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The interwebs are abuzz with the news of Robin Williams’ untimely death.  An apparent suicide.  Everyone is shocked and heartbroken.  Not me.  I heard the news and was not in the least bit surprised.  Instead, it almost felt like I had been expecting this. This is because of two bits of information I had gleaned from an interview Robin Williams had given.

  1. Robin Williams was bipolar
  2. Robin Williams was an addict because he self-medicated for the above disorder.

So when I heard the news today I was not surprised.

Actually it felt like I had dodged a bullet.  I felt relief.

Before you accuse me of being callous, I should tell you my story.

There was a time that I was expecting to hear the news that my mother was dead.  Every day I was expecting that call. You see, my mother is bipolar too.

It hit with menopause.  She kept getting worse.  More and more depressed, but with these weird phases where she would do things like purchasing a ton of blouses and shirts.  She thought she needed so many of them, and yet had a closet stuffed full of ones she had never worn.

The depression was crushing.  My mother, who had been so capable and strong, became unable to do the simplest things.

My parents moved to a new home, and a new community, and she could hardly unpack the house.

One Sunday my dad got up to go to church, not a surprise, since he was a pastor for so many years. He got in the shower, but got this strange sensation that he shouldn’t go to church.  He says God told him to go back to bed and not go to church.  This was a big deal for my dad.  He’s not a “skip church” kind of guy. However, the feeling was strong, so my dad got out of the shower, put his pajamas back on, and went back to bed.

Not long after, my mother woke up to find my dad still in bed.  She asked him what he was doing, and he said that he was skipping church.  She started getting agitated, more and more restless as the minutes ticked by.  Finally she started to cry.  My dad sat up in bed and asked my mom what was going on.  She tried to brush it off for a while, but finally broke. She had a plan, and my father’s presence was thwarting it.

Yes.  That kind of plan.

After dad had left for church, she was going to get up, put a load of laundry in the washer, come up and write us all letters on the computer, put the wash into the dryer, and start another load, tidy up down stairs, take a shower, make the bed, then take all her pills with drain cleaner.

That day was the first time my mother was hospitalized for her depression, which was then diagnosed as bipolar disorder.  I remember scraping the money together to fly over to help.  I spend the days unpacking my parents house, hanging pictures on the wall, doing busy work to fill the hours until I could see her. My lovely, amazing, broken mother. I remember holding her when she would cry, and knowing there was no way I could make it better. It broke my heart to see her this way, and see my father not be able to fix the woman he loved so much.

After they got her leveled out, years later, after many medications, and two rounds of electroshock therapy, my mother and I talked about that time. She told me about the utter lack of hope she had.  She said that she could have hope for us, hope that my dad would move on, and find someone else, hope that we would all be fine without her, but that she had absolutely none for herself. She said “If I had never been there, I wouldn’t believe it now.  I can’t explain it.  There was just no hope to be found.”

Thankfully, for my mother, as menopause disappeared, so did her symptoms.  She has been level for years, mostly without medication.

But I watch.  We all do.  When I say “There but for the grace of God…” you know I mean it.  If it hadn’t been for that voice in the shower….

And deep down, in the darkest corners of my mind, I fear that phone call. That one that says your mother lost her hope, and now you’ve lost her.

I feel for Robin Williams’ family.  I really do.  My heart goes out to them. They got that call.

I hope that good can come from this, that more people are made aware of the suffering of bipolar disorder and depression.  I hope that more understanding, research, and medication can come from this.

Most of all, I hope that this is a bullet my family and I can continue to dodge.  Depression can shatter a family; can destroy life.  I hope, not mine.

By the grace of God, I hope.

Folded Words

One of my favorite things to talk about, the amazing Reading for Life is going through some big changes.  The creator, director and all around uber-boss, Alesha Seroczynski, is moving on.  In  fact she is taking the next logical step, combining past experience and her work at RFL, she is becoming the Dean of a university initiative to provide inmates at a correctional institution with a college degree.  We’re so excited for her.

