Losing My Mind

I’ve lost my wallet and I am literally going crazy trying to find it. I haven’t been shopping since Wednesday, so I didn’t realize I didn’t have it until yesterday. I’ve gone through my pants pockets, my trash, under my bed, everything. My room is a lot cleaner, but I am no closer to finding my wallet than I was yesterday. If Dana was here, I wouldn’t have lost it in the first place. Of this, I am sure. However, Dana is not here, and my wallet’s location has not been injected into the Danabase. So, in short, I am screwed until I find it.

I even called the church to see if I’d left it at choir or something. So far, I got nothin.’ And, of course, it’s the absolute worst time to lose my wallet because I’m going to need my driver’s license when I fill out my W-2. My only saving grace is that I have a scan of my passport somewhere, so if I get really desperate, I can use that.

I lose things all the time because I am crap about creating location memories. It drives me crazy on a daily basis. Dear little baby Jesus does it drive me crazy. I should create habits in terms of putting things in the same place every day, but they just don’t stick… unless it’s someone else’s stuff. I can always come up with that. Just not mine. Weird and true.

The reason I have a scan of my passport and not the actual thing is that I put it in the pocket of a pair of shorts that Dana donated to Goodwill. It was just an accident, but I am sure that it’s on a clearance table somewhere. I am lucky that my identity has not been stolen, although I know for certain that I do not have private information anymore. None of us do. We just have information now.

I think I’m going to crawl under my bed with a flashlight to see if that makes any difference.

You haven’t seen it, have you?

One Foot in Front of the Other

Today I accepted an offer letter from Decision Software, a small company located in Landover that handles customer outreach for our clients. My official title is Marketing Specialist, which is the type of job I’ve wanted for a very long time. In 2001, my then-boss made us take professional personality tests, and my result was “plant.” That’s the person that takes all the information in meetings and synthesizes them into great ideas. It’s right up my alley, and it’s not like I won’t be doing technical work when it needs to be done. The company is so small that I might be pulled in many different directions, and no, I don’t mind cleaning the bathroom.

It’s things like this that constantly remind me things will get better, and continue to get better as I integrate all these new things I’m doing to become a better me. It will be great to have something to look forward to every day, hours so busy that I cannot possibly think about grief or depression or anything else except what’s right in front of me. I knew that I would reach this point, the one where it gets exciting.

I’m glad it’s here.

I may have to go back to University of Houston depending on how many classes Howard offers online. I haven’t been able to check that out yet- it’s only been a few hours since I got the news I am now employed. And if work doesn’t go with my school schedule, I’ll go to a seminary with an online cohort as well. Just because Howard has my $50 for the application fee doesn’t make me obligated to enroll for classes there. With distance education, all things are possible. I’m the one that’s supposed to be coming up with great ideas. Figuring out how to get school accomplished while I’m working is one of them. I know more about digital education than most people, because one of my first jobs involved running a computer lab specifically designed to teach professors how to turn classroom content into suitable web curriculum when it first debuted. When I was working at Marylhurst University, I attended a workshop on digital pedagogy and was blown away by how much it has progressed.

My aim is to live simply, just putting one foot in front of the other… walking away from the old Leslie to make room for an iteration that makes me proud to be me. I’m on my way, of course. Lots of people and things have helped me on my journey. But there is nothing so satisfying as having those good feelings remain; it’s when they sit on the couch and take their shoes off that you know you’re doing life right. Instead of being driven by the negative thoughts that dog your mind, you are constantly evolving into a person where the chaos reigns around you, just not inside you. You’re the eye of the hurricane, and not a part of it.

But peace takes shoe leather, one foot in front of the other.

Schooled on WWP

Apparently, the Wounded Warrior Project isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I got schooled by a reader who’d seen this viral post, and suggested several other organizations that would be a better use of my money. I’m not here to say that one person’s experience speaks for the organization as a whole, but when profits go to the people that run the organization and merchandise like stickers and hats, I’m pulling my support. We’re done. The sticker is coming off as soon as I can get some Goo Gone.

Just wanted to let you know that I was wrong about them, and so are a bunch of other people. Check out this web site to locate charities who really put their money where it needs to go.

I feel bad that I was suckered in by a free sticker and a Facebook post. It pays to do some research, but the best thing you can do is give money to local charities, anyway. Might I suggest Hope Restored? It’s right here in Silver Spring and run by a friend, Jeffrey Thames.

