Hannahmaniac

It’s 11:24, so this will be short. I need to get it posted before midnight. My niece, Hannah Alexis, was born today. She is Wi-Phi’s  (William Philip’s) younger sister, and gets no less nerdy of a nickname. I call her “Hannah Solo.”

As you can imagine, I am wild-eyed with impatience at meeting her, but for now, she’ll just have to accept my presents in the mail- a Star Wars-themed onesie and a Washington Post, because the Houston Chronicle will not be printing anything for a while.

Hurricane Harvey is the main story in the Post, too, but luckily my family was not affected today. They were concerned that they were going to need to deliver Kelly at home, but the waters receded enough to get to Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land.

Although it is interesting to note that had it come to my sister delivering at home, she would have been fine. My dad took EMT I all the way through Paramedic II, so he’s delivered three babies.

No matter what, things would have turned out perfectly. Hannah sure did. She’s a screaming bundle of joy and it is such a relief to hear her cry loudly over the interwebs because Wi-Phi’s birth was so anxiety-laden. For those of you just joining us, he had to have heart surgery as soon as he was born. He is absolutely 100% perfect, but at the time prayer flowed through me like water, and I just had to hope that it was enough.

This birth was better than textbook. After one push, Hannah was here. “They” were even at the office until her water broke. I’m going to remind myself of that every time I get the sniffles and start to complain.

Virtual pink bubble gum cigars and champagne for everyone. I’m going to go look at my niece’s adoring face and see which of my features she got (this is a joke- her mother is my stepsister). If I have anything to do with it at all, maybe when she’s older she’ll have my smirk, because my dad will have taught it to her, just like he taught it to me.

Goodnight, sweet Hannah. Welcome to the world, baby girl. Let me read you to sleep.

In an old house in Paris
All covered with vines
Lived 12 little girls
In two straight lines….

-Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline

 

 

Pan, Pan, y Mas Pan… y Entonces Queso

So, off I go to Dollar Tree to get my few essentials for the week. I bought a lot of things to cook, but no snacks. I am hungry to the point of exhaustion, and need food RTFN. I notice that there is an authentic Mexican panaderia in the parking lot a few doors down, and think to myself that a piece of egg bread or a cookie will tide me over until supper.

I go into the panaderia and start ordering. I decide to get some stuff for breakfast, too, and then I realize I don’t have any cash. I say, “tomas tarjetas (you take cards)?” What I think the woman says is that we have a five dollar limit on cards. Oh, boy. Do you know how friggin’ hard it is to spend five dollars at a bakery? I think everything I ordered was 50 cents each, if that. When I get to what I think is five dollars, the woman says, “no, you have to have TEN dollars.”

Christ on a cracker.

I have already exhausted the number of conchas I can eat by about three dollars already. Conchas links to a Wikipedia article on sweet bread, and if you look at the list, I probably ordered at least one of each. Now we’re up to seven dollars.

Finally, I realize they have a cold case and get a large block of queso fresco. Why I didn’t think of this before is beyond me. It’s like, six dollars all by itself, and infinitely useful in just about everything.

My bread purchases take up, like, three bags, because not only did I buy sweet bread for breakfast for the next eight years, I also bought a few slices of cake and some cookies.

Who am I kidding? Nine years.

I get home and make some macaroni and cheese from the box, but I do it the way I was classically trained to do- mix the fat (I used margarine) with the cheese and flour to make a roux, then add milk. Once that was set, I added shreds of cheddar, salt-free seasoning, and the aforementioned queso fresco. The queso fresco does not melt all the way- it’s a very hard cheese and tastes comparable to Romano. The sauce and pasta mix together beautifully with these tiny chunks of cheese and it is heaven on earth.

And that’s when I realized I was out of Tupperware…. or rather, I’d bought four packages of Zip-Loc throwaways and they’d all been used up by my roommates. So, I put some in a Zip-Loc bag and ate the rest.

That was probably a mistake. I must have had like, four helpings. It was worth it, though.

Even if I am too full to eat ALL THAT BREAD.

Where Were We Again?

When I take a few days off from writing, I learn why I shouldn’t do that. I have no idea where to even begin. My last entry isn’t anywhere close what’s happening now, and herding my thoughts is less easy than herding cats.

