Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Growing Up (like Kimmy Schmidt!)

I went downtown last night...

I knew a place with live entertainment.

I knew there was no cover.

I knew what a cover was!

I knew where I could park.

I sat at the bar.

I knew how to order a drink!

I knew how to pay, and how to tip.

I enjoyed myself and the company of my friend.

I exercised my imagination, tried something new, and left with fresh ideas sparking away in my mind.

I felt comfortable walking in the city at night and driving home as an impending storm lit up the sky.

I could not have done any of this a year ago!

Friday, May 13, 2016


Blood, sweat, tears, rain, the surface ripples just the same.

The word became my mantra during a rough patch last year.



When the water's surface is torn, rhythmic rings carry the impact outward. Diluting it? Magnifying it? The wound is healed, the pierced place mended.

Still, the rings keep moving. Growing. Meeting and intersecting with others in their path.

I used to picture my life as a line. With inevitable ups and downs, always headed in one direction. (No, I really did, as this graph in my journal illustrates.) We thought in linear terms, cause-and-effect, formulas. Up was blessed and morally good; down was wrong, when God stopped smiling.

Melodramatic self-analysis at age 15

These days my life feels far too rich to be summed up in a single line. Lately, I've been imagining a dynamic pattern of concentric circles.

Each time my calm is pierced, whether the disturbance comes from without or within, my response sets a new set of ripples in motion. They collide and connect, change direction and color, and it's all unpredictably beautiful. And amazing to trace the ripples back to the choices I made that got them started.

If I hadn't tried v, I would have avoided w, but then I would have missed out on x entirely and it was x that intersected with y, introducing me to z...

In our days of quoting the Bible, we would say, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good",  and "We know that all things work together for good". Ripples are another way of tracing healing in trauma's wake, deficits that become assets, flowers that bloom in compost, happiness wrung from sorrow, loss that somehow leads to unanticipated abundance.

"Ripples in still water... " It's one of my favorite songs now, but this time last year I'd never heard the Grateful Dead. It took a while for the rings of one friendship to extend far enough to introduce me to their music. That friendship faded, triggering a new series of ripples that led to other friendships and different music and new discoveries and adventures, but the song was a ripple that is mine to keep.

Maybe I like to imagine ripples because they appeal to my driving curiosity and my interest in integrating past experiences with present realities. As I make choices that reflect my values, I no longer feel at the mercy of "evil" or "God's plan". I am just eager to see what happens in the next chapter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In Which We Meet Daisy

Sequel to "On Becoming Human"...

Chris and I were strolling 'round our neighborhood one day last fall when I brought it up. "New research shows that children raised in a home with a dog have reduced risk of anxiety issues," I said.

And that's how it started. Turns out Chris had already been mulling over the idea of a dog, but he'd been waiting to bring it up. There'd been enough other things going on in our lives! But now the subject was open.

For weeks, we talked about what it would mean to get a dog. We talked about other people's pets, family pets from our childhood, how our lifestyle would be affected. We had most of our discussions while walking sidewalks littered with autumn leaves, and it didn't matter how the subject came up, or how good a day I was having--every time we started talking about dogs, tears would start pouring down my face. Every stinking time! It didn't take a psychologist to discern that there was some deep-seated pet-associated childhood trauma locked up in my brain.

Since I'd been delving deep into other painful places for months, I figured I might as well dig in. I unpacked as many old memories as I could. I visited a friend and witnessed what a difference a dog made to her. I talked to my brothers about Max, the family pet for a year or two of my childhood, until Mom had had enough of his misdeeds and had him put to sleep. Eventually I was able to put my finger on the fears I had about adding a pet to our family.

The fears had always been there, but if I'd learned anything from my summer adventures, it was that I can change, and grow, and take risks. That reality can turn out far better than I imagine. That my heart can expand. That relationships can be unpredictable and heartbreaking yet still worth every minute. That I only regret the things I don't try.

The week before Christmas, Chris and I decided to "window-shop" for dogs. The fear still lurked, but by then I was ready to take the plunge. I told him if he thought a pet was a good idea for us, I was in. I'd probably cry, but he should know it was okay.

Daisy came home with us the next day.

We hadn't even planned on getting a puppy, but that's how it happened.

The kids were taken completely by surprise.

One was over the moon. One shed tears of sheer shock. One was quietly pleased.

And I surprised myself.

I discovered that a puppy is incredibly grounding. That observing another mammal makes me both grateful every day for being human, and acutely aware of my own needs and limitations as a member of the animal kingdom. Since Daisy arrived, I've spent a lot more time doing nothing. A lot more time playing. A lot more time on the floor. We all spend more time on the floor! A lot of time stroking and hugging and being licked.

Daisy has brought out sides of each of us that weren't exposed before. It's been a delight to watch new aspects of the kids' personalities develop as they play with Daisy and take care of her. She's made a difference in our family's vocabulary and how and where we spend our free time. She makes us laugh. Her affection does us all good.

