Closing The Book

It is an impulse decision to turn right instead of left. Left would have taken me to Whole Foods, but right took me to Little Portion, now Hope Academy, I correct myself, but I don’t care. It will always be Little Portion to me. I had dropped my charge off at school, and decided that I would go to Whole Foods. Normally, I go straight from one job to the next, but I had received an early morning text message informing me that my second “shift”, as it were, was now free. I needed eggs, and Whole Foods sells the cashew drink I like at a fraction of the price that Wild By Nature does. From school, Whole Foods was also not substantially out of the way.

It has been well over a year since I’d driven out to what used to be Little Portion Friary. I could never forget the way. It is the location for so many important events in my life, and its closure and new identity as Hope Academy is something that I don’t know I’ll ever resolve. I was on a good stretch of Nicholl’s Road, and traffic was moving. I’d gotten the email about this weeks’ bread offerings a few days before, and though a person with celiac receiving emails about glutenous bread is either ironic or masochistic, I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. Friday is bread day. In my pre-celiac life, when I spent semesters and summer camp sessions subsisting solely on Friary Bread, I made many pilgrimages to the bakery at Little Portion, depositing my money in the box and picking whichever loaves I thought had the most raisins, and breathing deeply. The whole downstairs of the Friary always smelled like bread, and it was as comforting to me as the scent of my mother’s old Chiropractic books. I don’t have cash, but I remember that there is a bank on the way, and the details with which I recollect this surprise me. I stop, get cash, get back on 347, and once again, drown in my thoughts of Little Portion.

I first went to Little Portion as a child with my mother, and when I came back to the church in college, Little Portion became a second home. I attended Daily Offices and Eucharist there because I didn’t want to be in my dorm room alone after the Southampton students were sent back to West Campus, twenty minutes from Little Portion. I spent my days off from Camp DeWolfe during the summer there. I found out that I had been accepted to grad school late one night in the library after the Brothers had gone to bed. I lost and found so many callings there, and it was there that Mom and I went after we found out that I didn’t have leukemia, when we wondered what my future would look like with lupus and not going back to Hawai’i. I pictured my wedding being held there, on the labyrinth, and when Little Portion ceased to exist as I had always known it, and when my Godmother died, I had no idea how to contemplate marriage. I didn’t, and don’t, want too much in terms of a wedding. I’d rather have a good party than something formal that everyone leaves from still hungry. But I wanted it at Little Portion. That can’t happen now.

I am wearing my sunglasses, but it is a bright, hot day, and I have a headache forming and re-forming behind my eyes. Proof that I am stressed, run down, and trying not to cry, no matter what I may tell myself. There are many cars in the parking lot, and workmen at the foot of the driveway laying down asphalt patches. I am surprised, though it is 10 AM, a few hours after bread has gone on sale, by how many cars there are. Anxiety radiates off me in waves, and I am glad that I am here alone as much as I hate that I am alone. I will only have to deal with my emotions, but I am not sure that I can handle them alone. I wish, not for the first time, that my ESC boss lived closer to New York. His gift for always getting me to cry–despite my disdain for crying and my insistence that I will be fine–might help me to handle the internal war being waged between my brain, my heart, and my stomach. I go into the bakery, breathe deeply out of habit, but the door has been open, and the smell of the bread has dissipated into the open air. Cinnamon Raisin, Olive Oil Rosemary, and Cranberry Sunflower. I debate getting a loaf of Cranberry, but who am I kidding? To come and not stock up on Cinnamon Raisin is akin to blasphemy, or heresy. Maybe both. I answer an older woman’s questions about the loaves, and what to do with her money, and prepare to bag my loaf when a young man, a resident of the house, comes in to say, “I was coming to bag those for you. We bag them after lunch; they’re really fresh.” I don’t mind bagging my own loaves. “Fresh is good!” I tell him.

I bag my loaves, taking pictures of the racks of fresh bread, with only a few empty spaces where loaves used to be. The labels are different. A former Brother, a friend of mine then, had written the labels when the Brothers still lived there. I had wondered about that on the way. There are men everywhere, and when I am rearranging the contents of my front seat to make room for the loaves, a few of them are debating whether the gas container that says ‘Mixed’ is really mixed. They are preparing to do yard work, and I remember all of the debates that ensued about that very subject in Hawai’i.

