Have a Good One!

29 Dec


A good what? A good day? A good night? A good meal? A good beer? A good year?

All are certainly possibilities.

A good whatever you choose to make of it.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. They put too much pressure on one to achieve the impossible. If I haven’t already achieved whatever it is that I’m telling myself I’m now going to suddenly achieve just because the calendar has passed some artificial mark, what makes me think I’m now going to achieve it? I’m just not. So yet again, I’ve set myself up for failure.

Instead of resolutions, I believe in staying resolute in the things that are important to me.

To stay resolute means to stay determined, purposeful, and bold. It means I will not be indecisive, timid, or uncertain.

This does not mean I won’t have moments of discomfort, weakness, or stubbornness.

It does mean I will keep the things that are important to me foremost in mind. My faith, family, friends, health, ability to earn a living and pay my debts. Laughter. My puppies. Social justice. More laughter.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “everything else” that life throws at us.

What are the things we can control? What are the things we are making ourselves sick over because we cannot control them? Who are the people who can help us make changes in the aspects of our lives we don’t like? Who do we know who can help us connect with those people? Who are the helpers?

What are your priorities? What is the Holy calling you to do? What is stopping you from doing it?

What are you resolute about?

Have a good one!





Dear Jerry Jones – It’s Not You, It’s Me

9 Nov

An Open Letter to Jerry Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,

I’m not here to bash you. I understand the free enterprise system and your right to do with your business as you please. You must also understand my right to do with my fanship as I please.

I cannot support the Dallas Cowboys as long as Greg Hardy remains a member of the team.

I stayed a fan while players with other transgressions remained on the team.

I stayed through the losing seasons.

I stayed through questionable managerial decisions.

Domestic violence is different.

Domestic violence with absolutely no expression of remorse is extremely different.

I know you don’t care about the pittance in revenue you receive from my annual merchandise purchases.

I know you don’t care that I’ve been a fan since I was 12 and I’m 57 now.

I care about domestic violence, however.


Duck, Duck, Wild Goose!

16 Jul


The Wild Goose Festival, held each summer in the mountains of Hot Springs, NC, uses the tagline Spirit. Justice. Music. Arts., but four words can hardly describe the delight that is the Goose. It really is one of those magical events one has to live to understand.

I had no plans to attend this year; first of all, I am not much of a camper, and deciding to go at the last minute would mean “inside” type lodging would not be an option. I then read that “Glamping” was available, so I decided to give that a try. (Once and done on that front.) I have to learn to listen to the voice of the Call, however, so off I went.

The beauty of the Goose is that it is the only space I’ve ever encountered where people of every faith tradition (and none) and spiritual practice (and none), gender expression, family composition, musical taste, age, body shape, physical presentation, eating preference, spirituality, country of origin identity, and other ways we typically use to divide one another, come together and break bread together. When I say bread, I mean bread in every sense.

Whether it was the sounds of impromptu jam sessions singing praise for the day’s blessings, the sights of young people freely expressing their joy with dance, the pop of the embers exploding into the night air as we journeyed into a Celtic ancestor meditation, or inhaling the sweet exuberance of a burgeoning relationship of a dear friend, each moment was manna for the soul.

Let me be clear; there were hard moments as well. Listening to far too many stories of the walking wounded who have been kicked out of our churches for transgressions such as being whom the holy intended. Hugging those who have been arrested in our cities and towns for feeding those with no homes to call their own. Trying to understand why anyone would think it is acceptable to ask another “What are you?” or touch another’s hair or skin or clothing. Trying to unpack ways in which my own privilege of many types hurts others and ways in which I can help others with privilege unpack their own.

Moments of joy far outweigh those of distress. There is always more work to do. There are willing and able workers. To see friends I usually only see on Facebook. To hug those I’ve never touched before. To make new friends. To ask, “What is your story?” To ask, “What can I do to help?”


Pizza Christians

7 Apr

By now, everyone must be nauseatingly familiar with the story of the small Indiana pizza shop that was ambushed by a local reporter with a hypothetical question, “Would you cater a gay wedding,” as if any self-respecting gay couple would ever serve pizza at such an event. When the pizza place said no, an African-American conservative talk show host opened a persecution complex defense fund that collected some half-million clams (isn’t eating shellfish Biblically forbidden?) before being mercifully closed. Virtually all of the donors were some church lady name Annie Nonamus; she must be loaded, no doubt a recipient of the prosperity version of the Holy Book.

Meanwhile, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Rodney Todd, a divorced father with custody of his seven children, tried to support his family on a kitchen worker’s salary. When the local power company discovered an illegal connection to their home on March 25, it was disconnected. Mr. Todd installed a gas powered generator in his kitchen to keep his two sons and five daughters warm.

