces and reenact the main event. Sometimes I would fly the angel over the whole shebang while singing The Gloria Patri. Sometimes I would line all the figurines up for a parade and pretend that they were going to McDonalds for Big Macs. Sometimes a cat would knock the baby Jesus out of his manger and he'd be missing for days on end. The creche was real to me as a child in a way that it isn't as I've grown older. The creche held a mystery, yes, but it was a mystery that my seven-year-old mind accepted unequivocally. I confess that some of that has been lost as I've aged.

However, having said all that, I proclaim proudly now: I found the creche this year. And in so finding, am spiraling my way back to that dark place where God finds me, indeed, where God finds all of us. Breathing quietly in the stillness.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Insomniacs Annonymous

I feel like I should begin this post with the confession, "Hi. My name is Christen. I'm an insomniac." And there would be several others who would mumble. "Hi Christen." Some of you in the front row, the recent converts would answer a little too enthusiastically, hyped out on your coffee (would they serve coffee, though at Insomniacs Annonymous meetings? Hmmm...).

I blame you all for some of this insomnia, though. Now that I know some more folks are reading, thanks to your nice posts and personal emails (which I love, love, love) I lie awake at night composing blog posts in my head, little love notes to the cyber-world. And I swear, some of my best postings have simply had to be released to the universe like a prayer, because my feet were simply too warm to go padding down the steps to the parlour to my Dell at 2:32 a.m.

No deep thoughts tonight. Just a simple list of delightful joys of the past few days...a laundry list of blessing.

1) Realizing that (knock on the simulated cherry-wood computer desk) apparently the 36 hour "danger period" has passed and neither spouse nor self have had bodies inflicted by gastroenteritis, despite it's recent unexpected jaunt in the House of Rotting Pillars (as I affectionately and occasionally refer to mi casa).
2) Reveling in two-days of much needed exercise after a week-long hiatus (as in, I was too lazy to haul my ass across town after work) in my Jazzercise routine [Ed. note: Stop laughing. I know, I didn't have me pegged for a white-suburban mom type either. Rest assured, I don't wear spandex, and I happen to enjoy dancing to songs like "Play that Funky Music White Boy." It appeals to my inner superstar, despite the fact that I am hip dyslexic and can't shimmy to save my life].
3) Sharing coffee with an old friend and learning delightful news about his life. News I cannot tell. News I really want to tell. But news I cannot tell. Because I can keep secrets. Really. I can keep secrets really well. At least until Monday.
4) Becoming closer to new friends. Finding kindred spirits. Big sigh here.
5) Having a birthday on Thursday...and anticipating all sorts of delectable desserts in my future.

Alright, friends...I'm going to make my way up the stairs to my sleeping husband, and try to will myself to sleep, sleep, sleep now that these miscellaneous thoughts are committed to computer. Over and out. Good night.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

And Henceforth It Shall Be Known as the Performing Arts Vomitorium


She made it through the dance. That's the good news. One of our sweet little Nutcracker bon-bons, one of the ones who dons the drindel and crowns her head with fake long braids made out of pantyhose, was stricken with the vilest of stomach viruses, and the miracle is this: she made it through the dance, through the hot lights on stage, through the possible anxiety of performing. And not only did she make it through...she sparkled and R. and I watched through tears.

It was after the dance, in the green room (which has an oh-so-poignantly-appropriate name now) where, all hell spilled forth. Enough to drown a small country, like perhaps Lichtenstein. It was copious. It was tsunami-like. It was projectile. It was macaroni-and-cheese redux. Do I have to paint a clearer picture?

Now, I am not a vomiter. Not so much. I have a relatively strong stomach, and as such, I get sort of, how shall we say? Freaked out when any such activity happens in my vicinity. A secret fear I have had is that when the crisis arises, and I've known that ultimately it would someday, I would flee for the hills if either of my precious step-daughters should begin to toss her cookies.

But today I feel I have earned my title of step-mother, for I did not leave. Nay, I stood proudly, with my hand gently resting on Little Miss B.'s back. And while I did not have the sense to grab a trashcan, nor did I have the sense to step away so that my sling-back dress shoes would not be splashed, I did remain. And the beauty of it (and believe me that this was not what one would call a "beautiful" scene, surrounded by the children of Fort Wayne's oldest money [of which we are not a part, but rather one of the artistic "fringe" groups]), was that it didn't even occur to me to leave her. Instead, I did what I could which was to murmur, "It's okay, baby."

That night as I was tucking her into bed, she said, "Am I forever going to be known as the kid who threw up at the Nutcracker?" "No, no," I said, even as I flashed the picture of Peter Pentsos puking all over my snowboots after a 7th grade ski trip. There are some times when perhaps it's better to shield your children from the world's grim truth.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Later, on That Same Monday Night

And, lo, she did have a good bath. And God looked at it and saw it was good.
And, lo, she did have a good cry in that bathtub. And God looked at her and wept with her.
And, lo, she did call her friend Lee. And he did reassure her and this reminded her that God acts through community.
And, lo, she did decide that if she wasn't pregnant in a year or so, she would just get another dog.

And then God laughed. God laughed really, really hard. God laughed so hard that She almost wet Her pants. And God said, "You can do that, but it'll piss R. off. And besides, you haven't been all that successful in the potty-training with the one you have. So, maybe you'd be better off if you just kept trying to have that baby."

And the woman sighed. And wiped her tears. And took her dachshund with her into the family room and watched some reality television. And the woman was comforted.

Why Don't I Listen?

It's a Monday night. I have a love/hate relationship with Monday nights. On one hand, the optimist in me, loves the quiet that our house is on Monday. R. teaches on Monday night and I love, love, love the stillness here...which is odd, because it's not like R. is some wild and crazy guy, not like he fills up space in a room, in fact he's inclined to hide-out in his cave, I mean, office. But, there's something about the utter stillness of an uninhabited home. I putter. I read. I knit. I journal. I light candles. I take a bath. Mostly, it's just all about me.

But, Monday night can also be a lonely night. As Anne Lamott says about her own mind, "it's a dangerous neighborhood that no one can go in alone." And tonight I did the worst thing one can do with "bad mind." I...get ready for this...are you braced? on the frickin' internet.

