Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


Fireworks!!

Once upon a time, the very first fireworks were concocted in a cooking pot: cooked up by a Chinese cook in her kitchen. At least, so the legend goes. Apparently the combustible ingredients were right there in her spice cabinet: saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and a dash of who knows what. A happy and dangerous accident, the recipe erupted pyrotechnically.

Stuff this stuff into bamboo sticks, throw them on the fire, and “POOF! BANG! BOOM!”, fireworks are born.

Great for warding off evil spirits.

Grand for celebrations of state occasions.

Glittering demonstrations of prowess and power (our current POTUS not withstanding.)

Picture a Tudor king’s wedding day, the coronation of a Scottish king, pyrotechnic displays at Czar Peter’s palace, and bright illuminations at Versailles,” a Wikipedia article suggests.

And this 4th of July, Roman Candles stand ready to light up our skies.  Stand up and sing with me the poetry Francis Scott Key scribbled  after the Battle of Fort McHenry, 1814:

O say can you see,

By the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed,

As the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars,

Through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched,

Were so gallantly streaming.

And the rocket’s red glare,

The bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night

That our flag was still there.

 And it was on the eve of that very first 4th, that John Adams, our second president presciently described how future Americans would celebrate the day.

“…with pomp and parade, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

 In other words —  fireworks!

Many-a-time, downtown on the Mall by the Reflecting Pool, in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I have seen those fireworks fly.

In the bicentennial days of my marriage, there was no holier day than Independence Day: the most romantic day of the year.

We’d pack a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, and fruit, and a six-pack of clearly illegal beer. We’d stuff our duffle bag with baseball hats, books, and bug spray: all for the marvelous day.

We’d head out early on metro, crowded into subway cars with the tourists – all vying for prime locations and the very best views.

We’d stake out our claim by the Reflecting Pool and spread our old cotton quilt on the ground. We’d plop ourselves down and stretch out under the setting sun, waiting for the blanket of dark to come.

We’d read to each other from Herman Hesse and tune into WHFS. We’d talk and talk and talk and then just be quiet: that lovely intimate quiet wrapped in each other’s arms:

Fireworks — of a different kind.

Now forty-seven years on, we have gone our separate ways. Sixteen years now, he has had his life by the sea. Sixteen years now, my Alexandria life is my own. And that is how it is supposed to be. The happiest place for me in my 64 years. And yet it is so strange, that my ex-husband is a stranger to me.

I harbor no resentment and I wish him well. It has been ancient of days since I have missed the man.

But what I do miss and what I hope to find are those fireworks of the intimate kind: the easy conversation; the comfortable silence; bright bursts of passion: a meeting of the minds. “POOF! BANG! BOOM!”

On a blanket,

On the mall,

On the 4th of July.

Fireworks!


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Bipolar Bit/Joani: One Day @ a Time
























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Little Sister, the Movie

little-sister-poster

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!

OR

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.

JoaniSign

 

 


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“Besties, Bromances & Soulmates” -Post-Election Therapy

besties-bromances-and-soulmates-picture

This time last year, I was feeling “Bookish”.

Having met Meredith Maslich, at the Story District rebrand bash, I was psyched to learn that she heads – Possibilities Publishing – a unique, boutique, partnership approach to the book trade.

Maybe I could turn Unorthodox & Unhinged into a book?  A radically manic idea! Meredith and I met over coffee to discuss the possibility. But the journey, from blogger to author, is in reality a gargantuan leap.

Long story short: U&U has not morphed into a book.

But short story long: U&U has made into a book.

A reflective piece I wrote, Make New Friends and…, is the opening chapter in Besties, Bromances & Soulmates, this year’s Possibilities Publishing anthology. Between its covers, half a dozen writers explore “pivotal relationships” and the gift of friendship through short story, essay, fiction and non.

So is it any wonder that”Thank you for being my friend”, the old Golden Girls’  theme song, is ringing in my ears. And this post election week, it rings all the more dearly and resonates all the more deeply.

