Why We Stopped Homeschooling Our Kids, and Other News From the Yurt

photo-14As it turns out, Nick and I make pretty lousy extremists. It’s disappointing, I think, at least to the now FIVE different reality TV producers who have inquired into the details of our radical, off-grid lives. We are crazy, I think, but somehow we don’t sound very crazy. We are into revolution – wayy into revolution — but our revolution somehow doesn’t satisfy anyone’s lust for violence.

We came out to live in this bit of wilderness, beneath the shadow of the Rockies, mostly because we wanted to live whole and healthy lives. For me, that means a full-time, full-passion pursuit of contemplative spirituality. Which isn’t very photogenic, you guys. Mostly that is just a simple life. For my husband it means being able to use his creative gifts to directly meet his family’s needs. Which actually is very photogenic. But also pretty much a simple life.

The road to health is a winding one, especially in a world that is so categorically unhealthy. We find ourselves making choices we didn’t expect to make. We find ourselves making a lot of compromises.

We ran out of money this year. Completely, all the way out of money, like “leap and the net didn’t appear!” So…that was what it was. Nick went away and did some jobs, which ranged from doing things he likes in thrilling and fun situations to doing things he doesn’t like in uncomfortable situations. We had a deficit in the money department, and we had to fix that. That’s reality.

This year we also ran out of something else. Even more important than money, possibly, this year our family ran out of faith in humanity. Fresh out of trust. Fresh out of healthy relationships. All spent. Bank empty.

I don’t know that I can explain this with any clarity, having no impartiality in this territory, but we travelled through what felt like a thicket of betrayals and personal loss. Mostly not very grand, not very shocking. Being laughed at or shrugged off by people I wanted to trust. Being accused of crime in the grocery store parking lot. Feeling unsupported. Feeling rejected. Feeling deeply, permanently alone.

There may be a pair of extraverts out there who can drop into a new place and just build community like snapping their fingers. But Nick and I are not those people. The obstacles to relationship and community in this place, which include our distance from town, our way-left social politics, our interfaith marriage, and our emotionally sensitive, anti-social kids, proved just too great for us to immediately overcome.

Simply put, we became gradually less and less able to trust. Anyone. And this wasn’t going to be fixed by my tall trees, or even by my sweet hummingbird. It wasn’t going to be fixed by spending another hour alone. I did regret missing yet another month of my summer in the woods, especially since our yurt life gets more and more comfortable as Nick checks projects off his list. But the need was pressing. I took the kids and myself to a place where we could get the thing that we were short of. I went to spend a month with my sister, and my sister’s kids, in the West coast city where I went to high school.

This was a month in a place where I could experience being valued and appreciated, without having to stand representative for my politics or field comments on my short hair. This was a month in a place where I would not experience accidental hate speech the way you do when you hold in your heart characteristics that folks around you love to hate. I needed to fill up on trust and connectedness. My reserves had simply slipped too low.

It took my kids a little while to adjust to a culture of trust. But they did. Stella’s power is a beautiful thing when she’s happy. And Milo was thrilled to be one of the crowd among his cousins, culturally uniform with his Harry Potter obsession, verbal skills and emotional sensitivity. I didn’t know this would happen. I didn’t predict it. But when we were in an emotionally connected and encouraging space – when we felt like an “us,” part of a greater “us” — my wild kids calmed down.

It is true that I moved to the woods in hopes of giving my kids freedom from a culture of over scheduling and over achievement and competition. But I didn’t move to the woods to give any of us a sentence of loneliness. The last thing our broken world needs is more mistrust. And it appears, at least so far, that Nick and I simply do not have the social connectedness needed to get our kids out of solitude and into community.

Thus. Off to school they go.

