How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me)

Sep 6 2017

I wasn’t always a heretic. I used to be as Religious Right as they come, raised as I was in the 70’s and 80’s in a conservative, evangelical, James-Dobson-loving, Christian home.

I went to Awana and learned Bible verses for candy and badges when I was little.

I know the Four Spiritual Laws by heart, and I attended Evangelism Explosion training so I could lead people away from the Fiery Pits of Hell where their souls were bound if I failed to witness, and I learned to shove them into the arms of JesusChristTheirPersonalLordAndSavior (one word).

My parents became missionaries, so I lived with pagan tribespeople in the jungle, sacrificing for Jesus, and I went to missionary boarding schools where I took Old and New Testament classes and memorized Scripture because it was a shield against the Devil.

I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992, my first American presidential election as an eligible voter, because he was the Only Godly Choice. I was appropriately, emotionally destroyed when Bill Clinton, that Lackey of Satan Who Proved He Was Evil Incarnate When He Squidged on Monica Lewinsky’s Dress, was elected in his stead.

I went to conservative Christian colleges — two of them — and I majored in Church History. I know the nuanced differences between the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, and I’m geeky enough to have an animated conversation about them.

I bought books at the Christian bookstore about the dangers of Drug Culture, Hedonism, and Sex, and I hid those books deep in the couches of my nonChristian friends so they’d find them eventually, read them, and be saved. Coercive Couch Conversion, YEEHAW!

I was sure to tell my friends to Never Have Premarital Sex with their boyfriends (I didn’t even consider they might have girlfriends) and to remain pure so they didn’t transform into Chewed-Up Gum; used and wrecked and never able to pristinely fit back in their box. I knew, after all, that being Outside the Box was the Most Dangerous Thing that could happen to us. I didn’t mention to my friends, of course, that I was having premarital sex, because saying so would’ve meant I was deliberately doing it, which I was definitely not doing, since what I was doing was falling on my boyfriend’s penis — accidentally — over and over again.

All of which is an extremely long way to say I have street cred, man. I was a good Christian once. I meant well. I was very sincere. I have all the training. I prayed all the prayers. I asked Jesus into my heart at least 46 times, and I meant it every one of them. I was baptized twice, once as an infant and once as a teenager, so I have all the baptismal bases covered. I’ve studied Scripture, and I’ve committed it to memory so it is writ upon my heart, and I love Scripture still. I believed All the Things about Hell and how to scare people away from it, even though very few of those beliefs were based on the Bible. And I was extremely scared to hit the “like” button on questionable Facebook posts, sure I’d be found out for giggling at swearing, or loving the gays, or Being Political, or Thinking My Own Thoughts, which is, of course, the Worst.

I am, in short, not the person you would’ve picked to become a heretic. Not the person you would’ve picked to abandon Republicanism and the theological giants of the 1980’s. Not the person you would’ve picked to believe marriage ought not be confined to one man and one woman. Not the person you would’ve picked to deeply doubt a Literal Hell. Not the person you’d think would come to believe others’ salvation doesn’t depend on me at all.

But I did become that person. I became that person in spades, and I’ve given a lot of thought to where conservative Christianity fell apart for me. To where I became a heretic, off grid from the theology I was taught was Higher Ground. Away from the theology that was supposed to keep me Safe and Protected, as though those are the goals, and, instead, found me walking a ragged path through the wilderness rather than the well-trod highway I was told was the Narrow Way.

Here’s where it came apart for me:

When I was 7, you told me in no uncertain terms that the Smurfs were Satanic — something about arch demons and Papa Smurf as Karl Marx in disguise. I mean, I could buy the bit about He-Man luring me to Hades — after all, he called upon the Power of Grayskull and was practically, deliciously naked — but the Smurfs were a little harder to believe. You didn’t know it yet, and neither did I, but you started to lose me there. Even my 7 year old self knew the most evil thing about the Smurfs was that wretched theme song.

When I was 14, you told me to trust you, and you were my youth pastor, so I did. You said weird things about sexuality and girls’ bodies which led men to sin, and I felt uncomfortable around you always, but I was taught to trust you more than myself, so I shoved down my own discomfort, and I didn’t question you. Nothing awful happened. Not to me, anyway. But I learned what men said to me was more important than the Holy Spirit or my gut or my conscience. And you lost me.

When I was 15, we were out to save the world. You said we were doing God’s own work, though my soul squirmed at handing out trite tracts on the city streets and saying as many sinners’ prayers as possible instead of feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and finding medical care for the mentally fraught. And so you lost me.

When I was 29, and my gentle, compassionate, kind friend from our missionary high school wrote our entire class to tell us why he couldn’t come to our reunion and why he’d never see us again — because he was gay, so he’d had to choose between God and not killing himself — and, well, in the nicest possible way, said that we could go fuck ourselves because he wasn’t dying for any of this crazy, conservative Christian bullshit, you lost me. You lost me like my friend never did.

