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April 2009

A Man Named Pearl

Pearl2 Images
I2008_man_named_pearl_elmwood_specialf you're looking to add a good movie to your Netflix list, try "A Man Named Pearl." The Weatherman and I were at a fundraiser the other day, and they showed this charming 2006 film. It's about a man in Bishopville, South Carolina, who had no formal training as a gardener and created a yard that is now a work of art that draws thousands of tourists a year.

When he first moved to his small town, he was discouraged from certain areas, where racist neighbors suggested that he might not "keep up his yard." He went on to win the area's "Yard of the Month" award, but what he went onto create is pretty amazing. Check out this documentary - it's a glimpse of a fascinating life.

The Advance Arrives!

Park_bank_check Yesterday I got a check for the first third of my advance for the book. Hooray! (This, of course, is not a photo of the actual check. I'm all for updating people on my life, but the financial details of my publishing contract is not for public consumption.)

I will say, however, that all this has been an eye-opening experience. My agent reached a deal with the editor at the publishing house back in February. The first glimmer of money arrived just before the end of April. In the meantime, there were negotiations about the fine points of the contract, along with back and forth of several copies of the final agreement.

Basically here's how it works. Once both sides (the agent and the publisher) agree to the details, and the author and the publisher sign the contract, the advance, at least in my case, is paid out in portions. I got roughly one third on signing. (That's the check that came yesterday.) I get another third when I deliver the finished manuscript, which is due on February 1. The final payment comes upon publication. Oh yeah, one more thing -  the agent takes 15 percent out of each of these checks. 

And then, God willing, after the book becomes hugely popular (from my blog to Oprah's ears) I can make back the advance and start collecting royalities. A girl can dream, can't she?

Meanwhile, the newspaper guild at the NY Times has tentatively agreed to a 5 percent pay cut, although management will not guarantee that the agreement will prevent the elimination of 80 jobs in the newsroom. There's going to be a lot of unemployed journalists out there pedaling book proposals, and I'm awfully glad I got a head start.

Vacationing with the Grown-Up Kids

Beach_tiki It had been about seven years since we had been on a family vacation. Between work and college schedules, the four of us never seemed to be able to overlap on one week where we could all get away. But last week, all the stars aligned and we took off for a beautiful - and relatively cheap - getaway. We stayed in an already-paid for time share and flew on miles, so all we had to pay for was the food (it was an all-inclusive resort) and a round trip ride to Kennedy airport.

Now I guess I had been expecting my daughter, 24, and The Boy, 20, to behave as they had in high school. That is, they would sleep all morning, want to engage in every activity possible in the afternoon (snorkeling, tours of the area, etc.) and then stay out late at night, sampling the beach parties, the casino, not to mention the open bar.

But not at all. My daughter was coming off of a cold NYC winter where she had been working really hard in her job. The Boy was coming off of a week of finals, during which he had gotten little sleep, and a frigid winter in Maine. It turned out that they vacationed just like us. That is, they turned in relatively early, and wanted not much more than to lie on the beach chairs and devour novel (well, in The Boy's case, historical biographies) after novel. It was great to spend time together, particularly when there was little to compete with their attention - cell phone service was ridiculously expensive, the Internet was far away, and that turquoise sea was always beckoning for a dip.

I kept wanting to get lots of photos of the four of us together (trying to suss out on the beach who might speak English so I could ask them to take a snap shot) and I did get some cute ones. Unfortunately, The Boy seems to have absconded with the cable I need to upload the photos out of my camera. So, Boy, do you have my photo cable? If so, please send it home pronto.

Life After Newspapers

Newspapers Paul Giblin had good news and bad news. The good news was that last week, he and several colleagues won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism's highest honor, for reporting that he did at the East Valley Tribune outside of Phoenix. The bad news - by the time he received the award, he had already been downsized.

A day or two before I left for vacation, the N.Y. Times publicly announced that they would be closing the Regional sections, among other cost-saving moves. Of course I had known about this for some time, but as the news spread, I was astounded by the reactions of friends, publicists, public relations folks and others.

"This isn't going to affect you, is it?"

Um. Yeah. The section I work for is closing down. That kinda means I have no job anymore.

