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Monday, April 30, 2007

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Three things that I really dig today

  • This conversation on Talk of the Nation, exposing the so-called Mommy Wars as the editorial fluff and drivel it really is. I hope Melissa caught it.

  • The song, "Out for a Smoke" by the Saw Doctors from Galway.

  • The Tudors on Showtime. The Merry Olde English were naughty.
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  • Sunday, April 29, 2007

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    And he saw that it was really good.
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    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

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    Boy Crazy

    When I was pregnant the first time, I knew I was having a girl. I had grown up in a family of girls. My mother had grown up in a family of girls. What other kind of baby was there?

    I was honestly shocked when the midwives handed me my son, penis and all. I wasn’t disappointed, just taken aback. How could a boy child have formed in my womb? What did I know about little boys?

    Eighteen months later, I was pregnant again and peering at a sonogram. I was eager for official permission to go on a pink rampage through Target. “It’s a boy,” said the technician, pointing to a small blurry bit next to a large blob that she assured us was our baby. I was excited to see the blob, but truthfully, a little disappointed about the bit.

    My husband had now fathered three sons, including his first from his previous marriage. His only sibling, his brother, had one child, also male. Since gender is determined by the father’s chromosomes, I decided to do a little digging around the paternal family tree. A discussion with my father-in-law revealed that there hadn’t been a female born into my husband’s line since around the time of the Civil War. Apparently, the family had lost the recipe for girls somewhere on the wagon trail between Virginia and Arkansas.

    This information helped settle the question of whether or not we would have a third. There appeared to be no point in trying for a girl. We were through. Still, when Number Three crashed our party, we did harbor a faint, secret hope. Very faint. I chose not to learn the baby’s sex in advance just so I could pretend he was a girl, until presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

    We greeted this evidence in good humor. “I guess this is what I get for being boy crazy all my life,” I quipped to visitors. My obstetrician, an old-fashioned guy with great “horse-sense”, assured me we’d have to go through another two or three boys to get to a girl. We asked for a referral to a good urologist.

    My moment of reckoning came one day as the children were merrily catapulting themselves and each other off the family room sofas and armchair. I was trying to do something in the other room that would best be accomplished unaccompanied by the sounds of squeaky springs and crashing bodies. I stormed in.

    “I have HAD it with jumping off the furniture!” I declared, loudly (alright, shouted).

    “From now on, there will be NO MORE JUMPING OFF THE FURNITURE.” And even as I said (shouted) it, I felt my mind split from my body and stand to one side, saying, “Are you crazy? You have three boys. There will always be jumping off the furniture.”

    Today, I am at peace with being a mother of sons, furniture acrobatics and raised toilet seats notwithstanding. Boys are wonderfully uncomplicated. Their physical exuberance is made more manageable by their number — boys seem to do best in herds. And I love my uncontested status as Queen Bee and Household Goddess. A girl would tip the balance of power out of my favor.

    Patrick mourns not having a daughter, and I think if I were to mysteriously turn up pregnant with a notarized penis-free sonogram, he would cheerfully apply the don’t ask, don’t tell rule to the obvious questions thus raised. But only rarely do I feel a pink pang.

    I had one this weekend, out of the blue, when it struck me that I had no one to pass beauty tips onto. I'm talking about hard-earned wisdom here. Like the miraculous properties of foundation undergarments and hot rollers. Not to mention self-tanner. These are secrets I had to learn all on my own, a bag of tricks that was not in my own mother's dresser drawer, she of the burned bra, the naturally curly chestnut hair cropped short, and the flawless golden brown skin. I remember her bag of tricks contained one ancient blue eyeshadow compact from 1972 and a small bottle of rouge she'd probably had in the sixties. I had to go out into the world and initiate myself into these mysteries. And with me they will stay. Unless one of the boys goes into cabaret.

    Other than fingernail painting parties and roller sets, which the boys tend to resist after age three, I don't feel I am missing out on much in the way of shared activities. All the boys have had dolls and tea sets right along with their trucks and action figures. Last week, we started reading Little House on the Prairie, one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books that were such a big part of my girlhood. I worried that the boys might not be as enamoured of Mary and Laura as I was, but so far there have been enough horses and creek-crossings and the promise of Indians to sustain their interest.

