Tag Archives: love

how to say no

26 Oct

My friend Derek and I have talked long into the night—and in the early morning before our friends wake up—about limits. Commitment. Smallness. About “traveling widely in Providence,” which is a line that’s stuck with me all these years, even if I’m getting it wrong. With so many people advocating for saying yesyes to everything—we need to know we can still say no. Liz Danzico says we not only can but should.

“Something a friend said to me several years ago has stayed with me,” she writes in The Manual. “‘It’s easy to say no if you love something.’ Wrong. Wrong, I thought at the time. If you love something, say yes. Say yes to everything. Yet what did he mean about loving something, I quietly wondered on the side. Did he mean to imply having a focus for one’s passion was another tool to help make better choices?”

She apparently comes around. Her final thought is this: “No matter what it is—be it a business, a person, a piece of art, a career, a song, a family, a way of life, or a pursuit of any kind—it’s easy to say no to all the choices that will present themselves if you love something. Finding that thing is the hardest part. But that’s another lesson.”

Alongside her post, she ran this quote from the late Steve Jobs, which is a timely and poignant conclusion to all this:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” 

more love & film

5 Jul

Simply continuing a previous post.

Tom & Gerri

Tom & Gerri

They 'do everything together'

And you just can't get enough of them

love & film

5 Jul

Being a happily married man who will eventually grow old with his wife has made me realize two things:

1. It’s absolutely beautiful to see old, happily married couples in movies.

2. It doesn’t happen often.

Still from Mike Leigh's "Another Year"

They Got the God I Want

24 Mar

[Or, Gotta Learn to Get Happy Along the Way]

“you can have all the diamonds, you can have all the gold
but someday you’re still gonna get old
you gotta learn to get happy along the way”
—Langhorne Slim

“God loves you.”
—lots of people

“God loves me.”
—lots more people

“I’m fascinated, not in love.”
—me

marionette_wp_edition1

anger and bitterness. this is me at you God. because you could still be a figment—even a good figment. maybe a Dad who left. or did I leave? your message has been sent out and I proclaim it, but who do I fight for, speak of, love? when you don’t know your lover, is that not a farce? a dark mockery, malicious and absent, stricken and running. ?

is it… what?
what do I seek?
if it’s you I’ll
find I’m still
not sure.

but their faces on you, with you, of you—I can’t deny wanting love, but you and me had a rough start; patch it up? it’s been a slow leak long time coming—if I’d stop sticking nails in it we might have a shot. only problem is this bag is burning a hole in my pocket. stress relief, you understand. that puncture pop! and gentle hiss.

those words, yes.
the man, yes.
the concepts and
catechism, sure.
what is it to
love and suffer
and love?

wrapped in bed with a strangler; so scaly and thick. smooth like a lover’s leg. why give that up? coiled and safe it’s a long, black limousine to whisk me away.

but wait.
no I want
to figure it out
but it’s not head stuff
rather a mathematical chaos
that confuses and
strips me
clean
of anything
remotely my own…

I could say it’s my struggle or stumbling block or lucky break or lovechild but to say anything is back to the cerebral and back to that highway segment I’ve driven ruts into. silence is in order like a pardon. but I’m calling on a governor who isn’t known for benevolence. who has probable cause against my criminal self. my head may be split by morning and it’s me who will have dropped the blade. Soft pillow, hold me until I dry out and you are my red red accomplice. and Victim.

so hopeless am I
am I?

there isn’t an answer today. just the deal, there’s no catch. my marionette strings cut and I’m to life! But streets are dangerous for a wooden puppet. I left an arm back at Crawford and Douglass splintered but worn smooth by iron-tires. so is it wasted by my map and hat and little red wagon? the applications in my little, wooden hand, the cherry shoes on my feet. they were dancing shoes it said on the package. but my feet don’t move but down the sidewalk in the direction I got turned around.

silly silly silly
move, my feet! move!
you can waddle or jump
duck or kangaroo rat,
pregnant or scaredy-cat
just go! go!
move! dance!
you can!
we have enough exclamation points!
yes! hope!
clemency!
cotton candy growing up from the ground!
ecstatic electricity!

jump_in_the_sky_by_loona5

sharpie ink

17 Mar

dream-world

i loved this. for anyone who hasn’t been there, http://www.deviantart.com

Love Potion #’09!

