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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.

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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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My Dear Readers

  

Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me! Seeing this this morning made me so, so happy. I am so grateful for you. 

Protein Shakes and UGG Boots

I’ve had an incredibly sensitive stomach for about 10 years now, due to years and years of undiagnosed celiac, acid reflux, and then treatment. For years, I’ve tried to have a lot of smoothies when the weather gets super hot and humid, because that’s when I tend to be most nauseated. I’ve tried lots of different brands, and most recently, I’ve had to make sure that they’re all gluten free. I’ve had SunWarrior, PlantFusion, Phood, Shakeology, and probably others that I don’t even remember, too.

I love Shakeology, but it is expensive, so I drink PlantFusion and Phood much more regularly, and Phood is one of my new obsessions. I recently bought a 2 lb tub of Phood after drinking a few samples, and I bought a blender bottle (which I’ve coveted for some time) and I loved it so much that I went back and bought a second bottle!

I need to have a substantial breakfast, otherwise I’m off all day, but I can’t eat solid food without a ton of nausea early in the morning, and on nannying days, I’m up at 5:20 and at work at 6:20, but shakes and smoothies do the trick! A Phood shake (I use chocolate nut milk to make it even richer) will keep me full for a few hours easily, and generally does so without too much nausea, or no more nausea than I would have if I didn’t have a shake. It’s my new go-to, and the dense nutrients of a high quality protein powder like Phood or Shakeology means that I have a lot of energy because my body is getting what it needs and it doesn’t have to do a whole lot of digesting.

One of the other “side effects” of having been sick is that I have something called Raynaud’s Phenomenon. My feet and hands have compromised circulation, and get cold, numb, discolored, and swollen. Because my feet are almost always freezing, my UGG boots have been a Godsend this year. I bought my first pair in September, after wearing last year’s well-worn boots into the summer, because I had pain so bad in my toes and feet that I put all of my warm-weather shoes away. I knew that if I was wearing my old boots in August, I would need especially warm boots for the winter, and I’ve warn my UGGs nearly every day since then.

I’m sure I look like quite a picture in my sweats and spoonie-friendly clothes, with UGG boots and a blender bottle, but the older I get, the more comfortable I am with just letting things be and letting it all be out there. At the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do.

The Vicar of Dibley

If I cut my teeth on Star Trek, I learned to speak (and sass) on British comedies and mysteries. Mom and my Grandpa are total Anglophiles, and anything British is a must-watch. To this day, if someone is speaking with a British accent, it sounds entirely normal, and I have to think about the person or character’s country of origin because it doesn’t stand out to me. (I also have to make a very conscious effort not to reply in a British accent…)

The Vicar of Dibley is a show that I’ve seen many times, because in addition to being a British comedy starring the wonderful Dawn French, it’s about an Anglican Vicar in a small town in rural England, who is the town’s first experience with female ordination. It’s hilarious, and it’s a show that’s featured heavily in mine and Mom’s quote repertoire.

One of our favorite episodes to quote is The Christmas Special, in which, to celebrate Gerry’s tenth anniversary at Dibley, the villagers hold a hymn-writing contest, and perform the best of the new Christmas hymns at the Midnight Mass. The winning hymn was written by a parishioner who wanted to approach Christmas in a way that is original, and wrote about the labor and delivery of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I cannot encourage you enough to go and watch this episode. It is so funny.

The Vicar Of Dibley is available for streaming on Netflix, and I have re-watched the series many times there, though I must note that there are some missing episodes, including the pilot. We also own the DVDs, which are a great way of (binge) watching all of the episodes and specials.