Hi loves,

I’m enjoying all these articles going around the Internet this week about the fixed self being a myth — science proves Buddhism right, and apparently we’re utterly mutable. Surprise! Glad science keeps coming around to prove things we already experientially know to be true.

As I learn things and read things and have ideas, I’ve found myself missing the outlet of epistolary discussion, missing blogging and the exchange of ideas that medium provides. I don’t miss a lot of things about blogging, largely writing about difficult topics where I felt constantly on the defensive for decisions I was making and who I was becoming and why. I’m not the same person and I’m not interested in the same things as I was when I was writing here.

But I do miss writing regularly, and I miss having an outlet where I talk about things on my own terms, openly. So I want to try an experiment by starting a TinyLetter, a place where I can be a little more honest than I can on my clean and proper Peace Corps blog, where I talk about ideas that catch my attention, books I’m reading, food I’m eating or cooking, things that inspire or challenge me. I’m going to be unapologetically myself, so there may be some surprises if you’re not a close friend who’s been around the last year or so. I don’t expect everyone who liked my writing before I left church for good to like what I have to say now, and that’s okay.

But if you want to play along, you can subscribe below. I’ll send out my first one next week.

xo,

h

powered by TinyLetter


I’m sitting at the picnic table in my parents’ kitchen, the mess of art projects and nubbins of flowers picked by siblings and half-finished notebooks and Costco packs of food surround me. Walking down the hill this morning to make coffee cake before they left for church, I had to stop and soak in the lilting sounds of life on the air—the birds announcing their delight at the change in the weather, my brothers laughing on the trampoline, the wind hitting the blossoms in the trees and setting them to whispering. My sister was playing Minecraft when I came in, and while I dumped spices into the flour, she darted through, clambered up the counter and plopped white azaleas into dishes of water dyed with food coloring. My mother hugged me from behind while I made my brothers and me our first cups of coffee, and then they were gone and the house was still while the oven chirped and hushed itself into heat and the cake baked.

Here, I have been very lucky. Here, I have circled back and through and am again facing forward, about to launch myself at something unknown, leaving behind something I know all too well. Here, I try to savor up these moments and be grateful.

This last year has been a year of intense periods of growth and learning, which is an abstract thing to say, intended to make you nod and smile and agree (for it must be that you feel the same about this past bit of time, too) and leave me alone about what exactly I learned and how exactly I grew. But it would diminish the lessons to tell you, to try to sum up the breath of moments hitting my soul and inflating and tapping me into new shapes.

Usually I think that I want to be a fiction writer, that some day I want to make my livelihood with my hands and my pen, cooking up stories to delight and amuse and provoke. But I have been compelled to write poetry for the longest time, and I suppose I should be honest with myself that right now, I am not writing fiction; that right now I have a life that demands poems for survival and for joy. Poetry is the necessary outcome of my experiences, poetry is the colors on the wall when light hits the shards of moments on the floor of my head. Poems change me, too, each one turning and turning a moment over and around to look at it from funny angles, catching glimpses of myself reflected in it, and laughing in surprise when I sometimes see the sky looking back at me, too. 

When I came back to Richmond this winter, I knew I had a chunk of poems about these last few months that could probably be shaped into a chapbook—the story they tell is a beautiful narrative, but it’s also intensely personal (which is scary). Every time I sat down to write something else, this story pulled me back in, and I found myself arranging and rearranging and revising and refining these poems. The story was wiling itself into life. I couldn’t resist.

This last year I started reading tarot, and it has been an utterly joyful thing to play with for this English major who loves tropes and archetypes. And as I kept coming back to these poems, the framework of a tarot reading—which is to say, the narrative of a major life lesson learned at a moment in one’s life—bled into the organization of the story and I found that I had a poem cycle in the shape of a Celtic cross reading on my hands. So here we are.

