Friday, July 30, 2010

Butch Weekend

This will be a working weekend at our lake house. We need to have a new well drilled - our old, dug well apparently long past its useful life. But in order for the well driller to get his rig onto to property, we had to have six large trees removed. Most of these trees were interfering with power lines so the power company came and carefully took them down for us, but they did not remove them.

Although I don’t consider myself very butch, I do like that side of myself. I enjoy doing manual labor projects and particularly woodworking. I used to build furniture in my garage workshop until it got covered up and taken over by the girl’s sports equipment.

So this weekend I will be donning the work boots and muscle shirt (sans muscles) and firing up the chain saw. Hot, sweaty, butch work.

And just for balance - I also made new curtains for the back porch.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weird Week

This past week has been trying.
First was the graduation party, which was fun but having a house filled with people for the entire weekend was very draining for this introvert.

Monday I had a difficult therapy session that fed into one of the worst nights of flashback nightmares I can remember having in a long, long time. Felt totally deflated for days afterward.

Then my boss made a deal that wasn’t very well thought out, which when made public, created a storm of criticism. So my boss told the leader of the neighborhood opposition to send all emails to me. WTF? I have been inundated with calls and emails hammering me for something I had no part of, did not agree with, and then had to respond to with some kind of diplomacy. Yes, this is why I make the big bucks ::sarcasm::

In the wee hours of Thursday morning I got a call that my mother had been rushed to the hospital with back and chest pain. Made the drive down to see her. She was sent for a multitude of tests but they could find no cause. She was released on Friday and is feeling much better, although hesitant to not know the cause to begin with.

Came home, pretty much exhausted, but looking forward to a quiet weekend at the lake. Then found out that my daughters had invited a bunch of friends to come up too. Not being able to face another weekend of teenagers, I begged off and stayed home. Alone. Oh, sweet heaven.

Batteries recharged.

But last night I had trouble sleeping because the room was so bright with the full moon. A full moon? Not a good omen for the week to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

During my life time, I have been a member of only three churches - the church I grew up in which formed my foundation in my faith, the church I joined in my first job location whose minister and sanctuary got me through the roughest time of my life, and the church I joined when I was settled into my second career location, who then kicked me to the curb. The first two churches were United Methodist churches (UMC), the last one a Reformed Church in America. (RCA)

I have thought long and hard about the differences of these experiences. Especially in light of what direction I want/need to take in terms of a faith community. Here are some of the most striking differences. These observations don’t reflect the philosophies of the denominations (I don’t think) but only the individual churches and their leadership. It’s just in writing it down, it is easier for me to define what I will be looking for in a new faith community.


UMC - a 180 year old building, open, airy and bright and opens directly onto a street and invites people in. Remains unlocked during the day (doors wide open in nice weather) so that anyone can enter and use the sanctuary.

RCA - A 50 year old building, dark, cave like sanctuary (although there were times I truly liked that). The sanctuary is an internal room in a larger building that is accessed from a parking lot. Locked at all times. Except Sunday morning.

Hiring pastors

UMC - some higher-up assigns ministers to individual churches based on the needs of the church and the strengths of the minister. Congregations have no say. Yet in all the 60 years + my mother has belonged to that church, there have been a total of 4 head ministers. All beloved.

RCA - when a pastor leaves the church an interim pastor is assigned while the congregation discerns the direction they would like to go. The congregation then begins a pastoral search. In the 15 years I belonged, there were 2 permanent pastors, 4 or 5 interim pastors and too many to remember ‘other people’ filling in. In fact, during my tenure, the position was vacant for longer than it was filled. The present pastoral search committee has been at it for over 3 ½ years and still can’t find anyone they feel is a good fit and/or is willing to serve there.

Mission statement

UMC - Our arms reach out into the community and our hands help around the world

RCA - to glorify God by bringing people to Jesus Christ in an atmosphere of love through involvement in our community of worship, education, fellowship and mission.

It has struck me the difference between reaching out into the community, an involvement in our community. The first being a call to go out and do good works, and last saying that to bring people to Jesus they have to be involved in helping this particular church.

Examples of how their mission works -

UMC - Office staff consists of women from an independent organization my mother started, to aid single mothers and abused women get back up on their feet. The church employs them to teach them basic office skills and train for permanent employment.

RCA - interim pastor fired the secretary, a month before Christmas, a single mother of two small children, after four years of service. She was told she was not capable enough and didn’t dress up to snuff. Was also told that the elders would help her find new employment. She never heard from one person from the church again. She remains unemployed.

UMC - hosts and serves at a soup kitchen every Sunday after services. They also run a food pantry from the church. They do this in conjunction with other area churches so that every day of the week is covered.

RCA - hosts a scrapbooking ministry where a woman comes to the church once a month to teach scrap booking and sells supplies.


UMC - suffered a decline in membership and financial aid a decade ago. Decided to forego all but structurally necessary church improvements and focus on service to the community. Church has now grown, especially young people. They are considering adding yet another service.