The last entry was written while I was still in Portland, and for the first time, I slept all the way home… well, except for the last hour, from Charlotte to Arlington, VA. I was so exhausted that I missed the safety speech, taking pictures of the Columbia from the runway (that would have been hit or miss…. it was dark), and last but not least, the entire takeoff sequence. When we landed at CLT, it was a total “where tf am I?” moment, because there were no national monuments and I’d forgotten I was connecting in the haze of waking up. I had more time to kill in N. Carolina than I did last time, so I walked around looking for a UNC Chapel Hill t-shirt (Mia Hamm’s alma mater). I didn’t find one (in fact, no Tarheels gear at all, just Hornets), so I settled for a very large cup of coffee. I imagine that if I’d walked all over the airport, I probably would have found what I was looking for, but I didn’t want to leave my own terminal. I thought I was too groggy to be able to make it back in time. I took my coffee and settled in the waiting area, and when my flight started boarding, to GOD I swear I almost started crying.

Because here’s the thing… I love visiting other places, but there is nothing on earth more beautiful than landing at National, and thinking about that beauty always makes me tear up, no matter how long I live here. People will argue with me on the objectivity of those statements, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I mean, I’ll go out to BWI or Dulles when I need to (luckily, I haven’t had to deal w/ Dulles since 2002- one of my friends called it the seventh level of hell, and I can’t disagree with her), but neither airport gives me the feeling of home like National does. It’s especially breathtaking at night, but I’d taken a redeye, so I did get a good picture on the tarmac of a small plane with the Jefferson and Washington monuments in the back. If you’re just a nerd with a camera, this is the best place on earth to live. #nolie #smile

Now, remember I am tired AF- redeye, etc. I get to the Metro around 0945 and don’t realize there are three tracks. One goes out to Virginia, the other crosses the river into DC, and the third is for broken down trains. It’s in the middle. My bench is facing a CLEARLY (in retrospect) broken down car out of service, and I sat there for 25 minutes before I realized that the train I needed was behind me. A venti coffee of the day at Starbucks can only do so much.

However, the first train that came by after I answered the clue phone was Yellow to Ft. Totten. Bullseye. Yellow connects to red at Ft. Totten and Silver Spring is only two stops down the red line from there. That meant I had about 40 uninterrupted minutes without changing trains. There’s probably a more direct route, like changing lines at Gallery Place/Chinatown, but I didn’t want direct. I wanted “don’t make me get up.” I was also a total baby and got an Uber while my train was rolling up to Silver Spring, because I didn’t want to lug my shit on the bus and walk with it. Pretty sure it was the best $4 I spent the whole trip.

I get home and absolutely collapse with exhaustion, despite the coffee. I slept for a couple of hours, then made myself some more coffee (Donut Shop) to ensure I could get back on Eastern time quickly. This is really the first trip I’ve taken where I learned that jet lag is a thing. Coming back was easy. Moving three hours earlier was just FUBAR. I slept when I didn’t mean to because otherwise, I would have fallen down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to explain myself, because it was written all over my face.

Besides Bryn, I also got to see two other friends I’d really wanted to meet up with, and one was a total lark. Of course Volfe and I hung out… how could we not? But it just so happened that one of my friends on Guam was in town that weekend, too (we met when she was a student at University of Portland). We met at Greater Trump’s for trivia, where we lost by ONE POINT. It’s ok. If she hadn’t been there, I would have lost by at least ten more.

I walked in and she was sitting at Table Eight. The reason I know she was sitting at Table Eight is that the first time Dana and I ever went to trivia, we didn’t put a team name on our paper because we didn’t know we had to… so that’s the team name they gave us. She was sitting in my chair, so I took Dana’s. Did it feel weird to be sitting on “the wrong side?” Yes. Did it feel weird that we lost? Also yes.

The first time that Dana and I went, these two guys showed up at our table and said, “we just wanted to meet the team that showed up late when we thought we had it in the bag and kicked our asses.” We were basically an instant foursome after that, and after having won eight games in a row, David decided to get cocky and name our team “Thanks for the Free Drink.” I would like to tell you that David’s hubris cost us dearly, but no. We won that one, too. Every week, there was an alcohol question, so if we won and they had it, I ordered the drink in the game. I got to try a lot of things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Some were amazing. Some were not.

