So You Want to be “Welcoming & Loving” to Everyone?

When I first came out to my parents, I apologized*. I wrote that I was sorry for the inevitable emotional pain it would cause them and I truly meant it, even though coming out and being with my now wife was and is absolutely the right thing for me.

I didn’t come out in order to hurt them, but it still did so I apologized for that pain–not for being gay or for being honest with myself and them, but just for that unintended emotional pain.

Now, as churches begin to discuss LGBTQ+ inclusion on various levels (see my previous post) and disclose their policies (which is great #clarityisreasonable), they begin to dismiss the hurt that LGBTQ+ people experience as a result with “we are just being clear”.

That’s heartless.

Not the being clear part (that’s good), but the dismissing of genuine hurt that their policies cause. Clarity doesn’t mean callousness.

Again, I’m not concerned about theology–I’m concerned about human decency. In the same way my apology to my parents wasn’t about apologizing for my beliefs/identity but about recognizing unintentional pain and mitigating hurt caused, churches can acknowledge and mitigate the unintentional pain their non-affirming policies will inevitably cause LGBTQ+ parishioners.

If a church feels convicted that they cannot allow LGBTQ+ people to serve, or to be married, or ___________, they can still practice sympathy in how they share those convictions and empathy when their parishioners express hurt. Anything less of that is cruelty, whether it is intentional or not. Non-affirming churches that insist they are loving and welcoming to all need to show basic decency by recognizing the effects their policy has on any LGBTQ+ parishioners, members, or guests.

Instead of empathy, most LGBTQ+ people encounter some of the following when they learn of their church’s non-affirming policies, whether that happens in a closed-door office meeting or in a sermon:

  • public announcements or rumors through the entire congregation about their orientations and identities
  • exclusion from prayer, communion, and fellowship meetings that would allow for solace and spiritual support
  • quips and jokes about being LGBTQ+ embedded in sermons expressing non-affirming theology
  • promises to be welcoming “when you realize your mistake” (a.k.a. become straight again**, this seldom means adopting Side B theology)
  • prohibitions from sharing your experiences with leadership with others in the church

When someone who encounters these situations expresses the inevitable hurt from both the policies and the way the situation was handled, there is no empathy. Churches shrug their shoulder saying “we love the sinner, hate sin.” But love without empathy… doesn’t exist.

I’m not asking for churches to grovel or apologize for their convictions.

I’m asking for churches, especially those who want to welcome and love everyone while being non-affirming, to recognize the hurt caused by their policies. The first step of healing is finding where the hurt is. If churches can’t recognize where LGBTQ+ people have been hurt by the policies, there is no hope of healing across theological differences.

Actions have consequences. Church policies have consequences. Churches need to take responsibility for those consequences. I don’t run a church. I don’t know exactly what that looks like.

Nevertheless, here are a few ideas:

  • Avoid everything on the above list
  • Learn proper respectful terminology to refer to people in the LGBTQ+ community
  • Offer support for LGBTQ+ members who are Side B and want to practice celibacy (for starters, get rid the preponderance of events labeled as “singles” or “couples” and don’t dedicate a whole sermon series to being a good husband/wife)
  • Be able to point people towards non-religious LGBTQ+ resources in the community, such as an LGBTQ+ Center
  • Be willing to recommend other denominations and churches that are affirming
  • Listen, without offering judgement, to the experience of LGBTQ+ people (think the behavior of Job’s friends for the first 30 days)

Those things take work, but, as the 1990s Christian rap song by DC Talk taught me years ago, “Luv is a verb”. If non-affirming churches want to love and welcome LGBTQ+ people, it will take some work.

*Note: I am not here telling all LGBTQ+ people to apologize to the people who are potentially emotionally hurt by their coming out. I was in a safe situation with my parents where I had the capacity and privilege to have a nuanced relationship. I had the emotional support, financial independence, and mental health to engage in that apology. Not every individual does. Churches, made up of many people, always have more power than an individual member, especially LGBTQ+ members. They do not have any excuse to ignore the pain they cause.