    One thing that is difficult for me to get a read on is their apparent lack of interest in girls. I'm not sure whether I should go sign up with PFLAG, or if little boys just develop differently in this regard from little girls. My six year old, in particular, disdains all contact with female peers. By the time I was six, I had been married in neighborhood weddings probably fifty times. Usually, I had to chase the groom for a while, but I was a fast runner.

    It seems to be around the time they enter school that my boys begin to distance themselves from things they perceive as feminine. But you know, they can only get so far. A few years back, I gave my eldest an Easy-Bake oven I found at a garage sale. There wasn't anything pink about it, and what boy doesn't love to mix up cake and cookies? However, we had to go to the toy superstore to obtain mixes and utensils. We were on our way to the check out line when we passed a child-size playhouse.

    "Hey," I said to my son, "that looks pretty neat."

    My son drew himself up haughtily, clutching his Easy Bake set in its hot pink packaging. "That's a girl's toy," he sniffed icily. "I don't play with girl's things.

    Sure thing, slugger. Whatever you say.
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    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

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    Me Tube

    He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,
    And his bottom grew into his chair.
    And his chin turned into a tuning dial,
    And antennae grew out of his hair.

    Shel Silverstein, Jimmy Jet and His TV Set,
    Where the Sidewalk Ends

    Sheryl of Paper Napkin—who seems to keep abreast of such things—pointed out today that TV-Turnoff Week is just around the corner. She asked readers about their family tv habits/policies and rather than hijack her comments page with my true confessions, I came back here to dump it all on you.

    The truth is, my kids watch about a thousand per cent more television than I ever intended or wanted. When people wonder how I manage to work part-time at my paying job, work time and a half at managing house and home, and find any time to write, I tell them straight up, "my kids watch a lot of tv" (also, if they were to come over, they could see that the housekeeping suffers in the equation—hey, something's got to give, and it's not going to be the paycheck or the writing).

    How much is a lot? When school is in session, it's not too bad, relatively speaking. Some of my friends who have managed to stick to their guns on the issue would probably find it appalling. Certain of my girlfriends who read this blog would argue that they manage to do all these things and work out at the gym besides without resorting to television. But they are from Australia, where natural selection seems to favor hypermania (case in point: Crocodile Hunter). To hell with them.

    In our house, the tv goes on first thing when the boys get up. If we are on time waking up, they eat breakfast and get dressed in front of it. When Patrick picks up our nearly-three-year-old from preschool, it immediately goes on, until I get home at lunch, and depending on what's on my to-do list, will stay on for up to (gulp) a couple of more hours. When the big boys get home from school around four, I encourage them to go outside or play in their room, but if I am preoccupied, often as not, they will turn on the tube. You can count on it being on while I am cooking supper, and depending on how late it is when we get through, they might watch a little before bathtime. Weekends, all bets are off. If any of them are inside, the tv is probably on.

    Okay, it is bad. If you are keeping a running tally of estimated viewing hours, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

    In our defense, the children are generally not passive viewers. Unless they have just woken up, they are not sitting slack-jawed in front of the tube. They are playing, talking about the program, acting it out ("I'm Ash." "No, I'm Ash." "You're always Ash."), hollering out orders to the short order cook (me), and perpetually, unremittingly, incurably jumping on the furniture.

    I also do my best to control content, although I am undermined in this by my husband, who grew up free-range viewing and doesn't seem to distinguish between Toon and Nickelodeon, with their smartass, slapstick, pottymouth asthetic, and PBS Kids. The chief difference is that the kids will get bored with the quasi-educational programming enough to eventually find something else to do, or to at least carry on a conversation, whereas Jimmy Neutron or Fairly Oddparents requires the entire bandwidth of their brains to download obnoxious slang for personal use.

    Even the shows on the offending networks that I like—Spongebob, for one, and Avatar, for another—come bundled with offensive advertising. And although Patrick can make an eloquent argument that Avatar has thematic merit (one episode teaches the chakras), he has yet to persuade me that a Saturday SpongeBob marathon is not the video equivalent of eating Froot Loops straight from the box. Yummy, but ultimately devoid of nutritional value.

    For years, we didn't have a tv. When our firstborn was still an infant, my father-in-law offered us one, and I remember it was a real moral dilemma, necessitating much earnest discussion. This was back in the day when I was making homemade, fruit-juice sweetened teething biscuits and was willing to homeschool and breastfeed through Grade 12, if necessary. Anything to keep this shiny new life unpolluted and pure.

