Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Distressing Report on NPR: The Story of Tuesday

Yesterday I was driving to Panera for Second Lunch and was listening to NPR.

(Second Lunch is the lunch that follows First Lunch but comes before First Dinner. Usually it occurs around 2 - 3 pm and though you might be thinking - well Maria, sheesh you must just get very hungry around 2 - 3 pm! - you are actually very wrong. The feeling is less like hunger and more like this: Maria, the very beginnings of hunger feelings are happening to you. They are very faint and hardly noticeable but they are there, and they have an important message: if you do not eat in the next 25 minutes, you will vomit. Powerfully and with little warning. This is what occurs right before Second Lunch. Also Second Breakfast, Second Dinner, and Popsicle Before Bed.)

Anyway on NPR they were interviewing an Australian composer who is a professor at Arizona State. His accent was ridiculous and really kind of infuriating but I'm a woman of the world so I just pretended he was British and got over it. They were interviewing him about this project he's been doing around national parks in the American Southwest where he records sounds. Like he just, sits outside with some presumably astronomically expensive recorder and records the "sounds of the desert." Like sand blowing and, I don't know. Lizards scurrying along my back fence.

The interviewer asked Professor Australia two questions, the answers to which distressed me very much. The first question was: what's your favorite thing that you've heard? When he asked that question I kind of got a little excited. I was hoping to learn something cool. Like that snakes have a secret language (parseltonge) or that cacti make groaning noises if you're quiet enough. But he said - "once I heard a woodpecker drumming." And now I am so, so mad at him and will probably never visit Australia. Was he serious? I distinctly remember trying to study in college with my apartment window open and having to shut it because of all the damn woodpeckers. I didn't even have any fancy recording equipment and I heard them so much I almost started a campus activist club ("Students Against Woodpeckers; no double entendre, we promise".) I can't believe that was his answer; I also can't believe he is a professor and lastly I can't believe that stupid Australian accent is a real thing.

The second question whose answer was very distressing was: What will these recordings be used for, other than simply having great recordings of nature? (I took issue with "great" but again being a woman of the world - have i mentioned this previously? - I let it slide.) Anyway the Great Australian Scientist said - oh, we want to raise awareness about the sounds in nature. I feel so many feelings about this answer. First of all if the awareness he wants to raise is "sounds happen in nature" he will likely not find a large audience compelled by such news, and additionally if the awareness includes an example of woodpeckers woodpecking, people can just saunter on up to University Courtyard apartments in Athens, Ohio and try to do some quiet reading. They'll come, I promise you, and you don't even have to petition the taxpayers for a million dollar grant.

But seriously - someone is paying for this guy to do this thing. To sit there and record "sounds" and then think about the sounds and go on NPR to talk about them. Do you think he got a governmental grant? I bet he totally got a governmental grant. "Raising awareness" should never, ever be the end game of a project. Because it means nothing. But it should especially never be the end game of a project that's called "recording sounds to that people can hear them."

Lastly I feel like I have to confess something in the interest of full disclosure: if these had been whale sounds that he was recording, I would have been on board. Not just "on board" as in "ok with the idea" but literally on board whatever boat he used to go out and find the singing whales because these are WHALE SOUNDS and I'm a red-blooded American woman; not some kind of uninterested monster.

My Second Lunch was a grilled cheese and it was definitely worth all the angst. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

some Very Important Things for you to Read About and Consider

On Saturday it came to my attention that Ted Williams, an old baseball player who once batted .400 or some such, is frozen in Scottsdale. Well, his head. I think his body too, but in a different room. He paid to be frozen after he died so that when medical technology advances enough to revive him (and provide the necessary body transplant, assuredly) he can come back to life (and presumably bat .400 again, but I can't believe he honestly thinks that will still be impressive, I mean let's try .700 and we'll talk.) Aside from the troubling dream this news brought me as well as the existential angst relating to the reordering of my official List of Fears (severed head jumped the line), I've also experienced a sense of bewilderment that Williams would want to come back here (the proverbial Here, as in, Earthly Existence, not Scottsdale; although that's an interesting choice too, but maybe he liked Mexican food and white people?) I'd also be fascinated to hear what he thinks it will be like when our medical technology has advanced that much. I mean, if we can transplant bodies, we can certainly make everyone look better than Ted Williams. He's going to be on the bottom of the food chain, looks-wise; I think we can all agree on that, and for that reason, and that reason alone, I think he's a crazy idiot.