** To be abundantly clear I don’t support or condone any kind of conversion therapy or believe that God makes people straight as a result of faith/prayer/etc.

*** I stumbled across this church‘s list of resources for their members regarding LGBTQ+ policies. While they are still discerning their policies, I hope they leave these resources up once they have come to their conclusions.

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“Just Another Damn”

I’ve recently been jamming to Josh Ritter’s “Getting Ready to Get Down” which includes killer lines such as–well, I actually can’t pick just one. Instead, here’s the lyric video:

The fact this song came out the year I graduated from undergraduate feels a little too perfect. Dancing and singing to this ridiculous song fills me with both joy and sadness.

For about the past year or two I’ve felt a bit trapped by the need to be who people might think I am, which means I haven’t been able to explore who I am comfortably and publicly for fear of upsetting or disappointing people.

I’m not eve sure who these mythical “people” I’m concerned about upsetting are, but their spectre haunts me at every blog post, tweet, and Facebook comment.

Two years ago my content creation began to lag because I wasn’t fully out to everyone on my friends list. I now regret that I don’t have the quirky and exuberant Facebook statuses and tweets from the time period in my life when I was falling in love, getting engaged, and planning a wedding. I can’t change the past, but I want to return to the sort of thoughtful commentary and observation I was practicing so I can look back on my archives and memories with fondness.

Now, as I try to rediscover my love for blogging and writing, I still feel stunted and awkward. How do I just jump back into it? After guarding my posts for so long, I don’t know how to be honest. Writing blogs feels better, because I know fewer people are likely to read them.

Going forward, it might be helpful to just get a few things out in the open.

  • I enjoy using “strong” language when the moment seems right
  • I’m queer. I use labels ranging from gay, lesbian, queer and/or ace, and use she/her pronouns.
  • I occasionally use tarot cards for meditation and reflection.
  • I do still have my faith. Despite how damned hard it is, and how many people have told me my faith isn’t enough or real or valid, I can’t seem to let go of it, even though sometimes I want to.
  • I unironically enjoy astrology (Pisces sun, Virgo rising, Aquarius moon)
  • I like drinking, both in the “this is a lovely dry red to sip while I cook dinner” and in the “let’s do tequila shots and loudly sing songs we don’t know the lyrics to” sorts of way.

I think that’s it for now. Some of that may be old news to you, and some of it may be surprising to others. Most of you likely don’t even care, but blogs are really more for the writers than the readers anyways. At least mine is.

Looking at that list, I really like the person I am. I hope you do too.

#ClarityIsReasonable

I used to really enjoy going to church. I went to all different types of churches–Evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, Anabaptist. I loved visiting different denominations because I knew regardless I would find something to chew on and think about. I’ve never been one to lose sleep over theological differences.

I don’t like visiting churches anymore, or, more specifically, since I came out to the world and myself that I am gay.

Why? Because, based off past experiences, I am afraid that as soon as the church finds out about my gayness, they will do at least one of the following:

  • try to change my mind about me being gay
  • try to change my mind about believing God loves my gay self and gay life and gay wife (something I spent a lot of time praying about)
  • stop inviting me to church events (you know, like women’s retreats and couple dinners and stuff)
  • stop allowing me to serve in any capacity

Now, you might be saying “NOT ALL CHURCHES!” which while true (along with the other “not all _____” statements we hear) is not helpful. Because some churches, especially “nondenominational” ones, don’t like to tell you if they are one of the churches that will have your gay wedding and let you sing on stage or if they are one of the ones that wants you there as long as you stay in the pews and never flaunt your “lifestyle”.

Instead of being clear about where they think LGBTQ people fit in a church (pews versus ministry versus pulpit versus worship team) they throw something like this on their website:

I’m LGBTQ. Can I come?


Yes! While Biblical Authority is one of our values, we think you’ll find that we’re not a community that throws stones. It’s our hope that you feel welcome and comfortable when you step through our doors. 