Of course I do have another job, and that's to write the book, and this morning it's full speed ahead. But it's been weird to come back from vacation to a stack of local papers (I get all sorts of town and village papers, as well as  the Gannett paper) and not feel compelled to look for tidbits that might lead to story ideas.

Anyway, I shouldn't be mourning the industry again but instead telling you about my wonderful vacation. And I will, tomorrow. Best thing about it - spending time with my grown up kids in a beautiful, relaxed setting. More manana....


42-18367458 I have a recurrent packing dream. Here's how it goes: I have a mountain of stuff to pack. Piles and piles of clothes, books, knick knacks. Suddenly I discover a new room of things that also needs to be packed. In it is an antique armoire full of sweaters and blouses and - just for good measure - old china teacups and saucers. Not only do I have to pack the contents of the armoire, I have to pack the armoire itself.

On top of all this, all I have to pack all this in is one small, plastic, blue Tourister suitcase. Oh yes, and there is a terrible snow storm forecast, and I have to drive through it to get where I'm going. The longer it takes me to pack, the more dangerous the conditions will be.

Given that I have this dream regularly (and I don't think it takes Sigmund Freud to recognize that my subconscious doesn't think I have my s_ _ t together),you can imagine that the actual act of packing for a vacation is a bit overwhelming for me. It really shouldn't be that hard - underwear, pants, shirts, dresses, cosmetics, books. But I inevitably drag out most of what's in my closet and drawers, pile it on the bed and then sit down next to all of it, bewildered by the choices.

Ah well. I usually end up where I'm going with everything I need (and more) and have a good time once I'm there. Which reminds me - the Kate Chronicles will be on vacation next week.

The First Dis

As I make the transition from journalist to author, I am being forced to eat a few slices of humble pie.

Author The truth is, after nearly 20 years as a regular contributor to the NYT, I am used to picking up the phone, identifying myself, and having people jump. Everyone returned my calls. They were not only polite, but eager to cooperate. They wanted to please me. I liked this.

Now, I'm just a writer, researching a book. And while most people have been willing to talk to me, the tone has changed. Yesterday, I was interviewing a woman who is a lecturer at Harvard, and who has written several books on the subject of mothers. No sooner had I gotten out my first question than she asked if I had read all of her books. (There are four.) I admitted that I had not read every one of them, though I had read several excerpts and was familiar with her arguments. She cut the interview short, in the name of not wasting either of our time, and suggested we reschedule until after I had really mastered all of her publications. I was so unprepared for this that I actually agreed.

Bleah. I'm off to go serve at the food pantry this morning, where names like Harvard don't hold as much weight as the availability of black beans and white rice.

It's Official - NYT Regionals To Close

Times03309 Yesterday we got the official word. The Times Regional sections - Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut - will close. May 17 will be the last issue.

This has been a long time coming. I keep feeling like it's a person who got a terminal diagnosis some years ago. You know the end is coming, after a certain point you want it put out of its misery, you just want it to be over with already, and then, when the end does come - it is actually still a bit of a shock.

I wrote for Westchester for more than 18 years, seven of them as a columnist, and produced more than 700 articles for the Times. It's been a big part of my life and my identity.

All things pass. And heaven knows, I'm not the only one in this economy whose job is disappearing. Anyway, as The Weatherman points out, I do have a new job. And an exciting one. I will, of course, be focusing on writing the book. But I can't help but feeling sad about what is happening to the newspaper industry and about the loss of an important part of my life.

Making The Bed With The Cat In It

Faithful readers are familiar with Maddy, our youngest cat. Sometimes Maddy sleeps with us; sometimes she doesn't. She usually likes to cuddle with the Weatherman, but just this morning when I woke up, she was curled up at my feet.

What she doesn't like is my making the bed. She finds the messed up sheets and blankets more comfortable than the bedspread. Subsequently when Maddy is all nestled in there, she gets cranky when I start straightening out the bed clothes.

See? Does she look happy to be disturbed?
Maddybed She is half asleep and wants to be left alone. None the less, I can't stand an unmade bed during the day, so I proceed.
Maddybed2 Now she's really giving me the evil eye. But much as I tug on the sheets to straighten them out, she won't budge, and I have to work around her.
Maddybed3 I've made a little progress here but she is holding her ground.
Maddybed5 Adamantly.
Maddybed6 Uh oh. Once I get the full "one-eyed-Pete" look, I back off, and decide to finish the job later.

