Sunday, December 31, 2006

three 2006 beautiful things

  1. Clare.
  2. Officially ABD.
  3. Being pregnant, and not being pregnant.

Thanks to Casey for the link to Three Beautiful Things (written by another Clare, coincidentally).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

there were never such devoted sisters...

My sister Ally has a couple of very interesting theological posts over on her blog, demasiada. If you've been suffering from withdrawal from lack of the substantive theological discourse that you've become addicted to since reading this blog, since I am always so theological and substantive, go see what my sibling has to say.

Monday, December 18, 2006

another post about church

Sometimes I find it hard to explain to people what I think is so wonderful about a set liturgy. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes, it serves a catechetical function. Yes, it takes the guesswork out of the important rituals of the church, a very good thing. But all of these things don't really add up to the sum of why I have a love for liturgical worship.

Like so much else, that which can't be dissected rationally can be communicated in narrative.

Yesterday evening I had volunteered to lead Communion for our church (check out the new website!!!). Last year, with Brent's help, I adapted the Eucharist liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer for use in our church context--basically, trimmed it down and made it a bit more casual, and took out all the really "priestly" elements (inappropriate, of course, for a church with no priests). Ever since, when I celebrate the Lord's Supper, I use the form that we created. One of the elements we retained was the Lord's Prayer. Often we will pray this at the end of our worship service, if we haven't already during Communion.

Last night one of the residents at the YWCA where we worship on the 4th floor came in late during the sermon. Sorry I'm late, she announced in a loud voice while Joe was mid-sentence. Glad you're here, come in, Joe answered, without skipping a beat or losing his train of thought. And she sat down near me in the back. A couple of weeks ago when I first met her I quickly realized that it would be difficult to talk to her. For some reason, current impressions, memories, arbitrary connections, all spill out in a free flow of unedited rambling, so that no sentence is connected to the next in a way that anyone can really follow or respond to. Talking seems compulsive for her, and communication is lost in a maelstrom of time- and context-independent information overload. So it was unsurprising when she periodically would voice the random thoughts flowing through her mind as she sat in the chair near me during church.

Until we began to celebrate Communion, and came to the recital of the Lord's Prayer. And all of a sudden, the jumbled-up free-for-all slowed, and focused, and clarified, and she was able to voice along with the rest of us, in perfect unison, the words of our communal prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, for ever and ever.


Monday, October 30, 2006


Like so many others have done on occasion, I am taking a blogging hiatus. Not because I'm tired of blogging, or because I'm too busy doing other stuff to blog (although this is certainly true), but because it's almost November.

life bearing

This week I got to talk about the spirituality of childbirth with a new friend who's doing a project on this for a class. What I found out, as she interviewed me about my experience of being pregnant and giving birth, is that while I experienced it as deeply spiritual, I didn't, necessarily, experience it as Christian in any obvious external way. Maybe it's just that I'm a bad Christian, but I don't think so.

Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't theologize a lot about what it meant to be pregnant. It wasn't something I wanted to thematize, or abstract from. It was something to cherish experiencing, and so I spent most of it just trying to be in the moment. Writing little notes to Clare in her little purple journal while she was born was part of that, I think.

One theological thing that I did find myself with was a much more concrete conviction that God is a God of life. Instead of being a principle enshrined in a theological system, suddenly, God as a God of life was concretely located in the ever-growing massive space between my ribs and my pelvis, kicking and wriggling and declaring her living goodness. I was in awe of the process, in awe of my own body, and hers, and in awe of the resilient fragility of it all.

For comps, I read an essay by Rahner, anthologized in the Theological Investigations, that discussed childbearing as absolute risktaking. That struck a chord with me, being about 6 weeks pregnant at the time, when everything was still a huge unknown waiting to happen. Rahner argued that childbearing must have this character. I remember thinking as I read it that really, this is simply an instance of life where life's true character as risktaking is more evident than it is day-to-day. Life is risk. It takes faith to negotiate it, and to bear it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

yoga kitty

For Hermit Greg: to prove his cat's not the only cool cat around.

(Tiamat helps out with counterpressure for back pain my last week of pregnancy.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

prolegomena, or, The Question,

Or, "Good card players! But mind you, I wouldn't give them the time of day!"

It used to be that people used to ask me, "What are you going to do with that?" when I told them I studied theology. I used to tell them, "Have babies with it." I enjoyed the irony that went straight over people's heads when I said it. This left me amused, and them undisturbed, which worked for everybody. It annoyed Brent, though, since no one ever got that I was being facetious. And eventually I stopped. But that doesn't happen so much anymore. Nowadays The Question has become, "why are you still Church of Christ?"

I've blogged about this before, done the tag thing, and so on. But I'm never really satisfied with anything that I've written on it. Nothing ever seems to really get at the heart of why I remain where I am, despite, well, you know, not being given the time of day. So to speak. (Name that quote? Anybody? Anybody not related to me, I mean?)

It hit me forcefully this week (again, I blog under the influence of TH 222 and a bit of sleep deprivation; Clare's temporarily abandoned her habit of sleeping through the night) that part of a theologian's responsibility--before they start theologizing--is choosing to whom and for whom they speak. Where to locate themselves. Am I speaking to the church? The academy? In the public square? What issues to address? Whose issues to address. This matter of prolegomena is prior even to considerations of method, the prolegomena that gets discussed in the classroom.

Some of this is determined for you. But it is also, I'm convinced, a matter of careful, deliberate and responsible choosing. Who do I speak to. Who do I speak for. This should not be a casual decision, or a ceding to the inevitable. There's nothing inevitable about it. Sure, I'm a white middle-class chick from Tennessee. But that doesn't lock me into anything.

So, why am I still Church of Christ? Because I choose to be. Because these are the people I choose to speak to. And, in some sense, these are the people I choose to speak for: that is, the people in our short denominational history and in our churches who have been left out and turned aside, who have had to look in from the outside and look on in silence, who have assumed this is how it's supposed to be, or who have chafed under the knowledge that it isn't, for years.

You're responsible for choosing where to be, and for when and to whom you speak, as well as for what you say.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This Sunday was Clare's dedication service at Christ's Church for Brooklyn. That's Joe anointing Clare's foot with some extremely fragrant "sweet-smelling stuff" (in fact, she's still smelling pretty sweet, which is great since, you know, babies don't really smell that sweet very often or very long) while Clare giggles right on cue. Isn't that an awesome picture?

I loved the Thanksgiving service at Trinity, and found it really meaningful that Brent's mom could be there, that some members Brent knows pretty well stayed after church to attend, and that Anne Marie celebrated it. But perhaps because I am still an "outsider" to Trinity and to the Episcopal Church, the Thanksgiving service was, for me, a theological declaration more than a communal celebration. It was speaking to God about Clare; expressing gratitude, asking for wisdom for ourselves as we raise her, asking for God's blessing in her life. But last night's service, while still doing these things, was so much more about the community. Last night, we were a family unit, but we were also part of a larger community of faith. Last night, Clare was our daughter, but she was everyone else's child, too.

I'm not saying these thoughts were missing from our first thanksgiving, but that I experienced it very differently. Part of the difference is me, and part of it is the rite itself.

But mostly, I am so happy to be able to say to my daughter, you are a child of God, and you belong in any family of God you find yourself in: at Trinity, at St. Barnabas, at Manhattan, at Enumclaw Community Church...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

the flash

Every so often, something clicks in my head and things come together in a beautiful, crystalline way. It generally happens randomly, sparked by something read casually or spoken by someone else. I don't really understand how my brain works or why old bits of things float around in it unnoticed to eventually bump into something at the forefront of my consciousness and suddenly crystallize. But it happens that way.

So, the other day, I was sitting in 222 lecture (this being pretty much my primary out-of-the-house activity, second only to precepting; grocery shopping is a close third, and that is pretty much the sum of my out-of-the-house activity for a normal week) and something, I don't know what, suddenly flashed on in my brain. So at the end of my lecture notes, there is a squiggly box and in it I scribbled: Haraway--solidarity not similarity--answer to Xological problem.