Those responsible for the error have been sacked.

100 Things for Which I Am Grateful

Rev. Susannah tasked the youth group to come up with 100 things for which they are grateful at worship this morning. Here are mine.

  1. People that work for social justice.
  2. Soldiers & Intelligence all over the world that keep us safe.
  3. Music, without which I would not be whole.
  4. Friends who drop everything when you need them.
  5. Angels who show themselves in human faces, like the little boy who gave his piggy bank to the mosque that was attacked in Texas.
  6. Cold, bright, clear weather.
  7. Warm jackets, sweaters, hoodies, scarves, and gloves.
  8. Cheap streaming media. Grateful for Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, et al. I never get bored when I’m cleaning my room.
  9. Medicaid
  10. Therapy
  11. Matt Smith, the actor that played the Eleventh Doctor. He inspires me creatively, both as The Doctor, and in my current favorite movie, Christopher and His Kind.
  12. My therapist, Sarah
  13. My nurse practitioner, Leighton.
  14. Peace with Argo.
  15. Inner peace with Dana.
  16. Jeffrey Thames and Hope Restored.
  17. New possibilities abounding.
  18. Samantha and the rest of my “host family.”
  19. My mom, dad, sister, and aunt who’ve all visited me in DC this year.
  20. My cousin Nathan and his wife and children being close in proximity.
  21. Prianka being a part of my life in reality instead of just virtually.
  22. Reconnecting with Kathryn and picking up right where we left off.
  23. Meeting Stephanie and becoming her friend.
  24. Finding a church that has welcomed me as much as I have welcomed them into my life.
  25. Finding a choir with whom I have a ton of fun.
  26. Learning more about who I am, and who I am not.
  27. Virtual friends that still check in and think of me, even when I am not in physical proximity.
  28. My health, which continues to improve.
  29. Comfortable walking shoes, because I do a lot of it.
  30. Uber when I don’t.
  31. The DC public transportation system, which allows me a chauffeur so that I can think and read instead of drive.
  32. Books. My love of books knows no bounds.
  33. Finding clothes that fit my personality. I wear a size 16 in boys, allowing me crispy shirts where the shoulders actually fit…. and the sweaters. OH, THE SWEATERS. Also, in boys’ clothes, the sizing is always right. No matter where I shop, a 16 is a 16. Grateful that I don’t change sizes from store to store and have to figure that shit out.
  34. The youth group that is slowly teaching me how to lead them.
  35. Not getting the job as the youth director so that I have a mentor.
  36. Rev. Matt, from whom so many blessings have flowed, from firing me up with his words to helping me be a better preacher just by listening.
  37. Being brave enough to say to myself, “it’s time.” I need a Bachelor’s and an MDiv like, yesterday. Want to wear it like I “stole” it.
  38. Grateful to God, but also FOR God, because in my innermost self, I’m still not alone. Just like Jack Lewis, praying flows from me ceaselessly.
  39. Not having so much anxiety. Having a direction and not a distraction.
  40. Airplanes. No one is very far away.
  41. Anonymous joining the fight against ISIS.
  42. Information at my fingertips. I may be umbilically connected to the Internet, but it has its advantages.
  43. All of the bosses I’ve had who’ve encouraged me to be more than I am.
  44. Growing up as a preacher’s kid and then becoming a lay preacher at Bridgeport UCC. Lessons were learned that couldn’t have been impressed upon me any other way.
  45. The Episcopal Church. Just, all of it… but particularly the Episcopal Church in Texas, because they really have their work cut out for them and they’re not afraid of it, either.
  46. Doc Morgan, my jazz instructor at HSPVA. I would not be half the woman I am today had we not met.
  47. Aaron Sorkin and the legend he created out of a knife made by a Boston Silversmith named Paul Revere.
  48. The 7-Eleven clerks that don’t know my name, but they know my coffee order and make sure the Brazillian Bold is fresh when I’m out of tea.
  49. Tea itself. God’s gift to writers.
  50. My own ability to tell my own story and my readers’ ability to respond to it, even when they don’t agree with me. This space has pulled me from the depths of despair, and your gifts have meant more to me than millions.
  51. Meeting Ingrid in choir, who could possibly be funnier than I am, but you’ll never hear me say that again out loud.
  52. Doctor Who, a show that explained God to me way better than I could explain God to myself.
  53. Matt Damon, who inspires me to be a better writer every time I watch Good Will Hunting.
