To Enroll or Not to Enroll

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

When I first graduated high school, I spent a little over a year in college and then — can you guess? — I met a boy, fell in love, dropped out of college, got married, and started having babies. I always sort of imagined going back to school, but I put it pretty firmly on the back burner and never really pursued it when I was younger. Continue reading

Pool Peace

Swimming. it’s such an odd thing for me. When I’m in the pool, it doesn’t feel any different than it ever did. The magic is as magic as ever.

It’s the only sport at which I’ve been halfway competent. (very little falling down, i like that!)

Only sport in which I’ve felt the beauty of my body doing what it’s supposed to do.

I can get in the pool after ‘way too much time off and still swim. I get out of breath, but nothing hurts as a result… just a little achy muscle, waking up from not being used.

So it’s always a surprise to catch sight of myself in a mirror… and see I’m not a skinny teenager. And neither were any of the women swimming with me.

Thank goodness for the other women. I love the swimming but the casual conversation and the laughter encourage my attendance.

Some of those women are hella strong. it’s something to aspire to.

But it did make me laugh to see a couple young women. They’re so beautiful. So strong. And no one was ill-mannered enough to gawk… but i remember thinking i would always have that skinny girl body.

I learned early, however, about women’s laughter. I knew about my own experience at my women’s college. And then 5 years after I graduated, there was a problem at school and all the alums showed up. The women we’d dismissed as bluehairs? HA! solved the problem, with guts, ingenuity and money. And oh, my goodness, could they laugh!

I knew then that I was safe in my future, although I was equally sure I’d always be skinny.

Well, there was a curve ball!

But laughing and swimming, they both stuck with me and I stuck with them. And they always make me feel like a girl. And isn’t that great.


Boyfriend vs Woman-Brain

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My sister (who is 27) and her boyfriend (25) have been together for a little over six years now. They enjoy the same things, share a lot of the same views, and enjoy each other’s company. They have one major issue, though, that threatens their relationship. To sum him up, he is a chauvinist, and his attitude has caused an emotional block between them. Continue reading

Great People Making Great Peace

Ah, Jimmy Carter. Wishing you an easy passing. May Death be as kind to you as you have been to Life. May your wife find comfort in all the amazing things you have shared and the love so many have for you.

President Carter is a spectacular man who has done great things for this world. I suspect, watching his announcements, that in addition to whatever he is able to do for women as he has pledged, he will lead us in a gracious acceptance of his dying. He is, as we hate to remember, 90. If it hadn’t been this, it would have been something. May it be easy.

I’m always a bit of two minds when someone who has done great things. I’m filled with admiration and gratitude. But I’m also aware there is greatness in many of us if we only put our hearts and minds to it. There is so much we can do. There is so much difference we can make. The hard work is ours to assume.

Thank you, President Jimmy Carter, for all the work you have done. Thank you, Mrs. Carter, and I’m so very sorry. So many years together and now you are called to practice open hands, open hearts… Peace, Comfort and Blessings to you all. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family… and with the country who claims you as theirs…

And now in your names, let us make a difference together. Let us Peace.



Everyday Struggles of my Mixed-Race Relationship

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I have been with my boyfriend for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we love each other and are committed to our relationship. We have one major stumbling block, though.

We are a couple of mixed race. He is a white man in his late 30s, who has not had a ton of experience trying to understand a life outside of the one he was born into. I am a black woman in the city, and I feel like my identity is tightly wound around my culture, race, and politics. Continue reading

No Peace Without Respect for Women

Astonishingly it was Mao ZeDong who first said “Women hold up half the sky.” I found that out when I went googling to find the exact title of Nick Kristoff and Cheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky.

But you wouldn’t know it from their treatment in the world. We all like to point fingers at other parts of the world, and forget about the unfairness here. Forget about the lost wages, the underpaid jobs and the sex slavery. Forget about the mistreatment of undocumented workers. Forget about the lost opportunities.

And then there is so much of the world where they are chattel.

I’m grateful for the Elders who are working on this. Grateful that Jimmy Carter in his cancer diagnosis has said this is the work that he will devote the rest of his life to.

And I don’t yet know where to pull the first thread… but dammit. It’s awful.

I said last night I don’t believe in a condemning God nor a hell to which people should be consigned. I know that it is my feeling powerless that makes me long for it in this case.

Just the words “Theology of Rape and Sexual Slavery” combined with “enshrined.” I must get past the rage to work effectively. But right now? I’m sitting with the rage.

And that’s no way to Peace. And Peace is damned hard work. I’ll get there. But maybe not today. And still it is a goal. Peace.



Peace of Work Well Done

Ha! I just realized that rather than saying, as that ridiculous ruling does, that institutions are people too, that I wrote a musing saying that people are institutions!

But people change lives in the process of going about their daily work. Someone who serves your coffee with a smile changes your day.

So can we talk about why we can’t raise that minimum wage?

I love that this woman brightened mornings for so long, but did she want to — or did she have to because you don’t build up a great retirement on $2 an hour. Tips in central PA are probably not lavish for breakfast.

