“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


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.

Wearing Rainbow Tinted Glasses

When I saw that SCOTUS legalized marriage for everyone, a smile broke across my face. I read the tweets documenting this historical moment with glee and pride. But, even though I retweeted a good amount, I didn’t tweet anything of my own. My profile picture remained clear of a rainbow filter.

As you might know, I am a christian, and come from a conservative home. Despite all the ways that my family and church experience does not conform with stereotypes, there are those in my circle that do not view the verdict with a smile. Mostly though, we avoid the subject. Continue reading Wearing Rainbow Tinted Glasses

Summer Reading: Searching for Sunday

Reading the introduction, this book scared me. Within the opening pages, Rachel Held Evans captured my doubts, fears, and hurts regarding church and God more succinctly and confidently than I ever could.

Reading this book has held a mirror up to my own life (spiritual and secular), and while I have not always liked or understood what it has shown me, it is a reflection I need to examine.

Continue reading Summer Reading: Searching for Sunday