When it was my turn to pick the team name, I always liked to start with an ellipsis so that it was a sentence. For instance, my favorite was “and tonight’s winner is …under investigation by the FBI.” We had some good ones over the years. We were having a conversation over what could possibly be in fat free Caesar dressing one night, thus our team name was “Chemical Anchovies.” One of our team member’s names was Nathan, so one night we were “Better Nate Than Lever” when he had a work thing and came in halfway through.

On Monday, our team name was “PBRmada.” Soooooo Portland.

Still pissed about losing by one point, although thank God Hope was not there to see it. The worst part is that we tied for first and THEN lost in the tie-breaker.

Now that I’ve taken you down THAT piece of memory lane, I got home to my family going through a hurricane of enormous proportions, and it’s still going. Kelly, Will, Wi-Phi, and their dogs are holed up at my dad’s because he has a generator AND, as a paramedic, has delivered three babies…. just in case they can’t get to a hospital. Better him than me…. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies. But lucky kid that the first person she (squee!) sees may be Papa, what Wi-Phi calls him.

While my dad and stepmom grabbed Kelly & Co., I went to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs play the Sugar Land Skeeters. I was right behind the on-deck for the Skeeters, so I got to talk to every player, told them I hoped their houses and families were okay, etc. One player said he was only worried about his truck, because his house is in Louisiana and his truck is at Skeeters Stadium. And I thought Silver Spring to Alexandria was a long commute……..

So, it’s been a very eventful time, and I am proud of the way I handled all of it. The being in Portland, the worrying about the hurricane, the going by myself to a baseball game, everything. People always ask me why I don’t invite others to come with me to these things. Easy. I am way too focused on my camera, and I don’t want to ask anyone else if they’re ready to leave and have them say no…. because when I’ve had enough, I have had enough. I don’t care how tight their pants are, Barbara.

 

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Words Fail Me

I can remember only a handful of times in my life when I’ve literally had nothing to say…. moments where words just won’t even form, and pictures were moving too fast to grab on. This wedding is one of them.  Everything is swirling so fast I can’t grab on to a picture to describe it, and things come to me in bits and pieces, not fully formed thoughts. So today even though I want to decompress, you’ll have to wait over time for tiny details, because that’s how they’ll come to me, too.

I will say that the wedding went even better than rehearsal, and I was relieved, because you never rehearse the vows beforehand. Cory told me that I was easy and clear in terms of the repetition, which meant so much to me. The only mistake I made, which in my mind is hilarious enough to laugh about now, is that I accidentally told Bryn to say Cory’s name instead of her own. Luckily, she caught it. I said, “well, you might want to say your own name…” We laughed, and moved on. That’s it. That’s the sum total of dumbass attacks on my part this trip. I had a script, and I stuck to it, most of the time without looking up, because I wasn’t the focus. They were. To do anything to take focus away from them and put it on to me was unwelcome in my eyes. I hope that I was able to be heard in the back, but even if I wasn’t, there’s only two people in the world that had to hear what I was saying.

It’s like there’s this secret between the three of us, that only the three of us know how much significance to put on that memory. For those few minutes while they were taking their vows, we were the only three people in the room (well, the outdoors, anyway). I am very glad that I came early and spent time with Cory before the wedding, because I wanted to know whether he was the guy that was capable of marrying someone like Bryn, and I say that with stardust in my eyes… she’s not a person, she’s an event. When Bryn asked me if I’d do the wedding, my first thought was oh God no…. but that was because at that moment all I saw were pigtail braids. She was obviously way too young to get married. As the pictures in my mind of her aged up, so did my response.

Luckily, Cory turned out to be every bit the man she promised, and I was happy to do the ceremony. It would have been awkward if I’d objected, so I am really glad I never had to… he’s just amazing. He had to find out whether I was for real, too. He was nervous about getting a friend to do the wedding he’d never met, because the stereotypical “my friend’s doing the wedding” usually means that it’s unprofessional and lacks legitimacy. He told me that he didn’t know how seriously I would take it. I did, though. Meaning I did take it seriously AND that I knew how solemn an occasion it would be for both of them ahead of time, and to hold on to that feeling.

The only thing I wish I had practiced was my handwriting. Their marriage certificate certainly wasn’t made any more beautiful by my carpal tunnel pile of garbage.

I did, however, manage to get it “write” on the one line that mattered.

Signature. Of. Officiant.