So, I've been reading all this stuff, Barth, Calvin, Schleiermacher, on why Christ has to be both God and "Man" in order to do the work of redemption. Because how can Christ be our Mediator if he does not share in both natures?

Well...if Haraway's clue from feminist theory is worth anything, then maybe we can skip the whole Chalcedonian problem. Solidarity, not similarity. Does God have to be ontologically us to do the work of redemption? Maybe not. Maybe "mediation" isn't the way to think about it. Perhaps we can simply consider the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection God's act of sovereign solidarity with us, despite our ontological difference. I don't know how far I would want to systematize that--probably not too far, actually--but it certainly is a relief from the wrestling with the God-Man question. And, incidentally, solidarity-not-similarity would provide an answer to the "problem" of Jesus' maleness.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nana's blue dress

This is the dress my mom's 6-month picture was taken in, and the dress that my 6-month picture was taken in...Clare's not nearly 6 months yet but it's a good thing we didn't wait.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I used to spend down time during first year Greek at Harding making up alternative meanings for the WWJD acronym. Wild Women Joke Dirty was one. Wet Willies Jiggle Dangerously. Willie Wonka Jives Deliciously. I think MTR was implicated in this as well but now that it's nearly a whole screaming decade ago, my memory's a little fuzzy. Or maybe it's just that my little gray cells are already multitasking to capacity these days and have no spare energy for frivolity.

Anyhow, my mom's been blogging lately on the shortcomings of the WWJD impulse. This week as I was reviewing Tillich in preparation for Friday morning's precept I came across a lovely passage which speaks directly to the concerns my mom is expressing. Full of joy that reading old dead German guys can still be relevant to the task of theologizing today, I include the passage below:

"Imitatio Christi is often understood as the attempt to transform one's life into a copy of the life of Jesus, including the concrete traits of the biblical picture. But this contradicts the meaning of those traits as parts of his being within the picture of Jesus the Christ. These traits are supposed to make translucent the New Being, which is his being. As such, they point beyond their contingent character and are not instances to imitate. If they are used this way, they lose their transparency and become ritualistic or ascetic prescriptions. If the word "imitation" is used at all in this context, it should indicate that we, in our concreteness, are asked to participate in the New Being and to be transformed by it, not beyond, but within, the contingencies of our life." Systematic Theology II, 122-3.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

part III

And to bring this now flaccid conversation to its successful conclusion: part III.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

did Jesus have a penis, II

Over on the newly resurrected kendallball (does this make .com the virtual heavenly body as compared to the old earthly .net?) there is an interesting post entitled "did Jesus have a penis?"

In the midst of quite a lot of male discussion about masturbation (how surprising) I commented that the interesting angle to this question was soteriological. I was asked to explain myself and rather lamely put the clarification as "can women relate to a male savior?"

Now, that's just not at all what I really meant to say, so it's been bugging me. And the conversation at that point seemed to flag and I thought that no one was interested in pursuing the female point of view on the Jesus' penis question. Except for me, so I decided to blog about it here.

But lo and behold, the newly appellated Hermit Scott did ask me to elaborate, perhaps even in my own blog post. Which makes me feel happy. Especially since I intend to at least partially make good on a promise I made months ago over on Gay Restorationist, and talk about whether men and women are ontologically different (in my opinion).

What I really meant to say was, if Gregory of Nazianzus is right, and "what is not assumed cannot be healed," does it matter that the human flesh Jesus assumed was male and not female? Are women left out of the significance of the Incarnation? (Luckily for me, as an aside in the Wednesday TH 222 lecture, this point was phrased exactly thus, and I shamelessly borrow it here.)

Because the answer to the question is, yes, of course Jesus had a penis. The real question is how does this matter.

John Calvin dispenses with this with a curt, "Why, even children know that women are included under the term 'men'!" (Institutes, vol. I, 479. The immediate question Calvin is addressing is why Jesus can be accounted the Son of David when Matthew's genealogy is the line of Joseph rather than Mary...but his reasoning in answering this little dilemma is clearly germane to our question here).

This of course is less than satisfactory for me.

Whether or not it matters that Jesus had a penis and not a vagina, theologically speaking, depends on whether or not you consider men and women to be ontologically different beings. If you do, then the fact that Jesus was male means that he assumed maleness but not femaleness, and the question of whether Jesus can save women becomes critical. This might explain why, in the Christian tradition, women were often considered partial, or defective, males; and the gnostic Gospel of Thomas deals with this problem by teaching that women who are saved will actually become men.

This of course is less than satisfactory for me.

But the idea that men and women are ontologically distinct is a pretty common one. It is at the basis of all forms of "complementarianism," whether explicitly heirarchical or not. It is one of the bedrock convictions that goes unexamined in all churches that teach that women have a different (silent, invisible) role in the church than men.

I used to argue this with Brent a lot when we were first married; he has always held a much more "unisex" version of feminism than I have. But in the course of these discussions I have come to realize that what I really think is that the difference between male and female is not ontological, but simply biological. And while that biological difference is clearly formative, and perhaps could be called foundational to one's identity, it lies in the plane of physical contingency and not ontological being.

So, did Jesus have a penis? Sure. (Otherwise, how could we possibly have the relic of the Holy Prepuce?) Does it mean that he only assumed maleness, instead of assuming humanity? It all depends on whether you consider male and female to be so different that being one means completely excluding the other.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Clare has got her first headcold. It's a little scary. Plus, really gross.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

things Clare is doing now, or "dangerously maternal" post

  1. Stringing more vowels together than Robert Plant. Oooooooo-ya-ee-ya-ee-yeah.
  2. Sleeping like a princess in a fairy tale...all night long.
  3. Creating masterpieces in her favorite modern art medium, mostly untitled, but some, particularly memorable, with titles like "that time there was so much it came up the front and the back" and "time to wash the bouncy chair again" and "wow! it hit the wall!"
  4. Initiating a long-term scientific investigation into determining exactly which objects in the universe are soluble in human saliva.
  5. Turning into a real milk junkie--looks like Homer Simpson eating a donut when she nurses.
  6. Growing and growing and growing so a bad hundred-year bloom. But in "the good way."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

do I, really

For the last decade or so of my life this question has periodically resurged. I expect it will for however many decades remain to me. Every so often the absurdity of the things I’ve staked my life on overshadows the ordinariness that belief takes on in the lived-out day-to-day. And when that happens I am forced to confront it. To stop and ask, do I really believe this stuff? Do I, really?

Sometimes this is just a flash of feeling, and sometimes it lasts for a day or so and then subsides. Madeleine L’Engle wrote of “days of disbelief.” Sometimes it lingers for a while longer. I’ve gone for long periods of time, years probably, without really knowing or daring to hazard an answer to the question, because the answer might honestly be no. I’ve known those who, finally, did have to answer no. I find it brave, even admirable, though not at all enviable.

I don’t know what “blessed are the poor in spirit” is really supposed to mean. But when I hear those words I think of those who struggle to believe, who want to believe, and just aren’t sure they can.

Does this bug anybody? That an aspiring professor of theology must admit to periods of recurrent if temporary suspended belief? Because it’s just how it is. Maybe other people don’t experience this. Perhaps some believers remain confident and unshakeable from the moment of their baptisms, or whatever marks the beginning of their certain belief, to the end of their days. I imagine George W. Bush is one of these people. Maybe some people can pass through this world, so marked by tragedy and suffering and evil, and smile serenely and continue unruffled to bet on everything coming out right in the end and assert that that’s all that matters anyway. I am not one of these people.

Quite frankly—oh, let’s just go ahead and be rude—these people really fucking bother me.

I find that I cannot respect a faith that hasn’t questioned itself. Repeatedly. Because once you face the necessity of that questioning, you see that the question is never settled with any sort of finality. At least, not on this side of death. I can’t respect a faith that doesn’t recognize the very real possibility that it could become unfaith.

Faith is not measured by intensity of fervor, or even unshakeableness of resolve. Faith is simply flinging yourself forward into life—sometimes an abyss, sometimes a mountaintop. Sometimes you don’t know why you go on. And that, even at its most unreasonable, is faith at its purest.

postscript: go read Theoblogia today too.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

my good samaritans

This Sunday Clare and I made our first trip to church by train. You can't really tell, but that's Clare in the stroller on the train.