I also realized this past weekend that it is taking me over four months to read one book and I find that very troubling. I'm reading "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright, about the set-up to radical Islam and 9/11, you know just a little light Sunday reading. It's fascinating and sad and an incredible piece of research that makes me sweat just thinking about trying to tackle something like that. I feel like a novel would even be much less daunting, because I get to totally make it up and I don't have to be so careful about using words like "alleged."

I realize I haven't written in a long, long time and according to blog rules I'm supposed to talk about that at length and tell you why, but that sounds real boring to me and I have to go do stuff. I just thought it would be criminal not to share these thoughts, regarding Ted William's head and The Looming Tower, with the world. Bye

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Want Good News so I can Eat a Cheeseburger

So I'm still not sure whether this is a wholly Western culture thing, or maybe it's global, or maybe it's just in Ohio, or maybe it's just in my family? but I grew up eating things to celebrate. When there is something to be happy about, there is going to be cake to be happy all up in. And around and through. Cake and pasta? Mozzarella sticks. Also lasagna. And cheese plates. French fries. Those almond crunchy cookie things my cousin Stef makes. If you do not have these things, you are not celebrating properly. (Often these things in themselves become reason to celebrate.)

I'm about a week and a half (sweet gluten-free ravioli it seems so much longer) into an experimental eating regimen I've imposed on myself to see if I can't cure the ol' Forever Stomach Ache of My 20's. Not to be dramatic but it has been the WORST WEEK AND A HALF EVER THAT YOU'VE EVER HEARD OF. Also, my stomach feels amazing and hasn't hurt in like, six days. I know. I can't believe it.

You ego-maniacal psychologists in the audience (?) will look at my new eating regimen (which was not created by me and is not created to lose weight - this is a topic for another day but I want you to know I'm being reasonable and healthy and am consulting people much smarter than me on this) and say, ah yes, so predictable. SO predictable that you would do this now, Maria. Because life feels like it's in a bit of a limbo, and not the good kind with margaritas and all that but the bad kind; where you feel like change is coming but you can't tell what kind, and you're not even sure what kind you're hoping for anymore? And maybe also the kind of limbo where God is like, so... "how's it going down there - sorry I haven't been able to check in lately? I'm busy elsewhere." He of course does not and has never said such things but my heart has inaccurately heard them, and continues to.

So, psychologists, you may be right that this month-long stomach-healing food thing is a coping mechanism for a larger hole of weirdness in my psyche. It is giving me something to think about and focus on when the rest of life is full of brow-furrowing misunderstandings and long-suffering WAITING. So, I fill my time instead with 4 page grocery lists and boring crock pot recipes (my GOD the vegetables.)

People who have done this particular intestine-friendly eating regimen before warn me I will start to experience pregnancy-strength cravings for some of my favorite food about halfway through. So far I've had two food-related dreams, one about Diet Coke (and I'm a Pepsi person, so um wtf) and one about Jimmy John's, which is especially weird because if I could have anything I wanted right now, Jimmy John's wouldn't necessarily be on the top of my list. Although I wouldn't refuse a #9 Italian Club right now. I wouldn't refuse it.

I think more than the food, what I am craving right now is some kind of good news.

Guilt: "Maria, darling, you can't be serious. You got up this morning and stood on two functioning legs. You drove a car that you own to a job that pays you. You ate food for each meal. Your husband called to say hello and he has a beard. Your dog pretty much lives and breathes for you. Don't EVEN with the "I need some good news."

I'm sorry, I'm ungrateful, but I want to work through that by still being honest with you and telling you that in addition to a Diet Coke (seriously what is happening) I also want some good news. I am craving a phone call; an email; a Facebook message for goodness' sake with something that would CHANGE things. I'm craving that speeding up of my heart, the flash of heat to my face, the scrambling for my phone to call other people and tell THEM the good news.

And I'm craving the Good News Cheeseburger that will follow. Just you wait.