Now, I had the best of intentions. I recently learned that one of the weblogs I read regularly (see had some links to other weblogs and found that, lo and behold, they were women who had struggled with infertility and were, at long last, bringing to birth new life (be that through biological parenting, or adoption, or finding new outlets for their parental urges). It was filled with light and hope and joy and I thought, "Ah, yes. I need me some of that."

And so, when one of the inferility blogs I check posted her list of links I thought, "Ah, more women who have fought the good fight, who have found hope. Let me refresh myself with these good words." And, No, not so much. Instead I read, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of infertility I will not be afraid...and yet I am afraid...and I will never get pregnant forever and ever, Amen." And I got, well, how shall I say? Freaked out.

And so let me say this, and let us put it aside and pretend that it doesn't exist. Oh My God. I am afraid that I will not get pregnant. And, that by not getting pregnant I will have missed out on something HUGE.

When R. and I started this fertility odyssey (isn't that a nice literary analogy? Sort of makes it feel like a grand adventure?) Dr. B. the ferility-guru of the midwest said (without even knowing my hypochondriacal tendencies), "Christen, whatever you do, don't get on the internet. It'll just make you crazy." And R. looked at me with a stern look, and I all but took the boy scout oath that no, I would never, under any circumstances google the words, "Infertility women blog."

Drat. Damn me and my inquisitive mind.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Heavy Things...

This morning I attended the first funeral for an Iraq war veteran. I hope it will be the last.

I was struck by the power of the marines, keeping vigil over the body from the moment he left Iraq throughout the long days and nights of travel, and until burial. I was struck by the minister reading the verses from Psalm 139, of God following us throughout our journeys, not unlike that Marine, keeping watch.

And even for this bleeding-heart liberal, left-leaning pacifist, the beauty of that faithfulness was striking.

I ache for the family of this young veteran. I simply ache. I ache for the wife of almost 11-months that he left behind, and the parents who will never hear their child's voice again.

War is hell.

I wonder what would happen in our culture if more high-ranking government officials were required to attend these funerals and listen to these stories.

War is simply hell.

I believe this very young man, the one with the dazzling smile, and contagious spirit must rest in the very lap of God now.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Oh Jepthah...

This is the text of the sermon that Jim the Father and I preached this morning (a remix of a sermon initially preached at Manchester CoB lo those many years ago). I wish I had the guts to call it what I think it's real title should be..."Oh Jephthah, you Slimy Bastard." Somehow, I don't think the Brethren would like that so much. But it would make me feel better...The text is based on Judges 11:34-40, one of those scary texts which make me glad I'm not an ancient Israelite woman. We preached it together, side by side, sort of like the dueling banjoes.

Here 'tis...

CHRISTEN the daughter:
Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah;and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her.
--Judges 11:34
I know something of what it means to meet a parent with timbrels and dancing, for I, too, am a daughter. I too know what it means to have a father away on a journey, perhaps even a
dangerous journey, and to await his homecoming.
When I was young, my father took a trip to Israel. He was gone only for a few weeks but it felt like decades through my eight-year-old eyes. When his plane returned several weeks later on a cold winter evening, I was at the airport to greet him. It was a long wait. The night was windy, and the runway was covered with a slippery sheet of ice, and each time the plane would try to move, it would slide and twirl precariously. I waited expectantly in the darkness, squinting out at the inky black.
It was a couple of hours before they finally pulled that plane to safety. I watched my father disembark, looking haggard and worn--his suit wrinkled, his tie askew, his beard having grown in more fully than when I had last seen him. I remember the euphoria of having a parent return home, the absolute euphoria of knowing everyone in my little world
was safe and accounted for. It’s easy for me to imagine Jephthah’s daughter, watching for her father to come over the hill. It’s easy for me to imagine her relief in knowing her own small family was reunited at long last.

JIM the father:
She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her.
--Judges 11:34
The writer of this story wants to make sure we get the point. “She was his only child,” the writer states, and then goes back and says it all over again: “Except for her,
he had no son or daughter." It was just Jephthah and her. The book of Judges gives his daughter no name. Tradition, however, has named her—Sheila—and that’s the name we’ll use for today. Jephthah and Sheila, Sheila and Jephthah. I can imagine the relationship they might have had because I also have only one natural-born child, and that child is a daughter. I can imagine what it might have been like for Jephthah when Sheila was born, because I remember when Christen was born. It happened one Wednesday, about noon. There had been difficulties during labor and she was finally delivered by Ceaserean section. Everything turned out
well—both mother and daughter were fine.
But 34 years ago hospitals had a rule that any child delivered by C-section was immediately placed in the intensive care nursery and kept there for several days. The first time I laid eyes on Christen was through double plate glass windows.
I stood there that evening, stretching forward as far as I could, trying to see all of her I could see. I became aware of someone standing beside me. I turned to see that it was a nurse.
She said, “She’s a real cutie, isn’t she?”
I said, “She sure is.”

She said, “You’d like to hold her, wouldn’t you?”

I said, “I sure would.”
She said, “You know it’s against regulations, don’t you?”
I said, “Yes, I know.”
She looked me full in the face for a few moments before she spoke her next words.
“When visiting hours are over tonight, and you’re about to turn right and head down the stairs, don’t turn right. Turn left. You’ll find a laundry closet, and the door will be ajar. Step inside.”
At 8:30 I did as I was told. After fifteen minutes of standing in the darkness of that closet, there came the sound of approaching footsteps and the door was nudged open and this saint of a nurse deposited into my arms my newborn daughter. With a finger to her lips which reminded me to be very quiet, she said, “You’ve got fifteen minutes.”
It would take several hours to adequately describe those fifteen minutes. I held my daughter in my arms and I told her for the first time her name: “Christen.” I introduced myself to her, I said, “I’m Jim. I’m your father.” I touched her soft cheeks, her tiny wisps of hair, her perfectly formed little toes. And I marveled at the utter miracle of her. She had come from nothing, and now she was this: a living, breathing soul. Her soul and mine were linked, and the thought of it took my breath away, and we were bonded for all time. I can imagine Jephthah had his moment as well. I imagine all of us have our moments. Maybe it was when we as parents bonded with a child, or when we as a child grew especially close to a parent, whatever our age.
Maybe it was when we connected with another person as we had never connected before and they became our mate or our spouse, our matching half that made us feel more whole. Maybe this joy of our life was one who joined our family by choice rather than by birth. The story of Jephthah and Sheila is the story of love, and inasmuch as the story of love is a universal story,
than their story is our story—your story and my story and Christen’s story.