  54. Great lines. In “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” the author talks about Harold seeing his mother’s dresses strewn about his house after his mother has left him like “empty mothers.” “Empty mothers” has stayed with me as a sentence so great I could only hope to write one that good.
  55. My room. My space of refuge that rises to greet me each morning.
  56. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which I watched from the time I was 9 until the very last episode. It has ended, but lines in my head from it have not.
  57. Craig Ferguson, who is always fearless and hilarious.
  58. Getting to see the trailer for the new Star Wars movie in IMAX, because I didn’t watch it online and nearly came UNGLUED in the theater with joy.
  59. All of the movies I’ve seen this year that have given me joy, particularly Annie (2014).
  60. The Smithsonian Empire. I love it all. I could explore it until the day I die and not see everything.
  61. My friend Judy, without whom I would see the world differently. Our long lunches have made such a big difference in my life here.
  62. Taking off the mask and getting vulnerable about my disorder. It has helped to a tremendous degree, and I am grateful to myself for allowing grace to happen when I let people in instead of suffering in silence.
  63. Losing the ever-present need to think about my teenage years because the puzzle is solved.
  64. Getting divorced, because while I am not grateful for it, I am grateful for the self-development in which it created room.
  65. Losing toxic relationships, even when I realized that I was the toxic one.
  66. Having every relationship, bad or good, teach me something.
  67. Soda. Grateful for every bubbly sip.
  68. My glasses. When Anh, my optometrist, suggested wearing glasses with prisms, my world opened further.
  69. I’ve mentioned music, but J.S. Bach in particular because he sets my brain on fire, as does Jason Moran (Currently listening to Study No. 6 from “Ten.”).
  70. Having attended HSPVA and getting to know people who’ve gone on to great things professionally, and getting to say “I knew them when…..”
  71. My first love, singing.
  72. My second love, Ryan.
  73. My third love, Meagan. She goes by Meag now. Can’t get used to it. It’s only been 20 years.
  74. Having had the experience of working in restaurants, both front of house and back of house. It changes you for the better. Really.
  75. The craftmanship that goes into a really great coffee/tea mug.
  76. My front porch, where I do my best work when it’s not freezing cold or raining.
  77. Advil, Zyrtec, and Sudafed.
  78. Real Kleenex, with the aloe and everything.
  79. Good memories of my entire life that float by, both in wakefulness and dreams.
  80. Nadia Bolz-Weber and Jay Bakker, without whom I never would have thought there’d really be a place for me in ministry.
  81. Regular Show, which can instantly change my mood from a bad to a good one (Really Real Wrestling! Really Real Wrestling!).
  82. People who follow my Facebook feed as “The Hot List.”
  83. People who are unimpressed with me. That’s how I know they love me, anyway.
  84. Getting two tweets directed at me from Diana Gabaldon, and gaining Ben Vereen as a follower (no, I don’t know how).
  85. People-watching all around DC. It never fails to impress me.
  86. The Wounded Warrior Project, for which I now have a sticker on my laptop.
  87. Americans who actually care what happens to veterans the day they come home.
  88. Being able to preach from this web site. It’s different than getting up in front of a congregation, but not by much. The congregation on this web site is much bigger than any I’ve had in person.
  89. Not having to preach every week…………. yet.
  90. Learning to take care of myself without input from anyone else. I’m better at it than I thought I was.
  91. People who know the distinction between listening and offering advice.
  92. Getting to know my stepsister before she died, and having those memories of her with me still.
  93. The ability to recognize what a good relationship entails, and healthy patterns emerging from my own brokenness and humanity.
  94. My soccer fandom, and my scarf collection. It has brought me so much joy over the years. Before the Houston Dynamo was even a thing, I was a DC United fan. Raul Diaz-Arce was my first love, sports-wise.
  95. Sportsmen that stand up for what they believe. I have Chris Kluwe’s Vikings jersey, and when people don’t recognize him, they ask me what position he plays. I always say, “blogger.”
  96. People who came out publicly in the ’90s. It helped.
  97. Pastors who stand up for gay rights, because YES! THE GOSPEL IS MEANT FOR GAY PEOPLE, TOO!
  98. Every time someone has ever said, “I forgive you.”
  99. Every time I’ve been vulnerable enough to say simply, “I’m sorry.”
  100. You.