More Than Just Loaves and Fishes

Published: April 10, 2009

ARE you welcoming home a prodigal son and not quite sure what to prepare for dinner? Or perhaps you have an angry army to appease and believe making an elaborate feast might just do the trick. Well, the Rev. Dr. Rayner W. Hesse Jr. and Anthony F. Chiffolo have just the cookbook for you.

The two Hartsdale residents have written “Cooking With the Bible” (Greenwood Press), which is inspired by meals described in the Bible. It is newly released in paperback and filled with 200 recipes put together as 18 meals — 13 from the Old Testament and 5 from the New.

For the profligate young man returning after his travels (see Luke 15:11-32), there are veal kebabs and honey-baked goat with mint sauce. As for the feast — based on what Abigail cooked for King David and his troops, after her husband, Nabal, had insulted him (I Samuel 25:14-25) — the offerings might include sautéed lamb with walnuts and pomegranate juice, along with baked sheep’s milk cheese and fresh dates.

Dr. Hesse, the pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Rochelle, and Mr. Chiffolo, the editorial director of Praeger Publishers, a Connecticut publishing house, share an interest in religious studies as well as a passion for home cooking, which seemed to dovetail naturally into a Bible-based cookbook.

But making sense out of 1,000 years of cooking turned out to be no small task. While the Bible is filled with passages that depict meals and hospitality, there is only one recipe in all of its verses: for bread made by the priest Ezekiel, and you will not find the recipe in the cookbook.

“It’s made from dung,” Dr. Hesse said. “Ezekiel bread is something you never want to eat.”

But there are plenty of things in the cookbook you would want to eat. “Cooking With the Bible” reads for the most part like a Middle Eastern cookbook, with a lot of lamb dishes and many recipes that feature tomatoes and eggplant. For every oddball item — locust soup, anyone? — there are many appetizing dishes like rosemary pita bread, artichokes in lemon sauce and lamb with figs and red wine.

To recreate the meals described in biblical passages, the authors studied the texts, scoured books, searched the Internet and visited local Middle Eastern grocers to query them about spices and cooking methods. Then they played around a little. So when the Bible mentions that Abigail took raisin cakes to David’s troops, Dr. Hesse and Mr. Chiffolo developed a recipe for raisin cake, and then suggest in the book that it be served with whipped cream or vanilla butter cream frosting. Did they really prepare butter cream frosting back then?

“It’s nice to have an historical cookbook, but if it’s not going to taste good, what’s the point?” Dr. Hesse said.

Nor is there a call to stay faithful to biblical cooking methods — you don’t have to dig an open pit in the backyard to prepare the meals. The recipes have been adapted to assume that the modern cook uses a stove, a blender — even a microwave.

The book also has essays describing the religious and cultural significance of the referenced biblical passages. The authors studied many versions of the Bible, and — as far as food goes — they are convinced that certain words got confused in translation. They say they believe that John the Baptist did not dine on “locusts and wild field honey,” as the King James version insists, but on carob and honey. This, they suggest, might explain why John the Baptist was such a wild man.

“If he was eating wild carob and honey, he was probably on a sugar high all the time,” Dr. Hesse said. “That makes much more sense.”

For that matter, it was unlikely that Eve tempted Adam with an apple, Mr. Chiffolo noted. There were no apples in the Middle East then, and the tempting fruit — metaphorically or not — was more likely an apricot.

The authors did not try to recreate the Last Supper. “We don’t know what was served other than bread and wine,” Dr. Hesse said. “And we thought it was just a little too sacred.”

Initially, the authors expected the book to be of interest to church and synagogue groups, but its popularity has extended to other audiences; “Cooking With the Bible” has been translated into German, and translation rights have been sold in Korean and Chinese. Last month, a Russian TV crew traveled to Hartsdale to film the authors cooking and then dined on a meal from the book.

Dr. Hesse and Mr. Chiffolo are now back in the kitchen developing recipes for their next venture — a cookbook based on meals in the movies.

But since this is Easter, and Passover began last Wednesday evening, it seems appropriate to go straight to the biblical cookbook for inspiration. There is a complete Passover menu, including a recipe for haroset, a sweet paste made of fruit, wine and nuts, that recalls the mortar between bricks that the Egyptians forced the Israeli slaves to make. As for an Easter meal? The authors recommend Grilled Mackerel on a Stick, particularly appropriate if cooked on an open fire at a sunrise service. It’s from a Galilean Breakfast. (See John 21:1-14.)


