Heading home [sharing at Art House America this week]

read the whole article at Art House America

“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” 
—Yogi Berra

My dad loves baseball. From as far back as I can remember, he’s been a Yankees fan. He tells me he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they broke his heart and moved to the West Coast. That was the 1950s and long before I knew him. His grandfather was a Yankees fan, and his parents are Yankees fans. Naturally, the man I chose to marry is a Yankees fan. But I don’t really remember anything about the Yankees before their comeback year of 1996. With a new manager, Joe Torre, who had never won a championship in his thirty-two-year career as both a player and a manager, the Bronx bombers began to live up to their pinstripe glory once again, winning their first world series since 1978. We followed every single game.

We didn’t own a television in 1996. When our third child was born in March, a few weeks before baseball spring training and a couple months before my husband completed his bachelor's degree in education, we were paying our bills with his substitute teacher income. We had no health insurance, no vacation time or sick pay, and made ends meet by picking up extra work cleaning houses. We’d put all our hopes in a college degree landing him a teaching job in the fall. Evenings in our second-floor apartment, after we put our two sons to bed, we’d tune into the game on our radio. While I sat on our hand-me-down sofa to nurse my daughter, Brian sat across the room writing résumés on our clunky IBM personal computer. It doesn’t take a therapist to figure out that we’d associated our own underdog story to the scrappy team fighting for a win, night after night, a couple hours south of us in the Bronx. 

The 1996 season introduced Yankees fans to Joe Girardi (catcher), Derek Jeter (shortstop), and Mariano Rivera (relief pitcher), among others. It’s the season we rooted for Darryl Strawberry to rise above his drug history, and he did. We worried about pitcher David Cone’s surgery to remove an aneurysm and rallied behind him when he promised to come back by the end of the season. And he did—in time to pitch a winning game in the World Series. It’s the year I discovered the joy of befriending radio announcers John Sterling and Michael Kay. Even though I’d never meet them in person, they felt like guests sitting in our living room, passing the time with warm conversation for hours each evening. We began to relish the ritual of sportscasting, loving each Yankee home run not only for the score, but also for John Sterling’s patent call: “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” Over time, he would embellish his trademark home-run call with wordplay for each player’s name. Center fielder Bernie Williams hits a run, it’s “Bern, baby, Bern!” from the announcer’s booth; first baseman Tino Martinez cracks one over the fence, “It’s the BamTino!” and so forth.  

After a long, uncertain summer, we celebrated our team’s October World Series win almost as raucously as we’d celebrated the teaching job Brian received in September. We earned a salary, and the Yankees earned a championship.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, most of our circumstances had changed. ...

read the whole article at Art House America


BONUS FEATURES: 2 extra deleted "chapters" that include my own very humbling unsportsmanlike behavior + a whole bunch of cute photos of my kids repping the Yankees over the years

“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.” -- Yogi Berra

My Dad played baseball through high school and college. By all accounts - mostly his and a couple of yellowed news blurbs clipped from the paper - he was a pretty good player. Naturally, he’s never given up hope that one of his 6 kids and 18 grandchildren might take up the sport with the same fervor. As the oldest child, I did my part in disappointing this fatherly wish with a couple of seasons of town softball. I recall these years in snatches of terror and embarrassment. Somehow, I never quite understood what was expected of me as an outfielder (wayyyy out in the field) my few times off the bench. As far as my stats at the plate, I ask you: Is there anything more humiliating than swinging a big stick at the air? The answer is no, no there isn’t. I fared slightly better on the school soccer team, not because I was any more talented, but because I could at least run around a lot between the goal and half field, and make it appear I had what my Dad called “hustle”. Although, I have a clear memory of a burly coach yelling in my direction while our team ran laps, “Hill! Can’t you make your stride any longer?!?” By that time, I’d already reached my adult height of 5’2”, and felt my stride was doing its part adequately.

