Saturday, March 25, 2006

There Were Days...

Oh, the days when I had 20+ hits on my blog...and then I don't post and I get 4 or so...

It's a sign. It's a sign, friends that I need to do a little more writing. I've been sittin' back on my haunches, doin' a little too much home-improvement (but, gee, ask me about my beautiful new periwinkle bathroom and my spic-and-span garage), watchin' a little too much of HBO's new show Big Love, readin' a few too many British writers during my spring break. Back to the grindstone I say, back to regular posts and deep thinkin'.

Yesterday I went on a little Menards run. I have big love for Menards, now that they built a store on the southeast side of my city, where few businesses dare to dwell, as ultimately, I believe that they are a tad bit racist and afraid of having stores in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. However, after Menards made their big move, I got all excited and made the decision that EVERYTHING (that I can't buy at my tried and true K-mart which proudly displays a banner saying "We [and then the big red heart] the South Side!!!! [notice the multitude of exclamation points, for they really, really love us]) would come from them.

On my way to aforementioned destination I saw one of my favorite southside characters--the man who stands on the corner of a major intersection with a bullhorn and yells unintelligable words to his audience (who are all in cars). I often pause, and try to listen to his words, as I figure if he has the, how shall I to stand in the cold and yell into a bullhorn, he at least deserves to be heard. But, alas, once again as I turned NPR down, all I heard was "Mhmpghs...lahifihglimmmsht...thriglshtils..." again. Nothing which made any sense of me. I sat at the intersection watching him. Wondering about his message...I mean, friends, he is out there a at least weekly.

So, today, I decide to make a difference in the life of my megaphone dude. I thought I'd just try a little experiment on my way to Menards, the store which actually seem to like us south-siders, and I waved at MM (that would be my cute term for Megaphone Man). Without skipping a syllable he waved back happily.

It wasn't until later that I wondered, "Does he think he just converted another soul for his mission?" And what would said mission be? Getting me to heaven? Getting me to accept Jesus as my personal savior? Getting me off crack? Getting me to subscribe to National Geographic? Getting me to shop at Menards?


Regardless, it made me happy to make him wave back. And, I think God likes that kind of cross-cultural, cross-religious dialogue.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dirty Diana

Why, oh why, do you get certain songs stuck in your head for absolutely NO GOOD REASON? I mean, really? Why, oh why, have I been singing the song "Dirty Diana" all afternoon? By who, by Michael Jackson? By Prince? Praytell, someone let the contemplative chaplain know why these lyrics are echoing in her head? Is it a sign from God that someone named Diana is in need of a hospice chaplain and they have very bad hygenic practices? Oh...when will the madness end.

On a happier note...tonight is my personal spring break. MC has spring break this week, which means R. is off for the entire week but since I only teach a once-a-week evening course, I get a three hour spring break this Monday night. I thought about going to Jazzercise tonight, but then thought..."Hey, it's SPRING BREAK might as well live it up." I may not have a Panama City beach house, but I've got me a Lean Cuisine personal cheese pizza and 21-lb. cat in my lap and a nice hot bath with patchouli bath oil in my future. The fun starts here (and yet if addressing my college self) I'd feel the need to say, "how did I sink so low?"

What else? What else? I've got your attention now and feel the need to make this post worthwhile, lest you feel overburdened by your internet surfing. can I impress readers so that more than 9 readers read per day? Magic tricks? Tap dancing? Secrets revealed?

Okay, here's one...when I was seven, I stole my friend Dora's scooby-doo rubber stamp. But, internet friends, don't tell anyone...especially not Dora.

More exciting tales of renegade adventures to come...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What Can You Do? Sometimes it's Random...

Here's the random post...

Today...I cleaned the garage. Yes, friends, you heard me right. I cleaned the frickin' garage. I reoganized boxes. I restacked boxes. I threw away, I mean recycled loads of crap. It took hours. And I am very proud of myself, she says, stretching her arm to pat herself on the back. Let's just call it spring fever (and not obsessive compulsive disorder, okay?).