I don’t understand it, but everything is different. I don’t explore the grounds, but I see dumpsters in the back where I used to park, honestly that was the only visual difference. The house doesn’t look different. It might even look better. There seem to be more flowers than there had been in some time. I had gone expecting that it would hurt to see and feel “my” Little Portion so different. But when I got there, I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. This wasn’t the place that was my home away from home for so long. It was something new, something different. We have both changed, Little Portion and I. We have found new lives and new meanings, and though I will likely mourn what I lost forever, I must also rejoice to see Little Portion so alive.

This is a book that I can close. Going felt like a release, though not one easily made or accepted, it was a necessary one.

I drive to Whole Foods, and remember Sunday afternoon lunches there after Church in Little Portion’s chapel. I buy juices, a salad, and sit lost in thought as I eat. When I go to my car to drive home, I open the door and expect the scent of the sun-warmed bread to fill my senses, but it doesn’t. I drive home. I don’t know what I was looking for from this impromptu pilgrimage, and I don’t know if I found it, but with what I did find… I don’t know that I need to make another.

Taking Stock

My doctor was afraid to ask if “that’s all” when I described the roller coaster the last four years have been. It’s enough to make me feel that my head and my heart might explode when I list it: I went to Kenya, I dated someone I expected I’d marry; we broke up. I finished grad school, I went to Hawai’i, came home with lupus and a very near miss on cancer. I spent 6 months in treatment; the second 6 months I would have spent in Hawaii had it all gone according to plan. I got out of treatment, our house flooded and we lost so much. My sister sustained a devastating injury and went on home school, our mom got hurt. I adopted my dog and we got 2 kittens. My spiritual home and safe place—Little Portion—announced they were closing, my beloved godmother died entirely unexpectedly. I spent all day trying to figure out how to tell my mother that her best friend and the godmother to her daughters was dead. I did most of the notifications for our church.  Little Portion did close.  The first Christmas after the closure and the death of my godmother, the only person I wanted to talk to was gone and the only place I wanted to be no longer existed.  I don’t have words to express two such unfathomable losses occurring in less than 6 months’ time.  I was in shock for months, and when I finally cried, I nearly drowned in the shower.

I didn’t know what I’d do when I came back from Hawai’i and went into treatment. I didn’t know how I’d get through treatment.  My body remembers every trauma my mind wants to forget, and even now, I am not allowed to forget.  I don’t know how to navigate a world in which I will get married and have children who will not know my father and my godmother.  Who will not learn to ask, “Are you being goofy?” to determine whether or not an adult is being serious, and who will not then collapse into laughter with my godmother, and who will learn complex math and teach it to their grandfather, wondering if he is pretending that they are smarter than he is as I did when I was a child.  I always anticipated that my father would not live to see me grown–the odds were astronomical–but there was always a hope I might be proven wrong.  My father wasn’t the sort of person one expected to die.  But I could not see a world in which my Aunt Mary would not see my wedding, and meet my children. The weekend after she died, I kept thinking about sitting in the diner with her when I was 16, her telling me that when I got married, I could wear her ring, which was her mother’s ring before her, and that it would be my something old. I kept imagining that day, whenever it may come, and trying to picture my mom and my friends helping me to get ready, but all I saw was the empty space she wouldn’t occupy.

It has never moved beyond surreal that I will marry someone who has never met my father. It is unfathomable that I will marry someone who has not received my godmother’s seal of approval. I didn’t have the kind of relationship with my father that the other girls had with theirs, but for the good, the bad, the indifferent, he is my father. Nothing changes that.  And I desperately want his approval.

I never saw most of what has come to pass coming, and I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.  I am learning how to live in a world that I could not picture before I found myself inhabiting it.  I do not want to live in this particular world, with no Little Portion, with no Aunt Mary, with lupus complicating things and constantly wondering in the back of my mind if what I’ve found now with my body is too good to be true.  In the meantime, I am contemplating the universe and redecorating my room, un-boxing books and wall decorations with knives in my heart along the way.  The gifts she bought me when I was confirmed in one box, a photo collage from my first trip to see her in Utah in another; cards from two years working at summer camp, along with my dreams of being a missionary in a third.  This life isn’t the one I’d envisioned for myself, but it’s the one I have.  And I am trying to make peace with that.