I know. Can’t I just clap for this woman’s wonderful service? She did such hard work for such a long time.

You know, once you start working on the web, it’s sometimes hard to pull things out.

I love that people do wonderful jobs. I’d just like if they’d be well and truly compensated for it. I’d like if our elders got some options. and if the people who make our lives sweeter got some acknowledgement in both cash and compliments. I’d like it if it weren’t often women in these situations…

And… all of that doesn’t change that she changed the world for many of us, who went in to get our breakfast served with a smile…


Peace Baby Sabbath

On Mother’s Day, let us remember how being a mother connects us to our children, and hopefully to other mothers. Julia Ward Howe wrote “let us be too tender of other mothers” to think for one moment it is all right to send our babies to kill the babies of others…

Mothers have a great deal of power, let us use it for good. I wish us all a happy Mother’s day and a blessed Sabbath. And may we see all the young ones as blessed babies of Peace.


Bumps in the Peace Road

I lead a fairly privileged life, and I am incredibly grateful. I’m also fairly well protected, much of that protection comes from being well-loved. Here in the center of PA, I am an opinionated vocal laughing outloud woman leading a church that’s a happy amalgamation of so many points of view. For me, it’s heaven right here on earth. I’m proud of the work we’re doing and I’m pretty darned happy.

It took a while to find my place here; But I had old contacts to lean on and met and fell in love with one of the Valley’s most well-loved men. So being a Goddess-worshiping religious radical seemed to just get folded into their notion of Ann and I feel welcomed and accepted most of the time. I get to be me, right here in River City. That’s priceless, and believe me I’m aware of how lucky I am.

There are a lot of women ministers in this valley. I am neither the most radical nor the one accomplishing the most. Good women doing good work. I’m in great company. There are also good men doing good work, but this column isn’t about that. Life has changed in these local churches as more women ministers show up ready to serve in rural PA. All in all, there are more women in ministry now than there have ever been. That’s as true here as anywhere else.

So I am surprised when I garner hostility or outrage for who I am and what I believe. I mean, geezum, folks, if rural Central PA folk of many faiths and traditions can happily check with in with me on a question about their elderly parents or join the UUCSV in a fund drive for Staten Island Residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, you don’t get much more accepted than that. When the staunchly conservative republican woman stops by my breakfast table to remind me to remember to vote, life is good.

Then this winter, out I went to Palm Springs — California, that is, to find people horribly overset that a woman was performing a wedding ceremony, wondering about what kind of new-fangled tradition UUism was (um, about 1530ish?) and whether I was pushy enough to call myself Father Ann. (uh, really?) It was sort of funny, no one’s questioned me about my bona-fides for years, especially since i took on weight and grey hair. (And of course, in the meantime, lots of women were still getting ordained and flooding the market with a new kind of capable, caring ministers.) Not so funny, of course, were all the underlying hostility toward a lot of traditional targets, which I was kept busy addressing. And then, back home, the other day I ran into someone who just, to use a Swedish verb, nonchalanted me — just pretended I wasn’t there. (did i mention the weight gain? I’m there.) And this wasn’t at all belief related, because he made sure not to ask anything about who I was even though we were doing something together. He had something he had to do, and I didn’t want to make him nervous, so I let it run.

These days, I’m actually pretty secure in myself. It’s been a long journey to this point. But now? I love my work, I love my life with its web of friends and family, I love this beautiful, needy Valley filled with incredible resources — not the least of which is music. I’ve fallen jelly-side-up and I’m aware of that, I’ll tell you. So I don’t really have a personal response other than… oh, well, that was surprising!

But it does make me sad as I think about the distance that I forget needs to be covered for some of the world so we can move into greater Peace. I forget that I can’t just be looking ahead, and have to be looking behind for work that that needs to be done to pull people into the present. Some of that I won’t be able to do, this is why we all need help on the road, because you can do work I am incapable of doing and vice versa.

It’s easy to be outraged, but it’s not really useful. In this case, I am not wounded, although one of my sister clergy might not have the support I have. But there are so many who are not safe. So, may my experiences serve as a February wake-up call. And if we feel outrage, let it only be used for fuel and not for endless venting. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and dig a little deeper. Our world needs Peace. And we’re just the people to handle the job. There’s work to do in the world and work to do right here at home, wherever home is. And if you’re asked who told you that, tell ’em Father Ann, a witchy woman of Peace. Shalom, Salaam, Peace everyone!


My Once Favorite Brother

In honoring the UN’s International Day of the Girl, I wrote this second poem in response to Susan Daniel’s Poetry Blogpost. It struggles with the emotions a young mother would feel for a beloved brother who not only participates in but profits from the practice of child marriage. It is a system that must be eradicated. When our girls are safe from such predatory behavior, when our girls and women, both young and old, have the right to decide their futures, then our relationships with our brothers will be celebrated. Thank you for listening. Thank you for taking this issue into your heart and mind.