During the springtime of the town league softball games, a kind, older cousin showed mercy on me, teaching me how to V my thumb, fore, and middle fingers along the leather stitching of a baseball, cupping the ball just so, and then releasing it in the generally correct direction. As far as I can remember, no one even attempted to address my incompetence with a glove.

When our own four kids were of the age for town sports, they each took a turn at T-ball, softball, or Pony League. One son got as far as relief pitching, but he quickly realized it felt like stress instead of fun, and he took up the guitar instead. All my kids leaned toward artistic, rather than athletic, pursuits. While our neighbors were schlepping their kids to the ball field, ours were making a holy rock’n roll raucous in the basement, instead. This was a development that rather pleased me - even if it was noisy.

Still, we kept up with the Yankees. Not playing baseball in the spring actually gave us more time to enjoy watching and listening to each game. We began a family tradition of giving each of our kids their own first trip to see a live game in the house that (Babe) Ruth built. We took our oldest son when he was only 5 years old, and it’s one of our happiest memories. We spent the day sightseeing the city as far as his little legs would carry him, stopping only to crane his neck upward to take in the skyscrapers. One photograph captured the image of of Brian and Andrew staring up at the Twin Towers. In the evening we sat through all nine-innings of the 1996 Yankees. Andrew’s inagural stadium trip coincided with Derek Jeter’s rookie year.

The photo I’ve kept of our second son is a close up from nosebleed seats. He’s smiling at the camera, waiting for the game to start, miniature Yankees cap shoved down on his head so far his ears are jutting out either side of his face. A little over a decade later, he and Brian would attend the final game of the 2009 World Series in the Yankees new stadium. They’d watch the home team beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3, and win one last title for the "core four" of Pettitte, Posada, Rivera and Derek Jeter. Alex would cheer as gently as possible because he was suffering a tooth infection, and was scheduled for a root canal the following morning. If you asked him, he’d still say it was totally worth it.

On one of our daughter Kendra’s first trips to the stadium she’d get the thrill of a player, Ramiro Mendoza, handing her a baseball after batting practice. She’d lisp “thank you” through her missing teeth, and later give the ball to her Dad as a Father’s Day gift. It now enjoys a treasured spot on the bookshelf in his office.

Natalie, as sometimes happens with a youngest child, would wait until she was a bit older to visit the stadium, and she wouldn’t be by herself. Our whole family would be with her, because a kind church friend gave us free tickets. But we managed to get a photo of her, cheering from the railing of our upper deck seats, taking in Brett Gardner’s first hit and first RBI in the seventh inning. Gardner went on to steal second and eventually score in that inning.

This year, the 2017 season that Natalie is living back home with us, Brett Gardner is a much-needed veteran on a team of new kids, known affectionately as the Baby Bombers. Now that we live about an hour north of the Bronx, Natalie and Brian have been to the stadium three times together this season. Thanks to generous church friends, again, she’s enjoyed great seats - most notably along the right field line within shouting distance of #99, right-fielder Aaron Judge. At that game she made it to the jumbotron, with her giant, hand-letter sign, “I’ve got 99 problems, but A. Judge isn’t one!” The home-run-derby king’s gathered a huge fan club this  year, but I’m positive none more earnest than my daughter. He should be so lucky.

“It ain't the heat, it's the humility.” -- Yogi Berra

I’m a fairweather stadium attender, myself. I mean that literally. The older I get, the more comfortable I am insisting on my own comfort, and, in my book, that includes forgoing the experience of sitting thigh-bone to sweaty thigh-bone with over 50,000 people stewing in stale beer underneath the blazing sun. I no longer feel the need to physically suffer for the love of the game.

I’d like to blame the physical discomfort of a hot, crowded stadium for one of the most epic moments of my own humility, but the truth is the weather was decent that night, and we were only sitting in our town’s double-A minor league stadium, which at capacity seats only 6,000 people. And that night we were not even close to capacity, but I was feeling clausterphobic anyway.

Here, let my son tell you in his own words (the ones he wrote for a senior-year Public Speaking class. Lord, have mercy.)