I know I haven't been around in a while. Well, I wrote something today. Here it is. Do you like it?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Heart in Israel

So it's day time right now and it actually feels like day time in my body. Kind of. At least I'm not dozing off every 20 minutes and having to spend 5 minutes upon waking up trying to figure out where I am. It is much harder to adjust to coming back from a time-zone change like that (10 hours ahead) than it is going into it. But we're back from Israel.

I still have to pinch myself every morning that we were there. It was incredible, to say the least. It was life-changing. It was different, and uncomfortable, and so painfully beautiful. It was smelly and noisy and stressful and relaxing and I didn't like the food and I loved the people and some things scared me and other things inspired me and the climate was a lot like Phoenix, which my skin was happy about.

My current project is furiously writing down each day's itinerary in my journal. I'm spending my lunch breaks chewing pen caps and going through photos, trying to piece together what we did each day by looking at what I was wearing in each picture. We saw so much. We went all over that beautiful, stubborn country and I loved every single inch and footstep.

I'm planning to share more about the sites we saw and all that we learned in this blog, but what I want to write about right now is a feeling; or a lesson I learned or at least wrestled with while I was there. It turns out being where Jesus lived and walked and taught and wept dredges up some stuff, you know?

Before I go any further, though, I have to give a shout out to Morning Star Tours. If you are ever planning a trip to the Holy Land, USE THEM. And request Shmulik as your guide. He is an absolute ENCYCLOPEDIA on Israel, Jesus, the Old Testament, and British accents. I can't imagine what our trip would've been like without him - each site was absolutely fascinating but we were never sorry to have to get back on the bus because he would have some ridiculous story to tell.

So, being in Jerusalem was really something. It was a culture shock, first and foremost. The food seemed strange, the people were somewhat rude, the shop keepers were aggressive and every structure was drop-dead gorgeous. On our second day, we visited the temple steps that were built during King Herod's Second Temple Period. This Herod is the one that died right around the time Jesus was born, and this is the temple Jesus would have visited. Herod made the steps difficult to navigate - one long step, one narrow, one long, one narrow and etc. - so that people couldn't run down them away from the temple. (This wasn't a holy thing. This was a money thing, I'm guessing.)

And in front of the steps are dozens and dozens of little stone structures (they reminded me of the "famine houses" we saw in the Burren in Ireland) that Shmulik said were the ritual baths, where Jews would have washed themselves before going up to the temple courtyard.

Jesus walked up these very steps, and He likely spent some time teaching on them as well, because that was common back then. I wanted to sleep on them. To eat on them. To spend the whole rest of our trip on them. I wanted to look in every single direction from them and wonder "did he see this?" And I wanted to touch them and take them with me.

But at the same time all I could suddenly hear was Mark 2:17, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that He didn't come for the righteous, but for the sinners; because it's not the healthy who need a doctor.

I have no idea where it came from.

I was not sitting there thinking I am "righteous" or not a sinner. What I was thinking was - I am a boring sinner. I am an ugly sinner but a boring one; I don't cheat people out of money and I'm not a prostitute. I believe in Jesus but I lie and I'm lazy and I manipulate people and I'm proud. But these are boring and not showy and not always noticeable. And suddenly I had this thought - He would've ignored me! If we had been here at the same time, He would've ignored me.

It's like that feeling in school, when maybe you're doing really well in a subject so the teacher gives all her attention to the kids who are struggling, and suddenly you feel left out and sad. And again it's not that I was thinking "I am perfect so I wouldn't have needed him," it's that I was thinking "I already believed in Him, so would He have wasted time on me?" Or, maybe more accurately, "I wonder if He would have liked me enough to spend time with me" and then, answering, "no."

I went around for days ruminating on that, mourning over it, even waking up in the middle of the night in our hotel and crying over it. It broke my heart. To think He would've ignored me. And I started journaling about what I wanted - what did I want? I didn't know. I wanted Him to tell me that He wouldn't've ignored me; that He's not ignoring me now; that I mean something to Him. And then I realized that if He told me those things, I would think less of Him. Who am I that He'd think of me? Do I want a God who would? Could He still be Power and Might then?

As the days went on and we went to more and more places, I wouldn't say I ever came to terms with it, just that it softened to make room for all the other things going on in me - wonder, gratitude, repeat. It was such an unbelievable gift to be there and I felt that, and it made me feel loved even despite.

