Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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The Pseudo-Librarian, the Priest & Her Wardrobe

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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?

JoaniSign

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

 

 


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“Slow Down, You Move Too Fast”

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In the woods and in the groove, Sabbath time.

Remember “feeling groovy?”

This aging hippie certainly does.

Groovy is that “mellow yellow” mood so celebrated in the ‘60s. Groovy could be chemically induced tripping in your friend’s, Mary Jane’s basement.

Or groovy could be musically induced,  mind melding with the vinyl grooves of your favorite LPs. (Joni Mitchell being my drug of choice!)

But the hippie dippiest way to get your groove on was by “getting back to nature”.

Not too much nature, mind you, but just enough nature to pay quick homage to Mother Earth. Planting some vegetables, growing some “herbs”, skinny-dipping in the lake.

More recently, I got back to nature again, on retreat at Shrine Mont, with the good folks of Emmanuel on High, where,  Margaret Wohler, a gifted naturalist and artist at Huntley Meadows Wildlife preserve, introduced us to the lost art of illustration.

Like  “Lost Children in the Woods” she introduced us to “The Forest Unseen”.

Drawing, she said, helps us to pay attention. It helps us to slow way down. And her “way” was drawn out with lots and lots of extra “a’s”. We each got an art kit with a sketchpad and pencils.

“All you need are five basic shapes: a circle, a dot, a line, an angle, and a curve.”, Margaret said.

“Choose a spot to sit. Jot down the location, date, time, temperature, cloud cover. Close your eyes and listen for just a minute – 60 seconds. Then open your eyes and list everything you heard: birds, honking horns, wind in the trees, screaming babies.”

“Draw the big stuff first, then the little things.”

“Stay put. Look up. Look around you. The more you stay put the more you see. The more you see, the deeper you will go. The deeper you go, the slower you will go. And the more slow you go, the more you will know — not just about what’s is front of you – -but the more you will know about what’s going on inside you.”

(At least that is what I heard Margaret say.)

And so I sat for an hour in the woods, drawing trees and rusted out, old, discarded bathtubs — meditating and feeling groovy.

Recently this Celtic Warrior Woman trained to take on the three-day Warrior Challenge in The Patriot Running Festival in Williamsburg. And seriously train I did: walking up to 37 plus miles a week for 12 weeks for the Friday 5K, Saturday 8K, and Sunday 1/2 marathon.

That Friday morning, waiting for the Amtrak train to take me south, I sat down with my sketchpad for just the second time since Shrine Mont.

Now I have sat in this Civil War era station a bazillion times, idly and obsessively checking my phone, waiting on trains that rarely arrive on time. But this time, in the most mundane of places here I was – sketchpad in lap and pencil in hand.

I looked up and noticed the enormous, glass inset doors that lead to the tracks. So gorgeous, I had never noticed just how lovely they were – with simple, geometric patterns, arches, scalloped edges, and lots of rectangles.

I can draw this!

I had an hour’s wait for my train and thought sketching the doors would be a pleasant ten-minute diversion – maybe fifteen, max. In fact, however, I got into a groove and it turned into a sixty minute, mellow, mindful meditation.

First I sketched the doors, then the windows, the lanterns, the tracks and the buildings beyond, then the trees through the glass, the travellers on their way, their rolling bags and backpacks– all framed by those lovely doors – that I had so long ignored.

On the other end, my dear, dear friend, Pam picked me up in Williamsburg. She and I have been the best of friends since our seminary days – over twenty years. Very different people, we very much enjoy each other’s company. We gossip, laugh, shop, watch chick flicks, catch up, and confess all that is going on in our divergent worlds.

And best of all, we do the latter, floating in her pool.

The weekend was pretty well planned around my three day’s walking the Patriot Running Event —  and  Pam was charioteer-ing me wherever I needed to go. (Thank you, Pam!) But between the races, the two of us planned to pack in as much playtime as we possibly could.

So before I went, I gave myself permission — that while I was indeed getting my warrior on – it was perfectly okay to opt out of any or all parts of the Warrior Challenge.