And...I was a stellar step-mom and went with R. to watch T. in her choir concert in a town an hour away...which was very well-done (the concert, not my attending...). R. and I like watching white kids boogie down to spirituals. We especially like it when their choir directors actually let them clap their hands (which is the way it should be done, dammit [sorry, Mom, about the cussing, but it needed to be said]).

Not much more to report tonight...just checking in with the faithful few who read my paltry nuggets of pith (perhaps I should let my MC English professor advisor who retired in 1994 know that I use those kinds of words in my posts? Thank you Rowan for teaching me big words so I can understand NPR).

Okay...over and out for tonight. Tune in tomorrow for inspiring words and deep thoughts. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Body Writings

"and the body, what about the body?"
--Jane Kenyon

I remember the first time I was ever conscious of my body.

I was playing outside, wild, free and topless at around the age of four with my best friend--the one who shared my name and my unbounded energy. We swung, untamed, from monkey bars--the "Dome Climber" it was called--that hollow structure of black and white metal where I got my first black eye against my pale Scandinavian skin.

It was newly spring and the first warm of the season. We ran topless through the fenced-in backyard, yodeling and cawing like birds. Pure unadulterated, unblemished, unstained, fun.

My mother called us inside from the doorway of the back room, the room with its 1970s orange couch and homemade curtains. She stood framed by the old door calling to us, "Girls!" And when we raced each other to the asphalt porch, our sunken chests heaving, exhausted from our wild tear across the lawn, we were met with T-shirts draped over her outstretched arm. Mom smiled, "Here girls," she said in a conspiratorial whisper, "why don't you put these on? You're getting too old to not wear tops, and besides, there are men working on the fence."

Indeed, there were men--topless men! Men who had invaded our sacred play space with their postdiggers and their other phallic tools. Men who we had forgotten were there after our initial curiosity, as we gamboled and and galloped across the green, green grass.

We didn't argue. We weren't angry. Mom wasn't being mean, in fact she kept smiling in a gentle, but realistic way. My best friend and I slipped our shirts on and ran back to the outdoor world. But we were somehow tamed, our wings had been clipped, our freedoms undermined. "The Men" had encroached on our turf, into our afternoon reverie and now we were the ones who had to change.

I think this is the first awareness I had that my body was somehow inappropriate--somehow something to be covered. Surely something to be guarded and whispered about, something which would make my bread-baking, PBS-watching, cooperative-learning, Dr. Sholl's-wearing mother purse her lips nervously about as she felt the need to protect her tiny chick.

I am 34 years old and I am still learning how to be aware of my body. I am still learning that while, at 34 I cannot freely frolic topless in my unsheltered backyard on a spring day (or, I could but oh, how it might upset [or fascinate?] the neighbors...), I can become familiar and safe in my own skin.

I often sigh and avert my eyes from the mirror as I prepare to bathe. In time, perhaps, I can begin to soften toward my worn skin which has been a safe harbor for lo these many years. And perhaps sometime soon, I'll remember what it feels like to have my body as unfurled as my soul again.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Those of you who know me well will find this blog entry completely and utterly unsurprising. For, yes, I am a hypochondriac. Certifiably. Undeniably.

When I have a head cold, my mean little mind says, "It's probably a brain tumor." When I get a paper cut that doesn't stop bleeding within a few seconds the bad bully of my inner voices say, "You probably have leukemia." In this wretched fear-filled universe which is the bad neighborhood of the interior of my head hangnails quickly become gaping wounds and stomach aches are esophageal cancers. I've spent countless hours worrying about: breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart attacks, colon cancer, ovarian tumors, and nasal polyps among other things. I am a walking encyclopedia of rare medical conditions. When the true condition is, anxiety, folks.

The remedy comes in recognizing my hypochondriacal nature (does that mean sitting in a room with other worriers who clutch their medical symptom dictionaries close to their chests and watch me with wary eyes and saying, "Hello, my name is Christen. I am a hypochondriac?") and popping an occasional Xanax.