My beloved grandmother adored dogs and our youngest daughter seemed to inherit her fondness for the species. Still, I didn't anticipate how much I would enjoy having such a loyal and enthusiastic companion, or how much a pet alters social interactions.

Daisy loves to go along to pick the kids up after school.
And what is more soothing after a rough day than puppy hugs?

In some way, getting a dog seems to have made us more human. Softer. More humane. More attuned to our senses. And, yes, less anxious, too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

On Becoming Human

Back when I wanted to enroll in IBLP's new law school, I had to take CLEP exams covering two general academic disciplines: Natural Sciences, Social Science & History, or something called Humanities. At nineteen years old, I had no idea what that term meant. My mom said I should take the other two, even though I was not strong in science, because, apparently, "humanities" could involve nudes and other objectionable art. She was surprised IBLP would even suggest it to their students. Of course, I complied, though I always wondered what kind of evils I could have encountered on that test. Looking back, I think the nearest my home education ever got to the humanities was the study of [Koine] Greek.

Gothard exposing the dangers of humanism for his followers. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer first introduced me to the phrase Christian humanism. It was a good placeholder until I lost my fear of secular humanism.

My very first blog post was about humanism.
I have not always been encouraged to value humanness. Humanism was warned against as the enemy of both our souls and our society. Mankind’s primary value was presumed to be in his proximity to divinity. An individual’s moral influence, for good or evil, was viewed as his most important attribute. Needs for rest and exercise, proper nourishment, medical care, human touch and friendship, education, self-expression, self-determination—those were secondary, a lower tier of existence. We grew to deem those things weaknesses in ourselves, obstacles to our desire to be our "best".
That was over four years ago. Chris and I have changed a lot since then, but this interest in humanity has been a constant. We spent so many years trying to be super-human, to live beyond our senses. We disdained being merely human. Mostly, we tried to be right. We had the willpower to be "better" than human. Now, we would rather be alive.

Last year, I put a special emphasis on learning to be human. Caring for and celebrating my body. Exploring human expression: visual arts and theater and comedy and live music. Learning to dance. Tasting new ethnic foods. Trying new alcoholic drinks. Getting my ears pierced. Exploring my own sexuality. Changing my wardrobe. Spending more time with people, all kinds of people. Listening to them, learning from them, connecting with them, loving them. Letting myself feel... love, passion, anger, fear, joy, jealousy, and a host of other emotions. I finally learned how to let myself have fun!

Since beginning that journey, I have felt so very human.

Fragile, at times.







Driven to express myself, to communicate, to build alliances, to influence my society.

And last fall, Chris and I started talking about a big step toward becoming ordinary humans.

Bigger than buying a new car.

Almost bigger than sex.

A step I'd said for years I would never take...

To be continued!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Living Backward

Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.
--Bob Dylan

I had to laugh when I finally read the story of Benjamin Button. Because that is so us. Call me Zelda Zipper. Or Valerie Velcro. If the traditional cultural model goes something like: dating, college, marriage, pets, kids, career, mortgage payment, retirement...well, we've been living life backward for a long time.

How many people pay off a house before sending kids to school? Change adult diapers before infant ones? Get their ears pierced after their youngest daughter does? Or spend a year in law school before passing high school algebra?

We were engaged before we'd dated and married before we'd kissed. We unwrapped a condom for the first time when I was in my third trimester with our second baby. We uncorked our first wine bottle at 30, when I was pregnant with our third! I don't remember turning 21 because there was nothing special about it--no fuss, no friends. If alcohol had been involved, it would have been unforgettable because I would have been in so much trouble!

We succumbed to a cult as impressionable children, not as seeking adults. We were obedient, disciplined teenagers who listened to classical music and watched G-rated films. We followed the rules and didn't make waves.We were in "full-time Christian service" before we had jobs, or education. We knew the Bible before we knew ourselves. In the places where other people find God, we lost him.

As a teen, I wore SoftSpots, granny panties, and Alfred Dunner two sizes too big. I tried on my first pair of pants at 24 and had two maternity bathing suits before my first bikini. As a young mom, I shopped at Christopher & Banks and worried about being immodest. At this rate, I'll be shopping at Wet Seal when I'm a grandma!

I had two kids before discovering tampons and three kids before my first real date. I awoke to my body's sex appeal after it had stretch marks. We were each nearing 40 before so much as kissing anyone else.

So, hey, if we seem a bit disordered, understand that we are living life in reverse. We may spend hours playing video games now, because we worked our tails off when we were young. Or we may not have time for what's popular with our peers now because we're busy reclaiming something we missed out on as teens. We've been old and responsible already. Now it's time to rebel, enjoy life, and, who knows, maybe change the world.

"I have everything," interrupted Jennie.
            "Experience, too?"
"Experience? Never heard of it."
--Maurice Sendak, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More To Life

Giving an earnest anti-contraception speech 25 years ago

This year as a full-fledged sex-positive feminist