Ah, the stroller. I took it because in addition to Clare and the requisite diaper bag, I was carrying my contribution to our monthly meal together: Thweatt rolls, a full Thanksgiving-sized double batch. I figured being able to put them down under the stroller seat and push Clare along would make things a great deal easier.

But in a city strollers are like cars--really convenient and helpful when you're actually moving and covering some distance, and really sucky to deal with all the rest of the time. I knew I had some stairs to contend with, but I also knew other people in NYC used strollers--I've seen them on the subway, I know it's possible to get your stroller down there. But this was my first stroller management experience. So I didn't know (till I asked for advice and received an extremely helpful tip from Laura) how to really handle the get-the-damn-stroller-up-(or down)-the-stairs hurdle.

But at every flight of stairs and at every elevator, train, and subway door, someone was ready to help. 12 people in all ready to hold the door or grab the bottom of the stroller to help lift it and carry it up or down the stairs. And it wasn't until I got to church and started thinking about it that I realized every single person who stopped to help me was a person of color.

Maybe it's a fluke but it seems astonishing to me. I'm no social scientist and this of course is not any kind of well-designed social experiment: this is just me not being able to handle my baby vehicle. And one trip is hardly representative, I'm sure. But I'm keeping my eyes open the next time I take the thing to NYC (not anytime soon--Clare may be heavy but at least in a sling stairs present no major obstacle) and we'll see if the experience repeats itself. Even though I now know the easiest way to get a stroller up or down the stairs is to pick it up and carry it myself.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

when, and why

One of the things Brent and I are asked fairly often by people is when (or whether) Clare will be baptized. A couple of semesters ago, when I was precepting for TH 222 and just a few months pregnant, Clare became my class illustration (oh, the dangers of being a preacher's kid) on the subject during discussion of infant baptism and believer's baptism. It personalized it, made it a little less abstract--and unfortunately, a little less overtly theological for the students as well, I think. It's hard to theologize when all of a sudden, you're no longer talking about an issue, but a person. Thus, "unfortunately," because really, theology is ultimately about people, for it is always about relationship: to God and each other. Nothing is ever just an issue, floating around unattached to people, and doing theology as if there were such abstract, unattached and impersonal objects of investigation is (in my opinion) pretty much inevitably bad theology.

We've discussed this at least half a dozen times already since learning I was pregnant, and probably will discuss it that many more times in the next year or so. It's not that we disagree about it; it's not that Brent is for baptizing Clare now, and I'm not, or vice versa. It's more like, now that we have this decision in front of us, there are reasons on both sides and it takes a lot of back and forth discussion to negotiate it all, and in the end, when we're fatigued and the subject itself is exhausted, we know that we will revisit everything again in a little while.

Really, the question is, what is baptism, anyway? Is it something we do, or something God does? Do we have to be old enough to stand on our own two feet and speak for ourselves in order for baptism to be what it is? Or even further, do we have to be able to stand up and speak for ourselves as autonomous, responsible individuals--alone, as it were, before the throne of God, in order for baptism to be what it is?

I have my doubts about this, even though this is the assumption I grew up with. I wasn't baptized until I was 16 years old, mainly because at the ever-impressionable junior-high age, I watched a bunch of kids from the youth group I was nominally a part of go tripping down the aisle like lemmings and jumping into the baptistry. I was hugely cynical, because the kids I watched make heartfelt confessions of faith up at the front were the same kids who were, for the most part, casually cruel to me week in and week out (or at least, as my memory may have exaggerated, completely indifferent). What could baptism possibly mean, I felt, if it was just some maudlin show that left no imprint on the remainder of someone's life? Later, after my family's move to NC, I resisted because I was determined that, whatever I eventually decided, it would be a real decision, something that would mark which way I was choosing to go with my life. Not being baptized would have been quite as much a decision as being baptized: it was one way, or the other. Very Gospel of John, light and dark, sort of thing. So I put it off, because for a long time I didn't want to come to that point of decision-making. I wanted to float, live in both worlds, for as long as I could. Eventually, of course, this quit working for me. I had to choose. So baptism was, for me, the paradigmatic autonomous individual squaring up to take the responsibility of choosing or rejecting God. Baptism, for me, was saying "yes" to God. For a long time this was all that baptism was for me. I understood in some kind of intellectual way that baptism was participation in Christ's death, was a washing away of sins, was the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit, was incorporation into the body of Christ. But these were just words. What baptism was, experientially, was an existential decision that marked a direction for my life.

I'm not saying this is a bad understanding. I, in fact, treasure the memory of my baptism and am grateful that I have this moment in my life that does stand as a marker of saying "yes" to God. There is something firm and unshakeable about that, something that cannot be undone, that I can reach for in moments of doubt and regret. Baptism is still this for me, but what I now understand is that it is also a great deal more. It is, in a way that goes deeper than words, participation, cleansing, renewal, incorporation; and it was these things even when I myself thought of it merely as a moment of definitive spiritual decision-making in my life.

The World Council of Churches document, "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," has this to say:

While the possibility that infant baptism was also practised in the apostolic age cannot be excluded, baptism upon personal profession of faith is the most clearly attested pattern in the New Testament documents.

In the course of history, the practice of baptism has developed in a variety of forms. Some churches baptize infants brought by parents or guardians who are ready, in and with the Church, to bring up the children in the Christian faith. Other churches practise exclusively the baptism of believers who are able to make a personal confession of faith. Some of these churches encourage infants or children to be presented and blessed in a service which usually involves thanksgiving for the gift of the child and also the commitment of the mother and father to Christian parenthood.

All churches baptize believers coming from other religions or from unbelief who accept the Christian faith and participate in catechetical instruction.

Both the baptism of believers and the baptism of infants take place in the Church as the community of faith. When one who can answer for himself or herself is baptized, a personal confession of faith will be an integral part of the baptismal service. When an infant is baptized, the personal response will be offered at a later moment in life. In both cases, the baptized person will have to grow in the understanding of faith. For those baptized upon their own confession of faith, there is always the constant requirement of a continuing growth of personal response in faith. In the case of infants, personal confession is expected later, and Christian nurture is directed to the eliciting of this confession. All baptism is rooted in and declares Christ's faithfulness unto death. It has its setting within the life and faith of the Church and, through the witness of the whole Church, points to the faithfulness of God, the ground of all life in faith. At every baptism the whole congregation reaffirms its faith in God and pledges itself to provide an environment of witness and service. Baptism should, therefore, always be celebrated and developed in the
setting of the Christian community.

I quote this at length because I figure most people won't bother to follow the link to read all that (and probably a lot of you skipped to the end here as well so if I caught you cheating go back and read it). For some people, it is very significant that "the most clearly attested pattern in the NT" is believer's baptism. With very few exceptions, the stories of baptism in the NT are adults choosing to make a confession of belief. The exceptions seem to be those places where it is indicated that whole households are baptized, households including people without direct volition such as children and possibly even servants or slaves. But this "most clearly attested pattern," as any CofCer knows, is not as clearcut as that simple phrase makes it sound. Think of all the headscratching we've done on the question of the Holy Spirit, and trying to figure why sometimes it comes before, and sometimes after, and sometimes as a result of, baptism.

It is also clear that the baptism of infants is a reasonable answer to the development of the church, to that first generation of children born to parents who were baptized as believers. Theological arguments of original sin as justification for the practice came after the practice itself, and are dispensable; you don't have to believe little babies are going to hell to practice infant baptism. You are, rather, affirming the fact that this baby is also a fellow human being both in need of and deserving of grace, and part of a community which knows this and will teach this. Clare can't articulate this truth (although she's doing great with oohs, aahs, and various gurgly noises), but it is true of her nonetheless.

So...when will we do it? And why? Right now our answer is to wait. Primarily because of my own experiential argument, and not because I "won" with a theological or biblical case for believer's baptism. I value my own baptismal experience so much that I can't shake the conviction that this should be possible for Clare, too. But I am highly aware that this is a personal preference, and not a theological stance.

