Wednesday, April 29, 2009

don't panic

i've started a new blog.

a real blog.

here it is:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Barefoot with me.

We drive in to work (well, Alex drives me in and drops me off) every morning past Beta bridge on Rugby Road. Beta Bridge is one of those staples at the large university that I missed going to a small, relatively self-conscious liberal arts college -- the space where for decades, college students have slipped out of their dorms in the middle of the night, and have layered painted proclamation over proclamation for passer-bys like me. Happy 21st Birthday Kelly, Proud to be Out Week, KD Corner Crawl, Do You Know Where Your Boyfriend was Last Night? Because I went to that little liberal arts college where I failed to develop a filter for such things, I still, even after being in Charlottesville for almost five years, read it every single day. I've learned that it's poor social form to respond immediately to Beta Bridge Propaganda (i.e. you NEVER say you're participating in a said event, or worse yet, wishing Kelly a happy birthday, because you passed Beta Bridge on your walk to the store) but in my interior life, Beta Bridge has a voice, albeit a rather scratchy and annoying one.

All that to say, Beta Bridge told me to go barefoot today, with Tom's shoes, and so I am. at my house, I mean. And although I got an email about it (i live in university world -- there are thousands of causes, and each cause has an email listserve), I'm not wearing shoes because Beta Bridge told me not to.

Beta Bridge becomes another topic of conversation in the sense that it lifts from the backdrop of our world whenever my folks come to visit, which they did this weekend. It's been a crazy few months, with some really exciting things happening, but we were glad for the time to just sit and be with them. Next week commences the Spring Institute on Lived Theology, which I've been managing as a side gig with Charles, and John Perkins, a hero of mine and of Alex's, will be the featured voice. It's hard to believe, after the months of work, that it's finally here -- we're really excited. This past Tuesday night, Charles came to the Center and presented a section of his upcoming book with John to the undergraduate residents and a few invited students. As a part of his manuscript, Charles reminded us that as Christians, we must, in response to Nietzche, always sing better songs. We both feel so blessed to be in a place that clears space for those songs to be sung -- literally, by my husband and the many other artists we've come to know and admire, and in so many other forms by the students and scholars and activists to whom we've been introduced. To be in the company of those folks who are bearing forth a psalter of justice and mercy is a privilege.

Alex just recently got some great news from Tom Periello that he has decided to co-sponsor the Child Protection Compact Act that we got to walk forward with on IJM advocacy day about a month ago. Again, there are people who are singing better songs.

In other, perhaps more important news, there is now a foos ball table in the office at our house. I have totally abandoned this room at home. Alex, on the other hand, has moved in.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Expecting Ambassadorial Cucumbers

I think things may have finally reached a new low. I'm aware of the doubleness of writing this on our ("our" being probably 80% mine, and the other 20% my husband, who peckishly peeks at this about once every three months) blog; I know I'm trading in categories that I'd much rather cock an eyebrow at, but my husband is out of town, my best friends all live far away, and I'm pretty sure our readership amounts to no more than 2 (my mom and Stacy's mom -- the real Stacy, not of the song. The real Stacy is great).

Anyway, let me explain. I do love Walker Percy. And in a few short weeks, Os Guiness is coming to UVa to give a talk entitled Lost in the Cosmos: Our Shrinking World, Our Overloaded Options, and our Relentless Search for Significance. Here in Charlottesville, we are blogging, podcasting, facebooking, publishing, networking our ways into new levels of consequence all the time time. We are interested in (semicolon), working for(semicolon), reading(semicolon), joining groups, starting causes, forwarding, signing on in attempts to form a more coherent picture of what it means to be human.

Yet the result is anything but.

And still, Facebook marches on in its quest to dissect us and smash us up onto the computer screens of our friends. Who do you match? What are you thinking about? Want to appear smackishly spiritual or witty? What clever retort do you have for the billboard you just passed? How can you work in your most recent accomplishment without being TOO obvious? Want to tell the world you're feeling awesome, queasy, confused, hopeful, or just plain like shit? Say so in your twitter or your status.

I have been really perplexed by the status. So, today, on a whim, I googled Facebook Status, and came up with this: a Facebook Status Generator. The pull on the ad's site is direct: "Of course it's imperative that you let all of your friends know exactly how your hangover's progressing or what you're planning to have for dinner. But if you're looking for something a bit more interesting to say, or you want all those old school chums and passing acquaintances to marvel at what a peculiar individual you've become, then why not generate a random Facebook status and copy and paste it into your profile?"

