Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian

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Little Sister, the Movie


My firstborn Zach Clark is an indie filmmaker. And a successful one at that. He is the writer, director, and editor of all of his films. All five of them have played in festivals all over the world including SXSW. Gifted with his own unique John Waters sensibility, his movies are dark, quirky, funny, and sad.

Zach’s movies are autobiographical but not literally so. The characters are composites and each film a mosaic, pieced together from his experience and boundless creativity.

Zach is also partial to holidays. At 34 he is still just a great big kid at Christmas. His previous film White Reindeer came out in 2013. It is an outrageous, hysterical, and touching film about grief and loss at Christmas. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll feature throughout. The New Yorker called it “and instant holiday cult classic.” It’s available on Hulu! Click here to watch trailer!

And Zach’s newest film, Little Sister, is now playing in 20 cities and available on demand. And the critics are raving about this one too!

“As sweetly funky and improbably pure hearted as its young heroine, a trainee nun and erstwhile Goth making peace with her troubled North Carolina family…” Variety

“A strange spiky movie that refuses to beg for our attention. ‘Little Sister…molds the classic homecoming drama into a quirky reconciliation between faith and family.”
The New York Times

“Nothing less than an up-to-date vision of the new weird America.” The New Yorker

Again autobiographical but far from literal, Zach developed the story with his “creative life partner” and coproducer Melodie Sisk. And the lead characters share our family names and some of our traits — all mixed up.  “Colleen” is the hopeful young nun (played by Addison Timlin.) “Joani” is the manic depressive mom (played by Ally Sheedy. Yes, Ally Sheedy!) And “Jacob” is the wounded older brother (played by Keith Poulson.)

Politics lurk in the background in the election season of 2008. And Zach’s favorite holiday – Halloween plays into the plot:

“October 2008. Young nun Colleen is avoiding all contact with her family, until an email from her mother announces, “Your brother is home.”…Her parents are happy enough to see her but unease and awkwardness abounds. Her brother is living as a recluse in the guest house since returning from the Iraq War…Tenions rise and fall with a little help from Halloween, pot cupcakes, and GWAR. Little Sister is a sad comedy about family — a schmaltz-free, pathos drenched, feel good movie for the little goth girl inside all of us.”

Really timely topics this crazy election cycle, when dark and darkness, depression, and despair pervade our public discourse. Little Sister takes on faith, and family, and politics with a deeply personal lens. Its not a happily ever after movie, but it is a very hopeful one.

Lord, knows we could all use a little hope right now.

Click here to watch in a theater near you!


Click here to watch on demand via Amazon, iTunes, or Vimeo!

And every ticket sale and every rental goes right back to the filmmakers, cast, and crew!

So pop some popcorn, invite over some friends, and watch Little Sister. Its a balm for your soul.




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The Pseudo-Librarian, the Priest & Her Wardrobe


1963. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Brown courdouroy smocked dress and white puffy blouse. Navy blue polka dot shift and striped Danskins. Parochial school uniform and Peter Pan collars. Mary Janes, saddle shoes, and Keds.

1973. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Peasant dresses, halter tops, and army jacket. Denim cutoffs, bellbottom pants, and macrame belts. Parochial school uniform and Oxford cloth shirts. Platforms, flip flops, and saddle shoes.

1983. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Pleated skirts and cardigan sweaters.  Padded shoulders and tailored slacks. Designer jeans, and tasteful flats.

1993. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Khaki trousers, corduroy jumpers, and denim overalls. Cotton turtlenecks, kilts and tights. Embroidered vests and cable knit sweaters. Black flats, brown flats, and tennis shoes.

2003. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Target basics and Talbot’s work clothes. Cotton sweats and running suits. Clergy shirts and clerical collars. Random flats, Birkenstocks, and flip flops — in every color under the sun.

And thirteen years on.

2016. Open my wardrobe and what do you see?

Funky tunics and interesting tops. Comfy leggings and skinny jeans. Prints, patterns, and primary colors. Autumn hues and basic black. Dressy dresses and dresses just for fun. Lululemon trousers and button down shirts. Bits of ribbon and bits of lace. TOMS, saddle shoes, ASICS, and a multitude of multicolored flats.