    Let's just say I got over that. Thank God.

    As far as childrearing goes, I'd rather screw up consciously than unconsciously, so I can have a shot at damage control. I let go of the idea that I was going to get to do it all perfectly a long time ago. Now it is all about weighing risks and benefits, and as with most questions to do with personal values, I find there are rarely absolute answers. On the down side, my kids watch a lot of tv. More than I hoped. More than I like to admit. On the plus side, they are happy, healthy, active children. The tube buys me time and space to reflect and find perspective. It buys me time to cook a good supper and set a nice table. It spares them from the yelling that I also said I'd never do, but do, when they are unfocussed and idle and I am all spent. It buys me time to come here and record this wild, wonderful, impossible time of our lives and work out who I am under the rush and roar of it.

    Turn it off for a week? I'd love to. Really. But I just can't afford it.

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    Monday, April 16, 2007

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    Round Up

    Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN073231. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

    I have been bored with blogs and blogging since coming back from my trip. I don't know whether it's just a plateau, or I am being called in a different direction, or what. A lot of things have been on the table for re-examination since I got back. Travel of any meaningful duration and distance does that to me, as it should. The zygote for this blog, a Yahoo! 360 travel diary, was conceived during a month out of the country.

    My subscription reader has a mounting number of unread posts. I subscribe to very few—less than two dozen—and the number that I am bothering to keep up with has dwindled down to a select handful. I guess I need to just update my subscriptions. It's like hanging onto a relationship that isn't working anymore, but I'm too gutless to break it off. In most cases it's not the blog; it's me. I've moved on.

    In one case, however, it is the blog, and I am confessing it now in order to force myself to make a clean break. It's been an on-and-off thing. Somebody I like recommended it, and I kept thinking it was going to get better. I have removed it from my reader at least twice, and then added it back, out of boredom and curiousity. Everytime I read that blog, I hate myself. And I hate it. It's no good for either of us, and it has to stop.

    When I read that blog, I cringe. I wince. I roll my eyes. I wish they would get a therapist, a 12-step program, a spellchecker, a life. I think the commentors are enablers who need to get all those things too. I presume. I prescribe.

    I judge.

    Obviously, I am not going to name the blog. Relax, it's not yours (yours, I love, and don't you ever stop). It's nobody who I've ever had any exchange with, nobody I would admit to reading in any of my blogrolls, nobody who blogs (in any conscious way) about mental illness, addictions or, for that matter, any of their own demons. All the dramas on this blog seem to be somebody else's fault. They don't even write well. In my books, you get a certain personality handicap factor if you are talented enough. Genuinely gifted people who are using their gifts for good get to be assholes (some of the time). It says so on their artistic license.

    See? The judgment?

    It stinks. But what I've learned in working with this stinky emotion over the years is that the stench usually marks some buried crap in my own backyard. Why does this person's whining flip my switch like this? What is it about passivity that is so taboo for me? Where do I play the victim in my own life? Is there a situation I need to take some responsiblity for? Why visit a website/watch a tv program/read a magazine about somebody or something that's not my cup of tea? Where's the payoff? Does it make me feel better about myself?

    Maybe my reaction is out of fear that I give away too much here on my blog. That the spinach between my own teeth is plainly visible to everyone but me. And worse, that I am also being judged for it.

    It isn't them. It's me.

    Yesterday, I made myself get dressed and go to church for the first time (apart from Easter) in a couple of months. The minute my behind and the pew made contact, my mind began rearing up like a herd of wild mustangs who just heard the corral gate shut. It was going in a hundred directions at once, and trampling over everybody and everything. I have had truly numinous moments in that same church. There are Sundays where I am practically vibrating with love for everybody. Those are the exception, not the rule. But if the bare minimum I get out of my hour is a sore ass and an uncomfortable awareness of the constant unruliness of my mind, then good work has been done. Because that's what getting up and showing up does for me, at the very least. It corrals my ego long enough that I can get a good look at it and whistle a long woo-eee.

    The other 167 hours of the week, my thoughts are off and running. And if it weren't for that time-out, I might not notice where, or over whom.

    I'm off to go rein in a few by updating my reader.