But that's just the thing. In these somewhat bankrupt attempts to get ourselves out there, noticed, it almost seems like an anhiliation of sorts takes place instead. Decades before anyone ever thought of her or his day in terms of "Walker is...", Percy sniffed out our self-avoidant attempts at crossing out the authentic and replacing it with something else. Percy's book opens with the question of the amnesic self -- "Why the self wants to get rid of itself." I wonder if we're slowly unlearning how to know ourselves...and how to teach others of who we are. At least, that's what I feel like. There seems to be something in the semiotics of the "status" that is demonstrative of some human cravings. Maybe I am naive, but I do believe that when we scroll through a list of what John, Sally, and Roger are doing, we're still genuinely looking for a felt connection in some form -- but from my work with students, it seems more that in the search for connection, in that furtive searching through other people's pictures, status comments, walls, connection inevitably gets overrun by competition, loss, and then failure.

Caroline Knapp, in her gut-wrenching memoir of her battle with alcoholism, writes this of the version of ourselves that we keep hidden:

"I once heard alcoholism described in an AA meeting, with eminent simplicity, as "fear of life," and that, for me seemed to sum up the condition quite nicely. I, for example, had spent half my professional life as a reporter who lived in the secret terror of the most basic aspects of the job, of picking up the phone and calling up strangers to ask questions. Inside, I harbored a long list of qualities that made my own skin crawl: a basic fragility, a feeling of hypersensitivity to other people's reactions. Feelings of fraudulence are familiar to scores of people in and out of the working world -- the highly effective, well-defended exterior cloaking the small, insecure person inside -- but they're epidemic among alcoholics. Sometimes, in small flashes, I'd be aware of this. One night, after work, on my way to a bar to meet a friend for drinks, a sentence popped into my head. This is the real me, this person driving the car. I was anxious, my teeth were clenched, partly from spending a long day hunched over a computer, and partly from the physical sensation of wanting a drink so badly, and I was aware of an undercurrent of fear deep in my gut, a barely definable sensation that the ground beneath my feet wasn't solid or real. i had created two versions of myself -- the work version and the drinking version, and in between, the real version would emerge, for five or ten minutes at a stretch. the fearful version, tense and dishonest and uncertain. I rarely allow her to emerge for long." (from Drinking: A Love Story)

At any rate, Knapp was writing this before Facebook arrived. Her descriptions, however, feel like they are running the lengths of the souls of our newly hidden, ironically connected generations. I'm included. What are we to do?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ira and Cake

This past weekend, the Alex and I were treated to Ira Glass live -- in person -- at the Paramount Theater here in Charlottesville. It couldn't have been been sweeter. Dear Ira drew on various episodes of This American Life, expertly weaving clips (and looking a bit like a my quirky cartoonish high school physics teacher while he listened -- he doesn't lack in animation) into a lovely explication of the delightful art of storytelling.

The Friday before marked the one year anniversary of my rogue small group, the Flat Stanleys. They baked me a cake, funfetti. Thinking myself clever-er than they, i brought over the Flatties from my birthday bash (see below photo) to decorate it.

We then decorated the cake...

and we posed for a picture.

later that afternoon, i went for the best piece. and i found, they had, in fact, outdone me. Baked into the cake were flat people.
Arin, Missy, Stacey, and hat is off to you. This blog is for you. I love you and am totally in awe of you. You are brilliant.

Monday, February 2, 2009

You Should Keep An Eye Out For Things Like That.

When it comes to This American Life, I am completely snowed. Their Inauguration Show featured a segment on the kids of 826 National reading their letters to Barak Obama from their new book, Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country.

The Book from McSweeney's

Kids ages 6-14 were asked to answer the question, "What should President Obama do now?" Suggestions included everything from "give teachers raises", "tell people not to talk too much", and "tell people the truth about area 51. They're smart, those little ones.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Adventures in Skatetown USA

Who says you can't rekindle the old junior high flame?

There's nothing like trading in your shoes for a pair of tight suede roller skates and taking to the rink with that special someone. So Ashley and I wandered over the mountain to Staunton's finest roller-rink to relive the glory days when Ashley was the skate-party queen! She talked a big game, but delivered some fancy foot-work to back it up. Behold:

Bottom line: much fun was had by all! Rock on Skatetown!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Merry Christmas MORE

We also got some good gifts this holiday season. Our favorites were, of course, afternoons with friends. I got a few handy headache remedies (see left) and some boots...

But perhaps my favorite gift was the pair of tickets to see Ira Glass in Charlottesville in February.
I love my husband : ). and I do love Ira Glass.