BEM concludes:

In some churches which unite both infant-baptist and believer-baptist
traditions, it has been possible to regard as equivalent alternatives for entry
into the Church both a pattern whereby baptism in infancy is followed by later
profession of faith and a pattern whereby believers' baptism follows upon a
presentation and blessing in infancy. This example invites other churches to
decide whether they, too, could not recognize equivalent alternatives in their
reciprocal relationships and in church union negotiations.

Clare has been welcomed into the Episcopal church (see Brent's post for the really beautiful liturgy for this service). Sometime soon she will be welcomed into my church, too. And someday--perhaps sooner than any believer's baptist tradition considers proper, and later than any pedobaptist considers proper--she will be baptized. I bet if we took bets on it, she would pick some day nobody bet on, just to be her own self.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Yesterday was Brent's birthday. He too has now reached the hallowed age of 30, and since he's teased me for a month about enjoying his youth (with the implication that mine was officially over July 20 at 9:34) I think his should be celebrated with a vengeance.

So yesterday I planned a day full of Brent's favorite things. Favorite foods, favorite drink, favorite activities, favorite kind of cake-from-a-box and favorite ice cream (well, as good as I could do, anyway--Ben and Jerry's is an acceptable substitute for Bluebell, which you can special order for delivery, but only at $89 a pop).

And I started a scrapbook--not of Clare, but of us. Turns out we have a pile of pictures from random times and places from the last 6 1/2 years, and someday Clare will want to know how Daddy met Mommy and now we'll have a little picture book to go along with our admittedly insane love story. We'll tell it as a cautionary tale, obviously.

So, happy birthday to Brent! Feel free to leave your mean, over-the-hill-themed comments below. Or your nice congratulatory ones too.


From the New York Times:

August 26, 2006

Clergywomen Find Hard Path to Bigger Pulpit


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


So, I've been watching the Today Show in the mornings while breastfeeding Clare. This morning, an exceptionally fine morning as Clare slept through the night!!!, was soured for me as I happened to see a segment entitled, "Power Girls: has empowerment gone too far?" I am, in fact, incensed. Enough so that I decided it was worth a bit of time to express my outrage in an email that will never be read. Which is why I post it below, so that at least YOU, my small band of loyal readers, can be equally pissed off and admire my nice turn of wicked phrase here and there.

Dear Today Show,

I am writing to express my disappointment with a segment of this morning's show, entitled "Power Girls: has empowerment gone too far?" The premise of this segment, that empowering girls with the message that "they can do anything," has backfired and produced heightened reckless and irresponsible behaviors in girls (such as drinking, smoking, and drug use) is flawed and indeed damaging. The assumption that empowerment equals immature adolescent hedonism is never questioned in this segment, but quite the opposite: it is assumed to be true, and then lamented. The suggested solution is a return to "feminity," with the statement that in this way women will once again take their proper place as the moralizing force in general society. What an incredibly backward suggestion.

I find it hard to believe that anyone would present this as serious "reporting," or that any professional woman would be able to state such things on national TV with a straight face. Those two women could take on Steven Colbert anytime.

As a side note, I also found it odd that Seventeen magazine is now considered a legitimate source for parental advice. I'm certain my parents never consulted it while dealing with my difficult teen years, and as a parent myself I have not had occasion to seek advice about raising my daughter from a magazine whose major audience is the apparently over-empowered teen girl it purports to lament.

Now that the feminist "mountain has been climbed," as was claimed in the segment, are we to believe that achieving a semblance of equality and respect has actually damaged girls? Is the solution really to silently slink back down that mountain into our kitchens, don the aprons and kick off the shoes? And let's not forget that even here at "the top" of this mountain, women are still earning only about 60% of the income that men do for the same work. Have we really achieved what is being claimed here? I think not.

Please, do not air any more segments which undermine the true empowerment of girls and women. There are too many mountains that remain to be climbed.

Sincerely outraged,
Jennifer J. Thweatt-Bates

Thursday, August 17, 2006

be a cowboy. or girl.

This is from an email that my sister and bro-in-law sent out a couple weeks ago. I'm trying to think of creative ways my church can help. Brent came up with a great idea but if anyone wants to brainstorm and share your ideas are welcome. Or hey, just go buy your own cow. Those of you with real jobs and that mysterious thing called "income" ought to consider it. The rest of us who haven't grown up yet, let's apply that creativity and imagination to coming up with ways to get those other people with income to buy cows.

Cows for Kids

You have a unique opportunity to help children in Honduras in a real and tangible way. As most of you know, we are about to open a new children's home, Las Palmas Refuge, in southern Honduras and along with this comes the responsibility of providing physical nourishment for these children. So we are building the agricultural component of Las Palmas Refuge to provide for the nutritional needs of the kids. Fresh milk, cheese and other dairy products are vital for healthy children and thus we are focusing our initial efforts on the dairy herd. We really need your help in purchasing young cows so we can better provide for the children of Las Palmas.

Jesus spoke often about caring for little children. Mark 9 reads: "Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me."

Our initial plan is to purchase a small herd of composite dairy cows. These cows have relatively low milk production but are fairly cheap compared to traditional milking breeds. As we grow our herd, we will improve the quality of our cows by using pure bred Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss bulls.

The cost of each cow ranges from $500 to $1000 depending on the quality of the animal and her condition of sale (lactating, pregnant, cow-calf pair, etc). We would love for you to purchase your own cow. You can get to know your cow personally by giving her a name and receiving a picture of her detailing her personality.

First Fruits

Just this week we started supplying our school in San Marcos with fresh milk from our first few cows. To see the smiles and contentment on the children's faces is indescribable. The feeling of love and gratitude is really overwhelming. This is the first fruits of our labor on this dairy project. With your help, we can continue to grow this effort and give these children the physical and spiritual nourishment they need.

We want to invite you to partner with us in welcoming the children to Las Palmas. Please consider helping us in the purchase of cows so that the table will be full when they arrive. If you would like to help purchase a cow, the whole thing or just part of her, please mail your donation to:
Mission Lazarus
47 W. Irving Park Rd.
Roselle, IL 60172.

Please note "Cow" on your check. You can also donate online at: ML Donate. All Donations are tax deductible.

Thanks for your help.

Friday, August 11, 2006

welcome to the world

Sylva Mercedes Bohannon was born yesterday morning: 8 lbs. 14 oz., 20 " long and lots of hair.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Today is all about anticipation. I am waiting for a phone call from NC to announce the arrival of Clare's destined best friend. I thought the anticipation was unbearable when I went 15 days postdate, but this little baby has outwaited even Clare's record. So today, in defiance of all expectation, mom & baby are in a hospital for possible induction.

So much of giving birth is waiting and anticipation! I didn't know that before--TV makes it look like it's all about labor and contractions and pushing. That is just a tiny bit of it, in my experience. Far worse is the long, long uncertain period of waiting for it all to start and not knowing what it will be like when it does.

Hopefully, though, today will be Baby Bohannon's birthday and the birth will be gentle, unforgettable, empowering, and...SOON!

Say this quick prayer for mom & baby today:

God, it is time for this new life to enter the world. Let this entrance be peaceful and powerful. Strengthen mother and child for the labor ahead. Make this time holy and blessed. Amen.

Anticipating joyful news anytime now...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Today's word was especially intriguing. Plus, I need to get that disturbing post about sex off of the top of the page before my mother sees it. Oops, too late. Before mei-mei sees it. Oops, too late. Before Hilary takes my dare seriously. Oops, too late.

This week's theme: words related to forecasting and divination.

bibliomancy (BIB-lee-o-man-see) noun

Divination by interpreting a passage picked at random from a book,
especially from a religious book such as the Bible.

[From Greek biblio- (book) + -mancy (divination).]

If you are having a hard time deciding between turning groupie and following
your favorite band around or to stay put in your accounting job, help is at
hand. Try bibliomancy. Here's the step-by-step method:

1. Pick a book you trust a lot.
2. Put it on its spine, and let it fall open.
3. With your eyes closed, trace your finger to a passage.
4. Interpret the passage as your lifemap to the future.

