Something to Think About, Something to Drink About

The Lenten season has ended with the triumph and vindication of resurrection–my favorite day of the year because how can you contain the excitement of today?–and we enter the joy and beauty and resurrection of Easter season. And I, I want to do more than return to my pre-Lent patterns, to my hustle and bustle (which, if I must be honest, marked my Lent as well), to a little here and a little there and the half-heartedness and the hurry and the nerves twisted up because is nothing ever done, is the kitchen ever clean and the writing ever good and the garden ever weeded?

Because this is Easter and Christ has risen and everything has changed, and while the dishes still get dirty and the words still get stuck and the weeds still grow, we live in the promise, the in-between, the hope of joining his resurrection, and this transforms everything about the everyday.

I recently finished teaching through Luke in my church Bible study, and as his journeyed neared the end, Jesus taught his disciples about the everyday that would come when he was no longer with them. They would be like the days of Noah and Lot, with people marrying and working and sleeping, and then so suddenly the end would come. He would return, and for those who aren’t prepared, calamity.

But for those who remain faithful, for those who go about their everyday lives, their marrying and working and sleeping serving God’s kingdom plan, we will have resurrection. We will join the cosmos in Christ’s triumph.

In our Bible study, we will continue with Acts–part 2 of the story (thank goodness we don’t have to wait for the release date for the sequel!), how the Church lived and ministered in the everyday, how she continued Jesus’ work of restoration.

So I consider my everyday, my writing and blogging and editing and housework and gardening and knitting and changing diapers and playing with Keegan and (mostly) making dinners and caring for family and for those around me, and how these small actions serve God’s kingdom plan, how they have purpose. For this is what I want my everyday to be: a continuation of Jesus’ work of restoration.

Sometimes this means remembering the joy. Sometimes this means ignoring the dirt to make time for someone or to play with Keegan (okay, I’ve not struggled with the latter much–Keegan does a good job of convincing me that playing in the sandbox is more fun than folding the laundry). And sometimes this means being more thoughtful.

I fear that my blog has become more thoughtless–a haphazard collection of bits and pieces scattered from the day, pushed and squeezed together in the minutes between this and that. And I want it–and all of my writing–to be more than that.

When I began my blog, I did so as a writer and theologian, as a place to summon these things inside of me, and I found a congregation of writers and theologians on blogs, a community. Together we thought through the everyday and the exceptional. We corresponded. Then I had a baby, and I didn’t know why I blogged. Am I now a mommy blogger? I considered this during Lent.

Heaven knows the world doesn’t need another mommy blogger. We already feast on dishes of the delectable, the hearty, the refreshing, the involved, the simple, the lingering. (So the world didn’t exactly need another writer or theologian blogging either, but I turned a blind eye to that fact.) Here’s what I thought:

It’s time to call it quits. I am no longer a blogger.

But then, in the last inning, I read a new comment on my blog: “Seriously excited to read more when you return” (Thank you, Amy!) Perhaps my ego stepped in, or perhaps that desire for community, the community I’ve had here for so many years, rekindled, but I thought about what it would really mean to leave this space and I thought about what I named this space: L’Chaim. To life. This term that means so much to me not just because it’s one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals or because I loved studying Hebrew and easily remembered chai when learning vocabulary because of said song but because of what it embodies–life, the kind of life found in Christ, a restored, resurrection life that embraces the everyday. And I realized that it doesn’t matter if I don’t know what kind of blogger I am–mommy, writing, theology (knitting, gardening…)–because the focus of my blogging is restored, resurrected life, the already-not yet reality of the everyday in-between.

But still, in my Easter resurrection celebration, I want to practice thoughtful writing, even when I blog on something silly just because it makes me laugh (hey–laughter’s part of the resurrected life!), and consistent writing (both in blogging and in my short story writing). So for my Easter practice, I commit to blogging twice a week, essays that revel in the everyday resurrected life. (I’m also committing to working on my short stories four days a week. I’d love to commit to writing every day, but some days may be consumed with editing–work I enjoy and for which I am very thankful.)