When Christianity became an In-Club with its own subculture and language rooted in white, middle class America — when Christianity was bought and sold to the Republican Party through the efforts of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and fears about the Supreme Court — you lost me. When James Dobson and Franklin Graham took up their hypocritical banner, you lost me again.

When you taught me that blasphemy and taking God’s name in vain meant uttering the phrase “oh my God” — as though avoiding those three words completely fulfills one of only ten commandments — as though “oh my God” said in horror isn’t the deepest prayer for help — you lost me. When you buried the idea that blasphemy is spreading lies in the name of God, in favor of a simplistic phrase — when you didn’t look deeper — your vapid explanation lost me.

When you told me drinking wine was different in Jesus’ time — that the alcohol wasn’t as potent so it was OK that Jesus drank but it’s not OK to do it today — that Jesus didn’t really mean “do this in rememberance of me,” like his goal wasn’t communal worship over wheat and wine — like his first miracle wasn’t turning water to wine for a party that had already drunk its fill — you lost me.

When you told me God created the world 6,000 years ago — when you said, specifically, during college chapel that believing in evolution was the same as disbelieving in God — when you denied science the way the Church in Galileo’s time denied the earth revolved around the sun — you lost me. As though God is too small to set evolution in motion. As though evolution isn’t a miracle all on its own.

When you told me you’re certain your interpretation of the Bible is the only interpretation — when you said the meaning of the Bible in whatever English translation you prefer is clear — when you said homosexuality was a “lifestyle choice” and an “abomination” and changed your mind to “orientation” when the science became clear — when you still insisted that our homosexual and transsexual and bisexual and pansexual and polysexual and queer and questioning and human neighbors may exist but may not practice their sexuality within the parameters of Godliness — when you said the theology on sexuality is different than our former, historical theological justifications for slavery or women remaining silent in church or the sun revolving around the earth — you lost me. When you said you believe in a static understanding of the Bible outside of context and history and oral recitation and science and poetry and translation — when you ditched the beautifully mysterious and mystical meanings of God’s Word who was made flesh in Jesus Christ — when you denied the Holy Spirit has come with fire to be an ongoing revelation to God’s people — you lost me completely.

When I watched people suffer and become more disenfranchised than ever because of your interpretation of Scripture and your imposition of that on their lives, so very unlike Jesus’ response to the marginalized, you lost me.

When you became more concerned about protecting our borders in the isolationism sweeping the globe than protecting the most vulnerable who are trying to flee to us, crying out for help — when you didn’t say like Jesus, “let the little children come to me” — you lost me.

When you told people to come as they are, and I knew it really, secretly meant “come as you are so we can change you, and if you fail to conform in time, you’ll have to leave” — when I berated myself for thinking that was uncharitable, and it ended up being true — you lost me.

When you told me after my miscarriage to examine my life for sin, and you wished I’d bothered to listen to the tapes on how to have a Christian pregnancy, and if only I’d tithed more to the Church so I didn’t lose my first born like the cattle of the Israelites, you lost me.

When you told me my genitalia affects who I’m allowed to teach and which platforms I’m allowed to take — whether I can preach, which men can do, versus “bring a message,” which women are allotted — whether I can be in leadership or must submit to those with different genitalia — you lost me.

When I brought home my precious baby girl from Vietnam and you said, “At least she’s not black,” you lost me.

When I spoke what I believed in earnest — out loud and in public — and you punished and shunned me and told me you’d probably forgive me eventually but you couldn’t say when, you lost me.

When Jesus’ example was to make wine for drunk people at a wedding, to break the Sabbath to pull an ox and its farmer’s livelihood from a ditch, to bodily block the stone throwers, to furiously upend the tables of people cheating the poor from inside the Temple, to eat with hookers, to abandon the rules in favor of loving his neighbor — and you wanted to monitor the length of my skirt, and which words I could utter, you lost me.

When I finally realized you taught me to be polite and quiet because it upheld the power structure and made those oppressing others more comfortable, rather than upheld Jesus’ radical example and God’s great love of every person, you lost me.

When you told me my virginity was my most precious gift, you lost me.

When you told me premarital sex would wreck my life and relationships forever, and you were wrong, you lost me.

When you told me with every word and every glance and every action that my micro-behaviors and submission to our Christian patriarchical subculture were more important than my aching, expansive heart and desire to see God’s Love sweep the planet, you lost me.

When my gender and sexual minority friends found no sanctuary or succor with you — when you insisted you loved them while they committed suicide at alarming rates in even larger numbers inside faith communities and you did nothing other than spout Bible verses, nothing to save their lives, nothing to set aside your cold recitation of culturally-proscribed, modern, fundamentalist theology — you lost me. You lost me, you lost me, you lost me, and, more importantly, you lost them.

When I watched you actually believe you’re as hurt, as victimized, as terribly sad, as those who’ve been perpetually and systematically disenfranchised and abandoned by the Church, you lost me.