Too much “works” and not enough “grace” can make Joani – a manic, manic soul.

So all three days we floated, floated in the pool — lazy and stretched out in the sun, gazing up at blue skies, listening to the birds and the wind in the trees, listening to the murmuring of the filter motor and the rumbling of lawn mowers.

And best of all, floating with my best of friends, Pam and I talked and talked and talked. And just as lovely, we floated comfortably in silence.

So slow, so blissfully slow.

Slowing down and feeling groovy.

So I walked the 5K on Friday. Yea!!

I walked the 8K on Saturday. Yea!!

And yes, I have the medals to prove it (though one is made of plastic!).

And then on Sunday, I chose Sabbath time. Not church per se – but St Mattress in-the-Springs.

I slept in, stayed in my pajamas until 10 o’clock, drinking coffee with my friend, went to brunch at 11, came home and slipped into my swimsuit, slathered on the  SPF 100  –

And floated, floated, floated – my ½ marathon – floating in Pam’s pool.

My mania calmed.

My mood lightened.

My outlook brightened.

My spirit lifted.

My soul restored.

God, in Her Heaven, all right with my world.

Slow, slow, so slowed down.

Kicking down my cobblestones.

Feeling groovy.

Slow down, friends, don’t move too fast.  God wants you to make your morning last. And just like Her — on that seventh day —  take some sabbath time and get some rest. The world can revolve without you — at least for a little while.

Thanks be to God.

JoaniSign

 


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Missed it? No problem! SpeakeasyDC Unhinged on Youtube!

April 25th eight masterful storytellers took to the stage at Emmanuel on High before a packed house. The 300 plus folks in the pews laughed, cried, listened and learned to voices that are seldom heard.

Unhinged Picture Album, PhotographyByAlexander

The SpeakeasyDC performance was recorded. Five of the eight storytellers have elected to share the video version with the public.

Click on the links to watch and to hear the tales of Bipolar Joani, (Me!),Psychiatric Nurse Matt (Matthew Manning); OCD Bobak (Bobak Shafiei); Panic Attack Mike (Mike Kane), and Spill Your Guts Therapy Mikael (Mikael Johnson). All true stories worth hearing – and worth hearing again.

You will love them all, I promise!

SpeakeasyDC Unhinged April 25 on YouTube

Watch them anywhere, anytime on the device of your choice. Watch them alone or watch them with friends. Watch them just to enjoy them. Watch them to learn something new.Talk about them and share them anyway and anywhere you can.

Lean in and listen. You likely may recognize friends and neighbors, family and loved ones. You may very likely recognize the likes of yourself.

That’s a good thing. You are not alone.

Everybody, yes everybody is a little bit Unhinged!

Thanks again to all the sponsors who made this possible: Emmanuel on High, The Friends of the Alexandria City Mental Health Center, Virginia Theological Seminary,  Bishop Shannon Johnston, and many, many, many TinyGivers!

Thanks be to God!

JoaniSign


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Tickets for “Unhinged”! Free! Please RSVP to SpeakEasyDC!

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Unhinged: True Stories about Living with Mental Illness premiers live on the SpeakeasyDC stage April 25th, 8:00 pm, at Emmanuel on High (no, not Immanuel on the Hill!), 1608 Russell Rd, Alexandria, VA.

Eight masterfully crafted first person tales of living with mental illness, loving someone with mental illness, or working in the field of mental illness.

Tickets are now available. The performance is free. Please RSVP to SpeakeasyDC. Click on the link to reserve a seat.

http://speakeasydc.com/events/item/unhinged

Let’s pack the house and make a difference.

Hope to see you there.

JoaniSign


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U&U Coming to a Stage Near U: April 25, 2015, SPEAKEASYDC

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SPEAKEASYDC, Amy Saidman, Executive Director

 

I am a woman with a storied past. I tell stories here weekly  — stories most unorthodox and unhinged. Ghost stories, bedtime stories, bible stories, camp fire stories, family stories, horror stories, funny stories, glory stories, and true stories of a bipolar and sometimes balanced life. I tell the truth, the God’s honest truth and nothing but the truth one story at a time.

