Talking Taboo: The Big Announcement!

I’m seated in the church pew, unsaid words pressing against my clamped teeth. I’m chewing instead of talking for any number of reasons; i’ve had this experience so often i can’t delineate which memory belongs where. It could be a flagrant disregard of the female characters in the lectionary reading by the pastor. It could be a subtle refusal to even consider female pronouns for G-d in Sunday School. It could be when a member of the congregation makes a combo homophobic-sexist comment about a woman in leadership needing to be “straightened” out by a man.

I’m not in an obvious rage. It’s not always a rage – sometimes it is a thoughtful frustration. But the most important thing is that it’s quiet – i am quiet. I might rant, later, to my ordained-minister mother. She’ll remind me that women have come a long way since the days she couldn’t be a pastor by virtue of her gender. I’ll nod, but exclaim: “we’re not done yet!” If i’m being particularly good that week, i’ll pray. Pray for my anger, pray for the reasons i’m angry.

But i don’t start a conversation. My anger turns into silence, and this silence becomes the taboo i never dare to bring up with anyone who i suspect might disagree.

And the thing is, i know i’m not the only Jesus-lovin’ lady out there who feels this suffocation. I can’t speak for all women who encounter such prejudice – i can only speak for myself. And this what i have to say, boiled down to the basics: i have enough faith in Jesus and the Church that we, people of all gender identities, are capable of confronting the everyday sexism in Christian communities. Capable of engaging compassionately and critically in dialogue with one another about faith and feminism. I am capable of voicing my frustration, even when it requires boldness . It is time i stopped staying silent in the pews.

Because when a chorus of individuals share personal narratives, i think a truly transformative space for conversation can be created.

And that, i hope, is exactly what my co-contributors and i have done in a stupendously exciting new book. It’s called  Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and it’s set to be published in October of 2013 by White Cloud Press!!

Forty women under the prowess of two fabulous co-editors, Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, have each contributed their own story. An essay that embodies the marginalization they have faced because of a clash between our gender and our faith. In the spectrum of women represented there is an equally wide spectrum of perspectives – some claiming feminist as an identity, and some decidedly not. Women of many denominations, races, backgrounds, long publishing resumés and shiny-eyed newbies (like me!). Women coming  together to instigate a taboo dialogue.

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

But having a Big Conversation like this requires a lot more voices than the 40 contributors, which is why today we are kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to help launch Talking Taboo with a bang. It would mean the world to me if you would make a donation to the campaign. Your support helps generate conversation, and the conversation works to end these silences. As an added bonus, we’ve chosen May 7th because it is the feast day of Saint Rose Venerini, who was a teacher of girls & women.

As the youngest contributor to the anthology, i stand on the precipice of my adulthood filled with explosive hope because of my co-contributors’ courage. Having my own story shared in the company of women who have paved so much of the road before me humbles (and, if i’m frank, terrifies) me. Their courage leaves me cracking with expectation for the kind of boundary-transgressing dialogue this book will generate.

Mostly, though, i want to say thank you.

I said yesterday i have always wanted to be a published author. By the grace of G-d and some wonderful mentors, this book is making that happen. It’s people like you – friends, faithful readers, neighbors, kin, and internet-passerbys that empower me to keep writing in the spaces of silence. You are wonderful, and sharing this news with you wonderful people makes the excitement tremendously tangible.

So let’s go shatter some stained-glass ceilings, shall we?

For more information about the book: check out the campaign’s website!

Pre-order your copy of Talking Taboo on Amazon!

Like Talking Taboo on Facebook!

A prologue to today’s announcement.

current jam: ‘i wanna dance with somebody’ whitney houston!



On Honey and Vinegar.

Traveling is, inherently, stressful. Traveling internationally through airports can be extremely stressful. Amidst the endless queues for security and clamped-tight seats in economy, tension can run high.

Which is why i always try to be as polite, smiley, and generally considerate when in international terminals. It’s a good rule to have in life, but by virtue of being human, i’m not always the most adept at obeying good rules. I do find the extra compassion when in pressurized places, though, makes the extra effort worth the reward.

Abby and i had arrived, at last, in Amsterdam. Waiting in line for customs, i saw what i thought was a spot open up in the line adjacent to us – so i scurried over to snag it and keep people moving. From behind me came a snappish English voice. “We queue in Europe. Apparently, you don’t.”

I turned, bewildered, to see an older man flushed with anger. “Sorry,” i replied, “i thought you were in the other line!” I turned and went to the back of the other line, rolling my eyes at Abby and trying to play it cool. It had been an honest mistake. There’s so much shuffling and lining up in airports, it’s easy to get cut off or unintentionally step on toes (metaphorically and non-metaphorically). And the last thing i needed was some guy to be condescending to me, presumably because i was not European and therefore (apparently) of some lesser status than he.