I have both lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Middle child, parochial school girl, head of the class.

Flower child, high school nerd, and rebel without a cause.

Computer programmer, working mom, sometimes a wife.

Seminary student, kindergarten volunteer, and Del Ray mom.

Parish priest, divorcee, and mostly manic.

Half marathoner, storyteller, blogger, irreverent reverend, and pseudo-libarian.

I have lost and found myself in my wardrobe.

Clothes are the window dressing of the soul. Spiritual expressions of our psyches and personalities. Creative expressions of our passions and our moods.

In my darker days, my wardrobe was all solid colors. No prints. Basic and boring. I would buy three colors of the same pants and the same sweater.

All the better to hide in. All the better to disappear.

Those dark days are long — and hopefully forever — gone.

How do I know?

Because my wardrobe therapist tells me so.

My therapeutic fashion consultant, Stephanie Hernandez, helped me work through my closet issues.

Stephie is a very good friend of my awesome daughter Colleen. Stephie is a young LCSW with a passion for style and an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s the founder of  “Look Good, Feel Good” — “a therapeutic approach to finding your personal style.”

A brilliant idea! This bipolar soul signed herself up right away!

Personable, warm, and observant, Stephie first sat down on my couch and we had a chat. I walked her through a “regular day” so she could learn about my bipolar life — both at work and at play. I gave her a one minute tour of my condo and then we took a thirty minute walk through my wardrobe.

And then for the next half hour, we played dress up. Mixing and matching funky and flattering combos, Stephie helped me come up with outfits that I can wear just about anywhere: @ LOC, @EEC, walking Del Ray, or strolling DC.

Working with Stephie made me feel so much cooler and so much cuter than I actually am!

It was very therapeutic.

It was so much fun!

“Look Good, Feel Good Style”

It’s not just a catchy slogan, it’s fashion philosophy.

I recommend Stephanie Hernandez and her new enterprise most happily!

So friends, what’s in your wardrobe?


Note: Also posted on Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating




Grounded Flight


I know nothing of aerodynamics but I do know that I have a helicopter in my head.

The propellers  begin to spin slowly, slowly at first.  Then faster and faster they pick up speed.

I feel a rush of wind, a little cyclone swirling counter clockwise.

My feet take leave of the ground.

Climbing skyward, I soar over the trees. I taste the clouds.

There is a lightness of being almost too delicious to describe.

I hover high above the earth. My heart beats so, I  hear the swoosh, swoosh of a rush of blood.

Heaven expands before me. Space and time, they stretch.

Gazing above, I truly believe the only direction is up.

Gravity has no hold on me.

Gazing down, I have no fear.

No fear at all.

Buoyant. Euphoric. Exquisite.


Or at least hypo-mania.

A mild and manageable outbreak.

Please do not ask me to medicate it away.

Yes, I have a helicopter in my head and I like it that way.

Hypomania is flying just under the radar at optimal altitude. It is the passion of a polymath.

(I love that word – “polymath”. Go look it up!)

This Peacock believes herself to be a person of insatiable curiosity. Engaging in encyclopedic endeavors. And with boundless energy, of course.

I blog. I preach. I write. I teach. I walk. I read. I talk and talk. I swim and float  and dive in deep. I delight, dig in, and devour my work. I scatter seeds and rattle beads. I vocalize and volunteer. I spin tales and search for holy grails. I cruise the river front. I wander DC. I pound the pavement in front of me.  I breakfast with the birds, lunch alone, and dine with friends. I binge watch Stranger Things. I speed read three tomes at a time. And I drink lots and lots of coffee.

Good coffee.

My head expands exponentially as does the universe, so Hubble says.

The world is so, so wonderful, I dare not miss a thing. I dare not go to sleep.

My brain says that I do not have to.

I stay up later.

I wake up earlier.

I hear the engine sputter. I feel the propellers falter, the copter lunge and lurch.

Turbulent, nauseous, like stumbling and tumbling over rocks.

Sky sick, I lose control.

The ground comes rushing towards me.

Crash landing.


I hate when this happens.