This is story #41.

There is no better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

And this woman is a devoted disciple of Jesus, the Story Teller. Whether you believe in Jesus or not really doesn’t’ matter. What matters is that Jesus was a hell of a storyteller. Seductively simple, Jesus’ arresting parables engage the head and disarm the heart. Folks who have never cracked open a bible in their lives immediately recognize the story of the Good Samaritan or the tale of the Prodigal Son.

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

The Bible is really just a book of family stories. Some confusing, some comforting, some terrifying, some edifying, some mortifying, some glorifying, some death defying, some life giving, some poignant, some tragic, some miraculous, some crazy, some healing. Some might even say saving stories.

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

So that is what I do for a living. I tell stories. I climb into the pulpit from time to time not to preach but to tell stories. The Gospel story is not meant to lie lifeless on the page. With a little help the words need to be made flesh. Made flesh in sight and sound, in touch and taste and smell. Yes what does this story smell like? And what does it really mean?

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

Last summer after the 8:00 am Sunday service, shaking hands at the door, a young woman named Katie Kelly spoke to me. “You are a really good story teller. Have you ever done storytelling?” “Only in the pulpit” I told her. “But I write stories. I am bipolar and I have a blog called Unorthodox & Unhinged about mental health and faith.” “I am active with NAMI” she told me “and on the board of SPEAKEASYDC” she told me. “The director, Amy Saidman and I have been talking for some time about doing a show about mental health. Would you like to meet her?”

“OMG! YES!.” I said.

Amy Saidman and I met in September. And we agreed — stories like mine need to be told far and wide. They need to be told live and on stage with a real audience up close and personal. A stage for people seldom seen. A venue for voices rarely heard. True stories truly making a difference. So let’s make this happen.

OMG! SPEAKEASYDC is working with little old me. But not just me. I tell crazy stories so others like me can too.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults – approximately 61.5 million Americans experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 20 per cent of youth ages 13 -18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year and approximately 13 per cent for ages 8 -13. Despite the profound impact that mental illness has on so many individuals, families, and communities it remains misunderstood and taboo.

This is about me. This is about you. This is about us. All of God’s children have a story to tell.

So coming to a stage near you, at Emmanuel on High, Alexandria, Virginia at 8:00 pm, on Saturday, April 25, 2015, U&U is proud to present:

Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness

A unique, fresh, first person program, and out of the closet approach to mental health advocacy, produced in collaboration with SPEAKEASYDC, called “the gold standard in storytelling” by the Washington Post.

SPEAKEASYDC is renowned for creating spaces in which diverse perspectives are expressed and heard through the art of contemporary autobiographical storytelling. Unhinged will feature eight masterly crafted true stories on the theme of living with a mental illness, loving someone with a mental illness, or working in the field.

The storytellers will come from a wide variety of backgrounds, situations and settings. The program will be recorded by SPEAKEASYDC and made widely available for mental health advocacy and education.

The performance is free to the public and is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Friends of the Alexandria City Mental Health Center, Virginia Theological Seminary, The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, NAMI, and Emmanuel on High Episcopal Church.

And it’s not too late! You can be a sponsor too. We are more than two thirds of the way to reach our funding goal of $3000 which supports five weeks of training sessions for the storytellers, promotion, staging, and professional reproduction of the DVD.

And I would be very grateful indeed — if you would consider a tax deductible gift to SPEAKEASYDC in support of Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness. em>A little help can go a long way.

I have a birthday coming up. A big birthday coming up and it ends in a zero! So can I challenge you, my friends, to contribute $6, $16, $60, dare I say even $600? The more we raise, the more these stories can be heard. The more these stories can be heard, the more people we can reach. The more people we can reach, the more difference we can truly make — to educate, elucidate, illuminate, and advocate on behalf of the many who live with mental illness.