"Baseball game are rarely fun when you're sitting near drunks. That was the situation I was put in about five years ago at a Binghamton Mets game. Behind us where the drunks; in front of us were the smokers.

The drunks were mad at the smokers for smoking. They said their kids -- John, Ashley, and you know, what's-her-face (they couldn't remember because they were so drunk) -- were crying and scared because the smoke from their cigarettes were drifting upwards towards their row.

This was obnoxious to me because the drunks were obviously looking for controversy for controversy's sake. It was also obnoxious that the smokers were fighting back. They weren't drunk, and they should've had the common sense to just move up to the dozens of empty rows in front of them. It's a B-Mets game, after all. There are going to be empty seats.

The person who broke up the tiring feud was my mother. She looked back, and I swear the second before her mouth opened I could see lightning strike behind her profile. She screamed 'Shut Up!' at the drunk parents, whose little kids were now crying only because the adults were so angry at each other. She was so scary that the two rows ceased their arguments.

A couple of fighters on each side ended up speaking to each other, just stubbornly apologizing for their pointless fight. My brother and I actually spoke to each other because we could finally hear each other without all the shouting. And no one, absolutely NO ONE, spoke to my mother. And I have a feeling she was okay with that."

 Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

 A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

 Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

 Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

 Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

 Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

 Kendra!

Kendra!

 Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Heading home [sharing at Art House America this week]

read the whole article at Art House America

“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” 
—Yogi Berra

My dad loves baseball. From as far back as I can remember, he’s been a Yankees fan. He tells me he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they broke his heart and moved to the West Coast. That was the 1950s and long before I knew him. His grandfather was a Yankees fan, and his parents are Yankees fans. Naturally, the man I chose to marry is a Yankees fan. But I don’t really remember anything about the Yankees before their comeback year of 1996. With a new manager, Joe Torre, who had never won a championship in his thirty-two-year career as both a player and a manager, the Bronx bombers began to live up to their pinstripe glory once again, winning their first world series since 1978. We followed every single game.

We didn’t own a television in 1996. When our third child was born in March, a few weeks before baseball spring training and a couple months before my husband completed his bachelor's degree in education, we were paying our bills with his substitute teacher income. We had no health insurance, no vacation time or sick pay, and made ends meet by picking up extra work cleaning houses. We’d put all our hopes in a college degree landing him a teaching job in the fall. Evenings in our second-floor apartment, after we put our two sons to bed, we’d tune into the game on our radio. While I sat on our hand-me-down sofa to nurse my daughter, Brian sat across the room writing résumés on our clunky IBM personal computer. It doesn’t take a therapist to figure out that we’d associated our own underdog story to the scrappy team fighting for a win, night after night, a couple hours south of us in the Bronx. 

The 1996 season introduced Yankees fans to Joe Girardi (catcher), Derek Jeter (shortstop), and Mariano Rivera (relief pitcher), among others. It’s the season we rooted for Darryl Strawberry to rise above his drug history, and he did. We worried about pitcher David Cone’s surgery to remove an aneurysm and rallied behind him when he promised to come back by the end of the season. And he did—in time to pitch a winning game in the World Series. It’s the year I discovered the joy of befriending radio announcers John Sterling and Michael Kay. Even though I’d never meet them in person, they felt like guests sitting in our living room, passing the time with warm conversation for hours each evening. We began to relish the ritual of sportscasting, loving each Yankee home run not only for the score, but also for John Sterling’s patent call: “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” Over time, he would embellish his trademark home-run call with wordplay for each player’s name. Center fielder Bernie Williams hits a run, it’s “Bern, baby, Bern!” from the announcer’s booth; first baseman Tino Martinez cracks one over the fence, “It’s the BamTino!” and so forth.  

After a long, uncertain summer, we celebrated our team’s October World Series win almost as raucously as we’d celebrated the teaching job Brian received in September. We earned a salary, and the Yankees earned a championship.

