What I do in my sleep

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend who has more confidence in me than I have in myself (I hope you have one or more of those friends). We were talking about a band I want to see that is playing nearby this summer. I mentioned having to miss the concert because I already accepted an invitation to speak at an event that same day. My friend, knowing the topic of the talk, said, “you could give that talk in your sleep.”

Of course the intent of this phrase is to suggest that someone has done something so many times or has such a deep understanding that doing it requires very little effort. (Check out this NPR article if you want to know what people can actually do in their sleep). My friend intended this comment – and I received it – as a compliment.

The reality, though, is that the things that may appear to require so little effort I could do them in my sleep are the very things I have lost sleep over. I’ve either sacrificed sleep and gained skill (like every teenager who gets up early every day of summer vacation for swim team practice or stays up too late playing a favorite game or jamming with friends) or I’ve mulled the idea, topic, or situations over in my head late into or during the middle of the night (how could I present this idea more persuasively?).

Whether and how well I do things is the result of intention and practice that ironically has cost me sleep in nights gone by. What I do in my sleep, when I can get it, is sleep. And gosh, I love sleep.


This is an Important Moment!

This week, I was lucky enough to witness an adoption hearing. The hearing was necessarily formal, extremely short, and joy-filled. When the hearing ended, emotions overwhelmed the space. People were cheering, crying, and hugging as we quickly assembled for a photo with the family in front of the judge’s bench. I caught something out of the corner of my eye as I made my way forward: the family’s attorney pulled the child aside, opened a folio of paperwork, and said, “Kaleb, here is your adoption certificate!”

This day felt significant and was marked as such by everything from the official, legal certificate of adoption to an adoption playlist at the reception.

As I walked around the city that afternoon, I thought about how we celebrate significant moments. I realized that there are so many significant (mostly unanticipated) moments in life that do not have this type of ceremony or reification. What if an unseen narrator in an audible voice would say, “This is an important moment! Grab a witness! Write this down or take a photo!”

I am sure each of us has moments that are only significant in retrospect. We hold those moments differently, don’t we? I revisit them in my mind, sometimes turning them over again and again. Some of these moments pass me right by and I don’t even remember them because how would I know this person who just said hello would become my very best friend? Some moments – like one a friend recently described as “the beginning of the end” of her marriage – aren’t as joyful. But these certificate-less moments matter too, don’t they?

Some of the significant moments in my own life I’ve processed later by writing, making art, or talking about them with a therapist or close friend. In some ways, these processes generate a metaphorical certificate of authenticity: this was an important moment! I mark it as such even if days, years, or decades later. Having friends who share these moments with me and listen to my moments is one of the most sacred things I experience. We stand witness to moments from our pasts that perhaps had no initial witness and certainly no certificates.

I suppose witnessing is a ministry of presence that we can offer both in real time and retrospectively to all sorts of moments. I’d like to keep showing up for this sort of work.

3 Week Check In: Delights, Lessons, and an Invitation

I am three weeks into (c)leave. So far, I am succeeding at using delight to self-medicate. Really, delight is a good treatment option because it doesn’t have any side effects, unlike every other medicine I’ve been on in the last 6 months. Good news: I’m down to one medication these days!


Delight abounds when your full time job is to notice it and seek it out. Here are five high(de)lights:

  • On Wednesday around 1 PM, a drag queen looked me straight in the eye over a clothing rack at a thrift store and said, “Girl, no one in this world should have to go without clothes. And we work so hard for them. My hand hurts just from moving these hangers.”
  • Beth Barr’s book The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth was poignant, disruptive, and scholarly. I finished listening to it this week. The way she deconstructs (and calls out) the contemporary evangelical Christian belief that patriarchy is God’s design with rigorous historical research is for sure a delight.
  • So much art: We took the kids to see the Matisse show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I saw Hiroshima’s Great Wave of Kanagawa and met contemporary artist Helen Zughaib at the Susquehanna Museum of Art. This week I got to see the Carnegie International. Dia al-Azzawi’s Ruins of Two Cities: Mosul and Aleppo (this post’s header image) did me in at the beginning; I just sat there on the floor staring at it. To have that type of unhurried alone time in a museum is a gift.
  • One of my daughters recently declined looking through a book about changing bodies, stating, “Mom, you’ve already answered all my questions about penises.”
  • Curio’s Sketchbook Club. Making art with other folks – even if they are strangers – has really slowed me down in good ways. I love showing up to a new still life and thinking, “well, shoot” and giving it a go anyway. I leave with a drawing and a bit of reassurance I am not a fraud.
    • Delight 5b: this list isn’t in parallel structure and I don’t care!


I’ve learned that chasing delight is also kinda expensive. I realized that it was worth it to invest in reciprocal memberships, passes, or subscriptions. Here are the delight investments I made up front:

  • I bought the Keystone Philadelphia Museum of Art Membership. This was not cheap ($250). But, it gets me and three other adults plus kids into major museums across the country, goes to support a museum I love, and will pay for itself this year. It would have cost my family ~$60 for admission and parking to the Matisse show on its own. I used the reciprocal membership to get into the Carnegie International this week.
  • I bought a ten ride Amtrak pass. This will get me to and from Philadelphia museum for cheaper (~$15 a ride) than I can get individual tickets, and it’s cheaper than driving and paying the tolls if I’m traveling solo.
  • I bought a family membership to a local museum (The Susquehanna Museum of Art) for $125. The museum is a member of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association and gives me access to 1,000 additional museums (not all art). The extensive list of all of the museums you can access is available on the NARM website.
  • For Christmas, we received a gift card to Longwood Gardens. Longwood allows you to apply gift cards to membership, so I paid $45 out of pocket for an annual membership that allows me and one guest into the gardens all year and a few other benefits.

Yes, this cost me almost $600 in memberships, which I recognize isn’t nothing. There are some important unadvertised benefits of this:

  • I can visit places without continued cost or concern about how long I should stay to make it “worth it.”
  • I can share the delight. I can take family or friends along with me to these places and their cost is nothing or very minimal. I love to travel by myself but sometimes company is nice too 🙂 In this case, I carry the title delight usher, and here is my DU headshot taken by my friend Kelly on our recent trip to Longwood Gardens. Leslie Gates, Ph.D., DU.
  • I can stack delights. For instance, I’m going to NYC at the end of the month to hear a concert and between my two reciprocal museum memberships have free access to about 25 museums in NYC. So, I’ll be going to the met for the first time since 1999!
  • I feel obligated to use the benefits. It’s that simple. If I’ve paid to go, I am more likely to go than to not.

The Invitation

Having collected and posted delights for days on end, I realize that there are three themes to my delights: the arts, nature, and relationships. I love this quote:

One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.

Laurie Colwin

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about what brings you joy and delight, and whether you’ve thought about stacking them for a double whammy. Try it and let me know what happens. I’ll write more about double whammy delights soon.