10 Feb

be_my_valentine_by_misaki408

this month is a season of materialism, commercialism, romanticism (and probably a few -isms I’m missing), which are all pretty contrary to the LOVE that valentine’s day is supposed to be about.

so this year, if you want to invest in some good, old-fashioned LOVIN’ check out Mission Year’s Annual Love Drive! this is a sweet (almost chocolatey) way to get involved with Allison and I as we seek to build and better community (as well as learn a whole heck of a lot about its very nature) in Chicago’s most underdeveloped neighborhoods.

Check it out here! https://www.missionyear.org/love/schulers

The sweetest deal of all? donate $50 or more and get a free t-shirt!

oh shoot, wait, doesn’t that promote materialism??? well, whatever — it wasn’t my idea. If you want to stick to the Man, donate $49 so you don’t get it. Or better yet, donate over $50 and then give the shirt to someone who needs it. That’s more in line with Valentine’s Day anyway.

Grace & Peace Always.

“Puppy”

27 Jan

This is a short story by George Saunders that appeared in The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith.

Read it in its entirety. It speaks.

_______________________________
Twice already Marie had pointed out the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn, because the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn put her in mind of a haunted house—not a haunted house she had ever actually seen but the mythical one that sometimes appeared in her mind (with adjacent graveyard and cat on a fence) whenever she saw the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect etc. etc., and she wanted to make sure that, if the kids had a corresponding mythical haunted house that appeared in their minds whenever they saw the brilliance of the etc. etc., it would come up now, so that they could all experience it together, like friends, like college friends on a road trip, sans pot, ha ha ha!

But no. When she, a third time, said, “Wow, guys, check that out,” Abbie said, “O.K., Mom, we get it, it’s corn,” and Josh said, “Not now, Mom, I’m Leavening my Loaves,” which was fine with her; she had no problem with that, Noble Baker being preferable to Bra Stuffer, the game he’d asked for.

Well, who could say? Maybe they didn’t even have any mythical vignettes in their heads. Or maybe the mythical vignettes they had in their heads were totally different from the ones she had in her head. Which was the beauty of it, because, after all, they were their own little people! You were just a caretaker. They didn’t have to feel what you felt; they just had to be supported in feeling what they felt.

Still, wow, that cornfield was such a classic.

“Whenever I see a field like that, guys?” she said. “I somehow think of a haunted house!”

“Slicing Knife! Slicing Knife!” Josh shouted. “You nimrod machine! I chose that!”

Speaking of Halloween, she remembered last year, when their cornstalk column had tipped their shopping cart over. Gosh, how they’d laughed at that! Oh, family laughter was golden; she’d had none of that in her childhood, Dad being so dour and Mom so ashamed. If Mom and Dad’s cart had tipped, Dad would have given the cart a despairing kick and Mom would have stridden purposefully away to reapply her lipstick, distancing herself from Dad, while she, Marie, would have nervously taken that horrid plastic Army man she’d named Brady into her mouth.

Well, in this family laughter was encouraged! Last night, when Josh had goosed her with his GameBoy, she’d shot a spray of toothpaste across the mirror and they’d all cracked up, rolling around on the floor with Goochie, and Josh had said, such nostalgia in his voice, “Mom, remember when Goochie was a puppy?” Which was when Abbie had burst into tears, because, being only five, she had no memory of Goochie as a puppy.

Hence this Family Mission. And as far as Robert? Oh, God bless Robert! There was a man. He would have no problem whatsoever with this Family Mission. She loved the way he had of saying “Ho HO!” whenever she brought home something new and unexpected.

“Ho HO!” Robert had said, coming home to find the iguana. “Ho HO!” he had said, coming home to find the ferret trying to get into the iguana cage. “We appear to be the happy operators of a menagerie!”

She loved him for his playfulness—you could bring home a hippo you’d put on a credit card (both the ferret and the iguana had gone on credit cards) and he’d just say “Ho HO!” and ask what the creature ate and what hours it slept and what the heck they were going to name the little bugger.

