Get Off My Lawn

I am terribly cranky today.

Yesterday’s pardoning of Scooter Libby was the last straw. The guy committed treason. No punishment the USG could come up with would be good enough. When he outed Valerie Plame, it was damn lucky he didn’t get her killed. Do all intelligence employees under cover have to be afraid of their own employer now? If I was in their position, it would incense me that even people who commit crimes against national security can almost assuredly get away with murder, both literally and figuratively. Not only was Libby’s personal case a red flag, the precedent it sets is even more scary.

It’s probably against the Geneva Convention so this is absolutely a hypothetical situation, but say there was a black op to take out Assad so that citizens wouldn’t be harmed. You could absolutely argue that the ends justify the means, but someone leaks that information to the New York Times or the Washington Post while Special Ops is in country…. not only the op, but the names of the soldiers involved. How long would it take before their heads were on a spike in Damascus? If you said “10 minutes,” I would answer, just like James Comey, that it was nine minutes longer than I expected.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is that no one asked me what I thought (that was a joke).

No one asked me what I thought about confirming Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, either. If the confirmation goes through, we’ll have someone in charge of foreign relations that believes in the Bible more than the Constitution. His view of homosexuality is that it is a perversion, and that his belief is not wrong-headed, but a persecution of all Christians. This is not something I want broadcast all over the world, because the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatry Association disagree with that, and have since the 1980s. It is terrifying that only some people’s beliefs have progressed since then because a book that was meant to be a living document, changing over time as we understand more about medicine and science, in their view must remain literal and stagnant. It is generally believed by progressive theologians that the real abomination in the Bible concerning homosexuality was an ancient Canaanite practice of temple prostitution [by both adults and minors], tarnishing a place meant to be holy ground.

As theologian Jim Rigby once said, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, so it cannot be essential to his teaching. Ancient desert people would never have known same sex orientation as an identity. The word homosexual was not even coined until the 1900s. It is an identity because even queer celibate people still consider themselves as such [using queer as a catch-all for the entire community and not as a derogatory term. I’m gay, so I can use it. Straight people can’t get away with it. Sorry.]. It is absolutely the last thing a follower of the Christ should embrace, because Jesus was constantly widening the net of acceptance, something that has been twisted since the New Testament, where Paul condemned homosexuality.

Paul had other beliefs that were equally toxic, like the prohibition of women speaking in church… something mainline Christians have moved past, so why is being gay different? Additionally, if you believe in one Talmudic law, you should believe all of them, so advocate for shutting down the NFL because players are consistently touching pigskin. You have to ask yourself whether someone who has an international platform should be able to hold these untranslated views, because even if you don’t support our community, do you really think it’s wise to bolster countries who still execute people for these “crimes?” Do you believe in ending lives and devastating families? The stakes are higher than you think.

In the United States, it means a disbelief of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. If I am truly equal to everyone else, I am a citizen who should be protected by the law, not persecuted by it.

Everything gets messy when the law goes from national to personal, because people can wrap their heads around discrimination of a group, but not their own relatives…. where, often, they fall short in making the connection.

There are still some extremists in this country that are every bit as violent toward the queer community as Sharia law, validated by people who don’t believe in internment camps and execution but aren’t vocal in speaking out about it……….

This leads me to believe that were those things to happen, it would be swift. Ten minutes at most, nine minutes longer than I expect. World issues are literally making me ill.

I am terribly cranky today.

Rats.

I am going (more) crazy trying to find my phone. “Find My Device” says it’s here, but the last ping was 18 hours ago, so I could have left it pretty much anywhere since then. Trying to decide how long I’m going to search frantically before I give up the ghost and activate my old iPhone… because of course the minute I get home from AT&T is the moment I’ll find it. I wouldn’t be so quick on the draw to give up except that my sister is coming to town tonight and we need to be able to communicate.

My sister being in politics is the best thing that has ever happened to me, because I see her almost as much now as I did when I lived in Texas. She makes enough money that she could come visit whenever she wanted, but it’s nice that her trips are already paid for by someone else. Getting to see me is just icing on an already pretty great cake. She says she wants to go back to that ramen restaurant we found on H St. At the moment, I don’t remember what it’s called, but they have tsukemen and I’m all about it. Tsukemen is a different style of soup, where the ingredients are served separately from the broth. That way, the noodles don’t continue to cook, and you just dip. I learned about it from David Chang on The Mind of a Chef. It was exciting to taste it because I thought the dish was exclusive to Japan.

