Four Weddings & a Christening

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Hatch. Match. Dispatch.

Twenty-two years, I have been in the baptizing, marrying, and burying business.

Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1994, I have long lost count of how many people I have sprinkled, laid to rest, or joined in Holy Matrimony. It is a rare privilege to be with people at such junctures – both the most joyous and the most grief filled times in their lives.

Married, myself, most happily for twenty-eight years, and happily divorced for thirteen, wedding bells do not in the least bit tempt me. I would much rather wear cassock and surplice than a wedding gown at a wedding, any day.

Three weeks ago, a picture of priestly me doing just this – presiding at someone else’s wedding – showed up in the Sunday morning Washington Post! Where? In the LOVE section, of course, on page E14. A total surprise to me!

At Saint Paul’s Memorial, in Charlottesville, Virginia, there I am vested and standing at the altar between Andrew and Kelly: in the photo beneath the fold.

I LOVE presiding over LOVE.

Andrew and Kelly’s ceremony, though large, was intimate, lovely, and tender. Having written their own vows and being close friends of my daughter Colleen, it felt very personal to me.

And personal is that mystical and magical word that describes the most meaningful weddings I have done – regardless of the number of bridesmaids, or guests, or dinner courses at the reception. Weddings with a personal and intimate touch are the ones that I cherish.

Sarah and Nate’s wedding, Valentine’s Day a year ago was a parish wedding.  Together with my rocking colleague, Chuck, we celebrated the “SOHO” marriage, at a lovely little Virginia golf club.  So many Emmanuel friends were gathered round the tables, it felt like family.

At least, the way I think family weddings should feel:

The way, very much, my brother. Joseph and his partner, John’s wedding felt three brief weeks ago. Quite a love story, Joseph and John reconnected on Facebook after having dated way back in the ‘70’s and again in the 80’s.

Deeply touched, I was invited to officiate. They set the date for June 3rd, 2017 – what would have been our Mary Lou and Bernard’s – our parents’ — 66th wedding anniversary.

But then November 8th happened. The election results bode the possibility that newly won LGBTQ rights to marry might be overturned. So on December 18th, in Hyattsville, Maryland, in my baby brother’s dining room, in his adorable little house, I joined Joseph and his beloved partner John in Holy Matrimony.

Just seven (a very biblical number!) people in attendance, it is just about the loveliest wedding I have been a part of — so far.

And now, my own firstborn son, Zachariah, over Thanksgiving, proposed to his seven-year beloved, Jen. (Again, a biblical number!) The date has been set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving next.

It too, will be a very small and intimate affair, maybe on a boat at sunset, somewhere on the water. Defying tradition, it will still be a sacred occasion but of a more secular kind.

Zach is an atheist who does not darken the door of a church (though he is very proud of his mom!)

Home over Christmas, I ask him gingerly,

“So, Zach, what kind of ceremony are you going to have?”

 And I get a most unexpected answer:

“Well, mom, we were wondering if you could do it. But with two conditions.”

 Knowing him well, I blurt out,

“No mention of God, right? YES! I can say whatever you want me to say!”

 “And the second condition, mom, is can you do it without crying?”

 “Whoa! That will be really hard. But, YES, YES, of course, I can!”

 And now, of course, I am crying like a baby; happy, crazy tears.

So, by my count, that is four weddings. And this week, I have a Christening.

Misty eyed, I am jumping on an Amtrak train to New York City, to baptize my first great-niece – little Virginia – firstborn daughter of my niece, Lauren and her husband, Gordon; firstborn granddaughter of my brother, Tim and his wife, Martha.

I LOVE presiding over LOVE.

The love of these four weddings and this Christening blesses me. It blesses all who share in the celebration. It blesses all the souls connected by these sacred (and sometimes secular) rituals.

Be it in good times or bad times. Be it in hello times or goodbye times. In all the ups and downs, of this mystical magical thing we call life, such love can bless us all.

At little Virginia’s baptism, we will read the same sacred scripture that was read at her parents’ wedding: good old First Corinthians 13 – read at thousands of weddings for hundreds of years.