Dana -or- Heartbreak and Hope

This morning I can’t get her off my mind. It started with thinking of her as I put a pen on the collar of my t-shirt, because without one, she feels naked. Now I have about an hour before I have to be at choir, and every good memory I’ve ever had with her is flooding my brain like dopamine on fire. It’s better than drugs. I knew I would come to this point in my grief, the one where good memories outweigh the bad. But it’s taken such a long time. There are so many bad things I had to work through that Sarah is recommending group therapy for it, those that have gone through domestic violence on both sides of the equation. There was no winner in that fight, only sadness and an aching hole in me that won’t go away, no matter how hard I try. When I wrote the entry in that link, I was more angry than I had ever been in my life, and while I can’t (and won’t) take anything back, I do have regrets. Just not about telling the story. I have a snapshot of how angry I was in the moment, and how betrayed I felt that Argo and Dana were, in some ways, making me out to be a lot crazier than I was. It got bad, but not bad enough to move across the country for someone I didn’t know, and someone who didn’t want to have anything to do with me at the time. Not moving to NoVA was just letting Argo scare me away from all of my familiar.

I cried all the way to the airport, holding tears back until I couldn’t. It made me feel safe that even though I was going to a place where I knew no one (Silver Spring, specifically- lots of friends in DC), it was still in the area I loved, my Paris. I cried because in a lot of ways, I felt like I was abandoning Dana and couldn’t be friends with her all at the same time. Once I got into therapy, I realized that I hadn’t abandoned her at all. She had a job she loved where she made friends quickly, and she was on her own path away from me, and that’s how it needed to be. We really did need to find out who we were on our own, and I hadn’t found what I needed in Houston- she had.

As I have said before, getting into therapy and getting Medicaid while I didn’t have a job (that may change by Monday or Tuesday) helped me realize that I was not running away from anything. I was running back. I never should have left Alexandria in the first place. I still miss 803 N. Van Dorn, but at the same time, Montgomery County had more resources to help mental patients like me and it is a miracle how far I’ve progressed with them.

In fact, Samantha has said that she thinks I was sent to them for a reason. It’s true. I have found an adopted family I adore, and I think Samantha and I have something special between us. That women friendship where we both get to be giants together. The model I needed before I met Argo and didn’t get.

Even Dana, my best friend of three years and some change, didn’t come without those romantic feelings. For her, it took six weeks. For me, it took all those years to see that what I wanted in a great marriage had been standing in front of me the whole time. Yes, it got bad… and it got dangerous… but that’s not all there is to the story. To everyone, even us, we were the perfect couple, even behind closed doors until we moved to Houston and Dana betrayed me within the first week. I will not and cannot say why, but it was BIG and we broke up immediately at my request. I do not know why I didn’t make it stick- probably because I thought we could get back to where we left off, but we never did. The emotional swings started getting bigger and bigger until neither of us could handle the other. But in my heart of hearts, there will never be another Dana and I’m not even going to try.

I have lots of friends in AA, and what they tell you when you first get to rehab, the professionals tell you no relationships for at least two years. I want to try and stick to that as well. There is no way that I can recover from so many years of a perfect marriage right up until it wasn’t overnight, and I refuse.

It’s been almost a year now, and I haven’t felt romantic feelings for anyone but myself. I know it sounds crazy, but I have to fall in love with myself before I can fall in love with anyone else. It has to be real. Deep and abiding. Otherwise, I will throw away my worth and become the Lanagan Search & Rescue system for which I am emotionally famous.

It’s coming along nicely, actually. I know my highs and my lows, and I love me, anyway. I try to be kind and considerate with my heart, considering how much I’ve lost. When the mood swings between Dana and me spiraled out of control, I felt thrown away, even though I was the one that ultimately called it. I just thought that Dana would see that I made that decision while I was on the floor after she hit me, and it wasn’t how I really felt about her. I popped off in anger, thinking there was redemption down the road.

The truth is that I would give a limb to have her right here, my face buried in her neck with apology, even if it was only in a buddy kind of way. But I know myself. I fall in love quickly and easily. Until we are healthy enough for each other, it would be the worst move ever.

I chose DC because I knew our paths would be perpendicular that way. Her parents are out in NoVA somewhere, the only thing I know about where they live is that it’s the closest Waffle House, and not close enough to reach by Metro. But still. Close enough.

