The second best writing advice I’ve ever read

Hey there. I’m still writing, I promise. I can prove it to you if you head on over the The Samizdat and read my newest piece.

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So I’m still writing, just…not here so much

Come on over to The Samizdat and check out my list of 18 things I want my daughter to know. While you’re there check the place out. We have some crazy talented contributors.

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Parole, silence, and cool Russian words

Things have been silent here. There have been reasons, and none of them have to do with writing, unfortunately. They are likely to stay silent here a little while longer.

In the meantime, you can read my first article at The Samizdat, an online journal a friend of mine started and asked me to write for every few weeks. While you’re there, click around and learn about the journal. It’s a kick ass idea.

No teenager believes he’ll stay in his hometown if it’s a small one. We all think we’ll get out, like deluded parole candidates. Our fellow inmates don’t have the heart to tell us the truth because they need to believe the same lies. Some of us get out for a time and later find ourselves back where we started, like salmon or Sisyphus. I made my escape to a college five states away. I came back. So it goes.

Click here to read the rest.

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On community: food for thought (guest post by Erin Compton)

I’m honored to have the inimitable Erin Compton writing for me today. Erin’s blog showcases her brave and astute writing about a variety of topics, from depression to the loss of the sacred feminine in modern Christianity to struggling to connect with a church. Check out her site after you read her post below on the healing power of breaking bread together.

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I am a firm believer in the power of food, and I’m pretty sure Jesus was too.

I sincerely believe something spiritual happens when you share a meal with someone, a bond is created in the mutual filling of bellies that for some reason cannot be replicated as effectively over such a short period of time. It is part of the reason that I fully support any Eucharist that is accompanied by an actual feast rather than just a bit of cracker and a sip of grape derived beverage.

In my experience with intentional communities and home churches, food was central. Creating the meal that we would share together was a huge part of our gathering, from deciding what we would make, to figuring out who would bring what ingredients to actually preparing the meal together, the opening of all our Sunday gatherings revolved around food.

Creating a meal together involved a certain amount of contribution and cooperation. It was a solid activity that reminded us in a physical way that we relied on each other for a basic need, to fill our hunger at the very least. Everyone became aware of one another’s basic dietary allergies, likes and dislikes and cared for one another by providing something everyone could eat. Even if we gathered with low blood sugar and nasty tempers as a result, by the time all our plates had been cleared we were in a better mindset to discuss scripture, to disagree amicably, and to support one another.

So naturally when I think about what community means within the church, the faith, the followers of Jesus, I think about food. One of my friends recently shared this quote with me that has been accredited to another spiritual guidepost, the Buddha: “If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” Speaking from experience, it is very hard to stay irritated with someone you’ve shared food with. I’m aware it happens from time to time, but I also know that sharing food with people I have been in conflict with has been incredibly healing.

I think there is a reason that Jesus’ final goodbyes were said over a meal, I think there is a purpose to loaves and fishes and dining with drunkards, prostitutes and tax collectors, and I think it has something to do with the fact that God knows that our stomachs are intrinsically connected our hearts.

Be blessed, (and fed!).

Posted in Faith, Friendship, Guest Posts, Intentional Community | 2 Comments

Friday Five: Musical loves I owe to my friend Honey

My friend Honey turns a year older tomorrow. In my teens she introduced me to some of the musical artists who have spoken to and for me so, so many times in my life. Happy birthday, Honey. The world’s better with you in it.

As always, these are not in any intentional order.

1. The Smiths – As evidenced here, The Smiths are my go to when I feel crummy and need a band who understands. No one gets angst, insecurity, relational fear and existential dread like Morrissey. And if you have 5 second to spare, I can tell you the story of my life: Sixteen, clumsy and shy – that’s the story of my life.

2. The Cure – If Edgar Allen Poe were still alive, Robert Smith would be his favorite songwriter. He’s androgynous and fucked up and beautiful and he just positively bleeds in his lyrics. Campy at times? Sure. But he makes campy as classy as it gets. Don’t wake at night to watch her sleep, you know that you will always lose this trembling adored tousled bird mad girl.

3. Echo and the Bunnymen – I have to confess, this is the artist I’m least familiar with and attached to on this list. I love their sound, but they’ve never quite cracked the Cure/Smiths/Depeche Mode group in my head. Still, there are times when they’re exactly what I want to listen to.

4. Suzanne Vega – Vega’s Solitude Standing album easily makes my top ten albums of all time list. Her music if haunting and her lyrics cut deep. I won’t use words again. They don’t mean what I meant. They don’t say what I said.

5. Depeche Mode/Martin Gore – I don’t know that the 80s saw a better rock lyricist than Martin Gore. Their music is fantastic, but I don’t know if I could take it as seriously without his at times pitch perfect words over top of it. I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that god’s got a sick sense of humor, and when I die I expect to find him laughing.

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The fits hits the Shan #9: homesick for their light

There are stars sewn under my skin.  I used to keep them in my pockets, but they fell out too easily; I lost them in tall grass and bounding up stairs. Once I climbed a tree over a creek in the middle of nowhere and hanging upside down, saw reflected my dismayed look when more than one sprinkled down to the surface, floating away to Somewhere.

And so I learned, not quickly, absolutely or painlessly, but I learned. I learned that stars can be lost.  All their soft, shimmering resilience is now tucked away where I can feel their slight pulse between muscle and dermis.  It is comforting to keep them safe.