You could even add more randomness to the process. To do that at the macro
level, visit a library and pick a book at random from the shelves. At the
micro level, instead of interpreting a passage, pick a single word and let
it point you to your path.

Then you could try awadmancy -- divination based on words from AWAD. Focus
on the question in your mind and then click here to get a random word from
our archives:

-Anu Garg (garg AT

"It was Margaret Drabble's new The Oxford Companion to English Literature,
which I'd been sent, to review. I'd been picking through it idly, looking
at this and that, seeing who was in and who was out, when, by a kind of
obscure bibliomancy, the book fell open at page 471, and there I was,
laid out drily between Robert Henryson, the 15th-century Scottish poet,
and Philip Henslowe, the Elizabethan theatrical diarist."
Philip Hensher; Brought to Book by the Literary Establishment;
The Independent (London, UK); Sep 6, 2000.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

sex is good

Don't get all squiffy. You know I've had sex before because you know we have a bee-yoo-tee-full baby. So it's not like I'm telling you anything not already at least implicitly known.

But this post is a celebration! Because sex is good and people shouldn't be ashamed to say so. And because I just had my postpartum followup appointment and was pronounced perfectly fine and we went straight from the office to buy condoms.


Thursday, July 20, 2006


Yes, today I turn 30. Unlike some people I am unafraid to announce my birthday (nor am I brazen enough to beg for gifts on the internet). Honestly, I forgot that today was the day until I got my card from Mom & Dad (thanks y'all). Then I forgot about it again till I got an unexpected happy birthday email from BC (one of my Brooklyn church-going heroes). Then I forgot all about it again until Brent came home and lavished me with gifts and take-out.

You parental types weren't kidding when you told me having a kid means actually living life centered around someone else for REAL.

Happy Birthday to me!

P.S. And thanks to the cool Lutheran neighbors who surprised me with cake & a birthday dirge after dinner. You will forever remain the "cool Lutheran neighbors" no matter where you move off to.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

back to basics

When I was packing for my first year of teaching English in China, I really felt like I was stripping down and reducing life to the basics. I was, of course, fooling myself. Having my mom mail me the cowboy boots that didn't fit in the suitcase...need I say more?

I get the same kind of feeling now, only this time, I think it's for real. Life with a new little baby is really all about the basics. Eating. Sleeping. Pooping. These are the events that define time, not the clock or the TV schedule or classes or work or fun things that one used to do back when. There's a real clarity about living the basics of life so consciously. It's like an alternative hermetic discipline, one that doesn't require the desert and solitude to enforce its strict simplicity. Perhaps I can hope that there's a chance of emerging from this discipline with a new depth of spirit, an unanticipated gift from Clare to me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Yes. We are.

Maybe it's easier to think we're all set apart and special and imago Dei and forget that we are also obviously an animal--a mammal--when you don't actually get to watch yourself produce milk.

Breastfeeding is amazing, really. It's sweet and precious and even a little noble. It's everything that the Womanly Art tells you it is. But it's also a reminder that we are animals producing milk to feed our young just like any other. I guess it really didn't hit me till I had to use the breast pump. Where breastfeeding is all about the baby, and you get to gaze down adoringly at her and think loving thoughts and feel good about yourself nourishing this little living thing in your arms, pumping is just about getting the milk out. And you gaze down clinically at the cold plastic thingy suctioned up against your boob and watch a little disbelievingly as milk spurts out from your own body and pretty soon you've got half a bottle of proof that you too are just another mammal.

Perhaps "just another" is a bit strong. It's not that I really feel like a literal cow or anything. But I can't help thinking about how much this amazing capability signals my place among others in the animal world. Does this make human beings any less special, to acknowledge this undeniable continuity? I can't see why. On the contrary, I think it's a precious thing to realize that we too belong to Creation in such an integral way--we aren't just plopped down here by the hand of God into a world that doesn't really know us or belong to us. Instead, we belong to it and it belongs to us.

Glass of milk
Standing in between extinction in the cold
And explosive radiating growth
So the warm blood flows
Through the large four-chambered heart
Maintaining the very high metabolism rate they have

Mammal, mammal
Their names are called
They raise a paw
The bat, the cat
Dolphin and dog
Koala bear and hog

One of us might lose his hair
But youre reminded that it once was there
From the embryonic whale to the monkey with no tail
So the warm blood flows
With the red blood cells lacking nuclei
Through the large four-chambered heart
Maintaining the very high metabolism rate they have

Mammal, mammal
Their names are called
They raise a paw
The bat, the cat
Dolphin and dog
Koala bear and hog
Placental the sister of her brother marsupial
Their cousin called monotreme
Dead uncle allotheria

Mammal, mammal
Their names are called
They raise a paw
The bat, the cat
Dolphin and dog
Koala bear and hog
The fox, the ox
Giraffe and shrew
Echidna, caribou

Thursday, June 29, 2006


We took this on Sunday at Trinity, just after our Thanksgiving service (which Clare slept through quite adorably).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

quote for the day

I subscribe to A.W.A.D. (A Word a Day) because--to my chagrin and yet simultaneous delight--it often actually has words I didn't already know, complete with definition, quote from a real source, etymology, and pronunciation .wav file. There is also always a different quote included at the very bottom, a more or less random one, and sometimes these are very fine. This was today's:

"Everyone confesses that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us; but most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstancesdrive them to do." -Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)

I don't want to record here on the blog anything about the actual experience of giving birth to Clare. I am writing it, to the best of my ability, but it isn't something I want to publish on the blog. But since I have blogged about everything from not having ever looked at my vagina before, to various pregnancy annoyances and even the birth plan, I feel like a little closure is warranted. So here is what I want to say. I don't think everyone has to do it how I did it. But I wouldn't do it any other way, and I feel even more strongly about it now than I did before. Before, it was all theoretical: trusting what I read and believing it would be best for me and for Clare to do this as medication- and interference-free as possible. Now that I've done it, I know it's not just a physical health thing (though that's certainly of major importance!) but also, for me, a subjective experiential thing. I took it all in, and went with it, and it was the hardest and most exhilarating thing I've ever done. It really was "exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind." And it changes you to do something like that in a powerful way.

But I also want to say that I didn't do it by myself, and I don't think that anyone really could. I had a chorus of praise around me the whole time: Brent, and my mother, and Maria, and Brynne, my midwife. When I got to that point where I didn't think I could keep going, but knowing that I was going to anyway, I could exchange believing in myself for their belief in me.

I would say thank you, but that just seems lame.

Oh, and today's word was "baxter," which means, "a baker, especially a female baker."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wednesday's Child

Clare Madalyn Thweatt Bates was born on Wednesday, June 14, 2006 at 4:09 p.m. at the University Medical Center in Princeton, NJ. She was 9 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long. Click here for more photos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

another update for Tracy, et al.

Okay, y'all: today is the official 42-week mark. Last Friday we had two tests to see how the kid was doing in there, and she showed great promise as a future academic, passing both tests with perfect scores. Ah, indeed she is the daughter of two over-achieving perfectionists. However, it makes even the midwives nervous to have someone go over the 42-week mark. And so, tomorrow morning (unless Clare finally gets done teasing and makes her move tonight) at 6:00 a.m. we will head to the hospital and check in for an amniotomy--which just means that they will break the bag of waters. This should be enough to nudge us over the edge into active labor.

Haven't checked lately but it seems to me that no one ever chose June maybe Clare has waited us all out just to show she's her own person, thank you very much, and refuses to be objectified as a betting object and exploited for personal gain...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

So, our bags have been packed for about 3 weeks now. In addition to clothes for me and Brent and indispensable books like The Birth Partner and all the paraphernalia for Clare, there are quite a few items packed especially for their symbolic value.

My going home outfit is Mom's blue dress. She wore this when she was pregnant with me 30 years ago.

To go with the dress I'll take along the necklace that Brent's mom Malda gave me a long time ago--back when we were first married, or maybe even before--a truly unique and beautiful piece that never fails to garner compliments when I wear it.