CHRISTEN the daughter:
When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter!” You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me.
--Judges 11:35
What bewilderment, what confusion must have crossed Sheila’s mind. Her father was acting very strange, tearing his clothes, yelling loudly. I imagine her looking around nervously at the servants who must have followed her out of the house, the sound of timbrels still echoing in the air. Here stood a blameless young woman, an innocent girl, who had no idea what her father had done.

JIM the father:
Jephthah said to her, “You have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.
--Judges 11:35
With these words we begin to get a handle on Jephthah’s anguish. To truly understand that anguish, we must first understand Jephthah himself. He’s introduced in the book of Judges just a few verses ahead of this one. He’s described in three ways, and in this order: first, he is from Gilead, just south of what would later come to be known as the Sea of Galilee. Second, he was a “mighty warrior”—he was aggressive, strong, scrappy. Third, he was the son of a prostitute.
His father later had three more sons by his wife. Once they had become adults, Jephthah’s brothers disowned him, all because of who his mother was. So with no family, no inheritance, no home, Jephthah struck out on his own and he ended up forming a gang of ruffians. Imagine Hell’s Angels on camelback—that was Jephthah. A man who found it hard now to trust; a man who needed to control in little ways, because he had lost so much control in large ways. Along the way he married and, of course, he had a child. One day his former kinsmen looked him up because they had a problem: their enemies, the Ammonites, were threatening war. And the Israelites needed a no-nonsense commander for their army, someone who could beat a few heads, someone like Jephthah. His response to them was this:“I’ll lead you into battle on one condition:if we win, I automatically become your leader in all other affairs.” His kinsmen thought a moment and they all high-fived. And Jephthah, nervous now about this upcoming battle that had so much at stake, decided he wanted to increase his odds for winning.
So he made a vow with God. He said, “If I can have just this one victory, I’ll promise this: when I return home, I will offer as a sacrifice whatever or whoever first comes out of my house to greet me.” Well, Jephthah led the Israelites into war, and they soundly defeated the Ammonites, and Jephthah was proclaimed a hero. And returning home, he rounded the bend to find someone running to greet him. Someone he didn’t want to see at that moment. And what did he do? He shouted, “My daughter, you have become the cause of great trouble to me.”

CHRISTEN the daughter:
She said to him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites. And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander the mountains, and bewail my virginity,
my companions and I.”
--Judges 11:36,37
In light of this unimaginable horror, Sheila made a simple request. She asked to be surrounded in her final days by only those who could give her comfort and support, she sought out those sisters the ones who could most purely demonstrate God’s presence in her life. She chose to retreat to the mountains, which the scriptures regard as holy places. I can easily imagine the circle of women who journeyed with Sheila, the women who must have held her hands, and wrapped their arms around her, and wiped away her tears, and allowed her to rage, or to curl into a fetal position and not move if she needed. The women who offered her the comfort and stability that Sheila’s own father could not provide, safety that he may not have even been able to understand. All the while, I feel sure that it was these women, these sisters, who represented God’s presence to Sheila, God’s ability to journey with us when we feel the most alone. I understand Sheila’s request for I too have been sustained by my sisters. At various times in my life I have been cradled by the loving arms of a group of seven other women whose bonds of communion and sisterhood have run strong and deep since we were in college together.
Throughout the past twelve years, it is this circle of strong and compassionate spirits whose very presence reminds me: “You will not be alone. Not ever. Know that you will never be without our love.” I have seen in their eyes the depth of God’s love. It is a depth I’m sure Sheila could identify in the eyes of her sisters as well.

JIM the father:
“Go,” he said and sent her away for two months. So she departed, she and her companions,
and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made.
Judges 11:38
The father in me wants to understand the father in Jephthah. Why did he make such a foolish vow? Didn’t he know what could happen? And why—why in heaven’s name did he persist with that promise? Didn’t he realize that maybe God wouldn’t want that promise? Didn’t he see that God never spoke, that there was never a sign that God even recognized that promise?
The father in me wants to understand the father in a man who could say, “Go.” Did he wish her to run away and never return? Did he ever accept responsibility for blaming this on her, of all people? Did his heart break as she turned to go with her sisters? And did his heart break even more when she returned two months later? The father in me wants to understand the father in Jephthah, and the father in Jephthah is silent.

CHRISTEN the daughter:
That, our friends, is the story of a daughter and a father, Sheila and Jephthah, as seen through the eyes of another daughter and father. And now the question becomes, “So what?”
What do we do with this story? How do we bring it forward in time? Dad and I have struggled here. This is not an easy story to tell, or to hear. And, we have this problem: we just plain don’t like Jephthah. We don’t like what he did or why he did it. So how do we salvage this story? And how do we make sure this is a sermon? We’re going to suggest three ways, because every good sermon has three points (!), this story can speak to us today.

JIM the father:
The first way is simply this: We can allow the story of Jephthah and Sheila to serve as a reminder for all time, and the reminder is, “Never again.” Never again should anyone be allowed to think that God wants a father, in any way, for any reason, to take the life of a daughter. Therefore, this is a story we dare not forget, and that means even us, especially us.
For we live in a country where every day an average of four women die at the hands of the men in their lives, men they know well. We live in a country where, if you totaled the number of all women who had been killed by their intimate partners, that number would be greater than all the soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. We live in a country where one in four married women has been or will be battered, where women are ten times more likely than men to be victimized
by someone they know well. I believe our story today can be a starting place to send a message,
and the message is, “This must stop!” For the sake of women, for the sake of men, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our children’s children, the hurting of women in all its various forms must come to an end.

CHRISTEN the daughter:
There is a second lesson which goes hand-in-hand with this first. It is essential that we be in touch with our own rage,and with our own propensity for violence. In a seminary course I took several years ago a professor who impressed me with his gentle and quiet manner spoke of the power of nonviolence and pacifism in his own life. He said, “I am frightened by people who talk of nonviolence as if it were an easy thing. It has not been for me. When I delve deeply into myself, I have found my own capacity for violence. And I now know the radical power of nonviolence in a new way.” Both you and I need to search out the violence in our own beings,
whether it comes from a deep anger or hurt, whether it manifests itself in striking something or someone, or in verbally lashing out, or in silently sulking and brooding. If Jephthah can teach us anything, it is that we must attend to this psychological violence demonstrated in his need to control, and his need to bargain. I often imagine God shaking a head and saying, “Oh Jephthah, you’ve misunderstood.” And the awareness has dawned on me that God has probably shaken a head at me as well. At all of us.