Do I like the school? Is it a good school? Honestly, this is no longer the issue. I did pull Milo back a year. He is turning seven this weekend, in the first grade. He is ahead of the game as far as skills go – and I suppose we do risk boredom – but I found it worth it to give him a better shot at handling things emotionally. Stella is in Kindergarten and yes, she does cry, but only at the end of the day when she has to leave. I’d say the only one in our family who is sorry about this change is baby Sadie, who doesn’t understand why she isn’t in Stella’s class, since she is surely Stella’s shadow.

I suppose it doesn’t make us great for reality TV — all this thoughtfulness and willingness to compromise. But I hope it will give us resources to live healthy and live whole, which may be the strongest attack we can serve in our counterculture revolution.

To Grow As Tall a Tree As God Has Planted (at Deeper Story)

colorado mountainsDo you all remember that my word of the year this year was “Ambition?” I haven’t talked about it much, because it all turned out to be something different from what I thought it was. (So what’s new, right?) But that word and energy is still working on me. My post today at Deeper Story is an example of what that word “ambition” has become in my life, which isn’t really quite what I expected. Here’s how it starts.

I was far away from home when a friend of a friend said she had a word from God for me. She had been praying about it for weeks. I sat on a tall stool in her friendly kitchen with my hands in my lap.

Mostly she wanted to talk to me about the stars. My name means “star.” I have a star tattoo on my shoulder. I have the word “star” in my email address. She told me about the beauty of the stars. She told me about their brilliance, and their mystery. Their capacity to inspire wonder. The way they carry the very light and brilliance of Heaven.

Then she said this. “I believe that your life carries a quality much like this. There is something about your life that is meant to fill people with wonder, to make them delight in an enormous God.”

I bit my lip.

Come on over! You can read the rest here.

On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit

golden leavesI have this theory. About transformation. It is a theory that the energy that unlocks the cage of self-obsession and leads me into the promised land always comes through me from the bottom up. The wave that lifts me up beyond the weight of my own ego and self-awareness is never a power of my own making. And if I want that wave to be effective? Like eyes-to-the-blind, kingdom-power, redemption-of-the-lost effective? I have to let that power work on me. I have to loosen my fists and open my hands and let that power work on me.

What am I talking about?

Oh, Twitter. Usually.

But not just Twitter. I’m here today to talk about what happens when a social justice warrior engages in criticism, and there is a knee jerk reaction that frames that criticism as uncivilized. I want to talk about the claim, among white people–and especially white women–that critique is only valid if it is “kind.”

Umm….how does that work?

Social justice activism is cultural criticism. It is CRITICISM. It is saying, friends, the way the world works under empire is not right. And this is NOT the best we can do. Let’s do better. This is a voice crying in the wilderness. Justice for the imprisoned! Justice for the enslaved! Justice for the lost!

This voice should be kind? Really? To whom?

I know there are some folks out there who have had their feelings hurt by me. Hurt by things I’ve said. Hurt because it sounded like I was accusing them of racism, sexism or homophobia. Or, more likely in this space…selfishness, economic exploitation, greed. I have hurt people’s feelings because I said that we are making choices every day that implicate us in the suffering of other human beings, other species, and the well-being of the earth. People have heard what I was saying, and what they heard me saying was that I thought they were a bad person.

Here’s one thing that I want you to know. I take criticism, too. You can’t be a white woman engaging in intersectional feminism without getting side-eye. This is not reverse racism, you guys. (I don’t believe in reverse racism.) This is not people telling me I’m a bad person. This is CRITICISM. This is a plea for change.

Justice for the imprisoned! Justice for the enslaved! Justice for the lost! 

This is saying, the way the world works under empire is not good. And we can do better. So let’s do better. Hey, YOU, I have an idea of something you can do, to make things better. Do you have ears to hear?

Now, I can respond to this call…how? I can say, You don’t know me. You don’t understand what I’m doing here. I can say, You have no idea how hard I work for justice. I can say, You’re a liar. You’re making things up. This way I can defend myself, and my ego, and maintain myself exactly as I am. With all my prisons and my locks intact.