The particulars after that are too sad to repeat. Briefly, family members were last seen March 28 and the entire family was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on April 6. You do the math.

I am not going to question whether Mr. Todd had reached out to any private or public resources that may have been able to help him. In a world where so many fathers are criticized for walking away from their children, here we have a man who did all he could to keep his family together and cared for.

I am not going to criticize Mr. Todd for having the heater inside. This is no time to blame the victim.

What I am going to question until my last breath, however, is how one faction of society thinks nothing of running to their checkbook to fund a pizza shop in a town of under 2000 residents that was under no real distress, while simultaneously claiming that social programs that are designed to assist people like Mr. Todd are “handouts,” “wasting my tax money,” “for people too lazy to work,” etc.

Where are all these pizza Christians when people like Mr. Todd need help?

Standing on and shouting from their sanctimonious, hypocritical soapboxes, that’s where.

Jesus wept, indeed.


2 Apr


Four years ago on this day, Holy Thursday, I was informed by the lead pastor of my ministerial internship that I should not attend Easter Sunday at the congregation where I had been an intern for two years. Instead, I should go worship at my home church, the very home church where said pastor would not let me go worship for those two years, not one Sunday a month, not one Sunday every other month, not at all.

Being told to stay away from the people I had worshipped with, prayed with, sung with, learned from, cried with, laughed with, fought for affordable housing with, on the most holy day of the year, was just a bit hurtful.

I forwarded the email to my seminary; this was just the culmination of a pattern of abuse, which included threats that he would prevent me from graduating. After a night to think about it, or perhaps after the senior pastor learned of it, I was told, again via email, why of course I could attend on Easter.  I did attend, and the week after for “intern appreciation day.” Since that time, four years ago, not only have I not fulfilled the remainder of the prerequisites for consideration for ordination, I have only attended church a handful of times, primarily for ordinations, weddings, and funerals.


It had been a long road back to church for me. Brought up Roman Catholic, I left immediately after my confirmation, disliking the sin and hell focus, along with what I perceived as the subservient role of women. While in college in California, I often attended services at Robert Schuller’s church (both pre- and post-Crystal Cathedral). There may be a myriad of issues associated with him and his theology, but it helped me at the time. What did not help me with any type of religion was the growing realization that I was gay.

As a young adult with a domestic partner and a preteen son, I became comfortable with the seven principles and six sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). It was while attending services of this denomination that I received a surprising call to ministry, at a time in my life where I would have described myself as “spiritual, but not religious” and definitely not Christian. I was very much in tune with the sense of a Higher Power and a Holy Spirit, but the whole Jesus thing really escaped me.

I also was led to believe that in order to “be” a Christian, one had to sign on to a long list of beliefs, including, in no particular order, original sin, virgin birth, bodily resurrection, and hell. Since my views then (and now) are pretty much no, no, no, and no, I certainly did not qualify for any Christian membership card I knew of.

It took me over 7 years to complete the requirements for receiving my seminary degree. Few people and relationships don’t change over the course of 7 years of day-to-day living; add the regular challenge to one’s preconceived notion of one’s belief system, and, without a doubt, the person who graduated in May 2011 was not the same person who took her first class in August 2003.

During an extraordinary meeting with my covenant discipleship group at seminary, the “Jesus part” hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt. I found the UUA no longer fit, and the United Church of Christ was a better option for a Christian lesbian minister to-be.


When I received the call to ministry during that UU service in December 2002, the sermon was on using your gifts. It became clear during this sermon that all my gifts had done to that point was enable others to buy bigger boats. I had worked for several companies that had gone public and for several people that had gone on to positions such as CIO of a Fortune 500 company. I wanted to use my gifts such as speaking, writing, and empathy to a greater good.

Over the last four years, it has sometimes been difficult to explain to people that I do use these gifts in ministry while I am not an ordained UCC (or any other type) of minister. It has sometimes been hard to not feel like a failure myself. I miss congregational life. I miss preaching. I just didn’t fit into the box. I always felt church was a verb, not a noun.

Outside the politics, the walls, the box, much of my ministry is conducted online. Recently a woman posted a photo of her daughter whom had just passed away. She asked if anyone had any feedback. As soon as I saw the photo, I felt the daughter was helping children ages 6-8 cross over to heaven. (I get these sort of vibes all the time.) After I posted this, the woman shared her daughter left behind two children, ages 6 and 8.

Jeremiah 30:17 – “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord, “because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”

Praise heavens for the outcasts.