Our country has just come “through the great ordeal”. Well, we are not actually through anything.

Post election, I am experiencing waves of grief. I am stumbling, disoriented as if awoken from a bad dream. My bleeding heart liberal sensibilities have been overwhelmed. Knocked down and beneath these waves, I struggle to come up for air.

How about you?

As a coping mechanism, I have poured myself into my work. In just two days, I plowed through two week’s worth. I have stayed up later and gotten up earlier, cramming 27 plus hours into my day.  Possibly by abandoning sleep, my busyness will belay my fears.

Mania, for a day or two or three, is awesome.

Mania, for a week or two or three, not so much.

So how do I – do we – rein in the mania when we are feeling so unmoored?

Well, very simply, by tightening the ties that bind.

By calling friends,

talking with friends,

having coffee with friends, dinner with friends,

walking with friends,

hiking with friends,

biking with friends,

Netflix/Hulu binge watching with friends,

cocktail partying with friends,

road tripping with friends,

book clubbing with friends,

bar hopping with friends,

pew sitting with friends,

praying with friends,

couch surfing with friends,

shooting the breeze or catching a movie with friends,

cooking with friends,

baking with friends,

crafting with friends,

board gaming with friends,

protesting with friends,

witnessing with friends,

volunteering with friends,

peace making with friends,

reconciling with friends.

Common ground, mutual support, trust, concern and compassion.

Love, respect, and admiration.

Friends restore one another’s souls and revive one another’s spirits.

This art of “befriending” is fueled by our tending to our friendships. Befriending the other, the new, the stranger, in this post-election season, is desperately what we need. Not rushing to an easy or happy-clappy reconciliation, but working towards deep, honest, life affirming connections.

Working towards a radical “we”.

Which brings me back to Besties, Bromances & Soulmatea perfect little book to honor a friend or tuck into a Christmas stocking (or for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc.). These half a dozen stories celebrate the  pivotal relationships in our lives.

Friendship begets friendship.

Love begets love.

December 11th at 4:00 PM, this little book is going to be launched. Its a friendly affair with author readings, book signings, and refreshments at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1608 Russell Rd in Alexandria, VA.

Bring a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a coworker. Invite a Muslim friend, a Mormon friend, a Jewish friend, a Buddhist friend, an agnostic friend, an immigrant friend, an LGBTQ friend, an African American friend, a Hispanic friend, an old friend, your BFF, your next door neighbor, or the new guy who just moved in from across the street.

Ask a Hillary voter or a Trump supporter to come along.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

The price of admission? New warm hats/gloves/mittens/scarves in all sizes for our friends at Carpenters Shelter in Alexandria. Click here to RSVP.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

JoaniSign


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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:”

“CHANLER ESCAPES

Amelie Rives First Husband

IS OUT OF ASYLUM

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!

JoaniSign

 

 


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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.

JoaniSign

 

 

 


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Call Me Stupid. I am on OKCupid.

cupid-kissing-psyche

“Cupid kissing Psyche”

 

Maybe I am stupid but three weeks ago I signed up for OKCupid.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I have recorded my two previous attempts to enter the online dating world. This past July I posted “Sex and the Single Vicar” and in January “Disharmony, Smarmony, eHarmony.” (Feel free to search the archives!)

Both forays were fantastic fiascos.

So why did I join OKCupid?

Maybe I am naïve. (No.)

Maybe I am a romantic. (Maybe.)

Maybe miracles do happen. (Sometimes.)

Maybe hope springs eternal. (Yes, I will agree to that.)

Maybe I am just curious to see who is out there. (Curious-er and curious-er.)

So I downloaded the app on my iPhone. My daughter has used it. Some of the seminary students I work with have used it. I am young and hip (well, at least hip) — so maybe I could use it too.

It’s just a social experiment after all —  to give me practice socializing with the opposite sex.