And though, I have heard it a million times, I pray, I never tire of hearing it or reading it.

God bless you, Saint Paul.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Faith, hope, and love abide. And the greatest of these is love.

Yes, the greatest of these is love.

 

Singularly yours:

The Rev: Joani

The Pseudo-Librarian, the Priest & Her Wardrobe

img_12891963. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Brown courdouroy smocked dress and white puffy blouse. Navy blue polka dot shift and  striped Danskins.  Parochial school uniform and Peter Pan collars.  Mary Janes, saddle shoes, and Keds.

1973. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Peasant dresses, halter tops, and army jacket. Denim cutoffs, bellbottom pants, and macrame belts. Parochial school uniform and Oxford cloth shirts. Platforms, flip flops, and saddle shoes.

1983. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Pleated skirts and cardigan sweaters. Padded shoulders and tailored slacks. Designer jeans, and tasteful flats.

1993. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Khaki trousers, corduroy jumpers, and denim overalls.  Cotton turtlenecks, kilts and tights. Embroidered vests and cable knit sweaters. Black flats, brown flats, and tennis shoes.

2003. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Target basics and Talbot’s work clothes. Cotton sweats and running suits. Clergy shirts and clerical collars. Random flats, Birkenstocks, and flip flops  — in every color under the sun.

And thirteen years on.

2016. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Funky tunics and interesting tops. Comfy leggings and skinny jeans. Prints, patterns, and primary colors. Autumn hues and basic black. Dressy dresses and dresses just for fun. Lululemon trousers and button down shirts. Bits of ribbon and bits of lace. TOMS, saddle shoes, ASICS, and a multitude of multicolored flats.

I have both lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Middle child, parochial school girl, head of the class.

Flower child, high school nerd, and rebel without a cause.

Computer programmer, working mom, sometimes a wife.

Seminary student, kindergarten volunteer, and Del Ray mom.

Parish priest, divorcee, and mostly manic.

Half marathoner, storyteller, blogger, irreverent reverend, and pseudo-libarian.

I have lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Clothes are the window dressing of the soul. Spiritual expressions of our psyches and personalities. Creative expressions of our passions and our moods.

In my darker days, my wardrobe was all solid colors. No prints. Basic and boring. I would buy three colors of the same pants and the same sweater.

All the better to hide in. All the better to disappear.

Those dark days are long — and hopefully forever — gone.

How do I know?

Because my wardrobe therapist tells me so.

My therapeutic fashion consultant, Stephanie Hernandez, helped me work through my closet issues.

Stephie is a very good friend of my awesome daughter Colleen. Stephie is a young LCSW with a passion for style and an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s the founder of  “Look Good, Feel Good”— “a therapeutic approach to finding your personal style.”

A brilliant idea! This bipolar soul signed herself up right away!

Personable, warm, and observant, Stephie first sat down on my couch and we had a chat. I walked her through a “regular day” so she could learn about my bipolar life — both at work and at play. I gave her a one minute tour of my condo and then we took a thirty minute walk through my wardrobe.

And then for the next half hour, we played dress up. Mixing and matching funky and flattering combos, Stephie helped me come up with outfits that  I can wear just about anywhere:  @LOC, @EEC,  walking Del Ray, or strolling DC.

Working with Stephie made me feel so much cooler and so much cuter than I actually am!

It was very therapeutic.

It was so much fun.

“Look Good, Feel Good Style”

It’s not just a catchy slogan, it’s fashion philosophy.

I recommend Stephanie Hernandez and her new enterprise most happily!

So friends, what’s in your wardrobe?

Singularly yours:

The Rev: Joani

Note: Also posted on Unorthodox & Unhinged: Tales of a Manic Christian

 

 

 

Bipolar Love: The Tale of Archie & Amelie

archie and amelie book cover

“On December 5, 1900, the New York Herald headlines screamed:”

 

“CHANLER ESCAPES

Amelie Rives First Husband

IS OUT OF ASYLUM

Search Fails to Find Wealthy Demented Man

Who Left Bloomingdale Institution…

Former Wife, Princess Troubetzkoy, Also Insane.”