RCA - had a strong surge in growth when a dynamic, inclusive pastor was there for 4 years. But he was railroaded out and the church lost a third of its membership. I hear there are some new members joining but they do not outpace the death rate of the mostly elderly membership.

I think both churches went through periods when they were not healthy. But whereas the UMC decided to turn outward - i.e. serving those in need, the RCA church turned inward, serving themselves. In fact the current RCA interim pastor sent out a flyer stating that there would be “a new emphasis on creating a healthy church before we worry about the world, meaning we are ready to pour funds into creating an updated facility.” The updated facility means a new security system (where there has never been a security problem) and multi media equipment.

That is when I knew I would never return to this church under the present leadership.

It is interesting to me that two mainline protestant churches can be so different in their interpretation of the definition and work of a church. The UMC taking a gospel, service approach while the RCA is taking a business model approach.

Just doing this exercise helped me realize why I was never quite comfortable as new leadership took over my RCA church, and why I have always felt wonderfully renewed when returning to my former UMC church.

We have never gone to church in the summer as we are usually at our camp on weekends, being renewed in God's beautiful creation. But now, after a good mourning period, I am feeling the need to find another spiritual community. As I began to jot down my thoughts on this a few weeks ago, the NakedPastor posted this cartoon that summed it up quite nicely.

Yep, I don’t need an exclusive social club where they circle the wagons around their idea of God and take care of themselves. I need a community where I can go say ‘thank you’ for everything I have and then go out, do it for others and see God in everyone. (And a little weekly reminder on staying on a good path doesn’t hurt me either)

I’ve stopped seeing the sacred as a place I go to worship God, but as the place where God shows up in a variety of ways. - Julie Clawson

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Graduation Party


The morning of the party Martha gave me the lecture - “you are not to just disappear. Do not go off for hours reminiscing about your glory days with the 3 musketeers (my friends Ren and Laurie were both coming and we have not been all together for quite some time) And please make an attempt to be social”

Yes, she knows me too well.

The party went off well. It was a very hot day but we had rented a large tent so most people were able to stay in the shade. Almost everyone came, but fortunately, in shifts. At the beginning most people sat with the folks they knew - Beanie’s friends grouped together, Martha’s relatives took over one table, neighbors chatted with neighbors, and my work colleagues sat as one group. The queer ladies were the first to mingle with others they didn’t know - but mostly with other queers ladies.

I tried very hard to circulate and chat with everyone - except for the table of basketball coaches, where Martha spent most of her time. Basketball is all they ever talk about and they speak a language I don’t really understand.

As time went on, folks did start to mingle more. One of my favorite images was seeing by born again secretary sitting around the pool, dangling her feet in the water talking to 5 or 6 gold star lesbians. I don’t think she even realized.

My 84 year old neighbor runs a driving school and was going up to everyone saying “I taught you to drive.” Even many of the adults (and some of their parents) apparently learned from him. My neighbor, the county sheriff, seemed to know way too many people there : ) And many of my colleagues knew some of my neighbors, so that worked well.

All the adults had left by 8:00 and the yard and pool were taken over by the kids. But then unfortunately, the skies opened up with a spectacular lightning/thunder/drenching rain/hail storm. All these “top of the class”, best and brightest young people thought they could still sleep out under the tent. You know, the one with the huge metal poles in the ground. Duh. (I do worry about them)

All of the beds in the house were already claimed by out of town adults staying over so the kids took over the rest of our very tiny house, including the garage.

When I got up Sunday morning, my house was wall to wall bodies. I set up bagels and fruit under the tent and eventually folks got up, ate, and left. Martha and I spent the rest of Sunday cleaning up, returning borrowed items, putting away way too much food. We fell into bed at 8:30 last night, and I am still exhausted today.

Beanie said her friends said it was the best grad party yet. And I guess that’s really all that mattered.


Came in to work this morning and one woman told me it was a great party, told me she had heard ‘interesting’ stories about me *wink*, and then patted me on the butt.
You see, this is what I wanted to avoid. Some chapters in my life just shouldn’t mix.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I saw this poem on Patti Digh’s blog yesterday. I was so moved by it, I thought I would pass it along.


Is a thousand pains
Placed one by one
In small boats
Kissed tenderly
And sent out to sea
Sometimes a few float back
The exquisiteness of the pain
Kissed yet again
Then placed in its boat and sent out
As many times as it takes
Will they ever stop coming back
I can’t know
I can only send them out again
One by one

-Laura S. Walters

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Social Experiment

This Saturday we will be hosting Beanie’s graduation party. And for the first time, people from all areas of our lives will be together in one place -

Coming are

- 1,000 of Beanie’s closest Facebook friends : )

- all of her basketball coaches going back to third grade.

- a few of her favorite teachers

- families of her closest friends

- all of our neighbors

- folks from Martha’s work (most of whom I have never met)

- folks from my work

- most of Martha’s small extended family

- no one from my family as they will be here in a few weeks for an extended stay

-friends of me and Martha (mostly queer)

- my closest friends from my life before Martha (all queer)

- Martha’s closest friends from her life before me (mostly queer)

- folks from church (kidding - no one from church was invited. Sad. )

And I was thinking that all of these groups of people operate in parallel but separate universes in my life and very rarely ever intermingle. Occasionally some of our queer friends would go to one of Beanie’s games and we would introduce them to some of the parents. A few times we have had a spur of the moment BBQ and invited our closest friends that included gay and straight people.

