August 28, 2010


I've got a big day at church tomorrow, lots going on for which my presence is desired. Then I have a nearly four hour drive to Chicago to give a presentation to the entire Sunday School volunteer staff at my old boss's new church. It's my first paid gig, and I'm finishing the PowerPoint tonight.

I went down to the basement to do a small load of clothes that would be best for the Big City. I came upon a horror scene suitable for Stephen King: the sewer line has backed up, and there is a fifteen foot circle of waste that saturated the boxes, full laundry baskets, rugs, and miscellany stuff that ends up stacked in basements. SHIT. (Literally. And it's everywhere.)

My son, his sainted best friend and I just spent an hour bagging up and carting out a boatload of saturated crap to the end of the driveway. We can't wash up here because the drain would back up further. Thank heaven for Huggies Wipes, which I keep for household cleaning.

While I wait for the plumber, my mind wanders to the SIX houses in the vicinity that have had their front yards plowed up with backhoes to replace these same pipes in the past year. (Cost: about $6K each.) Something's not right about this.

My neighbor has given me her remote code so that I can enter through her garage to bathe over there if I need to. Ben is going to stay at his friend's house after the plumber gets here. (Oh! He has a new car! I bought him a 2001 Camry LE. Very pleased with the deal.) Abe is out of town for another week. I'll probably be up all night sanitizing the basement after the pipe is cleared.

4:30 a.m. update: Plumber's been paid and the pipe is clear. (Not sure if it's roots this time. Hmm.) Not so the basement, but two 30-lb. bags of kitty litter really helps. I spread it and scrub-swept most of it into two large piles. No powdered chlorine at this hour, so I'll make a solution and swab when the litter's gone. Now I can shower and scrub and scrub and scrub and go to bed. Good night.

Tip: About ten years ago I bought two pairs of plastic Birkenstock clogs. They ended up being the "yard shoes" for everyone: mowing, raking, you get the idea. When they get dirty you just hose them off; replace the footbeds every few years. These things saved us tonight! Ben and I each had a pair to go tromping around that disgusting basement. Rinsed and scrubbed under the hose, they're ready to go under the bench by the door. You need a pair of these.

Day Two update: I'm baaaaack. And so is the water, dammit. At least this time it's ONLY water (from the shower) and a two-foot circle. Gonna have a talk with that plumber. I've got better things to do.

Day Three update: The 35-year-old clay pipe is separating at the joints, allowing tree roots to prosper and block the flow. Next week they will replace it with PVC for the princely sum of $5K. *sigh*

August 24, 2010


The word "malignant" is one of the ugliest words in the English language. I heard it in 1986, from a doctor who removed a spot on my back and sent it to the lab. It was melanoma. I'll never forget that phone call.

I am in the hills of southern Indiana today, completing a two-day annual retreat for pastors and program staff of my church. I offered my car for others to ride, and one who rode with me was a woman on our pastoral staff.

This morning she joined me on the dock of the lake, telling me she was expecting a call from her doctor. She said yesterday she'd had a biopsy on a lump in her breast and was awaiting the results. Moments after she sat down near me on the dock, her phone rang.

"It's my doctor. This is it," she said quietly, picking up the phone. "Hello."

She nodded, saying "uh huh" several times. Then her mouth tightened and the tears began to flow. She acknowledged what the doctor was saying, although if her experience is anything like my own, she probably has no recollection of what was said after the diagnosis. She eventually hung up after taking a few notes. The pad read "Invasive Ductal Carcinoma."

She looked up at me. "Fuck."

I grabbed her in a hug as she let the tears and sobs finally free. "I've had that same phone call," I whispered.

If she follows my own pattern, the next ten days or so will be filled with making plans and forgetting all of it unless it's in writing. The moments alone will be spent grappling with "why me" and "what if."

The "why me" part isn't about victimhood so much as it is about purpose. What should I do about this, now that it's here? What in my life is incomplete? What can I let go? This becomes a time of allowing grace into one's life, allowing others to help in whatever way they can.

Being in a position to help is a great privilege. If you're used to being the one helping, then you know. But to suddenly become the one who needs help is jarring, and our first impulse is to keep everyone at arm's length. Having been on both ends of giving and receiving help, I can tell you how humbling it is to be in need. But grace is not on a balancing scale; it is not a matter of keeping score; it simply is. It is a gift to allow others to show their love in whatever way they can.

If you are someone who believes in the power of prayer, please lift up my friend and colleague in prayer as she deals with this illness and stress. Her own mother has recently completed treatment for lung cancer, and that prognosis is good. There is always hope.

August 23, 2010

This And That

I was waiting at the light when this car pulled up next to me. With about five seconds left before the change, I managed to get this shot with my phone cam. You can't see the row of "spikes" that line the hood and lead to the arrangement on the roof. Look closely at the furry things affixed to the edge of the trunk: those are troll dolls. The car is heavily stenciled and the license plate reads "plate." This guy is having fun.

My head's in a spin from all that has been happening for the past few weeks. After the busiest week of the year—so far—getting ready for four different startups for the fall, I went to another Inclusive Church two-day seminar this past Friday and Saturday; taught on Sunday; met with our ever-growing Friends and Family of LGBT church group; and now I'm attending the annual two-day retreat for pastoral and program staff. This retreat is all about releasing anxiety and living in the moment. It's exactly what I need.

I spent an hour trying to draw the pastoral view from the hillside of the camp in southern Indiana. Do you have any idea how hard that is? There are WAY too many leaves. I really do want to learn how to employ some latent but totally untrained artistic ability. My amateurish efforts look childish, but I have hope. Isn't that what keeps us going, after all?

Good night.

August 18, 2010

Florida Phone Pics

Rain in Florida has a standard pattern: sun/wall of water/sun.

Abe, Ben and I spent one day at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. This is where I discovered my new thyroid medicine has made me a motion wimp: one twisty slide ride was enough.

I crossed the Sunshine Skyway four times to pick up and drop off the boys at the Tampa airport. Alas, it was not in a convertible.

My mother retired this year at age 89 as a travel agent. My parents decorate their house with souvenirs from all over the world. For years we had to hide this Balinese mask from the kids, who were terrified of it. They still don't like it.

August 14, 2010

Even If Your Hands Tremble

From the Facebook wall photos of Andrew Wood.

P.S. I've been working on four projects, all due this weekend. Tomorrow sees their fruition and my return. See you soon.

August 9, 2010

An Open Letter To My Fellow Straight Christians About Marriage Equality

I wrote an article about Proposition 8 and why I support its repeal. There are a lot of people who are wondering if they can do the same and be true to their faith. Please forward a link if you know someone like that. You can find it here.

August 5, 2010


I'm in Sarasota visiting my hometown and family. I went to dinner with my sister where we caught up with what's going on in each other's lives. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a man at the table next to us commented, "You two have wonderful laughter. It was great to sit here and listen to it." Yeah, it was great.