This is the dark and delicious tale of doomed passion: meticulously researched and wonderfully told in Archie and Amelie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age by Donna M. Lucey.

 Archie is John Armstrong Chanler, born in 1862, and heir to the estate of his great –grandfather John Jacob Astor of New York.

Amelie Rives, born in 1863, is the goddaughter of Robert E. Lee and descendant of a storied first family of Virginia.

Archie’s family fortune was built on the fur trade, clear-eyed capitalism, and Presbyterian rectitude. Orphaned at a tender age, Archie and his siblings were raised by committee. “A wild and willful bunch” they were tamed by “nannies, tutors, and distant guardians.”

The eldest and legally responsible for his younger siblings, Archie, at Eton honed a refined and reasonable self-control — while underneath simmered his literary and artistic appetites.

A nephew of Julia Ward Howe, a progressive scion of the salon, Archie was intellectually curious and cautiously broad-minded. A romantic and eccentric soul, he was also an inventive young man full of ideas and boundless generosity.

Amelie Rives of Castle Hill was a gifted young writer  — gifted — with a dark sensuality. The provocative prose of her first novel, The Quick or the Dead?, garnered her both notoriety and the notice of the literary lions of her day – including the likes of Oscar Wilde and Willa Cather.

Amelie’s Virginia home had “an air of civilized taste and ancient leisure.” Her noble ancestors included revolutionary war heroes and ambassadors to France. But the “War between the States” left the family homestead in tatters. Her father, a civil engineer, like a nomad wandered from post to post to keep his family financially afloat.

And so women, strong women, ruled the roost at Castle Hill. Captured in an 1880 photograph “Amelie, a young beauty at seventeen, stands behind the powerful figures of her grandmother and her granite faced Aunt Ella – as if she were next in line in a dynasty.”

Seductively, Ameilie wielded both her pen and her person to woo the men in her life. Though a woman of the Gilded Age, she boldly bucked the constricting conventions of her time.

Amelie cast aside her corset and wore exotic flowing gowns. Described as “a sizzling vessel of molten lava”, she was also surprisingly religiously devout. Most passionate and erotic in her prose, she made her reviewers blush and made her suitors swoon.

Archie madly, deeply, hopelessly pursued her. After three persistent marriage proposals, Amelie accepted and they were engaged.

Hot and cold, like fire and ice, their eight-year love affair was doomed to failure. The first two years the couple skipped across Europe — settling down long enough only to become unsettled.

Amelie seemed to love Archie the most when he was absent. And when he was absent, Archie was a tortured soul never quite knowing how to rekindle Amelie’s ardor.

Eight years after their nuptials at Castle Hill, Amelie runs off with a dashing and penniless prince, a Russian royal named Troubetzkoy.

Divorced and disgraced, Archie, still hopelessly in love with Amelie, supports her  until the day he dies.

The truth be told, they drove each other mad.

Separately they suffer bouts of insanity. Some real and some feigned.

Amelie is prone to melancholy and takes up some unusual cures in the sanitariums of the Gilded Age.

Archie, wrongly committed by his scheming siblings for seven years, escapes the asylum only to descend deeper into a manic kind of madness. He becomes a prolific automatic writer of the self-published kind. A most generous and penniless philanthropist, he ends his days scribbling his name on the walls.

Bipolar love.

Archie, posthumously, is believed to have come by his bipolar disorder quite honestly. It runs in the family. A gift that keeps giving.

Amelie’s madness is of a similar kind. Euphoric, grandiose, verbose, and highly creative, she cannot help but crash from time to time.

Their marriage was both heaven and hell: Brief episodes of bliss, bright bursts of passion. Disrupted by storms, overwhelmed by sadness.

It could not possibly last. And indeed, it did not.

The madness of such love, is it worth it?

My sensible side says “NO!”, of course. Who wants to end up on the shores of life an emotional wreck?

But my bipolar soul, the manic-depressive me, screams “YES!”