I don’t know whether that’s actually where we’ll end up, but it’s a good place to start. Eventually, I want to take her to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC institution that’s been serving up the “half-smoke” for over fifty years. I’ve never been there, either, so it would be nice to have a new experience for both of us.

At some point, perhaps not this trip, I want to recreate a picture taken of us at the Jefferson Memorial that I don’t have anymore. We’re standing between the columns, holding hands and pushing on the stone so that it looks like we’re holding it up. She flew into DCA the weekend that my mother was performing with her choir at Carnegie Hall so that we could road trip up together. I will never forget cruising down West Side Highway, looking out over the water.

One of the reasons that I wanted to get back to the mid-Atlantic in the first place is that the cities are so concentrated. It takes about four hours to get to New York City, about seven to get to Boston. Both are incredible experiences. I’ve seen the hole where the World Trade Center used to be, but not what has been built in its absence. Interestingly enough, Kathleen and I had tickets to see Rent on Broadway that weekend, and unsurprisingly, the show was canceled, so we went to Boston instead as a stopover for Vermont when we got our civil union. Man, that was one of the best and worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life. We were together for three years before we got married, and after that, it all went to hell in a handbasket. But we were the first gay couple to get joint health insurance at ExxonMobil, because a PR guy said in the Washington Blade that XOM would recognize officially married couples. We sent our certificate to HR, and they freaked out a little bit, because they didn’t know that PR had said it. They literally had to create a policy for us overnight…. they either didn’t think anyone would take them up on it, or perhaps the PR person was speaking off the cuff and didn’t really have the authority to promise something like that. However, domestic partner benefits were published in the newspaper and it wasn’t something they were going to be able to ignore. We were legit heroes to other XOM employees, but what would have been even sweeter was the marriage lasting more than 11 mos. Sigh.

That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on being with Dana for anything in the world. The old saying about not crying because it’s over, smile because it happened is one of the truest statements I know. When I left for DC, I was also incredibly happy because I didn’t think of it so much as an ending, but two new beginnings. I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do think about what I could have done to be a better partner to Dana all the time. This is not because I’m scheming to get her back, only what I will have to bring to the table in my next relationship so that it goes even more smoothly.

But that is for later- not now. I made jokes about getting a new girlfriend right away, but my actions have proved them to be only that. I love my independence, and I am not willing to give it up, as well as working on myself to be my best before the next great love of my life shows up. I have a great gaggle of friends for companionship, and that is enough. More than enough, actually. I wish I could say that I missed romance, but I don’t. It’s just not a priority right now. Too many things up in the air for me to commit to it. I’ve been on a few first dates that never amounted to anything because they were more akin to job interviews, and that’s when I realized I was done.

But wait, that’s not entirely true. One of my friends got under my skin, and when I told her that, she didn’t blink. It was not entirely unwelcome news. But we had different priorities and nothing came of that, either. We laughed about it, but never took any actions to further the cause. Laughing about it was enough for both of us.

And then my mother died, and my world tilted so that I couldn’t even go out with myself, much less anyone else. When I was in Houston for the funeral, I invited Dana just to say that she wasn’t unwelcome, that it was her mother-in-law for seven years and change and I was not insensitive to that fact. But she didn’t show, and that was fine, too. I had plenty of other people around me in person, by phone & text, and by e-mail to worry about anyone in particular. In fact, the shock of losing her suddenly rendered me pretty much under anesthesia. It was akin to the twilight after surgery.

I would say that the aftermath, when reality truly set in, has been much, much worse than those first few days…. although I am still susceptible to shock that renders me unable to remember where I’m going, or where a particular item might be after I’ve put it down and started thinking about other things.

Like my phone.

 

Highs and Lows

During self-imposed exile to the basement, I watched a couple of movies that I’d wanted to see for a while but just hadn’t put forth the time and expense to go to the theater. The first was Baby Driver, which is one that I will watch over and over, running the first 20 minutes on repeat. I recommend that whatever you’re watching right now, ditch it and see this movie. You’re welcome.

The second is Call Me By Your Name, and I have issues.

In Italy in 1983, the age difference of the two young men was completely legal… but it sent shockwaves of anxiety through me because it just didn’t seem ethical. It wasn’t the age difference that bothered me. Seven years isn’t noticeable at all when one partner is 30 and the other is 37. It was the timing. The younger of the two men was 17. The older, 24.