The Return

  • I posted an essay on summer camp (with a bit of an announcement contained therein) over on tumblr this morning. Have a read if you wish!

Adventures with the Magnificat! (Sermon, Dec. 20, 2015)

On December 20th, I had the privilege of vesting up and preaching at the Church I work part time at. It was a lot of fun, and I was so pleased that my sermon about Mary made an impact on the parishioners. Reading the Magnificat so many times in the few days before, during, and after when I was preaching filled my soul with such joy and gladness!

The Magnificat has always been one of my favorite pieces of Scripture, but I have a few other very special reasons for loving Mary and appreciating Marion devotion in the Episcopal tradition. Take a listen, and you’ll learn why!

The Adventures of Mo. Lauren and Fr. Kenny

Hello Friends!

We have a bit of a treat this week, we had a guest preacher at church, Ms. Anjelica Whitehorne!  For various reasons, I had a swamped week, so Anjelica offered to preach, and the text happened to be one of her all time favorites, Mary’s Magnificat from Luke (1:39-55).  She did a great job, take a listen as we learn about Mary:

Anjelica’s Sermon, Luke 1:39-55, Advent 4, Year C, Dec. 20, 2015

Next week, you will have more from me, until then, Merry Christmas!

-Mo. Lauren

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Super Lazy Saturday; Belated Lazy Saturday Post

My thinking for the blog for this academic year is that if holidays fall on normal posting days, those posts will be skipped. Except for snow days, if schools are closed, this blog will be, too.

However, even though it’s Labor Day weekend, I’ve seen some great TV shows this summer and wanted to share some opinions with you!

I’ve always been fascinated by the Tudor Dynasty, and have seen a lot of films about it, as well as having studied it in my Irish History class in college. My mom and I love all things British, so I knew a lot about the power struggles, and the subsequent creation of the Anglican Church (we’re Episcopalian), and was fascinated by all that went on during Henry VIII’s reign. I’ve written on this blog about how much I love the TV show Reign, which shows the Dynasty’s struggles from a different vantage point, that of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was the cousin of Queens Mary and Elizabeth of England, and who was subsequently put to death because of the threat she posed to Elizabeth’s reign. The opera Maria Stuarda is largely about that, and ends with Mary Queen of Scots walking to her execution, and is a fabulous piece of art that I highly recommend.

This summer, I watched The Tudors from start to finish for the first time. I’d seen some of it with my mom, but never in order, and I never paid a ton of attention to it. The Tudors was a ShowTime series that ran for four seasons, and it is remarkable. It’s so well researched, and the production values and costuming and scale are beautiful. A lot of it seems to have been filmed in Ireland, where open spaces and haunting architecture are more common than in England.

I was in awe of what they’d accomplished with the series, and how much time they covered without it ever feeling rushed. I watched most of the first season with my mom, and then she left me to watch it on my own, and I think I must have watched the last 3 seasons of the show in a week. And when it was over, after inhabiting that world for the all-encompassing week or two that I had, I had no idea what to do with myself.

A day or so later, we moved onto the Borgias, and I confess I am much less interested in this particular story than I am in that of the Tudors, there are interesting points in each of the three series where they touch upon and inform one another. And it’s always fun to watch a show and see an actor from one of the other shows. A unique little moment of, wait, what?

The Tudors is available (for me) On Demand from Cablevision, as well as on Amazon Prime TV and on Netflix. The Borgias is available on Netflix, and may also be on Prime but I can’t swear to that. Both shows are available for purchase on DVD and Digital Downloads. Maria Stuarda on DVD is available from The Met. Reign is available on the CW’s website for streaming, season 1 is available on Netflix, and season 2 is available for Digital Download.

It’s That Back To School Time Again!

So I suppose it’s time to rid the blog of cobwebs, and get back to my regularly established blogging schedule of new posts on Mondays and Saturdays.

This summer has brought a lot of news, and a lot of things that I would have written about had I found words for them, such as the murder of Cecil.