Not Enough Tears – Eleanor Marie Willett Mannion, 11/17/32-10/19/14

17 Nov



no thoughts from head to voice to air,

lyrics spout from heart throat out everywhere.

there are not enough tears, enough songs,

to remember, everything, every way,

you nourished me, encouraged me.

you completed my rhymes,

sing along with Mitch Miller time.



it will be so, it must be, it shall be,

as it was in the beginning, it ends.

first question why, last question why,

unthinkable, unimaginable time.

always with me now, always with me always,

always me, always you, always us,

it’s always been you and me against the world.



across the street, across the country,

your belly, trains, Fords, hydrofoil, planes.

hot cocoa in SUI, a lamp trip to VT,

no sodas in Boston, alarms in ALB.

sing a song with me, Mom.

ring a bell for me, Mom.

pray each night for me til we meet again.

No Labor for Me, Day

1 Sep

Warning: Miscarriage, infertility, infant death triggers

Ecstatic is the closest word to describe it. Finally past the first trimester, I told my parents, I told my boss; I told everybody. I was going to have a baby! I was due on Labor Day, which I found hilarious. After two previous miscarriages fewer weeks along, now that I was past the first trimester, I felt safe letting everyone know the happy news.

I was wrong.

Oh sure, there had been no baby shower yet, I wasn’t showing, I had no clue if it was a boy or a girl, but still….

I was very wrong.

Yet again, there was no happy news.

There would never be any happy news springing forth from my womb.

The worst part was, unlike the previous miscarriages, now that I was into the second trimester and “the fetus was no longer viable,” I needed to have “a procedure.”

This is when my previous hard and fast, black and white, views on when life begins, when is it a fetus versus when is it a baby, forever changed, in ways that are still very much evolutionary, not revolutionary. For, to some, it may have been a 15-week fetus or blob of tissue, but to me and my doctor,  it was definitely my child.

My child. My child was dead. Dead before arrival.

Dead before I could ever hold him or her. Dead before I could ever name him or her. Dead before I could sing, “Jesus loves you” like my Mom sang to me. Dead before every little thing.

Dead but still in me. How cruel. Now I had to have “a procedure” to get him/her out.

I would go to sleep and when I’d wake up, I’d no longer be a bio Mom. Bye-bye, hopes and dreams.


It’s been 22 years. I know I would not have the life I have now if I had a 22-year old; that’s not the point.

I believe in restoration. I believe there will be a new heaven for all creation. I believe one day I will see my child, hold him/her, and we’ll sing, “Jesus loves you.”

Dear Holy One,

How often we struggle with unrealized dreams. How often we torture ourselves with imagined punishments from unloving beings. Help us remember you are love. Let us feel the peace around us. Wipe the tears we cry. Mend the breaks in our tender hearts. These things we pray. 


A Bunny, a Fawn, and Some Geese Walk into a Bar….

19 Aug


A big bunny.

A fawn and a doe.

A flock of Canada geese.

Add, “Walk into a bar,” and you might have the start of a good joke.

For about a month, up until about a week ago, nothing in life was funny. Not my usual television guilty pleasures. Not the antics of my niece and nephew. Not the daily ironies of life I typically relish. The entire world’s sorrows, all of life’s tragedies, all of my personal failings – my bucket runneth over with the double whammy of the murder of Michael Brown in MO and Robin Williams’ suicide. I had no more room. Cannot process. It does not compute. No more tears can fall. Cannot feel any more. Full. Danger, Will Robinson.

I have frequently shared on this page my journeys with addictions of various sorts and my battles with the black monster of depression. I occasionally have to slay the dragon known as recurrent major depressive disorder. The good news is, thanks to among many other things, a proper diagnosis, insurance, a wonderful therapist, an awesome spouse, and tremendous self-awareness, the occasions are few and far between. Ninety-nine percent of my life is spectacular. But, oh, that one percent. Scary.

When in the clutches of this monster, it is easy to feel you will never feel free. I tried my usual go-to ideas. Reengage the therapist. See the doctor and increase the meds temporarily. Talk to those close to me about how I’m feeling. Get outside more. Get off all media for a while, including Facebook, television, radio – when I say all, I mean all. Phone a friend. Meditate. Color. Eat ice cream. Read the Psalms.

Nothing. Was. Working.

Last Thursday, I opened the gate to the driveway, and there staring at me was big bunny. Big bunny is what my wife and I call the silly rabbit that shares his home between our yard and our neighbors’. He didn’t move, and I didn’t either. We just looked at each other for about 10 seconds as if we were saying, “Good morning.” He turned and slowly hopped away, and off to work I went.