Or…I can let go of that old self-impression, that shred of ego, that old tent…which is going to die with my body anyway. I can let go, and if I can let go enough I have a chance to ride the wave that liberates me from my imprisonment. This, as I understand it, is the spiritual path.

I read a book, years ago, by Mari Matsuda, Where is Your Body? This was a defining book for me. It came out in the mid 90′s, when I was just out of high school and coming into college. I was trying to figure out what it means to be a good person. Or a bad person. (Not that I’ve ever stopped trying to figure that out, obviously) But it was the book, at that moment, for a kid turning into an adult. And I will never forget it.

I’m risking a quote from memory here, because I’m at a coffee shop and the book is at my Internet-free house (feel free to correct me in the comments, I think she might actually have been quoting somebody else?) but it was something like this.

Do we want to own the gold, or let a golden spirit own us?

This is what I ask. Whenever you find yourself saying, to criticism, “That isn’t true about me!” or “I’m not really like that!” I want to ask you, is that really the question we are here to answer? When I have someone’s reputation in one hand and the cause of liberation in the other hand, why is the conversation turning the way it turns? Is this all a waste of energy? A ruse? A distraction?

The freedom call is leading somewhere else.

I am not the judge and jury of Twitter. I am not going to tell you who did what, or what was wrong, because that isn’t my job. My job is to seek the good way, with all my heart and all my will, and all my joy. My job is to seek to let go of the gold — both gold of greed and gold of reputation. I will seek to let the golden spirit carry me, because it will make of me something that I could not make of myself. 

Noone looks for stars when the sun’s out.
A person blended into God does not disappear.
-Rumi

Choosing Joy, Again

photo-11I am integrating. I wrote this week about a division. One part of myself caught up in events that matter to me — oh, how they matter to me! — yet cannot be my salvation or my validation. The other part of myself doing ordinary things, like cracking eggs and watering plants. And playing tickle games with my toddler.

This is so unbelievable. To imagine that we are supposed to rest…in this messy world? Breathe, in this war zone? The truth of hardship and cruelty presses in from all sides. Some of us feel it on one side and some on another. But who doesn’t feel it? Who doesn’t feel somebody’s cruelty? And somebody’s pain?

On top of that, everything is squashed together. This beauty. This pain. This life. This death. Passing by faster than anyone cares to admit. Crushed together in ways that no one of us can pull apart.

I reject the dichotomy between the hamster wheel and the numbness. There is a way between which is awake, and #staywoke, but also rests in faith. We stand in our restfulness. We lie back in our courage. How else can one set eyes on this world and keep going? How else do you put one foot in front of the other?

Breathe. In. And out. Breathe. In. And out.

Breathe. And see.

There is such ugliness in the world. Such terror. So much wrong. And around each wrong there are hearts moving, hearts opening, hearts responding.

Today I am integrating. I am thinking this: how do I bring my grief and passion into this daily life? How do I stay in this faith journey for the long walk? Not just for a moment, not just for a tweet or two, but for my walking, trudging life.

Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. — Jeremiah 6:16 KJV

How hard it is to see. And be seen. It would be much easier to keep moving, keep reaching for distractions, keep the numbness on, to follow this urge to do anything and everything to keep from revealing the vulnerabilities of my heart.

Oh, how that hamster wheel calls! and I might have a chocolate brownie, while I’m at it…

But I will inhale deeply of this glorious, terrifying life. I will stand in my restful faith and rest in my courage. I will seek the faithful way, and find rest not for my skin, but for my soul.

“A Black Boy is Dead” and Where a White Person Can Start

washingtonpost.comI have a post up at Deeper Story today. On Ferguson and hovering grief. You can read it here.

There is a lot to critique about this piece. It is too short by a mile, hardly addresses structural concerns, only barely refers to the context and history. It just hints to the fact that the death of Mike Brown is so far from being an isolated incident. And it expresses the feelings of a white person…as if that is the story that matters in Ferguson.