We decided that it was important to give her the perfect gift to honor her for all her work, and encourage her for the future.  For a while we came up blank, and then I had a brainwave.  Reading for Life was spawned as a pilot research project using Harry Potter books.  In fact, Alesha dreamed up the idea while thinking about Harry Potter.  One of her favorite books in the series was The Goblet of Fire.  Reading for Life uses good books, mentors, and virtue theory to help at risk kids (namely first time juvenile offenders and incarcerated youth) make better life decisions.  One of the virtues we teach is Hope: An invested belief in a future possibility.  We reckoned that Alesha embodies hope to everyone she comes across.  She believed that with just a little help youth who were falling through the cracks could have a new chance at life.  Currently more than 95% of our participants have had no further contact with the law.  That is amazing.  She gave them a chance at a better life. Her hope has transformed them.  Now she is moving on to men incarcerated in prison.  Yet again she has the opportunity to give people the gift of hope.

So, as a thank you for her 10 years of pouring hope into the lives of others we presented her with this:

 

Harry's Hope

Harry’s Hope

I am quite proud of this. Not only is it the perfect gift for Alesha, but it gave me the opportunity to learn a new skill.  Seriously fun, book folding.  This is in the middle of a  copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It is a book that was rescued from a library, and was past it’s prime, but now look at it.  It can sit on her desk, remind her of what she was and what she is to so many people. A fitting gift.  The good news is, she loves it.  I might just need to make one for myself.

It’s not that hard, just a bit time consuming. You have to create a pattern (or purchase one as I did.  I don’t have access to photo shop to make my own….but that would be cool) then measure out the fold lines on your book, and then begin the folding.  It took about 7 hours in total, but the final product was worth it.

Go, Do.

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Bekki and I am an extreme extrovert. This means,the more I am with people, the more natural I feel. The more I interact, the more energy I have. What do I hate the most? Being alone. It isn’t that I can’t be alone, its more that prolonged alone-ness sucks the life out of me. When I moved to D.C., I said goodbye to good friends, a thriving social circle, a good job, and a church community. After spending almost a year searching for church and employment, I found myself incredibly isolated, and extremely exhausted.

Then I found the Table. For the first time in a long time I felt like I had community again. A breath of fresh air in the midst of a rather stale life. However, being the newbie isn’t easy. It is great to meet new people, begin to establish new relationships, forge connections, but the journey from encounter to community isn’t quick. It takes time and investment, and the starved extrovert in me was finding patience a burden. I liked the people I was meeting. I liked the community I was seeing. I wanted so much to be a part of it, RIGHT NOW.

Confession time: There were moments when I just wanted to ask people “Please. Can you just like me. Please?”

At about week three of my attendance at the Table, I was getting ready to leave my house. I breathed this rather desperate prayer. “Jesus, please let someone ask me to join them for dinner after church.” I was so grateful when some fellow newbies extended a dinner invitation to me, and we had a lovely meal getting to know each other better. I went home breathing “Thank you.”

A couple weeks later, after a somewhat maudlin week of missing friends and struggling on the job search, I was preparing to go to church again. Again I prayed a prayer asking for someone to invite me to dinner. This time was different. This time it hit me just how demanding this prayer was. Yes, I had a need and a desire, but was I the only one? A number of years ago I read the Message translation of Matthew 7:12. It had stuck with me for a long time, and now it came flooding back to me now.

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.”

What was I asking for? Connection, community, being noticed and included. Could I do that for someone else? It means moving, not waiting for someone to come and meet my needs. It means getting beyond what I want, and focusing on someone else instead.

Revelation: If I want community, I have to be community.

That night I chose to be a part of the Table.  I chose to welcome someone else instead of expecting to be welcomed.  I chose to get to know others instead of expecting others to get to know me.  I figured out what I wanted, and invited someone else out to eat after the service.

It was hard, but it was worth it.

I decided not to wait for this community to chose me.  Instead, I decided to become a part of this community. The Table is my church now, and I have the privilege of being to others the kind church I want to be a part of.