But when I got home I was talking to my mentor about it and she smiled a little bit and asked me - are you the "healthy?"

Then she brought up the story of the 99 sheep, and the one goes missing, and He goes after it. I said, yes! Perfect example! I'm the 99. The timid, boring ones who are easily hearded and scared to toe the line; never the squeaky wheel. And now I'm feeling hurt that He's ignoring me for the one.

(Now I picture Jesus taking off his glasses, rubbing his eyes, and sighing, because how do I manage to get every single thing wrong?)

"We're all the one," my mentor said. "That's the point."

We're all the sick. Who knew that could be so difficult to figure out? Or that it could make someone so happy?

More to come.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The "Am I Over-Sharing" Conversation

So, a few things. I haven't written much lately, and there are a few reasons for that.

First is our upcoming trip to Israel in less than two weeks. Currently I'm in the "OH SHIT" stage of the pre-trip emotional roller coaster, where I wake up at 2 am every night to write down something I'm terrified I'll forget to pack ("BUG SPRAY") and I spend all day convincing myself that I don't love Jesus enough to walk where He walked; you know, just your average pre-travel psychosis.

Then there are the freelance assigments I've received this month, on top of my usual nightly writing, and I'm super grateful for that but deadlines are just so suffocating.

Then there is my general waffling about privacy and blogging and what they mean to me and which one I should value more and why I'm wrong after I make that choice.

I've been giving a lot of thought to my online presence and how much of one I want to have. Last week I found this delicious blog called "Wait by Why" and they did a brilliant tongue-in-cheek breakdown of why everyone becomes their worst selves on Facebook, and I gave myself a headache with how furiously I was nodding in agreement.

I look at Facebook every day, but it drives me absolutely bonkers. And every time I consider updating my "status" I find myself in a sweat-inducing existential crisis about why anyone else would or should care about my weekend plans and whether I'm adding or detracting from the goodness in the world and you know, this and that. And every time I read all of YOU people's updates, I find myself getting really disproportionately annoyed. You just can't possibly imagine how little I care about your trip to the nail salon, and I want you to sit there and listen to how little I care, and then I want you to give me back the 5 seconds it took me to read about it!

There is also the case of people who over-like, or over-engage, or over-whatever themselves online. There is an etiquette to social media, which I don't think is unreasonable to say, and some people simply do not follow it. A month or so ago I realized that every. single. time. I posted something on Facebook or Instagram, it was truthfully less than 10 minutes before this same person would either "like" it or comment on it. I don't know this person particularly well, though we are acquaintances. He is a married dude around my age. And so all of that added to the just general weirdness I felt, I suppose.

After a while I decided to block him, and I felt so self-righteous in doing it; convincing myself that this is what Blake Lively must feel like walking down the street and all that. (Adoring fans) But then I had to face facts, that I am the one posting pictures about personal and private moments and "status updates" and what have you - how can I fault someone for engaging with that?

I follow the Eisley girls on Instagram and they are adorable and fun and I love their updates, but it's mostly baby pictures and baby feet and hands and snot and what-have-you - and oh my word, the comments! The other day I saw a photo of one of the babies under which a commenter, who admitted to being a fan and so presumably did not know the girls in person, had written "I love your daughter so much I feel physical pain when I look at her - I can't imagine how YOU feel!" I felt so gross after that that I almost got out of the line at Chipotle. (I didn't though, obvs. Barbacoa.) This stuff is creepy as hell, but are the posters inviting it? Or at least enabling it?

Ultimately I decided that blocking the above referenced dude was still the right thing to do, and I still believe there is an etiquette to the whole thing, (it started to feel like a dude with a crush trying to get my attention, and that is yuck) but it did get my wheels turning about exactly what I want out of being on social media, and I'm not sure I like my honest-to-goodness answers, which are essentially:

1. To look at people I'm jealous of so that I can try to be more like them
2. To try to make other people jealous of me

And honestly, that's about it, and that's ugly.