But of course I feel critiques coming from another direction as well. Please know that I feel them, in case you are feeling them, too. I feel the pressure to speak more positively regarding the police force, to present Mike Brown as more of a suspicious personality, as if that is more balanced, and to find it morally unacceptable that grief in Ferguson is laced with anger. I feel pressure to do anything that needs to be done to quiet the unrest, to put my weight behind a peace that is no peace.

Open to criticism from all directions, I entertain the impulse to simply pull myself out of the conversation. I feel insufficient. I feel racist. I feel hurt. I feel overwhelming grief. I feel like I’d better shut up and take myself out for ice cream.

But that is perhaps the worst feeling of all. Doing nothing at all could be the worst feeling of all.

I am nervous. I am unsure. But I will start somewhere. In this case I will start with my own heart. I will start with my own story. I will believe that a messy truth is better than an ugly silence.

I will believe this. There is no wrong place to start, when speaking out against systemic injustice. There is no wrong place to start, addressing racism in the heart and in the mind and on the streets. There is no wrong place to start…

As long as you don’t stop there. 

This is where I start: with my feelings, and my struggle. But this is not where I stop. This is not a resting point. And this is not the end.

The end is justice.

My piece at Deeper Story: A Black Boy is Dead

Good (hard?) advice from Austin Channing Brown on next steps: Black Bodies White Souls

For a picture of what it has been like these last 11 days in Ferguson, here’s my go-to of many, many Twitter lists, folks on the ground by @SoulRevision. For a story that reads more like a war zone and less like a reality TV show…ferguson

And this post by Lisha Epperson has been personally encouraging to me: Tell

Start somewhere. Start anywhere. Just start. 

Image credit: Getty Images photojournalist Scott Olson, who was arrested in Ferguson Monday afternoon.

#Ferguson and Me, or, Why Should I Care?

FERGUSON POLICE

I was standing on a subway train. He was sitting in the corner. It took me a moment to realize he was talking to me. I looked up from my book, which I was holding in two hands around the silver pole.

I realized he was inviting me to sit next to him and I recoiled. “No thanks, I’m okay.” I put my head back down into my book.

He stood. I rolled my eyes. He made a mock, exaggerated bow and offered me the whole two-seater bench. I didn’t like the attention, but I sat, curling my arms around myself.

He spread his body out to fill the open space in front of me. He stood with his arms slightly outstretched, letting his weight rock with the motion of the train car, smiling broadly enough to show his teeth. I looked away.

He said, “Are you afraid of me?”

I didn’t answer.

He said, “Are you afraid of me?”

I said, “Of course not.”

He said, “I’m not gonna hurt you. Jesus doesn’t want me to hurt you. He wants me to protect you. That’s what it says in that book.”

I looked up then, at his eyes, at the silver cross around his neck, hanging loose like his long black dreads, his eyes again. I was on my way home from a white church in the Back Bay, still holding my Bible.

Was there aggression towards me? In that memory, floating years ago on a subway train in Boston, was he obnoxious? Or was I? Was he aggressive? Or was it my desire to suppress his very existence, to pretend that he was not in that car with me, that was the very first act of aggression?

Why did he need to have that conversation with me, anyway? Why couldn’t he just leave me alone? Was it because I was holding my Bible on the train and he wanted to preach to me, share with me, about his faith in Jesus Christ? 

I can’t say. I didn’t ask. But today there is #Ferguson.

The photo above I got from here. (h/t Jeremy Harper) You should just go read it, really. Go read their names. Even if they are fake names. Just know that they have names.

Today there is Ferguson.

Black people crying out, loud, making noise, saying “I AM HERE.” Saying with a Molotov cocktail, a handful of broken windows and a lot of cardboard signs, “I was here. I was human. I had a voice. What does it take to get someone to hear me?”

We say, “Why they gotta be so loud?”

Today there is Ferguson. Today there is mourning. There is grief. There is sorrow. There is the sound of weeping in Ramah. And there is a military police response. “I will not see you as human. I am not required to. And if you demand that I converse with you? I will roll in the tanks and the military gear. I will train my gun on your chest.”