Netflix-1 I have long railed against turning nouns into verbs. For instance, it makes me cranky when people "conference" on an issue. But recently I have picked up the habit myself. First, I have been "friending" people on Facebook, instead of asking them to be my friend. Second, I am using "Netflix" as a verb, as in, "Ooo, that sounds like a great movie. I'll have to Netflix it." This is a double sin, because it's the name of the company.

But with those disclaimers, I must say that The Weatherman and I have been on a Netflixing roll. We tend to go for series, and then have mini-marathons while we immerse ourselves in viewing. Because it was a rainy weekend, the two of us spend many hours in the final years of the British Raj. That is, we watched all four dvds of "The Jewel in The Crown," a great BritishJewelinthe series based in India during the mid 1940s. It's based on a quartet of novels by Paul Scott and chronicles the winding down of the British empire, the Indian independence movement and the lives and loves of more than a dozen characters on the way. Excellent viewing.

I just read that in 2000 the British Film Institute drew up a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, and that "The Jewel in the Crown" was placed 22nd. Which needless to say makes me wonder about the other 99 on the list. But then I'd have to come up with a new noun/verb which would translate into "Netflix-induced-coma-from-too-much-BBC."


Rabbit What happens to stuffed animals when they have been loved nearly to death? They retire. They are provided with a fine lounge chair. They even celebrate their birthdays.

This is "Rabbit." He arrived in my Easter basket the Easter I was three years old. Good Lord, that would make Rabbit (insert coughs and throat clearings here) _ _ years old! As you can see, he was well loved. My Mom tells me he cost all of 39 cents. You can't possibly calculate the comfort he gave me over the years.  Mostly Rabbit has had a tranquil life, but there was one incident with a German Sheppard that's best left forgotten. Rabbit lost his nose in the skirmish.

But the reason his stuffing is starting to come out of him is just advanced age. He used to have a bright red and white checked belly, and he was covered in soft yellow fur. Now, well, he still looks beautiful to me.

Sunday is his big day. He is expecting cards, letters and and phone calls.

Flights From Hell

Flights-from-hell I wasn't always scared of flying. There was a time that stepping on to a plane was no different than catching a bus. Hah.

Here are a few highlights of my flying experiences:

-An 8 seat charter from the the island of Eleuthra into Miami, passing through a violent thunder storm. The plane kept dropping suddenly while the cabin was illuminated by lightening on all sides. I was seated directly behind the pilot (who appeared to be about 12 years old.) After we landed, he turned to me and said, "Lady, never, ever, grab the pilot during a flight." Evidently I had been clutching him in my terror.

-Yet another charter flight, this one from the Dominican Republic to New York. We sat on the ground in the DR for hours. Why? Because the company hadn't paid its gas bill and the workers were refusing to fuel the plane. This might not seem as scary at first, but think about it.

-A small plane from Washington, D.C. to White Plains, New York, pitching all over the place in yet another thunder and lightening storm. There were some professional golfers on the PGA tour on board, and they said it was the worst flight they had ever experienced. And those guys fly all the time. After we landed, a priest, who was also a passenger, literally knelt down on the pavement and kissed the ground.

So imagine my delight when The Boy sent me a link to the website Flights From Hell. It's chock full of stories of horrible flights, just perfect to stoke my imagination, since I'm boarding an airplane exactly nine days from now.

One More Thing

Biopact_distributed_electricity_bio I really do try to practice gratitude. When I get anxious about things, especially the economy, world politics, global warming and other things over which I have no control, I try to step back and refocus.  I am so grateful that The Weatherman, My Daughter and The Boy are healthy. I am grateful for all the people in my life that I love. I'm grateful I live in a safe place. Etc. Etc. Etc.

But then you come across some new anxiety that was never even on your radar screen. The electrical grid, for instance. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that cyberspies have penetrated the US electrical grid and left behind software that can be used to disrupt the system.