In the back seat, Josh made the git-git-git sound he always made when his Baker was in Baking Mode, trying to get his Loaves into the oven while fighting off various Hungry Denizens, such as a Fox with a distended stomach; such as a fey Robin that would improbably carry the Loaf away, speared on its beak, whenever it had succeeded in dropping a Clonking Rock on your Baker—all of which Marie had learned over the summer by studying the Noble Baker manual while Josh was asleep.

And it had helped, it really had. Josh was less withdrawn lately, and when she came up behind him now while he was playing and said, like, “Wow, honey, I didn’t know you could do Pumpernickel,” or “Sweetie, try Serrated Blade, it cuts quicker. Try it while doing Latch the Window,” he would reach back with his non-controlling hand and swat at her affectionately, and yesterday they’d shared a good laugh when he’d accidentally knocked off her glasses.

So her mother could go right ahead and claim that she was spoiling the kids. These were not spoiled kids. These were well-loved kids. At least she’d never left one of them standing in a blizzard for two hours after a junior-high dance. At least she’d never drunkenly snapped at one of them, “I hardly consider you college material.” At least she’d never locked one of them in a closet (a closet!) while entertaining a literal ditchdigger in the parlor.

Oh, God, what a beautiful world! The autumn colors, that glinting river, that lead-colored cloud pointing down like a rounded arrow at that half-remodelled McDonald’s standing above I-90 like a castle.

This time would be different, she was sure of it. The kids would care for this pet themselves, since a puppy wasn’t scaly and didn’t bite. (“Ho HO!” Robert had said the first time the iguana bit him. “I see you have an opinion on the matter!”)
Thank you, Lord, she thought, as the Lexus flew through the cornfield. You have given me so much: struggles and the strength to overcome them; grace, and new chances every day to spread that grace around. And in her mind she sang out, as she sometimes did when feeling that the world was good and she had at last found her place in it, “Ho HO, ho HO!”

___________________________________
Callie pulled back the blind.

Yes. Awesome. It was still solved so perfect.

There was plenty for him to do back there. A yard could be a whole world, like her yard when she was a kid had been a whole world. From the three holes in her wood fence she’d been able to see Exxon (Hole One) and Accident Corner (Hole Two), and Hole Three was actually two holes that if you lined them up right your eyes would do this weird crossing thing and you could play Oh My God I Am So High by staggering away with your eyes crossed, going “Peace, man, peace.”

When Bo got older, it would be different. Then he’d need his freedom. But now he just needed not to get killed. Once they found him way over on Testament. And that was across I-90. How had he crossed I-90? She knew how. Darted. That’s how he crossed streets. Once a total stranger called them from Hightown Plaza. Even Dr. Brile had said it: “Callie, this boy is going to end up dead if you don’t get this under control. Is he taking the medication?”

Well, sometimes he was and sometimes he wasn’t. The meds made him grind his teeth and his fist would suddenly pound down. He’d broken plates that way, and once a glass tabletop and got four stitches in his wrist.

Today he didn’t need the medication because he was safe in the yard, because she’d fixed it so perfect.

He was out there practicing pitching by filling his Yankees helmet with pebbles and winging them at the tree.

He looked up and saw her and did the thing where he blew a kiss.

Sweet little man.

Now all she had to worry about was the pup. She hoped the lady who’d called would actually show up. It was a nice pup. White, with brown around one eye. Cute. If the lady showed up, she’d definitely want it. And if she took it Jimmy was off the hook. He’d hated doing it that time with the kittens. But if no one took the pup he’d do it. He’d have to. Because his feeling was, when you said you were going to do a thing and didn’t do it, that was how kids got into drugs. Plus, he’d been raised on a farm, or near a farm anyways, and anybody raised on a farm knew that you had to do what you had to do in terms of sick animals or extra animals—the pup being not sick, just extra.