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2, The Message).

May my life, and my writing, be alert to and absorbed with what God’s doing.

To Being Known

Since it’s 1:00 in the morning and I can’t sleep–the reason that I can’t sleep isn’t important (thank you, insurance company of man who rear-ended my husband and son, and may a camel spit in your eye)–and tomorrow will be miserable because of this lack of sleep and I’m not working on my teaching as I should be because I told Chris that if I committed to teaching this semester I’d have at least three, no four, lessons done before we started and I haven’t started on next week’s lesson and next week is the third week, I thought I’d come to this space, this little corner that’s mine.

I don’t really have anything to say. (That’s not entirely true. I jotted down some notes for blogs, but those are on my phone, and right now, I’m too lazy to walk back into the bedroom to get my phone and read my notes. Probably for the best. I don’t know if a 1:00 in the morning too-angry-at-the-injustice-of-the-situation-too-sleep mindset would do these brilliant ideas justice.)

But I came here because I feel safe here. An odd statement to say about a space open to the world, but there’s something about this place being my corner in the world, a place where I can sit with my tea and write words on page.

It’s nice to know that in some sense, I am known here, that in this space, you know me. Maybe you don’t know how I take my tea (with honey and milk) or which wine I prefer (sometimes Syrah, sometimes Malbec). Maybe you don’t know my quirky habits, but you’re here, and I’m here, and you (sometimes) read these words, and I read your words, and words can sneak in and out of hidden spaces.

So when I have nothing more to say and you’re still here: thank you.

I’m Still Here

“Maybe I’m not a blogger anymore,” I told Chris. Maybe it was time to give up writing these posts, reading blogs about writing and art and beautiful ordinary life so that I could write and create and live beautiful ordinary. Yes, I thought, this is the time for that.

Except the next night I cried myself to sleep, wondering what’s happened to me, wondering if I still have thoughts on writing and art and the beautiful ordinary, if I still have stories to tell, or if I just exist in this space. The following morning, after a 5:00AM feeding, I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I came to my computer, and I opened these collecting blog posts in my reader, and I meandered. I read about writing and art and the beautiful ordinary, and I found a space for those things I’m still passionate about. Then I jotted down a few thoughts, interacting with these writers, stimulated by their wonderings and wanderings.

When Keegan awoke a couple of hours later, greeting me with a smile, I gathered him in my arms, ready to spend the day playing with him.

I’m still here. I’m still me, and I’m still blogging.

An Actual Real, Live Blog Post (Cue Applause)

I took exactly two photos in Jersey this trip. This is one of them.

The other one you probably would be even less interested in because it’s of my niece and the family dog. Both with Phillies hats. (I call Brandy the family dog because though she belongs to my parents, we’ve all adopted her. All except for my husband, who in general is not a fan of dogs. Unless they’re the dogs that lie around all day with no energy.)

To sum up: beach, greasy foods, a winning Phillies game (with a walk-off homerun–we ordered that in advance). Exciting stuff.

The good news is my travels are over. Which means a return to routine. Which, oddly enough, means a return to interesting things to say.

Isn’t that paradoxical? It seems when my life is more interesting, I have less to say. When life settles into the mundane, I become Chatty Chatterbox once again. I think it has something to do with the posture of contemplation. (In fact, I already have some thoughts churning regarding this. You could say I’m contemplating contemplation. Don’t worry. You know I’ll share.)

So until churned contemplation becomes solidified into something resembling butter, I’m signing off.

In Which the Prodigal Returns

In one M*A*S*H episode, B.J. bets Hawkeye that Hawkeye can’t go an entire day without cracking a joke. Hawkeye nearly falters numerous times throughout the day, especially with the comedy of errors going on between Winchester, Margaret, and Winchester’s old commanding officer, but he makes it. And at exactly midnight, he picks up the PA mike and lets loose on all the jokes he’d held inside during the day.