There are two ways to give: Click on https://tinygive.com/organizations/speakeasydc or you can Tweet “I’m giving $__ to @speakeasydc to support Unhinged: True Tales of Living w/Mental Illness 4/25 #tinygive.” Tinygive.com will contact you for details. People can give the same amount by retweeting too!

There is no better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

JoaniSign


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With Apologies to the Washington Post….

wash post 2006 list in and out

Washington Post Ins & Outs, 2006

 

I can think of no  better bipolar way to analyze the yins and yangs of the last twelve months than the infamous list of 100 Ins & Outs and Ups & Downs of 2014.

So with apologies to the Washington Post (my hometown newspaper!) and without editorial comment, and in no particular order, I submit this list for your kindly consideration. And I kindly encourage you for the sake of your brain to make a list of the same.

The Top 100 Ins & Outs of 2014

1. Size 10/Size 16

2. Emmanuel/All Saints

3. Big church on the boulevard/Little church behind the trees

4. Asics/Chucks

5. Reign/The Tudors

6. Writing/Reading

7. Orphan/Daughter

8. Guest Room/Kid’s Room

9. Dragging Bailey/Walking Bailey

10. Spotify/Itunes

11. Steady Teddy/Theodore Roosevelt

12. Dress up/Dress down

13. Huntley Meadows/Huntley Meadows

14. 100 mph/35 mph

15. Target/Target

16. Dresses/Pants

17. Tights/Socks

18. Libraries/Kindle Fire

19. Blogging/Journalling

20. More Coffee/Coffee

21. Staying alive/Scaling boulders

22. Greek yogurt/Ben & Jerry’s

23. Scrambled eggs/Fast food

24. Renting books/Buying books

25. 59/58

26. Plants/Flowers

27. Fruit smoothies/Rotten bananas

28. Patty Griffin/Emmy Lou Harris

29. Half marathon/Wii Fit

30. Honest/Polite

31. Boudica/Joan of Arc

32. Ghost stories/True stories

33. Jetsons/Flintstones

34. Cards/Email

35. Tumblr/Twitter

36. “Transparent”/”Scandal”

37. Lip gloss/Lip balm

38. Camera hog/Camera shy

39. Swimming/Floating

40. ccmccjr/cng

41. Liturgist/Chorister

42. 10,000 steps/5,000 steps

43. Irreverent/Reverend

44. Commentary/Commentaries

45. Dancing/Sitting

46. Heart/Head

47. Seminaries/Cemeteries

48. Second comings/Second helpings

49. Diva/Wouldn’t want to be ya

50. Single/Divorced

51. Credit/Debit

52. White Reindeer streaming/White Reindeer in theaters

53. Hyundai/Kia

54. Cosmologist/Scientologist

55. Neil deGrasse Tyson/L. Ron Hubbard

56. Challah/Bagels

57. Therapy/Therapy

58. St Nicholas/Santa Claus

59. Camelbak/Back pack

60. Episcopal/Anglican

61. Crazy Evangelist/Crazy

62. Differently Wired/Bipolar

63. BCP/eCP

64. Scully & Mulder/Mulder & Scully

65. Lucy/Ethel

66. Dragonflies/Fireflies

67. Selfish/Selfie

68. Hydrangeas/Sunflowers

69. Hardbacks/Paperbacks

70. Starlight/Sunlight

71. Heretic/Heretic

72. Rosary/Meditation

73. Yoga/Stretching

74. Epiphany/Christmas

75. Open Stacks/Circulation

76. Fiesta Ware/Hardware

77. The Steeldrivers/Stainless Steel

78. Late Night with Stephen Colbert/The Colbert Report

79. SpeakeasyDC/Speaking out

80. Mancini’s/St. Elmo’s

81. Shredding/Recycling

82. Turtleneck/Cardigan

83. Solids/Patterns

84. BMI/BVM

85. Pensacola/Rehoboth

86. Manic, manic/Hypomanic

87. Irish Thanksgiving/Regular Thanksgiving

88. Gay Wedding/Same-sex Blessing

89. Middle Management/Middle child

90. Warrior/Pacifist

91. Priest Associate/Priest

92. Brainiac/Maniac

93. Celebrant/Celibate

94. Sister-in-law/Sister

95. Sorrow/Grief

96. Like the bird/Peacock

97. DSW/Toms

98. Talking/Texting

99. Origins/Genesis

100. Fire starter/Fire fighter

and of course

101. Unorthodox & Unhinged

Happy New year!