JIM the father:
There is a third message our story holds for us today. And that’s the message that’s carried by Sheila and her sisters as they lived their days to the full on that Near Eastern mountaintop,
as they cried and sang and hugged and danced and prayed. Across all these centuries, they send us an unequivocal word of hope. That when God’s face seems hidden to another, it is people like us, it is we that can help bring that face to the light. And when God’s embrace is most needed by another, then our arms can serve as God’s arms. And when God’s presence is what is yearned for more than anything else, by offering our companionship we can be a sure sign that God is there, and has been all along. Sheila and her sisters remind us that when we truly care for one another, we can look to our left and our right, and there is God. When we truly prize one another, we can reach before us and behind us, and there is God. When we truly want what is best for one another, we can link our arms in one giant daisy chain of life, and right in the center of it all, God is there.

CHRISTEN the daughter:
So there arose an Israelite custom that for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out and lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite
--Judges 11:39-40
Isn’t it interesting that, of the two people in this story, it’s the one who’s unnamed who’s best remembered and most loved?

JIM the father:
Isn’t it interesting that, of the two people in this story, the one who’s depicted as stronger is, in the end, not necessarily the one in whom the most strength resides?

CHRISTEN the daughter:
Isn’t it interesting that, of the two, father and daughter, it is the younger who has so much to teach the older?

JIM the father:
It is these realizations that lead us today to wonder: what if more of the daughter had rubbed off on the father?

CHRISTEN the daughter:
What if more of the feminine way could have mixed more readily with the masculine way?

JIM the father:
What if they could have lived their time on earth—especially their adult time—more together,
more side-by-side, more hand-in-hand?

CHRISTEN the daughter:
And even if they could not, could not we? How? By condemning violence powerfully, including any hints of violence in our own lives.

JIM the father:
How? By cherishing our children tenderly, both those near and those far, those who know by name and those we don’t.

CHRISTEN the daughter:
And by honoring the presence of the God who dwells in all of us, in all seasons of the year, and in all seasons of life. Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I was away for the past few days...the Church of the Brethren women (for further CoB info, or if you're wondering from which occasionally wacko sect I speak, check out our website at had their big hooplah. Lots of amazing hymn singing (with inclusive language [which wins way bonus points in my book]), lots of incredible connecting with other CoB clergywomen, and lots of insightful ponderings from Jan Richardson, who was our leader (check out her amazing books on Amazon). I roomed with Tracy, one of my closest friends...and I know what good friends we are because our cramped quarters at Casa D'Cottonwood Lodge didn't seem at all painful to this highly sensitive introvert.

The food was adequate. And, our bunk beds in aforementioned lodge were a bit, how shall we say? Ummm...wanting. Lots of dead ladybugs. Ventiliation and heating inadequacy.

While being Brethren, alas, I am a middle-class girl who, we must remember was raised United Methodist. My prayer on the way to the retreat was, "Please, God, let it have decent bathrooms....please let it be nicer than other YMCA camps I've stayed at..." And I know this is not a Brethren prayer. But, forgive me, I do have my Episcopalian moments (where they have wine and cheese as their pre-worship appetizer). My prayer, sadly, was not answered.

However, the workshops were lovely...the leadership was amazing...and despite YMCA standards (with chicken nuggets and tater tots as the "healthy fare") I came away nourished and thankful.

I missed you all. And passed this website along, like the weblog whore that I am, to others. I panic that I have been too bold...

Friday, November 11, 2005

And, And, And...

I finally figured out how to change the @#$% settings on this blog so you can leave message even if you are not an eblogger! Yippee! Comment away!


A few times a month I visit Bridgette. I sit on the floor next to the recliner where I can usually find her in the locked Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home. I sit on the floor, and rest my chin on the arm of the upholestered chair, and touch her arm gently and talk to her softly. Sometimes I sing hymns to her, or hum quietly. Bridgette mostly spends my time with her staring into space, or fidgeting with her right hand, rubbing her palms up and down again and again on the leg of her polyester pants. She sits, her shoes laceless, the remnants of her chicken stir-fry lunch dried on her shirt, seemingly oblivious to this well-meaning Hospice chaplain.

I've heard tell that she has family, a sister from California who comes once a year or so, but whose health is also on a downward spiral. The nursing home notes don't mention other visitors, so I suppose the Hospice nurse, social worker and I would be the only dates penciled into her hypothetical daytimer.

Bridgette has a particularly debilitating form of Alzheimer's. Bridgette is more than just "pleasantly confused." Her dementia has alienated her even from her language, from the common grammar and syntax which she has known for a lifetime for when she tries to form sentences, her speech comes out in a backward and stilted way. In the past six months, I have never heard her form a complete thought, or even string a few words together in a coherent fashion. Instead, in the rare instances that she does speak, her verbs and nouns get all jumbled and she'll say, "Yes..said.. that.. we.. here" or "I.. think.. don't.. so..he...well." The words are a random mix...jumbled...tangled. Thankfully, Bridgette doesn't seem to notice after one of her proclamations is met with confusion by others. But I simply smile and nod. And then Bridgette goes back to wearing a hole in the fabric of her pant leg.

Today seemed to be no different than any other visit. The Jamaican nurse who cares for Bridgette greeted me in the hallway and said, "You here to see Miss Bridgette today?" And then to Bridgette, "Miss...look, your friend...she's here again." Bridgette kept at the task at hand of fidgeting. I sat on the floor, greeted her, hummed my hymns, rested my chin on the chair, ran my fingers gently up and down her wrist. The Jamaican nurse and I talked about how pretty Bridgette's hair looked. The man who smells like urine sat behind me and poked at my head while asking, "Do you have any 3/8ths socket wrench?" It was sort of a typical Friday with Bridgette in the Alzheimer's unit.

I got up to leave after about fifteen minutes. I leaned forward to kiss Bridgette on the forehead as I always do, but this time Bridgette stopped me. In an effort that required eye-hand coordination, Bridgette took both her hands and cradled my face as I got about six inches away. I stopped, shocked at her reaction, startled even further to notice that she was looking me in the eyes, training herself on me. I paused and just watched her, five or ten seconds passed, and then in a clear voice Bridgette spoke, "This is all good."