My grandiose pride bruised. It begrudges me my humanity.

But wings of wax melt in the sun. Weight returns to my body. More than I would like to admit.

You know, I think I need a mental health day. I play hookie and “call in crazy.

“Yes, Joani,” my colleague Chuck says, “that sounds like the sane thing to do.”

So I do.

Sleep in.

Drink coffee in my pajamas.

Stretch out on the couch.

Read the paper.

Veg out.

Surf Hulu and wade through Netflix.

Take a late shower.

Get dressed.

Tune in.

Gather my thoughts.

Scribble them down.

Publish  and post them on U&U.

The helicopter has landed.

This Peacock is safely on the ground.


NOTE: Manically submitted at midnight, Sunday, September 12, 2016.


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Bipolar Love: The Tale of Archie & Amelie

archie and amelie book cover

“On December 5, 1900, the New York Herald headlines screamed:”


Amelie Rives First Husband


Search Fails to Find Wealthy Demented Man

Who Left Bloomingdale Institution…

Former Wife, Princess Troubetzkoy, Also Insane.”

This is the dark and delicious tale of doomed passion: meticulously researched and wonderfully told in Archie and Amelie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age by Donna M. Lucey.

Archie is John Armstrong Chanler, born in 1862, and heir to the estate of his great –grandfather John Jacob Astor of New York.

Amelie Rives, born in 1863, is the goddaughter of Robert E. Lee and descendant of a storied first family of Virginia.

Archie’s family fortune was built on the fur trade, clear-eyed capitalism, and Presbyterian rectitude. Orphaned at a tender age, Archie and his siblings were raised by committee. “A wild and willful bunch” they were tamed by “nannies, tutors, and distant guardians.”

The eldest and legally responsible for his younger siblings, Archie, at Eton honed a refined and reasonable self-control — while underneath simmered his literary and artistic appetites.

A nephew of Julia Ward Howe, a progressive scion of the salon, Archie was intellectually curious and cautiously broad-minded. A romantic and eccentric soul, he was also an inventive young man full of ideas and boundless generosity.

Amelie Rives of Castle Hill was a gifted young writer — gifted — with a dark sensuality. The provocative prose of her first novel, The Quick or the Dead?, garnered her both notoriety and the notice of the literary lions of her day – including the likes of Oscar Wilde and Willa Cather.

Amelie’s Virginia home had “an air of civilized taste and ancient leisure.” Her noble ancestors included revolutionary war heroes and ambassadors to France. But the “War between the States” left the family homestead in tatters. Her father, a civil engineer, like a nomad wandered from post to post to keep his family financially afloat.

And so women, strong women, ruled the roost at Castle Hill. Captured in an 1880 photograph “Amelie, a young beauty at seventeen, stands behind the powerful figures of her grandmother and her granite faced Aunt Ella – as if she were next in line in a dynasty.”

Seductively, Ameilie wielded both her pen and her person to woo the men in her life. Though a woman of the Gilded Age, she boldly bucked the constricting conventions of her time.

Amelie cast aside her corset and wore exotic flowing gowns. Described as “a sizzling vessel of molten lava”, she was also surprisingly religiously devout. Most passionate and erotic in her prose, she made her reviewers blush and made her suitors swoon.

Archie madly, deeply, hopelessly pursued her. After three persistent marriage proposals, Amelie accepted and they were engaged.

Hot and cold, like fire and ice, their eight-year love affair was doomed to failure. The first two years the couple skipped across Europe — settling down long enough only to become unsettled.

Amelie seemed to love Archie the most when he was absent. And when he was absent, Archie was a tortured soul never quite knowing how to rekindle Amelie’s ardor.

Eight years after their nuptials at Castle Hill, Amelie runs off with a dashing and penniless prince, a Russian royal named Troubetzkoy.

Divorced and disgraced, Archie, still hopelessly in love with Amelie, supports her until the day he dies.

The truth be told, they drove each other mad.

Separately they suffer bouts of insanity. Some real and some feigned.

Amelie is prone to melancholy and takes up some unusual cures in the sanitariums of the Gilded Age.

