The Face of God

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Hi there all my lovelies,

I know it’s been a while since we last met up here on MrsMetaphor.com and I’m sorry about that! Someone told me once never to apologize for taking a long time to post on a blog but in this case, it seems legit.

Suffice it to say that I’ve been doing a bunch of other stuff, not the least of which is writing a few books. The latest comes out next week, in fact. So you know, there’s that.

But, you know, I’m not actually reaching out to you today to tell you about the new book. I’m reaching out to ask you to support another cause I’m working on.

Many of you know that I worked in film here in Chicago for a number of years. Last year I started working remotely with a digital publishing house in Vancouver called Bright Wing. I seriously love the work we do at Bright Wing. We have an incredible team and get to work on beautiful and life-giving books. What could be better than that?

Hm, maybe working on a beautiful and life-giving film about an important topic?

I’m happy to say that Bright Wing was hired over the summer to begin work on a documentary film on the topic of climate change. In particular, climate change and the Orthodox church, which as some of you know, is kind of my jam.

I’m writing today to ask, humbly, for your help. We’ve raised enough to get started on the work but we need to raise more to complete it. So right now you might be saying, “Geez, Ang, we don’t hear from you for months years and now you’re posting to ask us for monies??”

Yes. Yes, I am.

It’s a beautiful film. It’s an important topic. It’s close to my heart and feeds my soul and I hope that maybe, just maybe, it will resonate with you as well. It’s a lot to ask, I know, especially this time of year. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.

So, if it resonates, I hope you’ll share this post or the website or the IndieGogo campaign or the Instagram or Facebook posts. We need your help. We cannot finish it without you. If you’re so inclined, send us some pocket change. We will gratefully accept whatever you have to give. All efforts help. Small change can make all the difference.

Thank you all, in advance. I’m grateful for you, now and always.

-Mrs M/Angela

Click here to donate:

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Donate to our campaign here!

 

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Pumpkin: On Writing Fiction

For the last few years, I’ve been slowly moving my writing from short-form personal essay to fiction. I’ve had a little success here and there, with short stories that show up in journals such as Apeiron Review, Saint Katherine Review and Ruminate Magazine, among others. It’s a great feeling to see a piece arrive in my mailbox.

It’s equally great to see it show up on my computer screen in online journals such as The Flash Fiction Press! They published one of my flash pieces last year, called “Dropping Tumblers” and  I’m pleased to say I’ve got another one there now.

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I’ve been playing around with “dialogue only” pieces the last couple of months and Pumpkin is one of these experimental flash stories. I hope you’ll take a look and let me know how you like it.

Keep in mind, I have a little yippy dog myself and I love him like the furry son he is, so, remember this piece is FICTION! 😉

All gift.

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2015 sort of snuck up on me when I was busy doing other things.

I had intended to write a moving and inspirational blog post about the hopefulness of a new year, about the passing of time and the growing feet of my three boys, about my daughter’s applications to college, about the gray hairs I find poking through at my temples and sometimes in my eyebrows so I guess I’ll get right on that.

Those wiry gray hairs are a weird comfort to me and I think it’s because I so often forget my age. I have to do the math, “let’s see…born in 1967 and now it’s what, 2015…”

It’s not a bad thing to forget my age, especially when I realize I’m a whole lot older than I had remembered, which sounds backward, I know. I forget that I’m on the backside of my 40’s sliding headfirst toward 50. I forget that and I get very impatient with my body, with my brain, with my energy level. It’s those gray hairs poking through that remind me of my age and I use those gray hairs as a sort of “keep calm” instruction when I get impatient.

I’m never going to have the body or the brain or the energy level I had when I was 17 or 25 or even 33. I am here now, living here now, having this body, this brain, this energy level and that’s okay. Really, it is.

So as I sit and reflect on the quiet, night-time passing of 2014, when I was busy doing other things I watch the slowly falling snow from the comfort of my favorite writing chair.  I hear the clicking of fingers on the keyboard issuing from my husband’s home office as he works on placing text in his graphic novel. I listen to my boys and their ever-growing feet as they run around downstairs, milking this last vestige of winter break. I think about my sweet girl sitting quietly in her room pondering great and powerful things that lie ahead for her in 2015. And I take comfort in the passing of time, the unfolding of the now and the not yet, the gray hairs poking through to mark the time, reminding me that this is all gift, all gift.