I’m picking up the PA mike and letting loose.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, I abandoned my blog, as well as Facebook and Twitter. The journey since then has been unexpected.

When I told my mom I was giving up social networking for Lent, her first response was laughter. "That’s not much of a sacrifice!" she said. Of course, offended and defensive of my cyber peeps, I asked what she meant. "You rarely go out as it is," she said.

Turns out, she thought I meant all social interaction. She has these crazy fears that I’ll end up some writing hermit on some deserted beach. (There are worse things I could do.)

The first week, I’d awaken with something I just had to blog about. Then I’d remember. I can’t blog. I should blog about not blogging, I’d think (true story).

After that first week, I found joy in personal journaling (something I hadn’t done since blogging) and the extra time I had to read. Confession: this tempted me to give up social media for good. Perhaps my mom was right. I could be a hermit.

Now comes the unexpected part. About two weeks ago, I began to unravel. Emotionally speaking. Things had gotten a little stressful at the Goodman house, and I wasn’t handling the stress as well as I normally do. What was wrong with me?

Then it occurred to me: I’d lost part of my support system. Social networking isn’t about being a celebrity. It isn’t splatting my opinions for all the world to see. And it isn’t, as Coupland claims in Generation A, about finding a way to make my otherwise boring life into a story. At least it isn’t for me.

It truly is about community. You guys know me, and I know you. I pray for you and count on you. I’m the last person to argue that social networking replaces human touch and face-to-face community (rather than Facebook-to-Facebook), but that doesn’t negate the reality of the true friends I’ve made here.

As someone who works from home, you guys ground me, keep me in touch with some semblance of reality (remember this post from four years ago [four years ago? Have I been online that long?] about my penchant for other realities?). I discovered that without the interaction I have on Twitter and Facebook, my writing suffered. It got too stodgy. I lost some humor in it.

So I’m back with a new appreciation for the role of social media in my life, with a new appreciation for all of you and your roles in my life. I thought I’d be raring to talk about the books I’ve read, the music I’ve discovered, the stories I’ve lived, and to some extent, I am. But I’m more anxious to hear your voices, to read your blogs, to see you in our shared studios.

Ashes to Ashes, We All Fall Dead

I’m giving up social media for Lent.

There. I’ve said it.

Ash Wednesday, in two days, initiates the period of Lent, which culminates in Passion Week, and leads to Easter. In Lent, we remember and join Christ,

who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
– even death on a cross!

The least I can give up his social media.

What this includes: facebook, twitter, and blogging.

Let me clarify one point up front: Lent is not about establishing good habits or giving up something you shouldn’t be participating in in everyday life. It’s about giving up something daily as a tangible reminder of what Christ gave for us and how we are to pick up our cross to follow him.

In other words, I’m not giving up social media because I think it’s a bad habit I need to break or because I need to get in shape or spend this time elsewhere. I’m giving it up because it is something meaningful to me that will daily remind me of my need for Christ. Every day, when I log in to my computer, my habits will want to direct me to facebook, to my blog, to twitter, to pop in and say hi to my friends. At that point every day, I will remember what Christ did for his kingdom and how I need him.

This is my way of participating in his story.

I don’t deny it will be hard (which is the point). I will miss my friends, whom I meet only through cyber interaction on a daily basis. I will miss talking about the books we’re reading or our knitting projects.

For example, yesterday, I started reading Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. (I started it during the Nordic Olympic run, because, let’s be honest, as much as I’m an Olympic fan, you don’t have to pay attention to the whole marathon-like run.) The story is about an Irish girl (we’re not given her age, but she seems to be around 18) who moves to America in the years following WWII in order to get work. She has to leave her family and suspects she will never see them again. She’s in a strange land, and knows not a soul. In the onset of her homesickness, the author says, "She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor . . . Nothing here was part of her." Haven’t we all experienced this, especially in a globalized society where we begin to lose sense of home? I want to talk about this, but alas, blogging will be gone for me. 