From Flatirons Community Church* FAQ https://www.flatironschurch.com/new/

I’m sorry–what?

I mean, it’s good to know if I show up wearing my pride pins they won’t stone** me as I try to enter the building, but that’s not what most people are concerned about when visiting one of the largest churches in the nation (see my above list).

Talk about a low bar:

“Can I come in?”

“We won’t kill you if you do!”

But more alarmingly, the juxtaposition of being LGBTQ with Biblical authority (not even inerrancy or infallibility which are slightly more specific theological stances) problematically employs a rhetorical device known as syllogismus.

Syllogismus is just the fancy word for when someone leaves the logical conclusion of the statement unsaid. The simplest version of syllogismus is “I’m not going to say he’s lying, but these are the facts.” The obvious conclusion is that he is lying. The speaker has absolved themself of any guilt though by refusing to state the very clear conclusion that the rest of the audience is going to draw.

Also, in some Inception level cleverness, the audience will feel as though they figured out that he was lying–they considered the facts and decided it for themselves. And finally, when our brains have to fill the blanks, we remember things more so that idea about him lying is also going to stick a lot more than if the speaker had simply said “He’s lying.”

So, for the statement from Flatirons the unstated conclusion is that if you are LGBTQ, then you don’t believe in Biblical authority. Now, clearly Flatirons didn’t actually say that, and I don’t know if it was their intention, but they sure did strongly imply it.

Anyone who reads that FAQ will get the impression that LGBTQ folks don’t love the Bible, which is a problem because…

If I may use an imperfect metaphor: A gluten free person asks if they can eat at a restaurant and the owner says “Of course, but you should know we love bread.”

But:

  1. Being GF doesn’t mean you don’t love bread
  2. There are gluten free types of bread

By saying in response “We love bread” and using syllogismus to imply gluten free folks hate bread, the owner has demonstrated a deep misunderstanding about people who are gluten free and of the nature of bread.

Likewise, the Flatirons statement demonstrates that their church leadership seems to misunderstand both LGBTQ people and Biblical authority as a theological concept. Not all LGBTQ people are affirming meaning they may practice celibacy, and there are different versions of Biblical authority.

Maybe if Flatirons as a church followed the Leviticus prohibitions against tattoos***, I wouldn’t mind them thinking that saying they “live under the Bible’s authority” answers the question on if a LGBTQ person can attend the church.

But they had a wall of tattoos in their foyer. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but some might say that doesn’t follow Biblical authority.

(Did you see what I did there? Syllogismus) 

Clearly, celebrating tattoos is different than allowing LGBTQ people to fully participate as members, and that Flatirons recognizes the difference means they do not “simply” submit to Biblical authority. They clearly discern and make decisions about which parts of the Bible are authoritative and which aren’t.

Right now you may be thinking something along the lines of “But they are allowed to have different interpretations of Biblical authority” or “Biblical authority is really complex so they are allowed to celebrate tattoos!” or “I don’t even remember what this blog post was supposed to be about?! Was it always about Biblical Authority?”

Let me get back on track and clarify:

  1. I believe churches should be able to make their own decisions about things such as leadership, participation, and, yes, even membership. #thanksfirstamendment
  2. I am not saying that Flatirons needs to be LGBTQ affirming/inclusive. (See above)
  3. I am saying churches should be clear on their actively enforced policies (Can I be gay and be on the worship team? Work in children’s ministry? What if I were celibate?)
  4. I am saying churches should not make sneaky rhetorical moves undermining the faith of LGBTQ people or anyone else who is affirming by implying they don’t believe in Biblical authority.

Because visiting church is hard, especially when I don’t know what I am walking into. And if I ever want to be a part of another church, I need to be able to grow there as a member, which means having the options to host a small group, and work in a ministry, and talk about how much I love my wife. I need to know they will support me if we decide to adopt. I need to know they will counsel me through any hardship.