Keeping in mind that I have no leg to stand on when it comes to talking about ethics, the movie tapped into some of my deepest and most memorable scars. If you’re post-college, no matter what the age of consent may be, I’m still not sure you have the right to mess with a teenager’s feelings, much less have a short summer fling with them and leave them in tears… then call back a few years later only to say “I’m getting married… is that okay with you?”

If I had known that’s what the movie was about, I wouldn’t have watched it in the first place. I’m trying to get those pieces of scar tissue stronger than they’ve ever been. Therefore, I would never intentionally trigger myself back into that place, because it’s dark and twisty there.

The thing I’m so much better about now than I have been in previous years is snapping myself out of it. I have learned tips and tricks for changing my own mood, and I use them. The axiom is true that hurt people hurt people, so even though I am not entirely rid of pain, it’s at least manageable. What I Know for Sure™ is that I never want to be in a position where I’m speaking from a place of pain to people that don’t deserve it. I’ll never be able to get mad at the one who does, so my work to do is making a thunderstorm back off to rain, then sprinkles, then partly cloudy. I don’t think that anyone whose been hurt in a similar manner to me would say that we ever get to sunshine, because even with all the coping mechanisms in the world, there are still triggers that make moving pictures dance across our minds as if no time has passed at all. Then, the moment passes, and all is right again.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s an indication that I need to change course mentally when I feel it physically. A knee-jerk reaction to a trigger is generally a headache or feeling like I’m going to vomit. It’s so attractive.

The thing that is altogether different now is that I recognize what is happening rather than wondering what it could possibly be. A major part of being angry and, in turn, stuffing it down into my socks is that I couldn’t articulate what was going on.

It was legal. But it wasn’t ethical.

I had issues.

The Yahrtzeit

Don’t call me. I know you’ll all want to when you hear what I have to say. I am leaving tomorrow to go to Houston for the first time since my mother’s death. But stop yourselves from reaching out to give Lindsay and me room to grieve on our own. If we end up getting together with friends at any point, I’ll make sure you’re included. But we haven’t gotten that far. We’ve only planned what we’re going to do on the actual anniversary of my mother’s death on the second, besides attending my cousin Hunter’s wedding the day before.

Because I thought I’d be in DC during the wedding, I did not RSVP, so I hope they can haul ass to the kitchen, rearrange the food, and squish in a place setting to welcome a “Haiti-an. It actually is important to me to go to this wedding. It’s my mother’s brother’s second child, so I will get to see everyone on that side of the family at a time when we really need each other. Of course it is Hunter’s day, but seeing each other is an excellent added bonus. Plus, the wedding is in Tyler, Texas… the perfect amount of road trip. I haven’t done a real road trip in ages, so even that in and of itself is perfection.

When we get back, we’ve planned to go to the cemetery and just sit with Mom. We enjoy it because the cemetery we chose is so tranquil and peaceful it is an escape from the rest of the city. It’s also been a year since I’ve seen “Fred,” the infant-sized tree planted last year that will one day surround my mother’s grave in its majesty. I’m only sort of glad I waited this long, because I don’t think I would notice as much of a difference in “him” if I’d seen him every week.

Lindsay has said that she’s not crazy about the name “Fred.” I can’t wait to see what name she’s come up for “him.” For me, “Fred” was an easy choice because every plant I’ve ever had has been named “Fred….” and this Fred has people to take care of “him” that actually know what they’re doing. I don’t have to worry that I’m accidentally going to poison “him.” Plus, this time of year the weather should be pretty good… no pictures of the headstones with a “light dusting of snow.” We’ll eat and drink it what is hopefully sunshine and not threatening grey weather. But rest assured that I would carry six golf umbrellas before I missed going to see my mother’s grave.

It is such a bittersweet experience, because logically I know that I am just talking to her shell. Emotionally, she feels very real and present…. not in a viscerally physical way, just that her spirit is near.

It was that spirit which brought me to my knees. I didn’t want to spend that day alone, either, because I didn’t want to spend it with anyone but Lindsay and she’d already come and gone for this week.