Fast forward nearly twenty years, most of our circumstances had changed. ...

read the whole article at Art House America


BONUS FEATURES: 2 extra deleted "chapters" that include my own very humbling unsportsmanlike behavior + a whole bunch of cute photos of my kids repping the Yankees over the years

“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.” -- Yogi Berra

My Dad played baseball through high school and college. By all accounts - mostly his and a couple of yellowed news blurbs clipped from the paper - he was a pretty good player. Naturally, he’s never given up hope that one of his 6 kids and 18 grandchildren might take up the sport with the same fervor. As the oldest child, I did my part in disappointing this fatherly wish with a couple of seasons of town softball. I recall these years in snatches of terror and embarrassment. Somehow, I never quite understood what was expected of me as an outfielder (wayyyy out in the field) my few times off the bench. As far as my stats at the plate, I ask you: Is there anything more humiliating than swinging a big stick at the air? The answer is no, no there isn’t. I fared slightly better on the school soccer team, not because I was any more talented, but because I could at least run around a lot between the goal and half field, and make it appear I had what my Dad called “hustle”. Although, I have a clear memory of a burly coach yelling in my direction while our team ran laps, “Hill! Can’t you make your stride any longer?!?” By that time, I’d already reached my adult height of 5’2”, and felt my stride was doing its part adequately.

During the springtime of the town league softball games, a kind, older cousin showed mercy on me, teaching me how to V my thumb, fore, and middle fingers along the leather stitching of a baseball, cupping the ball just so, and then releasing it in the generally correct direction. As far as I can remember, no one even attempted to address my incompetence with a glove.

When our own four kids were of the age for town sports, they each took a turn at T-ball, softball, or Pony League. One son got as far as relief pitching, but he quickly realized it felt like stress instead of fun, and he took up the guitar instead. All my kids leaned toward artistic, rather than athletic, pursuits. While our neighbors were schlepping their kids to the ball field, ours were making a holy rock’n roll raucous in the basement, instead. This was a development that rather pleased me - even if it was noisy.

Still, we kept up with the Yankees. Not playing baseball in the spring actually gave us more time to enjoy watching and listening to each game. We began a family tradition of giving each of our kids their own first trip to see a live game in the house that (Babe) Ruth built. We took our oldest son when he was only 5 years old, and it’s one of our happiest memories. We spent the day sightseeing the city as far as his little legs would carry him, stopping only to crane his neck upward to take in the skyscrapers. One photograph captured the image of of Brian and Andrew staring up at the Twin Towers. In the evening we sat through all nine-innings of the 1996 Yankees. Andrew’s inagural stadium trip coincided with Derek Jeter’s rookie year. The photo I’ve kept of our second son is a close up from nosebleed seats. He’s smiling at the camera, waiting for the game to start, miniature Yankees cap shoved down on his head so far his ears are jutting out either side of his face. A little over a decade later, he and Brian would attend the final game of the 2009 World Series in the Yankees new stadium. They’d watch the home team beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3, and win one last title for the "core four" of Pettitte, Posada, Rivera and Derek Jeter. Alex would cheer as gently as possible because he was suffering a tooth infection, and was scheduled for a root canal the following morning. If you asked him, he’d still say it was totally worth it.

On one of our daughter Kendra’s first trips to the stadium she’d get the thrill of a player, Ramiro Mendoza, handing her a baseball after batting practice. She’d lisp “thank you” through her missing teeth, and later give the ball to her Dad as a Father’s Day gift. It now enjoys a treasured spot on the bookshelf in his office.

Natalie, as sometimes happens with a youngest child, would wait until she was a bit older to visit the stadium, and she wouldn’t be by herself. Our whole family would be with her, because a kind church friend gave us free tickets. But we managed to get a photo of her, cheering from the railing of our upper deck seats, taking in Brett Gardner’s first hit and first RBI in the seventh inning. Gardner went on to steal second and eventually score in that inning.