That time with the kittens, Jessi and Mollie had called him a murderer, getting Bo all worked up, and Jimmy had yelled, “Look, you kids, I was raised on a farm and you got to do what you got to do!” Then he’d cried in bed, saying how the kittens had mewed in the bag all the way to the pond, and how he wished he’d never been raised on a farm, and she’d almost said, “You mean near a farm” (his dad had run a car wash outside Cortland), but sometimes when she got too smart-assed he would do this hard pinching thing on her arm while waltzing her around the bedroom, as if the place where he was pinching were like her handle, going, “I’m not sure I totally heard what you just said to me.”

So, that time after the kittens, she’d only said, “Oh, honey, you did what you had to do.”

And he’d said, “I guess I did, but it’s sure not easy raising kids the right way.”
And then, because she hadn’t made his life harder by being a smart-ass, they had lain there making plans, like why not sell this place and move to Arizona and buy a car wash, why not buy the kids “Hooked on Phonics,” why not plant tomatoes, and then they’d got to wrestling around and (she had no idea why she remembered this) he had done this thing of, while holding her close, bursting this sudden laugh/despair snort into her hair, like a sneeze, or like he was about to start crying.

Which had made her feel special, him trusting her with that.

So what she would love, for tonight? Was getting the pup sold, putting the kids to bed early, and then, Jimmy seeing her as all organized in terms of the pup, they could mess around and afterward lie there making plans, and he could do that laugh/snort thing in her hair again.

Why that laugh/snort meant so much to her she had no freaking idea. It was just one of the weird things about the Wonder That Was Her, ha ha ha.
Outside, Bo hopped to his feet, suddenly curious, because (here we go) the lady who’d called had just pulled up?

Yep, and in a nice car, too, which meant too bad she’d put “Cheap” in the ad.

_______________________________
Abbie squealed, “I love it, Mommy, I want it!,” as the puppy looked up dimly from its shoebox and the lady of the house went trudging away and one-two-three-four plucked up four dog turds from the rug.

Well, wow, what a super field trip for the kids, Marie thought, ha ha (the filth, the mildew smell, the dry aquarium holding the single encyclopedia volume, the pasta pot on the bookshelf with an inflatable candy cane inexplicably sticking out of it), and although some might have been disgusted (by the spare tire on the dining-room table, by the way the glum mother dog, the presumed in-house pooper, was dragging its rear over the pile of clothing in the corner, in a sitting position, splay-legged, a moronic look of pleasure on her face), Marie realized (resisting the urge to rush to the sink and wash her hands, in part because the sink had a basketball in it) that what this really was was deeply sad.

Please do not touch anything, please do not touch, she said to Josh and Abbie, but just in her head, wanting to give the children a chance to observe her being democratic and accepting, and afterward they could all wash up at the half-remodeled McDonald’s, as long as they just please please kept their hands out of their mouths, and God forbid they should rub their eyes.

The phone rang, and the lady of the house plodded into the kitchen, placing the daintily held, paper-towel-wrapped turds on the counter.

“Mommy, I want it,” Abbie said.
“I will definitely walk him like twice a day,” Josh said.
“Don’t say ‘like,’ ” Marie said.
“I will definitely walk him twice a day,” Josh said.

O.K., then, all right, they would adopt a white-trash dog. Ha ha. They could name it Zeke, buy it a little corncob pipe and a straw hat. She imagined the puppy, having crapped on the rug, looking up at her, going, Cain’t hep it. But no. Had she come from a perfect place? Everything was transmutable. She imagined the puppy grown up, entertaining some friends, speaking to them in a British accent: My family of origin was, um, rather not, shall we say, of the most respectable . . .

Ha ha, wow, the mind was amazing, always cranking out these—
Marie stepped to the window and, anthropologically pulling the blind aside, was shocked, so shocked that she dropped the blind and shook her head, as if trying to wake herself, shocked to see a young boy, just a few years younger than Josh, harnessed and chained to a tree, via some sort of doohickey by which—she pulled the blind back again, sure she could not have seen what she thought she had—

When the boy ran, the chain spooled out. He was running now, looking back at her, showing off. When he reached the end of the chain, it jerked and he dropped as if shot.

He rose to a sitting position, railed against the chain, whipped it back and forth, crawled to a bowl of water, and, lifting it to his lips, took a drink: a drink from a dog’s bowl.