One of the helpful packing lists in one of the very helpful books Maria loaned us says you should definitely have warm socks. So I have the snuggly warm socks with the heat-up-able gel inserts that Emily gave me for Christmas packed.

A bathrobe for walking around in: my Grandmother's silk kimono from Japan, deep blue and embroidered, gorgeous and comfortable.

To be packed last-minute, (on my last-minute, don't forget list) is the iPod. On it is a variety of relaxing music, including all the songs I have that my Dad has recorded so far.

The helpful packing list suggests bringing an item, like a picture or an object, to focus on during labor. When I visited Honduras for Thanksgiving last year, I was just a couple months pregnant, but Ally and Jarrod had found this beautiful statue of a mother cradling a child and gave it to me when I got there. And it will go to the hospital with me.

So, while the only people in the room with me will be Brent and Mom and Maria and the midwife, everyone is there in some I will be surrounded by reminders of all the people who love me.

Friday, June 09, 2006


time for a new round of guesses? But Grandad Bates--regardless of whether he hits the jackpot--deserves special recognition for being the only one left in the running from the original round of betting.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

thoughts on castor oil upon waking

  1. to the tune of "I love to laugh" from Mary Poppins: "I love to poop [farting noises instead "hahahaha"], loud and long and free, and the more I poop [fart fart fart fart], the closer to labor I'll be!"
  2. It really is possible for the human body to produce the comedic gut rumbling of Major Payne.
  3. Castor oil=Drano for human plumbing.
  4. for the cultured (do they read this blog?): "Who would have thought the pregnant woman had so much poop in her?"

Monday, June 05, 2006

human depravity in Battlestar Galactica

So, thanks to the incomparable Flett family, my anxious days of waiting for Baby Clare have been ameliorated by the generous lending of seasons 1 and 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Now that Mom's here, I have someone to watch them with (Brent steadfastly refuses and refers to the series as "Battlebutt Gargantua," which I am sure is on some level an unconscious commentary on my expanded anatomy. I certainly feel like a Battlebutt Gargantua at this point, anyway.) I have now watched these DVDs three times through, starting on round 4, and it's time for a little dissertation-related musing on the theological theme of human depravity in this posthuman tale which struggles directly, on many levels, with the question of what is human/posthuman.

For those of you that don't watch, all you need to know is that the basic premise is as follows. Human beings created the Cylons, mechanical robot-types, to aid in the colonization of new planets. These human-made creatures then (with no explanation yet forthcoming by the way) "rebelled" against humanity and thus began the first human-Cylon war. The humans apparently "won" this war, or at least, the Cylons bugged off and left humanity alone for 40 years, during which time human civilization on the Twelve Colonies started to revert back to its techo-dependent ways. As the first episode (the mini-series) opens, the Battlestar Galactica is a military relic about to be decomissioned, and the Commander of the Battlestar (Commander Adama) is himself a relic with old-fashioned fears of the consequences of networking computers. But, of course, his old-fashioned paranoia is vindicated when the Cylons reappear without warning and nuke all twelve Colonial planets, as well as the entire military fleet, save for the obsolete Galactica. Adama then becomes the de facto leader of the remnants of humanity--those survivors who were in transit off-planet during the nuclear attacks that killed everyone else.

So that's the premise. What is terribly interesting is that as the story develops, there is constant commentary on human nature. During a grand tale of somewhat epic proportion about the gutsiness of humanity, its determination, will to survive, capacity for sacrifice and courage, and inexplicable optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, there is also a consistent message that humanity is inherently flawed: shortsighted and violent, selfish and ruthless. There is even the sense that this doomed fate, as the result of ignorance and a failure of moral responsibility, is deserved even as they try valiantly to escape it.

Quite often this commentary on human nature is directly voiced in the dialogue. At the end of the original miniseries, a group of Cylons convenes to discuss the escape of the Galactica and the fleet of civilian refugee ships it protects. The humans have temporarily placed themselves beyond the Cylons' reach, and the question is, can the Cylons afford to let them go? The answer is a decisive "no," and the reason is very simple. If the Cylons are merciful and allow the humans to escape, they predict that the humans will return to exact revenge, because "it is their nature." The irony, of course, is that this is exactly what the Cylons themselves have done: but this goes unremarked, and apparently unnoticed by the Cylons themselves.
Also intriguing is that one of the major Cylon characters, "Number Six," refers to the Cylons as "the children of humanity" in a conversation with another Cylon. They discuss the concept of a debt owed to their parentage and the conclude that parents must be supplanted by their children, in fact, die, so that the children can "come into their own." But the condemnation often voiced by Cylon characters of the inherent depravity in human nature is never considered by them as a possible heritage from their human "parents."

Intensifying this commentary is the religious contrast quite deliberately drawn between the (ostensibly) polytheistic/atheistic humans and the strictly religious monotheistic Cylons. Not only are the Cylons physically and technologically superior to humanity; they consider themselves religiously superior as well. The sense of self-righteousness that runs blatantly through all Cylon God-talk serves to further obscure the obvious question of the parallel depravity of Cylon-nature as the Cylons consistently condemn human nature.

There's much more to this series--a lot of other questions and issues of a posthuman nature are raised. But this particular theme runs quite strongly throughout the whole series, and is central to the plot. The unanswered question of why the Cylons rebelled in the first place has a shadowy hint of an answer in their constant condemnation of human nature. The desperate decisions forced on Commander Adama and the fleet--who do we save? who do we abandon? when do we give up?--illustrate the kind of ethical quandary that best exhibits the ambivalence of human nature. Whether the Cylons are correct in their assessment of human nature or not remains an open question, and I think, perhaps the determining question concerning the direction of the continuing story.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

another update for Tracy (and everyone)

Well, y'all, we thought maybe last night we'd see some dramatic happenings but instead we went to bed and slept for 12 hours without incident! Which was great and all, baby.

So today we went to a movie, and our alert Lutheran neighbors noticed that our car was gone and got excited, but alas for us all, we were just at the theatre and not the hospital. Still no baby.

However, as of Friday morning I was "a stretchy 3" centimeters dilated, and 90% effaced, and Clare was a -1. All of that means, things had gotten underway pretty much without my noticing much yet. So Ursula the Midwife "stripped the membranes" to give things a little nudge further in the right direction. We all thought yesterday that this meant something big pretty immediately, but here we are. However, most labors do start at night, or so the books all say, so perhaps tonight will be it, and all you June 4th'ers will be hitting the jackpot. The symbolic jackpot, since I don't really intend any sort of payoff. You'll get to see the kid, that'll have to be enough.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tracy's update

Well, no signs of labor yet and Mom arrived last night, so, now all I can say is,

Baby Clare, get a move on!!!

But not today since Maria is with someone else whose baby decided to be early, and not Sunday, 'cause she teaches. But Friday would be good...yeah, tomorrow would be great!

The cool Lutherans next door will be posting on the blog to announce the birth, so, keep checking...

Friday, May 26, 2006

you place your bets and takes your chances

Okay, y'all, it's that time. When will Baby _______ finally make her appearance? Place your bets--on anything from birthdate to weight, length, bald or blonde--and we'll see who wins the title of prophet & visionary extraordinaire.

Some tips: official due date is May 30; Brent and I were both 8 lbs., 11 oz.; I was mostly bald with an old man fringe 'round the ears; nephew Levi continues an unbroken bald streak into his first year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Maybe y'all are getting tired of the church posts. Too bad 'cause this is my blog. You can go to if you want some controversy, or the cool Lutheran neighbors' site or Ally's blog for cute pics of adorable children.

"Laugh with those who laugh, and mourn with those who mourn," (St. Paul, Romans 12:15). Or, perhaps less profoundly but just as classic: "Honey, laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," (Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias).