Monk in the world…

I’m pleased to have a piece up on Abbey of the Arts this week for their “Monk in the World” guest series. I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out and to browse the rest of the site. It’s a sweet group of folks and there’s a whole catalogue of wisdom there!

Monk in the World

The more you know…

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On the way to school today, my youngest son Miles read every single billboard and street sign, offering a commentary on each one. He talked and read non stop. He’s wrapping up his last week of the third grade, his first year attending “real” school. He was a late reader due in part of our massively unstructured version of homeschool and in part to his unwillingness to WANT to read. Reading lessons with him were like pulling teeth- for us both. For this reason when he began school this year it was with great trepidation for us both.

I’d warned his teacher that he’d be coming in below level. I set the bar low but she didn’t believe me. Entering third grade he could barely decipher the world around him. When she tested him the first time she called me to say that I’d called it right. She was surprised but she was kind about it, not shaming him, not shaming me. We’re fortunate to have gotten this amazing talented teacher on our first roll of the real school dice. Within one school year he was able to find that sweet spot of learning and then something clicked in him and suddenly he was reading.

His teacher gave me his Spring results this week, he clocked in at the 85th percentile. We high-fived each other. I thanked her for her hard work but she thanked Miles. “It was his work” she said and she was right about that. He worked hard for this, not even knowing what the world would look like once he could read. I hadn’t realized that for him, the goal felt strange and intangible, it was a goal he was not even sure he wanted, like being offered food that looks weird when you’re not hungry at all.

This morning after he read out all the street signs and billboards and before he jumped out of the car to run to line up for class I asked him, “Do you remember what it was like before you could read? It wasn’t that long ago.” He marveled at the question, saying that it was hard to remember. It felt to him as though he could always read. But he did remember how he felt; he remembered the jumble of foreign looking symbols all around him, he remembered the headaches that came from puzzling through them, he remembered the frustration and the anger and confusion. “The more I read, the more natural it is and there are WORDS everywhere. It’s amazing.”

I was struck by how often I take that for granted, that there are words everywhere and I can decipher them, be a part of the ongoing communication they offer and because of that I can enter into the larger world…and it is amazing.

 

walk alongside…

I have a new post up on Ruminate Magazine’s site today. In a way it’s not new, it’s a further reflection on things I experienced and then wrote about a number of years ago. The decision to revisit those words and emotions comes as I look over the Facebook pages of friends who, only 5 or 6 years ago were still waiting, still struggling, still walking alongside. Time is so interesting. Maybe that’s what makes Facebook so compelling for me, to be able to see the progression, the steady march of time as it crawls up my newsfeed. But we have a better measure than social media, a long term measure, that comes in the friendships we make and nurture and keep.

Time has shown me how hard it is to keep up, how rough the waters can be, how much loss and how much love are possible in any given life. Time shows me the mistakes I’ve made and whether or not I’ve learned anything at all in the wake of them.  We depend on time, always marking the passage of it like lines on the wall to show how high the children have grown or marking the days on the calendar before vacation or a wedding or the hope of a baby being made. The Rolling Stones were wrong by saying that time is on my side. It’s not. It’s outside of us. Time is indifferent to our weird little struggles, it just keeps moving along and yet it’s necessary for that measure of our lives.Time is out of our reach even as we try to gather it in, even as we try to store it in our bellies and our brains. Inevitably, I suppose we hope that time simply shows us we are better for our struggles after all.

So, digression over…take a moment to saunter over to Ruminate today. If you have experienced miscarriage or walked alongside someone who has, this post is meant for you. I hope you’ll share it if it hits you in the right place today.

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Can’t complain…

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This morning I woke to the sound of rushing water, which sounds far more poetic than the reality. I sat in bed for only a moment, listening to the water rush, wondering if it was rain or someone in the shower already at this early hour. I walked softly to the stairs and listened again realizing the water was rushing in the kitchen. I swore loudly as I stepped bare feet into the half-inch of water that had accumulated in the kitchen, held in check only by the porous nature of the wood and the next realization of the dripping sound in our finished basement. Tiptoeing through the water I slogged to the basement stairs and swore again as I watched the water dripping quickly from the light fixtures and air vents.

First, stop the water.