Josh joined her at the window. She let him look. He should know that the world was not all lessons and iguanas and Nintendo. It was also this muddy simple boy tethered like an animal.

She remembered coming out of the closet to find her mother’s scattered lingerie and the ditchdigger’s metal hanger full of orange flags. She remembered waiting outside the junior high in the bitter cold, the snow falling harder, as she counted over and over to two hundred, promising herself each time that when she reached two hundred she would begin the long walk back—

God, she would have killed for just one righteous adult to confront her mother, shake her, and say, “You idiot, this is your child, your child you’re—”

“So what were you guys thinking of naming him?” the woman said, coming out of the kitchen.

The cruelty and ignorance just radiated from her fat face, with its little smear of lipstick.

“I’m afraid we won’t be taking him after all,” Marie said coldly.

Such an uproar from Abbie! But Josh—she would have to praise him later, maybe buy him the Italian Loaves Expansion Pak—hissed something to Abbie, and then they were moving out through the trashed kitchen (past some kind of crankshaft on a cookie sheet, past a partial red pepper afloat in a can of green paint) while the lady of the house scuttled after them, saying, wait, wait, they could have it for free, please take it—she really wanted them to have it.

No, Marie said, it would not be possible for them to take it at this time, her feeling being that one really shouldn’t possess something if one wasn’t up to properly caring for it.

“Oh,” the woman said, slumping in the doorway, the scrambling pup on one shoulder.

Out in the Lexus, Abbie began to cry softly, saying, “Really, that was the perfect pup for me.”

And it was a nice pup, but Marie was not going to contribute to a situation like this in even the smallest way.

Simply was not going to do it.

The boy came to the fence. If only she could have said to him, with a single look, Life will not necessarily always be like this. Your life could suddenly blossom into something wonderful. It can happen. It happened to me.

But secret looks, looks that conveyed a world of meaning with their subtle blah blah blah—that was all bullshit.

What was not bullshit was a call to Child Welfare, where she knew Linda Berling, a very no-nonsense lady who would snatch this poor kid away so fast it would make that fat mother’s thick head spin.

_______________________________
Callie shouted, “Bo, back in a sec!,” and, swiping the corn out of the way with her non-pup arm, walked until there was nothing but corn and sky.

It was so small it didn’t move when she set it down, just sniffed and tumped over.

Well, what did it matter, drowned in a bag or starved in the corn? This way Jimmy wouldn’t have to do it. He had enough to worry about. The boy she’d first met with hair to his waist was now this old man shrunk with worry. As far as the money, she had sixty hidden away. She’d give him twenty of that and go, “The people who bought the pup were super-nice.”

Don’t look back, don’t look back, she said in her head as she raced away through the corn.

Then she was walking along Teallback Road like a sportwalker, like some lady who walked every night to get slim, except that she was nowhere near slim, she knew that, and she also knew that when sportwalking you did not wear jeans and unlaced hiking boots. Ha ha! She wasn’t stupid. She just made bad choices. She remembered Sister Carol saying, “Callie, you are bright enough but you incline toward that which does not benefit you.” Yep, well, Sister, you got that right, she said to the nun in her mind. But what the hell. What the heck. When things got easier moneywise, she’d get some decent tennis shoes and start walking and get slim. And start night school. Slimmer. Maybe medical technology. She was never going to be really slim. But Jimmy liked her the way she was, and she liked him the way he was, which maybe that’s what love was, liking someone how he was and doing things to help him get even better.
Like right now she was helping Jimmy by making his life easier by killing something so he—no. All she was doing was walking, walking away from—

Pushing the words killing puppy out of her head, she put in her head the words beautiful sunny day wow I’m loving this beautiful sunny day so much—

What had she just said? That had been good. Love was liking someone how he was and doing things to help him get better.

Like Bo wasn’t perfect, but she loved him how he was and tried to help him get better. If they could keep him safe, maybe he’d mellow out as he got older. If he mellowed out, maybe he could someday have a family. Like there he was now in the yard, sitting quietly, looking at flowers. Tapping with his bat, happy enough.