If a church doesn’t or can’t offer that to me–that is okay. Really. As we said earlier, not all churches and I only need one, but they shouldn’t hide that they can’t meet my spiritual needs.

If a church doesn’t know if they can be what I need them to be, that’s okay too. But, again, they shouldn’t say one thing if its possible they might “change their mind”.

When I am thinking about visiting your church, I just need to know where you are. And telling me you submit to Biblical authority doesn’t tell me what I need to know, because in my mind I submit to Biblical authority too. Yet the fact that Flatirons feels the need to assure me they won’t stone me makes me think they might not be on board with my wife and I crashing their next couples dinner, but I don’t know for sure because they haven’t told me. 

Which brings me to the title of this blog. Asking churches to be upfront on their policies surrounding LGBTQ people (and women in leadership) is reasonable. If churches are afraid of losing membership when they publish their policies, well they should take a good hard look at where that fear is coming from. Most churches would never tone down or hide language about the divine nature of Christ in order to “reach out” to people–why do they feel like it is okay to hide these policies?

Church Clarity is a group working to hold churches accountable and open up the conversation about their policies. I highly recommend checking out their website and learning more about this. If you go to a church, ask them about their policies, especially before you invite your LGBTQ friend to join you. Saying “They love everyone!” isn’t enough.

*Why am I picking on Flatirons? Well, its one of the few megachurchs of America I am personally familiar with, and when I saw their policy I felt Things. So I wrote a blog. This ambiguity is not limited to them though; just visit churchclarity.org to see how widespread unclear policies are.

** Yes, I know they are referring to the whole “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” moment, but imagine what this sounds like to someone unfamiliar with Christian tropes and jargon. Plus, to be fair, when Jesus said that he was referring to literal stones, so I don’t feel bad taking it literally.

** Additionally, when I visited I don’t remember them observing Paul’s instructions on covering heads during service if you want a New Testament example.

Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Nadia Bolz-Weber is one of those people who has been on my radar for years as a Cool Person, but I haven’t gotten around to reading any of her work because I was getting graduate degrees, and married, and busy coming up with excuses for why I wasn’t reading her work. At long last though, I can confirm first person that not only is she a Cool Person, but also capable of penning words that can break down and rebuild.

As the tag line–“Shameless: a sexual reformation”–hints at, this book addresses sex, sexuality, gender, and all that fun stuff as preached from the Purity Pulpit. However, rather than just being a rant against the Purity Movement or a celebration of Sex (although at times it is a healthy bit of both), Bolz-Weber primarily tells stories.

The stories Bolz-Weber shares are not just stories from her parishioners, but also stories from the Bible and from her own life. The intermingling of the personal and the holy beautifully highlights the Holiness within all stories, and the personal nature within the Holy stories.

For me, these stories engendered a heightened sense of reverence, not a lesser one. Bolz-Weber does not (as I imagine some may assume) diminish the divine nature of sex, but instead she refocuses the conversation about sex onto people, not Purity. She redefines what make sex divine: it isn’t purity; it’s connection. Placing people and care for them at the center of a sexual ethic, rather than Purity, makes room for those who may exist outside the heteronormative mainstream, those who historically have been overlooked at best and shamed at worst.

So if you have felt shame or betrayal at the hands of the Purity Movement, then this book can provide a lens of healing, a way to approach sex that is uncompromising in from both the perspective of faith and your own personal story.

But also, even if you haven’t felt shame or betrayal, even if the Purity Movement was a beneficial approach to sex and sexuality, then this book can provide an alternate story–not one that invalidates your experience, but one that allows you to hear the stories of the people around you, the people who may not be straight, married, or monogamous.

Shameless releases 1/29/19, more information from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s website: http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/the-books

I was sent a free copy of the book to review as part of the launch team for the book–my opinions are my own.

A Body at Rest

In the first few months of summer, I finished grad school (second masters degree), directed my first professional production, got married, and started a new job.