She and my father both worked on this idea to let us have our time to laugh and cry, and the fact that they thought it was important enough to spend their hard-earned money and/or frequent flier miles to make sure it happened is exactly the kind of thing my mother would have wanted.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what it is she actually would have wanted, and yet I know this one hits the nail on the head. Now if Forbes, my stepdad, needs to get his internet fixed or his cable is down, that would just be the icing on the cake. My mother assumed my entire adult life that because I work in Information Technology, if it plugged into the wall, I could fix it. She once actually flew me to Houston just to fix her computer because it was exactly the same price as taking it to Best Buy,™ and she knew that I would be nicer to her than they would because I wouldn’t try to upsell her on anything. 🙂

As it turned out, I couldn’t fix the computer after all, because it was a hardware problem and not software… but I still earned my keep. I told her that for the same price as getting her old computer fixed (emphasis on old), she could buy a cheap throwdown that would do everything she wanted it to do and I could transfer all of her files for her, or just install her old hard drive as a secondary drive in the new one. I ended up just transferring her files because I didn’t know whether the hard drive was about to blow, and thanks to her excellent grasp of “the Mommy Save,” it was ridiculously easy. The term “Mommy Save” is an old IT Help Desk joke that refers to people who have no idea how directory structures work, so everything they’ve ever worked on is an icon on the desktop. Mind you, not folders created on the desktop. Individual files that cover every possible millimeter of desktop real estate so it doesn’t even matter what the wallpaper is… you can’t see it, anyway.

And, of course, my mother also had no idea how installing peripherals worked, so of course things that were simple to me, like installing the printer/scanner/copier driver, seemed like magic to her. She really thought it was magic when I discovered that her PSC had wireless and set up every computer in the house to print to it, and enabled file sharing so that she didn’t have to e-mail Forbes everything she wanted him to see.

I also locked down her router so that no one in her neighborhood could steal bandwidth from her using the router’s default username and password, the one that had been on it for, like, two years. I think I gave it the SSID “Baker’s Dozen,” because Baker was her married name…. but I TOLD her it was “Carolyn’s Tattoo Parlor and BBQ Pit.” Because she’d known me my whole life, she knew I was just kidding… and I knew exactly what she was thinking…. my Godyou are way too much like your father. I don’t think I am….. he’s WAY more funny than me. Just more practice at it, I guess…. or at least, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Perhaps one day his little grasshopper will reach satori, but I am not holding my breath.

Although this story may come close.

I love temporary tattoos, because there are lots of tattoos I like, but won’t commit to them forever. I was out shopping and found some really cool ones- tribal representations of animals, armbands, etc. My mother, however, did not like tattoos AT ALL. So, I wake up before she does and put this GIANT tiger temp tattoo on my neck. Not even an Oxford button-down will cover it. She comes into the kitchen a little while later and I can see the wheels in her head turning, trying not to explode as she thinks through all the jobs I’ve just lost. She tries so hard….. when did you get your tiger tattoo? If it’s on your neck, it must’ve really hurt. Do you think your job will care? How did you manage to hide it? I didn’t even see it last night…….. Your mom is going blind in her old age……. I let her twist in the wind for a few more minutes before I took some cotton balls and a small bottle of baby oil out of my pocket and rubbed it off. It was nice to see some blood come back into her face, and she laughed- not necessarily because she thought it was funny, but because she knew she’d been had and it was exactly the type joke her firstborn would play on her…. but not before trying to convince me that she’d known it was fake all along, that she was just trying to keep it going, etc. I didn’t buy it for a second, but it was hilarious to watch her backpedal nonetheless.

My mom was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but because her brain worked on a very high, creative plane most of the time, jokes often went over her head. She had bigger things to think about than whether her daughter was pranking her or not, which made her an easy target, especially since she was so willing to laugh at herself.

One of the times she absolutely lost it laughing at herself was when my dad took my mom, sister, and me to our friend Hardy Roper’s vacation house in Galveston. It had a dock on the bay side of the island, and Lindsay and I were doing a half-hearted job of fishing, using cheese as bait (or as my sister said, “WE’RE GONNA CATCH FISH WITH CHEESE!!!!!). I was wearing my favorite loafers, which happened to be pretty expensive, and my mom just knew I was going to drop them in the water while my feet were dangling over the side. She rushed over to me and said, hand me your shoes. If you lose them, we won’t be able to replace them. So, I hand them to her, and for whatever reason, at exactly that moment she was thrown of balance and promptly dropped both of my precious loafers into the bay. We laughed until we cried…. which is exactly what I want to do at the cemetery.

Of course I miss my mother, and it is incredibly sad, but it is a good thing that part of grief is the uncontrollable laughter of reminiscence.