But we aren’t, and it’s hard to live with every day. I used to call her my “Nayna.” Before we were married, I called her Bana Damberger. She called me Leslie Lanagan, and it took me far longer than it should have to realize that she was reversing the letters, too, they’re just the same (jackass).

Now I have to walk to choir, and all I hear in my ear is her whisper of “sing pretty,” what her dad used to say to her mom every Sunday as well.

Don’t worry, Nayna. I will.


#nailedit #beastmode

I’m sitting in a Silver Spring Starbucks, waiting for Rev. Susannah to get here, but not really. I needed some time to decompress after my job interview, so I got here early to eat lunch and blog… because of course I did. I think in longhand.

The person who interviewed me was kind and funny, as was I. :) We got along well, and he said that there were a few different positions open, and he was sure they would find a place for me whether it was DBA or not. He asked me a few technical questions, like whether I knew SELECTS and JOINS and all that, and I gave him examples of each. For those not in the know, it’s how to use text to manipulate databases instead of using a graphical interface like Microsoft Access. I’ve said this before, but am saying it again for those who are just joining us (hi!).

We also talked about social media presence and how I felt about jumping on a plane to go and meet a customer face to face. I didn’t have a problem with either, and in fact, would enjoy it very much. I love doing stuff like that, because it’s not personal. I can be in front of customers/a crowd easily because they don’t want to know about my feelings. The interactions are orange juice glass-level deep and are supposed to stay that way (although I do tend to have a jackass magnet on my forehead where people tend to go deep with me whether I want them to or not. It’s awkward at best.).

It’s nice to know that I have someone so interested in hiring me, and I should know by next Monday or Tuesday if I have a job. It’s a salaried position, but there are plenty of opportunities for bonuses when things go well.

Things are going well. I feel so much better in this life, this thing I have created where I’ve been able to focus on myself and no one else. It paid off to be selfish for a while and isolate in order to lick my wounds and get over the massive trauma that the last couple of years have dealt. I feel stronger than I ever have, because I have come into the fullness of myself. I am so much more than the credit I’ve been able to give myself in the past. I’m still bipolar, so it’s not like I’m not going to have ups and downs, but they are less extreme and highly manageable now. Having drugs on board (Neurontin & Klonopin) that are specifically designed to take away the physical responses to anger have slowed me down long enough to really make me think before I react. It’s a lot harder to rattle me, and therefore, a lot harder to say things to me that will end up with me spiraling out…. which I hope never happens again. Once was enough to last my whole life.

I am trying to create the Zen-like countenance that comes with age and experience. I have enough behind me to prepare for the future without being so afraid of everything and trying to cover it up. It’s okay to say, “I’m afraid.” It’s okay to say, “I’m angry,” as long as it doesn’t come with a rash of words behind it that are just designed to hurt. That’s the part that comes with not being vulnerable. That’s the cover up. It’s important to know the difference between those two different versions of myself, the one I want to throw away and the one I want to keep. I do not want to live my whole life as a person who hides from their emotions in order to keep people at a distance, most often by keeping them from wanting to interact with me in the first place. It worked so well with Argo that I spend a lot of time regretting the things I’ve said in the past and trying to reach peace within myself so I can stop feeling like such a douchebag.

I have received the blessing of her forgiveness, but it’s not about that anymore. It’s about not being that person in the first place. The person who reacts instead of responds. Reaction is the first thing that comes to your mind, and not the reasoned, well-conceived idea you have that comes up after some thought.

It’s something that helps at work, too. What would happen if we all took a breath before responding to that e-mail? You know, the one you get where your eyebrows go over your forehead? Facebook is full of reaction instead of response. We destroy each other over stupid shit when it just isn’t necessary. Even I am guilty of it. I’m just trying to stop because I see the problem.

Some people never do.


Occasionally I watch a children’s show built on two levels so that I enjoy it very much. It’s on PBS, and it’s called WordGirl. Her superpower is that she can define any word, and she is an alien from a planet called “Lexicon.” Her parents found her (not sure at what age) and she lives a double life as “Becky Botsford,” and for some inane reason, when she “Words Up” (code for putting on her super suit) her parents still interact with her, but they do not recognize her, even though her face looks exactly the same. I think it’s a throwback joke to Lois Lane, who for some reason never recognized Superman when he took off his glasses.