Even the weather yesterday laughed and mourned by turns--glorious sunshine gave way slow showers, occasionally punctuated by inundations of stronger rainfall, and then gave way to sunshine again. We sat under a canopy surrounded by pots of tea and Devonshire cream and shared love stories and traded reminiscences, and occasionally remarked on the mercurial weather. This was my baby shower, thrown by the women at the Brooklyn church--the most relaxing baby shower that ever was. After what I can fairly call the most luxurious experience of my life--a prenatal massage at The Spa, treated by my Brooklyn sisters--we simply gathered together for an afternoon of uninterrupted hanging out in a gorgeous place with delectable food. It could not have been more perfect. How do you say thanks for the gift of a perfect day?

The weather cleared for our walk to church together from the tea shop to the Y, and--after a mad dash to the bathroom, as my bladder was the one element not in cooperation with all other elements of the universe to provide me with the perfect day--I entered our church space to discover to my astonishment that Ira was there with us. It took awhile for it to register, actually. I heard Sophia in the background calling out over and over, "Ira! Ira!" in this joyous tone, but it wasn't till I looked around to find a seat that I finally saw him. And there he was! Just 4 seats down from me! It was bigger than meeting Heath and Michelle. And the sunshine poured down strong through the window, warming my back all through our classtime while Joe talked about the canon.

And then Joe talked about what it means to abide: an archaic, unused English word that shows up all through John. Abide in me, and I abide in you; abide in God's love. To abide: to be present, fully available to the other, without pressing forward into the future anxiously, without projecting our desires for the other into the present moment to make ourselves, and the other, dissatisfied or ashamed of what is. Joe is on my short list of fine preachers (Joe, Mike Cope, my dad, and Brent: this is my list of fine preachers I have heard) but something beyond the ordinary happened in last night's sermon. We heard Joe speak, but it was God's witness.

And there were tears. More than one person was convicted; more than one sorrow was shared. And there were sympathetic tears as we mourned with those who mourn.

Many times over the last few months I have felt ashamed at the embarrassing overabundance of good fortune in my life. Things haven't always been this good for me. In fact, things have never been this good. It's a strange thing, I said to Brent a couple of weeks ago, to realize that you are as happy as you've ever been in your whole life. And sometimes I have wanted to hide that, not wanting to flaunt it in front of my brothers and sisters who are struggling with real tragedies, not wanting to be unintentionally cruel in my own contentment.

And what I learned yesterday was that they are as eager to rejoice with me as I am to weep with them. And this is what it means for us to abide with each other.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Baby's definitely dropped. Ursula, who may be our favorite of the four midwives in the practice (I don't know if it's the charming German accent or the unexpected sense of humor or what but she is so cool) told us so yesterday: "Ze baby ees quite low. She ees down zere." Not that I needed an announcement, really. When someone's head is riding along in your pelvis you pretty much know it.

Anyhow, no signs of labor yet. I still have no idea what Braxton-Hicks contractions should feel like, or how grody the whole mucus plug thing will be, or how dramatic the water-breaking thing should be (although Mom informs me that her water never broke with any of us, so it seems I might have to diagnose labor without the most helpfully definite sign of it. I feel gypped. I mean, come on, on TV births the water always breaks and splashes all over the floor and that's how they know to panic. How will we cope without that?)

So, this week the big project has been getting ready for the untimeable inevitable. Made a packing list, started packing the hospital bag. Made a shopping list for things to take with us and went shopping: juice, Gatorade and Propel fitness water (since I really do hate Gatorade), some healthy snacky easily digestible things, and the irreplaceable A & D ointment for the baby's butt (parenthetical note: it still looks odd to me to see it in a tube instead of in those little free sample packs we grew up with, which seem to me still today to be its most natural packaged form). Bought a little lavendar outfit Brent liked for her going-home outfit as his liturgical side kicked in and objected to taking her home in just any ol' onesie. Charged up the digital camera and deleted all old files on it so we can fill it up with adorable baby pictures. Made a people-to-call list, drafted an announcement email and the Cool Lutheran Neighbors to send it out for us, and added them as a blogger here to post the news here as well. Went to a La Leche League meeting and borrowed the local chapter's Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from their lending library and have started perusing it. Made an appointment with a pediatrician for tomorrow afternoon. Watched the birthing DVD Maria lent us yet again, and still cried, again, at the first birth (that one is just so awesome!)

What else is there to do? Faithfully keep up with the prenatal yoga. And just...wait. But "I hate waiting" and it makes me feel like I want her to just hurry it on up; then again, we need to hang on at least till Mom gets here! It's not that I'm scared of doing this without her, but just that both of us would be so bummed if she missed it.

Overall, though, I still feel like I'm gearing up for a big soccer tournament or something. Anticipating it, preparing mentally and physically, thinking of it like a great big sporting event that I of course will inevitably win after a stellar and inspiring performance "on the field." But I would probably be content to have the baby named MVP.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

kitty on steroids!

I wish I had a really manic picture of the cat to accompany the title, but she's not feeling quite that well yet. But she is, literally, on steroids. This morning we stuffed our protesting feline into her hated cat-carrier and took her back to the Carnegie Cat Clinic to see how well the antibiotics had worked and evaluate what else would need to be done. She's perked up considerably since we started administering the antibiotics--even played fetch with us a few nights ago with her favorite toy, something she hadn't done in months. She's also started grooming with a lot more enthusiasm and frequency and no longer looks so ragged. So we knew that she was a lot better than she was a couple weeks ago, but we went with fear and trembling because we were so afraid of being told that all her teeth were going to have to come out, and we have no way to pay for it.

This time, the vet was able to actually open Tiamat's mouth and look inside it (poor kitty was in so much pain last time this wasn't even possible). Her gums were a lot less inflamed and red, but the inside of her mouth is still very abnormally red and full of sore places that need to heal. But, wonderful news! Dr. Miele told us that a steroid shot would be the way to go and would bring Tiamat a lot of relief in just a couple days from all the remaining soreness and ulcered places. The steroid lasts 1-3 months in her system, and quite possibly will bring things to a place where maintenance of a healthy mouth will be the answer rather than extracting teeth. Her actual teeth are fine, so if we can just get the stomatitis under control, then we can try preventative stuff. This of course remains to be seen, but the Doomsday Scenario has been pushed back and we are so relieved.

The cost of today's visit was $36. Altogether, our 2 visits and the meds come to about $160. And thanks to a timely suggestion from my mom, the things I sold at the yard sale Saturday before last (many thanks to Priscilla for organizing it and letting me crash it!) and the stuff Brent put on Ebay to defray the cost of the vet bill bring it to $80. There's a community yard sale out here at CRW this Saturday as well, so hopefully we'll make some more $$ and maybe even cover the cost entirely. That's probably too optimistic, but one can hope.

But best of all, the cat seems a lot happier. And her breath doesn't stink so bad.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Birth Plan

Here it is: The Birth Plan. Not, of course, that we at all expect things to go according to "plan," and besides, my favorite line from Cool Hand Luke is still "I never planned anything in my life."

Birth Plan for Baby _______

Jennifer Thweatt-Bates & Brent Bates
Princeton Midwifery Care
Maria J. Brooks, doula
est. due date: 05/30/06

* I want the following people to be present during labor and birth, and preferably no one else: my husband, Brent Bates; my mother, Patricia P. Thweatt; my friend & doula, Maria Brooks; and the midwife (Peggy, Ursula, Brynne, or Grace).

* I would like to be able to play music or dim the lights if I choose, and wear my own clothing if I choose. Or not wear clothing, if I choose. (Who knows what the heck I’ll choose.) I want to be able to walk and move around during labor, and eat and drink as I feel necessary.

* I want to try any birthing or laboring position that feels right, or that the midwife or Maria thinks might be helpful.

* I strongly prefer monitoring of the baby by intermittent listening of the heartbeat and not by continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring.

* I want to try any pain-management technique known to midwife and/or doula as I feel the need: positioning, massage, breathing techniques, bath/shower, hot tub, etc. Do not offer pain medication; if I want it, I’ll ask for it. If I do ask for it, I want to be encouraged to hang on a little longer and be given some idea of my progress; if I can gut it out I’ll be much happier in the end. If I really do want pain medication, I will insist on it despite encouragement.

* I do not want a time limit set on the progress of my labor.

* I want to be able to listen to my body and push as I feel the need.