After all of that, I wanted rest. And it felt good. I read a bunch of YA fantasy books, got to spend all the time I wanted with my wife, and found a few new hobbies. After that break, I said yes to doing a few short term acting gigs (some professional, some academic), dabbled in graphic design again, and then… lulled again. Which is where I am now. 

I’m not reading anything consistently besides the Washington Post, I’m not writing anything (not even tweets or FB statuses), and I’ve let my new found hobbies slip away. Without rehearsal warm ups or the need to walk to work, I’m not particularly active. 

I think part of my hang up is that I haven’t stopped living like a full time student–like my time is not my own, but normally absorbed by school, or rehearsal, or work. During grad school, I worked at least 2 jobs the entire time while managing classes, rehearsals, friendships, and a burgeoning relationship with Kendra (all at different levels of success throughout the year).

Now I have one very low stress job, a beautiful marriage, friendships (but many moved away post graduation), and… a fish? It used to be I had to hoard my free time carefully, and use it to recharge my exhausted introverted soul, usually in the form of feel-good television. Now that I have all the time I need, I continue to do my “recharge” activities even when I don’t need it. I don’t start new projects or plan activities for myself; I just… dwaddle. I dwaddle on social media, I dwaddle on my phone, I dwaddle around the house. 

I’m not unhappy; I’m directionless. My focus is nonexistent. And because of that, I’m focusing on useless or even harmful things. 

I’m becoming more critical of myself and a nasty internal voice I haven’t heard for years is back. 

I’m spending more time on social media but simultaneously creating less content.

I’m procrastinating the tasks I do have to do, just because I can making me more listless and disheartened. 

What’s a soul to do?

Well, I just need to do things. Intentionally, not accidentally. One of those things, is get back to writing; hence this blog post. A few more things: 

  • Cut back on social media. This might mean deleting accounts, but I haven’t yet decided. 
  • Get into my hobbies. Again, I’ve got a few I started to look into, but they’ve fallen away. I’m definitely committing to work on my new fish tank more though. 
  • Read more. I want to find away to get my voracious pre-grad school reading habit back. First on the docket, My Own Devices by Dessa Wander and Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough.
  • Incorporate physical activities into my daily/weekly schedule. K and I have recently gotten into rock climbing, so we are gonna keep that up, but I’d also love to rediscover yoga as a daily practice, even if only for a few minutes. 
  • Cook and bake more. I used to make my own meals a lot, and I think I liked it. Its time for me to find my own recipes and figure out how to get all the components of a meal ready at the same time. 

I recently saw somewhere–twitter maybe?–that motivation comes from action. That whole “a body at rest stays in rest; a body in motion stays in motion” thing apparently applies to the likelihood of me sitting on my phone all evening as well as how our physical universe works. 

The rest has been good and much needed, but its time to get this body in motion again and see where it takes me. 

I have a Nightmare

Last night, I had a nightmare.
I’ve had “bad dreams” that when I wake up in the morning I muse that it was creepy/scary, but in my adult life I cannot remember a dream that woke me up scared and kept me from going back to sleep. This one was the latter: a nightmare.
 
The dream:
There was a massive humanoid deep blue monster, with bulging muscles and veins, that was roaming through our house/space ship (classic dream scenario) terrorizing everyone, but also there seemed to be nothing we could do to stop it so most people ignored it–it had become normal.
 
Some of us tried killing it–someone broke its neck–but it came back to life. So we killed it a second time and this time chopped off its head, but I knew it wouldn’t stay dead. Some of the group took the head far away to keep it from coming back, but, again, I knew it wouldn’t work even as I watched the head disappear.
 
A young girl went into the room with the body of the beast and tried to use it to play the piano. I hid behind a column in the other room but could hear the classical music she was playing. I knew the beast was going to come back but stayed hidden. The piano music shifted from lilting classical to discordant saloon style playing and I knew the beast was back. I screamed at the other people in the room something like “We have to do something!” while staying in the corner.
 