Let me have a mad, deep, intoxicating, engaging, infuriating, invigorating, reckless, mad, mad love affair…

at least one, or two, or three.

Good for a novel, a movie, a play, a memoir. Good for some crazy tall tales to tell my grandchildren some day.

And maybe good for a blog post — or two, or three.

Who knows? Stay tuned.

I’ll keep you up to date one week at a time – right here – at Sex & The Single Vicar.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

Practice Makes Imperfect

Sorry to disappoint but S&TSV is not about “kiss and tell”.

Hopefully you will find it wickedly funny, brutally honest, but not indiscreet.

And well, so far there has been no kissing so there is no need for telling.

But I have been practicing. No, I have not been practicing kissing myself in the mirror! I have been practicing communicating with the opposite sex.

Online mostly at OKCupid and Zoosk.

First Zoosk.

Advertised as the dating site for the over 50 crowd, Zoosk might better be described as the senior site for the over the hill crowd.

On the up side, Zoosk verifies profile pictures via your smartphone.Via Facebook, it verifies  your identity – if you can call that verification.

On the down side, their clientele seems to be older than dirt. That’s not very nice of me, I admit. I know that I am 61 and I am totally down with that.  The men they match me up with though are definitely from the geriatric demographic. Grandfatherly types, some use stock photos from central casting or pictures of themselves golfing on the green. Others take scary selfies of themselves reflected in restroom mirrors or with their buddies drinking a beer at the bar.

So attractive.

While these gentlemen may be genuine and appear to be real, they are really not what I am looking for at all.

Zoosk, you disappoint me.  I want my money back. I am breaking up with you.

Ok, off to OKCupid.

In seven days on OKCupid, I have had more success than in all my  earlier attempts combined.

And by more success, I mean more practice: the more imperfect art of practice.

And so far, who have been my practice partners?

The Rabid Libertarian. In a stream of very long texts, he  made the case for small government and argued for fiscal restraint. He debated the culture wars and quoted Ayn Rand. A compassionate conservative, he cited facts and figures against the welfare state.

Such a romantic.

Okay, I see that you are very passionate in your beliefs which I passionately do not share. Bye-bye and thank you for the conversation.

The Eager Evangelical. As an Episcopal vicar, I am sworn to love Jesus. And yes, I do love Jesus but this guy loved Jesus way too much. He loved singing about Jesus. He loved teaching about Jesus. He loved volunteering for Jesus. There wasn’t much room in the conversation for anybody but Jesus.

While I work for Jesus, in my free time the last thing I want to talk about is Jesus. (Sorry Lord!) And I am pretty sure that his Jesus was not the same as mine.

Okay.  Bye-bye and thank you for the conversation.

The Flirty Egyptian. Now he happens to be Muslim, so I know he doesn’t love Jesus too much. Handsome and just 47, he is both a flatterer and a gentleman. After friendly texting for a week, I am definitely intrigued. I am not naive and I am certain he flirts with all kinds of older women online. I really have no expectations of any kind but I DO want to lay eyes on this man. So yes, I said yes to coffee at Carluccio’s.

If it doesn’t go well, I will let you know how it goes.

If it does go well, I won’t.

One week down.

Practice makes imperfect.

Singularly yours,

The Rev: Joani

 

 

Reach out and touch…

Reach out and touch someone ad

Professional cuddling.

No, I did not make this up.

Yes, this is a real thing. How do I know?

No, not from personal experience.

I know because I read it in the June 19th New York Times: Pillow Talk with a Professional Cuddler.

Besides dog walker, barista, and bookshop clerk, this apparently is the latest and greatest way for newcomers to make their way in NYC.

“…billed as therapeutic, nonsexual touch on sites like the Snuggle Buddies and Cuddlist — professional cuddling has become the latest thing in wellness, beyond yoga and meditation.”

News to me, the movement dates back more than a decade. The nonprofit group Cuddle Party, organizer of snuggle mixers, “has morphed into a cuddle-for-hire industry of one-on-one sessions.”