If there’s anything I hope for during this trip, it’s that nearly every sentence begins with do you remember the time when Mom……………… It is the best opening line for me since once upon a time………….. because once upon a time, I could not laugh like this. 2017-09-30 00_53_56-Mourner's Kaddish _ ReformJudaism.orgI was too engrossed in survivor’s grief, not allowing myself joy because it did not seem appropriate to have fun. I felt that the only thing I deserved was to look down in sadness, tear my clothes, and even though I’m not Jewish, say the Kaddish (also known as The Mourner’s Kaddish) in her honor. If you’ve never heard it, the graphic to the right is the prayer in Hebrew. What follows is the English:

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name
in the world which God created, according to plan.

May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing,
praise, and comfort. To which we say Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel,
to which we say Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen.

I ask all of your blessings as two Christians try to make their own theme & variation on a yahrtzeit that weaves my mother’s personality throughout. The concept of the yahrtzeit is extremely meaningful to me, because it is not the first anniversary of a loved one’s death, but all of them. I tend to steal borrow from all faith traditions as I try and navigate the largest unknown I’ve ever faced. Making things better probably won’t come out of one book, but many. I mean, not everybody can be Doug Forcett.

I would appreciate each and every one of you holding space for Lindsay and me as we survey dark wilderness…. because maybe next year, having some contour lines will help.

In the meantime, I am praying not only on the words, but the spaces in between. Often, the wisdom is in the pause.

#prayingonthespaces

Sermon for Proper 10, Year A: Seeds and Stems

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Sperm is often called “seed,” especially in the Bible. Therefore, every single one of us starts out as a seed, and when, joined with an egg, takes root in the womb and stems outward. A lot of our personality is created when seeds become stems  and stems become branches and branches become the mature tree… a new person, ready to take on the world.

But have you ever stopped to wonder how the DNA handed down to you affects the type of roots you create? What kind of seed you might be? Do you consistently seek out people who you deem “in the same garden?”

The types of seeds that Jesus is talking about directly relate to personalities in people, and he says so directly when he’s explaining what he just said. This is because often, when Jesus uses an analogy while preaching, and even in just talking to his disciples, what he receives is a series of dumb looks.

This is not unusual even today, because without repetitive explanation, people get lost in their own minds and now have no idea what you’re saying. The best preaching advice I’ve ever gotten is, “first, you tell them. Next, you tell them again. Then you tell them again.” Of course, you use different illustrations, but they’re all the same point.

When people are firmly planted in their pews, completely tracking with you, they may not get the idea of repetition. People who are not often need it. As a preacher, I am competing with the personal stories that come up for the people listening, what to have for lunch, and, especially in Portland, a sunny day.

It’s the difference between how the seeds are planted, and what kind of personalities they create.

We can even expand past the personal to the local church. Are you invested with deep roots, or did your mother make you come? It’s at this point that we have to ask ourselves “are we the 30, the 60, or the 100-fold kind of church?”

What kind of church ARE we?

Are we so shallow in our commitment that a bird could swallow us up? That it would take so little to make us disband? We have nourished the bird, but have failed ourselves in a “give a man a fish” kind of way. We’ve sustained, for a moment, one being… and walked away. The gospel competes with the world, and loses… badly.

Have we planted ourselves on rocky soil, reaching for the sun? The best analogy I can think for this kind of church are those that initially are so gung ho that they over-commit, and six or 12 months later, leave, never to return… because it’s just so much work. Few can let go and listen because the running tab of things to do is so long, particularly for “the Marthas…” who place very little importance on the phrase don’t just do something, sit there.

Initial excitement in its exuberance is a wonderful thing, but it has to be watered carefully, as not to burn or drown. There is generally little room to add new crops, because people are already so mired between committees and choirs and teaching Sunday School and laying out vestments and ALL THE THINGS that new shoots spring up, and there’s no one with enough sunlight left to tend to them. The gospel just gets in the way of the running to-do list with no respite.

Churches with deep roots are not only self-sustaining, but have the ability to minister to others… and it’s a difference you can both see and feel. Deep roots mean there’s a group of people for each single thing, so that no one group has to do everything. The same 30 or 60 people are not the entire church, but just the choir or just a couple of committees. If you’ve ever been to a really small church, you know that there are at least ten people who are on every committee and in the choir, and have to say “no more.” Not out of malice, out of exhaustion. There are churches with deep roots who have the ability to create a committee just to shake new people’s hands as they come in the door, and that is their only function. There is enough room between rows, enough nutrients for everyone, that the seeds become stems and the stems become branches and the branches become the mature tree. The gospel is not working at us, but through us. We are able to welcome the stranger, give to the poor, fight racial inequality and GLBTQI rights… we have the ability to widen the net, teaching others to fish as we go.

