leaning on an empty wall

I'm sitting next to my bike and a box full of toxic cleaning chemicals. I'm not sure what to do with all of the chemicals. I don't really clean chemically anymore, but that is beside the point.

Exhaustion has set in. Emotional, spiritual, physical exhaustion. Moving is draining. Saying goodbye is wrenching. The unknown is frightening.

I've been repeating clich├ęd mantras: it's the people not the place; it's not "goodbye", it's" see you soon"; moving on, moving up; forgiveness means forgetness. (I might have made up that last one.) They get me through the moments when I'm leaning against an empty wall surrounded by the strange physical shards of the last few years, mourning what I'm losing.

I've loved my apartment, my roommates, my life in this space and time. Sure, I've complained my fair share. Whined, moaned, and curled into a crying ball a few times. But mainly, when I think about the last two years, I turn into a sentimental schmuck.

It isn't unfounded sentimentality. I have friends who take on friendship like a calling from above. They've painted my walls; they've Tetris-ed my furniture into their cars; they've sat on my floor with me when they knew I was sad. They teach me that #12334 is just a place, that friendship is more portable than my bike and a box of cleaning chemicals.

Today I'm leaning on an empty wall. Brimmed with tears of unreadiness and utmost joy. Completely grateful, yet overwhelmed with fear.

Tomorrow a new hope, a new memory will come alive, a new wall will be filled.


the patio

There is something wonderful about a dimly lit patio on a June evening.

The breeze that is blowing.

The bugs attracted to porches more brightly lit.

The wafting laughter.

The joy in friendship.

Life is full of change, metamorphosis, goodbye, i'msorries, leavemealones, iloveyous, disappointments, betrayals, needs.

On the patio, life seems still. Without those things.

Just dim lights, laughter, and a touch of fleeting nostalgia.


A Saint Louis To-Do

As the Roommate prepares to move to the land of imported fruits and vegetables (aka the desert), we made a list of things she had to do before her departure. This got me to thinking about all of the things that someone who lives in St. Louis should do to take advantage of all the city has to offer or things to do while visiting the city. This list was the result:

  • Visit the Augusta wineries (or Ste. Genevieve or Hermann)
  • Shakespeare in the Park (late May to early June) (FREE)
  • Jazz in the Botanical Gardens (FREE)
  • Eat at Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard
  • Spend a night out in the Central West End
  • Visit the Art Museum (FREE)
  • See a show at the Muny (potentially FREE)
  • Eat ethnic food on South Grand
  • Go to the City Museum
  • Listen to live music under the Arch (complicated this summer by the potential flooding) (FREE)
  • Watch a outdoor movie on Friday's at Laumeir Park (FREE, I think)
  • See a show in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. (named the Duck Room after Chuck Berry’s duck walk guitar dance thing)
  • Visit the Soulard or Tower Grove Farmer’s Market
  • Stroll down Cherokee’s Antique Row (Get a cup of coffee at Mississippi Mud while you are there)
  • Eat at the Scottish Arms, Dressel’s, and McGurk’s—the top British Isle Pubs in St. Louis
  • People watch on The University City Loop (FREE)
  • Catch an act at the Pageant
  • Get some gelato on Washington Avenue
  • Visit Schlafly’s Bottlework’s (Saint Louis’ Prized microbrew)
  • Visit the Anheuser-Busch brewery (FREE)
  • Catch a local(ish) band at Cicero’s
  • Visit the Zoo (FREE)
  • Go for a run in Forest Park (FREE)
  • See a Cardinal’s Game at Busch stadium
  • Stroll down St. Charles’ historic Main Street
Uh. That should keep you busy, but if you have other things that should be on the list, feel free to add them in the comments.


fantastically human

I know that my joy in ministry shouldn't be tied into material successes... praise, words, numbers, donations, leaders.

I know that my faith, my confidence, in God should under no uncertain terms be tied into my joy in ministry.

But I am utterly and fantastically human.

Exhaustion today is exhilarating.


nation of wimps

About two years ago, I ran across a few articles written by Hara Marano Estroff about the wave of self-entitlement displayed in kids and in parents. I talked about it a few months later when my then-Roommate gave me some anecdotal evidence of the phenomenon. From that moment on, I was eagerly anticipating Estroff's book, Nation of Wimps.

Nation of Wimps isn't for everyone. I have a hard time imagining handing this book out to the moms and dads in my youth ministry. It would either create a force of retaliation or hit so close to home that the guilty masses would erupt in tears. Part of me wonders to whom the book is directed because Estroff lashes at parents so vividly throughout the early chapters that I can't imagine them wading much past the opening paragraphs. Unless, of course, they are sadists. And yet, she concludes with a happy here's-what-parents-should-do chapter. I guess she's hoping for an audience of sadists.

