Week of Happy

I’m so done.

And I’m LEAVING.

No, like really. My amazing, glorious, unexpectedly surprising partner got us tickets to JAMAICA.

In honor of this much needed (oh, so, so needed) escape from the ice, I’m prepping a Week of Happy that will post while we’re gone!

It’s pretty much going to be this in reverse:

So, first things first, I’m going to watch Cool Runnings. Obviously. Where’s a Blockbuster when you need one?

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The Art of the Everyday – January 31: Week of Happy – Enjoy this series of simple (and some not so simple) things that make me happy while I’m on vacation!

Love in Action

“For Francis, it seems, the timidity of tightly held borders, the safe-harbor of accepted opinion and doctrinal purity risks a greater sin—a greater loss to the Church—than the dangerous paths of love and welcome….” – John D. Whitney, SJ

seattle

I love it when people make a mess.

Okay, not in my office or my house, but in what we perceive as ‘normal’ or ‘okay.’ Especially when they make a mess for love – faithful, true, healing love.

An amazing group of high schoolers in Seattle is doing just that. After the firing of their gay vice principal for marrying his partner, the kids decided to do something. Their conscience led, and they followed.

Beyond my personal beliefs of equality and justice, these students are also being truly Catholic – even though many may not be of the faith themselves. I am lucky to have been taught by Jesuits, and lay Catholics, that to truly be a part of the Church is to ask questions of it.

To have ever-growing, challenging, frustrating, fulfilling conversation. A Jesuit from Seattle University offered this reflection about such action’s resonance with the roots of the Christian Church:

“What is most amazing about this moment in the [early] Church is how the community comes to decide, together, what is to be done. There is debate and disruption, but it is not seen as division; rather, it is the way the Holy Spirit is working within the community. Further, this debate is grounded on human experience, and not on tradition or on the power of office. “

And as long as they keep stepping forward, keep speaking out, they are seeking the same light we all reach toward – trying to understand Augustine’s words:

“It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odor of flowers, and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God.

Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God — a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part.

That is what I love when I love my God.”

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The Art of the Everyday – January 30: Throwback Thursday to a 2013 theme, Manresa, wherein I discern in the Ignatian sense.

Obsession

I have a confession.

If I knew the internet better I could embed it here.

Instead I’ll link.

And link.

Aaaaaaaand link.

Advances in the fight against malaria? The fact that less children died last year than any other year on record? The Soda Stream (I love it, gahhh the bubbles…but then…ethics…)?

Sure. Great.

But, GIFs, guys. GIFs.

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The Art of the Everyday – January 29: Sliced bread – Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?

Nobody Here Can Walk It For You

“Song, songs kept them going and going;
They didn’t realize the millions of seeds they were sowing.
They were singing in marches, even singing in jail.
Songs gave them the courage to believe they would not fail.”

Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – Jan. 27, 2014)

~~~

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong generation.

After falling deep into a realization(s) about my country my freshman year in high school, fueled by an amazing history teacher, Howard Zinn, and punk, I was different.

Although my activism has changed over the years and will probably never cease to as I grow, I have always looked to people whose voices I resonated with, whose paths I honored, and who spoke with depth.

Pete Seeger’s smile always burst out of videos – it was revolutionary for me to see someone so truly happy in their activism. Not jaded, not mad – but still solid, hopeful and active. Raging against the machine with peace.

I was lucky enough to see both Zinn and Seeger before they passed – Zinn at a small lecture at BU in 2009 and Seeger with the Boss at Obama’s first inaugural concert.

Granted, I never spoke directly to either, but being physically in their space was inspiring. As Seeger “gave us the words” that frigid afternoon in DC, I couldn’t help smiling. He was just as I had always imagined – a peaceful warrior sharing songs.

seeger

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The Art of the Everyday – January 28: Memories – Read bio here. Portrait by Robert Shetterly from Americans Who Tell the Truth, also available as a poster, see here.

Maybe

Ten minutes?

What can even get done in ten minutes? A little under half a sitcom. Eat this orange. Troll Facebook uselessly. Send a couple emails.

Yet, sometimes amazing things happen quickly – a kiss, a conversation that changes everything, a hug, a cup of tea shared with a friend, an unexpected realization.

Life really can change fast, in much less than ten minutes.

When the sun hits the side of the mountain just right, it seems it only lingers for a minute or so before moving on.

Maybe not everything needs to be labored over.

There, perhaps, might be moments of magic that can flow through words that slide into existence rather than covered in sweat and tears.

Maybe not everything needs to be epic.

There is, perhaps, wisdom in pure expression that attempts to find a little poetry amongst the mess.

Maybe just because it’s trite doesn’t make it meaningless.

As much as I want to hate Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, I just can’t. And maybe that’s okay.

Not everyone can or should be Kierkegaard, Hurston, Keller, or Seeger.

Maybe I’ll never be my heros.

Maybe I’ll just be me.

IMG_2664

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The Art of the Everyday – January 27: Ready, set, go: Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.

The Art of the Everyday

Whether it was the gin or the overachiever ambition, we’ll never know.

At 4am, after an overnight, New Year’s Eve flight from my hometown of Portland, Oregon to my new home of Portland, Maine, I issued myself this challenge: Blog every day of 2014.

What. The. Actual. Hell.

At one month in, I thought it might be helpful to remind myself why this might’ve been a good idea, and provide readers some background, too.

IMG_2734I am very conscious of not adding to the ephemera of crap-tasticy that surrounds all of us in this age of easy sharing. The ease of whining, being too self-focused (which is inherently this blog’s purpose, but I digress), and just producing garbage literally wakes me up some nights.

But I want to be a creator.

I want to put something out into the world that helps me live, question, hope and become more intentional.

So here we sit, and as usual, look for some guidance. Although I’m no poet, I will try to follow the glorious Mary Oliver:

Any words of wisdom for aspiring poets in this age of rampant technology and Twitter?

Yes. Write first with a pen. It’s too easy on the computer to change a word, then forget what it was. Also, don’t get too social. Write for whatever holy thing you believe in, not for your poetry workshop fellows. And dare once in a while to throw a poem away.The main thing is to know that your craving to write is the big thing and will continue, and is more valuable than the finished poem. I do this myself, plenty.

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The Art of the Everyday – January 26: Chug, chug, chug along.

Gauntlet, thrown.

I am a book squirrel.

I knew how many books I had hidden away, but damn. This list hits most of them, but (unsurprisingly) not all…

Each year I’m not in school I’ve tried to read about 60 books a year. For whatever reason, numerical goals motivate me, and having a list to check off is infinitely satisfying. But I’ve never tried determining the actual content of my reading this far in advance.

However, I was tickled by the TBR (To Be Read) Reading Challenge this year, because I collect books. I just can’t help myself. That “free books” box on the corner? Why yes, I’ve always wanted Joan Baez’s (Baez’? Baezi?) autobiography in my collection. Maybe. Sure. I’m sure it will be perfect at some point. That advanced reader’s copy of some unknown murder mystery handed out at the book store? I’ll take that, thank you.

No, my proverbial cheeks are not full, thougheihljglergbhghh.

Along with some books I’ve been gifted, there are those I bought because they were “classics” or I “should” read them, some grad school books I never really read, new additions thanks to moving in with my partner, and others I’ve picked up/put down/picked up and just need to start again (I have the tendency to read like 4 books at a time and get distracted…). This list is truly eclectic.

Some I’m sure I’ll love, some I will slog through, and others might just be pure crap.

I think the satisfaction of having read more of what’s actually in my house, though, will be pretty great.

The Books Around: 2014

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
2. Home by Toni Morrison
3. Grandville by Bryan Talbot
4. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
5. Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott
6. Viktor Frankl Recollections by Viktor Frankl
7. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
8. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett
9. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10. A House for Mr. Biswas by VS Naipaul
11. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
12. On the Mystery by Catherine Keller
13. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz by Michela Wrong
14. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
14. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
15. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
16. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
17. The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami
18. Quantum by Manjit Kumar
19. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
20. Dispatches by Michael Herr
21. Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard Edited by WH Auden
22. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
23. Wool by Hugh Howey
24. Black Boy by Richard Wright
25. Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower
26. Cane River by Lalita Tademy
27. The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders
28. kira-kira by Cynthia Kadohata
29. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
30. The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotsky
31. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
32. Trinity by Leon Uris
33. Omaha Blues by Joseph Lelyveld
34. Airships by Barry Hannah
35. Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
36. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
37. Passionate Nomad by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
38. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
39. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaurder
40. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
41. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
42. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
43. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
44. The Brothers K by David James Duncan
45. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
46. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
47. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
48. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
49. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
50. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
51. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
52. Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
53. The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. Blindness by Jose Saramago
56. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
57. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry
58. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
59. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
60. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
61. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
62. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
63. Dune by Frank Herbert

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The Art of the Everyday, January 25 – BooksBooksBooks!

Cosmic Muffin

I am bad at prayer. If that’s even a thing.

Raised secular by good critics of organized religion, prayer inherently feels weird, possibly fake, and at times like a petulant child.

As my friend Burt reminded me today, prayer was something “they” did.

Throughout my spiritual journey I’ve avoided looking too deeply into why many of those feelings arise within me. I have an inkling that a huge part of my struggle is being vulnerable and open to those deep dark icky spots we all have – not my strong suit.

9781594631290_custom-cb4cb43b6689f4aec7878a3cbf3fb106f54a51dc-s6-c30That’s one of the reasons while reading Anne Lamott, who I love, I feel such peace. All hail the “Cosmic Muffin.”

Whether you “officially” pray or not, in Help Thanks Wow Lamott asks us in this short meditative book to consider that we all seek connection, especially to something bigger than ourselves. She calls the divine Phil, sometimes God, and describes wholeheartedly and with humor the need most people feel to reach out in times of need, gratitude or awe.

Lamott sees prayer as a way to ferry across “…the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”

Eventually, it all comes down to story – something I can relate to and love – that we use our words as strength, as compassion, as struggle:

“…if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again adn again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people, or the way sobriety does. Stories to tell or hear – either way, it’s medicine. The Word.”

These prayers seek a way out of mystery and toward freedom. Freedom in a peace that knows that we cannot be certain. Lamott perfectly explains feelings I have most often in nature, and in re-discovering and trying to grow my awe-response to the world I inhabit:

“You begin to feel friendship with your flowering pear tree, an interspecies oneness with it, although we usually keep these thoughts to ourselves, lest they be used against us at the commitment hearings. In fact, you are able to use the word ‘wonder’ again, even feel it, without despair that the New York literati or your atheist friends will find out and send you into exile.

She also inspires me to keep slogging along, and remember that we’re here to live, to touch, to love and to be floored by things – but we have to let ourselves.

“If you say, ‘Well, that’s pretty much what I thought I’d see,’ you are in trouble. At that point, you have to ask yourself why you are even here…When nothing new can get in, that’s death. When oxygen can’t find a way in, you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing – we had this ll figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.”

And the Church says, Amen.

“…Amen – It is us, lifting up our hope, hate, gratitude, fear, and shame, saying, Boy, do we hope we are right about this God stuff.”

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The Art of the Everyday, January 24 – A revisit to a 2013 theme, Manresa.

The Book Pile(s)

2014tbrpilercAs if I didn’t have enough to do, right?

But whatever, excuses. I laugh at you.

What is that? What is that? Oh… Yes… I hear you. You there with the smirky smart-ass grin. You, the piles and piles and slightly smaller piles of books malingering around my house.

And believe it or not, that’s not all. The incessant mocking of my books inspired me to not only keep up with my annual goal of 60 books this year, but stumbling across a community challenge has also given the list direction.

For 2014, I will work on my piles first…but obviously the piles from the library as well, I  just can’t help myself! For this challenge, all books have to be 2013 or older, with the goal of actually plowing through your collection: “Any genre, length or format of book counts, as long as it is a book that’s been sitting on your shelf for some time now.”

So far here’s where I’m at (I’ll work on creating The List as soon as I can wade through my piles):

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
2. Home by Toni Morrison
3. Grandville by Bryan Talbot
4. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
5. Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott

and what I’m currently reading:

6. Viktor Frankl Recollections by Viktor Frankl
7. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Let’s do this.

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The Art of the Everyday, January 23 – A revisit to a 2013 theme, Lectio Divina.

Main Street

Opera_House_Old.298150316_stdClassic American small towns are defined by a Main Street.

When built, these streets were where commerce was centered, where small shop fronts offered specialized services, and where a good deal of gossip was exchanged.

What is amazing about Norway, Maine, is the extent to which the community has rallied together to save its thoroughfare. In the other two towns in this now three-town area (which, to my mind raised up out west, should all be one thing…but that’s a whole other story), they’ve sacrificed any historical sense to WalMart and the like.

Norway’s buildings somehow survived neglect, emptiness, fires, loss of the mill, loss of the snowshoe factory, and were ripe for rejuvenation.

And now, the street really looks just like that historical print. It’s full, vibrant, enjoyable, and quite frankly, adorable.

This week, my boss and all the Norway Opera House businesses were featured on the local news. It reminded me how special our town is, especially in this economic time.

walkingTourMap800

Being involved through work in two local ventures, and in this week especially, my official one-year anniversary in Maine, I feel deeply connected to the revived downtown landscape. It is a space that works hard with what it has, values what it has been, and reaches toward all that could be.

It may be a tiny town, but it has big ambitions. I’m glad to be at least a small part of it.

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The Art of the Everyday, January 22 – A revisit to a 2013 theme, Homemade.