Confession:  I probably will pray that prayer again.  Hopefully, I will again remember, in the midst of my needs and wants, to go do, not sit and wait.

I realize, in reading back over my blog, that there are a few things I tend to write about a lot.  I guess it could give the impression that I am a one trick pony.  I am really much more diverse than this.  I think my blog becomes that place that I can stop and wrestle, and think things through that are rattling around in my brain. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, these seem to run on similar tracks, especially faith and sexuality.  So lucky you, you get a view into my psyche again.

One of the most significant events over the last few months has been finally finding a church that I am pleased to attend. For many of you that is probably not a priority.  For me it is quite significant. I really relished the move to D.C. partly because I felt I had the opportunity to find a new community of believers.  I really loved the people in my church back in Michiana. They became my family when I had none. Quite honestly though, I was having more and more issues with actions and beliefs of the church the longer I was there.  I didn’t want to leave because they were my family, but in many ways I was itching to leave. [1]  After months of searching, and soul crushing isolation, I was on the verge of giving up and attending a church that was the best of the ones I really did not enjoy.  Then I found the Table on line, quite by accident. From the first visit I knew this was a church I could be proud of attending; a church I could be involved in and to which I could contribute. In short, I found a community again.

But this is not a blog about finding church.  It is instead about a conundrum that has emerged.

So there is theme one: Faith.  Enter theme two: sexuality.

I have been trying to get to know the people in this community. I am quite impressed with them.  Caring, generous, justice oriented.  Gracious, fun, human.  They are good people.  I signed up to be part of the worship band, something I didn’t think I would do again.  I find it a completely different experience.  One bonus, ever practice I have been to has ended with us going a local bar for a drink.  Despite my very meager bank balance, I really enjoy this ability to get to know others better. This last week, I went out with the other women from the team.  It was good.  Good conversation, good beginnings.  As per usual, I am fairly significantly older than either of them.  They were in their mid twenties.  One engaged and planning a wedding, the other in a significant relationship on the verge of engagement.

The conversation went like this:

Serious: So I think I found an apartment.
Ringbearer: By yourself?
Serious: Yeah. <to me> My housemate and I were about to sign a lease when she told me that she was moving in with her boyfriend, so I have finite time to find a new place.
Me: That really sucks.
Ringbearer: Why didn’t you move in with Significant Other?
Serious: He and Housemate have lease til May, wouldn’t do that to Housemate. It would be too small for me too.Plus. My parents would probably disown me if I moved in with Significant Other. Even though it would make sense, we’re together almost every night.
Ringbearer: That’s why I didn’t move in with Spouse-to-be. My parents wouldn’t be happy.
Me:<nothing to add>

One of the things I really struggle with today is the way church talks about sexuality.  You’ve heard me rant here before. One of the things that I struggle with the most is that the church is really bad about having the conversation about sex when it isn’t in the context of marriage.  We talk a lot about waiting for marriage, but not much else. I hear a lot of this growing up.  Thank god I had sensible parents who had  a more thorough conversation with us about choices, and consequences, and relationships.  But I am not 17 any more.

I am not even mid twenties.

I am 41.

And a virgin.

This conversation immediately put me on edge.  Not because I was faulting either of these women for their choices, but because I felt so….irrelevant isn’t the word…forgotten not either…perhaps archaic is. I felt archaic. I am used to being ‘suspect’ outside of church.  By this I mean, I rarely talk about being a virgin, because so many people around me think it is flat out weird, or they assume that it is simply because of the lack of opportunity. [2] This is really hurtful to me.  I am not a virgin because I am overly religious, or I bought into some simplistic idea of purity until marriage.  It is a complex and well thought out series of decisions on my part, and honestly, not always a decision I am pleased with.  Sometimes it is more a burden than I care to admit. The one thing I could always count on was, that despite my frustration with church, that was the one place where my decision was normal.  Almost all my friends that I grew up with were virgins when they got married.  I was just like everyone else.  Until they all got married and I was the only one left.  Now I was in a conversation where I had nothing to add, no experience to speak from, and the very nature of who I am is awkward. I am not normal. Instead, it is not acceptable to be me any more. [3][4] I have no place where being a virgin is normal.