Dana (my ex-partner [we broke up in February]) and I both love the show, but the funniest story is that while we were watching, I was high as a kite on some kind of medication and she was talking about WordGirl’s superpower and I said, “Dana, she can fuckin’ fly…………” She can also pick up any object, no matter how heavy it is, and hurl it without breaking a sweat.

In between episodes, there’s a game show called “May I Have a Word,” hosted by a guy named “Beau Handsome.” It’s hilarious as well, and Chris Parnell as the narrator sometimes makes me laugh so hard my drinks come out of my nose (as of this writing, I am drinking Cheerwine). I feel like this show is just built for writers, because it is so smart. If you’re a writer, I’m going to bet you’ll love it as well. My favorite character is Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy, a whiny New York Jew with a sandwich for a head voiced by Fred Stoller. I don’t think he’s the best villain, but I do think he’s the funniest character. If you get a chance, check out the episode called “Chuck E Sneeze.” It’s so funny I don’t even want to reveal the plot.

Anyway, I think my superpower is close to WordGirl’s, just in the world of geekery. I have done many different things computer-wise, so I have a very well-rounded education when it comes to using them. I have an interview with the company I mentioned in my last entry, and it’s for a beginning database analyst position. I thought I would be interviewing for a customer service job, but I would give anything not to have to say, “may I help you,” so perhaps this is a good thing. I’ve done DBA before, so I know how to read and write SQL (structured query language, pronounced “sequel” for those not in the know). It basically involves designing ways to store data by relating tables. If you’ve ever used Microsoft Access, you know what I’m talking about. You know, like having customer data in one database and being able to match it up with what they bought in another. SQL is just a way to do this with a text editor instead of dragging and dropping relationships, for which Access is famous.

If I get the job, I’ll have a lot of built-in reading time, because I’m fairly far out on the red line and the job is on the orange, changing trains at Metro Center. I’m always in the middle of at least six books, so this seems attractive.

It’s been a few hours since I started this entry- I had to take a break from writing to go to therapy. My homework for this week is “planning pleasant activities.” I thought it was a really funny title for an assignment, but I already have plenty. Tomorrow I’m having coffee with Rev. Susannah to talk about the youth group after my job interview, and then choir practice that night. It’s going to be a very busy day, and today was fairly occupied as well. I went to the church and practiced all my choir music… although I’m not sure it did much good. There was no metronome, and I am not that great with rhythms, especially without the constant ticking. To tell the absolute truth, I stopped at the church because I had to go to the bathroom, and in order to get in, I told the office I was there to practice. Peeing and singing. Two great things that go great together… or not.

I also walked to and from therapy, which made me feel amazing because it had to have been two miles altogether. When my endorphins are up, it abates the depression quickly. I’ll have to remember that. I do, and then get in the habit of walking, and then like all habits, I forget them after a couple of weeks. Today reminded me how important getting exercise is for a mental patient, because the body/mind connection is no joke. I am proud of myself, because it’s been cold lately and I was dressed for it… and then found out after I left the house that it was 78 degrees and walked anyway. I  figured it was more of a workout that way.

Speaking of pleasant things, I am invited for coffee tonight with friends, but I just can’t do it. I’m already tired and I need to be in bed early to get to the Metro on time for my DBA Analyst job interview.

Nerrrrrrrrrrrd UP!



I Get Letters Now. Letters Are Cool.

What a great pleasure it was to wake up to this e-mail today. I haven’t had a bigger smile in weeks. It’s cool he thought I was male; there’s no picture associated in your MWEJobs profile and I don’t care what gender people think I am, anyway. He can think I’m a purple people eater if that’s what gets me the job. What surprised me the most was how thoughtful and personalized this e-mail was. Not a recruiter, not a form letter. Impressive…. Touching, even. I’ve gotten so many spam form letters on Monster.com that I really didn’t expect anything like this, even with a government web site.

I’m not usually speechless, but I’ve stared at this e-mail for the past ten minutes without saying anything.

Dear Mr. Lanagan,

I noticed your resume in the MWEJobs database. You appear to be a very versatile and articulate person with strong computer skills. We are a 20+ person Landover-based company that owns, licenses and supports an enterprise software application. We work with uber-large databases with billions of transactions. We have software developers, database administrators, and IT/Support people and we have a few openings.