He looked up, waved the bat at her, gave her that smile. Yesterday he’d been stuck in the house, all miserable. He’d ended the day screaming in bed, so frustrated. Today he was looking at flowers. Who was it that thought up that idea, the idea that had made today better than yesterday? Who loved him enough to think that up? Who loved him more than anyone else in the world loved him?

Her.

She did.

_______________________________

*for a printable version: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2007/05/28/070528fi_fiction_saunders
*for the best version: check out The Book of Other People from your local library.

Peace.

Jean Vanier, of L’Arche, on Community, Darkness, and Our Personal Poverty

18 Dec

I am becoming more and more aware that the great difficulty of many of us who live in community is that we lack trust in ourselves.

We can so quickly feel that we are not really lovable that if others saw us as we really are, they would reject us. We are afraid of all that is darkness in ourselves; we are afraid to face our emotional or sexual problems; we are afraid that we are incapable of real love.

We swing so quickly from exhilaration to depression, and neither expresses what we really are. How can we become convinced that we are loved in our poverty and weakness and that we too are capable of loving?

Certainly the Kingdoms Collide

4 Nov

What Happens When They Do? | assembled thoughts on the day

It’s November 4th, 2008, and there are billions of people in the world who know exactly what that means.

Presidential election, U.S.A.

Woo hoo.

That woo hoo is both real and sarcastic, because while I agree with a majority of Obama’s takes on current issues in the U.S., I also recognize a required disconnect from a worldly political system. My faith is not in a man who calls himself president of any nation.

Some stop there and use faith as an excuse to abstain from real, political issues — those things that are strangling some Americans, and unjustly feeding others.

So how do we engage a political system in which we place no sustaining hope? A position of authority to which we don’t really bow? A country to which we don’t necessarily pledge our allegiance?

What’s a servant to do when his two kingdoms collide?

These questions appear all over the global village, in the form of blogs (like this one), message boards, books, discussion groups, political forums, classrooms, and church services. Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation has some great ideas, as does Shane Claiborne’s Jesus For President.

But in reality, when we take our eyes off the page and look at our broken world, what we read and what we see don’t match up.

This says this, but what I see is that.
A sentence doesn’t always help us make sense out of a situation.
A chapter can’t always take away confusion, the overwhelming sense of “What now?”

We need practical advice. What does serving God and serving the people of America look like?

Recently, I heard it described this way:

“No matter who wins, the church has work to do.”

This implies a resolute faith, one that understand political systems and gives them credit for their ability to further peace, justice, and hope, but reserves its true hope for what we, the church, can do. We need to pick up the pieces of the broken system, glue the puzzle back together, and see a picture bigger than a 2-dimensional photo of a prosperous nation.

We need to see a world embodying Shalom.

In practical terms: if McCain wins, we’ll need to fight hard against war-mongering, racism, consumerism, and a free-trade ideology that perpetuates under-developing nations, as well as loudly call for better environmental practices and regulations. If Obama we need to fight against universalist ideology that says “anything goes,” humanism and atheism, and we need to keep him accountable to the promises he’s made to the poor, to the uncared-for, to those without health care.

Most of the things we’ll need to fight for and against are the same things Christians have fought for and against for centuries. Because in the course of a day the world will change.

But it won’t change much.
Greed won’t be replaced with love.
War won’t be replaced by peace.

We can’t be foolish enough to think either candidate is the Messiah or the anti-Christ.

Too easily we “do our duty” on November 4th, and the next day campaign promises are forgotten and news about the president and his policies begins to retreat from the public sphere.

Tonight, we can celebrate, or we can mourn.

But we better not become resigned.

It’s we who can change things. Make a difference in the lives of the poor. Give care to the uncared-for. Make a commitment to peace. Live sustainable lifestyles.

It’s that truth that I’m banking on.

Four years of committed Christian living — peacemaking, loving, and neighboring — I’d vote for that.

(note: i borrowed unashamedly from numerous authors I’ve read in recent years, as well as conversations with my brother, some of my former professors, my wife, and my Mission Year team to write this piece. thanks to all that continue to challenge and inspire me)