In recent days, though, I have realized my pupils are  empty buckets, homesick for their light.  Are they still luminous there in the bloody dark, unseen?    I’ve wondered more than once when I’ve thought how bereft a crescent moon looks alone in the sky.

Wikipedia and Leonard Nimoy tell me that stars are not eternal – they can die; and when they do, they change the gravity of lives worlds away. Stars do not die quietly. Dying stars kill. That I am here to wonder at their life, it seems they must be living still.

That is the secret, then, that goes with me everywhere: under my skin I am a million points of light.

Tonight I am only wondering if the tragedy is an unlit night sky, or a scalpel.

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On healing rain, The Smiths, and still being emo at 30

I was curled on my side on my bed, the lights off, the covers over my head. It was five in the afternoon on a dismal Friday a couple weeks ago, and I had just gotten home from work. My daughter was downstairs, occasionally calling for me. I was…not home.

I have never had depression. But I’ve had plenty of days of feeling depressed.

A potent trio of professional boredom, relational insecurity and existential angst had met at the diner that morning, laughed about a Letterman bit the night before, and decided to spend the day at my place. I should know not to let those bastards in, they never call first, but the truth is, sometimes I miss seeing them. They’re the friends you know you can’t count on when things fall apart, friends you can’t trust with your real life, but you still hang out with them now and then because they make you feel like a tortured artist. You can never plan for their visits. It would ruin it. And then they show up and get you drunk and you remember why you never call them.

The dark room helped some. So did Morrissey – There is a light that never goes out and sixteen, clumsy and shy, that’s the story of my life and I haven’t had a dream in a long time. I took a few deep breaths, stood up, and walked downstairs. I had decided to cut flowers in the backyard to bring inside, because sometimes that’s just the only thing you can do. The rain was still falling steadily.

It is at this point I should tell you I hate dogs. I’ve liked maybe two, ever. If all the dogs in the world died on the same night, I would celebrate the date annually with tinsel and lights and colored beer. This is important for what happened next.

I stepped out the back door, and saw the old woman.

She was standing in the middle of the garden, barefoot in a tattered bathrobe, rain dripping from her thin, tangled hair. She was shouting at a side of my house I couldn’t see. There are at least a dozen horror movies that start exactly like this, but I still wasn’t prepared for the large, muscular dog that came bounding around the side of my house and ran straight at me. He backed me against my door, barking angrily, baring his teeth. It wasn’t play aggression. It was I will eat your eyes like Skittles and chew your bones aggression. Most dog owners will assure you their animal won’t hurt you, he just likes people, but this old woman called out to me in a quavering, prophetic voice, You should probably get inside. So I did. The dog ran past the woman and into another yard, and she followed him, lamely yelling at him to come here and sit. I could hear them repeat this all down the block.

It took maybe half a minute for all thirteen distinct varieties of pissed off to well up in my soul. What. The fuck. Just happened?! I told Yosi to stay inside, marched out to the shed, grabbed the baseball bat, and walked to the middle of the yard, hoping the dog came back so I could break his jaw, laugh in a perfect imitation of the voice of the last girl dog who broke his heart, and then kill him. My head wasn’t in a pretty place. And then Yosi stepped outside and said Why do you have a bat, Daddy?

Sigh.

So I can beat that dog to death if it comes back while we’re cutting flowers and feeling peace in our hearts. Yes, yes I did.

Why would you kill the dog, Daddy?

Because he was very mean, Yosi, and I don’t want him to hurt us, especially not you. Remember that dog that killed Gandalf last year? Dogs aren’t always nice.

So what are you going to do if he comes back?

I’m…I’m going to protect us with the bat.

How?

Just go inside and get the scissors so we can cut flowers. I don’t think he’s coming back right now.

Are you going to kill the dog, Daddy?

No, I’m not going to kill the dog, Yosi.

She got the scissors, and we cut flowers, and he didn’t come back, though I looked up every few seconds, fully prepared to meet him in single combat if he reappeared. Rain was dripping from my hair, a warm rain, and as I moved aside the leaves to select each stem, my anger slowly ebbed. There are types of peace that will not come if you are waiting for them. They lose their power in the light. They have to sneak up on you or you’ll never let yourself be caught and held. Cutting flowers in the rain is not one of those. I needed it to be healing, and asked for it to be, and it was. For the day, for the dog. For having skin in a world that has teeth.

As I snipped off the purple and white and pink blooms, I let the beauty and the rain wash me. The Smiths played in my head, and that was its own kind of medicine, like a friend who helps just by saying Yeah, I know, it sucks sometimes. My washed out, too long jeans and pissy black t-shirt were soaked through, and I grinned with sardonic affection at myself, still emo at thirty. I guess I never learn.

I stood up after a while and watched my daughter carefully cut her own bouquet. She wants so much to be a grown up, to please me. She doesn’t know yet about the things I can’t save her from with a bat, about the way sad music can make you happy, about how you won’t always get to jump on the laps of the people you like in a room, about the rules and how much the rules suck, and about the people who don’t follow any rules at all and suck even more. She cut her flowers, her brand new glasses as wet as mine, and I marveled at the fates that had made emotional, immature me her defender and teacher. I smiled to myself.

So this is what it is to be the father of a girl: To stand barefoot in the rain, flowers in one hand and a weapon in the other.

Posted in Adventures in Parenting, Music, Parenting, The Adventure of Life | 8 Comments