Holy Cow, I thought, I better back up all my files on my book! But wait, my back-up is on a thumb drive, and with no electricity, I couldn't access it. Wait, with no electricity, nothing would work,not even my telephones, once the battery charger ran down. And then I couldn't reach my kids. And My Daughter couldn't get home, because the trains wouldn't run. And The Boy couldn't get home, because the electricity that runs the gas pumps wouldn't work.

And all the food in the refrigerator would go bad. But all the food in all the grocery stores would go bad. And .... never mind. Today, my coffee is warm, my computer is powered up, and I can still round up my family. Gratitude.


Maddy on my desk Yesterday I was conducting a telephone interview with someone who had been difficult to reach and whose expertise I really needed. I wear headphones for phone interviews, so that my hands are free to type and my neck doesn't go into spasms from being pressed against my shoulder for an hour. The headphones can be tricky - you can't jostle your head around too much, or the sound quality is poor.

And what really messes them up is when a small cat starts chewing on the wire in the middle of the interview.

It's one thing when I'm doing interviews for the NY Times - that gives me a kind of instantMaddy face legitimacy. But when I'm doing them for the book, I'm extra-conscious of being professional. Therefore when the person on the other end of the line asked, "What is that noise? Our connection seems to have suddenly gone bad," I didn't feel I could respond with, "Oh, that's just Madeline. After she messes up my papers and sticks her face into my coffee cup, she likes to chew on the wires for a bit."

Instead I crossed my fingers and said, "Gee, I can't imagine. Could it be on you end?" - all the while hoping that Maddy didn't emit a loud "MEOW" in the background.

Count Down

New-york-times-masthead By my calculations, I have roughly 350 more words to write for the New York Times.

I had two articles run in yesterday's paper - one a column about a community center for LGBT people sharing space with a church, and the other an essay about my children's rooms morphing into the rooms of people who once lived there. (Believe me it was more elegantly written than that.)

Next Sunday I will also have two articles in the paper - one a column on two men who wrote a cookbook based on the Bible (locust soup, anyone?) and then several profiles of high school seniors weighing their college decisions. The profiles are part of a bigger piece on the college decision - lots of different writers are contributing to this article. I've written two profiles and need to write another this morning - thus the 350 words.

But after that, I don't know. I haven't pitched any stories to the paper because a.) I don't know what the future of the section holds, and b.) I really, really need to focus on the book. My office looks like a typhoon came in - papers and books are scattered everywhere, and to me it is a metaphor my professional life.

Ah, Monday.

Shrines to Childhood

Published: April 2, 2009

MY son’s room has been described more than once as a shrine. The object of his homage? The New York Rangers.

We are not just talking about a few posters on the wall. Nearly every square inch trumpets Paul’s support of the team.

A huge Rangers banner that hangs from the ceiling dominates the room. In the corner is a larger-than-life cardboard cutout of Wayne Gretzky, hockey stick outstretched, waiting for a pass. The bed has not only a Rangers cover and a Rangers pillow, but also sheets with hockey pucks on them.

There are signed hockey sticks over the windows, which themselves are decorated with Rangers decals. The computer mouse pad has the team logo. There are framed, signed Rangers jerseys above the computer.

It goes without saying that the walls are covered with posters, photographs and calendars that celebrate the team. (Ticket stubs from games are kept in a separate box, memories too precious to stick on the wall.)

I think you get the picture. My son is the kind of fan whose spirits rise and fall with the performance of the team, who follows every blip of Rangers news, remains highly opinionated about the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and who sounds to me at this point as if he’s ready to step up to the coach’s job, in the event that the latest one doesn’t work out.

This room didn’t come together overnight, of course. The memorabilia was collected from the time he was an early fan — back in his elementary school days — until now. Today he is a college sophomore. He still lives and breathes hockey. But he doesn’t really live in that room anymore.

I am careful about going in there while he’s at school, because it makes me miss him too much. Just standing in the doorway sets me back. That’s because to me this room is more than a monument to a hockey team. It’s really a shrine to the little boy who grew up there.

Paul was placed in a crib as a newborn in that room. He spent endless hours of his childhood in there, playing with his Matchbox cars, painstakingly organizing his hockey cards, reading and, as he got older, studying, cramming for SATs, logging hours on Facebook with his friends and, finally, packing for college.