This year, the 2017 season that Natalie is living back home with us, Brett Gardner is a much-needed veteran on a team of new kids, known affectionately as the Baby Bombers. Now that we live about an hour north of the Bronx, Natalie and Brian have been to the stadium three times together this season. Thanks to generous church friends, again, she’s enjoyed great seats - most notably along the right field line within shouting distance of #99, right-fielder Aaron Judge. At that game she made it to the jumbotron, with her giant, hand-letter sign, “I’ve got 99 problems, but A. Judge isn’t one!” The home-run-derby king’s gathered a huge fan club this  year, but I’m positive none more earnest than my daughter. He should be so lucky.

“It ain't the heat, it's the humility.” -- Yogi Berra

I’m a fairweather stadium attender, myself. I mean that literally. The older I get, the more comfortable I am insisting on my own comfort, and, in my book, that includes forgoing the experience of sitting thigh-bone to sweaty thigh-bone with over 50,000 people stewing in stale beer underneath the blazing sun. I no longer feel the need to physically suffer for the love of the game.

I’d like to blame the physical discomfort of a hot, crowded stadium for one of the most epic moments of my own humility, but the truth is the weather was decent that night, and we were only sitting in our town’s double-A minor league stadium, which at capacity seats only 6,000 people. And that night we were not even close to capacity, but I was feeling clausterphobic anyway.

Here, let my son tell you in his own words (the ones he wrote for a senior-year Public Speaking class. Lord, have mercy.)

"Baseball game are rarely fun when you're sitting near drunks. That was the situation I was put in about five years ago at a Binghamton Mets game. Behind us where the drunks; in front of us were the smokers.

The drunks were mad at the smokers for smoking. They said their kids -- John, Ashley, and you know, what's-her-face (they couldn't remember because they were so drunk) -- were crying and scared because the smoke from their cigarettes were drifting upwards towards their row.

This was obnoxious to me because the drunks were obviously looking for controversy for controversy's sake. It was also obnoxious that the smokers were fighting back. They weren't drunk, and they should've had the common sense to just move up to the dozens of empty rows in front of them. It's a B-Mets game, after all. There are going to be empty seats.

The person who broke up the tiring feud was my mother. She looked back, and I swear the second before her mouth opened I could see lightning strike behind her profile. She screamed 'Shut Up!' at the drunk parents, whose little kids were now crying only because the adults were so angry at each other. She was so scary that the two rows ceased their arguments.

A couple of fighters on each side ended up speaking to each other, just stubbornly apologizing for their pointless fight. My brother and I actually spoke to each other because we could finally hear each other without all the shouting. And no one, absolutely NO ONE, spoke to my mother. And I have a feeling she was okay with that."

 Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

Brian helps Natalie ready for her catcher position in town softball.

 A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

A Yankees game in 2008, Natlie's watching Brett Gardner's first hit for the Yankees.

 Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

Brian & Alex catch the Yankees in Houston (where Alex was in college). It was Mariano Rivera's last game, 2015.

 Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

Alex, age 4, sporting his first Yankees cap, Christmas 1997. (That's Kendra, 21 months old, and Grandma Meacham - Brian's mom, reading the book.)

 Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

Alex's (age 4) first Yankees game, summer 1998.

 Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

Andrew's first trip to NYC and his first Yankees game (summer 1996)

 Kendra!

Kendra!

 Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Brian and Natalie (age 19) at Yankees Stadium, June 2017.

Lindy West, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Embracing Our God-Given Bodies [sharing at Think Christian today]

read the whole article at Think Christian

“Is it a sin to be fat?”

I asked my friend the question over a cup of Earl Grey and a fresh blackberry muffin. My friend is not fat in the least; she had merely expressed interest in my current writing topic. She laughed and asked how I planned to answer the question. I, having never been accused of being thin, replied: “I don’t know if it’s a sin to be fat, but let me ask another question. Is it a sin to be thin?”