OKCupid is not quite the meat market that is match-dot-com. Nor is it the straight-laced, fundamentalist nightmare that is eHarmony. A cousin to both, it is somewhere in-between.

So once again I set up a profile. The essay questions are shorter and my answers more succinct.

I am BookWalkTalk: A voracious reader, book jockey, and half marathoner. Native Washingtonian. My profession is spiritual, intellectual, and educational. I work in two places and love both. I love dark and quirky movies, folk rock music, and do not cook. I am looking for an intellectual sparring partner with an enormous sense of fun. Want to talk?

My updated photos are most flattering: a selfie  in the dining room; a snapshot at the 13.1 mile finish line; and one of me building a book tree in the library at Christmas. (Nothing sexier than a sixty year-old woman building a tree out of books!)

And then there are the “yes or no” pop quiz questions:

  1. “Do you think nuclear war could ever be a good thing?” (No.)
  1. “Is jealousy healthy in a relationship?” (No.)
  1. “Would we be safer if everyone carried a gun?” (No.)
  1. “Is smoking disgusting?” (Yes.)
  1. “Do you like scary movies?” (Yes.)

 

The scariest thing is to see how many guys actually answer “yes” to questions one, two, and three.

OKCupid tallies your score and percentage wise matches you up with potential partners.

The winking, nodding, liking, and messaging have begun.

Frankly I thought that within a few days I would be so frustrated I would have already thrown my iPhone against the wall or flushed it and this stupid app down the toilet.

There is a plethora of “Hey Baby, hey gorgeous, hey beautiful, hey pretty, hey good looking, hey angel (and every other variation on this theme). These are guys who simply click on a picture, don’t actually read your profile, and don’t even bother to fill out their own.

There are messages from guys in the wee hours of the morning, who apparently stay up all night trolling for any woman who might click reply: Messages with incomplete sentences, misspelled words, and no punctuation.

I have gotten off the wall messages: one from a polyamorous (look it up!) techie, science fiction freak who is into kink. Another came from a twenty-two year senior in college “tired of dating girls his own age.”

There are of course liars. My favorite so far is the 65 year-old architect and skydiver who turns out to be a 75 year-old bus driver and building superintendent.

There are scammers. Scammer par excellence so far messaged me a week ago Friday.

“Hello, read your profile. This is General Mark Welsh. And you are?”

“Hello, I am Joani. Civilian.”

“What is your email?”

“Sorry. I don’t share my email even with generals I don’t know.”

(Meanwhile I am Googling him, of course.)

 “Where do you live? What is your email?”

“Wow, It seems according to Google that you are the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force! Really?????????”

End of messages.

And it’s only been 21 days.

But in these past three weeks I have managed to meet three real people:

Dale in Pennsylvania who has read every philosopher under the sun, volunteers at the art gallery, and has never subscribed to Cable TV. (Big plus! I HATE Cable TV!)

John who lives on a creek on the Northern Neck of Virginia, is an organic farmer, sometimes musician, professional bridge player, reading St Augustine’s “City of God”, and trying to live off the grid. (While he holds on to his phone he has given up his refrigerator.)

And I had my first date if you could call it that with David. Just breakfast really at Mancini’s.

David is a recent widower, professor, 10K runner, convert to agnosticism, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, still working through his grief. (And resembles way too much my ex-husband, Bill.)

So “Nice to meet you, gentlemen. Thanks for the conversation. Good-bye.”

There is a great song from the musical Avenue Q. I am going to make it my new OKCupid theme song:

There is a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend

There’s a fine, fine line between reality and pretend

And you never know ‘til you reach the top it was worth the climb

There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time”

 

“There’s a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie

And there’s a fine, fine line between you’re wonderful and goodbye

I guess if someone doesn’t love you back it isn’t such a crime

But there’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time”

 

“There’s a fine, fine line between together and not

And there’s a fine, fine line between what you wanted and what you got

You gotta go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime

There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time.”

 

So call me stupid. I am going to stay on OKCupid — at least for a little while!

JoaniSign