We got through customs just fine, and our new friend passed through at precisely the same time. After tucking my passport back into my rucksack, i smiled and waved at him. He blushed. “Sorry – i – just was falling behind. I – uh…” I just waved it away, my jaw fixed in a (admittedly somewhat passive-aggressive) smile. “Well, have a good holiday, anyway,” he spluttered as we turned to go. I said thank you, and walked off.

Easily, i could have fallen apart and wept on the spot. I was tired, no one likes being yelled at , and i was really preoccupied with trying to read maps in Dutch. Or, i could have been snappish and rude and dished it right back to him. Maybe i wanted to show him how nasty his remark was by being overly kind. Maybe i was a little peeved at the Euro-elitist attitude and trying to wield my Southern American hospitality to prove a point. Maybe that doesn’t make me any better in my thinking. And maybe he’d been just as confused and wanted to channel his own frustrations at someone else.

But, at the end of the day, he clearly regretted being rude to a confused foreigner. And i felt satisfied that i resisted the urge to snap back. I learned to double-check the line’s mobility, and i hope he learned not to jump to conclusions by being mean. Mostly, though, it just was a lesson in reiterating one of my mother’s favorite phrases: you attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

Being kind, especially under stress, can really can make an enormous difference.

in other news: we’re safe and sound in amsterdam and having a rollicking good time! be sure to stay tuned for more, hopefully more uplifting posts in the next few days!

current jam: the sounds of an amsterdam street.

best thing: cheese!

Obligatory Year End Wrap Up Title (a Thoughts in my head Reflection).

We pause now in our regularly scheduled programming to bring you an obligatory wrap-up of the year two-thousand-and-eleven. Well, perhaps not obligatory, but certainly well-warranted and most definitely time-sensative.

2011 was, well, probably the craziest year of my life. As i consider all that has changed in the past year – and nearly everything in my life has changed – i find myself at a tension. The year was one of the most incredible, inspiring, beautiful, and brilliant years i’ve yet had; i finally lived (albeit briefly) in Uganda; with the resilient and wonderful people of South Sudan i witnessed the birth of the world’s newest nation; i, at long last, made it to Platform 9 and 3/4; i declared my double-major after much anguish and discernment; i deepened some of the most important friendships of my life, dyed my hair, survived my first 300 level seminar, fell in love with my cats, saw the final Harry Potter film installment,  embarked upon 6 road trips, saw two Harry and the Potters concerts, started a blog (oh, hello, you (you look lovely, by the way)), and took more risks and plunges than i ever thought possible.

And yet, for personal reasons, this was also a year of profound pruning. Living abroad was not so easy as i’d dreamt, adulthood is not as glamorous as i once thought it might be. The year was a year of dualities; beauty that stole the breath from my body, pain that made me heave with the effort to intake oxygen. Yin and yang, perfection and price.

What it all seems to boil down to, though, is my right leg. Yes, you read that right. You might recall, dear one, that on my first day in the city of Kampala, after my first tousle and whir on a boda-boda, i … scraped … my leg after dismounting from the bike on the wrong side. And by scraped, i mean burned the skin clean off. Well, to be totally honest, it was hardly a clean wound. To spare you the gruesome details, i shall merely say it was no pleasant sight and an even more brutal endurance to be had (God, i’m a good whiner). For my foolishness i still bear a pretty impressive scar about the size of my palm; my mom says it looks like a butt-heart (thanks, Ma) and she’s putting it mildly. As far as scars go, it is no lightening bolt.

But i love my scar.

I love everything about it; the discoloration, the fact that it’s just this amorphous blob of gross-looking skin, the fact that it is fully visible in warm weather. Most of all, though, i love that the scar on my leg reminds me that faith takes risk. And sometimes, such risks hurt. Badly. They might take time to heal, and the healing may involve a limp and tight-lipped grimaces and some not-so-fun antibiotics. But in the end, you can choose to purchase your fancy scar-removing creams or surgeries, or you can choose to embrace the imperfection. The reminder of a lesson, an adventure, a lifelong journey.

2011 was a year of choosing the latter, and learning to deal with such ramifications. For all that was good, and all that was not, i am deeply moved and deeply grateful. Such pruning gives space for the vine to grow with branches wider and roots deeper.

Faith takes risk, after all.

current jam: ‘ever after’ from into the woods

best thing in my life right now: stephen sondheim, haircuts, and tamora pierce.