You lost me.

Jesus won me. Love owns me. And you lost me. Which is fine.

I live now in a place where I’m called a heretic regularly. Where I’m told I’m leading people astray. Where my convictions are not welcome in the church I chose once upon a time. And it’s a strange gift. Because I’m free. Free to love others fully. No longer restrained by false parameters. And I’ve found, as many who’ve wandered in the wilderness, that nothing — no one — no theology — no church — can separate me from the Love of God. Or stop me from spreading that Unlimited Love-of-God heresy to others.

And so I bid you good night. And send love. And Love. And wave in the dark, always and forever.

 

On Sitting in the Ash and Mourning with the World

Sep 5 2017

Oregon is on fire. Ash fell from the sky last night like a blizzard. We saw the sun today, a dim ball of deepest orange through the smokey sky, and I let my kids have All the Screens and Not Wear Pants because they couldn’t play outside.

I’m sitting outside now, on my back porch where I usually watch the mountain behind our house. I’m sitting outside even though my eyes are stinging and it’s like breathing inside a campfire. I can still see the mountain, but barely. The squirrels didn’t come out today. Neither did the birds. But I did, late in the day, because somehow sitting in the eerie quiet, breathing translucent air I can taste, feels like a lament that matches the inside of me.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s optimistic and hopeful, but swaths of Texas are under water. So are parts of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Nepal, actually, even though we don’t talk them.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s positive and cheerful, but Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, is on its way now to countries in the Carribbean like Haiti which haven’t recovered from last year’s Hurricane Matthew, and it’s expected to make landfall in Florida this weekend.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s uplifting, but North Korea is launching missles, and our president is threatening fire and fury and sending military orders by tweet.

I wanted to write a post tonight that shines a light in the darkness, but gender and sexual minorities are under regular, blatant, and insidious attack, so light feels a little too far, like the sun hiding in the smoke.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s at least reassuring if it can’t be rosy, but Nazis are marching in our streets while an unbelievable number of Americans are denying racism is an issue in our country. I wanted to be positive and to assume the best, but Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients – children who through no fault of their own know only America as home and country – are falling asleep tonight afraid for their futures; yet another group of people of color who’ve watched the U.S.A. rescind our promises.

I wanted to be positive and to quickly overcome the overwhelming, cumulative sorrow of today and this month and this year — and years before that full of macro- and micro-aggressions against others, that I, in my privilege, failed to see — but, instead, I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and mourn.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and feel sad like it’s my job.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and lament like it’s OK to sit and to grieve.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash while the night grows dark around me.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash while the world burns, and I’m going to pray without words, because words aren’t enough.

And in case you’re sad, too — in case you, like me, need the reminder in our rush to fix the world that we can also mourn with those who mourn — you’re invited to join me. To just be quiet. To sit in the ash. And to pray and hope and wish without words.

Waving in the dark and OK with that for now,

 

 

 

 

P.S. This is a doodle by my friend, Heather España, who also prays without words:

 

A Small List of Meant To’s

Sep 2 2017

I meant to be skinnier than this by now. I meant to stop eating All the Cheetos. I meant to be less snappy at Greg, and to make healthier food for my kids.

I meant to be more Godly. To, like, actually love those who hate me, and to do it with ease after so much practice.

I meant to have my book proposal done, not just close to done. And I meant to have my room picked all the way up, including the nightstand which instead has a tub of buttercream frosting; cinnamon graham crackers, mostly gone; a dusty hair band; 4 green earplugs and one orange, partially chewed by the dog; two empty glasses of water; various Lego shrapnel; and a Special Rock gifted to me by one of the children that looks like Every Other Rock, but apparently isn’t.

I meant to have the front yard manicured. Or, if not manicured, at least not mostly dead with blackberry brambles and wisteria and the occasional baby oak tree wrestling for control. Whenever I see someone having a yard sale, I wonder whether I can sell my yard, too. Surely there’s someone out there who needs an extra front yard.

I meant to have organized my laundry room such that I can find panties and a bra. Also, shirts. Also, pants.

I meant to be a gardener, boxes brimming with late summer bounty. I have the boxes, but I haven’t seen them for years, hidden as they are under one wild yard growth or another.

I meant to be a letter writer and a card sender and a person who keeps personal correspondence alive. I meant to be a checkbook balancer and an excellent money manager and have more than $50.05 in savings.

I meant to read books that make me smarter and make me think and make me cry and feel triumphant, but if anyone needs a somewhat smutty and wholly spectacular vampire or werewolf series, let me know; I’m apparently your girl.

I meant to be cultured and to prefer spending time in museums and art galleries than pubs and tiny coffee shops. I meant to be able to pull off elegant should the situation arise.

I meant to have bathrooms that smell like freshly laundered clothes, or, at the very least, like buckets of bleach, instead of like stale kid urine that went there to die. For that matter, I meant to have clean laundry that smells like freshly laundered clothes instead of old cheese and green olives.