Now Twitter is a bit different - I follow mostly comedians and reporters, and I get news and laughs from that and that's ok with me. But Facebook and Instagram... I just don't know. I do like staying in touch with friends but most friends are using it less and less if my observations are correct, and I talk to my closest friends via text and email much more than through social media anyway. Blogging is different, I assure you, but I am also giving some thought to how personal I want to be here. We can write about ideas without me having to tell you about my medical history and whether my parents loved me enough as a child, yes? (They did)

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Re Miley Cyrus and Moral Judgments

I feel like there's a predictable cycle these days with "news" or semi-news or old news (RIP Neil Armstrong...still) or Breaking Bad spoilers on social media. First, the thing happens and everyone's talking about it. Then, everyone's talking about how everyone's talking about it. Then, everyone's talking about the one or two dumb dumbs who take the 'minority view' to be cool. Then, everyone's talking about how horrible it is that we're talking about it when X is happening over here.

Cue Miley Cyrus.

Last night I was writing the news round-up for Rhode Island and one of the stories I saw mentioned that the town of Warwick is raising money for a memorial to the 100 people who died in the Station Nightclub fire ten years ago. Remember that? When there were too many people inside and they got stuck in the doorway?

I spent the rest of the night clinging to Aaron's neck and trying to dam my mind flood of all the terrible things that happen all the time, and whether or when they will hapen to us and what they will be.

But when I went to bed, all I could see was Miley Cryus. Going to bed after the VMA's. Alone with her thoughts. With what she just did. I immediately sat upright in bed and said to a sleeping Aaron who never heard me - Aaron! Miley Cryus is alone somewhere right now! And that was almost as bad as the Station Nightclub fire in that minute.

I saw the Onion's article yesterday faking CNN Managine Editor Meredith Artley's reasoning for covering Miley's performance (performance?) at the VMA's. I understand why people take issue with its prominence in the headlines, but I do think it's news. Because this is where we are now. This is what we do. No one booed her. No one cut the feed. This is what we do now.

It's kind of unbelievable to me (though predictible) that we're so up in arms about it, though. The collective We usually pride ourselves on being rabidly non-judgmental, don't we? Aren't we the tolerant relativists your grandmother never had?

It's a legit question, this one: can we make moral judgments? About anything?

We certainly have about Miley Cyrus. And cigarettes. And pedophiles. And cheating on your taxes and going to war with Iraq and using your NSA title to snoop on your ex-boyfriend.

But then curiously, several other things are simply out of bounds. We must NOT make moral claims about homosexuality. We must NOT make moral claims about abortion. We must NOT make moral claims about art, or curriculums, or how the government spends its money.

I think we need to do some soul-searching, because I think we all know that we need to make moral judgments, not just about some things but about everything, about our role here in general; and in fact it doesn't matter whether we THINK we should because we do make these judgments every day.

Now, re: Miley:

When I was in kindergarten in Massilon, Ohio my priest's name was Father Kolp and he rode his bike everywhere. He had bright white hair and every year on the feast of the Assumption he prayed from the pulpit for Madonna. Yes, that Madonna. A few years back I finally asked my Mom why he did that (I remember assuming as a kid that all Catholic churches were praying for pop stars that day.) She said for some reason he had some special burden for her. Her mother allegedly named her for the Blessed Mother and she was so lost that it broke his heart, enough to pray for her from the pulpit every year at least.

So let's do that for Miley.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Las Vegas in Pictures

I'm in a funk this week and it's just no good. I know what I need and I can't do it, but I can dream about it. What I need is a rainy afternoon in the fall. Nobody needs me to be anywhere. Glazed donut holes. Louisville High School sweatpants and a sweatshirt that's too big for me. Nichole Nordeman's cover of "Time after Time" on repeat.

That's it. I can't have that though, and I am in a funk. In the meantime, I'm going to tell you all about Las Vegas. Last weekend we drove the four hours up to Nevada, a state Aar and I had never been to before, hurrah. My sister Jen and her husband and his brother are there this week for a convention so we went up to see them.

Please to enjoy the picture show.
Jen and I at dinner

Garden in the Wynn

New York New York. We rode the roller coaster.
Jen and I, the Wynn pool which was delicious

tulip sculpture - I think at the Palazzo?

A sleepy Aaron Michael and I shopping (and spending way too much money at Anthropologie) at Caesar's Palace, and a tower of delicious cupcakes. I got the Snickerdoodle and oh my. Yes to that.
Rainbow on the way home

Hoover Dam and a storm