I’ve been thinking about the subject since hearing an interview with author and “fat acceptance movement activist” Lindy West on Mother Jones’ food politics podcast. The conversation features West’s experience with fat-shaming, a topic she discusses frankly and humorously in her 2016 book, Shrill, and at various public events, including a June appearance in Manhattan billed “The Other F Word: The Politics of Being Fat.”

West concluded in her mid-twenties that, in spite of her best efforts, she’d always been fat and probably always would be fat. She was ready to publicly acknowledge her acceptance of herself as fat. Up to that point in her life, the size of her body was something she never talked about with her friends or family. In a 2016 interview with radio host Ira Glass, she gave this explanation for the shameful silence: “The way that we are taught to think about fatness is that fat is not a permanent state. You're just a thin person who's failing consistently for your whole life.”

While some of West’s views on the politics of the body differ from a Christian perspective, I’d argue that her voice on the subject of fat-shaming is helpful in correcting a cultural standard that for decades (centuries?) has approved only one variety of the human form.

read the whole article at Think Christian

Bonus feature/laugh of recognition: Kelly Likes to Diet (The Office) 

"all I have to do is drink maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and water for all three meals..."


In what way do you see your body as a gift from God?

S-Town's Limited Understanding of Empathy [sharing at Think Christian today]

s-town_400_266.jpg

“John B McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.”

So read the subject line of the email that first caught the attention of This American Life producer Brian Reed and would become the seed for the podcast S-Town. Upon further engaging with McLemore, chief malcontent of Woodstock, Ala., Reed found himself navigating a maze of complicated characters, rumors of corruption, unrequited love, and a downward spiral of plot twists. For Christians, the podcast also functions as a complicated consideration of how to best love our neighbors.

The plot of S-Town is worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Yet Brian Reed is not Shakespeare, and his role in telling us the heartbreaking life story of a gifted but unhappy man encompasses more than theatricality. Through Reed’s ability to offer an empathetic ear to everyone he meets, we have the privilege of discovering unexpected beauty among the citizens and landscapes of a backwater community in the Bible Belt. Yet as Reed gets spun into the story as a character invested in the lives of the people he encounters, his empathy morphs into a voyeuristic pity, one that fails to intervene for the truest good of those he’s encountered.

A warning: spoilers lie ahead, including discussion of difficult details.

read the entire article at Think Christian


A little rambling about my struggle with words lately: 