 

Rehearsing Greatness

Last night was the rehearsal dinner, which went marvelously because blocking was one less thing I had to worry about. The wedding planner had it covered. Standing next to the groom while waiting for everyone to file in was an amazing feeling…. as if a part of me was on the ground, and a part of me was floating above, recording it for posterity.

The weather was clear and cool as we all did our parts to make everything flow smoothly tomorrow. But even if it doesn’t, it will still be all right. A wedding is an event that has its own flow, and you just step into it, and kick with the speed of the current. A dog is going to bark, a baby is going to cry, an anything could turn into a thing. To fight it is to court disaster.

It seemed to be over before it began, even though we ran the service several times. I didn’t say much of what I was going to say tomorrow, because I wanted everyone in the wedding party to go to the wedding, too…. it also kept people from wasting their time when we could be eating chips and dip.

I’m just going to have to mind my robe. It’s a bit long, and I don’t want to fall into the bride and groom at any point. It would be mortifying, but over time, I’d joke about it, too. I just have my mom in my head telling me to be careful.

Speaking of my mom, I’m using her old suitcase and I found one of her ponytail holders in it while I was packing. It’s around my wrist, under my watch. She’s with me in spirit.

As is a small piece of Argo, because I remembered a conversation we had in which we talked about going to the coast, and the subject came up elsewhere. It’s like all of my losses are becoming the rocks under me as opposed to over, because thinking of them and wishing them good things is lifting me up from what was once an enormous well with weights holding me under.

Taking time in the desert, wandering toward my path rather than away from it, was just the thing I needed to do to feel this healed, remembering everything through fondness and not enmity. My world crashed and burned around me, but it has been an impetus to build something stronger in the ruins.

When it is over, this wedding will become a part of my self-confidence that I’m moving in the right direction and not the wrong one. We get few signs we can see from God and point to them as moments, but this will be one of them.

I know. I rehearsed it.

I can honestly say that I feel incomplete without Dana while walking through Portland, especially with a family we both know and love. She is my phantom limb, because everywhere I look, a story runs through my mind, this seemingly-eternal conversation because when we talked, it was always a tennis or bowling match. We took turns with our favorite details, or one of us would set it up and the other would knock it down. We had a knack for comedy, an innate sense of who got the punchline because it sounded better in that woman’s voice.

Being Southern, we also never let the facts get in the way of a good story…. in the words of Armistead Maupin, jeweling the elephant. Details over the years began inflating… you know, like in a fishing trip where you catch an enormous fish and after ten years, you say that it was 10 or 20 pounds heavier? But it would only happen in the interest of making people laugh harder.

I also think about her a lot because hello… I’m officiating a wedding. I really had an aversion to a big wedding to her, and not because I haven’t dreamed of a pipe organ, brass section, and full choir since I was a teenager. It’s because while I don’t think this all the time, it is the place where I was the most internally homophobic. It was what if we planned a wedding, and they laughed at us or wouldn’t come? And, of course, I never really figured out who “they” were. I hate myself for thinking that way, but when Kathleen and I got married, you cannot believe how relieved I was that only my dad and my sister were with me. Barely a whisper, and incredibly meaningful. The only reason that my mom wasn’t there is it was a Sunday after church and she had her own church job. My mom might not have been as on board with the whole gay thing as I would have liked, but that would never have gotten in the way of attending a moment that important in my life. She would have recognized it wasn’t about her.

I think that as I began to wrap my brain around it, I would have been excited and giggly. It was being utterly caught off-guard by Dana talking to our priest about it without talking to me first. I know Dana well enough to know that it was just as spontaneous on her end, because we don’t plan things in advance. We’re both attracted to whim. We’re ADHD, so it’s one of the things we do best. I know for a fact that she did not mean to hurt me, and definitely didn’t know my thoughts & fears on the matter. What I learned about marriage was in the years we were together, not a ceremony. I learned by breathing it…. hour by hour by hour….. year by year.

Part of what happens with divorce is that you’re not only grieving backward, you’re grieving forward. A rock sits on my chest when I think of all we gave up. There were excellent reasons for it, but those reasons do not come with any kind of pain relief or inflammation reduction. If only acetaminophen and ibuprofen could handle emotions. For now, the best it gets is Klonopin, where it doesn’t stop my mind, but stops the physical reactions, like cortisol levels going through the roof, racing blood pressure and heartbeat, and being buried under all the lost jokes, all the lost laughter, all the best parts of knowing someone as if they are part of you.