Today there is Ferguson, and today again there is this exchange. Pressure from Black people to be seen and heard, pressure to get the White power in their community to say, “Yes, your lives matter. Your deaths matter. You matter.”  A plea to be seen and treated as fully human.

And the tanks roll in.

Why should I care?

I don’t take responsibility for all the steps that led to this. The racial tension in Ferguson, where Blacks are most of the population and hardly any of the power structure. For the Black kid who ran, the cop who shot. How could I take responsibility for this? Generations of power wielded by the powerful, far away from me. This is not a problem I can solve. This is not a problem I created.

Why should I care?

But I should care. It does matter if I care what is happening in Ferguson. Because Black lives matter. Because human lives matter. Because people have names.

Please, don’t imagine this is about self-punishment. I am not into self-punishment. Not even for my privilege. Not even for my bigotry that I might call by the name of fear. I don’t think it really helps anybody if I go to town whipping myself.

But I do seek to walk into a different fire, the fire of compassion and mutual transformation. I am ready to say yes, I will go to bat for this. I will see, and I will report. Today I am ready to know their names. Marissa. Michael. JohnTrayvon. The countless others who didn’t make the press.

A perfect love casts out all fear. Or so I have heard, from a man with long dreads on a subway train. I am only human as far as I can see humanity in others. And I am ready to be made free. I am ready to live forward into a Kingdom dream, of city streets where Black people walk free.

May we interrogate our fear and our defenses. May we see in those defenses the inequity that makes Black boys walk unsafe on our streets. May we hear their voices. May we hear their names.

May we see and hear the riot and let it set a riot in our own compassionate hearts. May it triumph compassion and justice over a peace that is no peace. 

On Good Little Girls and Giggles

Stella's teeth

It was on day three of Nature Day Camp that her teacher said to me, “I’m coming up short with ideas for how to deal with Stella. I’ve only been doing this for two years and I’ve never had a camper this strong willed.”

I laughed, a little nervously.

She said, “She’s happy. She likes the other kids and they like her. But I can’t control her. Just tell me how you do this. When you ask her to do something, and she doesn’t want to do it, what do you do?”

I laughed some more. Or I made a kind of a repeating throat heave, anyway. Sadly, it might have been experienced by the instructor as disrespect or, for that matter, dementia.

I laugh when I’m uncomfortable. Some people hate this about me. But it is a socialized response. As a child I used my razor wit to protect myself, when I was strange and ugly and profoundly unpopular. I found some deep justice in making fun of pretty people. Although I did not have the courage or willingness to address the unfairness of my circumstances in plain language.

All my life I have laughed and showed my toothy smile to make my own intelligence and power less of a threat. I have wanted people to like me, despite the fact that I am smart and I am opinionated and come equipped with a magnet that draws me into the center of the fight. I have been socialized to smile like this. I think it is supposed to soften the blow.

Stella’s strong will is not socialized. She was like this before we moved to a yurt. She was like this before her mom started washing clothes with a bike-powered washer. She’s just like this. With five-year old Stella there are two choices. Let her be strong or teach her to hate her strength, and by extension to hate herself.

As a mom, I do a little of each. A cocktail, you could say. Disapproving glances, alternating with encouraging yawps, scattered throughout with uncomfortable giggles. I’m a work in progress.

I wish my little girl would smile and be respectful and like everybody the way good little girls are supposed to. I wish even more that she would be kind and loving. But most of all I wish for my little girl that she would have self-respect. I wish for my daughter that she would not feel compelled to hide her strength with giggles or mask her sense of justice with sarcasm. 

I stopped laughing.

Oh, I couldn’t give the camp instructor any really serious answers. If there is a trick to make being human any easier, I haven’t learned it. But we went over the basic stuff. Then I distracted her by telling her all about my bike-powered washer. I said, “Really. If you’re asking me for a strategy for how to deal with Stella? Just survive.”