The beast called from the other room for a family (I don’t remember their name) and I saw them walk into the room. From a distance, I furiously shook my head and mouthed “no” but they smiled and walked in anyways, thinking they could quell it somehow? Or maybe it would be different this time?
 
A moment later the room erupted into horrible screams. The youngest boy (three years old?) ran out of the room, screaming and crying. I grabbed him, put my hand over his mouth, telling him “Shut up! Shut up! He will kill you!” as I ran towards escape. 
 
Then I awoke.
 
The worst part of the whole dream was the fact that I knew the monster was coming back and that it would hurt that family and that it wasn’t safe to play the piano, but I was paralyzed by my fear. I felt minuscule. The most I ever did was make weak suggestions. I was a (horrified) bystander.
 
Naturally, after such a vivid and disturbing dream, I did some research on dream meaning. (In the past, I have actually solved problems through dreams, mostly small stuff such as a particularly difficult video game level.) What does an unkillable monster mean? Most said it was some aspect of myself I feared or more generally something that made me feel “out of control.” Helpful.
 
My day started and I forgot about my nightmare.
 
After rehearsal, I was scrolling my news feed, my stomach roiling reading the headlines about the families being separated and the children taken away from their parents, and suddenly my nightmare was in my head again; that sense of horror and terror mixed with powerlessness in the dream was the same I felt reading headlines.
 
I still don’t know what to do, but I thought sharing this somewhere might be a place to start, a way to begin figuring out this terror that has seeped into my subconsciousness and find meaningful action. 

I Love Valentine’s Day

I do. I really do. So, WARNING: this is going to get sappy.

And while it has been nice to have a romantic partner on Valentine’s Day, my appreciation for this day of Love does not come from that connection. I love Love. I love Loving people and being Loved by people.

Feeling valued, seen, appreciated is the best feeling in the world, and all those things are wrapped up in Love. I have been fortunate enough to be Loved by many people throughout my life, in different ways and varying degrees, and they have been Loving enough to share that with me on Valentine’s day along with other days through out the year.

I spent most of my life very single–or without a romantic partner of any kind to be more precise. I didn’t learn Love from romance.

When my curious friends and relatives would ask if “there was anyone special” in my life some of my favorite responses were:

  • Oh yes, I have my best friend Alison!
  • Yes, I’ve actually fallen for this guy named Will… Will Shakespeare.
  • Well, I have you guys, so of course there is!

And while I delivered these quips with a hefty amount of wit, there wasn’t sarcasm–I meant what I said. My family, my friends, my studies–they are special because I Love them all.

Because I did not have anyone romantic to celebrate for 22 out of 23 of my past Valentines, I learned to celebrate the Loves I did have: my friends, my family, my passion, my faith, my self.

Of course, now that I get to add Kendra I enjoy celebrating her, but I don’t want to lose celebrating all the other parts of my life that I Love.

So, happy Valentine’s to you!

Celebrate the Love in your life, no matter how big or how small. Spend today giving out Love! Tell your friends and family “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Buy yourself chocolate and a card, not because you are celebrating “Single’s Awareness Day” but because you can Love yourself without any shame (and do that even if you do have a romantic partner)! Give your pet a special card and treat! Drink that wine you have been saving for a special occasion!

Find the tiny joys you Love–your favorite novel, bubble baths, a clean house, a messy house, your sexiest clothes, your comfiest clothes, the first buds of spring, cloudy-not-too-cold days, even just making it half way through this week.

I know not everything is sunshine and roses. I know there are times when I feel unloved or that there is nothing I can Love in my life. But today I am choosing to celebrate Love.

And if you are reading this, I can’t say I Love you (though I very well may), but I can say I hope you are Loved and I hope you Love. I hope you find joy in the small things and in the big things. I hope you can celebrate Love in your life today, as well as beyond.

“Certainly Not Harmed”

On December 19th, I (finally) got my first tattoo.