And so, you ask, "Dear fragile Contemplative Chaplain, why do you do what you do? You're surrounded by dying people. You know death on an intimate basis and it ain't pretty." And my answer...well, my answer is this..."I dunno." Maybe I think it's an innoculation or something. Maybe it's because I'm trying to minister to my own wounded parts. Maybe it's because I feel the need to conquer my fear. Maybe it's because every time I watch a patient slip fearlessly into that great beyond I feel they're teaching me a lesson. I just don't know.

So, today...(you knew this post was going somewhere with one of my fears, didn't you?) I'm sitting in a meeting and I lean behind me to scratch my lower back and I realize that there is a, gasp, pretty big sized lump there. Not a surface lump, a sort of deep achy lump. "Oh no," I think, as my insides turn upside down. Shit. I don't have time for a hypochondriacal breakdown. I go to the bathroom and lift my dress and feel around on my back and realize that, yes, indeedy, it actually is a lump. And it's weird. And it's, well, lumpy and movable. And I sink down on the floor and start crying. Because this is what I do. Because, as you recall, my mind is a bad neighborhood and I was immediately conjuring up my death-bed scene.

Well...long story short...after a doctor appointment this morning...and .5 mgs. of Xanax...I can now happily report that I will not wilt and die from aforementioned lump in the next few days. However, I have a new friend in my life, something that is called a lipoma (which is a fancy way of saying a fatty benign tumor) which apparently is very common in the lower back and which will only need to be dealt with if it grows any larger and presses on any nerves in my back.

The doctor reiterated that I didn't need to worry. He reiterated that he could tell just by palpating it that it was a lipoma. He told me to relax. These babies don't become cancerous. They're very common. He offered to refill the Xanax. He was so clearly not at all impressed with my monstrously large (okay smaller than golf ball sized) new friend. I sat, taking deep breaths and thinking, "Thank God, I dodged the bullet again." Because you see, in the bad neighborhood of my head, scary things are just around the corner.

As the doctor was leaving I said, "Will this go away on its own?" And he smiled kindly and said, "No. You'll have it forever. " And then he paused and said gently, "If you want, though, you could name it?"

Hortense and I are going to go recline on the couch now and watch us some T.V. We've had an awfully stressful day.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

After Having Posted That...

I realize that I was wrong, and that there really is something I should give up for Lent.

The act of transforming a perfectly decent shirt into a halter top.

I know, it's very 1976 and thus qualifies as "retro", but I've never really had the navel for it.

And, we'll save the white shoes before Memorial Day for next year, okay?

Ah, But What Is There to Say...

I know, I know, I know...I bitch about it regularly. I want to talk. I really, really, really want to say something and I don't know what to say.

What does the gentle reader want? Theological musings? Reflections on the day? Dirty little secrets? Pithy life pointers? Ho hum. How to fill these pages?

Let's see...I've recently uncovered the art of MEME's...damned if I know what they stand for (gentle reader, please enlighten this idiot). And here's the MEME that my sweet sisters on Rev Gal pals suggest..."Tell Us Four Things You Have Made a Practice of At One Time Or Another."

I think the idea is that we'll talk about what we've done for Lent. I'm not so much a "give up for Lent" kinda gal, being a low-church heathen. Instead, I try to be a "how can I enrich myself during this season?" And my idea was, "Ah, maybe...well, um...okay...not so much..." So, no, no I have not given up, or enriched myself throughout the Lenten journey. I have decided that since I'm preparing hours and hours of reading for the class I'm teaching that this sort of counts. Don't you think?

The other day I was sitting in my (very open spaced and more like a cubicle) office when I overheard one of our admission nurses at hospice make, what I thought, was a true "admission." Jean is a very devout Catholic woman, who takes her faith seriously, and still lets loose with a few colorful expletives now and then (which I, frankly, love in a person). Jean was talking to another nurse and saying, "I was going to give up smoking for Lent, but decided instead to keep smoking and just read the Bible each day as I did it."