Archie, wrongly committed by his scheming siblings for seven years, escapes the asylum only to descend deeper into a manic kind of madness. He becomes a prolific automatic writer of the self-published kind. A most generous and penniless philanthropist, he ends his days scribbling his name on the walls.

Bipolar love.

Archie, posthumously, is believed to have come by his bipolar disorder quite honestly. It runs in the family. A gift that keeps giving.

Amelie’s madness is of a similar kind. Euphoric, grandiose, verbose, and highly creative, she cannot help but crash from time to time.

Their marriage was both heaven and hell: Brief episodes of bliss, bright bursts of passion. Disrupted by storms, overwhelmed by sadness.

It could not possibly last. And indeed, it did not.

The madness of such love, can it possibly be worth it?

My sensible side says “NO!”, of course. Who wants to end up on the shores of life an emotional wreck?

But my bipolar soul, the manic-depressive me, screams “YES!”

Let me have a mad, deep, intoxicating, engaging, infuriating, invigorating, reckless, mad, mad love affair…

at least one, or two, or three.

Good for a novel, a movie, a play, a memoir. Good for some crazy tall tales to tell my grandchildren some day.

And maybe good for a blog post — or two, or three.

Who knows? Stay tuned, U&U followers.

I’ll keep you up to date one week at a time – – at Sex & The Single Vicar!




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U&U Keeping Up w/S&TSV


pink typewriter

U&U readers, most of you know that a little over a month ago I started a second blog :Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating.

But if not, let me catch you up!

Unlike the Pied Piper, unfortunately, I can’t just bring my followers along from one blog to the other. But for those who are intrigued, I would certainly like to!

So I thought I would post my recent S&TSV posts here. After reading a few, I hope to entice you to click “follow” to sign up for email updates. (Not here, but in S&TSV.)

So please join me and read and laugh along!

“Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating” – the launch post that explains the method behind this new madness of mine.

“Fireworks” – the romantic tale of the 4th of July and my search for fireworks of a different kind.

“Reach out and touch…” – the lowdown on “professional cuddling” and the importance of human touch.

“Anonymous Advise” – a review of a “trashy book” and an expose of a so called “expert” in the field.

“Practice Makes Imperfect” – a tale of digital attempts to connect with the opposite sex.

“Truth or Consequences” — the hidden traps of the dating game for my attractive demographic.

If you read this far, I know you are interested. If you read them all, I hope you are hooked.

I plan to file field reports from the battlefield every week or so.

So friends, let’s stay connected. This venture is so much more fun when shared with fellow comrades in arms.

See you next time on S&TSV!




Are you afraid of the dark?

from ghoulies and ghosties

“From ghoulies and ghosties, long leggitie beasties, and things that go bump in the night. Good Lord, deliver us! “ Anon.

Are you afraid of the dark?

From some of the rabid rhetoric we’ve heard lately, it sounds like darkness has fallen over the land.

Capturing the mood, Garrison Keillor, somewhat tongue in cheek, wrote this in this week’s Washington Post:

“A week ago, I felt good about America, but no more. Coyotes are running freely in the streets of our big cities, the stock market is teetering on the verge of collapse, the monetary system will soon go belly up. China and North Korea and Iran have knives at our throats, our schools are in chaos, politicians corrupt, the media stupefied by political correctness, and everywhere you look, you hear foreign accents. We are on the edge of the abyss.”

 “Praise the Lord, I’ve seen the dark.”

 Here comes the apocalypse.

If you weren’t afraid of the dark before, possibly now you should be – very, very afraid.

But really?

When we lay our children down to sleep, kiss them goodnight – all seems right with the world.

But then we turn out the light and darkness creeps in. Shadows fall and play tricks on the eyes. And a pile of laundry in the corner becomes a monster in disguise.

“Mommy, Daddy, come, quick, come quick! There’s a monster in my room.”

So, of course, we do what all parents do: rush in; turn on the light; open the closet door; check under the bed; and hug our child tight.

“See, Sweet Pea, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

But just in case, we leave the night light on.

There are indeed some very real things to be afraid of in this world. But it is a heresy to believe that darkness in the end can overcome the light.