My daughter will have to do this hard work for herself. It may be a long road, or a confusing one, but it is possible for a natural leader to lead others with love and caring instead of tyranny. And I’d rather she learned caring on the slow road than self-hatred on the short one.

I wish for her that if she’s ever in this conversation with another adult thirty years from now she’ll have the courage to say, “This is the way my daughter is. And there’s nothing wrong with her.” I wish for her that her laughter, when it comes, will be a deep expression of joy, and not a social mask.

How Can I Rest When The Children Are Dying?

This is the pace of my life. I am busy, busy, busy. Cleaning things, arguing about things, preparing things, addressing things. Here is a conversation in one place, over here. There is a conversation in another place, over there. I need to be in both of them. OR THE WORLD WILL END. RIGHT NOW. I’m doing six different creative projects, because I haven’t quite hit the deep stream on anything yet. And of course I have to keep up on all the writers, so I scan the Internets, reading fast and furious, spitting out 140 character opinions like ticker tape.

How can you rest when the children are dying?  

What am I?  Heartless? That I’m going to stop my work and go hang out in the hot tub, drinking red wine after this week in Gaza with a child dying every hour?

How can you rest?

Of course it isn’t only Gaza. It is the children with empty hands at our own borders. It is religious war in Iraq. Collateral damage in Ukraine. The never-ending echoes of war in Congo. It is poverty, everywhere. It is death by poverty: malnutrition, preventable diseases. It is 9 million children under the age of 5 dying every year. That’s 17 every minute.

How can I not rush? To french braid my daughter’s long, straight hair? To put butterfly clips in the baby’s curls? How can I not rush, to pick up and shout and fuss at breakneck pace and so distract myself from stillness? How can I not rush to keep from being seized by my own powerlessness…rush to escape the dread of grief?

I might fear my complicity, but folks, let’s be honest, I haven’t gotten that far. I feel little or no responsibility. I am simply seized by this distance, this great, great distance between my tepid heart and the horrors of war. It feels as though I am high and lonely on a kind of mountain. This is my mountain of safety, propped up by power and surrounded on all sides by the absence of war. Up here I count my stores of grain, passing my things through my hands again and again, lest I settle into stillness and consider hunger.

It is a fearful thing, to rest while the children are dying. But not because it makes the resting one more complicit. Not on this mountain. Here it only makes things apparent that already were true. It makes me feel my own capacity for compassion, and shared humanness, which is well out of sight many hours of many days.

How can I rest when the children are dying? Rather, how can I not?

Guilt motivates change. Sorrow motivates transformation. I have also heard it said that in a world like this the best thing you can do is find something good and give it everything you’ve got to help it to grow. How are you supposed to do that when you can’t clear the calendar? 

When I rest the sorrow creeps in. It creeps in through my ears and sinks down into my belly. I have two choices. Rebuild the wall that keeps me separate from everything. Or, recognize my sorrow and lament.

May I find rest. And if in the rest I find my guilt, may it transform me. May it open my ears to voices crying for change. May it open my eyes to economic difference at a global scale. May it open my heart to the fragility of my safety, the slight stroke of luck that has placed me where I am and not where I am not.

May I start by weeping. In the hot tub, if it must be, with my glass of wine. May I weep for the dying children. May I weep for my privilege, and the secret that it is kept in place by force. May I weep for this broken world, feel sorrow for suffering. May I be seized by grief, against my will. And be transformed.

Whew. This is my contribution to a #SpiritofthePoor link-up on the topic of “Sabbath” or “rest.” Other links and the opportunity to link up your own are here

childrendying

What I’m Into July (Even Though I Am Late, and a Short Explanation of How It Happens That I Am On the Road, Again)

Stella standing in the shower frameThis is late. Usually I do a “What I’m Into” on the first of every month. And today is the 5th. ANNOUNCEMENT: This is exactly what I’m into. I am into being late for things. And disorganized. And having no idea what I’m doing, really. There is a great pull, in August, especially for mothers of young children, to let things go. Currently I am answering that pull with style. The weeds in the garden, the expanding screen time, having salty snacks and popsicles for dinner. I’m into it. I could use to give a good shake to the demon of perfectionism.