On Wednesday, I shut the door on this season of my life and leave the country for the next two years to serve as an English teacher volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Kyrgyz Republic. I want to give this little book of poems to you as a parting gift, both to remove myself from it and let it live on its own (as it wants to do), and to try to share the beauty that blessed me with whoever wants to enjoy it as well. 

It’s a little terrifying to be leaving for so long, and it’s a little terrifying to trust that this is the right thing. And it’s a little terrifying to share these poems with the world and expose myself. But I’m learning that the things that scare me the most are the most satisfying things, well worth doing. These are the things that expand my capacity to love, to learn, to be present, to not be ashamed or afraid. So I’m going to give fear the middle finger and I’m going to go on an adventure and I’m going to share some poems with you. 

With love,
H

Poems


I’ve been pretty busy elsewhere this week, but I wanted to drop you a line here to keep you updated on goings-on.

Mostly I’ve been doing a lot of writing. And procrastinating by cooking soup and creating salads and new takes on mac & cheese.

A few things to share with you, though.

The first is: I finally wrote a love letter for Ben Moberg’s series over at Registered Runaway. I initially resisted his invitation because I get really fed up with loud LGBTQ allies talking about being allies for the sake of talking about being allies. I want to live that, not talk about it. But something happened this week that pushed me over the edge, so here you are:

My parents used to have a tile they got when we drove through New Mexico on our pilgrimage east, and it hung in our entryway at home for years and years. Mi casa es su casa, it read.

…because invitations are sometimes hard to accept if they aren’t made loudly, let me make it very clear: mi casa es su casa.

This house always belongs to you, too.

Secondly, I’ve accepted an offer to join the blogging team over at The Friendly Atheist. Hemant Mehta reached out to me a couple weeks ago and I think he’s great and I’m excited to be contributing to his Patheos blog as a Christian culture commentator. I’ll still be blogging here, too, so no worries about that!

Also, I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to this whether or not I’m an atheist (this isn’t me coming out as one); my writing and analysis on Christian culture issues fits the tone and themes of his site well.  I’m excited for my first post to go up there tomorrow, especially I’ll be talking about the latest updates on SGM “scandal.” (I’ll add a link here when it’s live.) The post is live!

Thirdly, I’m finally posting my explanation of why modesty culture = rape culture, and Convergent Books is kind enough to host it for me. Part 1 is up today!

Fourth: Third: The Swan Children is accepting submissions for our July issue now! Read our latest update here and submit here.

And finally, the YA Wallpaper has a new video up! We’re talking about Meg Wolitzer’s new book (which isn’t out yet), so SPOILER ALERT.


Clare is very touched by all the support! But she is still a minor, so for her privacy and for the sake of my family’s privacy, my dad has asked that she not do any interviews herself at this time. I’m more than happy to talk to people, and so is her boyfriend, James.

I’m about to leave for work for the day and won’t be able to be online or in touch much, but Kiery is my webmaster and fairy person and you can tweet at her if there’s any trouble with the blog. Support her art! She works out of the goodness of her heart.

I’m replying to requests as I can. Thanks for understanding.

And: if anyone wants to fly me home for her graduation party on Saturday, I wouldn’t object!

Best,
H


::UPDATE::

Please do not harass the coordinator for the prom. Her info can be found online, but I am deleting comments containing that because she does not deserve the ire of internet trolls in her inbox. The coordinator herself was not involved in the decision made. Please leave her alone.

Thank you.

::end update::

Dear everyone:

Clare is studying for finals, so I’m taking the mic here. She is really encouraged by the outpouring of support from all sides, and I think this whole experience as felt really empowering for her.

I would like to ask that everyone commenting on the race issue would lay that aside, on the request of Clare’s boyfriend. He asked me pass this message on to you:

I don’t feel race played a part in all that happened Saturday night. I strongly believe they did not know we were together until the situation had already escalated.

Thank you for understanding. Attempts to revive that discussion in the comments will be moderated.