After 23 years, I meant to have marriage figured out, and, after 19 years, to know which parenting manual actually works.

I meant to do all these things and a thousand thousand more. I meant to, but HAHAHAHAHA! Nope.

But I’ll tell you a tiny secret. I also decided to be a better friend to myself. To treat myself like I’d treat a girlfriend, sharing her microfailures over wine, making little confessions of Not Enough, and spilling her small bits of shame, hoping she can be known and still loved. The kind who listens to the admissions, then shrugs and hugs and says, But look at all you ARE. Look at all you are, friend. Look at the way you drink in life. Look at how you love your littles and your bigs. Look at how you love your world. Look at how you TRY. Yes? Look at YOU and see the You I do. The one who is so much more than the Meant To’s. So much more than Could Have Been’s. So much more than the Not Enoughs. You, my friend, are fabulous. You, my friend, are seen. You, my friend, are loved BECAUSE of who you are, not in spite of it. 

So in case you have a list of Meant To’s — one that you rehearse — a list of all your wrongs which is the opposite of Love — look at all you ARE, friend, and trust me here for just one second:

You are worthy of infinite love.

You just are.

That’s as true a truth as I know.

Now read it again and trust it for one more second. And one more. And one more. Until you can hear it echo inside of you for a minute. And then an hour. I hear that’s possible. And then a day.

I’ll practice, too.

With love,

 

 

On Giving a Rat’s Ass (A Business Opportunity. Obviously.)

Aug 30 2017

I meant to write to you today, but I got caught up doing more important things like complaining about people complaining about Melania’s shoes. Let’s be honest, if I didn’t take it upon myself to complain about things on Facebook, NOTHING WOULD EVER CHANGE. Also, it’s critical to point out how much attention people are taking away from the flooding in Texas by taking away people’s attention to  complain about how they’re using their attention.

Yes?

Yes.

Glad we cleared that up.

The crux of my complaint is this: Melania Trump wore expensive heels to fly to the Texas disaster zone. Do we not have more important things to fuss about??

In the words of Trevor Noah, whom I love and with whom I’m well pleased, “I don’t know why anybody should care what someone wears when they’re on the way to help people. Look at the Pope, you see how he dresses? All white with enormous bling; he looks like he’s going to a P Diddy party. You can’t go around helping people dressed like that.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

I mean, I get it; I do. We have a grand American tradition of criticizing the First Lady’s clothes. And I understand the “out of touch” and “insensitivity” arguments — Michelle Obama was the target of the same comments.

Part of me is all, “YEAH. Melania should TOTALLY experience what it’s like to walk with 4 year old, scuffed Target pumps through the rain only to have the water rush in through the hole in the glued-on sole.”

But the other part of me goes, “Melania wore expensive heels to fly to a disaster zone. I DO WISH we had so few other concerns that this should matter… but seriously. North Korea is launching missles, people are under water in Texas and Asia (and no one’s talking about Asia), GSM folks are under regular, blatant and insidious attack, Nazis are marching in our streets, folks are denying racism is an issue in this country, churches are excommunicating the “heretics” ’cause, you know, that’s what Jesus did, college is out of reach for many lower and middle class families, our children have less chance at improving on their parents’ successes and financial situations, black women are 2-6 times as likely to die during childbirth in America than white women, our president issues military orders BY TWEET… and on and on and on and on and on… but we’re bitching about the First Lady’s SHOES? Blerg.”

BUT DO NOT WORRY, friends! ONE GOOD THING CAME OUT OF THIS. One good thing that’s far more important than shoes, or, you know, people fleeing for their lives, and you know what that one good thing is? IT’S CAPITALISM. A Business Opportunity! A brilliant answer to Greg’s financial woes. His woes being WE HAVE A CHILD IN COLLEGE, and WE HAVE FIVE CHILDREN, and OUR CHILDREN KEEP EATING FOOD FOR EVERY MEAL. And also, WHY DO YOU REFUSE TO MONETIZE THIS BLOG, BETH?? WHY? This is why we call him Poor Greg. He suffers, friends; he suffers.

The Business Idea occurred to me in a flash, as the Very Best Ideas so often do. In response to my complaints complaining about the complaining, my friend Shelley wrote, “I wholeheartedly agree. I could give a rat’s ass what kind of shoes she wore.”

DO YOU SEE IT? The Best Business Idea Ever and the Perfect Gift for Our Times.

A rat’s ass, friends.

A rat’s ass.

I wrote back immediately. (Text below the photo.)

I feel like this is a good monetization opportunity. Taxidermied rats’ asses. Like, we could do it humanely and everything. Find rat roadkill or watch for where the vultures are circling over the fields, employ a skilled taxidermist, harvest the ass portions (of the rat, not the taxidermist), preserve them, and then sell them so people can give literal rats’ asses. Or keep them if they want to say “I couldn’t give a rat’s ass” — in which case, they’d take a selfie with their rat’s ass to prove they can’t give it. Really, I feel like both ways get the point across.