To me this is the beginning of a conversation.  One I would like the church in general to take on.  I want us to wrestle with sexuality and purity.  Can we have a conversation where marriage/covenant is not the end game? Can we talk about what sexuality looks like when children are not a possibility? Can we talk about needs and longings? Can we be honest for a change?  I know I am not alone in this, but it feels like incredibly uncharted territory, especially in the evangelical christian world.  Please?  Some of us really need it, because it is beginning to feel like we don’t belong anymore.

I want to be a relevant part of the conversation, and not the circus sideshow freak.

Caveats:

1. For the record. I really am in support of some of the direction they have made in the last year.  I think they are becoming the church they need to for their community. I love them dearly, even if I don’t always agree with them.

2.  These people should just ride the metro with me.  I have had a number of prospects there!

3. Neither woman was in any way judgmental towards me. They don’t even know.  It is just how I was feeling in the conversation.

4. I cannot credit myself for this last statement. This came from a good friend, Amy, in a phone conversation last night.  Everyone needs an Amy for good conversations.  I am unanimous in this.

When I was about 2 years old, my best friend in the world was Christine.  She was about 6 weeks younger than me, and our mothers had been pregnant together.  They found a coupon in the paper giving them great discounts on J.C. Penney photo shoots for children, and bundled us off to get our pictures taken.  I was a very verbal child by then, and Christine had taken to referring to herself in 3rd person as Nini Ruf (Christine Ruth).  We were both VERY opinionated, as toddlers get.  The poor photographer had no idea what he was in for.  When Christine got all set up for her pictures, nothing in the world would induce her to smile.  She kept saying of the photographer “Nini Ruf no like dat man”  embarrassing her poor mother to no end.  There were no pictures of a happy Christine that day.  My mother was secretly hoping that her daughter would do better.  No such luck.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera) “Baaaaa”

Me:  It’s a camera.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera)  “MooooOOOOooooo”

Me: (a little huffy) It’s a camera.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera) ” Ooooink Oooink!”

Me:  (Pointedly)  It’ a Camera!

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera, desperately) “Woof, Woof!”

Me (Exasperated)  I told you three times already.  IT’S. A. CAMERA!

 Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, my mother wished the floor would open up and swallow her and her know-it-all daughter.

I, on the other hand, side with Christine.  That was not a good photographer.

 

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My friend Janie, on the other hand, is a very good photographer. [1.] She has also been an amazing friend to me.  When I opened up my Etsy shop  I asked her for some photography tips.  She responded by a) photographing a bunch of my stuff and b) commissioning a couple of pieces c) using a lace overlay I found in my great aunt’s attic to great effect.  It just has blown me away.  You should check out my shop and see her handiwork.  She is amazing.  This is just a snippet of how amazing Janie is. She opened her home to me when I needed it, and has been the best friend through some of my worst moments.  I thank God for her all the time.  I was very lucky to come across her in my Vox days, and meet her (thank you Kelly and Lindsey).  I am very blessed to call her a friend.  She is in a high eschalon of those who are more like a sister to me than a friend.

If you are in the VA, MD, DC area, you should hire her.  She and her husband are excellent photographers. They do great things with kids, families, and weddings.  She cares about each of her clients personally.  You would be lucky to have Janie in your life.  Go check her work out. She will be much better with you than J.C. Penney guy was with me and Nini.

 

 

 

1. I actually have been very blessed to have a number of good photographers in my friends and family.  Moe and Kris, Dawn, my new sis-in-law Katie to name just a few.