But the reality is, our queer social life has been very separate from our life as parents, which is separate from our employment, which is separate from family. All of these communities exist in their own separate realm. And I think I am probably a different person in each situation - very relaxed when with my oldest and dearest friends, serious and responsible as a parent, a professional when working and a mixture of all of them when with family.

On Saturday all of my worlds will collide in my backyard. My born again secretary, who only recently relinquished the idea that I am doomed to hell, will be introduced to a whole gaggle of gay folks. Probably more gay folks than she will ever meet in her entire life. The PTA moms who will show up in their designer outfits and perfectly coiffed hair will share tables with inked and pierced dykes. My co-workers, who have only seen me in professional attire will most likely see me in a bathing suit playing pool volleyball. And my unmarried/childless queer friends will undoubtedly shake their heads and wonder when I became part of the establishment.

I am not sure I am going to enjoy this.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Needing Advice

Last night my oldest daughter shared something with me. And then she asked me not to share it with Martha. Because, she said, Martha would freak. And she is right - Martha would go ballistic.

But now I have a dilemma. This is something I should share with Martha. I really should. But I don’t want to break Beanie’s confidence. And I want her to contitnue to feel safe in talking to me.

So I am caught betwixt and between. The confidentially of the child or the right to know (should know) of the parent? Anyone have any experience with this? Any pearls of wisdom? I tossed and turned all night. Any and all advice would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weekend Highlights

My family arrived in stages at our lake house and we were finally all together under one roof for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

We are is the midst of a heat wave in the northeast. I stripped down to what would barely pass as legal in public and stretched myself out directly on the heat of the brown stained deck. Much like an iguana on a hot rock, I laid there basking in the hot July sun. All stress just draining out of me.

At the lake we have no internet. We get, on a good day, three TV channels, and cell phone service is non-existent unless you stand on the roof and hold your phone at an odd angle. For a few short days, there is no outside world. This must be what heaven is like.

On the 4th, Beanie’s boyfriend and Peachie’s ex-boyfriend (not sure what that’s about) came up and we had a barbeque. Our next door neighbors joined us. Friends and family. Doesn’t get any better than this.

As the weekend progressed, it got hotter and hotter. And I plopped myself in a tube with my butt, arms and legs dangling in the still cool mountain lake.

I ate. A lot. Corn on the cob. Strawberry shortcake. Toasted marshmallows. But the absolute best - our friends made grilled peaches served with ice cream. I can't even remember how many of those I ate, while sipping white wine. Yum.

All right, the diet is not going as well as I had hoped. But everything else is. I am relaxed, sun soaked, and ready to face the week ahead.

It is expected to hit 100 degrees here today. Stay cool.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Survivor. It is a term that doesn’t sit well with me. Rape survivor. I suppose in very basic biological terms, I did survive. My body gets up every day and performs the basic functions necessary to get through each day. I am an attentive partner, a loving parent, a productive employee and a caring friend. Yet the “I” that survived is only a part of the “I” that was once me. And that was the topic of my recent therapy, and my ‘homework’ assignment - to name the parts that did not survive.

Feeling safe. I grew up in the cocoon of a wonderful loving family, a friendly neighborhood and a caring faith community. I never remember not feeling safe. I could go anywhere and do anything, anytime. And did. Now, I don’t think a day goes by when I feel safe. It is a difficult sensation to describe - the always looking over my shoulder, the always sitting with my back to a wall, the sweat that beads up when I hear strange voices, the sense of shadows, the mistrust when I meet a man for the first time. I don’t think you really notice feeling safe. But you definitely notice when it is missing. I have learned to manage it.

Joy. I can no longer feel joy. I can be happy. I can be moved to tears. But that totally letting go kind of happiness is gone.

My inner child died. Dancing with abandon. Giggling for no reason. All those child like, uninhibited things are unimaginable for me now. The lighthearted girl ran away terrified, and never came back.

But the worst thing is something I still can’t put a name to. That feeling of not only being violated, but having a cheering, leering, laughing audience to it. That killed something so fundamental in me, some critical part of my identity, I can’t describe what it is that died. Yet, sometimes when I look in a mirror, I don’t recognize the person looking back. There is a hollowness there that frightens me.

Still, not all was lost. I am proud that I have been able to rebuild a productive and loving life. I have mourned some of those parts and I have managed to work around them. Much, I imagine, like a person with an amputated limb. You find ways to live productively with what you have left. I was slowly able to allow people to touch me again. I have allowed myself to trust people. And fortunately I have rarely been hurt (except ironically by religious people) I force myself to go out in the world and live in it. I love. And I am loved. I have an abundant life.

I do not feel like a victim. Yet I do not feel like a survivor. Mostly I feel like a stranger. Even to myself.