Last Friday, I left work at my usual time of 6:30 p.m., which meant the last person had probably walked the path to the parking lot about 90 minutes prior. As my eyes looked up from the pavement, I looked right into the eyes of a fawn. I stopped and we looked at each other for a few seconds. I heard some rattling in the woods and I saw the mama. The three of us just stood there looking at each other. I slowly backed up and walked sideways down the pavement because I didn’t want to scare them.

I got into my car and as I pulled up to the first light on my way home, I noticed a huge flock of Canada geese gathered on the sidewalk pooping all over. I burst out laughing for the first time in a month.

How much harder could the Holy have tried to show me that I am not just connected to tragedy but to beauty?


The theme for our August synchroblog was a one word prompt and the word was: “Connection”

Here is the list of contributors this month. Go read them all and leave a comment!

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

Reborn on the Fourth of July

4 Jul

This post is dedicated to my friends MW and KK, the first who helped get me to sobriety and the second, who along with many others, helps keep me there.

“It’s medication time! It’s medication time!”

Every day, twice a day, as dependable as the sun rising and setting, the roly-poly male nurse cheerfully bellowed those words, and the apocalyptic zombie waltz commenced from rooms around the ward to the Plexiglas front of the tightly controlled, sweet candy store known as the pharm lab.

Standing in line, in various stages of dress and undress, whether in street clothes or hospital gown, old, young, from the city or the ‘burbs, straight, gay, unsure, we were united purely by our desire to get the magically delicious blend contained in our personally prescribed Dixie cup of relief from the demons within.

In my case, the diagnosis (manic depression) and therefore medications (nardil, lithium), was proven within 18 months to be incorrect. Nonetheless, the diagnosis provided something life saving: you cannot drink alcohol on these meds. I vowed I would not drink after I was released if it meant I would feel better, and I have been sober for 26 years. The initial blood work found my life-long struggle with occasional black clouds that hurricane winds could not remove was due to low thyroid function, and thus began a contest trying to get that dang little gland to balance on a beam like an Olympic gymnast who suddenly sprouted size 14 feet.

I arrived at the psych ward via ambulance early in the morning of Sunday, July 4, 1988. I had gone out Saturday night to a women’s bar in NJ, once again searching for friendly faces and only finding rejection. Alcohol never upped my game. I never had game. (Well, on the softball field, I had great game, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. Or two.) Within the previous year I had come out of the closet, divorced my husband, watched my mother battle breast cancer, moved from PA to NJ, changed jobs, started intense therapy, had my first relationship with a woman (who turned out to be a drug addict) – I just don’t know why when I left that bar in NJ, all I wanted to do was drive my car off whichever dead Philadelphian bridge I was on.

When I got home, for the first time, the unconditional love of my Sheltie JJ just wasn’t enough. I called information and asked for the closest hospital. I must have reached the best operator ever. She calmly asked me a series of questions and kept me on the phone until the EMTs arrived. I knew my parents would have to drive all the way from western PA to come watch him and then put him in a kennel on Monday, which of course they did, because they are the best parents ever.

Arriving at the hospital, I had the choice whether to check myself in, and I said YES. Just the fact I had thought about driving off that bridge scared me enough to do so. I was in for 10 days. I recall hating about 7 days of it. I hated the art therapy. I hated the music therapy. I particularly hated group therapy. The Rorschach test was stupid. I scoffed that they took my shoelaces but not my toothbrush. Did they not realize I could stab myself in the throat with my toothbrush? The food was crap. Most of the other people scared the hell out of me. The room where people were in strait jackets and there were padded cells – Oh. My. God.

Slowly, my M&M (messy & melancholy) hard candy-ass shell melted and my gooey, feeling self started to ooze out of the twisted tunnels it had been poured into for its own safety. I actually got into art therapy. I began to talk in group. I realized just how much I had in my life that was good. I acknowledged I had a medical condition. Let me write that again. I acknowledged I had a medical condition. Not a character weakness. This was not about me being weak. This was about me being strong enough to ask for help.

The illusion of control is an odd thing. It is intoxicating. It is addictive. It is dangerous. Giving up this illusion is so liberating.

What is controlling you? An addiction of some sort – a substance, a person, a religion, a belief? Is it a fear? A fear of looking foolish? Of failing?

Today, in the US, it is Independence Day. I invite you to join with me and declare your independence from whatever it is that is holding you back. You can start today. This can be your Independence Day also!  


Postscript: A few years ago I was able to visit the ward where I was hospitalized. I stopped first at the hospital gift shop to buy flowers. Who should answer at the front desk of the ward but the “Medication Time” male nurse! He and another nurse both worked there while I was hospitalized. They thanked me profusely for the flowers and said, “We never hear about the ones who make it.” That still gives me chills.