* I do not want an episiotomy. Any techniques known to my midwife or doula to help prevent this are welcome. Bottom line: I prefer to risk tearing to being cut.

* I would like to view the birth with a mirror if possible, and be able to touch the baby’s head when it crowns.

* Brent would like to help “catch” our baby (or in his more elegant and liturgical terms, “receive the baby”).

* I want to hold her right away (no warming unit), and breastfeed as soon as possible. I plan to breastfeed exclusively and do not want any bottle feeding to occur (no formula, water or sugar water) as this may interfere with the breastfeeding learning process. I want all newborn procedures to take place in my presence or Brent’s presence and with our explicit verbal consent.

* We want 24-hour rooming-in with our baby, and would like to postpone the first bath and bathe the baby in our room. For any newborn procedure that must be done in the nursery, Brent should be present.

* We want to waive the eye medication procedure and are prepared to sign a waiver to that effect.

* If something horrible happens and I must have a C-section, I want to understand the situation and see the necessity of it. I want Brent and my midwife to be there. I definitely do not want to be knocked out completely (if this is possible) as I want to be as alert as possible. I’d like for Brent to be able to hold her as soon as possible, and to be present for all newborn procedures. I want to be able to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

We know that birth is unpredictable and that we cannot anticipate every decision we may be faced with. Mainly, we want this birth plan to show that we prefer, generally, as little interference as possible and as much freedom as possible. We’ve never done this before and don’t have any idea what it will really be like, so it’s important to us to be able to experience things as they come without undue anxiety. No panic, people! I am healthy and strong and have a lot of confidence in my body’s ability to figure this out as it goes (my head can catch up later).

I go to an amazing church. Or more accurately, I am part of an amazing church. That old Church of Christ lesson about the church isn't the building, you know, it's hardwired in at this point. It certainly isn't the building that makes this church what it is, although there's a certain grungy style to meeting in a barren, concrete-floored former workout room at the YWCA. It's what happens there every Sunday that makes this church what it is, and what that makes possible for the rest of the week for all of us when we leave and go back home to neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey, wherever.

I've been grateful for this church for a long time, but every so often something amazing happens that functions as a new reminder that church isn't just something we do because we're in the habit, or because we happen to like the people we get together with, but because there's something life-changing, transformative, about it. These little epiphanies are few and far between and spontaneous and maybe don't get noticed by everybody, but Sunday night, there it was. A little glimpse of God in the middle of a circle of plastic chairs in a barren concrete-floored room, as one friend revealed a need and the response was immediate: we will take care of you, if you need us. That's what we are. The church.

I would love to say more, but I was just there, observing an amazing moment between people as they became Christ to each other, saying amen. Just a witness to a presence that was suddenly more than the sum of those visible.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

afternoon with the vet, evening with the midwives

Over the past few weeks I have slowly become convinced that there is something wrong with the cat. At first it was just that she seemed to be a little neurotically possessive of my lap. Then she started looking a little less well-groomed than usual. Then she was sleeping a lot, and getting kinda smelly. Then, she started occasionally spitting up. Not hairballs, just spitting up after she ate her kitty treats and lapped up her special cat milk that comes in cute little juice-drink-like purple boxes. Then, her spit up started looking reddish, like she was bleeding somewhere and I thought, okay, it's time for the vet.

Still, it took me three weeks to find a vet, call a vet, make an appointment and take her there. I just couldn't decide if she was really sick or if this was just kitty stress that would eventually go away. I vacillated. We're on a budget that consists of stipends, loans and part-time employment. If kitty's not really sick, then we could really use that $50-$100 elsewhere...

Anyway, I finally took her. When we got there, the vet said in surprise, "How old did you say your cat was?" "Three and a half years," I replied. "Why is her coat so horrible?" she exclaimed. "I don't see coats like this on cats unless they're 18 years old!" "I don't know," I said helplessly. "That's one of the things we've noticed lately. She isn't grooming and I don't know why."

The vet leaned down and peered into my poor kitty's mouth. "This is the problem," she said. "Her teeth are awful."

My poor kitty. She stinks and spits up and hasn't been grooming because she has stomatitis, a really terrible and advanced kind of feline gingivitis and her whole mouth hurts her. She can't chew (so she chokes on her food and spits up) and she can't groom (obviously) and, of course, she's stinky because it's like halitosis from hell when your whole mouth is full of infection.

So we have some antiobiotics to give her--1 cc every twelve hours. This morning, her third dosage, Brent and I spent an hour wrestling with her trying to get the syringe close enough to her mouth that I could squirt the stuff in. It never worked. I can't begin to describe how incredibly awkward that was for me at this point in the pregnancy, on top of all the stress and frustration inherent in trying to get your cat to do something she really, really doesn't want to do, plus how bad it makes you feel to cause an animal pain even when you're just trying to do what's best for her. She was frantic and freaked, and finally, I called the vet to plead for help. Isn't there another way? I begged. Her mouth hurts her so much she flinches long before I get close enough to actually get the medicine in there.

Apparently we can put it in her food. Would've been nice to know to begin with, but at least there will be no more human-kitty-pregnant-human wrestling matches on the floor.

I wish that was all. There's a chance that the antibiotics alone, though they should clear up the infection, won't be enough and that she will need dental work and teeth extracted before we're done. How much that costs depends on how many teeth will have to go, and how hard it is to get them out, but the Doomsday Scenario is about $1000.

It's pretty hard to contemplate pulling $1000 out of nowhere to spend on our cat's dental health when we 1) have no income to speak of, 2) expect a baby in a month, and 3) haven't been to the dentist ourselves in literally years.

But what are the options? We can't not take care of the cat. We just don't know how we're going to get it done.

So, after the afternoon with the vet, we spent "an evening with the midwives." The midwives at Princeton Midwifery Care (where we go) hosted this informational event at the University Medical Center, and since Brent and I have opted out of formal childbirth classes, we thought we'd go to this one-time free event in case there was anything we could learn that we haven't already. Mostly, the information covered was stuff I'm already well familiar with by now, but it was great to be able to tour the hospital wing where we'll be giving birth. That was helpful in a lot of ways--it made the whole anticipated event a little more real, a little more concrete, and a little less unknown. The LDRP rooms are spacious and pretty homey. You can slide cabinet doors closed over all the emergency equipment and once the warming crib and monitor stuff is moved out it looks more like a bedroom than a hospital room. Lots of lighting options, private bathroom, little fridge, fold out chair for Brent to sleep on if he wants, and lots of chairs. There's a Jacuzzi down the hall and--this was very exciting--the midwives recently acquired a birthing stool that I can try if I want (I don't know how comfy that will be or if it will work for me but it sounds nifty). So I can now get back to work on my birth plan with a better idea about the facilities and some of the procedures at the University Medical Center. But the real highlight of the evening for me was a little talk given by a doula and childbirth educator on Gail Tully's forthcoming book Spinning Babies. When she asked if anyone in the room was 36 weeks or more, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for her to diagram how the baby is lying. (I beat out another girl who also said she was 36 and a half weeks along--feel a little bad--oh well.) Basically, it's a logical sort of analysis based on where you feel strong kicks, flutters, and where the smooth bulges are in your belly. It turns out that Baby _____ is head down (knew that already), with her feet up near the right side of my ribs (where I consistently feel strong kicks and occasionally see weird bulgy bumps that must be a foot stretched out or something), partially facing out toward my bellybutton, and with her hands down in front where she occasionally punches my pelvic floor with nice little staccato drum rolls that make me wince and head toward the bathroom. And now I have a nice big diagram to put in Baby ______'s little book. Before the birth, she'll need to turn so that her face is toward my spine. But there's plenty of time for that to happen and most babies do this themselves when the time comes.

So...cats and babies. I still carry this residual feeling of guilt that I have been a terrible caregiver for Tiamat and that this bodes ill for upcoming motherhood. My kitty's teeth are practically rotting out of her head and I barely even noticed. I hope I manage to be a little more attentive from now on--to cat and child.

Monday, May 01, 2006

happy birthday baby

No, not my baby, d'you think I'd be blogging???
This baby: Happy 1st Birthday, nephew!