Which invariably leads to the question of what kind of world we want to be.

For a lot of people, it’s starting to feel like being a 100-fold seed in a 30-fold world. But here’s the catch… it’s not a 30-fold seed world. Perception is not reality. There are enough people to do everything, enough people to be able to pick which causes to support, which battles to fight… and which governments need resistance. Resistance is not futile, it’s its own kind of protest.

Hundred-fold people create hundred-fold churches which give the individual a chance to grow into a community. So many people can and will get involved, but are overwhelmed when it comes to how to “jump in.” They are the hope and the future as to how a 30-fold seed can find its way from feeding one being to all of them.

This is where you are issued an invitation, in turn to give one. In my own life, I have never once had success with inviting someone to come with me to church. I have had success with showing them who I am and to whom I belong. For instance, I’ve invited friends to march with me in the Pride parade along with my church group…. or go to a political rally. Wide-eyed, they look at me as if to say, your church does THAT?

Of course. In a church with deep roots, the plants grow toward the sky, because the deeper the support system, the easier it is to say…

Jesus Has Left the Building.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Folded into the Family

I can’t remember the exact moment Prianka came into my life. Somehow, she has just always been here. We connected because we were both bloggers at the time (Prianka says she’s gotten bored with her life) and became fans of each other. That led to chatting online a bit and talking on the phone for hours at a time. As I have said before, we have never done the whole crush thing, because we each needed that space to talk about our lives to the other. I wasn’t the girlfriend, and neither was she- we were both the people for each other that got to HEAR about the girlfriend. At the time, I desperately needed a friend in that area. I had met Dana by that point, but she wasn’t my friend. Just some chick I saw at church and thought was a little bit (lotta bit) craycray. As Dana and I gelled, though, so did Prianka and I. In 2004, Prianka called me up and said, “my friend Nina has a conference in Portland and I’m coming with her. Can we stay with you?” I was thrilled. Nina and Prianka spent the weekend with Dana and me because Dana’s wife, Carol, was out of town and there was no where Dana wanted to be more than with the three of us. We made an EXCELLENT foursome.

We ended up watching Clueless, playing Trivial Pursuit, and eating junk food….. a lot of it. That weekend in 2004 cemented us for life, because it’s 10 years later and we’re still going strong. Stronger, even, because this is the first time in our lives that we’ve been able to have the kind of relationship where either of us can say, “let’s meet for lunch.” If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know that we meet for lunch most Mondays at Native Foods Cafe, which has become an exercise in just how much food I can stuff in my face at a time. I am fascinated by vegan food Fascinated. To me, it is where food becomes art- like taking cashews and turning them into Alfredo sauce. These Mondays have become very, very important to me because Prianka has the mindset of an elite athlete, and she pushes me without pushing. She sets ideas down and I just have to Keep. Up. It’s working. She is inspiring me to be a better version of myself one tofu peanut butter parfait at a time.

Because her wedding had been planned for so long before I considered moving back to DC, I did not expect an invitation to their wedding, but as it happened, last Sunday she and Elena had a cancellation, so when we met for lunch on Monday, she literally stopped me on the street and put down her stuff and said, “I HAVE TO DO THIS RIGHT NOW.” She texted someone and a few hours later, she texted me. “Do you have time to talk?” I said, “sure- call or write away.”

A few seconds later a very apologetic Prianka said, “are you ok with being invited last minute?”

Ummmmmmm. YES.

The emotion didn’t hit me until she and Elena walked into the restaurant as a married couple. They’d had a private ceremony with their families, and they were wearing traditional Indian wedding dresses- Prianka in deep red and Elena in gold and green. I cried like a baby. She was gorgeous. Everything I’d ever wanted for my friend and she got it, wholeheartedly. The room was FULL of people just celebrating her and her marriage to another beautiful woman. I’d never met Elena before, and she welcomed me with open arms into their family. That was the best part. Getting to feel like the family I felt with Prianka extended to both Elena and the brothers Nandy (Avik and Amit) that I’d heard about for the last ten years but was just now putting faces with names….

