22 August 2014


Six years ago today my dad died. When someone you love dies, you learn the great importance of memories. When they're all you have, they mean an awful lot. Something I've learned is that every story you hear about your past helps you figure out your future.

My father had a great memory. He could remember who so-and-so was and when we went to that place. I could describe a memory to him and he could pinpoint where we were, when and with who. I hate that that's gone now. Parts of my childhood effectively lost because no one remembers them. I wonder what he and I shared that I'll never know to remember. What insight he would have about who I am today from who he knew me to be then.

My grandmother's memory is going. She can't remember that she just went to the bank that morning or who was just on the phone. But, if you ask her about the past - how she met my grandfather, who was the orneriest child, what was Oklahoma like during the dust bowl - everything seems to get clearer for her. So I seize every opportunity to learn more about her. In such a real and intimate way, she created me. I can learn about myself, learning about her. So I ask every question I can come up with and pay attention to everything she has to say.

When I go on vacation during the summer, I don't go down the shore or to visit friends or even camping (though I wish I did all of these more often). No, what I choose to invest that time and money in each summer is going to Ohio to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins and my grandmother. There are three annual family reunions I could go to each summer; two on my dad's side and one one my mom's. At all of these events there are more than fifty people who are related to me there. I choose to invest time and money in seeing my family because I have learned the hard way that time is precious and your family are the only people who really know you.

My cousin Elisabeth and her husband Chris came to visit last weekend. I'm in the middle of a very busy time at work and have been feeling more worn down than usual. Yet after spending the afternoon walking miles around my city with them, I felt refreshed. There is something about being with family that just strips off all the armour and lets you relax. They already know who you are; you can't hide anything from them so you just stop trying and relax. Even though I was physically tired, I felt like my brain had stopped spinning and I could just be. Something about the safety and comfort of family just gets to the core of you and reminds you who you really are.

So on this day more than most days, I am remembering the importance of remembering. Of locating my place in the family of things. Of knowing who my people are.

The Bloughs, circa 1998
The Millers, 2008

15 August 2014

I am my Body

I'm sorry, but I just can't stop talking about bodies. I'm utterly fascinated by them. So many shapes, sizes and colors. So much political and societal pressure. Such potential for joy and heartbreak. I feel pain and power through embodiment. I am in awe of incarnation.

Our western culture has so divorced our bodies from ourselves. We talk about it with distancing language. We do things "to" our body and our bodies "to" us. When we're dealing with cramps, I've heard many women (myself included) complain that our uteruses are attacking us. We so often say, "My back is killing me." Not, "I'm in pain." We accuse our body as if it is some third party.

I've dealt with a lot of gastrointestinal issues and I used to get mad at my stomach for doing this to me; never considering I was just trying to warn myself that something was wrong. My stomach didn't hurt - I hurt. I've spent so much time trying to beat my body into submission - to bend it to my will. I never considered working with my body. I always considered pain something to be overcome, not a warning from me to me.

I'm taking a body alignment class and it is so fascinating. We're learning to really tune into our bodies and pay attention to what is hurting and what needs rest. We're learning how best to walk and stand and sit. Most of what I'm learning, though, is that my body isn't something to be overcome. When I push my body to move a certain way and it hurts, that's not something to push through, but a warning that I need to pull back.

For me, the very idea that physical pain is not something to push through, but rather something to listen to is revelatory.

When something makes me feel sad or something is painful to think about, I listen to that feeling and stop doing that thing. Not to say that I avoid sadness or pain, but I pay attention to it and give myself a break when I need it. If I can have this grace for my mind and spirit, why do I struggle to offer this grace to my body?

I think part of it is that it is easy to own my mind and my spirit. Claiming them feels natural and right. Owning my body feels like a whole other thing. And not owning it in the sense of possession, but owning it as an integral part of Me. Not something I control or operate, but, just as my mind and spirit are, a third of my whole being. A vital piece of my Trinity. It is my firm belief that we are created in the image of Trinity: Mind, Body and Spirit. All three equally me. I am my body.

But my body has been a source of such shame and fear - Is is so surprising that I struggle to claim it as myself?

Part of how I know that I am my body is that my body feels what I feel. When my father died, I felt it in my chest. Like a hippo just sitting there for months. The first time I heard Led Zeppelin's "Bron-yr-aur" my chest swelled and I got weak in the knees, taken by its beauty. The first time I got dumped, I got a rash and a migraine. Recently, when I saw Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art I audibly gasped and my stomach jumped, overjoyed at the very sight.

When I claim my body as me, taking care of it gets so much easier. Eating healthy and exercising become as important as learning new things and writing. Paying attention to my pain rather than powering through it just makes sense when I internalize that pain, rather than treating it as something happening to me.

I am my body. What affects my body, affects me. If my body hurts, I hurt. If my body feels good, I feel good. The more I take ownership of and pay attention to my body, the more whole and happy I can be.

08 August 2014

Nisly Campout

I totally forgot about you. I remembered a few times during the week, but didn't write anything. Then I remembered last night at 8, but still didn't write anything. Then I remembered when I woke up today, and didn't write anything. Then I remembered 10 minutes ago, now I'm writing something.

I'm headed to the Nisly Campout this afternoon. It's a huge family reunion in Ohio and this year will be the 47th annual. And I've been so hype about it, that I totally forgot to write a blog. So, instead of a blog, here's some pictures from Nisly Campouts past. Maybe this will give you a glimpse of what got me so excited that I even forgot to blog.



01 August 2014

Take care of yourself

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver

"Take care of yourself," is my favorite way of saying goodbye to someone. I did a semester in Oregon and I had a friend who would always say that as his "goodbye." It was also while doing that semester in Oregon that I was introduced to this poem by Mary Oliver.

I recently remarked to my therapist that a lot of people had been saying, "Take care of yourself," to me lately. She asked me what taking care of myself looked like and I quoted the first stanza of Wild Geese.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

My soft animal has gotten pretty beaten up over the last few weeks. Work has been particularly busy. I've had some tumult in my relationships. I was sick for a week. My evenings have been full of responsibilities. I couldn't even get myself out of bed this morning to go to the gym and I love going to the gym.

I need to take care of myself. To stop walking through the desert on my knees. I need to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. I need to go for a walk and lay in some grass. I need to relax and let go. This week, I needed to not worry about writing a blog for today.

So, dear reader (Hi, mom!), I hope you can forgive this soft animal for not feeling very interesting or profound this week. I've got a lot of possible topics for next week (the Trinitarian self, on loving my body, the Bible story), but this week I decided that I did not have to be good. That I could give myself some space and time to rest and love what I love.

Take care of yourself.