The phrase comes from the concluding words of Edwin Ginn’s autobiography:

“The rules that have governed me in the conduct of our business have been strict adherence to principle, punctuality, and the improvement of every moment; and if you will follow the man who has succeeded in this world you will find that his idle moments have been few, that when the hour struck he has been at his post, and that he has rigidly followed the path of duty. The policy of this house has been along strict, arbitrary lines. The life of a (publishing) house depends not upon the amount of business secured, but upon the principles which guide its conduct; and so far as I am able to judge, financial success is almost sure to follow the lines of uprightness. This world, as I have studied it, is governed by the law that good must prevail in the end and that evil contains the sees of death. For a time we may vary a little from the right without apparent loss but in reality decay begins the very moment the tiniest seed of corruption is sown; and the man who has not been actuated by principle in the accumulation of wealth enjoys but a short-lived triumph. The true business of this world is to make men, not money. May it be our purpose in the future, as it has been in the past, to see to it that every one we come in contact with, if not made better, is certainly not harmed in any way because of us.”

A few words about Edwin Ginn and I why I decided to get some words of his on my body, even though he is not Shakespeare or even an author of anything besides his autobiography and a few incendiary pamphlets in the 1880s against the American Book Company .

When I began writing my Masters thesis, I was curious about paperback Shakespeare–where it came from and how it ended up looking like it does today. I started investigating the 1960s but rabbit holes led to rabbit holes and I stumbled upon Edwin Ginn: a fiery publisher who used his built from the ground publishing company to defy the strongest conglomerate of text book publishers in the name of defending students.

After going toe-to-toe with the text book monopoly, Ginn spent the last few decades of his life leading the peace movement through philanthropy. He also began and ended his career by publishing groundbreaking formats of Shakespeare’s plays, hence the connection to my original inquiry.

In his editors notes at the front of his company’s text book version of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare he remarked:

“It seemed wise to omit the portion of Lamb’s preface especially applicable to English schools, as the following quotation would indicate: ‘Instead of recommending these Tale to the perusal of young gentlemen, who can read them so much better in their originals, their kind assistance is rather requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest to understand.’

Such a recommendation would be hardly appreciated in our schools, where the misses have equal advantages with their brothers, and do not feel the need of such assistance.” (published 1903)

A champion of literacy, independent businesses, peace, and girls reading Shakespeare without help from anyone–how could I not love him?

After almost a year of studying him, and another six months missing studying him, I decided that his life had played a crucial enough role in mine to warrant a tattoo. (If anyone is wants to know more Ginn and/or my thesis, just buy me a drink. I could talk for hours.)

Now, about the quote itself:

When I first read those closing lines of his autobiography, they got stuck in my head like song lyrics. There was such hope and conviction in them–I wanted, and still do, to believe everything he saw in the world. Sure, he is a dead, white, rich guy, but after a year of researching his business I can confidently say he put his money and energy where his heart was: reforming the textbook system in the United States and campaigning for peace.

The line “certainly not harmed” seemed like a pure and clear goal: I pray that I only improve the life of those around me, and at very least don’t make anyone worse off. Of course, there are days, weeks, months even, where I am sure to fail.

I become petty, lazy, vindictive. But, thanks to some very permanent ink on my arm, I won’t be satisfied being there. I can remember who I am in this moment: someone committed to peace and to serving others.

Getting the tattoo at the end of 2017, a year mostly defined by moments of violence, anger, and prejudice seemed especially appropriate. No matter how dark this world gets, I am committed to actively advocating for peace and believing in good by being the good.

Meet My Girlfriend

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There is someone you need to meet: My girlfriend, Kendra Wright.

We met through work–an office romance, one might even say (vegan-organic eatery romance doesn’t have the same ring to it).

For the first few weeks though, I was in a sleep-deprived induced stupor and, completely unbeknownst to me, Kendra was an emotional-turmoil induced stupor. I wouldn’t learn about that chapter of her life for six months.