When I look past all the Rangers stuff, I can still see remnants of other parts of Paul’s childhood. High up on a shelf is the stuffed penguin he once slept with. There are a few little cars on the shelf — and of course, a few mini-Zambonis. There are class pictures from elementary school, team pictures from high school, soccer trophies and a program from a jazz concert he played in.

Recently, I spotted a brochure about a college study-abroad program — he hopes to spend a semester in Spain next year. There was also a pile of clothes he had outgrown. As it is, he can barely fit his long frame in that childhood bed.

This, I know, is a room in transition. His sister’s room is just down the hall, and farther along in the process of transforming from a child’s room to the room of someone who once lived there.

Jeanie graduated from college two years ago. Her room, too, mirrors the girl she once was. The canopied bed still has a Laura Ashley spread, and there are matching curtains on the windows. But there is also a Zebra-patterned throw that appealed to her in middle school. At one point she balked at her pink walls and carpets — now the carpet is a moss green and the walls a sky blue. It feels as if you are outside and it also feels very much like a reflection of Jeanie’s spirit.

Photos of laughing groups of friends are tacked on the wall, spread on the bureau and tucked into the corners of her mirror. There are half-melted candles and countless hair accessories. The shelves and the desk are crammed with dozens of books, ranging from childhood favorites to Michel Foucault’s “Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth,” with plenty of trashy novels and great literature in between.

But things are also starting to disappear from that room. A lamp went to her apartment in the city. So did some sheets and blankets. And a small painting that used to hang on her wall. And some framed photos. It’s still my daughter’s room, but as she settles more deeply into her independent life, her essence gets more and more stripped out of those four walls.

I would be lying to say that I miss the disorder — the scattered papers, the piles of clothes, the dirty tea mugs — that were also very much a part of Jeanie’s occupancy. But I do miss the girl who lived there.

On a recent college vacation, Paul brought a friend home, and as they entered his room, it seemed like the Rangers shrine had for the first time become slightly embarrassing. “It’s sort of a little boy’s room,” he said with a small smile.

Paul will probably always root for the team and follow its fortunes. In the years to come, he will see great players rise and fall, playoffs come and go, and coaches hired and fired. And if all the stars align, he will see the Rangers bring home another Stanley Cup, something that will bring him enormous joy no matter what age he’ll be. But the little-boy adoration that was reflected in his room has already been replaced with a more nuanced understanding of professional sports.

I suspect, over time, his monument to the hockey team will slowly be dismantled. A poster here. A signed photograph there. I doubt that the Rangers bedspread will make the move to an adult apartment, though you never know. If it doesn’t, I doubt I will ever remove it.

A Covenant to Do More Than Coexist

                                                                                                    Alan Zale for The New York Times
David Juhren, executive director of the Loft, left, with the Rev. Joe Agne of Memorial United Methodist Church.

Published: April 2, 2009

WHEN David Juhren gives directions to the new headquarters of the Loft, the region’s well-known community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, he says, “Look for the rainbow flag out front.” Then Mr. Juhren, the Loft’s executive director, likes to add, “And it’s not ours — it’s the church’s.”

The rainbow flag, known as a symbol of diversity and inclusiveness, has been flying in front of the Memorial Methodist Church here for many years, long before the Loft moved onto the church campus in January from a higher-priced site downtown. To the Rev. Joe Agne, pastor of Memorial Methodist, welcoming the group is a natural extension of the hospitality his congregation offers to people who have been shunned by the parent church. To Mr. Juhren, the center’s new home represents an opportunity to reach out to a faith-based organization.

They’re calling the relationship a covenant. To be sure, the Loft has a lease and pays rent. But the arrangement goes beyond a financial agreement. The Loft and the church have promised to “commit to mutual hospitality, respect and support of each other’s missions” and to work toward “inclusiveness of our shared communities.”

If it all sounds warm and cozy, keep in mind that the 8.2 million-member United Methodist Church prohibits same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy members and holds that same-sex relationships are “incompatible with Christian tradition.”

As in most mainstream Protestant denominations, the larger membership is deeply divided over these issues.

Mr. Agne has been arrested twice for protesting what he saw as homophobic policies at a General Assembly meeting of the United Methodist Church. He has long advocated the inclusion of gays and lesbians in Christian life. Last month, Memorial Methodist introduced Rainbow Vespers, a service specifically designed to be welcoming to gays and lesbians and their families.