The sound was coming from the refrigerator so I kneeled in the water reached under the sink and shut off the source. The rushing continued, but slowed. I gathered every towel in the house and began to sop up the water, knowing it was already too late for most of the basement ceiling. I focused on the pond in the kitchen. I considered calling Dave in Los Angeles. I thought about Miles’ “family day” at 9:30am, that I was supposed to read a story about my grandfather and my mother, flying for the Civil Air Patrol in the 1950’s. I wrung out water, I swore more loudly, I woke the children with my panic and methodical work of bailing and drying and swearing.

I moved on to the basement and cleaned up what I could, but water finds a way, through the drywall, through the ceiling fixtures, through the venting. The drywall was bubbling and I moved what I could. Some books were already ruined. I didn’t linger there, choosing instead to rescue the couch by moving it away from the ceiling fan, choosing to save the laptops on the table under the bubble of water ready to burst above it, choosing to rescue anything movable, anything still dry, anything at risk. I would have to get the kids ready for school still. I would have to change my clothes at least for the presentation at Miles’ school. Life goes on.

I don’t have breast cancer.

On Wednesday I had my first mammogram. I know, I waited too long. When I turned 40 I was in flux, between doctors. When I was 45 I was in flux, coming back to Chicago, getting life back together. I waited til now, when there was a lull of sorts, near the end of the “deductible” deadline and I made an appointment. The results were back right away. Everything looks good, better than good, the best possible. I don’t have breast cancer.

When I talk with people sometimes I’ll ask how they are and sometimes they’ll say, “I can’t complain” and I’ll nod and agree. I can’t complain. My life is good, overall, things are good. I don’t have breast cancer. But the truth is I can complain and I do complain- often, daily, sometimes hourly as I sop up the water that drips from the ceiling above my head from the broken water line to my refrigerator. No filtered water for my coffee this morning. No saving the books I read to my children when they were toddlers. No dry towels for a shower this morning.

I don’t have breast cancer. I’m thankful for it, tremendously, because maybe part of the reason I waited so long to get that baseline mammogram is that I thought I might have it, because so many of my friends have walked that in the last 10 years or so. I’m thankful for being healthy and for my children being healthy so I can’t complain. But that’s not really true. I can complain and I do complain and i will continue to complain because that’s normal and that’s human. I’ll complain and I’ll swear and I’ll be ungrateful. That will happen because my memory is short and my life is complicated. I”ll forget to be grateful while my basement is flooded and that’s natural. We’ll be okay. We’ll work it out. Everything will dry out and we’ll only have lost some things. I can’t complain. I won’t complain. I don’t have breast cancer.

random acts…

IMG_9575The sky was black except for the white shocks of lightning, punctuating the pouring rain and blasting bouts of thunder. It was quite a show, that thunderstorm. I wish I had been able to see it from the comfort of my own house but we were driving through downtown Chicago, on our way to a fondue restaurant to celebrate my oldest boy entering his teen years. His love language is cheese. He was drooling in the back of the car just thinking about the meal to come. We’d been running around all day, to school, to sports after school, to pick up siblings, to his school open house and then we ran through the driving rain to our car as the lightning struck, close, we all screamed a little and jumped into our car in time to see the power go out in his school building and half the block around it. The storm was probably the worst I’ve seen in Chicago all year. The streets were flooded, the traffic insane, but we went downtown anyway, braving it all, because Chet’s become a teen and this is kind of a big deal.

We were all a little crabby by the time we reached State and Ohio, pedestrians and cars and rain and thunder, it was chaos. It was crazy. The crease between my eyebrows dug in deep as I listened to kids arguing and complaining, as I picked at my husband’s driving, as I began to resent being out in the wilds of Chicago on a night like this and then we were sitting at a light. A man stood on the street, dressed casually, middle-aged, shivering. He was waiting for something it seemed, looking around, maybe a tourist, maybe lost. Lost in the rain. A car pulled up near him and the window was rolled down. I thought perhaps this was his ride but a hand just gestured to him and the man seemed to notice the car for the first time. As he drew closer an umbrella was handed to him. The man looked stunned. He pointed to his chest and shook his head but the person in the car simply waved him over and stuck the umbrella out further. The middle-aged man came forward, took the umbrella and smiled, waving and thanking the stranger. He walked back to where he’d been standing and I noticed a woman who I had not seen, he opened the umbrella, pointed to the car and placed the umbrella over her head. She kept a look of confusion on her face for a moment, then shook her head, smiling and I realized that I was crying at this small act of kindness. Random. Caught in just the right moment for me. It was one small thing in a mass of big, messy things and it restored some missing piece in me. That’s really something. I thought you should know. 😉

What I heard you say…

It’s been a weird week since the Supreme Court offered up it’s long awaited opinion on equal rights for homosexual couples where marriage is concerned. I expected a flurry of activity on social media feeds and I braced for it because I have a fairly diverse group of friends on Facebook and Twitter.