Creative Streak

In undergrad I had to do a paper that followed one item from creation to use, and evaluated how it impacted the economy, environment, and social space in 8 different global levels, from classroom to the earth as a whole.  I chose to do a skein of bamboo/wool blend. I made the argument that it benefited my class because it enabled me to knit, and knitting has all kinds of advantages.  During my research I uncovered how it helps children with ADD and ADHD cut way down on medication. I found out how it has more mental health advantages than yoga. I also discovered that people who knit or crochet have lower instances of PTSD, and have much lower stress levels.

Lately I am beginning to wonder if any type of creativity has similar benefits.  My stress is on high alert due to lack of job and precarious financial situation.  Life is a hot mess, and what do I want to do all the time?  Create.  Create. Create.  Maybe it is just my desire to escape the inevitable, and keep my hands busy but even during finals I had to force myself to study and not create.

The moment that last paper was turned in?  BAM!

I worked up a wedding present for a friend, an amazing collage and triptych.

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Then I went on a tear, making magnets and hair pins.  Flowers Flowers everywhere.

A very delicious Tom Holt book was retired for these flowers.  Don’t worry, it was already in bad shape, and would not make it. (I see you shaking your finger in my general direction Margaret M.) Now it can be enjoyed for years to come.

I also experimented with a little lively collage, filled with a lot of pink (not a natural favorite of mine) and I quite love how it turned out.

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Finally I started playing around with making earrings. Since I love to knit, they are adorable reminders of my addiction to fiber and color.

So this is what I do when I am stressed.  I make things.

Probably good that I got my arm twisted into creating an Etsy store eh? I don’t have enough friends to gift these to.

Chihuly in London

One of the days I was in England for my brother’s wedding my sister and I took a day trip to London.  Actually, we got to take the train there and back with my father as he had his last day of counseling in the city [1]. That was kind of fun.  It’s not like we did anything exciting on the train, but quality time with my dad and sister is very lacking. I miss them tremendously.

Anyway, we went into town with a specific purpose, going to the Halcyon Gallery to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit.  It was amazing, first taking in the Sun sculpture in Barkley square, and then making our way past all the swank shops to the gallery on New Bond street.  I told my sister that most of the things in the stores would keep me for a year.  They were so pricey.  We did, however take go drool in an Anya Hindmarch store.  Mmmm.  Lovely.

The Chihuly gallery was amazing.  I’ve mostly only seen his outdoor sculptures.  The indoor work was just as breathtaking. I loved the way light through the pieces created art in its own right.  I kept asking myself “Why isn’t this in my house?” especially when I saw the ceiling.  Forgive my cell phone camera. It doesn’t do the works justice.

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After that we headed over to the Olympic park.  We lived, for a short time, on Romford Road, in the East London.  It was amazing stepping out of the train station into this intense high-class mall, and then, bam, out into sunlight and green that wasn’t there the last time I was over there. It was beautiful.  My sister and I enjoyed the beautiful day along the canals. Would have even gone up the sculpture, if it hadn’t been for the high cost. It was a lovely day out. I even got my sister to read The Pull of Gravity.

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A nice surprise was found in a bookstore in the mall, The checkout desk was made from a ton of books, and I salivated over it, much to the amusement of my sister and the clerk.  I even took pictures.  Kelly, Lindsey, Don’t you think your house needs something like this, as a bar perhaps, dining room table, or even a fireplace surround?  Seriously, how cool is that.

20140408_160613 20140408_160604

 

All in all this was a lovely day, and I am glad of the chance to be in London.  Seriously. If it had been two trips to England without the city I would have been a hot mess.  A. Hot. Mess. [2]

 

  1. He was counseling at St James the Less church which always made me wonder, who was St James the More or St James the Ok? I mean, what kind of name is that for a church?
  2. Ask my sister, She was the only one who heard my involuntary utterance when I woke up in our van, on the way home from the wedding, and found we were on the north circular and looking directly at Wembley Stadium.  I believe the words I whispered were ‘Hello My lovely.”  My sister laughed very loudly, prompting the whole van to ask what was up.  Bethany’s response?  “Bekki misses her city.”  Truer words, sister.  Truer words have never been spoken.
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