A full sentence. A human connection. The words of God spoken through an ailing woman's lips. I have never heard a more beautiful benediction. It is, for today, all good.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

People Ask Why I Don't Post...

And I say...

I know, I know, I know. I am truly glad I'm not one of those reporters who have a weekly column that they have to write each week, or egad, a sermon. Instead I prefer to be one of those, "when the mood strikes" kind of writers and when you've had a few days like mine, the mood hasn't struck.

First, there's been the insomnia. The wacky "I want to sleep, God, please let me sleep, and yet I'm awake and staring at the digital clock numbers" kind of insomnia. This insomnia has been enhanced by the wildly alluring "Cat Race Around the House/Boy-0n-Boy Cat Porn Tease" which is my two male (and neutered) cats. Add to that mixture, the crazy dreaming about the home I lived in when I was seven but which was surrounded by a toxic waste dump which was threatening to pollute me, but which my spiritual guru was just walking through without being burned by the foamy red ooze (huh...figure that one out? I mean really, I actually did have a really relatively sweet and innocent childhood despite the tremors of divorce which erupted when I was eleven or twelve, and which even then was relatively rational and calm).

On top of the insomnia has been the partner insomnia...that is, my sweet husband's insomniac issues which leave a lonely spot in our bed and which, for some reason unbeknownst to me, cause me to bolt upright, out from under the quilt, and search for him in the mess of covers on the left side of the bed. He, meanwhile, is watching exciting documentaries about the Bubonic plague on the Discovery channel in the family room, documentaries with soundtracks of people coughing ominously. What can I say, this kind of stuff soothes him.

Second, the family issues. Things have simply been hairy here. Emotionally. Really hairy. And I'm spent, absolutely spent. I find myself (true confessions here) sitting with my jaw dropped and drool pooling on the pillow next to me watching some truly inane reality television on MTV which involves lots of bleeps as sultry language is edited out, and lots of teenaged girls obsessing about their hair extensions and prom dates. And what's worse...I like it. I like it because I don't have to's like handing Cheerios to a toddler in a highchair. I'm a drooling toddler, only moments away from a complete meltdown if my whole grain goodness is taken away.

Third, the "what-if's" of fertility treatments. I cannot get my brain around the notion that I simply have to just shut my mind off and allow things to simply be. As the wise and wonderful fundamentalist Christian Dr. B the fertility master (who limits his listening choices in his office to strictly Christian rock [so the refrains sound like this, "Oh, Jesus...Oh, Jesus...Oh, Jesus...I love you" sung by breathy female vocalists...not the most, ahem, "appealing" music to be played in a reproductive doctor's office if you ask me, in fact I think studies would show that sperm actually swim more lethargically when exposed to Jesus music])told me in a perhaps costly three-digit-phone "consultation" this week, "Remember, this is in God's hands." Dammit, but I've never been good at taking my sticky hands off the controls. And frankly, that's easy to say from a man who has four pictures of strikingly beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed genetically perfect children sitting on his desk.

So, that's why I've not been posting...spent, grumpy, sarcastic, spiritually dry, searching for meaning. Yep. That sums it up.

And, to be honest, no one really asked me why I don't post more often. But I like to pretend I have an imaginary audience who reads this and clamors for my attention like I'm the White House Press secretary.

And, now, how are you feeling? (She asks in her best chaplain voice, all the while making meaningful eye-contact and nodding her head compassionately).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Halloween Dance

Cubic Zirconia Tierra from Claire's Boutique: $11.95.
Fake Pearl Earrings: $7.95.
Long Faux-Pearl Necklace: $8.95.
Cost of Admission: $5.00.
Watching your 12-year-old go to her first Halloween dance as Audrey Hepburn (a character she chose on her own): Priceless.

And you know what I was thinking? I was thinking, "I wish her mother could see her tonight too." Which makes me think that perhaps, just perhaps, I stand a chance of making Jesus like me. Of course, sometimes I also make him want to slurp gin from the dog bowl as quickly as he can.

All teasing aside, it is a grace-filled experience to watch a young woman unfold. It is a grace-filled experience to be allowed into her world. On a night like tonight long strands of brown hair clogging the bath-tub drain and wet towels on the floor of a pink bedroom, and dirty dishes left to collect next to a bedside table are trivial. She is a wonder. She is becoming her own woman. And I get to see it. I am so blessed.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

For Robert on his Birthday

My first glances were shyly offered under blonde bangs, teased and permed. I sat in the front row, in the aisle second from the left wall. What I knew of you, in that spring when I was 20 and you must have been 46 was that you carefully poised a gold pocket watch on the edge of the desk before you spoke. I knew of that pocket watch, for I had purchased one for my college boyfriend only a few months before, when he had admiringly told me of yours. Throughout that semester I became a voyeur. I carefully watched your hands, your left hand mysteriously missing a wedding band until later in the semester, when one miraculously appeared. I wrote cryptic details about you in the margins of my college-ruled notebook, details gleaned from hints you dropped of your own personal life…”grew up in Texas?”…”Baylor?”…”graduate school in the 70s?” I wondered about the mystery that was Robert Pettit, Ph.D. You had no idea who I was. My college roommate cut out a picture of you from the Oak Leaves and hung it, as a joke (or as portent) above my desk. Out of your mouth hung these words, once affixed to a $10 bill from my father, “I want to live with you.”

It was before my senior year of college, that you became my friend. No longer could I jokingly call you “Robert Pettit, the love of my life,” as in, while talking to my roommates, “Sorry, I can’t stay for tea this morning, I’m off to Sociology of Religion class with Robert Pettit, the love of my life” or as with an exasperated sigh I would grouse “Why is it that I have to write this essay on the McDonalidazation of society? Stupid, stupid, Robert Pettit, the love of my life, assigned it for tomorrow!”

You became my friend over cooked chicken and pineapple. You became my friend over conversations about breast feeding and day care. You became my friend and as I learned to know Robert Pettit the father, and husband to T., my silly jokes no longer fit. I learned that you were gentle, and genuine, and unfailingly faithful to your family. You became my friend.

When I learned of your separation from T. I ached for you. My attempts at support felt clumsy and inadequate. My sadness at the pain in your face, at the craggy furrows in your brow and the gaping chasms under your eyes left me aching. Your grief was so palpable, it was its own entity in every meal we shared. I came home from lunch at the College Union with you one afternoon and sat on the loveseat in my pastor’s study with my head in my hands, knowing I was helpless. I was helpless for there was nothing I could do to ease your pain, and I was helpless, for even, even in the depths of that still barren spring, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit. And I knew that this could be very dangerous.

I still marvel at the story that brought us from there to here. The route from point A to B is circuitous and messy. I look back over my shoulder and shudder at what was, and then soften as I recall small wonders…Monday morning tea in front of God and the world in The Oaks…your offerings to me of chai and sour lemon drops and granola bars…tears spilled in tea cups.

You became my husband in a rite of passage in my parents back yard before 60 or so of our friends and family. But this was merely ceremonial, for you had become my husband long before.

I don’t fully understand the depth of love I have for you. It is a mighty and, at times, for this woman who held a piece of her heart away from so many for so long, frightening thing. John O’Donohue in his book on Celtic wisdom, on the whole mystery which we have come to know as our anam-cara connection wrote once, “human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of an invisible grace. Nowhere is there such intimate and frightening access to the mysterium.”

Thank you for renewing the mystery within me, as turbulent as it has been. Thank you for seeing me, and in so seeing, recalling the Christen that has been reborn and recreated in her own image, and in Her image. Thank you for being my resurrection place, and my home, and my delight. On this, your birthday, may you know the depths of my love, and my endless commitment as your partner, as your lover, and as your anam cara.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


There are days when one becomes frustrated with one's denominations choices of leadership. Mediocrity reigns. Once again (with a few exceptions). It won't be long before I am forced to jump ship. Alas, I'm such a bad Brethren (for all you non-Brethren who scratch you're heads when I talk "Brethren speak" you can find out more at I'm not proselytizing, unless you're consider membership in my sweet little enclave of like-minded nerdies like me and then I'll tell you all about how much Beacon Heights CoB rocks).

I am, however, not frustrated with my topic of conversation today (at least not within the last hour, as she last pooped on the floor late this afternoon and I was not home to clean it up)...the amazing Miss Maisie May Wienerschnitzel Buttwhirler Pettite Miller. My wee dachshund. Love of my life. Baby substitute extraordinaire. Seven pounds of pure German dog love. Perhaps one day I'll figure out the details and actually be able to post pictures, but for now you just have to oooh and aaaahh in your minds at the adorableness that is my baby girl.

I'm all verklemt (spelling please?) tonight because it 'twas on this night only three short years ago that Maisie came into our home after being picked up at Betty the dachshund breeder's house.

You see, I grew up with shetland sheepdogs. Dogs which essentially live to please their human companions. Dogs which look at you all day to ask, "You okay? Everything all right? Anything I can do? Sheep to be herded? Ice cubes to be licked up? Anything? You sure?" I assumed that most dogs would be this polite, this accomodating, but what I've learned is that dachshunds? No, not so much. Not so much with the pleasing, and the accomodating. Stubborn, though? Yes. Very stubborn.

I wanted a dog so desperately, and my sweet husband, R., who DID not want a dog was not worn down by my begging, until there was that day when I said, "Oh, sweetums, lamby-kins, you know, we could get a dachshund." And R.'s eyes glazed over as he fondly recalled his many days romping on the fish hatchery in West Texas with Fritz the wonder-dachshund. "Yes, yes..." he responded in a somnambulant state. And that's how Maisie came to be.

She's not so well-behaved. She's apt to piddle on the floor in glad adoration when you enter a room. She only informs her family about half the time when she needs to go outside for her nighly ablutions. She'll leave teeny tiny turdlets on your freshly mopped floor. She can, through a series of stair-step jumps make her way to the kitchen table and when caught merely looks at you as if to say, "Look at me! I'm so tall up here!" with absolutely no shame. She has been known to knock my purse off it's hook on the wall and find the benadryl hidden inside and devour it (causing her poor Mommy to call the emergency vet frantically, to which relaxed vet said, "Well, she'll have a good nap then.") She only listens to R. for discipline, and if I drop my voice really, really low she'll sometimes obey.

She's truly a pain in the rectum. She is.

And yet, there is nothing more adorable than watching her shower the girls with kisses when they return home (as if to say, "Oh my God! I never thought I'd see you again! And look, here you are! I love you, I love you, I love you!"), or to have her burrow into your armpit (a place that few dare to go, what a sign of unconditional love!) .

She is Maisielicious and tonight I celebrate the dachshund, poop and all. Long live the canine girl!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What Google Taught Me

Every once in awhile, one feels compelled to reflect on the weep a few tears (or imagine that one would be weeping a few tears if they were not on the marvelous/frustrating LEXAPRO). 'Twas googling I'm BACK ON LINE, dammit (see previous post, as if I were computer astute I could highlight this somehow and you could just push the damn button and be there without having to backtrack, but that's another email now, isn't it?) and THANK YOU Comcast gods, and realized that...

A) I am only noticed online only for who I married or for the fact that my cat bit me (thank you joys and concerns of local church newsletters). How F&*#@#-up is that?!? Somehow I thought that at 33+ years of age I would be more popular by google standards than Dolly Parton (minus the boobs).

B) My college ex-roommate (who hates me now that I have gotten a divorce from a man who, apparently, she believes walked on water) only, according to Google, leads worship services somewhere at a home church in rural Michigan (of course, I only get bitten by cats if you count on Google, so who am I to talk?)

C) My husband actually seems to like our cats as he writes all sorts of sweet things about all of us on some random post. Okay, it was only one line in one random post, but I'd like to believe he likes the cats, since they have been essentially inflicted on him and he has no choice in the matter.

D) My Dad's website rocks and I continue to be amazed and impressed by his rockin' grief therapist guru jive. See it for yourself at (shameless plug).

That's all for tonight...exciting television on the Sundance in channel in a few moments and a dachshund that craves her mama's cuddling.

Over and out.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Warning: Brethren, Cover Your Ears

Every once in awhile I get frustrated or angry or irate or peeved. In those instances, I have been known to let loose with a few choice words. In fact, I can curse like a sailor. It's one of my spiritual gifts, a spin-off of speaking in tongues, no doubt. Every once in a while, I'll get angry at a driver in a car talking on a cell-phone and weaving in and out of traffic and I'll let loose with a string of four-letter words which don't spell L-O-V-E or K-I-N-D or N-I-C-E. Often, I'll say to one of my sweet cherubs in the backseat, "cover your ears." Sort of my codeword for, "your step-mama's gonna say somethings that will curl your toes." They usually just giggle. They've learned.

Thankfully, our girls seem not to have suffered from my outbursts. They understand that "bad words" are a cultural construct, thanks to my sociologist husband. They understand that occasionally, one feels really good by being really bad in the way they talk. I have a friend whose children have their mouths washed out with soap for speaking a taboo word. She would argue that if our children speak this way, they'll grow accustomed to it, and they'll start to do it more often, and thus, the slippery slope begins. Pretty soon they'll be snorting cocaine and working for Halliburton. T. & B., though, have turned out pretty good, I'd say. And every once in a while when I hear a grumbled, "Damn dachshund..." come from one of my angel's lips when a tiny pile of teeny dog turdlets is found on the kitchen floor, I simply turn away and smile. It's harmless in my book. They've learned the whole, "there is a time and a place..." thing pretty well.

And so, I started this whole post to warn y'all to cover your ears (especially you sensitive Brethren who always find much kinder [or is it passive aggressive?] ways to express your anguish and drumming circles or reconciliation "encounters" or growing enormous beards if your whiskers permit).

I have been mumbling many words in the last few days about my @#$% wireless hook-up and the @#$% tech support guys who tell me to do the same @#$% thing each of the seven times I called them with all together different, and often unsuccessful results. You ask, "Contemplative Chaplain, how is it that you can post now?" Because I'm on my husband's @#$% computer which isn't @#$% wireless.

Tomorrow, the comcast dude or dudettes will come to fix the problem (or at least curse trying). And R. will greet them while I'm at work, and I'm pretty confident that they won't have to cover their ears around his more genteel speech. At least one of us is civilized, dammit.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Our Neighbors Across the Street

Not two minutes ago my phone rang.
"Hello, Christy?" [The heavily-accented Greek man's translation of the equivalent of my name Christen] "This is Kosmas, your neighbor across the street. [A moment's pause as he waits for me to say, "mm-hmmm," but I can't slip in another word because he rushes ahead] "You gonna be home in a few minutes? I gonna bring you a few somethings."

This conversation, or a variation of it happens semi-weekly at our home. The "few somethings" could be any number of foods--large plates of Greek cookies to be dipped in coffee, or fresh string beans from a garden carefully tended, zuchinis the size of my arm, gooey cakes, date candies or enormous pans of homemade baklava. Indeed, the treasures may be different, but the conversation, the conversation is always the same.

In each call, Kosmas, our Greek octogenarian neighbor has to identify himself immediately as the Kosmas who is the neighbor across the street, as if we might mistake him with other neighbors, as if we might accidentally confuse him with the neighbor next door, for instance, as if we might accidentally interchange cute, 120 lb., stooped and balding Kosmas (the one across the street) with, next-door neighbor Elmo, Elmo who has broad shoulders and weighs in at about 250 lbs. and has skin a beautiful dark ebony. Which neighbor again? Oh yes, Kosmas, the neighbor across the street.

Or as if, R. and I have a whole host of Kosmases that we regularly come in contact with and Kosmas must distinguish himself from them. Oh, the Kosmas across the street as opposed to the Kosmas at the Mexican restaurant down the road, or the Kosmas at the public library, or the Kosmas in the Swedish folkdancing group...oh, you mean you're the Kosmas across the street!

R. and I have grown to love this little ritual...almost as much as we love the bounty of food our gentle and loving Greek neighbors bring us.

I hung up the phone and said to R. "Kosmas is bringing something over." And R. doesn't skip a beat when he says, "Which one?"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

On Having Nothing To Say...

I really want to write something. Something dazzling. Something profound. Something even half-way decent. And I can't even summon the energy to be half-way entertaining. The fingers are willing to type, but the wit--she is gone. Where oh where is the creative muse? The Beatrice to my little Dante of a mind?

I'm not a new-agey type woman. While I consider myself someone who believes in the mystical, I'm more of a pragmatist. I don't sip a lot of green teas, preferring mine in the caffeinated form. I can't tell you the perfect herbal concoction for your bunion problem, although I can give you directions to a nice natural food store in North Manchester where they'd probably have the answer to your intimate foot issue. I don't align my chakras, nor do I balance crystals on my solar plexus. I don't believe in colonics to purify one's karmic power, nor do I find Tarot readings especially ominous. All in all, I'm sort of a rational girl. I'd sort of like to believe all this kind of stuff, but my brain always says, "Ah...I don't buy it."

But...(you knew there was a but here didn't you), today as I was leaving church (the 11:15 service, which is a reach for me...far different from my traditional 9:00 service with the white haired gang, as I affectionately call them...the ones who like their hymns acapella the way God intended, and who don't go for this happy-clappy new-fangled madness known as "Contemporary" [and having said all that I confess to sort of clapping a long a little in the second service but I did not sway, there was definitely no swaying as that might be seen as a little too praisey for me]) I stopped to talk to Deanna, one of the pastors and dear friend of mine. We chatted about this and that. She expressed surprise at seeing me at the 11:15 service as she knows I'm not a happy-clappy kind of girl, and I said, "I was just so tired I couldn't get up this morning!" And then I recalled that I had gone to bed at 9:30 the night before and had, get this friends, 12 hours of pure, unadulterated sleep. I said to Deanna, "I just don't get it. It's weird." And she said, "Well, Christen, you've recently grieved the loss of two grandmothers, and well, look at the work you do?" Hmmm...yeah...I can see it....

So, I'm thinking. I'm thinking that perhaps there is a psychic energy (I know, I know, I cringe even as I type it) which drains us when we're around grief. Perhaps that old adage about a grief shared is a grief halved has some truth to it. Perhaps that is what Jesus knew when he spoke of being aware of what it meant to drink of the cup.

Regardless, I pick up the chalice and drink anew each morning. But I also need to remember to allow it to be filled by One who offers more abundance and grace than my humanity can muster.

And, having said that, I'm off to bed. It is, after all getting close to 8:00.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Miscellaneous Thoughts...

Forgive me in advance.

Yesterday I caught the latest cold virus flying around the metropolis of Fort Wayne. For several days I've been priding myself on the fact that perhaps I was the only cold-resistant species in the tri-state area as both Tess and Brynn (my step-daughters) my father, and my mother (who are divorced and never see each other), and numerous office colleagues have all been infected and lo and behold I, mutant being that I am, have not. Perhaps, I have been...the carrier. I got all excited and decided that, indeed, perhaps I was the anointed one...the missing link. And then it started with a sneeze. Damn.

One of my colleagues said to me today, "Christen, this isn't one of those colds that comes on like a freight train and gets away fast. This is one of those colds that comes on like one of those coal trains that gets stopped on the tracks during rush hour." Well, double damn. To ward off mutant germs, I decided to have some extra-hot chipolte salsa with my supper.

So...when one doesn't feel like they have all that incredibly much to say (and I'll blame that on the snot cramming up my head...), one often resorts to internet blog shortcuts...or gimmicks. Here's one I saw today...and will make writing a little more is (ta-da) the ABC's of Me.

  • Admiring: The fact that Maisie, the miniature dachshund hasn't peed on the floor in over a week (I know, I know, she's three years old and she should be trained by sue me. She's cute. That's her schtick. She's cute. And she's German. So, she's zehr cute.
  • Beating Myself Up About: Not enough green vegetables.
  • Crying Over: Katrina, and her wily ways.
  • Daydreaming About: Unseating my husband in his Snood victories.
  • Excited Because: Autumn is finally arriving. I hate this @%#$ heat.
  • Frustrated Because: Aforementioned cold.
  • Grumpy Because: See above.
  • Hate-filled and Seething Over: The current administration.
  • Indignant Because: There are those who would still re-elect above.
  • Just shoot me now because: ... Uh-oh, I don't have an answer here. Please, don't shoot me. I work with Hospice patients. I don't want to die....
  • Kidding myself regarding... Whether I'll get the "real scoop" on what happened at the 7th grade dance tonight when T. gets home...
  • Listening to... My sweet dog snore.
  • Mooning Over... I always moon over my hermit of a husband...
  • Need... Some vegetarian refried beans.
  • Obsessing Over... Fertility rites and passages. Ovulation predictor kits. Yadda, yadda, yadda...
  • Praying... For this great big world and all in it...(how's that for a pat answer?)
  • Questioning... Why my college roommate became such a rigid Christian and decided to write me out of her life.
  • Reading... The Position by Meg Wolitzer
  • Singing... "WAR...What is it good for, absolutely nothing say it again..."
  • Trying... To remember to re-stock the toilet paper in the bathroom before a catastrophe happens...
  • Unnerved By... High school stud boys driving muscle cars who cut me off in traffic. Why? I don't know. I just don't know...
  • <>Vexed About... Haven't we already covered this?<>
  • The X post has mysteriously disappeared...but what I typed was...and I'm serious here..."There is no X post as clear channel has elminated it in its ultimate desire to purify your computer." But, really, for some reason it did get deleted from my blog in my inept computer typetitude...
  • Yawning over... Rush Limbaugh's rantings and gruntings.
  • ZZZZ... WHAT?!? This is how an ABC questionaire ends? Who wrote this? What 13-year-old weblogger made this up after cheerleading practice?
Alright...the party has ended and it's really time for me to be seduced by the siren's call of Nyquil now. It's been fun. Send me your own ABC's...I worry that no one ever reads of me (except my loyal therapist who tries to figure out the neuroses that is me...thanks again, John. You da man).

Sunday, September 11, 2005


This evening I sat quietly in my "sanctuary," (i.e. the room which has become my safe haven, the "room of one's own" that Virginia Woolf claims every woman needs, the room where I cloak myself in the knitted afghan created by a powerful woman who knew me at my birth and who I refered to as "Old Lady Loose", and gaze out my window adorned with a stained glass frame from my first home, and light the candles which reconnect me to the sacred). I was reading the North Manchester newspaper (I have a strange fascination with tiny town news...the police reports read like a bad sitcom..."police were called out to investigate a strange noise in the kitchen of Mrs. X assists were made in relocating local owl"..."11-year-old cited for riding bicycle on downtown sidewalk." [actually, that final one really existed. Sigh.]) and found this little teeny tiny blurb under the heading Marriage Licenses:

______ . Miller-____, 35, Seattle, Wash. and _________ , 24, of North Manchester.

Those were the words printed (imagine the names if you desire, I feel the need to honor those who haven't given permission for their names to be in print and their ages and home cities are probably already too revealing). Black and white words on the page of the Manchester Monitor. For me, they were surrounded with a swarm of memories and hopes and regrets.

You see, the man with the hyphenated Miller-______, the good man here mentioned is my ex-husband. The Miller in front of his name is the Miller that was placed there when he and I were married in May of 1998. We shared that common hyphen (among the sharing of a 30-year mortgage, and the parentage of five cats).

I knew of this wedding...indeed, received word of it typed from my ex-husband's own fingers in an email shortly after his fiancee agreed to marry him. The subject line of his message was, "She said yes!" and my heart leapt for both of them. And I immediately wrote back a congratulatory note. I have always wanted him to find an amazing woman who would both embrace and challenge him, and who would love him far better than I could or did. I have met her. I have heard stories of their relationship from others who know them as a couple. She is beautiful and insightful (and in a weird incestous-Manchester-College-way was named by my sociologist professor husband as one of his favorite students).

And yet, seeing their marriage announcement in print gave me pause.

It didn't give me pause because I resented either of them (instead I was thrilled that they had found one another). It didn't give me pause because I regretted our divorce (it is one of the mysteries of my life that I still carry pain and guilt over, but which I continue to believe is in the best interests of both my ex-husband and myself). It gave me pause because it was a symbol of life moving on. It gave me pause because it called me to reflect, again, on the nature of relationship. It gave me pause because it invited me to offer a release and blessing over the past. It simply gave me pause.

I cut the clipping out and took it downstairs to show Robert, my husband. I said, "they filed this on August 12th and I don't think they're getting married until marriage licenses expire? Maybe I should let him know?" Robert smiled and said, "I think you can release that. Why don't you let him and his future wife handle that now. You've tried to take care of him for long enough. Let it go." And again, I loved, loved, loved the way Robert read me, and wasn't threatened by my words (for he has known his own reflections upon past relationships).

Ah yes, but what I spoke to Robert, the words I uttered, that was always my problem. I couldn't just let things go. I couldn't let K. be K...another thing I have learned (am learning?) to release.

Blessings to you, newlyweds (how presumptious of me to assume you need my blessing...but I offer it anyway, for what it's worth). May you dance in the light of God's love.