The Richmond Prom Facebook moderators (we’re not sure who they were) deleted all the comments that Clare and others left on their page. Homeschoolers Anonymous screencapped some of the comments before they got deleted. Late last night they deleted the Facebook page altogether. No statement has been made by the administration, no one has contacted Clare or me, and the rest of the group has yet to receive refunds. Her boyfriend did eventually get one, but that was after he negotiated privately with someone involved. No further comments were made by Mrs. D or the woman organizing the event.

Clare’s graduation is coming up very soon, and we’re hoping these same people won’t cause any trouble for her there.

Any discussion of using Matthew 18 in this situation is out of line and will not be entertained. This event was not explicitly a “Christian” event and this was not sponsored by a church. Clare did attempt to appeal to the leadership privately and was denied that opportunity, so even if Matthew 18 was appropriate, she still followed that course of action as much as the adults involved would have allowed.

For those who find Bible verses inspiring, you may enjoy the one that has come to mind frequently about this whole situation:

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.  — Luke 12: 1-3

And I’ll end with this little treasure from Anne Lamott:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Thanks again, everyone. We’ll keep you updated if anything more transpires.

p.s. If you want to support Clare’s college aspirations, any donations via PayPal on the side designated for her will go into a fund for her textbooks for this coming fall.


Gentle reader, I wrote you a story.

***

It is two o’clock in the afternoon. The mailman revs his engine and moves on to the next house. The neighbor’s dog finally stops barking and the sunlight leaves shadows under the trees in the front yard.

A woman sits on the thick pine boards of her kitchen table. Her worn clogs have fallen off and lie on the linoleum at drunken angles. Her thin fringe of bangs wilt on her forehead. She leans back on her palms on the tabletop, taking long, slow breaths, taking the air into her lungs as deeply as it will go. On the table is a single sheet of stationery, crammed full of curling letters in different colors of ink, and a pen lies on top of it.

Her eyes are fixed on a spot across the room. “One wild and beautiful life,” says the handwritten note on the fridge, next to a handful of children’s drawings and grocery store greeting cards shouting their congratulations.

The sister always sends postcards with snatches of poetry scrawled on the back sides. This one was from San Francisco. They haven’t spoken in three years, but the postcards still come.

San Francisco.

So far away. But things would have to be very different.

She smiles. Life had been wild and beautiful. Before.

Now, it was going to be spectacular.

Read the rest of “Mother” over at The Swan Children.

***

a housekeeping note: in all the insanity that was Sunday, it appears that I have irretrievably lost my subscription list. if you want to get my posts in your email inbox, sign up again in the sidebar on the left. my apologies for the inconvenience.

xo, 

h


UPDATE

Everything crashed again, sorry, sorry, etc. We had a SNAFU with servers and switching and WordPress accounts and the fastest way to get this up and running again was to jump the gun on switching Wine & Marble to a domain of my own name, etc. It got complicated, Kiery King is a web fairy wizard, and everyone should go give hen lots of love and probably some alcohol.

Carry on.

::end update::

Hi and welcome, new readers!

I’m sitting here with my cat on my lap trying to take a deep breath and process the last couple hours. Thank you for reading, for your support, and for breaking my blog.

I think we’re up and running again, and so now I wanted to do a little follow-up on the Cracked piece.

First: my parents left the cult and my family’s doing a lot better. My younger siblings are getting much more normal childhoods than I did — all my challenging the system is finally starting to pay off. My parents sent me a big box of goodies this week for an early birthday present and there were references to Disney movies and birthday parties and I even got a chocolate Easter bunny!

Second: My friend whose novel was burned — she’s doing a lot better. After that she got into UVA and got a full ride (but her parents hid her mail and kept her from attending), so she ran away from home and got herself set up, living and working in another state. She’s healing and growing and has started writing fiction again (finally!). She wrote a short story for Swan Children’s inaugural issue. Right now, she’s saving to go to college (she wants to be a doctor) and has plans to do a workaway program this summer in Europe and write more. Freedom is sweet!