I notice you seem to prefer Linux operating systems and open source software. In our case we’re primarily a Microsoft shop; not so much by preference but because of the types of clients we support.

What type of position are you looking for? Perhaps there may be a fit for you. Let me know.


Name Redacted
Company Redacted

Veterans Day 2015

When I was in high school, I wanted to be in the Air Force. I had no idea what being a soldier would entail, but a jazz band called “The Airmen of Note” came to HSPVA and blew my mind. I think the words “hot damn” came out of my mouth more than once, especially when the trumpet players were up in the stratosphere. I talked to a recruiter for about an hour on the phone, explaining my medical condition (monocular vision), and the hour ended abruptly. They wouldn’t take me, and I was never going to be an Airman of Note unless Jesus came down and spat on my eyes. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday, because I had a million questions before they got to the part about how I wasn’t fit for duty.

As I said, I had no idea what being a soldier entailed, and I wanted to find out before I signed on the dotted line. The gist is that it would take a long time to work up to being in the jazz band, because I’d have to become a soldier, first.

I was maybe 15 at the time, and of course, at  15, you think you’re going to live forever and you can do anything under the right circumstances. I didn’t have a problem with scary or violent. It just came with the territory.

Many of my classmates went on to join the military, and as they rose in rank, they became something that I wished I could be, but wasn’t. They became guardians and gladiators in the same breath. The ones willing to rush toward danger when I couldn’t, willing to put themselves in harm’s way just to keep me safe, and I never forget that fact.

They get to see a chessboard that most Americans aren’t even aware we’re on, much less able to see the pieces move. Russian bishops and Iranian rooks and African queens and on and on and on and on. As we go through the drive through at Starbucks, as we watch our iPhones for every piece of e-mail and Facebook notification, as we go to church and work and school, they’re out there… and out there is as nebulous a place to me as it is to many others.

It is in these moments I have nowhere to go but gratitude. When it didn’t happen all that often, I’d see a soldier in uniform at the airport and my eyes would water with tears. I would struggle to hold them back as I went up to them and said, “thank you for your service,” or “thank you for your sacrifice.” Now that I’m in DC, I see uniformed soldiers all the time, and the tears have dried up but the gratitude has gotten deeper. There have been times where I’ve walked up and down the Metro stop, shaking each soldier’s hand.

There’s been one time I’ve completely lost my shit in public, though. Just snot and tears running down my face and I COULD NOT EVEN. It was the military float in the DC pride parade, one soldier from each branch and all the flags. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move. I was just thinking about what it must have been like before.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a crock of shit as witch hunts continued to take fine men and women from the careers they deserved, sometimes even when they weren’t gay to begin with. Back then, and I know this because a soldier told me, a straight guy was caught in a gay bar hanging out with friends and “gay by association” was close enough for government work.

We’ve come such a long way since that phone call when I was 15. They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell. However, I do not have to wonder what my life would have been like had my eyes not kept me out of my precious jazz band. My friends have filled me in more than once, a painful education no matter who was talking.

Being a soldier is tough shit, straight or gay. I’ve heard stories that curled my hair, straightened it, and curled it again. You don’t come away from stories like that without being changed, hopefully for the better because it moves one to act instead of just shaking hands.

When I was younger, I had a soldier friend in need and called in reinforcements to give him Christmas. I could have just shaken his hand, but I knew too much. Service and sacrifice were daily words with a depth of meaning that we, as mere mortals, could never understand.

I don’t always agree with the Commander in Chief, and you don’t have to, either. But my take on it is that boots on the ground deserve all we can give them, because we’re not talking about The Powers That Be.™ We’re talking about people who sign on the dotted line as boys and become men on the job. We’re talking about women who, despite all odds, have overcome incredible obstacles just to be thought of as equal.

I hear their stories, and sometimes I cry. You have to let pain out somehow, and as salty, bitter water drips down my cheeks the only thing I want is to be able to take that pain away, not for me, but for them. You just come to a point of helplessness because there’s nothing you can say that will do it.

Except, perhaps, to listen…. and at the end, say simply, “thank you.”

Sermon for Proper 21, Year B (2012)

I found this sermon in my Google Docs folder, and wanted to put it here for safe keeping.