Or another example: this weekend, I had an unknitting project. I had started a scarf quite a while ago with three different strands of yarn, a ribbon-like yarn, a fluffy, sparkly yarn with this faux fur, and a thin string on which I had thread beads of blues and browns. But the scarf wasn’t working. The combo wasn’t working. This weekend, I unknit the piece to find myself tangled in a knot of the different strands. I spent hours, yes hours, working on this knot. I learned: A cord of three strands is not easily untangled.

Besides missing these conversations (and learning what is happening in your lives, as I won’t be reading blogs either), I have a fear. You will forget me. Out of sight, out of mind, don’t they say? Then who will I be? (In a way, this relates to the passage from Brooklyn.) And here, during this Lent season, I expect God will remind me my true identity: in Christ. Not in work, not in friends or family, not in blogging, though all these things are good. 

"Important Blogger–That's an Oxymoron."

One of the threads that weaves through Douglas Coupland’s apocalyptic novel concerns blogging. (Yes, Generation A is apocalpytic in that it portrays the end of the world as we know it–and, thanks to a Prozac-like drug, we feel fine.)

Each of the main characters in Coupland’s story tells his/her own stories. One character tells a story of a young man who has lost the story of his life. The implication is clear: springing from our obsession with fame, we all look for the story of our lives. Unfortunately, with nothing real left in life, we can’t find one. We use our extreme sports and death-defying feats in attempts to bring fame-worthy excitement into our lives.

In the story of the young man who has lost his story, the following exchange occurs between a woman at the Learning Annex, where this young man has gone for lessons in something interesting (bungee jumping, Tae Bo), and the young man (it begins with Craig, our young man in question):

"I thought maybe Tae Bo would loan my life a unique narrative edge."

The woman–whose name was Bev–said, "Craig, the hardest things in the world are being unique and having your life be a story. In the old days, it was much easier, but our modern fame-driven culture, with its real-time 24-7 marinade of electronic information, demands a lot from modern citizens, and poses great obstacles to narrative. Truly modern citizens are both charismatic and [sic] can only respond to other people with charisma. To survive, people need to become self-branding charisma robots . . . So, in a nutshell, given the current media composition of the world, you’re pretty much doomed to being uninteresting and storyless."

"But I can blog my life! I could turn it into a story that way!"

"Blogs? Sorry, but all those blogs and vlogs or whatever’s out there–they just make being unique harder. The more truths you spill out, the more generic you become."

(I’d give you a page number, but Kindle doesn’t list page numbers.)

To add to this evidence, I read an article in The New Yorker the other day about media, specifically in regards to Obama. This article also pointed out the (negative) consequences to this 24-7 media marinade, which disallows journalists from getting any real story. Several times, especially when quoting Obama communications administration, they referred to the narrative Obama wanted to communicate, or the narrative of Americans. Have we become so self-aware of our own story that we can no longer let it unfold naturally? What are the implications of this?

(Side note: These past weeks, we all watched the events in Haiti, blogging, twittering, perhaps watching a rescue on TV. I’m happy to see our concern for another nation, but I wonder how much is true concern and how much is it safe concern? If our sympathies are real, why not spend time on a weekly basis in homeless shelters, orphanages, and nursing homes, entering into their suffering?)

While these Neil Postman-esque prophesies unfurl around us, I don’t believe this means we abandon blogs (obviously, or I’d be using this post to say Goodnight, Gracie). Ruth Haley Barton warns us against accepting technologies without evaluation. This doesn’t mean we all don Amish garb. It means we better know how things affect us–our Christianity, our communities, our families, our work, our play. We can’t all become Wendell Berrys. Because of blogging, I’ve found other writers, knitters, gardeners, poets, and photographers (as well as a slew of other artists) who have encouraged me in these endeavors. I’ve discovered friends who have encouraged my spirituality. If I consider creativity and spirituality (not entirely different entities, by the way) to be essential to humanity, than blogging has shaped me in positive ways.