As my show closed, and sleep let me have the energy to see the people I worked with I noticed a few things about Kendra. While everyone got along well enough with everyone else at work, Kendra was friends with everyone at work.  Her universal friendship was not a facade–she didn’t talk poorly of fellow employees. She never let inside jokes become exclusive or mean spirited.

Everyone’s mood improved when Kendra showed up for her shift and it wasn’t just because of her skill with puns–she was an incredible worker.

We all had our stations we preferred–I would (and still do) avoid the dish pit–but Kendra went wherever she was needed and stayed until the task was done. Working with Kendra made me want to be a better employee and a better person.

So, after impressing her with my skills in mimicking accents, I decided to take our work friendship outside the workplace: we took a day trip to Charlottesville. I had to drive a friend to the airport and wanted to explore the town. To my joy, Kendra asked off work and joined me.

We wandered around the slightly defunct mall, went to a trampoline gym, ate frozen yogurt, and visited a brewery. After the hodgepodge of a day, we returned home exhausted and pleasantly surprised at how much enjoyed each other’s company.

As the weather warmed up, Kendra and I found more times to hang out after work. We would hear about a new brewery and visit it. She found out I never had a chai latte so she showed me where the best ones were. I introduced her to Joss Whedon television shows. She showed me her favorite late night star gazing spots.

After not too long, when monthly work schedule came out, I counted how many shifts I had with Kendra –not how many weekends I had off.

If I worked morning and she came in for the afternoon shift, I checked the clock more frequently the closer it got to noon.

Then one day while watching netflix, I mentioned casually how much I loved having my head rubbed and next thing I knew our new normal involved my head on her lap and her fingers in my hair.

I never felt uncomfortable around her, whether I was feeling goofy, exhausted, frustrated, joyful, heartbroken. I wanted to share laughter with her in the good times and cry on her shoulder in the bad.

The only secret I felt like I had to keep from her was that, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was falling in love.

And keep that secret I would have. I firmly believe that I never would have had the courage to risk our friendship to see if she reciprocated. Despite our discussions of politics and faith and past relationships, neither one of us had discussed our orientation or even thoughts on same-sex attraction.

Luckily, she is braver than me. One morning she asked if I treated my other female friends the same way I treated her.

I choked out a “No” but didn’t offer any further help. She persevered and observed, “It’s not platonic, is it?”

I can’t remember if I shook my head or said anything, but we came to an understanding: it wasn’t platonic. I don’t know when that shift happened–had we moved onto Dollhouse by then?–but it did.

Since that conversation over a year ago, we have experienced life together more intimately and I still cherish every moment I get to explore another aspect of this person, whether it is seeing how she deals with a clogged sink or with a brokPhoto Oct 02, 9 16 55 AMen down car.

We have seen some really good times together–watching our fish grow up, seeing shooting stars, cooking dinner together–and some really rough times together–the stress of grad school, stalled cars on the highway, miscommunication between us, family crises.

There will be more of the both in the future. Kendra and I will navigate them together, sometimes not very successfully, but despite the difficulty we are committed to doing this life thing together.

Feel free to join us.

Summer Reading 2017

I had forgotten that this used to be at thing: reading for fun, ya know? And that I used to document it (somewhat haphazardly). But now that my (first) thesis is done along with my (first) master’s degree, it might be tenable for me to pick up the habit again.

So, welcome to this year’s summer reading scheme!

After two years of graduate school including one year consumed by a thesis on publishing practices in late 19th century American, my goal for reading this summer is to HAVE SOME FREAKING FUN. I mean, school and research has been fun but I different type–you know what I mean.

If I happen to pick up some classics or whatnot, great. Maybe after a month of just-for-fun reading I will get the urge to expand my knowledge of modern plays (which I desperately need to do) or delve into resources for my next thesis (which I also should do), but to begin I am just reading whatever strikes my fancy.

I will post a my reflections on each book after finishing it. However, if you are looking for a list of reading recommendations I suggest you read this post or just check out the “books” tag.