(singing in Gregorian-style chant)

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

In ages past, Psalms were sung rather than spoken. This is because elders in all religions discovered that if they gave their congregations melodies to put with them, it was easier to remember. The practice is not limited to the Abrahamic religions, however. Surviving from the 3rd century BC is a collection of six Hellenistic hymns written by the Alexandrian poet, Callimachus. It is an astounding discovery in the modern era that these ideas, the ones that occurred organically in those days, are now at the forefront in the healing arts.

Doctors are unsure of the complete explanation as to why, but over the years, several theories have been examined. Dr. Paul Broca, whose research was publicized in the 1880’s, is most famous for his discovery of the speech production center of the brain, now called “Broca’s area.” He arrived at this discovery by studying the brains of aphasic patients- persons with speech and language disorders resulting from brain injury. He was most focused on a small area in the frontal lobe, which he discovered aided in the sequencing and rhythm of words. Another part of the cerebral cortex, Wernicke’s area, discovered by Dr. Karl Wernicke, is responsible for creating pathways to understanding the meaning of words.

This is all technical information that boils down to a simple idea. Music literally makes the two areas of the brain work together, forming deeper neurological pathways. Religious leaders learned that before science. People remember music because they are, quite literally, wired that way. Music therapists have long discovered that if either area of the brain is damaged, the other one will compensate, creating new neural pathways to restore the brain to normal… and sometimes, the easiest way to jump start that process is by singing.

Think about it. How many of you could recite the words to your favorite song, completely out of context? Yet when you’re driving in your car, listening to Journey, all of the sudden you know every word to Don’t Stop Believin’?

Or when you’re walking along, and the soundtrack to your life starts playing in your brain. All of the sudden, you can remember every word to Twisted Whistle’s cover of Gin & Juice. [Note: The lead singer of Twisted Whistle was in the congregation that day and I sang her version in this small bit.] If you’re like me, you’ll forget where you are and all of the sudden, with so much drama in the LBC, it’s kinda hard bein’ Snoop D Oh-h Double G. Somehow-w some way… It’s the same for Snoop Dogg’s version. Rap gets under your skin not because of the melody, but because of the rhythm and sequence of words.

Bet you never thought you’d hear Snoop Dogg quoted in a sermon.

You’re welcome.

No one is a better example of the strides in this research than Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona congresswoman. After a major gunshot wound, she traveled to my hometown of Houston, where one of the most advanced clinics of neurological rehabilitation resides.

From the time she was wounded until the time she could speak full sentences was about nine months. One of the reasons she made such incredible progress was due to the use of music in her therapy. She couldn’t recite the words to songs like “Happy Birthday,” but because she was familiar with the rhythm and sequence of the music, when she started to sing, the words came to her easily.

It is at this point we are ready to study the letter of James. He writes:

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.

In order to research this sermon more fully, I turned to the Biblical criticism of theologian William Barclay:

Here we have set out before us dominant characteristics of the early church. It was a singing church; the early Christians were always ready to burst into song. Christians speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spirituals; singing with thankfulness in their hearts to God.

James, meet Paul Broca. Paul Broca, meet James.


Singing to God is literally understanding God.

This higher consciousness, this reaching for the divine, is a gift that only humans have. Apes may have a special fondness for God in their hearts, but they will never sing about it. That’s because Broca’s area is nowhere to be found in their brains. This ability for sequence and rhythm supporting comprehension is only found in us.

When you think about it that way, it just becomes more and more apparent how great a blessing music is to the life of a church. And while music is gaining more and more ground in physical rehab, it has long been a voice in the emotional healing of a family, a community, a plantation:

If you get there before I do
Coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m coming too
Coming for to carry me home

Easy to remember codified instructions set to music. If you get to the plantation before me, and can only take some of the slaves, tell everyone else that I’m coming for them. In short, be ready. You never know when I’m going to show up, and when I do, your bags have to be packed.

Your sandals have to be on your feet. And there is no turning back.

Be. Ready. At. All. Times.

Harriet Tubman led over 70 slaves to freedom with Paul Broca’s help. She may never have read a single word of his research, but she understood the content. Put a melody to the words and people are more likely to remember it, critical because nowhere was it safe to write them down.

So what’s the take-home message here? What does this have to do with modern day life in Portland, Oregon?

(singing in Gregorian-style chant)

God can break into our lives at any moment;
Always be ready for a miracle.
If you are in pain, in body or mind,
Call upon me in song.


The intro to the sermon was taken from that day’s Psalm. The outro was written by me.