And, then, there is my other favorite sacrificial Lenten story...when I was nannying in seminary, I took care of two adorable girls who were three and six. Both girls were raised Catholic, and after the oldest took her first communion, she was very intrigued with what to give up for Lent. She opted to give up chocolate. But, in the world of Connor and Claire, you could do whatever you gave up, but only on Sundays (is this Catholic understanding?) Connor's younger sister, three year old Claire, decided that she wanted to sacrifice as well and so, as she explained it to me, she decided to give up the worst thing she did. She decided that the worst thing she did was hit her sister. But, her mother told her that to give up this would make Sunday an awful day in the Claire opted to give up chocolate too.

So, what have I made a practice of? college I began running, which became addictive. And so, I worship on the sidewalks of the Crown Colony neighborhood regularly. I'm a convert. I have made a practice of early morning cups of tea daily. I've made a practice of evening quiet as I prayerfully reflect on the day, right before falling to sleep.

Big Oscar presentations on tonight...and despite the fact that R. and I have seen none of the movies, we'll see them all in the next year when they make it to HBO! So, I look at it as a preview of coming attractions. Yippee and pass the popcorn.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Big Jesus Love

So, I'm working on my feminist/womanist theology class preparations today. The topic is Christology. And it's such an incredibly huge many amazing thoughts and ideas. I've been reading Carter Heyward's Saving Jesus from Those Who are Right and Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus for the First Time and all sorts of articles from "Daughters of Sarah" and oh my goodness, but I read them and say, "Yes! That's what I mean when I say I'm Christian! It's this Jesus! He rocks!"

Christianity has so often been co-opted by the religious right. So many of the lefties like me have allowed Jesus to become the imperialist, authoritarian, white, male, patriarchal grand poobah...when as I see it, he was a man deeply committed to allowing women (and all those disenfranchised) to have a voice, and a place. Geez, you gotta love a man like that.

So, I'm remembering why I love Christianity so much, I mean, wholly apart from the God factor...just the basics of the teachings make me swoon. Tonight, I've just got big Jesus love. And I say that without apology. Won't be long before I'm smacking a Jesus fish on my car and singing "Kum Ba Yah" on Karoke night.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Reason Number One...

that I need to have a human baby soon is because the damn cat will only play "So Big!" (as in, [said in a cuddly-wuddly voice], "How big is Cooper? How big is my big blonde boy?" To which he bellows in the way that only a 21lb. brain-damaged cat can bellow) for so long before attacking me. Again.

But, alas. I am so not pregnant. I mean, I am as far from pregnant as one might possibly be. And I tell you this, as a woman who just learned it herself. And while that pisses me off immensely, given the freakin' injustice of it all, and the horrid invasive procedure aspect, at least I can have me a nice glass of chardonay with no guilt attached (I, unlike most Brethren carry no tea-totaling guilt...nay, I flaunt my drinking to the world. Look at me, world, I just bought me the big ass bottle of Sutter Farm chardonay on sale at Kroger, and goddammit I can drink it for a good seven days before I have to stop again!). And, of course, there is the solace that I have not just one, but two cats and one dog who still call me "Mommy," in their own wee little yowling and yipping cat and dog ways.

However, I have also learned lately that the thing I hate oh-so-much is when people get the sad look when asking about the fertility stuff. I cannot do the sad look. The, oh-you-poor-thing-with-the-barren-womb look, the one where they gaze just a little too long into your eyes as if saying, "I know how it feels to be so utterly devoid of empty."

Hold hope for our future or get outta Dodge, friends. I need no sympathy...empathy, yes. Sympathy, not so much. We'll have our little Ella and/or Grayson in time...and while the decision about whether she'll/he'll arrive straight from my womb or on a plane from China or Guatamala has yet to be determined, there is room for plenty of hope.

And, the reality is, that my life feels pretty graced as it is, so we can wait.

And now, Cooper sits perched next to my monitor (really, I didn't just write that to make some high and holy literary point, and bring this essay to full circle...he does, just sit here watching the cursor move on the screen...which makes the screen a little hairy sometimes when he bends in a little too close), so my calling as cat-mommy beckons.

"Here, Cooper, Here, boy... Tell Mama how big you're SO Big, aren't you?"

For tonight, at least, I have a baby, even if his only discernable gift is eating Cat Chow and pooping in a big litter box (at least most of the time). But really, diapers are messy anyway.