But I also have been obsessed with finding my own niche, my own small pond in which to be famous. I’ve asked, how can I be unique in this space? What is my brand?

I suppose we approach this as we do everything: with mixed motives. I am neither purely good nor entirely corrupt. I am saint and sinner. Coupland’s comments and The New Yorker‘s article remind me to always pay attention to the whats, whys, hows, and consequences, to not do things willy-nilly just because I want to. And that’s a good thing.

Thoughts? Reactions? Poison?

Print between the lines: Title quote from Bones (Sealy Booth)

Brain-dead and Verbose

Based on the advice from my brilliant husband, Chris, I decided to go ahead and move the content from my old blog to this one.

It’s been tedious.

My right eye has started twitching.

Unfortunately, I’m not delusional enough to add all the comments, which is ashame since most of the smart things are said by my readers.

But I have two observations:

  1. I’m funny. I made myself laugh a couple of times skimming through old posts. No, I’m not funny all the time. But at least I make one person laugh. Me. And laughing is important to me.
  2. I’m verbose. Someone needs to shut me up. A year and a half of blogging and 310 posts to show for it. What was Duran saying about quality over quantity?

Right now, I’m brain dead. I finished writing a Bible study due today, and my brain has left the building. I’d like to say it’s partying with Elvis and Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Hoffa, but I think it went to bed. One can’t be sure though. I need it to wake up because my afternoon lessons start soon.

To wake it up, I attempted to play Scrabble, a CD version I have. The CD intuited my braindeadedness so played for me.

I’m not kidding.

I started the game than watched it play my part and the computer’s part. I was brilliant. Over 400 points. Three times used all my letters. And in less than two minutes.

I should let the computer play more often.

Apparently, being me was more than it could take because it promptly froze.

I understand.

Sing It–Happy birthday to me

Happy birthday to me! I have officially been a blogger for one year as of today. To celebrate, my hubby replaced my keyboard. That’s right, baby–I’m back! Fully hyphenated and in control (meant to allude to my working control, or as the keyboard says, Ctrl, key).
As an added treat for all you cats out there, here is what I wrote my very first day one year ago (it’s like looking at baby pics–oh, how I’ve grown):

And cue Doogie Howser theme. Although I believe my entries will be a bit more of rambling spiels rather than snappy morals to neatly wrap the weekly show. I fought it. Why does this world need another meaningless opinion to add to the cacophony? I fought getting a cell phone, too, until 2001. Now I don’t know how I survived without this phone. How did you find friends at movie theaters and airports? How did you find your way home after turning on a very wrong (and very dangerous) street? What did people do with all that silence in the car? But I digress… So I’m adding my voice to the world, free of charge. In this site, you may find, should you choose to meander this space, my personal life, some with learned life lessons, some unpragmatically for enjoyment, a travel log, a giggle at myself; you may find movie and book reviews and suggested reading/viewing lists. Who knows – perhaps I’ll even add photos and the soundtrack to my life. Welcome to my life. L’chaim.

The Sound of Silence

Let me splain why I went Paul Simon on you guys this week. Tuesday night, we rushed my dad to the hospital. He’s had Crohns disease for 35 years, and it’s being crawling up from its underground hole the past year and a half again. Tuesday night, bacteria from his intestines (TMI, I know) leaked into his blood stream from one of his many fistulas, and he went into sceptic shock. He’s been in the ICU. Today, they’re moving him into a regular room. Progress! I haven’t had computer access and dare not open my blog reader today before heading back to the hospital. I’m sure it’s scary full at the least. I’ll be back to normalcy hopefully around Tuesday.
Renew Now