I’m in Seattle right now. This is as close to a vacation as is possible when you’re intense like me. I lived several important years of my life in Seattle and it always feels like home. Also, my sister lives here. I can’t tell you much about my sister. She has no Internet presence. She’s like a vampire, she has no reflection in mirrors. But I will say this much. My sister is the person I talk to about how our bodies changed when we stopped breastfeeding. She is the person I talk to when I think I’m not going to make it as a parent — not those Facebook-able explosions of frustration, but the long-term exhaustion and unease. She is a safe place.

We are not staying with my sister, though. We are house sitting. Chicken sitting, actually. Hen sitting, to be most specific. I don’t sit ON them, but I do feed them and let them into the run and lock them up at night. The house we’re staying in is magnificent and by magnificent I mean kid-friendly. All I want in the world, you guys, is a place where my kids can play without me having to yell at them. We have that here. (Okay, mostly.) Hallelujah. Although right at the moment my big kids are busy being The Worst Campers Ever at a day-camp for learning about environmental conservation. Which is kind of ironic, if you think about it. But I’ll save that story for another day.

Here’s the good stuff…

What I’m into BOOKS

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Nish Weiseth

I am very proud to be a writer at the online magazine A Deeper Story. Speak is the first book-length offering by our editor in chief, Nish Weiseth. It’s a super encouraging, make-you-cry-in-your-coffee kind of book, about Jesus and storytelling, and how telling your story matters, even when you think it doesn’t. She’s more comfortable than I am with the act of compromise in justice-making; maybe I’ll have a long conversation with other readers of this book about whether or not a compromise can be also an act of oppression. (Hey, seriously, read it! We’ll talk about this!) But we are deeply in agreement that story saves lives. And listening opens The Way. Selah. 

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl by Susan Campbell

Susan Campbell is a journalist. And this is a memoir. Which makes it an interesting beast. It has more back story and perspective than most of what I call spiritual memoir. I found myself taking notes and feeling smart. But the narrative arc is still personal. The author tells the story of her own life, navigating the canyon between feminism and her fundamentalist upbringing. The conclusion is unsatisfying — in the sense that there is no neat solution and limited catharsis — but, having walked some of the same road, I find that terribly authentic to the subject matter. Also, she’s funny. 

Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild by Novella Carpenter

This one is out of the genre of faith and into countercultural memoir. The best thing about Novella Carpenter is that she is actually interesting. Most everything about her is actually interesting. So when she writes about her life you don’t get bored. This book is about her mountain man dad, but the narrative arc is her own journey of self-discovery. The thrill is her unique voice, sometimes funny, often tender, always entirely her own. Read it just for something to read. You won’t regret it. 

What I’m into on the Internets

30SOL. Shorthand for 30 Seconds or Less. I like this for all the reasons. Intimate. Short. Something different. Praise God!!

#FaithFeminisms. Which is how I got into 30SOL. You know me, I live in the woods, so I’m always like a year behind on meeting people I really need to meet. An occasional round up like #FaithFeminisms is really helpful for me. I treat these 121 posts like an Olympic swimming pool. I just jump in.

This video about a trans girl and her supportive LDS family. Love. h/t Mihee

The BDS movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. I think this post (my what I’m into post) is not the place for me to communicate my position on all the devastation and all the pain, which is most articulate as the position of feeling devastation and pain. But I will tell you I am into reading all that I can read about it.

What I’m into RANDOM

I’m still into Voxer. I want everyone to communicate with me via Voxer. I think it is kind of like when you’re having a sleepover and everybody’s in their own sleeping bag looking at the ceiling, but you can still talk all night long, complete with long pauses between the things you say, and thinking things are funny when they probably really aren’t. Of course…it is fully possible that this is just me.