Of course, in the “I couldn’t give a rat’s ass” category, one would be able to procure a live rat, so that undermines the taxidermy business and we’d have to lay off the taxidermist which creates a poorer economy and a dirth of available rats’ asses. So never mind. I take back the “couldn’t” option. We’ll stick with “I could give a rat’s ass.” Better for business, far more practical than ongoing rat care (unless one particularly loves rats, in which case, go for it), and a much better comment on our current society.

Our start up costs will be minimal — we just need a crowd of, say, twenty 1st-5th graders (cost: we call this an After School Outdoor Program and MAKE money… $5/kid/hour… assume conservatively they only find 1/hour… we get $100/hour PLUS a rat’s ass), 20 orange safety vests (cost: $3.49 each on Amazon – I checked), and a taxidermist (cost: $20/rat if s/he/they will work on a consultancy basis — we care about liveable wages, obviously — or $0 if the zombie apocalypse arrives; in that case, Greg Woolsey plans to kidnap one to take to our compound because everyone knows how critical taxidermy is going to be when the world as we know it ends. http://bethwoolsey.com/2011/06/on-the-importance-of-taxidermy/ ).

Functionally, that’s $100 – $3.49 – $20 in production costs, so we net $76.51 per rat. Maybe $56.51 if we feed the kids snacks on our dime and don’t make the parents send some. I vote we go that route because I HATE remembering to pack snack. Our profit goes back up to $76.51 per rat, though, if we can find someone willing to infect Earth with the zombie virus and don’t have to pay the taxidermist. The zombie apocalypse scenario is the most probable, so let’s run with that number. $76.51/rat in production profit.

THEN, if we sell each one for $25/pop, which I feel is a very reasonable price for a rat’s ass, then we’re back up to over $100… $76.51 in production profit + $25 sale price = $101.51.

If we make buyers pay the shipping and handling, and gouge them by forcing them to pay $5.99 for $1.77 in postage, as is the usual way of doing internet business in America, we could really make bank. $101.51 + $5.99 in S&H fees – $1.77 in actual postage = $107.50/rat.

So what do you say? You in?

Eventually, we could get into raccoon asses and opossum asses, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

……….

Look. I don’t want to brag, friends, but THIS IDEA ROCKS. Furthermore, Shelley agreed and has since expanded on the idea. Soon, in addition to offering rat’s asses you can give with alacrity, we’ll be offering horse’s ass trophies so that those people who do NOT give a rat’s ass can give a horse’s ass. You know why? Because we care about the inclusion of ALL PEOPLE; the rat’s ass givers and those who need other types of asses to award.

DO YOU SEE THE BRILLIANCE? Yes. Yes, you do. CAN YOU WAIT TO BUY YOURS? No. No, you can not.

I rest my case. The world is saved.

I love you to the moon.

 

Marital Strife: Your Help Requested

Aug 22 2017

There’s no easy way to say this, friends, so I’m just going to jump right in.

Greg, the love of my life, father of my children, sharer of my bed, scr itchy batterer of toast, locks the door when he uses the bathroom.

He locks the door.

Every time.

Without fail.

LOCKS IT.

I know. I wish I had a way to ease the blow, too, but in the absence of that, I’m just ripping off the band aid. If you need to stop reading for a bit to catch your breath, I understand. Take your time.

Here’s the truth:

Whenever Greg feels the need to potty, he just… goes.

He stands up, walks out of the room, blithely enters the bathroom without a public announcement and, CLICK, turns the lock.

I don’t…

I can’t even…

I just…

He acts like it’s normal to potty alone.

Like he doesn’t have to make sure all the kids are occupied for the foreseeable future.

In separate rooms.

Plugged into screens.

With enough snacks to last through the full zombie apocalypse.

And restraints.

And a brick wall barrier.

And reinforced cages.

And the suspension of disbelief required to think maybe — this one time — they won’t Houdini and Shawshank Redeption their way out.

Greg acts like he doesn’t have to submit an application in writing to the Sanitary Oversight Commission seeking approval for a Solo Toilet Expedition, then wait ages, like all good citizens, then resubmit his paperwork months later because, after a series of phone calls during which he was mostly placed on hold or disconnected, he learned his application was incomplete… or never arrived… or was lost or misfiled… and finally, give it up as a lost cause LIKE THE REST OF US DO and live with the knowledge we may never get to pee again.

Instead, Greg believes the urge to void is sufficient to qualify a person to potty in appropriate facilities while prohibiting others to enter.

It’s infuriating.

It’s as though Greg believes he’s an adult human. Entitled to privacy. Entitled not to broadcast his boy parts to the household. Entitled to 15 minutes to sit alone, undisturbed, and scan his Facebook feed. Or play a whole game of Sudoku. Or read Wired magazine. Or have one entire, chronological thought, start to finish, without myriad interruptions ranging in intensity from “the dog just barfed on my bed” to “COME FAST THERE IS A LOT OF BLOOD.”