“For $79, practitioners who sign up receive about 10 hours of training.”

Yes, for less than $80 and in less than a day, you too could become a Professional Cuddler.

And what do you do exactly?

“Once trained, pro cuddlers promise a physical and psychic salve through spooning, arm tickling and deep embraces. Think of it as a blend of talk therapy, yoga and improvisational bodywork, the free jazz equivalent of massage.”

Full body, totally clothed, on a yoga mat, with pillows and blankets.

And what does this cost?

About $80 an hour.

And where does this happen?

In yoga studios, conference centers, hotel rooms, and people’s bedrooms.

So just about anybody can hang out a shingle and call themselves: a “Professional Cuddler”. No background checks. No regulations. No accreditation of any kind.

Trendy, treacherous, and sad, yes? But I believe it’s also very believable.

Alone and lonely in a city of eight million strangers, one’s desire for intimacy can long go unfulfilled. Yet the simple longing for human touch, a basic human need, is the same everywhere. Its as real in small-town Mannassass as it is in downtown Manhattan.

“Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own professional touchers and body arts teachers – chiropractors, physical therapists, Gestalt therapists, Rolfers, the Alexander-technique and Feldenkrais people, massage therapists, martial arts and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructors,” writes Sharon K. Faber, Ph.D. in Psychology Today.

“And some even wait in physician’s offices for a physical examination for ailments with no organic cause – they wait to be touched.”

I don’t know what all of those things listed above are. I, like you, will have to go to Google to figure that out. But I do know that many of these make sense: physical therapy for wounded shoulders; a deep tissue massage to decompress from stress; a chiropractic adjustment for an aching back.

Supportive, therapeutic touch.

But professional touch is not the same as personal touch. The former does not suffice to satisfy the human heart. All God’s children have a deep-seated need to reach out and touch that special someone’s hand.

Personal, intimate, relational —  human touch is sacramental and sacred.

I am not talking about marriage but I am talking about something deep and holy – something that I believe I wholly deserve:

Something that no “Professional Cuddler” could ever deliver.

So this woman is on a quest. I will be borrowing a friend’s dog to hang out at the dog park. I am signing up for “Book Talks” at Mount Vernon and wine tastings at Grape and Bean. I started volunteering on occasion for Story District and also on Saturdays @LOC. I am changing my traffic patterns. I have uploaded my profile to Zoosk.

”Sex & The Single Vicar” is a very personal quest that I will very publicly post one week at a time.

A personal quest maybe not unlike your own? So dear readers,  I invite you to click “follow” and come along on the search.

I promise not to disappoint — at least I’ll try.

Singularly yours,

 The Rev: Joani

 

Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Sex & The Single Vicar

Hmmmm…… What’s that about?

Well, many of you may know me from Unorthodox & Unhinged:Tales of a Manic Christian. Going on two years now I have dazzled my readers with eighty-eight posts on life with my bipolar brain.

U&U’s most popular post is “Sex and the Single Vicar”. Not a surprise. If you put “sex” in the title you are sure to get a rise!

And this theme – of love lost and found — has popped up more and more on U&U. It has because I recognize in myself a deep and genuine desire for intimacy. A string of posts over the last two years tells the tale:

Disharmony, Smarmonie, The Eharmony Expose;

Call me stupid! I’m on OkCupid!;

D*I*O*R*V*C*E.

And most recently I went live on the Story District stage with

How to Get a Date Worth Keeping!

Yes, at at age sixty-one, I am game to find someone who might just like to try and keep up with me: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and of course, skin to skin.

So how to begin? Well by writing about it of course!

I want to write about it authentically, honestly, and humorously.

I will chronicle my fits and starts: social experiments; wardrobe malfunctions; and dating site episodes. S&TSV will include book reviews; interviews with fellow seekers, family, and friends; literary pieces; cultural commentary; and investigative journalism — well as much as I can muster!

Sex & The Single Vicar – a passionate endeavor — one post at a time.

Want to see where this goes? I certainly do. How about you? Click on “follow”and come along!

Singularly  yours,

The Rev: Joani