“The Bible has been used as a weapon to exclude every targetable population in history,” Mr. Agne said. “What we look for in the church is the heart of the message in scripture. And from my perspective, the heart is that wherever Jesus was, he looked around to see who was the most marginalized person, and he said, ‘I am with that person.’ ”

(Mr. Juhren described himself as “a person of faith,” and he has also studied the scripture. “The Bible has been translated twice already, and there’s a lot lost there,” he said. “In its current translation, it’s an abomination for two men to sleep together, but it’s also an abomination to go down to the Red Lobster and order a shrimp cocktail.”)

The United Methodist Church has not protested the arrangement with the Loft. “It’s really a matter of renting space, and we’re pretty open in terms of hospitality,” said the Rev. Noel Chin, superintendent of the Metropolitan District of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church. “We look at it in that vein; it represents the church’s intention to reach out.”

Mr. Agne said that some members of the congregation might be skeptical, but “we decided somewhere along the line that our niche as a congregation is to be welcoming and inviting to those who have rejected the church for understandable reasons.”

Some members of the Loft’s board of directors were concerned about the move to the church campus, Mr. Juhren said. Many members of the Loft have been hurt by their own denominations. In a church service to welcome the Loft, the Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy, a staff member of the church who is leading the Rainbow Vespers, voiced their anxieties rhetorically: “Why are you seeking refuge in the lion’s den of a homophobic institution that is the United Methodist Church?”

Mr. Juhren said that the Loft wasn’t looking at the Methodist church in its entirety, but rather at this specific church, where the group’s members knew they would be welcome.

“One of the things that the L.G.B.T. community understands is that if we are going to get anywhere on gaining our equal rights, gaining marriage equality, on further acceptance of us, we know we have to reach out to the faith-based organizations,” Mr. Juhren said. “Many of us are individuals who were raised in churches and who early on were given a faith, and that faith sometimes has to be so strong to weather the spears and arrows of the hostility that are often thrown our way.”

The Loft, he stressed, is not “a gay club,” but an advocacy and community service organization, financed by state and federal grants.

One program, for instance, provides support to gay senior citizens, who often do not have children to help to care for them, and who do not receive benefits when their long-term partners die. The new space has meeting rooms, a lounge with a large TV, a library and cyber-center, room for the Loft’s help line and administrative offices.

The space was most recently occupied as a day care center for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Before that, it had been used as the regional offices of the United Methodist Church. Mr. Juhren’s office, which is flooded with natural light, was once the office of the United Methodist bishop of New York.

“For the Loft to trust enough to come to the campus of Memorial, that was an incredible witness to us,” Mr. Agne said. “It’s not lost on us that we’re part of a bigger system that has got some real problems. This was a risky move on the Loft’s part and a real testament to the people of this congregation.”

The Wisdom of the Pots and Pans

Woman-cooking I adore my daughter. I know it's terribly boastful, but I can't help myself. She is so smart, so kind-hearted,  so creative and so funny. She's also beautiful, and sometimes when I look over at her I can't believe I had any hand in producing this young woman.

Anyway, I have never been great about passing down any mother/daughter wisdom. I feel silly pontificating about life's truths, and anyway, I haven't wrapped my own head around them yet.  At best, I hope I've lived my values - family comes first, find interesting and stimulating work, give back to your community and those in need - that kind of thing.

But it's rare that I'm asked outright for advice by either one of my kids. So imagine my delight when I got called in to consult on one of the few things about which I feel truly confident to dispense guidance - cooking! My daughter is making dinner tonight for her boyfriend - it's his birthday. (And yes, it's the same boyfriend I wrote about in the NY Times three years ago.)

It's not like she's preparing pheasant-under-glass, but I was none the less happy to be asked about cupcake storage and sauce timing. I wish I could be a fly on the wall this evening and watch her at the stove in her tiny apartment. That's my girl!

Passive Aggressive Notes

2701835929_4bf79c038c_m This morning I look like half a chipmunk - that is, only one side of my jaw is swollen after the surgery. It's a good day to stay home and not scare people.

As much as I know you are longing to hear me whine even more about this, I am instead directing you to another website for the day, because a.) the theme amuses me and b.) I'm told this website makes more than six figures a year, which shows they're on to something.

Passive Aggressive Notes promises "painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over." They're not all great, but the concept is appealing.