Amit’s toast was hilarious- he talked about when the Nandy family used to go back to India in the summer where her parents had a four-level house that looked out onto the neighbor’s roof, and one day he and Avik were being pests and threw all Prianka’s clothes out the window onto the neighbor’s house. He said it was only funny because she got most of the clothes back, and I found myself wondering what happened to the rest of them…….

Speaking of India, that’s an interesting fact about Prianka you ought to know. Avik and Amit were both born in the US, but Prianka was born in Calcutta at the same hospital where Mother Theresa worked. Honestly, it shows. Prianka is just power, grace, and style in a tiny body. You can’t even believe the huge ideas that come out of someone so small. For instance, Pri is on a mission. She does IT and spreadsheets and analysis for the World Bank. She takes her gifts and funnels them into a larger mission, which is everything you want in life, really…. to take tangible gifts and turn them into spiritual ones. I got to meet Prianka’s parents and I told them that I thought their daughter was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I am looking forward to getting to know Elena well enough that I can say that to her parents, too. From what I have seen so far, that’s going to be no problem.

It was also a joy that Nina was at the wedding, too, and brought her husband with her- a thrill because I’d heard about Jeremy for the last ten years and this was the first time we’d ever shaken hands. I liked him immediately. IMMEDIATELY. In a “you’re my new best friend call me every day” kind of way. He’s a lawyer. He’s a pit bull of a lawyer. He told me how to go after Silver Spring regarding their inane homeless shelter policy in about 30 seconds, in a way that I know I’ll win. Hands down. If he runs for something, I’ve got a job in a speechwriter’s stable. That was when I melted inside. I told him that we needed to spend time on the phone together and visiting each other because in order to speech write for him, I needed to learn his “voice.” He and Nina live in “Luevul,” so I imagine that there will be much Skyping as we get campaigns off the ground. I am already formulating the Dog Catcher campaign in my head. We have similar backgrounds- his mother was a Baptist minister and my father was a Methodist minister and even though the doctrine is different, the experience is the same. I told him that I’d like to meet his mother, and he said that she died in 2013, but that he would find a way for me to meet her in another way by giving me access to her writing. Do you see how that just reached into my heart and squeezed? I looked at him and said, “that’s why I write. THAT. I want to live forever.” I want to live forever, as will all of the “characters” that come into my life, for the short-term or for the whole run.

In terms of blogging, Prianka HAS been there for my entire life. She’s seen my writing career blossom from three followers to 30,000, and will hopefully be there for three million as well. She said something that I have to write down here, because it is so beautiful that I need to record it. She said, “all day, you have been my lodestone.” And it’s true. I was that person she could reach out to for a hug when she needed to get back into her body and back down to earth. To make sure that she was, as I say, “God to head, head to feet, feet to floor.” It was magnificent to be there for someone I’ve loved for so long in a way that defies odds. I was joking that the reason we’re so close is that we met online and then discovered that neither of us wanted to murder each other in our sleep so we’re golden. We talked about how when Prianka came to visit me, that was WAYYYYYYY before that shit was normal. We each just took a leap of faith and trusted that the care we felt over the e-mail and the AOL Instant Messenger and the phone would translate.

It did.

Yesterday, I went to her wedding. And now she is officially invited to mine, if and when it happens. And on that day, she’ll be the one I reach out to for a hug, just to remember that I am “God to head, head to feet, feet to floor” as well.

I love you, Prianka. Truly. And I can’t wait to get to know Elena so I can be there for her, too. You brought Elena into my life at a time when I really needed friends, and she is as gorgeous as you are. I am so blessed to share in your family, and I hope you know that you have long been a part of mine.

To This Day

Dana and I were just having the most interesting conversation about Doctor Who and the Bible, because the canons are strikingly similar. The conversation started when we remembered The Master.

I said:

I hope they show The Master as a little boy, looking into the schism for the first time. You know who it reminds me of? Moses and the story of the burning bush. God actually tells Moses not to look at him because the sight is too overwhelming. When The Master looks into the time vortex, it’s like getting an answer to the question “what would have happened?” Keep in mind that since I am not a fundamentalist, I am not talking literally. There’s just a lot of wisdom in looking at them together.

And Dana said:

The Doctor is a Christ allegory because in dying for our sins, he’s still protecting us to this day. For years, the story has been that the doctor is atoning for the sins of killing all of his people and the canon has changed to now having locked them in a slice of time so that he can rescue them one day. And he’s over 2,000 years old now.

My eyes started to bug out of my head.

I love being married.