(our regularly scheduled programming should resume, apocalypse pending, on the morrow lads and lasses)

Peanut M&Ms and Free Wi-Fi

Much sooner than I had initially anticipated I find myself with access to wi-fi and therefore writing twice in one day. I’m currently in Philadelphia, waiting for the duration of my three hour layover in my terminal, looking out the window and at planes taxiing and fueling up. The flight from NC was uneventful, for which I’m very grateful.

Leaving, however, was much harder than I anticipated. Until very recently I did not really realize how long ten weeks is to go without seeing my family. For some reason, this feels vastly different than going ten weeks at school (which I have done). Perhaps because this trip truly is different than going back to school. My life seems like one big transition lately; I never seem to stay anywhere long enough for the dust to settle. This isn’t necessarily bad- I was home long enough to consume enough sweet tea to nourish a small population of people and able to get all my kitty snuggles in. But the wandering must recommence sooner rather than later, otherwise the impossible lethargy becomes too consuming to bear. Sometimes I feel like I’m asleep while awake, completely apathetic to my own inaction and desire to laze about. Maybe that’s healthy, maybe I need those few weeks of deep rest in order to care so much the rest of the time.

As much as I often feel like a cloud of indifference, neither here nor there, I feel so deeply ten times more. Freud would have a field day with me and my lapses.

Enough metaphysical pontification! Time for a story.

Before I went through security, my Dad handed me a few parting gifts, one being a bag of peanut m&ms. If you notice in this video I mentioned that eating peanut m&ms while abroad is something of a blossoming tradition in the M. household, and this tradition, like all such traditions, is rooted in something of a story.

And, conveniently enough for me, this story takes place in Uganda. Four years ago I was fourteen and in the summer after my first year of high school. I’d never left the country but had nurtured a desire to go to Africa since meeting Peace Corps volunteers in the seventh grade (and really, before then too, but that’s the most concrete time I ever remember declaring myself to be a future Peace Corps volunteer (I have since decided to not do Peace Corps in lieu of perhaps working with MCC/ other fabulous smaller NGO(I also rather like this triple paranthetical statement, but where was I?(right, Uganda, 14)))) point being, I was very young and very naive. I don’t dare to say I’m neither of those things now, but I have grown up a little since then.

Everything was magical when I first landed in Entebbe. In part this was the marvel of leaving all you know to enter a new place, but mostly it was because Uganda is truly a magical place. (I do well to remember, when I’m close to panicking on the plane). That first time to Africa was a pilgrimage with Duke Divinity school and, in more ways than I can enumerate, would profoundly impact my life for years to come. Most obviously, I’m going back to Uganda to live with friends I met on said trip.

And this one friend particular friend (one Thera, whom you can check out here) had been living in Uganda for some time. On one of our many long and excruciatingly bumpy rides in the bus, she was telling us about how much she missed salty, crunchy food (of which, as I recall, there is not a lot of in Uganda). Her parents had sent her a care package, and tucked in the box was a bag of nothing other than…you guessed it! Peanut M&Ms. She said she opened the bag and smelled it for an hour before even eating one.

Needless to say, while she was telling us this tale, I wanted nothing more than a peanut m&m at that moment. When none were readily available, I promptly forgot about the tale. Assuredly, I was educating one of the Ugandan priests accompanying us on Led Zeppelin (don’t judge- I was fourteen, after all) which was of equal amusement.

But, come June of 2010, when I was once again breathing deeply African air in Ghana, I was reminded of this tale. And despite the fact that Ghana is the distance from Uganda as California is to North Carolina (have I mentioned that Africa is FIVE TIMES the size of the continental United States?) something universally true about being away from the states made me miss peanut m&ms. When, a week into our voyage, I was complaining about this to my mother, she giggled and pulled out of her suitcase pringles and…a heaven-sent bag of peanut m&ms.

So while many cravings and wishes I might have while in Uganda may be silly, unfulfillable, or really unnecessary I always allow myself now to bring a bag of said divine, crunchy, salty, and sweet candies. In the aforementioned video I was in Canada, and while Montréal is not exactly a vast world away from the USA, international traveling traditions are to be honored! My Dad had bought me the m&ms for that trip, too.

So, thanks Dad for keeping the tradition alive.

Now I’ve got to try and find something mildly healthy and fresh in this airport to eat before my flight. Bruxelles, je viendrai! (Je pense que cette phrase est correcte, mais je ne suis pas sûr…)

current jam: “thistle & weeds” mumford & sons

best thing in my life right now: safe and merciful travelings. and this incredible video the allmadeofawesome girls put together for me!!

i need a new third sign off…suggestions? i don’t want to count down to returning back to the states, so i’m in a puzzle.