Also I’m into scribbling silly poetry lying on my back looking at the ceiling. And I’m trying to figure out where to share these poems. Two votes so far are for Instagram. Maybe 40 days of Instagram poetry is in my near future. What do you all think?

July in this space

My most popular post last month was (by far) Why I Refuse To Teach My Kids to Live by Fear

But what I really want you all to see is my new You Tube channel. Don’t miss this, because it’s me doing my laundry, and it is incredibly fascinating. “Fouch-o-matic Off Grid” and The Bike Powered Washer (VIDEO)

And here’s a picture of my baby, with what she’s into this summer…which is sweets for the sweet. #love

Sadie eating black raspberries

That’s it for me. Happy August!

Click this button to join Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up and check out the rest of the links.

What I'm Into

In Defense of Failure

rain StellaI’m going to give y’all just a little tiny glimpse of my crazy. Once as a teenager I spent the night in the park. Not because I had no place to sleep, and not because there was something super and amazing happening in the park; I was alone. I just sometimes have this crazy deep compulsion to hide. I hid in that park all night long that night. I think just because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was there.

Huh.

But that’s not my crazy. Did you really think that was my crazy? No, that’s just a little personality glitch. Here we go. I ALSO have a certain degree of compulsion to NOT hide. What is this verb…? To not hide, reveal, speak, shout, tell truth…awaken. I have a yearning to reach across wide darknesses into that swath of nomansland where we are all human — dead or alive, who knows, but human. I reach into that dark and pull up what I find.

I am nearly pathologically introverted, and yet deeply and profoundly motivated to perform. Simultaneously. That, my friends, is my crazy. Maybe you’d rather I called it my ugly. Or my terror. It’s the place where my knees get week and I have unexplained nausea. It’s my failure point. And believe me, this kind of failure is intimately, profoundly familiar to me. Don’t you know, I’m a grown up and I didn’t just stumble into this messy life — I mean, I did, actually that’s exactly what just happened to me, but it was for the 35th or umpteenth time.

This is what I do. I run. I run so hard that I will hit the things I am most afraid of. I am trying to break through the barriers of fear and loathing. Sometimes I touch a piece of flashing light, sort of. And then I run away.

WHY??

There is such a fetish around fame, and exposure, that people assume that’s what I want. When I write a book, when I ask Anne Lamott for an endorsement, when I get deeply personal in public…when I put up a Facebook page or announce that I am “going pro,” that’s what people think. “Oh, well, what she wants is to be famous and make a bunch of money.”

AND THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT

but also not.

I don’t know why I do it, but I will offer this. As I swing wildly on my pendulum — external to internal, public to private, success to failure, fame to isolation — I wouldn’t say I own this piece of wisdom, but I sure see it up close as I go whizzing by.

For the artist, there is every reason to be wary of success. For the human being, there is every reason to be wary of the satisfied dream. 

failure quote

We.will.worship.something. I don’t care what your religion is. We will worship. We cast our souls out of ourselves like so many slender fishing lines; seeking comfort, seeking satisfaction, seeking glory. We seek to defend ourselves from shame and heal the wounds. We are trying to get by.

And what will we worship? Is it that cookie? That Scooby snack? That pat on the head? Is it this world’s “yes?”

It’s all a trick. And I should know. I am driven like the best and wounded like the worst. I swing by and I swing by again, and the only thing I keep a hold of is my own yearning. It multiplies. I drown in it.

I will not settle for this world. Not for the aching-ness of the empty climb for personal glory. Not for pats on the head and relief and the Scooby snack of peacemaking that doesn’t really bring peace. Not for the temporary relief of taking a break from saying things that may hurt people’s feelings.

I will take my freedom, and the freedom of the muse that moves through me as I reach and fail and fall. I will choose this dance, wild and free, even the dance of hot feet in the heat of personal integrity. I will choose the freedom of failure, even over those chains we call success.