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    Friday, April 13, 2007

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    Pregnant with number three, 2004. Photo by Jane Colclasure

    Tonight after dinner, I played a round of Cranium Family Fun with the boys. They were thrilled. We love all the Cranium games, and as soon as they had whupped me soundly, they asked if they could take the Cranium Cadoo game up to their room to play. A few minutes later, I began to hear the oldest getting impatient with his brother. Like most firstborns, he has some control issues.

    "Hey" I called out. "Play so that it's fun for everybody."

    A few minutes later, I heard the wracking sobs of my six-year old. Like most younger siblings, dramatic wailing is his preferred defense. But I heard real pain in these cries, so I took the stairs two at a time and busted in like a stormtrooper.

    The six year old was sobbing and kicking, face down on the floor, with the abandon of the broken hearted. The eight year old was huddled against the wall, hugging his knees to his chest, head hung in shame. Between them were strewn the pieces of the game.

    "He said I was no fun to play with," my middle son managed to choke out.

    I was exasperated and I lost it. Mostly because my firstborn's compulsive bossiness reminds me so painfully of my own. Being first is not without some privilege, but it comes with a heavy burden of responsibility and zero authority. You're expected to be your brother or sister's keeper. But if something goes wrong, you've overstepped your bounds. I remember it well.

    "Why are you so bossy?" I said to him (to me). "You're no fun to play with!" I was hugging the little one close to my chest and glaring hard at the perpetrator. And then, thank god, I melted. Because written across his face was all the misery of someone who knows they have just said something shitty to someone they love. And I know that feeling, too. I was feeling it right at that very moment.

    I stretched out my spare arm to him. The three of us held on to each other a long while, the baby circling around curiously--trying to find his own place in the tableau--before finally stretching out his arms to hug us all.

    "How about some ice cream," I suggested. Because it's never to soon to teach that dessert can heal all wounds. We got up and my son turned to his brother and said with all sincerity, "I'm sorry, ______."

    My sweet darling wiped his eyes and looked at the prodigal one. "That's alright," he said.

    "Great. How about a hug?" I suggested. They were already out in the hallway, but they turned to each other and embraced with so much tenderness and caring that it felt intrusive to watch. They are two years and four days apart, and they are so close, living with them is like watching a pair of fish swim beneath the surface of a pond. You think you can see where they are, but there is a refraction principle. They move in a world all their own.

    No matter where they start out at night, they almost always wind up in the same bed together, piled up like warm, damp puppies. When the oldest went caving with the big kids during our camping expedition last month, his younger brother fretted in anxious silence the entire time, unnoticed by me, until I suggested we go on back to the tent and his little face crumpled in tears. After several wrong guesses on my part, it came out that he was worried sick about his brother going into the cave. We had to sit on the trail and wait until one of the party came back and told us everybody was out and was walking back a different way. The boundary where one begins and the other ends is blurred for both of them, and this concerns and exasperates me sometimes, but it also moves and comforts me deeply. I knew when we had more than one child, there would be less of us, the parents, to go around. What I didn't realize was how much more they would be getting in each other.

    I've heard it put that your siblings are your only lifelong relationship. In the usual scheme of things, your parents die before you. Your spouse and children don't come along until you are grown. But brothers and sisters are yours from beginning to end. Siblings are not an unencumbered gift. They come strung with all kinds of obligations, sacrifices, resentments, and hurts. But they are the gift of a lifetime, pearls of great price. The best thing we will ever leave our boys is each other: the very best part of our life together.

    Were you especially close to your sib (s)? Are you today? Are you an only? Tell me about it.


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    Apparently, too sexy.

    "You're doing a show? And you didn't ask me to model? It's because I've gotten so fat, isn't it? You can tell me."

    "No, it's because you told me after the last show you were retired!"

    "Yeah, but you're supposed to try to lure me back."
    My b.a.f.f. (best Australian friend forever) will be peddling her fabulous Peach Pavlova fashions at Ciao Baci on April 26th.

    I will be in the gallery, doing my best Janice Dickinson imitation. Here's another backstory from the archives, about my unlikely and all-too-brief career as a supermodel. Hope you don't mind the recycling while my blood sugars stabilize.
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    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

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    I considered captioning the photo "The Alpha & The Omega" or "Coming to Jesus", but since Holy Week is over, thought it better to resume separation of church and blog. Because there are other burning existential issues to ruminate over. Like my diet.

    I am so sorry that I am about to talk about this. Because I'd like you to think I am better and deeper than that. The sad truth is, I spend a stupid amount of time thinking about my weight. It makes me feel like such a twit, I can't tell you.

    "I wonder what it would be like," I said to one of my girlfriends the other day, "to be old enough to have given up trying to hang onto our looks. I mean, how much creative energy do you suppose that will free up? What do you think we could do with it all?"

    I wrote at length last summer about peering around that corner. I don't know that I have anything new to add, except that over the winter, I fluffed up a dress size like I always do, and will now spend the springtime doing penance, like I always do. Meal plans will be followed and food lists will be pored over and at the end of it, I will feel proud of myself like I accomplished something important.

    And what's even dumber? It will probably net more positive reinforcement than nearly anything else I do.

    Well, I have a beer to swill before this year's Carb-O-Rama officially comes to a close. And spinach to thaw for breakfast. See you on the other side of the Glycemic Index.
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    Sunday, April 08, 2007

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    Following the Crucifixion, Brunch Will Be Served

    Nothing to add here. Just wanted to show off my vintage Easter frock. Because like a swimming pool, I am both shallow and deep. The conversation in the comments section of the previous post continues apace. Dive in.


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    Saturday, April 07, 2007

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    The Mystery of Faith

    My Buddhist mother and heathen father have only themselves, Tim Rice, and Andrew Lloyd Webber to blame for my adult conversion to Christianity, and the bringing of shame down on the family. Moving to the Bible Belt might have been a contributing factor — it could be something in the water down here — but the seed was planted long before the conditions got ripe.

    Oh, but it was buried deep, deep down.

    I've written before that my folks weren't exactly Ward and June Cleaver. But I don't want to give the impression that I grew up down on the ashram. It is true that plants in our house were hung with macrame and that incense burned from time to time. My dad had a full beard and long hair, and my mother wore a lot of flimsy Indian cotton wraparounds. But if you had his chin and her amazing brown legs, you would too. If they weren't the "normal" people I sometimes wished they would be (Mom tried to serve quiche lorraine at one of my sister's birthday parties; on Saturday mornings, my friends would sometimes be treated to my Dad stumbling blearily past, stark naked, on the way to the bathroom), they weren't dope-smoking hippies either. Dad taught at the university. Mom was on the PTA. For the most part, they worked and lived and operated in their own unconventional manner within the bounds of convention.

    All families drift along, or row against, currents whose headwaters begin far behind them. Few influences held sway in our home like the 1950s Irish-Roman-Catholicism — that uniquely deranged reading of Christianity — in which my parents were raised. My Dad's family was more orthodox than most. One year, he and his siblings were literally paraded down Main St. on a float whilst praying the Rosary in front of a cardboard fireplace— as the model family that prays together. A friend of mine here in Arkansas who came from a similarily oppressive religious upbringing once told me that the force of velocity it takes to escape fundamentalism is so great, most people who do so can never adjust their course to consider any other form of religion.

    This perfectly describes my father. But he didn't really escape, because he spent the rest of his life reacting to religion. It was great for his writing. Not so great for the jams that faith can sometimes pull a body through. For my father, religion and dogma were the same thing, and neither one was for thinking people. My mother struggled for some years to reconcile Catholicism with her awakening feminism, but eventually threw in the towel (she didn't become a Buddhist until about ten years ago). At the same time, I had been baptized Roman Catholic and I went to Catholic school by virtue of Newfoundland's now-defunct denominationally segregated public education system. I went to Mass and said the prayers and could recite them right along with my parent's rebuttals. It would be fair to describe my religious upbringing as ambivalent. Schizoid also comes to mind.

    I once mentioned that I had converted from "intellectual fundamentalism". What I mean by that is that I consider it another form of dogma to suppose that human intellect has all the answers. I mean that secular culture is often as uncomfortable and anxious about not having black and white answers as the religious fundamentalists are. They just look to different sources to provide the absolutes. I was listening to Julia Sweeney (also a recovering Catholic) on a radio interview on her recent book, "Letting Go of God," and I heard a poignant tone in the way she spoke of relying solely on scientific reasoning to take her to some sort of bedrock of belief. There was relief in it. As if, at last, she could know what was what.

    I find this line of thinking to be ultra-religious in negative, and the people who cherish it don't seem to realize they sound every bit as evangelical as the religious people at the opposite extreme. They seem to have a zealous need to prosetylize, and literalist assumptions about what people like me are finding in traditional religion. When the religious right claims they speak for all Christians, secularists accept it unquestioningly. I can say this because I was like that for so long. Whenever I met educated, intelligent, like-minded people who were actively involved with religion, I really thought they were brainwashed somehow. Or maybe psychologically deficient. I mean, there had to be something wrong with them for them to believe that stuff.

    Like I had my act all altogether. Around the time my first marriage was ending, I was having terrible anxiety attacks, so I signed up for a course in meditation to see if I couldn't figure out how to breathe again. It was taught by a Buddhist, and it was so helpful, I became curious about Buddhism, which is not Deistic. Then I heard two things that changed my life. One was a suggestion from the Dalai Lama, to Westerners, that they not be too quick to abandon their own spiritual heritage. Change the bathwater, not the baby. Huh.

    Then I heard a tape by a comparative religion teacher here in Arkansas, Jay McDaniels, who pointed out that most of us tend to compare apples and oranges when we look at other religions. We judge the one we find attractive by its teachings, and the one we are critical of, by how it is manifested. Everybody screws it up in practice, he pointed out. We're humans. That doesn't mean we should quit trying. Double huh.

    I realized then, that I had been as absolutist and narrow-minded as the most dogmatic and unquestioning holy roller when it came to looking at Christianity. I assumed if someone entered a church or read the bible they were signing on to a literal understanding of scripture and catechism, either willfully or ignorantly. I saw that I was willing to give a generous margin of error and interpretation for just about any other religious tradition than my own, and that I probably at least owed it a second look.

    It was several more years before I would act on that realization, but one Sunday morning I got myself and my infant firstborn dressed and walked nervously into an Episcopal church. It had all the smells and bells I remembered from Catholic mass, but it seemed lighter and brighter. A woman priest served with her male counterpart at the altar. After the service, they greeted me without pressure. I came back the next week, and the next, and then signed up for the newcomer's class to see if I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on with these people. About five weeks into the class, I raised my hand and said I had a confession to make.

    "You all are really nice people. And I love the service, and the Cathedral. I think this class is fascinating. But I just think I need to tell you, before I go any further, I don't know if I can buy into the Jesus thing."

    Ed, who has since baptized my three children, grinned. "Welcome to the Episcopal Church," he said. "Next question?"

    Those crafty Episcopalians have continued to suck me in in this tricksy, believe-what-you-want-to-believe fashion. I go through variable phases of participation. Some years I am all in, like the years I taught Sunday school class for adults (Topics: Gay civil rights, The Artist's Way, and a track-by-track exegesis of Jesus Christ Superstar, Original Studio Recording). Other times, like this year, I hang back on the fringe, needing to reclaim the outsider's perspective for a time.

    I haven't been to church once during the whole season of Lent this year, and I have to tell you, it has me feeling out of step with Easter. It seems superficial to celebrate the rebirth of something if you haven't gotten consciously in touch with letting go of it. In years that I have participated in Lent, Easter feels so much more joyous when it comes. The champagne and chocolate and flowers make so much more sense after forty days of voluntary simplicity.

    One year, I was led by my dreams (and a whole lot of Jungian psychology and social anthropology that would bore you to tears) to wear my long hair pinned up or tied back as a Lenten discipline. It sounds stupid, but it was a real sacrafice for me. My hair is a big prop in my persona, so going without was incredibly instructive. Oh, and did I ever glory in letting it tumble down my back on Easter. I was a hair-tossing and twirling menace.

    The church calendar, like any human-made measure of time, is just an overlay. It is especially effective when it lines up with seasonal cycles, like how Advent moves us through the darkest time of year, and Easter coincides with spring, but you know, you can just jump in any old place and it still counts. So at the eleventh hour, I decided to jump aboard the Lenten caboose, and try and get in touch with the season.

    My husband knows what that means. And he is making plans to evacuate. Because what it means is that our house will be the site of the Jesus Christ Superstar festival for the next 48 hours. Because that seed I mentioned at the beginning? That one that got planted so long ago, and so deep down, and took all those years to germinate?

    It came in an leather-embossed double album set. The canonical, original, studio recording, released before the Broadway show. All others are cheap, possibly harmful, imitations. I have it on cd. I have it on the iPod. I have both versions of the film on dvd (the first is a seventies period piece, but still effective; the more recent one is excellent, except for Jesus, who has the pipes, but is otherwise lacklustre - see it for the french actor who plays Judas).

    Now you know. Now you see.

    I still don't know if I can buy into the whole "Jesus thing." I don't think Jesus himself would buy it. But when I listen to this music, I feel things. I get goosebumps. I cry. My heart soars, crashes, soars again. I identify with every lyric. When Judas - whose story the opera really is - smolders with frustration, so does my inner reactionary. When Pontius Pilate sings, "What do you mean by that? That is not an answer!", the cool rationalist in me is frustrated also. When Jesus rails against God's infuriating inscrutability in the Garden of Gethsemane and when he cries for his "poor Jerusalem", I feel that despair and sense of being cut-off. When Mary Magdalene wails that she doesn't know how to love him...sing it, sister.

    I get all of it in some way that my know-it-all brain doesn't.

    There is an affirmation in the Episcopal liturgy called the Mystery of Faith:

    Christ has died.
    Christ has risen.
    Christ will come again.

    You can substitute "God" or "Faith" or "Love" or "Hope" for "Christ" if it will help you see what I mean. At any given moment, my truth dwells in one of those three statements. I am continually cycling through them. I never arrive at a full stop. I can never say, "this is where I get off. Nothing more to see."

    This is the mystery of faith. The more answers I find, the more mystery there is. My truth is true for me. My mother's is true for her. And Julia Sweeney's is true for her. None of them cancel each other out. If I could be absolutely certain of anything, it would be that the real truth is much bigger than all of it put together.

    Happy Easter, wherever you are in your mystery, whatever your truth.

    This fabulous essay on Julene Snyder's similar obsession with JCS will illuminate everything. Quote: "'Oh. My God.' My whisper echoed through the theater, prompting shushes from disapproving adults around me. I didn't care. All I knew was that Jesus Christ Our Lord was a total fox."

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    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

    Media Ladies of the Night

    Hey! One of my favoritest writers-who-blog/bloggers-who-can-write — Alice of Finslippy — will be on Good Morning America on Monday.

    Watch it/tivo it, and come back to your computer, because I and others will be featured on this CBC radio special, which will air 11 a.m. CST (double check that; Newfoundland is in a half-hour time zone, and fractions are hard for me).

    If you want to tune in online, you have to catch it live, because although there are freeware programs out there that will let you hijack live streaming audio, I would never, ever publically condone the use of them, even if the content provider won't be archiving said content for you to legally listen to after it airs.

    Also, next week, check your grocery store newstand for shocking paparazzi shots and salacious rumors about both of us.


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    Monday, April 02, 2007

    Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

    Song of the South

    Oh, I have a blog? That requires coming indoors and sitting at the computer? You can't be serious. Who's bright idea was that?

    It is spring, and my brain is full of golden, dozey pollen. Those of you who have circumnavigated the solar year with me might remember this seasonal condition. The April 2006 archive shows a whopping two entries.

    As with this time last year, I have been spending every spare minute outdoors. The boys went back to school today, and as soon as they were dismissed I sped them off to the park, where they spent the rest of the afternoon chasing salamanders and crawdads out from under rocks, as boys in April should. Watching them scramble around a creek bed, barefoot and trousers rolled, always makes me feel like I have stumbled into a Mark Twain story.

    Our camping trip was fantastic. Few people realize that Arkansas is a beautiful place. I once received condolences from a couple in a restaurant in Maine when I told them I had moved here. Ignorant Yankees. They have no idea. Thursday's drive through the Ozarks took my breath away. As did our hike through Devil's Den, with the dogwoods all in bloom. A hickory forest is an enchanted place to stand.

    Less enchanting, but no less demanding of reverence, was the copperhead snake we ran into on the way. I guess a bird had dropped him on the branch. Talk about a rock and a hard place. He was fairly pissed off by the time our party came along, with a dozen children stampeding in front. There was a great deal of shouting at each other before we all moved along, one of the Daddies going back to lend the snake a hand.

    Get it?

    Sorry folks, it's just not going to get much better until the heat kicks in and I'm forced back to the climate controlled interior. Ninety two degrees today. It won't be much longer.


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