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September 22, 2023

Breaking the habit: ‘Nun Better’ tells story of nuns who fell in love

Joanie Lindenmeyer, left, and Carol Tierheimer
June 15, 2023

Author appears Tuesday in Ashland for conversation about ‘religion, sex and love’

By Debora Gordon for Ashland.news

There is likely none better to tell a love story of former nuns than Joanie Lindenmeyer, whose 2023 book, “Nun Better: An Amazing Love Story,” documents her 40-year relationship with Carol Tierheimer, including their effort to marry within the Catholic Church and eventual union before an Episcopalian priest.

The cover of “Nun Better”

The book was in development for two years, written by in a notebook by Lindenmeyer, who says she was encouraged by friends and family to “write down your stories, they’re funny. They’re hilarious, they’re moving — your love stories, your nun stories, your travel stories.”

Now she’ll share those stories in person at “Courageous Conversations about Religion, Sex, and Love with ‘Nun Better’ Author Joanie Lindenmeyer” from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, at the Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library, 1757 Ashland St., Ashland. Admission is free; donations are welcome.

After Tierheimer, who Lindenmeyer met in 1982 and married in 2020, passed away in March 2022 at the age of 79, two days before her 80th birthday, Lindenmeyer found the notebook where she had left it in a drawer.

“I take it to the prayer corner, and I’m sobbing my eyes out,” she recalls, “and I said, ‘Jesus, Carol! Should we write this book?’ And the answer was ‘Yes! Go for it! Do it!’ My sobbing stopped and all of a sudden, I had the most peaceful and joyful feeling within me. So that’s how I started the book.”

Every chapter of the book — published by Two Sisters Writing & Publishing of Ashland — ends with the words, “Jesus Hold You/God Bless You,” which, Lindenmeyer explains, “Because that’s how we ended every single night of our lives, for 40 years. I would say ‘Jesus hold you,’ she would say, ‘God Bless You,’ and we would do a little kiss good night. The book is about our life, our story, and that’s why it’s in every single chapter.”

Joanie Lindenmeyer today

The stories of their lives together, as chronicled by Lindenmeyer, are, in her words, “99.9% positive; detailing our many wonderful experiences together.” She adds, though, that “Yes, we disagreed on some things, but we always talked them out. We never were harsh with each other, we were positively, profoundly respectful and kind and that was our relationship. We were each our own person; we were each unique and different. We didn’t force our opinions or our thoughts on each other, and, so, as we called it, the air between two people sometimes doesn’t communicate and so we just said, ‘It’s the air!’ And so that’s where we would talk things out. We always felt free to express our own thoughts and our own beliefs. It was a profound love, a profound relationship, profound friendship and ‘loveship’ turned marriage. She was my one and only and I was her one and only.”

To others whose religions may not support their choices in love, Lindenmeyer offers these thoughts: “First and foremost, a person has to follow of their own heart; and both Carol and I believe if you have a higher power that you can pray with and listen to and follow that direction, that has precedence over any institutional church religion. You have to be true to yourself and in being true to yourself, that means hopefully you have the courage, and the strength and the inspiration to tell your friends and your family; that’s partly why we wrote this book. We want to inspire and encourage people to tell their story and to always know that their higher power, Jesus, is always with them.”

Lindenmeyer misses her life companion in many ways. “I miss her voice, I miss our relationship in discussing things, I miss her physical presence,” Lindenmeyer said, her voice breaking. “I miss having a hand to hold, or the look in the eyes when you look at somebody and love them and miss them. The tears that just flow. That’s a gift that I have. Carol was not a crier; I’ve always cried for both of us.”

Lindenmeyer feels the ongoing presence of Tierheimer: “She has spoken to me, she has come to me in apparitions, she’s walked in my house and those are in the book. She’s here in spirit form and will always be.”

Lindenmeyer was raised in San Diego, taught religion and physical education for four years in Catholic elementary schools, then P.E. and health in public high school for 25 years. She also coached boys and girls sports team for 20 years and worked at nonprofits and in community health. Lindenmeyer and Tierheimer shared a home in Brookings, Oregon, for 31 years, where Lindenmeyer still lives.

Regarding her future, Lindenmeyer is considering her options. “I just came back from a 29-day tour down to Southern California and back to Oregon, and I’ve asked myself about that in the car,” she said earlier this year. “I’m praying about it to Jesus and I’m talking to Carol about it and, right now, I just want to continue for the next year. I’m putting a time limit on it. I don’t think there really is a time limit on it, to promote this book, and inspire and encourage others to write their story, have a relationship with Jesus. And I want to listen to their stories; that’s where I am right now, I want to listen to their stories, give them courage, give them a voice.”

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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