I grieve the part of myself that died, because I am no longer the person I was with when I was with her and lose it when I pretend/predict how we would have grown. Tennis matches that would have added to our collection. But this grief, just like all my others, doesn’t go away. I just change in my reactions to it. Sometimes it feels like movies play in my head in the stories that might have happened, and I smile because they’re just as funny as when we were together. I just judge myself on how close I got the essence of our humor in my head. Like knowing after seven years and change of being married how close I got in what I think her  response would be…. but never when I’m sad. Only when I am thinking about the Laurel and Hardy we became. When my mind divides itself and I’m both sides of the conversation, she’s still funnier than me. I am proud of myself for getting to the point that what she would think of x or y is no longer my first reaction.

I have pushed it down to third or fourth. Progress.

We’ve worked together and lived together, so there are very few experiences I have that there isn’t a joke between us, so the new memory connects to the old and my mind drifts, saying her punchline.

The difference for me is now when I think of her, I only remember her hilarity and nothing about the, ummm, unpleasantness. Because first I lost my best friend in the world, and I never mistake the part for the whole.

 

Sermon for Proper 14, Year A: Choppy Waters

Matthew 14:22-7

It’s hard to imagine looking at the news this week and not feel the choppiness of the water surrounding our boats. We pray for all those affected by the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, particularly the family of the woman who died and those injured. We pray for all those at University of Virginia and the neighboring schools who are watching in horror.

We pray for Guam, who has been directly threatened by Kim Jong Un. We pray for a president who has no experience in this type situation, and may encourage violence rather than squash it.

Prayer is about hope, faith, and love. We may not be able to directly calm the waters around us, but we can abate the hurricanes inside us, emotions rising that we may not have felt before because for the young, they are walking in new territory… while older Americans remember the white supremacy violence and nuclear threats of the 1960’s, and have to relive that trauma.

Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus needing rest and relaxation after preaching to the crowds and having them flock toward him, overwhelming the calm inside him and needing to retreat to recover. While he is gone, a storm brews on the Sea of Galilee (now known as Lake Kinneret), and Jesus cuts his time away short to run to the shore and help them.

It is essential to remember that Jesus is not doing anything out of the ordinary, and is in fact, a part of his personality. Jesus is doing what he always does, which is to help people in need. When the Disciples see him walk out onto the water, they are terrified. Some people translate this literally, that he could walk on water. However, from the Greek, it is unclear whether this is what happened. In verse 25, it is epi ten thalassan, which can equally mean over the sea and towards the sea. In verse 26, it is epi tës thalassës, which can mean on the sea or at the seashore. Therefore, it is hard to tell whether the Disciples thought they’d seen a ghost because he was walking on water toward them, or whether he just sneaked up behind them and they jumped out of their skin. Remember, he was away and unexpected.

The surprise regardless of what you believe happened is that Jesus shows up in their hour of fear and need of reassurance. Whether the storm blew over on its own, or whether Jesus personally calmed the waves is of no consequence. As  Rev. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister in addition to his PBS presence, put it, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.

When we look around at the choppy waters surrounding our own boats, let us not focus on the water. Let us focus on the people who are willing to drop whatever they’re doing to rush in and help us in our own hours of need.

There is no better metaphor for our current situation than Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk rescue mission during WWII in which private sailors volunteered to drop everything they were doing, including fishermen who would lose wages, to go and rescue soldiers in France and bring them back to British shores, because the destroyers could not reach shallow water. Without even thinking about it, they refused to focus on the choppy water, but on the people in need. People who never signed up for military service endured gunfire and bombs, but ignored the threat in favor of “keeping calm and carrying on.”

It has become a trite saying, but when you really ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?,” this is it. This is the spirit of Christ working through enormous chaos, calming the water for the soldiers who saw the rescue boats coming. Just like the Disciples surprised by Jesus, they had no idea that the small crafts were coming. Some were scattered among different ships, and others were swimming for their lives.

Even if the weather was still bad, the storms that raged within the soldiers as they knew they were facing almost certain death from German fire or hypothermia were calmed. The spirit of Christ walked on the water, to the water, in the water.

When the storm rages within you, know that someone is coming. It might be the spirit of Christ that lives in you, or it might be the spirit of Christ that lives within someone else, ready to drop anything to come and help you in your own hour of need.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces