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.