What to do if you want to help:

Raise awareness. This stuff is ongoing and hard to spot if you don’t know the signs. Cults are less about doctrine and more about social control tactics.

Patriarchal purity/rape culture infects the world of Christian colleges (and their horrific mishandling of rape cases) — see, for example, the ongoing story at Patrick Henry College.

Spiritual abuse is also rampant in independent evangelical churches, and my good friend Elizabeth Esther just published her fantastic memoir about her experiences in a similar cult to the one I grew up in. It’s a quick read and covers a lot.

On the positive side, there are folks working to reform and heal the American evangelical church from these horrific ideologies. People working on that include Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, the good folks at Deeper Story, The Wartburg Watch, and Convergent Books.

The homeschooling side of my story is where the biggest ongoing need for reform is, and a quick overview of that can be found in this piece by Kathryn Joyce on us “homeschool apostates.” Groups working to change the state of homeschooling to eradicate abuse, patriarchy, and religious isolationism and dominionism include: Homeschoolers Anonymous, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children.

If you want to help me out personally: recovery is slow, I’ll be honest. I’m doing a lot better these days than I have been in a long time, but I’m still underemployed and running a tight ship to stay afloat. There’s a tip jar on the side of my blog if you want to buy me a coffee or a tank of gas, but no pressure. I’d be thrilled if you liked The Swan Children and The YA Wallpaper on Facebook and followed us on YouTube — I’m super passionate about the healing power of art and beauty, and about amazing feminist writing and good novels.

I’ll also occasionally run a fundraiser project to help a Quiverfull escapee get on his/her feet. Right now my friend Becca is trying to pay off hospital bills from her gallbladder surgery by selling her music album, and there’s a scholarship contestant we’re upvoting for a chance to go to school without parental support.

And finally: If you related to my piece and thought you were alone:

HI. YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.
::hugs::

Come hang out with us over at Recovering Grace, Homeschoolers Anonymous, etc. Find us on Facebook. We have support groups for you. <3

And if you want book recommendations for how to recover from this stuff, I highly recommend the following:

1) All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks

2) Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend

3) Daring Greatly, Brené Brown

4) Quivering Daughters, McFarland


I have been waiting impatiently for this day to come, and now it’s here and I can finally tell you what I’ve been working on for the past two months.

Introducing! The Swan Children: Art Without Apologies

sc-logo-large

The Swan Children is a bimonthly online art gallery and magazine founded to curate and showcase the creative work produced by artists of homeschooled, Quiverfull, and conservative Christian upbringing.

We are the Swan Children and we look after our own. We have inherited the kingdom and we’re singing for our lives – on street corners, in attics, in spare bedrooms, in the shower, at the family dinner table.

THE BACK STORY

I realized that everywhere we’re talking about these communities and social groups online, our discussions are analytical, first person, and are driven by debate and didactic analysis. This is the way a slice of this population processes our religious heritage, but it’s not the way most of us function best.

In my experience, homeschoolers are highly creative and the arts thrive organically in all of the communities I’ve been in–I’ve seen homeschoolers making paintings, murals, writing novels, putting on plays, composing original music, and excelling in fiber arts, fashion design, and graphic and web design. I love this and I think it goes unnoticed too often.

Whether or not we ideologically agree on whether or not homeschooling is the best educational method, whether or not we think one church group or another is abusive or healthy, whether or not we think that conservative politics reflect Christian values, we can all agree on the power and value of artistic expression as an avenue for the soul to thrive. 

I want to honor this vulnerability and draw attention to the beautiful things being created by people who were homeschooled or grew up Quiverfull or in a conservative Christian community.

The Swan Children, lead by our Editor in Chief Connor Park, will function as a place where art made by these people can find a home, where there will be no value judgment of “good” or “bad” or “appropriate” and where the artists will not be making apologetic explanations for their pieces. The Swan Children will showcase these works as they are, no apologies, no comments or commentary, no criticism.