It was strangely quiet.

There were a couple of heated discussions but I’m relieved to say that for the most part there was no over the top grandstanding from anyone. There was quiet gratitude and quiet disappointment. Apart from those vocal few I expected, there were not many ripples in the calm water of adorable cat pictures and anticipated Game of Thrones memes and for that I am thankful.

Just to prove that social media is not always a reflection of what’s happening in real life there were certainly backlashes from the religious community and grand showings of glee (the emotion, not the tv show) from those supportive of the measure. Facebook is, of course, a self constructed reality. It can be a very comforting bubble if I hide and show posts with any success. I cruised through the Supreme Court ruling news without losing sleep over posts at all. I call that a win, even if it’s a self constructed win.

Then today I read a blog post from Frank Schaeffer on Patheos.com. I read it because it was highlighted on Facebook by Sojourners and because I tend to like Sojourners and the other friends who subsequently posted links to it. To be fair, the friends who posted the link to the article did so with some caveats, often stating that they don’t agree with everything Frank says and yet there was something in his article they felt needed to be said.

I don’t know Frank Schaeffer, really. Though I’ve read him a few times, I don’t know much about him or his history because I was raised Catholic. His history isn’t mine, I don’t know his struggle much or his scandal or his family issues. I did meet him once in person at the first Wild Goose Festival. I was introduced by a real life friend of both of us. We sat at a picnic table and I batted away mosquitos and Daddy Long Leg spiders while my husband and I talked with him and drank lemonade in the “presenters” section behind an old farm house. The four of us sat there and he spoke of his grandchildren for the most part. We talked about parenting, Dave and I still very much in the throes of it with our four and we all talked of our failures and our proud moments. He brought it back to his grandchildren every time. He was most proud of his grandparent self and I respect that.

So, I read the article by Frank because though I often don’t care much for his writing I do remember meeting him and I remember the conversation about his grandchildren. It’s clear to me, from our brief conversation how much he thinks about the future and it was tremendously clear how much he loves and cares for his family so I read the piece, with that in my head.

And I was sad then when I read it because it felt strange and off and judgmental and marginalizing. I was sad because I think Frank has some great influence on the next generation of Christians and that’s important but this piece while “raw but not without merit” as my Facebook friend suggested, took me away from the conversation. I did not nod my head and share my own views and it made me not want to share my views, not because we disagree, but because it was not safe to agree or disagree. It made the conversation and the place of the conversation toxic and I feel sad about that because I do think we need to talk about it.

I work hard to practice what is called “active listening.” Active Listening looks something like this- a person gives a statement and then I reflect back not what I think or feel but what I hear them saying, using as many of their actual words as possible. The aim is not to read between the lines or to project my own fears and doubts on their words but to really take their words, reflect them back and see if I “get” what they said, not what I think they said or what I know they want to say but what they actually say.

I have to practice it because I suck at it. My default mechanism is listening while formulating what I’m going to say in response or reading between the lines to get what they really mean, deep in their hearts, you know, because I’m so very intuitive like that (NOT.) I admit, maybe even responding to Frank’s article is in effect, another offshoot of my default mechanism even so, it’s what comes to me around the piece because I don’t disagree that many conservative outlets practice hypocrisy and yet, I don’t know that reading their words and then telling “us” what they really mean by adding in what’s unspoken is terribly productive. There is a way to engage the struggle here, by letting the statements people make stand on their own and then responding. “Here is what I heard you say…” and then “This is how I feel about it…” is far more powerful a conversation in my estimation.

Even if I agree that Frank is right in his assessment, we’re all smart enough, I hope, to read between the lines on these statements ourselves. These are not new, super secret sentiments. There is something profoundly discouraging about having someone I heard speak so beautifully in person about his family tell us what people really mean. It dispels hope. It stops the conversation. It’s not active listening and in the end, I fear it only makes the divide between us all further and deeper and more desperate.

I respect the lovely and articulate grandfather I met at Wild Goose two years ago with whom I shared my parenting struggles and proud moments. This response to the tensions around this issue doesn’t represent the version of him I met that day and for that I am sad.