JoaniSign


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‘Tis the Season to be Blue — Blessed Mother Blue

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

Blue.

Blessed Mother blue.

Blessed Virgin Mary blue.

There is no sexier color in the Crayola Crayon box than Blessed Mother blue. That is, of course, if you are a little Catholic girl. And it’s Advent. Please, Baby Jesus, bless me with Blessed Mother Blue!

Now Mary (quite impossibly!) is very, very much what every little Catholic girl wants to be when she grows up. Well maybe not when she grows up, but what every little Catholic girl wants to be in the Christmas pageant. Damn, Mary is what every Protestant little girl wants to be in the Christmas pageant!

Drape me, Baby Jesus, in Blessed Mother blue.

Alas, it did not come to pass until Advent 1983. Pregnant with my second child and obviously not a virgin, at long last I had snagged the part of the BVM. Not quite as embarrassing as liturgical dance, I starred in a three part liturgical drama: PREGNANT WITH GOD.

Three parts, three trimesters.

Advent One. Surprised. Uncertain. Shaky. Nauseous. Scared.

Advent Two. Blooming. Stretching. Aching. Hoping.

Advent Three. Heavy. Swollen. Sleepless. Bursting with life.

“My soul proclaimed the greatness of The Lord!”

I burst into the Magnificat.

It was the 80’s. And I wore Blessed Mother blue.

Now, blue is also the color of a mood. Possibly a million times in a millennia or two, possibly a million artists have depicted the Madonna and Child. Beatific Mary with the fat, little, haloed, baby Jesus in her lap. And in every painting, in every icon, in every stained glass window, as beautiful as she may be, she is the Mater Dolorosa, our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows.

“Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child…”

Advent is the Blue season, a season of darkness and light.

At first light today it was dark, 6:30 am dark. The sun went down today at 4:54 pm. I got up in the dark. I drove home in the dark.   And in between, the sky was gray all day outside my window. And the days are getting shorter. Yes, shorter. Is it any wonder, as the holiday looms why you may be feeling so BLUE, so deep, dark, inky, indigo BLUE.

My mother, Mary Lou, was often Blessed Mother blue. So blue she could barely get out of bed. So blue she could barely lift her head. So SAD, so deeply sad, it was like the light had literally gone out of her eyes. No sign of light and life in November, meant an equally dark December. O mom, we’ll have a blue Christmas without you…

Since God created the night, God’s people have prayed for the return of the light. That’s why long before there ever was a Christmas there was the Winter Solstice. The Stone Age people who built Stonehenge knew all about it. The Neolithic people who built Newgrange knew all about it. The deepest, darkest day of the year, is the day the light returns. December 21st.

On December 21st, my church Emmanuel on High, is having a Comfort service, a Christmas Comfort Service. And the service begins with a song — a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter who clinically knows exactly what it’s like to really sing the blues.

Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia

Come broken, come whole
Come wounded in your soul
Come anyway that you know
Alleluia

Come doubting, come sure
Come fearful to this door
Come see what love is for
Alleluia

Come running, come walking slow
Come weary on your broken road
Come see Him and shed your heavy load
Alleluia

There’s a humble stable and a light within
There’s an angel hovering and three wise men
Today a baby’s born in Bethlehem
Alleluia

Come darkness come light
Come new star burning bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia

Come to the Comfort Service. Come for healing. Come for communion. Come for warmth and music.  Come for solace. Come for peace. Come for prayer. “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is Light.”

Come for the Light.

Sunday, December 21st, 5:00 pm.
Emmanuel on High
1608 Russell Road
Alexandria, VA.

JoaniSign