While our first issue will be entirely made up of work from homeschool grads, we also welcome creations from those currently in (or from) Quiverfull or generally conservative Christian communities. We are eager to show a broad spectrum of perspectives as we do so. We want art by current homeschool students and by graduates–there are no restrictions other than that the work has to be compelling and executed well.

OUR FIRST ISSUE

We’re launching on March 1st! This first issue is so cram-packed with talent that I can barely contain my excitement. We have fiction, poetry, drawings, paintings, handmade baskets, slam poetry, original music, song covers, dancing, photography, and more. Every piece tells a story, every piece is moving, and every artist is generous to open up and share a piece of their soul for us to cherish.

Our community is so much more than arguments about policy and theology. Let’s show the world our art.

Excited? Go sign up for our first issue at www.swanchildrenmag.com!

We want to show you something.


Hi everyone.

Just wanted to thank you all for your thoughtful engagement of my last post, and I’m glad we’ve started this conversation.

I know there’s a lot of misunderstanding regarding the context of what I posted, and I’m preparing a follow-up to expound on some things a bit to clarify what I did and did not mean. I don’t want to rush it and do it badly, so please be patient with me and look for it later this week.

In the meantime, I would just like to make it clear that what I wrote was not in a response to either the situation with Stuff Christian Culture Likes and Stephanie Drury this week, nor was it in response to any other recent situation about labeling people as safe or unsafe.

Yesterday’s post had been in my drafts for three weeks before I finally finished it on Tuesday, which was my first day off in a while, and that was why I finished it when I did–because I finally had the time. The initial situation that got me thinking about this subject actually happened among personal friends over a year ago, and that’s not my story to tell. It is, however, indicative of a larger internal conflict within both the Christian feminist/progressive communities and the spiritual abuse survivor communities, and I’m talking about the broader picture and not naming names specifically because this is not about one situation or another, but about this larger trend. And I’m just as much a participant in this as the next blogger, which is also why it was nonspecific.

Furthermore, I am not and never have advocated anyone being obligated to “show grace” to their abusers or feel obligated to educate those who are in privilege or complicit in oppression. My post was not directed at discussing power differentials (I’ll explain this further in my follow-up); I was talking about relationships between “survivors” (which is a poor term, but the most useful here) in which we all have different learning curves, triggers, and relational/personality needs, but the same larger end goal in mind.

Thank you, in advance, for your patience.

Please know that I’m deeply sorry for wording things in a way that wasn’t clear enough on these points to make my readers feel safe.

This blog is to be a safe space first, which is why I care so much about compassion within these communities. I will strive to make my position more clear in future posts in order to cultivate a safe space.

Hännah


at LACMA

While I don’t have photographic evidence to prove most of it, I assure you that I have been thoroughly introduced to LA culture, including drives up Coldwater Canyon, finding a church to attend (in Beverly Hills), visits to the LA County Museum of Art, the La Brea Tar Pits, Pink’s hot dogs, the Griffith Observatory, and a comedy improv show.

And that’s just this week. My cat is somewhat chagrined about the lack of quality time she’s getting.

Fetal position indicates loneliness

In other news, I got to go over to Micha’s blog to join her series and talk about my “One Good Phrase” for this year. You’ll have to go there to find out what my phrase is.

I also got to meet up with fellow blogger Elizabeth Esther not too long ago! It was so good to finally meet this sister in real life.

EE & HE

And, I got some work! I’m doing marketing for the Equal Rights Amendment Education Project and their kickass film idea, “Equal Means Equal.” We’re in the last 9 days of fundraising, so if you want to see a funny, smart movie about the Equal Rights Amendment (and why the hell it hasn’t gotten passed yet), check out the Kickstarter.

Finally: I’ll be heading back east at the end of the month to drive my car out (doing this move in phases), and if you want to do a meet-up with me along the way or just want to urge me to live-blog the trip, let me know!