And much of what the world may be afraid of – like FDR so famously said – is fear itself.

Two years ago, Scott Stossel, the editor of Atlantic Magazine wrote a book:“My Age of Anxiety:Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind”. In an NPR interview, Stossel says he wrote the book “to help him understand and find relief from – and redemption for – anxious suffering.”

 Anxiety is the most prevalent form of mental illness. Stossel’s book is a “graceful guide to this pervasive and much misunderstood affliction.”

 His quest to understand himself personally takes him on a psychological and philosophical journey to conquer his fears. And to quote Kierkegaard, the experience of his fear is very real indeed.

“No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety, and no spy knows how to attack more artfully the man he suspects, choosing the instance when he is weakest, nor knows how to lay traps where he will be caught and ensnared, as anxiety so well knows how, and no sharp-witted judge knows how to interrogate, to examine the accused as anxiety does, which never lets him escape, neither by diversion or noise, neither at work or at play, neither by day or by night.”

 Stossel fears fainting, and flight, and cheese among a thousand other things. The fact they are irrational matters not.

“There’s a vast encyclopedia of fears and phobias and pretty much any object, experience, or situation you can think of, there is someone who has a [fear] of it.”

 “Sometimes people say that in stressful situations, I can seem unflappable, and I think that’s partly because I’m always kind of internally flapped. And so when there’s actually something real to be concerned about, it’s actually less anxiety provoking than these irrational things.”

 In other words; if you’re afraid of the dark, the only thing to do is to turn on the light. Is there really a monster hiding under the bed?

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

A scholar, Audrey West from “Feasting on the Word”, says – “that given the number of times Luke reminds his readers not to be afraid – indicates that they did indeed have some very real things to be afraid of.” The little flock of Jewish Christians encountered some very real hostility in the Roman world. They were poor, bedraggled, and marginalized.

And make no mistake, we have some very real things to be afraid: the violence, and hatred, and discord that roams abroad and roams at home.  But my friends, let’s be realistic and not let fear take root in our bones.  Darkness is not the rule.  Light is.

Light opens our eyes to the universe about us: its cosmic mysteries, its intimate joys, its particular peculiarities and delights. We worship a God “who attends to sparrows, ravens, and lilies, whose care extends to the very hairs on our heads, whose good pleasure is to share the blessings of the kingdom.”

We live lives filled with both blessing and curse. Yes, a whole lot of curse but mostly blessings, mostly blessings. Not just in the great bye-and-bye but in the beautiful here-and-now.

So friends, try to let go of all those baseless fears. Try to let go of all of those earthly trappings we cling to – believing they can protect us from the things that go bump in the night: Hoarding our possessions and building walls – all under the selfish pretense to keep ourselves and ourselves alone safe. Blessings aren’t to be hoarded, they are to be shared.

We are called to walk not in darkness but to walk in the light. We are called to sow love and not fear. Have your lamps lit. Be ready to go.

So friends, are you still afraid of the dark?



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Brand New Blog! Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating!

pink typewriter

Joani’s got a brand new blog.

Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating

Hmmmm…… What’s that about?

Well, my  loyal readers, Unorthodox & Unhinged has been around now for more than two years. Eighty-eight “Tales of a Manic Christian” – true stories  on life with my bipolar brain.

U&U’s most popular post is “Sex and the Single Vicar”. Not a surprise. If you put “sex” in the title you are sure to get a rise!

And this theme – of love lost and found — has popped up more and more on U&U. It has because I recognize in myself a deep and genuine desire for intimacy. Yes, at at age sixty-one, I am game to find someone who might just like to try and keep up with me: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and of course, skin to skin.

So how to begin? Well by writing about it of course!

I want to write about it authentically, honestly, and humorously.

I will chronicle my fits and starts: social experiments; wardrobe malfunctions; and dating site episodes. S&TSV will include book reviews; interviews with fellow seekers, family, and friends; literary pieces; and investigative journalism — well as much as I can muster!

Sex & The Single Vicar – a passionate endeavor — one post at a time.

Want to know how this goes? I certainly do. How about you? Click on “follow” in S&TSV and come along.