For Sue

11 Jun


“You’re lovely to remember, and looking back then feeling like I’m walking very slowly through a soft and misty rain. And a beautiful sadness comes over me. Though, I’ve never been so lonely, I’m happy in a way, for the love that I still feel when I think of you today. And a beautiful sadness comes over me.” (Beautiful Sadness, Leikin, M.A. / Holdridge, L.E., © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

Finding myself like the proverbial “duck out of water” in oh, so many ways, as both married to my husband and living in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to leave the insurance business and move back into my chosen career of technical editing/writing. The company was known around town as “the bomb factory” although this was supposed to be a big secret. The place was a front for the CIA, although when it all fell apart a few years after I joined, of course the government denied this and several people, including the founder, went to jail.

I don’t remember interviewing with my supervisor, Sue. I don’t remember first meeting her. My brain cannot process when it did not have a picture of her in it. Straight line skirts, long-sleeved silk blouses with modest V-neck, just a peek of camisole. She was in her late 40s when we met; I was in my late 20s. She had a hearty laugh. She walked briskly and confidently around the proposal production center, which she managed. I was smitten. It was safe. She was married; I was married. I wasn’t smitten totally in that way, but I was smitten further than I had ever been smitten before. (The last time I had been smitten was for a boy named Mark in 5th grade.)

I had known I was gay for a long time. No, a long, long, long time. Growing up, I knew I was different since at least age 10. I had suspected I was gay since at least my mid-teens. Being brought up Roman Catholic, having the expectations of a Mrs. Degree, the white picket fence, the kiddies; it just was not an option. By the time I arrived in California for my final two years of college, it was a foregone conclusion. I had one acquaintance on the student paper I would confide in about this when I got really drunk (a frequent event), but it was confusing because there wasn’t anyone I was “into” in that way.

Then there was Sue.

Oh, Sue.

That throaty laugh. The way her camisole peeked out on her suntanned chest. Her confident, brisk walk.

I had it bad.

We became fast friends. She already had a great girlfriend at work, which made me insanely jealous. That, however, was her “shopping” girlfriend. We had more. (Oh, the things we tell ourselves sometimes!) Her husband was soon dying of cancer. I was soon drinking and drugging, and realizing I was gay and needed to leave my husband. We glommed onto each other like the two dysfunctional, co-dependent, alcoholic, needy people we were.

I was in heaven.

During frequent breaks in the lactation room off the ladies’ room, I’d bare my soul while she’d smoke. After her husband went into the hospital for good and I left my husband, these breaks became less frequent and instead, I’d head to her house after work while she drank and bared her soul while I listened.

One Saturday night after I left my husband, I decided it was finally time to determine whether I was gay. My therapist told me I was unusual because most gays and lesbians come out “with” someone or “because of” someone, but I did not. I decided I must go to the local lesbian bar, find someone to make out with, and see whether I was really gay. (This has all the makings of a bad movie, does it not?)

I am a painful introvert, and drinking never helped. I didn’t have moves. I didn’t have lines. It was sad. Finally someone started paying attention. She was older, which I liked. I definitely needed someone with experience. A few drinks later, I agreed to go back to her place. One thing led to another and another thing led to…The Crying Game. I sobered up fast and things came to a halt. We actually became good friends, but if I said it wasn’t traumatizing at the time, I’d be lying.

First thing at work Monday, I dragged Sue to the lactation room. “You won’t believe what happened to me Saturday night!” I was in hysterics as I recounted the story. “Yeah, so?” She said, in the totally non-judgmental, chill way only she could do. It was not a dismissive tone; it was an embracing, “It could happen to anyone” tone. This was in the middle of the 1980s, people!

Through my whole coming out, separation, divorce, first girlfriend, getting sober, first time getting 13th stepped at AA – through every single thing – this friend of mine never once judged, never once stopped being my friend, never stopped, dare I say, loving me for me. We lost touch a few year after I left the area and she remarried, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

So, last night about midnight, I had this thought about her, and I googled. She confidently and briskly left this earth in 2011 at age 72. I am so glad that when I was in her area in 2010, I looked her up and phoned her. I reminded her of my “night of self-discovery.” She laughed that throaty laugh. I now know she was very ill. I thanked her. She said she was happy I was doing well, and she couldn’t wait to tell her daughter I called. I told her I still want Meryl Streep to play her in the movie adaptation of my book.

“I always thought you were the best, I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you. Someone who understands me and knows me inside out. Helps keep me together, and believes without a doubt. That I could move a mountain, someone to tell it to. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you.” (One Friend, Seals, D., © Alfred Publishing Co.)


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