But, as it’s impossible to discuss all of what we’ve missed, here’s a bit of a round-up of things I’m loving to kick off the school year (our district goes back tomorrow):

Zoya Nail Polish I bought 6 colors a month or so ago, when they had a buy 3 colors, get 3 free promotion. I also bought their base and top coats, and their polish remover. So far, I’ve tried 5 of the 6 colors, and I’m impressed with all of them. The only color I haven’t tried is their black, which I plan to wear the entire month of October in honor of Halloween.

Barry’s Tea I always keep coffee and tea in my car, so that I can drink what I’m loving at the moment while I’m babysitting. I love Barry’s Tea. It’s strong, without being too bitter if I leave the tea bag in, which I usually do. I couldn’t find the box of tea in my car, and was very upset about it. Happily, I found it and now am back to sipping it happily when I’m not home. I’ve also had Barry’s Decaf, which is delightful.

Bewley’s Tea I’ve tried Bewley’s Dublin Morning, Irish Breakfast, and Irish Afternoon teas. These are teas that I predominantly drink at home, as the boxes have fallen apart as they’ve travelled with me. These are all strong, delicious, and I can go through all three teas in a day and feel entirely fulfilled and not at all bored.

Twinings Prince of Wales Tea I first had this tea last fall, and it’s so delightful. I don’t quite know how to describe this tea, but whenever I drink it, I feel very happy and satisfied, even if I’m not having a snack with it.

Worry Stones This link is to Irish Marble worry stones. I’ve recently made myself a couple of worry stone necklaces using Connemara marble, but as I am an anxious person by nature, compounded by having a very difficult run of things the last few years, I’m hoping that using worry stones will be a good and calming habit and strategy for me to manage my anxiety.

DuoLingo I’ve used DuoLingo for Italian and Irish, and I love how quickly this program allows you to learn sentences. I use MindSnacks to quiz things like vocabulary, but DuoLingo is a must for me for learning or maintaining a language. I bought a workbook that came with CDs for Irish, but thus far I’m having some problems with grammar, and word order… Basically I’m making the most ridiculous mistakes that it’s embarrassing, and no one but me knows the mistakes that I’m making. The best part about DuoLingo is that it’s free! I have the app on my phone and try to use it often.

Role Reboot

It occurred to me that I linked my essay “The Year I Was Diagnosed With Lupus” to here, but that I never actually told you the circumstances of how I started reading Role Reboot and why I was so interested in publishing with them (and have been interested in doing so for the last year).

I first discovered Role Reboot after I started reading Emily Rapp’s Little Seal Blog. I believe I found Little Seal after Taylor Swift released her song “Ronan” about a different Ronan. I loved Rapp’s writing, and so I googled her and found her first book, and then the essays that she has published with Role Reboot and other places, as well. I liked that Role Reboot didn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of life, because that is what life is for many people: situations that you wish were different but are powerless to change.

I like reading about people who have atypical experiences. In Star Trek, the Vulcans say, “Infinite diversity in infinite combination,” and I believe that to be true of people, though there are experiences that are universal, each person experiences things differently. Sometimes, media can be so monotonous that it feels as though the same things happen over and over and over. To find a place where people were writing about things I’d never experienced was an incredible joy.

My experiences of life have also been quite different. Most 24 year olds don’t undergo treatment for their third autoimmune disease. Most 24 year olds aren’t incapacitated by their symptoms. So a year ago, when I first wrote things that didn’t quite fit with my memoir on chronic illness, my first thought was that maybe they were things that could be adapted for publication by Role Reboot. Almost a year later, I had an essay, not one of the pieces I’d written a year earlier, but an essay that worked on the same themes as the pieces of a year ago, published by Role Reboot, and I was ecstatic. Chronic illness isn’t a subject that many journals will broach. It is depressing. It is difficult. It is fraught. And it is scary. But I didn’t think that that would be a problem in this case. I submitted to Role Reboot first, and told myself that they would reject it. But if they had rejected it, I had no idea where else to submit it with any hope of publication.

When I heard that Role Reboot had accepted my essay, then entitled ‘The Lupus Year’, I was ecstatic.

I am so happy to be back to feeling like a writer, and I am hopeful that this coming academic year will bring more essays published, and perhaps… Perhaps it will even bring a book deal (I HOPE).