It’s as though Greg doesn’t subscribe to the MacGyver style of pottying wherein one, with extensive training honed during years of difficult missions, improbable scenarios, and close calls, must be prepared for anything, at any time, to go horribly awry. Where one must solve issues that arise only with items on hand like one’s wits, lack of dignity, and a dirty sock. Where one practices one’s Kegles not because one is disciplined to exercise one’s pelvic floor, but by actually having to repeatedly stop midstream to pull someone’s foot splinter or run to check on the stunned child who thought jumping backward off the swing set was a good idea and, “HE’S HURT REAL BAD, MOM.” Not that MacGyver is necessarily all that interested in his pelvic floor, but if he was, this would undoubtedly be his modus operandi.

Listen; I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this whole situation, but Gregory sits there long enough to leave a red imprint of the toilet on his butt and legs, you guys. I mean, I imagine he does. I don’t actually know definitively, because Greg also pulls his undies all the way up, AND his pants, AND he zips and buttons them, AND washes his hands — for the recommended, thorough amount of time — before he emerges, rested and refreshed, which makes me bitter and enraged.

I do not know what to do about this, friends.

When I catch him, I knock knock knock knock knock on the door, and I speak in staccato words to match. Like “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. IN. THERE?” And “O.M.G! DID YOU SERIOUSLY. LOCK. THE DOOR. AGAIN?” And “STOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT.” But none of my lurking, knocking and pestering behaviors are working. NONE.

Surely something can be done about this. Surely there’s a way to end my misery once and for all. Surely there’s some way to force Greg into the kind of co-dependence and subservience to one’s children such that he will feel he does not deserves to lock the bathroom door, as well as the kind of unreasonable godlike pride required to believe that if one does actually lock the door, the children will all literally die.

Please, wise friends. Tell me what to do! Remove all bathroom doors? Put spikes on the toilet? Handcuff Greg to All the Children as a symbol of solidarity and sympathy with his long suffering wife who’s figuratively shackled to them all the livelong day?

In conclusion, help me, friends. You’re my only hope.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. Sorry to air our dirty laundry like this. I think we can all agree, though, that it’s past time to seek help.

I Duplicated My Daughter’s Instagram Feed (Because the Internets Need a Laugh, Dammit)

Aug 19 2017

Dear the Internets,

This is a cautionary tale.

Let’s say you have a kid at college.

And let’s say that college is in Hawaii.

Let’s say your kid chose that college because, OMG, BEACHES.

And let’s say she’s using those beaches to her full advantage.

Let’s say she has an Instagram account.

And let’s say it’s full of beach and bikini pics, because that’s apparently her area of giftedness.

Let’s say you’re scrolling through one day and you see a pic of her with underboob. UNDERBOOB, friends.

 

Let’s say you think to yourself, “Self, you are the mommy. Self, you should DISAPPROVE. Self, it is IRRELEVANT how adorable she looks in this pic. Self, you taught her to never, EVER, put boobie pics on the world wide webs. Self, you should DO SOMETHING.”

But then let’s say you think, “Self, she’s an adult. Self, she gets to make her own choices. Also, Self, because you can see how very white her underboob is, now you know she’s not been sunbathing topless. So HOORAY! LOOK AT HER MODESTY.”

Let’s say you call her and congratulate her on the underboob pic. Because that’s what a mommy does, right? That sounds like appropriate Christian leadership.

“Nice underboob,” you say. “I see you haven’t been sunbathing topless, so I guess there’s that?”

Let’s say she agrees with you entirely.

Then let’s say you decide, because you lack overall good judgement and common sense, that you think it would be the Very Best Lesson for her if you were to duplicate her shot, except with your own, fluffy, 43yo mom bod.

But let’s say when you tell your kid about your plan, she thinks it’s HILARIOUS and not embarrassing at all, because apparently you have embarrassed her So Many Times already, you’ve burned the ability out of her.

So let’s say you go to Hawaii and do it.

Because the world is a horrible place right now, and God knows we all need a laugh.

 

This, friends. This is why you DO NOT TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. It leads to this type of behavior, and God knows SOMEONE needs to save you from your Good Ideas.

To make matters worse, my kid has friends who are equally unembarrased by me, and duplicated this pic…

 

 

…with me on a public beach, because their judgement is as questionable as mine.

God, I love them.

(Also, that’s a lot of fabric I pulled up my ass.)

The End.

Literally.

Except for this bonus twinsie pic, because that’s what we do around here. #MotherDaughter #CantTellUsApart

And also this twinsie pic.

It’s a real mystery, I tell you. I mean, who’s who??

In conclusion, we can pray a special prayer for the poor college boy who had to take these photos. He’s the real victim here.