Nevertheless, I loved reading Estroff's whipping and lashing of the state of American childhood. The anecdotes were straight out of a Hitchcock thriller. Chills regularly crept (RAN!) up my spine. The statistical information was intriguing. Who knew so many college students were in such emotional despair? Her explanation of self-harm and self-mutilation is one of the best I've ever read. Even at the lowest moments, Estroff manages the right amount of humor and irony to keep me from becoming wholly depressed.

The wide variety of topics are held together firmly with one main idea: kids today need more out of childhood than soccer lessons, violin practice, and a cell phone to be accessible to mom and dad at every whim. And they are more than future ivy league candidates. Estroff hits every reader in the gut with her timely call for a revisioning of American childhood.

As I read, voices I heard before kept revisiting me:
"I've never felt more peer pressure than I have as a parent of a junior high student," a mom told me after church.

"We try to keep our son's extra activities to one a school quarter, but there is so much pressure to involve him in everything," I overhear a mom saying to another in a public restroom.

"I just want to be free of basketball and band so that I spend more time singing and playing guitar, " an eighth grader moans in my office.
Those are my anecdotal pieces of the puzzle. Estroff takes my pieces, your pieces, her pieces and combines them in statistical evidence that parenting and education at all levels are in need of a serious overhaul. Nation of Wimps is worth a read to anyone who can stomach the criticism.

Tomorrow, I will dig in a little deeper into the idea of "information age education" as a reflection on what she shares and my own personal experiences.


me and a box of vegetables

I am about halfway through Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She tells the story of moving to the Appalachian Mountains with her family and living off of the local land. the book is part memior, part persuasion, part recipe book. I like all of those genres, so (no pun intended) I am eating it up.

Her journey is fascinating, but it isn't for everyone. We don't all have a cabin in the mountains awaiting our decision to live off the local land. We don't all have flexible employment that allows to pick and move or tend to a garden on moments notice.

Eating local is tough. And it is economically disputable. Local seems like a fancy buzzword for middle class people to use when hoping to feel superior while sitting on the side of a soccer field. And yet this is my second year as a member of the Three Rivers Community Farm.

I joined Three Rivers on a whim that it would be a fun experiment to eat crazy vegetables that were grown so close to home. These days, my membership is a reason for my sister and I prepare and eat dinner together once a week. It is a way to support independent agriculture. It is a means of being connected with the community around me and reminding me of the farm town I call hometown.

Joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm this late in the game is probably a long shot. But you can get on a waiting list. Or visit your farmer's market (Local Harvest can help you find lots of local food sources). Or get in touch with the Slow Food movement in your area. And if the concept of local food totally overwhelms you, check Animal, Vegetable, Miracle out at your local library. Kingsolver might inspire you.


the beautiful and the ugly

If I tried to write a rave review of the weather we had in St. Louis this weekend, it would only serve to sell the weather short on the beautiful that it was.

If I tried to write a harsh critique on the havoc the weather is creating for my eyes via allergies, it would only sell the weeping and gnashing short on the ugly that it is.

Apparently, I can't have my beautiful weather and see it, too.


even if i had the picture, i wouldn't post it

Last weekend, my family gathered together for my cousin's wedding. It was everything a family wedding is supposed be: slightly precarious, very beautiful, exhausting, light-hearted, memorable. We aren't a high drama family for the most part. We keep our mean-spirited derogatory comments to ourselves and we don't talk politics EVER (unless under the influence of red wine and then everything is free game). We do have a penchant, however, to pull out the embarrassing family photos.

Last weekend, I was the target of much family banter. Let us not beat around the bush: I had a mullet circa age 6. This was followed by the poof-ball circa age 7. Which was followed by a bowl cut circa ages 8-10 (three horrible years).

My mom says the mullet was a "pixie cut" and it was cute! She nearly swore that she didn't even know what a mullet was. She says that I wanted a perm, so the poof is my fault. And she says that Dorothy Hamil wore a bowl cut for ages and pulled if off wonderfully and that it was extremely practical (read: I hated letting her brush my hair).

The funniest part? My uncle had a mullet for a while, too. We were haircut buddies in the early nineties. We are both glad that is over.

Is it a fourth commandment violation to say, "Mom, I praise God you aren't in charge of my hair anymore!"? Because its true. Even if my hair is a regular moppy mess. At least its not a mullet.