There were moments listening to the 7 episodes of the new podcast S-Town that I could hardly stand to listen any longer. I’m still not sure I should have kept listening, but I’d made the mistake of motivating myself to go to the gym by saving my “binge-listening” for the treadmill and so I felt committed. Make no mistake: the producers of groundbreaking podcasts This American Life and Serial crafted yet another brilliant vehicle for irresistible storytelling, led this time by narrator Brian Reed. In the nature of much true crime genre, most threads of the account are left unresolved at the end. It wasn't really the unresolved threads that bothered me, but the conclusions reached from what I considered a truncated understanding of empathy.
The other reason I completed the podcast was because earlier in the episodes I was caught up in the unexpected beauty of the world that Brian Reed was painting for our imaginations. I could actually imagine the series as a Terrence Malick film. While I was feeling enthused about the overall arc of the storytelling, I told Josh, the editor I work with at Think Christian (who is a truly generous and skillful editor) that I'd write the piece. I only had one more episode/one more trip to the gym to hear the conclusion, and then I'd write something right away!
 The problem came when I listened to the final episode, and it was far darker than I'd expected and really got me into a head space of disturbing thoughts and feelings that took me a while to process. Time and lots and lots of words - first in my journal, and then in several written drafts before the piece could actually be appropriate for public viewing.
In short: I got triggered. I got triggered by difficult themes, but even more so by what felt to me like some glaring miscalculations by the podcast host and producers. I got tipped over by my own negative responses, and couldn't quite get upright again.
It's not that I'm incapable of watching/listening/reading/discussing difficult topics. It's actually been part of my healing process to be able to enter into my own experiences of trauma by entering into other painful stories (both true and fictional). I came to the conclusion that S-Town took me past my comfort zone not because of its themes, but because of the places I perceived it was not telling the truth. Mixed messages and double standards in drawing conclusions really, really irks me.
And I mean, really.
In an earlier draft of the critique, I managed to weave in some of my animosity of current political rhetoric. Something about the way abusers create euphemisms to justify the ways they hurt other people. So, add euphemisms to doubles standards, mixed messages, and covering up for predatory behavior with any sort of language that makes excuses for violating other people to the list of things that really set me off. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. I don't know all the reasons for this, although I have some pretty good hunches.
I was reminded, in my processing S-Town, that triggers don't have to become the kind of despair that weighs me down without relief, particularly if I am able to process the feelings with people I trust. In this case, I needed Brian (who'd listened to the podcast with me) and Josh (who helped me sort through my onslaught of words to get to the redemptive critique I most wanted to offer). I also needed time to process in quiet with my own self.  For someone who enjoys quiet moments of contemplation, I can really kick against it when my heart is feeling afraid and angry.
On Saturday night, two days before my final deadline to submit the piece (a deadline that had been graciously extended a couple of times because of my general struggle with the topic), Brian took me to Manhattan to hear a favorite band. It's the kind of band I need to hear live approximately once a year just to maintain my soul's well-being. Their songs are that beautiful. And Saturday night, they sounded as beautiful as ever (if not more so). The difference I experienced, though, was in the words they spoke. One band member, in particular, seemed especially weary. She referenced the current political climate in our nation, which was not a surprise, and something I completely understood. It felt though, like she was so frustrated by recent events that she could no longer offer any sort of eloquent response. The words she used were intended to sound warm, open, and encouraging, but came across to me as cynical, defensive and exhausted. I think she was trying to express empathy, but what it sounded like was weary apathy.
Another band member chose to offer his feelings through very few words, and all of them pointing us to the lyrics of the songs. He'd say "Everything I want to say I wrote into this song." And all of the songs were beautiful and powerfully true, even when they said hard things about hard themes.
I think we all get to have times, like my favorite band member, when we run out of words and just throw our hands up in the air and sputter. We need to hold each other up in those times, certainly. But the greater option, whenever we can muster it, is to offer something good, true, and beautiful. When we're in the angry, sputtering place we need to stand as close as possible to the  beauty-cultivators, and let them speak the words for all of us.
Thanks for listening to my little stream of consciousness ramble about triggers and anger and beauty. As always, I'd love to hear any of your own thoughts on the subject. Drop me a note when you're able.
Truth, goodness and beauty, friends,
Tamara

Mary Oliver poem. %22I Worried%22.png

No Room at the Inn? Try Airbnb. [sharing at Think Christian today]

read the whole article at Think Christian

I was thinking about G.K. Chesterton’s poem, “The House of Christmas,” this week as I read the news about an ongoing legal battle between the home-sharing company Airbnb and the City of New York. Since 2008, Airbnb’s business model has disrupted the entire hotel industry with the simple idea that people will pay money for the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home rather than in a generic hotel room that is often unaffordable or unavailable. Lodgers by the millions have responded to Airbnb’s focus on the “hospitality” quotient of the hospitality industry.

This reminded me of the first stanza in Chesterton’s poem: “There fared a mother driven forth / Out of an inn to roam; / In the place where she was homeless / All men are at home.” Each year, we rehearse the narrative of Christ’s birth and imagine the loneliness and exhaustion Mary and Joseph felt. We wonder about the heartlessness of the overbooked innkeeper, perhaps bound by regulations that kept him from making room for a woman about to give birth. Where Chesterton points out the paradox of a homeless Messiah extending welcome to all people, I wonder if Airbnb’s model of hospitality represents one way God's grace is incarnated.

read the rest of the article at Think Christian

Bonus feature:  photos from a a variety of Airbnb locations we've enjoyed the past couple of years


Where have you experienced a hospitable welcome in someone else's home?