With Love,

……..

 

 

And Now Here’s the Longest P.S. Ever and the Story Behind These Pics…

P.S. Once upon a time, a few months ago, my eldest child graduated, utterly relieved, from her Very Conservative Christian high school. It was the one with the dress codes. The one where the book, The Purity Principle, a horrifying account of how a man’s lust inevitably leads men to pedophilia, child abuse and prison (um, what??) was assigned as a biology textbook — yes, A BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK. The one where my kid was cited for the time her sweatshirt fell off her shoulder to reveal a (don’t be alarmed) Bra Strap. The one where she decided to henceforth quit wearing bras altogether because she is Willful and also Her Mother’s Daughter and so Logic dictated if Bra Straps were a Serious Problem, she would eliminate them entirely, bless her Rebellious Heart. The school where there are far More Stories like this one, from both my kid and others.

Now, to be fair, the school had some lovely, wonderful things about it, truly. There’s no doubt the staff there Meant Well. There’s no doubt they were dedicated to their work. There’s no doubt they were working hard to shape a generation of people who can change our world for the better. Unfortunately, their views on sexuality, women, and modesty rules were simply Not Some of those wonderful things.

Nevertheless, the summer before my daughter’s senior year, she signed the Dress Code. Her mommy stood beside her, telling her if she wanted to attend This School, she had to not only sign it but agree to abide by it without complaint. It was a prerequisite for attendance, and if she didn’t agree with it, I told her, I’d happily sign her up for a different school. She could choose, but she needed to choose to live by the rules if This School was her choice.

She signed it.

Then, in early October, five weeks after school began, the administration issued a new dress code. New rules. New specifics. No warning. Just a sudden shift of policy.

My daughter disagreed with much of it. No yoga pants, for example, but body-hugging, stretchy jeans were fine. Athletes could wear their work-out gear to school if they had practice in the afternoon, but my daughter and her dancer friends — despite 20 hours per week of rehearsals starting immediately after school, and long pants and zip-up jackets as gear — could not.

She felt suddenly examined, under a microscope with her adorable, fit dancer body and emerging sense of self; teachers and staff watching her body closely for rule-breaking. She began to write papers on Modesty Culture and Purity Culture and ways they lead to Rape Culture. She became grossly uncomfortable with the heightened interest in her butt and breasts and how much of those, exactly, the teachers could discern by studying them. She felt yucky every day, and she asked me what she ought to do about the new dress code. Should she abide by it? I told her she should abide by the first one she signed — the one we talked about and thought about and agreed to follow after consideration about whether she could do so. But changing the rules? Nope. She didn’t have to abide by those.

I talked to the principal. She did, too. I explained she would be following the code she’d agreed to but was not responsible for the sudden switch. We both told him how uncomfortable she was with the perpetual eyes on her body, adults looking to see if she was too sexy, blame for boys not being able to pay attention in school. This, in jeans and baggy sweatshirts. But the Bra Strap! The principal said he was “sorry she feels that way.”

The teachers, of course, were trying to be consistent and to apply the rules the administration dictated. They were wrong, I believe, but they were caught between bad rules and their leadership.

As for me, I was raised in conservative, fundamentalist Christian culture. It took me decades to unravel what modesty means, how I was responsible — or, more specifically, not responsible — for the behavior and thoughts of others, and how I might patch together a better understanding of how “modesty” relates to loving God and loving my neighbors as myself, on which Jesus said hang all the laws. The more I studied the more I realized the impetus forced on women to dress in a manner so we don’t cause men don’t objectify us, lust after us, and the more angry I became. It wasn’t only unfair, it also wasn’t what Jesus taught us about how to love one another, and it was purely subjective, utterly illogical, and always in flux. There was no way to “win” in modesty culture. No way to ever be blameless.

There’s not a static definition of modest clothing, after all. It changes, always, with the culture of the time. Christian women these days, in nearly every denomination and sect, are able to show their elbows, their ankles, their knees — body parts that were considered sexual in Victorian times. And yet we Christians forget that it was a rebellious woman sometime, somewhere — an “immodest” lady who shunned the dress code of the time, who refused to follow it — who led to our ability these days to wear capris, t-shirts, to go for a run, to swim at the beach. Instead, I watch Christians defend our current conservative culture’s understanding of what “modesty” means. As though these rules are hard and fast. As though a man lusting after a woman in leggings is her fault and not his. Elbows, after all, were once a temptation, and yet we no longer believe a woman’s elbows will lead a man to sin. You know why? Because culture changed. Because our expectations of men changed, too. If everyone throughout history believed we ought to adhere to dress codes of the time — enforced those codes and never challenged them — we would still be wearing high-necked collars, long sleeves, boots, and long skirts in our recent 90 degree weather. Thank God for the women who challenged those notions! Thank God I can sit outside while I type this, in my sleeveless REI hiking dress — knees and ankles on display before God and man, harlot that I am — and enjoy the sunshine.

Eventually, my kid who attended a private Christian school grades K-12 wanted Anything But That for college. She was exhausted by the rules meant to keep students “safe,” but which caused harm. And, in her words, “I just feel like Jesus cares more about things other than my bra strap, Mom.” Truer words, right? Truer words.

So now my kid is in Hawaii, living by the beach and wearing All the Bikinis, with her ass and underboob showing. She’s also a hard worker, conscientious, smart, hilarious, and she has a fantastic community of amazing friends who support and love each other well. She’s confident, and she knows who she is. She’s fiercely achieving her academic goals. She’s done with the bullshit parts of religion, and she clings to a Jesus who challenged cultural norms to love people well. She knows what she believes and why she believes it. I could only be more proud if she would wear a damn helmet when she’s on her boyfriend’s Vespa. (PAY ATTENTION, CHILD; THAT’S ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY.)

How to Host House Guests

Aug 18 2017

The eclipse is coming on Monday, and we here in Oregon in the path of totality are calling it the apoceclipse which turns out to be fairly accurate. There are gas shortages. The stores can’t restock fast enough and have apparently run out of some goods already. Traffic is at a standstill. The state has declared a state of emergency, ostensibly so government services can cooperate without the usual red tape getting in the way, but really because the end is near and they’re hoping we won’t panic.

As for our part, we’ve made sure we’re stocked on potato chips and beer, so I’m feeling good about our survival strategy.

We have friends flying in tomorrow from Great Britain for the event. They’ve been planning for 2 years, and we suckered them into staying with us while they’re here. We technically haven’t met — only on the internet — but I’m forcing them to be my friends anyway. My friends I see in the flesh used to think I was insane, traveling the world to see folks I’ve only previously met online, once in a parking garage in Vegas because that’s not dangerous, but by now I’ve convinced enough people to crash with us — people they’ve come to love — that they see my brilliance now. And that’s all I’ve ever asked of them, really: SUCCUMB TO MY BRILLIANCE, ADMIT I’M INSANE BUT ALSO STRANGELY RIGHT.

So our friends we haven’t met are coming tomorrow, and they’re fancy because they’re Brits. Everyone knows Brits are fancy. Also, proper. Also, have manners. Also, really excellent posture. And so we’ve been cleaning house to prepare. Not because we’re eager to lie about how we live, but because we don’t want them to catch the Black Plague. I mean, we’ve built our immunity to the diseases lurking in filth and squalor, but we ought not make the mistake of believing that just because our immune systems are made out of titanium, theirs are, too.

We’ve been cleaning, in other words. But sort of Woolsey half-assed style. Which is to say, we did some cleaning but not all the cleaning, and now we’ve quit and decided that’s good enough. We’re hoping clean sheets and one clean bathroom (we shall ban them from the rest) will be sufficient, and, if that fails, we inet do to distract them with beer and potato chips.

In lieu of thorough cleaning — I’d meant to organize the kitchen cupboards, for example, that they might find the items they need to sustain life — I’ve decided to provide them with helpful signs. As every road engineer in Washington State knows, if you can’t sort utter and complete chaos or create a system that’s navigable, at least provide confusing (aka, “helpful”) signs so you can pretend you’ve helped them out. Yes? Yes.

In case you, like me, need an Alternative Way to Host House Guests — one that doesn’t involve actual organization — here are some of the signs we’re using to help these poor people out:

Signs like “Breakfast Cereal.”

See? Isn’t that helpful?

And “Cinnamon Sugar and Butter with toast crumbs smashed in it.” Because who wants pristine butter? I mean, maybe fancy British people do, but we want to give them a full American culture immersion here. Just one of many services we provide.

“Bread, Bagels, Tortillas & it looks like someone shoved oatmeal in with the mixing bowls.” I don’t even know what’s going on with that, but in case anyone’s confused about where oatmeal should be kept, it’s with mixing bowls. Obviously.

In the pantry, there are “Possibly Snacks but opening this cupboard will likely trigger an avalanche, so proceed at your own risk.”

“Liquor and wine.”

And in case they wonder whether I know there’s food splattered on the cupboards and walls and doors,

I’ve provided a small tour of I Have No Idea What This Is Or How Long It’s Been There.

Here, too.

Also here.

Also, one bajillion other places, but not even God has enough sticky notes for every spot.

Finally, I gave them a tour of where to find caffeine. Because caffeine is my love language. Greg’s is Acts of Service. Mine is All the Caffeine.

“Coffee. Also tea with the word “British” on it.” We’re not tea drinkers. I have no idea how to buy tea they won’t find repulsive.

“Also-also, we bought you 80 bags because apparently that’s how much we expect you to drink in 5 days.” We would hate, after all, for our friends to come all the way to the States without learning the essential American skill of buying far, far more than you could possibly need. #MURICA

That is all for now.

In conclusion, you can pray for our guests.

With love,